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How have security changes impacted your life? What changes would you make (more or less restrictive regulations)? Finally, how do you balance homeland security with civil liberties?

Discussion Leader: 
Dr. Margaret E. Kosal
Posted Date: 9/07/2015

On September 11, 2001, the United States faced a catastrophic terrorist attack on our own soil. This attack reshaped many aspects of U.S. policies and practices to prevent terrorism and other threats. Some changes were designed to enhance travel security, strengthen border protection, enforce immigration and deportation regulations and enact stricter legislation for surveillance and obstruction of terrorist activities. These changes were designed to help the United States prepare for, respond to and recover from terrorism activities.

This question is multi-faceted this week; also, please remember to follow the discussion guidelines and remain respectful and on topic.

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Welcome to HDIAC's new Question of the Week, which I’ve been asked to introduce and moderate.

I’m Dr. Maggie Kosal, Associate Professor of International Affairs in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech, where I direct of the Sam Nunn Security Program and the Army War College Senior Service Fellows Program here. I recently returned to GT after serving as a senior advisor to the Chief of Staff of the US Army and previously served as Science and Technology Advisor within the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). Further back, I co-founded a sensor company, leading research on medical, biological, chemical, and explosive detection.

My research explores the relationships among technology, strategy, and governance, in which I focus on two, often intersecting, areas: reducing the threat of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and understanding the role of emerging technologies for security.

This week’s question is broad and cross-cutting. Look forward to the discussion among the community.

Dr. Kosal, 

Thank you for moderating this week. I remember standing in my dorm room on 9/11/01 and watching with a handful of people as the plane hit the second tower. It was a shocking, scary day and there was a lot of fear on my college campus in the following weeks. 

I think some of that fear has abated, but it will never go away. There exists a need to protect the United States and its citizens from terrorism while not sacrificing liberty. The Patriot Act quickly passed through Congress within 2 months of 9/11 and broadened the government's powers for surveillance and widened the scope of some criminal laws. We heard a lot more about Guantanamo Bay and there was a big focus on preventing terrorist attacks. Concerns of government secrecy continue to be brought to the forefront with both the Bush and Obama administrations.

But, this is a hard question to answer, because, while I know there have been many changes in security, most of them have not affected me. Or, they have affected me in such a minor way that I don't notice them anymore. Perhaps it's also that my generation has really grown up in a world that is completely different than the generations before us, and therefore we think of these security changes as normal?  

Showing my age, or lack there-of, my elementary school was watching the morning news, as always, during the attacks on 9/11. Being young and naive, that was the first time I remember being aware that Americans did not have a golden image across all countries.
I have felt the implications in my daily life, partly because I am working on my Masters in National Security, but also due to having dealt with immigration for a year-long period regarding me bringing my wife back stateside as well as my own travels overseas. There is the balance of being irritated with immigration, but at the same time needing to be understanding to their plight.
As someone who loves traveling, I have been aware of American perception and made adjustments to my habits when overseas. Back when I first traveled overseas, my backpack used to contain solely an American flag, but being a sturdier, military-esque styled bag, I quickly covered it with other patches from other countries I visited to draw attention away from my nationality. The original intention was to find my bag at the airport, not stand out as an American tourist, or perhaps worse be mistaken for a military personnel and become a potential target. Some countries show adoration to Americans, you might get a local to buy you a beer in Saigon for example, yet not all countries share the same opinions of Americans. I recall lying to a cab driver about my nationality in Turkey, as he asked where our group was from (May have been innocent enough, but I was the lone American of the group and was not leaving it to chance).

I too very vividly remember watching the towers fall on 9/11. It was the first time I had really considered that America might be vulnerable in some way. The increased security measures and Patriot Act following 9/11 have never bothered me. I'm happy to be slightly inconvienced at the airport if it can save lives. In the same vein, I don't mind giving up a few individual liberties to keep this country safe. I think we're at a good balance right now, and I hope it will continue to keep us all safe.

