THEY TOLD ME IF I VOTED FOR JOHN MCCAIN WE’D SEE NEW HIGHS IN HOMELAND-SECURITY PARANOIA — AND THEY WERE RIGHT! British pair arrested in U.S. on terror charges over Twitter jokes. “‘I almost burst out laughing when they asked me if I was going to be Leigh’s lookout while he dug up Marilyn Monroe. ‘I couldn’t believe it because it was a quote from the comedy Family Guy which is an American show.” Yeah, but in Homeland Security’s defense, it kinda sucks.
AIRPORT SECURITY: STILL A JOKE: “So there you have it: The government believes it is in possession of a technology so vital it is willing to dose its citizens with ionizing radiation, but a decade after the Sept. 11 attacks it still hasn’t figured out a way to utilize this technology in one of America’s most sensitive airline terminals. It’s not for nothing that Senator Collins is skeptical of the TSA.”
It was a mistake to create the TSA. It — along with the entire department of Homeland Security — should be abolished, and airport security should be privatized.
NUCLEAR SURVIVAL: Get Indoors And Stay There:
The advice is based on recent scientific analyses showing that a nuclear attack is much more survivable if you immediately shield yourself from the lethal radiation that follows a blast, a simple tactic seen as saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Even staying in a car, the studies show, would reduce casualties by more than 50 percent; hunkering down in a basement would be better by far.
But a problem for the Obama administration is how to spread the word without seeming alarmist about a subject that few politicians care to consider, let alone discuss. So officials are proceeding gingerly in a campaign to educate the public.
“We have to get past the mental block that says it’s too terrible to think about,” W. Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in an interview. “We have to be ready to deal with it” and help people learn how to “best protect themselves.”
Officials say they are moving aggressively to conduct drills, prepare communication guides and raise awareness among emergency planners of how to educate the public.
They told me if I voted Republican, we’d be plunged deep into a scary 1950s-style pre-nuclear-war “duck and cover” posture. And they were right!
This is old news, though. Even back in the 1960s there were Civil Defense debates on whether to give warning in case of an attack, based on studies that showed more people would be sheltered by where they happened to be than would benefit from a warning, since many people would immediately either try to flee, or to return to their homes, winding up in more exposed positions when the bomb went off. And although heavily mocked by antinuclear activists in the 1980s, the duck-and-cover advice from the 1950s was pretty good, considering, and would have saved many lives if it had been followed in the event of a nuclear attack.
But I love this:
Administration officials argue that the cold war created an unrealistic sense of fatalism about a terrorist nuclear attack. “It’s more survivable than most people think,” said an official deeply involved in the planning, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The key is avoiding nuclear fallout.” . . . White House officials say they are aware of the issue’s political delicacy but are nonetheless moving ahead briskly.
Entirely true, and I applaud them for pursuing this policy. I find that my law students — effectively post-Cold War generation — know next to nothing about nuclear weapons, fallout, and basic civil-defense stuff that most people knew back when I was a kid. So education is warranted. But is this the kind of change that Obama voters were expecting?
I doubt it, but once again InstaPundit was ahead of the curve. And so was Stanley Kurtz, who wrote back in 2006 that “We’ll be back to duck and cover if we don’t stop Iran first…” And here we are!
UPDATE: Rushing anti-radiation drugs to market? “Judging by the timeline for the anti-radiation drug program, U.S. officials see a rapidly escalating CBRN threat against the homeland over the next five years.” You’ll also want some iodine pills. And there’s some evidence that very large doses of Vitamin E have a protective effect, as I recall.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader C.J. Burch emails: “We’ve elected LBJ.” That’s silly. For that analogy to hold, we’d have to be involved in a foreign war that we’re not willing to win, but not willing to give up in, while dumping huge amounts of money into social programs that will wind up costing vastly more than predicted. And there’d have to be some sort of daisy-girl ad raising the nuclear threat but blaming some poor innocent small-government Republican.
MORE: A cogent objection from Rand Simberg: “Nonsense. LBJ knew how to wrangle Congress. He wasn’t led around by the nose by the Speaker and Majority Leader.”
And Jim Bennett writes:
Mocking duck and cover drills was always a display of ignorance. Duck and cover was taken from a straightforward analysis of casualties at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the big conventional explosions like the Halifax harbor explosions. Of course if you’re at ground zero they are useless, but a great many people on the periphery were killed or blinded by glass shards or other splinters driven by the blast waves. Many of them would have been avoided by simple duck-and-cover procedures.
