Combating Terrorism:

How Five Foreign Countries Are Organized to Combat Terrorism

NSIAD-00-85: Published: Apr 7, 2000. Publicly Released: May 8, 2000.

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Norman J. Rabkin
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed five foreign countries' efforts to combat terrorism, focusing on: (1) how other governments are organized to combat terrorism; and (2) how they allocate their resources to combat terrorism.

GAO noted that: (1) the countries generally have the majority of organizations used to combat terrorism under one lead government ministry; (2) however, because many other ministries are also involved, the countries have created interagency coordination bodies to coordinate both within and across ministries; (3) for example, while many countries generally have their intelligence and law enforcement organizations under their ministries of interior or equivalent, they also need to coordinate with their ministries of foreign affairs, defense, and health or emergency services; (4) the countries have clearly designated who is in charge during a terrorist incident--typically their national or local police; (5) the countries have national policies that emphasize prevention of terrorism; (6) to achieve their policies, the countries use a variety of strategies, including intelligence collection, police presence, and various security measures such as physical barriers at the entrances to public buildings; (7) these countries primarily use their general criminal laws (e.g., those for murder or arson) to prosecute terrorists; (8) the countries also have special terrorism-related laws that allow for special investigations or prosecution mechanisms and increased penalties; (9) the countries' executive branches provide the primary oversight of organizations involved in combating terrorism; (10) this oversight involves reviewing the programs and resources for effectiveness, efficiency, and legality; (11) the five countries GAO examined also had similarities in how they allocate resources to combat terrorism; (12) officials in the ministries involved said they make resource allocations based upon the likelihood of threats taking place, as determined by intelligence assessments; (13) while the officials GAO met with discussed resource levels in general, none of the five countries tracked overall spending on programs to combat terrorism; (14) such spending was imbedded in other accounts for broad organizational or functional areas such as law enforcement, intelligence, and defense; (15) officials in all countries told GAO that because of limited resources, they made funding decisions for programs to combat terrorism based on the likelihood of terrorist activity actually taking place, not the countries' overall vulnerability to terrorist attack; and (16) the officials said their countries maximize their existing capabilities to address a wide array of threats, including emerging threats, before they create new capabilities or programs.

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