Good Essay On The Impact Of The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks
Type of paper: Essay
Topic: Security, Government, Aviation, Law, Homeland Security, Homeland, Information, United States
Towards People in America
On the morning of September the 11th 2011, nineteen men were amongst the passengers boarding four separate flights across the United States (Shapiro). United Airlines Flight’s 11 and 175 bound from Los Angeles to Boston, American Airlines Flight 77, from Dulles to Los Angeles and United Airlines Flight 93, from Newark to San Francisco. Many of these men were Middle Eastern hailing from Saudi Arabia, but the chief amongst them was an Egyptian, Mohamad Atta aboard Flight 11, later on to be acknowledged as the tactical leader behind what would become known as the 9/11 attacks.
Instead of using traditional arms as their method of attack, their plan was to hijack these large airliners and use them essentially as guided missiles to attack specific symbolic targets. Using simple equipment such as box cutters and pepper spray, the hijackers were able to subdue the crew and passengers of their vehicles, with certain members of each team receiving flight training, they were then able to pilot these crafts towards their intended targets. The Boston bound flights hit the North and South towers of the World Trade Center, whilst the third targeted the Pentagon with the last being ultimately diverted from its goal of reaching the US Capitol building.
The attacks resulted in the deaths of over three thousands civilians and emergency personnel. With billions in estimated damages from not only the physical devastation caused to the sites and their surroundings but in the toll taken on the economy in the following weeks.
These acts represented the most significant enemy attack on American soil, since Pearl Harbor. However unlike that event, the perpetrators were not claiming any motivated by national interests, they represented the terrorist organization Al Qaeda whose aims were rooted in ideology.
This shocking reminder of the new threats now facing America in the 21st century, required a coordinated and swift response. A framework was developed to merge the various agencies providing security and information gathering services at an International, Federal, State and local level, these were all brought under the auspice of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in March, 2003. This was to provide a far more focused front for dealing with the dangers posed by terrorism and other potential enemies from abroad, and internally.
Amongst the recommendations included in this more focused effort implemented after 9/11 were, an increased spotlight on the expansion of information sharing through centers for the liaison of Federal, State and local authorities. Increased training for law enforcement officials at all levels to aid in identifying, documenting and reporting potential threats to national security. Finally there was a renewed vigor placed on communications with international partners, including intelligence services. There has also been an implementation of far more stringent screening procedures for both passengers and cargo on any form of mass transport. This includes the collection and analysis of information regarding transportation beforehand, checking these against government watch lists. The improved pre-screening process also involved an expansion in the TSA from around 80 members during 2001 to an estimated 52000 operating currently across 450 airports in the US.
With key areas of infrastructure such as telecommunication and banking becoming increasingly dependent on the internet, there is thus an increasing vulnerability in these physical spaces towards cyber-attacks. To combat this various efforts have been made including the establishment of the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), which is the reporting body for any incidents of suspected cyber incidents tasked with their investigation. Cyber Storm is another program launched to simulate the effects of a large scale cyber-attacks, from which information can be gleaned by Federal, State and local bodies in terms of preparedness, response time and possible indicators. The main tool put in place as the first line of defense against such attacks is EINSTEIN a cyber-intrusion detection system.
Effectiveness of Post-9/11 Measures
It is difficult to directly attribute the success of these implementations in the prevention of specific threats, especially with the secrecy surrounding ongoing and even past investigations by law enforcement agencies. However reports do show that traditional law enforcement methods such as surveillance, undercover work and inside contacts which have led to the majority of breakthroughs, with perhaps some modifications made due to new reporting practices. Tip offs by concerned citizens have also been seen to play a large part in the foiling of several possible terrorist threats such as in the case of the shoe bomber Richard Reid and Umar Farouk Abdulmutllab (Difo), whilst this has involved little input from Homeland Security, it can be argued that an increasing focus on raising awareness through campaigning has paid divdends.
One definite avenue of success has been the use of international links to other agencies in gathering information and screening out possible threats, this was seen in the prevention of cases such as the Liquid Explosives Plot and with Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (Difo). The increased focus on information sharing between agencies, and a greater allowance for monitoring electronic communications, financial transactions and telecommunications (through wiretaps) provided for in the Patriot Act have paid some dividends however being instrumental in the capture of the Lakwanna Six and the Portland Seven (Difo).
Whilst there have been definite successes in post 9/11 security policies critics point out various areas where weaknesses in strategy and implementation remain. Such as the inconsistent integration of Federal and State agencies, the failure to speed up the adoption of the private sector in security planning, meaning critical structures which are not government owned are often insufficiently protected (Shapiro). There has also been criticism levied at the nature of defense spending, with an often disproportionate amount spent when considering level of threat posed, for example the $9 billion spent yearly to counter possible nuclear based catastrophic threats, or the increasing budgets spent on Port defense despite the spotty intelligence regarding the significance of either threat.
Civil liberties and particularly first amendment rights have been a great stumbling block when discussing the efficacy of these policies (Lieberman). With terrorist activities falling under a large umbrella, allowing government agencies to essentially act on their own discretion when deciding which individuals and which communication to survey, with the powers granted by the Patriot Act. Apart from the issue of government surveillance, the curtailing of rights regarding peaceful protest. As well as the profiling of those from Middle Eastern and Islamic backgrounds seen especially in the pre-screening measures implemented at Airports and border checks has been seen to have a negative effect on the level of faith placed in these policies.
Now that ample time has passed to review these policies, certain changes that will need to be accommodated in the future are clear. Firstly more stringent oversight over the costs associated with defense spending is needed, with a streamlining of the large federalized structure of the Security Department (Mcneill and Mayer). In fact a move towards decentralization may take place as the importance of state and local governments in tackling threats has become more, and more apparent, future policy may depend on ensuring lines of communication are kept clear and that these frontline agencies are afforded the proper training and resources.
Difo, Germain. Ordinary Measures, Extraordinary Results: An Assessment Of Foiled Plots Since 9/11. American Security Project, 2010. Print.
Lewis, T. G. Critical Infrastructure Protection In Homeland Security. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley-Interscience, 2006. Print.
Lieberman, Donna. 'Infringement On Civil Liberties After 9/11'. NYLS Law Review 56 (2012): n. pag. Print.
McNeill, Jena, and Matt Mayer. 'Ten Years After 9/11: Thinking Smarter About Homeland Security'. The Heritage Foundation. N.p., 2011. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.
Shapiro, Jeremy. 'Managing Homeland Security Develop A Threat-Based Strategy'. Opportunity 08 (2008): n. pag. Print.
US Department of Homeland Security,. Implementing 9/11 Commission Recommendations. Washington: N.p., 2011. Print. Progress Report.