Bin Laden Killed, End of Iraq War, NDAA 2012
  • May 1, 2011: Navy SEAL Team Six kills Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan. He is buried at sea the next day.
  • May 19, 2011: Three provisions of the Patriot Act and FISA are extended for four more years. This includes the “lone wolf” provision, allowing FISA to be applied to a person not associated with any foreign group, roving wiretaps, and the “tangible things” provision, which compels one to produce concrete objects relevant to investigations.
  • Oct. 17, 2011: The first draft of NDAA for 2012 receives general bipartisan support, despite including a clause that could be used to indefinitely detain US citizens. This is dubbed the "Abdulmutallab rule” after the so-called “underwear bomber.”
  • Nov. 17, 2011: President issues a veto threat concerning NDAA 2012, specifically targeting the possible indefinite detention of citizens.
  • Nov. 29, 2011: The Paul Amendment to NDAA 2012, which would repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF, fails.
  • Dec. 1, 2011: The Obama Administration confirms that US citizens can be military targets if they “take up arms with al-Qaida.”
  • Dec. 27, 2011: Iran threatens to block the Strait of Hormuz, in response to the new sanctions included in NDAA.
  • Dec. 31, 2011: Obama signs NDAA 2012 into law. Signed into law December 31, 2011, it includes Homeland Battlefield provisions, such as an indefinite detention clause that may or may not apply to US citizens. It also allows discretion as to whether or not non-citizens would be detained by military forces, revamps the detention process in Afghanistan, and further restricts transfers out of Guantanamo. The bill places new sanctions on financial institutions dealing with Iran’s central bank, where such institutions would be frozen out of US financial markets. It additionally renews the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF).
  • Jan. 1, 2012: President Obama releases a signing statement to NDAA. In it, he states or implies the following: He will not authorize indefinite military detention of US citizens, avoid military detention at his discretion, possibly ignore the changes to Afghanistan detention procedures, as well as possibly disregard Guantanamo transfer restrictions.
  • Jan. 13, 2012: Chris Hedges files a complaint “as a plaintiff against Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to challenge the legality of the Authorization for Use of Military Force as embedded in the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by the president Dec. 31.”
  • Jan. 18, 2012: Representative Ron Paul introduces a bill (H.R. 3785) to repeal the indefinite detention clause of the NDAA 2012. He was its only sponsor.

Perhaps President Obama's greatest accomplishment, the killing of bin Laden in May marks a high point in his first presidency. However, there is continued expansion of governmental national security powers, through provisions of the Patriot Act and FISA, as well as the NDAA for 2012. The US continues to tighten sanctions against Iran, who threatens to cut off oil supplies in retaliation.

Jan. 2, 2011: President Obama signs the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act into law, which provides health coverage for 9/11 first responders.

Feb. 4, 2011: TSA grants airport screeners the right to vote on limited collective bargaining rights.

Feb. 15, 2011: An independent panel convened by the National Research Council of the National Academies determines that scientific evidence provided by the FBI is not enough to prove Bruce Ivins’ guilt in the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Jun. 3, 2011: House passes homeland security funding bill that prohibits federal funding for collective bargaining.

Jun. 23, 2011: TSA airport screeners choose A.F.G.E. (nation’s largest federal employee union) to represent them in collective bargaining talks with the government.

Dec. 19, 2011: The last US combat troops leave Iraq, ahead of the December 31st deadline, ending the war in Iraq.

Dec. 2011: TSA chief John Pistole notes that though the US failed to meet its August 2010 deadline for 100% screening of inbound cargo flights, he expects that it should be met by 2013.

Dec. 21, 2011: Talks between the government and AFGE over TSA negotiations stall.

Wikileaks, TSA Screenings
  • Jan. 22, 2009: President Obama issues an Executive Order to close Guantanamo Bay’s prison, but controversy over placement of prisoners stalls action on the closure of Guantanamo Bay.
  • Oct. 8, 2009: Senate Judiciary Committee votes to reauthorize three expiring provisions of the Patriot Act.
  • Apr. 5, 2010: Wikileaks releases footage of a July 12, 2007 Apache attack that resulted in the deaths of twelve civilians, including two Iraqis working for Reuters. The US government declares Wikileaks a threat to national security.
  • Jun. 7, 2010: Private First Class Bradley Manning is arrested for allegedly leaking the 2007 Apache footage to Wikileaks.
  • Jun. 21, 2010: In Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the Supreme Court upholds that, even with the goal of peacefully resolving conflicts, it is a crime to give any type of “material support” to foreign terrorist groups.
  • Sep. 24, 2010: FBI raids the homes of several activists in Chicago and Minneapolis, citing Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project.
  • Nov. 8, 2010: US-bound explosives intercepted in the UK and the UAE are decoy laser printer toner cartridges. As a consequence the TSA bans toner and ink cartridges weighing over 16 ounces from all passenger flights.
  • Nov. 2010: TSA rolls out advanced imaging scanners that display nude images of passengers, as well as extensive pat-down procedures. In these new procedures, TSA screeners touch passengers’ breasts, buttocks and genitals.

