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Prevent and Disrupt Terrorist Attacks

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the United States, together with partners across the globe, has waged an unrelenting War on Terror both to hold the perpetrators accountable and to prevent the recurrence of similar atrocities on any scale, whether at home or abroad.

Preventing WMD Terrorism

The intent of our principal terrorist enemies to inflict catastrophic damage on the United States, coupled with their demonstrated contempt for human life, has fueled their desire to acquire WMD. Among our most important missions in denying entry to terrorists, their weapons, and other implements of terror is to detect, disrupt, and interdict the movement of WMD-related materials into the Homeland. This is one objective in our comprehensive strategy to prevent WMD terrorism,which is fully discussed in the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism. By integrating the operationaland intelligence efforts of all levels of government,the private sector, and our foreign partners, and enabled by an international framework and domestic institutions supporting its implementation, our strategy involves simultaneous action to:

  • Determine terrorists' intentions, capabilities, and plans to develop or acquire WMD;
  • Deny terrorists access to the material, expertise, and other enabling capabilities required to develop WMD;
  • Deter terrorists from employing WMD;
  • Detect and disrupt terrorists' attempted movement of WMD-related materials, weapons, and personnel;
  • Prevent and respond to a WMD-related terrorist attack; and
  • Define the nature and source of a terrorist-employed WMD device.

WMD in the hands of terrorists is one of the gravest threats we face, and we cannot permit the world's most dangerous terrorists to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons.

The updated National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, released in September 2006, articulates our strategy for winning the War on Terror. Over the short term we are working to prevent attacks by terrorist networks, deny weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to rogue states and terrorists who seek to use them, deny terrorists the support and sanctuary of rogue states, and deny terrorists control of any nation they would use as a base and launching pad for terror. From the beginning, however, we recognized that the War on Terror is a different kind of war – not only a battle of arms but also a battle of ideas. Accordingly, we are advancing effective democracy as the antidote to the ideology of our terrorist enemies and the long-term solution for winning the War on Terror.

This National Strategy for Homeland Security is a companion to the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, and the sections in both on preventing and disrupting terrorist attacks are complementary and mutually reinforcing. In order to prevent and disrupt terrorist attacks in the United States, we are working to deny terrorists and terrorist- related weapons and materials entry into our country and across all international borders, disrupt their ability to operate within our borders, and prevent the emergence of violent Islamic radicalization in order to deny terrorists future recruits and defeat homegrown extremism.

Deny Terrorists, Their Weapons, and Other Terror-Related Materials Entry to the Homeland

Denying our terrorist enemies the ability to travel internationally and, particularly, across and within our borders, severely inhibits their effectiveness. By preventing terrorists and their implements of destruction from entering the United States, we hinder their ability to identify and surveil possible targets, conduct planning, and launch an attack within our Homeland. Our National Strategy to Combat Terrorist Travel, National Strategy for Maritime Security, and National Strategy for Aviation Security are helping to guide our efforts. While we have strengthened travel and document security, improved information sharing with our domestic and international partners, and enhanced the screening of all visitors and cargo to the United States, our principal terrorist enemies are determined to infiltrate operatives and attack us on our soil. They also remain adaptive, exploiting perceived weaknesses in our dynamic travel system and using illicit means to circumvent our border and transportation security. We will defeat terrorists' efforts to infiltrate our Homeland while continuing to promote the reliable and efficient flow of people, goods, and services across our borders that is essential to American openness and economic prosperity.

Border Security and Interior Enforcement

As part of our broader effort for comprehensive immigration reform, we will work to further secure the Homeland and disrupt terrorist and other criminal activity in the United States. This includes improving our ability to detain and remove criminal and fugitive aliens and visa violators. We will continue to hire, train, and deploy additional Border Patrol agents, Customs and Border Protection officers, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, as well as to build on the substantial improvements to the infrastructure and technology deployed at our borders. Additionally, we will expand detention bed space for aliens subject to detention and removal.

At the same time, we will enhance interior enforcement efforts, including worksite enforcement programs. Employers should be required to verify the work eligibility of all employees, preventing illegal immigrants from obtaining jobs through fraud or the use of stolen identification, including Social Security numbers. In order to accomplish this, we must expand the use of an electronic employment eligibility verification system that is timely, accurate, and easy for employers to use. We also will continue to crack down on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants by applying criminal penalties to those who circumvent the law. In addition, we will continue to step up efforts to verify the status of non-immigrants studying in the United States through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and have appropriate follow-up where there may be violations. Taken together, these efforts will reinforce significantly enhanced border and interior security and help deny employment to those who are present in our country illegally, including criminals and potential terrorists.

