Expert Commentary

The 9/11 attacks, 10 years later: Research roundup

Reports and surveys that shed light on the consequences of the 9/11 terrorist attacks

As the United States commemorates the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, questions about what the nation and world have learned over this decade and the true scope of the consequences are front and center.

Research journals such as American Psychologist and The Lancet have dedicated special issues to these questions. As the Los Angeles Times notes, the attacks themselves have also reshaped the interests and focus of the research community itself, particularly for those studying mental health. In addition, many academic institutions, such as Stanford, are providing a variety of scholarly perspectives on this moment.

The following is a sampling of recent reports that provide concrete analysis and data on important questions relating to the post-9/11 decade.


“United in Remembrance, Divided over Policies”

Pew Research Center

Findings: “Ten years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the events of that day retain a powerful hold on the public’s collective consciousness. Virtually every American remembers what they were doing at the moment the attacks occurred. Substantial majorities say that 9/11 had a profound personal impact and that the attacks changed the country in a major way. Yet the public continues to be divided over many of the anti-terrorism policies that arose in the wake of Sept. 11, and these differences extend to opinions about whether U.S. wrongdoing prior to 9/11 may have motivated the attacks: 43% say yes, while 45% disagree. In late September 2001, 33% said U.S. wrongdoing might have motivated the attacks, compared with 55% who said it did not.”


“Early Assessment of Cancer Outcomes in New York City Firefighters After the 9/11 Attacks”

The Lancet

Findings: “We reported a modest excess of cancer cases in the WTC-exposed cohort. We remain cautious in our interpretation of this finding because the time since 9/11 is short for cancer outcomes, and the reported excess of cancers is not limited to specific organ types. As in any observational study, we cannot rule out the possibility that effects in the exposed group might be due to unidentified confounders. Continued follow-up will be important and should include cancer screening and prevention strategies.”


“Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Following the September 11, 2001, Terrorist Attacks: A Review of the Literature Among Highly Exposed Populations”

American Psychologist

Findings: “Eligible studies included original reports based on the full Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders … criteria of PTSD among highly exposed populations such as those living or working within close proximity to the World Trade Center (WTC) and the Pentagon in New York City and Washington, DC, respectively, and first responders, including rescue, cleaning, and recovery workers. The large body of research conducted after the 9/11 attacks in the past decade suggests that the burden of PTSD among persons with high exposure to 9/11 was substantial. PTSD that was 9/11-related was associated with a wide range of correlates, including sociodemographic and background factors, event exposure characteristics, loss of life of significant others, and social support factors.”


“35,000 Worldwide Convicted for Terror”

Associated Press survey

Findings: “The AP used freedom of information queries, law enforcement data and hundreds of interviews to identify 119,044 anti-terror arrests and 35,117 convictions in 66 countries, accounting for 70 percent of the world’s population. The actual numbers undoubtedly run higher because some countries refused to provide information. That included 2,934 arrests and 2,568 convictions in the United States, which led the war on terror — eight times more than in the decade before…. More than half the convictions came from two countries accused of using anti-terror laws to crack down on dissent, Turkey and China. Turkey alone accounted for a third of all convictions, with 12,897.”


“Tenth Anniversary Report Card: The Status of the 9/11 Commission Recommendations”

Bipartisan Policy Center report

Findings: “Congressional oversight of the government’s homeland security and intelligence functions remains as dysfunctional as it was when the Commission released its report in 2004. While strengthening congressional oversight may be among the most difficult of the Commission’s recommendations to implement, Congress should immediately consolidate jurisdiction over DHS within the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees and establish separate subcommittees for funding the intelligence agencies. The formation of a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board should also be a priority. While legislation was enacted to create this Board, it has been dormant for more than three years.”

Tags: law, security, research roundup, mental health, terrorism, PTSD, privacy

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