Security is America’s Greatest Illusion

From airport security to metal detectors at football games, Americans have seen the increased use of security measures, supposedly creating a sense of safety. What Americans haven’t seen is the repercussions of some of these measures. There is an illusion of security that reassures the American citizens that they don’t have to worry about safety, but in reality it isn’t that simple. The solution that America has come up with is to place threats as far as possible away from public eye. Unfortunately, a solution that tries to hide the problem will inevitably create more troubles. Amidst terrorist attacks, the idea of strong offensive security has manifested itself into mass paranoia of the United States allowing for the creation of intense security measures, which has fed into the rejection of anyone foreign, and in effect created a more hostile country.

Since the United States is a nation of superiority, it finds itself being the target of terrorist attacks, attempting to cause damage. Having occurred over a decade and a half ago, the marks of September 11th 2001 still leave detrimental holes in the American population. Even mentioning the subject brings haunting images of death and destruction, thus having another terrorist attack at that magnitude would be devastating. In the eyes of the rest of the world, the United States is regarded as a strong, powerful, and intimidating nation. Not only has this idea cultivated in other countries, but it is also believed by the American people. It has been hammered into the minds of American citizens from as early as elementary school. Recited in schools all across the United States, the Pledge of Allegiance is filled with language that not only implies, but simply states America’s sense of security. It is recited, “…one nation under God, indivisible…” which can easily be understood that America is believed to be strong. Even the use of “one nation” implies unity, while “indivisible” is defined to mean that America can’t be divided. The Pledge of Allegiance has cultivated the notion that America is impenetrable, safe, and holds the aesthetics of security. Which is why America holds a strict border with Mexico with plans from certain political figures to build a wall. There is an idea that a wall, or a physical manifestation of security, will reassure the American people because it looks secure, but also because it is meant keep threats out of America. However, it has been repeated over and over again that America is only as secure as we believe it to be after the fallout of terrorist attacks.

Being a dominant country has caused the United States to become a target for radical groups who felt that America had wronged them. One of these such groups is Al-Qaeda, which arose out of a conglomerate of factors. As described by Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou in Understanding Al Qaeda: Changing War and Global Politics, at the time, the United States had endorsed “…local regimes, denounced as authoritarian, corrupt, and repressive…”, which had caused an outrage from Al-Qaeda. Their ideology was that whoever supported the enemy, was the enemy. The United States had political intentions in the Middle East, most specifically: oil. Out of the need for oil, the United States had indirectly caused a destabilized Middle East, owing to the radicalist groups attempting to do harm. A way for Al-Qaeda to get back at the United States, was to hit is at its heart. The most ideal way for Al-Qaeda to do so, was inflict violence onto its target. As Simon Cottee and Keith Hayward explain in Terrorist (E)motives: The Existential Attractions of Terrorism, “To do violence is thus to experience a euphoric sense of transcendence, of being outside the self and thrust into the present in a way that is like a drug.” Terrorists not only want to convey a message through violence, but they are essentially entertained by inflicting such harm, thus revert to animalistic instincts. In this way, the acts of 9/11 cannot just be looked at as a purely human act, but also a beastly destruction of culture. An act so horrific, it has left the American population astounded at how simple it was to cause a great amount of damage. A harsh transition to a need for stricter security happened because it had been proven that the United States was vulnerable to harm. America couldn’t be identified as a fortified stronghold anymore, unless massive changes were to be implemented to the nation’s security.

In the wake of horrific terrorist events, Americans turn to strengthening their security to better defend against such attacks. September 11th broadcasted that the United States wasn’t prepared to handle threats as well as was previously perceived. Soon after these events, there was a desire to create legislation to manage similar events and threats. To protect the American people and tighten security in a rapid way, the Patriot Act was passed less than a month after September 11th. As Robert Rapley describes in Witch Hunts: From Salem to Guantanamo Bay, “In the eyes of the few active critics at the time, [the Patriot Act] did not contain checks, balances, and oversights to safeguard traditional liberties…”(208) Because America was afraid of more terrorist attacks, it implemented a bill that had overwhelming support, but had formed out of pure emotion rather than that of critical thinking. Rapley describes that with the introduction of the Patriot Act, a bill seen to increase protection and security, bypassed the accepted rights of citizens. It was all in the name of security, or at least the illusion of security. Since the American people were so desperate to repair the ripped fabric of security, they found that the Patriot Act would suffice, regardless of the costs. It was a patchwork so shoddy that instead of benefiting the United States, it caused unnecessary invasions of personal security. For proof, it was recently discovered by Maggie Ybarra from the Washington Times that, “…no major cases have been broken by use of the Patriot Act’s records-snooping provisions.” As a matter of fact, the Patriot Act allows unprecedented data collection of personal phones and items, out of pure suspicion of a person’s affiliation with terrorist activities. Out of all that data, there had been no huge terrorist plots halted, thus it has been proven to be ineffective. The initial intentions meant to create a terrorist free society, has only served to take away the security of the individual, for the security of a country. The normal American believes that they are protected by the security precautions of the United States. However, it is only the illusion of this security that has allowed for these actions to become law. Without a sense of security, the American population would find themselves fearful of their lives every waking moment, but because Americans believe that they are safe, the risks are even greater. A prevailing ignorance is more worrisome because not believing in the United States’ security at least gives rise to the recognition of a problem. The United States fosters the belief that safety is priority, but this reassurance can cause horrible consequences in the psyche of the American population.

