Sample Research Paper on Investigating Terrorism


The art and science of investigation, which involves gathering crucial operational intelligence, has been defined in many ways. Throughout history, several wars and crimes have occurred and countering them has heavily depended on investigations and intelligence gathering. The war on terror is an international initiative across the globe, which every nation is adopting. Investigation on terror activities has played a crucial role both in the offensive and defensive operations. This has been enabled by use of several fact finding techniques available by the police and other investigating bodies. The recent escalating cases of terrorism have made the society to be suspicious of any intrusions. There are several investigation methods that have not been well received, such as restricted access to some places, police scrutiny, and mandated identification cards. However, these are some of the important measures investigation agents use to help prevent further terrorists attacks through interdicting. The primary means of preventing further terrorism activities is through a combination of intelligence investigation and law enforcement. This paper will focus on terrorism and the modes and effects of investigation.


Investigation refers to the process of gathering crucial operational information or intelligence about a particular issue, in this case terrorism. Information gathered through investigation is analyzed and converted into a product to aid in a given terror action operation. In the olden times of international relations and warfare, to combat terrorism, investigation played an important role as a process and a product. With regards to information supply, investigation has played an important role. The media has however misreported many popular cases of investigation about fighting terrorism. Most of investigation officers perform undercover activities. They are rarely in uniform and are not easily noticed. Their main mandate of investigation is to prevent further terror attacks through all means possible.


Terrorism has been defined through a diverse approach and applied in different ways. The most common saying about terrorism is “one terrorist is another’ freedom fighter” which shows this aspect of different definitions clearly (Smelser, 2007). Terrorism is often applied by resilient state groups onto weak groups that are not of the same ideology through violent means. The groups involved in terror activities do not view their activities as illegal despite their devastating effects.

Terrorism refers to the targeting of violence against non-combatants performed by politically inspired groups with an intention to achieve a social change. This definition dwells on the actions that are well accepted as terrorism. Some of the devastating terror events commonly known include the US terror attack on the World Trade Centre in 2001, which claimed approximately 3000 lives. This was however less than 16,000 homicide deaths that occurred during the same year (Richardson, 2006). In 2005, there was a terror attack in London through bombings that claimed 52 people. The other weapon terrorists use is to instill fear whose effects are also devastating to the victims.

Terrorism is never carried out to destroy the military or any other security organ of a given state, but rather to spread an alarm, cause panic, and disrupt the victims and public. The public, therefore, turn to the government for an explanation and once the issue is addressed, terrorists feel the impact of their activity. Most terror groups are weak compared to state organs, and therefore amplify their tactics by attacking the less vulnerable. Their actions and activities focus on attracting media attention in order to amplify the effects. In this course, they highlight their cause and justify the actions through which they elicit public and state reactions.

Terrorism Investigation

Police investigation and intelligence has been extremely effective, operating in different states to collect information about terrorists and their related activities. This has been enhanced by application of different forms of investigation as discussed.

Strategic Intelligence Investigation

Strategic intelligence investigation is applied for permanent counter-terrorism planning. Issues, such as the operational abilities of a probable opponent and political assessment are given priority in this category. Investigation analysis is undertaken on computer data and evaluations put forth. Police and other investigation agents have foundational tools to use in order to point out probable terrorists operations targets within their locale. These investigations are also aimed at predicting the future operations of terror activities where soft spots for terrorists are identified. Investigation through intelligence information gathering and processing from different sources places the investigation police agents in a better position to effectively preempt and thwart the next terror-related attack.

Tactical Intelligence Investigation

Tactical investigation is applied for functioning units, which involve among other things human investigation, open source investigation, imagery investigation, and direct observation investigation. For information to be gathered under this investigation, there must be well trained police officers/agents. The agents ought to be dedicated and sensitive enough to think and point out simple cultural patterns and behaviors of all the people who are within the vicinity of their assigned patrol areas. Understanding this aspect naturally is very important without the use of computers or other technological forms. Tactical investigation is an important aspect as it plays a very critical role in identifying and reverse planned terror attacks in the society.

