The Evolving Threat: Series Wrap-Up

Tom Warwick

“Before 9/11, absolutely, there were concerns about terrorism; but the world fundamentally changed.” -Richard Fadden

This is the final installment of an on-going series exploring the evolution of the US’s policy concerning global non-state terrorism.  you can read posts one, two, three, fourfive and six here.

On the morning of December 2nd 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik opened fire in a business park in San Bernardino, California (Nagourney, 2015). Farook and Malik, both American citizens, were inspired by the messages of ISIL and took it upon themselves to carry out this attack which left fourteen people dead and another seventeen wounded (Nagourney, 2015). In the years following we would see similar attacks carried out in Paris, Normandy, Nice, Brussels, and Orlando. These attacks represent the latest type of terror threat faced by the United States, the “lone wolf” and the “sleeper cell.” Both operate within the boundaries of a nation and present a new type of policy challenge.  This challenge has emerged mainly due to the United States’ response to terrorism over the past decade. As we continue to close in on the enemy’s territory abroad, the more desperate they become to instill fear into the citizens of western nations. These attacks once again demonstrates the paradox of responding to terrorism, mainly that terror and the United States’ response to it are in a constant state of change.  As terrorists develop new tactics the United States will have to develop new strategies, which the terrorists will eventually adapt to, necessitating another change.   


In the early 1990’s the United States characterized terrorism as a crime meant to be handled by a law enforcement agency.  The FBI demonstrated this when they were able to arrest and send both McVeigh and ‘93 World Trade Center bomber to jail. However, just as this policy was becoming effective, the nature of the threat evolved and al Qaeda gained a major victory with the embassy bombings, USS Cole bombing, and the attacks of September 11th.  The United States once again adapted and fundamentally changed the way we respond to terror; some of these policies were effective and some were not. Regardless of the effectiveness of these policies, they precipitated another evolution in the nature of the threat.  The United States now faces two very different kinds of terror threats: a state-like terrorist stronghold and the invisible plotter.  Regardless of the policies adopted to take on this new threat only one thing is certain, the nature of the threat will once again change. The threat of terrorism is an ever-evolving one and our policies must reflect this.  

Work Cited for All Series Entries

ACLU. “Close Guantánamo.” American Civil Liberties Union. American Civil Liberties Union, 2016. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

BBC. “BBC News | AMERICAS | Defiant McVeigh Dies in Silence.” BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation, 11 June 2001. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

BBC. “The Good Friday Agreement.” BBC – History. British Broadcasting Corporation, 2016. Web.

BBC. “The Troubles.” BBC – History. British Broadcasting Corporation, 2016. Web.

Boyle, Michael. “Is the US Drone War Effective.” Current History: A Journal of Contemporary World Affairs 113.763 (n.d.): 137. Web.

“Boumediene v. Bush.” Oyez. Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech, n.d. Apr 21, 2016.

Brooks, Aloysia. “Torture and Terror Post-9/11: The Role of Social Work in Responding to Torture.” International Social Work 58.2 (2013): 320-31. Web.

Burke, Jason. “How the Changing Media Is Changing Terrorism | Jason Burke.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 25 Feb. 2016. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Bush, George W. Decision Points. New York: Crown, 2010. Print.

Bush, George W. “George W. Bush’s Address to the Nation on September 11th, 2001.” Oval Office Address. The White House, Washington D.C. 11 Sept. 2001. Speech.

Byman, Daniel. “Why Drones Work: The Case for Washington’s Weapon of Choice.” The Brookings Institution. The Brookings Institution, 17 June 2013. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

Cheema, Pervez Iqbal, and Muhammad Imran Chadhry. “License to Kill? On the Legality of Targeted Drone Killings in Pakistan by Drones.” Journal of Political Studies 22.1 (2015): 319-33. Web.

CNN. “1993 World Trade Center Bombing Fast Facts.” CNN. Cable News Network, 2016. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

CNN. “1998 U.S. Embassies in Africa Bombings Fast Facts.” CNN. Cable News Network, 2016. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Costanzo, Mark A., and Ellen Gerrity. “The Effects and Effectiveness of Using Torture as an Interrogation Device: Using Research to Inform the Policy Debate.” Social Issues and Policy Review3.1 (2009): 179-210. Web.

Counterterrorism and the Role of Special Operations Forces, 114th Cong. (2014) (testimony of Seth G. Jones). Print.

Daalder, Ivo. “Policy Implications of the Bush Doctrine on Preemption.” Council on Foreign Relations. Council on Foreign Relations, 16 Nov. 2002. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Dombrowski, Peter, and Rodger A. Payne. “Global Debate and the Limits of the Bush Doctrine.” Int Studies Perspectives International Studies Perspectives 4.4 (2003): 395-408. Web.

Eland, Ivan. “Does US Intervention Overseas Breed Terrorism?” CATO Institute Foreign Policy Briefing (1997): n. pag. Web.

Elsea, Jennifer. The Military Commissions Act of 2009 (MCA 2009): Overview and Legal Issues. Washington: Library of Congress, 2014. Congressional Research Service, 4 Aug. 2014. Web.

