9/11 fallout: Americans must take stock of the threat to freedom

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The 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York, Washington and Somerset County by al-Qaida terrorists reminds the United States of the life-changing aspects of what happened that day.

It is useful that Americans are probably more vigilant as a result of the fatal assaults. Unfortunately, repeated words of caution and fear are frequently used by politicians and others to further their own ambitions.

The length of the ensuing Afghanistan War and the Iraq War, with the loss of life and expenditure of resources, is attributable to the 9/11 attacks. It is inconceivable that the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama could have initiated or maintained either conflict if there had been no 9/11 and resulting U.S. insecurity.

In spite of the work begun by Mr. Bush to remind Americans that Muslims in the United States are among the country's first defenders against destructive acts by Islamist extremists, the image of America as a free, multifaith nation has been damaged nonetheless by governmental bodies such as the New York Police Department in its treatment of American Muslims.

The members of the NYPD were among the honored heroes of 9/11, yet the department's record has been smudged by its overly aggressive efforts to label mosques as terrorist, record sermons in them and tail the mosques' clergymen.

Competing with the work of the Transportation Security Administration at airports, railroad and bus stations for the greatest post-9/11 intrusions into Americans' lives is the domestic snooping of the National Security Agency. The latest revelation is that the NSA routinely penetrates the encryption protection that Internet providers promise their clients. That means medical records, financial data, phone calls and personal messages sent by e-mail are available to government bureaucrats.

What a comforting thought. Even if the average American might not care about the loss of privacy, who pays for all this? The answer, of course, is the taxpayer. And who would be prepared to have confidence in the discretion and ability of these government employees to protect the private information they are harvesting?

It isn't enough to say that is what 9/11 cost the United States. It is now way past time to walk the obsession with security back a bit and restore to Americans their freedoms, including privacy.



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