U.S. Is Safer Than On 9/11, Big Security Gaps Remain

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Fifteen years ago this September 11, 19 terrorists, using four jetliners as guided missiles, killed 2,977 people—and enveloped the country in fear. It was the first sustained attack on American soil since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which was a far-off military base. Suddenly, we were vulnerable to the kinds of enemies that had always threatened others but never us, writes Steven Brill in The Atlantic. Brill tells the story of the first 15 years of “how we have dealt with that newfound fear—how we have confronted, sometimes heroically and sometimes irrationally, the mechanics, the politics, and the psychic challenges of the September 12 era.”

Have we succeeded in toughening up what overnight became known as “homeland security”? Brill says, “Absolutely. But not without a series of extravagant boondoggles along the way.” Are we safer? “Yes, from the kind of orchestrated attack that shocked us on that September morning. It’s harder for terrorists to get into the U.S., and harder for them to pull off something spectacular if they do. We have not plugged some of the most threatening security gaps. Worse, as the Orlando massacre reminded us, the world has become more populated by those who want to exploit those gaps, including those living among us—and who, in the United States, can easily obtain military-grade weapons.”

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