Today marks the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks. What, if anything, have we learned? In a Saturday statement, President Obama struck an upbeat note: “The legacy of 9/11,” he said, is “the ability to say with confidence that no adversary and no act of terrorism can change who we are.”
Who’s he kidding? For us ordinary schlubs who don’t own our own planes, a trip to the airport provides less reason for optimism. We shuffle shoeless through the security line, at the end of which government agents will either grope us or look at us naked. And despite his campaign trail promises to “set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers,” Obama has forged an expanded “Terror Presidency,” with dangerous new powers for all future presidents to wield.
Sept. 11th has changed America radically — and not for the better.
As security analysts John Mueller (a Cato senior fellow) and Mark G. Stewart point out in an important new article in International Security, it’s far from clear that any of this was necessary. Though the FBI initially insisted America was riddled with up to 5,000 trained Al Qaeda operatives, an internal agency memorandum, leaked in 2005, admitted that “To date, we have not identified any true ‘sleeper’ agents in the US.” At a certain point, Mueller and Stewart suggest, the absence of evidence becomes evidence of absence.
Last Thanksgiving, the Department of Homeland Security earned a lot of Twitter snark for its video warning Americans of the dangers of deep-frying turkeys. But turkey fryers kill about five Americans a year; jihadists have killed about 16 here since 9/11.
CONTINUED at Reason. Written by Gene Healy.