Many say the current presidential race is the most uncivilized in modern American history. Civility in public discourse, why it seems to have hit a new low and long-term implications for the democratic process.
A decade ago the United States suffered an enormous blow: the September 11th attacks killed nearly three thousand people in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The tragedy led to the start of two wars abroad and an enormous effort to boost security at home. The U.S. has since experienced a massive financial meltdown and is now suffering through a persistently meager economic recovery and an increasingly partisan political divide. Join us for a conversation on how this country has changed since 9/11 and why.
- Laura Murphy director, ACLU Washington Legislative Office
- David Wessel economics editor, The Wall Street Journal; author "In Fed We Trust"
- James Thurber professor and director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University; author of "Obama in Office: The First Two Years."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. In the 10 years that have passed since the 9/11 attacks, our country has changed, but probably not in ways many would have predicted. Joining me in the studio to talk about changes we've seen and some we have not seen, James Thurber. He's professor, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University.
MS. DIANE REHMDavid Wessel, he's economics editor for The Wall Street Journal. Laura Murphy is director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. I do invite your calls. We are devoting two hours today to the aftermath of 9/11. This first hour, we'll look at national events. In our second hour, we'll focus on the international reaction.
MS. DIANE REHMDo join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to all of you.
MS. LAURA MURPHYGood morning.
PROF. JAMES THURBERGood morning, Diane.
MR. DAVID WESSELGood morning.
REHMJames Thurber, it was a cliché at the time that 9/11 would change everything. Did it?
THURBERWell, I think that America is safer as a result of all kinds of actions by our government since 9/11, but it has changed things in terms of security versus freedom. All nations balance security or order versus freedom. And we've leaned heavily on the security side. We've spent a lot of money -- $400 billion for security, $1.3 trillion for two wars related to this. We've reorganized in the federal government, creating the Department of Homeland Security.
THURBERIt started with 179,000 employees. It now has 216,000 employees. It's almost doubled its budget since then. So we spent a lot of money for war and security that we didn't have because we didn't raise taxes to pay for all of this. So it's changed government. It's changed our attitudes about security. People are worried about security, still. Although they think we're more secure, they're still worried about it.
THURBERAnd I think that it has fundamentally transformed our attitudes about safety in the homeland. Just the term homeland security was not used before this attack. And it was a shock when we first used it. Now, everybody uses it.
REHMDavid Wessel, in the days right after the attack, President Bush urged us to go out and shop, to keep the economy strong, to make sure that we kept our sense of balance. What is the economic aftermath of 9/11?
WESSELWell, I think it's a good question, and I remember how kind of repulsed we were, really, by the president saying that. There were still bodies that hadn't been buried, and he was telling us to go out and shop. You know, if you look at a chart of the American economy, if you look at the GDP over the last 20 years, you can't see 9/11 on there. We had a recession that began before 9/11. It ended shortly afterward according to the arbiters.
WESSELAnd the effect on the actual growth of the economy was far less than the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, which is extraordinary. I think a lot of people, myself included, thought that all this money we're going to spend on security, all this waiting at the airports, all this double-checking of IDs every time you go in to an office owned by the government would somehow throw sand in the gears of the American economy. We would be less efficient.
WESSELWe'd have less productivity growth. And, frankly, I don't think you see much of that either, which surprises me. But, I think, Prof. Thurber points out that we did spend a ton of money. No one thought on 9/12/2001 that we would have troops in Afghanistan and Iraq 10 years later. No one thought that we would spend $1.3 trillion on those wars over a decade. And I don't even think people thought we'd spend as much money on homeland security.
WESSELI think it's about -- the estimates I've seen about $700 billion between the government and private sector. And that's money that could've been used for something else.
REHMLaura Murphy, you and many others recognized, right away, there would be an enormous effort on the part of the government to expand its authority and investigative powers. How do you see that as a result or the aftermath of 9/11?
MURPHYOh, I think, the post-9/11 policies have dramatically changed. Some of our nation's leading governmental institutions, the FBI, in particular, have shifted its mission from law enforcement, criminal investigation, civil rights investigation, to intelligence gathering and counterterrorism. And we've seen the Department of Homeland Security devote 40 percent of its resources to immigration.
