What’s the “lesson” of 9/11?

The feds tell web firms to turn over the encrypted user account passwords, just in case they need them, but they’re not going to use them without cause, and a (rubber stamp) court order. Of course.

Photo credit: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Every year, I hear, especially since the 10th anniversary, “Remember 9/11! Never forget!” If we somehow forgot, we’d cease to be ‘vigilant’. I remember September 11, 2001, amazingly well, thank you. Just this summer, I was at a highway rest stop on I-87, the Northway, not far from Albany, when I saw a memorial for three people who worked for the Department of Transportation, one of whom I knew not very well, who died on that day.

Even my daughter, who wasn’t even born then, knows about 9/11. Her third-grade teacher made a point of making sure those eight-year-olds knew about it. It even got covered on the local cable channel, YNN.

But what is it that we should not forget? Since then, the United States has had two of its longest wars, including with a country that had nothing to do with the tragedy.

We have had a series of laws – such as the so-called USA PATRIOT Act, which was passed less than six weeks after the tragedy, suggesting it was already in the hopper – that has directly led to the surveillance of Americans. OK, not on Americans, just our “metadata” involving our snail mail, and phones, and e-mail. The feds tell web firms to turn over the encrypted user account passwords, just in case they need them, but they’re not going to use them without cause, and a (rubber stamp) court order. Of course.

Whether or not soldiers have been fighting for our freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s abundantly clear that freedom is being stolen at home by secret courts and executive overreach, against the wishes of most Americans. If the lesson of 9/11 is that we’ll do anything to be safe, that would be yet another tragedy.