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The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon and the abortive attack (possibly aimed at the White House
or Camp David) that resulted in the crash of a jetliner in Pennsylvania
has resulted in a new and extraordinary emphasis by the Bush administration
on combating terrorism. During the last ten days key administration officials,
particularly President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and
Secretary of State Colin Powell, have repeatedly emphasized that their
long-term objective is the destruction of terrorism – a goal to be achieved
by the death or apprehension of terrorists, the destruction of their infrastructure
and support base, and retaliation against states that aid or harbor terrorists.
Terrorism, however, was hardly ignored in previous
administrations. In fact, at the beginning of the Reagan administration,
Secretary of State Alexander Haig announced that opposition to terrorism
would replace the Carter administration’s focus on advancing human rights
throughout the world. Although opposition to terrorism never really became
the primary focus of the Reagan administration or successor administrations,
each of these paid signifiacnt attention to the issue and produced many
important documents that shed light on the policy choices faced today.
Terrorism has been the subject of numerous presidential and Defense Department
directives as well as executive orders. Terrorist groups and terrorist
acts have been the focus of reports by both executive branch agencies (for
example, the State Department, CIA, and FBI) as well as Congressional bodies
– including the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Congressional
Research Service. The General Accounting Office has also produced several
dozen reports evaluating the U.S. government’s ability to prevent or mitigate
terrorist strikes, including, one just yesterday, September 20, 2001.
The following documents, some of which were obtained
under the Freedom of Information Act, include assessments of the terrorist
threat and a CIA profile of Usama bin Ladin, presidential and Defense Department
policy directives, the details about U.S. response to specific terrorist
attacks, and evaluations of U.S. government preparedness to deal with terrorism.
Note: The following documents are in PDF format.
You will need to download and install the free Adobe
Acrobat Reader to view.
and Usama bin Ladin
CIA, Usama bin Ladin: Islamic Extremist Financier, 1996.
This CIA assessment, released to the media in 1996, provides
background information on bin Ladin, including his involvement in the resistance
to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and how he became a prominent figure
in supporting the resistance. It also provides information on the nature
of his terrorist activities – including the Islamic Salvation Foundation
(Al-Qaida), collaboration with other extremist groups.
In addition, the profile traces bin Ladin’s commercial
activities since 1989, such as his construction company’s role in the building
of a modern international airport near Port Sudan, as well as support to
a number of terrorist endeavors. It reports that by January 1994 bin Ladin
was helping finance three terrorist training camps in the northern Sudan.
CIA Biography, Mohammad OMAR, December 21, 1998.
Released to the media in 1998, this CIA document provides information
on the birth, education, and professional career of the present leader
of the Taliban, which included time as a subcommander of a faction of the
Department of Defense, DoD USS Cole Commission Report, Executive
Summary, January 9, 2001.
Among the terrorist attacks linked to Usama bin Ladin is the
October 12, 2000 attack on the USS Cole, a destroyer, while it was in the
port of Aden, Yemen. A small dinghy carrying explosives rammed the Cole,
killing 17 sailors and injuring 39 others. The DoD commission established
to investigate the incident issued findings concerning organization, antiterrorism/force
protection, intelligence, logistics, and training as well as a number of
recommendations to help prevent a future attack.
Memorandum for the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Subject:Review
of USS COLE (DDG-67) Attack Reports and Suggestions for Additional Recommended
Actions, January 9, 2001.
This memorandum from Secretary of Defense William Cohen was
sent to General Henry Shelton, the Chairman of the JCS, along with
the full report of the DoD USS COLE Commission. The memorandum reviews
force protection measures and initiatives taken in recent years, noting
creation of a Joint Staff component to focus on force protection and counter-terrorism
issues. In addition, Cohen asks for Shelton’s recommendations concerning
implementation of the commission’s recommendations.
