Saturday, October 8, 2011

America's Civil Liberties after 9/11

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The September 11 terrorist attacks were the worst acts of terrorism ever carried out against the United States. On this day, terrorists in two hijacked jets flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, another into the Pentagon Building, and a fourth in a field in Somerset County, PA. There were an estimated ,000 people killed. United States officials concluded that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist organization had been behind these attacks. After these attacks, President George W. Bush declared a war on terrorism in order to prevent any future attacks. However, in order to reach a “victory” in this war, Americans must sacrifice, to a certain degree, some of their freedom and privacy.

In 178, as the United States prepared for a war with France, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts. The Alien Act authorized the president to imprison citizens of enemy countries. The Sedition Act was used to fine or imprison people who wrote, published, or said anything against the government. After the Republicans won in the election of 1800, the laws weren’t enforced anymore. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States government became even more concerned about suspected spies within the United States. In 14, over 100,000 Japanese Americans were moved to internment camps. It wasn’t until after the war, in 145, that they were released. During the Vietnam War, protests against the war and the military draft were numerous, and often violent. Because of this, the government began using law enforcement to restrain protests. In some cases, the government tapped people’s phones without warrants. In times of crisis, government policies have often emphasized security at the expense of liberty. In most cases, however, the policies have been scaled back or ended as soon as the crisis ended or passed.

Since the events of September 11, the Bush administration has taken a lot of steps aimed at bringing terrorists to justice and preventing future acts of terrorism. But as demonstrated previously, many of the government’s policies have required some restrictions of our civil rights. The USA Patriot Act was passed in October 001. This act expands on the definition of terrorism to include anyone who has supported a terrorist group. This act also gives law enforcement the power to detain any non-citizen for seven days, if they are suspected of being a risk to national security. One of this act’s most controversial terms gives authorities more freedom to carry on searches, without giving letting the person know. Other terms of this act allow authorities to share secret grand jury information and to obtain information from tapped conversations, expand police access to e-mail records, increase government monitoring of financial transactions, permit law-enforcement access to library and bookstore records.

After the attacks, President Bush also called for increased aviation security. Congress passed a legislation that gave the federal government a main role in security measures in airports. The legislation required that all workers that screen travelers and baggage in airports have to be federal employees. The Aviation and Transportation Act was signed by President Bush on November 00. This act mandates that explosive-detection systems screen all checked bags for bombs and explosives. It also says that airports need fortified cockpit doors and mandatory training for flight crews about how to handle a possible hijacking. Several other things have also changed in airports. A person can only have one carry on luggage and one personal item. Another thing is that more passengers are being searched at the gates.

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Though the Patriot Act violates many of American’s civil liberties, the government is doing it for our own protection. The most controversial issue with this act is the searches. If you think about it, however, it is beneficial. If authorities have suspicions about someone’s home, they can search it for anything that would endanger others. Searches like these could prevent your next door neighbor from plotting an attack against others. The increased security measures in airports are a hassle because it takes up a lot of time. You have to now show up two hours in advance to make your flight. Yes, this is true, but it is much better to have to show up two hours early to the airport than risk your life because some person decided to take explosives into the plane. These security measures can be a difference of a few hours wasted of your day, than a few years taken from your life.

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