President Obama's first term is marked by the emergence of WIkileaks as either a government  watchdog, or national safety issue (depending on who is asked). The administration also faces increased high-profile terrorism attempts, though none are successful. The Supreme Court widens the definition of a terroristic act, by upholding "material support" as aiding a terrorist group. The TSA faces civil rights backlash as it introduces full-body scanners and pat-downs.

Nov. 25, 2009: Wikileaks releases over 500,000 pager messages sent from US officials and the public during the 9/11 crisis.

Dec. 25, 2009: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a native to Nigeria, attempts to blow up a jetliner over Detroit with a bomb in his underwear. The detonator malfunctions, resulting in second-degree burns, but no explosion. al-Qaeda leaders based in Yemen trained Abdulmutallab and supplied him with the device.

May 1, 2010: Faisal Shahzad is arrested for lighting the fuse to a homemade bomb packed in car in Times Square, New York City. The bomb never explodes, but its smoke attracts the attention of a street vendor, who alerts police.

Jul. 25, 2010: Wikileaks releases almost 92,000 reports relating to the war in Afghanistan to the Guardian, The New York Times, and the Spiegel. The newspapers each independently vet and verify the documents.  Included are unreported civilian casualties, possible war crimes, Pakistani aid to the Taliban, and a unit tasked with killing top Taliban leaders.

Aug. 19, 2010: Combat operations officially end in Iraq, two weeks ahead of President Obama’s deadline.

Aug. 2010: Obama receives a tip that bin Laden is in Pakistan.

Oct. 22, 2010: Wikileaks releases another 400,000 secret reports detailing the war in Iraq. It includes serial detainee abuse and an additional 15,000 civilian deaths resulting from the war.

Oct 29, 2010: Two explosives-laden packages addressed to synagogues in Chicago are intercepted in the United Arab Emirates and UK. Yemen-base al-Qaeda claim responsibility.

Challenges, Foiled Plans, New President
  • Mar. 13, 2006: Congress creates an independent panel to study the Iraq war and make recommendations. It is dubbed the Iraq Study Group.
  • Jun. 7, 2006: US troops assassinate al-Qaeda’s Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the terrorist group in Iraq.
  • Jun. 29, 2006: In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld the Supreme Court strikes down the plan to try Guantanamo detainees before military commissions. The court determined that these trials did not comply with the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Convention.
  • Aug. 9, 2006: British authorities arrest 24 men, suspected of planning to blow up at least 10 trans-Atlantic flights with liquids. This leads to restrictions on quantities of liquids and gels that can be carried in carry-on luggage.
  • Sep. 26, 2006: TSA loosens regulations carry-on regulations to allow one clear, resealable, quart-sized bag, with liquids no larger than 3 ounces each.
  • Dec. 6, 2006: The Iraq Study Group’s report is released. It notes the deterioration of the Iraq War and recommends withdrawal of American troops while training Iraqis for combat.
  • May 9, 2007: Six men are charged with plotting to attack Fort Dix, NJ. Though they are described as “radical Islamists,” there is no apparent connection to al-Qaeda or any other international terrorist organization.
  • Aug. 5, 2007: The Protect America Act of 2007 is signed into law. This amendment to FISA removed the warrant requirement for government surveillance of foreign intelligence targets “reasonably believed” to not be native to the US.
  • Jul. 10, 2008: The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 is enacted, one of the largest changes in over 30 years. Perhaps most controversial is the legal immunity granted to phone companies that cooperated in the domestic wiretapping uncovered by the New York Times in 2005.

As President Bush's second term comes to a close, the first legal challenges to his policies are heard. By now, the Iraq War has become extremely unpopular and the Iraq Study Group's report only emphasizes such feelings. The Bush Administration is, however, able to broaden the government's survellience powers in 2007 and 2008 through legislation. Meanwhile, the TSA faces further backlash as it adds restrictions to carry-on luggage.

Nov. 6, 2006: Saddam Hussein, his half brother Barzan and Iraq’s former chief judge Awad Hamed al-Bandar are all sentences to death. Hussein’s former vice president receives a life sentence, while three other men received 15-year sentences. The trial was marred by possible interference from the government, as well as the assassination of three defense lawyers.

Dec. 30, 2006: Hussein is executed by hanging. Though Iraqi state TV shows images of the moments leading up to his death, the moment of his execution is not shown.

Jun. 2, 2007: Three men are arrested for plotting to blow up jet fuel tanks at JFK airport in New York.

Oct. 2007: TSA begins additional inspections of remotes in carry-on luggage.