However, this increase of security has morphed into a bitter paranoia held in the minds of American citizens. Now, participating in any public activity requires massive security measures. If a person wants to board a plane, they must allow all of their possessions and body to be scanned. Any individual would understand that they must be willing to be scanned to make sure safety is priority. Well, the security at airports is an illusion itself as described by ABC News that, “An internal investigation of the Transportation Security Administration [TSA] revealed security failures…where undercover investigators were able to smuggle mock explosives or banned weapons through checkpoints in 95 percent of trials…” Not only have these security measures created an inconvenience for American citizens, but it turns out it’s essentially worthless. It can be observed in other instances such as border patrol, or gun violence, that security measures are ineffective. Regardless of how fruitless these measures have become, they are still implemented. Airplane passengers still have to take off their shoes at TSA, crossing borders take large inspections of vehicles, and there are multiple restrictions on gun possession. And even after so much precaution, terrorist events still happen, cutting deeper into the American pride of security. Out of all the inconvenience and ineffectiveness, the American people bottle up their anger, until there is only one way to let it out. The anger directs the American people to turn to the aggressors of the actions, the reason security measures are so tight and the terrorists themselves. When American citizens get angry, mob mentality sets in, and anyone who looks like a terrorist, is a terrorist. The United States had to find a way to capture and bring justice to the terrorists that wronged American society and who had damaged the fabric of security.

From the crazed anger manifested within the American population came the formation of actions against terrorist attacks. One of the ways angry Americans wanted to deal with terrorists, or anyone associated with terrorists, was to put them as far away from the American people as possible. One of these places is called Guantanamo Bay, a military prison located in Cuba. Anyone suspected of being a terrorist, through the use of the Patriot Act, was sent unquestionably to Guantanamo Bay. Like the Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay was initially created out of an impassioned American population in need of action, rather than a wholesome analysis of the situation. At the time of its creation, there was little thought of unintended consequences. The thought was that they would make sure terrorists aren’t in the United States where they would do the most harm. What the American population didn’t know was that Guantanamo Bay was a petri dish for racial profiling. The American population found an increasing similarity between the perception that all the terrorists attacking the United States were all Muslim. While this fact is an absolute false idea of terrorist as described by The Huffington Post in the article Muslims Are Not Terrorists: A Factual Look at Terrorism and Islam, “According to the FBI, 94% of terrorist attacks carried out in the United States from 1980 to 2005 have been by non-Muslims.” The question then arises that if only 6% of terrorist attacks had been done by Muslims, then why is the perception that all terrorists are Muslim? The answer is that Americans are more racially biased than one might think. Since the American people made the incorrect observation that all terrorists are Muslim, they made the wrong assumption that all Muslim people must be terrorists. This is the largest flaw that the American population has made, since the majority of all Muslims have absolutely no affiliation with terrorist groups. Yet, almost all prisoners of Guantanamo Bay are Muslim as seen through the numbers of the Center for Constitutional Rights, “780 men and boys, all of them Muslim, have been imprisoned…” Unfortunately, these numbers are not surprising due to the media and internal prejudice against a group of people. What is even more disheartening, is that not only are men imprisoned, but boys are too. The United States is thought to be a land of justice, but imprisoning children does not sound just at all. It sounds inhumane and quite sickening after knowing what is done in the confines of the prison. However, it is known that after any terrorist attack, any Muslim is seen as a threat. The United States has reverted to rejecting anyone that ‘looks’ like a terrorist regardless of who they are. This has forced an internal skepticism of anyone foreign after any terrorist attack.

Since foreign people are often questioned due to terrorist attacks, the United States has become a country prone to hostility. The acceptance of any foreigner is met with resistance not because they are actually any threat, but because they meet the standard that all the other threats met. There’s an internal checklist that skeptical Americans go over through their mind, which include questions about ethnicity, religion, country of origin, and language. The irony of rejecting anyone who is a foreigner is lost to the average white American when just a few centuries ago, foreigners had traveled to America from Europe. Regardless of this irony, tighter borders, restrictions, and regulations have been implemented to try to combat foreign influence on United States’ soil. As observed from an outside country, The United States has become a country that wants little to do with foreign countries, and is quick to anger. A view of the United States of outside countries, is that of unfriendliness due to the treatment of foreigners and the implemented restrictions. However, Americans still hold the strong idea that these security measures have prevented countless terrorist attacks.

