The terror attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States, popularly known as 9/11, changed the world’s view of terrorism forever. In the aftermath of these attacks, the Bush administration declared war on terrorism, this war was aimed at capturing Osama bin Laden and smashing al-Qaeda operations around the world.
These actions were taken in order to prevent future terrorism attacks and to avoid the emergence of other terrorism networks. The US received support for the right to defend itself around the world, and even by the UN Security Council Resolution 1368.
Stringent measures aimed at law enforcement and fighting terrorism were implemented in the wake of these attacks, most of which had not been applied prior to the attacks. Domestic response to these attacks included the enactment of several legislation that have proved successful in curtailing terror activities. Notable legislation amendments included the creation of the Department of Homeland Security whose main aim was to combat terror. Improvements in aviation security have been successful too in the fight against terror.
The response of the US government in the wake of September 11 was important and has proved to be effective in averting terror acts. It is our obligation to support the government in its attempts to fight terror, as this will make our streets, buildings, and the transport industry safe.
Legislation that have been successful in Averting Terror Activities
Domestic response to 9/11 led to the amendment and enactment of several legislation aimed at fighting terrorism. The President signed into law the Homeland Security Act of 2002.This created the Department of Homeland Security, which was charged with the responsibility of identifying and combating terrorism acts. Congress again passed the Patriot Act, the legislation would help perceive and fight terrorism and other offenses.
The Bush administration also instigated a National Security Agency operation to “eavesdrop on telephone and e-mail communications between the United States and people overseas without a warrant” (Smith & Li Ching, Pp 58). The Patriot Act has been instrumental in the US’ fight against terrorism, however, it has received widespread condemnation from what critics term as loopholes that may lead to the abuse of human civil rights. The following portions of the law have drawn criticism:
One section nicknamed “sneak-and-peek,” gives anti-terrorism personnel the power to search property without informing the subjects of their intentions until they have conducted the search;
The second portion, nicknamed the “library records” legislation, allows personnel to possess business and personal records without giving reason or linking their seizure or the subject to terrorism.
The final portion redefines domestic terrorism in a manner that Americans worry will consist of anti-abortion protesters.
Provisions of the Patriot Act that have led to a Reduction in Terrorism Acts
The Patriot Act was signed into law on October 26, 2001. The Act had far-ranging control on law enforcement agencies’ capacity to search telephone and e-mail correspondences, and other personal records. It also widened the Secretary of the Treasury’s power to control financial transactions, particularly those concerning foreign nationals and corporations, and widened the ability of law enforcement and immigration agencies to keep immigrants in custody and deport those accused of terrorism-related activities (Scheppler, pp. 73).
Title 1 of the Patriot Act outlined measures to assist in combating terrorism. It set up a fund to maintain and run anti-terrorism activities, this section also increased financial support for the FBI. Funding of anti-terrorism activities would be extended to other areas outside America and would be in form of military training, supply of weapons and other military equipment, and money. This move increased the amount of resources available to law-enforcement agencies in combating terror.
Title II of the Act gave law enforcement agencies the authority to use a number of surveillance procedures to prevent terrorism activities. Among these methods were tracking of mobile phone conversations and messages, and email. Internet users were also tracked for any signs of terror activity.
For the first time in the history, the CIA was permitted to extend their operations beyond the US borders in tracking phone and internet users. The power to intercept oral, wire, and electronic communication increased the amount of resources available to law enforcement agencies in the wake of 9/11.
Effectiveness of the Patriot Act and other Legislation
Save for a few complaints, the Act has been effective in preventing terrorist activities. The most notable case or terrorism aversion occurred in New York City when the NYPD and federal officers prevented al Qaeda operatives from bombing the Brooklyn Bridge, the exercise also led to the arrest of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, a senior member of the al Qaeda, and Iyman Francis, the person who was supposed to carry out the bombing.
Increased Screening of Arab and Muslim Nationals
In the aftermath of the attacks, Muslim communities, who had previously enjoyed much freedom, were under close surveillance by law enforcement officials. More than 80,000 Arab and Muslim migrants were fingerprinted and their names recorded for further checks. 8,000 Muslim and Arab males were interrogated, and another 5,000 foreigners kept in custody under the act that permitted the use of military force to deter terrorism activities.
Screening of Arab and Muslim was initiated because all 19 hijackers of planes that were used in the 9/11 attacks were Arabs and also Muslims. This process, referred to as racial profiling by critics, has been actively practiced at border points and entry points such as airports.
