Author: Michael Robillard


1        Political and Security Context

2        Threats

3        Institutional Architecture

4        Legislation

5        CT Strategy & Tactics

1      Political and Security Context

The historical context of US counter-terrorism legislation, strategy, and policy can largely be traced back to the Cold War. From 1970 to around the time of the Iran hostage crisis (1979-81), the US focused mainly on radical leftist and radical communist state-sponsored groups such as Baader Meinhof. The Iran hostage crisis marked a new kind of terrorist threat emerging within the geopolitical arena, one that was relatively autonomous and motivated by religious extremism as opposed to one that was state-sponsored and motivated by communist ideology. The bombings of the US Embassy in Beirut in 1983 by religious extremists going by the name of the Islamic Jihad, further re-affirmed this newly emerging threat picture.

The 1980s and the Reagan administration marked a further waning of this terrorist threat picture coupled with a significant re-structuring of the US military. The Goldwater-Nichols Act (1986) brought about significant reforms to the US military division of labor. Among some of the major reforms relevant to counter-terrorism were the creation of the concept of the Joint Task Force (JTF), the formation of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and the formation of a central/middle eastern command (CENTCOM). Reforms also included a more stringent clarification of Title 10 vs. Title 50 legislation outlining the jurisdictional strictures between agencies operating under DOD versus CIA. The formation and codification of the agencies and sub-agencies coming out of the Goldwater-Nichols Act is highly pertinent since they provide the basic inter-agency blueprint upon which the US presently conducts its wars, to include the current war on terror.

Throughout much of the Bush and Clinton administrations, the US threat picture went from one of state-sponsored terrorist groups originating from a single, monolithic adversary to a series of fractured and unrelated one-off attacks stemming from a variety of foreign and domestic sources: the World Trade Center bombing 1993, the Oklahoma City bombing 1995, the US Embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya 1998, and the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole 2000. During this post-Cold War period, and perhaps largely because of it, US counter-terrorism strategy and thinking could best be described as reactive in nature, as US military and special operations groups functioned primarily in an advise and assist capacity only.

The attacks initiated by Al Qaeda on September 11th, 2001 radically shifted US counter-terrorism strategy from a reactive to a preventive posture, both at home and abroad. This fundamental shift from reaction to prevention resulted in significant re-defining of purposes for many US domestic and DOD agencies as well as a re-thinking of the post 9/11 threat picture and overall operational environment. This shift to a fundamentally preventive war-fighting and counter-terrorist strategy posture can best be seen in the subsequent US invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, by the expansive military policies instituted by Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld from 2003-2005, and by the unilateral tone of the Bush Doctrine. Domestically-speaking, this shift towards active prevention can likewise be seen in the enhanced surveillance procedures and heightened border security protocols adopted as part of the Patriot Act of 2001.

The US counter-terrorism strategy during the Bush administration focused mainly on the commitment of a robust troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, as demonstrated by the 2007 ‘Surge’, which placed 20,000 additional troops in the Iraq region. In conjunction with increased troop presence, the Bush administration focused primarily on the securing of key positional/infrastructural assets (Bagram, Baghdad, Fallujah, etc.) coupled with the erecting of new governmental institutions led by regionally elected leadership (Karzai in Afghanistan, al Malaki in Iraq). Meanwhile, the Guantanamo Bay detention camp was established allowing for the indefinite detention of detainees without trial for suspected ties to terrorist organizations, garnering much criticism from the international community. While there is little evidence of a strong Al Qaeda presence in Iraq at the outset of the war in 2003, towards the end of the Bush administration, the presence of Al Qaeda in Iraq began to pick up increased momentum. This would form the proto-entity that would eventual crystallize into ISIS/ISIL in and around 2013.

As the Bush administration wound down and handed off authority to the Obama administration, US counter-terrorism strategy shifted along with the terrorism threat picture. While the Bush administration’s counter-terrorism strategy will likely be most remembered for its emphasis on boots on the ground and detention, the Obama administration will likely be remembered for its significant drawdown of troop presence in both Afghanistan and Iraq, a drawdown of detainees at Guantanamo, and its heightened emphasis on the use of targeted drone strikes and special operations raids (Awlaki, Yemen 2011, OBL, Pakistan 2001).