MURPHYAnd that immigration is not about finding a path to legalization, but it's about securing our borders and national security. The post-9/11 America does not really reflect the values enshrined in the Bill of Rights because we have such massive surveillance that's unchecked by federal courts. We have unequal protection of the laws.
MURPHYIf you are Arab Muslim or South Asian, you come under heightened scrutiny from a variety of sources, not just immigration, but the FBI. And local law enforcement is also involved in scrutinizing these communities. And so your freedom of association, your free speech, your equal protection of the law, and not to mention the Fourth Amendment, which has been shredded by things like the Patriot Act.
MURPHYSo, I think, we've had a dramatic change, and it's incumbent upon us to revisit these policies and get America back on track with its civil liberties.
REHMLaura Murphy, she's director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. This morning on NPR, we heard a piece about Mall of America out in Minneapolis, where an Egyptian man who had lived here for 30 years, was a full citizen of the United States, had been stopped as he was leaving the mall, stopped by police. Do you believe that skin color -- do you feel that appearance is now driving this sense of security even more?
MURPHYAbsolutely. And the irony is, right before 9/11, we were poised to get a bipartisan group of members of Congress to push for a law called the End Racial Profiling Act because so much research was done and lawsuits were brought against local police departments and federal agencies about old-fashioned racial profiling involving African-Americans and Latinos.
MURPHYAnd then, after 9/11, instead of improving the situation regarding racial profiling and ending it, the government has put racial profiling on steroids. And so the old-fashioned racial profiling is compounded with the new profiling against Arabs, Muslims and South Asians, many of whom are American citizens.
REHMAnd, David Wessel, turning back to the economy, I recall in one of Osama bin Laden's recordings, he said, after the 9/11 attack, we intend to destroy the United States economically to cripple the U.S. in that way. Has he, in some ways, succeeded?
WESSELI don't think so. I mean, you're right. He vowed to bleed America to the point of bankruptcy, Allah willing -- that was what he said. And when you think about all the economic and financial problems we have, I have a hard time pinning them on 9/11, which isn't to say it didn't contribute. Let me give a couple of examples. One is, as we've discussed, we spent a lot of money. We lost a lot of lives in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that's related to 9/11.
WESSELThe second thing is -- and it's hard for an economics reporter to quantify this, but something is different about our sense of safety. And it was really brought home to me just a couple of weeks ago here in Washington when we had this earthquake. And a number of people I know -- I wasn't one of them -- but a number of people I know, their first reaction is, oh, my God, there's been a terrorist attack, all right. And that didn't happen on Sept. 10, 2001.
WESSELIt just wasn't what was in our -- somehow in our mind lurking there. And the third thing -- and I think Laura referred to this -- our attitude about immigration, both about bringing people to the United States to study and work, but simple tourists and visitors has changed in fundamental ways. In 2000, there were 26 million visitors from countries other than Canada and the United -- and Mexico to the United States.
WESSELImmediately after 9/11, that fell, and it didn't come back to 2000 levels until last year. And there's -- it's not because there wasn't a lot of global travel. The tourist lobby in Washington will be happy to give you all the details. There's been a surge in global traveling. You know, there's millions of Chinese tourists who'd like to go to Hawaii.
WESSELBut the visa process has become so onerous, and our suspicion of foreigners has grown so much -- and you can see it when you go to the airport. And they divide you, in Dulles Airport, into the lines for American citizens and foreigners. You can just sort of see the scrutiny that some people have to go through.
WESSELThat has changed our -- what we think about ourselves, but I'm afraid it's changed a little about what the rest of the world thinks of us in ways that'll last a long time.
MURPHYYeah, I think so much of our intelligence budget is in secret. It's classified. So we can't really appreciate how much of the federal policy and programs have shifted to intelligence gathering. So I do think there has been a shift in the way our money is spent by the federal government that's been significant.
REHMLaura Murphy, she is director the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. Short break. We'll be right back.
REHMYou're welcome to join us as we talk about the aftermath of 9/11 here in this country, politically, economically, legally, security wise, in every way possible. Here with me, James Thurber of the American University, author of "Obama in Office: The First Two Years." David Wessel is with The Wall Street Journal. He's author of "In Fed We Trust." And Laura Murphy is director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office.