Although security measures have given the perception of eliminating terror threats, it has only created more terrorist threats through means of violence. Sadly, the worst of the United States has come out of anger against foreign people, regardless of affiliation with terrorist attacks. The usual perception of the United States through American people is that it’s a secure and stable country, one that looks after its citizens by eliminating threats. And this is generally true, that most citizens haven’t been in the middle of terrorist attacks. This has contributed to the perception that the United States is looking after its citizens. An average American citizen thinks that if they haven’t experienced a terrorist attack, and the United States is trying to prevent terrorist attacks, the United States must have prevented terrorist attacks. However, this correlation must not be interpreted as causation. It is rather a coincidence that most Americans haven’t experienced terrorist attacks. In fact it is important to consider that hundreds of millions of people reside in America. If everyone were to experience a terrorist attack, that would be out of any terrorist organization’s abilities. At its peak, Al Qaeda had, “…anywhere from 200 to 1,000 [members]…” as explained by the Wall Street Journal in Shadowy Figures: Al Qaeda’s Ranks Are Hard to Measure. This means that each member would have had to successfully attack hundreds of thousands of people to even affect part of the population of the United States. There is the perception that terrorist groups are prevalent and that there are millions of members where America had prevented all those terrorists, but in reality it was just a select few people who attempted to affect the United States. Unfortunately, what the United States had attempted to prevent, has only continued due to its own actions.

What would have been measures to combat terrorist threats, these security measures have only cultured an increase of radicalists attempting to attack the United States. The United States has created its undoing, due to places such as Guantanamo Bay. As written in Terrorist (E)motives: The Existential Attractions of Terrorism, “One of the most robust research findings in terrorism studies is that terrorists are psychologically normal.” Which seems like a radical and horribly wrong statement at first, but is an integral part of how the United States made its situation worse. Under the notion that terrorists are mentally normal, it isn’t much of an extension to say that the only barrier that stops a person from being a terrorist is a thin line. A thin line that could easily be broken by torture, and anger towards the aggressor. What has happened at Guantanamo Bay is that it has brought in sane people under the assumption that they were terrorists. They however, had no affiliation with terrorist actions. Unfortunately after increased torture, beatings, and mistreatment of innocent prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, that thin line was broken. Because anyone can be a terrorist, the violence that the inmates undergo pushes them to come to the conclusion that the United States is a monstrous country that needs to be taught a lesson. And when they are released, they commit terrorist attacks out of anger towards the United States. Guantanamo Bay is essentially a breeding ground for creating terrorists, which defeats the reason why it was created. These now radicalized people have the opportunity to do great harm to the American population. An effort to combat terrorism has created more terrorism. That’s absolutely the worst outcome anyone could have created, which means that the United States is just adding more to the problem. It is scary to think that these terrorists could harm anyone, at anytime, anywhere. Which is to say that the United States had profiled, angered, and unintentionally created harm out of fear of terrorist attacks.

Out of the rubble of terrorist attacks, the United States has looked to the aesthetics of security to create safety, but it has perpetuated a hatred for foreign people through violence and security measures. Too many unintended consequences were created out of the reaction to massive terrorist attacks. It is understandable that actions must be taken to combat terrorism, but the United States did it in the worst way possible. The United States effectively created more threats when attempting to stop those exact same threats. It must reevaluate its implementation of security measures even if more security must mean more protection. However, this aesthetic only holds water when approached from an illusioned perspective. For this reason, America must open its eyes to its actions and the same holds true for its citizens.


Alnatour, Omar. “Muslims Are Not Terrorists: A Factual Look at Terrorism and Islam.” The Huffington Post. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.

Bialik, Carl. “Shadowy Figures: Al Qaeda’s Ranks Are Hard to Measure.” WSJ., 09 Sept. 2011. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.

Cottee, Simon, and Keith Hayward. “Terrorist (E)Motives: The Existential Attractions of Terrorism.” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, vol. 34, no. 12, 2011., pp. 963-986doi:10.1080/1057610X.2011.621116.

Fishel, Justin, Pierre Thomas, Mike Levine, and Jack Date. “EXCLUSIVE: Undercover DHS Tests Find Security Failures at US Airports.” ABC News. ABC News Network. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.

“Guantánamo by the Numbers.”Center for Constitutional Rights. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.

Mohamedou, Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould. Understanding Al Qaeda : Changing War and Global Politics (2). London, GB: Pluto Press, 2011. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 17 October 2016.

Rapley, Robert. Witch Hunts : From Salem to Guantanamo Bay. Montreal, CA: MQUP, 2007. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 17 October 2016.

 Ybarra, Maggie. “FBI Admits No Major Cases Cracked with Patriot Act Snooping Powers.” Washington Times. The Washington Times, n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.


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