The ability of the United States Government to prevent, deter, defeat and respond effectively to terrorist attacks against the citizens of the U.S. whether they are domestic, on international waters or on foreign soil is one of the most challenging problems facing our times.
The U.S. regards all such terrorism acts as a potential threat to our national security as well as a criminal act. We will use all capabilities to prevent these acts and to apprehend and prosecute any individuals involved in such acts.
New techniques have been developed to assist the Federal Government along with State and local agencies to work together in a coordinated fashion to prevent and respond to terrorist acts. It has established guidance for assessing and monitoring potential threat, notifying proper federal, state and local agencies of the potential threat and sending the required advisory and technical resources to assist the Lead Federal Agency in coordination of a crisis and consequence management response.
We have had different types of security issues during the history of the United States. However, with the development of modern technology, we have had to step up with new processes in order to protect the United States from the modern era of terrorists.
Being Aware is Being Prepared...
It's natural to be afraid of terrorists and their potential threats. It's also our fear upon which the terrorists feed. Terrorists use our fear as a weapon to achieve their political and social goals.
The nature of terrorism causes fear because it's difficult to predict when or where a terrorist may strike. Some of the things we do know are a few of the factors terrorists may use when choosing a target.
Terrorists often choose targets that offer little danger to themselves - areas with relatively easy public access.
- Terrorists look for visible targets - airports, large cities, major events, resorts, and other high-profile landmarks - where they can avoid detection before and after an attack.
- Terrorists commonly use bombs as weapons of choice.
- Terrorists aim to achieve large numbers of victims, high media attention, or mass panic and public anxiety.
- Terrorists select targets best suited for the type of material being used. For example, some biological agents are not effective in sunlight, while most chemical agents work best indoors with limited airflow.
A REAL THREAT
Terrorists have the knowledge and the capability to strike anywhere in the world. Nearly all communities contain high visibility targets. These targets usually are situated with ease of access (soft targets). Many communities have manufacturing and chemical or biological testing facilities. Other examples of locations that may become targets for terrorist activity include:
- Public assembly
- Public buildings
- Mass transit systems
- Places of High Economic Impact
- Telecommunications facilities
- Places of historical or symbolic significance
Despite our security consciousness, terrorists intend to wreak havoc and it will be impossible to prevent all attacks. An act of terrorism can occur anywhere, at any minute, when you least expect it. Citizen vigilance and awareness is critical. The efforts we make as alert citizens can greatly improve our chances of prevention.
WHAT IS TERRORISM?
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines terrorism as "the unlawful use of force against a person or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives". This definition includes three elements:
- Terrorist activities are illegal and involve the use of force.
- The actions intend to intimidate or coerce.
- The actions are committed in support of political or social objectives.
Bioterrorism is the intentional release of toxic biological agents to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants. These biological agents, often invisible to the naked eye, can be inhaled, ingested or transferred through the skin and the results could be sickness or death.
There are three basic groups of biological agents that could likely be used as weapons: bacteria, viruses and toxins. Biological agents can be dispersed by spraying them into the air, person-to-person contact, infecting animals that carry the disease to humans and by contaminating food and water.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identified six "priority agents" that require special preparedness planning by public health departments:
- Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis)
- Botulism (Clostridium botulinum toxin)
- Plague (Yersinia pestis)
- Smallpox (variola major)
- Tularemia (Francisella tularensis)
- Viral hemorrhagic fevers
These priority agents pose the highest risk to national security and public health because they result in high mortality rates, and they can easily be disseminated or transmitted from person to person.
Bioterrorism preparedness is an issue of national importance.