Armed Hostilities

Did America Over Reacted to the 9/11 Attacks?

Table of Contents
  1. Introduction
  2. Factors that contributed to 9/11 Attacks
  3. Why Americans overreacted to 9/11 attacks
  4. Expanding police surveillance
  5. Major Federal Surveillance Statutes
  6. The impact of 9/11 attacks on the Public health System
  7. The responses of Muslims
  8. Reference


September 11, 2001, was the day when terrorists changed American’s history. The terrorists potentially delivered merciless attacks on US soil and claimed thousands of innocent lives. To this day, some of the victims are still missing. After the malicious attacks, American people grew closer and offered each other helping hands. The nation was united after the attack. The attacks left America deeply wounded, and it has been over ten years since the violent strikes occurred. The nation is still suffering from the consequences of what happened.

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Factors that contributed to 9/11 Attacks

The 9/11 terrorist attacks on the twin towers revealed severe faults in the United States’ visa management systems and aviation industry. The 9/11 terror masterminds studied these faults well and turned commercial airplanes into guided weapons (Nacos, 2003, p. 3). The new security measures introduced by the Congress (US Patriotic Act) have made air travel much safer. However, the administration has not revamped the visa system to make it more efficient and accountable. Congress has not enacted new regulations to address the problem; five years after the 9/11 Commission made its recommendations to improve the visa system and mitigate future terrorist attacks. The enormous bureaucratic hiccups on security apparatuses also created security flaws that the terrorists exploited to launch the attack.

These flaws were revealed when Al Qaeda’s terrorist cell in Yemen was able to board a previously-flagged terrorist suspect onto a US-bound plane. It was alleged that communication mishaps among the law enforcement agencies failed to stop the suspect from boarding the plane. Consequently, Congress needs to implement changes proposed by the 9/11 Commission in order to streamline intelligence apparatuses and reduce levels of bureaucrats. Failure to do this, terrorists will be again in the same fashion (Nacos, 2003, p. 8).

Why Americans overreacted to 9/11 attacks

Many people believe that Americans overreacted to the 9/11 attacks, and for that reason, the Bush administration launched swift military actions against Afghanistan and later Iraq to seek justice. In addition, American citizens launched attacks on Arabs living in the US in retaliation. Swahn and Frazier (2003) reported an increase in violent attacks on Middle Easterners after the 9/11 attacks. According to an FBI report, there was undeniably a dramatic rise in the number of aggression incidences inspired by a bias towards Islam after the attacks (p.187). In fact, the FBI stated that anti-Islamic hate crime attacks rose by 1700% between 2000 and 2001. The dramatic increase was ascribed to the 9/11 terrorist attacks (Swahn & Frazier, 2003, p.188).

Expanding police surveillance

A number of political analysts claim that the US has experienced a dramatic shift in the balance between civil rights and police surveillance authority since the 9/11 attacks. The 9/11 attacks compelled the federal government to enact laws that widened police surveillance and search authority. According to Entman (2003), US law enforcement agencies have altered their surveillance practices and operational strategies to give more emphasis on intelligence gathering (p.215).

After the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration sought public and congressional approval to launch a war on terror campaign (Entman, 2003, p. 415). Several legislations were either introduced or modified to enable law enforcement agencies to combat terrorism effectively. The enactment of new anti-terrorism laws that gave law enforcement agencies unrivaled surveillance, investigative, and seizure authority increased after the 9/11 attacks. The contemporary worldwide terrorism has thus compelled law enforcement agencies to assess public risk and adjust their mode of operations to react to potential terrorist threats. As part of their operational strategies, law enforcement agencies have expanded their scope of surveillance and intelligence gathering to prevent future terrorist attacks (Entman, 2003, p. 419).

Major Federal Surveillance Statutes

After the 9/11 attacks, the US Congress amended a number of federal statutes that gave law enforcement agencies more powers to conduct surveillance and access personal information. For example, Congress enacted the USA Patriotic Act of 2001 that empowered law enforcement agencies to interrupt and thwart future terrorist attacks (Whitehead & Aden, 2002, p.1082). The Patriotic Act adjusted 15 federal statutes, aiming mainly on counter-terrorism and overseas intelligence.

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The Act was thus used to effect statutory surveillance adjustments. For instance, the US Patriotic Act (2001) empowered Homeland Security and FBI to collect private information from citizens. It also allowed law enforcement agencies to gather both domestic and foreign intelligence related to terrorism. These adjustments widened the net on probable unlawful acts or actors, thus enlarging the ability of the law enforcement agents (such as FBI) to carry out surveillance in a wider range of suspected unlawful activities (Whitehead & Aden, 2002, p.1091).

