MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - A lot has changed since Sept. 11, 2001.
In the heart of New York City, where the World Trade Center Towers one and two once stood, there is now a memorial to the victims of those attacks, as well as the men and women who lost their lives trying to rescue the people inside.
In addition to the lost loved ones and demolished landmarks, the Sept. 11 attacks left a mark on how the United States government, and public, views and approaches security.
All told, nineteen hijackers breached airport security, according to the Executive Summary of the 9/11 Commission's Report . The commission was assembled following the attacks to analyze the events surrounding them, as well as the day itself.
Their report says the hijackers exploited the airport security system, which was run by private firms at the time.
"Their success rate in penetrating the system was 19 for 19," the report said. "They took over the four flights, taking advantage of air crews and cockpits that were not prepared for the contingency of a suicide hijacking."
Since that day, and the institution of the Airport Transportation and Security Act, airport security has changed. Checkpoints have become standardized, thanks to the creation of the Transportation Security Administration, created under the act.
The TSA imposes restrictions on liquids and carry-on luggage sizes; forces passengers to remove their shoes, outerwear and belts and has the authority to single out passengers for questioning and further searches if they are deemed suspicious.
Though it was instituted with the safety of flyers in mind, the TSA has been the target of some pushback from the public. Searches of toddlers and some with physical handicaps have been posted to YouTube .
On the plane, pilots are now protected behind reinforced cockpit doors. First-class passengers are no longer separated from business and coach by curtains.
The TSA also has a "no-fly" list , which they say is based on intelligence from the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center. The TSA's website simply says the list "keeps known terrorists off planes." Those on the list are prohibited from getting boarding passes, let alone flying.
In addition to airport security, Americans' privacy — and the governments' abilities concerning it — has also been affected. The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (USA PATRIOT Act) gave law enforcement agencies greater freedom to conduct covert investigations, including using wiretaps, against anyone suspected of terrorism.
This was not without controversy of its own. Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union complained that the act gave law enforcement over-reaching power. They said that sections of the law needed "proper checks and balances to protect our constitutional freedoms."
Under section 213 of the PATRIOT Act investigators are allowed to conduct warranted or court ordered searches, but do not have to immediately disclose them. Essentially, they can enter homes and seize property "that constitutes evidence of a criminal offense in violation of law."
The ACLU said it takes issue with these so-called "sneak and peak" searches. It also claims that the act allows the government to "monitor your e-mails and what internet sites you visit" and "wiretap you under a warrant that doesn't even have your name on it."
This speaks to the group's basic problem with the act, which they feel needs reform to protect the constitutional rights of Americans.
During the senate floor debates, then-Senator Joe Biden felt that the PATRIOT Act was needed.
"The FBI could get a wiretap to investigate the mafia, but they could not get one to investigate terrorists," Biden said in 2001, about a month after 9/11. "To put it bluntly, that was crazy! What's good for the mob should be good for terrorists."
Though some may feel their rights are violated by them, with the TSA and PATRIOT Act firmly in place, the government is aiming to keep citizens on the home-front safe.
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