Department of Homeland Security

Ten Years After

Looking back on the 9/11 anniversary


After 9/11, the U.S. Congress created the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration. America went to war, overtly and covertly, in several countries. Nearly $8 trillion was spent on what is called "security," Chris Hellman of the National Priorities Project estimates.

Was it worth it?

Yes, in many ways, says author Ann Coulter. No, says Reason magazine editor Matt Welch. Both will be guests on my Fox Business show tonight.

There's no reason at all that the bureaucratization of security is going to make us any more safe," Welch said. "All we have to do is go on an airplane … to see that there's a difference between security and security theater, between federalizing a problem and actually solving the problem."

Coulter thinks the government got lots of things right.

"Whatever liberals screamed bloody murder about was very important on the war on terrorism," she said. "I think Iraq was a crucial part … ." Welch dissented.

"We're on the verge of bankruptcy. … We are at the sort of tipping point of imperial overstretch."

Imperial overstretch? Welch has a point. Politicians talk about tight budgets, but National Defense magazine recently ran this headline: "Homeland Security Market Is Vibrant Despite Budget Concerns." I fear this is the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us about. Military contractors collude with politicians to keep the money flowing.

I blame the politicians. The contractors just do what they're supposed to do. The politicians are supposed to spend our money well. They don't.

After 9/11, the Senate voted 100 to zero to federalize airport security. Then-Sen. Tom Daschle said, "You can't professionalize if you don't federalize."

Nonsense. Before TSA was created, private contractors paid airport inspectors not much more than minimum wage. They weren't very good. Now we spend five times as much, and they're still not very good.

Today even the TSA knows that private security is better. In one of its own tests, its screeners in Los Angeles missed 75 percent of explosives planted by inspectors. In San Francisco, one of the few cities allowed to have privately managed security, screeners missed 20 percent.

In a reasonable world, the government would disband the TSA and move to a private competitive system.
But we live in a Big Government world.

Randolph Bourne, who opposed U.S. entry into World War I, said, "War is the health of the state." He meant that in war, government grows in power and prestige—and freedom shrinks. As Robert Higgs documents in Crisis and Leviathan, government never recedes to its prewar dimensions.

Shortly after Sept. 11, Sen. Charles Schumer declared that the "era of a shrinking federal government is over." This was more nonsense. The government hadn't been shrinking. But for politicians like Schumer, 9/11 was an excuse to take more power. Price was no object.

I can't tell you what Homeland Security does with your money. Much of its spending is secret. Certainly much is wasted. The department made a big fuss over its color-coded airport security system, then scrapped it because it provided "little practical information." The department spent billions on things like special boats to protect a lake in Nebraska, all-terrain vehicles for a small town in Tennessee, and 70 security cameras for a remote Alaskan village.

That's what politicians do. Members of Congress say: "You want my vote? You'd better give my district some cash." And when people are scared, they let bureaucrats spend.

This played into Osama bin Laden's hands. In one videotaped message, he talked about "bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy."

The attacks on 9/11 were largely a failure of government. Our so-called "intelligence agencies" knew nothing about the plot. The Immigration and Naturalization Service, charged with keeping track of foreigners who overstay their visas, didn't pay attention to the 19 hijackers. And as Rep. Ron Paul points out, history did not begin on Sept. 11. Part of the failure was America's interventionist foreign policy, which needlessly made enemies.

So government failed on 9/11, and yet the politicians' answer to failure is always the same: Give us more money and power. And we do. When will we learn?

John Stossel is host of Stossel on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of Give Me a Break and of Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity.



NEXT: Talkin' 'Bout History, Irony, Politics, and Paranoia

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  1. The Euro mess explained with lego mini-figs.…..go_crisis/

  2. OMG. Please tell me Welch and Coulter will be on at the same time.

    1. Are you trying to prove they aren’t the same person?

      1. I honestly can’t wait to see that dynamic.

  3. This has been an excuse to expand government control under both Democrats and Republicans.
    Less than 0.001% of Americans died on 9/11. Bush’s wars have killed more Ameicans than that!

    1. Hey Realist, don’t you mean Obama’s wars? He owns them now. Asshole.

      1. “Hey Realist, don’t you mean Obama’s wars? He owns them now. Asshole.”
        Yes he does. I am happy that the fact Bush is as dumb a fuck as chimp ears brings you comfort. Cocksucker!

  4. My company’s HR person distributed a State Dept warning about traveling and Al-keeyada this morning. *facepalm*

  5. Your not supposed to show that picture.

  6. If only people on the planes had been armed, eh? As Eduard said on another threat, we’d all be celebrating (or would have forgotten it all by now) the prevention of a massive terrorist attack.