  • Prevent terrorist exploitation of legitimate pathways into the Homeland. Continuing to strengthen our layered system of protections that start overseas and continue along our borders, at our ports, on our roadways and railways, and in our skies is fundamental to preventing terrorists, their weapons, and related materials from entering our country through exploitation of legitimate pathways. In order to do this, we must continue to act deliberately on several fronts. A critical component of screening people is travel document security, because official documents are the key enablers for screening all people at ports of entry. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative and the REAL ID Act are additional efforts to improve the integrity of documents used for entry into the United States. Enhancing international security standards through the use of biometrics, including in passports and visas, has made it increasingly difficult to counterfeit travel documents, and we must encourage those countries not in the Visa Waiver Program to adopt biometric passports. In the face of resourceful terrorists, however, we must continue to expand the US-VISIT program's biometric enrollment from two fingerprints to ten fingerprints, as well as leverage science and technology to enable more advanced multi-modal biometric recognition capabilities in the future that use fingerprint, face, or iris data. In order to further enhance travel document security, we will continue to press our international partners to strengthen and fully enforce laws criminalizing the counterfeiting, alteration, and misuse of identification and travel documents, and to report lost and stolen passports in a timely manner. These efforts build on the Department of State's screening for fraudulent passports and other documents through the visa interview process and U.S. Customs and Border Protection's examination of passports and visas for evidence of fraud during the admissions process.

    By improving the screening of visa applicants, we also can help control access through ports of entry. Improved screening means enhancing our ability to more effectively identify prospective travelers who pose security threats through improved interview techniques, background checks, and the collection and comparison of biometrics. This includes expanding the use of security personnel abroad who are focused on assessing security threats and fraudulent documents used in the visa application process. It also means that we will continue to work with our foreign partners to share terrorist watchlists and to ensure other relevant electronic databases are accurate, up-to-date, and well-managed.

    Screening People
    • 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.
    Terrorists also can exploit the global supply chains through which cargo enters the United States to smuggle their tools of terror, including possibly WMD. To counter this potential infiltration, and particularly to prevent the introduction of nuclear and radiological material into the Homeland, we will continue to expand the type of information we collect and improve cargo screening, scanning, and detection procedures and systems at foreign ports. Enhancing the Container Security Initiative, Megaports Initiative, and Secure Freight Initiative, among other international, multilateral, and bilateral efforts, is an important step toward developing a more robust global inspection and detection architecture for the 21st century. We will combine these efforts with strengthened interdiction measures for all types of cargo and all modes of transport to further constrain the mobility of terrorists, their weapons, and other material. We also will continue to strengthen and enhance screening, scanning, and detection capabilities at all U.S. maritime ports and land ports of entry for cargo entering, leaving, and moving within the country.

    Additionally, in order to improve the security of international commercial systems and supply chains, the United States will enhance the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism to further develop public-private partnerships with the full range of partners involved in commerce and transportation. The private sector is central to improving security along the entire supply chain – from the factory floor to foreign vendors, at seaports, and across borders. This integrated public-private partnership also will be important in stimulating the development and implementation of best practices, risk management approaches, and industry codes of conduct. Risk assessment is a critical element of corporate valuations, so companies that minimize risk will be rewarded by the market.

  • Screening Cargo

    • 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 is examined or scanned.
    • The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) is a voluntary U.S. Customs and Border Protection program whereby participating businesses undergo a review of security procedures and adopt enhanced security measures in order to expedite shipping.
    • The Megaports Initiative is a Department of Energy program in which the United States collaborates with foreign trade partners to enhance their ability to scan cargo for nuclear and other radiological materials at major international seaports.
    • The Secure Freight Initiative is a comprehensive model for securing the global supply chain that seeks to enhance security while keeping legitimate trade flowing. It leverages shipper information, host country government partnerships, and trade partnerships to scan cargo containers bound for the United States.
    Prevent terrorist use of illicit pathways into the Homeland. While some terrorists will continue to exploit legitimate channels to move personnel and weapons into and within our country, others might attempt to infiltrate our land, maritime, and air borders by car, truck, rail, foot, boat, or aircraft. In order to disrupt the use of illicit pathways into the Homeland, we will continue to implement an integrated system of people, technology, and tactical infrastructure through the Secure Border Initiative to detect, identify,respond to, and resolve illegal entry attempts at our land borders. We also will enhance and improve the coordination of surveillance of watercraft and general aviation. We will work with our neighbors and international partners to shrink the illicit travel networks used by human smugglers, narco-traffickers, and other transnational criminals whose activities foster continued exploitation of our borders.
Disrupt Terrorists and Their Capacity to Operate in the United States

