Prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States had a long record of safeguarding against home front attacks. When the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred, many people, including key government officials, were shocked that a terrorist attack, especially one of such magnitude, could occur on American soil. Since then, homeland security has become a top priority. Structures, policies, and strategies in existence prior to 9/11 have been critically examined to determine inadequacies, and new structures, policies, and strategies have been developed. This course is designed to give you an understanding of terrorism, terrorist groups, and pre- and post-9/11 U.S. counterterrorism structures, policies, and strategies. Understanding these areas is fundamental to combating terrorism and predicting and preventing future terrorist attacks.

Terrorism by definition is the use of force or violence against persons or property in violation of criminal laws for purpose of intimidation, coercion, or ransom. Terrorist acts range from threats and assassinations to hijackings and bombings (FEMA, 2009). These acts are of extremism born from no single race, religion, national, or political affiliation. Terrorism is not a new phenomenon. It has existed in every era of history and continues to evolve. Likewise, terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda have evolved, adapted, and sometimes flourished despite heightened international efforts to combat terrorism and dismantle terrorist groups. The likelihood of terrorism ceasing to exist in the future is slim to none; however, there are strategies that can slow the promulgation of terrorist groups, stifle terrorist activities, and predict and prevent future terrorist attacks.

You begin your study of terrorism by examining its potential causes as well as the motivations of terrorists. In doing so, you might be surprised to learn that there is no one single cause of terrorism. Rather, there is a multitude of causes or contributing factors that may lead to terrorism. These causes or contributing factors include poverty, perceived social and political injustice, religious extremism, fanaticism, ethnic conflict, and inequality. Just as there is no one single cause of terrorism, there is no agreed-upon profile that applies to all terrorists. While many people may assume that terrorists generally are uneducated, mentally unstable, or have a history of criminal activity, this simply is not the case. Terrorists come from a wide array of backgrounds and in some ways share similarities with the general population, making it difficult to detect them. There also are many different political, religious, social, and psychological motivations for terrorists to commit acts of terror.

In addition to studying terrorists and their motivations, you also examine terrorist groups, their evolution, and their distinct characteristics. Initially you are exposed to literature on a wide range of terrorist groups, including homegrown and international terrorist groups. However, as you progress through the course, you focus exclusively on Al Qaeda and its associated movements (AQAM). You focus on AQAM because it poses a significant threat to U.S. homeland security. As you study AQAM, you consider its political objectives, ideology, worldview, and terrorist activities. You also consider the current debate about its evolution and structure as a leaderless movement or a hierarchical organization.

The remaining weeks of the course focus on U.S. counterterrorism structures, policies, and strategies. You begin by examining the pre-9/11 approach to terrorism. Prior to 9/11, terrorism was viewed as a law enforcement issue rather than a homeland security issue. Therefore, the focus was on gathering evidence to capture and convict suspected terrorists of crimes they had already committed rather than trying to predict and prevent terrorist attacks. In addition, government agencies vital to the prevention of terrorism (e.g. FBI, CIA, FAA, etc.) lacked communication and collaboration. To round out your study of the pre-9/11 approach to terrorism, you also explore the 9/11 Commission Report. The 9/11 Commission was created in late 2002 to examine the circumstances surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In 2004, the Commission published a report that included missteps that occurred prior to the attacks as well as recommendations for future counterterrorism efforts. You explore those recommendations, their significance, and their implementation.

After the 9/11 Commission published their report, there were major changes made to national security laws and policies. Several legislative acts were passed to strengthen national security, ensure public safety, and prevent future terrorist attacks. You explore many of these legislative acts, including the Transportation Security Act, Homeland Security Act, Comprehensive Security Act, and Patriot Act, as well as their strengths and limitations. This provides you with foundational knowledge for a later week in this course, in which you examine the delicate balance between civil liberties and national security. It also provides you with foundational knowledge to complete the Final Project. For your Final Project, you are asked to develop a proposal on how to improve U.S. counterterrorism policy in a specific area.

