Homeland security

The Department of Homeland Security Is Broken and Dangerous

The department suffers “a dangerous combination of broad authorities, weak safeguards, and insufficient oversight.”

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Founded 20 years ago in the panic-stricken days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was originally tasked with guarding the borders and preventing similar future assaults from abroad. Since then, the agency's focus has shifted to enemies closer to home in the form of Americans the government has tagged as potential threats. That's unfortunate, because throughout its brief existence, DHS has demonstrated poor judgment, worse respect for individual liberties, and an impressive inability to implement necessary reforms of the sort that watchdogs now recommend.

"What we, in the Department of Homeland Security, have assessed it that the greatest terrorism-related threat that we face in the homeland is a threat of domestic violent extremism: individuals drawn to violence because of ideologies of hate or false narratives propagated on social media and other online platforms," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told the national convention of Al Sharpton's National Action Network in New York City on April 8. "And the most prominent threat is the threat of white supremacists."

The shift from chasing external threats to looking for those found inside the country is no surprise to anybody familiar with DHS's political sensitivities. Just as Republicans fret over immigrants, Democrats worry about radicals under the bed. Donald Trump's loss to Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election meant DHS announcements stopped talking about border walls in favor of warning about "domestic violent extremists" motivated by the "online proliferation of false or misleading narratives." But it's still the same plodding bureaucracy with lots of resources and only a modicum of decency.

"The department has aggressively targeted Muslims, communities of color, and social justice movements in the name of security," Faiza Patel, Rachel Levinson-Waldman, and Harsha Panduranga warn in a Brennan Center for Justice  report on the Department of Homeland Security published last week. "It conceals information about its vast databases and intrusive surveillance technologies. And it often embarks on ventures that implicate Americans' privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties without even establishing or measuring their usefulness.

These problems have long festered due to a dangerous combination of broad authorities, weak safeguards, and insufficient oversight," they add.

In keeping with DHS's initial focus on radical Islamists, the Brennan Center report details its surveillance and mistreatment of minorities, especially "American Muslims, traumatizing entire communities and casting them as hotbeds of terrorism." It makes sense that relatively powerless people would suffer under the wrath of hostile government attention. Then again, by comparison to the budgets, powers, and toys available to federal agents, we're all pretty powerless. And there's precedent for official misbehavior no matter who draws the government's attention.

"Infringing upon constitutionally-given freedoms in the name of national security is not limited to the Muslim Americans in the present day; rather, practices including the use of confidential informants, undercover operations, and entrapment are part of the history of surveillance operations conducted by U.S. law enforcement," Oxford University's Sara Kamali pointed out in a 2017 article for Surveillance and Society. "From 1991 to 1993, almost a decade before the 9/11 attacks brought the word 'terrorism' into the cultural lexicon, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was conducting the surveillance of 'anti-government, racist, anti-Semitic and/or Christian' activists who viewed themselves as Patriots."

So, we've actually been down this path before as one federal agency or another responds to political pressures to shift its attention to the targets of the moment. But no matter who ends up on the government's radar, "providing incentives to recruit informants, pitting community members against each other, and wielding egregious entrapment tactics, threatening a myriad of charges from immigration violations to tax fraud, to justify the war on terrorism make up the reality of how terrorists are created and caught in the post-9/11 world," Kamali points out.

Kamali recommends that counterterrorism and intelligence agencies should take civil liberties more seriously, as do the Brennan Center's analysts.

"This report identifies five avenues for reform: stronger safeguards against profiling; better protections for privacy and free expression; rigorous evaluations of program efficacy; meaningful transparency about data holdings and the implications DHS programs have for civil rights and civil liberties; and more robust internal oversight," write Patel, Levinson-Waldman, and Panduranga.

But there's little evidence that DHS has any interest or ability when it comes to admitting and correcting its flaws. Even the people specifically assigned to keep an eye on DHS seem more concerned with shielding the department from consequences for bad behavior than with tempering its malignancy.