REHMJames Thurber, the -- politically, we closed ranks after 9/11. What happened?
THURBERIt was extraordinary. But when there is a clear external threat -- in this case, it was in the United States -- and consensus about that in the American public, we can move fast. A comparable phenomena would be -- and much different -- but Pearl Harbor. Everybody had consensus for a long time about that. We had consensus, and we passed the Patriot Act within three weeks after the attack.
THURBERThe president jumped from the low 50s in the polls to 91 percent in five days. Congress had a 68 percent support in the polls. Now, it's 13 percent, by the way. And we pulled together because people saw that this was a threat. But then we went into a seven-month excruciatingly partisan debate about TSA. Should it be public? Should it be private? Should we have office personnel management rules? Should we not? Should they unionize? Should they not?
THURBERAnd so we went back to the old partisan battles. We bridged the gap between the left and right during that period. And there are very few people in the middle anymore. They're an endangered species and moderate. But we did that because of this attack. That did not happen when we had the great economic crisis, starting in 2008 and the collapse of institutions in Wall Street.
THURBERAnd one of the reasons is that we didn't have consensus in America about what the problem was. And if you don't have consensus about the problem, you can't go to mission, or, in other words, enact a policy. We did. And maybe we went too far -- Laura can comment on that -- in the Patriot Act because it allowed wiretapping. Profiling started. The president, in fact, redefined torture through a signing statement from the Hill.
THURBERNobody really challenged him seriously about it. The power of the president expanded tremendously, and the executive branch tremendously, during that period because we were threatened. And we had consensus about it. Now, we're trying to adjust that, and it's a little difficult because of what I call the ratchet theory of power.
THURBEROnce you ratchet it up, give the president power, it's hard to go back down on those things. And I think that's what we're experiencing right now.
REHMYou know, it's fascinating to me, whether the political changes and ramifications that we've seen -- and, here, I'm just talking about the political divisiveness we see today. Would it have occurred had 9/11 not happened? And I realize that that's a very difficult question. But, the point being, did 9/11 change us politically?
MURPHYWell, we have to remember, we had the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. And, in 1996, we passed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. And the country came together around the Oklahoma City bombing, and then it proceeded to go back into partisan bickering and warfare. So, I think, this is a typical cycle where it's very difficult for the country to remain politically harmonious.
MURPHYPeople are concerned about self-preservation. Political people, elected officials, are concerned about that. But, you know, what we have going on in Congress now is really interesting. Rand Paul stood up against the Patriot Act when it was up for reauthorization earlier this year. And Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Mark Udall said if the country knew how the Patriot Act was being implemented, they would be shocked and appalled.
MURPHYAnd so you have bipartisan efforts. And even people like Grover Norquist came out against the Patriot Act, and David Keene, when he was head of the American Conservative Union. So we had patriots defending the Bill of Rights that included the ACLU and Bob Barr. So it hasn't fallen apart completely in Republican and Democratic camps.
MURPHYThere are people who have been concerned the whole while about the excessive growth of executive branch authority.
REHMDavid Wessel, how much do you think 9/11 has cost us in taxpayer dollars?
WESSELWell, I think it's relatively easy to do the small -- to do the narrow estimate, you know. As Prof. Thurber said, we know that over -- we were spending 70 -- we're spending about $70 billion a year on homeland security now, according to the White House budget office. That's three times what we were spending before 9/11.
WESSELIf you add up Iraq and Afghanistan and the homeland security and all that, and add in what the private sector and state and local governments spent, I'm sure we're at about $2 trillion over a decade, but that -- that's only the kind of narrow bean counter sense. And, I think, we have to remember, there were 3,000 people killed in 9/11, and there were more than 6,000 U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
WESSELAnd that doesn't go into these dollar sign calculations. But, I think, there's two other ways to think about this. One is, what might we have done with that money otherwise? And how might that have been -- made us a better country, more productive and other things? And then the other thing, which I find just so incredibly hard to answer, is, so are we really safer? And you can spend money and get huge benefit for it, and it's worth it.
WESSELAnd you can spend a lot of money and not get any benefit for it, and it's not worth it. And doing that cold, calculating cost-benefit analysis on this security spending, I find very, very difficult.
