B. Counter-Terrorism as Social Control
Although criminology has traditionally focused the most attention on crime and criminality, contemporary criminological perspectives have been broadened to also study the definition of and responses to crime or deviance under the heading of social control. It is from this perspective that counter-terrorism can be criminologically analyzed to focus on the mechanisms and institutions that are involved in treating terrorism as a function of crime and deviance. Counter-terrorism has generally received less scholarly attention than has terrorism, which is no doubt a result of a differential analytical concern that is closely related to the power and authority of the subject matter. Criminologists know much more about criminals and crime than they do about policing and police. Most terrorism studies that have focused on counter-terrorism have examined formal government policies and accompanying pieces of legislation on terrorism that have been enacted at the national and international levels of multiple governing bodies. This orientation toward policy and law harmonizes with the interests of political science and legal scholarship. Yet, a dimension that has been of growing concern, especially among criminologists, is the role played by criminal justice agencies and police institutions in counter-terrorism practices. Because security and police organizations are inevitably targeted at the criminal components of terrorist incidents, their activities in terrorism-related activities are ideally suited for criminological analysis.
Whether social control is conceived in response to terrorism as a crime or as a component in the criminalization of terrorism as deviance, the role of police in counterterrorism has undeniably been of growing importance. What criminological research has found, especially in the aftermath of highly visible terrorist incidents, is that policing powers are generally strengthened and coordinated among various (local and federal) levels. For example, after the events of 9/11, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) stepped up its efforts and personnel involved with terrorism investigations. Local U.S. law enforcement agencies likewise began to devote more attention to terrorism-related operations, even when such concerns appeared rather peripheral to local conditions. Other federal agencies that are mainly concerned with administrative issues have likewise reoriented their tasks in terms of the new security situation. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, for instance, has been abolished in favor of the creation of two new agencies, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, of which the latter is concerned with immigration as a security issue. Similar developments to those in the United States have also taken place in many other countries, where police powers have likewise expanded after the events of 9/11 and terrorism has become a security priority, even when there were no indications of a concrete terrorist threat.
The various security efforts and other components involved with counter-terrorism have been subject to an intensified coordination at the policy level of government as well as at the organizational level of law enforcement. At the level of policy, the policing and security dimensions of counter-terrorism have been subject to increased efforts at supervision and coordination by the governments of nation-states. Police and security measures against terrorism are thereby attempted to be aligned with other counterterrorism measures in the intelligence community and at the military, political, and legal level. In the United States, most famously, a new Department of Homeland Security was established to protect the nation from future terrorist attacks by coordinating various counter-terrorism functions. The idea for such a department was not newly developed after 9/11, but originated from a number of proposals that were drafted in 1999, 2000, and early 2001 by committees that had been commissioned by U.S. Congress and the Department of Defense. Each proposal called for a coordinated and unified national counter-terrorism program, and two proposals suggested the creation of a new federal agency to oversee such a program. None of the plans were implemented until the events of September 11, when an Office of Homeland Security was established within the executive branch of the U.S. government in October 2001. The office turned into the new Department of Homeland Security by the passage of the Homeland Security Act of November 25, 2002. The department oversees a large number of agencies, offices, and councils involved with various terrorism-related tasks, including health affairs, intelligence and analysis, security, customs and border protection, and immigration.
Internationally, there are also political efforts directed at coordinating the response to terrorism. The United Nations, most notably, has developed a Global Counter- Terrorism Strategy that calls on the nations of the world to unify and unite in their respective efforts against terrorism. The strategy calls for the condemnation of all acts of terrorism, irrespective of purpose, as constituting serious threats to international peace and security, and it urges nations to adopt all necessary measures to prevent and combat terrorism. As part of its counter-terrorism programs, the United Nations also promotes peaceful methods of conflict resolution, economic development programs across the world, and measures of international cooperation and assistance. Similar international initiatives as the ones developed by the United Nations have also been developed by various international organizations at regional levels, such as the Organization of American States, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the League of Arab States, and the European Union.
On the organizational level of law enforcement, it is important to note that police and security agencies have also developed their own, independently created coordination mechanisms aimed at harmonizing counter-terrorism efforts by law enforcement at both the national and international level. In the United States, the FBI works with other federal agencies as well as state and local law enforcement in cooperation efforts through so-called Joint Terrorism Task Forces. At the international level, counter-terrorist police cooperation is secured through various bilateral and multilateral partnerships. Bilateral police cooperation in counterterrorism can be conducted on a temporary, case-by-case basis, for instance to facilitate the transformation of information in view of the arrest of a fugitive from justice, or it can be of a more permanent nature through the establishment of joint investigative task forces. Multilateral counterterrorism cooperation is ensured through international police organizations such as the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) and the European Police Office (Europol). Importantly, these multilateral police organizations are of a collaborative character in that they establish direct systems of information exchange among the police of various nations, for the transmission of criminal data as well as the transfer of police technologies, without the creation of a supranational force.
Among the mechanisms of counter-terrorist policing, research has uncovered that while there are undeniable political efforts to bring police institutions in line with the “war on terror,” police institutions are able to resist such political pressures to remain relatively independent in determining the means and specifying the objectives of counter-terrorism enforcement tasks. Organizationally, police agencies can often secure an independent position, remote from governmental control. In the United States, for instance, it is striking that the FBI, the primary enforcement agency for counter-terrorism, is not part of the Department of Homeland Security. As terrorism is in many nations also a law enforcement concern, rather than exclusively an intelligence or military matter, counter-terrorism efforts at the level of policing are an element of criminal justice rather than national security or foreign affairs. With respect to the means of counter-terrorist policing, technological advances are observed to form a primary driving force in determining the police strategies that are used in terrorism investigations. Exemplary of the technological focus are advanced methods of information exchange among police, for instance encrypted Internet-based communications systems, and the focus on the technical dimensions of terrorism operations, such as the weaponry involved and the methods of communication used by terrorist networks. With respect to the objectives of counter-terrorism policing, terrorism is among law enforcement agencies conceived in terms of distinctly criminal components, irrespective of any political dimension or ideological motivation. Police institutions of different nations can on the basis of a shared understanding of terrorism as a crime even accomplish cooperation when they originate from nations that are ideologically and politically diverse. As such, the counter-terrorism efforts of police are central in the criminalization of terrorism, both domestically as well as internationally.