The paper discusses the role of the investigating task force in relation to terrorism. It describes the three types of undercover operations involved together with the equipment coverage applied. Extremism and its three facets are also explained, differentiating it from terrorism. Finally, it briefly describes the four basic approaches that are used in investigating terrorist groups.
The Role of Investigating Task Force
Criminal Investigation Task Force (CITF) is one of the peculiar organizations that stem from the United States' Department of Defense Military Police Corps following the crusade for the War on Terror. Its headquarters is at Fort Belvoir, Virginia and several detachment bases in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Iraq; and Afghanistan. Its conception dates back to February 2002 as a result of a Presidential military decree to investigate the accused terrorists in the United States in the mentioned bases. The objective is to either refer the cases to the DoD office of Military Commissions for criminal prosecutions or marking the detainees to be released and/or transferred to the custody of their countries of origin (Edwards & King, 2007).
Being a military unit, CITF comprises a range of members from every branch of the United States armed forces. This is because task forces in the military circles are temporarily created to undertake a particular mission. Therefore, CITF's mission is the menace of terrorism, and it is constituted by the Army Criminal Investigation Division, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and the Naval Criminal Investigation Service. Others personnel are drawn from the FBI, US Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, DoD Counterintelligence Field Activity, and National Security Agency. It is a team of impeccable investigators. Intelligence analysts, lawyers and support personnel. In addition they have agents in Canada, England, Germany, Bosnia and Italy (Edwards & King, 2007).
The nature of these investigations involves interrogation of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq; interviewing witnesses in high-profile federal cases; seizure of evidence captured; integration of all strategic and tactical intelligence; and collaboration with inter-agency and foreign counterparts. The FBI in conjunction with the Homeland Security gathers reliable information and hand it over to the other relevant department within the CITF for further action. However, this is not the monopoly of the FBI since there is a network of information technology system that disseminate information among the local, state, regional and federal agencies and the private sector; not to mention the Counterintelligence. Not every information that is gathered must be made public; CITF abides by the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) found at Title 18 of the United States Code, Appendix III. The aim is to prohibit the disclosure of information that may harm the national security (McAdams, n.d.).
The jurisdiction of the Task Force lies in the entire territory of the United States and being a superpower, elsewhere in the world where terrorists are deemed to be hiding. Backed by the UN General Assembly, the US has granted her CITF intelligence agencies powers not only of interrogation but also of arresting and detaining suspects. This has been brought about by the extraordinary character of the contemporary terrorist threat (Scheinin, 2009).
Although specialized training is required by the personnel of the CITF, being drawn from a range of elitist military corp, they have the refined knowledge of the field. What remains is the way to channel their expertise in the fulfillment of this particular mission. For this reason, after a thorough induction sessions, they hit the road and most of the specialized knowledge is acquired on-the-job. The equipment that is at their disposal
The Undercover Operations for Terrorism Investigations
Undercover operation is an investigation that involves a series of related undercover activities such as the use of an assumed name or cover identity, within a period of time by an undercover agent of the CITF. The three general types of undercover operations are: the police undercover investigations, the federal undercover investigation, and the private security undercover investigations (Dempsey & Forst, 2009).
The police undercover investigations are predominantly used within the territories of the United States to stump out terrorist suspects. The suspects who get arrested are very resourceful to the intelligence agents of the CITF for they provide the information that may lead to further arrests and thwarting of a terrorist plot. The undercover officers undertake a different role from their usual policing which varies from one assignment to the other. They hang around with the terrorists and try to befriend them and adopt they lifestyle. A classical example was the undercover operations of the Metro Police Department who infiltrated and actively participated in a controversial anti-Bush group known as the International Action Center (IAC). They posed as activists and penetrated the group thereby providing law-enforcement officers with intelligence data (Gossett, 2010).
Federal undercover operations are akin to the police type mentioned above with the exception of its officers who are FBI agents. Their jurisdiction and hence operations is not limited to the United States territories. They are found in countries that are rife with terrorist activities like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan et cetera. The case of David Coleman Headley's arrest by the FBI agents can be cited as an example. It was the fruits of undercover operations that tract his meetings, e-mails and phone conversations that necessarily linked him to terrorist groups in Pakistan (Fact on File News Services, 1955).
