(also spelled counterterrorism
), also known as anti-terrorism
, incorporates the practice, military tactics
, techniques, and strategy that government, military, law enforcement, business, and intelligence agencies
use to combat or prevent terrorism
. Counter-terrorism strategy
is a government's plan to use the instruments of national power to neutralize terrorists, their organizations, and their networks in order to render them incapable of using violence to instill fear and to coerce the government or its citizens to react in accordance with the terrorists' goals.
Harcourt envisioned a permanent unit dedicated to the prevention of politically motivated violence through the use of modern techniques such as undercover infiltration
. This pioneering branch was the first to be trained in counter-terrorism techniques.
Counter-terrorism forces expanded with the perceived growing threat of terrorism in the late 20th century. Specifically, after the September 11 attacks
, Western governments made counter-terrorism efforts a priority, including more foreign cooperation, shifting tactics involving red teams
and preventive measures.
Although sensational attacks in the developed world receive a great deal of media attention,
most terrorism occurs in less developed countries.
Government responses to terrorism, in some cases, generate substantial unintended consequences.
Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance
Most counter-terrorism strategies involve an increase in standard police and domestic intelligence. The central activities are traditional: interception of communications
and the tracing of persons. New technology has, however, expanded the range of military
and law enforcement
Domestic intelligence is often directed at specific groups, defined based on origin or religion, which is a source of political controversy. Mass surveillance
of an entire population raises objections on civil liberties
grounds. Homegrown terrorists
, especially lone wolves
, are often harder to detect because of their citizenship or legal status and ability to stay under the radar.
To select the effective action when terrorism appears to be more of an isolated event, the appropriate government organizations need to understand the source, motivation, methods of preparation, and tactics of terrorist groups. Good intelligence is at the heart of such preparation, as well as political and social understanding of any grievances that might be solved. Ideally, one gets information from inside the group, a very difficult challenge for HUMINT
because operational terrorist cells
are often small, with all members known to one another, perhaps even related.
is a great challenge with the security of cell-based systems, since the ideal, but the nearly impossible, goal is to obtain a clandestine source
within the cell. Financial tracking can play a role, as an communications intercept
. However, both of these approaches need to be balanced against legitimate expectations of privacy.
In response to the growing legislation.
- The United Kingdom has had anti-terrorism legislation in place for more than thirty years. The Prevention of Violence Act 1939 was brought in response to an Irish Republican Army (IRA) campaign of violence under the S-Plan. This act had been allowed to expire in 1953. It was repealed in 1973 to be replaced by the Prevention of Terrorism Acts, a response to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. From 1974 to 1989, the temporary provisions of the act were renewed annually.
- In 2000 the Acts were replaced with the more permanent Terrorism Act 2000, which contained many of their powers, and then the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005.
- The Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 was formally introduced into the Parliament on November 19, 2001, two months after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. It received royal assent and went into force on December 13, 2001. On December 16, 2004, the Law Lords ruled that Part 4 was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. However, under the terms of the Human Rights Act 1998, it remained in force. The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 was drafted to answer the Law Lords ruling and the Terrorism Act 2006 creates new offenses related to terrorism, and amends existing ones. The act was drafted in the aftermath of the 7 July 2005 London bombings and, like its predecessors, some of its terms have proven to be highly controversial.
Australia has passed several anti-terrorism acts. In 2004, a bill comprising three acts Anti-terrorism Act, 2004, (No 2) and (No 3)
was passed. Then Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock
, introduced the Anti-terrorism bill, 2004
on March 31. He described it as "a bill to strengthen Australia's counter-terrorism laws in a number of respects – a task made more urgent following the recent tragic terrorist bombings in Spain."
He said that Australia's counter-terrorism laws "require review and, where necessary, updating if we are to have a legal framework capable of safeguarding all Australians from the scourge of terrorism." The Australian Anti-Terrorism Act 2005
supplemented the powers of the earlier acts. The Australian legislation allows police to detain suspects for up to two weeks without charge and to electronically track suspects for up to a year. The Australian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2005
included a "shoot-to-kill" clause. In a country with entrenched liberal democratic
traditions, the measures are controversial and have been criticized by civil libertarians
- Israel monitors a list of designated terrorist organizations and has laws forbidding membership in such organizations and funding or helping them.
- On December 14, 2006, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled targeted killings were a permitted form of self-defense.
