International Terrorism: Threat, Policy, and Response
Threat, Policy, and Response
Updated January 3, 2007
Raphael F. Perl
Specialist in International Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
International Terrorism: Threat, Policy, and Response
This report examines international terrorist actions, threats, U.S. policies and
responses. It reviews the nation’s use of tools at its disposal to combat terrorism,
from diplomacy, international cooperation, and constructive engagement to physical
security enhancement, economic sanctions, covert action, and military force.
A modern trend in terrorism appears to be toward loosely organized, self-
financed, international networks of terrorists. Increasingly, radical Islamist groups,
or groups using religion as a pretext, pose a serious threat to U.S. interests and to
friendly regimes. Of concern as well is the growing political participation of
extremist Islamist parties in foreign nations. Also noteworthy is the apparent growth
of cross-national links among different terrorist organizations, which may involve
combinations of military training, funding, technology transfer, or political advice.
Looming over the entire issue of international terrorism is the specter of
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Iran, seen as the most active
state sponsor of terrorism, has been secretly conducting — and now openly seeks —
uranium enrichment, and North Korea has both admitted to having a clandestine
program for uranium enrichment and claimed to have nuclear weapons. Indications
have also surfaced that Al Qaeda has attempted to acquire chemical, biological,
radiological, and nuclear weapons.
U.S. policy toward international terrorism contains a significant military
component, reflected in U.S. operations in Afghanistan, deployment of U.S. forces
elsewhere for specific missions, and, according to the Administration and its
supporters, the war in Iraq. Issues of interest to the 110th Congress include whether
the Administration is providing sufficient information about the long-term goals and
costs of its diverse strategy and whether military force is an optimally effective anti-
terrorism instrument when compared with other methods such as intelligence-
enhanced law enforcement and pro-active public diplomacy.
Increasingly, a wide range of well-funded charitable and publicity activities of
radical Islamist groups has led to broadened acceptance of extremist views in target
populations. To the extent that nations fail to effectively address this “cold war of
ideology,” a growing proportion of the world’s Moslem youth may grow up
embracing extremist views that could ultimately lead to increased terrorism.
As terrorism is a global phenomenon, a major challenge facing policymakers is
how to maximize international cooperation and support without unduly
compromising important U.S. national security interests and options. Other
significant policy challenges include (1) how to minimize the economic and civil
liberties costs of an enhanced/tightened security environment, and (2) how to combat
incitement to terrorism, especially in instances where such activity is state sponsored
or countenanced. This report will be updated periodically.
The War on Terrorism..............................................1
The Threat of Terrorism.............................................3
Trends in Terrorism................................................5
U.S. Policy Response...............................................9
U.S. Policy Tools to Combat International Terrorism.....................11
Economic Sanctions ..........................................14
Covert Action ...............................................16
Extradition/Law Enforcement Cooperation ........................17
Rewards for Information Program................................18
International Conventions ......................................19
Other Potential Policy Tools....................................20
An International Court for Terrorism..........................20
Policy Reform and the 9/11 Commission Recommendations...............20
U.S. Interagency Coordination Framework and Selected Programs..........23
Antiterrorism Assistance Programs...............................24
Terrorist Identification and Screening Programs.....................24
National Counterterrorism/Terrorist Screening Center Programs....24
Department of State’s Terrorist Interdiction Program (TIP)........25
Assistance to Victims Programs.................................25
Counterterrorism Research and Development Program...............26
Diplomatic Security Program....................................26
Program Enhancement Issues and Options.............................26
Allocation of Resources........................................26
For Additional Reading............................................29
Appendix: Defining Terrorism......................................31
Threat, Policy, and Response
The War on Terrorism
The Administration’s response to the September 11, 2001 events was swift,
wide-ranging, and decisive. After Administration officials attributed responsibility
for the attack to Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda organization, there was an
announced policy shift from deterrence to preemption, generally referred to as the1
“Bush Doctrine.” Given the potentially catastrophic consequences of terrorist
attacks employing weapons of mass destruction (WMD), Administration
decisionmakers felt that the United States could not afford to sit back, wait for
attacks to occur, and then respond.
The nation was mobilized; combating terrorism and crippling Al Qaeda became
top national priorities. Preemptive use of military force against foreign terrorist
groups and infrastructure gained increasing acceptance in Administration policy
circles. A full-scale campaign was launched, using all elements of national and
international power, to go after Al Qaeda and its affiliates and support structures.
The campaign involved rallying the international community, especially law
enforcement and intelligence components, to shut down Al Qaeda cells and financial
A U.S. military operation was initiated in early October, 2001 against the
Taliban regime — which had harbored Al Qaeda since 1996 — and against Al Qaeda
strongholds in Afghanistan. A total of 136 countries offered a range of military
assistance to the United States, including overflight and landing rights and
accommodations for U.S. forces.
As a result, the Taliban was removed from power, all known Al Qaeda training
sites were destroyed, and a number of Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders were killed or
detained. Since then, according to President Bush in his address to the nation on May
Notwithstanding, top Al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, as
well as the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, apparently remain at large, and
a resurgence of Taliban warlords and militia is reportedly occurring in Southern and
On March 19, 2003, after an intensive military buildup in the Persian Gulf, the
United States launched the war against Iraq, at the time one of seven nations on the
1 See the predecessor to the March 2006 National Security Strategy of the United States,
[ h t t p : / / www.whi t e house.go v/ nsc/ nss.ht ml ] .
State Department’s sponsors of terrorism list, with an attack on a suspected meeting
site of Saddam Hussein. President Bush, in his January 28, 2003 State of the Union
Address, had emphasized the threat posed to world security by a Saddam Hussein
armed with weapons of mass destruction and stated that Iraq “aids and protects” the
Al Qaeda terrorist organization.2 After a swift military campaign, President Bush
announced on April 15, 2003 that “the regime of Saddam Hussein is no more.”
Saddam Hussein was arrested by U.S. personnel December 13, 2003, near his
hometown of Tikrit.
In addition to U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. forces have
been dispatched to Yemen, the Philippines, and the former Soviet Republic of
Georgia to train local militaries to fight terrorists. In FY2002 and FY2003, the
Administration sought and received funding (subject to annual review) for U.S.
military aid to Colombia to support the Colombian government’s “unified campaign
against narcotics trafficking, terrorist activities, and other threats to its national
security.” Similar authorization was granted for FY2004-FY2006. Previously, such
assistance had been restricted to supporting counternarcotics operations in Colombia.
A February 14, 2003 National Strategy for Combating Terrorism gave added
emphasis to the role of international cooperation, law enforcement and economic
development in countering terrorism.3 In the context of this campaign, the United
States has stepped up intelligence-sharing and law enforcement cooperation with
other governments to root out terrorist cells.4
Experts believe that terrorist cells are operating not just in places where they are
welcomed or tolerated, but in many other areas as well, including Western Europe
and the United States. According to Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003 (Patterns
2003), as of January 2003 an aggressive international law enforcement effort had
resulted in detention of approximately 3,000 terrorists and their supporters in more
than 100 countries and in the freezing of $124 million in assets in some 600 bank
accounts around the world, including $36 million in the United States alone.5 On
June 2, 2003, the G-8 leaders publicized plans, subsequently implemented, to create
a Counter-Terrorism Action Group to assist nations in enhancing their anti-terrorism
capabilities through initiatives including (1) outreach to countries in the area of
counter-terrorism cooperation, and (2) providing capacity building assistance to
nations with insufficient capacity to fight terrorism.6
2 Note that while some at the time agreed with characterization of military operations in Iraq
as part of the war on terror, others saw it as an unnecessary diversion.
4 Note that the Strategy was modified in September 2006 to include, among other things,
more emphasis on combating ideological support for terrorism: the so-called war of ideas.
6 See generally: CRS Report RS22030, U.S.-EU Cooperation Against Terrorism, by Kristin
An encouraging sign in the anti-terrorism struggle has been the apparent
willingness of certain previously recalcitrant states to distance themselves from
international terrorism and/or development of weapons of mass destruction. Libya
renounced its WMD programs on December 21, 2003, and has cooperated
extensively with the United States and the international community in dismantling
those programs. Sudan, in cooperation with U.S. law enforcement and intelligence
agencies, has arrested Al Qaeda members and “by and large” shut down Al Qaeda
training camps on its territory.
In contrast, Iran, according to the Department of State, remained the primary
state sponsor of terrorism in 2005 and has been actively conducting a longstanding
nuclear development program, raising concerns in the international community that
Iran’s nuclear ambitions extend well beyond nuclear research, with direct
implications for a host of ongoing terrorist activities.7
In order to stave off punitive action by the International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) Board of Governors, Iran, on December 19, 2003, signed an agreement to
suspend its enrichment-related and reprocessing activities and to allow international
inspections of its nuclear facilities. Intensive inspections, however, revealed likely
violations of its suspension obligations, hence in late 2005, the IAEA Board of
Governors voted to call Iran into noncompliance with its Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty (NPT) obligations. The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution on July 31,
2006, giving Iran a one-month deadline to comply with demands for halting
enrichment, or face possible sanctions.8 Notwithstanding, Iran insists on the “right”
to continue its enrichment program under the label of “nuclear research,” ostensibly
for its energy industry.9 Iran did not comply with the demands of the Resolution,
according to a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) dated
August 31, 2006 (Gov/2006/53).10
The Threat of Terrorism
Increasingly, international terrorism is recognized as a threat to U.S. foreign, as
well as domestic, security. Both timing and target selection by terrorists can affect
U.S. interests in areas ranging from preservation of commerce to nuclear non-
proliferation to the Middle East peace process. A growing number of analysts
expresses concern that radical Islamist groups seek to exploit economic and political
7 See [http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/c17689.htm], p. 173 of State Department report text.
8 See U.N. Security Council Resolution 1696 [http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/
GEN/N06/450/22/PDF/N0645022.pdf?OpenElement]. See also CRS Report RS21592,
Iran’s Nuclear Program: Recent Developments, by Sharon Squassoni.