THURBERI'd like to go back to your question about whether we've changed politically. Then I'll get to this. I don't think we have changed politically as a result of 9/11. I think that what has happened in America is we've had a realignment of the South, very conservative Republicans. The real election for the House is the primary election, where there are only about, the last time, 85 seats -- three year -- three elections ago, 26 seats.
THURBERWho comes out in those elections? The far left and far right. That's getting worse and worse. It has nothing to do with 9/11, and it creates deadlock, with nobody in the middle. But in terms of the real cost and whether we're safer or not, it's hard to prove a negative. It's hard -- you know, we stopped the Times Square bomb, okay? But, every day, this agency stopped lots of things that we don't know about.
THURBERWe know that there was an attack in Spain. There was an attack in London. There are attacks every day in Pakistan and elsewhere in Afghanistan. But are we safer? The American public thinks so in polls, but they also are worried. They think we will have an attack, but they feel that they're safer, according to the Pew survey, which is a strange finding, in my opinion.
REHMNow, here's an email contradicting that from Mike, who says, "I would argue we are no more or less safe, in fact, than we were on Sep. 10, 2001. We've spent all the funds, Prof. Thurber noted, without changing the underlying fundamentals that we need to live in a complex world. If we look at a cost-benefit analysis, it's hard to see what the benefits are."
REHM"If we had spent this much on any other effort -- say, public health or education -- think of what the impact might have been."
WESSELRight. That's the question of what you could have done with the money otherwise. I think that Prof. Thurber's ratchet metaphor is a good one, though. I think it's very difficult for any president or presidential appointee to say, okay, we overdid it. Let's do away with the metal detectors at the airports. Because, you know, if you do that and there's an incident, people will blame you for letting down your guard.
WESSELAnd so the thing that's worrisome is that it's almost impossible to conclude that we can do less, having done this much, and that's kind of crazy.
MURPHYBut we must do less because we've got to get back to core American values. We -- the government seems to have an insatiable appetite for new surveillance powers for expanding the war. In this most recent version of the National Defense Authorization Act, the House just passed a provision to declare worldwide war against al-Qaida and the Taliban, even as we're ratcheting down our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
MURPHYAnd we've captured and killed Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. So this insatiable appetite is complicated that -- by the fact that, as James said, the government doesn't like to give up its powers once it has them.
THURBERBut let me add that -- and I say this from a very personal place because I have a relative who is in -- who's an undercover drug detective, okay? And when this happened, significant amount of money was transferred from the so-called 100,000 cops bill, away from police...
THURBER...and they shut down activities to try to break gangs down and go after drug dealers and shifted it to homeland security. And his position is -- and I agree -- is Homeland Security is also keeping people safe from gangs and drug dealers.
MURPHYThat's absolutely right. And there were several FBI -- high-level former FBI agents who came out in 2009 and said this shift to counterterrorism and intelligence-gathering efforts by the federal government made us less aware of the mortgage fraud that was going on. So many people have been shifted away.
MURPHYOver 2,400 FBI agents have been shifted away from law enforcement, routine law enforcement into counterterrorism, and it's costing the American people in terms of being protected from fraud and crime. So I would have to agree with James on that.
REHMDavid Wessel, how do you see that? How do you see the connection between, if you can, a trail from 9/11 to the failure of the banking industry?
WESSELFrankly, Diane, I think it's a bit of a stretch. I agree that there is a cost. If you shift a whole lot of people from one thing to another thing, there's a cost to that. I don't have a lot of confidence that those FBI agents would have been -- caught the mortgage fraud anyways. And I think that -- I think we have this longing to say, gosh, that was a horrible event.
WESSELAnd everything that horrible happened afterwards must be somehow related to that. But I just don't -- I don't think that's the case.
MURPHYWell, I don't...
WESSELI'm not saying it doesn't -- they didn't -- there aren't elements. I mean, for instance, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates very low after 9/11. It kept them there for a long time. That had something to do with the housing bubble. That had something to do with the 2008 collapse. Would the Fed have done that if not for 9/11? Maybe not. But do we want to blame Osama bin Laden for Alan Greenspan's misjudgment? That's a stretch.
