The terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 that took place in New York City and Washington were the most traumatic attacks to ever occur in the United States. The country was caught unawares as thousands of innocent civilians lost their lives in the ensuing attacks. The Intelligence Community (IC) within the country came under attack for failing to detect the 19 terrorists who had somehow managed to enter the United States and hijacked four planes that would later be used in carrying out the attacks. In the subsequent months, the US Congress criticized the intelligence community for failing to monitor and detect any terrorism activities within the country. Members of Congress called for the disbanding of the community for failing to protect the innocent lives of Americans after the attacks (Hulnick, 2004).
Investigations and hearings were conducted to find out what went wrong in the intelligence community. The testimonies in these hearings revealed that the terrorist attacks could have been prevented if intelligence gathering had been conducted thoroughly. The officers in charge of the IC lacked the capacity and understanding of conducting terrorism intelligence gathering.
There were also bureaucratic rivalries, reduced resources and risk avoidance measures that led to the inability of the IC to detect and stop the terrorists from attacking the country. The IC’s system was also not able to deal with any terrorist attacks since it was designed for the Cold War in 1942 and from that time it had not undergone any improvements (Hulnick, 2004). President Bush created through executive order the Office of Homeland Security that would fall under the White House administration. The office was charged with the role of disseminating information connected to terrorism in all the state and federal levels of the country.
The homeland security system was supposed to detect and provide terrorist warnings in the form of threat conditions that would be used to determine the risk of the threat. Each threat would require the federal and state agencies to implement preventive measures that would reduce the risk of the threat during a period of increased alertness in the country (Peterson et al, 2000). The Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS) was a sub-branch of the Office of Homeland Security and its main purpose was to raise or lower the country’s threat levels between elevated yellow and high orange. The Homeland Security Act was signed into law in November 2002 which made the Office of Homeland Security to be known as the Department for Homeland Security. The new act would see the reorganization of the Department of Defense to protect the US from any terrorist attacks while at the same time reducing the vulnerability of the country to these attacks (Peterson et al, 2000) The city that was most affected by the terrorist attacks was New York City.
The attack of the World Trade Center in New York was the most devastating as thousands of lives were lost in the two buildings. New York City was a prime target given the high population of people and the number of government offices that have been established within the city. This showed how vulnerable the city was to terrorism attacks before and after 9/11. Recently a lethal bomb was discovered in Times Square, a location within the city that normally has thousands of people in one day.
This demonstrated that New York presented an irresistible attraction to people who were intent on causing harm to the country. Even before the 9/11 attacks, a car bomb exploded outside the World Trade Centre in 1993. The main intention was to bring down both towers but it ended up destroying the north tower only. The 1993 February attack on the WTC was meant to be followed by several other attacks on major New York landmarks such as the UN headquarters, the George Washington Bridge and the Holland Tunnel (National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, 2004). According to the National Consortium’s statistics, 284 terrorist attacks occurred in five locations within New York City between 1970 and 2007 with 98 percent of these attacks being attributed to the 9/11 attacks. The most deadly attack to occur in New York before September 11 was the terrorist bombing in LaGuardia Airport in 1975 that killed 11 people. Together with the September 11th attacks, the total number of people who died as a result of terrorist attacks in New York amounted to 4,000.
This demonstrated that New York City was the most common target for terrorism attacks. Most of the areas that were targeted included businesses such as the WTC, non-governmental organizations (UN Headquarters), government agencies, major airports and airlines (JFK and LaGuardia Airport) and American citizens (National Consortium, 2010). New York City was a prime target given the high population and the number of international and foreign based businesses that were located in the City. New York City was also a common target for terrorists given that it housed the largest financial market in the world, the NYSE.
Targeting the City would affect the New York Stock Exchange market in an adverse way which would negatively affect the US economy. The high number of active perpetrators within the city also increased the vulnerability of New York to terrorist attacks. The presence of groups such as the Jewish Defense League (JDL) responsible for 27 attacks within the city, the Fuerza Armada de Liberacion Nacional (FALN) which was a separatist group from Puerto, responsible for 40 attacks within New York and Omega-7 which was an anti-Castro organization responsible for 16 attacks between 1970 and 2007. Al-Qaeda became the major face of terrorism in the US and in particular in New York as it was responsible for the 3,000 deaths that resulted form the 9/11 attacks (National Consortium, 2010).
