The Freedom Tower has been in construction since 2006, and will likely take at least two more years to complete. The 9/11 memorial did squeak to completion ahead of the 10th anniversary, but the museum won’t open until next year. These delayed projects sparked frustration, but one post-9/11 project has been much more dangerously prolonged: rebuilding our constitutional civil liberties.
Since 9/11, we’ve been moving backwards. The least-bad initiatives take the form of security theatre: time-wasting, showy measures like shoe screening at airports. They won’t impede a reasonably determined and creative terrorist, but they are disruptive enough to convince civilians that something is being done. Inconvenient and ineffective, but nothing compared to our government’s embrace of criminal acts of torture, warrantless wiretapping, unlimited detention without charge, and entrapment stings. And all of these abuses are exacerbated by the over-use of the “state secrets” defense, which prevents abuses from coming to light and justice from being served.
Most of these abuses began under Bush. But Obama has doubled down on state secrets and let old policies fester. Failing to actively dismantle these policies gives them de facto legitimacy. We must uncover and acknowledge the crimes of the last decade, so we can restore and enforce neglected constitutional principles.
In crucial ways, we’ve fallen behind since the events of 10 years past. But with a renewed commitment to civil liberties, we can make progress in the war on self-inflicted terror: a panic that leads us to choose theater and mistreatment over real security, rooted in liberty.
Leah Libresco is a 2011 graduate of Jonathan Edwards college and a former Staff Columnist for the News.