U.S. Department of State, Patterns of Global Terrorism, April
For over a decade the Department of State, with assistance
from the CIA, has been publishing a yearly volume detailing international
terrorist activity in during the previous year.
Excerpts from the most recent volume include the
sections on the year in review, the Middle East and state-sponsored terrorism.
Subsections of the Middle East section dealing with Lebanon and Saudi Arabia
also discuss the activities of Usama bin Ladin.
Federal Bureau of Investigation, Terrorism in the United States
This unclassified report, prepared by the FBI’s Counterterrorism
Threat Assessment and Warning Unit covers a variety of topics. It discusses
the guidelines under which the FBI investigates terrorism in the United
States – a topic that has already become the subject of debate in the aftermath
of the September 11 attack.
It also reviews both terrorist incidents, the investigation
of incidents, and incidents prevented during 1998. It notes that after
the August 7 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa, the FBI “quickly focused
investigative attention on terrorist financier Usama bin Ladin and his
terrorist network Al-qaida.” “Significant events” include indictments,
trials, convictions as well as the creation of plans to establish a National
Domestic Preparedness Office.
The first part of the “In-Focus” section discusses
the threat from WMD (weapons of mass destruction) – which had been
the preeminent fear before the events of September 11. That section also
discusses the investigation of the embassy bombings as well as the challenge
of protecting “critical national infrastructures” and military installations.
Press Release, Sen. Arlen Specter, Senate Intelligence Committee
Chairman Finds Khobar Towers Bombing “Not the Result of an Intelligence
Failure,” September 12, 1996 w/att: Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
On June 25, 1996, a truck bomb exploded outside the Khobar
Towers housing complex in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 U.S. military personnel
and wounding 515 people, including 240 U.S. personnel. The Senate intelligence
committee and its staff examined whether the attack’s success was due to
an intelligence failure. It examined a number of issues, including collection,
analysis, the production of vulnerability assessments, and dissemination.
Its primary conclusion was that “The Khobar Towers tragedy was not the
result of an intelligence failure.”
II. Congressional Research
Raphael Perl, Terrorism, the Future, and U.S. Foreign Policy,
(Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, September 2001).
Released only two days after the September 11 attacks on the
Pentagon and World Trade Center, this CRS report reviews recent terrorist
acts and threats and considers a range of U.S. policy options – including
diplomacy, economic sanctions, covert action, monetary rewards, extradition
and the use of military force. The paper notes that recent events
will force policymakers to reconcile the sometimes conflicting goals of
security and civil liberties.
The report also suggests a number of potential policy
tools and reform measures that might be implemented, questioning whether
the current counterterrorism policymaking process – channeled largely through
the National Security Council – is subject to appropriate congressional
oversight, and also whether it places too much emphasis on state-sponsored
actions at the expense of those acts committed by independent groups.
The document also reviews the seven countries currently listed on the State
Department’s “terrorism list,” suggesting that the government might also
develop an “informal watchlist” for countries – including Afghanistan,
Pakistan and others – that do not qualify for the terrorism list but merit
Kenneth Katzman, Terrorism: Near Eastern Groups and State Sponsors,
2001, (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, 2001).
This CRS study, published on September 10, 2001, profiles a
large number of terrorist groups and their activities as well as the subject
of state-sponsored terrorism. It includes discussions of radical Islamic
groups (including Al-Qaida), radical Jewish groups, leftwing and nationalist
groups, other non-Islamist organizations, five nations (Iran, Syria, Libya,
Sudan, and Iraq) and means of countering terrorism in the region.
The summary begins with the observation that “Signs
continue to point to a decline in state sponsorship of terrorism, as well
as a rise in the scope of [the] threat posed by the independent network
of exiled Saudi dissident Usama bin Ladin.”
Jeffrey D. Brake, Terrorism and the Military’s Role in Domestic
Crisis Management: Background and Issues for Congress (Washington,
D.C.: Congressional Research Service, April 2001).
