Caught in a Preventive Dragnet: Selective Counterterrorism in a Post-9/11 America

Sahar F. Aziz, Caught in a Preventive Dragnet: Selective Counterterrorism in a Post-9/11 America, 47 Gonz. L. Rev. 429 (2011)


[T]he Constitution is the rock upon which our nation rests. We must follow it not only when it is convenient, but when fear and danger beckon in a different direction. To do less would diminish us and undermine the foundation upon which we stand.
The United States government’s preventive counterterrorism strategy is no secret. Weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, former Attorney General John Ashcroft declared,
Let the terrorists among us be warned: If you overstay your visa—even by one day—we will arrest you. If you violate a local law, you will be put in jail and kept in custody as long as possible. We will use every available statute. We will seek every prosecutorial advantage . . . . Our single objective is to prevent terrorist attacks by taking suspected terrorists off the street.
As the U.S. government adopted a no-tolerance policy to apprehending the terrorists, a fear-stricken public watched images of nefarious, dark-skinned, and bearded Muslims flash across millions of television screens. The message was, if there had ever been any doubt, that the 9/11 attacks confirmed Muslims and Arabs are inherently violent and intent on destroying the American way of life. Heightened government scrutiny of these communities was not only warranted, but a rational response to a perceived existential threat to the country.

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