The Obama administration’s use of targeted killing marked a new precedent in the war or terror. Compared to the Bush administration who carried out 48 drone strikes in Pakistan, killing 377 to 588 people, according to the New America Foundation, the Obama administration carried out 335 strikes in the same region, killing between 1907 to 3067 people. Some have seen this shift to a drone strike policy to be a net positive since it has hindered al-Qaeda’s ability to organization, move and plan.

There has nonetheless been much criticism of the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes primarily on the grounds that such strikes are serving to kill many innocent civilians instead of legitimate terrorist threats. Furthermore, critics have also argued that the use of drone strikes have not succeeded in thwarting terrorist leadership but instead have functioned to create resentment in the local populous and actually promote support for terrorist groups.

During this time period, the US also saw several ‘inspired’ lone wolf terrorist attacks on American soil such as Fort Hood shooting (2009), the Boston Marathon bombing (2013) and the San Bernardino shooting (2015).With respect to the current US terrorist threat picture, the US has recently seen the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) rise to much greater prominence in terms of funding, recruitment, internet presence, weapons capabilities, territorial gains in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, appearing at times, like a conventional fighting force than a non-conventional insurgent group. Recently, the Trump administration has appeared to continue with a decapitation-oriented strategy, with a special operations raid in Yemen in January of 2017. At present, ISIS appears to be withering in strength while al-Qaeda in Syria appears to be gaining strength in the Idlib province.

2     Threats

2.1 Salafi-Jihadi Terrorism

The Salafi-jihadist movement is a fundamentally diffuse and heterogeneous amalgamation of different terrorist groups that include: core Al Qaeda and associates and other inspired individuals and networks. Al Qaeda and other Salafi-jihadist groups have decentralized for likely two main reasons: widespread variation in objectives, personalities, geography and ethnic groups and because of effective counter-terrorism tactics and pressures. A third partial explanation for this diffuse organizational structure, however, is that it is being done deliberately.

The structure of the Salafi-jihadist movement shares several structural similarities to the Soviet model of ideological propagation in that they are organized by a centralized ideology and geographic region, a series of insurgent groups, and a ‘jihadi internationale’ so to speak. However, while the communist internationale sought to spread communism largely via soft power means and propaganda, coupled with back-and-forth communication from the USSR, the Salafi-jihadist model seeks to spread jihad internationally largely with no such back-and-forth communication to a centralized authority. Awlaki’s creation of Inspire magazine, circa 2010, sought to make “open source” jihad by encouraging jihadi ‘adherents’ to spread jihad on their own without necessarily becoming ‘affiliates’ who communicated back to some higher organizational authority.

The Salafi-jihadist movement has served as a nexus point and organizational hub for several different radicalized demographics, either as a touchstone of authentic ideological commitment or as a wave of sentiment being taken advantage of by various opportunist groups. Much debate still exists between counter-terrorism experts at to the extent different Salafi-jihadist groups differ over such issues as the scope of the caliphate as well as the ‘near’ versus ‘far’ enemy (i.e. the extent to which Westerners are the ‘real’ enemy as opposed to local Shia Muslims).

2.2 The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) 

In his Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community to the Senate Armed Services Committee (2016), Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper referred to ISIL as, “the preeminent terrorist threat because of its self-described caliphate in Syria and Iraq, its branches and emerging branches in other countries, and its increasing ability to direct and inspire attacks against a wide range of targets around the world.” Clapper notes that an estimated 36,500 foreign fighters (to include 6,600 Westerners) have traveled to Syria from more than 100 countries to join the organization since 2012. Clapper also notes ISIL’s continued exploitation of weak governance in Syria and surrounding areas as a safe haven and space of expansion for their cause. He likewise notes the benefit ISIL will likely continue to gain from new young recruits adept at exploiting social media, encryption, dark web, and virtual technologies.