Jul. 29, 2008: Bruce Ivins, the primary suspect in the anthrax attacks of 2001, dies after an apparent intentional overdose of Tylenol.

Aug, 6, 2008: Federal investigators announces that Ivins was solely responsible for the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Aug.8, 2008: Federal prosecutors officially clear Hatfill of any involvement with the anthrax attacks. In June, the Justice Department paid him $5.8 million to resolve a privacy rights lawsuit.

Nov. 8, 2008: Barack Obama defeats John McCain and is elected President.

Iraq, Expansion of Terrorism Laws
  • Feb. 5, 2003: Secretary of State Colin Powell appeals to the UN Security Counsel for action against Iraq, citing biological weapons.
  • Mar. 19, 2003: US begins its bombing campaign on Baghdad, Iraq.
  • May 1, 2003: President Bush declares an end to major combat operations in Iraq.
  • Apr. 28, 2004: 9/11 Commission Report is released. It notes multiple intelligence failings under both President Clinton and Bush.
  • Dec. 14, 2004: President Bush signs into law the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. The law establishes the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), and modifies or affects much of US federal terrorism laws. It also includes a clause that requires butane lighters to be added to the TSA’s prohibited items list.
  • Jan. 12, 2005: US officials confirm that no WMDs were found in Iraq and that they have called off the search for them.
  • Mar. 31, 2005: TSA adds common lighters to its list of prohibited items. It is the only country to do so.
  • Dec. 16, 2005: A New York Times article reveals that the Bush administration has been using warrantless domestic wiretapping carried out by the National Security Agency since at least 2002.

The US moves quickly to topple Saddam Hussein, but it is soon discovered that their WMD reasoning is false. At the end of this period, the reaction begins against measures passed and used since 2001 in the name of national security.

Jan. 13, 2003: Loy announces that TSA airport screeners will not be allowed to unionize.

Apr. 9, 2003: US-led forces capture Baghdad and topple a statue of Saddam Hussein.

Dec. 13, 2003: Saddam Hussein is captured by US soldiers near Tikrit.

Oct. 2004: Bin Laden releases a videotaped message, publicly acknowledging al-Qaeda’s role in the 9/11 attacks for the first time.

Nov. 9, 2004: Fighting in Falluja, Iraq begins, marking the most significant battle since the fall of Baghdad.

Jul. 7, 2005: al-Qaeda-linked suicide bombers on three trains and one bus in London kill 52 people.

9/11 Attacks and Immediate Responses
  • Sep. 11, 2001: Hijackers crash planes into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. The death toll is over 3000, including the hijackers.
  • Sep. 18, 2001: Congress issues a joint resolution allowing for Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). It authorizes the President “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”
  • Oct. 7, 2001: Operation Enduring Freedom begins in Afghanistan, marking the beginning of Bush’s “Global War on Terror.”
  • Oct 26, 2001: President Bush signs the Patriot Act into law.
  • Nov. 19, 2001: Congress passes the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. This creates the TSA within the US Department of Transportation.
  • Dec. 23, 2001: FAA issues a security directive, adding random shoe inspections following an incident with Richard Reid, the man dubbed the "shoe bomber," because he tried to detonate a bomb located in his shoe on Dec. 22, 2001.
  • Feb. 17, 2002: TSA begins taking over security at the nation’s airports, as mandated by the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. The government replaces 60 different private security companies across the country.
  • Oct. 2, 2002: The House and Senate vote for the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq, also known as the 2002 Iraq AUMF.
  • Nov. 25, 2002: President Bush signs into law the Homeland Security Bill, which creates the Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security. Tom Ridge is named as the President's nomineed to lead the Department.
  • Nov. 27, 2002: The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (9/11 Commission) is established.
  • Dec. 31, 2002: The Aviation and Transportation Security Act comes into effect, which includes more rigorous screening processes for checked luggage. Generating the most controversy, is the statement that the TSA and the airlines are not liable for anything lost or damaged in the screening process.

In the aftermath of 9/11, federal powers greatly expand in the name of national security. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration further government reach and oversight. Additionally, the US enters into war in Afghanistan, while making motions towards war in Iraq.

Sep. 16, 2001: President Bush names Osama bin Laden as the prime suspect for the 9/11 attacks. Bin Laden denies involvement.

Nov. 9, 2001: CDC releases figures about bioterrorism-related anthrax. In September and October, there were 10 cases of inhalational anthrax and 12 cases of cutaneous anthrax.

Oct. 5, 2001: Robert Stevens dies of pulmonary anthrax after opening a letter sent from Trenton, NJ.

Dec. 13, 2001: A tape is released in which bin Laden implies his participation in the 9/11 attacks.

Jan. 11, 2002: First detainees arrive at Guantanamo. The Bush administration asserts that the detainees are not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Convention -- it is not until 2006 that the Supreme Court rules that detainees are at the very minimum allowed protections under Article 3 of the Geneva Convention.