Fantz, Ashley. “How ISIS Makes (and Takes) Money.” CNN. Cable News Network, 19 Feb. 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

FBI. “The Oklahoma City Bombing.” FBI Cover Story. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 19 Apr. 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Finn, Peter, and Greg Miller. “Anwar Al-Awlaki’s Family Speaks out against His, Son’s Deaths.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Flaherty, Martin. “The Constitution Follows the Drone: Targeted Killings, Legal Constraints, and Judicial Safeguards.” Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 38.1 (2015): 21-43. Web.

Goldsmith, Jack. “Why Obama Hasn’t Closed Guantanamo Bay and Likely Never Will.” Time. Time, 13 Jan. 2016. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Gordon, Michael R., and Eric Schmitt. “U.S. Steps Up Its Attacks on ISIS-Controlled Oil Fields in Syria.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Nov. 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Gupta, S. “The Doctrine of Pre-emptive Strike: Application and Implications During the Administration of President George W. Bush.” International Political Science Review 29.2 (2008): 181-96. Web.

“Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.” Oyez. Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech, n.d. Apr 21, 2016.

“Hamdi v. Rumsfeld.” Oyez. Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech, n.d. Apr 21, 2016.

Hayden, Michael V. “To Keep America Safe, Embrace Drone Warfare.” Editorial. The New York Times 19 Feb. 2016: n. pag. Print.

Higham, Scott, and Ellen Nakshima. “Why the Islamic State Leaves Tech Companies Torn between Free Speech and Security.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 16 July 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Iskoff, Micheal. “Justice Department Memo Reveals Legal Case for Drone Strikes on Americans.” NBC News. NBC, 4 Feb. 2013. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

JIS. “report Of The Joint Inquiry Into The Terrorist Attacks Of September 11, 2001 – By The House Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence And The Senate Select Committee On Intelligence.” (n.d.): n. pag. US Joint Intelligence Committee, Dec. 2002. Web.

Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces against Those Responsible for the Recent Attacks Launched against the United States, Pub. L. No. 107th-107-40 (2001). Print.

Lauter, Debra, and Mark Pitcavage. “Oklahoma City Bombing, Lessons 20 Years Later (Opinion).” CNN. Cable News Network, 12 Apr. 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Lewis, Neil A. “Memos Reveal Scope of Power Bush Sought in Fighting Terror.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Mar. 2009. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Marquis, Christopher. “World’s View of U.S. Sours After Iraq War, Poll Finds.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 03 June 2003. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Miller, Greg, and Scott Higham. “In a Propaganda War against IS, the U.S. Tried to Play by the Enemy’s Rules.” The Washington Post. N.p., 8 May 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Miller, Greg, and Souad Makhennet. “Inside the Surreal World of the Islamic State’s Propaganda Machine.” The Washington Post. N.p., 20 Nov. 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Nagourney, Adam, Ian Lovett, and Richard PÉrez-peÑa. “San Bernardino Shooting Kills at Least 14; Two Suspects Are Dead.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Dec. 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Paulsen, Michael S. “Drone On: The Commander in Chief Power to Target and Kill Americans.” Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 38.1 (2015): 43-61. Web.

Postel, Therese. “How Guantanamo Bay’s Existence Helps Al-Qaeda Recruit More Terrorists.” Atlantic 12 Apr. 2013: n. pag. Web.

Sly, Liz. “The Hidden Hand Behind the Islamic State Militants? Saddam Hussein’s.” The Washington Post. N.p., 5 Apr. 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Swanson, Ana. “How the Islamic State Makes Its Money.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 18 Nov. 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Tarzi, Shah M. “The Folly of A Grand Strategy of Coercive Global Primacy: A Fresh Perspective on the Post 9/11 Bush Doctrine.” International Journal on World Peace XXXI.No. 3 (2014): n. pag. Web.

Toomey, Michael, and Benedict Singleton. “The Post-9/11 “Terrorism” Discourse and Its Impact on Nonstate Actors: A Comparative Study of the LTTE and Hamas.” Asian Politics & Policy 6.2 (2014): 183-98. Web.

The United States. Cong. Congressional Research Service. Terrorism: US Response to Bombing in Kenya and Tanzania: A New Policy Direction? By Raphael F. Perl. Cong. Doc. 98-733F. Washington: Library of Congress, 1998. Print.

The United States. Cong. Congressional Research Service. Terrorist Attack on USS Cole: Background and Issues for Congress. By Raphael Perl and Ronald O. Rourke. Cong. Doc. Washington: Library of Congress, 2000. Print.

The United States. Cong. House. Committee on the Judiciary. World Trade Center Bombing: Terror Hits Home. By Subcommittee on Crime and Criminal Justice. 103 Cong., 1 sess. H. Rept. Washinton: US Government Printing Officer, 1994. Print.

United States of America. Department of Defense. Cole Commission. DoD USS Cole Commission Report. By Cole Commission. Washington: Government Printing Office, 2001. Print.

United States of America. Executive Office of the President. National Security Council. National Security Strategy. By The White House. Washington: Government Printing Office, 2002. Print.

Wedgewood, Ruth. “Responding to Terrorism: The Strikes Against Bin Laden.” Yale Law School Legal Scholarship Repository (1999): n. pag. Web.

One thought on “The Evolving Threat: Series Wrap-Up

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s