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The Lost Lesson of 9/11

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The ideals of freedom and individual liberty are seen as quaint anachronisms in the post-9/11 world. As a longtime Libertarian, I am having a great deal of difficulty adapting to the New Amerika. When I look at the actual events of 9/11, I do not understand the roll back of individual rights that the government claims was justified by that day. To me the exact opposite was the lesson of that day. I find it hard not to believe that the “powers-that-be” were a bit troubled by the fact that only individual freedom and liberty stopped the terrorists that day…not the military or the government.

The Founding Fathers laid the groundwork for a society so forward-thinking and revolutionary in its elevation of freedom that "moneyed" power had a hard time accepting it. Within a few generations their ideas and framework were under assault by those who had been elected into power in their footsteps. The elected positions of power in the US have since, constantly sought to curtail these individual rights. Lack of technology severely crippled their efforts to rein in freedom. Until the late twentieth century, the vastness of the country limited meaningful surveillance. Once technology began to offer real intelligence at a national and global scale the temptation is just too great for the politicians and police to resist. As the 20th century closed, the government was pushing for more powers under Bush the First and then it pushed harder under the Clintons, but there was still substantial resistance to domestic spying within the general populace and “honest” elected officials.

That changed on September 11th, 2001. Now that the fear and suspicion of terrorism has transformed America, those technological abilities are being turned to the curtailment of individual freedom and liberty in the name of safety. Despite Ben Franklin’s grim words of warning, Americans are afraid and believe that the sacrifice of some liberty and freedom will make them safer.

They are very wrong. The curtailment of individual liberty and freedom can only make us less safe. This seems hard to believe, but it is true. One need only consider the events of September 11th, 2001 to realize the truth. The cold harsh reality of that truth is scary and makes us want to hand it off to big government. Unfortunately, big government cannot handle it. Not without instituting laws and procedures that would seem totalitarian even to our post-911 eyes, and then we only switch one set of terrorists for one of our own making.

On September 11th, 2001, the government’s inherent inability to protect us from terrorism was clearly demonstrated. Big government not only failed to uncover the plot, it failed to stop the first plane from hitting its target, and in fact failed to stop three out of the four airplanes hijacked on September 11th, 2001. This is the lost lesson of 9/11. It was freedom and individual liberty that stopped the terrorists on 9/11. The people on board stopped Flight 93. Free people acting on information available in a free society stopped the only plane that did not hit its target.

The government on the other hand failed “completely” and “utterly” on that fateful day. The accelerated change that technology has brought only confirms the foresight of the framers of the Constitution in their protection of individual rights. Government is too big and ponderous to react to the increasingly fluid and flexible attacks of 21st century terrorist organizations. Only, we as a people can compete with those organizations. We must not give up our ability to defend ourselves against terrorists. Every time we cede an individual right or liberty we make ourselves less safe, not more.

In today’s America, I do not believe the people on board could have stopped the terrorists. All communications are subject to snooping in this new American order. The NSA has been wire-tapping ALL communications in the United States for years now, if one believes some of the whistleblowers. The President has repeatedly issued signing statements claiming these wiretapping powers to keep us safe. However, wiretapping probably makes us less safe. Nowadays, some government flunky would cut off the cell phone calls that allowed those people on board Flight 93 to come to an enlightened decision as to what action to take. Perhaps the passengers on Flight 93 fashioned weapons from pocketknives and nail clippers, which would now be denied them.

We are spending a lot of money and setting a lot of bad precedents with these "no constitutional rights" zones being created in our nation’s airports. I personally cherish my freedoms and rights and do not wish to give them up so I can get on an airplane. I think many Americans are of like mind and that if they really took the time to consider the facts would realize the TSA and the rest of the government’s airport security changes have made us less safe. Passengers are now being denied information they previously would have been able to gain. Consider the fact that there have been several incidents since the 9/11/2001 disasters. The infamous shoe bomber, Richard Reed, was also stopped by passengers. The shoe bomber made it through security and was going to do his dirty deed on board, but was noticed and restrained by passengers. Big government failed again. Only a short time ago, Air Mauritania also had a terrorist incident on board an airplane and again it was the passengers that prevented a serious problem.

We should roll back much of the changes related to CAPPS such as the random searching of individuals driven by shadowy computerized databases or arbitrary government lists. The hysterical environment that has been created at our airports is not only ridiculous, but incredibly unsafe. If a terrorist really wanted to perpetrate a horrific attack on civilians, he could hire a few hobos to cause some huge raucous in a terminal, scaring everyone and leading the “powers-that-be” to evacuate all the terminals to the parking lots and sidewalks. It would be far easier to plant nasty devices in garbage cans in the less secure surroundings outside the terminals. Security queues collect people in large groups where they can be assaulted in many ways by those with nefarious and suicidal deeds on their minds. America is free. It is our freedom that keeps us safe. Our people must have freedom of movement without being required to "show their papers". This is what it means to live in a free society.

Reducing this internal airport security theatre should free up many millions of dollars to be spent more effectively. Specifically, we should have more air marshals. Until we can get enough air marshals trained to be on every flight, we should randomly assign them, with that randomness being a closely guarded piece of "national security" data. If we have not already hardened all the cockpit doors, then we should. I even think we should at least consider allowing pilots to carry side arms. With these things in place, 9-11 cannot happen again and there is no need to repeal the Bill of Rights within airline terminals.

The passengers on Flight 93 showed us the way. They demonstrated the power of the people. The greatness in America lies in her people and the diversity of those people. Due to the history of individual freedom and liberty, one hundred people plucked from the streets and put into an airplane will contain a wide range of people and skills. This is our strength. Among those passengers, may be current and former military personnel, police and firefighters, nurses and doctors and even some gang bangers, bikers and an assortment of bad asses, malcontents and ne’er do wells, but they are all Americans as messy as that is to live in. If the government had done nothing after 9-11, I hazard a guess that there would have been no recurrence of 9-11, because the passengers on Flight 93 demonstrated the true mettle of Americans.

That phrase, "Let’s Roll!” should be immortalized in the American pantheon, because those men and women were thrown together by random chance, but they did this nation proud when they stopped that plane. They truly saved lives by sacrificing their own. They made terrorists realize that Americans were not the sheep we are often portrayed as.

When I think about what happened on Flight 93 I feel a chill in my bones. I am bathed in complete confidence that our Founding Fathers' elevation of the rights of the individual above all else, truly is the correct course. I feel empowered to protect my wife and children instead of the emasculation I feel in an airport. America is a complicated, trailblazing experiment in human culture. Freedom and individual liberty is a messy business. It requires a lot of tolerance and faith, but when I consider Flight 93 all doubt evaporates for me.

The power is in the people. The president is a public servant and serves at our pleasure. There is no such thing as the “unitary executive” defined in our Constitution. We need to take back our country from the fear-mongers. REMEMBER, WE THE PEOPLE PROTECT THE PRESIDENT, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. Flight 93 was destined for the White House. On 9/11, the people protected George W. Bush, even as he failed to protect us.

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Longtime Libertarian. 46 year old computer programmer from California
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