Once Black and White, Now
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Once Black and White, Now

By Carvent Webb, Law Enforcement Officer, Transportation Security Administration

Carvent Webb, Law Enforcement Officer, Transportation Security Administration

9/11 changed the dynamics of our country forever. In 2002, the U.S. Congress passed the Homeland Security Act, and like never before our country permanently focused on ensuring the security and safety of the homeland. Seventeen years later, we have learned that protecting the homeland starts with federal law enforcement agents working overseas. There is a new frontier of loner terrorists in which individuals are radicalized through the internet of things (IoT), social media. Terrorist organizations are no longer confined solely to the Middle East region, and the nexus to terrorism is becoming harder to identify. The strategic environment is changing rapidly, and the United States faces an increasingly complex and uncertain world in which threats are becoming more diverse and interconnected. While the Intelligence Community (IC) remains focused on confronting conventional challenges to U.S. national security, advances in technology drive evolutionary and revolutionary change across multiple fronts. Federal law enforcement agencies must become more agile, innovative, and resilient to deal effectively with these threats and the more volatile world that shapes them.

"As counterterrorism apparatus continues to innovate, the U.S.C. Codes that gives our Federal Law Enforcement Agencies operational and legal authority should be reviewed to ensure they remain current within our new arenas of operation"

The increasingly complex, interconnected, and transnational nature of these threats also underscores the importance of continuing and advancing Homeland and Intelligence (H/ IC) outreach and cooperation with international partners and allies. The world of law enforcement and Homeland Security are no longer “black and white” and, similar to our U.S. Special Operating Forces (SOF), our agencies are now operating in the “gray zone.” In a 1962 address to U.S. Military Academy graduates, President John F. Kennedy described the “gray zone” still prevalent today: “This is another type of war, new in its intensity, ancient in its origin—war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins, war by ambush instead of by combat; by infiltration, instead of aggression, seeking victory by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him.”

Currently, the Department of Defense has been the most successful at providing a general definition of the “gray zone” as it relates to SOF, and it is imperative that our policymakers extend that definition to federal law enforcement agencies. With the increase in joint agency missions (e.g., Federal Air Marshals deployed to the Southwest border) and the expansion of Federal Agents working in advisory capacities in host nations (e.g., Border Patrol deployed to Guatemala, DEA FAST Team in Afghanistan, etc.), defining the “gray zone” provides our federal law enforcement agencies greater flexibility as agency mission priorities change, as well also removing traditional Memorandum of Understanding (M.o.U) limitations when operating in joint capacities. Federal law enforcement agencies no longer have the luxury of static roles within the National Security Framework, and, as counterterrorism apparatus continues to innovate, the U.S.C. Codes that gives our Federal Law Enforcement Agencies operational and legal authority should be reviewed to ensure they remain current within our new arenas of operation.

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