Posts Tagged ‘Homeland Security’

72 DHS employees are on the terrorist watch list

February 10, 2016

At least 72 employees at the Department of Homeland Security are listed on the U.S. terrorist watch list, according to a Democratic lawmaker.

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D., Mass.) disclosed that a congressional investigation recently found that at least 72 people working at DHS also “were on the terrorist watch list.”

“Back in August, we did an investigation—the inspector general did—of the Department of Homeland Security, and they had 72 individuals that were on the terrorist watch list that were actually working at the Department of Homeland Security,” Lynch told Boston Public Radio.

Source: Washington Free Beacon

As Peter Van Buren remarked, this means that either the terrorist watch list is bogus, or Homeland Security has a bad internal security problem, or possibly both.

This isn’t the only problem with Homeland Security.  In a recent covert security check, attempts to smuggle firearms on board airplanes were 95 percent successful.

I think that part of the problem is the enormous and thoughtless expansion of Homeland Security right after the 9/11 attacks and since.

In counter-terrorism, as in any other field, there is a limited number of people who know that they’re doing.  This is not necessarily a problem, as long as the loyal, hard-working, mediocre people are guided by the real experts.

But employment in Homeland Security was ramped up just on general principles before anybody had a clear idea what these employees were to be used for.  I think experienced counter-terrorism specialists were swamped.

The Washington Post ran a series of articles in 2010 on Top Secret America that showed that secret surveillance and intelligence agencies were proliferating at such a rate that nobody had a handle on how many there were or what their missions were.   I’ve read nothing to indicate that things have changed since then.

Plutocrats, spooks and the U.S. “deep state”

October 10, 2013

I recently learned a new expression.  The “Deep State” is the part of the government that keeps going year in and year out, regardless of the election results, and that elected officials can’t root out.

The U.S. intelligence apparatus is part of the deep state.  Back during the George W. Bush administration, there was a public uproar over a “total information awareness” program that would cover the whole of the country.  Supposedly it was shut down, but the documents made public by Edward Snowden show that it never was.

The financial system is another part.  The financial crash of 2008 was in large part due to financial fraud, and one thing that liberals and conservatives agree on is that fraud should be prosecuted, but the Obama administration acted pro-actively to prevent it, with bi-paristan consent.

That’s not to say democracy is dead in the United States.  Public outcry prevented the Obama administration from going to war in Syria.  Public outcry prevented President Obama from nominating Larry Summers, the architect of American financial dysfunction to head the Federal Reserve Board.  But there is a difference between a government of the people, for the people and by the people and a government that has to take public opinion into account.


If you want to keep something secret … …

June 10, 2013

If you want to keep a secret, you shouldn’t tell anybody.   The more people you tell a secret “in confidence,” the greater the certainty that it will cease to be a secret.  Everybody knows this.

Everybody, it seems, except the Homeland Security agencies.  Dana Priest and William R. Arkin reported three years ago that there were at least 854,000 Americans with top-secret clearances—not just access to classified information, but access to top secrets.   It wouldn’t be surprising if the number now exceeded 1 million.  If the top secrets are known to hundreds of thousands of people, how secret can they be?

top.secretDaniel Ellsberg, who made public the Pentagon Papers, which outlined the secret history of the Vietnam war, was a member of the inner circle of government.  He was a consultant to Robert McNamara and Henry Kissinger, and helped write the Pentagon Papers.   A low-ranking person like Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden would not have had access to that information.

In the novels of John Le Carre, the fictional spy George Smiley never writes down any of his big secrets.   In the National Security Agency, the supposedly big secrets are put on slides for Power Point presentations.   It seems to me that when you disseminate information this widely, it is bound to leak out to the general public.

The alleged crime of Edward Snowden is to alert foreign terrorists to the fact that their electronic communications are being monitored.  But they already know that.  Osama Bin Laden and his lieutenants stopped using e-mail or cell phones years ago, and communicated only by courier.   What Snowden did in releasing the PRISM slides is to provide proof to the public of what most well-informed people had believed all along.

The real way to keep secrets is:  (1)  Minimize the number of top secrets.  (2) Minimize the number of people who know the top secrets.


The clampdown on Occupy Wall Street

November 16, 2011

The crackdown on the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City early Tuesday morning appears to be part of a coordinated national crackdown.

If the Department of Homeland Security is involved in coordinating the crackdown, that is disturbing on a number of counts.  It shows that President Obama is on the side of Wall Street, and it shows that an agency purportedly set up to protect the American people from a foreign aggressor is being used against the people instead.

Over the past ten days, more than a dozen cities have moved to evict “Occupy” protesters from city parks and other public spaces.  As was the case in last night’s move in New York City, each of the police actions shares a number of characteristics.  And according to one Justice official, each of those actions was coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies.

The official, who spoke on background to me late Monday evening, said that while local police agencies had received tactical and planning advice from national agencies, the ultimate decision on how each jurisdiction handles the Occupy protests ultimately rests with local law enforcement.

According to this official, in several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules.  Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear. In particular, the FBI reportedly advised on press relations, with one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present.

via Minneapolis Top News |


The burden of regulation

December 29, 2010

As some scholars are pointing out, the George W. Bush era was one of increasing government regulation, but, as this chart shows, it was narrowly focused.

Michael Mandel pointed this out in an article on his web log.

Yes, protecting us against terrorists, for sure, and doing a good job…but in the process making it more difficult for foreign business execs, scientists, and engineers to enter the country…and slowing down air travel…and  forcing telecom companies to open up holes in their systems….and so forth.

I’m not arguing that these actions are or are not necessary. But many of the mandates created by  Homeland Security are de facto regulations that have imposed an enormous economic burden on the country over the past ten years.

Mike Konzai responded on his Rortybomb web log with the above chart and more detailed analysis. As he noted, financial regulation was kept to a minimum.  The number of employees of the Office of Thrift Supervision declined (you would expect a slight increase to keep up with population growth).  The Commodity Futures Trading Commission had a mere 122 employees, the lowest level since 1984, attempting to track a financial services industry with thousands and thousands of employees.  At the same time the Patent and Trademark Office beefed up its staff, as did the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The Bush era brought you a regulatory state of militarized borders, drug wars, strategically weakened financial regulatory bodies for convenient regulatory shopping, and aggressive use of patents to shut down competition. This is not the regulatory state I fight for.