The Greatest


No Greater Threat: America After September 11 &
The Rise Of A National Security State

By: C. William Michaels

C. William Michaels is an attorney and a social activist. He graduated the University of Maryland School of Law in 1978. He has been involved in various social activities for more than 30 years. In 2000, he received a leadership recognition award.

Is America Under A National Security State?

By: Claire Park

The tragedy that happened on September 11 of 2001 cannot be, nor should be forgotten. The horror people all around the world felt still remains in their hearts. President George W. Bush signed the United States of America Patriot Act (the Act) to in hopes of preventing another terror incident like 9/11 from happening. It was reviewed and signed on the very next day. The act is still valid to this day, being effective on various categories such as sharing information, seizure warrants, and banking investigative authority. No Greater Threat: America After September 11 and The Rise Of A National Security State by C. William Michaels explains various impacts the Patriot Act has had in the society such as increase of level of security.

Title I: Enhancing Domestic Security against Terrorism has six sections in total, authorizing a fund for counter terrorism plans, condemning any “acts of violence” against Arab and Muslim Americans, increasing funding for the FBI’s Technical Support Center, allowing the use of armed forces when requested by the United States Attorney General, authorizing the Secret Service in the Treasury Department to develop a “national network of electronic crime task forces”, and expanding presidential authority for investigation and seizure process.1 Title II: Enhanced Surveillance Procedures has eleven sections that hadn’t expired in 2006 which authorized sharing criminal investigation information such as the procedures and Grand Jury information, employment of translators by the FBI, designation of judges, clarification of scope of subpoenas for the records of electronic communications, delay of notice for execution of the warrants, modification of authorities involving the trace and trap devices, search warrants related to terrorism, trade sanctions, and assistance for agencies to enforce the laws. Title III: International Money Laundering has sections focused on the prevention, detection, and prosecution of international money laundering and financing of terrorism. The brief purposes of this title are strengthening the provisions, providing a clear mandate on jurisdiction, financial institutions, and classes of international transactions, ensuring the employment of measures permits appropriate opportunities, clarifying the terms of the safe harbor, strengthening the authorities of the Secretary to issue and administer geographic targeted orders, ensuring such orders are kept, strengthening the ability of financial institutions to maintain integrity, and strengthening the measures to prevent US financial system for being used for personal gain.

Title IV: Protecting The Border contains large part of Immigration and Nationality Act, giving more law enforcement and investigative power to the US Attorney General and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. It is criticized for the absence of clarification of judicial reviews for designated groups of terrorists. Title V: Removing Obstacles to Investigating Terrorism is created to specify the way for payment of rewards, DNA identification, coordination with law enforcement, national security authorities, expansion of Secret Service authorities, and disclosure of educational records including those from National Center of Educational Statistics surveys. Title VI: Providing for Victims of Terrorism, Public Safety Officers, and Their Families was created to protect the officers, provide aids to the officers in case of injury or death caused by the terrorism, and amends the Victims of Crime Act of 1984. Title VII: Increased Information Sharing for Critical Infrastructure Protection has purpose to strengthen the ability of U.S. law enforcement to counter terrorism that ignores jurisdictional boundaries. Title VIII: Strengthening the Criminal Laws Against Terrorism clarifies the definition of terrorism and re-defines the laws involving terrorism, to know how to deal with them. Title IX: Improved Intelligence sets restriction on information sharing, international cooperation in information sharing, foreign terrorist asset tracking center, potential new translation agency or office, and inter-agency training program. Title X: Miscellaneous has specified the rules for new justice department office to track complaints, clarification of computer crimes, adding “trespassers” or other venue provisions, additional investigation and training under first responders assistance act, biometric identifier systems and airline passenger information, hazardous materials restrictions, new national effort on bioterrorism preparedness, new or expanded grant programs for training, readiness, and technology, and critical infrastructures.