The Patriotic Act adjustments also expanded the FBI’s investigative abilities by diminishing a number of lawful constraints of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act (1968). It permitted the FBI to request wiretap search warrants from the court, conduct electronic surveillance to gather intelligence on terrorist suspects, and investigate computer crime (Whitehead & Aden, 2002, p.1097). The altered language of the Patriotic Act diminished the more traditional particularity requirement, which stipulated that any foreign intelligence activity must be proved to get a wiretap warrant. In order to address modern technological advancement, the Act authorized the FBI to use roving wiretap warrants in their investigative activities. This would enable them to get court-ordered warrant to carry out random wiretap surveillance in all states.

The roving wiretap warrants were instituted in response to the escalating use of satellite and cell phones, voice over internet, voice mail messaging, and other technologies that have undermined the prohibitions which applied to previous hard-wire telephone technology. Moreover, the US Patriotic Act permits law enforcement agencies to employ both blank warrant and roving wiretaps to gather intelligence in any state (Martin, 2006, p.445). As a result, previous constraints on the FBI’s warrant requests, disclosing names of suspects, and detailed stationary location for the wiretap warrant have been replaced by these adjustments with respect to counter-terrorism investigations (Whitehead & Aden, 2002, p.1123). This means that law enforcement agencies have more freedom to gather intelligence in any jurisdiction without interference from law courts.

The US Patriotic Act has turned out to be the basis of the country’s federal laws that have enlarged the FBI’s surveillance power following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Sixteen of the initial provisions of the Patriotic Act (2001) were expected to run out of use in 2005. However, these provisions were restored and remained considerably unchanged. Thus, the Act maintained its unique contents and is currently being used to enhance the powers of the FBI to engage in both domestic and foreign counter-terrorism activities (Whitehead & Aden, 2002, p.1125).

The impact of 9/11 attacks on the Public health System

Lovejoy and Tolin (2001) state that the 9/11 attacks subjected medical and insurance communities into largely uncharted territory (p.114). The attacks generated massive insurance claims over a wide range of insurance product lines. In addition, healthcare organizations were forewarned to be ready for an avalanche of posttraumatic stress disorder (POST) cases that would emerge after the attacks (Lovejoy & Tolin, 2001, p.115). According to a national telephone study done immediately after the attacks, 43% of the 550 US adults interviewed reported significant reactions to stress. These included upsetting memories of the 9/11 attacks, poor concentrations, poor sleeping patterns, and irritability (Lovejoy & Tolin, 2001, p.120).

Following the 9/11 terrorist, the US federal administration was compelled to introduce stringent measures to safeguard the public health care system from future terrorist attacks (Stephenson, 2001, p. 1823). The federal government realized that a strong public health care system was paramount for national security. As a result, the federal government set aside funds for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to be used to protect public health infrastructures from future threats. These funds were initially used to counter bioterrorism. In addition, Homeland Security introduced the BioWatch Program, a network of sensors in all Environmental Protection Agency air filters to monitor probable bio-terror threats. All local and state governments were mandated to design countermeasure plans to mitigate aerosolized anthrax threats (Stephenson, 2001, p. 1824).

Following the huge budgetary allocations into public health preparedness, both local and state public health administrators began to expand their roles from the conventional practice of public health. After the 9/11 attacks, it became clear that their skills were required to quickly detect and mitigate morbidity and adverse outcomes related to a wide range of bio-threats. This meant that public health administrators had to collaborate with conventional first responders such as fire captains, law enforcement agencies, and medical service directors in mitigating bioterrorism threats. Since the 9/11 attacks, public health administrators have played an integral role in reacting to health emergencies caused by not only floods, hurricanes, oil spills, and outbreaks of diseases but also bioterrorism (Stephenson, 2001, p. 1824).

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Although the signing process has been achieved with respect to public health programs since the 9/11 attacks, critical challenges abound. For instance, certain aspects of the public healthcare system are feebly amalgamated. Leadership squabbles remain unresolved, especially during public health emergencies. Moreover, resources are not deployed efficiently, thereby creating more confusion. More importantly, the federal government has progressively reduced budgetary allocations since the 9/11 attacks. For example, although the collaborative pacts still exist, the 2010 budgetary allocation was only 75% of the 2003 level. The financial crisis, which started in 2007, has significantly reduced the public health funding program. Both local administrations and state governments have been compelled to slash budgetary allocations for public health services, thereby affecting the operations of many agencies (Stephenson, 2001, p. 1825).

The responses of Muslims

According to Conway and Clements, Middle Eastern leaders were psychologically affected by the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent events (2003, p.94). The two authors noted that the complexity of public statements by Western and Middle Eastern leaders tended to decline immediately after the attacks occurred. This pattern was attributed to cross-cultural diversities between the West and the Middle East- cognitively superseded by the mutual stress that the attacks generated (Conway & Clements, 2003, p.102).

Muslim politicians, scholars, and other public figures generally denounced the 9/11 attacks that led to an enormous loss of human lives. However, such statements were overshadowed by scenes of Palestinians celebrating the attacks. In general, the Muslim world did not respond to uniformly following the attacks. The majority of Muslim countries sought to use the 9/11 attacks to advance their own goals.