"The Department of Homeland Security's inspector general and his top aides directed staff members to remove damaging findings from investigative reports on domestic violence and sexual misconduct by officers in the department's law enforcement agencies," Chris Cameron of The New York Times reported earlier this month. Among the information suppressed were descriptions of cash payouts to settle sexual harassment claims without going through formal procedures. "The inspector general, Joseph V. Cuffari, also directed his staff to remove parts of another draft report showing internal investigations had found that dozens of officers working at the agencies had committed domestic violence, but that they had received 'little to no discipline.'"

The documents were obtained and published by the Project on Government Oversight. Their existence was subsequently acknowledged by Mayorkas in an internal DHS memo. If history is any guide, don't hold your breath waiting for big reforms. Charles K. Edwards, a former DHS acting inspector general, was charged with stealing proprietary software and confidential databases from the federal government. He pleaded guilty in January of this year.

Don't harbor too much hope that DHS will improve its respect for people's rights. A federal agency whose official watchdog hides details of abusive conduct by its employees against their colleagues and family members when it's not pilfering property can't be trusted to be diligent about addressing civil liberties violations against the general public. That's especially true when those violations are seemingly a baked-in part of how the agency justifies its existence. To repeat the Brennan Center's warning, DHS suffers from "a dangerous combination of broad authorities, weak safeguards, and insufficient oversight," and it's not at all obvious how to fix what's so profoundly broken.

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  1. Wait until you guys hear about what the Capitol Police have been up to.

    1. We in the progressive / libertarian #Resistance despise all cops — except the Capitol Police, who deserve more funding.

      #Defund(Most)Police

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      2. Sometimes police officers have a difficult job and deserve a laugh or two. This one's for the Capitol Police:

        Knock, knock.

        Who's there?

        Not Ashli Babbitt. Not anymore.

        1. Karma will find you one day.

        2. Admitting the capital police murdered Ashli Babbitt isn’t the victory you think it is little bitch boy.

    2. Tuccille still 100% supports totalitarianism, he just wants it to be 100% against the left's enemies

  2. Don't harbor too much hope that DHS will improve its respect for people's rights ...

    There is no reform, enhanced oversight, restructuring, or public act of contrition that can repair what the federal government has become.

    Remember:

    "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

    1. Too many people in this country have been propagandized into believing we need more of this government, not less.

      1. ^^^^^ !

        It is instructive to track the growth of the Federal Govt starting with LBJ’s “war on poverty” campaign, Jimmy Carter’s creation of the Department of Education, George “W” Bush (Medicare drug benefit plan) and others. No telling how Biden compares to LBJ.

        https://www.cato.org/blog/george-w-bush-biggest-spender-lbj

        Americans have lost their sense of identity, their self-worth / pride, their families have been (willingly) corralled onto welfare plantations and self-directed goal setting & productivity for the average American have all but vanished. No wonder 2/3 of Americans are overweight / obese with a laundry list of comorbidities, a monthly shopping bag of pharmaceutical drugs and a growing, nauseating, cacophony shouts of victim storytelling. Americans are a pathetic lot.

        1. I was still a republican when George Bush was elected in 2000, though even then I was voting for the libertarians when CO was a reliable red state. But I remember this sinking feeling in my stomach when I realized that the same party that had threatened to reform SS, abolish the Education Department, and privatize Medicare was now just haggling over the price of keeping all three.

          1. The success of Ross Perot convinced them that pandering to the center-left was their strongest move. Until the people dare vote for a 3rd party candidate who will reduce the entrenched bureaucracy, nothing will change anyway.

            1. Trump actually tried to get even small cute in federal agencies and was rebuffed by many in both parties. Got to primary the RINO’s and fight like hell to get good candidates elected. If all that fails, it’s time for American revolution 2,0. Where accounts can be settled, Marxists eliminated, and the federal government reset to factory constitutional conditions.

