Abolish the Department of Homeland Security

Instead of confirming Jeh Johnson, the Senate should abolish DHS.

More than three months after Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced her departure, President Obama finally nominated her replacement, former top Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson.

The Guardian's Spencer Ackerman is cautiously optimistic about the nominee because the former DoD general counsel was often a voice of restraint in the administration's national security debates.

Ackerman says Johnson's selection “may signal a shift for an agency whose value is questioned by many in the U.S.” Johnson “could be an agent of change.”

Meh. It’s true that Johnson has made some agreeable noises about the dangers of perpetual war; but he’s also a key legal architect of the administration’s drone wars and a defender of targeting American citizens abroad.

It's unclear -- at best he'd be a moderating influence at a department with an unhealthy interest in domestic drones.

More to the point, the problems at DHS are far too deep to be solved with a dollop of restraint and better management practices.

From its inception, the agency has operated as something akin to a federal Department of Dystopia, encouraging the proliferation of surveillance cameras, armed personnel carriers and police drones across Main Street America with some $35 billion in Homeland Security grants.

All of which suggests some possible questions for Johnson at his confirmation hearing:

Mr. Johnson, in a 2011 speech at the Heritage Foundation, you worried about “expecting the U.S. military to extend its powerful reach into areas traditionally reserved for civilian law enforcement in this country.”

Isn’t it equally troubling that with DHS's help, local police departments "are arming themselves with military assets often reserved for war zones”?

That’s from a report by Sen. Tom Coburn last December, which notes that Fargo, N.D., a city that’s “averaged fewer than two homicides per year since 2005,” got a “new $256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating [gun] turret,” while Montgomery County in Texas became the proud owner of a new $300,000 Vanguard ShadowHawk drone, courtesy of DHS.

Do you think such expenditures are wise or necessary — and if not, will you put an end to them?

Last year, Wired reported DHS’s interest in a drone-ready “Panopticamera” capable of total surveillance over up to four square miles and “automated, real-time, motion detection capability that cues a spotter Imager for target identification.”

If, as you told Heritage, we should avoid “over-militarizing” the fight against terrorism, particularly on the home front, then why is DHS exploring the deployment of battlefield surveillance technology at home?

The Congressional Research Service noted last January that “10 years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. government does not have a single definition for homeland security.”

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  • Francisco d Anconia||


    That is all.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Even an atheist like me says amen to that.

  • Jordan||

    There is nothing so permanent as a government program. DHS is just over a decade old, and I'll bet the public would lose their shit if anyone actually tried to abolish it.

    The fact that it exists is proof that it's essential. Sigh.

  • carol||

    Actually, I don't think the public would mind at all if DHS went away. Everything they do is already being done by somebody else-several somebody elses. The Department, in a relatively short period of time, has a terrible reputation and it is doubtful that the appointment of Jeh Johnson will put anyone's mind at ease. Further, as a new department it is not as firmly entrenched as the many other useless departments on the books and as such would be much easier to kill then, say, Education, EPA, or HUD. Now is a great time to take advantage of the public's kill 'em all attitude and rid ourselves of at least one public nuisence.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    We cannot get rid of DHS. That would lower GDP, something which must be avoided at all costs. Why do you hate the GDP?

  • sarcasmic||

    GDP has got to be one of the most dishonest "scientific" creations of all time.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    From its inception, the agency has operated as something akin to a federal Department of Dystopia, encouraging the proliferation of surveillance cameras, armed personnel carriers and police drones across Main Street America with some $35 billion in Homeland Security grants.

    Feature, not a bug.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||


  • Root Boy||

    Armored Personnel Carriers.

    /nomenclature nazi

    How long have people said get rid of DHS? Keep beating your head against the wall until we elect Rand Paul as president.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Don't they carry armed personnel?
    /snotty attitude

  • Agammamon||

    Hey don't complain - at least they're not being called 'tanks' here.

  • Drake||

    Got to hand it to the Statists (Dems and Republicans), they made the most of the 9-11 attack. Right before our eyes, they created a Ministry of Internal Security with an enormous budget, multiple agencies, military grade weapons, and little oversight.

    I admit I was less politically paranoid back then and didn't see the implications right away.

    The Department will never go away unless there is a successful revolution - against the forces led by the Department of Homeland Security.

  • Calypso Facto||

    Once again, the Founders' observations of oppression seem to have returned:

    "The means of defense against foreign danger have always been the instruments of tyranny at home." James Madison

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    So IOW, divide up and separate intelligence agencies and delineate their areas of responsibility, so as not to infringe upon the rights of the citizenry.


    Bush/ How can we like fight terrorists and stuff if the agencies can't like talk to each other and stuff. You've like tied our hands with all these civil rights rules and that Constitution thingy. We need more power and an overarching agency to fuse all the data together to keep the fatherland er homeland safe and stuff. Oh and we need an emergency law thingy that gives us more power and you less rights...sorry it's your patriotic duty to submit.

  • Calypso Facto||

    I had more MRAPs in St. Cloud, MN and snipers at Pumpkinfest in mind, but I don't disagree with your take either, so long as you expand it to include Obama and all of a complicit Congress through both administrations.

  • Calypso Facto||

    Sorry, my links got stripped from the comment (we'll see if this way works):




  • DenverJay||

    Actually, if I rememberfy correctly. Bush was against creating the HSA. It was the Dems in congress and there media lapdogs who pushed it.

  • Rich||

    What is your definition of “homeland security”? What, if anything, does it exclude?

    Well, it obviously excludes "national defense", since that's the bailiwick of DoD. And similarly, it excludes "safety" (covered by FDA, CPSC, NTSB and their ilk) and "Social Security" (covered by SSA). So, ... I'm not sure *what* "homeland security" is.

  • Drake||

    Keeping the government secure from the People.

  • carol||

    Judging from the number of highly visible DHS vehicles present at a recent protest I attended you may very well be right.

  • Jquip||

    Proactively heading off societal discord and unrest through the employment of precogs, anonymizing enforcement personal behind teloperaterated robotics, and a publicity campaign to inform the public that knowledge of the law is indica of terrorism.

  • John||

    There are a lot of good reasons to kill DHS. But killing DHS wouldn't stop these grants. The money would just move over to DOJ and continue on. People love free money and cops love toys. This article makes a great case to kill the grant program.

  • creech||

    Yep, Holder was a police chiefs convention in Philly yesterday, promising more training and equipment.
    The reflection off the slew of hardily applauding four stars in the audience was blinding.

  • John||

    Yeah. Killing DHS would not stop these grants.

  • JidaKida||

    Sounds like a very good plan to me man, I like it.


  • juliajuli27||

    my best friend's step-aunt makes $73/hr on the laptop. She has been out of work for 6 months but last month her paycheck was $21645 just working on the laptop for a few hours. go

  • croaker||

    "Department of Homeland Security" sounds better in the original German.

  • Onlooker||

    I've got a better idea.

    Don't reform government (as if), abolish it!

    Arguing about which govt program is worst or how we can make the whole thing better is fallacious. The whole paradigm is corrupt.

    Let's instead decide to live in a society free from the coercion and violence of a "government"; a society based on free association and voluntary exchange. That society would prosper beyond our wildest dreams.

    Anarcho-capitalism, the final frontier.


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