REHMDavid Wessel, he's economics editor of The Wall Street Journal. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." David, what do you think has changed in this country that no one ever anticipated?
WESSELI think it's amazing that we put up with some of the things that Laura mentions, that people stand patiently in line at the airports while there's someone who rifles through their bags or, you know, pats down their legs and stuff like that.
REHMBut what is the alternative? I mean...
WESSELI -- no, I know. But, well, you know, if a whole bunch of people -- well, people could stop flying. And if people stopped flying -- and there were some of that because of the hassle -- I think the airlines would react.
THURBERHey, they're not taking nail clippers anymore (unintelligible).
WESSELRight, right, right. I read they might not make you take off your shoes. It's...
WESSELBut I think that -- I think the things that are most important here are things that you can't measure. They have to do with our identity, our sense of safety, the fact that our kids have grown up in a world where they feel the country is vulnerable to attack from abroad. You know, when I was a teenager, I traveled in Israel. And I remember being at a youth hostel and there were soldiers in the youth hostel.
WESSELAnd they had these big guns, which they put under their pillows. And I was kind of freaked out by that.
WESSELBut you go to Penn Station now, and there's some guy there in a camouflage outfit with a machine gun, or whatever they are. And so, I think, we've become a little more militaristic, and we've accepted a lot more presence of security. And, as Laura points out, there doesn't seem to be a big public uproar about this invasion of our privacy as much as you might have expected.
THURBEROne thing that we can measure internationally, though, is attitudes about the United States. There are rally effects around the world. I got dozens of calls from former students the day after saying, geez, we're very sorry, and, you know, what can we do? And we've gone from a very high support in the polls to very low.
THURBERAnd we are associated with extraordinary rendition, taking foreign people that we think are terrorists to another country to be interrogated. We have Guantanamo. We've increased the number of -- and the president has done this -- the number of predator missiles striking all over Pakistan, probably -- some say it's a good idea because our troops, you know, are not exposed. They don't have to go across.
THURBERWe've done a lot of things, though, that look very bad internationally. And attitudes about the United States have gone from very high support to very low support, even though we have a president that probably would get elected in the high 90s if he ran worldwide, even today. He's disassociated with a lot of these things.
REHMAnd we'll be talking more about the international reaction to 9/11 in our next hour. Laura.
MURPHYYes. I -- you know, it's interesting, David. I do think the American people have an appreciation for what goes on at the airport, even though the ACLU has complained about these body scanners and how intrusive they are in some of these searches, little old ladies and infants. Some of these things don't make sense and are not effective and are very costly.
MURPHYBut I'm concerned about the things that the American people don't see, how the FBI can use banks and track transactions without judicial review, how they can go to Internet service providers and demand records of our Internet activity without judicial review, how libraries and banks and other daily transactions are -- the people who operate them are turned into snitches.
MURPHYBecause if the government presents a national security letter to some of these institutions, people are under a gag order that the FBI is seeing this information. So the massive control that the FBI has exerted, without checks and balances, over our financial institutions, over our Internet service providers, over our airlines, I think, has enormous economic consequences.
REHMAnd once that is in place, it doesn't turn around and go back.
MURPHYRight. And that's the civil liberties problem because we need to turn those things around.
REHMLaura Murphy is director if the ACLU's Washington legislative office. When we come back, we'll open the phones for your comments. Stay with us.
REHMAnd it's time to open the phones. First to Bloomington, Ind. Good morning, Taylor. You're on the air.
TAYLORHi, everyone. I just want to give the panelists and yourself, Diane -- I didn't mean to left you out -- leave you out there -- of my own personal snapshot of, you know, post-9/11 America and the contrast between our politicians and average citizens.
TAYLORWhile we have people like, say, Peter King or who, you know, are using their congressional bully pulpits to conduct these witch hunts to Radical Islam terrorists that are supposedly populating the U.S. without our knowledge, I just want to share a story that I had -- I mean, that I was a part of. I live in Bloomington, and I live next to a bunch of wonderful people. They're, you know, lovely. They're great neighbors. They just happen to be Muslims.
