Early this summer, reports the Washington Post, a new strategy for combating terrorism, described by its authors as “revolutionary” in concept, arrived on President Bush’s desk. The highly classified National Implementation Plan for the first time set government-wide goals and assigned responsibility for achieving them to specific departments and agencies. Written by officials at the National Counterterrorism Center, under a directive signed by the president last winter, the 160-page plan aspires to achieve what has eluded the Bush administration in the five years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: bringing order and direction to the fight against terrorism.
In the five years since 9/11, the federal government has undergone an unprecedented expansion and reorganization. Yet the counterterrorism infrastructure that resulted has become so immense and unwieldy that many looking at it from the outside, and even some on the inside, have trouble understanding how it works or how much safer it has made the country. The proof that it is all working, White House officials often say, is that there has been no attack on U.S. soil since 2001. But critics say the fight against terrorism often seems like a chaotic work in progress.