The War on Terror: Homeland Security

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Chapter 5
The War on Terror: Homeland Security


Protecting the U.S. homeland from terrorist attacks is a formidable and challenging task. The scope is enormous. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, in The World Factbook: United States (August 21, 2008, People), the United States encompasses over 3.5 million square miles of territory and, as of July 2008, it had a population of 303.8 million. U.S. borders span more than one hundred thousand miles and are difficult to protect against illegal entry. There are hundreds of land border crossings, seaports, and international airports that must be secured. The United States has vast air and rail transportation systems and many highly concentrated metropolitan areas, all of which are attractive targets for terrorists. American society is relatively open with little restriction on movement or access to public places, and foreign visitors are welcomed. The American people are diverse, encompassing a variety of races, ethnic groups, and religions. This makes it easier for foreign terrorists to hide within the population and wait for an opportunity to strikeas happened on September 11, 2001 (9/11).

To counter the vulnerabilities inherent to American society, the U.S. government has developed a homeland security infrastructure that coordinates the efforts of many agencies at the federal, state, and local levels. The overall goal is threefold: to prevent terrorists from striking in the United States, to fortify U.S. defenses against an attack, and to prepare the American people and emergency responders in case an attack does occur.


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was established by President George W. Bush (1946) in 2002 and began operating in 2003. It has been given three primary responsibilities: prevent terrorist attacks from occurring within the United States, reduce the nations vulnerability to terrorist attacks and the damage caused by them, and facilitate quick and effective recovery in the event of an attack. The DHS works in concert with other federal entities devoted to national security, particularly the intelligence community (IC), the U.S. military, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Besides this horizontal cooperation, the DHS is also supposed to coordinate homeland security efforts in a vertical manner across federal, state, and local government levels. State and local officials are particularly important to the task of emergency response, because they represent the first wave of government assistance in the event of a terrorist attack.

The DHS brought together dozens of agencies and offices that had previously operated as separate entities. Some had been independent; others had been part of larger organizations, such as the U.S. Departments of Justice (DOJ), Treasury, Transportation, Energy, and Agriculture, the FBI, and the U.S. General Services Administration.

Figure 5.1 shows an organization chart for the DHS as of March 2008. The major components of the agency are described in Table 5.1.


The terrorist attacks of 9/11 made evident to U.S. leaders that the country lacked a coordinated strategy for protecting the U.S. homeland from terrorism. In October 2007 President Bush issued National Strategy for Homeland Security http://wwwwhitehousegov/infocus/homeland/nshs/NSHSpdf). The strategy lists three primary goals of homeland security (see Table 5.2):

  • Prevent and disrupt terrorist attacks
  • Protect the American people, critical infrastructure, and key resources
  • Respond to and recover from incidents.
TABLE 5.1 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agencies, 2008
DHS agencyAcronymPurpose
SOURCE: Adapted from Summary Information by Organization, in Homeland Security Budget-in-Brief: Fiscal Year 2009, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, February 2008, (accessed August 8, 2008)
Transportation Security AdministrationTSAProtects the transportation system and ensures the freedom of movement for people and commerce.
U.S. Customs & Border ProtectionCBPProtects the sovereign borders of the United States at and between official ports of entry. Also protects economic security by regulating and facilitating the lawful movement of goods and persons across U.S. borders.
U.S. Citizenship & Immigration ServicesUSCISGrants immigration and citizenship benefits, promotes an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensures the integrity of the immigration system.
U.S. Immigration and Customs EnforcementICEInvestigates the illegal introduction of goods, terrorists and other criminals seeking to cross our nation's borders.
U.S. Secret ServiceUSSSProtects the President, Vice President, and other dignitaries and designated individuals; enforces laws relating to obligations and securities of the United States; investigates financial and electronic crimes; and protects the White House and other buildings within the Washington, D.C. area.
Federal Emergency Management AgencyFEMALeads the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from domestic disasters and emergencies, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.
U.S. Coast GuardUSCGPrincipal federal agency responsible for maritime safety, security and stewardship.
Federal Law Enforcement Training CenterFLETCFederal government's principal provider of world-class, interagency training of federal law enforcement personnel.
Domestic Nuclear Detection OfficeDNDOImprove the nation's capability to detect and report unauthorized attempts to import, possess, store, develop, or transport radiological or nuclear material for use against the nation, and to further enhance this capability over time.
Office of Health AffairsOHADepartment of Homeland Security's principal agent for all medical and health preparedness.
Office of Intelligence & AnalysisI&AResponsible for the department's intelligence and information gathering and sharing capabilities for and among all components of DHS.
Science & Technology DirectorateS&TProvides federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officials with state-of-the-art technology and other resources.
Office of Operations CoordinationOPSIntegrates DHS and interagency operations and planning to prevent, protect, respond to and recover from terrorist threats attacks or threats from other man-made/natural disasters.
TABLE 5.2 Major components of National Strategy for Homeland Security
source: Adapted from National Strategy for Homeland Security, Office of the President of the United States, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, October 5, 2007, (accessed August 8, 2008)
Prevent and disrupt terrorist attacks
  • Deny terrorists, their weapons, and other terror-related materials entry to the homeland
  • Disrupt terrorists and their capacity to operate in the United States
  • Prevent violent Islamic extremist radicalization in the United States
Protect the American people, critical infrastructure, and key resources
  • Deter the terrorist threat
  • Mitigate vulnerabilities
  • Minimize consequences
Respond to and recover from incidents
  • Strengthen the foundation for an effective national response
  • Asses situation and take initial action
  • Expand operational capabilities, as needed
  • Commence short-term recovery actions to stabilize the affected area and demobilize assets
  • Ensure an effective transition to long-term rebuilding and revitalization efforts