TAYLORWell, lo and behold, a local church gets a hold of this. And they find -- once they find out, they're going to switch on saying they're evil, and they're going to burn the Quran in front of their house and all this, you know, awful stuff. And the neighborhood just rallied around these people. They're saying, no, these are our neighbors. You're not going to do this. These may have been terrorist (unintelligible)...
REHMOkay, Taylor, we've got lots of callers waiting. Can you be brief, please?
TAYLORSure. Well, I didn't say -- the time that's post-9/11 America is citizens like me do take offense at this sort of, you know, (unintelligible) like this. We don't stand up and say, look, the problem is not about (unintelligible) to be extremists. You're not -- no one's learned a lesson here.
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling.
MURPHYYeah, I think the caller makes a very good point. We are focusing on religion, which is supposed to be protected by the First Amendment, instead of violent extremism. We need to look for criminal conduct. We don't need to make all Muslim Americans feel as though they're participating in a witch hunt. That's counterproductive.
MURPHYAny law enforcement study will show you, any credible one, that racial profiling is ineffective and counterproductive. And that's what the caller is talking about.
REHMAll right. James.
THURBERWe should remind the listeners that George Bush, President Bush went to the National Islamic Center one week after 9/11 and gave a very important speech that said, you should not -- basically, you should not profile and that this is a very good religion and that we should not discriminate against Muslims in America.
REHMAll right. To Matt in Lansing, Mich. Good morning to you.
MATTHi, Diane. Love the show.
MATTI have two questions for your panelists. The first is about how we're doing post-9/11 as far as actually protecting from further attacks, like port security and different things like that. And the other question is about the Patriot Act. I read a recent article, that the Patriot Act has really only been used for -- against terrorism about 10 times, but the uses against drugs and other sorts of things like that has been much more widespread.
MATTMy question is, do your panelists think that there is any clear path for us back to our civil liberties, basically? And I'll take...
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling. David Wessel, on port security?
WESSELI don't know a lot about the specifics of port security. I suspect it's better, but not great. I think what's most interesting to me is how much more vulnerable we are now to cyber attacks from abroad than we were on 9/11 and how much more damage could be done to our economy and our way of life that way than was done by commandeering some airplanes.
WESSELAnd, I think, that's where you see a lot of both work going on and a lot of tension, that Laura points out, about, how do you protect the country against cyber attacks while you're protecting our civil liberties at the same time? And I think that's where there's a lot more interesting work being done.
THURBERYes. On port security, I know that the national laboratories -- energy laboratories, like Sandia National Labs, developed a screening for containers coming into the United States. It went from 2 percent to about 40 percent screening of all of these containers, and so, that way, it is much safer at this point.
REHMAll right. And is there a clear pathway back from the extremes of the Patriot Act, Laura?
MURPHYWell, Congress extended the Patriot Act for four years, but they made the most -- some of the most controversial provisions. They did not make them permanent. And so Congress has an obligation to do much more rigorous oversight. And, as I said earlier, the Senate was up in arms about the classified briefings about the uses of the Patriot Act.
MURPHYAnd the caller is right. Many Patriot Act powers are leaching into criminal law enforcement as a way of getting around the Fourth Amendment and are used for routine criminal investigation. So, I think, the Patriot Act is a disaster and is a sore on our national identity, and we need to reformat.
REHMHere's an email from Amy in Monrovia, Ind., who says, "Watching the incredible growth of nativism, the polarization of politics, anger in the general population, it seems as though, with the hardening of the borders, Americans have turned on one another. The rich are getting richer, the poor getting poorer. People are willing to allow the elderly and disabled to go without. All the wealthy gather riches around them." David Wessel.
WESSELWell, that's a pretty bleak description of America. I think that -- is the gap between winners and losers in our economy widening? Absolutely. Are we really letting the elderly go without? That's a bit hard for me to swallow that, given amount of money we spent on health care and Social Security for the elderly. And I don't think we've become a hard-hearted person, a hard-hearted nation.
WESSELBut I think that the caller rightly identifies that there's something going on in the world economy that is driving a wedge between the winners and losers in our economy. And, right now, there's no political consensus to use the forces of government to resist that, and so it seems to be intensifying rather than being resistant.
REHMAll right. To Clifton, Va. Good morning, Liz.
