The terrorists who hijacked the airplanes – that were later used like missiles against the World Trade Center – were trained in the United States. They came in to a country that so proudly declares that it is a bastion of democracy and proponent of human rights and civil liberties. The Americans saw these values as important in building a free and prosperous country but the terrorists saw it as an opportunity that they can exploit. It is obvious that there is a need to tighten security but the question that comes next is this: at what price? The answer is something that many Americans do not want to hear but the truth is a lot of sacrifices have to be made in order to win the war against terror.
In the Aftermath of 9/11
After the World Trade Center was reduced to rubble the President of the United States uttered these words, “Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done” (Cohen & Wells, p. 185). These were not empty words as the President signed laws that would make it extremely difficult for terrorists to operate in America. Unfortunately, these anti-terror laws will not discriminate between guilty and innocent. Thus, the question remains: security at what price? (Cohen & Wells, p. 85). One way to answer this is to state the obvious, “Restrictions of civil liberties are historically not uncommon in times of war’ (Cohen & Wells, p. 187). But as the memory of 9/11 fades away it will become increasingly difficult to maintain this stance.
There is no need to belabor the point that if too much power is given to authorities then they may be tempted to abuse it. Their authority can be used to prevent another 9/11 but at the same time their broad powers can hurt those who are innocent. There is also the fear that increasing their ability to monitor individuals may infringe on their civil liberties. But at the same time if authorities were forced to follow age-old protocol terrorists will have the disadvantage because while the government is slow-footed, the terrorists are flexible and can improvise on the fly. There is a need increase the power of anti-terror agencies but at the same time their actions must assessed by an impartial group of people that will provide accountability.
Civil Liberties and Legal Ramifications
Many of the legal dilemmas that hounded U.S. Officials came after the signing of the USA Patriot Act (Krikorian, p. 33). One provision of the said law is to empower the Justice Department to detain foreign citizens suspected of involvement with terrorism and at the same time give them the authority to deport them (Krikorian, p. 33). This is a very controversial law because for many decades Americans and even tourists and foreign students has treated their freedom to come and enjoy what this nation has to offer without thinking that someday they will become a source of threat to the security of the United States. Many will therefore resent the tough security measures that were imposed in the post-9/11 America but a repeat of the said incident is inexcusable.
One of the most convincing arguments in favor of limiting the freedom enjoyed by foreigners can be seen in the statement that says, “All nineteen hijackers were, after all, foreign citizens … also the case with the conspirators in the first World Trade Center attack” (Krikorian, p. 34). It is time for everyone to understand that terrorists will do everything to accomplish their plans. The U.S. government could not afford to treat them as if they are simply misguided people. They have to be taken seriously and everyone has to cooperate in a concerted effort to drive them out from America.
Cohen, David & John Wells. American National Security and Civil Liberties in an Era of Terrorism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
Krikorian, Mark. A Privilege or a Right? Etzioni, A. (Ed.). Rights vs Public Safety after 9/11:America in the Age of Terrorism.