9 According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Iran has oil reserves of 126
billion barrels, 12% of the world’s known total. But perhaps more significant is that Iran
controls the world’s second largest endowment of natural gas (a reported 940 trillion cubic
feet). Both fuel sources are currently greatly underutilized, according to analysts.
10 See CRS Report RL32048, Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Options, by Kenneth
tensions in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, Russia, Jordan, Pakistan, and other
countries. Because of their avowed goal of overthrowing secular or Western-allied
regimes in certain countries with large Moslem populations, such groups are seen as
a particular threat to U.S. foreign policy objectives.
Facing the possibility that a number of states might reduce or withdraw their
sponsorship of terrorist organizations, such organizations appear to be seeking and
establishing operating bases in countries that lack functioning central governments
or that do not exercise effective control over their national territory. For example,
on November 17, 2003, the Washington Post reported that Al Qaeda affiliates were
training Indonesian operatives in the southern Philippines. In general, the gray area
of “terrorist activity not functionally linked to any supporting or sponsoring nation”
represents an increasingly difficult challenge for U.S. policymakers.11
Terrorists have been able to develop their own sources of financing, which range
from NGOs and charities to illegal enterprises such as narcotics, extortion, and
kidnapping. Colombia’s FARC is said to make hundreds of millions of dollars
annually from criminal activities, mostly from “taxing” of, or participating in, the
narcotics trade. Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda depends on a formidable array of fundraising
operations including Moslem charities and wealthy well-wishers, legitimate-seeming
businesses, and banking connections in the Persian Gulf, as well as various
smuggling and fraud activities. Furthermore, reports are ongoing of cross-national
links among different terrorist organizations.
Of utmost concern to policymakers is the specter of proliferation of weapons
of mass destruction (WMD) or the means to make them. All of the five officially
designated state sponsors of terrorism, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria,
are known or suspected to have had one or more WMD-related program. Two of the
states — Iran and North Korea — have, or have had, nuclear weapons-oriented12
programs in varying stages of development.
Terrorists have attempted to acquire WMD technology through their own
resources and connections. For instance, the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan was able
to procure technology and instructions for producing Sarin, a deadly nerve gas,
through contacts in Russia in the early 1990s.13 The gas was subsequently used in an
attack on the Tokyo subway in March 1995 that killed 12 people and injured over
11 See “Al Qaeda Affiliate Training Indonesians On Philippine Island; Persistence Startles
Officials in Manila” by Alan Sipress and Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post, Nov. 17, 2003,
12 Note that this was widely believed by many to be true of Iraq under Saddam Hussein. See
generally, CRS Report RL30699, Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons and Missiles,
and CRS Report RL32359, Globalizing Cooperative Threat Reduction: a Survey of Options,
both by Sharon Squassoni.
13 See Kaplan, David E. and Marshall Andrew, The Cult at the End of the World: The
Incredible Story of Aum (Arrow, 1997).
Media reports of varying credibility suggest that Osama bin Laden is interested
in joining the WMD procurement game, but open-source evidence to date remains
scant. A London Daily Telegraph dispatch of December 14, 2001, cited “long
discussions” between bin Laden and Pakistani nuclear scientists concerning nuclear,
chemical and biological weapons.14 Earlier, on November 12, 2001, Time magazine
reported that a bin Laden emissary tried to buy radioactive waste from an atomic
power plant in Bulgaria, and cited the September 1998 arrest in Germany of an
alleged bin Laden associate on charges of trying to buy reactor fuel.15 BBC reports
cite the discovery by intelligence officials of documents indicating that Al Qaeda had
built a radiological “dirty” bomb near Herat in Western Afghanistan. 16 In January,
2003 British authorities reportedly disrupted a plot to use the poison ricin against
personnel in England.17
Trends in Terrorism
The Department of State provides to Congress annually a report on global
terrorism. The most recent edition, released in March 2006 is: Country Reports on
Terrorism 2005.18 Statistical data on terrorist incidents, analyzed in the report, are19
provided by the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC). The analysis
addresses trends in terrorism and the evolving nature of the terrorist threat, and
presents information on anti-terror cooperation by nations worldwide.
The report and underlying data portray a threat from radical Jihadists which is
becoming more widespread, diffuse, possibly more deadly, and increasingly
homegrown, often with a lack of apparent formal operational connection with Al
Qaeda ideological leaders, although perhaps inspired by them or assisted through
training. Related to the issue of homegrown terrorism is growing concern that limited
terrorist sanctuaries may already be found within the cities of democratic societies.
14 See “Hunt by CIA and MI6 Pays off with Bin Laden’s Video” by Michael Smith, Daily
Telegraph, December 14, 2001, p.14.
15 See “Osama’s Nuclear Quest: How Long Will It Take Before al-Qaeda Gets Hold of the
Most Dangerous of Weapons” by Jeffrey Kluger, Time, Nov. 12, 2001,
[http://www.time.com/time/magazine/printout/0,8816,182894,00.html]. See also Hindustan
Times, Nov. 14, 2001.
16 BBC World Edition, January 30, 2003.
17 See CRS Report RS21383, Ricin: Technical Background and Potential Role in Terrorism,
by Dana Shea and Frank Gottron. See also Jack Bourseton and Charles Mahaffey, “Al
Qaeda and Mass Casualty Terrorism: Assessing the Threat,” Strategic Insight, October 1,
18 [http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/c17689.htm]. See also: testimony of John Scott Redd,
Director, National Counterterrorism Center, and testimony of Henry A. Crumpton,
Coordinator for Counterterrorism before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a
hearing on “Counterterrorism: The Changing Face of Terror,” June 13, 2006.
Three trends in terrorism are identified in the Department of State report. First
is the emergence of so-called “micro actors,”20 spurred in part by U.S. and allied
successes in isolating and killing much of Al Qaeda’s leadership. The result is an Al
Qaeda perceived as having a more subdued operational role, but assuming more of
an ideological, motivational, and propaganda role. Second is a trend toward
“sophistication”; i.e. terrorists exploiting the global interchange of information,
finance, and ideas to their benefit, often through the Internet. Third is a growing
overlap between terrorist activity and international crime, which may expose the
terrorists to a broad range of law enforcement activities.
Also cited in the report is an overall increase in suicide bombings and a strong
connection between the ongoing unrest in Iraq and the broader terrorism conflict. The
report suggests that “terror” incidents in Iraq accounted for almost a third of all terror
incidents in 2005 and more than half of terror related deaths worldwide that year.
Data released by the NCTC concomitantly with the Department of State’s 2006
terror report indicate that in 2005 roughly 40,000 individuals were wounded or killed
in terrorist incidents, as compared to 9,300 the previous year and 4,271 in 2003.
Terror-related deaths in 2005 numbered 14,602 as compared to 1,907 deaths in 2004
and 625 in 2003. The report placed the number of total reported terrorist attacks in
2005 at 11,111 as compared to 3,168 in 2004 and 208 in 2003. Foiled attacks are not
included in the data reported.
Some would argue, however, that NCTC data concerning Iraq casualties —
which are largely the product of sectarian violence, rampant criminal activity, and
home grown insurgency — grossly distort the global terrorism picture and perhaps
should not be attributed to terrorist activity. Looking at the data outside of Iraq,
according to the NCTC, the total number of incidents with ten or more deaths
remained at approximately the 2003-2004 level: 70 per year. This suggests that,
excluding Iraq, the number of higher casualty terror attacks remains relatively stable.
Aside from Iran, and perhaps to some degree Syria, the report suggests that, but21
for a few notable exceptions, active state sponsorship of terror is declining. It
continues to list Iran as the most active state sponsor of terrorism. 22 In general, it
20 Small-scale, decentralized operatives or groups.
21 Nations currently on the State Department’s legislatively mandated list of state sponsors
of terrorism are Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. Libya was certified by the
Secretary of State as being eligible for removal from the list on May 12, 2006. See
Presidential Determination No. 2006-14, May 12, 2006 which went into effect June 28,
22 As in preceding years, the report cites Iran as the most active state supporter of terrorism
and states that its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Ministry of Intelligence and
Security were directly involved in the planning and execution of terrorist acts. That included
providing Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist groups with extensive funding,
training and weapons. The Revolutionary Guard, it is asserted, was increasingly involved
in supplying “lethal assistance” to Iraqi militant groups with the effect of destabilizing Iraq.
Also addressed was Iran’s continued development of a nuclear program and that Iran is “also
praises the Saudi Government for its antiterrorism efforts. Some observers might
suggest, however, that the report tends to mute criticism of nations of strategic
importance to the United States, such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, that arguably
could do much more to curb terror.
Echoing language of previous years’ versions of the report, the 2006 edition
states that Libya and Sudan “continued to take significant steps to cooperate in the
global war on terror,” and shortly after the report’s release, Libya was removed from
the U.S. list of state sponsors of international terrorism.23 As in previous years, Syria
is cited for providing political and material support (presumably weapons) to both
Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist groups, which also enjoy sanctuary in Syria.
Cuba and North Korea are primarily cited for lack of anti-terror cooperation and
past involvement in terrorist incidents, thereby possibly suggesting a trend of their
less active support for terrorism than in previous decades. However, many perceive
North Korea’s nuclear program, with its potential for future sales of WMD to
terrorists, as extremely worrisome.
Although not included on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of
terrorism, Lebanon is cited in the report for its recognition of several terrorist
organizations, including Hezbollah. Also, the report stresses that because the
Government of Lebanon does not exercise effective control over areas in the south
and in Palestinian refugee camps, terrorists can operate “relative freely” in such
areas. This loss of governmental control is representative of a broader phenomenon
that countries with weak counterterrorism resources and infrastructure are, more and
more, subject to becoming sanctuaries for terrorism.