The report explains the last goal entails creating and transforming our homeland security principles, systems, structures, and institutions. This includes applying a comprehensive approach to risk management, building a culture of preparedness, developing a comprehensive Homeland Security Management System, improving incident management, better utilizing science and technology, and leveraging all instruments of national power and influence. Figure 5.2 shows the four-step management system that DHS uses to carry out its three goals.


The goal to prevent and disrupt terrorist attacks focuses primarily on gathering and sharing intelligence, securing the nations borders and transportation systems, and conducting law enforcement counterterrorism activities.

Role of Intelligence

As described in Chapter 2, intelligence is information about ones enemies. The National Strategy for Home-land Security calls for a highly coordinated and integrated framework for intelligence gathering and analysis. One of the roles of the IC is tactical threat analysis. This is the collection and analysis of reliable information about terrorist plots and plans. This task is led by the director of central intelligence (the head of the IC) and by FBI and DHS intelligence agents. Intelligence achieved from this task allows the development of effective preventive actionthat is, the disruption of planned terrorist plots and the capture of the terrorists. Preventive activities are spearheaded by the FBI through a collection of law enforcement entities called joint terrorism task forces (JTTFs). The FBI operates a national JTTF out of its headquarters in Washington, D.C.

A second important intelligence task is strategic analysis of the enemy. This is a deep and comprehensive delving into the history, motivations, workings, and structures of terrorist organizations to identify their members and means of financial support. The goal is to determine their vulnerabilities, intentions, and capabilities. This task is led by the director of central intelligence, the FBI, and the DHS.

Border Security

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is responsible for protecting U.S. borders from the illegal entry of people and goods. At the same time, it must ensure that legal visitors and cargo have relatively easy passage into and out of the United States. Since becoming

TABLE 5.3 DHS programs for screening cargo entering the United States
Screening cargo
SOURCE: Screening Cargo, in National Strategy for Homeland Security, Office of the President of the United States, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, October 5, 2007, (accessed August 8, 2008)
  • The Container Security Initiative (CSI) creates a security regime to prescreen and evaluate maritime containers- before they are shipped from foreign ports-through automated targeting tools, ensuring that high-risk cargo isexamined or scanned.
  • The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) is a voluntary U.S.Customs and Border Protection program whereby participating businessesundergo a review of security procedures and adopt enhanced security measuresin order to expedite shipping.
  • The Megaports Initiative is a Department of Energy program in which theUnited States collaborates with foreign trade partners to enhance their ability toscan cargo for nuclear and other radiological materials at major internationalseaports.
  • The Secure Freight Initiative is a comprehensive model for securing the globalsupply chain that seeks to enhance security while keeping legitimate tradeflowing. It leverages shipper information, host country government partnerships, and trade partnerships to scan cargo containers bound for the United States.

a part of the DHS in 2003, the CBP has been given an important priority: detect terrorists and their weapons and prevent them from entering the United States. This is besides the CBP's many other responsibilities, including screening all traffic (people, vehicles, and cargo) into and out of the country for illegal activities or contraband. The task is enormous, because U.S. borders are long, crossborder traffic is voluminous, and the country's economy is dependent on international trade. According to the CBP, in Securing America's BordersCBP 2007 Fiscal Year in Review (November 6, 2007,, the CBP staffed 326 ports of entry and inspected 411 million travelers and 120 million land, air, and sea vehicles in fiscal year 2007. Table 5.3 lists some of the major programs operated by federal agencies, including the CBP and the U.S. Department of Energy to screen foreign cargo that enters the United States.

Transportation Security

The issue of transportation security is of particular importance to the United States. The vulnerability of the nations transportation system became painfully clear on 9/11. On that day nineteen terrorists were able to board commercial airliners as passengers, seize the cockpits during flight, and pilot the planes on missions of violent destruction. Three of the airliners were crashed into buildingsthe twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the U.S. Pentagon in Washington, D.C. The fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania after a revolt by the passengers. Its probable destination was the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. The combined attacks left nearly three thousand dead. Americans were stunned by the ease with which the terrorists were able to commandeer the planes. A variety of shortcomings and oversights in U.S. aviation security procedures had been exploited with disastrous results.