This CRS study reviews current legislation and policies that
govern the military’s role in support of law enforcement in a domestic
terrorism crisis and examines some of the issues confronting the executive
branch and Congress. Before turning to the military role, the report examines
national level and FBI crisis management structures. Discussion of the
military role involvements investigation of DoD policy, possible requests
for technical assistance (including disposition and transportation of a
weapon of mass destruction) and requests for tactical assistance (in situations
of armed conflict or a threat to public safety).
National Commission on Terrorism (NTC), Countering the Changing
Threat of International Terrorism, June 5, 2000.
Raphael F. Perl, National Commission on Terrorism Report: Background
and Issues for Congress (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service,
On June 5, 2000, the National Commission on Terrorism (NTC),
a congressionally mandated group, issued its report, Countering the
Changing Threat of International Terrorism. The report argued for a
more aggressive U.S. strategy in combating terrorism – specifically, a
proactive intelligence and law enforcement authority to collect intelligence
about terrorist plans and methods, employing sanctions against all states
that support terrorists, disrupting non-governmental sources of terrorist
support, planning to respond to WMD (weapons of mass destruction) terrorist
attacks, and improved integration of individual agency counterterrorism
programs into a comprehensive national counterterrorism plan. The report
also recommended designating Afghanistan as a state sponsor of terrorism
and imposing sanctions on the regime.
Document 4b, produced by the Congressional Research
Service, notes and examines the concerns expressed by some over the possible
consequences of implementing the report’s recommendations with regard to
civil liberties, the relationship with U.S. allies, and U.S. trade relations.
Raphael Perl and Ronald O’Rourke, Terrorist Attack on USS Cole:
Background and Issues for Congress, (Washington, D.C.: Congressional
Research Service, January 2001).
This CRS study provides a brief background on the October 12,
2000 attack on the USS Cole and examines a number of issues confronting
Congress in the aftermath of the attack, including procedures used by U.S.
forces to protect against terrorist attacks, intelligence related to potential
attacks, and overall U.S. anti-terrorism policy.
Raphael E. Perl, Terrorism: U.S. Response to Bombings in Kenya and
Tanzania: A New Policy Direction? (Washington, D.C.: Congressional
Research Service, September 1998).
In the aftermath of the August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies
in Kenya and Tanzania, the United States launched retaliatory strikes against
training bases and infrastructure in Afghanistan used by groups affiliated
with Usama bin Ladin as well as plant in Sudan that the U.S. charged was
involved in producing a critical nerve gas component. This Congressional
Research Service report asserts that the attacks represented the first
time that the “U.S. had unreservedly acknowledged a preemptive military
strike against a terrorist organization or network.”
The report went on to examine whether the strikes
represented a new policy direction and the issues such a policy shift would
raise, including U.S preparedness for domestic and overseas attacks, possible
cost in human lives, and potential restrictions on civil liberties.
III. General Accounting
GAO, Combating Terrorism: Selected Challenges and Related Recommendations,
September 20, 2001, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office,
This report, scheduled for release in September 2001 even before
the attacks in New York City and Washington, provides a comprehensive summary
of U.S. government efforts to prepare for and prevent terrorist attacks.
The report evaluates the adequacy of the current
counterterrorism leadership and coordination as well as efforts to conduct
a "national threat and risk assessment," finding that agencies "have not
completed assessments of the most likely weapon-of-mass-destruction agents
and other terrorist threats." Other issues addressed by the report concern
progress made in coordinating the national response to domestic terrorist
incidents and risks to computer systems.
GAO, Combating Terrorism: Opportunities to Improve Domestic Preparedness
Program Focus and Efficiency, November 1998, (Washington, D.C.: U.S.