Active Supporter of TerrorismPassive or Less ActiveSupporter of Terrorism
Source: Congressional Research Service, based on data provided in Country Reports on
capable of producing biological and chemical agents or weapons.” Iran, the report states,
“could support terrorist organizations seeking to acquire WMD.” The report does not
specifically address growing concerns among some experts that Iran might use surrogate
organizations with broad networks, e.g. Hezbollah, as delivery vehicles for dirty bombs for
the enriched radioactive material generated by its “nuclear research.” The report also does
not discuss Iran’s allegedly active role in training and equipping insurgents in Iraq. See June
23 Libya was certified by the Secretary of State as being eligible for removal from the list
on May 12, 2006. See Presidential Determination No. 2006-14, May 12, 2006 which went
into effect June 28, 2006. [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/05/20060515-
A core premise of the State Department’s 2006 report is recognition that
because the Al Qaeda network is increasingly assuming the characteristics of an
ideological movement, it will not be decisively defeated in the near future. However,
some indicate elimination of Bin Laden and Al Zawahiri would go a long way in that
direction. As in any long-term campaign, international cooperation and capacity-
building programs, such as the State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance
Program (ATA), are seen as having a central role in combating terrorism. Most
terrorist acts do not take place in the United States, nor do most terror-related arrests
and prosecutions. Likewise, much, if not most, intelligence gathering on terrorist
groups today is not done by the United States.
The report also presents countering terrorism on the economic front as an
important component of a successful strategy. However, some independent analysts
suggest that efforts to curb terrorist finances have reached a point of diminishing
returns, as terrorist groups are often self-supporting, and that the amount of terrorist
funds governments seize is insignificant.
Subsequent to the release of the State Department’s report, the Administration
declassified and released excerpts from an April 2006 National Intelligence Estimate
titled Trends in Global Terrorism, Implications for the United States. Declassified
key judgments of the report were generally consistent with findings in the State
Department’s March 2006 Country Reports on Terrorism 2005 and concomitant
NCTC data which cited decentralization of Al Qaeda and expressed concern over
the potential for “spillover” of battlefield skills, technology, and ordnance from
Ir a q . 24
Of concern to many observers is the overall growth in numbers and political
influence of radical Islamist political parties throughout the world, some of which
reportedly serve — or might serve — as fronts for terrorist activity. Even if the
parties are not actively serving as fronts, some are concerned that the actions and
agendas of such groups could facilitate creation of a political climate in their home
countries which views terrorism as a politically acceptable tactic and which might
make their home countries appear as attractive locations for active terrorist groups
to establish secure bases. Others view political participation as a sign that these
groups may be adopting channels other than violence to secure their base.
Examples include groups in Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, and in the Middle
East notably Hamas and Hezbollah. Any rise in the power and influence of such
terror-linked or terror-supportive political parties — especially should their
representatives be elected through democratic processes — presents major policy
dilemmas for the United States, since it pits U.S. support for democracy directly25
against America’s commitment to aggressively combat terrorism.
25 See CRS Report RL33555, Trends in Terrorism: 2006, by Raphael Perl.
U.S. Policy Response
Past Administrations have employed a range of measures to combat
international terrorism, from diplomacy, international cooperation, and constructive
engagement to protective security measures, economic sanctions, covert action, and
military force. The application of sanctions is one of the most frequently used anti-
terrorist tools of U.S. policymakers. Governments supporting international terrorism
are often prohibited from receiving U.S. economic and military assistance. U.S.
exports of munitions to such countries are foreclosed, and restrictions are imposed
on exports of “dual use” equipment. The presence of a country on the “terrorism list,”
though, may also reflect considerations — such as its pursuit of WMD, a poor human
rights record or simply U.S. domestic political considerations — that are largely
unrelated to support for international terrorism.
Generally, U.S. anti-terrorism policy from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s
focused on deterring and punishing state sponsors as opposed to terrorist groups
themselves. The passage of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of
1996 (P.L. 104-132) signaled an important shift in policy. The act, largely initiated
by the executive branch, created a legal category of Foreign Terrorist Organizations
(FTO) and banned funding, granting of visas and other material support to such
organizations. The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 (P.L.107-56) extended and
strengthened the provisions of that legislation. The State Department’s 2006 global26
terrorism report lists 42 groups designated by the Secretary of State as FTOs.
After 9/11, U.S. anti-terrorism policy increasingly focused on preempting
attacks from Al Qaeda, often by bringing the “war” to the territory of the enemy. A
parallel area of policy focus involves protecting the homeland from terrorist attacks
and their aftermath by securing the borders, reducing vulnerabilities of critical
infrastructures, enhancing support and resources available to law enforcement and
intelligence, and enhancing consequence management capabilities. A central area of
policy focus remains denying/minimizing access of WMD to rogue states and
terrorist non-state actors.27
On September 24, 2003, the White House Office of Management and Budget
(OMB) released its 2003 Report to Congress on Combating Terrorism, which
detailed spending by federal agency and activity for combating terrorism and for28
homeland security. After 2003, the practice of publishing a consolidated federal
counterterrorism budget was discontinued; the homeland security component of the
26 See Country Reports on Terrorism: 2005. [http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/c17689.htm]
27 See CRS Report RL32522, U.S. Anti-Terror Strategy and the 9/11 Commission Report,
by Raphael Perl.
budget is readily accessible.29 In July 18, 2006 congressional testimony, the
Comptroller General stated that since 2001 Congress has appropriated about $430
billion for military and diplomatic efforts in support of the Global War On Terrorism,
and stressed that neither the Department of Defense nor Congress had a clear picture
of how much that war was costing in terms of dollars spent and how appropriated
funds were being used.30 Notwithstanding, it is estimated that Congress had
appropriated a total of about $437 billion for the war in Iraq through the end of
In their desire to combat terrorism in a modern political context, democratic
countries often face conflicting goals and courses of action: (1) providing security
from terrorist acts, that is, limiting the freedom of individual terrorists, terrorist
groups, and support networks to operate unimpeded in a relatively unregulated
environment; versus (2) maintaining individual freedoms, democracy, and human
rights. Efforts to combat terrorism are complicated by a global trend towards
deregulation, open borders, and expanded commerce. In democracies such as the
United States, the constitutional limits within which policy must operate are viewed
by some to conflict directly with a desire to secure the lives of citizens more
effectively against terrorist activity. A majority, however, strongly holds that no
compromise of constitutional rights is acceptable.
Another challenge for policymakers is the need to identify the perpetrators of
particular terrorist acts as well as those who train, fund, or otherwise support or
sponsor them. As the international community increasingly demonstrates its ability
to unite and apply sanctions against “rogue” states, states will become less likely to
overtly support terrorist groups or engage in state-sponsored terrorism. The
possibility of covert provisioning of weapons, financing, and logistical support
remains open, and detecting such transfers would require significantly increased
deployment of U.S. intelligence and law enforcement assets in countries and zones
where terrorists operate. Particularly challenging is identification of those “dual use”
items which might creatively be adapted for military-type applications and therefore
should be subject to U.S. export restrictions.32
29 For FY2007 see Budget: Analytical Perspectives, at [http://www.whitehouse.gov
/omb/budget/fy2007/pdf/spec.pdf], p. 31.
30 For an abstract of the testimony and link to the full text see [http://www.gao.gov/
docsear ch/ a bst r act .php?r pt no=GAO-06-885T ] .
31 See CRS Report RL33110, The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on
Terror Operations Since 9/11, by Amy Belasco.
32 See CRS Report RL31669, Terrorism: Background on Chemical, Biological, and Toxin
Weapons and Options for Lessening Their Impact, by Dana A. Shea; and CRS Report
RS21422, Dual Use Biological Equipment: Difficulties in Domestic Regulation, by Dana
Today, the U.S. policy focus is on terrorist organizations, such as Al Qaeda and
affiliated networks, and state supporters.33 But in the future, the recent phenomenon
of new types of terrorists appears likely to continue: individuals who are not affiliated
with any established terrorist organization and who are apparently not agents of any
state sponsor. The terrorist Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who is believed to have
masterminded the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, apparently did not belong to
any larger, established, and previously identified group, although he may have had
some ties to Al Qaeda operatives. Also, should organizational infrastructure of
groups such as Al Qaeda continue to be disrupted, the threat of individual or
“boutique” terrorism, or that of “spontaneous” terrorist activity, such as the bombing
of bookstores in the United States after Ayatollah Khomeini’s death edict against
British author Salman Rushdie, may well increase.
Thus, one profile for the terrorist of the 21st century may be that of a private
individual(s) not affiliated with any established group, but drawing on other
similarly-minded individuals for support. As the central focus of U.S. international
counterterrorism policy is currently on state sponsors and terrorist groups, some
adjustments in policies and approaches may warrant consideration.
Another problem surfacing in the wake of a number of incidents associated with
Islamist fundamentalist groups is how to condemn and combat such terrorist activity,
as well as the extreme and violent ideology of specific radical groups, without
appearing to be anti-Islamic in general. Also, the desire to punish a state for
supporting international terrorism may conflict with other foreign policy objectives
involving that nation, which might require a more positive engagement.
U.S. Policy Tools to Combat
Use of diplomacy to help create a global anti-terror coalition is a central
component of the Bush Administration response to September 11 events. For
example, diplomacy was a key factor leading to the composition of the U.S.-led
coalition against the Taliban. Notwithstanding, some suggest that the Administration
far-too-long undervalued diplomacy and that its ability to conduct effective
diplomacy has been weakened by its non-multilateral positions on a host of
international issues. Moreover, diplomacy may not always be effective against
determined terrorists or the countries that support them; however, in most cases,
diplomatic measures are considered least likely to widen conflicts and therefore are
often tried first by the United States when crises arise.