Tactic investigation and intelligence is critical in counterinsurgency and asymmetric combat. Where tactical investigation intelligence is applied, the mission can be very effective and successful. Information sources need to be thoroughly vetted and applied to the maximum without ignoring any. This therefore calls for an establishment of a central center to collect and exploit all the investigation information gathered from all the sources in a fashioned manner. In this case, the investigation mission will be successful and have a chance of functioning to identify and stop any terrorist activity being planned.

Investigation Intelligence Application

The process of investigation as indicated earlier involves a continuous interaction both physically and socially. The things investigators point out in this process include the issue out of place or out of ordinary, strange comments, which will provide the officers with a feeling that something is not right in relation to terrorism. Some of the new characteristics relating to strange activities include groups that avoid patrol cars, and groups that break apart after spotting police, which should trigger further investigation. Police through investigation should be smart enough and patience.

The aspect of police to get a sense situation analysis in a given area will be very significant in investigation process that will help in getting information about initial stages of a probable terror plan. All the police and investigation agents are information seekers in their nature. They work as a team and need to be vigilant in their operation to reduce cases of terrorism.

Investigation information by the police on daily operations of their activities through interaction with the public is intended to protect and prevent terror related activities and other crimes. All illegal terror related activities can easily be given away by indicators. Through a clear study and analysis of these indicators, proper significance can be dawn, which will aid in thwarting and defeat of a possible terror attack present and in the future. Terrorists operation has been known to be pre-planned for a long period, and it is not something that happens overnight. Most of terror groups also have an investigation and intelligence team mostly comprised of local residents recruited in their cells. For instance, the alshabaab terror group in the Eastern part of Africa based in Somalia has extended its terror activities to the neighboring countries like Kenya. To excel in their actions, they have recruited many youths from the neighboring countries in their cells. The terrorists train and send them back to the society for swift and effective terror attacks without any suspicion.

For such cases, it can be difficult for a normal citizen to detect any change or chance for a terror related activity. However, a trained police or investigation agent is able to detect and recognize small indicators. This process of investigation is very important, as it identifies probable terror related activity and hinders their plans.

The Investigation Cycle

The investigation process is aimed at supporting the public and investigation agents in their quest to prevent further terror related activities. It is also intended to assist in making informed decisions and plans for security organizations in their effort to counter terrorism. This therefore means that investigation is useless if the information gathered is not accurate. The officers collecting investigation information are therefore required to understand the magnitude of their task of gathering information. There are different stages involved in investigation process or cycle.

  • Tasking

This involves the role or assignment, which involves two parties, the investigating agent and the populace being protected or supported. The population should be actively engaged in this process in a detailed manner to get quality results. This is the basic requirement for all investigations as it drives the rest of the process.

  • Collection

This is the authentic gathering of raw information, which takes place in different forms. The first form is Imagery Intelligence (IMINT). This is a process of intelligence information collection by use of satellite and aerial photography. In investigation, this method provides crucial information for subsequent investigations. The next method of information gathering is Signal Intelligence (SIGINT). Under SIGINT, information is gathered through application of interception signals from electronic signals involving people not in a direct form of communication. Human Intelligence (HUMINT) is the information that is acquired from human sources or simply a report from a person.

Processing of Investigating Information

This refers to the process in which gathered data or information is transformed into usable format. All the SIGINT intercepts are interpreted to derive a clear meaning as well as IMINT and HUMINT reports formatted to in order to come up with a clear message that is well understood.

  • Exploitation of investigation Information

All the investigation and intelligence agents therefore analyze the information gathered in order to evaluate its importance and significance.

  • Dissemination

Under dissemination, the finished investigation report or intelligence product is delivered meaning putting it into action.

