Patt Morrison for September 2, 2011

Life in 9/12 America: has the Constitution become a victim in the war on terrorism?

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TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

President Bush is applauded by Congressional leaders moments before signing a revised version of the Patriot Act on March 9th, 2006 in Washington, DC. Since then, federal courts have ruled that a number of the Act's provisions are unconstitutional.

It’s relatively easy to look around the world and see how the attacks of September 11, 2001 have changed various countries. Afghanistan has an ostensibly democratically-elected government but has also endured 10-years of guerrilla warfare and occupation by NATO forces; Iraq underwent a bloody invasion, a bloodier civil war and insurgency and now struggles with reduced violence but higher levels of uncertainty; Pakistan has become a very unstable and dangerous place. But take a look around here at home and it’s harder to define the “war on terrorism” era that dawned after 9/11. Preoccupation with terrorism and the possibility of new terror attacks on American soil has obviously been the most major consequence of 9/11. But, as our guest Brian Michael Jenkins writes, “terrorism also provided a lightening rod for America’s broader anxieties and it has held a mirror to many of America’s enduring characteristics.” The notion of the American rule of law has been repeatedly challenged in the way we have dealt with terrorism suspects, including American citizens. The right to privacy has been challenged in the way the government eavesdrops on huge volumes of electronic communications, in the name of monitoring future threats. American spirituality has undergone some tests, grappling with the sizable Muslim population in this country and arguments over Judeo-Christian ideals that govern the country’s laws. All of the post 9/11 challenges deal directly with the perseverance and interpretation of the American Constitution and how the document has changed since the war on terrorism began. Have we stayed true to American ideals in our new post-9/11 world?

Guest:

Brian Michael Jenkins, senior adviser to the president of the RAND Corporation; author of the essay “The land of the fearful, or the home of the brave?


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