Founded in the wake of 9/11, and set up to consolidate 22 previously disparate agencies, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) states its mission as follows…
We will lead the unified national effort to secure America. We will prevent and deter terrorist attacks and protect against and respond to threats and hazards to the Nation. We will ensure safe and secure borders, welcome lawful immigrants and visitors, and promote the free-flow of commerce.
Since a comprehensive evaluation of this gigantic organization is obviously beyond the scope of a brief essay, we will confine ourselves to those aspects of this agency that would most affect the average American.
The first question that must be asked is: Has DHS been successful so far? Inasmuch as there has not been a repeat of 9/11, the answer is yes. Of course, as in most matters involving actual humans—as opposed to lab rats—it is quite difficult (usually impossible) to arrange a valid control experiment. Would there have been no terrorist attacks anyway, in the absence of DHS? Did our immediate post-9/11 military invasion of Afghanistan, as the harborers of Al-Qaeda have a chilling effect? Does our willingness to flush out and engage the enemy on its home ground remove the impetus from sleeper cells already in our country? If anyone in the intelligence community has such suspicions, they’re certainly keeping them under wraps.
However, in light of the financial and logistical burdens imposed on our country by this newfound emphasis on security and first responders, “success” measured in such simplistic terms may not be enough. Besides, there could be all sorts of mini-incidents not characterized as terrorist attacks, that should be. How about Black Muslims John Allen Muhammad and Lee Malvo killing 12 innocent people and seriously wounding three others?
What about the discovery, a few weeks ago as mentioned in the New York Post, of pipe bomb materials in a Brooklyn, NY supermarket lined with posters of Osama bin Laden and beheadings in Iraq, that was quickly dismissed as having nothing to do with terrorism? And what about the huge explosions at an oil refinery in Texas City, TX, whereby responsibility was claimed by Islamist groups, and that was immediately ruled out by the FBI, even before they investigated the scene?
While there may be no terrorist connection to any of these matters, it is the breathtaking haste to term them as such that has me concerned.
Where most of us encounter DHS is via the color-coded advisory system, and when experiencing airport security screening procedures. And, here, the folly of DHS is most dramatically exposed.
The colorized risk assessments range from Green (low risk) to Red (severe risk). As I am writing this piece, we are at Yellow (elevated risk). But what would have happened if a condition Red were declared on September 11, 2001? Would no one have boarded an airplane? Would anyone who worked in Lower Manhattan or the Pentagon have stayed home? Other than the most generic suggestions (“Exercise caution when traveling, pay attention to travel advisories”; “Expect traffic delays and restrictions”; “Ensure disaster supply kit is stocked and ready”) there really is no meaningful advice for citizens.
However, under the inbred groupthink environment of a large federal agency, these sorts of platitudes seem like brilliant words of wisdom. Another consequence of this environment is the old problem often described as “the generals are fighting the last war.” How else to explain the absurd preoccupation with airport security?
Not only is it unlikely in the extreme that the specific tactics of 9/11 would be repeated, even if they were, passengers, knowing they were in a fight for their lives, would intervene. But, beyond that, is it really worth bankrupting the entire airline industry (since any drive under three hours is preferable to a flight to the same destination) to achieve some undefined level of increased security?
What is the point, after all, of showing picture ID as many as five separate times, three of which were in the space of about thirty feet, as happened during my last trip by air? Most, if not all, of the 9/11 hijackers had valid ID, and, what is the purpose of identifying oneself, anyway? Since fake ID’s and valid ID’s are both easy to get, exactly what does this prove? I don’t have a clue, and I’m betting that DHS doesn’t either.
Besides, anyone could board a passenger train with a high-powered rifle, and do quite a bit of damage, as he sailed along the rails. Why this emphasis on aviation, other than its prominence in the original attacks? And, if we can focus on something otter than aircraft for a moment, there’s always the disaster of our open immigration policy, repeatedly condemned overwhelmingly in polling data.
Finally, there is no point in being in denial of the historic enmity between Islam and Christianity, dating back to the very founding of Islam. Nor, was there any place for President Bush’s disingenuous, uber-PC, and blatantly false characterization of Islam as the “religion of peace.”
Even though political correctness, childish battles between the major parties, nonsensical pronouncements by such as Amnesty International, and a misguided focus on “diversity” and multiculturalism prevail, it will still come down to us killing them before they kill us—DHS or no DHS.