Top 10 U.S. Government Changes Since 9/11
Ten years have passed since the United States was attacked by Al-Qaeda terrorists on September 11, 2001. The event was a defining moment in U.S. history. After it was discovered that the attacks were orchestrated by Al-Qaeda, the information sparked intense debate in the political world. Former President George W. Bush decided to pass a large amount of U.S. legislation to strengthen U.S. National Security. The impact of 9/11 is clearly visible in the policies adopted by the United States government in the wake of the disaster.
This article will focus on ten U.S. government changes since 9/11. The current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will not be featured. On October 7, 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan in response to the September 11 attacks. One and a half years later, on March 20, 2003, the Iraq War began. Many people feel that the changes put forth by the U.S. government have benefited the livelihood of Americans. This may prove true as the United States has not experienced a major terrorist attack since September 11, 2001. Other people feel that the spending has hurt the United States economy, pushing America into a widespread series of economic downfalls.
10. Television and Music Censorship
The September 11 attacks had an impact on the audiovisual entertainment business. Television coverage of the terrorist attacks and their aftermath was the longest uninterrupted news event in the history of U.S. television. It lasted for 93 hours, day and night. After 9/11, a collection of movies were cancelled that were in production, and many movies were edited. The most common way of editing was to delete or obscure shots of the World Trade Center. In all, roughly 45 films were edited or postponed because of the terrorist attacks. Some of these include Spider-Man, Zoolander, Men in Black II, The Bourne Identity, and The Incredibles.
A Jackie Chan movie called Nosebleed, about a window washer on the WTC who foils a terrorist plot, was cancelled due to the attacks. A collection of previously aired television episodes were also altered. Before 9/11, the syndicated version of the Married… with Children episode Get Outta Dodge featured a scene of two Arabs with a ticking bomb at the front door of Al Bundy’s house offering to buy his Dodge for $40 and asking for directions to the Sears Tower. The scene was cut from the syndicated re-airings of the episode. The same happened with an episode of The Simpsons entitled The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson. The opening credits for the hit shows Sex in the City and The Sopranos were altered. The Walt Disney World attraction The Timekeeper, a 360-degree film presentation that features a panoramic view of New York City, including the Twin Towers, closed on September 11, 2001.
The 2001 Clear Channel memorandum is a controversial document distributed by Clear Channel Communications shortly after the September 11 attacks. The memo contained a long list of what was termed “lyrically questionable” songs. The list contains 165 songs, including all records by Rage Against the Machine. In some cases, only certain versions of songs were included on the list. For example, the cover of Smooth Criminal by Alien Ant Farm is on the list while the original Michael Jackson recording is not. Similarly, J. Frank Wilson’s version of Last Kiss is included, but Pearl Jam’s cover is not. Other songs included on the Clear Channel memorandum are seven of AC/DCs hits, The Animals: We Gotta Get Out of This Place, Louis Armstrong: What a Wonderful World, The Bangles: Walk Like an Egyptian, four Beatles songs, including Ticket to Ride, Buddy Holly: That’ll Be the Day, The Clash: Rock the Casbah, Neil Diamond: America, Shelley Fabares: Johnny Angel, and many more hits. After the list was released, Clear Channel denied the existence in a press release to a radio industry trade publication.
9. Stellar Wind
Stellar Wind is the open secret code name for a collection of activities performed by the United States National Security Agency in the wake of 9/11 and revealed by Thomas M. Tamm. The operation was approved by President George W. Bush. The program’s activities involve data mining a large database of the communications of American citizens, including e-mail conversations, phone calls, financial transactions, and Internet activity. Since the implementation of the program, there have been internal disputes within the U.S. Justice Department about the legality.
In March 2004, the Justice Department under Attorney General John Ashcroft ruled that the program was illegal. The day after the ruling, Ashcroft became critically ill with acute pancreatitis. President Bush sent White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andrew Card Jr. to Ashcroft’s hospital bed, where Ashcroft lay semiconscious, to request that he sign a document reversing the Justice Department’s ruling. However, Ashcroft was incapable and did not sign the document.
On May 10, 2006, USA Today reported that the National Security Agency (NSA) had a previously undisclosed program in place since 9/11 to build a database of information about calls placed within the United States. According to the article, phone companies AT&T, SBC, BellSouth (all three now called AT&T), and Verizon disclosed the records to the NSA, while Qwest did not. It is estimated that the database contains over 1.9 trillion call-detail records. The records include detailed call information, including the caller, receiver, date/time of call, and length of call. The data is used in traffic analysis and social network analysis.
