The most significant terrorist attack on American soil was the September 11 attacks by Al Qaeda terrorists. The attacks changed the perception that America cannot suffer such attacks, considering how far away it is from where terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda are based. The attacks also initiated Americas war against terrorism, which continues to date. Before the September 11 attacks, Americans had never experienced a large scale terrorist incident within their countrys borders. Moreover, most local and state security agencies had no experience with such attacks and were, therefore, very ill-prepared to respond to them. The only historic attacks or incidents that compare to the September 11 attacks were the airplane hijackings of the seventies and the eighties. The fact that Americans were not prepared and for the attacks and never expected such attacks to happen on their soil resulted in many people being very surprised and mentally traumatized by the attacks. There was pressure on the government to attack in a significant way to prevent such attacks from reoccurring. This is what resulted in major changes in the United States governments foreign and domestic security policies. It also led to the government getting into several wars and supporting various governments and militias across the world to fight its enemies. This paper reviews some of the key government reactions to the September 11 attacks and the role of the private sector in the countrys security policy after the attacks.
Public Opinion After 9/11 Attack
After the September 11 attacks, most Americans called for and supported the creation of a strong security policy to respond to the threat of terrorism. The general public felt very angry. However, in contrast, the Americans who were directly affected by the attacks felt quite anxious and stressed about terrorism and did not support the countrys continued involvement in wars and counter-terrorism operations overseas. Those who felt less secure after the attacks and believed it was highly likely that the country could suffer similar attacks in the future, had a higher likelihood of advocating for strong domestic and foreign national security actions and policies (Gramlich, 2018).
In the weeks that followed the September 11 attacks in New York and on Pentagon, polling showed that trust in the United States government increased to percentages only previously witnessed in the 1960s. The last polling that measured the percentage of the public that trusted the Bush government before the September 11 attacks was a Los Angeles Times national poll conducted in March 2001. The national poll revealed that only 29 percent of the American public trusted the government. In contrast, a comparable Washington Post national poll conducted about two weeks from the September 11 attacks showed that trust in the government had significantly increased to 64 percent (Chanley, 2002). Trust in the government increased probably because Americans were terrified and scared after the attacks and, therefore, supported their government so that it could act fast and punish the perpetrators of the attack and prevent similar attacks from happening in the future.
After the attacks and over two decades later, several national polls have revealed that the majority of the American public think protecting the country against terrorism ought to be the priority for both the Executive and the Congress. For instance, as recently as when President Trump was elected, a national poll revealed that 73 percent of Americans agreed that the top priority for the then newly elected president should be to protect the nation against terrorist attacks along with improving the countrys economy and its educational system (Gramlich, 2018).
Legislation and Executive Orders
In the last 20 years, the approach of the United States government to homeland security has significantly changed. Before the September 11 terrorist attacks, there was no single homeland security policy or department. However, government security advisors were discussing various security policies to improve the countrys national security preparedness in light of the threat that was posed by terrorist groups. For example, both the Hart-Rudman Commission and the Gilmore Commission discussed and recommended enhancing the countrys approach to terrorism. After the September 11 attacks, many government security advisors and officials agreed that the country needed a new approach to address the threat of terrorism on American soil. This led to the Bush Administration setting up a presidential council to advise on national security. It also led to several presidential executive orders and directives meant to enhance homeland security. The efforts to respond to the threat of terrorism were defined as homeland security (Morgan, 2019).
While homeland security was initially defined as the governments response to the September 11 attacks and the threat of terrorism, the concept of homeland security was expanded after Hurricane Katrina. This is because the Hurricane Katrina disaster required multi-level and multi-agency government efforts to save lives and provide emergency help to the victims and New Orleans. So government security advisors concluded that homeland security should include policies that define the government response to similar large scale disasters, public health emergencies, and so on. In short, the concept of homeland security expanded from the governments response to the threat of terrorism to the governments response to everything that threatens to disrupt government operations, the rule of law, the economy, and the United States as a whole.
Efforts to protect homeland security initially were supported and continue to be supported by the countrys Intelligence Community. One of the key realizations after the attacks was the various intelligence collecting agencies were not working in unison. This led to the creation of the Intelligence Community to ensure the integration of different intelligence agencies and cooperation between intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies (Morgan, 2019).
The 2002 Homeland Security Act created the Department of Homeland Security. This department was created to coordinate the countrys response to terrorism. The law mandated the department to integrate intelligence and law enforcement data to protect the homeland better. A subsequent law, the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, created the National Counterterrorism Center to coordinate the different federal agencies involved in counter-terrorism. It also created the Director of National Intelligence post to oversee the multiple intelligence agencies in the Intelligence Community. The above legislative changes led to several organizational changes and resulted in the DHS National Network of Fusion Center and the Joint Terrorism Task Forces (Morgan, 2019). All these organizations fight terrorism in one way or the other.