Critics have asserted that the increasing screening of Arab and Muslim nationals amounts to racism. Racial profiling is said to occur whenever “a law enforcement officer questions, stops, arrests, searches, or otherwise investigates a person because the officer believes that members of that person’s racial or ethnic group are more likely than the population at large to commit the sort of crime the officer is investigating” (Gross & Livingston, pp. 1414).
Racial profiling has been extended outside the US borders into European nations such as England and Germany. However, most cases of these inspections have always failed to find any terrorism links and instead led to humiliation and detention of the so-called suspects (Johnson, pp. 93).
Several incidents have been reported around the world since September 11, for example, on August 10, 2006, an English national, Amar Ashraf, was bundled out of a Continental Airlines’ flight from UK to New Jersey before the plane took off, Mr. Ashraf was a Muslim. It turned out that he was returning to his job as a pilot in the US and not a terrorist.
Yet in another incident, on August 17, 2006, a Canadian doctor, Dr. Ahmed Farooq, and his two friends were hauled off a United Airlines’ flight from US to Canada because the passengers had said they were behaving suspiciously as they had been offering payers, a fundamental pillar in Muslim religion.
The increased screening of Arab and Muslim individuals in the wake of 9/11 has not been an effective tool in the fight against terrorism. Instead, it has caused an increase in racism in the Americas and Europe.
Increase in Aviation Security
Since planes were used during the 9/11 attacks, security measures implemented in response to the attacks had to improve security in the aviation industry. All the 19 hijackers had managed to go through security checkpoints and boarded the planes. Some of the changes implemented are as outlined below.
Prior to the attacks, private firms were contracted to handle airport screening. A new body, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was formed two months after 9/11 to perform all airport screenings at airports around the US. Entrance to the cockpit was made bulletproof and impenetrable by non-authorized persons (Price and Forrest, pp. 128). Some planes have been fixed with CCTVs so that the pilot can monitor whatever is going on in the cabin (Elias, pp. 122).
Penknives had not been considered as weapons prior to the attacks. Since the hijackers had used the knives to intimidate pilots, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prohibited any kind of knife from being allowed into a commercial plane.
Other substances banned from planes included gels and aerosols that weighed more than 3 ounces, and all containers must be put in transparent bags and screened separate from other luggage. Several airports have now upgraded their screening systems and now include full body scans, x-ray scans, metal detectors and liquid identification scanners (Zellan, pp. 25).
In the 9/11 attacks, some hijackers did not have adequate documentation, but had entered the planes. Changes were made after the attacks that require all passengers to have valid identification documents approved by the government. Once on-board, cabin crew can check any passenger’s ID to make certain that the information on the ID matches those given while entering the plane.
Increase in aviation security after the 9/11 has greatly improved security and in numerous instances, prevented terrorists from carrying explosive material inside planes. Body scanning machines have frequently revealed concealed weapons before they find their way on board.
The response of the United States September 11 terrorist attacks were so severe that some critics termed them to be “harsher than the effects of the attacks.” However, the responses were essential if it was to win the war against terror, and to prevent future attacks.
Despite the fact that a few actions have drawn criticism from various groups, most of them have been successful in curtailing terrorism and crashing terror groups around the world. Improvement of security in the aviation industry has been instrumental in the fight against terrorism, besides, the Patriot Act has been vital in fighting terrorism within the US.
Elias, Bartholomew. (2009). Airport and Aviation Security: U.S. Policy and Strategy in the Age of Global Terrorism. London: CRC Press
Gross, Samuel R., Livingston, Debra. (2002). Essay: Racial Profiling Under Attack. Columbia Law Review, 1413.
Johnson, Kevin R. (2004). Racial Profiling after September 11: The Department of Justice’s 2003 Guidelines. Immigration and Nationality Law Review, 85- 109.
Price, Jeffrey C., and Forrest, Jeffrey S. (2009). Practical aviation security: predicting and preventing future threats. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Scheppler, Bill. (2006). The USA Patriot Act: antiterror legislation in response to 9/11. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group.
Smith, Cary Stacy, Hung, Li-Ching. (2010). The Patriot Act: issues and controversies. Illinois: Charles C. Thomas Publishers.
Zellan, Jennifer. (2003). Aviation security: current issues and developments. New York: Nova Publishers.