Post-9/11 Espionage: Does History Repeat Itself?

My topic addresses the reemergence of a security and counterintelligence state following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and whether this new form of espionage/intelligence gathering is an extension of Cold War thinking or a new era of 21st century national security tactics. The contradictory beliefs surrounding modern counterintelligence and surveillance policies provide deeper insight into the ethics, effectiveness, and need for such tactics in the 21st century post-9/11 world.

The expansion of American counterintelligence and surveillance networks after 9/11 is widely agreed upon by scholars; the USA Patriot Act and the bolstering of the CIA and military budgets under the Bush Administration are sufficient evidence. Yet, there are contradictory perspectives on the direction and origin of espionage in the post-9/11 War on Terror. Two significant viewpoints emerge between Richard Aldrich and Joseph Masco, scholars conducting research in espionage and counterintelligence policy trends in the United States. Masco begins by acknowledging his opposition: “People labeled 9/11 as the start of a new epoch that replaced the logic about security and global order gained from the Cold War with new understandings of American strength and vulnerability” (Masco). However, he then articulates that the American counterintelligence response to 9/11 is remarkably similar to the tactics used against the Soviet Union in the Cold War. For instance, mass surveillance of citizens through the USA Patriot Act is rooted in underlying motives similar to the Red Scare in the Cold War. In contrast, Aldrich contends that the post-9/11 era of covert ops is fundamentally different than the American security state in the Cold War: “Most of the targets that intelligence agencies have been asked to address since the end of the Cold War have an increasingly globalized dimension and in response intelligence and security agencies are being forced to transform their activities.” Aldrich believes that border fluidity attributed to globalization gave rise to a more elusive enemy, causing American intelligence agencies to deviate from Cold War secrecy and gravitate toward international collaboration.

The research conducted in this topic points to some relevant and often overlooked questions: is America adapting to the context of the 21st century in a way that serves the best interests of citizens? Are the tactics America is using necessary or even ethical? In my RBA, I plan to address these questions and create an argument for what the US needs to do with its counterintelligence programs and role in the War on Terror to best serve its interests.

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