The collection cycles of different investigation agents differ according to their specifications in combating terrorism. The most effective method is IMINT, because of its time frame and response. Its active nature is also valuable as it focuses on an extensive plan and photography. With regards to SIGINT, it is good but not effective because of the time required to transcribe the signals. At times, accessing the information gathered is restricted because of its sensitive nature. On the other hand, HUMINT is least timely because information gathering can be risky and slow.

In counter terrorism, these methods are relevant in investigating terror related activities. In modern times, terror groups are adopting secrecy and anonymity nature to perform their activities, which are politically and religiously motivated. Investigation through intelligence gathering using the appropriate methods is the only best way to counter terror related activities by not allowing them to infiltrate the society. Investigation intelligence is a discipline same as other police work, which has its own rules and regulations to be adhered to.

Police surveillance investigation

Surveillance can be described in different ways. In this context, it is a process in which police carry out investigation by collecting information on individuals. The initial stage of surveillance involves technological gazing where the police watch the physical movement and activities of individuals. The next phase is getting data or persons being investigated, which include biographical, biometric, and transactional information retrieved from direct communication, online transfers, records, and other relevant documents. The use technologies, such as CCTV are important in surveillance investigation done through observation. Police surveillance therefore implies the collective activity of investigation through collecting information or data about individuals for the stated reason of preventing terrorism and prosecuting terror related offenders.

As the police collect more information about individuals through surveillance, there is a great seizure of more suspects within their purview relating to terrorism activities through profiles, assessments, and investigations (Romero, 2003). This is important in curbing terrorism by identifying more groups and individuals believed to be the forces behind terrorism.

Under the United States law, for instance, police and state agents are subjected to specific authority involved in intruding the activities of individuals with an intention of investigating, collecting of data, and criminal persecution. Police incursion into citizens’ activities encompasses three elements, which are surveillance, searching, and seizing (Carmen, 2004). Surveillance as indicated earlier revolves around information gathering. Searching for information could imply probing into individual activities with an intention of getting implicating evidence. Seizing involves taking the entire items to be used in terrorism for criminal proceedings. In modern times, police surveillance is geared towards gathering information used in investigation on individuals identified to be terrorists or posing a terror thereat. The effect has been a higher authority on the investigation police and agents to expand their reach to engage the activities of terrorist by providing crucial information about them.

Police surveillance investigation has been enhanced in order to combat modern terrorism. This has been occasioned by the following reasons.

Globalization of Terrorism

Globalization has brought about transformation in many sectors in the world; political, social, and economical (Messner, 2002).There are many created links that support transnational alliances and connection between different states and nations. The same links are also beneficial to illegal and criminal activities of terrorists that have resulted in insecurity cases (Reichel, 2005). As the terrorists and other criminals operate internationally, police encounter new challenges in investigating them. Terror crimes have also shifted from traditional stationary locations to transient digital sites (Taylor, 2006). Terror groups have incorporated new technology in perpetrating their operations. For these reasons, there has been an enhanced technological provision for surveillance powers by the police, which is used to counter terrorism activities. An example is the case in the United States where globalization has contributed to an increase in the police surveillance (Whitaker, 2003).

Technological Advancement

Technological advances have aided police investigations by enabling them to adapt to electronic surveillance. Private electronic medium like the internet, cell phone communication, voice over internet protocol, and wireless transmission can be easily intercepted. This has played a major role in the police investigations in pursuing terrorists on global space. Electronic money transfers monitoring has also provided the police with vital information about the financiers of terrorists across the globe. This has enhanced police efforts in investigation and dealing with terrorism.

Types of Investigation Surveillance

Internet Investigation Surveillance

This investigation surveillance is aimed at scrutinizing traffic on the internet and collect user IP address, site visitation and other user related information and activities in online communication. This investigation program however incorporated filters, which ensured that only relevant sanctioned data is obtained in given communication. This type of investigation surveillance was used by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in late 1990s (Electronic Privacy Information Center, 2005). The program was however cancelled in 2002 amid criticism from the public that it allowed interception of data beyond its purview. The investigation agents have however switched to corporation with commercial internet service providers, telephone service provider organizations, and data collection firms. They also have resorted to using commercial software and private sector source services in order to combat terror activities. This has had a positive effect in dealing with terror related activities by detecting their hideouts and tracing all the communication between the groups.