General Accounting Office, 1998)
This document reports on progress in implementing the Domestic
Preparedness Program, legislation that designated the Department of Defense
(DoD) as the lead agency in preparing the nation for terrorist attacks
using weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Among other things the act called
upon DoD to provide training and support to federal, state and local personnel
engaged in emergency response operations. The program resulted from 1996
congressional hearings that focused on efforts to better coordinate interagency
counterterrorism operations. The review finds that the training and support
provided to domestic response teams by the Department of Defense have generally
helped prepare cities to handle terrorist attacks involving chemical or
biological weapons. The report does note, however, that “the FBI and the
intelligence community conclude that conventional weapons will be terrorists’
weapons of choice for the next decade.”
GAO, Combating Terrorism: Issues to Be Resolved to Improve Counterterrorism
Operations, May 1999, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office,
This report, an unclassified version of an earlier classified
report, discusses several issues related to the coordination of interagency
counterterrorism operations, exercises and programs to assess lessons learned.
Among other findings, the report concludes that agencies have not resolved
several critical command and control issues, including jurisdictional issues
pertaining to Department of State involvement in “highly sensitive missions
to arrest suspected terrorists overseas.” The report also evaluates interagency
counterterrorist exercises that have been carried out as called for in
Presidential Decision Directive 39, finding that neither domestic nor international
crisis exercises included scenarios of “no-warning terrorist attacks.”
GAO, Combating Terrorism: Analysis of Federal Counterterrorist Exercises,
June 1999, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office, 1999).
This report provides a statistical breakdown and review of
the 201 counterterrorism exercises that occurred in the three years since
the signing of Presidential Decision Directive 39. The report finds that
few of the exercises involved “no-notice” deployments of personnel and
resources. In addition, very few of these exercises dealt simultaneously
with the twin issues of crisis management—stopping the attack—and consequence
management—caring for the injured. More than two-thirds of the scenarios
dealt with weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the rest responding to conventional
weapons and explosives.
GAO, Combating Terrorism, Observations on Growth in Federal Programs,
June 9, 1999, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office, 1999).
This report, delivered as testimony before a congressional
committee, reviews federal preparations to prevent and respond to terrorist
attacks in the U.S. and around the world. The bombings of the World Trade
Center in 1993 and the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 increased
concerns about domestic terrorism, refocusing efforts that had been primarily
concerned about “international terrorism and airline hijacking.” While
the threat of a terrorist attack using chemical, biological, radiological
and nuclear (CBRN) weapons continues to grow, the report highlights “the
very critical distinction between what is conceivable or possible and what
is likely in terms of the threat of terrorist attack,” noting that conventional
explosives and weapons remain the most likely terrorist threat facing the
GAO, Combating Terrorism: Linking Threats to Strategies and Resources,
July 26, 2000, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office, 2000).
In this testimony delivered before a congressional committee,
the GAO reviews its efforts to help the U.S. agencies involved with counterterrorism
strategy prioritize and focus their resources. Based upon a review of classified
intelligence reports, the GAO warns that public statements by U.S. government
officials—including, on at least one occasion, the Director of Central
Intelligence—often exaggerate the threat from CBRN weapons and “do not
include important qualifications to the information they present.” Statements
that highlight the relative ease with which terrorists can acquire and
deliver CBRN weapons are not necessarily accurate and may have significant
ramifications in terms of how counterterrorism resources are allocated.
The GAO review notes that “terrorists would have to overcome significant
technical and operational challenges” to successfully employ such weapons.
The report recommends that the government improve its threat and risk assessment
procedures to insure that counterterrorism resources are allocated based
on “credible threats” rather than “vulnerabilities” and worst-case scenarios.
IV. Department of Defense
Directives, Instructions and statements
DoD Instruction 2000.14, DoD Combating Terrorism Program Procedures,
June 15, 1994.
DoD Directive 2000.12, DoD Antiterrorism/Force Protection (AF/FP)
Program, April 13, 1999.