Some are concerned that U.S. diplomacy may not be sufficiently pro-active,
possibly as a result of resource or funding limitations. They contend that more
33 See also CRS Report RL32759, Al Qaeda: Statements and Evolving Ideology, by
Christopher M. Blanchard.
extensive, multi-faceted, ongoing diplomatic relations, including expanded public
diplomacy initiatives, might contribute to improved international anti-terror
cooperation, and argue that pro-active diplomacy is much less expensive than
subsequent military or security operations which might be required if these
diplomatic efforts are absent, insufficient, or unsuccessful. Moreover, they suggest
that in a region(s) of the world where personal relationships are culturally important,
it may be desirable to consider more funding for face-to-face diplomacy at all levels
as a long-term investment in future diplomatic relations. Some contend that U.S.
embassies abroad, particularly in hardship locations in the Middle East where
diplomats or their families may hesitate to go, are often understaffed or underfunded,
or have significant numbers of junior officers with limited diplomatic experience or
Others disagree. They contend that diplomacy is but one of many tools in the
nation’s portfolio for combating terrorism, and that the current mix of policy
emphasis and resources is a sound one, as evidenced by ongoing success against Al
Qaeda’s operatives, network, infrastructure, and financial sources of support.
When responding to incidents of terrorism by subnational groups, reacting by
constructive engagement is complicated by the lack of existing channels and
mutually accepted rules of conduct between governmental entities and the groups in
question. The United States has a longstanding policy of not negotiating with
terrorists, or hostage takers. Some observers suggest, however, that in the changed
circumstances of the 21st century, communications with terrorists in some cases may
prove beneficial to U.S. interests. In this regard, practitioners who deal with the
psychology of conflict may provide some useful insights.
In some instances, legislation may specifically prohibit official contact with a
terrorist organization or its members. Yet for groups that are well-entrenched in a
nation’s political fabric and culture, such as Hezbollah or Hamas, some suggest34
trying to engage the group might be more productive than trying to exterminate it.
Colombia’s on-again, off-again peace process with FARC is one recent example.
Some observers, though, are skeptical of the value of engaging with terrorists.
Former CIA director James Woolsey asserted, in a spring 2001 National Strategy
Forum Review article, that increasingly, terrorists do not just want a place at the35
table, “they want to blow up the table and everyone who is sitting at the table.”
On a different level, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, the Bush
Administration explored the possibility of enlisting nations considered state sponsors
of terrorism at the time, such as Libya, Sudan, and Syria, in a broader Islamic
coalition against Al Qaeda and its followers. Much cooperation has been obtained;
however, notably in the case of Syria, results have been mixed at best. To some
34 For background on the rise in power and influence of radical Islamist political parties, see
CRS Report RL33555, Trends in Terrorism: 2006, by Raphael Perl.
35 See Testimony of R. James Woolsey before the Committee on National Security, U.S.
House of Representatives, Feb. 12, 1998. [http://www.loyola.edu/dept/politics/intel/
critics, though, such initiatives detract from the imperative of taking a principled
stand against international terrorism in all its guises.
The issue of seeking to talk to, negotiate with, or otherwise diplomatically
engage: (1) states which support or carry out acts of terrorism;36 (2) organizations
which support or engage in terrorism;37 or (3) key terrorist leaders is seen as
troublesome by many. Some see positive outcomes for most any type of direct
contact; others see little utility for direct contact where such contact is not likely to
lead to positive outcomes and where such contact may lend legitimacy to a rogue
nation, terrorist organization, or leader. Compromise, it is often noted, though highly
valued in certain societies and groups, may be equally repugnant in others. The 79
recommendations of the Iraq Study Group Commission (ISG), released December
6, 2006, included a call for the United States to actively engage Iran and Syria in
constructive diplomatic dialogue.38
Proponents argue that public diplomacy can play an important role in winning
“hearts and minds.” The influence of public diplomacy through the media on public
opinion may impact not only on the attitudes of populations and the actions of
governments, but also on the actions of groups engaged in terrorist acts. Effective
public diplomacy vis-à-vis the media may help mobilize public opinion in other
countries to pressure governments to take action against terrorism.39 From the
terrorist perspective, media coverage is an important measure of the success of a
To better give effect to the notion of winning hearts and minds, the Bush
Administration created a position of Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy
and Public Affairs, a post initially held by Charlotte Beers, later assumed by Margaret
Tutwiler, and since July 2005 held by Karen Hughes. Among other efforts, Hughes
has created a Rapid Response Unit designed to assist U.S. officials abroad to respond
to the day’s news. Critics deride Hughes’ quick hit tactics as an overly “campaign-
like” approach to a years-long ideological struggle and cite her inexperience in
foreign affairs. Supporters, on the other hand, point to her energy, focus, elan and
the fresh approach she brings to an uphill battle. A daunting challenge facing Hughes
36 Such as Iran or Syria.
37 Such as Hamas or Hezbollah.
38 See The Iraq Study Group Report, [http://www.bakerinstitute.org/Pubs/iraqstudygroup_
findings.pdf]. The bi-partisan commission, co-chaired by James A. Baker, III, and Lee H.
Hamilton, consisted of a total of 10 members. Implicit in the report is the assumption that
the process of such engagement would be constructive.
39 See generally CRS Report 97-960, Terrorism, the Media, and the Government:
Perspectives, Trends and Options for Policymakers, by Raphael Perl. (Archived: available
from the author.)
is how to get federal agencies to agree on a single — or coordinated — message or
Sanctions on regimes can be essentially unilateral — such as U.S. bans on trade
and investment relations with Cuba and Iran — or multilateral, such as those
endorsed by the United Nations in response to Libya’s involvement in the Pan Am
103 bombing. In the past, use of economic sanctions was usually predicated upon
identification of a nation as an active supporter or sponsor of international terrorism.
Sanctions also can be used to target assets of terrorist groups themselves. On
September 23, 2001, President Bush signed Executive Order 13224, freezing the
assets of 27 individuals and organizations known to be affiliated with bin Laden’s
network, giving the Secretary of the Treasury broad powers to impose sanctions on
banks around the world that provide these entities access to the international financial
system, and providing for designation of additional entities as terrorist organizations.
By late October 2002, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, the freeze list
had expanded to include designated terrorist groups, supporters, and financiers of
terror. In addition, on September 28, 2001, the U.N. Security Council adopted
Resolution 1373, which requires all states to “limit the ability of terrorists and
terrorist organizations to operate internationally” by freezing their assets and denying
them safe haven. The Security Council also set up a Counter Terrorism Committee
to oversee implementation of Resolution 1373. U.N. Security Council Resolution
groups, undertakings, and entities” associated with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. As of
September 11, 2003, in the range of $200 million in terrorist funds had been frozen
worldwide as a result of these initiatives, according to U.S. and U.N. financial data.41
The effects of these economic measures are uncertain, because much of the flow
of terrorist funds reportedly takes place outside formal banking channels, in elusive
“hawala” chains of money brokers. Moreover, much, if not most of the assets were
frozen relatively early on with very little being frozen subsequently, raising the issue
of whether such countermeasures have peaked and lost their sting. Furthermore,
much of Al Qaeda’s money is believed to be held not in banks but in untraceable
assets such as gold and diamonds, and some observers have noted that lethal terrorist
operations can be relatively inexpensive.
With respect to nation-states, economic sanctions fall into six main categories
of restrictions: trading, technology transfer, foreign assistance, export credits and
guarantees, foreign exchange and capital transactions, and economic access.
Sanctions may include a total or partial trade embargo, an embargo on financial
40 For discussion of public diplomacy see generally, CRS Report RL33062, Public
Diplomacy: A Review of Past Recommendations by Susan B. Epstein and Lisa Mages and
CRS Report RL32607, U.S. Public Diplomacy: Background and 9/11 Commission
Recommendations, by Susan B. Epstein.
transactions, suspension of foreign aid, restrictions on aircraft or ship traffic, or
abrogation of a friendship, commerce, and navigation treaty.
The President has a variety of laws at his disposal, but the broadest in its
potential scope is the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (P.L. 95-223;
50 U.S.C. 1701, et seq.). The act permits imposition of restrictions on economic
relations once the President has declared a national emergency because of a threat to
U.S. national security, foreign policy, or the economy. Although the sanctions
authorized must apply to the threat responsible for the emergency, the President can
regulate imports, exports, and all types of financial transactions, such as the transfer
of funds, foreign exchange, credit, and securities, between the United States and the
country in question.
Specific authority for the Libyan trade embargo is in Section 504 of the
International Security and Development Cooperation Act of 1985 (P.L. 99-83), while
Section 505 of the act (22 U.S.C. 2349aa9) authorizes the banning of imports of
goods and services from any country supporting terrorism.42 Other major laws that
can be used against countries supporting terrorism are the Export Administration Act
of 1979 (P.L. 96-72), the Arms Export Control Act (P.L. 90-629), and specific items
or provisions of foreign assistance legislation. P.L. 90-629 prohibits arms sales to
countries not fully cooperating with U.S. antiterrorism efforts and requires that
foreign assistance be withheld from any nation providing lethal military aid to a
country on the terrorism list.
The Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003,
P.L. 108-175, signed December 14, 2003, calls for new sanctions against Syria until
the Assad regime stops providing support for terrorists groups and ceases other
activities at variance with U.S. policy. Past Administrations have been critical of
Syria’s support for terrorism, interest in acquiring weapons of mass destruction, and
military presence in Lebanon. An array of U.S. legislation currently bans aid to, and
restricts commerce with, Syria and P.L. 108-175 seeks to further limit diplomatic and
commercial dealings with the Assad regime. On May 11, 2004, President Bush
imposed economic sanctions against Syria, charging it had failed to take action
against terrorist groups fighting Israel and had failed to stem the flow of foreign
fighters through Syria into Iraq. As a result, most U.S. exports to Syria (which used
to total about $200 million a year) are banned; however, a significant number of
waivers have been granted.43
The United States also imposes economic sanctions against North Korea, one
of the five nations designated by the Secretary of State as a state sponsor/supporter
of international terrorism.44
42 See also CRS Report RS20871, The Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA), by Kenneth
Katzman, and the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (P.L. 104-172); 50 U.S.C. 1701 note.
