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The Exponent Telegram: 9/11 changed American government forever

By Austin Weiford

The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va — The terrorist attacks of 9/11 changed the political and governmental landscape of America forever. From federal government down to local, emergency response and law enforcement, officials and citizens realized they had to be prepared for the worst.

Locally, officials saw some major changes in security measures at the North Central West Virginia Airport.

“Before 9/11, the Transportation Security Administration, their role wasn’t necessarily to be on the constant lookout for terrorists.” said Rick Rock, Director of the NCWV Airport. “It may have been unruly passengers or drugs or something like that. Now it’s a pure focus on keeping the passengers, the aircraft, and all the areas safe from any types of attacks.

“As an airport, we now have to recognize that every threat is credible. It’s just the way people think. Everybody’s thinking changed that day. Everybody had to become more aware of the dangers that are out there and what to look for. We have to always take every threat as a credible threat,” Rock added.

On the federal and state levels, the country saw some major restructuring to accommodate the forever altered, post-9/11 world.

“One major consequence of Sept. 11 was the reorganization of the federal government that occurred with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security,” said Jason MacDonald, associate professor in the Department of Political Science at West Virginia University. “When it was created to coordinate national security within the United States in 2002, it included roughly 20 agencies. It also resulted in the reorganization of the appropriations process, as a single appropriations bill is now reserved for the department.”

“Agencies saw their roles adjusted in the wake of 9/11,” said Lawrence Messina, Assistant Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. “That includes our Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. One of the key functions of that division is to oversee the emergency operations planning for state government and for state agencies. Sept. 11 taught us the importance of planning and responding to an emergency and of ensuring the continuity and operation of government.”

“The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management now oversees something called the State Emergency Operations Plan, which is a very comprehensive approach to ensuring the state knows what resources it has and which resources it needs to bring to bear for a given situation,” Messina said. “Because it could be all kinds of different incidents, we’re not just talking about terrorism, we’re talking about natural disasters, too. For instance, the flooding we just endured in the southern part of the state over the summer.”

Apart from emergency response and preparedness, September 11 drastically affected communication between different governmental agencies, both locally and nationwide.

“My department also oversees something called the West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center,” Messina said. “It is our job to ensure that law enforcement on all levels of government, federal, state and local, are talking to each other and sharing information. This is important not just for counter-terrorism, but also from a public safety and law enforcement perspective.

“A lesson we learned from 9/11 is that our law enforcement agencies were not talking to each other and were not sharing information. The fusion center is an attempt to achieve the sort of cooperation that we did not have before, in the hopes that by keeping law enforcement at different levels on the same page, we can help prevent or respond appropriately to a

potential event. The fusion center has the participation of the FBI, the State Police, our correctional agency and cybersecurity experts. It absolutely is a product of 9/11. They do very important work.”

“It’s important to stress that their focus is not on just terrorism, they have what is called an all-hazards approach. During the flooding, they monitored social media and made sure that where people thought there was help needed, those people got help. The fusion center uses these tools to monitor social media and notify the appropriate authorities if there’s something proactive that can be done.”

Sept. 11 also changed the shape of electoral politics, according to MacDonald.

“Of course, the Iraq War helped shape the context for the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections. Candidates’ positions on the war are still a major political issue,” MacDonald said. “For example, during this year’s presidential election campaign, Donald Trump has been critical of Hillary Clinton’s vote in the Senate to authorize the use of force in Iraq. So, a decade and a half later, the political consequences of September 11 and its aftermath continue to be seen in U.S. electoral politics.

“Obviously, many servicemen and women continue to feel the effects of the war,” MacDonald added. “As they live with physical disabilities and mental health effects of their service. And the federal government continues to pay for the war in the form of veterans’ health and educational benefits as well as pay interest on debt that was incurred to fund the war.”

Officials agree the effects and costs of that tragic day will echo throughout history, and certainly neither the country or the world will ever be the same.

Staff writer Austin Weiford can be reached at 304-626-1447 or [email protected]

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