The War on Terror: Causes and Consequences
The War on Terror is a military campaign launched by the United States government following the September 11th terrorist attacks on American soil. The aim of the War on Terror is to neutralize terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida and to prevent future attacks against the United States and its allies. Since its inception, the War on Terror has led to various controversial policies being put in place, such as the Patriot Act, which many argue has violated the civil liberties of American citizens. This paper will explore the impact of the War on Terror on individual rights, specifically the right to privacy and security. It will argue that although the War on Terror was necessary in order to protecting American citizens from further harm, the trade-off for increased security has been a loss of privacy for individuals.
2. The War on Terror: Causes and Consequences
In response to the September 11th terrorist attacks, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) on October 26th, 2001. The Patriot Act broadened the powers of law enforcement agencies in regards to surveillance and investigation, both inside and outside of the United States (US Department of Justice, n.d.). One of the most controversial provisions of the Patriot Act is section 215, also known as the “library records provision”, which allows the FBI to obtain “any tangible thing” relevant to a terrorism investigation with approval from a FISA court (US Department of Justice, n.d.; American Civil Liberties Union, 2015). This provision has been used to collect a variety of sensitive information from individuals, including credit card records and bank account statements (American Civil Liberties Union, 2015). In addition to section 215, section 802 of the Patriot Act expanded the definition of “terrorism” to include domestic terrorism, which is defined as activities that “involve acts dangerous to human life” that are intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population (US Department of Justice, n.d.). This expansion has resulted in numerous innocent people being investigated for terrorist activity when they have not actually committed any crimes (American Civil Liberties Union, 2015).
The Bush administration also implemented several controversial policies as part of the War on Terror. One such policy was warrantless wiretapping, which allowed law enforcement agencies to intercept phone calls and email communications without first obtaining a warrant from a court (Office of Inspector General, 2007). Another policy was “enhanced interrogation techniques” or torture, which was used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) against suspected terrorists in order to obtain information from them (Office of Inspector General, 2009). These enhanced interrogation techniques included waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and sexual humiliation (Office of Inspector General, 2009). The Bush administration’s use of torture led to widespread condemnation from human rights organizations and various world leaders.
3. The Impact of the War on Terror on Individual Rights
The War on Terror has had a significant impact on individual rights in both positive and negative ways. One of the most significant impacts has been on the right to privacy. Prior to 9/11, many Americans took their right to privacy for granted and did not think twice about government surveillance or intrusion into their personal lives. However, since 9/11 and the passage of the Patriot Act, many Americans have become much more aware of the government’s ability to collect and store sensitive information about them. In some cases, this increased awareness has led to a loss of privacy for individuals. For example, the NSA’s PRISM program, which was exposed by Edward Snowden in 2013, collected information from a variety of sources, including email communications, social media posts, and private messages (Snowden, 2014). This program allowed the NSA to collect and store sensitive information about millions of Americans without their knowledge or consent.
In addition to the impact on the right to privacy, the War on Terror has also had an impact on the right to security. Prior to 9/11, many Americans felt relatively safe from terrorist attack. However, since 9/11 and the subsequent increase in terrorist activity around the world, many Americans have become much more fearful of terrorist attacks. In some cases, this fear has led to a loss of security for individuals. For example, the US government has implemented various security measures in response to the threat of terrorism, such as airport security screenings and baggage checks. These measures often involve invasions of privacy, such as pat-downs and bag searches, that make many people feel uncomfortable. In addition, the US government has also engaged in military action in response to the threat of terrorism. This military action has often led to innocent civilians being killed or wounded.
The War on Terror is a necessary evil that has had both positive and negative impacts on individual rights. The positive impacts include increased security for American citizens and improved intelligence gathering capabilities for law enforcement agencies. The negative impacts include a loss of privacy for individuals and increased fear of terrorist attacks. Overall, the War on Terror has led to a trade-off between privacy and security for American citizens.