9 11 Terrorist Attacks Criminology Essay

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In response to 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, United States leaders and experts have moved quickly to initiate an action against terrorism. Thus, the Bush's Admonition has established the PATRIOT act of 2001 which intended to bolster the government's ability to conduct criminal and intelligence investigation, to separate terrorists from their sources of financial support, to bar and expel foreign terrorists from the U.S., and to address the needs to the direct victims of September 2001 (Doyle, 2001). September 2001 has dramatically demonstrated that the United States faces a real terrorist domestically and abroad and in this post 9/11 era, terrorism present a special challenge to a democratic society: how to prevent and punish ideologically-motivated violence without sacrificing freedoms and civil liberties. This study will examine several different perspectives about the PATRIOT Act and its perceived impact on freedoms and civil liberties.

Literature Review

Review of the Literature helps to determine whether the proposed topic is worth studying, and it gives insight into ways in which the researcher can limit the scope to a needed area of inquiry (Creswell, 2009). In his study, Baker (2003) underlined that terrorists should never be protected under the parameters of the Constitution of the land. Baker also stated that those who are charged with an act of terrorism should be held into indefinite detention without charge or a trial. For example, the Boston Marathon bomber should not be processed under the judicial procedures of the law; instead the government should use any methods necessary to acquire valuable information from the suspect to prevent another attack. Despite the many efforts by civil libertarians to ensure equal protection for terrorist suspects under the law, Baker emphasized that those of have been charged with an act of terrorism should not be protected under the constitution, especially when they are trying to destroy the American way of life (Baker, 2003). Using a utilitarian perspective, some people might agree that the government should resort to torture if the outcome would benefit the whole nation.

Baker's study primary goal was to determine if sacrificing freedoms and civil liberties would promote national security. In order to draw some inferences, Baker conducted a qualitative study using the case study design to provide a better understand of the problem at hand. According to Leedy and Ormrod (2010) a case study design is appropriate for learning more about a little known or poorly understood situation. After analyzing extensive data about civil liberties and freedom, Baker (2003) concluded the government should not be soft on those who are trying to hurt the nation, rather they should punish them severely in order to deter others from joining the cause.

In the contrary, Preston (2002) disagreed with the concept of torture individuals for the sake of national security. In his study which examined the first five provisions of the PATRIOT Act-The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism, Preston concluded that this Act does more harm than good. Preston further stated the first five provisions of the PARTIOT Act has affect financial institutions beyond the U.S. borders and the way that the United States conduct business transactions with foreign financial institutions in various ways (Preston, 2002). In addition, the PATRIOT Act poses great threat to citizens' civil liberties and has impacted equality in the country and increased the possibility for the degradation of freedom. Using a content analysis approach, Preston (2002) collected secondary data like newspapers, and other relevant documents and broke them down in smaller management segments in order to identifying pattern, themes or biases on the behavior of the government when it comes to protecting freedoms and civil rights.

Despite the public's opinion about protecting their civil liberties, the PATRIOT Act has allowed government officials to engage in illegal surveillance, hoping that they will gather valuable information to use in their counterterrorism efforts (Conaway, 2007). In fact, it is has been documented that intelligence agencies such as the FBI and CIA have abused the powers given to them. For example, Conaway (2007) noted that the FBI and the CIA have operated under the umbrella of the PATRIOT Act even in cases that do not have anything to do with national security. In addition, this Act has increased the domestic authority of the CIA by giving the Director of the CIA a responsibility to identify which Americans to target for illegal wiretapping and secret searches (Cole & Dempsey, 2002). Overall, the PATRIOT Act has expanded the government' ability to collect information under the rubric of investigating terrorism which transformed the landscape of the government power, and did so in ways that in fact guarantee repetition of some of law enforcement's worst abuses of the past (Cole & Dempsey, 2002).

The purpose of Preston's study was to prove to the public how their rights and the international business relationship can be impacted by the PATRIOT Act. Although, the PATRIOT Act has changed the way that government agencies have operated prior to September 2001, it also has contributed to degradation of freedom in a democracy society. Now, granted that September 2001 has revealed a vulnerability that the country has never accepted before but it has also ignited a fundamental debate about the tension between liberty and security and the government's ability to protect us within the confines of due process, respect for freedoms of speech and association and a system of government powers subject to checks and balances (Cole & Dempsey, 2002). Lustic, Beers and Luttack (2009) emphasized that it is necessary for the United States to win the war on terror but it should not been done at the expense of our freedoms and civil liberties. Letting the government to violate those rights which are supposed to be protected by the constitution would underline the true principles of a free society which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (Cole & Dempsey, 2002).

Preston's study concluded that a new agency is needed to be established with a better model that would promote the protection of civil rights. Also, Preston proposed that the new agency should assume the responsibilities of both the FBI and CIA to ensure that everyone is treated equally under the law except in extreme cases of terrorism (Preston, 2002). Nevertheless, allowing a new agency to replace the role of those foresaid agencies would create confusion in the mind of many Americans which may greatly affect our counterterrorism efforts because many citizens may lose faith in the system and stop sharing information with their local agencies about suspicious activities in their neighborhood (Martin, 2008). Citizens are the backbone of the war on terror, they often provide valuable information to local police agencies which then forward to the intelligence community to be analyzed and used in our counterterrorism efforts (Martin, 2008). Overall, Preston's study has attempted to provide an alternative method that can be used to acquire the intelligence necessary to win the war on terror without curtailing civil liberties and freedoms (Preston, 2002).

