The Naval Postgraduate School & The U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Evolving Terrorist Threat: Latest Findings from RAND

A new report released by RAND covers the findings and recommendations of a recent seminar held by the organization. The report, titled "Identifying Enemies Among Us: Evolving Terrorist Threats and the Continuing Challenges of Domestic Intelligence Collection and Information Sharing", summarizes the experience of active and former government and law enforcement officials (DHS, FBI, CIA, and DoD), as well as field experts, which span the "breadth of the homeland security apparatus."

The goal of the seminar was not to solve the terrorist threat, but rather to spark discussion on the subject, and where the United States currently stands in its efforts to protect the homeland. The discussion centered on three subjects: 1) perceptions of the evolving terrorist threat, 2) the state of information sharing, and 3) the role of fusion centers. According to the document, several key findings became apparent. The list below highlights some significant findings, but it is not an exhaustive list. 

  • The terrorist threat has evolved strategically, yet dissent remains about both scope and direction.
  • The categorization and compartmentalization of threats may limit intelligence sharing and cooperation.
  • Increasing national resilience will require a more nuanced national dialogue. As the report argues, Washington should focus on improving performance rather than fault-finding.
  • Some of the obstacles that limit cooperation, information sharing, and collaboration among the various layers of government were put in place for good reason (for example, the protection of privacy and civil liberties).
  • However, privacy and civil liberties cannot be a "blanket excuse" that separates the intelligence community and law enforcement community. Instead, emphasis should be placed on effectively removing barriers that prevent cooperation and communication.
  • It is difficult for national intelligence structures to talk about domestic terrorism since the nature of national intelligence and national security has a foreign-intelligence focus.
  • The nation's policy of "zero tolerance for terrorism" could come into direct conflict with the fiscal need to reduce budgets.

Click the link in the first paragraph to explore more findings of the seminar, and to also view the recommendations of the participants.