Sept. 11 still reverberates on many fronts

December 18, 2013 

More than a dozen years after the 9/11 attacks, the Wall Street firm Cantor Fitzgerald is settling its claim against American Airlines for the hijacking that led to the deaths of 658 Cantor Fitzgerald employees in the World Trade Center.

The $135 million settlement avoided a trial that could have shed light on how the hijackers took over the plane. Nonetheless the settlement was part of a confluence of news this week that illustrates how the consequences of the terror attacks – and our national reactions – continue to unfold on many fronts.

And perhaps the closing of the case claiming security lapses by the airline will signal the settling of other 9/11-related concerns that still haunt the nation.

As the long confinement of suspected terrorists continues at Guantanamo Bay, one of five detainees facing a death penalty trial was removed from court there after he disrupted proceedings by complaining that he was being tortured.

Meanwhile in Washington, the Senate Intelligence Committee asked the CIA to release an internal report on its post-Sept. 11 interrogation methods. The New York Times reported that those who have read the document say, “It is unsparing in its criticism of the now-defunct interrogation program and presents a chronicle of CIA officials’ repeatedly misleading the White House, Congress and the public about the value of brutal methods that, in the end, produced little valuable intelligence.”

Also in Washington, the White House released a report Wednesday recommending changes in the National Security Agency’s data gathering programs that included bulk collection of Americans phone calls data.

This week a federal judge said the NSA’s practice was probably unconstitutional. That ruling cast a new light on the data leaked by Edward J. Snowden, a former NSA contractor whose actions were at first called treasonous but may ultimately bring an end to government snooping on Americans that goes beyond the law.

In Iraq, the nation the United States invaded in a post-Sept. 11 fever on the premise of preventing a possible attack involving weapons of mass destruction, the fallout from the ill-conceived war continues well after the U.S. departure. At least 70 people were killed Monday in a wave of bombings and shootings. The U.N. reports that more than 8,000 people have been killed in Iraq this year.

And in Afghanistan, the war launched in 2001 to end a safe haven for terrorists, claimed the lives of six U.S. soldiers Tuesday when their their helicopter crashed. More than 3,400 members of U.S. and coalition forces have died in the conflict that still grinds on.

President Obama has said it is time for the United States to move back to normalcy after 12 years of hyper-alertness about terror threats. But his call is undercut by his reluctance to drop measures begun under President Bush. Toward that end, he allowed the NSA to violate the privacy of Americans, dug the country in deeper in Afghanistan and has avoided resolving the fate of those held at Guantanamo Bay.

In the waning weeks of 2013, the long war goes on and the United States remains uncertain of how to balance its security against its laws and values. But in this week’s news rooted in Sept. 11, 2001, there is also the hope that events and questionable practices set in motion by the attacks are moving toward resolution and correction. May the new year bring more progress toward stemming the continuing toll of that terrible day.

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