- In 2016 the Israeli Knesset passed a comprehensive law against terrorism, forbidding any kind of terrorism and support of terrorism, and setting severe punishments for terrorists. The law also regulates legal efforts against terrorism.
One of the primary difficulties of implementing effective counter-terrorist measures is the waning of civil liberties and individual privacy that such measures often entail, both for citizens of, and for those detained by states attempting to combat terror.
At times, measures designed to tighten security have been seen as abuses of power
or even violations of human rights.
Examples of these problems can include prolonged, incommunicado detention without judicial review or long periods of 'preventive detention';
risk of subjecting to torture during the transfer, return and extradition of people between or within countries; and the adoption of security measures that restrain the rights or freedoms of citizens and breach principles of non-discrimination.
- In November 2003, Malaysia passed new counter-terrorism laws, widely criticized by local human rights groups for being vague and overbroad. Critics claim that the laws put the fundamental rights of free expression, association, and assembly at risk. Malaysia persisted in holding around 100 alleged militants without trial, including five Malaysian students detained for alleged terrorist activity while studying in Karachi, Pakistan.
- In November 2003, a Canadian-Syrian national, Maher Arar, publicly alleged that he had been tortured in a Syrian prison after being handed over to the Syrian authorities by the U.S.
- In December 2003, Colombia's congress approved legislation that would give the military the power to arrest, tap telephones, and carry out searches without warrants or any previous judicial order.
- Images of unpopular treatment of detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq and other locations have encouraged international scrutiny of U.S. operations in the war on terror.
- Hundreds of foreign nationals remain in prolonged indefinite detention without charge or trial in Guantánamo Bay, despite international and U.S. constitutional standards some groups believe outlaw such practices.
- Hundreds of people suspected of connections with the Taliban or al Qa'eda remain in long-term detention in Pakistan or in U.S.-controlled centers in Afghanistan.
- China has used the "war on terror" to justify its policies in the predominantly Muslim Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region to stifle Uighur identity.
- In Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Yemen, and other countries, scores of people have been arrested and arbitrarily detained in connection with suspected terrorist acts or links to opposition armed groups.
- Until 2005 eleven men remained in high-security detention in the UK under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.
- The United Nations experts condemned the misuse of counter-terrorism powers by the Egyptian authorities following the arrest, detention, and designation of human rights defenders Ramy Shaath and Zyad El-Elaimy under terrorist entities’ list. The two defenders were arrested in June 2019 and the first-ever renewal of remand detention for Shaath came for the 21st time in 19 months on 24 January 2021. Experts claimed it alarming and demanded the urgent implementation of the Working Group’s opinion and removal of the two’s names from the “terrorism entities’ list.
Many would argue that such violations could exacerbate rather than counter the terrorist threat.
Human rights advocates argue for the crucial role of human rights protection as an intrinsic part to fight against terrorism.
This suggests, as proponents of human security
have long argued, that respecting human rights may indeed help us to incur security. Amnesty International
included a section on confronting terrorism in the recommendations in the Madrid Agenda arising from the Madrid Summit on Democracy and Terrorism (Madrid March 8–11, 2005):
Democratic principles and values are essential tools in the fight against terrorism. Any successful strategy for dealing with terrorism requires terrorists to be isolated. Consequently, the preference must be to treat terrorism as criminal acts to be handled through existing systems of law enforcement and with full respect for human rights and the rule of law. We recommend: (1) taking effective measures to make impunity impossible either for acts of terrorism or for the abuse of human rights in counter-terrorism measures. (2) the incorporation of human rights laws in all anti-terrorism programs and policies of national governments as well as international bodies."
While international efforts to combat terrorism have focused on the need to enhance cooperation between states, proponents of human rights (as well as human security
) have suggested that more effort needs to be given to the effective inclusion of human rights protection as a crucial element in that cooperation. They argue that international human rights obligations do not stop at borders, and a failure to respect human rights in one state may undermine its effectiveness in the global effort to cooperate to combat terrorism.
Some countries see preemptive attacks as a legitimate strategy. This includes capturing, killing, or disabling suspected terrorists before they can mount an attack. Israel
, the United Kingdom
, the United States
, and Russia
have taken this approach, while Western European states generally do not.
The human security
paradigm outlines a non-military approach that aims to address the enduring underlying inequalities which fuel terrorist activity. Causal factors need to be delineated and measures implemented which allow equal access to resources and sustainability
for all people. Such activities empower citizens, providing 'freedom from fear' and 'freedom from want'.
