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September 11: An Attack on Privacy and Civil Liberties

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Abstract: On September Eleventh, terrorists attacked more than the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and rural Pennsylvania. They also attacked American ideologies and feelings of security that hundreds of years had built. Before these tragedies occurred, Americans viewed themselves as individuals and cherished the remnants of their individual lives that technology had not stolen from them. Now Americans are coming together in mourning, and, in the process, changing their views on the individual and the balance between privacy and security. This paper looks at how America has changed its stance on the privacy debate.

The target of the hijackers September eleventh was not the World Trade Center nor was it the Pentagon or the White House. The intent of the attacks was more than murdering innocent Americans and destroying billions in property. Instead, it was an attack on symbolic monuments of American culture: pride, security, stability, democracy and prosperity. When the terrorists struck September eleventh, their aims were to change American society from one that prided itself on its continued fight for civil liberties to one where the populace is willing to sacrifice those very ideals and liberties to create a faint veil of security and, in this regard, the terrorists were successful.

The definition of "terrorism", according to Webster's dictionary, is "the systematic use of violence as a means to intimidate or coerce societies or governments"[1]. The September 11th attacks have fulfilled this definition of terrorism. The attacks were aimed to radically change Americans' views of security and, beyond that, Americans' sense of freedom. Follow-up evidence suggests that the attacks were successful in achieving th...

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...fs Reassessed." Ariana Eunjung Cha and Jonathan Krim. Washington Post. September 13, 2001. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A21207-2001Sep12.html

[5] "Newsweek Poll: Bush Soars." Jane Spencer. Newsweek special on MSNBC.com September 15, 2001 http://www.msnbc.com/news/629455.asp

[6] "Living Under an Electronic Eye." Lisa Guernsey. New York Times. September 27, 2001.

[7] "Americans back encryption controls." Wendy McAuliffe. CNET special on MSNBC.com September 18, 2001 http://www.msnbc.com/news/630646.asp

[8] "Terrorist threat shifts priorities in online rights debate." Stephanie Olsen and Evan Hansen. CNET News.com September 17, 2001. http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-201-7149229-0.html

[9] "Send in the online spooks?" Katharine Mieszkowski. Salon.com September 14, 2001. http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2001/09/14/privacy/index.html
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