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What Is Counterterrorism?

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What Is Counterterrorism?

National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) Seal

US Government

The most common definition of counterterrorism (also spelled counter-terrorism) on the Internet is the practices, tactics, techniques, and strategies that governments, militaries, police departments and corporations adopt in response to terrorist threats and/or acts, both real and imputed.

What Are the Objectives of Counterterrorism?

Each US Government agency involved in counterterrorism has an objective in the war on terror. The FBI mission is to neutralize terrorist cells and operatives here in the U.S. and to help dismantle terrorist networks worldwide. In the US, numerous agencies including the FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security and the State Department have authority to combat terrorism. The National Counterterrorism Center objective is to integrate and orchestrate the formidable capabilities of the US Government dedicated to defeating the scourge of international terrorism and reducing the threat to US interests at home and abroad.

How Does Counterterrorism Work?

There are two aspects of counterterrorism. The first is to make citizens safer from terrorist threats through screening of airline passengers, placing video cameras and metal detectors in public places, random patrols of bomb-sniffing dogs, etc. The second is neutralization of terrorists through arrests, prosecutions, assassinations, raids on terrorist facilities, military action, etc. Full counterterrorism encompasses threat reduction by making the US a "harder target" and actively "going after" terrorists.

Who Makes Decisions on Counterterrorism Policy in the US?

Effective counterterrorism is a challenge because of all the agencies involved. The White House, State Department, FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Agency, Department of Justice and state/local authorities may all be involved in a counterterrorism program. One of the criticisms leveled at the US Government regarding the attempted bombing of Flight 253 to Detroit by Nigerian Al-Qaeda sympathizer, Umar Farouk Muttalub, was a lack of coordination among the members of the intelligence community which led to a failure to assemble known information about Muttalub being a potential terrorist.

The State Department's Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism coordinates and supports the development and implementation of all U.S. Government policies and programs aimed at countering terrorism overseas. Planning and execution of counterterrorism policies and programs is done at the National Counterterrorism Center. The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) was established by Presidential Executive Order 13354 in August 2004, and codified by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA). NCTC implements a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission: "Breaking the older mold of national government organizations, this NCTC should be a center for joint operational planning and joint intelligence, staffed by personnel from the various agencies." Also, the White House has a counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, who counsels on matters related to counterterrorism.

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