Well, yes. But the Venn diagram for “antinuclear activist” and “deep ignorance” always featured near-100% overlap. . . .
MORE STILL: “Did Obama and his people get a burst of Lileksian nostalgia? . . . It’s all of a piece with ‘we could absorb a terrorist attack’. What they’re telling you is that you’re going to get nuked, there’s nothing they can do about it, they have no intention of trying to do anything substantive about it, and the best thing for you to do is to learn to be a contortionist — it’s hard to bend over far enough to kiss your ass goodbye. . . . A strong America might well absorb a terrorist hit with little damage, even a nuclear one. A weak America, especially an America with weaklings in its highest offices, might very well feel it had something to prove, and that could be very dangerous to miscalculators — and more so to their innocent bystanders.”
STILL MORE: Reader D.K. Kittel writes:
Regarding your post on government recommendations for nuclear survival:
I am quite impressed to see anyone on the left actually studying and contemplating how best to handle a disaster and how best to release this valuable information.
It wasn’t too many years ago the newly formed Department of Homeland Security under then Secretary Ridge released a memo that stated how best to handle a disaster. That memo had numerous items listed included important things like keeping water and food supplies sufficient for at least 72 hours since that was the earliest you should expect help from the Federal Government.
Unfortunately that memo also included the, very accurate and potentially life saving I might add, information about keeping duct tape and plastic on hand (which online also referenced nuclear fallout I think)
It was pilloried by those on the left and it became the joke of the year. Everyone from Senator Reid to most liberal Congressmen and The Daily Show on down to Letterman and Leno ripped into this recommendation for days if not weeks. Oh they had some fun.
Unfortunately instead of helping to improve and support public safety and responsibility they chose to make political points.
A year and a half later Katrina hit. Hardly anyone in the primarily liberal districts hardest hit had ever heard the first 10 or so items on that list (if I recall it was 15 or so). They certainly didn’t have food or water stocks and how were they to know help would take at least 72 hours! If only the Government had let them know!!! Wait, they did but the left chose politics rather then reinforce the factual information in that memo. Lives could have been saved.
So to see Democrats putting public safety over scoring political points is quite a pleasant (if not a little tardy and a bit hypocritical) surprise.
Indeed. Meanwhile, Joe Hultquist writes:
I was in Switzerland in October, and we stayed in a downstairs apartment in a very nice Swiss couple’s home. We had access to their basement and laundry room, and to get there required walking by a room that had two doors for one opening. The inner door was pretty standard, but the outer door was approximately six inches thick, and made of solid concrete and steel. The same type of closure was mounted as an inside shutter for the only window, and there was a hand-cranked blower with a high-efficiency air filter in line. The room had reinforced concrete walls and ceiling. The owner told me that, in that canton, all new homes were required to have such a room until around 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union. Some cantons still require them, and even inspect them on an annual basis. We encountered an example of that while visiting some friends in Uster.
One only needs to spend a little time in Switzerland to realize just how well prepared they are for invasion, military threats and even nuclear attack. No wonder they haven’t been successfully invaded since the Romans occupied their land. And that, of course, predated the Confederation Helvetica. The message is clear: don’t mess with the Swiss.
Yes, the Swiss are off their game a bit these days, but they’re still way ahead of us. And another reader writes about fire dangers:
Incredibly, the word “fire” does not appear a single time in the NYT article. Color me skeptical of the “survivability” of a nuclear attack, at least in Southern California. . . . My guess is that if even a single “small” nuclear bomb went off just about anywhere in coastal Southern California, there’s a decent chance that *every* forest, city, town, and man made structure from Ensenada to Santa Barbara would burn to the ground in the following days, weeks, and months. Hundreds of thousands dead *by fire*, not blast or fallout, with many millions more displaced. Our “plan” for survival = GTFO.
Well, a terrorist bomb will likely be a surface-burst (or in a port, a water-burst if it’s smuggled on a ship, a plausible scenario) which will reduce the fire-setting role of the flash. But, yeah, if you read the report (and I skimmed it last night) they seem to be thinking mostly about NY or DC. Note, too, that sheltering for even a few hours can make a big difference. Following the old “rule of 7″ the radiation is 1/10 its peak 7 hours later. (And 1/10 again — that is 1/100 at 7 x 7 hours — two days, basically). Also, of course, sometimes you’re just screwed, which is why nuclear attacks on one’s town are to be avoided if at all possible.
