The use of violence to achieve political goals, in short, terrorism, has always been one of the most prominent global issues. In recent years, it has captured more attention from our modern community than it ever had, and as the situation worsens, more and more innocent lives are lost in the fight against terrorism.

The most notable terrorist attack that shook the world would be the 9/11 attack, with an astonishing death toll of approximately 2,969 victims. Recent strikes in Europe have also gained international publicity, including the infamous Paris, Brussels, Germany and Nice attacks.

The current situation is clear: the fight against terrorism is going to be long and hard, but it is no longer a problem that can be tolerated any further – action must be taken. It is obvious that terrorism cannot be eliminated, but the security threats posed by terrorism can definitely be reduced.

How should we fight against terrorism?

Authorities should continue collecting information through the NSA’s mass surveillance program, and then more importantly act on the intelligence and data they have. They should also focus more on the behavior of potential terrorists to reduce the number of recruits and aid terrorist groups get from abroad.

Intelligence officials and members of Congress in the United States have always assured the general public that the NSA’s mass surveillance program is effective. However, there is no evidence that the program has thwarted a single terrorist attack.  One of the main reasons why the NSA’s mass surveillance program isn’t working is that officials fail to act on the intelligence and data they already have in their systems.

For example, the Orlando shooter Omar Mateen, who killed 50 people and left 53 injured in a gay nightclub, was once investigated by the FBI in 2013 for potential connections with terrorism. He is said to have been placed on at least one watch list; however, he was not arrested, resulting in this mass shooting.

This reflects the flaw in the NSA’s program, in which mass surveillance, without anyone taking action, is useless.

Another example is the mastermind behind the Paris attacks, terrorist Abdelhamid Abaaoud. He has been on the radar of security forces since early 2014, yet the failure to locate and capture him (despite having his plans tipped off through telephone surveillance) again resulted in numerous deaths and injuries. It is clear that to have more success thwarting terrorists’ plans, action has to be taken against potentially dangerous individuals. The lack of evidence cannot be an excuse anymore.

With the current tactic of mass surveillance not working as well as it should be, changes should be made to improve the effectiveness of thwarting actual threats. With that being said, authorities should instead focus on observing terrorists’ mindsets and motivations, which reaches to the roots of why terrorism occurs.

Terrorists are commonly motivated by Islamic ideology and their ways of thinking. As Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon put it in their book The Age of Sacred Terror, terrorism is viewed by terrorists motivated by religious beliefs as “an act of redemption” intended to “restore to the universe a moral order that had been corrupted by the enemies of Islam” and to “humiliate and slaughter those who defied the hegemony of God.”

Some are driven by their hatred towards Western policies in Muslim countries, or sometimes their desire to strike fear in their “enemies” hearts and to gain respect from their peers. Through observing potential terrorists’ behaviors and keeping tabs on individuals on the “pathway to terrorism”, people can be prevented from joining terrorist groups before it’s too late, thus reducing the aid terrorist groups get from other places and stopping attacks before they even get to develop in the first place.