Oklahoma City, Oklahoma


The Use of Intelligence in Counterterrorism Planning

Defending the American homeland is no easy task. As technologies have evolved and new strategies have been implemented, it has forced those tasked with homeland security to continually adapt to the continued evolution of the treats to the United States. The play book of defense was all but thrown out after the attacks on 9/11, and a new era of security has begun to be implemented. With the unification of many smaller entities under the newly created Homeland Security Department, and along with the passage of the PATRIOT Act, created a foundation on which security for the homeland began its newly devised tactics against the latest enemy.

Setting a foundation and creating an organization for the defense of the homeland is only the beginning. A defense is only as strong as the knowledge of the enemy. Knowing the strengths and goals of the enemy are vital in the overall protection of the homeland. To achieve this, the science of intelligence gathering has continually adapted to meet the challenges of each generation. For military purposes, intelligence gathering has a long and rich history that dates back thousands of years. Today, satellites, internet and drones have become powerful tools as the never-ending quest for intelligence marches on. It is from our heightened ability to gain knowledge that leaders can make informed decisions like never before.

It is imperative that as America continues to refine its homeland security tactics, intelligence is successfully implemented every step of the way. There is a fine line between learning from past mistakes and knee-jerk reactions. This author believes that properly implementing response plans that coincide with real-time intelligence is a vital link in the change of strong homeland security.

Research question: How is real-time intelligence used to plan for and respond to the evolving threat of terrorism?

(Each hypothesis is stated at the end of the paragraphs explaining the reasoning behind them and is written in bold.)

Hypothesis 1:

Since 9/11 and the formation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the counterterrorism taskforce has maintained a strong barrier between the would-be terrorists and America. Over the last twelve and a half years, as terrorism has exploded in numbers across the world, the United States has had relatively few true terror events since 2001. The lack of attacks is not due to the lack of attempts on the behalf of terror groups.

Over sixty terror plots have been foiled due to the vigilance of multiple agencies working together (Zuckerman, Bucci, Carafano, 2013). The FBI, DHS and National Security Agency (NSA), and National Intelligence Council (NIC) work hand-in-hand to disrupt and thwart attacks. This could not be done without strong intelligence gathering to alert agencies to the presence of a potential threat. The Department of Homeland Security uses real-time intelligence reports to bolster planning and response to the ever evolving threat of terror.

Hypothesis 2:

Officially opening its doors in 2003, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) collected seven independent agencies under its umbrella, stamping each agency with its own set of mission objectives. This fundamental transformation of such a large swath of federal agencies took years to organize. With the DHS employing about 180,000 personnel who are responsible for more than 87,000 different government jurisdictions, one might wonder how it can operate effectively (Bullock, Haddow, Coppola, 2013, page 16-17). This may account for how the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) seems to search for already-attempted attack methods at airports rather than continually adapting to current terror tactics.

It would seem that such a bureaucratic-burdened agency is unable to effectively adapt to terror strategies in a timely manner as to remain truly effective. If this is true, a hard look at what could be done to strengthen its ability to adapt must be undertaken. As the Department of Homeland Security struggles under the weight of many organizations, its ability to adapt to threats comes from knee-jerk reactions to attempted attacks rather than using intelligence to stay ahead of the attacks as threats evolve.

Hypothesis 3:

            With proper use, and with strong intelligence that is acted upon within a proper timeframe, innumerable lives can be saved. To do so, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must begin to strengthen its use of intelligence in real time to aid federal, state and local agencies in their response planning (O’Sullivan, 2010, page 76). Though the formation of joint counterterror taskforces have aided in its dissemination, great strides are still needed to fulfill the need for strong intelligence for all levels of law enforcement.

The DHS must realize that the planning for terror attacks takes on many shapes at many levels of government. Each jurisdiction plays a vital role in homeland security and must be given the proper tools for them to carry out their duty. As the Department of Homeland Security continues to adapt to threats on the United States, the manner in which it decides to implement and disseminate intelligence will either make or break its ability to successfully carry out its mission to protect the homeland.



Bullock, J. A., Haddow, G. D., & Coppola, D. P. (2012). Homeland security: the concept, the organizaton. In Introduction to homeland security (4th ed., pp. 16-17). Boston, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.

O’Sullivan, T. M. (2010). Statement of Chair Jane Harman, before the Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing & Terrorism Risk Assessment, hearing on “Homeland security intelligence: its relevance and limitations. In Department of Homeland Security intelligence enterprise: overview and issues (p. 76). New York: Nova Science Publisher’s.

Zuckerman, J., Bucci, S. P., & Carafano, J. J. (2013, July 22). 60 Terrorist plots since 9/11: lessons in domestic counterterrorism. Retrieved from http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/07/60-terrorist-plots-since-911-continued-lessons-in-domestic-counterterrorism

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