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last updated:10/20/03

Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA)

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Program description / Law | Funding

Program description Law
The State Department's Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) program provides weapons, equipment, services and training designed to help foreign governments prevent and deal with terrorist acts, such as bombings, kidnappings, assassinations, hostage-taking, or hijackings. The program's chief goals, according to the State Department's 2000 Congressional Presentation for Foreign Operations, are to help protect U.S. citizens from terrorist attacks abroad and to prevent terrorists "from undermining the stability of, or otherwise adversely affecting, other nations where the U.S. has foreign policy, economic, or security interests at stake."1

The ATA program is not a major source of assistance to Latin American security forces; only $2.4 million in ATA funds are expected for the whole region in 2000. The hemisphere will account for only 7 percent of the program's anticipated worldwide 2000 budget of $33 million.2

The Congressional Presentation notes that the ATA program "plans to provide assistance to Colombia to meet the growing threat there. Details are still being worked out."3 This document also claims that ATA assistance has contributed to the following successes in Latin America:

The Organization of American States decision to establish a counterterrorism center was led by Argentina and supported by other states that had taken part in ATA programs. The closer working relationships developed with high level officials through the ATA program contributed to the cooperation in at least one terrorist rendition case and smooth security arrangements for the Summit of the Americas Conference.4

Recipients of ATA assistance need not be members of foreign security forces; civilian government officials occasionally receive instruction in such topics as crisis management or prevention of terrorist fund raising and money transfers.

Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) is governed by Chapter 8 of Part 2 of the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) of 1961, as amended. Section 571 of the FAA authorizes the following types of assistance for anti-terrorism purposes:
  1. Training services; and
  2. Equipment and other commodities related to bomb detection and disposal, management of hostage situations, physical security, and other matters relating to the detection, deterrence, and prevention of acts of terrorism, the resolution of terrorist incidents, and the apprehension of those involved in such acts.

Section 572 mandates that the ATA program's activities be designed to achieve three objectives:

  1. To enhance friendly countries' anti-terrorism skills;
  2. To strengthen the United States' ties with friendly governments "by offering concrete assistance in this area of great mutual concern"; and
  3. "To increase respect for human rights by sharing with foreign civil authorities modern, humane, and effective anti-terrorism techniques."

Section 573(b) requires that the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor be consulted when choosing countries that will receive ATA assistance, and when determining the nature of the assistance to be provided.

Section 573(c) requires that arms and ammunition can be provided "only if they are directly related to antiterrorism assistance," and specifies that the value of these arms and ammunition cannot exceed over 30 percent of the ATA program's budget in a given year.

The law governing the ATA program does not require the State Department to notify Congress of the recipient countries or the types of assistance provided. 


Assistance 1998
2001 2002 [6]
Colomiba Supp
ERF (Emergency Relief Fund)
Western Hemisphere
2,377,000 8,442,000 2,297,000
Total ATA for Western Hem. 1,995,000 5,403,000 2,400,000
27,531,000 8,442,000 2,297,000


1 United States, Department of State, Congressional Presentation for Foreign Operations, Fiscal Year 2000, (Washington: Department of State: March 1999): 1130.

2 Department of State 1134.

3 Department of State 1131.

4 Department of State 1131.

5 Department of State 1134.

6 United States, Department of State, Congressional Presentation for Foreign Operations, Fiscal Year 2004, (Washington: Department of State: March 2003): 1130.


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