On September 11, 2001, Islamic extremists hijacked four commercial airliners resulting in the worst terrorist attack ever committed on United States soil. The attack was a series of coordinated suicide missions: Two planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. A third airliner crashed into the Pentagon near Washington D.C. The fourth aircraft, intended for the United States Capitol, was redirected after passengers and flight crew launched a revolt against the hijackers. That plane crashed into a field near the town of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. In total, 2,973 people, including nearly 400 rescue workers, were killed in the attacks.
For more information on the events of 9/11 please visit History.com's 9/11 site.
War on Terror The Bush administration declared a U.S. Global War on Terrorism following the September 11 attacks. Through economic and military sanctions, global surveillance and intelligence sharing, the war on terror aimed to bring Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to justice and to prevent the emergence of other terrorist networks. In 2002, the United States led the overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. In 2003, U.S. officials' speculation on Saddam Hussein's possible involvement created a case for the invasion of Iraq.
International Support Several countries, including the UK, India, Australia, France, Germany, Indonesia, China, Canada, Russia, Pakistan, Jordan, Mauritius, Uganda and Zimbabwe introduced anti-terrorism legislation and froze the bank accounts of businesses and individuals suspected of having al-Qaeda connections.
Congressional Legislation In direct response to 9/11, Congress passed the Homeland Security Act and the Patriot Act. The latter was sharply criticized because it allowed law enforcement to invade citizens' privacy and eliminated judicial oversight in such matters. In addition, under the Alien Registration Act of 1940, 80,000 Arab and Muslim immigrants were fingerprinted and registered following September 11.
9/11 Commission In 2002, The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, commonly referred to as the 9/11 Commission, was set up to report on the events leading up to the attacks and to provide recommendations to guard against future attacks. Chaired by former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean, the Commission was comprised of five Democrats and five Republicans. The Commission's report concluded that the attacks could potentially have been prevented and that failures by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation were to blame.
Ground Zero Illnesses After the Twin Towers collapsed, thousands of tons of toxic debris consisting of more than 2,500 contaminants were released into the air. Some of the dispersed substances are carcinogenic, while others can trigger kidney, heart, liver and nervous system deterioration. The toxic working conditions led to illnesses among rescue and recovery workers, including the death of NYPD officer James Zadroga. In 2006, a federal judge rejected New York City's refusal to pay for health costs for rescue workers.
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