2.3 Tactics/Terror Acts 

ISIS’s terror tactics are intimately linked to their effective use of video-based social media to publicize and promote their terror acts. These terror acts include the beheading of high profile Western journalists, the burning of a Jordanian pilot in a cage, the tossing of an alleged homosexual man off of a building, or the mass execution of dozens of Shia innocents.  ISIS’s social media campaign serves both as terror propaganda as well as an effective recruitment tool for adherents and sympathizers since their filmed atrocities are consistent with Sharia Law punishments. ISIS also employs the terror tactic of ‘open source’ jihad, via Inspire online magazine, which provide do-it-yourself instructions for bomb-making and other terror tactics for would-be Western sympathizers and adherents.

3     Institutional Architecture

3.1 Intelligence Community/Domestic Policing Gap

Since its creation, the US has had a long history of a deliberate ‘gap’ between its military and foreign intelligence apparatus and its domestic law enforcement apparatus. This intentional gap, while arguably affording civilians greater immunity from surveillance and privacy obstruction has nonetheless hampered efficient coordination between the intelligence community (CIA, NSA, etc.) and local law enforcement agencies. Accordingly, prior to 9/11, the integration and coordination between the intelligence community and domestic police was rather poor. What’s more, coordination between these two communities is further hindered by the absence of a large, centralized federal law enforcement body.  Lastly, the US domestic policing structure itself is layered (local, county, state), with local police actors on the ground often lacking the proper security clearance to gain the requisite knowledge that would allow them to properly appraise anomalous or suspicious behavior at the local level.

3.2 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)                                                       

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is one of the United States’ leading foreign intelligence services primarily focused in human intelligence (HUMINT). The mission of the CIA is, ‘to preempt threats and further US national security objectives by collecting intelligence that matters, producing objective all-source analysis, conducting effective covert action as directed by the President, and safeguarding the secrets that help keep our nation safe.’ The CIA reports to the Director of National Intelligence, functions in an advisory capacity to the President, and has a seat at the National Security Council. Following the Snowden leak, the CIA annual budget is estimated to be around $52.6 billion. The number of persons working for the CIA cannot be publically disclosed though estimates are somewhere around 21,000 employees.

3.3 National Security Agency (NSA)

The National Security Agency (NSA) is the leading United States agency dealing with information and signals intelligence (SIGINT). The NSA technically falls under the auspices of the Department of Defense and works in conjunction with the broader US and foreign intelligence communities. The NSA mission is as follows: ‘[t]he National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS) leads the U.S. Government in cryptology that encompasses both Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Information Assurance (IA) products and services, and enables Computer Network Operations (CNO) in order to gain a decision advantage for the Nation and our allies.’ The NSA’s yearly budget is estimated at around $10 billion.

3.4 Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was created as a direct response to the September 11 attacks. It’s mission, to quote Governor Tom Ridge, first DHS director,

[w]ill be to develop and coordinate the implementation of a comprehensive national strategy to secure the United States from terrorist threats or attacks. The Office will coordinate the executive branch’s efforts to detect, prepare for, prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks within the United States.

DHS functions as an umbrella organization for the following sub-agencies: US Citizenship and Immigration Services, US Customs and Border Protection, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Transportation Security Administration, US Coast Guard, US Secret Service, National Cybersecurity Center and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In addition to its main role in coordinating between these various sub-agencies and the White House, DHS is also responsible for the National Terrorism Advisory System. DHS, in collaboration with the DOJ, has established ‘fusion centers’ aimed at facilitating information sharing at the federal level between the CIA, FBI, DOJ, DOD, and state and local law enforcement agencies.

3.5 National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC)

As a result of the above-mentioned intelligence/policing gap, the National Counter-Terrorism Center (Under DNI and DHS) was created as part of the 2004 Intelligence and Terrorism Act (a product of the 9/11 Commission Report). The NCTC functions as the primary node of coordination between the larger intelligence community and domestic law enforcement as well as serves in an advisory capacity as part of the CSG (Counter-Terrorism Support Group). The NCTC is also responsible for compiling and managing the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), a database containing over 1,200,000 identities of individuals suspected of terror links. This database then informs the creation of terror ‘watch lists’ and ‘no fly lists’.

