The post-9/11 era has defined nearly every aspect of the 21st century. Its most striking ideologies, laws, and policies -- boundless executive powers, a secret and global torture program, indefinite detention of Muslim men and boys at Guantánamo, warrantless mass surveillance, blatant disregard for international law, and colossal profits for private military contractors -- are now further entrenched in American society, building on a long and already shameful history of state-sanctioned brutality and cruelty. The reverberations of 9/11 are felt far and wide, but for some, its legacy is particularly acute. For our clients, partners, and so many communities across the globe, the aftermath informs their lived realities. Nineteen years later, they are still seeking answers, justice, and healing.
In the weeks and months following 9/11, confronted with a climate of fear and uncertainty, the Center for Constitutional Rights stood up to position itself between those in power and communities under attack. Today, we are still there, resolute in our commitment to protect those still targeted and to fight impunity.
We continue to litigate against private military contractors that conspired in the torture of people held at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. We are on the verge of bringing to the U.S. Supreme Court one of our several cases challenging Muslim profiling. We continue to seek international justice for the U.S.’ role in war crimes and other human rights abuses arising out of the war in Afghanistan and the global torture program. We were the first to represent men held at Guantánamo, securing their right to challenge their detention, and we will be among the last until the prison is closed.
While we have long pursued justice for the continued atrocities of the past, we have also worked towards a vision of what could be: we imagine a future of healing for all families - those who lost loved ones in the attacks and those from Muslim communities in the U.S. and around the world who endured the cruel and deadly aftermath under the guise of the “War on Terror.” We demand an immediate end to indefinite detention and the closure of the Guantánamo Bay prison, accountability for torture and war crimes, and an end to “endless” wars. We need full disclosure of the extent and impact of post-9/11 domestic and international actions-- a full accounting and reckoning of the harms in order to understand our collective responsibility of repair, remedy, and non-repetition.
We urgently need to address these longstanding injustices and replace the post-9/11 scaffolding and its foundation with new ideological, political, and legal frameworks to meaningfully address our reality. The deadly myth of “national security” must be debunked and replaced with a politic of human rights, solidarity, and safety led by communities. Our national priorities and resources must shift towards investments in our collective well-being: economic equality through reparations, universal access to education, healthcare and housing, and climate justice.
We cannot wait for another anniversary to pass. Today, as always, we must reject politics premised upon fear, and take decisive action. Only when we are not afraid can we reimagine a society that can build a more just future.
For more reflections by Center for Constitutional Rights staff on the enduring impact of 9/11 and policy recommendations for a path forward, check out the articles below, published today on Just Security:
Towards a New Approach to National and Human Security: Close Guantanamo and End Indefinite Detention by Hina Shamsi, Rita Siemion, Scott Roehm, Wells Dixon, Rev. Ron Stief and Colleen Kelly
Towards a New Approach to National and Human Security: Uphold the Prohibition on Torture by Hina Shamsi, Rita Siemion, Rev. Ron Stief, Terry Rockefeller, Scott Roehm, and Katherine Gallagher