9-11 exposed vulnerabilities, unified U.S. against terrorism

Published 10:38 pm Monday, September 13, 2021

The tragedy of 9-11 resulted in some subtle, as well as not so subtle, changes in how the United States deals with the threat of terrorism at home.

“It’s understandable that we would reflect on 9-11 [20 years later],” Dr. Steven Taylor, a professor in political science at Troy University said. “When 3,000 people lose their lives on any given day, it’s a tragedy. But, Iraq and Afghanistan were a direct result of of  9-11. 9-11 caused a ripple effect and there have been a lot of people affected in the last 20 years because of that.”

Taylor said the initial impact of 9-11 had three lasting effects on the United States. First, he said it created a sense of vulnerability for citizens, it altered the landscape of foreign policy and caused the government to redistribute elements of security agencies toward threats on U.S. home shores.

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“9-11 is 20 years past, but it still resounds with us,” Taylor said. “We’re geographically isolated and we only have two land borders. It’s really hard for someone to get here and attack us.”

Taylor said terrorists took advantage of how the airline industry responded to hijacked airplanes to launch an attack on American soil.

“At the time, people hijacked airplanes because they wanted to go somewhere,” Taylor said. “There had been a rash of hijackings and the demands were for money or to go someplace. The cockpit doors were usually open and kids could come in and look at the cockpit and have their pictures made with the pilots. If a plane was hijacked, the policy was to comply with the hijackers so no one got killed. But, on 9-11, the hijackers turned the planes into guided missiles and that changed the paradigm. Flight 93 also changed the paradigm. The passengers had learned what had happened with the other hijacked planes and decided if they were going to die it was better to crash the plane than let it be used in a terrorist attack.”

Taylor said the changes to airline security were a change that was readily noticeable to people. The changes included better screenings at airports before passengers boarded planes, locked, reinforced cockpits to prevent easy entry as well as U.S. Air Marshals on flights.

Taylor said 9-11 also caused an increase in surveillance as well as increased surveillance of foreign citizens suspected of terrorists ties.

“Our intelligence gathering really had to change,” Taylor said. “We’re not being attacked by nation states as much as we are being attacked by isolated groups of people who can be very had to find.”

Because the nature of threats changed, Taylor said the evolving landscape led to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Taylor said the increased capabilities of U.S. intelligence gathering also led to drone strikes against difficult targets as opposed to full-scale military interventions or missions.

In addition to airport security, Taylor said a great deal of attention had been focused on port security as well.

“Overall, I feel we’re much safer now than we were on 9-11,” Taylor said.