What steps can the government take that companies are unable to take in order to lessen the probability of a terrorist attack?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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While companies in the United States do have a number of important capabilities, the ability to seriously reduce the threat of terrorist attack is not among them.  Reducing the threat of terrorist attacks is mainly the function of the government.  For example, it is very difficult to imagine what any of the companies that had offices in the World Trade Center could have done to reduce the risk of being the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  A few companies, such as airlines, shipping lines, and companies that own satellites might possibly help reduce the risk of terrorist attacks, but the vast majority of American companies cannot.  This is because the government has much more in the way of anti-terrorist capabilities.

One thing that the government can do that companies cannot is to gather intelligence about terrorist threats.  The government has access to spy satellites and to networks of spies who can gather large quantities of information.  The government has the ability to pay large numbers of intelligence analysts who can study the information that is obtained.  Neither of these is true of companies.  Thus, the government is much more able to find out about potential terrorist threats than any company is.

The second major thing that the government can do that companies cannot is to take aggressive steps to minimize threats once they have been identified.  For example, one of the major anti-terror steps that the government has been taking is the use of drones to kill terrorist leaders in foreign countries.  When the government identifies people who are important in terrorist organizations, it can try to kill them through the use of drones.  When the government succeeds, it degrades the terrorists’ ability to carry out attacks, thus making those attacks less likely.  There are very few companies in the United States that would have the capability to do things like this even if they could do so legally.

On a lower level of violence, the government can arrest people who are planning to carry out terrorist attacks.  When the government uses its intelligence capabilities to uncover terrorist plots, it can use its police powers to arrest people involved in the plots.  This, too, is beyond the legal capability of American companies.

When compared to individual companies, the government is much more able to reduce the threat of terrorist attacks.  It can gather and analyze information about terrorist threats.  It can then take action to negate those threats.  Companies cannot do these things because they lack the resources and the legal powers that the government has.

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