I am a student of Computer Science at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Today, my life, as well as the lives of most young people on the planet, has changed forever. Today we witnessed the event the will be the landmark of our generation. September 11, 2001 will ``go down in infamy'' as one great
president put it, along with December 7, 1941; Nov. 22, 1963; and January 28, 1986.
Emotions are high, nobody knows what to think. Some are shocked, many angry. The American President has announced that those responsible will be brought to justice. United States Senator John McCain has called this event an act of war and claimed that our lives will be disrupted by the actions that will have to be taken in the near future. The US military is on alert. The border with Mexico has been sealed. Some feel that we are on the eve of war.
Not far from where I am, the airport that was once the busiest on the planet is now a ghost town. No commercial plane is currently in the air over the United States. Washington has been evacuated, and the President is in a bunker on an Air Force base in the middle of the country. Already, our free society is being cited as to blame. With many borders wide open, and information freely moving in and out of the country, people no longer feel safe in their own towns or cities.
I don't know how I feel about war, even though I am a prime draft candidate. This was an event which is more than warrants such a harsh reaction. Whatever happens, the United States must
carry itself as the champion of freedom that it claims it is. Everything we do in the coming months and years must be carefully thought out with an understanding that the consequences of those actions will live with us for a very long time.
We have, in the Free Software Community, been fighting for more freedom of information for many years. Current attacks against have focused on economic gains. People were fooled into believing that restrictions on freedom like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act would improve the economy. It was argued that the forfeit of freedoms was necessary for our financial well being. This argument was depressingly successful.
Currently, that law is in effect with devastating consequences. People are being sued for posting links, web sites are being taken down without cause, and a programmer is now facing 25 years in prison on a felony charge for writing a simple program. New laws are being pushed through the legislature that make the DMCA look benign.
The argument that national security requires us to deal with restrictions on our freedom and invasions of our privacy has been on the run, however. Despite the wishes of the NSA, encryption export restrictions have been slowly relaxed. Carnivore is being met with considerable resistance by the public and in Congress. The NSA and FBI have continuously complained about the reduction in the amount of information they can get on average Americans.
With the hijacking of four aircraft and the loss of countless lives which has occurred on this dark day, those complaints may well be heeded. Suddenly,
national defense will become a very viable and palpable argument once again. The twin towers of the World Trade Center has come crashing to the ground. I fear that a similar fate awaits all our progress towards information freedom.
When the intelligence organizations ask for more powers, we must resist. When the borders are closed, we must insist that they be reopened. When encryption technologies come under assault, when the basic ability by ordinary citizens to enforce their privacy in the Digital Millennium is called into question, we must sand up and confidently and tirelessly defend that ability.
The fight we have before us will not be easy. This nation is under assault by terrorists, that much is clear, but it is also clear that the principles on which this nation was founded will be under assault by our own fear. We must balance the necessity to defended ourselves with the importance of retaining our freedom. This will require unprecedented involvement in our government by my generation.
We can not continue the apolitical, disinterested lives of our parents, the lives most of us have lived until this day. Every person reading this, both young and old, Americans and citizens of other countries, must
take an active roll in their respective government. Every single decision made by our leaders in needs to be analyzed, researched, and judged by the citizenry. The time to be naive and complacent is over. Today, everything has changed, and so too must our political attitudes change to deal with new threats on our lives --- and more importantly, our liberty.
President Bush said that, ``Freedom has been attacked today by a faceless cowered, and freedom will be defended.'' I hope to god that he is right.