43 See CRS Report RL33487, Syria: U.S. Relations and Bilateral Issues, by Alfred B.
44 See CRS Report RL31696, North Korea: Economic Sanctions, by Dianne E. Rennack.
Economic inducements can arguably play a powerful role in the levels of anti-
terror cooperation when nation states are the recipients of such inducements.
Moreover, counterterrorism policy can include efforts to change economic and social
conditions that provide a breeding ground for terrorists. Some have suggested that
most terrorists worldwide are unemployed or underemployed, with virtually
nonexistent prospects for economic advancement. Some analysts believe that
targeted assistance programs to reduce poverty and increase education (which might
also include supporting secular educational alternatives to the Madrasas — Islamic
religious schools) can bring stability to weak countries, make a difference in lifestyles
and attitudes, and can diminish the appeal of extremist groups. A further rationale,
some say, is to project a more positive image of the United States in terrorism-prone
Critics, though, argue that severe economic conditions are not the sole or even
the main motivational factors driving the emergence of terrorism, stressing that
resentment against a particular country or political order, and religious fanaticism,
also are important motivations. Osama bin Laden’s large personal fortune and his
far-flung business empire would seem to contradict economic deprivation as
explanation of his involvement in terrorism. Similarly, all of the 15 Saudi Arabian
hijackers implicated in the September 11 attacks were from middle-class families or
well-connected ones. The Basque Fatherland and Liberty organization (ETA) in
Spain is a relatively well-heeled terrorist organization. Ambient economic conditions
partly explain certain kinds of terrorist behavior in specific situations, but political,
ideological and religious factors may often be paramount.
Intelligence gathering, infiltration of terrorist groups, and military operations
involve a variety of clandestine or “covert” activities. Much of this activity is of a
passive monitoring nature aimed at determining the intentions, capabilities, and
vulnerabilities of terrorist organizations. An active form of covert activity occurs
during events such as a hostage crisis or hijacking, when a foreign country may
quietly request advice, equipment, technical or tactical support, with no public credit
given to the providing country. Covert action may also seek to create or exploit
vulnerabilities of terrorist organizations, for example, by spreading disinformation
about leaders, encouraging defections, promoting divisions between factions, or
exploiting conflicts between organizations.
Some nations have periodically resorted to unconventional methods beyond
their territory for the express purpose of neutralizing individual terrorists and/or
thwarting pre-planned attacks. Examples of such methods might run the gamut from
intercepting or sabotaging the delivery of funding or weapons to a terrorist group, to
destroying a terrorist’s embryonic WMD production facilities, to seizing and
transporting a wanted terrorist to stand trial for assassination or murder. Arguably,
such activity might be justified as preemptive self-defense under Article 51 of the
U.N. charter. On the other hand, it could be argued that such actions violate
customary international law. The Senate and House Intelligence Committees, in a
December 10, 2002 report, recommended maximizing covert action to counter
Assassination is specifically prohibited by U.S. executive order (most recently,
E.O. 12333), but bringing wanted criminals to the United States for trial is not.
There exists established U.S. legal doctrine that allows an individual’s trial to
proceed regardless of whether he has been forcibly abducted from another country,
international waters, or airspace. Experts warn that bringing persons residing abroad
to U.S. justice by means other than extradition or mutual agreement with the host
country can vastly complicate U.S. foreign relations, sometimes jeopardizing
interests far more important than “justice,” deterrence, and the prosecution of a single
individual. Notwithstanding the unpopularity of such abductions in nations that fail
to apprehend and prosecute those accused, the “rendering” of wanted criminals to
U.S. courts is permitted under limited circumstances by a June 21, 1995 Presidential46
Decision Directive (PDD-39). Such conduct, however, raises prospects of other
nations using similar tactics against U.S. citizens.47
Extradition/Law Enforcement Cooperation
International cooperation in such areas as law enforcement, Customs control,
and intelligence activities is an essential pillar of the Bush Administration’s
anti-terrorism policy. For example, the stationing of FBI agents overseas in some 50
countries facilitates investigations of terrorist crimes and augments the flow of
intelligence about terrorist group structures and membership. Similarly, DEA
currently maintains offices in 62 countries staffed by some 750 direct hire personnel
and 260 contract personnel.
An important law enforcement tool in combating international terrorism is
extradition of terrorist suspects. However, international extradition traditionally has
been subject to several limitations, including the refusal of some countries to
extradite for political or extraterritorial offenses or to extradite their own nationals.
Also, the U.S. application of the death penalty for certain crimes can impede
extradition from countries that have abolished the death penalty in terrorism-related
cases. This reportedly led U.S. authorities to increasingly use the controversial
practice of extrajudicial transfer (referred to as “rendition”), whereby a country will
“hand over” a terrorist suspect to U.S. authorities without going through formal
extradition procedures should they be available.48
46 See also CRS Report RL30252, Intelligence and Law Enforcement: Countering
Transnational Threats to the U.S., by Richard A. Best, Jr.
47 See generally, United States v. Alvarez-Machain, 505 U.S. 655, 669 (1992).
48 In some instances, a significant factor in a decision to allow rendition is a desire of the
country with physical jurisdiction over the suspect to avoid any domestic political fallout
or possible terrorist retaliation which may result from public extradition proceedings or
domestic prosecution of the suspect. See CRS Report RL32890, Renditions, Constraints
Imposed by Laws on Torture by Michael John.
The United States has been negotiating and concluding treaties with fewer
limitations, in part as a means of facilitating the transfer of wanted terrorists.
Because much terrorism involves politically motivated violence, the State
Department has sought (with varying degrees of success) to curtail the availability
of the political offense exception, found in many extradition treaties, to avoid
Rewards for Information Program
Money can be a powerful motivator. Rewards for information have been
instrumental in Italy in destroying the Red Brigades and in Colombia in apprehending
drug cartel leaders. A State Department program is in place, supplemented by the
aviation industry, usually offering rewards of up to $5 million to anyone providing
information that would prevent or resolve an act of international terrorism against
U.S. citizens or U.S. property, or that leads to the arrest or conviction of terrorist
criminals involved in such acts.
This program contributed to the 1997 arrest of Mir Amal Kansi, who shot CIA
personnel in Virginia, and possibly to the arrest in 1995 of Ramzi Yousef, architect
of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The bounty for the capture of Osama bin
Laden and his aide Ayman al Zawahiri has been raised to $25 million each.49
However, awards of this magnitude have not provided enough motivation — to date
— vis-à-vis senior Al Qaeda leadership.
Although not without difficulties, military force, particularly when wielded by
a superpower such as the United States, can carry substantial clout. Proponents of
selective use of military force usually emphasize the military’s unique skills and
specialized equipment. The April 1986 decision to bomb Libya for its alleged role
in the bombing of a German discotheque exemplifies use of military force against50
terrorism. In addition, U.S. military components are currently involved in a variety
49 Note that it might be argued that this practice violates a rule of customary international
law to the effect that combatants may not be forcibly transferred to another state. See
specifically, Article 49 of the (Fourth) Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of
Civilian Persons in Time of War, 6 U.S.T. 3516. Army Field Manual (FM) 27-10, The Law
of Land Warfare, para. 31 interprets Art. 25 of the Hague Regulations (Hague Convention
No. IV Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land Art. 30, Oct. 18, 1907, 36 Stat.
2277) — which are widely considered to be customary international law — to prohibit the
offering of bounties for assassination or capture, but there seems to be no problem with
offering rewards for information that leads to a capture or killing.
50 Other examples of use of military force are (1) the 1993 bombing of Iraq’s military
intelligence headquarters by U.S. forces in response to Iraqi efforts to assassinate former
President George Bush during a visit to Kuwait; (2) the August 1998 missile attacks against
bases in Afghanistan and an alleged chemical production facility, al-Shifa, in Sudan; (3) the
removal of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001-2002; (4) ongoing U.S. operations in
Afghanistan, and arguably (5) the Iraq war launched on March 19, 2003.
of anti-terrorism related missions, exercises, and deployments in areas such as
Afghanistan, Iraq, Colombia, the Horn of Africa (Djibouti), and the Philippines.51
Successful use of military force for preemptive or retaliatory strikes presupposes
the ability to identify a terrorist perpetrator or its state sponsor, as well as the precise
location of the group, information that is often unavailable from intelligence sources.
Generally, terrorists possess modest physical facilities that present few high-value
targets for military strikes. Some critics have observed that military action is a blunt
instrument that can cause foreign civilian casualties as well as collateral damage to
economic installations in the target country. Examples proffered include U.S. military
action which toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein and the Israeli military
operations in July 2006 aimed at weakening the escalating threat posed to that nation
by Hezbollah in Lebanon. However, part of the purpose for using military force, in
addition to eradication or discouragement of specific terrorist groups, may be to send
a political message to the target nation that providing refuge or support to such
groups comes with a price.
According to a July 21, 2002 New York Times report, a “pattern of mistakes” in
the U.S. bombing campaign in Afghanistan killed “as many as 400 civilians” in 11
different locations. Some argue that such tragic mishaps create anger against the52
United States and may bolster terrorist recruitment efforts. A 1999 U.S. study of
the sociology and psychology of terrorism states that “counterterrorist military attacks
against elusive terrorists may serve only to radicalize large sectors of the Moslem
population and damage the U.S. image worldwide.”53 Other disadvantages or risks
associated with the use of military force include counter-retaliation and escalation by
terrorist groups or their state sponsors, failure to destroy the leaders of the
organization, and the perception that the United States ignores rules of international
law. In addition, the financial costs associated with Operation Enduring Freedom in
Afghanistan have concerned some observers, as have costs of the U.S. military
presence in Iraq. Causing a financial blow to the U.S. and the West seems to be a
major goal of Al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations.
