Besides the destruction and tragedy that resulted from the Sept. 11 attacks, University History Prof. Juan Cole, sees another harmful outcome – stripping away Americans’ civil rights.

Cole, who is the author of a blog titled Informed Comment in which he discusses Middle Eastern and U.S. politics, said the attacks initially had a unifying effect on the nation.

“Of course everybody was shocked that this happened and confused as to why, but initially opinion polls suggested that there wasn’t any great hostility towards Muslims in general as a result of the attacks,” he said. “It was understood by the American public that that was done by a terrorist group.”

However, as Americans banded together, they also experienced a decrease in personal liberties, Cole said.

“Among the more troubling outcomes of September 11 was a willingness of the American public to acquiesce in terms of their own civil rights and acceptance of practices such as torture that I think would not have been acceptable pre-9/11,” he said.

Cole became the subject of national media attention when it surfaced that… “> members of George W. Bush’s administration had allegedly launched an investigation of him due to his criticisms of the former president and the Iraq War on his blog.

While Cole said Americans have seen temporary losses of certain civil liberties in the past — as in the post-World War I repression and the McCarthy period in the 1950s — the policies made after Sept. 11 seem more permanent.

“In the case of the aftermath of 9/11, many of the changes have been institutionalized and the activities of the National Security Agency, which engages in signals intelligence and the creation of secret spy cams inside the U.S. government, makes it more difficult to roll these particular abuses back than in the past,” Cole said.

He added that as the United States becomes further removed from the events of 9/11 with time, the political leverage of the tragedy is weakened.

“I think the emotions have subsided to the point where it would be very difficult to use September 11 to launch a war,” he said.

Instead, Cole said he believes the ongoing legacy of Sept. 11 will be the policies the public agreed to in the aftermath of the tragedy.

“(9/11 made Americans) more willing to accept domestic surveillance of various sorts. I think many of the rights and the Bill of Rights have been weakened,” Cole said. “And this has been made possible by public acquiescence and government actions.”

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