3.6 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

The Federal Bureau of Investigation functions as the United States primary federal level law enforcement agency. Its mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States. Along with its headquarters in Washington DC, it has 56 field offices and 350 satellites throughout the US as well as 60 international offices worldwide. The FBI employs approximately 35,000 employees and special agents and has approximately an $8.7 billion budget as of fiscal year 2016. The FBI technically falls under the supervision of both the Department of Justice and Department of National Intelligence.

4     Legislation


The USA PATRIOT act was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001. The act is comprised of 10 titles, each outlining 10 key components of the US’s new counter-terrorism strategy and institutional adaptations in response the September 11th attacks. These titles include: Title I: Enhancing domestic security against terrorism, Title II: Surveillance procedures, Title III: Anti-money laundering to prevent terrorism, Title IV: Border security Title V: Removing obstacles to investigate terrorism, Title VI: Victims and families of terrorism, Title VII: Increased sharing for critical infrastructure protection, Title IX: Improved intelligence, Title X: Miscellaneous. One of the more controversial parts of the act was ‘Section 215’ (Access to records and other items under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act). This section modified already-existing FISA legislation in order to allow the FBI to apply for an order to produce materials that assist in an investigation undertaken to protect against international terrorism.

4.2 FISA

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court FISC (or FISA) was established by the Church committee in 1978 as one of the fallouts from the Watergate scandal. The committee was designed to investigate the conduct and possible abuses of information gathering conducted by the CIA, FBI, and NSA. Immediately after the attacks on 9/11, Congress amended the original 1978 FISA statute in order to improve the overall connectivity and efficiency of the nation’s intelligence gathering apparatus. Beginning in 2006, the US government began using these FISA amendments under Section 215 to compel commercial telephone and cellular phone providers to hand over large amounts of meta-data of their customers phone activity. The 2013 Snowden leak about this meta-data gathering program raised considerable controversy about the limits of government surveillance of US citizens ‘in bulk’ with no specific person or specific cause for search being present. Defenders of the program argued that the benefits of recognizing and pre-empting future terrorist threats outweighed the supposed privacy invasions of citizen and furthermore, that the gathering of meta-data did not technically violate Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure.


In an attempt to still maintain effective informational gathering capabilities while not encroaching on the privacy rights of US citizens, Congress adopted the USA FREEDOM act in 2015. As Glenn Gerstell, General Counsel of the NSA puts it,

Under the new arrangement, the phone companies, not NSA, continue to retain their phone call records. The FBI (on behalf of NSA) can apply to the FISA Court for specific authority to inquire about a particular phone number or other identifying element, but only if based on a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” that it is associated with international terrorism.  The phone company will reply with a list of numbers, if any, that the first number was in contact with.  NSA is then permitted to perform a similar inquiry on the secondary numbers – but cannot further investigate the results of the second inquiry to see subsequent levels of          contact.  And under no circumstances does NSA get access to the content of any calls under this arrangement.

4.4 2001 AUMF and 2013 PPG

The legal justification for US counter-terrorism efforts in recognized “areas of active hostilities” finds its grounding in the 2001 AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force against Terrorists). The 2001 AUMF grants the POTUS legal authority to use all necessary and appropriate force against those he determined, “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. This legal document, along with its 2002 Iraq-specific instantiation, has provided the main legal justification for continued US counter-terrorism efforts for the last two administrations.

A more updated casus belli for US counter-terrorism efforts as well as an attempt to account for new drone technologies has been articulated in the Obama administration’s Presidential Policy Guidance (PPG) of 2013 which establishes,

The standard operating procedures for when the United States takes direct action, which refers to lethal and non-lethal uses of force, including capture operations against terrorist targets outside the United States and areas of active hostilities.

The 2013 PPG outlines certain guidelines for permissible lethal targeting as follows,

In addition to the several requirements previously announced for all uses of   force outside Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria (i.e., that the target poses “a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons”; near certainty that the target is  present; near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed; an assessment that capture is not feasible at the time of the operation; an assessment that the relevant governmental authorities in the country where action is contemplated cannot or will not effectively address the threat to U.S. persons; and an assessment that no other reasonable alternatives exist to effectively address the threat to U.S. persons).

Recently, the Trump administration has begun efforts to loosen these constraints on lethal targeting, declaring three provinces in Yemen to be ‘areas of active hostilities,’ ostensibly providing justification for the January 2017 Special Operations raid.

