11 years later: security and privacy following 9/11
Published: Monday, September 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 10, 2012 05:09
It was an early Tuesday morning. Children were at home getting ready to go to school, parents to work, others to dentist appointments and some to a breakfast with colleagues. Then the thunder of several hijacked planes pierced the brisk morning sky, and Americans’ lives changed forever.
For those old enough to remember, 9/11 played an influential role in our individual and collective perceptions of the world and issues of life, freedom and national security.
None would be wise to brush it to the side as merely a few pages in a history book. It continues to transform our values and policy decisions more than a decade later.
Many articles and columns have been written about the decision to enter Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. Many 9/11-era terrorism and policymaking priorities are still largely affected by those early-morning events – from TSA airport body scanners to joint military efforts in the Middle East.
Americans in the last decade have witnessed more than two wars but an array of policies and precedents involving security, privacy and personal freedom.
With threats from Iran and North Korea and ongoing civil war and international tension in the Middle East, America must maintain a stance of freedom and open democracy abroad. But it must be equally careful to protect freedom at home. How?
As The New York Times reported in early July, cell phone carriers responded to 1.3 million demands from law enforcement agencies for customer information in 2011.
Information included texts and caller locations, among other data. AT&T alone averages more than 700 requests per day, with many of the law enforcement requests not requiring a court warrant.
The pieces are also still being put together on the 1 million Apple IDs that a group of hackers known as AntiSec posted to the Internet early last week, as numerous reports indicated.
The group claims to have up to 12 million Apple ID numbers, which members say they stole from an FBI laptop. The FBI has come out against the claims, though have yet to look into them completely.
If it turns out that the information did come from an FBI computer, the government agency will be forced to explain why it had the identification numbers for millions of consumers to begin with – a breach of contract between Apple and consumers and a direct violation of individual privacy.
But greater government oversight and information accessibility has been somewhat derailed by a justified lack of trust for the size and scope of government.
Take, for example, the issue of cyber security. Considered a threat by most, recent legislation like the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) and the Cyber Security Act of 2012 have failed to find traction.
On the heels of SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act), CISPA served to increase information sharing between businesses and the government.
As technology news website CNET reported, after passing the House by a comfortable margin of 248-168, CISPA was narrowly defeated in the Senate, 52-46. The Cybersecurity Act of 2012 was also defeated.
And while a lack of trust for government involvement lingers, cyber attacks themselves continue. In an interview with WORLD Magazine, Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va, pointed out instances of cyber attacks from nations like China.
“Mike Rogers, the chairman of our intelligence committee, said there are two kinds of companies in America: those who have been hit with a cyber attack and know it, and those who have been hit with a cyber attack and don't know it,” Wolf said.
Wolf pointed out that the Chinese stripped information off computers for 17 members of Congress, his included, as they focus on both military and industrial secrets.
As noted in the world news magazine Foreign Policy, in a speech at the Aspen Security Forum over the summer, Gen. Keith Alexander – head of Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency – gave the U.S. a three out of 10 rating for defenses.
In a previous article from Foreign Policy, Alexander said, “What we need to worry about is when these transition from disruptive to destructive attacks, which is going to happen.”
And such threats toward the end of the last decade have started to redefine terrorism and our concept of foreign threats.
When asked what presidential candidates should make a priority for security-related issues, the highest priorities were to protect government computer systems from hackers (74 percent), protect “our electric power grid, water utilities and transportation systems against computer or terrorist attacks” (73 percent) and protect against domestic security issues like terrorism (68 percent), according to the Unisys Security Index released last spring.
And issues of privacy and security are not limited to government snooping or cyber warfare – they even extend to local communities.