Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism


Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism

The Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism is an office of the United States Department of State. It coordinates all U.S. Government efforts to improve counter-terrorism cooperation with foreign governments and participates in the development, coordination, and implementation of American counterterrorism policy. In June 2007, the Coordinator for Counterterrorism was appointed to be Ambassador at Large Dell Dailey. Under Secretary Clinton, the Coordinator for Counterterrorism is now the Ambassador-at-Large Daniel Benjamin.

Aims

The United States Counterterrorism Policy has four main aims:

  • to make no concessions to terrorists and strike no deals;
  • to bring terrorists to justice for their crimes;
  • to isolate and apply pressure on states that sponsor terrorism to force them to change their behavior; and
  • to bolster the counter-terrorism capabilities of those countries that work with the U.S. and require assistance.

Regarding international terrorism, the U.S. Government will make no concessions to individuals or groups holding official or private U.S. citizens hostage. The United States will use every appropriate resource to gain the safe return of American citizens held hostage. At the same time, it is U.S. Government policy to deny hostage takers the benefits of ransom, prisoner releases, policy changes, or other acts of concession.

History

In reaction to the State Department's 2004 proposal to omit terrorism figures from its Report to Congress, Larry C. Johnson wrote "Terrorism: Why the Numbers Matter". [1] Johnson reviews the history of the counter-terrorism functions at the State Department and establishes it as a reaction by the Reagan Administration putting L. Paul Bremer as the first operational Director.

Johnson wrote:

I believe that part of the reason the statistics became an issue again this year is because of the failure to keep the position of the Coordinator for Counter Terrorism filled with a competent Presidential appointee. That slot has been vacant now for almost six months.

While the conventional wisdom is that State Department’s role in combating terrorism consists of sending stern diplomatic notes to terrorists, it is an unfair and inaccurate perception. State Department’s role as the lead for coordinating international terrorism emerged in the mid-1980s in the wake of devastating attacks in Lebanon.

A National Security Decision Directive signed by President Ronald Reagan in early 1986 gave State the responsibility of coordinating international terrorism policy. This was in response to an interagency fight that broke out during an effort to apprehend the terrorists responsible for the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship. While flying over Italy in late 1985 in pursuit of Abu Abbas, a State Department official and a CIA officer argued heatedly over who was in charge of the mission.

Recognizing the need for a clear chain of command the Department of State was put in charge of coordinating the efforts of CIA, DOD, and FBI efforts to track and deal with terrorism. The first man put in charge of this effort was L. Paul (Jerry) Bremer.

References


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