9/11 Cost You Your Civil Rights
Eleven years ago today airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania in one of the darkest days in our nation’s history. Nearly 3,000 Americans died that September morning, killed by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists who hijacked the planes as part of a global jihad against the United States and Western culture.
The consequences of the attack and our response to it still linger to this day, from our heightened national security state, to two wars (one still ongoing) to the shocking number of civil liberties that American citizens have given up in the past decade in the name of fighting terrorism.
“Virtually all of our most fundamental rights and liberties have been affected for the worse, with little or no awareness among the populace at large,” said Joe “Chip” Pitts, a lecturer at the Stanford Law School, in an interview on a civil liberties blog. “We all know that legions of ordinary citizens already have been harmed and had their privacy and liberties infringed by National Security Letters and other Patriot Act provisions, as decades of gradual progress in expanding rights have been undermined and generations who have fought for hard-won liberties have seen both their liberty and their security dramatically reduced this past decade.”
The Patriot Act alone sparked the “erosion of First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and freedoms,” says the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Just a few of the ways that the 2001 law, which President Obama reauthorized last year, curtails our constitutional rights:
- Civil disobedience that formerly enjoyed First Amendment protections could fall under a broader definition of terrorism and be subject to criminal penalties, often severe.
- Law enforcement officials can infiltrate political or religious groups, or investigate individuals associated with them, with no suspicion that any crime has been committed.
- The government can conduct searches, wiretaps, monitor email and cell phones and request doctor or other professional records without probable cause if they claim their activity involves gathering terrorism-related intelligence.
- Citizens can be held in jail indefinitely without charges in violation of the Fifth Amendment if under suspicion of terrorism, with no access to an attorney or speedy trial.
Other Rights Rolled Back
The sea change in American civil liberties didn’t stop with the Patriot Act. Anyone who flies on an airplane is subject to indignities from the Transportation Security Administration, which was created in the wake of 9/11 to prevent more hijackings. From minor inconveniences like having to remove shoes to get through security and not being allowed to bring liquids on board the airplane, to actually having TSA agents view passengers’ naked bodies through an x-ray machine, flying has become an exercise in frustration.
In addition, the government openly discriminated against Arab and Muslim immigrants after the 9/11 attacks, forcing 85,000 men from 25 countries to sign onto a “special registration program.” At least 13,000 were deported after registering, despite no evidence to tie them to any terrorist group.
Pundits can argue back and forth about whether any or all of the heightened security measures are necessary to protect the nation’s citizens, or rather are egregious oversteps by the federal government. What remains unquestioned is that we will be feeling the effects of 9/11 for a long time to come.
Do you think the measures taken since 9/11 have made us safer? Leave a comment below and share your opinion.