DoD Instruction 2000.16, DoD Antiterrorism Standards, June 14,
These directives represent various aspects of DoD antiterrorism
policy and activities since 1994. Document 1a specifies basic DoD policy
and the responsibilities of DoD and military service officials – the Assistant
Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict,
military service secretaries, the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and
the commanders of the Unified and Specified Commands – for antiterrorism
Document 1b provides a more detailed description
of responsibilities for those officials, as well as enumerating the responsibilities
of a number of other DoD officials, such as the Under Secretary of Defense
for Policy. Document 1c, in enclosure 3, specifies DoD antiterrorism practices,
assigning responsibilities to a variety of individuals and agencies – such
as the Defense Intelligence Agency being charged with setting the DoD Terrorism
Statement by Brian Sheridan, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special
Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, before the Subcommittee on Emerging
Threats and Capabilities of the Committee on Armed Services, Department
of Defense and Combating Terrorism, March 24, 2000.
In his statement Sheridan focuses on the threat from terrorism,
national policy on combating terrorism (including preemption and isolating
states that support terrorism), DoD support and activity in combating terrorism,
initiatives and projects, terrorism consequence management, as well as
technology and research/development.
In the section on counterterrorism, Sheridan notes that
DoD has “a number of rapid response elements,” including specialized military
units on alert, Foreign Emergency Support Teams (FEST) and support to National
Special Security Events (NSSE).
V. Presidential Directives
and Executive Orders
National Security Decision Directive 30, Managing Terrorist Incidents,
April 30, 1982. Secret.
The first Reagan administration directive concerning terrorism
specifies which government agency will serve as the lead agency in managing
terrorist incidents – the State Department for international terrorism,
the Justice Department for domestic terrorism, and the Federal Aviation
Administration for hijackings within the United States. It also creates
and/or specifies the functions of a number of White House/executive branch
groups, such as the Terrorist Incident Working Group and Interdepartmental
Group on Terrorism. The directive also directs that an Exercise Committee
be established to develop a multi-year exercise program.
Office of the Press Secretary, White House, Statement by the Principal
Deputy Press Secretary, April 17, 1984.
Office of the Press Secretary, White House, To the Congress of the
United States, April 26, 1984.
Office of the Press Secretary, Fact Sheet: President’s Anti-Terrorism
Legislation, April 26, 1984.
On April 3, 1984 President Reagan signed NSDD 138, Combatting
Terrorism, which went far beyond establishing responsibilities for
different agencies. The secret directive itself has never been released,
but an extract prepared by the NSC staff details some provisions of the
directive – including increasing intelligence collection directed against
groups or states involved in terrorism as well as expanding sanctions against
organizations and states which support or export terrorism.
Documents 2b-2d represent the public side of the
Reagan administration’s April 1984 counterterrorism initiative.
NSDD 179, Task Force on Combatting Terrorism, July 19, 1985.
NSDD 179 established a task force, to be headed by Vice President
George Bush, to review and evaluate U.S. policy and programs in the
counterterrorism area. In particular, the task force was to assess national
priorities assigned to combat terrorism, especially concerning intelligence
responsibilities; the assignment of responsibilities after a terrorist
incident; and evaluate laws and law enforcement programs concerning terrorism.
NSDD 180, Civilian Aviation Anti-Terrorism Program, July 20,
This 1985 directive directs immediate action by the Secretary
of Transportation to expand the federal air marshal program, specifying
measures to be taken within 14 days, 30 days, and 60 days. The first step
was to provide air marshals for flights with the most severe threat of
hijacking (based on city of origin), while the third step involved increasing
the number of special agents “to provide continuing coverage at the most
threatened locations throughout the world.”
The directive also called for specific actions with
regard to assessing security effectiveness at foreign locations, research
and development, foreign technical assistance, enhanced airline security
training, crisis management, and coordination.
NSDD 205, Acting Against Libyan Support of International Terrorism,
January 8, 1986. Confidential.
NSDD 205 Annex, Acting Against Libyan Support of International Terrorism,
January 8, 1986. Top Secret.
