Airport Security Post-9/11: Striking a Research Paper

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It is the harsh reality of life in post-9/11 America that the global terror continues to exact a high toll on American lives and interests at home and abroad, and the terrorist agenda continues to include attacks in the future that may involve weapons of mass destruction.

Furthermore, these types of diminutions of basic constitutional rights are not unique in American history, and President Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus in response to the threat to national security during the Civil War and President Roosevelt interred over a hundred thousand Japanese-American citizens following the attack on Pearl Harbor. As the level of threats to the national security have ebbed and flowed, then, so too has the level of civil liberties that are afforded the citizens of the United States. In the current environment, it is reasonable to suggest that the need for continuing high levels of airport security remains and that such security measures will be able to pass constitutional muster based on the precedential cases involving these security measures and American airports to date. Unfortunately, even the most rigorous security systems may fail to prevent recurrences of a September 11, 2001-level terrorist attack, but it is clear that the effort to prevent such recurrences must begin in the airports rather than once a flight has begun, and many Americans recognize and accept this need today.

The relative minority of critics who may resent such security measures in the nation's airports must be made aware of the need through improved public relations campaigns by the Transportation Security Administration. It should be noted, though, that Lippert and O'Connor (2003) also emphasize that, "Like other governmental forms, airport security is complex" (p. 333), and there will likely be continued high-profile but isolated instances of abusive practices and unnecessarily officious TSA agents who are overzealous in their efforts. Given that tens of millions of people pass through the nation's airports each year safely, this is a decent track record and this fact should be emphasized as well. .


Following the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001, many observers were heard to remark that "things would never be the same" and history has confirmed this prediction with respect to the nation's airports.
This outcome is not surprising given that the 19 terrorists mounted their attacks from some of the nation's busiest and largest airports, but many constitutional scholars have argued that the federal government went too far in its efforts to prevent a recurrence of this type of event in the future. Because there have not been any such recurrences in the intervening years, these arguments have faded in favor of proponents of increased security measures that will continue to thwart the asymmetrical warfare tactics being used by terrorist organizations around the world in their fight against the West. Although the Founding Fathers could not have envisioned the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 or the mechanisms that were used to perpetrate them, they did foresee the need for a flexible Constitution that would be living document, responsive to changes in the geopolitical environment that may represent a threat to national security. In sum, while the Founders could not have foreseen the post-9/11 United States per se, they would likely approve of the manner in which Fourth Amendment protections have remained in place in the vast majority of places, with the few exceptions being worth the tradeoff in diminished civil liberties in return for improved safety and security for the nation's citizenry.


Black's law dictionary. (1991). St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Co.

Lee, C. (2010). Package bombs, footlockers, and laptops: What the disappearing container doctrine can tell us about the Fourth Amendment. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 100(4), 1403-1405.

Lippert, R. & O'Connor, D. (2003). Security assemblages: Airport security, flexible work, and liberal governance. Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, 28(3), 331-333.

Minert, S.R. (2006). Square pegs, round hole:….....

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