It’s hard to overstate the changes wrought on everyday Americans following the events of Sept. 11, 2001, which included the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a fourth plane downed over Pennsylvania.
Most of the changes have not greatly affected the ability of Islamic terrorists to get into the country and harm Americans, say civil-liberties advocates. The bulk of the burden of the new laws and regulations has been shouldered by native-born Americans while potential jihadists find it easier than ever to enter as refugees, asylum seekers, students, tourists and work-related visa holders, says Robert Spencer, author of the JihadWatch blog and numerous books about Islam.
“That was a direct consequence of the official denial that Islam and jihad had anything to do with terrorism,” Spencer told WND. “That meant that some other terrorists had to be found to justify the regulations, even if sometimes by well-intentioned people who intended to use the laws to investigate and prosecute jihadists but knew they could not get them over except by speaking about ‘militias’ and ‘right-wing’ extremists. This played into the hands of the left’s agenda to demonize the right and associate it with terrorism.”
This demonization of the right as “terrorists” is something the left has always sought to achieve but 9/11 made it much easier.
“They ruled the arguments of the right outside the realm of acceptable discourse, while simultaneously whitewashing the jihad threat,” Spencer said.
Anti-Shariah activist Pamela Geller lays most of the blame at the feet of the Obama administration.
“Ever since its inception, the Obama administration has been determined to portray ‘right-wing extremists’ as presenting a greater terror threat than Islamic jihadists,” she told WND. “So it was inevitable that these laws would be misused and misapplied, and the fact that this has been done is more evidence of Obama’s criminal, and indeed treasonous, malfeasance.”
Here are 10 ways federal laws, regulations and policies changed as a direct result of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001:
1. Creation of the Department of Homeland Security
The creation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2002 has placed new regulations on everything from border security to natural-disaster management and has become the overarching mega-agency to emerge from the attacks. The department absorbed and reorganized 22 existing agencies that deal with domestic safety, law enforcement and immigration. But the borders are as wide open as ever, despite all the new agents and layers of bureaucracy, and the number of both legal and illegal immigrants coming from jihadist hotbeds in the Middle East and Africa has skyrocketed under the Obama administration.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, says the federal government has been “doing less with more” in terms of border security in recent years.
“The State Department continues to issue tens of thousands of visas annually to citizens of countries that refuse to take back their countrymen who are ordered removed from the United States. Many of these are violent criminals,” she wrote in a report for CIS.
Edward McAndrew, a partner at Ballard Spahr, told National Law Journal that DHS and the ability it has developed to share information across government agencies and with the private sector, has provided a new model for the federal government in tackling other emerging threats that have nothing to do with Islamic terrorism. It created a new “paradigm” that is now being used in other ways and against other threats, said McAndrew, such as cybersecurity.
2. Transportation Security Administration
Men and women in government-issued blue uniforms now police our airports, becoming one of the most visible ramifications of 9/11. Where airports previously had used private security guards, Congress gave this agency sweeping authority to perform warrantless searches, pat downs [including sensitive body parts], scan and log the facial features and apprehend American citizens of all ages. Wide-ranging regulations went into effect banning liquids and other items on planes. But anything that came close to “profiling” of Middle Eastern men like the ones who carried out the attacks of 9/11 was strictly forbidden.
3. USA Patriot Act and anti-money-laundering rules
The USA Patriot Act was passed by Congress a little over a month after 9/11 and most of its tentacles remain in place today. It amended numerous existing laws including the federal anti-money-laundering statute and the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, supposedly making them tougher on terrorists. But the laws clearly led to less privacy and freedom for regular Americans, according to the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties organization based in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Among the sweeping provisions in the revised Bank Secrecy Act is a section requiring data exchanges between banks and policing agencies both in the U.S. and abroad when they believe a business or individual is involved in terrorism or money laundering, according to National Law Journal. This allows the government a “more complete picture,” of everyone’s finances.
The government also greatly expanded its ability to seize Americans’ cash after 9/11.
“The government gives itself the right to your property, carried out under the guise of civil asset forfeiture,” reports John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute. This is “a government practice wherein government agents (usually the police) seize private property they ‘suspect’ may be connected to criminal activity. This more often than not has nothing to do with fighting terrorism.
