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government officials

U.S. government response to the September 11 attacks

See also: U.S. military response during the September 11 attacks

The response of the U.S. government to the September 11 attacks sparked investigations into the motivations and execution of the attacks, as well as the ongoing War on Terrorism in Afghanistan.

Rescue, recovery, and compensation

Within hours of the attack, a massive search and rescue (SAR) operation was launched, which included over 350 search and rescue dogs. Initially, only a handful of wounded people were found at the site, and in the weeks that followed it became evident that there were no survivors to be found.

Rescue and recovery efforts took months to complete. It took several weeks to simply put out the fires burning in the rubble of the buildings, and the clean-up was not completed until May, 2002. Temporary wooden "viewing platforms" were set up for tourists to view construction crews clearing out the gaping holes where the towers once stood. All of these platforms were closed on May 30, 2002.

Many relief funds were immediately set up to assist victims of the attacks, with the task of providing financial assistance to the survivors and the families of victims. By the deadline for victim's compensation, September 11 2003, 2,833 applications had been received from the families of those killed.

The War on Terrorism

In the aftermath of the attacks, many U.S. citizens held the view that the attacks had "changed the world forever." The Bush administration announced a war on terrorism, with the stated goals of bringing Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to justice and preventing the emergence of other terrorist networks. These goals would be accomplished by means including economic and military sanctions against states perceived as harboring terrorists and increasing global surveillance and intelligence sharing. Immediately after the September 11 attacks U.S. officials speculated on possible involvement by Saddam Hussein; although unfounded, the association contributed to public acceptance for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The second-biggest operation of the U.S. Global War on Terrorism outside of the United States, and the largest directly connected to terrorism, was the overthrow of the oppressive Taliban rule from Afghanistan, by a U.S.-led coalition. The U.S. was not the only nation to increase its military readiness, with other notable examples being the Philippines and Indonesia, countries that have their own internal conflicts with Islamist terrorism.

Because the attacks on the United States were judged to be within the parameters of its charter, NATO declared that Article 5 of the NATO agreement was satisfied on September 12, 2001, making the US war on terrorism the first time since its inception that NATO would actually participate in a "hot" war.

Arrests

Following the attacks, 762 mainly Muslim suspects were rounded up the United States. On December 12, 2001, Fox News reported that some 60 Israelis were among them; Federal investigators were reported to have described them as part of a long-running effort to spy on American government officials. A "handful" of these Israelis were described as active Israeli military or intelligence operatives.

None of those rounded up and detained were ever charged with terrorism. Ira Glasser of the New York Times wrote "The Justice Department inspector general's report implies more than the violation of the civil liberties of 762 noncitizens. It also implies a dysfunctional and ineffective approach to protecting the public after Sept. 11, 2001... No one can be made safer by arresting the wrong people".

Domestic response

Within the United States, Congress passed and President Bush signed the Homeland Security Act of 2002, creating the Department of Homeland Security, representing the largest restructuring of the U.S. government in contemporary history. Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act, stating that it would help detect and prosecute terrorism and other crimes. Civil liberties groups have criticized the PATRIOT Act, saying that it allows law enforcement to invade the privacy of citizens and eliminates judicial oversight of law-enforcement and domestic intelligence gathering. The Bush Administration also invoked 9/11 as the reason to initiate a secret National Security Agency operation, "to eavesdrop on telephone and e-mail communications between the United States and people overseas without a warrant.

Following the attacks, 80,000 Arab and Muslim immigrants were fingerprinted and registered under the Alien Registration Act of 1940. 8,000 Arab and Muslim men were interviewed, and 5,000 foreign nationals were detained under Joint Congressional Resolution 107-40 authorizing the use of military force "to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States.

Investigations

Collapse of the World Trade Center

A federal technical building and fire safety investigation of the collapses of the Twin Towers was conducted by the United States Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The goals of this investigation, completed on April 6, 2005, were to investigate the building construction, the materials used, and the technical conditions that contributed to the outcome of the WTC disaster. The investigation was to serve as the basis for:

  • Improvements in the way in which buildings are designed, constructed, maintained, and used
  • Improved tools and guidance for industry and safety officials
  • Revisions to building and fire codes, standards, and practices
  • Improved public safety

The report concludes that the fireproofing on the Twin Towers' steel infrastructures was blown off by the initial impact of the planes and that, if this had not occurred, the towers would likely have remained standing. The fires weakened the trusses supporting the floors, making the floors sag. The sagging floors pulled on the exterior steel columns to the point where exterior columns bowed inward. With the damage to the core columns, the buckling exterior columns could no longer support the buildings, causing them to collapse. In addition, the report asserts that the towers' stairwells were not adequately reinforced to provide emergency escape for people above the impact zones. NIST stated that the final report on the collapse of 7 WTC will appear in a separate report.

Internal review of the CIA

The Inspector General of the CIA conducted an internal review of the CIA's performance prior to 9/11, and was harshly critical of senior CIA officials for not doing everything possible to confront terrorism, including failing to stop two of the 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, as they entered the United States and failing to share information on the two men with the FBI.

9/11 Commission Report

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission), chaired by former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean, was formed in late 2002 to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the attacks, including preparedness for, and the immediate response to, the attacks. On July 22, 2004, the report was released. The commission has been subject to criticism.

Civilian aircraft grounding

For the first time in history, all nonemergency civilian aircraft in the United States and several other countries including Canada were immediately grounded, stranding tens of thousands of passengers across the world. The order was given at 9:42 by Federal Aviation Administration Command Center national operations manager Ben Sliney. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, "This was an unprecedented order. The air traffic control system handled it with great skill, as about 4,500 commercial and general aviation aircraft soon landed without incident.

Invocation of the continuity of government

Contingency plans for the continuity of government and the evacuation of leaders were implemented almost immediately after the attacks. Congress, however, was not told that the US was under a continuity of government status until February 2002.

See also

References

External links

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