A black day in the history of America, September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks took the world by storm, and exposed the vulnerability of the most powerful country in the world. With two hijacked planes bringing down the two most iconic towers of new York, a plane attack on the pentagon and a foiled attack with a plane crashing into the ground in Pennsylvania, it led to the demise of about 3000 people. The efficient rescue operations helped clear the WTC site by the end of May 2002 and forever etched the names Al-Qaeda and Osama bin laden into the minds of the world. It changed not only America but also the entire world with the threat of terror striking terror in every heart. Some of the major changes that happened in America since the 9/11 attacks are:
10. Increase in the National debt
One of the wealthiest economies in the world, America’s economy was adversely affected by the attacks. The national debt of America post the war increased to a great extent, due to increased spending on health and defense. The creation of several new security agencies also prompted the United States to spend more money to keep its eyes and ears open, and monitor all activities going on and detect any possible threats. Newer and advanced technology, better coverage and adoption of a more defensive military policy and the many wars, led to more government spending. Apart from this, unemployment rose post this disaster causing the government to reduce personal taxes putting further strain on the fiscal policy and increasing debt structure. Since then the economic structure of USA has been going downhill with the Lehman Brother’s crisis in 2008 – 2009 and with the debt ceiling crisis causing the government parties to be at loggerheads, the economic effects might be worse than known.
9. University Education
Their effect on the American schools and colleges changed the campuses as well as the education trend. The fastest growing area of study became domestic security and several new courses have come up since then all related to what happened on 9/11. From psychology classes to examine the psychology of terrorists as well as one to provide relief to veterans, victims and family members through “Psychology of combat and conflict”, to emergency response studies during mass causality disasters.
8. Less dependence on foreign fuel
The large dependence of America on the Middle East countries for its fuel requirements came down post the 9/11 attacks. After 9/11 attacks George bush addressed the nation by saying and I quote, “As we gather tonight, our nation is at war; our economy is in recession; and the civilized world faces unprecedented dangers”. His address mainly was concerned with the dependence of America on oil which they reduced by increasing domestic production. 9/11 led to a considerable alteration and development of energy policy. In 2005, the energy policy act for automobiles stipulated the renewable fuel Standard (RFS), which has since then undergone changes in 2007 and then in 2010. Under the Obama government, this policy was continued with a presidential memorandum in 2011 to convert to 100 percent alternative fuel vehicles by the end of 2015, and reduce petroleum usage by 30% by 2020. A catalyst for developing bio fuel , the 9/11 completely changed the energy scene of America.
7. Military action
The 9/11 was such a huge shock to America; it caused fear not only among the people but the government as well which drastically changed its military stance to eliminate threats before they happened. The then president George Bush created a missile shield over parts of Europe, for security from a probable attack against North Korea or Iran. Also known as the Bush doctrine, emphasis was laid on preventive action against eminent threat, hence a war on terror was begun with the Iraqi invasion due to fear of it possessing weapons of mass destruction, leading to the execution of the dictator Saddam Hussein, and the increased military presence in Afghanistan to combat the Taliban, the source of all the terrorist activities. The term war on terror was coined by president bush in 2001 and since then represents the efforts by USA as well as other countries to fight militant Islamism groups- Al Qaeda and other jihadi groups. One of the major victories of America happened recently with the killing of Osama bin laden.
With a view to prevent another hijacking, the rules for air travel became very stringent and particular with greater security checks. The aviation and transportation security act was passed by the congress to federalize the airport security. From checking shoes to banning any liquids like water, shampoos, sodas, deodorants in handbags , and even remotely sharp objects that can be perceived as weapons such as long umbrellas, airport rules have become a nightmare for passengers. Body scanners and separate screening for electronic items aside, law enforcement can randomly search people or bags at checkpoints. Of course, added security is for the benefit of the passengers, but more often than not, it has led to unnecessary detentions in the name of suspected terrorist activities. Recently, the desire of the government to use full body scanners in airports to allow airport authorities to be able to find any concealed weapons became a hot topic of discussion due to an issue of privacy. Not just air travel, but travel via trains and buses also became more hassled due to baggage screenings and the likes.
The anti Muslim sentiment that grew after 9/11 changed the outlook of most Americans towards Islam to a huge extent. Not only were Muslims targeted at airports for extra checkups, but there were reports of several Muslims who were illegally detained by the government security agencies for months and tortured for alleged terrorist connections. The word Islam became synonymous with dirty, and apart from just officials keeping a watchful eye on Muslims and treating them as criminals, even people had begun to see them in a negative light with hate crimes committed against them. Several laws abiding Muslims had to bear the brunt of this sentiment with several being attacked by gangs and being victims of arson, threats and vandalism.
4. Ground zero
The most significant change after the 9/11 was the gaping empty space that was all that was left over of the grand World trade center twin towers which came crumbling down that day. Called as ground zero this empty area became a memorial site to honor the loved ones who perished that day. In March 11 2002, 88 searchlights were arranged in a way that two beams appear to shoot into the sky called as the tribute in light. It was lit everyday till April 14 2002 and since then it was lit on the anniversary of the attack i.e. 11 September. But reconstruction of these iconic towers is underway with about seven buildings to be built at the site.
Stellar wind is a code name for the activities that the United States security agency performed after the 9/11 attacks. The threat of terror became so large in the wake of this terror event, that security became a greater priority for the American government than privacy. The debate about this is still on, since leaked reports about the government keeping a record of all calls made; monitoring internet activities from sites visited to e- mails sent as well as financial activity has led to a huge public furor. The operation was approved by bush immediately after the 9/11 attacks but was termed illegal by the U.S justice department and in recent times the Obama government’s similar activities were uncovered and it has been reported that the government agencies have been maintaining a database of all calls placed in the country since 9/11.
2. Department of Homeland Security
The major change that happened since the attacks was the creation of the department of homeland security under the bush government after passing of the Homeland security act. A department of the federal government of the USA, it was created with the aim of protecting the country from terrorist threats as well as to respond to natural disasters. The third largest cabinet-level department under the federal government, the DHS oversees other agencies such as the ones dealing with immigration, i.e. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and U.S. Customs and Border. The homeland security policy is coordinated by the homeland security council. With introduction of stricter laws for immigrants, the number of deportations since 2001 has steadily increased especially criminal deportations.
1. Immigration system
Earlier where immigration of migrants from Mexico and Central America to USA for work was easy and happened in large numbers suddenly became a national priority post 9/11. The excess scrutinizing of Muslim, Arab and South Asian individuals led to a huge number of detentions and deportations. The rules for issuing temporary visas to businessmen, tourists and even students became stricter, and recent technological advancements began to be used to develop machine readable and tamper proof visas. The NSEERS or the national security entry exit registration systems was developed in 2002 by the Department Of Justice as a program to register nonimmigrants and non-citizens from 25 countries given a status of threat with respect to terror. Even for people applying for asylum or green card the rules for non-entry with respect to terror threats was expanded.