To date, the United States has joined with the world community in developing
all of the major anti-terrorism conventions. These conventions impose on their
signatories an obligation either to prosecute offenders or extradite them for
terrorism-related crimes, including hijacking vessels and aircraft, taking hostages,
and harming diplomats. An important convention is the Convention for the Marking
of Plastic Explosives. Implementing legislation is in P.L. 104-132. On July 26, 2002,
51 See generally CRS Report RL32758, U.S. Military Operations in the Global War on
Terrorism: Afghanistan, Africa, the Philippines, and Colombia, by Andrew Feickert; and
CRS Report RS22373, Navy Role in Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) — Background and
Issues for Congress, by Ronald O’Rourke.
52 See “Dateline: Kabul Afghanistan,” by Dexter Filkins, et al., New York Times, p.A1, July
53 The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism: Who becomes a Terrorist and Why?, by Rex
A. Hudson. [http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/pdf-files/Soc_Psych_of_Terrorism.pdf]
the U.N. Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, and the U.N. Anti-
Terrorism Financing Convention, both entered into force for the United States.54
Other Potential Policy Tools
An International Court for Terrorism. Many experts have urged that an
international court be established, perhaps under the U.N., to sit in permanent session
to adjudicate cases against persons accused of international terrorist crimes.
However, granting jurisdiction to international courts such as the International
Criminal Court implies a loss of national sovereignty, a concern, among others,
prompting the United States not to become a party to the International Criminal
Media Self-Restraint. Some suggest that working with the media to
encourage voluntary guidelines for reporting on terrorism issues is an option which
holds promise. For others however, the term “media self-restraint” is an oxymoron;
the sensational scoop is the golden fleece, and dull copy is to be avoided. In the past,
the media have been occasionally manipulated into the role of mediator and publicist
of terrorist goals. Increasingly, the media are sensitive to such charges. On October
11, 2001, five major U.S. news organizations agreed to abridge video statements by
Osama bin Laden, and this policy continues to date.
Policy Reform and the 9/11 Commission
Well before the September 11, 2001 events, various legislative proposals and
congressionally mandated panels had called for reconfiguring the federal
government’s strategic planning and decision processes vis-à-vis the global terrorist
threat. On November 25, 2002, the President signed the Homeland Security Act of
2002 (P.L. 107-296), consolidating at least 22 separate federal agencies, offices, and
research centers comprising more than 169,000 employees into a new cabinet level55
Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The creation of the new department, charged with coordinating defenses and
responses to terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, constitutes the most substantial
reorganization of the Federal government since the National Security Act of 1947,
which placed the different military departments under a Secretary of Defense and
created the National Security Council (NSC) and CIA. P.L. 107-296 includes
provisions for an information analysis element within DHS, many of the envisioned
tasks of which appear assigned to the Administration’s Terrorist Threat Integration
55 See generally “The Department of Homeland Security: Background and Challenges,” by
Raphael Perl in Terrorism: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Improving Responses: U.S.
Russian Workshop Proceedings, National Academies Press [http://www.nap.edu] (2004),
Center (TTIC), which was activated May 1, 2003 and subsequently became the
National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).56
The USA PATRIOT Act (P.L.107-56), enacted in October 2001 and renewed
in March 2006 gave law enforcement increased authority to investigate suspected
terrorists, including enhanced surveillance procedures such as roving wiretaps;
provided for strengthened controls on international money laundering and financing
of terrorism; improved measures for strengthening of defenses along the U.S.
northern border; and authorized disclosure of foreign intelligence information
obtained in criminal investigations to intelligence and national security officials.
On July 22, 2004, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the
United States (“9/11 Commission”) issued its final report. Included are 41
recommendations for changing the way the government is organized to combat
terrorism and how it prioritizes its efforts.57 Many of these dovetail with elements
of the Administration’s February 14, 2003 National Strategy for Combating
Terrorism, such as diplomacy and counter-proliferation efforts, preemption,
intelligence and information fusion, and winning hearts and minds — including not
only public diplomacy, but also policies that encourage development and more open
societies, law enforcement cooperation, and defending the homeland.58
Recommendations generally fall into the categories of (1) preemption (attacking
terrorists and combating the growth of Islamist terrorism); (2) protecting against and
preparing for attacks; (3) coordination and unity of operational planning, intelligence
and sharing of information; (4) enhancing, through centralization, congressional
effectiveness of intelligence and counterterrorism oversight, authorization, and
appropriations; (5) centralizing congressional oversight and review of homeland
security activities; and (6) beefing up FBI, DOD, and DHS capacity to assess terrorist
threats and improving the agencies’ concomitant response strategies and capabilities.
The report deals only indirectly with problems in the U.S.-Saudi relationship, such
as terrorist financing and the issue of ideological incitement. Recommendations of
the Commission are at various stages of acceptance, funding and implementation.59
Press reports dated May 29, 2005, indicated that the Bush Administration
launched a high-level internal review of its anti-terrorism strategy, with an emphasis
on developing a strategy more focused on combating violent extremism.60 Under the
revised strategy concept, public diplomacy received a major boost in emphasis.
56 See CRS Report RL32816, The National Counterterrorism Center: Implementation
Challenges and Issues for Congress, by Todd M. Masse.
58 [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/02/20030214-7.html]; See also
59 See CRS Report RL33742, 9/11 Commission Recommendations: Implementation Status,
by Richard Grimmett (Coordinator).
60 See Susan Glasser, “Review May Shift Terror Policies; U.S. Is Expected to Look Beyond
Al Qaeda,” Washington Post, May 29, 2005, p. A1.
A new national anti-terrorism strategic approach followed which is currently
being elaborated by the United States Government. The approach, embodied in a
NCTC coordinated interagency National Implementation Plan (NIP) for the National
Strategy for Combating Terrorism, was reportedly approved by the President in mid-
summer 2006. Its overarching goals are to: (1) defeat terrorism as a threat to
America’s way of life as a free and open society, and (2) create an environment
inhospitable to terrorism worldwide. The document, according to press reports,
designates lead and subordinate agencies to carry out a multitude of tasks to include:
destroying Al Qaeda; enlisting support from allies; and training of experts in foreign
languages and cultures with emphasis on gaining a better understanding of Islam.61
The approach seeks to enhance effectiveness of the 2003 National Strategy for
Combating Terrorism in the long term by strengthening the ideological component
in the war on terror. Inherent here is widespread recognition that the United States
will need to increasingly engage in the realm of ideas (public diplomacy), in
conjunction with other efforts to protect and defend the homeland and efforts to
attack terrorists and reduce their capabilities.
In September 2006, an updated version of the National Strategy for Combating
Terrorism was released. The 2006 strategy document gives added weight to earlier
efforts aimed towards placing enhanced long-term policy emphasis on the “war of
ideas”; i.e. confronting the radical ideology that justifies the use of violence against
innocents in the name of religion.62 Seen as core to the success of the strategy in the
long run is the advancement of “effective” democracies which is seen as central to
minimizing conditions which fuel terrorist support and recruitment.
Two assumptions would appear to underlie the reasoning upon which the
countering ideological support component of the strategy is based: (1) that it is
indeed realistically possible for the United States to advance effective democracies
in regions where political compromise and respect for minority rights may not be
established cultural, political, or religious norms, and (2) that terrorist causes are less
likely to win recruits in democratic societies and/or that individual terrorists and
terrorist organizations will be less likely to recruit, operate, and/or base in societies
where protection of individual liberties is strong. Both assumptions are subject to
rational debate and the possibility that democratic nations may be increasingly
spawning a trend of homegrown terrorist recruits remains generally problematic to
61 For background on some of the challenges facing creation of the strategy implementation
document “Strategy for Combating Terrorism is Bogged Down, Sources Say,” The White
House Bulletin, Feb. 24, 2006. See also: “A Fight Against Terrorism — and
Disorganization” by Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, Aug. 9, 2006, p. A1.
63 See CRS Report RL33555, Trends in Terrorism: 2006, by Raphael Perl.
U.S. Interagency Coordination Framework and
The interagency framework for combating terrorism overseas is a complex web
of relationships among federal organizations and agencies. Some agencies play lead
roles in specific areas; others play coordination roles; yet others serve in support
The National Security Council (NSC) advises the President on national security
and foreign policy; serves as a forum for discussion among the President, presidential
advisers, and cabinet officials; and is the President’s mechanism for coordinating
policy among government agencies on interdisciplinary issues such as terrorism.
Under the NSC structure are a series of committees and working groups which
address terrorism issues. Key is the Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG)
composed of high-level representatives from the Departments of State, Justice,
Defense, and Homeland Security, and the FBI and CIA, as well as representatives of
other departments or agencies as needed. A series of interagency working groups
under the CSG coordinate specific efforts.
The Homeland Security Council (HSC) is analogous to the National Security
Council.64 Located within the Executive Office of the President, it has a number of
working groups, called policy coordinating committees, which coordinate policy and
operations across the executive departments to prevent, respond to, and recover from
terrorist attacks within the United States. Some areas of HSC involvement include
the international aspects of terrorism as they relate to the homeland, to include
border- and trade-related security issues, as well as security aspects of international
The Department of State is the lead agency for U.S. government efforts to
combat terrorism through use of “soft power” (diplomacy/foreign aid-related)
overseas. The Department of Justice has the lead for law enforcement and criminal
matters related to terrorism overseas and domestically.