Lastly, there is private security undercover operation for example, Blackwater - connected to the CIA. They are mostly hired to undertake particular role even undercover investigations. A report by the New York Times, CIA in 2004 hired them to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al-Qaeda (Mazzetti, 2004).
Electronic Coverage applicable to Terrorism Investigation
The CITF agents use computers to monitor data and traffic on the internet. Following the adherence of the Communications Assistance For Law Enforcement Act, every phone call together with broadband internet traffic are screened. The agents also use satellites and aircraft sensors to identify deadly objects in buildings detecting even traces of chemicals in the atmosphere; that could have been planted by a terrorist (Mayer, 2009).
Radio Frequency Identification, popularly known as RFID tags are very useful to the agents. They are small electronic devices using radio waves fixed into an object for the purpose of identification and tracking especially the slippery Al-Qaeda agents. Similarly, Global Positioning System (GPS) devices planted secretly in vehicles for movement monitoring is also used. Mobile phones apart from being used for communication among the CTIF agents are used to collect geolocation data. Surveillance devices called bugs are used to capture, record and transmit information to recipient. CTIF agents normally hide these devices in rooms suspected to be used by terrorists (Mayer, 2009).
Airborne machines like unmanned aerial vehicle, spy plane and helicopter are used for aerial surveillance to gather visual imagery. Cameras, both surveillance(CCTV) and video are used to observe protected areas especially barracks and offices of CITF. Biometrics is useful for the analysis of physical and behavioral traits of a person for identification. It captures fingerprints, DNA, walking style et cetera. It is useful to distinguish a terrorist from a non-terrorist using the already existing information (Mayer, 2009).
Left-wing Extremism, Right-wing Extremism, and Special Interest Extremism
Left-wing extremism is defined as the liberal stance that radical measures should be used to effect change in the established order, especially in politics to achieve the equality, freedom and well-being of the common citizens. It has often developed from working-class movements out to eliminate class stratifications. The threat that this movement poses did not die with the death of Soviet Union, unfortunately, owing that it communism was its brain child. Left-wing extremism in the United States furthermore presents not only the threat to domestic terrorism, but also potential support of espionage against her by countries like Cuba. A good example of such movements is the Black Liberation Army (Seger, 2001).
Right-wing extremism on the other hand is defined loosely as an ideology that promotes anti-democratic sentiments through nationalism, xenophobia, racism, and a call for a strong state (Carter, 2005). In the United States, this ideology manifests itself in the infamous 'Patriot' groups consisting of militias and other organizations that consider the federal government as plotting to impose a 'one-world government'. They see the Obama Administration as 'socialist' following the rising public debt and the ailing economy, the bailouts of banks and other organizations, among others. In fact, the mushrooming 'tea parties' that litter the American political arena are outgrowths of the same.
Special interest extremism can be defined as an ideology that uses violent unorthodox means to fight for the issues that regard a particular group. The extremists involve in political violence to force a segment of society, sometimes even the general public to reconsider the stand on issues dear to them. Ecoterrorism is a perfect example (Carter, 2005).
Extremism is an ideology that strongly supports immoderate and uncompromising policies in the solution of a political issue. Terrorism, on the other hand is the unlawful use of violence and threats by a person or an organized group to intimidate and sometimes coerce an individual or a state for political ends.
The four basic approaches of investigating terrorist groups are, exposure, family, forensic trail, and communication. Exposure requires action anytime the organization is out in the open, outside their enclosure; either making a phone call or meeting with top bosses. Terrorists who have families easily get entrapped since at one time he will come to visit. CITF agents persuade and even infiltrate the families to gather information. Terrorist groups that employ people are vulnerable to forensic paper trails that may be useful in their tracking. Finally, communication by also eases the work of investigators especially when landline and cell phones, e-mails et cetera are used (Day, 2009).
CITF is doing a tremendous job to rid the world of terrorists who arguably fight for the fun of it. In their course to further their ridiculous motives, many lives are at stake. The activities of the Task Force should be supported by all means.
The personnel training, jurisdiction and equipment that encompass this operation is complex and superior to the opponents. Its ubiquity also marvels since it equally tackles the homegrown terrorists disguised in awful extreme groupings like Black Liberation Army, 'Patriot' and Eco-terrorism.
With the sophisticated weaponry and the military finesse that the Task Force embodies, it is just a matter of time and the foe will be vanquished.