“Then, whether or not any crime is actually proven to have taken place, the government keeps the citizen’s property,” Whitehead writes.
4. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
The period after 9/11 also saw major changes – and major controversy – around privacy, as spotlighted by government snitch Edward Snowden. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which created a secret court, was amended in both 2001 and 2008, lowering the legal bar for the government to engage in wiretapping and other surveillance practices, National Law Journal reports. It is also widely documented that the National Security Agency or NSA turned inward after 9/11, going from an agency that spied on foreign governments and foreign terrorists to one that often tracks communications of American citizens here at home, and often without a warrant, according to the charges of Snowden and others.
5. Stepped-up anti-terrorism prosecutions under material support laws
The so-called “material support” laws expand anti-terror efforts by allowing the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute not only terrorists, but those who provide support such as money, training and weaponry to terrorists. While this has been a valuable tool in prosecuting terrorists, the Obama administration’s persistent attempt to expand the definition of terrorism to include home-grown “right wing” extremists has opened the possibility that these “material support” laws could one day be used against regular conservative Americans who donate money to groups deemed “extremist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other tools of the left. The Obama administration has increasingly sought to turn the post-11 government security apparatus against so-called “right wing extremists,” a process which WND has extensively documented.
For instance, WND reported in August 2015 that a leaked FBI memo directed state and local law enforcement to be on the lookout for the next big terrorist attack, which it said was likely to be perpetrated by right wing “militias” against Muslim Americans. It blamed Fox News, WND, Western Journalism Center and blogger Pamela Geller for fueling the militia groups. This memo came out even as the FBI was reporting it had nearly 1,000 active ISIS investigations in all 50 states. To date none of the fears about “militias” attacking Muslims have been borne out as justified but attacks by Islamists inspired by ISIS have continued, with the most recent being the one that killed nearly 50 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
“The priorities are upside-down, with all the jihadist violence taking place, right-wing militias are the threat and Muslims are the victims? Give me a break,” Jamie Glazov, a Canadian commentator specializing in Russian and Islamist studies, told WND following the revelation about the leaked FBI memo. “Where exactly has anything like this happened?”
6. Drones, drones and more drones
It is estimated that at least 30,000 drones will be airborne in American airspace by 2020, part of an $80 billion industry. “Although some drones will be used for benevolent purposes, many will also be equipped with lasers, Tasers and facial scanning devices, among other weapons – all aimed at ‘we the people,'” Whitehead reports.
7. Electronic surveillance
Whitehead calls it the “electronic concentration camp.” Others refer to it as the surveillance state. Regardless of what you call it, “all aspects of a person’s life are policed by government agents and all citizens are suspects, their activities monitored and regulated, their movements tracked, their communications spied upon, and their lives, liberties and pursuit of happiness dependent on the government’s say-so,” Whitehead writes.
8. Fusion Centers
These data-collecting agencies popped up throughout the nation. Aided by the NSA, they serve as a clearinghouse for information shared between state, local and federal agencies. These fusion centers constantly monitor our communications, everything from our Internet activity and web searches to text messages, phone calls and emails, Whitehead reports. “This data is then fed to government agencies, which are now interconnected: the CIA to the FBI, the FBI to local police.”
9. Grenade launchers and global police
The federal government has distributed more than $18 billion worth of battlefield-appropriate military weapons, vehicles and equipment such as drones, tanks, and grenade launchers to domestic police departments across the country, according to the Rutherford Institute. “As a result, most small-town police forces now have enough firepower to render any citizen resistance futile. Now take those small-town police forces, train them to look and act like the military, and then enlist them to be part of the United Nations’ Strong Cities Network program, and you not only have a standing army that operates beyond the reach of the Constitution but one that is part of a global police force,” Whitehead says.
10. Hollow-point bullets
The government’s efforts to militarize and weaponize its agencies and employees is reaching epic proportions, with federal agencies as varied as the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration stockpiling millions of lethal hollow-point bullets, which Whitehead and others say violate national and international law. “Ironically, while the government continues to push for stricter gun laws for the general populace, the U.S. military’s arsenal of weapons makes the average American’s handgun look like a Tinker Toy,” says Whitehead.