The night of Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush addressed the nation and said, among other things, that the terrorists had failed in their attempt to frighten the nation.
"Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America," Bush said.
But as we approach the 12th anniversary of the attacks, there is evidence that our response to terrorism has the potential of undermining the bedrock principles of the country - individual freedom and personal liberty.
Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old former employee of a security contractor for the National Security Agency, has shocked the country with revelations about the NSA's massive data collection system.
The metadata mining by the NSA is a direct response to 9/11. The intelligence community says it's looking for patterns that may provide clues about a potential attack, not accessing the personal information of Americans.
However, Snowden claims the reach goes much farther.
"Any analyst, at any time can target anyone," Snowden said. "Sitting at my desk (I) certainly had the authority to wiretap anyone."
We don't know if Snowden is the most significant whistleblower of the information age or just a computer geek with a self-inflated sense of importance or a combination of the two.
We should know eventually, but in the meantime many Americans are wondering whether the government has crossed the shifting line of demarcation that separates the desire for security from the constitutional protection of our privacy.
Peggy Noonan, writing in the Wall Street Journal, said the fear that the government will abuse its surveillance gathering ability is legitimate.
"There are many reasons for this, but the primary one is that humans are and will be in charge of it, and humans have shown throughout history a bit of a tendency to play every trick and bend and break laws."