More 9/11 Retrospectives

Joseph Stiglitz on the price of 9/11.

How 9/11 changed surveillance.

New scientific research as a result of 9/11.

A good controversial piece.

The day we lost our privacy and power.

The probability of another 9/11-magnitude terrorist attack.

To justify the current U.S. spending on homeland security—not including our various official and unofficial wars—we’d have to foil 1,667 Times Square-style plots per year.

Let’s Cancel 9/11.”

I didn’t write anything to commemorate the 9/11 anniversary. I couldn’t think of anything to say that I haven’t said a gazillion times already.

Anything else worth reading? Post links here.

EDITED TO ADD (9/14): “How to Beat Terrorism: Refuse to Be Terrorized” from Wired.

Ten Things I Want My Children To Learn from 9/11.”

The creator of the TSA says it should be dismantled and privatized:

Pat Buchanan on Bush after 9/11.

9/11: Was There an Alternative? by Noam Chomsky.

Comments from Al-Jazeera.

The Onion’s comment.

Posted on September 12, 2011 at 1:27 PM38 Comments


Irrelevant September 12, 2011 2:13 PM

Hallo, I’ve been thinkin about how you said that there are not two different words for the feeling and the reality of security and I think there is, Morale. Maybe if you look through a thesaurus you can find a much more appealing name,
Also, could you change the name of your new book to “Why security exists” that sounds more compelling than the other title.

B.G. Helou September 12, 2011 3:21 PM

My father has a quotation displayed at his house that speaks what he considers a great truth. He has it displayed for two reasons: (a) it’s a message he wants to share with others and b) it’s from someone he doesn’t get along with. Since childhood, my father has taught me to separate the message from the messenger. I’m not much of a Pat Buchanan fan, but what he has to say here needs to be shared.

Petréa Mitchell September 12, 2011 5:39 PM

Paul Coddington:

Do you mean the passes that have to be arranged in advance for a specific time? That’s not an unusual way of dealing with an expectation that more people will want to visit an attraction than it can accomodate. (Although Arthur Frommer reports that it isn’t nearly as oversubscribed as its management seems to expect it to be.)

Mike C September 12, 2011 7:31 PM

Does anyone have a link to the Popular Mechanics article that debunked a lot of the 9/11 conspiracy theories?

sebastian büttrich September 13, 2011 2:01 AM

aljazeera has this:

“The attacks of 9/11 were a horrific crime, almost 3,000 people were killed in one attack – a crime against humanity. But it wasn’t the crime of September 11 that threatened our country’s survival, that destroyed our democracy, it wasn’t September 11 that expanded the devastating impact of those attacks far beyond those already directly affected.

It was the events of September 12, when the Bush administration made the decision to take the world to war, that changed the world, and that continued to threaten the world’s security and shred US democracy.”

Mike B September 13, 2011 8:03 AM

I’m much less pessimistic about the 9/11 reaction than a lot of people. The Iraq war is/was the one clear mistake of the entire enterprise, but having to confront Islamist movements in failed states is not optional. Lawless zones is what breeds these problems and it is going to be up to the civilized world that they are cleaned up or at least contained.

Regarding the non-war costs I saw on diagram at the New York Times that went as far to list time spent in airport security lines as a 9/11 cost. Well, yeah I guess that going from completely useless and ineffective security that was fast to security that actually gives a damn could be considered a 9/11 “cost”, or just something sensible. Moreover people see to forget that a lot of Federal programes were rolled into DHS and are now painted as “Homeland Security” spending when in reality its plain Jane emergency preparedness or more mundane crime prevention spending. Heck, the Coast Guard is now in DHS so I guess that would make painting the buoys homeland security spending.

I have yet to see someone come out with a detailed analysis with how much 9/11 cost beyond what we should have actually been spending on security. Better airline security, better national intelligence collection, better border security and vehicle barriers around important buildings are all things we should have been spending money on 9/11 or no 9/11.