Here, by the way, are the shelter-in-place FAQs from Ready.gov.
SOME OF MY LEFTY READERS are writing to ask why I wasn’t criticial of Homeland Security under Bush? From this, I assume they didn’t start reading my site until Obama was elected. Hey, all that extra traffic had to come from somewhere. . . .
HOMELAND SECURITY REMAINS A JOKE — A SEEMINGLY ENDLESS SERIES: Security at Federal Buildings Fails to Catch Bomb Materials in Undercover Tests, Report Says.
HOMELAND SECURITY REMAINS A JOKE: “The Federal Bureau of Investigation has incorrectly kept nearly 24,000 people on a terrorist watch list on the basis of outdated or sometimes irrelevant information, while missing people with genuine ties to terrorism who should have been on the list, according to a Justice Department report released Wednesday.”
YOUR HOMELAND SECURITY DOLLARS AT WORK: “Photographer Duane Kerzic was standing on the public platform in New York’s Penn Station, taking pictures of trains in hopes of winning the annual photo contest that Amtrak had been running since 2003. Amtrak police arrested him for refusing to delete the photos when asked, though they later charged him with trespassing.” They had no legal right to ask him to delete the photos. He should sue. I also think — as I’ve said before — that we need federal civil rights legislation to protect photographers’ rights. There are too many situations like this, where idiot security officers violate the law. And homeland security is still a joke.
HOMELAND SECURITY REMAINS A JOKE: Seizing Laptops and Cameras Without Cause. Just not a very funny one. As I’ve said for the past six years, I don’t understand why the Democrats haven’t made a bigger deal about this kind of thing.
Lee Cooper of Solomons had done the smart thing and signed up for e-alerts about flight delays. So, thanks to a United Airlines e-mail, he knew that his 7:25 p.m. flight from Knoxville to Dulles was delayed until 9:40 because of air traffic control backups. That should have saved him more than two hours of waiting around at the airport. He did two more smart things: He printed his boarding pass and went to http://www.tsa.gov to check the average wait times at security checkpoints between 8 and 9 p.m.
His diligence, however, was unraveled by the Transportation Security Administration, which closed the security checkpoints at 7:30 p.m.
The result? Cooper ended up on the wrong side of security and had to wait until the next day to depart.
I’VE BEEN SAYING FOR YEARS THAT HOMELAND SECURITY IS A JOKE, but this isn’t funny: “Federal Air Marshals (FAMs) familiar with the situation say the mix-ups, in which marshals are mistaken for terrorism suspects who share the same names, have gone on for years â€” just as they have for thousands of members of the traveling public.”
HOMELAND SECURITY IS A (SOMETIMES CRUEL) JOKE — and Tom Maguire notes that it’s been that way since before Andrew Sullivan and Matt Yglesias started to pay attention.
I actually remember something like that happening to an English graduate student and his family who lived across the street from us at Holden Green when I was a kid.
Plus, this crucial distinction: “In fascism, you’re persecuted because of who you are and who your parents were. In an American airport, you’re persecuted because you’re there.”
HOMELAND SECURITY, STILL A JOKE: “A Mexican national infected with a highly contagious form of tuberculosis crossed the U.S. border 76 times and took multiple domestic flights in the last year, according to Customs and Border Protection interviews and documents obtained by The Washington Times. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency was warned by health officials on April 16 that the frequent traveler was infected, but it took the Homeland Security officials more than six weeks to issue a May 31 alert to warn its own border inspectors, according to Homeland Security sources who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. Homeland Security took one more week to tell its own Transportation Security Agency.”
I remain surprised that the Democrats haven’t made more of an issue out of Homeland Security incompetence.
HOMELAND SECURITY: A politicized backwater?
Here’s an interesting point about the Eliot Spitzer scandal, which we noted yesterday: One of the aides to New York’s governor who was implicated in the improper use of state police to gather material for a smear campaign against state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno was William Howard, Spitzer’s assistant secretary for homeland security.
