In the wake of the 9/11 most devastating terrorist attacks in the U.S., the need for increased counterterrorism and homeland security efforts at the federal, state, and local levels has taken the spotlight in public safety efforts across the union. In order to address this week’s discussion of the cost of freedom to terrorism, it is essential to understand the human dimension of security, the protection of human rights, and fundamental freedoms for the maintenance of peace and stability in our society. We shall never forget the devasted terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, against the nation’s financial center, global military headquarters, and air transportation system. The media images of New York City police officers and firefighters rushing into the burning World Trade Center to rescue trapped citizens and their self-sacrifices in the line of duty cannot fade from memories. After the terrorist attack against the United States, America, NATO’s allies, and the U.N. Security Council responded with swiftness and ingenuity to protect its citizens. They deployed measures to protect the citizens, established new government agencies (Department of Homeland Security), and undertook numerous military operations overseas to eliminate threats and enhance stability (Orehek & Vazeou-Nieuwenhuis, 2014).
The terrorist attack clearly produced a real social impact on human rights, with devastating consequences for the victims’ enjoyment of the right to life, liberty, and physical and mental integrity. In addition to these individual costs, the 9/11 terrorist attack has destabilized our Governments, undermined our civil society, jeopardized our peace and security, and threatened our social and economic development. This unpredicted action took our nation by surprise; it had a real impact on the enjoyment of human rights (Welch, 2016). Two thousand nine hundred seventy-seven people were killed in the 9/11 attacks, an immense single death toll from a foreign attack on American soil. The human cost of terrorism has been felt in virtually every corner of the world. This growing loss led to modest reforms, but the main structures and resources called hard security remained front and center of human rights. Terrorism has changed over time, and so have the terrorists, their motives, and the causes of terrorism” (Welch, 2016). Many voices across want to address the needs for terrorist victims, given special consideration between victims of crime and victims of human rights violations.
However, it may be helpful first to examine how psychology and other behavioral sciences have generally sought to explain violent behavior. It is not something as a society; we can bargain or negotiate when there is no ground for the respect of human life. We need to think outside the box; just like the COVID pandemic, terrorism is a conspiracy used by individuals and organizations to kill and destroy. Any efforts should be directed at those individuals and organizations. Clearly, we can be attacked in many ways because we have many vulnerabilities. No defenses are perfect. However, America’s defense responsibilities should be clearly defined. Out of devastating human strategy must come greater positive outcomes, material, and better-reformed living conditions. We expect our government to do its very best to protect our multi-cultural nations from any weapons of mass destruction, whether chemical, biological, radiological/nuclear, or explosive.
Orehek E, Vazeou-Nieuwenhuis A. Understanding the Terrorist Threat: Policy Implications of a Motivational Account of Terrorism. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 2014;1(1):248-255. doi:10.1177/2372732214549747
Welch, K. (2016). Middle Eastern terrorist stereotypes and anti-terror policy support: The effect of perceived minority threat. Race and Justice, 6(2), 117–145. doi:10.1177/2153368715590478
Very interesting question. This is akin to the discussions we’ve had so far. In order not to be repetitive and go back to the old ‘do no harm’ standard in the specialty guidelines, I thought it may be interesting to look at this from a couple of different standpoints. In our prompt, the infringements on various Constitutional Amendments and the Bill of Rights is a focal point. So, the elephant in the room is the idea that the Constitution only applies to citizens. If we talk about prisoners of war, technically, that are not American citizens then the legal idea is not applicable. So, the following discussion will be relative to human beings in general. Prior to this discussion, I had voiced the professional opinion that involuntary commitment was an infringement of civil rights but was put into that camp. So, as this blossoms, I would put the infringement of civil rights as an important aspect of dealing with terrorism, specifically as a forensic psychologist. What I wanted to do is deal with an element of this in particular: torture.
The most controversial aspect of the classic ‘war on terrorism’ was the notion that officials from the United States engaged in torture under the assumption that the information gained was beneficial and saved lives. In this instance, I would contend that the costs of that infringement is not worth the benefits. When we look at torture, loosely named ‘national security interrogations,’ there is a record of American Psychological Association opposition to this. The Council of Representatives voted in 2015 to bar psychologists from participating, and even being in the presence of, national security interrogations (American Psychological Association, 2015). With that in mind, we do not need to invoke the ‘do no harm’ guideline since this resolution specifically bans involvement of any kind in interrogations. This is indicative of my stance, as well as those of other governing bodies for mental health professionals. For example, Brooks (2013) advocates for the role of social workers in eliminating the pervasiveness of torture, post 9/11, and succinctly takes the tenor of the profession as a human rights organization while accurately promoting the flawed ‘fruits’ of interrogation as usable information.
Wolfendale (2019) looks at the toleration of torture as, essentially, assigning value to the information gained as a result of torture. The public’s capacity for torture toleration is vast, believing that it can, indeed, save lives, but the reality is far more stark. What is most disturbing is the idea that the torture tolerance is reserved almost exclusively for non-citizens. Domestic terrorists, citizens of the United States, are not a part of the tolerance for torture. It is a nationalistic issue at that point.
In conclusion, I side with the American Psychological Association, fellow mental health professionals, and researchers pointing to the lack efficacy of the act itself.
American Psychological Association. (2015). APA’s council bans psychologist participation in national security interrogations. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2015/08/psychologist-interrogations
Brooks, A. (2015). Torture and terror post-9/11: The role of social work in responding to torture. International Social Work, 58(2), 320–331. https://doi.org/10.1177/0020872813487932
Wolfendale, J. (2019). The torture Debate and the toleration of torture. Criminal Justice Ethics, 28(2), 138-152. https://doi.org./10.1080/0731129X.2019.1638611