The events that transpired during the hijackings have been pieced together by investigators based largely on cell phone calls from crew members and passengers on the planes. A detailed chronology and description of these calls is included in The 9/11 Commission Report (2004, The report was compiled by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, an organization created by President Bush and Congress to investigate all the circumstances relating to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The commission believes the terrorists used small sharp items (e.g., box cutters) as weapons to attack and subdue crewmembers and passengers as the hijackings began. The terrorists were either allowed entry or forced their way into the cockpits, where they overcame and may have killed the cockpit crews. Before and during 9/11 it had been standard policy for decades on commercial airliners for crewmembers to offer no resistance to armed hijackers. This policy evolved after a spate of hijackings in the United States during the late 1960s and early 1970s. In most of those events the hijackers demanded to be flown to a specific destination (often Cuba), and once there, they released the passengers and crew unharmed. The implementation of tougher security measures and x-ray screening at U.S. airports virtually eliminated hijacking aboard domestic U.S. flights. Thus, it had not been viewed as a serious threat to U.S. commercial aviation for some time. As a result, U.S. planes did not have fortified cockpit doors in 2001.

AIR PASSENGERS AND BAGGAGE . In 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 was en route from London to New York City when a bomb in the luggage compartment exploded, tearing apart the plane. It crashed near the small village of Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 passengers and crew-members and 11 people on the ground. It was later determined that terrorists had managed to hide a bomb inside a radio that was somehow tagged for placement aboard the plane, even though it did not belong to a passenger. Following this incident, the United States implemented stricter regulations and inspection of passenger baggage.

According to the 9/11 Commission Report, it was standard procedure in 2001 to hold a high-risk passengers luggage until that person had boarded the plane. This was to prevent a terrorist from checking baggage containing explosives and then not boarding the plane. It was assumed that if both passenger and luggage were aboard, then there was no danger posed by the luggage. Mohamed Atta (19682001) is believed to have been the ringleader of the 9/11 hijackers. He piloted American Airlines Flight 11

into the first tower at the World Trade Center. Before boarding his flight in Boston, Atta had been picked by a computerized prescreening system for heightened security measures. As a result, his checked baggage was not loaded onto the plane until it had been confirmed that he was aboard the aircraft.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks changed many assumptions and conventions that had guided aviation security for decades. First, it became obvious that terrorists were willing to die as part of their missions. Thus, it was not inconceivable that a terrorist could both check in luggage containing explosives and board the plane. Second, the use by the terrorists of small, sharp, but seemingly innocuous objects that had passed through passenger screening precipitated dramatic changes in screening procedures. Tweezers, nail files and clippers, pocket knives, box cutters, and other small sharp objects were confiscated from people and their carry-on bags during screening. Eventually, these restrictions were relaxed for some items; however, the prohibition on box cutters was still in effect as of September 2008.

In November 2001 Congress passed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. It created the Transportation Security Administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation (TSA). In 2003 the TSA was made a part of the newly created DHS. The TSA is responsible for protecting the United States transportation systems.

Regarding air travel, the agency conducts preflight screening of passengers and baggage at airports and provides air marshals on selected flights. The air marshal program was begun in 1970 in response to a rash of hijackings. At that time the program was overseen by the Customs Service (now the CBP). More than one thousand agents were trained to thwart attempted hijackings. They flew undercover (dressed as passengers) on various flights and were armed. The program was discontinued in 1974. During the mid-1980s the program was restarted, but only for international flights of U.S.airlines. In Our Mission (August 12, 2007,, the TSA notes that there were less than fifty armed air marshals in the program when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred. President Bush greatly expanded the program and placed it under the TSA. Several thousand new agents have been trained as sky marshals. Besides flying undercover on domestic and international flights, these agents also staff positions in the National Counterterrorism Center and the FBIs JTTFs. Another program operated under the TSA allows certain airline crew members to fly armed. Federal Flight Deck Officers are trained in firearm usage and other skills needed to thwart a hijacker.

In December 2001 a terrorist aboard a commercial airliner flying from Paris to Miami tried to set off explosives hidden in his shoes. The so-called shoe bomber was overpowered by passengers aboard the plane and turned over to authorities. The incident prompted airport screeners to have passengers remove their footwear for closer inspection. Following the August 2006 discovery of a plot by British terrorists to use liquid explosives hidden in carry-on items, such as sports drinks, the TSA immediately banned the carrying on of all liquid and gel items. In Security Screening (August 12, 2007,, the TSA reports that it performs explosives screening on every piece of luggage that goes onto commercial airliners in the United States.

PROGRAMS FOR SCREENING PEOPLE . Table 5.4 lists some of the major programs currently used or in development to screen people for national security purposes. One of the most controversial is the REAL ID program. The 9/11 Commission Report recommended that the federal government set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification, such as drivers licenses. In response, Congress passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, later superseded by the REAL ID Act of 2005. It called for all state-issued drivers licenses or other state-issued IDs to meet specific standards for security and integrity by May 2008. The act and the controversy surrounding it are described in detail by Todd B. Tatelman of the Congressional Research Service in The REAL ID Act of 2005: Legal, Regulatory, and Implementation Issues April 1, 2008, http://wwwfasorg/sgp/crs/misc/RL34430pdf). Tatelman notes that many questions have been raised

TABLE 5.4 DHS programs for screening people entering the United States
Screening cargo
SOURCE: Screening People, in National Strategy for Homeland Security, Office of the President of the United States, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, October 5, 2007, (accessed August 8, 2008)
  • The REAL ID Act establishes federal standards for state-issued driver's licenses and non-driver's identification cards.
  • Secure Flight will require airlines to submit passenger information to DHS for flights that operate to, from, and within the United States, as well as those that fly over the continental United States.
  • The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is an internet-based system that is improving America's ability to track and monitor foreign students and exchange visitors.
  • The United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program, when fully implemented, will create an entry and exit system that matches foreign travelers' arrival and departure records using biometrics to screen applicants for admission to the United States.
  • The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) reduces the number of identification and citizenship documents that may be used by persons entering or re-entering the United States, from more than 8,000 documents, to a few dozen secure documents. This expedites document review at ports of entry while combating fraudulent documents.
  • The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables nationals of over two dozen countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.

about the constitutionality of the act. In addition, state legislators have complained about the costs and difficulties of implementing the act.