Readers may remember that three years ago, New Jersey’s Gov. Jim McGreevey declared himself a “gay American” and confessed to an affair with a male aide, whom the media described as his “homeland security czar.” (The ex-aide, Golan Cipel, denies the affair, accuses McGreevey of sexual harassment, and says “czar” overstates his role, which was to act “as a liaison between the governor’s office and the various state agencies responsible for law enforcement and homeland security.”)
Homeland security is the common thread linking these two very different scandals, both involving Democratic administrations in states that were among the hardest hit by 9/11. Democrats tend to talk a lot about homeland security, because by and large they aren’t wild about either military or intelligence operations. But this at least makes us wonder if they take homeland security all that seriously either.
It may be that this is a bipartisan problem, as evidenced by President Bush’s abortive nomination of Bernard Kerik as secretary of homeland security.
I can’t say I’m surprised. I’ve been saying that homeland security is a joke for quite a while.
UPDATE: Meanwhile, on the Spitzer front, Professor Bainbridge is talking about Nixon: “My gosh. If Spitzer were a Republican, people would be making comparisons to Nixon and calling for impeachment.”
And Radley Balko comments: “Spitzer denies any knowledge of what his closes aide was doing, which seems improbable. But hang on. Even he didn’t know, isn’t this the same guy who wants corporate executives held criminally liable for the mistakes of their underlings, even if they had no knowledge of those mistakes? Isn’t this the guy who wanted to make not knowing about those mistakes a crime in and of itself?”
Lots more at Slate’s roundup.
HOMELAND SECURITY: Still a joke.
HOMELAND SECURITY — STILL A JOKE: “Undercover Congressional investigators set up a bogus company and obtained a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in March that would have allowed them to buy the radioactive materials needed for a so-called dirty bomb.”
HOMELAND SECURITY REMAINS A JOKE: That’s not funny, but the fake boarding pass saga is. Sort of.
HOMELAND SECURITY IS STILL A JOKE, and Jonathan Rauch writes on how the government let down its guard by passing on an innovative security approach:
Hiring people to stand guard full-time over all but the most sensitive sites would be prohibitively costly and cumbersome. Walker’s solution was what he calls distributed surveillance. HomeGuard posts webcams on the peripheries of no-go zones around critical sites. Cameras, of course, are old hat. Here is the innovation: Regular people, not high-priced security professionals, monitor the sites over the Internet. If a camera detects motion, it transmits a picture to several “spotters,” ordinary Web users who earn $10 an hour for simply looking at photos online and answering this question: “Do you see a person or vehicle in this image?” A yes answer triggers a security response.
The details are ingenious, and you can read about them in my 2003 column on HomeGuard. Suffice to say that, in principle, the system is cheap and almost infinitely scalable. In practice, however, the system needed field-testing before private industry could consider it. Having built a prototype, Walker Digital approached the government in the spring of 2003.
On the recommendation of Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., Walker and his staff met with a series of officials, first at the White House and then at DHS, where they spoke with people from then-Secretary Tom Ridge on down. They were not selling anything. “We were very clear we would give it to a contractor in a heartbeat,” Walker says. “We were reluctant to build a field trial. It’s not our thing. We’re systems designers.” Having designed the system, they were trying to give it away.
It didn’t happen, though. Too bad, as it seems like a real Army of Davids approach.
PEGGY NOONAN: “We are debating port security. While we’re at it, how about airport security? Does anyone really believe that has gotten much better since 19 terrorists hijacked four planes five years ago?”
UPDATE: More here: “Security experts say U.S. ports have long been ill-prepared for a terrorist attack — regardless of the nationality of the owner.”
Homeland Security remains pretty much a joke — air, sea, and land. The good news is, the Dubai deal won’t make things worse at Baltimore:
At least one of the ports where DP World is set to operate, Baltimore, has been dogged by security shortcomings for years. A Baltimore Sun investigation in June 2005 revealed that the port’s fiber-optic alarm system on the perimeter fence malfunctioned and was usually switched off, and that port police were so understaffed that their patrol boats often dry-docked because there was no one to operate them. The newspaper also found that a pair of “video cameras” guarding the entrance to one important marine terminal were actually blocks of wood on poles.
Last summer, a tour of the port, the nation’s eighth largest, revealed gaps in perimeter fences, unattended gates, surveillances systems that didn’t work and insufficient police patrols on land and sea. State officials have acknowledged security gaps and said they have been working to close them.
