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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal National Commission on Terrorism
Report Issued: June 5, 2000

Prepared by the National Commission on Terrorism

Disclaimer: The National Commission on Terrorism was established by Congress in 1999. It is not affiliated with the U.S. Department of State. The Commission may be reached at: (202) 331-4060. Report available at: http://www.fas.org/irp/threat/commission.html

Executive Summary

International terrorism poses an increasingly dangerous and difficult threat to America. This was underscored by the December 1999 arrests in Jordan and at the U.S./Canadian border of foreign nationals who were allegedly planning to attack crowded millennium celebrations. Today's terrorists seek to inflict mass casualties, and they are attempting to do so both overseas and on American soil. They are less dependent on state sponsorship and are, instead, forming loose, transnational affiliations based on religious or ideological affinity and a common hatred of the United States. This makes terrorist attacks more difficult to detect and prevent.

Countering the growing danger of the terrorist threat requires significantly stepping up U.S. efforts. The government must immediately take steps to reinvigorate the collection of intelligence about terrorists' plans, use of all available legal avenues to disrupt and prosecute terrorist activities and private sources of support, convince other nations to cease all support for terrorists, and ensure that federal, state, and local officials are prepared for attacks that may result in mass casualties. The Commission has made a number of recommendations to accomplish these objectives:

--CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) guidelines adopted in 1995 restricting recruitment of unsavory sources should not apply when recruiting counterterrorism sources.

--The Attorney General should ensure that the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) is exercising fully its authority for investigating suspected terrorist groups or individuals, including authority for electronic surveillance.

--Funding for counterterrorism efforts by the CIA, NSA (National Security Agency), and FBI must be given higher priority to ensure continuation of important operational activity and to close the technology gap that threatens their ability to collect and exploit terrorist communications.

--the FBI should establish a cadre of reports officers to distill and disseminate terrorism-related information once it is collected.

U.S. policies must firmly target all states that support terrorists.

--Iran and Syria should be kept on the list of state sponsors until they stop supporting terrorists.

--Afghanistan should be designated a sponsor of terrorism and subjected to all the sanctions applicable to state sponsors.

--The President should impose sanctions on countries that, while not direct sponsors of terrorism, are nevertheless not cooperating fully on counterterrorism. Candidates for consideration include Pakistan and Greece.

Private sources of financial and logistical support for terrorists must be subjected to the full force and sweep of the U.S. and international laws.

--All relevant agencies should use every available means, including the full array of criminal, civil, and administrative sanctions to block or disrupt non-governmental sources of support for international terrorism.

--Congress should promptly ratify and implement the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism to enhance international cooperative efforts.

--Where criminal prosecution is not possible, the Attorney General should vigorously pursue the expulsion of terrorists from the United States through proceedings which protect both the national security interest in safeguarding classified evidence and the right of the accused to challenge that evidence.

A terrorist attack involving a biological agent, deadly chemicals, or nuclear or radiological material, even if it succeeds only partially, could profoundly affect the entire nation. The government must do more to prepare for such an event.

--The President should direct the preparation of a manual to guide the implementation of existing legal authority in the event of a catastrophic terrorist threat or attack. The President and Congress should determine whether additional legal authority is needed to deal with catastrophic terrorism.

--The Department of Defense (DOD) must have detailed plans for its role in the event of a catastrophic terrorist attack, including criteria for decisions on transfer of command authority to DOD in extraordinary circumstances.

--Senior officials of all government agencies involved in responding to a catastrophic terrorism threat or crisis should be required to participate in national exercises every year to test capabilities and coordination.

--Congress should make it illegal for anyone not properly certified to possess certain critical pathogens and should enact laws to control the transfer of equipment critical to the development or use of biological agents.

--The President should establish a comprehensive and coordinated long-term research and development program for catastrophic terrorism.

--The Secretary of State should press for an international convention to improve multilateral cooperation on preventing or responding to cyber attacks by terrorists.

The President and Congress should reform the system for reviewing and funding departmental counterterrorism programs to ensure that the activities and programs of various agencies are part of a comprehensive plan.

--The executive branch official responsible for coordinating counterterrorism efforts across the government should be given a stronger hand in the budget process.

--Congress should develop a mechanism for a comprehensive review of the President's counterterrorism policy and budget.

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