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Monday, Dec. 22, 2014

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Panelists examine lasting effects of Sept. 11

At a forum reflecting on the state of the nation two years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, scholars from Princeton and other institutions said that much needs to be done in rehabilitating countries that have harbored terrorists, in assessing how to equip ourselves to prevent more attacks and in refraining from trampling civil liberties in order to defeat terrorism.

The panel, "Two Years After Sept. 11: How Far Have We Come?," was sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs . Anne-Marie Slaughter, the school's dean, acted as moderator. "We're here for an academic panel, a panel of analysis, but this is also a day of remembrance and reflection and deep emotion," she said.

Robert Orr, executive director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, warned that the United States needs to devote additional resources to the rebuilding of Afghanistan. "I would say if we don't change course we're going to be in Afghanistan not for months to come, but for years," said Orr, who received a doctoral degree from the Wilson School. "This is one of the poorest countries on earth . . . and we're throwing nickels and dimes into the toll booth." If more troops are not sent to the country, he said, "Afghanistan, not Iraq, will remain the central front in the war on terror."

Christopher Kojm, the deputy executive director of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, described the extensive research the commission is doing to assemble the definitive account of the attacks. The group is grappling with what can be done to make airports safer and whether the U.S. government's intelligence agencies need to be restructured. "Our commission is extraordinarily practically oriented," said Kojm, who earned a master's degree from the Wilson School. "Many commission reports end up as doorstops, and that is not our intention."

The final speaker cautioned that the government has failed to revisit policies it put into place right after Sept. 11 that went too far in curbing civil liberties. "There's a new environment, but we have to care about our liberty and our security simultaneously," said Christopher Eisgruber, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Public Affairs at Princeton. After Sept. 11, for example, the government decreed that non-citizens could be tried and sentenced to death by a military tribunal, he pointed out. "One would think that two years later, the president and the Congress would be working to see if military tribunals are necessary and what protections they need. Unfortunately, that has not happened."

Contact: Ruth Stevens (609) 258-3601

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