It can only get better, apparently . . . .
Read this piece by Jim Glassman, too: “Isn’t this precisely what the United States preaches? Don’t we want places like Dubai to fight terror and to grow, to invest, to buy, to trade, to adopt Western commercial practices, to expose themselves to the rest of the world and thus become tolerant and moderate?” Read the whole thing.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Over at WizBang, a correction is offered regarding my views on airport security. I stand corrected.
HOMELAND SECURITY REMAINS A JOKE:
WHILE most of the Bush administration has been fighting against increased unionization of security-related positions since 9/11, the federal Transportation Security Administration is headed the other way. In a small case with national implications, TSA doesn’t just break with the Bush administration position; it reverses its own stated policy. . . .
What’s going on? Well, some in Congress would like to see those private firms take over from TSA at more airports. The agency seems to be out to hamstring its competition. . . . Unionization could easily chew up the private security companies’ already thin profit margins — thus locking in TSA’s near-monopoly control.
It’s all about pork. My impression of TSA screening at airports is that it’s not any better than things were before, nor is it any faster or better organized. Certainly on this last trip, the security — and the immigration — folks at the Atlanta airport seemed poorly organized and inefficient. I nearly missed my flight because people who were supposed to be organizing the lines were standing around talking instead.
My predictions about the whole Homeland Security enterprise seem to have been borne out, alas.
I PICKED ON HOMELAND SECURITY A LOT for a while, then I just kind of gave up. But Homeland Security is still a joke, and the Bush Administration needs to do something about it. If there’s a major attack, all this stuff will be out there, and they won’t have the excuse that it never happened before.
I realize that organizing all those bureaucratic functions into a new department is hard — which is why I thought it was a lousy idea to begin with — but having decided to go that route, the Administration has to devote the effort to making it work. And Congress, which overwhelmingly supported the move, needs to help, too.
UPDATE: An example of Congressional failure, here.
A PACK NOT A HERD: Homeland Security remains a joke, but alert airline passengers noticed a felon sneaking on board a plane at LAX:
Airport cameras captured it all: On a busy morning at Los Angeles International Airport last month, a convicted felon wearing a sweatshirt, sunglasses and gloves strolled unnoticed past two security checkpoints in Terminal 5 and walked onto a jumbo jet without a ticket.
Kareem Thomas, a 19-year-old Decatur, Ga., resident on probation for burglary, was discovered hiding in an airplane restroom by passengers and was apprehended by police before takeoff.
(Emphasis added.) One of our faculty candidates was on that flight, and told us the story — I was surprised that it didn’t get any attention at the time. He said that a passenger noticed the guy walk right past the ticket-taker and onto the plane, and followed him to see him sneak into the rest room.
Your (rather large number of) tax dollars at work. Maybe we should have pushed harder on that Impeach Norm Mineta campaign. Because, so far, the people who are paying for their seats seem to be the main source of airline security, not the people we’re paying to protect us.
I’M AFRAID I HAVE TO AGREE WITH MATT WELCH that James Taranto’s characterization of Democrats who booed the Patriot Act as the “al Qaeda Cheering Section” is over the top.
I’ve been a Patriot Act skeptic — to put it mildly — since pretty much day one. It’s not all bad (and even John Kerry pointed that out last night on ABC) but the overall mindset, and the bureaucratic opportunism, that it represents is a bad thing. And “Homeland Security” remains pretty much of a joke today: lots of pork and gold-plating, lots of new bureaucracy, and not a lot of obvious benefit for security. What’s more, Steven Brill’s account of Ashcroft’s role in the Patriot Act’s drafting, which I blogged here back in April, is just devastating.
There’s no question that the Democrats have demonized the Patriot Act and tried to turn it into a political weapon against Bush — and it’s hypocritical given the 1994 and 1996 “crime” and “terrorism” bills, which were basically more of the same. But that hardly turns them into an “Al Qaeda cheering section.”
UPDATE: Steve Sturm says that Matt and I are wrong.
NOW HERE’S AN ISSUE FOR THE DEMOCRATS, but I’ll bet they won’t pick up on it:
Because she is fluent in Turkish and other Middle Eastern languages, Edmonds, a Turkish-American, was hired by the FBI soon after Sept. 11 and given top-secret security clearance to translate some of the reams of documents seized by FBI agents who, for the past year, have been rounding up suspected terrorists across the United States and abroad.