Also regarding to the major government surveillance/privacy freakout people should compare the number of American citizens who have suffered real world consequences at the hands of these “expanded” surveillance powers vs the number of people who have suffered real world consequences due to the capabilities of Google, Facebook and cell phone cameras. Assuming that the government actually does read everyone’s e-mail (which is a pretty big assumption) compared to Google or any other major web e-mail provider they don’t send you targeted adverts or sell your information to Spammers. Point goes to the government.

AC2 September 13, 2011 8:11 AM

In any case, the US has sent a clear message to terrorists everywhere…

Kill 3,000 of us and we will kill 10,000 people of yours, while losing 6,000 lives of ours and curtailing our freedoms in the process …

vasiliy pupkin September 13, 2011 9:13 AM

Regarding spending on security:
(1) it addresses not probablityplus cost of harmful event (objective risk), but rather emotional risk assessment. Like in casino when tactics even for scientist with math degree is differ from thier knowledge of probability, i.e. there is actual risk (probablity + cost of harmful event) and there is its psychological representation. Spending/budgeting is based on latter.
(2) In example with spending on road accident prevention and prevention of other harmful events cost of litigation should be included in assesment as well which is absolutely unpredictable because decisons are primary made based on emotions. It is just cheaper to implement some reasonable security measures upfront rather than pay huge money based on settlement or court order when harmful event occurred. Lawyers always find somebody else who should pay for your own irresponsible behavior – just observation.

x September 13, 2011 9:32 AM

It is easy to debunk 9-11 conspiracy stories

As long as you are willing to lie and to deny everything even if you do not have evidence to prove what you are saying (and the evidence more proves the conspiracy theorists than anyone else).

And of course a collective silence allows the denial to continue.

nobodyspecial September 13, 2011 11:13 AM

You have to admire the military mind:
The reason 9/11 worked was that it came as a total surprise, an unexpected attack in a form we never expected. So we expect the same people to mount exactly the same attack on the 10th anniversary!

Presumably on Dec 7 we can expect increased checks of the Japanese navy – in case there is a report of a credible threat ?

Paul September 13, 2011 11:20 AM

9/11 told us that the U.S. had bigger fish to fry than shadowy hackers crawling over our networks – or at least that was what we thought. After all – confronted with the prospect of a dirty bomb or a DDoS, most of us will take our chances with the DDoS. The problem, of course, is that wily hackers really are a serious problem – perhaps not as scary as bearded terrorists with box cutters, but far more potent in their own way.

moo September 13, 2011 12:35 PM

@Mike B:

There were lots of other clear mistakes. Guantanamo Bay. Domestic wiretapping by the NSA. The War on Photographers. The PATRIOT Act. The color-coded terrorism threat levels. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” rhetoric. All of the security theatre at airports (culminating in the super-expensive nudie scanners). Fingerprinting of foreign tourists who just want to come and spend money in your country. Invasions, and ongoing wars, in two foreign countries.

The U.S. has done more damage to itself over the last ten years than all of the world’s terrorists could possibly have hoped for. You were stung by a wasp, but it was your own autoimmune response that did the most harm. The U.S. squandered all of the goodwill that most of the world had for it immediately after 9/11. Its international reputation is sullied now for a long time to come. Its all extremely unfortunate. It was all so predictable, and so stupid.

Mike B September 14, 2011 8:53 AM


All of those are mistakes, but I don’t know how much money things like the color coded alert system actually ended up costing our government compared to the Iraq war. Also don’t confuse poor implementation for a poor idea. Was some sort of security alert system a reasonable idea? Yes, of course. Did we need some sort of terrorist POW camp that deals with the vagaries of non-state sponsored terrorism? Yes. Did the implementations of those ideas work? No, but that’s the price of electing incompetent boobs with degrees from religious universities.

