The 9/11 attacks were the greatest terror Americans had watched and remain to be today. They were coordinated suicide attacks by Al-Qaeda, leaving nearly 3000 dead in New York City, Shanksville, Washington, and Pennsylvania. The enduring power of the attacks remains even today, with those who were alive then recalling clearly how they received the news and the pain the nation experienced. Most Americans today do not remember the attacks because they were too young or unborn. Either way, America has significant differences before and after the 9/11 attacks.
Before September 11, 2001, there had never been a domestic or foreign terrorist attack on the United States (US). Terrorists in the 1970s and 1980s used methods like hijacking commercial planes and detonating international explosive devices (Liao, 2020). For example, in 1993, Islamist extremists attacked the World Trade Center, injuring over a thousand people. In 1996, a Hezbollah attack on the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia resulted in the deaths of several US military personnel. In 2000, Al Qaeda attacked the USS Cole in Yemen, destroying American embassies in the region. As a result, several other terrorist plots were foiled, and hence attacks were increasing from terrorist groups within and outside the US. This shows that America was unprepared for the 9/11 attacks and did not have the appropriate infrastructure to protect itself.
The current criminal justice system handled each of the above attacks and attempts. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and other laws and guidelines govern domestic intelligence collection (Thomas, 2018). Sharing information between domestic and foreign agencies was governed by provisions that made it illegal to collect intelligence information for law enforcement purposes and difficult to share information from criminal justice. When terrorists were apprehended in the US or any other country, they were treated just like any other criminal. This includes informing them of their right to remain silent and holding a full criminal trial before a judge and jury. The attacks showed that the US infrastructure was inadequate in dealing with and preventing terrorist attacks. Because no single agency could pool its resources to gather and disseminate data promptly, early warning signs went unnoticed. When landlines were fixed, applying electronic surveillance restrictions to mobile phones, disposable phones, or voice-over-Internet chats was difficult. Even if terrorists were apprehended, obtaining evidence that would be admissible in a typical court case was difficult.
American politics underwent a significant change following the September 11, 2001, events. The changes made protecting and defending citizens, infrastructure, assets, and interests easier at home and abroad (Mitnik et al., 2020). The government would be able to combat terrorist threats if they shared and coordinated information more effectively through improved intelligence collection and analysis. After 9/11, the US succeeded as part of the alliance fighting al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. As a result, Americans and partners have been shielded from various threats. Spies on the run and terror leaders alike have been apprehended, putting an end to terror plots. Terrorist organizations like Al-Qaida have found it much more difficult to function and expand due to the combined efforts.
The country engaged in a global fight against terrorism, including anyone or any group who financially supports terrorist organizations. The Patriot Act was passed shortly after the attacks, giving law enforcement agencies extensive power to combat terrorism (Alshrari, 2019). Ultimately, there were increased penalties for supporting or committing terrorism crimes than in the past. Any action suspected of supporting terrorism crime would be investigated and brought to justice. By doing so, an extremist ideology is promoted, making it more difficult for terrorists to hide by working to make terrorism and related acts of crime and developing strategies for law enforcement and legal operations to combat terrorist threats.
The changes and freedoms Americans had to give after the attacks were worth the national security gains. Today, the nation has developed infrastructure to prevent and handle terrorist acts in the country, even internationally. Citizens are assured of safety, and it is hard for attacks like 9/11 to happen again. This was unlike before the attacks when the nation was used to experiencing minor attacks like hijacking airplanes. The country’s defense and justice system has grown in a way that it can detect attacks even from outside the nation. This is because initial boundaries have been broken, allowing the US to work with other nations, helping them fight and prevent attacks. Terrorist organizations have been disbanded across the Middle East, Europe, and Southeast Asia. In international forums such as the United Nations, the OSCE, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the nation has done more to combat terrorism and its funding (Cordesman, 2018). Also, the US has increased training and assistance to international partners in the fight against terrorism and in preventing terrorists from finding a haven.
Overall, the 9/11 attacks were a wake-up call for the US to change and develop appropriate infrastructure to protect its citizens. Bush and his government were quick to act, developing the Patriot Act and restructuring the government and criminal justice system. The changes they made have brought the nation to a better state than before the attacks. It is now developed, able to protect itself and offer help to other nations that need support. In collaboration with international agencies associated with the fight against terrorism, the US has achieved a lot, and similar attacks as 9/11 may never reoccur.
Alshrari, A. (2019). Patriot Act, Section 206: Its Impact on Muslim Populations in the US (With Special Reference to Roving Wiretap Policy). Public Policy and Administration, 7(1), 15-21.
Cordesman, A. H. (2018). Terrorism: US Strategy and the Trends in Its” Wars” on Terrorism. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
Liao, P. C. (2020). Beyond and Before 9/11: A Transnational and Historical Turn. Post-9/11 Historical Fiction and Alternate History Fiction, 1-19.
Mitnik, Z. S., Freilich, J. D., & Chermak, S. M. (2020). Post-9/11 coverage of terrorism in the New York Times. Justice Quarterly, 37(1), 161-185.
Thomas, J. (2018). Reflections on the influence of the 9/11 attacks on domestic security practices and future cyber security needs. Available at SSRN 3177272.