This can take many forms, including the provision of clean drinking water, education, vaccination programs, provision of food and shelter and protection from violence, military or otherwise. Successful human security campaigns have been characterized by the participation of a diverse group of actors, including governments, NGOs
, and citizens.
Foreign internal defense
programs provide outside expert assistance to a threatened government. FID can involve both non-military and military aspects of counter-terrorism.
A 2017 study found that "governance and civil society aid is effective in dampening domestic terrorism, but this effect is only present if the recipient country is not experiencing a civil conflict."
U.S. Marines in Afghanistan
Thus repression by the military in itself (particularly if it is not accompanied by other measures) usually leads to short term victories, but tend to be unsuccessful in the long run (e.g., the French's doctrine described in Roger Trinquier
's book Modern War
used in Indochina
). However, new methods (see the new Counterinsurgency
) such as those taken in Iraq
have yet to be seen as beneficial or ineffectual.
Police, fire, and emergency medical response organizations have prominent roles. Local firefighters
and emergency medical personnel (often called "first responders") have plans for mitigating the effects of terrorist attacks. However, the police may deal with threats of such attacks.
Whatever the target of terrorists, there are multiple ways of hardening the targets to prevent the terrorists from hitting their mark, or reducing the damage of attacks. One method is to place Hostile vehicle mitigation
to enforce protective standoff distance outside tall or politically sensitive buildings to prevent car and truck bombing
. Another way to reduce the impact of attacks is to design buildings for rapid evacuation.
Aircraft cockpits are kept locked during flights and have reinforced doors, which only the pilots in the cabin are capable of opening. UK railway stations
removed their rubbish bins
in response to the Provisional IRA
threat, as convenient locations for depositing bombs.
air defense system. It intercepts artillery rockets fired by terrorists onto Israeli cities and towns.
A more sophisticated target-hardening approach must consider industrial and other critical industrial infrastructure that could be attacked. Terrorists need not import chemical weapons if they can cause a major industrial accident such as the Bhopal disaster
or the Halifax Explosion
. Industrial chemicals in manufacturing, shipping, and storage need greater protection, and some efforts are in progress.
To put this risk into perspective, the first major lethal chemical attack in WWI
used 160 tons of chlorine. Industrial shipments of chlorine, widely used in water purification and the chemical industry, travel in 90- or 55-ton tank cars.
To give one more example, the North American electrical grid has already demonstrated, in the Northeast Blackout of 2003
, its vulnerability to natural disasters coupled with inadequate, possibly insecure, SCADA
(supervisory control and data acquisition) networks. Part of the vulnerability is due to deregulation, leading to much more interconnection in a grid designed for only occasional power-selling between utilities. A small number of terrorists, attacking critical power facilities when one or more engineers have infiltrated the power control centers, could wreak havoc.
Equipping likely targets with containers (i.e., bags) of pig lard has been utilized to discourage attacks by suicide bombers. The technique was apparently used on a limited scale by British authorities in the 1940s.
The approach stems from the idea that Muslims perpetrating the attack would not want to be "soiled" by the lard in the moment before dying. The idea has been suggested more recently as a deterrent to suicide bombings in Israel.
However, the actual effectiveness of this tactic is probably limited. A sympathetic Islamic scholar could issue a fatwa
proclaiming that a suicide bomber would not be polluted by the swine products.
Command and control
In North America and other continents, for a threatened or completed terrorist attack, the Incident Command System
(ICS) is apt to be invoked to control the various services that may need to be involved in the response. ICS has varied levels of escalation, such as might be required for multiple incidents in a given area (e.g., the 2005 bombings in London
or the 2004 Madrid train bombings
, or all the way to a National Response Plan
invocation if national-level resources are needed. For example, a national response might be required for a nuclear, biological, radiological, or significant chemical attack.
, perhaps supplemented by public works agencies, utility providers (e.g., gas, water, electricity), and heavy construction contractors, are most apt to deal with the physical consequences of an attack.
Again under an incident command model, local police can isolate the incident area, reducing confusion, and specialized police units can conduct tactical operations against terrorists, often using specialized counter-terrorist tactical units
. Bringing in such units will typically involve civil or military authority beyond the local level.
Emergency medical services
will triage, treat, and transport the more severely affected victims to hospitals, which will need mass casualty and triage
plans in place.
Public health agencies
, from local to the national level, maybe designated to deal with identification, and sometimes mitigation, of possible biological attacks, and sometimes chemical or radiologic contamination.