Foreign Visitor Investigation Surveillance

Foreign visitor investigation surveillance has been applied in many countries across the globe, especially after the 9/11 terror attack in the United States. There has been intensive monitoring of visitors entering countries’ airports and several programs applied to document all their information and entry. In the United States, for instance, there is a “Secure Flight Program,” which is developed to assess passenger’s terror threat by use of computer algorithm. If an airline is found to have a passenger with terrorism threat, it is placed on a no fly list and banned from entering the United States. This investigation program has also had a negative effect on terror group individuals on flight board by thwarting their plans.

In addition, the United States police have also developed an investigation screening program, United States Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology (US-VIST). This program makes use of biometric elements of facial and finger print recognition, and biological identification of passport and travel visa for documentation of all people entering the US. This information is stored in the visitor’s database and analyzed against domestic and international documentation of wanted or known terrorists. The investigation is important in identifying suspected terrorist entering the US land with an aim of carrying out terror related activities.

Police investigation Surveillance Technology Programs

In their pursuit to contain terrorists, the police are also placing several investigation surveillance programs concentrating on technology to carry out counter terrorism (Davis, 2004). This was witnessed in the United States, for instance, in 2006 when the department of Homeland Security budgetary allocation was $ 51.3 million. The money was intended to advance electronic surveillance components of the “American Shield Program” (Department of Homeland Security, 2005).

With regards to boarder surveillance investigations, the federal police agencies are also trying out the use of Radio Frequency Identification Device technology (RFID), which is aimed at improving investigations by accessing biographical data of people specifically purported to be terrorists. Biographical information is contained in the travel documents, identification documents, and other relevant identities that can be easily accessed by radio frequency scanners. This program is important in police investigations to retrieve important information on terror related individuals and activities to counter their plans.

The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) by the police in boarder surveillance is another vital technology for preventing terrorism through providing important information. This technology was meant for the military, but the police have adopted them in the United States. for instance, they conduct boarder perimeter surveillance (Faurbank, 2005). This program expands electronic monitoring and surveillance by providing crucial information on possible illegal terrorist’s border crossings.

The other technology applied by police to improve terror prevention and investigation is the use of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV). This technology was applied in the aftermath of London transit bombings in 2005, where it provided crucial information during the investigation to British police. This program is also increasing among the police in the United States in public areas in order to collect critical information to investigate terror and other related rimes (Collins, 2015). CCTV cameras have played an important role in investigating terrorist’s techniques in their execution of activities. This has provided the police with an option of improving their techniques of developing strategies to counter terror actions.


Terrorism continues to pose a great challenge in the modern world. Terror groups like Al-Qaida, ISIS in the Middle East, Salafi Jihad Movement in the United States, Al shabaab in East Africa, and Boko Haram in West Africa among many others are using terrorism activities in their courses to spread their extreme religious, political, and economic stands. Current terror groups have become vibrant by being vigilant and patient to study societies and hit them. Modern terrorists have also advanced in technology by using sophisticated means. To counter their actions, the same methods should be applied but in a more advanced manner.

The police have been actively involved in fighting terrorism, and the first stage has been through enhanced training. This has played an important role in understanding ways in which terrorists operate. Through applying intelligence techniques and surveillance, the force has also played a critical role in combating terrorism activities across the globe. This action has been supported through the incorporation of technological types of equipment. This has been successful in providing them with critical information about the terrorists to be used for further investigations, thereby thwarting their activities and connection. This has led to a reduced rate of terror activities globally though not fully dealt with, as there are still reported cases of terrorism. It is however important that the society be vigilant and assist the police in investigating terror related activities by voluntarily providing relevant information related to terrorism.


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