Sample Essay On Changes And Challenges After The 9/11 Attack

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Terrorism, Law, Security, Social Issues, War, United States, Nation, Politics

Pages: 6

Words: 1650

Published: 2021/03/03

Changes and Challenges after the 9/11 attack

The 9/11 attacks in the United States are deemed to be one of the worst terrorist attack in the world history after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The tragedy not only changed the life of thousands of people, but also changed the global policy, giving rise to the war on terrorism. The world has changed and begun breathing differently, filling the air with the first fear, bewilderment, empathy, and then with an obsession with security, suspicion and international cooperation in the field of fighting terrorism. This essay deals with the challenges caused by the attack as well as with the responses thereto and relevant changes.

Responses in the Field of National Security

In 2002, the United States passed the Homeland Security Act which declared the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (hereinafter – DHS) as well as the new position of Secretary of Homeland Security. In fact, the Department combined twenty-two existing and separate federal agencies and it constituted the largest US government reorganization in the US modern history. The main objectives of the Department are as follows, “to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States; to reduce the vulnerability of the United States to terrorism; and to minimize the damage, and assist in the recovery, from terrorist attacks that do occur within the United States” (DHS, n.d.) Generally, the DHS is primarily responsible for preventing terrorist attacks in the country and has only an analytical and advisory role in intelligence activities, whereas the Federal Bureau of Investigation still deals with the investigation and prosecution of terrorism. Next, the Homeland Security Act foresees information analysis and infrastructure protection, the special Under Secretary should be appointed in the field to develop a comprehensive national plan. Besides, the Secretary of the DHS is empowered to consult with the public in order to “ensure appropriate exchange of information” pertaining to threats of terrorism in the country (HAS – Summary, 2003, p. 2). Moreover, the Critical Infrastructure Information Act of 2002, within the main Act, promotes sharing data with the DHS by the general public, state and local governments as well as individuals. Under the Act, “critical infrastructure” means,
either physical or virtual systems and assets that are “vital to the United States” and whose incapacity or destruction “would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety” (HAS – Summary, 2003, p. 2).
 The DHS encompasses many other bodies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Coast Guard, US Secret Service, U.S. Customs, and Immigration and Naturalization Service and Transportation Security Administration.
Further in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, the Patriot Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act) was passed in October 2001, which authorized the government and the police to strengthen security controls. The major goal of the Patriot Act is "to deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world and to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools" (AHIMA, n.d.) The Act broadened the definition of terrorism by including domestic terrorism in order to enlarge the number of activities to which the powers can be applied. Next, the law, in particular, expanded the rights of FBI to search telephone, e-mail communications, medical, financial, and other records without a court order. This change is widely regarded as a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution and the Patriot Act, in general, is highly controversial.
Later the Intelligence Reform took place and the Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (hereinafter - IRTPA) was passed. Firstly, the organizational effectiveness of the intelligence service was improved with the establishment of several new bodies: the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the National Counterproliferation Center (BCSIA, 2009). Generally, the IRTPA addresses many different facets of information gathering and the intelligence community, whereas IRPTA’s eight titles reflect its broad scope. Further, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments of 2008 allowed the FISA Court to rationalize approval for surveillance of suspected foreign state and terrorist agents without directing an individualized application for each target as long as the US government reasonably assumes the targets are located outside the country. Individual warrants are still needed if the target is a U.S. citizen, regardless of where he is located and even if he is reported to be acting as a foreign agent (Malcolm, 2012).

Immigration and Deportation

The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, now known as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (hereinafter – ICEO) was established in March 2003 as one of the agencies within the DHS. According to the official ICE’s position, “it was granted a unique combination of civil and criminal authorities to better protect national security and public safety in answer to the tragic events on 9/11” (ICE, n.d.) In accordance with the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics published by the DHS, there were about 200,000 annual deportations a year between 1999 and 2001. It is no wonder, the number has been steadily increasing since the 9/11 attack and in the first two years of the Obama Administration between 2009 and 2010, deportations run at nearly 400,000 annually. Noteworthy, that only about half of those deported within the mentioned period were convicted of a criminal offense (Green, 2014).