  7. As I’ve noted elsewhere, I am eshewing all things 9/11. Stop wallowing in it already – it’s been 10 years. This obsessing is weak and tawdry.

    I’ll be watching football and working on my mootorcycles.

  8. I agree…until we get to Ron “Peace in Our Time” Paul and his Institute of Isolationist Foreign Policy and Tinfoil Headwear.

    Al Qaida did not attack the U.S. over U.S. policy.

    Al Qaida attacked the U.S. because al Qaida is composed of, and makes use of, self-absorbed, frustrated rich kids who want to be somebody.

    The whole “defending the Arabian peninsula against the infidels” line is just narrative. They know it sounds good, so they throw it out there for public consumption.

    Same thing with the use of that worn-out cliche about everything in the middle east being a catastrophe because of evil Israel. They know that anti-semitism is fashionable among the Europeans, and the campaign for Israeli independence didn’t win any friends with the British, so they figure this one should sell pretty well – and just look, Ron Paul buys it wholesale!

    Back to the original point, which Stossel should have stuck to: What are we getting for our money?

    There is certainly enormous waste in security spending. It seems that government has a fascination with high visibility, but mostly useless, programs like over-eager TSA airport screenings and having police dress up like Soldiers and walk around with automatic weapons at subway stations and public events. For all the complaining about the nanny state, there are lots of Americans who are really all for the nanny state – mostly people from the Northeast and soccer moms.

    These kinds of programs to deter terrorists and harden potential targets don’t strike me as particularly useful. A terrorist has an enormous advantage against these programs: He can just observe them, think about them, and plan a method of attack that circumvents these largely static security measures. HE has the initiative. HE chooses the time and place of the attack as well as its method. That stinks for us. It stinks especially bad when a man walks into an embassy and tells our government that his own son is serious threat and he is still allowed to board a plane to Detroit with a bomb in his shorts while disabled people have their toys confiscated, elderly people have their applesauce confiscated, and we all have to play the “touching game” with TSA screeners to get on an airliner.

    What IS an effective way of defending against terrorist attack is to actively seek out, identify, and stop persons and groups who are planning and preparing to execute attacks against the United States and our interests around the world. This puts our forces on the offensive, regains much of the initiative from the terrorist, and employs fewer people for much greater effect. In no way does this require the patriot act.

    So, once again, we have a guy who gets economics, politics, and individualism really, really well – there’s no debating that. But when it comes to national security and foreign policy, he doesn’t know his head from his ass from a whole in the ground.

    1. That’s head from his ass from a HOLE in the ground.

      Damn it.

    2. Your retarded pseudo-analysis of Al-Qaeda’s motivations are so retardedly retarded, I couldn’t help stopping right there. Try harder.

    3. Which is why the head of the CIA’s bin Ladin group said that Ron Paul was the only Republican candidate in the 2008 primary season who understood al Queda.

  9. Instead of the Patriot Act and TSA screening, on the tenth anniversary we should be able to see Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Yemen (the Cole), Libya and Somalia (international pirates) glowing in the dark. That would impress upon Muslim fanatics the wages of sinning against us.

    1. Wow! You just jutified every terrorist attack on Americans with that statement.

      After all, did not the U.S. launch an unprovoked attack on Iran in 1955? Or how about the support given to Saddam Hussein to murder Iraqi civilians by the U.S.? How about the CIA policy of undermining secular anti-Soviet groups in Afghanistan in favor of the religious fanatics that become the Taliban? Or how the Koreans and Japanese overfished Somali waters forcing Somali fishermen to take up piracy or starve?

      Honestly, it’s shitheads like you that make this world a violent place, because you have no concept of limiting violence to people who actually deserve it, but glorify the slaughter of innocents who are tenously related to people whom you don’t like.

      Do your country a favor: stop voting, stay out of the military, and find honest work that keeps you too busy to spread your terroristic fantasies.

  10. I agree with all but the last paragraph. We didn’t GIVE the government more money and power. They TOOK it. And they will continue to take it until we do something to stop them.

  11. Coulter as cultural historian?

    Holy Ionesco!

    Stossel should send her off broadway to play the lead in The Caucasian Gawk Yokel

  12. Right on tarran! Dumb ass rednecks watching Fox News all day are harshing my mellow.

  13. Christ – anyone who can’t see 911 was an inside job is too stupid to understand physics.

  14. The Emperor’s New Clothes are simply splendid!

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