Preventing a terrorist attack may involve extensive investigations. The investigative team will need to collect information about the methods and tactics that are utilized by the various terrorist groups (9-11 Commission, n.d.). Since September 11, 2001, there have been changes made in the way information may be collected which enhances the ability to identify possible terrorist cells. These changes have been made in the form of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 (Life and Liberty, 2004). In addition to changing the way in which information is collected and shared amongst law enforcement agencies, the USA PATRIOT Act created new crimes for various activities (Doyle, 2002).
Prior to the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, law enforcement officials had a hard time fighting terrorism, but in 1993 the FBI was successful in thwarting the so-called “Landmarks Plot” (9-11 Commission). This plot included a plan for simultaneous attacks on various structures in New York City. Some of the targets included the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, the United Nations, George Washington Bridge, and the New York FBI Office (9-11 Commission). The reason why the FBI was successful in thwarting this attack was because they reactivated a source that had previously infiltrated this specific cell (9-11 Commission). Because this is relatively dangerous, the creation of the USA PATRIOT Act provides a safer means of investigating and applying criminal law to potential terrorists and in turn, preventing attacks.
The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 has provided a means for law enforcement officers to prevent or thwart terrorist attacks as well as a means under which a suspected cell may be punished (Life and Liberty). Law enforcement officials are allowed to collect information on individuals they suspect are terrorists. Some of the tactics they may utilize would be to collect personal history records, financial records, conduct secret searches, and conduct wiretap investigations (Life and Liberty). The information that is collected through these means, provide law enforcement the opportunity to identify other potential terrorists and act swiftly. As a result of the utilization of the USA PATRIOT Act, arrest warrants may be issued and key individuals of a terrorist organization within the borders may be detained, thus preventing the attack.
The Act provides new federal crimes for attacks on mass transportation facilities, biological weapons offenses, harboring terrorists, providing material support for terrorists, money laundering, and many other offenses that terrorists generally commit (Doyle, 2002). Along with these offenses, certain provisions of US Code, Title 18 can be applied and an arrest may be made that may result in the prevention of an attack. By knowing how the terrorist organization operates and how it obtains funding and information on the targets, makes it easier for law enforcement officials to prevent such attacks. For example, prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, al-Qaeda would send cells to each area. Once in the area, the terrorists would act as if they were tourists while gathering information on their targets by utilizing a camcorder (Global Security, n.d.). Knowing that al-Qaeda was able to successfully blend in with the general population should be a concern and law enforcement officials should be wary of this behavior as well as visits to government buildings and military facilities, especially if the individuals have no official business to be there.
In conclusion, the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 has given law enforcement excellent means to prevent terrorist attacks. Not only do the provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act give law enforcement officers extensive means to use in investigating such attacks, but has also created laws that can be used against suspected cells in prevention of a terrorist attack. Further, knowing how an organization operates and the methods and tactics it utilizes in carrying out the attack can provide even greater protection against terrorism. These are just some of the ways law enforcement officers may successfully identify terrorists and make an arrest before another tragedy like September 11, 2001 happens again.
9-11 Commission. (n.d.). Law Enforcement, Counterterrorism, and Intelligence
Collection in the United States Prior to 9-11: Staff Statement No. 9. Retrieved 16 Jun 2006 from http://www.9- 11commission.gov/staff_statements/staff_statement_9.pdf .
Doyle, C. (2002). The USA PATRIOT Act: A Legal Analysis. Retrieved 7 Jun 2006 from http://www.fas.org/irp/crs/RL31377.pdf .
Global Security. (n.d.). Overview of the Enemy: Staff Statement No. 15. Retrieved 8 Jun 2006 from http://www.globablsecurity.org/security/library/Congress/9-11_commission/040616-staff_statemetn_15.pdf .
Life and Liberty. (2004). Report from the Field: The USA PATRIOT Act at Work. Retrieved 7 Jun 2006 from http://www.lifeandliberty.gov/docs/071304_report_from_the_field.pdf .