The DHS did not release final regulations for the REAL ID program until January 2008. At that time the National Council of State Legislators complained in State Groups Acknowledge Final REAL ID Regulations (January, 11, 2008, that implementing the program was going to cost the states an estimated $3.9 billion, but Congress had appropriated less than 3% of that amount. In April 2008 the federal government granted all the states an extension until December 31, 2009, to meet the requirement of the act. REAL IDcompliant drivers licenses will be required by most Americans by 2014 to board federally regulated aircraft or enter federal government facilities.

Domestic Counterterrorism

Domestic counterterrorism involves the efforts of law enforcement agencies to investigate, prevent, and interdict (hamper or stop) terrorist activity inside the United States.

One of the major initiatives of this mission has been the creation of new JTTFs at FBI offices around the country. JTTFs are investigational units that consist of agents from multiple federal, state, and local law enforcement organizations. The FBI has also established a terrorism watch list that contains information about people under investigation for terrorist links. Officials of federal, state, local, or foreign governments can contact the FBIs Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) if they believe they have encountered an individual on the terrorism watch list. Between December 1, 2003, and April 30, 2007, 96,711 reports of suspected watch list encounters were referred to the TSC call center. (See Table 5.5.) Sixty percent of the calls came from CBP agents. As of April 2007, the terrorist watch list contained approximately 724,000 records. (See Figure 5.3.) The

TABLE 5.5 Number of encounters with suspected terrorists reported by government agencies to the Terrorist Screening Center, December 1, 2003 to April 30, 2007
Referring agencyNumber of referralsPercent of referrals
SOURCE: Exhibit 1-2. Watchlist Encounters Referred to the TSC Call Center by Organization, in Follow-up Audit of the Terrorist Screening Center, U.S. Department of Justice, September 2007, (accessed August 8, 2008)
Other federal19,96521
State and local17,96719
Foreign government513<1
DHS = Department of Homeland Security.
CBP = Customs and Border Protection.

DOJ notes that the number of records in the database is not equivalent to the number of known or suspected terrorists in the system, because a single individual can have multiple records.

In 2005 President Bush directed the FBI to combine all of its intelligence and counterterrorism elements (that had been operating separately) into one organization under the direction of a high-ranking FBI official. The FBI's National Security Branch (October 4, 2005, was the result. Its stated mission is to protect the U.S. against weapons of mass destruction, terrorist attacks, foreign intelligence operations, and espionage.

DOMESTIC TERRORIST CASES . Domestic counterterrorism investigations by the FBI have produced a number of arrests and convictions. The following are a few of the major cases:

