Facing Terrorism And Civil Liberties

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This paper will consist of the reason why the Department of Homeland Security was established and what major event in history contributed to this. I will also talk about the role of the Department of Homeland Security. I will discuss the major steps that law enforcement have done to help prevent terrorist attacks and I will provide you with examples. In conclusion, because of the scare of terrorism there are some civil liberties we as Americans are faced to give up. This document will contain the civil liberties most heavily impacted since 9/11.

Many Americans can still remember exactly where they were, and what they were doing on September 11th, 2001. This day is known as one of the most tragic events, that took place on American soil. Nineteen members of the terrorist group: Al-Qaeda, hijacked four American Airlines. Two of the planes were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the third plane hit the pentagon, and the fourth plane did not make it to its location, which would have been The Whitehouse. Instead, it crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Close to 3,000 people were killed from this terrorist attack. America was greatly impacted from this event in negative and positive ways. One positive in particular, was the fact that we as a nation framed 9/11 as a “rising” opportunity instead of a “falling.” With this being said, we as a nation wanted to improvise and improve in our security- which resulted in the creation of Department of Homeland Security, as well as some additional restrictions that were placed on American citizens. Logically and justifiable speaking, some of these “restrictions,” may even violate our civil liberties.

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The president at this time, which was George W. Bush created the Department of Homeland Security as an office inside the Whitehouse, just 10 days after the event. President Bush knew he had to work effectively and efficiently. He chose the Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Ridge, on September 21st, 2001 to be the first Assistant to the President for Homeland Security. The president stated, “He will lead, oversee, and coordinate a comprehensive national strategy to safeguard our country against terrorism, and respond to any attacks that may come.” This was no easy task for Ridge. This was a new department with many kinks and holes in the system that take time to work through. He oversaw 180,000 employees that worked in previous positions that were not involved into the Department of Homeland Security. Needless to say, Ridge was going to need some help building up the must- needed Department of Homeland Security. Congress understood that the Department of Homeland Security was big enough to where it wouldn’t be able to fit under the Whitehouse alone. It required its own creation- its own cabinet department in the federal government. The President was opposed of the idea at first, but overtime, he eventually signed onto the idea in 2002, and appointed Ridge as the first ever United States Secretary of Homeland Security in 2003.

President Bush’s idea of creating the Department of Homeland Security, was ultimately to place federal government’s law enforcement, immigration, and antiterror-related agencies all into one department. The Department of Homeland Security consisted of 22 federal departments, some of which are: the Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Citizens and Immigration Services, Secret Service, and many more. I believe that these 22 federal departments all joining and combining together, was overall an efficient idea. This allows them to work closer together on department- specific situations. With this, the departments are able to all come together on certain catastrophic events. One thing I found fascinating, was that the department has actually been called to several catastrophes, that have nothing to do with a terroristic threat. For example, there have been several natural disasters that they have helped out in. One in particular would be the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that occurred in April of 2010.

The general and ideal role of the Department of Homeland Security, is to keep the United States safe. The department has the power to pass laws, enforce laws, control emergency response and monitor cyber security. Homeland Security is all about protecting the rights and freedoms, we as individuals are appointed to by being citizens of the United States. Members of the Department may help to prepare or make less severe damage from different security threats, analyze intelligence when preparing for attacks, and as previously mentioned, help coordinate disaster response such as tornados, earthquakes, and other emergencies. Ultimately, the main purpose is to help aid or prevent future harm on American soil.

When it comes to terrorist attacks, many people look past local law enforcement agencies; however, the truth is, local police agencies have the potential ability to play a huge role in terrorist attacks. For an example, there was a police agency in Europe that began in the 1960s, and lasted till about the 1980s. They helped to diffuse a wave of terrorists that swept across many countries, although some of the terrorist groups that were involved are still around today, the police agency helped keep their terrorist activities to a minimum. Furthermore, the Basques FTA in Spain: was a group that engaged in a violent campaign of bombing, assassinations, and kidnapping. The police eliminated the majority of them. The reason the police were able to do so, was because of their ability to infiltrate the terrorist networks with human sources, who were cultivated informants. Another prime example that shows the importance of police fighting terrorist groups, would be a 2005 investigation- that looked at a pattern of robberies by the Los Angeles Police Department. The police found that the thefts were in attempt to finance a series of terrorist bombings of military bases and houses of worship, in the Los Angeles area by a radical Islamic group (Jamiyyat UI- Islam IS- Saheeh). These two examples, along with many other situations, provides additional support to show the importance that police agencies find and diffuse certain terrorist attacks. The main reason for this is simply because the police work the streets, they are able to notice and recognize things that seem out of the “norm.”

