The 9/11 terror spectacle played out as a deadly drama live on television. The images of the planes hitting the towers and their collapse were played repeatedly. The spectacle conveyed the message that the U.S. was vulnerable to terror attack, that terrorists could create great harm, and that anyone at anytime could be subject to a violent terror attack, even in America.
The suffering, fear, and death that many people endure on a daily basis in violent and insecure situations in other parts of the world was brought home to U.S. citizens. The terror attacks had material effects, attempting to harm the U.S. and global economy, and psychic effects, traumatizing a nation with fear.
For days, U.S. television suspended broadcasting of advertising and TV entertainment and focused solely on the events of September 11. The images and discourses of the television networks framed the terrorist attacks to whip up war hysteria, while failing to provide a coherent account of what happened, why it happened, and what would count as responsible responses.
The media whipped up hysteria in its post-9/11 coverage of anthrax attacks and frequent reports of terrorist threats, and since September 11 the Bush administration used fear tactics to advance its political agenda, including tax breaks for the rich, curtailment of social programs, military build-up, and the most draconian assaults on U.S. rights and freedoms in the contemporary era.
The USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) was submitted two weeks later and signed a month after 9/11, ushering in a "new way of life" in the best interest for our safety and well-being. Two of the Senators who attempted to slow passage of the bill, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, were targeted with letters containing weaponized anthrax delivered to their offices on October 9.
A lot of people don't fully understand what the USA PATRIOT Act entails, and most of them probably don't care, but I'll break it down anyway.
- Government Surveillance: The USA PATRIOT Act minimizes the power of the courts to prevent law enforcement authorities from illegally abusing certain types of telephone and Internet surveillance in both anti-terrorism investigations and run-of-the-mill criminal investigations of American citizens. Law enforcement officials have the power to investigate American citizens for criminal matters without establishing probable cause if they designate that the investigation is for "intelligence purposes." The Director of Central Intelligence also has broad authority to identify individuals as targets for intelligence surveillance, placing the CIA firmly back in the business of spying on Americans.
- Secret Searches: The USA PATRIOT Act expands the ability of the government to use so called "sneak and peek" and "black bag" secret searches. These searches, depending on the target, require either no notification at all of the person being searched, or delay notification until after the search has occurred. This means that physical searches of our homes, cars, computers, workplaces and reading materials can be conducted without our knowledge. These provisions apply both in anti-terrorism investigations and routine criminal investigations.
- Privacy: The USA PATRIOT Act granted the FBI -- and, under new information sharing provisions, many other law enforcement and intelligence agencies -- broad access to highly personal medical, financial, mental health, library and student records with only the most minimal judicial oversight. The court must issue a subpoena whenever the FBI states that it is for an investigation to protect against international terrorism. The recipient of the subpoena is prohibited from telling anyone that the FBI has asked for the information. Now the FBI can get the entire database of a credit card company or the records of everyone who has used a certain public library. It can obtain information on everyone registered at a particular hotel, hospital, or university. It does not need to show probable cause that a crime is, has been, or will be committed.
- Dissent/Free Speech: The USA PATRIOT Act has the very real potential to greatly chill constitutionally protected speech in its overbroad redefinition of "domestic terrorism." The new definition is so vague that it could allow the government to designate lawful advocacy groups, like Greenpeace and Operation Rescue, as terrorist groups and subject them to invasive surveillance, wiretapping, harassment and then criminally penalize them for protected political advocacy. By questioning 9/11, I very well could be committing domestic terrorism.
- Bill of Rights for Non-Citizens: The USA PATRIOT Act permits the Attorney General to incarcerate or detain non-citizens based on mere suspicion and to deny re-admission to the US of non-citizens (including legal, long-term permanent residents) for engaging in speech protected by the First Amendment.
Read the other articles in the 11 Days of Conspiracy series