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FAS Public Interest Report
The Journal of the Federation of American Scientists
September/October 2001
Volume 54, Number 5
FAS Home | Download PDF | PIR Archive
Front Page
The Search for Proliferation-Resistant Nuclear Power
To Provide for the Common Defense
September 11 & the Future of National Security

September 11 & the Future of National Security

By Steven Aftergood

The horrors of the September 11 terrorist attacks have already changed the security environment in which we all live, and will undoubtedly lead to many more yet unforeseen changes.

Just as the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor provided much of the impetus for the creation of a "central" intelligence agency, so the attacks of September 11, which killed an even larger number of Americans, are likely to shape the future design of US national security policy in equally fundamental ways.

But the lessons learned from this cruel act need to be drawn carefully and inasmuch as it is possible, dispassionately.

"Tragic events almost inevitably result in the promulgation of legislative and executive action that reacts to the moment," says one experienced Administration official. "Most often, these `solutions' turn out to be short-sighted."

It is time to recall first principles.

On September 20, FAS joined with some 150 other NGO's of nearly every political and cultural stripe to endorse the following declaration "In Defense of Freedom." For a list of signing organizations and for more information, see


1. On September 11, 2001 thousands of people lost their lives in a brutal assault on the American people and the American form of government. We mourn the loss of these innocent lives and insist that those who perpetrated these acts be held accountable.

2. This tragedy requires all Americans to examine carefully the steps our country may now take to reduce the risk of future terrorist attacks.

3. We need to consider proposals calmly and deliberately with a determination not to erode the liberties and freedoms that are at the core of the American way of life.

4. We need to ensure that actions by our government uphold the principles of a democratic society, accountable government and international law, and that all decisions are taken in a manner consistent with the Constitution.

5. We can, as we have in the past, in times of war and of peace, reconcile the requirements of security with the demands of liberty.

6. We should resist the temptation to enact proposals in the mistaken belief that anything that may be called anti-terrorist will necessarily provide greater security.

7. We should resist efforts to target people because of their race, religion, ethnic background or appearance, including immigrants in general, Arab Americans and Muslims.

8. We affirm the right of peaceful dissent, protected by the First Amendment, now, when it is most at risk.

9. We should applaud our political leaders in the days ahead who have the courage to say that our freedoms should not be limited.

10. We must have faith in our democratic system and our Constitution, and in our ability to protect at the same time both the freedom and the security of all Americans.