On December 17, 2004, President Bush signed the Intelligence Reform and
Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (S. 2845, P.L. 108-458) establishing the position
of Director of National Intelligence (a position separate from that of the CIA
Director) to serve as the President’s principal intelligence advisor, overseeing and
coordinating the foreign and domestic activities of the intelligence community. Also
established was a National Counterterrorism Center, designed to serve as a central
knowledge bank for information about known and suspected terrorists and to
65 However, some analysts question the need for an HSC separate from the NSC, viewing
the HSC structure as an unneeded and cumbersome bureaucratic layer. Others, however,
see such institutionalization as important in ensuring domestic security policy is well
coordinated with its international counterpart.
coordinate and monitor counterterrorism plans and activities of all government
agencies. The Center provides daily terrorism threat information to the President and
other policy makers.
Antiterrorism Assistance Programs
The State Department’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) Program is a central
part of the effort to help nations develop the capacity to effectively combat terrorism.
The ATA Program provides training and equipment to foreign countries to help them
improve their antiterrorism capabilities. More than 485,000 individuals from 141
countries have received training since the program’s inception in 1983, in such skills
as crisis management, VIP protection, airport security management, and bomb
detection and deactivation.66
Terrorist Identification and Screening Programs
National Counterterrorism/Terrorist Screening Center Programs.
In September, 2003, President Bush issued Homeland Security Presidential Directive
government’s approach to terrorist screening.67 To this end, certain terrorist
identification and watch list functions previously performed by the Department of
State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) were transferred to the Terrorist
Threat Integration Center (TTIC) — today the National Counterterrorism Center
(NCTC) — while others were transferred to the TSC.68
Today, the NCTC serves as a central hub for the fusion and analysis of
information collected from all foreign and domestic sources on international terrorist
threats. The NCTC maintains a Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) —
designated under HSPD-6 to be the single repository into which all international
terrorist-related data available to the U.S. government will be stored. According to
a press account, the TIDE includes over 325,000 terrorist-related records.69
66 Conversation between CRS and Department of State personnel, August 3, 2006.
67 The White House, Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD-6, Subject:
Integration and Use of Screening Information (Washington, Sept. 16, 2003), available at
[ ht t p: / / www.whi t e house.gov/ news/ r el eases/ 2003/ 09/ 20030916-5.ht ml ] .
68 Prior to the 9/11 attacks and for two years thereafter, State’s INR maintained a terrorism
and crime database. Known as TIPOFF, the database drew upon sensitive intelligence to
identify “known persons of concern” for the purpose of denying them visas when they apply
for entry into the United States. Records of persons included in TIPOFF were placed in
State’s Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS) and the U.S. Customs Service’s
Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS) For further information, see CRS Report
RL31019, Terrorism: Automated Lookout Systems and Border Security Options and Issues,
by William J. Krouse and Raphael Perl. See also CRS Report RL32366, Terrorist
Identification, Screening, and Tracking Under Homeland Security Presidential Directive
69 Walter Pincus and Dan Eggen, “325,000 Names on Terrorism List: Rights Groups Say
Database May Include Innocent People,” Washington Post, Feb. 15, 2006, p. A01.
The TSC, meanwhile, is a multi-agency collaborative effort administered by the
Federal Bureau of Investigation. NCTC shares selected data from TIDE on
international terrorists with the TSC. With these data, the TSC has established and
maintains a consolidated Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). The TSC, in turn,
distributes TSDB-generated international terrorist lookout records — along with
domestic terrorist lookout records 70 — to other agencies.
In addition, the TSC has developed comprehensive procedures for handling
encounters with known and suspected terrorists and their supporters, and provides
terrorist screening authorities with around-the-clock operational support in the event
of possible terrorist encounters. According to the Department of Justice’s Office of
Inspector General, as of January 2005, the TSDB included nearly 238,000 records.71
The TSC also supports the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation
Security Administration (TSA) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for the
administration of the “No Fly” and “Automatic Selectee” lists. However, the use of
these lists continues to prove problematic, particularly in regard to
misidentifications,72 and coordination between Justice and Homeland Security on
related issues has proved challenging.73
Department of State’s Terrorist Interdiction Program (TIP). The
Department of State’s Terrorist Interdiction Program (TIP), initiated in FY2002,
helps foreign governments improve their border control capability through software
for creating an automated terrorist screening system with fusion of names and
relevant data. A benefit of TIP is that it provides immigration officials in selected
countries with a computer-based, real-time system to verify the identities of travelers74
presenting themselves at border crossings.
Assistance to Victims Programs
Facilitating payment of compensation by state sponsors or their agents to
victims of terrorism is an ongoing area of congressional interest. P.L. 106-386,
allowed victims of terrorist acts committed by Cuba and Iran to collect payment of
judgments rendered from those countries’ funds held by the U.S. government, and
clarified circumstances under which immunity from jurisdiction or attachment may
not apply when victims of state-sponsored terrorism seek compensation.
70 Under HSPD-6, the FBI is charged with providing domestic terrorism information to the
71 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General, Audit Division, Review of the
Terrorist Screening Center, Audit Report 05-27, June 2005, p. 49.
72 See CRS Report RL32802, Homeland Security: Air Passenger Prescreening and
Counterterrorism, by Bart Elias, William Krouse, and Ed Rappaport.
73 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, Audit Division, Review of the
Terrorist Screening Center’s Efforts to Support the Secure Flight Program, Audit Report
74 For anti-crime programs generally, see CRS Report RL33335, Transnational Organized
Crime: Principal Threat and U.S. Responses by John Wagley.
Counterterrorism Research and Development Program
The State Department’s Counterterrorism Research and Development Program
is overseen by State’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism and is managed by the
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict.
The program focuses on the interagency Technical Support Working Group (TSWG),
which constitutes an R&D response to the threat posed by increasingly sophisticated
equipment, explosives, and technology available to terrorist groups. Major project
areas include chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear countermeasures;
explosives detection and improvised device defeat; infrastructure protection;
investigative support and forensics; personnel protection; physical security;
surveillance operations support; and tactical operations support. State and DOD
provide core funding for TSWG activities.
Diplomatic Security Program
The Diplomatic Security Program of the State Department is designed to protect
official U.S. personnel, information, and facilities domestically and abroad.
Constructing secure facilities abroad, providing security guards, and supporting
counterintelligence are some important elements of the program, as is detection and
investigation of passport and visa fraud.
Program Enhancement Issues and Options
Allocation of Resources
Most agree that the evidence indicates that terrorists are both seeking to kill
many people and concentrating on hitting economic targets such as support
infrastructure and tourism. If correct, this might argue in favor of programs to
combat terrorism which seek to safeguard nuclear materials; detect nuclear, chemical,
and biological weapons and conventional explosives; protect infrastructure critical
to the functioning of the national and global economy; and enhance information and
However, notwithstanding the best efforts of the nation and the international
community, some terrorist acts likely will succeed. Since the timing, location, and
nature of all future terrorist attacks are impossible to predict, much is to be said for
programs which promote development of robust response capabilities in the area of
disaster/crisis consequence management, including training of first responders. Due
to the enormous cost of anti-terror efforts and the impossibility of omnipresent
protection, difficult issues and trade-offs arise concerning cost-effectiveness,
diminishing returns and levels of “acceptable losses.”
The issue of further reforming or enhancing programs that engage in public
diplomacy may warrant consideration as well.75 The ideological nature of much of
modern-day terrorism implies that the battle for hearts and minds is not just a cliché,
but is an ongoing struggle, which the U.S., arguably, is not currently winning.76 On
the other hand, some argue that to the degree United States public diplomacy efforts
may be ineffective, cause should not be attributed to the government’s organizational
structure, nor its strategy or policy implementation. Rather, they suggest that the
cause for any such shortcomings is likely that what the U.S. Government says does
not match what it does; that U.S. foreign policy is undermining efforts at U.S. public
diplomacy. They cite the fact that the United States is strongly committed to
promoting democracy and human rights, yet supports regimes in Pakistan, Saudi
Arabia, and Egypt where arguably government respect for such values could be
Moreover, some suggest that while U.S. public diplomacy resources are
consolidating, they are not expanding. The former U.S. Information Agency (with its
overseas element, the U.S. Information Service) has been subsumed into the U.S.
Department of State, thereby losing some independence of action — although, some
would argue, gaining policy consistency. The short-lived Strategic Information
Initiative, a public diplomacy project launched by the Department of Defense,
foundered due in part to adverse public opinion concerning its mission and to lack
of active support from the other agencies with which it competed.
The well-funded charitable activities and publicity efforts of terrorist or
extremist groups appear to have led to broadened acceptance of extremist views in
target populations. Radical madrasas in many nations indoctrinate their students with
a philosophy of violence. Hezbollah charities provide services — and political
indoctrination — to the impoverished in Lebanon, with the aim of securing their
loyalty. The Hezbollah owned and operated Al-Manar television broadcasting
network targets a large audience in the Middle East and Europe. To the extent that
75 See generally CRS Report RL32607, U.S. Public Diplomacy: Background and 9/11
Commission Recommendations, by Susan B. Epstein. See also CRS Report 97-960,
Terrorism, the Media, and the Government: Perspectives. Trends, and Options for
Policymakers, by Raphael Perl. (Archived: available from the author.)
76 See America on Notice: Stemming the Tide of Anti-Americanism, by Glenn and Carolyn
Schweitzer (Prometheus, 2006).
77 Note that some suggest that the issue of developing alternative sources of energy may
warrant a fresh examination within the strategic context of the global war on terror.
Arguably, United States dependence on fossil fuels as an energy source severely limits the
nation’s ability to disengage or distance itself from oil-rich regimes in the Middle East, a
number of which arguably have dismal human rights records and are plagued by endemic
corruption. On the other hand, most acknowledge that weaning the nation from its current
dependence on oil — even if cost-effective alternative sources of energy were to be
discovered and/or developed — would prove to be a lengthy and technologically challenging
process as current industrial nations’ infrastructure is closely tied to fossil fuel and
the U.S. and other Western countries fail to effectively address this “cold war of
ideology,” a growing proportion of the world’s Moslem youth may grow up
embracing extremist views which could ultimately lead to increased terrorism.
