How The U.S. Government Forged A Surveillance Society
On September 12, 2001, President George W. Bush invited members of Congress and the media for a meeting in the cabinet room of the White House. The mood was understandably anxious, somber: The World Trade Center lay in rubble, the Pentagon had a hole gouged into it and shock and awe had settled over the United States. One of the most extraordinary periods of American history – what would come to be known as the “Post 9-11 Era” – was beginning.
The president gravely laid out the situation and the steps his administration would take to secure the homeland, but during the course of the meeting he also made this significant declaration: “We will not allow this enemy to win the war by changing our way of life or restricting our freedoms.”
Those were heroic words of principle and patriotism in a traumatic time, but history would show that government’s reaction to the terrorist threat was the exact opposite than the protection of freedoms. Instead, government rushed in with a massive plan to create a surveillance society, intending to watch and document every action by the American people as a means of ultimate security.
First, Congress passed the Patriot Act, giving law enforcement powers to circumvent many Constitutional guarantees to personal privacy and home security. Then Congress created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The department immediately became an army of more than 170,000 employees by combining twenty two existing federal agencies, including the
Border Patrol, Coast Guard, Secret Service, FEMA, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Customs Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection, Federal Protective Service, FBI’s Computer Incident Response Center and several more lesser agencies of the same type. In the middle of this rush for security, Congress created the Transportation Security Agency (TSA). Also born in this Post 9/11 era were state fusion centers with the intention of combining federal, state and local law enforcement agencies into instant response teams, intending to eliminate bureaucratic overlap and red tape, in case of another terrorist attack or Hurricane Katrina-type disasters.