Scahill's (2006) study explored an effective approach to win the war on terror without compromising civil liberties. In order to underline such method, Scahill investigated the nature of modern terrorism, how their methods of operations have changed. For instance, modern terrorist groups seek to recruit individuals who are already living in the United States to carry out their attack because of the security layers that have been installed in the aviation industry (Scahill, 2006). Terrorists are using new means to circumvent security measures established by our government. Scahill also pointed out that our government needs to look at terrorism at a different paradigm altogether because victory will not happen as a single defining moment (Scahill, 2006). The United States is not fighting against a single group, a political regime and just religious fanatics, instead our enemies are much greater than the public can imagine. The country is fighting against a network of individuals who seek to affect a distinctly different political conduct through various means of violence and threatened violence (Scahill, 2006).

Scahill further stated that the United States need to use different strategies such as soft and hard power to change the ideology of people in countries that birth terrorist groups. Soft power is mainly being present when the other country needs our help. By doing so, citizens may start developing a different mindset of America then they will be less likely to "bite the hands that fed them". Also, hard power is using military power to provide assistance to a country that needs military assistance (Chertoff, 2011). For example, the United States sent their troops to Afghanistan to oust the Taliban out of the country and helped set up their own military forces (Chertoff, 2011). Heymann (2002) stated that the U.S. must try to improve our security against major terrorist attacks by leaning about a terrorist's network plan before its execution, frustrating their efforts and denying them access in our countries and hinder their efforts to increase their funding which is essential to their operations (Heymann, 2002).

In his qualitative study, using secondary data about the PATRIOT Act, the Domestic Security Enhancement Act (DSEA), Scahill (2006) underlined three-pronged attack on civil liberties by the government in this war on terror. Scahill Underlined that DSEA would be more effective than the PATRIOT Act because its provisions geared to limit the power of the government on civil liberties and at the same time would improve our counterterrorism efforts to diffuse threat of terrorism. DSEA understands that terrorists can strike at any time; place and such threat will not be ceased in the near future. The country's best shot at winning this thing is to change its modus of operandi by altering the ideology of those who seek to destroy America. Scahill concluded that since terrorists are either politically, economically or religious motivated, our nation should try to encourage them through peaceful dissent as an attempt to change their extremism ideology (Scahill, 2006).

In his Study, Davis (2002) discussed the dark side of the PATRIOT Act and counterterrorism's potential threat to religious freedom. The purpose of his study was to underline that some of the provisions of the PATRIOT Act can great affect the way that people worship or express themselves in this great country we call America. The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States protects the right to freedom to religion and expression, however, the PATRIOT Act placed certain restrictions on what an individual can say. In fact, a person can be prosecuted for expressing his views which violates the democratic rights of the freedom of political expression. This Act has also abuses the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution by allowing government officials to obtain private information without establishing probable cause which is the requirement to obtain a warrant (Cole & De,psey, 2002). Furthermore, the PATRIOT Act allows the government to evade the protections set forth by the constitution whenever it states that its investigation also has a significant foreign intelligence purpose (Cole & Dempsey, 2002).

The PATRIOT Act has also affected the immigration procedures in the country to the point that the government can deny entry to aliens for "pure speech" even though it does undermine U.S. efforts to combat terrorism (Cole & Dempsey, 2002). Using a phenomenological approach, Davis analyzed data which he gathered through the interviews of several participants in order to provide an understanding of the public perceptions about letting the government to violate their civil liberties when there is no guarantee that national security would be improved. Davis at last concluded that the PATRIOT Act should be revised in a way that freedoms and civil liberties would be protected. Davis highlighted that "equal vigilance is required to protect the philosophical foundations of what many consider to be, if measured by its commitment to liberty, the greatest nation in human history" (Davis, 2002, p.17).

Supporters of the PATRIOT Act have disagreed with the idea that the Act cause more harm than good. In fact, in his study which explored the advantages of the PATRIOT Act, Gould (2010) underlined that the PATRIOT Act has established the Homeland Security Information Sharing Act to promote the sharing of information between intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies and to eliminate the turf issues embedded in large bureaucracies, such as the turf that existed between the FBI and CIA which was a major contributor to the intelligence failure of 9/11. Gould also described the primary goal of the Security Information Sharing Act is to "seek to balance and reconcile the needs of State and local personnel to have access to timely and relevant homeland security information to combat terrorism with the need to protect and safeguard both classified and sensitive but unclassified information" (Gould, 2010, p. 76). However, recently there have been many concerns about obtaining the proper clearance to access information. For instance, at the local level only a few sheriffs and police chiefs receive access to the intelligence databases and they only have read-only access which makes it harder to pass relevant information to the intelligence community (Gould, 2010). Another concern is once information is disseminated to the lower level of government; the Constitution compels the state and local government to reveal the sources for their information for any case that they wish to prosecute (Gould, 2010).Having the right information at the right time enable politicians to make informed decisions about national security issues and the country's welfare would not be compromised.

Gould (2010) overall concluded that the PATRIOT Act has created a clear path that the government needed to prevent another attack as September 2001. This Act has also allowed drastic governmental changes to take place to make the country safer in the future. Nevertheless, Preston (2002) disagreed with the unconventional methods and proposed that the government must concentrate on the roots of terrorism and at the same time retain the principles of freedom upon which the country was founded.


The PATRIOT Act which was established as an approach to promote national security has been criticized as a failed policy that caused more harm than good. Those who opposed the Act believed that it trampled on the First, Fourth and Fourteen Amendments of the constitution by allowing government officials to carry out investigations without any oversight of the government. Furthermore, those citizens believed that the PATRIOT Act should be reenacted to ensure the protection of civil liberties and the government should employ alternative approaches such as the soft and hard power approach to change the extremism ideology in order to win the war on terror. However, those who support the Act felt that it is an effective policy to fight the war on terror and they justified their reasoning by indicated that life is more important than civil rights.