  • 1993 World Trade Center Bombersthe FBI investigation of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center underground garage resulted in the convictions of six terrorists, including the ringleader, Ramsi Yousef (1968), a Kuwaiti national of Pakistani descent. In 1998 Yousef was sentenced to life in prison plus 240 years for his role in the bombing. Yousef had also put a bomb aboard a Filipino airliner in 1994 that killed one man and masterminded a foiled plot that same year to blow up nearly a dozen airliners bound from Asia to the United States. He is the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (1964), a top al Qaeda figure believed to have overseen the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
  • Zacarias Moussaoui (1968)in August 2001 the FBI arrested Moussaoui for an immigration violation. He had been attending flight school in Minnesota and had aroused suspicions by his odd behavior. After 9/ 11 the FBI held Moussaoui as a material witness, believing that he was supposed to be the so-called twentieth hijacker. He was charged with conspiring to commit terrorist acts. According to the article Timeline: Moussaoui Case (, May 3, 2003), in January 2002 a long trial began in which Moussaoui represented himself and was often chastised by the judge for outbursts in the courtroom. In April 2005, after many legal maneuvers by his defense team, Moussaoui pleaded guilty to all counts and faced the death penalty. The judge allowed survivors and family members of victims of the 9/11 attacks to testify during the sentencing phase. Some of them testified on Moussaouis behalf, believing him innocent of the charges and suffering from delusions. In May 2006 he was sentenced to life in prison.
  • Lackawanna Sixthis group of American citizens of Yemeni descent is accused of going to Afghanistan in early 2001 to support the Taliban and take terrorist training at al Qaeda camps. In 2002 they were arrested by the FBI in Lackawanna, New York (a small town near Buffalo), and subsequently tried and convicted of supporting a foreign terrorist organization. Each received a sentence of between seven and ten years in prison. A seventh conspirator was indicted, but was out of the country. As of September 2008, that man (Jaber A. Elbaneh [1966]) was on the FBI's list of Most Wanted Terrorists
  • Portland Seventhis cell operated out of Portland, Oregon, and included seven people (six men and one woman) accused of conspiring against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Mark Larabee notes in Filing Details Portland 7 Plot (Oregonian, November 20, 2003) that all the men had tried to enter Afghanistan in 2001, but only one was successful. He was subsequently killed by Pakistani troops at an al Qaeda training camp. The remaining six were arrested in the United States in 2002 and received varying sentences. Most of the cell members were American citizens.
  • Iyman Faris (1969)Faris is a naturalized American citizen born in Kashmir. In 2003 he was arrested and charged with conspiring with the al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (1957) to commit terrorism in the United States. Faris worked as a truck driver in Ohio and is believed to have been scoping out potential targets for terrorist attacks. According to the DOJ, in the press release Iyman Faris Sentenced for Providing Material Support to al Qaeda (October 28, 2003,, one of these targets was the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. Faris pleaded guilty and was sentenced to twenty years in prison.
  • Northern Virginia Jihadthis network included eleven men of varying nationalities who were accused of operating a terrorist network in northern Virginia that supported the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba (a foreign terrorist organization) and conspired to wage war against the United States. In the press release Randall Todd Royer and Ibrahim Ahmed Al-Hamdi Sentenced for Participation in Virginia Jihad Network (April 9,2004,, the DOJ states that most of the men had attended terrorist training camp in Pakistan. A series of trials in 2004 resulted in convictions and sentences of various lengths for nine of the men. Two of the accused were acquitted.
  • Lodi networksoon after 9/11 the FBI began investigating a mosque in Lodi, California, for alleged links between two Pakistani imams (spiritual leaders) and their followers with al Qaeda. The two imams were detained on immigration violations and ultimately left the country under threat of deportation. In early 2006 two members of the Lodi community, a father and son, were tried for terrorism charges. The father pleaded guilty to a lesser immigration charge. The son was convicted for attending a terrorist training camp in Pakistan and lying about it to the FBI. The FBIs handling of the Lodi case has been criticized by some observers as overzealous. This charge is examined in detail in the Frontline documentary The Enemy Within (October 10, 2006, http://wwwpbsorg/wgbh/pages/frontline/enemywithin/). Frontline outlines the events that led up to the trials and presents the viewpoint of a retired FBI agent that the case was handled poorly and lacked sufficient evidence of wrong-doing. The documentary also examines the negative effects the case has had on the Pakistani population and on Muslim relations in Lodi.
  • The Fort Dix Conspiratorsin May 2007 six Muslim men from New Jersey and Philadelphia were arrested and charged with planning a terrorist attack against Fort Dix, a U.S. Army base in New Jersey. The FBI explains in the press release Attack Foiled: Undercover Probe Busts Terror Plot (May 8, 2007, that the men had collected an arsenal of weapons and hoped to kill as many soldiers as possible during the attack. As of September 2008, their cases had not proceeded to trial.
  • The JFK Terror Plotin June 2007 four men were arrested for conspiring to blow up fuel supply lines and tanks at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. In the press release Four Individuals Charged in Plot to Bomb John F. Kennedy International Airport (June 2, 2007,, the FBI states that one of the men, an American citizen from Guyana, formerly worked at the airport. His conspirators were from Guyana and Trinidad. All four were allegedly part of a Muslim extremist network. As of September 2008, their cases had not gone to trial.


Warning of Attacks

One of the tasks of the DHS is to operate a national warning system that keeps the public apprised about the nations relative risk at any time to a terrorist attack. The Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS) uses a color-coded risk scheme of green, blue, yellow, orange, and red. The green level coincides with a low risk. The risk gradually increases as the colors proceed through blue (guarded risk), yellow (elevated risk), orange (high risk), and red (severe risk). At each risk level there are a number of suggested measures for the public to take in preparation for a terrorism attack. These are basically commonsense recommendations regarding useful precautions or actions that should be taken in the event of any emergency.

When the HSAS was introduced in March 2002, the risk level was set at yellow. It has been raised several times since then from yellow to orange in response to intelligence information that a terrorist attack might be pending. At times the threat level has been raised only for certain sectors, such as the mass transit systems or commercial airlines. A recent such occurrence was on August 10, 2006, when a red threat level was issued for commercial air flights from the United Kingdom to the United States. The threat level was raised from yellow to orange for all other commercial flights in or out of the United States. These changes were in response to news that British authorities had foiled a plot in which terrorists had planned to set off liquid explosives aboard U.S.-bound flights. The red alert was in effect for only three days before being lowered to orange.

Critical Infrastructure and Key Assets

Protecting critical infrastructure and key assets is a key component of the National Strategy for Homeland Security The National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP; 2006, defines critical infrastructure as the assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such assets, systems, or networks would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, public health or safety, or any combination of those matters. Likewise, the NIPP defines key assets as publicly or privately controlled resources essential to the minimal operations of the economy and government.

Examples of critical infrastructure include sectors that are essential to survival (e.g., agriculture, food, and water) and those with economic, political, or social importance (e.g., the banking and chemical industries and the postal service). Infrastructure includes both distinct structures, such as buildings and dams, and the networks and components that make up the nations telecommunications and cyber (Internet) systems. Key assets include individual targets that are not essential or vital, but have national importance. The Statue of Liberty is a prime example. The government also includes high-profile events, such as the Super Bowl.

