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Feature - Security measures

Two years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are we facing another assault?



We may never fully understand he events that many of us woke to on Sept. 11, 2001, even though we watched them unfold live on television and innumerable times on video tape.

But even though we watched the World Trade Center towers fall and the troops roll into Afghanistan, two years later, we are only beginning to comprehend the impact of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. For families, co-workers and for nations, many things changed on Sept. 11, including the definition of the word "security".

Unquestionably security had to be redefined, but it’s been done in ways many of us wouldn’t have imagined. In the last two years increased security has made getting on a commercial airplane a much more serious and unpleasant task. Crossing the U.S.-Canada border has also become a bigger deal than it used to be. And there is more surveillance virtually everywhere.

High-profile events that draw large numbers of people, whether they are sporting events, business meetings or political summits, have also become security concerns. Even little resort villages in the mountains that host such events have to be concerned about security in the 21 st century.

South of the border, security has become such a hot topic since Sept. 11 that the U.S. government has instituted a colour coded terrorist alert warning. More relevant to most people, the U.S. has brought about the Patriot Act, which among other things, allows the state to hold terrorist suspects without charges and permits authorities to conduct search and seizure operations without warrants – things that Americans were supposed to be protected against in their Constitution.

A New York Times editorial last month called the Patriot Act "… the Bush administration's attempt to make the country safe on the cheap. Rather than do the hard work of coming up with effective port security and air cargo checks, and other programs targeted at actual threats, the administration has taken aim at civil liberties."

Meanwhile, as the impact of 9/11 began to sink in, Canada countered with the Anti-Terrorism Act, which was passed in December of 2001. The law is intended to prevent terrorists from getting into Canada and to protect Canadians from terrorist acts, "by activating tools to identify, prosecute, convict and punish terrorists," the Department of Justice Web site states. There is also a sunset clause that will see the powers provided in the legislation cease to exist in 2007 – unless the federal government specifically extends the Act.

The two main elements of the Act are "investigative hearing provisions" and "recognizance with conditions". The investigative hearing provisions, as described by the Justice Department: "allow a police officer, ‘for purposes of an investigation of a terrorism offence,’ to apply ex parte to a judge for an order to gather information relevant to that investigation… It authorizes the judge to order the examination of a material witness who may possess information regarding a terrorist offence that has been or may be committed."