The United States' Response to International Terrorism
J. Brent Wilson
The Clinton administration was barely one month old when a bomb explosion at the World Trade Center in New York killed 6 persons and injured up to 1,000 more, on 26 February 1993. 1 Police quickly arrested a number of suspects, whose behavior initially suggested an amateur effort. 2 But what the bomb and the alleged perpetrators seemed to lack in sophistication was more than matched by their potential significance. Their suspected links to an Islamic fundamentalist cleric who actively opposes the Egyptian government transformed a domestic event into the first majorinternational terrorist incident on the US mainland. 3 That the suspected bomb team members were arrested quickly can be attributed in part to their carelessness, but also to efficient police work and the counter-terrorism mechanisms put in place over several decades. The aim of this chapter is to explain how and why those mechanisms came to be and what impact they have had on American democracy. Beginning in the early 1970s and concluding with the final year of the Bush presidency, it highlights key periods, events, and decisions in the development of the American approach to countering international terrorism. As the World Trade Center bombing indicates, the story is still unfolding. Primary sources are few, and the secondary literature is often subjective and self-serving. So what follows should be considered a preliminary assessment.
Terrorism is not new to Americans, but international terrorism incidents have been relatively rare in the US. This immunity is the result of several factors, including geographic separation from the main sources of terrorism, the absence of systematic anti-state violence in American political culture, and the
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Publication information: Book title: The Deadly Sin of Terrorism:Its Effect on Democracy and Civil Liberty in Six Countries. Contributors: David A. Charters - Editor. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1994. Page number: 173.
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