The protection of infrastructure and assets is addressed in more detail in two additional U.S. government reports: National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace (February 2003, and National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructures and Key Assets (February 2003, http://wwwwhitehousegov/pcipb/physical_strategypdf).

According to the latter report, there are more than two million farms and commercial and government buildings and facilities in the United States. In addition, there are thousands of water reservoirs and treatment plants, hospitals, emergency service providing facilities, dams, and energy producing plants. The nation's transportation system is enormous, including five thousand public airports alone. Finally, there are fifty-eight hundred historic buildings, national monuments, and icons. The responsibility among federal agencies for protecting all these resourceshas been divided up as shown in Table 5.6. This list is based on Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7 (December 17, 2003,

Catastrophic Threats

Catastrophic threats are those posed by weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). WMDs are unconventional weapons that use nontraditional means to cause destruction and death, primarily nuclear technology or the release of chemical or biological agents. The primary goals under this mission are to develop more effective detection and data-sharing techniques, preventive agents (such as vaccines), and antidotes and treatments to counter the risks posed by WMD attacks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Since its founding in 1946, the CDC has been responsible for protecting national public health, including the prevention and control of infectious diseases and other hazards. Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the anthrax letter attacks that began later that month, the CDC has been tasked with preparing the United States for the health threats posed by WMDs.

TABLE 5.6 Agencies responsible for critical infrastructure and key resources, 2006
Sector-specific agencyCritical infrastructure/key resources sector
a The Department of Agriculture is responsible for agriculture and food (meat, poultry, and egg products).
b The Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for food other than meat, poultry, and egg products.
c Nothing in this plan impairs or otherwise affects the authority of the Secretary of Defense over the Department of Defense (DOD), including the chain of command for military forces from the President as Commander in Chief, to the Secretary of Defense, to the commander of military forces, or military command and control procedures.
d The Energy sector includes the production, refining, storage, and distribution of oil, gas, and electric power, except for commercial nuclear power facilities.
e The U.S. Coast Guard is the SSA for the maritime transportation mode.
f The Department of Transportation and the Department of Homeland Security will collaborate on all matters relating to transportation security and transportation infrastructure protection.
SOURCE: Table S-1. Sector-Specific Agencies and HSPD-7 Assigned CI/KR Sectors, in National Infrastructure Protection Plan, 2006, Office of the President of the United States, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2006, (accessed August 5, 2008)
Department of Agriculturea 
Department of Health and Human ServicesbAgriculture and food
Department of DefensecDefense industrial base
Department of EnergyEnergyd
Department of Health and Human ServicesPublic health and healthcare
Department of the InteriorNational monuments and icons
Department of the TreasuryBanking and finance
Environmental Protection AgencyDrinking water and water treatment systems
Department of Homeland Security
Office of Infrastructure Protection
Commercial facilities
Emergency services
Commercial nuclear reactors, and waste
Office of Cyber Security and TelecommunicationsInformation Technology Telecommunications
Transportation Security AdministrationPostal and shipping
Transportation Security Administration,
United States Coast Guarde
Transportation systemf
Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
Federal Protective Service
Government facilities


Emergency Preparedness

The DHS office of National Protection and Programs has programs and activities designed for emergency response professionals and the general public. At the professional level, the DHS offers training programs and grants for emergency planning.

For the general public, the DHS (2008, provides information on how Americans should prepare for emergencies, including natural disasters and terrorist attacks. The Ready Campaign calls on every American to do three activities:

  • Put together an emergency supply kit (see Table 5.7 for the suggested list of items)
  • Prepare a family emergency plan that includes detailed instructions about how family members will communicate their whereabouts to each other if they become separated
  • Stay informed about local conditions, the potential for emergency situations to develop, and the appropriate responses to take for particular emergencies
TABLE 5.7 Items recommended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for a basic emergency supply kit
SOURCE: Recommended Items to Include in a Basic Emergency Supply Kit, in Ready America: Get a Kit Checklist, Office of the President of the United States, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, undated, (accessed August 11, 2008)
Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA weather radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
Flashlight and extra batteries
First aid kit
Whistle to signal for help
Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air, and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
Local maps

Emergency Response

In any emergency, including a terrorist attack, the initial response is by local and state officials. These so-called first responders include police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, hazardous materials response teams, rescue squads, bomb squads, officials with local and state emergency management agencies, and similar personnel.

FEDERAL ROLE. At the federal level the primary role of emergency preparedness and response is assumed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA became part of the DHS in 2003. FEMA personnel are dispatched following disasters (e.g., hurricanes and earthquakes) to provide large-scale services for displaced people. For example, after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, FEMA operated shelters and provided funds to victims left homeless by the devastation. The agency also offers training programs for first responders and helps local and state emergency management agencies prepare disaster and response plans.