LIZGood morning, Diane. I'm not sure which of your panelists this morning had made a comment in the beginning of the show that we never anticipated being in either Afghanistan or Iraq. My father was called out of retirement immediately after 9/11. His name was Gen. Wayne Downing. And I know that he told -- at least the family multiple times and probably those around him.
LIZBut, unfortunately, the Bush administration chose not to listen him -- that he said, at the minimum, we would be in Afghanistan 25 years. And his philosophy always has been, or was, that if you want to catch a bank robber, you got to think like a bank robber. And so he was never surprised by any of the actions that al-Qaida had done on 9/11. He knew immediately who it was.
LIZAnd he never granted interviews because he just did not feel that it was appropriate for someone to diss their president. I mean, that's a -- really, pretty much military code. You do not publicly make negative comments about your commanding officer, and the president was the supreme commanding officer of all the troops.
THURBERYes. Well, remember the National Intelligence Estimate that justified the invasion of Baghdad from the no-fly zones and the debate leading up to it. The debate was that the CIA, basically, said there was no evidence of nuclear weapons.
THURBERThere was some evidence of weapons of mass destruction, that, in fact, Saddam Hussein killed al-Qaida -- there wasn't al-Qaida there -- that, in fact, the National Energy Labs said that the -- that there was no evidence of tubes to enrich plutonium. So there was this debate, and some people stood up. There was -- in fact, one of the generals stood up and said the real cost of the war was about five times as much as they said it would be.
THURBERWell, it was much more than that. He was fired. So there was a lot of rallying around the president in what he wanted to do from this National Intelligence Estimate, but there was a lot of dissidents within the community over whether it was accurate or not.
REHMAnd just to follow up on that, Phil in Detroit, Mich., writes, "One change in the aftermath of 9/11 is the creation of a military industrial complex. Do we know what percentage of our overall GDP is attributed now to military spending? What I fear is that the impact, such a complex has on our economy, will lead to perpetual warfare." David Wessel.
WESSELI don't have those numbers at my fingertips. I think the military-industrial complex preceded 9/11. In fact, it was a phrase that Dwight Eisenhower used on his way out of office. But I do think -- and Tom Friedman of The New York Times wrote a good column about this -- that there's a new kind of homeland security industrial complex.
WESSELAnd he described overhearing some people at the hot dog stand at the ballpark who were talking about selling their services and their PowerPoints to homeland security. And so there's a whole lot of money going into that stuff. And that has been very lucrative for the people who are in that business.
REHMAll right. To Washington, D.C. Good morning, Nia. (sp?) You're on the air.
REHMYes. Go right ahead.
NIAOh, yes. (unintelligible) there are many comments to be made. But I just wanted to know, I'm glad that you have someone from ACLU because that is a very important American organization to defend individual liberties, which I put ahead of everything else, almost. And also the fact is that people used to die for liberty. I know we have given our liberty away according to Patriot Act for a very small percentage of probability of an event.
NIAAnd we are not secured in many areas. We are not secure when we drive our -- and we don't do everything possible so that we don't die in a car crash. And I don't believe that what America has done, that it has even has made it secure in terms of (unintelligible) -- in effect, you know, attacking Iraq for absolutely no reason and still staying in Afghanistan and killing civilians in Pakistan with drones and also sending drones to kill...
REHMAll right. I'm going to stop you right there, Nia. Do you want to comment, Laura?
MURPHYYes. Well, first thing, I want to say, thank you, Nia. And you should become a member of the ACLU. But the second thing I want to say is that Leon Panetta -- Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said al-Qaida has been crippled. So here we are. We know that we should not have gone into Iraq for the war. Ten years after the fact, we need to revisit -- we need a call to courage.
MURPHYWe need -- this is an auspicious time to look at our policies and to ratchet them back. But we need the help of the American people in doing that. We have a president who's authorized using drones against -- targeted assassination against American citizens abroad, far off the battlefield. We have...
WESSELNot against American citizens.
MURPHYYes. No. An American citizen was targeted in Yemen by the president for an assassination. His father came to the ACLU to try to represent him. Our case was thrown out of the courts on national security grounds. And so, yes, that -- American citizens are vulnerable, and we have a Congress that wants to allow the military to arrest American citizens and people within our borders.
