The Legacy of 911:  An Institutionalization of Terror at Home and Abroad

by Chip Pitts       Saturday 10 September 2011

Bill of Rights Defense Committee ¦ Op Ed
Nation of Change

Our national character seems to have morphed into national caricature – an extreme, almost cartoon version of characteristics our nation possesses at its worst rather than its best: violence, racism, discrimination, arrogance, stupidity.

Re­spond­ing to ter­ror per­pe­trated by 19 men with box-cut­ters a decade ago, the US gov­ern­ment has now put hun­dreds of mil­lions of in­no­cent Amer­i­cans into count­less mil­i­tary, in­tel­li­gence, and law en­force­ment data­bases with­out sus­pect­ing them of any crime. The Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency eaves­drops on over 1.7 bil­lion pieces of our email, phone, and other com­mu­ni­ca­tions each day. And the gov­ern­ment has spent tril­lions of dol­lars on often worth­less “home­land” se­cu­rity bu­reau­crats and tech­nolo­gies—not to men­tion the ad­di­tional tril­lions spent on the var­i­ous de­clared and un­de­clared wars as­so­ci­ated with the on­go­ing “war on ter­ror.”

In the name of fight­ing ter­ror­ism, the gov­ern­ment has in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized a mas­sive re­sponse based on fear more than any­thing else. In the name of de­fend­ing our free­doms, our gov­ern­ment has frac­tured them as thor­oughly as the WTC tow­ers and Pen­ta­gon. In the name of en­hanc­ing se­cu­rity, it has dam­aged the au­then­tic se­cu­rity and fu­ture of the na­tion.

Pro­pa­gan­dis­ti­cally “sell­ing” the new se­cu­rity in­sti­tu­tions and tech­nolo­gies to Amer­i­cans has served the self­ish in­ter­ests of dem­a­gogic politi­cians, a con­flict-lov­ing main­stream media, and the wealthy con­trac­tors from the mil­i­tary-in­dus­trial-sur­veil­lance com­plex. But this has come at the ex­pense of every­one else in the na­tion, now and in the fu­ture. Ter­ror­ists and crim­i­nals can eas­ily evade most of these tech­nolo­gies; or­di­nary cit­i­zens won’t.

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As care­fully doc­u­mented by Dana Priest and William Arkin in their new book, Top Se­cret Amer­ica (based on the Wash­ing­ton Post se­ries of the same name), no one—not even the gov­ern­ment it­self—has any real idea how much money’s being spent or who’s doing what in these new agen­cies; and worse, they are so se­cre­tive, du­plica­tive, and in­ef­fi­cient that they sim­ply don’t work.

As with the PA­TRIOT Act it­self, mis­sion creep and the rar­ity of ac­tual ter­ror events means that these new Key­stone Cops are in­creas­ingly using these awe­some new pow­ers and tech­nolo­gies for petty crime (like en­sur­ing that pro­ceeds from neigh­bor­hood mag­a­zine sub­scrip­tion sales aren’t pock­eted) or, worse yet, for ac­tive re­pres­sion of peace­ful dis­senters, en­vi­ron­men­tal and anti-war ac­tivists, an­i­mal rights and pro- and anti-abor­tion rights ac­tivists, Tea Party mem­bers and lib­er­tar­i­ans.

The FBI, CIA, the mil­i­tary’s new North­ern Com­mand, and the top-se­cret Joint Spe­cial Op­er­a­tional Com­mand, in part­ner­ship with local po­lice, cor­po­ra­tions, and the 72 du­plica­tive and in­ef­fec­tive “fu­sion cen­ters,” use the pow­er­ful new tech­nolo­gies and sur­veil­lance au­thor­i­ties to se­cretly ac­cess our bank records, emails, air­line and other travel in­for­ma­tion. Mus­lims, im­mi­grants, African Amer­i­cans, and other eth­nic mi­nori­ties are par­tic­u­lar tar­gets. Iron­i­cally, again, the mil­i­tary and law en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties sup­pos­edly pro­tect­ing our free­doms and democ­racy are jeop­ar­diz­ing those rights and that democ­racy.

This new us-ver­sus-them, jin­go­is­tic mil­i­tarism has even crept into our pol­i­tics (just look at de­bate over drones and troops at the bor­der), TV shows (from 24 to NCIS: Naval Crim­i­nal In­ves­tiga­tive Ser­vice), music (from Lee Green­wood’s “Proud to be an Amer­i­can” to Toby Keith’s “The Angry Amer­i­can”), and movies (from Cap­tain Amer­ica to Cow­boys and Aliens). Our na­tional char­ac­ter seems to have mor­phed into na­tional car­i­ca­ture – an ex­treme, al­most car­toon ver­sion of char­ac­ter­is­tics our na­tion pos­sesses at its worst rather than its best: vi­o­lence, racism, dis­crim­i­na­tion, ar­ro­gance, stu­pid­ity.

Re­spect for rights is in­deed the only source of true se­cu­rity in our na­tion — the most di­verse in the world – es­pe­cially in a world that con­tains both newly em­pow­ered di­ver­sity and di­ver­si­fied power.

Pres­i­dent Obama has com­pounded the er­rors of Bush and Ch­eney by cyn­i­cally con­tin­u­ing es­sen­tially the same flawed ap­proaches. Most egre­giously, he has dra­mat­i­cally es­ca­lated some of the most morally and legally in­de­fen­si­ble and coun­ter­pro­duc­tive tech­niques, in­clud­ing the global drone at­tacks now con­demned even by Obama’s for­mer Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Den­nis Blair, and in­creased re­liance upon ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings or as­sas­si­na­tions that com­pletely side­step fair tri­als and due process by tar­get­ing even US cit­i­zens.

These may pro­duce some short-term “suc­cesses,” but they yield long-term cat­a­stro­phe as re­venge kicks in, those killed are quickly re­placed, fur­ther off­shoots of al Qaeda are cre­ated, both non-nu­clear na­tions like Yemen and the Philip­pines and nu­clear na­tions like Pak­istan are desta­bi­lized, and, in short, the US cre­ates more ter­ror­ists.

What Abra­ham Lin­coln noted about the ironic vul­ner­a­bil­ity of our free­doms could just as read­ily be ap­plied to our au­then­tic na­tional se­cu­rity: “Amer­ica will never be de­stroyed from the out­side. If we fal­ter and lose our free­doms, it will be be­cause we de­stroyed our­selves.”

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By Published On: September 11th, 2011Comments Off on The Legacy of 911: An Institutionalization of Terror at Home and Abroad

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