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September 11, 2001 marked the beginning of a new era in American law. Combating terrorism became a matter of great public urgency and as part of that endeavor policies have been pursued that compromise once sacred principles of the Constitution. These policies were initiated by President George W. Bush, but with some exceptions, other branches of government soon endorsed them, and remarkably, they are now being continued by President Barack Obama. Although terrorism did not begin on 9/11, the attacks on that day were distinguished by the magnitude of the death and destruction that they caused. Those attacks also had the threatening quality of a foreign invasion. Important sites in the United States-the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (and if the terrorists had their way, the Capitol and White House would have been added to the list)-were struck by foreign nationals acting on directions from abroad. Moreover, the events of 9/11 became a public spectacle. Scenes of airplane crashing into the World Trade Center and the collapse of the towers were caugh on video and frequently replayed in later years. The messages conveyed and the fears aroused by these images were further reinforced in the decade that followed by bombings in London, Madrid, Amman, Mumbai, and Bali; attempts to blow up two airplanes on their way to the United States; and the failed plot to detonate a car full of explosives in Times Square. As a result, starting on September 11, 2001, and continuing to this day, terrorism acquired an immediacy and reality for Americans that it never had before.
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