Tragically, that’s not all. Not even close. Mr Balko observes that America’s reaction to Mr bin Laden’s monstrous piece de resistance on September 11th, 2001 “fundamentally altered who we are” in ways that should make us pause at least a moment before raising our tiny America flags:
We’ve sent terrorist suspects to “black sites” to be detained without trial and tortured.
We’ve turned terrorist suspects over to other regimes, knowing that they’d be tortured.
In those cases when our government later learned it got the wrong guy, federal officials not only refused to apologize or compensate him, they went to court to argue he should be barred from using our courts to seek justice, and that the details of his abduction, torture, and detainment should be kept secret.
We’ve abducted and imprisoned dozens, perhaps hundreds of men in Guantanamo who turned out to have been innocent. Again, the government felt no obligation to do right by them.
The government launched a multimillion dollar ad campaign implying that people who smoke marijuana are implicit in the murder of nearly 3,000 of their fellow citizens.
The government illegally spied and eavesdropped on thousands of American citizens.
Presidents from both of the two major political parties have claimed the power to detain suspected terrorists and hold them indefinitely without trial, based solely on the president’s designation of them as an “enemy combatant,” essentially making the president prosecutor, judge, and jury. (I’d also argue that the treatment of someone like Bradley Manning wouldn’t have been tolerated before September 11.)
The current president has also claimed the power to execute U.S. citizens, off the battlefield, without a trial, and to prevent anyone from knowing about it after the fact.
The Congress approved, the president signed, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a broadly written law making it a crime to advocate for any organization the government deems sympathetic to terrorism. This includes challenging the “terrorist” designation in the first place.
Flying in America now means enduring a humiliating and hassling ritual that does little if anything to actually make flying any safer. Every time the government fails to catch an attempt at terrorism, it punishes the public for its failure by adding to the ritual.
American Muslims, a heartening story of success and assimilation, are now harassed and denigrated for merely trying to build houses of worship.
Without a warrant, the government can search and seize indefinitely the laptops and other personal electronic devices of anyone entering the country.
The Department of Homeland Security now gives terrorism-fighting grants for local police departments across the country to purchase military equipment, such as armored personnel carriers, which is then used against U.S. citizens, mostly to serve drug warrants.
If all this doesn’t make Osama bin Laden history’s most successful terrorist, I can’t imagine what would. If only his sickening legacy had died with him.