MURPHYSo we do see a militarization of law enforcement and national security, and we've got to resist that on the 10th anniversary.
REHMLaura Murphy, she is the director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office. And to Miami, Fla. Good morning, Lauren.
LAURENGood morning. Thank you for taking my call. Here is my question. My understanding is that the initial intent of the FISA Act was that any wiretapping had to be overseen by the judges in the FISA court. Well, I believe it's been diluted in the last two years such that, now, wiretapping can go on without judicial oversight. I wonder if your panel could comment if that's still the case.
MURPHYAbsolutely. The FISA Act amendments of 2008 authorized wiretapping of American citizens without judicial review. And it's a travesty.
REHMAll right. And to St. Louis, Mo. Good morning, Ken.
KENGood morning, Diane. Real quick, one of the philosophical ideas that Osama bin Laden had discussed, I think, a few years ago -- I think maybe you talked about it on your show -- was to bring down the United States financially.
KENAnd one of the things I've been hearing today, as well as, of course, the last year, talking about, you know, financial crisis with the housing markets and everything else, is that he's actually -- seems like he succeeded in that idea to make things more complicated for the American public, such as through airports and, you know, everything. And it just seems to me that that idea that he had is actually -- you know, is actually succeeding.
WESSELWell, did he change America? Did he shake us up? Yes, obviously. And are things different today than they were before 9/11? Yes, obviously. All I'm saying is let's look at the whole picture. And, in many ways, we've gone and we've plowed ahead, despite those things. And in other ways, we've stumbled in ways that Osama bin Laden simply couldn't have anything to do with.
WESSELI mean, I refuse to blame Osama bin Laden for the geniuses who thought up subprime mortgages and turning them into AAA securities and sinking the American financial system.
REHMBut you can blame him for the amount of money we've spent on two wars.
WESSELYeah. Right. And I think we...
REHMAnd now three.
WESSELYeah. Right. I think -- look, as we've said, there is an opportunity cost. This money could have been spent on other things. Everybody who's working at -- in a homeland security job might be doing something else. As Prof. Thurber said, they might be cracking down a drug. That's no -- that's not -- there's no doubt about that.
WESSELIt's just that I think we have to resist the temptation to say that everything bad in America that's happened in the last decade somehow is Osama bin Laden's fault. He wasn't that great.
MURPHYI don't think anybody is saying that. I think what we're saying is that we've made choices. And I think some of us are saying it's time to revisit those choices and get back to core American values and priorities.
THURBERBut if you look at the debt and deficit, most of it had to do with tax cuts at the beginning of the Bush administration. We had a $3.1 trillion projected surplus at that point. It's not spending on homeland security, not even spending on the war. It's a lot. But it was tax cuts. It was downturn of the economy in 2008.
THURBERNow, I'm sure that Osama liked that, but he had nothing to do with that, nothing to do with what Wall Street did to America, in my opinion.
REHMHave we recovered from 9/11? James.
THURBERWell, I think that we've changed. It's like osmosis. The phenomena occurred. It changed us, and we changed America as a result of it. I think that we have more security. People think we're more secure. But we can't go on forever spending this kind of money.
REHMQuick comment, David.
WESSELI don't think we've recovered in the sense that you never recover from the loss of a spouse or the loss of a child. I think it was of that magnitude.
MURPHYWe have not recovered our values. We need to revisit freedom of association, freedom of speech, the Fourth Amendment and equal protection of our laws.
REHMLaura Murphy of the ACLU, David Wessel of The Wall Street Journal, James Thurber of the American University, thank you all for being here for what I consider a very important program. Thank you.
REHMThanks to all of you for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
Most Recent Shows
AT&T’s bid to acquire Time Warner: Join us to talk about what the proposed merger of the country’s second-largest wireless carrier and a major content company could mean for consumers and the future of U.S. media and telecommunications.
After the 9/11 attacks, U.S. intelligence, military and law enforcement agencies were forced to work together in completely new ways. A veteran national security reporter on how America has tried to adapt to a new era of warfare.
Early voting is underway in states across the country. Just over two weeks before the presidential election, a look at the latest polls, the electoral map and end-of-the-line strategies for both campaigns.