Jul. 19, 2002: John Magaw resigns as head of the TSA. He is replaced by James Low, Magaw's deputy.

Jun. 24, 2002: The FBI searches the home of former Army researcher Steven J. Hatfil in connection with the anthrax attacks of the previous year. He is one of more than thirty biological warfare experts being investigated.

Jan. 29, 2002: President Bush uses the term “axis of evil” when referring to Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

Nov. 12, 2002: An audio recording surfaces, in which bin Laden warns nations against supporting the US in the 9/11 aftermath.

Beginnings of Commercial Flight, Domestic Spying and Privacy
  • Jul. 25, 1947: The world’s first fatal airplane hijacking takes place on Romanian Airlines.
  • Nov. 1, 1955: Jack Graham kills 44 people with a bomb in his mother’s luggage. It is the first act of criminal violence on a U.S. civilian airplane.
  • May 1961: After the first US plane diverted to Cuba, the government begins using armed guards on commercial airliners.
  • Sep. 5, 1961: President Kennedy makes air piracy a crime subject to the death penalty or imprisonment.
  • January 1969: The FAA creates a task force that develops a “profile” to be used along with metal detectors to prevent air piracy.
  • Sep. 11, 1970: President Nixon announces an anti-hijacking program, including the creation of the “Sky Marshal Program.”
  • Mar. 9, 1970: After a close call at JFK airport, the FAA Explosives Detection Canine Program is created so that any plane can divert to an airport to be inspected by a canine team after receiving a bomb threat.
  • December 1972: The FAA makes inspection of carry-on baggage and persons mandatory starting in 1973.
  • Aug. 5, 1974: The Air Transportation Security Act of 1974 is passed, sanctioning metal detection of passengers and X-ray inspections of carry-on baggage.
  • Oct. 25, 1978: America’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) is enacted and signed by President Jimmy Carter.
  • Jun. 22, 1985: President Reagan calls for the expansion of the Federal Air Marshal Program, previously called the Sky Marshal Program.
  • Oct. 21, 1986: The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 is enacted by Congress. Its purpose is to further restrict government wiretaps to electronic data sent by computers. This act was later modified by the Patriot Act of 2001.
  • Dec. 21, 1988: After a bomb destroys Pan Am Flight 103, killing 270 people, additional security measures go into effect. Many European and Middle Eastern airports require checked baggage to be X-rayed or searched, as well as matched to a specific passenger.

After several incidents of hijackings and bombings, Presidents throughout the mid to late 20th century saw fit to increase security measures on civilian aircraft.

This period was also largely defined by the Watergate scandal and the government's  view that more oversight was needed on domestic spying. In particular, FISA and ECPA set the groundwork for later laws and were also modified by the Patriot Act of 2001.

Aug. 29, 1969: Two Palestinians hijack an Israel-bound TWA plane, diverting it to Syria.

Jun. 14, 1985: TWA Flight 847 is hijacked and held for 17 days. Robert Stethem, a US Navy diver, is killed when the hijackers’ demands are not met.

National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):
  • Signed into law for each year, this act authorizes the Department of Defense’s budget and expenditures.
  • Though NDAA 2012 was controversial, most NDAAs pass without mention.
Department of Homeland Security
  • Signed into law in 2002 and established in 2003, this Department was established under President Bush, creating the largest overhaul of the federal government since the 1940s. This task was to consolidate and streamline the domestic security processes to allow for better and faster communication and subsequent actions. The Department’s responsibilities include border and transportation security, emergency preparedness and response, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear countermeasures, information analysis and infrastructure protection, as well as other provisions for domestic security.
Transportation Security Administration:
  • Created by law in 2001, this Administration was first located within the US Department of Transportation. After the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the Administration was transferred. Its responsibilities include civil aviation security (and related tasks) as well as security over other types of transportation under the Department of Transportation.
The USA Patriot Act
  • Standing for Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT), this act was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001. It modified several previous Acts, most notably FISA.
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)
  • An Act of Congress, signed by President Carter and enacted October 25, 1978. In the wake of the Watergate scandal, this Act aimed to create a balance between judicial and congressional oversight and protecting national security during covert surveillance activities. Specifically, this act applies to the activities of foreign entities and individuals, operating only within the United States. To conduct surveillance on suspected terrorists in the US, the government must be granted orders from a secret FISA court.

You must register or login to provide article feedback.

Click the legend elements to hide or display respective chart elements. Charts will adjust automatically.

Tabs have blue bars beneath them. The Timeline list controls the Summary/Minutiae/Sources section. The left column of any Summary tab is facts, the right is analysis.

The [!] links provide forms to send feedback, should you see any errors or problems.

In the "Recent News" section, hover over author names for information about the person who wrote the linked article.