In an address to Congress just days after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush declared that the country was attacked because the terrorists hated our freedom. Seventeen years have now passed, and our freedom has never been in greater danger, but the danger isn’t from terrorists hiding in caves thousands of miles away; it’s from bureaucrats and politicians living in Washington D.C., who used the 9/11 attacks as a catalyst to turn the United States into an Orwellian police state.
Aside from the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan (which is now the longest ongoing war in American history) that used 9/11 as a casus belli (despite neither country having anything to do with the attacks), the September 11 attacks’ main legacy on the home front is the political changes it helped spur, namely the passing of the poorly named Patriot Act.
Former Congressman Ron Paul detailed the passing of the so-called Patriot Act in his book Liberty Defined, where he explained how a little over a month after 9/11 the 300-page bill was only available for reading one hour before debate began. Paul wrote that many of its aspects having been proposed before in previous bills by who he describes as neoconservatives, a clique of so-called “conservatives” who believe in an interventionism and are general warmongers. What was different this time was that after the attacks the American public’s fear was palpable, which the opportunistic neocons took advantage of to offer Americans the illusion of security in exchange for their liberty.
The Patriot Act massively expanded the government’s powers to violate the Fourth Amendment and spy on American citizens without any reasonable suspicion, (the only justification needed is a claim that the investigation is related to terrorism), created a new crime called “domestic terrorism” (which is any action that may cause harm to human life), and too many more infringements to list here.
Politician defenders of the Patriot Act like former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich frequently assert that the Patriot is necessary for keeping Americans safe from terrorism. Their reasoning is that no terrorist attacks on the scale of 9/11 have occurred since the Patriot Act’s passing. Though they ignore the fact that no terrorist attack the scale of 9/11 has happened aside from 9/11 itself has occurred before the passing of the bill either.
Those who remain unconvinced and are still comfortable with the government’s numerous rights violation and are willing to trade their liberty in exchange for security will be dismayed to find out that their Faustian bargain was in vain, as the government isn’t particularly good at protecting its own citizens. Using the TSA as an example again; according to an internal investigation the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which was also created in response to 9/11, failed to detect 95 percent of the weapons and fake explosives that were smuggled through their security checkpoints by investigators.
Even though the alleged mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, has long been dead, the so-called War on Terror still rages on, and has only gotten worse. Al-Qaeda’s leadership has been drone struck to smithereens by the Obama administration, a process that killed nearly 3,000 civilians in Pakistan alone (coincidentally roughly the number of Americans killed in the 9/11 attacks), which allowed ISIS to take its place and use the tragedies created by the US’ bombing campaign to fuel their rhetoric and fill their ranks. While Europe has received much of the brunt of ISIS-affiliated terror attacks, events like the San Bernadino and Orlando Night Club massacres illustrate that after 17 years of waging war against an idea, terrorism, no progress has been made.
On September 11, 2001, New Yorkers saw hijacked planes crash into a beloved fixture of their city, along with the deaths of thousands of their fellow denizens. Seventeen years later, advocates of personal liberty look back and see 9/11 as a catalyst for a hijacked government that crashed into a beloved fixture of freedom in our country, the Bill of Rights, along with millions of fellow Americans having their civil liberties violated in the name of fighting the idea of terrorism. Is there still a chance for a majority of Americans to wake up and realize that the War on Terror is a war on freedom, or was Benjamin Franklin correct when he said “They who can give up essential Liberty to obtain a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
Vincent Moore can be contacted at