I remember the morning of September 11th, 2001 vividly. I was working night shift at a trucking company in Chattanooga, Tennessee at the time and had left work at 6 AM. I was and had gone to the Red Cross of Hamilton County after work to make a donation when American Airlines Flight 11 hit the North Tower. The Today Show was on in the donation room and I remember the initial confusion and supposition that the event was the result of an accident; I immediately rejected that theory and knew it was an act of terrorism. When United Flight 175 hit the South Tower 15 minutes later all speculation of an accident ceased. I watched the second plane hit on live on television and will never forget the chill that ran down my spine at that moment. I knew the world had changed forever in an instant.

I listened to the rest of the mornings events unfold on the radio as I drove home. The Chattanooga airport, Lovell Field, is a tiny facility that normally serves only commuter planes and is so small that Lee Highway, one of the main roads in Chattanooga, is only 50 yards or so from the end of the runway. It was announced on the radio that the FAA had ordered all planes to land at the closest possible airport around 9:45. I was sitting at a red light on Lee Highway when a huge, beautiful American Airlines 767 roared over the top of my car, so close it seemed like I could have touched it. I looked at the horizon behind the jet and counted seven more large airliners on approach to land at this tiny airport. The reason this memory is so clear to me is that my first reaction to seeing and hearing the plane that morning was something I would have never believed possible: fear. No one knew how many planes had been hijacked or what would happen next, so who knew if even a small city like Chattanooga was a target?

In the years following 9-11-01 many new measures were taken to keep America safe from further attack. At the time these changes all seemed prudent and even necessary but as the years have rolled past unforeseen effects have taken place. First, I never understood the connection of 9/11 to the Iraq War. The theory that the world would be a better place with Saddam Hussein dead rather alive is in my opinion hard to argue with and if we had reason to believe Saddam was building weapons of mass destruction I support dealing with him, but using 9/11 as a rallying point for his demise was dishonest and misleading. Our mission in Afghanistan to remove the Taliban from power and dislodge Osama Bin Laden was just but it is amazing to me that we have spent the last 13 years in a futile nation building effort that history has taught us will crumble to the ground as soon as our military forces leave, just as our efforts failed in South Vietnam 40 years ago. The provisions of the Patriot Act that allowed terrorist activities to be traced through monitoring of cell phones and emails has allowed for the capture of senior Al-Qaeda officials and stopped multiple bombing plots but has been expanded into the greatest violation of privacy rights in history through the activities of the NSA.

In sum, I think that the honorable intentions of the measures taken after 9/11 have been in many cases expanded upon unjustly and have entered into areas for which they were not intended. This expansion on original intentions, referred to in military terms as mission creep, has become worrisome and counter-productive.

Chandler White


The September 11 terrorist attack exposed weaknesses in our national security and the United States responded to the attack by enabling anti-terrorism practices and policies, including in aviation security and border/immigration control.


After the attack, the American population realized the existence of threats from around the world, and began to place a higher value on protection over civil liberties. Shortly after 9/11, the population polled in a Pew Research study believed that it was necessary to give up civil liberties to curb terrorism (55% necessary, 35% not necessary); however, in a 2011 poll, more Americans believed that it was not necessary for the average person to sacrifice civil liberties to curb terrorism (40% necessary, 54% not necessary). [1]  Anti-terrorism policies and practices that have occurred since 9/11 still have much of the population divided, such as extensive security checks in travel, monitoring communications, and acquiring data from online activities (e.g. purchases, weblogs, etc.). [2]


In our system there is a series of checks and balances that ensure the balance between security and liberty. We are seeing a shift in views because it is a natural reactive response to a threat to want an aggressive approach to security/protection, and when the active presence of the threat is eliminated, we favor a less restrictive approach to security.  As a nation, we have to take proactive measures to prevent future attacks, while balancing the right for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  I think that areas we can improve on to maintain the balance between security and liberty is better organization and transparency with intelligence agencies and creating global strategic solutions.


Although the threat to our nation in the 9/11 attack was from Islamist terrorists, terrorism is not from one location, cultural group, or individual. As a nation, I think we must protect our borders and transportation systems using technology such as surveillance monitoring and biometrics indicators; however, I think we need to promote our intentions, such as not using personal data for business opportunities, timeframes on keeping data, and provide clear rules and regulations on what is monitored. Also, emergency preparedness teams, Also, To stop terrorism, we must communicate with other countries because no nations are immune to this treat.