It is the largest database ever assembled in the world. The existence of the call database has prompted fierce objections by many circles. It is often viewed as an illegal warrantless search and a violation of the pen register provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Obama administration has neither confirmed nor denied the existence of the domestic call record database.
8. Changes in University Programs
The 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States ushered in a major shift on American college campuses. A recent article published by Scott Gold of the Los Angeles Times examined the current trend in U.S. schools. Today, domestic security has become, by some measures, the fastest-growing area of study, fueled by an increase in federal money. A large collection of domestic security programs have popped up in community colleges and graduate schools. Students across the country are enrolled in courses that didn’t exist a few years ago. Many of these classes examine the psychology of terrorists and rogue regimes, or, as at Purdue University, study emergency response by simulating mass-casualty disasters at the site of the Indianapolis 500.
The new focus at Purdue is largely the result of its Homeland Security Institute, established after the 2001 attacks to use campus resources to confront national-security threats. Before September 11, many microbiology programs in the United States were discontinued. After the anthrax attacks of 2001, the study of germs such as anthrax and Ebola became vital. The funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has soared by a factor of 30. At Texas A&M University, federally funded researchers have affixed radiation sensors to cockroaches on tiny backpacks that could be deployed to search for a “dirty” bomb.
Interest in national security “is beginning to influence the way we look at research in general,” said Alan Rebar, executive director of Discovery Park, a Purdue think tank that leads interdisciplinary research initiatives. “It invades every area of our research today.” At Kansas State University taxpayers will spend nearly $1 billion to build the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility to guard the nation’s agricultural economy and food supply. Penn State University offers several certificate and degree programs, along with a homeland-security summer camp for middle-school and high-school students. Skeptics claim the money is not being spent properly. William Chace, a recent president of Emory University said the educational shift risks turning colleges and universities into “servile mechanisms for state or federal interests.”
7. Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008
The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 became law on June 30, 2008. The act amended United States Code to expand the educational benefits for military veterans who have served since September 11, 2001. The law is an effort to fund the college expenses of veterans in a way similar to the original G.I. Bill after World War II. The main provisions of the act include funding 100% of a public four-year undergraduate education to a U.S. veteran who has served three years of active duty since September 11, 2001. The bill provides the option for the veteran to transfer benefits to a spouse or child after serving (or agreeing to serve) ten years.
As the veteran attends school, the act provides a monthly living stipend based on housing costs. This rate varies across the United States. The current rate for New York City is $2,744, while the same rate for El Paso, TX is $917. Veterans are also provided with an annual stipend to cover other education costs (books, supplies, fees) of up to $1,000. In December 2010, U.S. Congress passed the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, which expands eligibility for members of the growing National Guard. The new bill includes a $17,500 a year cap on tuition and fees coverage for veterans attending private universities.
The 2010 Act prorates the housing stipend based on the student’s rate of pursuit and removes the “interval pay” which allowed veterans to continue to receive payments during scheduled school breaks (i.e. winter and spring breaks). The revisions include a new (reduced) housing stipend for online (distance) learners. The bulk of these changes go into effect August and October 2011. The bill is widely considered an important piece of legislation. However, some flaws in the new GI Bill have been noted. Specifically, the fact that service-members who participated in the $600 Buy-up option will no longer be compensated.
6. President’s Surveillance Program
The President’s Surveillance Program (PSP) is a collection of secret intelligence activities authorized by George W. Bush after the September 11, 2001 attacks. It is part of the War on Terrorism. The only section of the President’s program that has been publicly disclosed is warrantless wiretapping of international communications where one party is believed to be affiliated with Al-Qaeda. The other intelligence activities covered under the same Presidential authorizations remain classified information.
On July 10, 2009, the Inspectors General of all intelligence agencies published a court ordered report indicating that the program involved “unprecedented collection activities,” that went far beyond the scope of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). It raised questions over the legal authorization of the program, including a lack of oversight and excessive secrecy. The warrantless wiretapping by the National Security Agency (NSA) was revealed publicly in late 2005 by The New York Times. They disclosed that technical glitches in the system resulted in some of the intercepts including communications that were “purely domestic” in nature, igniting the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy.