Today, many countries have special units
designated to handle terrorist threats. Besides various security agencies
, there are elite tactical units
, also known as special mission units
, whose role is to directly engage terrorists and prevent terrorist attacks. Such units perform both in preventive actions, hostage rescue
, and responding to on-going attacks. Countries of all sizes can have highly trained counter-terrorist teams. Tactics, techniques, and procedures for manhunting
are under constant development.
Most of these measures deal with terrorist attacks that affect an area or threaten to do so. It is far harder to deal with assassination, or even reprisals on individuals, due to the short (if any) warning time and the quick exfiltration of the assassins.
These units are specially trained in tactics
and are very well equipped for CQB
with emphasis on stealth and performing the mission with minimal casualties. The units include take-over force (assault teams), snipers
experts, dog handlers, and intelligence officers. See counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism organizations
for national command, intelligence, and incident mitigation.
The majority of counter-terrorism operations at the tactical level are conducted by state, federal, and national law enforcement agencies
or intelligence agencies
. In some countries, the military may be called in as a last resort. Obviously, for countries whose military is legally permitted to conduct police operations, this is a non-issue, and such counter-terrorism operations are conducted by their military.
for command, intelligence and warning, and incident mitigation aspects of counter-terror.
Examples of actions
Some counter-terrorist actions of the 20th and 21st centuries are listed below. See list of hostage crises
for a more extended list, including hostage-taking that did not end violently.
Representative hostage rescue operations
Designing Anti-terrorism systems
Transparent garbage bin installed at Central station in Sydney so police can check its contents
The scope for Anti-terrorism systems is very large in physical terms (long borders, vast areas, high traffic volumes in busy cities, etc.) as well as in other dimensions, such as type and degree of terrorism threat, political and diplomatic ramifications, and legal issues. In this environment, the development of a persistent Anti-terrorism protection system is a daunting task. Such a system should bring together diverse state-of-the-art technologies to enable persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, and enable potential actions. Designing such a system-of-systems comprises a major technological project.
A particular design problem for this system is that it will face many uncertainties
in the future. The threat of terrorism may increase, decrease or remain the same, the type of terrorism and location are difficult to predict, and there are technological uncertainties. Yet we want to design a terrorism system conceived and designed today in order to prevent acts of terrorism for a decade or more. A potential solution is to incorporate flexibility
into system design for the reason that the flexibility embedded can be exercised in future as uncertainty
unfolds and updated information arrives. And the design and valuation of a protection system should not be based on a single scenario, but an array of scenarios. Flexibility can be incorporated in the design of the terrorism system in the form of options that can be exercised in the future when new information is available. Using these 'real options
' will create a flexible Anti-terrorism system that is able to cope with new requirements that may arise.
While some countries with longstanding terrorism problems, such as Israel, have law enforcement agencies primarily designed to prevent and respond to terror attacks,
in other nations, counter-terrorism is a relatively more recent objective of civilian police and law enforcement agencies.
While some civil-libertarians and criminal justice scholars have called-out efforts of law enforcement agencies to combat terrorism as futile and expensive
or as threats to civil liberties,
other scholars have begun describing and analyzing the most important dimensions of the policing of terrorism as an important dimension of counter-terrorism, especially in the post-9/11 era, and have argued how police institutions view terrorism as a matter of crime control.
Such analyses bring out the civilian police role in counter-terrorism next to the military model of a 'war on terror'.
Counter-Terrorism and American Law Enforcement
Following suit from federal changes pursuant to 9/11, however, most state and local law enforcement agencies began to include a commitment to "fighting terrorism" in their mission statements.
Local agencies began to establish more patterned lines of communication with federal agencies. Some scholars have doubted the ability of local police to help in the war on terror and suggest their limited manpower is still best utilized by engaging community and targeting street crimes.
While counter-terror measures (most notably heightened airport security, immigrant profiling
and border patrol) have been adapted during the last decade, to enhance counter-terror in law enforcement, there have been remarkable limitations to assessing the actual utility/effectiveness of law enforcement practices that are ostensibly preventative.
Thus, while sweeping changes in counter-terrorism rhetoric redefined most American post 9/11 law enforcement agencies in theory, it is hard to assess how well such hyperbole has translated into practice.