The United States and our partners and allies are attacking terrorists and their networks in a campaign of direct and continuous action to deny them what they need to operate and survive overseas. We are on the offense at home, too – taking the fight to an enemy that exploits our open and diverse society, hides among us, and tries to attack us from within. Leveraging our Nation's foundation of homeland security partnerships, as well as our relationships with committed friends across the globe, we will work to uncover terrorists and terrorist activity within our borders and take swift and effective action to preempt and disrupt their activities and enterprises. The Federal Government must ensure that we have the necessary and appropriate legal tools to accomplish these objectives while at the same time preserving the rights and civil liberties of all Americans.

  • Identify and locate terrorists and uncover terrorist activity. In order to uncover terrorists and terrorist activity against the backdrop of our highly mobile, dynamic, and diverse society, we must attain domain awareness of the actions, events, and trends that occur throughout our land, maritime, air, space, and cyber domains. This is a multifaceted process. First, partners throughout the entire law enforcement community must continue to enhance their baseline understanding of their operating environments – the people, the geography, and the daily and weekly rhythm of activities and events. By understanding trend lines, we can better identify anomalies and deviations that could indicate terrorist activity. The reporting of unusual or suspicious activity by private sector partners and a vigilant public also is essential to this effort. Identifying terrorists and detecting terrorist activity and plotting also require a greater understanding of how suspect activities at the local level relate to the strategic environment. Our law enforcement and intelligence communities must have detailed knowledge of our Homeland adversaries, including their identities, sources of support, intentions, capabilities, and modi operandi. This information must be assessed against a current strategic threat picture that continues to integrate national intelligence.

    Intelligence-Led Policing

    Intelligence-Led Policing (ILP) is a management and resource allocation approach to law enforcement using data collection and intelligence analysis to set specific priorities for all manner of crimes, including those associated with terrorism. ILP is a collaborative approach based on improved intelligence operations and community-oriented policing and problem solving, which the field of law enforcement has considered beneficial for many years. Today it is being adopted by a variety of law enforcement entities.
    In order to enhance our domain awareness as well as improve our understanding of how terrorist enemies are likely to operate in the Homeland, the law enforcement community, along with the intelligence community, must work to develop and implement national information requirements – developing a process for identifying information gaps, determining critical information requirements, and meeting those requirements collaboratively. We also must encourage the implementation of Intelligence-Led Policing by State, local, and Tribal law enforcement – after all, they best understand their communities, citizens, and current trend lines. Working in a collaborative environment, the Federal Government will recommend priorities for State, local, and Tribal homeland security activities that focus resources on the most pressing problems, adopt a formal intelligence process with requirements generation and tasking of information collection, and analyze and disseminate the information. Underlying our efforts to achieve domain awareness and identify and locate terrorists and terrorist activity in the Homeland is a fully developed and integrated Information Sharing Environment (see the chapter titled "Ensuring Long-Term Success") that supports the vertical and horizontal distribution of terrorism-related information among Federal, State, local, Tribal, and foreign governments and the private sector, as appropriate.
  • Improvised Explosive Devices

    Over the past several years, al-Qaida – our principal terrorist enemy – has demonstrated its ability and intent to employ innovative weapons against U.S. interests, including in the Homeland, and our friends and allies overseas. The disrupted 2006 U.K.-based plot to blow up multiple trans-Atlantic commercial airliners with liquid explosives is especially noteworthy. We remain particularly concerned about the employment of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in an attack against the Homeland, given the ready availability of IED components and the relative technological ease with which they can be fashioned. In conjunction with an array of activities to deny terrorists the weapons and tools they use to kill the innocent, our National Strategy for Combating Terrorist Use of Explosives, which is being developed pursuant to Homeland Security Presidential Directive-19 (issued February 12, 2007), will help guide our efforts.
    Disrupt terrorists and their activities and networks. As we achieve domain awareness throughout our communities, our Federal, State, local, and Tribal law enforcement authorities will collaborate to investigate, disrupt, and preempt terrorist activity and deny terrorists the capacity to operate effectively within our borders. This means targeting all elements of a network that terrorists need to operate and survive. For instance, we will investigate, arrest, and prosecute or, where appropriate, remove terrorist leaders, operatives, facilitators, and trainers. We also will freeze or seize terrorist funds, disrupt funding sources, and interdict their financing transfer mechanisms. Furthermore, we will focus on criminal behavior and other terrorist financing methodologies that terrorist groups or cells may use to finance or otherwise facilitate their activities.

