Following the 9/11 attacks, academics and experts have continually questioned whether the U.S. needs a domestic counterterrorism agency. A contention based on the belief that the attacks may have been prevented, if a dedicated body were previously established.
On the surface, it would appear to be a no brainer, which is far from reality. Should for example, the FBI take the reins or is there s a need to restructure U.S. efforts and establish a domestic agency based on Britain’s M15 model? There are compelling arguments either way.
After the attempt to down 10 airlines using liquid explosives was foiled by London authorities in 2006, experts quickly praised the effectiveness of British counterterrorism agencies, in stark contrast to criticism often leveled at the U.S. intelligence community.
The Department of Homeland Security also recently asked the RAND Corporation to conduct an independent study on the feasibility of creating just such and agency. Among the key findings of the report:
>> The motivating question is one of organization, and depending on how the problem with the nation's domestic intelligence approach is defined, changing organizations is one solution. However, other approaches – such as reallocation resources, changing regulations or laws, or enhancing agency collaboration – are options as well.
>> Fundamentally, what the United States seeks by way of domestic intelligence remains unclear, and existing arrangements have not been assessed in detail, all of which raises questions about the objectives of any reorganization effort.
>> Break-even analysis provides a systematic means of exploring the question of how much a new domestic intelligence agency would have to reduce terrorism risk – given a presumed level of threat and estimates of agency cost – to justify creating it.
Many interesting questions need be considered. Are U.S. counterterrorism agencies as effective as their British (and European) counterparts are? Or is it simply a case of their efforts going unrecognized because of the secretive nature of their operations? Should counterterrorism be law-enforcement activity, a military one or both?