I will be focusing on 20th century America after 9/11. The September 11 attacks that occured on a seemingly ordinary Tuesday morning of 2001 was a monumental turning point for America. On this historic date, 19 Islamic extremist who were part of the group “al-Qaeda” hijacked four airplanes, all of which were major airlines (United and American Airlines.) Two planes were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center complex in downtown New York and within the short time span of two hours, both 110-story towers had completely collapsed. The debris and resulting fires that came from the towers also led to other significant damages to surrounding buildings and people. The third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.
C., and the fourth plane which was initially aimed for Washington D.C crashed in a field near Shanksville Pennsylvania. A total of 2296 people were killed naming 9/11 “the deadliest terrorist attacks on American soil in U.S. history” according to Britannica. This act of terrorism resulted in a wave of fear and paranoia among not only New York citizens but people from all around the world.
The United States responded by invading Afghanistan to remove the Taliban, which had harbored al-Qaeda. This led to not only the war against Afghanistan but it also launched the “War on Terror” at large in the Middle East Region.In the numerous efforts to combat terrorism, America’s tactics have been found debatable. It is prevalent throughout history that especially during times of war or fear, that the rights of the individual get placed in jeopardy in order to strengthen government control. We see this trend follow through in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. On October 26, 2001, President Bush signed the USA PATRIOT ACT which is an acronym for The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act.
The act is divided into 10 titles which all work to limit and restrict the individual’s civil liberties to enforce government power. For instance, Title II allows for the government to conduct searches on people without notifying them that they are being searched. Since these searches are performed without the person’s knowledge, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) calls them “sneak and peek” searches. The PATRIOT Act however is not the only post-9/11 measure to have raised concerns about the government infringing on Americans civil liberties. In December 2005, the New York Times revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) was eavesdropping on telephone calls between people in the United States and associates in foreign nations. In response to this Bush defended himself essentially saying that the Constitution allowed for him the power to undermine certain legalities and that he must do whatever necessary to combat terrorism.
Furthermore, Airport security such as TSA checks have become more excessive and the government’s efforts to tighten control of the nation’s border led to the topic of Immigration and deportation of illegal Immigrants. These are only a few of the many instances in which we see terrorism and legislation written in response to terrorism negatively affect civil liberties in America.