        2. " Americans are a pathetic lot. "

          Let me guess: Your prescription is more superstition and conservative backwardness?

          1. Someone should shoot you in the face.

            1. That’s probably the most effective prescription of all.

          2. Let me guess: Yor prescription requires more bigoted assholes like you.
            Fuck off and die, shitpile. Make your family proud, your dog happy and the world a better place.
            Further, make sure your grave is marked so those of us who are not bigoted assholes can go by and piss on it.

          3. What a stupid guess.

      2. That propaganda only reinforces--and takes advantage of--a near-universal human trait. Almost all people want things to be controlled, in one way or another. And almost all people crave some sort of leadership they can, at least, off-load responsibility to. Many people want a leadership they can worship.

        1. That propaganda only reinforces--and takes advantage of--a near-universal human trait. Almost all people want things to be controlled, in one way or another. And almost all people crave some sort of leadership they can, at least, off-load responsibility to. Many people want a leadership they can worship.

          And there is nothing wrong with that at all. The problem is when that leadership is imposed by force through majority vote at the national level and financed through taxes, as opposed to being based on freedom of association and private contractual agreements.

    2. "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

      We are failing our duty.

    3. "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

      Now that's just straight up terrorist talk, written by a revolutionary hot head in 1776 no less.

  3. From day One when the DHS was melded out of various independent Agencies, it was obvious that this was going to be the outcome: a super Agency with unlimited scope and no oversight.

    I will repeat the observation that I made when this juggernaut was created: "Department of Homeland Security" sounds remarkably like "Committee for State Security" or Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti in Russian, a.k.a. KGB.

    Foresight sucks. At least the fools who bought into this had a few years peace thinking it was a good idea. I've had none.

    1. It is also noteworthy that all of the provisions of the PATRIOT act were not created to fight foreign terrorists. They were created by politicians INCLUDING BIDEN to detect and counter domestic terrorists after the Oklahoma Bombing. Biden has bragged about this numerous times.

      The Right should be ashamed that it allowed a bunch of leftist, Orwellian nonsense to become law under their watch. And, shocker, those provisions were used in orwellian ways, including persecuting politicians on the right.

      1. *USA PATRIOT Act

        Because even in times of crisis, we can come up with a cute like acronym for our bill!

        1. Acts are always the opposite of what the politicians name it.

          1. Nonsense:
            United States Against PATRIOTism Act.

      2. The main practical impact of the Patriot act has been to crack down on financial privacy.

  4. You can literally replace every mention of dhs with any number of gov 3 letter groups and be correct

    1. Disaffected, defeated, delusional right-wing anti-government cranks are among my favorite culture war casualties.

      Their muttering and sputtering is part of the soundtrack of modern America's progress.

      1. Bigoted assholes are my fave piles of lefty shit; they should all fuck off and die, bigoted asshole.

      2. Unoriginal Marxist retards need to understand that their time is just about up. Elon Musk is bring you a world of hurt. Just like DeSantis is to woke Disney.

        Your muttering and sputtering is part of America’s progress in the forthcoming destruction of your kind.

      3. Zzzzz....go back to telling knock knock jokes. And please something new. Not the same one you've posted dozens of times here already.

  5. I have it on good authority from Chemjeff that if you are suspicious of the Elites running our government, you just don't like "How republics work".

  6. One good thing I will say for them: unlike various other government agencies, their research department quickly studied the vulnerabilities of the COVID virus, finding that (like other enshrouded-RNA viruses) its lifetime is relatively insensitive to temperature, quite sensitive to humidity, and very sensitive to UV -- results they published in April 2020, confirming results about this class of viruses that had been known since shortly after SARS (2003).

    These findings indicate that humidifiers and/or low-level UV lighting in public buildings would have been far more effective measures than the masks and social distancing (an indication that these latter measures are much more intended as power-plays than they are as pandemic-countermeasures).

