Ten years after 9/11, the ACLU joins all Americans in remembering the unspeakable losses suffered on that tragic day. The 10th anniversary of 9/11 provides an opportunity to reflect on the turbulent decade behind us, and to recommit ourselves to values that define our nation, including justice, due process, and the rule of law.
In the early days after the attacks, we were reminded that America is not only the land of the free, but also the home of the brave. On the evening of attacks, President Bush addressed the nation, and stated, “Our country is strong. Terrorist acts can shake the foundation of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America.”
We could not have imagined that in the decade to follow, our country would engage in policies that directly defied American values and undermined our Constitution. We lost our way when, instead of addressing the challenge of terrorism consistent with our values, our government chose the path of torture and targeted killing, of Guantánamo and military commissions, of warrantless government spying and the entrenchment of a national surveillance state, all of which now define the post-9/11-era. That is not who we are, or who we want to be.
Ten years later, our nation still faces the challenge of remaining both safe and free.
The way forward lies in decisively turning our backs on the policies and practices that violate our greatest strength: our Constitution and the commitment it embodies to the rule of law. It is that strength which is the best rejoinder our nation has to violence and to those who advocate it. Liberty and security do not compete in a zero-sum game; our freedoms are the very foundation of our strength and security. Consistent application of the law is what ensures that practices don't change simply because of a change in the White House.
Our choice is not between safety and freedom; in fact it is our fundamental values that are the very foundation of our strength and security.