Is anyone else getting the feeling that those pesky kids from from Scooby Doo could do a better job at catching the "bad guys" than our own Department of Homeland Security (or is it really the Department of Horrific Stupidity)?
Yesterday's foiled plot by the UK was the latest example of how human intelligence and local law enforcement is the best way to track and disrupt plots to cause "terror", damage, death and destruction. This also follows the similar actions taken by Canadian police back in June in arresting suspects who were planning attacks against Canadian targets in Ontario.
In these countries, life goes on without mass hysteria and suppression of everyone's basic rights, freedoms, political posturing and manipulation of terror threats to stir up fear.
But what do we have to show for our $40 billion per year DHS budgets here? Well, nothing short of a complete embarrassment on every conceivable level.
Let's start with yesterday's plot. Yesterday, Chertoff said the following:
There is currently no indication of any plotting within the United States. Nevertheless, as a precaution, the federal government is taking immediate steps to increase security measures with respect to aviation.
Great, we should have been taking "increased security measures with respect to aviation" for the past oh, say 5 years. However, there is no indication that ANY plot was going on here in the US - and certainly nothing to do with domestic flights both originating and ending within the US. So what does DHS do? Well, we all know about the long lines, the wasting of toothpaste, hair gel, water, many medications as well as baby formula.
We find out that the UK foiled this plot at least in part by having an undercover agent infiltrate the group that was plotting.
And what has DHS NOT done to increase security measures with respect to aviation? Well, for starters, there is no real coordinated and comprehensive way to accurately match passenger names on watch lists and no-fly lists. We have heard horror stories of people (including elderly and children, not to mention those who dare question Dear Leader) who were not permitted to board planes. We also know that there is virtually no screening of cargo that is loaded into the belly of aircrafts. Not to mention the fact that the checking of drivers licenses at the security lines is a farce - since it is so easy for someone to get a fake driver's license. Hell, even college bars have a device that can authenticate the driver's license. But not our airports.
This kangaroo court of an agency can't even protect its own headquarters from someone that has a false ID. Our ports are completely unsecure, with only 5% of the cargo shipping containers being inspected at our ports.
Nor does DHS feel the need to adequately secure our nuclear plants from rocket propelled grenades. And in a 60 Minutes report from a couple of years ago, we have these "safeguards":
But that's not what 60 Minutes found in visiting dozens of plants in major metropolitan areas that could put more than a million people at risk in the event of a terrorist attack. We found gates unlocked or wide open, dilapidated fences, and unprotected tanks filled with deadly chemicals that are used to manufacture everything from plastics to fertilizer.
At one facility in a suburb of Los Angeles, there was an impressive-looking front gate, but if there were security guards out back, we didn't see them. We did find a school, and a day care center less than a mile away.
And in the center of Houston, where a terrorist attack might affect three million people, it looked as if an intruder could simply walk right in.
The person who may know the most about the lack of security is Carl Prine, an investigative reporter at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, who began probing security at chemical plants six months after Sept. 11 -- after companies had been warned by the government that they were potential targets.
"I found almost non-existent security in a lot of places," says Prine, who visited 60 plants all over the country, including the Chicago, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh and Houston area. "I walked right up to the tanks. There was one plant in Chicago, I simply sat on top of the tank and waved `Hello, I'm on your tank.'"
And he did it in broad daylight, wearing his press badge and carrying a camera. He says no one tried to stop him.
As far as being proactive vs. reactive, we have example after example of how piss-poor DHS has been. Just off the top of my head, we have the following:
- The recent Al Qaeda threat on the NYC Subways was doubted by none other than Richard Clarke;
- Three men arrested in Florida in 2002 were found to be not guilty of anything other than a hoax;
- "Major plot" by seven men in Florida to blow up the Sears Tower with much ballyhooed arrests and press conferences turns out to be nothing more than big ideas which are very short on substance;
- Increased security and major inconvenience in NYC with respect to information found about the Citicorp building and other large buildings. Information was years old and there was no information regarding any planned attack. Major security is lifted after one or two days;
- In a knee jerk reaction to the London bombings, security at NYC subways is increased for 2 days, then is decreased again. This is despite no information regarding any plots;
- Widely publicized arrest of a man for allegedly trying to cut down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch. Forget the fact that this is virtually impossible.
There are so many more highly publicized arrests that never come to anything at all. Suspects are either released, or are not convicted. Now, I am all for taking appropriate security measures to truly make us safer, but please tell me how the following is logical:
We can't set a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq because the terrorists will just wait it out. However, we can artificially increase security arbitrarily for no real reason for a day or two as a knee jerk reaction before relaxing the same security. Why wouldn't those same terrorists wait the extra day or two then?
What else? Well, DHS has come out recently with a report indicating how unprepared our cities are for a disaster. We also have a report of increases in violent crimes in cities all around the country, as well as over $3 Billion in pork projects during FY 2004 and 2005 alone.
We have terror target lists which include petting zoos and popcorn factories but do not include the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty or other major NYC landmarks. Not to mention the huge decrease in DHS funding for NYC and Washington DC.
The list goes on. And on. And on. One failure after another. While many of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations are still not being implemented. And another major example of how tough rhetoric but no real actions are the hallmark of this administration and republican Congress.
Homeland security - not here in the US, that is for sure.