War on Terror

The so called “war on terror” was declared soon after the 9/11 attack. Nevertheless, terrorism does not fall into the scope of international crimes, causes no armed conflict of international character and should be addressed within the national legislation, George W. Bush in his address to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001 stated that,
our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists (CNN, 2001).
Subsequently, less than a month after the 9/11 attack and Bush’s declaration, in October 2001, US troops (supported UK and NATO coalition allies) invaded Afghanistan in order to dismantle al-Qaeda and remove the Taliban government. Two years later, in March 2003, the US forces invaded Iraq, which although was not directly caused by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but still was closely related with the newly launched “war on terror”. Nowadays, the United States are still deeply engaged in Afghanistan, the longest-running war in the American history. On the contrary, the remaining US troops left Iraq in 2011 (Green, 2014). Despite all the efforts to put an end to terrorism, the number of al-Qaeda-affiliated groups has increased dramatically since the 9/11 attack, and currently the Islamic extremist group ISIS, in particular, continues threatening the stability of region. It constitutes new challenges for the United States, and a common question arises, “Is there an end of war on terror in sight?” Director of Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan believes the war on terror may never end, and at least it will continue “as long as evil people have access to lethal technologies and mass communication” (Defense One, 2015).

International Law

Many scholars and practitioners in the field of international law agree that the 9/11 attacks and the United States policies in this regard gave rise to a new branch of international law - global security law (Scheppele, 2013). On September 28, 2001, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1373 and obliged so all the member states to take certain measures and change their domestic law to fight terrorism more effectively. Thus, pursuant to Resolution 1373, all the UN member states were obliged to criminalize terrorism in domestic legislation, along with conspiracy to commit terrorism, assisting terrorism, providing material support for terrorism, inciting terrorism, and other offenses. Additionally, Resolution 1373 required states to gather and keep information about each terrorist or every terrorist group which might be operating in within their territory as well as to cooperate with the respective bodies of other states. Yet the UN Security Council did not develop a definition of terrorism which is still a highly controversial issue as it states, “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”.
However, it should be also taken into account that the US policies responding to the 9/11 attack not only urged the commencement of global security law, but also violated international humanitarian law and international human rights law. As it was stated above, in quick succession, the United States invaded Afghanistan and then grounded the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba for the individuals captured in that “war on terror”. The conflict in Afghanistan was properly and objectively classified as an international armed conflict, as a result both the United States and the Taliban forces were bound by the provisions of international humanitarian law, four Geneva Conventions and those provisions of the First Additional Protocol, in particular. Consequently, members of the Taliban captured by the US troops should be treated as prisoners of wars with respect to the third Geneva Convention. The Guantánamo Bay, however, was far from being a decent place. The problem remained during the war in Iraq. On June 29, 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court countered the government’s argument that international law had applied nowhere in its conflict with al Qaeda and stated the law applied everywhere in the U.S. conflict with al Qaeda, “the Government maintains correctly that at least since September 11th, an armed conflict exists between the United States and al Qaeda and common Article 3 applies to armed conflicts that extend across state borders” (Modirzadeh, 2014, p. 261). It was the landmark decision and the first significant victory of human rights’ proponents in this concern.


The 9/11 attack has changed human perception of terrorism and marked new era in the history of terrorism leading to new counter-terrorism policies and more effective international cooperation. The period after the 9/11 attack in the United States saw a new generation of policies like the Homeland Security Act or the USA Patriot Act which prioritized national security and defense, often at the expense of civil liberties. Additionally, immigration and deportation practice became tougher. And still government continues improving security legal mechanisms and institutions to address the new challenges. Internationally, the global security law was born as the Resolution 1373 of the UN Security Council obliged all the member states to revise some of the most sensitive areas of national law, like criminal law and domestic intelligence law as well as urged international cooperation in the field. It should be, however noted, that the US policies implied violated international humanitarian law and international human rights greatly. Nowadays, a new wave of terrorism calls for actions and challenges various nations suffering directly or indirectly from the terroristic operations.


AHIMA. Homeland Security Act, Patriot Act, Freedom of Information Act, and HIM (Updated). Retrieved April 13, 2015, from
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. (2009, March). Memo in report Confrontation or Collaboration? Congress and the Intelligence Community. Retrieved April 14, 2015, from Transcript of President Bush's address (2001, September 21). Retrieved April 14, 2015, from
Defense One. CIA Director Says the War on Terror May Never End (2015, April 9). Retrieved April 14, 2015, from
Green, M. (2014, September 10). How 9/11 Changed America: Four Major Lasting Impacts. The Lowdown. Retrieved April 14, 2015, from
Homeland Security Act of 2002—A Summary. (2003, March 1). Homeland Security Bulletin. Retrieved April 14, 2015, from
Malcolm, J. (2012, September 18). Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008 Set to Expire. The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved April 14, 2015, from
Modirzadeh, N. (2014). Folk International Law:9/11 Lawyering and the Transformation of the Law of Armed Conflict to Human Rights Policy and Human Rights Law to War Governance. Harvard National Security Journal, 5(1), 225-304. Retrieved April 15, 2015, from
Scheppele, L. (2013, January 1). From a War on Terrorism to Global Security Law. Institute for Advanced Study. Retrieved April 14, 2015, from
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. History of ICE. Retrieved April 13, 2015, from

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