Later works, such as James Bamford’s The Shadow Factory, described how the nature of the domestic surveillance was much more widespread than initially disclosed. In a 2011 New Yorker article, former NSA worker Bill Binney said that his people told him “They’re getting billing records on U.S. citizens. They’re putting pen registers on everyone in the country.” On August 17, 2006, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor initially ruled the wiretapping was unconstitutional and illegal. On appeal, the decision was overturned on procedural grounds and the lawsuit was dismissed without addressing the merits of the claims. In 2007, the Protect America Act was enacted to address the government’s ability to conduct domestic electronic surveillance. After the Protect America Act was expired, the U.S. government passed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
5. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments of 2008
The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 is an Act of Congress that amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The update makes it illegal to intentionally engage in electronic surveillance under the appearance of an official government act. The act prohibits any person from illegally intercepting, disclosing, using or divulging phone calls or electronic communications. It prohibits the individual states from investigating, sanctioning, or requiring disclosure by large telecoms and protects them from lawsuits. The act requires the government to keep records on surveillance for a period of 10 years. It increased the time for warrantless surveillance from 48 hours to 7 days. It requires government agencies to cease warranted surveillance of a targeted American if they enter the United States. The new provisions to the surveillance act are scheduled to expire on December 31, 2012.
The amendment to the FISA prohibits the government from invoking war powers or other authorities to supersede surveillance rules in the future. The changes have been criticized by some as they have granted immunity to the telecoms. This created an immediate roadblock for a number of lawsuits intended to expose and thwart the alleged abuses of power and illegal activities of the federal government since and before the September 11th attacks. The changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows the government to conduct surveillance of any person for up to one week (168 hours) without a warrant, increased from the previous 48 hours, as long as the FISA court is notified at the time such surveillance begins.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit challenging the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 the same day that it was enacted into law. The case was filed on behalf of a broad coalition of attorneys and human rights, labor, legal and media organizations who say that the ability to perform their job, which relies on confidential communications, could be compromised by the new law. The case was initially dismissed from the district court on the grounds the plaintiff couldn’t prove their claims, but was reversed on March 21, 2011 in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit which said they could prove the claims. The subsequent citation is Amnesty v. Blair. The Bush and Obama administrations have defended the acts.
4. Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act
The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 is a 236-page Act of Congress, signed by President George W. Bush that broadly affects U.S. federal terrorism laws. The act is composed of several separate titles with varying subject issues. It established both the position of Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. The Director of National Intelligence is the person serving as the principal advisor to the President, the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council for intelligence matters related to national security.
The Director of National Intelligence serves as the head of the sixteen-member U.S. Intelligence Community. Establishment of the DNI position was recommended in the report given by the 9/11 Commission investigating the September 11 attacks. The report, which was released on July 22, 2004, identified major intelligence failures that called into question how well the Intelligence Community protected U.S. national and homeland security interests against attacks by foreign terrorists. The new law requires the CIA Director to report his agency’s activities to the DNI.
Critics of the act say it comprises the official capacity of the DNI by limiting government clearance and power. In particular, the law left the United States Department of Defense in charge of the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. The Joint Intelligence Community Council was appointed as an executive oversight body to the Intelligence Community. The Act established the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) as an independent agency to assist the DNI. The budget for the ODNI and the Intelligence Community equal 43.5 billion.
The current Director of U.S. National Intelligence is James R. Clapper. The IRTPA required that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) take over the security of airlines and passenger information. In response, airline personnel has been given the right to demand government-issued ID be shown if asked to do so. The act is notable for a section which directs the Commissioner of Social Security to “restrict the issuance of multiple replacement social security cards to 3 per year and 10 for the life of the individual.”
3. National Defense Programs
The Washington Post has released a series of articles that examine the incredible growth of the United States National Security since September 11, 2001. In a two-year investigation conducted by The Washington Post, the newspaper reported the discovery of what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States and programs that are rarely mentioned in the mainstream American media. We will examine some of the information. Some 1,271 U.S. government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence. They are located in about 10,000 different locations across the United States.
It has been estimated that 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances. In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. The article notes that many of the security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.
In the Department of Defense, where more than two-thirds of the intelligence programs reside, only a handful of senior officials, called Super Users, have the ability to know about all the department’s activities. In his interview with The Post, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that he does not believe the system has become too big to manage but that getting precise data is sometimes difficult. In 2010, Gates said “Nine years after 9/11, it makes a lot of sense to look at this and say, Okay, we’ve built tremendous capability, but do we have more than we need? “ In 2010, the current U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that he has begun mapping out a five-year plan because the levels of spending since 9/11 are not sustainable, “with these deficits, we’re going to hit the wall.”
