JUNE 26, 2007
Nearly six years after the deadliest attacks in United States history, a crucial program created to identify and disrupt terrorist plots abroad is still in disarray and far from actually being implemented.
The security measure was created after the 2001 terrorist attacks and was promoted as a collaborative effort between U.S. diplomats at embassies worldwide, overseas law enforcement agencies and American law enforcement agencies. The plan was to identify, disrupt and prosecute terrorists before they could strike again.
The reality is however, that while U.S. embassies worldwide claim counterterrorism is the highest priority, ambassadors and chiefs of missions say they have received little or no guidance on how to actually carry out the job. Federal U.S. authorities have failed to take the lead, as promised, in issuing clear implementing guidelines for integrating law enforcement overseas to assist foreign nationals in combating terrorism.
A 73-page report from the congressional investigative Government Accountability Office offers details on the plan’s mishaps, including specific examples of serious problems in countries with notoriously big terrorist populations.
The actual countries are not named for security reasons, but one example lists a country with an extremely high terrorist threat in which the law enforcement working group had never even been asked to try to identify or disrupt any of the terrorists on the most wanted lists of the U.S. government or of the foreign nation itself.
Practically none of the U.S. embassies visited during the investigation had implemented any kind of formal structure that ensured information sharing or any sort of unified effort among law enforcement agencies and American officials.
This sort of collaboration among agencies has proven to be successful as has been the case with the domestic Joint Terrorism Task Force, which combines the federal government’s national and international investigative capacity with state and local capabilities to detect terrorist groups and prevent them from carrying out attacks.
Among the domestic task force’s successes are the convictions of Ramzi Yousef and Eyad Mahmoud Ismal for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 2004 arrest of Yassin Muhiddin Aref who laundered money in connection with a terrorist plot.
To effectively combat terrorism overseas, this sort of successful joint task force needs to be fully implemented yet it is nowhere near coming to fruition.
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