Before 9/11, only a number of law enforcement agencies had any experience with terrorist related incidents. However, now that 9/11 has happened, a majority of the state agencies and about half of the local agencies were involved in responding to terrorist related hoaxes or incidence. Because of this, local agencies (particularly those in large counties) and state agencies followed a number of steps which include increasing the number of personnel engaged in emergency planning, updating response plans for chemical, biological, or radiological attacks, and to a lesser extent, mutual aid agreements and relocating internal resources or increasing department spending to focus on terrorism preparedness. 9/11 served as a stimulant for increased assessment activities, especially for the departments at the local level. For instance, prior to 9/11, only one fourth of the local agencies within the smaller counties had conducted a risk assessment. Now after the attacks on September 11th, nearly three- fourths of the agencies have done so. I personally believe that local law enforcement play a big role when it comes to fighting terror. Since 9/11, more emphasis has been placed on the idea of just how important these agencies are. But I don’t think we’ve done all that we can to better prepare these local agencies. A key to this would be better funding. If local agencies have a stronger budget, they will be able to buy equipment needed to fight terrorist. Also, with better funding, the agencies will be able to partake in trainings that will better prepare them for future terroristic attacks.

When a nation faces a deadly crisis that puts citizens living at home in harm’s way, it is reasonable to expect the leaders of the United States to take appropriate measures to increase security. The only problem with this is that at one end of the balance beam, there is security, and at the other end of it is restrictions. It is only logical to analyze and examine the amount of individual liberties that should be willingly sacrificed- for the amount of individual and national safety. Since September 11th, 2001, our nation has seen a significant amount of change, that has to do with keeping Americans safe. With the creation of Homeland Security, there was also the creation of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which was a consolidated form of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Customs Services. This agency was overseen a massive increase in deportation, which has doubled since the attacks of 9/11. According to yearbook of immigration statistics which is published by the Homeland Security, there were around 200,000 deportations between the year 1999 and 2001. Since then the numbers have steadily increased. And during 2004- 2010, deportations hit a record high: 400,000 annually. Around half of the illegal aliens deported were convicted of a criminal defense.

One of the most well-known civil liberties that has been impacted- is our privacy at an airport. Long airport lines, full body scans, the occasional put- down. Its all part of the requirements that an airport has to follow. To my generation, this is nothing new. For my parents and grandparents, this is a major change, and to them they may perceive these extra airport security requirements, as a violation to their freedom. Not too long ago, you could show up to an airport about thirty minutes before your flight, without having to take your shoes off, or waiting in a long line to go through a metal detector, all without having to show an I.D. Before 9/11, you were able to bring drinks, cigarette lighters, and even a knife as long as the blade didn’t exceed four inches. In the wake of the terrorist attack, airports have changed significantly in their security, which is now overseen by the massive Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Although all the measurements of security are a big aggravating and seem to violate some of our civil liberties, I find them to be necessary. I would much rather have to wait in line a little longer and have my luggage gone though and even a pat down, rather than have to live through what Americans faced September 11th.

Lastly, a huge civil liberty we were faced to give up is being surveillance through our phones and websites by the federal government. In 2013, a classified document was leaked by former government contractor, Edward Snowden. The document showed that the expansion of a colossal surveillance state effects the lives of millions of ordinary Americans. The rapid growth of the idea of surveillance which got a 52.6-billion-dollar budget in 2013, was first recognized by the Washington Post. They received a “black budget” (a government budget that is allocated for classified or other secret operations of a nation) from Snowden, describing the 16 spy agencies and more than 107,000 employees that make up the U.S. intelligence Community.

Tragic events can reshape the way Americans live their daily lives. Because of the attacks that happened and all the events similar to it, you can expect the government to come together and find a way to keep America safe. The result being the Department of Homeland Security and advancements in law enforcement to prevent terrorist attacks. But with tragic events and new systems in the government, it is only sensible to think about civil liberties citizens of America will be faced to give up. After thought and research, I have come to the conclusion that the civil liberties we have had to give up, because of terrorist attacks, is essential to our own safety.


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  2. Murse, T., Murse, T., The Caucus, & LNP Media. (n.d.). How the Department of Homeland Security Was Created. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/department-of-homeland-security-4156795.
  3. Police and counterterrorism. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/police/Police-and-counterterrorism.
  4. Riley, & Jack, K. (2005, November 25). How Prepared Are State and Local Law Enforcement for Terrorism? Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9093.html.
  5. Stelter, L., DuFour, S., AMU Faculty, & Public Safety Contributor. (2016, August 30). The Role of Local Police in the War Against Terrorism. Retrieved from https://inpublicsafety.com/2015/11/the-role-of-local-police-in-the-war-against-terrorism/.


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