4.5 Legislation on Torture

Following 1st Lieutenant Ian Fishback’s letter sent to Senator John McCain in September 2005 concerning the absence of clear legal and ethical guidance for the treatment of detainees as part of the ongoing Global War on Terror, The Detainee Treatment Act was passed by Congress on 30 December 2005. The act outlines provisions concerning treatment of persons under the custody of the DOD and at the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The specifics of the act include: prohibiting, “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment”, the requirement that all interrogations be performed under the guidelines stated in the US Army FM for Human Intelligence Collector Operations, directing the DOD to establish Combatant Status Review Tribunals, and granting legal immunity to government and military personnel  who used interrogation techniques that “were officially authorized and determined to be lawful at the time they were conducted.” In April of 2009 then President Barack Obama banned the use of waterboarding as an advanced interrogation method consistent with DOD Directive 2310 (2006) banning the use of cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of detainees.

5     CT Strategy & Tactics

5.1 Broad CT Strategy

The National Strategy for Counterterrorism (2011), published by the Obama administration, is the most current to date explicit articulation of the United State’s broad CT aims and objectives. The NSCT states that, “the preeminent security threat to the US continues to be al-Qaeda and its affiliates and adherents.” The NSCT outlines 8 overarching CT strategy goals,

  1. Protect the American People, Homeland, and Interests
  2. Disrupt, Degrade, Dismantle, and Defeat Al-Qaeda, its Affiliates, and Adherents
  3. Prevent Terrorist Development, Acquisition, and Use of WMDs
  4. Eliminate Safe-havens
  5. Build Enduring CT Partnerships and Capabilities
  6. Degrade Links between Al Qaeda and its Affiliates and Adherents
  7. Counter Al Qaeda Ideology and its Resonance and Diminish the Specific Drivers of Violence that Al Qaeda Exploits
  8. Deprive Terrorists of their Enabling Means

The US NSCT then articulates how these goals are to be specifically met for key areas to include: The Homeland, South Asia, The Arabian Peninsula, East Africa, Europe, Iraq, Maghreb and Sahel, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and the area of ‘Information and Ideas’. The United States’ ultimate strategic end goal with respect to counter-terrorism is therefore to defeat Al Qaeda (and ISIS) and the conditions which give rise to its ideology and adherents.

5.2 Domestic CT Strategy

The 2016 document, ‘A National Strategy to Win the War Against Islamist Terror’ by Chairman Michael McCaul, House Homeland Security Committee, further outlines the US’s key domestic CT priorities. These include: (1) thwarting attacks and protecting our communities, (2) stopping recruitment and radicalization at home, (3) keeping terrorists out of America and (4) winning the war of ideas.

5.2.1 Domestic CT Tactics

These broad domestic strategic goals translate into real-world CT tactics in a variety of ways. For instance, McCaul lists several tactical prescriptions which include:  scanning social media as part of criminal background checks, denying ‘virtual safe-havens’ on the internet through vigilante cyber security efforts, tightening TSA vetting procedures for private-sector personnel and technologies, ensuring community preparedness to respond to ‘do-it-yourself’ style terrorism at home, helping local communities catch red flags, developing ‘off-ramps’ for radicalization, allocating significant spending for counter-terrorism ‘counter-messaging’ narratives at home, enhancing screening of visitors, immigrants, and refugees, and preventing prisons form becoming terror breeding grounds.

In addition to these prescriptions, The NCTC’s use of the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) database to generate terror ‘watch lists’ and ‘no fly lists’ functions as yet another tool in the overall set of US counter-terrorism tactics. The F.B.I.’s recent increase in the use of undercover and online sting operations (those involving the use of agents and informants to pose as jihadists, bomb makers, weapons dealers, or online “friends”) has also shown itself to be an effective tactic in thwarting potential terrorist recruitment, coordination, and radicalization efforts.