The National Consortium report also identified other cities in the US that were common targets for terrorism attacks one of which was Miami, Florida. The city recorded 70 attacks between the1970 and 2007. The reason for being a common target was that Miami was home to the CIA’S second largest base of operations. Miami was also home to the famous Miami Five who were believed to be Cuban spies. The Miami five were falsely accused for committing espionage despite their claims stating that they were monitoring the activities of a Miami based terrorist group that was planning an attack on Cuba (National Consortium, 2010). Anti-Cuba terrorist organizations based in Miami were responsible for more than 3,000 Cuban and Miami deaths in both countries. Such terrorist organizations included Brothers to the Rescue and Commandos F4.
The terrorist groups were responsible for the Cubana Flight 455 bombing in 90s. The presence of terrorist training camps in Florida has also been a cause of concern for most Miami residents who fear reprisal attacks from Cuba on these terrorist cells. Other terrorist attacks that were committed against Cuban citizens by these terror cells include hotel bombings, attacks on Cuban diplomats, the bombing of a Barbados flights and the Bays of Pigs Invasion (National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, 2004). Luis Posada Carilles who is one of the many Cuban terrorists that lives freely in Miami, Florida admitted to bombing varies hotels in Havana during the 90s. The number of casualties that resulted from these bombings was more than 3,000 people killed and injured.
Carilles also admitted to being responsible for distributing guns to Nicaraguan rebels who attempted to assassinate Fidel Castro. Such a high number of terrorists and terrorist groups in Miami has led to the state being a common target for terrorist attacks on Cuban terrorists and innocent Miami residents. 70 attacks have been reported to have occurred within Miami between 1970 and 2007 most of which were related to Cuban nationals who were based in Miami (National Consortium, 2010). The third state in the United States that is prone to terrorist attacks is Washington D.
C. which is the capital of the United States. This has made it to be one of the most likely targets of current and future terrorist attacks within the country. Washington D.C.
has faced a total 59 attacks from 1970 to 2007 based on the National Consortium’s statistics. The state houses major governmental bodies such as the US Congress, the White House and various historic US landmarks such as the Abraham Lincoln Monument that are important to America and its citizens. Washington is also home to the Pentagon that was attacked during the September 11th terrorist bombings. After the 9/11 attacks, Washington faced another threat in the form of an anthrax attack that was disseminated through mail to the U.S. capital. Even though the two attacks were unrelated, they were both targeted at Washington and New York which were two of the most important states of the United States (Hulnick, 2004). The state recently faced terrorism threats from a well known Taliban leader known as Baitullah Mesud who threatened to attack the US capital after the country continued to launch missile strikes against Afghanistan.
Apart from Mesud, Washington has also faced terrorist threats from groups such as Al-Qaeda. The reason for Washington’s vulnerability to terrorist attacks is that most of its organizations especially the US government agencies lack the control of human and vehicular traffic within and around their facilities. The historic monuments also lack the proper mechanisms of controlling the number of visitors to the areas.
Washington is also a suitable target for terrorism activities because of the large number of legislative offices and institutions that are based within the state (National Commission of Terrorist Attacks, 2004). The terrorist attacks on the Pentagon in Washington affected the activities of the Department of Defense as the country grappled with the bombings of the World Trade Centre. The intelligence systems of the state were affected as one of the four hijacked planes crashed into one corner of the Pentagon offices. Targeting the Pentagon was viewed to be targeting the country’s defense systems which fell under the Department of Defense. The US defense systems included the US Army the Navy and the Air Force. Other departments that have their offices within the Pentagon include the Missile Defense Agency, the National Security Agency, and the Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA).
(2004). Keeping us safe: secret intelligence and homeland security. Westport, US: Praeger Publishers National Commission on Terrorist Attacks (2004).
The 9/11 commission report: final report of the national commission upon the United States. United States: W.W. Norton Publishers Group National Consortium (2010). Background report: terrorist attacks in New York City.
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