Twelve years after 9/11, One World Trade Center recently became the tallest building in America. Its construction, while not without controversy, is the product of open discussion, criticism and compromise among architects, security personnel, engineers, political leaders, 9/11 families and citizens. In the same time, another edifice has arisen from 9/11's ashes, a looming, largely unaccountable national security state -- an amalgam of laws, policies and secret programs mostly developed behind closed doors with little democratic debate or the checks and balances that our constitution demands. Rather than a soaring tower to our free society, it is a windowless concrete slab, a monument to secrecy, diminished democracy, and lost Fourth Amendment rights.
The balance between security and liberty appears all but lost.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. In 2004, Congress created the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) on the express recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, with strong backing from the civil liberties community. In 2007, it made the Board independent and more powerful. The PCLOB was tasked with bringing the voice of privacy and civil liberties to the discussion of new security measures as efforts to protect the nation were considered.