A number of politically repressive rulers in the Muslim world have taken advantage of the rhetoric war on terror to defend escalating censorship of political dissidents. In fact, the Human Rights Watch wrote a letter to Colin Powel, the Secretary of State, and told him that a number of Muslim states would sarcastically use the 9/11 attacks to validate their domestic onslaughts on alleged religious extremists, separatists and political dissidents (Malik, 2002, p.210).

Some of the Muslim countries have also changed their foreign policies following the 9/11 attacks. For instance, Saudi Arabia ended its diplomatic relations with Taliban-governed Afghanistan. This was followed by the culmination of diplomatic ties between the Taliban and Pakistan. Following these new developments, the Taliban was replaced by the Hamid Karzai-led government, which is heavily supported by the US. It should be noted that the Taliban government relied on financial support from Pakistan to run its affairs. Pakistan provided it with not only military equipment and recruits but also legitimacy. When the US declared war against the Taliban government, Pakistan had to end its diplomatic relations with Afghanistan (Malik, 2002, p. 211).

Moreover, the Israelis tried to attach their oppressive military occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank to the US war on terrorism. Ariel Sharon, the Israel Prime Minister, stated openly that Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, was a terrorist leader. The Israeli government even drew similarities between the 9/11 attackers with the Palestinian struggle. Since the 9/11 attacks occurred, Israel has launched massive attacks on the Gaza Strip and West Bank. On the other hand, the frequency of suicide bombers in the disputed regions has escalated. In fact, Palestinian women are now used as suicide bombers on a regular basis (Malik, 2002, p.213).

Similarly, India, China, and Russia have all attempted to use the war on terror rhetoric to validate their oppression of political dissidents in Kashmir, the Xingjian region, and Chechnya, respectively. Political dissidents living in these disputed regions have been detained, tormented, and even killed in all these incidences. In each incident, the comparison between terrorist and radical Islamists has additionally distorted the line with the US war on terror (Rogers, 2004, p. 121). The usurping of the US war on terror rhetoric is tricky for pro-war policymakers in America as it deflects attention from the military goals (Malik, 2002, p.214).

Following the 9/11 attacks, Iran attempted to improve its foreign relations with the US. Many Iranians held candlelight vigils to express their grief and condolence to the Americans. Iran had already succeeded in improving its foreign relations with the European Union. However, when the US included Iran in the axis of evil, the relationship between these two countries worsened even further. As a result, anti-American groups in Iran are supported by the government (Malik, 2002, p.215).

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After the 9/11 attacks took place, it was discovered that most of the terrorist attackers were Saudis. Subsequently, the Saudi government employed a famous public relations company to manage its public relations affairs. The Saudis denounced the attacks and sent their condolences to the Americans. They also asserted that Al-Qaeda intentionally chose Saudis for the mission in order to create resentment between Saudi Arabia and the United States. Therefore, the royal family in Saudi Arabia supported the war on terror to align themselves with the US (Malik, 2002, p215).

To conclude the argument “Did America overreacted to 9/11,” Americans must begin to ask themselves the important question of whether billions of dollars of the country’s budgets should be spent on homeland security. Americans need to recognize that terrorism is a global menace that not only claims human lives but also affects the entire economy of the world. Therefore, it must be tackled through mutual collaboration with other countries.


Entman, R.M. (2003). Cascading Activation: Contesting the White House’s Frame after 9/11. Journal of Political Communication, 20: 415-432.

Conway, L.P., & Clements, S.M. (2003). Beyond the American Reaction: integrative Complexity of Middle Eastern Leaders during the 9/11 Crisis. Journal of Political Psychology, 27:93-103.

Lovejoy, D.W., & Tolin, D.F. (2001). Tracking Levels of Psychiatric Distress Associated with the Terrorist Events of September 11, 2001: A Review of the Literature. Journal of Insurance Medicine, 35: 114-124.

Malik, A. (2000). Selected Reflections on the Muslim World in the aftermath of 9/11.Journal of International Relations, 1: 201-225.

Martin, S. (2006). Note: Interpreting the Wiretap Act: Applying Ordinary Rules of ‘Transit’ to the Internet Context. Cardozo Law Review, 28: 441-487.

Nacos, B.L. (2003). The Terrorist Calculus behind 9-11: A Model for Future Terrorism. Journal of Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 26: 1-16

Rogers, P. (2004). A War on Terror: Afghanistan and After. The American Journal of Islamic Social Science, 22: 121-123.

Stephenson J. (2001). Medical, mental health communities mobilize to cope with terror’s psychological aftermath. Journal of American Medical Association, 286:1823–1825.

Swahn, M.H., & Frazier, L. (2003). Violent attacks on Middle Easterners in the United States during the month following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Journal of Injury Prevention, 9: 187-189.

Whitehead, J. & Aden, S. (2002). Forfeiting Enduring Freedom for HomelandSecurity: A Constitutional Analysis of the USA Patriot Act and the Justice Department’s Anti-Terrorism Initiatives. American University Law Review, 51, 1081-1133

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