As per the Presidential Policy Directive/ PPD21, the United States should improve the resilience and security of its important infrastructure, particularly against cyber and physical threats. According to the Patriot Act, all the assets and systems, including virtual and physical ones that are important to the country and whose damage or destruction can affect national public health, national economic security, and security are critical infrastructures (Moteff et al., 2003).
President Clintons 1996 Executive Order 13010 formed the Presidents Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection. The Order also showed why critical infrastructures are important and why they need to be protected. It did this by stating that certain infrastructures are very important to the country and its functioning and that their destruction or incapacity can reduce the countrys ability to defend itself or its economic security. The Order defined critical infrastructures as including emergency services (rescue, fire, police, and medical) water supply systems, transportation systems, banking systems, oil and gas supply systems, oil and gas storage systems, electrical power systems, and telecommunication systems (Moteff et al., 2003).
The list of critical infrastructures listed above is not conclusive. Since any infrastructure that is important for national morale, for public safety, for public health, for government continuity, for economic security, and national defense is considered to be critical infrastructure. Over the years, the list of critical infrastructures has expanded from only infrastructures needed for security, economic security, public health, and national defense to include important assets. These assets comprise of individuals, groups, and entities, which can be used to cause mass death or disasters, e.g., infrastructures utilized to store, transport or produce bombs, toxic chemicals, hazardous chemicals, and viral biological agents. National icons and monuments are also considered critical infrastructures (Moteff et al., 2003).
Role of Private Sector in Protection of Critical Infrastructure
The private sector is heavily involved in the protection of critical infrastructure. Many private sector companies are particularly involved in the protection of critical energy infrastructure. In the last 20 years, more and more private sector firms have become involved in providing security services and risk consultancy services to companies that own or run critical energy infrastructures. The majority of the companies are involved in providing physical asset security, while some are involved in intelligence and cyber-security areas. Considering the heavy involvement of private sector actors in critical infrastructure protection, private actors can support the federal government in the protection of critical infrastructure in several ways (Dugulin & Niglia, 2015).
First, private actors can act as advisers to government agencies and international agencies. There are many private sector consultancy firms that are directly involved in advising companies and agencies around the world that own or run critical infrastructures. They have a lot of knowledge and experience they can share with government agencies and international agencies to help with the protection of critical infrastructures. For instance, some private sector actors do directly evaluate critical infrastructure operator needs. They also help critical infrastructure operators in their day to day operations. Therefore, they have valuable information that they can share with government agencies to develop policies for critical infrastructure protection (Dugulin & Niglia, 2015).
Second, private actors can be involved directly in critical infrastructure protection. Considering the location of various critical infrastructures and assets, in some cases, the government and concerned agencies should contract the work of critical infrastructure protection to private actors. Some of the factors that make contracting critical infrastructure protection to private actors more preferable include operational, legal, and political restraints that limit the kind of actions that public authorities can take. Many private actors are already involved in critical infrastructure protection, especially of oil and gas supply lines (Dugulin & Niglia, 2015).
Lastly, private actors can help public authorities in several areas of critical infrastructure protection even in cases whereby public authorities remain the protectors of the infrastructures. For example, private consultancy firms can provide public authorities with various types of reports to help improve the protection of critical infrastructures. They can also help with the formulation of policies or cooperate with public authorities to protect critical infrastructures and assets (Dugulin & Niglia, 2015).
Chanley, V. (2002). Trust in Government in the Aftermath of 9/11: Determinants and Consequences. Political Psychology, 23(3), 469-483. Retrieved May 11, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/3792588
Dugulin, R., & Niglia, A. (2015, May 17). The private sector in the protection of critical infrastructure – GRI. Global Risk Insights. https://globalriskinsights.com/2015/05/the-private-sectors-vital-role-in-the-protection-of-critical-infrastructure/
Gramlich, J. (2018, September 11). Since 9/11, Americans have as a top priority. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/11/defending-against-terrorism-has-remained-a-top-policy-priority-for-americans-since-9-11/
Morgan, D. (2019). Homeland Security Research and Development: Homeland Security Issues in the 116th Congress. Current Politics and Economics of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, 21(1), 43-46.
Moteff, J., Copeland, C., & Fischer, J. (2003, January). Critical infrastructures: What makes an infrastructure critical?. Library of Congress Washington DC Congressional Research Service.