Other DHS programs related to emergency preparedness and response are:

  • National Disaster Medical Systemthis is a public/ private system of hundreds of volunteer medical teams around the country. The system is overseen by FEMA and is designed to support local hospitals and

    emergency medical services in the event of a catastrophic disaster.
  • Strategic National Stockpileformerly called the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile, this is a national repository maintained by the CDC that includes large supplies of antibiotics, antidotes, and other medications, as well as medical and surgical supplies. According to the CDC (June 30, 2008,, one of the goals of the repository is to provide rapid delivery of Push Packages to disaster areas. Push Packages are packages containing a broad selection of medicines and medical supplies that can be delivered quickly and cover an array of medical emergencies likely to be encountered by first responders in the field.
  • Citizen Corpsthis is a national system of volunteers trained to respond at the local level to terrorism events. A National Citizen Corps Council is overseen by the DHS and includes members representing various emergency response organizations and groups from the public and private sectors. A listing of all Citizen Corps around the country is available athttp://wwwcitizencorpsgov/citizenCorps/allCouncilListdo.


In Department Celebrates Five Years (August 6, 2008,, the DHS provides a list of its accomplishments during its first five years in operation. (See Table 5.8.) The DHS states that it has accomplished a number of tasks that have helped secure the homeland and assist Americans affected by natural disasters. However, the agency is not without its critics. In early 2007 the Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security issued a report card assessing DHS performance in seventeen areas. (See Table 5.9.) The agency received no A grades and only four B or B grades; most of the remaining grades were C or C grades. The DHS received an F for employee morale. In addition, there

were three grades of incomplete, meaning that the agency had not completed implementing planned programs in these specific areas. It should be noted that the report card was prepared by only the Democratic members of the House committee and was not endorsed by the Republican members.

A much more independent analysis of the DHS has been provided by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). In Department of Homeland Security: Progress Report on Implementation of Mission and Management Functions (September 6, 2007,, the GAO assesses fourteen of the agencys missions and/or management areas. Within each of these areas the GAO identifies a specific number of performance expectations (goals) and measures

TABLE 5.8 Major accomplishments of Department of Homeland Security as of March 1, 2008
SOURCE: Highlights from the First Five Years, in Department Celebrates Five Years, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, August 6, 2008, (accessed August 8, 2008)
  • Securing the border Built more than 302 miles of fencing and increased number of agents from 10,500 to more than 17,500 by the end of 2008
  • Screening travelers Screened 2 million travelers per day, required secure travel documents, checked more than 113 million foreign visitors' fingerprints and performed 20 layers of screening
  • Screening ports and cargos Screened more than 97% of inbound cargo for radiation at our seaports
  • Protecting infrastructure Established national standards for chemical facility security and chemicals in transit and issued over 200 actionable cyber alerts
  • Enforcing immigration laws Removed over 275,000 illegal aliens, interdicted more than 86,000 illegal migrants at sea, and secured fines and judgments of more than $30 million against violating employers
  • Responding to disasters Responded to over 400 major disasters and assisted more than 3.78 million individuals
  • Naturalized More than 2 million citizens between 2003 and 2006
  • Countering drugs Seized more than 7 million pounds of drugs and made 8,920 arrests at land and sea
TABLE 5.9 Congressional report card on performance of Department of Homeland Security, 2007
SOURCE: 2007 Annual Report Card, in The State of Homeland Security 2007, Majority Staff of the Committee on Homeland Security, March 2007, (accessed July 1, 2008)
Border securityIncomplete
Emergency preparedness/FEMAC
Emergency communicationsC
Aviation securityC
Port securityC/D+
Surface transportation securityC
Critical infrastructureIncomplete
Information sharingC
Science & technologyC
Chemical plant securityB
Domestic nuclear detection officeB
Management and organizationIncomplete
Employee moraleF
Civil liberties and civil rightsC
Chief Privacy OfficerB

the progress made by the agency in achieving these goals. Progress is measured in terms of actions taken by the DHS to generally achieve a certain percentage of the goals. The following is a summarization of the results:

  • Acquisition management25% to 50% of goals
  • Aviation security50% to 75% of goals
  • Border security25% to 50% of goals
  • Critical infrastructure protection50% to 75% of goals
  • Emergency preparedness and response0% to 25% of goals
  • Financial management25% to 50% of goals
  • Human capital management0% to 25% of goals
  • Immigration enforcement50% to 75% of goals
  • Immigration services25% to 50% of goals
  • Information technology management0% to 25% of goals
  • Maritime security75% to 100% of goals
  • Real property management50% to 75% of goals
  • Science and technology0% to 25% of goals
  • Surface transportation security50% to 75% of goals

Overall, the GAO believes the DHS has made the most progress in the area of maritime security (i.e., seaport and sea vessel security, maritime intelligence, and maritime supply chain security). The GAO reports little achievement of goals in four areas: emergency preparedness and response, human capital management(i.e., managing and paying its employees), information technology management, and science and technology (i.e., identifying and developing countermeasures to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and other terrorist threats).


Table 5.10 shows the federal government funding enacted and requested for the DHS according to the agencys fiscal year 2009 federal budget request. For accounting purposes, the federal government operates on a fiscal year (FY) that begins in October and runs through the end of September. Thus, FY 2009 covers the time period of October 1, 2008, through September 30, 2009. Each year by the first Monday in February the president must present a proposed budget to the U.S. House of Representatives. The budget must be approved by the House and the U.S. Senate.