In intelligence-led policing
(ILP) efforts, the most quantitatively amenable starting point for measuring the effectiveness of any policing strategy (i.e.: Neighborhood Watch, Gun Abatement, Foot Patrols, etc.) is usually to assess total financial costs against clearance rates or arrest rates. Since terrorism is such a rare event phenomena,
measuring arrests or clearance rates would be a non-generalizable and ineffective way to test enforcement policy effectiveness. Another methodological problem in assessing counter-terrorism efforts in law enforcement hinges on finding operational measures for key concepts in the study of homeland security. Both terrorism and homeland security are relatively new concepts for criminologists, and academicians have yet to agree on the matter of how to properly define these ideas in a way that is accessible.
Assault car of the French GIGN
International Counter-Terrorism Agencies
+ indicates military organization allowed to operate domestically
- Albania: Anti-Terror Department, Albanian Police, RENEA, Special Operations Battalion (Albania)
- Algeria: GIS, DSI [fr], GOSP
- Argentina: GEOF (Special Group of Federal Operations, Federal Arg Police) Falcon Commando (Comando Halcon, State Buenos Aires Police)
- Australia: State and Australian Federal Police, Police Tactical Groups, Tactical Assault Group (TAG East & TAG West), and Australian Security and Intelligence Organization (ASIO)
- Austria: EKO Cobra; Austrian Military Police; Jagdkommando
- Bangladesh: 1st Para-commando Battalion, Navy SWADS, SWAT (Bangladesh), CRT, RAB, ATU, SPEGUARDS, CTTC
- Brazil: State/local Police SWAT teams: BOPE, COE, GATE, COT
- Belgium: Directorate of special units (DSU) Federal Police Special Units
- Bosnia and Herzegovina: SIPA
- Bulgaria: Specializiran Otriad za Borba s Terorizma
- Canada: Joint Task Force 2
- Chile: GOPE (Police Special Operations Group, Chilean Carabineros) ERTA (Tactic Reaction Team, PDI Chilean Civil Police)
- People's Republic of China: Snow Leopard Commando Unit+, Beijing SWAT, ChongqingSWAT
- Colombia: AFEUR+, GAULA, COPES
- Croatia: Lučko Anti-Terrorist Unit, RH Alfa
- Czech Republic: URNA National Police Rapid Response Unit or Útvar rychlého nasazení
- Denmark: Politiets Aktionsstyrke, Danish Frogman Corps
- Dominican Republic: Anti-terrorism Special Command – Comando Especial Contra Terrorismo
- Egypt: Unit 777, Hostage Rescue Force HRF
- Estonia: K-Commando
- Finland: Karhu-ryhmä, Utti Jaeger Regiment, Guard Jaeger Regiment
- France: BRI-BAC (Paris Police Prefecture), RAID (National Police) and GIGN (National Gendarmerie)
- Georgia Georgia: Designated – Counter Terrorism Center State Security Service, Federal: MIA – Special Emergency and Crisis Center
- Germany: Federal Police: GSG 9 and BFE / State Police: SEK and MEK
- Greece: Anti-Terror Division, Greek Police and Special Anti-Terrorist Unit.
- Hungary: Counter Terrorism Centre, Alert Police, Hungarian Homeland Defence Forces
- Hong Kong: Special Duties Unit, Airport Security Unit, Counter Terrorism Response Unit
- Iceland: Víkingasveitin
- India: Rashtriya Rifles, NSG, NIA, Anti Terrorist Squad, Force One, Thunderbolt, state/local Police SWAT teams
- Indonesia: Detachment 88 (Police), Satuan 81/Gultor (Army)+, Detachment Bravo 90+ (Air Force), Jala Mengkara Detachment+ (Navy)
- Iran: NAJA (Iranian Police), NOPO (Counter-terrorism Special Force), Police Amniat (Security Police)
- Iraq: Kurdistan Region Security Council, Iraqi Special Operations Forces
- Ireland: Garda Special Detective Unit, Garda Emergency Response Unit, Garda National Surveillance Unit, Defence Forces Directorate of Military Intelligence+, Defence Forces Army Ranger Wing+
- Israel: YAMAM, Sayeret Matkal, Shayetet 13, Duvdevan(Unit 217), Metzada, Lotar Eilat, Shin Bet(Internal security service), Kidon, YAMAS
- Italy: NOCS, GIS, A.P.I. Aliquota Primo Intervento, ATPI
- Japan: Special Assault Teams and Anti-firearms squads (Prefectural police departments), Special Security Team (Japan Coast Guard), Central Readiness Force (JGSDF)
- Kosovo: NJSI-SIU Special Intervenation Unit
- Latvia: OMEGA police unit
- Lithuania: ARAS (Force) Lithuanian Police force of anti-terrorism operations