    We also will work with domestic and international partners to deny terrorists what they need to operate in the Homeland, including the weapons and tools they use to kill the innocent. These include missiles, rockets, explosives, and small arms acquired through a variety of means, including theft, fraud, state sponsor support, and black market purchases. Terrorists and their state sponsors also may exploit dual-use technologies, including technologies that are being used for great benefit in medicine, agriculture, and industry. We will stringently enforce our export control laws as a means of denying rogue actors – including terrorist groups – access to restricted dual-use items. We will Improvised Explosive Devices Over the past several years, al-Qaida – our principal terrorist enemy – has demonstrated its ability and intent to employ innovative weapons against U.S. interests, including in the Homeland, and our friends and allies overseas. The disrupted 2006 U.K.-based plot to blow up multiple trans-Atlantic commercial airliners with liquid explosives is especially noteworthy. We remain particularly concerned about the employment of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in an attack against the Homeland, given the ready availability of IED components and the relative technological ease with which they can be fashioned. In conjunction with an array of activities to deny terrorists the weapons and tools they use to kill the innocent, our National Strategy for Combating Terrorist Use of Explosives, which is being developed pursuant to Homeland Security Presidential Directive-19 (issued February 12, 2007), will help guide our efforts. work with our private sector and international partners to ensure the presence of industry standards, national systems of oversight, and penalties for misuse of such items while preserving the advancement of science and technology to save lives and improve our quality of life.

    Defeating terrorist activity in the Homeland also requires preventing terrorist exploitation of our financial, cyber, and legal systems. Terrorists use financial systems to raise, store, and transfer funds that serve as the lifeblood of their operations. We have hardened U.S. financial systems against terrorist abuse by building upon our anti-money laundering system and broadening and deepening safeguards in the international financial system while taking steps to deter and disrupt specific terrorist funding. We have done this in large part by building strong international law enforcement alliances and effective public-private partnerships committed to preventing the flow of illicit capital through formal and informal financial mechanisms. We will continue to strengthen this approach and use intelligence, law enforcement, and regulatory steps, such as our targeted financial sanctions, to identify and isolate actors involved in terrorist financing.

    Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Modernization

    Since its enactment in 1978, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), as amended, has provided a legal framework through which the Intelligence Community lawfully collects foreign intelligence information of value to our Nation's security, while simultaneously protecting the civil liberties of Americans. Revolutionary changes in technology since 1978 had the effect of expanding the scope of FISA's coverage to include foreign intelligence collection efforts that Congress did not intend to subject to the statute's requirements. This unintended expansion of FISA's scope meant that our intelligence professionals, in a significant number of cases, needed to obtain a court order to collect foreign intelligence information against a target located overseas. This circumstance created an unnecessary obstacle to our Intelligence Community's ability to gather real-time information about the intent of our enemies overseas and diverted scarce resources that would be better spent safeguarding the civil liberties of people in the United States, not foreign terrorists who wish to do us harm. The Protect America Act of 2007, which passed with bipartisan support in the House and the Senate, was an important interim step in modernizing FISA to account for modern changes in technology and the threats that we face in the 21st century. Working with Congress, we must make additional reforms to FISA and ensure that the statute is permanently amended so that our intelligence professionals continue to have the legal tools they need to gather information about the intentions of our enemies while protecting the civil liberties of Americans – now and in the future.
    Terrorists also seek sanctuary in the cyber domain, particularly the Internet, an inexpensive, geographically unbounded, and largely unconstrained virtual haven for our enemies. Terrorists use the Internet to create and disseminate propaganda, recruit new members, raise funds, and plan operations. The Internet has become a training ground, with terrorists acquiring instruction once possible only through physical training camps. In addition to discrediting their terrorist propaganda on the Internet with the promotion of truthful messages, we will seek to deny the Internet to our terrorist enemies as an effective safe haven for their recruitment, fund-raising, training, and operational planning.