5.3 Foreign CT Strategy

The US CT community (and DOD more broadly) employs the conceptual framework D.I.M.E. (Diplomacy, Information, Military, Economic) and the corresponding institutional agencies (State Dept., NSA/CIA, Dept. of Defense, and Treasury Dept.) to fight the war on terror. The focus of this D.I.M.E. strategy is to leverage these various powers of the state primarily to mitigate or eliminate the conditions that often give rise to terrorist threats. In this sense, the 2006 National Security Strategy was chiefly a de-radicalization strategy achieved mainly by way of robust troop presence on the ground, the securing of positional/infrastructural assets, the detention of adversaries, and the propping up of new regional leadership and institutions. The 2015 NSS counter-terrorism strategy, however, diverges sharply from the 2006 NSS in several respects.

Contrary to the 2006 NSS, the 2015 NSS can be described as more of a decapitation strategy achieved primarily through the use of targeted strikes on key leadership carried out by drones like in the Awlaki strike in Yemen in 2011, or by the surgical use of special operations units for kill or capture much like in the Bin Laden raid in Pakistan in 2011. This major shift in counter-terrorism strategy has coincided with a significant drawdown of US boots on the ground in both Iraq and Afghanistan, a hand off of power to local authorities in these regions, and significantly less instances of detention. This shift to a more decapitation-oriented strategy has garnered serious criticism from both within the military and without.

5.4 Foreign CT Tactics

Given this strategic framework, US CT tactics will significantly vary according to each of these four main D.I.M.E. elements. Diplomatically-speaking, the US State Department has taken such counter-terrorism measures as officially designating Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) as well as officially designating FTO affiliates (such as ISIS affiliates in Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen). The US State Department has also made great efforts to prevent Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) from traveling to and from conflict areas such as Iraq and Syria. In terms of information, the US intelligence community has focused its efforts on enriching its intelligence understanding, supporting current operations, and anticipating, identifying, and warning of future terror threats across the domains of counter-terrorism, cyber intelligence, counter-proliferation, and counter-intelligence.

Militarily-speaking, after the official troop withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, the US has shifted its military tactical posture primarily to one of targeted drone strikes and special operations raids. For instance, under the Obama administration, a total 563 targeted drone strikes were conducted.  That being said, the US military footprint in Afghanistan still presently stands at around 8400 troops acting mainly in an ‘advise and assist’ capacity alongside Afghan troops. US Army CENTCOM commander, General Joseph Votel has recently called for the deployment of 6000 US troops back into Iraq, and approximately 400 Marines were deployed to Raqqa, Syria to assist US-backed Syrian forces.

Economically-speaking, the US Department of Treasury has also led strong efforts in the war on terror by tracking suspected terrorist financing sources. Immediately after 9/11, The US Department of Treasury initiated the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) to identify, track, and pursue terrorists and their financial networks. Specifically, the US Treasury Department has issued subpoenas to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), “a Belgium-based company with U.S. offices that operates a worldwide messaging system used to transmit financial transaction information – seeking information on suspected international terrorists or their networks. Under the terms of the subpoenas, the U.S. Government may only review information as part of specific terrorism investigations.” Based on information gathered, the U.S. Government is able to conduct targeted searches against the limited subset of records provided by SWIFT in order to trace financial transactions related to suspected terrorist activity.


Since 9/11, the US counter-terrorism effort and the institutional infrastructure supporting it has went through a series of significant reforms and overhauls with varying degrees of success. Domestically, the greater integration between local police, FBI, and the greater intelligence community has led to a mixed bag of results as the US has struggled to manage its competing values of privacy, freedom of speech, and security. In terms of the war against terror abroad, the US shift towards a decapitation strategy coupled with the increased use of Special Forces and other D.I.M.E. assets, to include significant headway made by the US Treasury, has likewise garnered a variety of conflicting opinions. As the counter-terrorism effort against al-Qaeda and its adherents moves further into the 21st century, the institutional apparatus of the United States (military, police, intelligence, and law) must continue to speak to one another in a way that is both open and flexible enough to allow for authentic dialogue and the cross-pollination of ideas, yet firm enough not to lose site of its own unique role, purpose, and identity. The adjudication between these two norms of open-ness and firmness for each specific profession with respect to its relationship to the others will ultimately hinge on leaders’ understanding of the greater overarching end which each specific profession is ostensibly committed to.