According to reports by the Associated Press, in Lahore, Pakistan, a “group of gunmen, some in police uniforms, attacked a police academy Monday and held it for hours, seizing hostages, throwing grenades and killing at least six trainee officers before being overpowered by Pakistani commandos.” This attack comes only weeks after terrorists launched a similar attack in the same city against the Sri Lankan cricket team. For three bloody days in November 2008, Indian police and military forces battled heavily armed and well-organized groups of terrorists who fanned out across the city of Mumbai. The resurgence of terrorist ground assault tactics should be noted.
The use of assault tactics by small organized groups of heavily armed assailants who either seize hostages or kill indiscriminately is certainly not new. Between 1995 and 2004, Chechen rebels staged three major armed assaults in Russia. Even the United States has not been immune to the danger of planned armed assaults. A list of post 9/11 terrorist plots against the United States includes a August 2005 conspiracy by a Pakistani national who was arrested planning an attack on the Israeli consulate, California National Guard facilities, and other targets in Southern California. In 2007, the FBI arrested six men from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, for planning an armed assault on Fort Dix.
It would be unwise to dismiss out of hand that it can’t or won’t happen here—particularly when there are responsible steps that can be taken.
The first task must be to stop terrorist attacks before they start. We should:
Rely on the investigative authorities established in the USA Patriot Act. In the wake of the terrorist attacks on Washington and New York on September 11, 2001, Congress passed the USA Patriot Act. Among other things, the act provided additional authorities for the sharing of information between law enforcement and intelligence agencies and granted additional powers to fight terrorism, primarily law enforcement tools that had already been used to fight other serious crimes. Congress stipulated that these powers would expire unless reauthorized by law. In 2006, Congress extended the investigative authorities in the Patriot Act. These powers have been used to conduct counterterrorism investigations. Congress and the Administration should not change or undermine these authorities. Parts of these authorities expire in 2009. FBI Director Mueller recently urged their renewal.
Exploit the authority to monitor terrorist communications worldwide as provided under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. The capacity to monitor terrorist communications is essential for building an intelligence picture of the threat and focusing investigations.
Continue to Develop the Information Sharing Environment (ISE) under the office of the Director of National Intelligence. Established by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the ISE exists to create a “trusted partnership among all levels of government in the United States, the private sector, and our foreign partners, in order to detect, prevent, disrupt, preempt, and mitigate the effects of terrorism against the territory, people, and interests of the United States by the effective and efficient sharing of terrorism and homeland security information.” The ISE is essential in promoting effective integration and cooperation among federal, state, and local anti-terrorism efforts.
In addition, it is unrealistic to believe that all homeland security measures will thwart every attack, every time. Therefore we should also:
Retain an integrated approach to homeland security. When an explosion happens, the government cannot delay its response until it knows whether it is a terrorist attack or an industrial accident. The nation needs to respond with alacrity, and that means taking an integrated “all-hazards” approach from the local level to the national level. Therefore, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) must remain an integral part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Removing FEMA from DHS would re-create gaps and vulnerabilities that were eliminated when the Homeland Security Act of 2002 created DHS.
States should take the lead in codifying the Targeted Capabilities List (TCL) established by DHS to identify the highest-priority needs for disaster response. They should require biennial risk and capabilities assessments to identify capability gaps and ensure that grant fund applications do not request any capability not listed in the TCL or exceed the capabilities that are deemed essential. Because every state or locality faces unique challenges, it is critical to develop a tier structure that helps states and localities to identify the appropriate level of security they need.
Revise National Disaster Scenarios to include armed assaults. The Department of Homeland Security uses 15 disaster planning scenarios that include both natural disasters and terrorist attacks to identify common capabilities needed by responders and to serve as a focus for planning and training exercises at the federal, state, and local levels. These scenarios should be revised to include armed assault responses.
This piece was orignially posted on NationalSecurity.org.