    Note also that since these humidity and UV vulnerabilities are shared by ALL enshrouded-RNA viruses, their effectiveness is not affected by changing COVID variants (delta, omicron, ...)

    1. Or just more cost effective.

      It wouldn't have mattered anyway. People would've bitched about having to buy humidifiers and UV lighting (which, let's assume, would probably introduce some harmful elements of its own).

      But no- it's just the man keeping you down. Go on.

      1. Or maybe just not force things on people at all. But yeah, I’m sure everyone would be just as upset over dehumidifiers and UV lights. Because that’s exactly the same as shutting down businesses, forcing mask wearing, restricting people’s movements, and forcing everyone to take experimental therapeutics.

      2. So, you think that the bitching is the only problem? Not the trampling or rights and economic and social destruction?

        1. The bitching slowed down the trampling of rights, which upsets them.

  7. Would be good to just disband it and return its duties (original duties) to the other agencies that held them.

    1. The trick will be getting them to return to their duties from that time period. Hard to get government types to give up power.

  8. >>originally tasked with guarding the borders and preventing similar future assaults from abroad

    agencies to do these things already existed.

    1. They had to be re-branded given their failure on 9/11. Now we have the new coke version of the state jackboot.

      1. I figured firing Jamie Gorelick was good enough.

        1. Don't forget promoting the National Security Advisor to lead the State Department.

      2. I was of the mind that what led to 9/11 was a bunch of bureaucratic bullshit and that forming yet another bureaucracy was the wrong approach. This tends to be the problem with all the government. Bureaucracies screw up, so their answer is yet more bureaucracy. Be nice if they decided instead to look at improving efficiency by eliminating some of the bureaucracy but that never seems to dawn on them.

  9. I thought that, according to libertarians, all government was broken and dangerous.

    1. My local parks department seems pretty harmless.

      1. It seems harmless... until you actually have to interact with them, for example, as a neighbor.

        1. I don’t I’ve next to a park, so I can’t speak to that. My observation is that they don’t appear to be wasting too much money, or doing anything really annoying.

          I really hope I’m not wrong about that.

          1. I think it’s one of those entities that varies A LOT by jurisdiction.

  10. There should only be two armed federal agencies outside of the organized military; the Marshals service, and the Secret Service protective details of the Treasury department.

  11. "What we, in the Department of Homeland Security, have assessed it that the greatest terrorism-related threat that we face in the homeland is a threat of domestic violent extremism: individuals drawn to violence because of ideologies of hate or false narratives propagated on social media and other online platforms," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told the national convention of Al Sharpton's National Action Network

    Ironic that he is making the speech to an organization that is responsible for "ideologies of hate and false narratives propagated on social media".

  12. The Department of Homeland Security Was Broken and Dangerous The Day It Was Conceived

  13. "And the most prominent threat is the threat of white supremacists."

    Yeah, like the guy who posted hateful and racist musings and then ran down all those people at the Christmas parade in Waukesha...no, wait.

    Like the guy who shot up the Brooklyn subway car after posting hateful and racist musings...no, wait.

    Like the guy who killed a police officer and 3 people at a Kosher market in Jersey city...no, wait.

    I am not saying there aren't "white supremacy" groups, there are. But this kind of statement along the lines of "the most frightening thing in America is an angry white male" is nothing more than pandering to the narrative. IOW, bull shit.

    1. Don't forget the Bernie bro who shot up the softball game - I doubt Steve Scalise ever will.

      1. Yes, an angry white male indeed. Just the "wrong" political persuasion.

  14. I can see the eventual solution will be to hire even more TSAholes.

  15. DHS should never have come to be.

    Combining INS and Customs border enforcement programs was a good idea. Combining INS and Customs investigations was a good idea.
    Moving a lot of unrelated agencies into a mega-department and adding two or three layers of bureaucracy on top has done nothing to improve things.

  16. No, Bush originally created dhs as an oversight organization.

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