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ISSUES-Homeland Security

Homeland Security

The 9/11 attacks forced America to heighten its awareness of the worldwide terrorist threat in whose crosshairs the United States was situated. Protecting Americans from future catastrophic attacks quickly became the foremost goal of U.S. national security policy. Strong congressional support for a new federal department that would unify the diverse and overlapping security functions of various federal agencies led to a White House proposal (in June 2002) for the creation of a Department of Homeland Security (DHS); later that year, the DHS was formally established.

The cornerstone of America's post-9/11 domestic security program was the Patriot Act (enacted in October 2001). Most significantly, this legislation removed several Clinton-era restrictions that had prevented intelligence agents and law-enforcement officials from working together on terror investigations. This restriction had effectively crippled the government’s ability to fight terrorism, and arguably was responsible for the government’s failure to avert the 9/11 attacks. For a more complete analysis of the Patriot Act, click here.

The Patriot Act was but one of many homeland security initiatives endorsed by the U.S. government in the aftermath of 9/11. Civil liberties groups -- such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, to name just a few -- condemned virtually all of these measures as governmental assaults on the rights and freedoms of Americans. Typical was a senior CCR litigation attorney's claim that the Patriot Act "sacrifices our political freedoms in the name of national security"; "portends a wholesale suspension of civil liberties that will reach far beyond those who are involved in terrorist activities"; and "opens the door to a resurgence of domestic spying by the Central Intelligence."

Homeland security is also closely tied to the issue of illegal immigration. Estimates of the illegal population in America currently range from 12 million to more than 20 million. According to the  Census Bureau, as of 2003 there were, residing in the U.S., approximately 78,000 illegal aliens from countries that were of special concern in the war on terror.

The RESOURCES column located on the right side of this page contains links to articles, essays, books, and videos that explore such topics as:

  • the evolution of the U.S. government's homeland security practices in recent decades;
  • how a lack of immigration-law enforcement, coupled with a resultant rise in the incidence of illegal border-crossing, makes it easier for terrorists to enter the United States and carry out their attacks;
  • arguments for and against America's development and deployment of a defensive shield to guard against the threat of incoming nuclear missiles launched by foreign enemies; and
  • the controversy that grew out of a December 16, 2005 New York Times front-page story revealing that the Bush administration had been secretly conducting a terrorist-surveillance program allowing the National Security Agency (NSA) to wiretap, without court warrants, phone calls between residents of the United States and known terrorist contacts abroad.


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