There are twelve usual characteristics that follow a national security state: noticeable increase of security workforce, restricted responsibility of law enforcement, diminishing responsibilities of the Judiciary and Executive treatment of suspects, veiled central authorities, supportive national press, use of resources, change from patriotism to nationalism, absence of criticism from religious denominations, mentality of national security state, certain groups or individuals being targeted, no grace toward dissent, and increase of observation of citizenry. In a national security state, there is noticeable increase of armed force and level of security. There will be less objections against harsh actions of these workforces and increase of suppression, which will be followed by diminished role of the Judiciary since it protects people from laws. Less decisions are made from the court and more orders come from the authorities in a national security state. Everything related to the terrorism and authorities will be in secret to continue the public anxiety and tension against terrorism. Media, including the television and the press, will be supportive of the government. Resources will be used to repair the damages from the terror and prevent terrorism, either international or domestic. The only allowable interest would be the interest of states. In order for a national security state to last long, either the religion denomination, including all churches, faiths, worship centers, or temples, has to be in control of the government or supportive toward it. Tension has to be remained in the public and to relieve this increase of tension and anxiety, people or government will usually target a specific group or individuals. Identified group has to be cleared, which was a racial group in this case. “The targeted groups are of Middle Eastern descent.”2 Since the government does not allow any criticism and dissent against itself, it will attack any argument. There will be more observations especially in public areas because terrorism usually takes place when there are a lot of people. More security cameras will be installed and increase of surveillance power of FBI will be unavoidable. These characteristics of national security state show that loss of political freedoms, civil liberties, and various resources will be inevitable.

These characteristics were already taking place in America. Mass media in support of the government is an example. The “new” patriotism, that has taken place after the 9/11 attacks, has been applied to reflected in the media culture. As a response, television culture would create the trend by producing programs that follow the trend of patriotism and take advantage of it. This response will cause this cycle to begin. A cycle of “media amplifying the new patriotism which will then increase in influence as it is further reinforced and legitimated, in turn generating further media culture amplification.”3 On the other hand, worried voices are coming out, emphasizing that too much tension can be toxic and importance of education to relieve this pressure. The education is vital as a medium to promise children of their safety. “Education must be critical as well as informative, thought-provoking as well as factual.”4 There are not only worried voices, but also those of disagreement. Some cities have passed laws, opposing the Act. They have criticized the Act about its violation of civil liberties by deciding not to respond or support the law enforcement. These cities include Cambridge, Northampton, Leverett, and Amherst from Massachusetts, Ann Arbor in Michigan, Berkeley from California, and Denver of Colorado. “The Denver resolution said that the police should not seek or collect information about political, religious, or social associations of activities of any citizen ‘unless the information relates to criminal activity and the subject is suspected of criminal activity.’ ”5 Heidi Herrell, a council member of Ann Arbor, said, “We’re very concerned about civil rights and about potential discrimination against members of our community.”6 Although a local reaction to the Act was a little contrary to the original intention of the Act, an international reaction agrees with it. The United Nations (UN) issued “a statement from its Department of Disarmament Affairs and UN Under Secretary General for Disarmament Jayantha Dhanapala, called, ‘Fighting Terrorism Through Disarmament.’ The statement calls for ‘mutual disarmament’ and says that increasing the number and sophistication of weapons and extensive defense systems will not protect us from terrorism.”7 Americans often question what they can do. The American Friends Service Committee claimed that Americans can write to their congressperson or state representative about their opinions of policy initiatives, either domestic or international. They also emphasized importance of learning information about the countries the US is holding accountable for terrorism, working against violence caused by hatred of race, gender, color, creed, religion, or ethnicity, and knowing that the media may be biased and hold it responsible for incomplete reporting. At the end, the author reassures the readers and reminds the readers to know that the world is so much bigger than the United States, not just on the president’s actions or dropping bombs.

The author, C. William Michaels, supports the USA Patriot Act. He confirms that the act does not fail to prevent and manage terrorism when dealing with it. He points out several misconceptions the public has in the book before explaining the uses of each title in depth to prevent the readers from misapprehending. He points out that the public perception is “that the Act involves only issues of specialized concern like increased intelligence and surveillance of non-US citizens present in this century.”8 He then corrects it by saying that “increased intelligence and surveillance powers for federal investigators are only part of its very broad scope and much of it is not restricted to foreign nationals.”9 He states that the Act is not just solely on the terrorism and restrictions involving it but has significance as a part of “the overall picture of a potentially emerging national security state.”10

C. William Michaels, the author of No Greater Threat: America After September 11 and The Rise Of A National Security State, is a social activist and very involved in social activities and positions. He is not pro-government, or supportive of harsh actions from the government. He is rather against them if they are harmful toward the citizens. The author is supportive of the United States Patriot Act because he thinks it prevents another incident from happening but later in the book he points out negative characteristics of a national security state by listing them out such as non acceptance of dissent and supportive media toward the government.