Edmonds says that to her amazement, from the day she started the job, she was told repeatedly by one of her supervisors that there was no urgency – that she should take longer to translate documents so that the department would appear overworked and understaffed. That way, it would receive a larger budget for the next year.
“We were told by our supervisors that this was the great opportunity for asking for increased budget and asking for more translators,” says Edmonds. “And in order to do that, don’t do the work and let the documents pile up so we can show it and say that we need more translators and expand the department.”
Edmonds says that the supervisor, in an effort to slow her down, went so far as to erase completed translations from her FBI computer after she’d left work for the day.
(Via World Wide Rant). Homeland security has been a joke since day one. Is it better now that Tom Ridge and the Department of Homeland Security have taken over? Nope. He’s off engaging in bureaucratic mission creep by chasing “child predators.” What does that have to do with terrorism?
My TechCentralStation column will have a lot more about this.
UPDATE: Michael Demmons notes that the Democrats didn’t speak up when six competent translators were fired because they were gay, making it unlikely they’ll complain about mere budget-padding. Good point.
ANOTHER UPDATE: WyethWire says that some Democrats objected. Is that responsive to Demmons point above? I link, you decide. But it’s not as if they were making attack ads on the subject. That’s saved for other topics.
HOMELAND SECURITY: STILL A JOKE:
Laura Callahan, the deputy CIO of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), was placed on paid administrative leave last week after questions surfaced about her academic qualifications, a DHS spokeswoman confirmed.
The move came after members of Congress contacted department officials demanding answers to questions about her academic background, as well as about the department’s policy on background checks.
On her resume, Callahan, who was appointed to the position on April 1, said she received her academic degrees, including a doctorate in computer information systems, from Hamilton University in Evanston, Wyo.
However, the congressmen, including Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), contend that according to published reports, Hamilton isn’t licensed by that state, nor is the school accredited by the U.S. Department of Education. The congressmen said Hamilton is a “diploma mill.”
Of course, the real question is why she got the job in the first place. Don’t they do background checks? And besides, there’s this:
In March 2000, she was one of two White House officials accused of threatening Northrop Grumman Corp. workers with jail unless they kept quiet about the disappearance of thousands of White House e-mails, according to press reports at the time. Callahan was the White House webmaster under the Clinton administration, and Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman ran the White House computer system at the time.
Maybe they figured that was proof she could keep a secret. . . .
(Via Robi Sen).
UPDATE: Background checks? Hah! Lawrence Haws says that he only needed three minutes with google to discover this “explosive” secret. He’s even got photographic evidence!
Perhaps someone should introduce the Homeland Security folks to Google.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Haws has noticed changes to one of the profiles he found. He suspects Callahan, but a reader emailed me to note that anyone can edit that profile rather easily.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Well, this joke’s on us. Not the phony degree part, but the site that Haws found. Reader elaborates:
Microsoft SQL ships with a demo data base called northwind traders. By default it is installed. It gives a basic idea of table relationships and the data that might be in a live DB. It’s pretty lame actually. It just so happens that there is a Laura Callahan listed as an employee. . . .
Basically, someone wrote a quick table editor for a test and left it visible to the web. I’m a long term DBA who’s been worked with just about every DB platform that’s shipped since 1995. Easy to get fooled by if you’re not familiar with the software. The first clue should have been that the data was editable by anyone on the web. The second clue was the simple (ugly) interface. The third clue should have been the products on the site had nothing to do with parent site.
I won’t box you around much because you were just passing along someone else’s error, but I read your site. And after all, according to some you’re one the 4 most powerful bloggers! ;)
Hmm. Well, if an “ugly” interface is a clue that something’s wrong then there’s a lot of funny business going on. It’s odd that the pictures match, though. But there you are — I don’t promise no mistakes here, just swift corrections.
I WOULD FILE THIS STORY under the usual “homeland security is still a joke” heading, but, really, I think it belongs under an “immigration policy is still a joke.” Or maybe it’s some of both. As Matt Welch puts it:
This regulation and a host of others like it were in place long before Congressional fries were liberated from the Vichy regime; what’s new is the enforcement. Since late last fall, when the Department of Homeland Security installed a comprehensive immigration database (the jauntily named Consular Lookout and Support System, or CLASS), yesterday’s minor visa transgression is today’s “no-entry” stamp.
