Local News

Two Years After 9-11, Many Ask Whether Nation Is Safe

Posted September 11, 2003 5:25 a.m. EDT

— The State Department issued a new warning Thursday about a possible terrorist attack on U.S. interests around the world. Security was increased at some state buildings and power facilities, but many question whether the nation is safe and whether homeland security can infringe on one's civil liberties.

At RDU International, federal employees use explosive detection machines to check bags. Visitors and vehicles cannot get close to Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant without being searched. Most government buildings keep closer watch on who comes and goes.

Security consultant Bill Booth said most businesses have also taken steps to protect products and employees. He said the nation is a little safer, but there is always a threat.

"The sense of urgency has pretty much worn off. It won't happen here. It can't happen to us-kind of feeling again," he said.

While federal homeland security money has yet to trickle down to local agencies, Bryan Beatty, state Secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety, said the state is better prepared for the worst. Beatty believes the flow of information between federal, state and local law enforcement has greatly improved, along with disaster training and planning.

"I said shortly after Sept. 11 that we would return to normal, but normal would be different and I think that's what has occurred," he said.

Two years after the events of Sept. 11, many people ask the question, have we gone too far with security measures taking away too many civil liberties.

After 9-11, Sampson County native Joe Adams was mistakenly landed on the TSA's No-Fly list. For almost two years, the 71-year-old said he was treated like a suspected terrorist every time he flew. Adams learned a suspected al-Qaida sympathizer uses the same name as an alias.

"[I was] embarrassed, humiliated and so on," he said.

Person County's Dr. Shahid Mahmood also had problems. After visiting family in Pakistan, immigration officials delayed his return to Roxboro by a month.

"I don't think that's an indication that we've gone too far. I think it's an indication that mistakes will be made and those will be corrected," Beatty said.

Beatty said lawmakers and judges must ultimately balance civil rights and security.

"I think we're better prepared. I think we are safer in terms of those things we can anticipate," he said.

North Carolina received $50 million in Homeland Security money. By next month, most of that funding will go to local police, fire, and emergency for equipment and training.