The “lessons learned” and recommendations from the 9/11 Commission Report, and the laws and policies passed following 9/11, directly influence contemporary U.S. counterterrorism strategies. One area that received significant attention was intelligence. Information gathering is an important tool for predicting and preventing terrorist attacks and warning government officials and citizens of potentially imminent terrorist attacks. However, there are many challenges related to collecting intelligence and issuing warnings. In this course, you explore pre- and post-9/11 counterterrorism strategies and consider some of the challenges related to ensuring the effectiveness of counterterrorism efforts.

As you near the end of the course, you take an in-depth look at international law, its impact on the designation, detainment, and treatment of suspected terrorists, and the political, legal, and ethical issues related to the treatment of detainees. As you do so, you consider the complexities related to how to best manage suspected terrorists during times of war. You also reflect on the future of Al Qaeda in the coming years and consider how the U.S. might amend or adapt its structures, policies, and strategies to address the evolving terrorist threat.

Motivations of Terrorists

What motivates a man like Osama Bin Laden to encourage the use of indiscriminate violence to further his political objectives? How, if at all, do his motivations differ from those of terrorists of a previous generation, such as Carlos the Jackal? Although it is common, even stereotypical, to consider terrorists as all having similar view points, in most cases they are distinctly different. Goals and motivations vary at the organizational and individual levels. Socialization, revenge, and perceived injustice are all possible motivations, but, like causes of terrorism, there is no single explanation behind each act.

To prepare for this Discussion:

Review the Course Introduction, located above in BOLD. Keep this overview in mind as you work through each week of the course.

Review Chapter 1 in the course text Terrorism in Perspective. Reflect on the motivations of terrorists.

Review Chapter 4 in the course text Introduction to Homeland Security: Understanding Terrorism with an Emergency Management Perspective and the assigned pages of Chapters 3 and 7 in the course text Terrorism in Perspective. Reflect on motivations of specific terrorists.

Select a terrorist to use for this assignment. You may select any individuals mentioned in the Learning Resources, the FBI “Most Wanted Terrorists” website: http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/terrorists/fugitives.htm, or another of your choosing. Note: Do not choose Osama Bin Laden.

Using the Learning Resources, Walden’s Library, and/or the Internet, research the motivations of the terrorist you selected.

With these thoughts in mind:

Post by Day 2 a brief description of the terrorist you selected. Then explain the motivations of the terrorist. Be specific and use examples to illustrate your explanation.

Note: Put the name of the terrorist you selected in the first line of your post. You will be asked to respond to a colleague who selected a terrorist that you did not.

Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the Learning Resources.

One and a half page with at least two reference….

It is important that you cover all the topics identified in the assignment. Covering the topic does not mean mentioning the topic BUT presenting an explanation from the context of ethics and the readings for this class

To get maximum points you need to follow the requirements listed for this assignments 1) look at the page limits 2) review and follow APA rules 3) create subheadings to identify the key sections you are presenting and 4) Free from typographical and sentence construction errors.




Course Introduction (located on the left navigation bar)

Course Text: Mahan, S., & Griset, P. L. (2013).Terrorism in perspective(3rd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.

oChapter 1, “What is Terrorism?”

oChapter 3, “International Terrorism” (pp. 98-107 only)

oChapter 7, “Women Terrorists” (pp. 245-254 only)

Course Text: McEntire, D. A. (2009). Introduction to homeland security: Understanding terrorism with an emergency management perspective. New York: Wiley.

oChapter 2, “Identifying Terrorism: Ideologically Motivated Acts of Violence”

oChapter 3, “Recognizing the Causes of Terrorism: Differing Perspectives and the Role of Ideology”

oChapter 4, “Comprehending Terrorists and Their Behavior: Who They Are and What They Do”

Optional Resources

Website: U.S. Department of State: More Information. Retrieved from http://www.state.gov/j/ct/info/index.htm


Video: Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). Terrorism: Legislation and policy: Causes of terrorism. Baltimore: Author.

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