The Shadowy Boondoggle That Is ‘Homeland Security’

Once upon a time, “homeland” was a word of little significance in the American context.  What American before 9/11 would have called the United States his or her “homeland” rather than “country”?  Who sang “My homeland, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty”?  Between my birth in 1944, as World War II was drawing to … Continue reading “The Shadowy Boondoggle That Is ‘Homeland Security’”

Locking Down the Borders

In the always-good-news category, a Monday front-page New York Times piece by David Sanger and Thom Shanker, filled with obvious administration leaks, lays out another step in the White House’s march out of American legality. As it has codified its drone assassination strikes, so it has been codifying and “legalizing” another new right of the Executive Branch — the right to launch … Continue reading “Locking Down the Borders”

Terrorism Arithmetic

The most recent issue of the National Counter Terrorism Center’s annual Report on Terrorism [.pdf] came out last week, covering the year 2011. I would like to say that it is well worth a read, but actually it is quite tedious. For those who are interested, it is essentially a statistical and analytical breakdown of … Continue reading “Terrorism Arithmetic”

Government Always Seems to Focus on the Wrong Things

The 10th anniversary of 9/11 vividly illustrated the continued use of the horrible attacks to score political points. The first promise that Barack Obama made as president was to close the torture-tainted Guantanamo prison. Although this could have been a meaningful step toward abandoning the lawless behavior of the George W. Bush administration, Obama has … Continue reading “Government Always Seems to Focus on the Wrong Things”

What If Washington…?

The other day I visited a Web site I check regularly for all things military, Noah Shachtman’s Danger Room blog at Wired magazine. One of its correspondents, Spencer Ackerman, was just then at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, the sort of place that – with its multiple bus routes, more than 30,000 inhabitants, PXes, Internet … Continue reading “What If Washington…?”

Intelligence Reform Is a Failure

The sacking of Dennis Blair, the third director of national intelligence in the position’s short five-year history, is one important indicator that the Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act of 2004 has failed. That act was effective neither in achieving real reform of the sprawling intelligence bureaucracies nor in preventing terrorist attacks. In fact, Blair’s … Continue reading “Intelligence Reform Is a Failure”

Another Bureaucratic Paperweight

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has published its first Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR) [.pdf]. The QHSR – patterned after the Department of Defense’s Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) – was mandated by Congress and directed the secretary of DHS to conduct "a comprehensive examination of the homeland security strategy of the nation, including recommendations … Continue reading “Another Bureaucratic Paperweight”

Hold Onto Your Underwear

Let me put American life in the Age of Terror into some kind of context, and then tell me you’re not ready to get on the nearest plane heading anywhere, even toward Yemen. In 2008, 14,180 Americans were murdered, according to the FBI. In that year, there were 34,017 fatal vehicle crashes in the U.S. … Continue reading “Hold Onto Your Underwear”

Learning the Wrong Lessons From the Attempted Bombing

The botched attempt by a Nigerian, apparently trained in Yemen by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, to conduct a suicide bombing on a plane as it neared Detroit has highlighted the U.S. government’s overzealous, ineffective, and even counterproductive efforts to overcome terrorism. Although Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano’s stance that "the system" worked buckled under … Continue reading “Learning the Wrong Lessons From the Attempted Bombing”