The role of the Homeland Security Department in fighting domestic terrorism. The Boston Marathon bombing

Term Paper, 2016

10 Pages, Grade: 3.2


Homeland Security; Domestic Terrorism

(Boston Marathon Bombing Case Study).

This paper is going to focus on the role of the Homeland Security Department in defending the U.S. from a special type of terrorism, which is domestic and home-grown terrorism. Since 9/11 and all the attention has been given to protecting the country from international terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, yet domestic terror has been repeatedly revealing itself as a serious threat facing the security of the United States. In this paper, we will discuss the challenges facing the American Homeland Security and the strategic plans to face these challenges and to prevent future human disasters from taking place. For further explanation this paper will use the Boston Marathon Bombing event as a case study for the discussed literature.

The first study used in this paper is a report by the Heritage Foundation written by Zuckerman, Jessica; Bucci, Steven P; and Carafano, James Jay about the major terrorist attacks that took place in the US after 9/11. Most of the attacks target whether the US military facilities, individual targets or mass gatherings as in our case of the Boston Marathon and others like shopping malls or nightclubs. The main concern regarding these attacks is that the actors were whether American citizens, legal permanent residents, or visitors radicalized predominantly in the United States. According to the article, out of 60 terror events that took place after 9/11, 49 were “domestic grown plots”, and 77 out of the 156 people arrested or killed for plotting terrorist attacks since 9/11 are American citizens (Zuckerman, Bucci and Carafano). The Homeland Security Committee has been working very hard since 9/11 to protect the US from similar attacks, and it has been very successful with yet few failures. Out of the dozens of terror plots against the United States since September 11, 2001, 56 were foiled, mainly by the enforcement of the US law, while only four were successful. However, different measures still need to be considered in strengthening the domestic counterterrorism enterprise to insure a safer and more peaceful future for the American citizens.

The authors of this report have mentioned some of the measures that should be implemented for a safer American community such as applying a proactive rather than the current reactive policy approach. The proactive approach would work on enhancing intelligence tools instead of prosecuting terrorists. Consequently critical counterterrorism tools are required in the war on domestic terrorism. These tools include investigative ones such as the “PATRIOT Act”, which includes some key provisions such as the regular supervision authority and business records provision, which through previous experience, have proved essential for thwarting terror plots. These provisions require frequent reauthorization which hinders the Homeland Security from using them when they needed to. Therefore, permanent authorization of the provisions of the PATRIOT Act is required from the Congress in order to ensure that the law enforcement and intelligence authorities have the essential counterterrorism tools they need in their war against domestic and home-grown terrorists (Zuckerman, BuccI, & Carafano).

The second article used in this paper is “Was Boston Marathon bombing a US 'intelligence failure” by Peter Grier. adding to the previous report, this article also discusses the intelligence tools used by the FBI in combating terrorism in addition to some vital components of U.S. national security are also mentioned. These components include the legitimate government surveillance programs, which succeeded to prevent over 50 incidents of terrorism both home and abroad. The author also emphasizes the importance of cooperation and information sharing among the different government levels; federal, state and local. Since the state and local law enforcement agencies represent the front line of the national security strategy, they require enough information from the federal government in general and the FBI in specific. Local governments are prepared to identify and prevent any potential danger from “lone wolf actors” and other home born extremists while the Federal law enforcement, on the other hand, is built to battle larger cells, groups, and organizations, rather than individuals (Grier). In addition to that, financial stability and wise reallocation of resources is important in all fields and departments. Therefore, the Department of Homeland Security has to use available capabilities in a way that maximizes their benefit. To explain further, instead of adding new components to the system, officials of the law enforcement agencies and Homeland Security should streamline the domestic counterterrorism enterprise through leveraging resources and authorities among state and local governments. For example, the Department of Homeland Security can decrease the number of fusion centers, which exist in low-risk areas or areas where similar capabilities exist. This can take place by limiting funding to the fusion centers that are found outside the 31 highest risk urban areas (Grier).

The third paper used in this literature is “More training, Communication Funds Needed, First Responders Say” by Christina Munnell and Chelsea Todaro. In this paper, Munnell and Todaro recommend setting a strategy that aims at countering violent extremism. For further explanation, in August 2011, the U.S. government released a strategic plan called “Empowering local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the united States.” this plan set the agenda for federal agencies to assist local officials, groups, and private organizations in preventing violent extremism. Moreover, this agenda included strengthening cooperation and information sharing among law enforcement agencies as well as helping communities understand how to counter extremist propaganda especially the online-based ones (Munnell and Todaro). Furthermore, according to Munnell and Todaro, there have been other deficiencies in the emergency response of the Homeland Security Department that revealed itself during the Boston Marathon Bombing which is the insufficient training on many levels. For instance, firefighters weren't able to communicate properly while trying to save the victims. More, drills and exercises could have been used in a more efficient way to maintain preparedness and ensure a faster response.

On the other hand, Arthur L. Kellemann, Kobi Peleg and N Engl J Med explain in their article “Lessons from Boston” the positive role played by all agencies including the bystanders in limiting losses resulting from the Boston bombing terror event. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel as well as law enforcement agents in minutes were in the scene with ambulances transferring the injured victims to hospitals where surgeons worked hard to save them. without the preparedness and hard work of everyone in his/her place beginning with the firefighters, the EMS,police officers, ambulance drivers and surgeons as well as bystanders who rushed to save the victims, the disaster could have been much worse and mortality rate would have been so much higher.

In this paper, the Boston Marathon Bombing is used as a case study to explain the role of Homeland Security in maintaining maximum security possible by using some of the tools mentioned above. The case study also highlights the deficiencies in HLS committee and how to overcome these deficiencies by updating the intelligence tools used as well as setting strategies for information sharing and better communication among different law enforcement agencies and government of all levels.

This terror event took place on April 15, 2013 around 2:50 pm at 671–673 and 755 Boylston Street, Boston, Massachusetts where two pressure cooker bombs exploded during a marathon event leading to the death of 3 and injured 264 others including sixteen who lost their limbs (Kellermann and Peleg). Three days later, the FBI announced that they have identified the criminals who were two Kyrgyz-American brothers named Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The two brothers have been involved in previous violent terrorism attacks on policemen and civilians. For example, they were accused of shooting an MIT policeman, kidnapping a man from his own car, and shooting out with the police in at Watertown, where they severely injured two police officers. Although raised in Europe, the two brothers believed in the ideology of extremist Islam and followed Al-Qaeda online. They claimed that they learned how to create a bomb from fireworks at home through a video that was shared online by one of Al-Qaeda members. This explains the need for more attention and supervision of the spreading ideologies within the physical borders of the country and clarifies the amount of danger of technological advancement being in the wrong hands.


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The role of the Homeland Security Department in fighting domestic terrorism. The Boston Marathon bombing
The American University in Cairo
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homeland, security, department, boston, marathon
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Sandra Samaan (Author), 2016, The role of the Homeland Security Department in fighting domestic terrorism. The Boston Marathon bombing, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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