- Malaysia: Royal Malaysia Police Special Task Force (Operations / Counter Terrorism), Royal Malaysia Police Pasukan Gerakan Khas, UNGERIN, Rapid Actions Troops, STAR APMM
- Mexico: Mexican Army Special Reaction Force, Federal Police GOPES
- Morocco: Groupement de Sécurité Gendarmerie Royale
- Netherlands: DSI (Dutch: Dienst Speciale Interventies, Special Interventions Service) and police special arrest teams Royal Marechaussee (Dutch: Brigade Speciale Beveiligingsopdrachten, Special Security Task Brigade) Dutch marines BBE
- New Zealand: NZ Police Special Tactics Group, New Zealand Special Air Service
- Nigeria: National Intelligence AgencyMOPOL
- Norway: Emergency Response Unit, FSK+
- Pakistan: Special Service Group, Pakistan Army Rangers, Elite Police Commandos, Counter Terrorism Department
- Philippines: Philippine Army-Light Reaction Regiment, PNP-Special Action Force, Philippine Navy-Naval Special Operations Group, Philippine Air Force – 710th Special Operations Wing, Philippine Coast Guard-Special Operations Group and police SWAT teams
- Poland: BOA, SPAP, ABW V Directoriate of III Departament
- Portugal: GOE and GIOE, Special Operations Troops Center /CTOE and Special Actions Detachment / DAE
- Rhodesia: Police Anti-Terrorist Unit, Selous Scouts
- Romania: Brigada Antiteroristă, (counter-terrorist brigade)
- Russia: Spetsgruppa A, Vympel, OMON, Spetsnaz GRU, Vityaz, Rus, SOBR
- Serbia: SAJ, Cobras, Hawks
- Slovenia: Special Police Unit, SEP Slovenian national police forces
- South Africa: Special Task Force (SAPS), South African Special Forces Brigade
- South Korea: 707th Special Mission Unit, Republic of Korea Navy Special Warfare Flotilla
- Sri Lanka: 3rd Sri Lanka Army Special Forces Regiment, 3rd Sri Lanka Army Commando Regiment, Special Task Force
- Spain: GEO, UEI and GEI, CITCO
- Sweden: National Task Force (Nationella Insatsstyrkan) and Särskilda operationsgruppen (Special Forces)
- Taiwan: Thunder Squad
- Thailand: 3rd Special Forces Regiment, King's Guard, Royal Thai Navy SEALs, RTMC Reconnaissance Battalion, RTAF Special Operations Regiment, Arintharat 26, Naresuan 261
- Turkey: Özel tim-Özel Harekat Timi (Special Team) and Maroon Berets
- Tunisia: BAT and USGN
- United Kingdom: Counter Terrorism Command, Special Air Service, Special Boat Service
- United States: FBI Counter-terrorism Special Agents, FBI Hostage Rescue Team, FBI Special Weapons and Tactics Teams, (FBI SWAT) Federal Air Marshal Service, Delta Force, (US Army), Naval Special Warfare Development Group, United States Marine Corps Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Teams (FAST) CIA Special Activities Division, (SAD) Diplomatic Security Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, BORTAC, state/local Police SWAT teams
- Uruguay: GEO (Uruguayan Police) and Escorpión Commando Group (Uruguayan Army)
Within military operational approaches Counter-terrorism falls into the category of Irregular Warfare
Given the nature of operational counter-terrorism tasks national military organizations do not generally have dedicated units whose sole responsibility is the prosecution of these tasks. Instead the counter-terrorism function is an element of the role, allowing flexibility in their employment, with operations being undertaken in the domestic or international context.
In some cases the legal framework within which they operate prohibits military units conducting operations in the domestic arena; United States Department of Defense
policy, based on the Posse Comitatus Act
, forbids domestic counter-terrorism operations by the U.S. military. Units allocated some operational counter-terrorism task are frequently Special Forces
or similar assets.
In cases where military organisations do operate in the domestic context some form of formal handover from the law enforcement community is regularly required, to ensure adherence to the legislative framework and limitations. such as the Iranian Embassy Siege
, the British police formally turned responsibility over to the Special Air Service
when the situation went beyond police capabilities.
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