Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay, writes: September 11, 2001 is a milestone date in history that nearly everyone living at the time will recall in detail for the rest of their lives. I will always remember sitting at my desk in my office at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, eyes fixed on the television in the credenza sitting on the other side of the room. I recall watching the towers fall and wondering how it would change America.
Like this 10 September, 10 September 2001 was a Monday. The only reason I know that is because it was the day before an enormous tragedy that is permanently etched into my mind, and that happened on a Tuesday. I went to the same office and sat at the same desk on Monday as I did on Tuesday, but I have no recollection of one day and a vivid recollection of the other. Even though I do not recall any of the details of Monday 10 September, sometimes I think about how America might be different if we could turn back the clock.
On 10 September, the US economy was strong, although it had begun to slow down after a sustained period of growth. The unemployment rate stood at 4.9%. We were paying down the national debt and there was a $127bn surplus for the fiscal year ending on 30 September. For some, concern about the nation’s debt focused on what might happen in a few years when the debt was completely eliminated and there was no longer a need for US treasuries, a key component in the world’s economy.
Worries about the consequences of a debt-free America evaporated soon thereafter. After tax cuts, two unfunded wars, and a near-collapse of the economy, US treasury department figures show the nation’s debt grew from less than $6tn in 2001 to nearly $16tn today. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the unemployment rate has remained over 8% throughout 2012 after peaking at 10% in October 2009.
Rightly or wrongly, on 10 September 2001, most Americans believed their phone calls and emails were private and did not suspect that the government might be listening in and keeping tabs. If someone fondled your junk at the airport, you would expect to see the person again, this time as you sat on the witness standing testifying in his or her sexual assault trial. If the government was going to execute a citizen, it was assumed that followed after a trial and appeals in the courts of our judicial system, not a unilateral decision by a president that is immune from any review. [Continue reading…]