2. USA PATRIOT Act
The USA PATRIOT Act is an Act of the U.S. Congress that was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001. It was in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th. The act greatly reduced restrictions that were placed on law enforcement agencies and gave them the ability to search telephone, e-mail communications, medical, financial, and other records. It eased restrictions on foreign intelligence gathering within the United States and expanded the Secretary of the Treasury’s authority to regulate financial transactions.
The Patriot Act expanded the definition of terrorism to include domestic terrorism, thus enlarging the number of activities to which the powers can be applied. Since its passage, several legal challenges have been brought against the act, and Federal courts have ruled that a number of provisions are unconstitutional. Opponents have criticized the sections that authorize the indefinite detentions of immigrants, searches through which law enforcement officers search a home or business without the owner’s or the occupant’s permission or knowledge, and the expanded use of National Security Letters, which allows the FBI to search telephone, e-mail, and financial records without a court order.
The Patriot Act gave law enforcement agencies unprecedented access to business records, including library and financial records. Not all aspects of the Act have been challenged and many Americans have approved the passage. People have promoted the provisions made to the Bank Secrecy Act, which requires financial institutions in the United States to assist U.S. government agencies to detect and prevent money laundering. Title II of the Patriot Act established three very controversial provisions, “sneak and peek” warrants, roving wiretaps and the ability of the FBI to gain access to documents that reveal the patterns of U.S. citizens. The so-called “sneak and peek” law allowed for delayed notification of the execution of search warrants. Roving wiretaps are wiretap orders that do not need to specify all common carriers and third parties in a surveillance court order.
Opponents of the Patriot Act have been quite vocal in asserting that it was passed opportunistically after the September 11 attacks, believing there was little public debate over the issue. Legal action has been taken in Nova Scotia to protect the province from the act’s data collecting methods. On May 26, 2011, President Barack Obama signed a four-year extension of three key provisions in the Patriot Act. They are roving wiretaps, searches of business records (the “library records provision”), and conducting surveillance of “lone wolves,” individuals suspected of terrorist-related activities not linked to terrorist groups.
1. United States Department of Homeland Security
The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a cabinet department of the United States federal government, created in response to the September 11 attacks, and with the primary responsibilities of protecting the territory of the United States from terrorist attacks, man-made accidents, and natural disasters. In fiscal year 2011, it was allocated a budget of $98.8 billion and spent, net, $66.4 billion. Whereas the Department of Defense is charged with military actions abroad, the Department of Homeland Security works in the civilian sphere to protect the United States from within. Its stated goal is to prepare for, prevent, and respond to domestic emergencies, particularly terrorism.
With more than 200,000 employees, DHS is the third largest Cabinet department in the U.S. government, after the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. Homeland security policy is coordinated at the White House by the Homeland Security Council. According to Peter Andreas, a border theorist, the creation of DHS constituted the most significant government reorganization since the Cold War and the most substantial reorganization of federal agencies since the National Security Act of 1947, which created the National Security Council and Central Intelligence Agency.
The Department of Homeland Security constitutes the most diverse merger of federal functions and responsibilities, incorporating 22 government agencies into a single organization. Some of these include the Secret Service, Coast Guard, National Communications System, Plum Island Animal Research Center, U.S. Customs, and Immigration and Naturalization Service. Congress ultimately passed the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and President Bush signed the bill into law on November 25, 2002. It was the largest U.S. government reorganization in the 50 years since the United States Department of Defense was created.
The Department of Homeland Security is headed by the Secretary of Homeland Security, who is currently Janet Napolitano. On March 12, 2002, the Homeland Security Advisory System, a color-coded terrorism risk advisory scale, was created as the result of a Presidential Directive to provide a “comprehensive and effective means to disseminate information regarding the risk of terrorist acts.” The plan stripped 180,000 government employees of their union rights. In 2002, Bush officials argued that the September 11 attacks made the proposed elimination of employee protections imperative.
Between the years of 2003 and 2007, a collection of fusion centers were built in the United States to gather information not only from government sources, but also from their partners in the private sector. As of January 13, 2011, the DHS advised the American public of an “elevated national threat level,” and recommended that all Americans “should establish an emergency preparedness kit and emergency plan for themselves and their family, and stay informed about what to do during an emergency.”