For decades the U.S. may have had little need for public diplomacy to promote
its positive image of freedom and democracy. The term “propaganda” was used
derisively to describe publicity efforts by countries hostile to the United States.
However, the world’s demographics, economics and political alliances are evolving.
Extremist views are being disseminated to the youth of countries with high birth
rates. Some of the countries facilitating dissemination of these views — and those
receiving them — control vast financial resources, derived from oil revenues, that
could be used to influence public opinion on a large scale, for good or evil. The
resources currently allocated for U.S. public diplomacy pale in comparison.
The American public’s reaction to an information outreach, public diplomacy
or “propaganda” response to counter or refute hostile ideological efforts may depend
upon how U.S. initiatives are presented or “packaged.” For instance, Radio Free
Europe and Radio Marti were generally accepted, while the Strategic Information
Initiative (SII) was not. Whether correct or not, a perception widely perceived, was
that DOD has little credibility in “winning hearts and minds”. Moreover, the
Strategic Information Initiative was viewed by critics as a disinformation activity,
rather than traditional public diplomacy.
To counter information-based activities by radical Islamist groups, Congress and
the Bush Administration have created a U.S. government-sponsored Arabic language
Middle East Television Network (METN), or Al-Hurra (Arabic for “the free one”)
to broaden U.S. public diplomacy efforts in the Middle East. Supporters of this
initiative have asserted that there is a receptive audience for U.S. television, which
could counterbalance negative perceptions of U.S. policy that are commonly found
in the Arab media.
According to the 9/11 Commission Report in 2004, “the government has begun
some promising initiatives in television and radio broadcasting to the Arab world,
Iran, and Afghanistan.” Notwithstanding, more data are required to evaluate the
effectiveness of such programming efforts to date. For FY2006, the Administration
has requested $79 million, a figure that incorporates operations for the Al-Hurra
satellite television network and the U.S. government-sponsored Arabic language
radio station, Radio Sawa.78
It may well be that in a future political arena the West and its allies — while
seeking co-optation — must learn to coexist uneasily with radical groups, as is often
the case with organized crime, which has increasingly turned to legitimacy while
retaining sinister underpinnings. Terrorism has long since become a “process” or
pipeline, and its eradication is a goal which may not be achievable for many years,
if ever. Thus, U.S. anti-terror policy increasingly embraces a long-term strategy to
engage the process of terrorism on many fronts, to slow its spread, to ameliorate root
78 See CRS Report RS21565, The Middle East Television Network: An Overview, by Jeremy
causes, to deter recruitment, to promote tolerance, to modernize education, to
interdict weapons, to promote democratic institutions.
Some of these areas overlap with issues in the War on Drugs, and indeed there
are similarities between counternarcotics and counterterrorism strategies. Others
overlap with U.S. agendas to promote cultural exchange programs, provide
humanitarian and development assistance, as well as to promote human rights,
democracy, free trade and the rule of law.79
A series of National Security Council interagency policy coordinating
committees on strategic communication, information strategy, and public diplomacy,
first convened in 2002 have fallen short of developing a strategy aimed at
marginalizing radical jihadist extremists.80 Also apparently unresolved is which
agency or entity would be in charge of such an overall effort and how it would be
coordinated and implemented.
An open question is whether, and to what degree, the U.S. Department of State
currently has the charter, the knowledge, the infrastructure, the funding or the
personnel to effectively fight the cold war of ideology at appropriate levels of effort.
For example, some have called for reviving the United States Information Agency
(USIA) or creation of an entity which would only do public diplomacy without
strings attached as might be the case with the Department of State or the Defense
Department. From purely a standpoint of existing funding, however, the Department
of Defense or the CIA may be better equipped for such a mission, which goes beyond
traditional diplomacy. But on the other hand, to the extent that public diplomacy is
associated with or linked to defense or intelligence agencies, it would be perceived
as less credible. These issues, and the pros and cons associated with them, may
warrant further attention by Congress.
For Additional Reading
CRS Report RL33742. 9/11Commission Recommendations: Implementation Status,
by Richard Grimmett (Coordinator).
CRS Report RS21937. 9/11 Terrorism: Global Economic Costs, by Dick K. Nanto.
CRS Report RL32759. Al Qaeda: Statements and Evolving Ideology, by Christopher
CRS Report RL33038. Al Qaeda: Profile and Threat Assessment, by Kenneth
79 See “United States: Negative Image of US Grows Overseas” Oxford Analytica
subscription service daily brief of June 27, 2006. See also daily brief of November 24, 2005:
“United States: Hughes Faces Public Diplomacy Challenge.”
80 See “Of Jihadist Networks and the War of Ideas: U.S. Effort on War of Ideas Draws
Skepticism” by David E. Kaplan, U.S. News & World Report, June 22, 2006.
CRS Report RL33160, Combating Terrorism: The Challenge of Measuring
Effectiveness, by Raphael Perl.
CRS Report RL30252. Intelligence and Law Enforcement: Countering
Transnational Threats to the U.S., by Richard A. Best, Jr.
CRS Report RS22211. Islamist Extremism in Europe, by Kristin Archick et al.
CRS Report RL32816. The National Counterterrorism Center: Implementation
Challenges and Issues for Congress, by Todd M. Masse.
CRS Report RS22373. Navy Role in Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) —
Background and Issues for Congress, by Ronald O’Rourke.
CRS Report RL31672. Terrorism in Southeast Asia, by Bruce Vaughn et al.
CRS Report RL33123, Terrorist Capabilities for Cyberattack: Overview and Policy
Issues, by John Rollins and Clay Wilson.
CRS Report RL33555. Trends in Terrorism:2006, by Raphael Perl
CRS Report RL32758. U.S. Military Operations in the Global War on Terrorism:
Afghanistan, Africa, the Philippines, and Colombia, by Andrew Feickert.
CRS Report RL32607, U.S. Public Diplomacy: Background and 9/11 Commission
Recommendations, by Susan B. Epstein.
Appendix: Defining Terrorism81
There is no universally accepted definition of international terrorism. One
definition widely used in U.S. government circles, and incorporated into law, defines
international terrorism as terrorism involving the citizens or property of more than
one country. Terrorism is broadly defined as politically motivated violence
perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.
For example, kidnaping of U.S. birdwatchers or bombing of U.S.-owned oil pipelines
by leftist guerrillas in Colombia would qualify as international terrorism. A terrorist
group is defined as a group which practices or which has significant subgroups which
practice terrorism (22 U.S.C. 2656f).
One shortfall of this traditional definition is its focus on groups and its
exclusion of individual (“lone wolf”) terrorist activity — philosophically but not
organizationally aligned with any group — which has recently risen in frequency and82
visibility. To these standard definitions, which refer to violence in a traditional
form, must be added cyberterrorism. Analysts warn that terrorist acts will now
include more sophisticated forms of destruction and extortion such as disabling a
national computer infrastructure or penetrating vital commercial computer systems.83
Also, the October 12, 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, a U.S. military vessel, raised
issues of whether the standard definition would categorize this attack as terrorist, as
the Cole would not under conventional definitions be considered a “non-
com b at ant . ” 84
Current definitions of terrorism mostly share one common element: politically
motivated behavior, although religious motivation is increasingly being recognized
as an important motivating factor, as high-profile activities of such groups as Al
Qaeda underscore the significance of radical religious ideologies in driving terrorist
violence, or at least providing a pretext. To illustrate: Osama bin Laden issued a
81 Note that domestically, Congress has used the term “terrorism” often in legislation.
Hundreds of federal statutes and regulations refer to “terrorism” and related terms in a
variety of contexts. However, these statutes and regulations ultimately lead back to an
extremely small set of statutory definitions, current criminal law and immigration definitions
being among them. For the text of some of th classic U.S. statutory definitions of terrorism,
see CRS Report RS21021, ‘Terrorism’ and Related Terms in Statute and Regulation:
Selected Language, by Elizabeth Martin.
82 On the issue of lone wolf terrorism see Testimony of M.E. (“Spike”) Bowman (at the time
Deputy General Counsel, National Security Law Branch, FBI) before the Senate Select
Committee on Intelligence, July 31, 2002. An expanded version of Bowman’s testimony can
be found in “Some-Time, Part-Time and One-Time Terrorism,” The Intelligence Journal
of U.S. Intelligence Studies, Winter/Spring 2003, p.13, published by the Association of
Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO).
83 See CRS Report RL33123, Terrorist Capabilities for Cyberattack: Overview and Policy
Issues, by John Rollins and Clay Wilson.
84 See CRS Report RS20721, Terrorist Attack on the USS Cole: Background and Issues for
Congress, by Raphael Perl and Ronald O’Rourke. Though the definition of terrorism may
appear essentially a political issue, it can carry significant legal implications.
fatwah (edict) in 1998 proclaiming in effect that all those who believe in Allah and
his prophet Muhammad must kill Americans wherever they find them.85
Moreover, the growth of international and transnational criminal organizations,
plus the growing range and scale of such operations, have resulted in a potential for
widespread criminal violence with financial profit as the driving motivation.
Notwithstanding, current definitions of terrorism do not include using violence for
financial profit, even in cases where mass casualties might result with entire
Complicating matters is that internationally, nations and organizations
historically have been unable to agree on a definition of terrorism, since one person’s
terrorist is often another person’s freedom fighter. To circumvent this political
constraint, countries have taken the approach of enacting laws or negotiating
conventions which criminalize specific acts such as kidnaping, detonating bombs or
hijacking airplanes. The 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of the
Financing of Terrorism comes close to a consensus definition, by making it a crime
to collect or provide funds with the intent of killing or injuring civilians where the
purpose is to intimidate a population or coerce a government.86