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Elisabeth Andrews
IU Media Relations

Hal Kibbey
IU Media Relations

Jenny Cohen
School of Public and Environmental Affairs

Tipsheet: the legacy of 9/11

Sept. 5, 2006

EDITORS: The following Indiana University Bloomington professors have prepared comments on the enduring effects of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Contact information is listed for each faculty member below.

The professors discuss the following topics:

Aviation safety and civil liberty
Low expectations of intelligence
Reorganizing Homeland Security
Risky business in federally funded bioterrorism labs

Airline travel is undoubtedly safer, but further security upgrades will continue to push the boundaries of civil liberty, said Clint Oster, professor and associate dean in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Bloomington. His research focuses on aviation in the areas of safety, economics and infrastucture.

"In the wake of the September 11 attacks, much of the focus has been on aviation security. While we can't measure the effectiveness of any single step taken, we can make some observations about how security has changed. For example, the chances of a terrorist successfully hijacking a commercial airliner have been dramatically reduced. Flight crews have been trained to react differently to an attempted hijacking, and doors have been strengthened to hamper hijackers trying to gain access to the cockpit. Greater restrictions have been placed on the kinds of potential weapons that can be brought on board. It's worth remembering that the weapons used to hijack the planes on September 11 were legal to bring on board at the time. Similarly, the chances of a bomb being placed on an aircraft in checked baggage have also been dramatically reduced. There is much more complete screening of bags for explosives and there is much more passenger bag matching to ensure that a bag won't get on a plane unless the person who checked it is on the plane as well. Are the steps that have been taken in these two areas foolproof? Of course not, but they've made it far more difficult for potential terrorists to do either one of these things.

"As we look to the future, the critical challenge will be striking the balance between improved security and retaining civil liberties. To what extent will we be willing to adopt practices and technologies that improve security but at the cost of infringing on civil liberties? We already face these tradeoffs in the debates about the possible use of passenger profiling and backscatter X-ray. These issues are not easily resolved and the future is likely to raise more such questions rather than less."

Oster can be reached at 812-855-5058 or

America has lost faith in military intelligence, said Nick Cullather, professor in the IU Bloomington Department of History and a former historian for the CIA. He specializes in U.S. foreign relations.

"Prior to 9/11, there was a sort of euphoria about what intelligence could do for the military. There was a notion that intelligence had become so complete that we had 'total command of the battle space' and 'total information awareness' that would allow us to rapidly achieve military objectives. This assurance reflected what was going on in the culture at large with our faith in technology and computers.

"Five years after 9/11, that euphoria has dissipated and our expectations of intelligence are now very low. If the 9/11 attacks had been the only intelligence failure, they could have been dismissed as an aberration. But instead they were followed by an inability to locate Osama bin Laden, or to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and all the many, many small failures amounting to blindness on the battlefield. As a result, there is widespread skepticism that even these big fishing expeditions like the domestic spying program will turn up anything useful.

"Hurricane Katrina added to the sense of uncertainty. Again, we saw how computers were unable to pinpoint precisely where we needed reinforcement. The media has had a lingering positivistic attitude, insisting that the knowledge existed somewhere, but in reality there are all sorts of information that are simply not accessible to us.

"We are at a place where intelligence has to recover its positive momentum. But it will have to be through something other than computers. At the present time, the computer has lost some of its cultural power in America. It is difficult to discern what the new intelligence will look like, but it will have to come through some other type of mechanism."

To speak with Cullather, contact Elisabeth Andrews, IU Media Relations, 812-855-2153 or

Homeland Security faces major changes, said Charles Wise, a professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and expert in public administration and organizational change. His most recent article on the organization of U.S. homeland security, "Organizing for Homeland Security after Katrina: Is Adaptive Management What's Missing?", was published in the journal Public Administration Review in May.

"The question policymakers and analysts are now debating is whether the organization of the Department of Homeland Security and other federal organizations require further major changes to meet the expectations of the American people. The department, which merged 22 previously separate agencies, is intended to make the U.S. more prepared to deal not only with the consequences of terrorism but all hazards that could damage the United States including hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, etc. The response by the federal, state and local governments to Hurricane Katrina was declared by President Bush as 'not acceptable,' and their performance during Katrina has heightened concerns that the federal government may not be sufficiently prepared for other Homeland Security risks. Several more proposals for reorganization are now being debated."

Wise can be reached at 812-855-9744, 812-320-4045 or

After the 9/11 attacks and the anthrax-containing letters that killed five people the following month, the Bush administration revived research on germ warfare, calling it vaccine production, said Stephanie Kane, IU associate professor of criminal justice. "The grim horrors of biowarfare were effaced by the wonders of bioengineering," Kane said. As a result, in violation of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention of 1972, smallpox, anthrax, tularemia, bubonic plague and brucellosis may soon be cooked up in laboratories near you, financed by federal legislation such as Project Bioshield. The labs will depend on conventional parcel delivery services to gather and exchange materials, including pathogenic biological agents. These experiments in germ production are incompatible with the public good, and they present extreme risk for the public's health, Kane said. "In 2005, no one died when H2N2, the 'Asian flu,' came to Canada by mail because the National Microbiology Laboratory discovered it early in a sample from a patient," she said. Meridian Bioscience, a private contractor with the College of American Pathologists, had sent it -- mislabeled -- in a routine lab test kit. The last vaccinations for H2N2 were in 1968, and no one has immunity. Yet the company mailed the kits containing H2N2 to 5,000 laboratories in 18 countries. "No criminal charge of extreme recklessness, or even effective regulation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has resulted from this potentially catastrophic transmission. Any of those labs could have been the site of a disease cluster, and then an epicenter," Kane said.

Also in 2005, in Boston's densely populated South End, three researchers following unsafe procedure were infected with a virulent form of tularemia bacteria. That same lab is slated to host a $1.6 billion construction and research project. Plans include conveying deadly pathogens through a system of highway routes. What might happen if the trucks get stuck in traffic or tunnels? "We cannot leave to insiders the control of high-level biohazard labs and their use of conventional parcel delivery services like UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service. In the course of routine business, they imperil the public's health," Kane said. "Most importantly, the shift of human and financial resources to build fortresses of germ and vaccine production is gutting the nation's public health system, leaving us unprotected from dangerous laboratory mishaps and unprepared for the realities of global disease transmission. Biohazard labs promise far more than they can deliver, and they risk too much."

Kane can be reached at