For FY 2009 President Bush requested $50.5 billion for the DHS. The three DHS agencies with the largest requests were the CBP ($10.9 billion), the U.S. Coast Guard ($9.3 billion), and the TSA ($7.1 billion). In FY 2007 the DHS had regular budget authority for nearly $43 billion and received approximately $7.3 billion in supplemental or emergency funding. In FY 2008 the agency had just over $47 billion in regular budget authority and received more than $5.6 billion in supplemental and emergency funding.

TABLE 5.10 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget authority, by agency, February 2008 .
aFY 2007 revised enacted reflects a transfer from DOD to USCG ($90 million) pursuant to P.L. 109-289, the transfer of FEMA Public Health ($33.885 million) to the Department of Health and Human Services, and the transfer from FEMA Disaster Relief ($13.5 million) to Office of the Inspector General pursuant to P.L. 109-295; and technical adjustments to reflect FEMA NFIF mandatory fund ($2.631 billion), USSS Retirement Fund ($200 million), USCG Trust Funds ($244.202 million), CBP Customs Unclaimed Goods ($5.897 million), and revised fee estimates for CBP ($36.347 million), TSA Transportation Threat Assessment and Credentialing fees ($45.101 million) and Aviation Security offset, CBP Small Airport estimates ($.950 million) and FEMA Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program ($6 million) to reflect net of collections based on the FY 2008 request.
bFY 2008 enacted reflects a transfer from DOD to USCG ($110 million) pursuant to P.L. 110-161 and the transfer from FEMA Disaster Relief ($16 million) to Office of the Inspector General pursuant to P.L. 110-161; revised fee estimates for FEMA NFIF mandatory fund ($2.833 billion), USSS Retirement Fund ($210 million), USCG Trust Funds ($280.273 million), CBP Customs Unclaimed Goods ($5.897 million), and CBP fees ($24.324 million).
cDepartmental Operations is comprised of the Office of the Secretary & Executive Management, the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding, the Office of the Undersecretary for Management, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, an
dIncludes the following FEMA appropriations: State and Local Programs & Emergency Management Perf. Grants, and Assistance to Firefighters Grants.
eReflects scorekeeping adjustment for rescission of prior year unobligated balances: FY 2007 enacted rescission of prior year unobligated balances from USCG ($102.793 million), TSA ($66.712 million), S&T ($125 million), USSS ($2.5 million), Counterterrorism Fund ($16 million); FY 2008 enacted rescission of prior year unobligated balances from FEMA ($37.176 million); CBP ($27.625 million); USCG ($146.847 million); OSEM ($16.295 million); USM ($.444 million); CFO ($.380 million); CIO ($.493 million); A&O ($8.7 million); TSA ($4.5 million); Counter-Terrorism Fund ($8.480 million); S&T ($.217 million); NPPD ($1.994 million): OHA ($.045 million); DNDO ($.368 million); ICE ($5.137 million); OIG ($.032 million); USCIS ($.672 million); WCF ($2.506 million); FLETC ($.334 million).
fIn order to obtain comparable figures, Total Budget Authority excludes: FY 2007 emergency funding pursuant to P.L. 109-295 for the Global War on Terror (1.829 billion: $22 million - FLETC, $175.8 million - USCG, $30 million - ICE, $1.601 billion - CBP); FY 2007 Supplemental Funding pursuant to P.L. 110-28 (OSEM - $.900 million; A&O - $8 million; OIG - $4 million; CBP - $150 million; ICE - $6 million; TSA - $395 million; USCG- $150.293 million; NPPD - $24 million; FEMA - $4.567 billion; CIS - $8 million; S&T - $5 million; DNDO - $135 million); FY 2008 Emergency Funding pursuant to P.L. 110-161 (CBP - $1.531 billion; ICE - $526.900 million; USCG $166.100 million; NPPD $275 million; FEMA - $3.030 billion; CIS - $80 million; FLETC - $21 million)
SOURCE: Adapted from Total Budget Authority by Organization, in Homeland Security Budget-in-Brief: Fiscal Year 2009, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, February 2008, budget-bib-fy2009.pdf (accessed August 8, 2008)
 FY 2007 revised enactedaFY 2008 enactedbFY 2009 president's budgetc
Departmental operationsc$603,525$571,791$752,593
Analysis and operations299,663306,000333,521
Office of the Inspector General98,685108,711101,023
U.S. Customs & Border Protection7,746,2599,306,72510,941,231
U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement4,696,6415,054,3175,676,085
Transportation Security Administration6,329,2916,819,8597,101,828
U.S. Coast Guard8,554,0678,741,0539,346,022
U.S. Secret Service1,485,6171,595,4961,639,346
National Protection and Programs   
Office of Health Affairs9,917116,500161,339
Federal Emergency Management Agency4,571,7165,522,1786,566,794
FEMA: Grantsd4,048,5004,117,8002,200,000
U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services2,216,2402,539,8452,689,726
Federal Law Enforcement Training Center253,279267,666274,126
S&T Directorate968,131830,335868,837
Domestic Nuclear Detection Office480,968484,750563,800
Less rescission of prior year carryover   
Adjusted total budget authority:$42,991,930$47,022,853$50,502,371
Emergency funding/supplemental:f$7,290,193$5,630,000$