By Sam Klein
Just ten years ago, our nation was devastated by a group of Islamic extremists who chose to fly planes into the World Trade Center in New York City. This catastrophic event catalyzed severe reforms in our nation, and consequently was the initial event that stimulated the push for the war on terror. Since that time, our nation has relentlessly improved its security significantly.
One of the major security benefits has been in border security. In September 2011 ABC News reported that after 9/11, in order to prevent potential terrorists from entering the country illegally, security along the United States’ southern border increased dramatically. The increased security measures include doubling the number of Border Patrol agents, creating a secondary fence along the border, and adding towers equipped with cameras to the border. The increased border security used to stop terrorists has resulted in decreased illegal immigration. According to the Department of Homeland Security, “Apprehensions of illegal migrants crossing the nation’s borders, a key indicator of illegal immigration, have plummeted, down 47 percent in the past four years. The number of illegal immigrants arrested and deported from the U.S. has reached record highs, with a growing emphasis on capturing those engaged in criminal activities. The U.S. removed more than 392,000 immigrants last year and is on pace to eclipse that number next year.” The impact of fewer illegal immigrants lies in reduced crime and reduced drug trade. In July 2010 CBS News reported that although illegal immigrants make up only 7% of the states’ population, they make up 40% of those in jail for kidnapping and 13% of those in jail for murder. Notably, from 2008 to 2009 FBI statistics indicate that crime has dropped in Arizona- in some places as much as 20%. Lloyd Easterling, a US Customs and Borders Patrol spokesperson, says the main reason the border has become a safer place is due to post 9/11 security enhancements regarding illegal immigration. Additionally, US Customs and Border Protection notes that “Past successes in border enforcement operations have demonstrated that a border under operational control directly correlates to reduced crime.” Therefore, increased border security has safeguarded the United States from violent crimes and narcotics.
Another great improvement can be seen in aviation security. Garrick Blalock of Cornell University notes that the number of bags checked on airplanes after 9/11 increased by 95% compared to pre 9/11. Additionally, the Government Accountability Office adds that in one-year alone 4.8 million firearms, knives and other prohibited items were confiscated. Additionally, Bryan Keogh of the Chicago Tribune states that just two years after 9/11, more than 10,000 airplanes were equipped with hardened cockpit doors, while Gary Stoller of USA Today notes that today, virtually every plane has this hardened door. An empirical study by Mark Stewart of Ohio State University reveals that this resulted in a risk reduction of 16.67% on flights across America. Lastly, Stewart explains that increased public awareness and better investigating methods “by themselves reduce the risk of a replication of 9/11 by at least 50%”. In fact, without these precautions, he predicts that 300 additional lives would be lost every year. Therefore, aviation security measures have greatly decreased the chance of a lethal terrorist attack.
Lastly, the FBI has greatly increased their security measures taken to fight terrorism. NPR points out that after 9/11 the FBI declared counterterrorism to be its “chief focus”. The Heritage Foundation states that over 40 terrorist plots have been thwarted since 9/11, 18 of them by the FBI. In fact, the article notes that “While all categories of terrorist attacks against U.S. targets at home and overseas have been declining steadily since 2005, thwarted plots have more than doubled during the same period.” Therefore, the FBI’s new focus on counterterrorism prevents terrorist attacks. Another way law enforcement has stepped up security measures has been through increased intelligence sharing. The 9/11 Commission Report has identified as the main cause of 9/11 the lack of a National Intelligence Estimate on the terrorist threat, and the Center for National Policy assessed that “9/11 could have been avoided through 12 instances of increased intelligence sharing, such as if FBI analysis regarding flight school enrollment was shared with the CIA”. Thomas Anderson notes, “The Patriot Act brought down [the] wall [between national security officials and criminal investigators. It] expressly permits the full coordination between intelligence and law enforcement.” James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation asserts that as of May 2011 the number of terrorist plots foiled by the US was “overwhelmingly due to the…policies of enhanced information sharing and intelligence gathering.” Therefore, increased information sharing between government agencies catalyzes law enforcement and leads to more terrorist plots foiled.
In the end, our nation was overwhelmed with horror on that fateful day over ten years ago. Yet, since then, our nation has thrived to work together and combat terrorism. Now, our nation has outstanding security accomplishments to show for it. These concepts of constant improvement and learning form our mistakes are just some of the amazing pillars that our nation strives to uphold.