NSDD 205 provides an example of the Reagan administration’s
reaction to state-sponsored terrorism. The directive begins by noting that
the “scope and tempo of Libyan-supported terrorist activity against western
targets is widening accelerating” and that Libyan supported terrorism constitute
an “extraordinary threat to the national security ... of the United States.”
The directive goes on to specify a number of economic sanctions, including
a total ban on direct export or import trade with Libya, and the initiation
of global diplomatic and public affairs campaign to isolate Libya.
The top secret annex to NSDD 205 directs a number
of military and intelligence measures directed against Libya – including
deployment of a second Carrier Battle Group to the central Mediterranean
and the conduct of operations in the Gulf of Sidra.
NSDD 207, The National Program for Combatting Terrorism, January
20, 1986. Top Secret.
This directive is based on the recommendations of Vice-President
Bush’s task force on combatting terrorism. In addition to stating basic
policy guidelines, including a no-concessions policy, and reaffirming the
situations in which various agencies become the lead agency in dealing
with a terrorist incident, the directive orders implementation of a number
of measures by the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, Director of
Central Intelligence, Director of the Office of Management and Budget,
and the Secretary of the Treasury.
Measures to implemented included concluding agreements
for more effective measures for apprehending, extraditing, and prosecuting
terrorists; prepare legislation to make murder of a U.S. citizens abroad
a federal crime, expand terrorism intelligence exchanges with foreign governments
and the international terrorist informant program, and review the Freedom
of Information Act to determine whether “terrorist movements or organizations
are abusing its provisions.”
Executive Order 12947 of January 23, 1995, Prohibiting Transactions
With Terrorists Who Threaten to Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process,
Register, Vol. 60, No. 16.
Executive Order 13099 of August 20, 1998, Prohibiting Transactions
With Terrorists Who Threaten to Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process,
Register, Vol. 63, No. 164.
The first of these two orders – issued by President Bill Clinton
– blocks the assets and business transactions of a specific list of “terrorist
organizations” whose actions are believed to threaten the ongoing peace
negotiations in the Middle East.
The second order was issued in 1998 following the
terrorist attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and on the
same day that President Clinton directed retaliatory missile strikes against
suspected terrorist-related facilities in Afghanistan and Sudan. The second
order amends E.O. 12947 to include Usama bin Ladin – the chief suspect
in the embassy bombings – the Al-Qaida organization, and two other individuals
on the list of terrorists whose assets and transactions are to be blocked.
The order also drops the word “organizations” from the heading of the list,
apparently because specific individuals are now targeted.
PDD 39, U.S. Policy on Counterterrorism, June 21, 1995, Secret.
The 12-page directive, which consists of at least four parts,
focuses on reducing U.S. vulnerabilities, deterring terrorism, responding
to terrorism, and weapons of mass destruction. The PDD directed the FBI
to expand its counterterrorism program, the Secretary of Transportation
to reduce vulnerability affecting the security of airports in the U.S.,
the DCI to lead "an aggressive program of foreign intelligence collection,
analysis, counterintelligence and covert action," and the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate consequence management activities.
The directive also specified that "if we do not receive adequate cooperation
from a state that harbors a terrorist whose extradition we are seeking,
we shall take appropriate measures to induce cooperation. Return of suspects
by force may be effected without the cooperation of the host government
Document 9: Executive Order 13129 of July 4, 1999, Blocking Property
and Prohibiting Transactions With the Taliban, Federal Register,
Vol. 64, No. 129.
This order blocks assets and transactions connected to the
Taliban, the radical Islamic political and military movement exercising
de facto control over most of Afghanistan. The order notes that the
Taliban provides safe haven in Afghanistan for Usama bin Ladin and his
Al-Qaida organization “who have committed and threaten to continue acts
of violence against the United States.” The Taliban thus “constitute
an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign
policy of the United States.”