Legal Legacy of 9/11

Legal Legacy of 9/11

In the weeks and months following 9/11, the U.S. government adopted an aggressive preventative approach to international terrorism. This approach was seen through new legislation, executive branch actions, and in how the government was reorganized with counter-terrorism as the defining priority. The 20th anniversary of 9/11 is an opportunity to examine what lessons we can learn from this post 9/11 approach, from the expansion of government surveillance, to the opening of Guantanamo Bay, to the restructuring of the executive branch.

In 2021, the government and law enforcement’s attention is increasingly on domestic terrorism and the threats of extremist groups here at home. ACS’s focus on the legal legacy of 9/11 asks the questions: How do we avoid repeating the mistakes made in the wake of 9/11 in how this country addresses the threat of domestic extremism? How do we apply the lessons learned from our response to 9/11 to ensure we do not sacrifice civil rights or experience government overreach? The publications, podcast episodes, issue briefs, and other programs included below aim to answer these questions.


Indefinite Detention: Examining Guantanamo 20 Years After 9/11

Now that American troops have left Afghanistan, the story of the remaining 39 detainees in the United States military prison at Guantanamo Bay Cuba may or may not be coming to an end. The fate of these men is in the hands of both the Biden administration – which states it wants to close the facility – and the judiciary, which is more conservative and more deferential to the executive branch than it was 20 years ago when it granted limited habeas corpus rights to detainees.

What does this changed judiciary and polarized political climate mean for the remaining Guantanamo detainees? Will courts defer to executive branch claims that the U.S. Government can legally detain suspected terrorists after the withdrawal from Afghanistan as the Justice Department claims? If so, what does this say about how – or if – the judiciary will police separation of powers and protect civil liberties in the face of national security claims moving forward? And what is Congress’ role in all of this – what has it done and what should it do?

Welcome Remarks:
Russ Feingold, President, ACS

Featured Speakers:
Linda Greenhouse, Clinical Lecturer in Law and a Senior Research Scholar in Law, Yale Law School, Moderator
Baher Azmy, Legal Director, Center for Constitutional Rights
Hina Shamsi, Director of the National Security Project, American Civil Liberties Union
Rita Siemion, Senior Counsel, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee
Steve Vladeck, Charles Alan Wright Chair in Federal Courts, University of Texas Austin Law School

Podcast Series

    • On Part I of our Legal Legacy of 9/11 series, we focus specifically on domestic extremism and how we can avoid repeating the same post-9/11 mistakes when it comes to confronting this domestic threat. This segment features Shirin Sinnar of Stanford Law School, Michael German of Brennan Center for Justice, and Debra Perlin, ACS Director of Policy and Program, as host.

    • Russ Feingold, the only senator to vote against the USA PATRIOT Act, is joined by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), to discuss the legacy of the AUMF and what Congress should do moving forward to implement the lessons learned from giving the executive branch a “blank check” authorization for military force.

    • On this episode, Debra Perlin is joined by Hasan Ali from Microsoft and Greg Nojeim from the Center for Democracy and Technology to discuss how increased surveillance has changed the way Americans think about privacy. They will also take a step back and ask not if we need more surveillance to deal with rising threats of domestic terrorism and public health crises, but if perhaps we already have too much.


  • Watch ACS President Russ Feingold on The Majority Report with Sam Seder segment, “9/11 Changed US National Security,” discuss the legacy 9/11 has had on the American national security state, and what to expect going forward.
  • Listen to ACS President Russ Feingold on the Wall Street Journal’s Tech News Podcast segment, “Russ Feingold on Surveillance and Privacy,” discuss 9/11’s impact on privacy.
  • Listen to ACS President Russ Feingold on the Courthouse News podcast Sidebar, in the segment “Patriots, Politics and Playing for Pay,” discuss how the events on 9/11 reshaped the laws of the United States and led to an enduring debate over government surveillance powers.

Blog Symposium