Biden Won't End the Warfare-Surveillance State

National security reporter Spencer Ackerman on 9/11, mass surveillance at home, and failed wars abroad.


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In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the United States invaded and occupied two countries, bombed four others, helped create 21 million refugees and cause over 800,000 deaths, and spent over $6 trillion on combat and anti-terrorism measures. Republican and Democratic presidents and congressional leaders authorized sweeping new initiatives that effectively put all American citizens under surveillance.

Even as the United States has left Afghanistan, ending our longest war, many of the programs and mindsets born out of events 20 years ago are still firmly in place. In Reign of Terror, national security reporter Spencer Ackerman argues that the war on terror also profoundly destabilized American politics and helped to produce the Donald Trump presidency by stoking fears of a racialized Other. "The longer America viewed itself as under siege," he writes, "the easier it became to see enemies everywhere."

He talks with Reason's Nick Gillespie about how a coalition of libertarians and progressives can work to stop ongoing government surveillance and military interventionism underwritten by overwrought fears of Islamic terrorism.

Edited by Ian Keyser. Intro by Paul Detrick. Interview by Nick Gillespie.

Photos: Randy Taylor/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom, GORAN TOMASEVIC/REUTERS/Newscom