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In commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, KUNC presents a day of special programming from NPR News, StoryCorps, The Sonic Memorial Project, and independent radio producers and reporters nationwide. All coverage will be collected in this archive.6:00 AM – 12:00 PM: NPR Special Coverage“To mark 10 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon on September 11, NPR will air coverage leading up to September 11 and on the day itself. The overarching theme of coverage is: How has America changed? NPR will air rigorous reporting on everything from national security to politics to our culture, and also reflecting on the human toll -- the impact of September 11th on people's lives and our country. Hosted by Audie Cornish”12:00 PM – 1:00 PM: StoryCorps: We Remember“An intimate look at lives forever changed by the attacks on 9/11. These are stories from families and friends who tell us about their loved ones and their loss: the father who recalls the last words he shared with his son, the recovery worker who discovers a new meaning for normal, the fireman's daughter who knew that her dad who perished in the line of duty wouldn't have wanted it any other way. On the 10th anniversary of the attacks, host Audie Cornish checks in with StoryCorps families to find out how they make their way today.”1:00 PM – 2:00 PM: Our 9/11: Growing Up in The Aftermath“WNYC's Radio Rookies and PRX, in partnership with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, looks at the 9/11 attacks through the eyes of young people who were just kids when the towers fell: a girl whose dad never returned from police duty, two families ripped apart by trauma, a Muslim girl who coped with the angry reaction to her faith, and a young man who has helped one community remember. Hosted by On the Media's Brooke Gladstone.”2:00 PM – 3:00: The Sonic Memorial Project“On the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, we re-visit The Sonic Memorial Project, which commemorates the life and history of the World Trade Center and the people who passed through its doors. A collaboration between The Kitchen Sisters Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva, PRX, NPR, independent producers, and stations and listeners nationwide, the project was created with audio artifacts, rare recordings, and the input of thousands of people who called in with their personal stories.”3:00 PM: Bob Edwards Weekend Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times joins Bob to talk about 9/11, then and now. Shortly after the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001 writer Joan Murray read her poem, “Survivors Found,” on NPR’s Morning Edition, the program Bob hosted at the time. Ten years later, she’s back to reflect on that poem, and how it helped people heal from the tragedy.4:00 PM: This American LifeTEN YEARS IN: In this show, we return to people who've been on This American Life in the last ten years, whose lives were drastically altered by 9/11, including Hyder Akbar, an Afghan-American teen who moved to Afghanistan after his father was tapped to become governor of Kunar province there; Marian Fontana, whose husband Dave was a fireman who died in the Twin Towers; and Lynn Simpson, who escaped from the 89th floor and made it out of the World Trade Center with about a minute to spare.6:00 PM: NPR Special CoverageNPR will offer live, anchored coverage of A Concert for Hope, which will be held at The Kennedy Center at 8pm ET. President Obama will speak during the concert, which will also feature performances by Patti Labelle, Alan Jackson and Denyce Graves.

Security Since Sept. 11: Worth The Cost?

A U.S. Capitol policeman performs a security sweep of the Capitol Dome and roof ahead of President Obama's speech to Congress on Thursday. The U.S. is spending more than $70 billion on homeland security this year, up from $20 billion a decade ago.
Jim Watson
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AFP/Getty Images
A U.S. Capitol policeman performs a security sweep of the Capitol Dome and roof ahead of President Obama's speech to Congress on Thursday. The U.S. is spending more than $70 billion on homeland security this year, up from $20 billion a decade ago.

Is America safer today than it was a decade ago?

That question has been raised repeatedly in the discussions surrounding the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

But authors John Mueller and Mark S. Stewart feel it's the wrong question. They pose a different one: Are the vast increases in security spending justified by the threat of future attacks?

U.S. spending on homeland security and domestic intelligence has consumed nearly a half-trillion dollars over the past decade. It was just over $20 billion in 2001; this year it will top $72 billion.

The authors note that the United States and other Western countries have spent huge sums to combat a threat that is much less likely to occur — and therefore much less likely to result in injury or death — than are automobile accidents and other ordinary risks.

The book by Mueller and Stewart, timed to the Sept. 11 anniversary, is Terror, Security and Money: Balancing the Risks, Benefits and Costs of Homeland Security.

Mueller and Stewart point out that over the past decade, the number of deaths worldwide at the hands of Islamic extremists outside war zones comes to some 200 to 300 per year.

"That, of course, is 200 to 300 too many," they write, "but it hardly suggests that the destructive capabilities of the terrorists are monumental. For comparison, during the same period more people — 320 per year — drowned in bathtubs in the United States alone."

New York City policemen stand guard near the New York Stock Exchange on Friday. Security in New York and Washington has been stepped up based on what the government is calling a credible but unconfirmed threat of a possible car bomb attack.
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
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Getty Images
New York City policemen stand guard near the New York Stock Exchange on Friday. Security in New York and Washington has been stepped up based on what the government is calling a credible but unconfirmed threat of a possible car bomb attack.

Mueller is a professor of national security studies and political science at Ohio State University, while Stewart is an expert on risk analysis at the University of Newcastle in Australia.

NPR's Alan Greenblatt spoke with Mueller about their book.

Greenblatt: Do you think Americans are prepared to think about the threat terrorists pose in terms of a cost-benefit analysis?

Mueller: It's certainly been difficult, but a couple of things have happened. The death of [al-Qaida leader Osama] bin Laden seems to have lessened the concern about al-Qaida.

When you ask people what is the most important problem facing the country, terrorism is way down since 2001. And with the budget crunch, people are starting to ask whether it's worth it.

Greenblatt: You point out in your book that people are more afraid of terrorist attacks than other, much more common risks. Why do you think that is?

Mueller: People don't necessarily understand what the risk is. People are afraid of flying and you can regale them with statistics about how safe it is and they'll still be afraid.

Obviously, terrorism has a special horror and causes people to misassess the risk because of the drama and the unpredictability of it. But your chances of dying in a terrorist attack are 1 in 3.5 million a year.

One of the biggest bones that we pick in the book is with people in the administration and elsewhere, who never tell you what the risk is. If you're in charge of public safety, you should inform people what the risk is.

Greenblatt: Given the damage that can be done by small groups of people and even individuals, America will never be completely invulnerable to attack. But shouldn't the government attempt to make it harder to strike domestic targets?

Mueller: You have to take it case by case. The analogy I've been using lately is homicide.

My chances — or any American's chances — of being a victim of homicide are 1 in 22,000, which is pretty high. I can lower my risk by hiring a bodyguard, but most people don't want to pay the cost.

How much do you want to spend to make a terrorist attack even less likely? If you're going to spend $1 billion on body scanners, how much does that lower the risk? If the odds went down to 1 in 3 million, would you feel pretty confident?

Greenblatt: Now that we have set up and expanded government agencies to combat the terrorist threat, they're not likely to be dismantled, but do you think they'll ever be reduced in terms of scope or dollars spent?

Mueller: The National Research Council found that there's no risk assessment by the Department of Homeland Security, after spending tens of billions of dollars per year. Misspending money is misspending money, but it may take this kind of financial crisis to get people to think about it.

But it hasn't bubbled up much in the political campaign, on either side. What I really hoped for is when [Barack] Obama came in, or even [John] McCain, that they'd clear the decks and take a hard look at it.

That certainly hasn't happened so far. In Mitt Romney's plan about what he's going to cut, which he released the other day, he said he would not cut defense and he would not cut homeland security.

Maybe the fear is still powerful enough to keep people from seriously thinking about this.

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