    The United States has a domestic legal system that supports the investigation and prosecution of terrorist activities while simultaneously protecting individual privacy, the First Amendment rights of association, religious freedom, and free speech, and other civil liberties. We are a Nation built on the rule of law, and we will apply our laws to defeat terrorism while always preserving our liberties. Toward that end, not only must we guard against any gaps in our system that would offer terrorists a virtual haven to exploit, but we also must ensure that our law enforcement community has the necessary and proper mix of tools and authorities to defeat the threats of the 21st century.
Prevent Violent Islamic Extremist Radicalization in the United States

The arrest and prosecution inside the United States of a small number of violent Islamic extremists demonstrates that we are not immune to the emergence of homegrown violent Islamic extremism. Potential catalysts for radicalization within Muslim American communities include feelings or perceptions of social discrimination that generate a sense of alienation from society and distrust of the government; perceptions of political and economic inequalities; and dissatisfaction with foreign and domestic U.S. policies viewed as hostile to Muslims. Preventing and disrupting radicalization requires concerted, focused action in the near term. While our Strategy focuses on preventing homegrown violent Islamic extremism – the ideology underpinning the principal terrorist threat confronting the United States today – we recognize that terrorists and violent extremists can arise in many other faiths, communities, or persuasions. Accordingly, our Strategy can be appropriately tailored to address a variety of domestic communities and groups whose members may be susceptible to radicalization.

  • Engage key communities as partners in the War on Terror. Our Strategy recognizes the centrality of the very people our terrorist enemies most want to exploit: the faithful followers of Islam. The fact that our country has not experienced the level of homegrown violent Islamic extremism that has begun to plague other Western democracies is, in large measure, a tribute to American society, which values free expression and encourages all to engage politically and economically. As the primary targets of radicalization who stand at the forefront of the struggle against violent extremism, Muslim Americans are uniquely situated to offer insights and solutions. More broadly, community engagement and public-private partnerships across American society are essential to our success. We will continue to strengthen grassroots dialogue and interaction among Muslim communities and all levels of government, as well as with non-Muslim sectors of our society, because Americans of all religions, races, and ethnicities have a stake and role to play in the War on Terror. Engagement, taking place through public-private task forces and forums, includes work to ensure the preservation of liberty and religious pluralism and the enforcement of civil rights and hate crimes laws, discussions about U.S. foreign and domestic policy concerns, and addressing the ability of Muslim Americans to fulfill obligations of charitable giving, international travel, and religious practice.
  • Identify and counter the sources of radicalization. The purveyors of violent extremism rely upon access to targeted communities to inculcate and spread their ideology. Law enforcement officials, therefore, must continue to identify and address sources of violent extremist radicalization in the Homeland. One place where we have already witnessed radicalization is in our prison system, but we must continue to identify other places violent propagators exploit within the United States, overseas, and on the Internet. In order to counter sources of radicalization, we will continue to support community and grassroots initiatives that publicly condemn the use of violence in general and specific acts of terror whenever and wherever they occur, debunk the claim of our terrorist enemies that the United States is at war with Islam, and counter all forms of propaganda that distort and misrepresent U.S. policy by clearly communicating U.S. policies – what they mean, how and why they are carried out, and how they affect all Americans. We also will support community and grassroots efforts to promote the values of citizenship, democracy, integration, religious tolerance, and the protection of civil rights, as well as increase cooperation among Tribal, State, and Federal prison officials and Muslim communities to counter radicalization in prisons.
  • Enhance Federal, State, local, and Tribal government capacities to address radicalization.
    All levels of our government must strengthen institutions and human resources in a way that increases our ability to prevent violent Islamic extremism within our borders, identify when it is occurring, and spot new trends and developments in the radicalization process. To that end, we will continue to educate and train law enforcement and other U.S. Government personnel on Islamic cultural and community norms as well as prioritize the recruitment and retention of those having relevant language skills and cultural backgrounds; educate Federal, State, local, and Tribal government personnel on radicalization, expand current training programs on cultural proficiency, and encourage interagency training and career opportunities to facilitate the development and sharing of expertise; and improve interagency cooperation and information sharing at all levels of government.
  • Continue to advance our understanding of radicalization. As we achieve success in preventing homegrown violent Islamic extremism, we should expect our adaptive enemies to create new methods for spreading their ideology of hate and murder. In order to identify and preempt new trends and developments, we will continue to advance our knowledge and understanding of radicalization by supporting relevant public and private research, including with regard to the vulnerabilities or susceptibility of individuals to violent Islamic extremism. Furthermore, we will keep working with Muslim communities to improve our understanding of the sources and evolving trends of radicalization and identify how changing technologies could affect radicalization.