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A Decade After 9/11, Finding the Right Balance Between Security and Personal Freedoms

This past Sunday marked the 10-year anniversary of the heinous terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93. Many of us were glued to our television sets to watch the tributes to those died. Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives during the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. September 11th will be a day that forever changed the landscape of American domestic and foreign policy; it also changed the way we as Americans live our daily lives.

Looking back over the past ten years, the ripple effects of 9-11 can still be felt today, especially for New Yorkers. Heightened security at airports around the world have led to changes in the way we all travel. Airports have gone as far as installing body image scanners to search passengers prior to boarding airplanes. You cannot cross a bridge or drive through a tunnel without noticing a greater number of police officers on duty searching trucks or vans before they are permitted to pass. If you travel by train to places like Penn Station or Grand Central Station in New York City you see National Guardsmen walking around with loaded M-16 rifles. And if you ride the subways you and your belongings are subject to random searches by the authorities. All of these measures, once seen as invasions of privacy and unnecessary burdens, are likely here to stay because of the attacks ten years ago.

In fact, in the days leading up to the ten year anniversary ceremonies in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania there were reports in the media about credible threats for possible car bombs being used by terrorists in those locations. Law Enforcement Agencies in these locations responded by beefing up forces and erecting check points to search cars, vans and trucks. Again, under normal circumstances, this would seem like an invasion of privacy or a violation of civil liberties but in today’s America, it is widely regarded as a necessary evil to protect our citizens.

The events of 9-11 are a grim reminder that we don’t live in the same America anymore, and that police presence and action taken to protect us, however burdensome, is no longer viewed in the same light. Perhaps now more than ever, the role of the criminal defense lawyer as “liberty’s last champion” must not be overlooked. Criminal defense attorneys are often viewed as the last line of defense against unlawful searches and illegal police conduct. The need to always maintain the right balance between security and personal freedoms – between ensuring our safety and preserving the liberties that make this country great – is more important than ever. For those Americans who find themselves within the criminal justice system, we are proud and honored to fill the vital role of the criminal defense lawyer.

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