BTW, have you ever actually read the Patriot Act? Once you get past the name, most of the provisions are entirely reasonable because, among other things, it updates surveillance laws to acknowledge things like the internet and mobile phones. Only a handful of the provisions have real privacy implications for US Persons and while they should be addressed don’t paint the parts that are reasonable with the tarnish of those that don’t.

RobertT September 14, 2011 10:02 AM

Please tell me that you’re a troll!
I cant stand the thought that you’re a living breathing human being, that actually believes what he is writing, it sends cold shivers down my spine just thinking about it.

Doug Coulter September 14, 2011 1:01 PM

You can’t even read most of the patriot act, much is classified, and if you knew what was in that part, you’d realize a few things.

One is that we are no longer even pretending to be a free country – can’t even know our own laws!

Second, whatever you think did 9/11 (I’m not into the alternative explanations, know too much about how buildings react to some stresses) — it’s clear that those in power had and have an agenda of making this place so centrally controlled that 1984 looks like a free, un-manipulated society. And if you think one or the other political party has a solution to this, you’ve drunk the kool aid. There’s no effective difference when both are owned by the same interests.

Never let a good crisis go to waste, indeed.

I follow the money, and who is empowered by new laws to see who is really in control. I’d advise others to do the same. I find it interesting that the parties with access to the warrentless wiretapping data get whatever they ask for, even when it’s obvious that TSA is a huge waste of money and a theft of our liberties. Do you just suppose that they now know where the skeletons are buried and use that information for their gain? Is there a time in recorded history when such power wasn’t abused in just that sort of way?

We are now experiencing the first global depression in which only the lower classes are hurt. A whole lot of what you see is simply attempts to maintain that status quo as long as possible or until the old rich guys die and don’t care anymore. Just follow the money — don’t take my word for it, do your own homework. You probably won’t like what you see as a result.

Clive Robinson September 14, 2011 1:55 PM

@ Doug,

“We are now experiencing the first global depression in which only the lower classes are hurt”

I would not call those affected by the down turn “lower classes” most are what were once called “wage slaves” ie those who’s out goings are such that they have to work to meet them, irespective of what the job is.

Their crime as seen by those who caused and continue to cause the economic failing was being “uperty” ie wanting to improve their lot and get a slightly larger slice of the economic pie.

For those that hold the pie being “uperty” is a serious offence that needs to be punished because in their view the pie belongs to them and their ilk and nobody should be alowed to “steal it from them”

All I can say is that “The American Dream” is a myth perpetrated on most of the US voters so that they will mistakenly beleive the clap trap put out by the politicians that scramble for the few crumbs of pie that are brushed in their direction.

As such these politicians are like “whiped curs” trying to please their masters by growling on comand in return for a bone that might have a little meat upon it.

The best thing most US voters could do for themselves is as you say “follow the money” evidence and then vote against any and all who suck on that corrupt teat. Remember that old tea tasts bitter no matter how often you re-boil the pot.

Clive Robinson September 15, 2011 2:39 AM

@ Moderator,

“Ahem. Getting a little far afield, here”

In some respects yes, however 9/11 marked the start of a very significant change in policy that has all but wreaked the US and greater part of the world economy.

And as such I remember 9/11 more for the effect of the politicians and their backers and the lost generation it has produced.

It is arguable that had the US not started the endless “War on Terror” which cannot be won and has no clear objectives so even a recognasable ending is unlikly then the economic issues that occured after 9/11 would have been dealt with in an entirely different way and the probability of having such a large proportion of the younger population “lost” would have been significantly smaller.

The effects of this lost population will outlive the close family of the 9/11 victims by a generation or so.

Kevin September 19, 2011 4:01 PM

I think it’s awful easy to criticize the US reaction to 9-11. Think about what you would do if you were President. Your #1 job would be to safeguard US lives. Would you not err on the side of extra security or err of the side of personal liberty? I believe everyone in that position would. Make the head of the ACLU President of the US and watch him change. It’s why Obama’s policies in this regard are little different than Bush’s. The pressure is too great not to allow a terrorist attack.

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