The author wrote this book in 2002, only a year after the 9/11 incident and the legislation of the Patriot Act. This short period of time between the incident and publication indicates that the author did not have sufficient amount of time to carefully examine the impacts and influences the Act had on society. It is also possible to predict that the author was still emotional from the terror, not thinking logically and looking at it in different points of view, and as a result, he may have supported the Patriot Act, to show that he is very against terrorism.

Steven H. Propp, who purchased the book, emphasizes the author’s intention of writing the book in the introduction by quoting this statement. “ ‘My intent is... to initiate a separate, parallel dialog about the ‘war on terrorism,’ so that it does not become a war on ourselves and a war on the Constitution. I hope to encourage a discussion of the long term effects of what is happening, the sacrifices asked of us... an examination of a growing governmental conviction that the ends justify the means, and a challenge to the national broadcast media’s disturbing attitude that everything is under control, when it decidedly is not.’ ”11 He shows his agreement with the author by reminding the readers of author’s conclusion of the book, “ ‘America is close to being a national security state.’ ”12 He ends by saying that this book of No Greater Threat: America After September 11 and The Rise Of A National Security State “will be of great interest to persons concerned with our civil liberties after the 9/11 attacks.”13

Mark S. Zaid, a managing partner in the Washington, D.C. law firm of Krieger & Zaid, PLLC. , is specialized in national security. He pointed out that a solution that will restore the security and the nation’s state back to calmness in a short period of time is not good for the nation itself. He neither agrees nor disagrees with Michaels’s concerns. According to Zaid, whether Michaels’s predictions may be true or not ultimately depends on the passage of time. He shows his own concerns by saying, “Hopefully, every one of Michaels’s concerns will turn out to be wrong or grossly exaggerated.”14 Yet, he shows his agreement with the author’s concern by saying, “The value of his concerns and encouragement for thoughtful debate, however, will undoubtedly continue beyond that time.”15 He ends his critique by quoting Benjamin Franklin’s famous words of caution: If we surrender our liberty in the name of security, we shall have neither.

This book is a great analysis of the titles, consequences of the Act, process of the law enforcement, various reactions of the law enforcement, and things Americans have to keep in mind. The author included both sides of agreement and disagreement to the Patriot Act, showing that he is unbiased. Yet, he seems a little worried about the following consequences of the Act, which are very reasonable. The readers should be provoked by his concerns and predictions.

The book shows the readers about the consequences and several things that citizens have to endure, questioning that if the United States should or even is in a national security state. Michaels focuses more on the consequences of the Act, such as violation of civil rights and biased media. He presents few ways to relieve the public tension created by the continuation of “the cycle” like education. Although many hope his concerns are exaggerated, his worries seem to be reasonable. The readers should listen to his opinions and figure out what and how individuals can do in response.

[1] Michaels, Charles. No Greater Threat: America After September 11 and The Rise Of A National Security State. New York: Algora Publishing, 2002. 43
[2] Michaels, Charles. 274
[3] Michaels, Charles. 304
[4] Michaels, Charles. 306
[5] Michaels, Charles. 307
[6] Michaels, Charles. 308
[7] Michaels, Charles. 319
[8] Michaels, Charles. 41
[9] Michaels, Charles. 41
[10] Michaels, Charles. 41
[11] Michaels, Charles. 2
[12] Michaels, Charles. 300
[13] Propp, Steven H. “IS AMERICA BECOMING A “NATIONAL SECURITY STATE”? Amazon. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 June 2012.
[14] Zaid, Mark S. “Was September 11, 2001 Actually a Prelude to 1984?” Findlaw. FindLaw, 24 Jan. 2003. Web. 28 May 2017.
[15] Zaid, Mark S. “Was September 11, 2001 Actually a Prelude to 1984?” Findlaw. FindLaw, 24 Jan. 2003. Web. 28 May 2017.