Terrorist attacks of September 11 2001 Paper

Terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 […] whether the government needs to do all it can in order to protect its citizens, even if that means they have to surrender some of their civil liberties. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 changed America forever. The people understood they were vulnerable for the first time in decades, and they understood that security measures would have to increase — that was clearly understood. However, Americans have surrendered many of their civil liberties since the terrorist attacks, and that is simply not acceptable in our society. I am not willing to surrender some of the most important civil liberties for greater security, because I believe that many of the civil liberties we surrendered were not necessary, and the Patriot Act gave the government far more power than necessary.

In the aftermath of September 11, people were frightened. They wondered how it was possible for the highjackers to get on board the airplanes with weapons, and how they could live and work freely in America while planning the attacks. It made sense that security measures would have to increase; we needed to make sure this could not happen again. Greater security measures at airports were clearly in order. They have turned air travel into a nightmare, but they do give a greater level of security in some ways. (This is not about the many flaws in the system that have allowed a variety of banned items onto flights during tests, that is another issue.)

However, Congress, the President, and the Attorney General enacted a variety of other measures that have taken away some of our most important civil liberties. A writer notes, “A month after Bush’s declaration of war, Attorney General John Ashcroft led a virtually unquestioning Congress to enact laws that would change the concept of what it means to be ‘free’ in America that dated back over 200 years” (Cassel 2). The problem with these laws, especially the Patriot Act of 2001, is that they are so broad, they can be used almost with impunity by agencies like the FBI and Homeland Security, and so no one is really safe from government scrutiny, no matter how innocent they are. Author Cassel continues, “This definition is so broad that practically any act of civil disobedience could be construed to be ‘terrorism.’ (A political demonstration taking place in the path of an ambulance, for example, could be termed ‘dangerous to human life)” (Cassel 2). I believe there are at least some people in government who are not above using this broad definition for personal or self-serving reasons, and that is one reason I believe that our civil liberties have been violated in harmful and negative ways. Sadly, most Americans simply rolled over and ignored this assault on their civil liberties, believing it was “unpatriotic” to protest this massive loss of civil rights.

The Patriot Act and other legislation took away the civil liberties of all of us, but they targeted Arabs and Muslims, as well. Author Cassel notes, “There are hundreds, even thousands, of horror stories of innocent people who were questioned or detained because of the color of their skin, their clothing, their last name, or their country of origin” (Cassel 108). There are questions about the handling of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and there are questions about the detention and questioning of hundreds of others who were eventually set free. Another writer notes, “Muslims in the U.S. are currently experiencing both racial and religious profiling. A poll conducted this summer by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) showed that nearly half of the 945 Muslims questioned said their lives had deteriorated over the past year” (Pena). We pride ourselves on being a democratic country that is fair and equitable, but that has altered since the Patriot Act and other legislation has given the government some extraordinary powers to use against us.

There is another aspect of this attack on civil liberties that is extremely disturbing. Traditionally, in times of duress, such as war, civil liberties may be curtailed, but they do return. In this case, since there is no end to the “war on terror,” civil liberties remain curtailed. Another writer notes, “Another product of wartime is that civil liberties are generally categorized as luxury items, like silk stockings during World War II, that divert valuable resources from the war effort. Historically, once war is over, those luxuries are again embraced” (Baker). Our civil liberties have not returned to pre-terror status, and in fact, additional civil liberties, such as phone tapping, bank account scrutiny, and racial profiling, have been added to the mix, and most Americans do not even know (or care) about how much of their freedoms they have given up in the name of “patriotism.”

The Bush administration used the terrorist attacks as a way to frighten Americans into more governmental control, but the truth is they had already started trying to limit information before the attacks. Author Baker continues, “Control of information has been a core component of the Bush administration’s antiterrorism agenda. However, even before September 11, 2001, the administration had sought to limit press and public access to some information” (Baker). The attacks were the excuse they needed to put these limits into practice, and now that they are in place, it will be difficult if not impossible to remove them. I am not willing to give up my civil liberties in exchange for more security, but I really do not have a say in the matter. I have already given them up, and they will probably not come back in my lifetime.

In conclusion, America’s civil liberties are severely eroded, and all in the name of patriotism and fear. Has losing our civil liberties made us safer? Not really. The terrorists know how to exploit our weaknesses, and it is only a matter of time until they strike again. In the meantime, our civil liberties suffer, and that goes against what our country has always stood for.


Baker, Nancy V. “National Security vs. Civil Liberties.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 33.3 (2003): 547+.

Cassel, Elaine. The War on Civil Liberties: How Bush and Ashcroft Have Dismantled the Bill of Rights. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 2004.

Pena, Aisha. “American Muslims’ Civil Liberties and the Challenge to Effectively Avert Xenophobia.” The Muslim World 99.1 (2009): 202+.

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