Apparently it’s even possible that if journalists come to the United States as tourists and then write something about it, they may be barred entry in the future on the ground that they’ve violated the visa rules. That’s just wrong.
HOMELAND SECURITY: It’s still a joke.
I’VE GOT STEVEN BRILL’S NEW BOOK, but Homeland Security — or something, anyway — still looks like a joke. But Matt Welch isn’t intimidated by threats from The Man. Er, well, The Man’s wife, anyway. . . .
HOMELAND SECURITY IS STILL A JOKE:
LOS ALAMOS, New Mexico — There are no armed guards to knock out. No sensors to deactivate. No surveillance cameras to cripple. To sneak into Los Alamos National Laboratory, the world’s most important nuclear research facility, all you do is step over a few strands of rusted, calf-high barbed wire.
I should know. On Saturday morning, I slipped into and out of a top-secret area of the lab while guards sat, unaware, less than a hundred yards away.
Not quite as James Bondian as it might sound, but bad enough. Noah Shachtman, who wrote the story, has more on his blog, DefenseTech.
YEAH, I KNOW, I HAVEN’T BLOGGED MUCH TODAY: We’ve done a spell of spring cleaning at the InstaPundit household, and various other family activities have had priority. But hey, there’s a lot of new stuff over at Virginia Postrel’s page, and Charles Murtaugh has a lot of new stuff up, too.
And here’s an indication that war is near: Civil Reserve Air Fleet activation.
Meanwhile, don’t miss Colbert King’s thoughts on Harry Belafonte and Colin Powell, in light of Powell’s Security Council speech.
UPDATE: Okay, as I dip lightly into my ocean of email, here are a couple more worth reading: an indication that Homeland Security is still a joke, with armed uniformed Cubans not being noticed until after they’ve landed and given themselves up, and Steven Den Beste’s thoughts on the latest French diplomatic counteroffensive.
Den Beste’s worried about it. I’m not. First, I wouldn’t be surprised if bombs started falling before this jells (see above). But more importantly, the argument has now shifted: the question is now not whether Iraq should be occupied, but by whom. American troops? Or the French army?
Some questions answer themselves. Though it would serve the French right if we waved them in with bands playing, and with a warning that if Saddam does anything untoward, they’d best duck.
Of course, the French will abandon this when they realize that it was originally an American idea. Unless this is all some sort of devious diplomatic ballet. . . . Nah. Couldn’t be.
JEFF JARVIS says homeland security is still a joke.
BRETT GLASS REPORTS that Denver is using antiterrorist measures to collect on traffic tickets.
It’s a parody but probably won’t be for long. That’s usually how these things work.
Homeland security is a joke. And not a funny one, despite Glass’s best efforts.
BIG BOOBS: Homeland Security remains a joke.
CHUCK HERRICK’S POST made me wonder: Have I been too hard on Homeland Security? And then the answer came to me: No, I haven’t been.
Some political advice for the Administration: Homeland Security is a joke. It’s the butt of jokes (and worse) on talk radio, which is inhabited mostly by people inclined to support you. It’s treated (unfairly, as I noted in the post that somehow precipitated all this) as fascism descending by the Left. And, it’s not going to work.
September 11th, 2002 is coming up fast. After the networks are done with their commemoratives, people are going to notice that a year has passed. On the home front, at least, what they’re going to see is a record of screwups and pointless intrusiveness, summed up in many people’s minds by the airline tweezer-ban, and the mentality it represents. If there’s a major terrorist event in America between now and then, all this stuff will look stupid and ineffective (which it is). If there’s not, well, it will still look stupid and ineffective. And there’s no sign that the people who dropped the ball are ever going to be held accountable, even as ordinary Americans are called to account for all sorts of things.
Not long after that, there’s going to be an election.
UPDATE: Here’s an email I got in response, from Clayton Cramer, who I didn’t realize read InstaPundit. But I get these kinds of things all the time:
I really want to support Homeland Security. But they are clearly applying rules in a way that suggests that they have hired a bunch of robots. My son is 14. (And no, his name is not Mohammed, nor would anyone mistake him for one of the suspect nationalities.) He flew to California recently. On his return flight, he left his skateboard adjusting tool in his backpack. Picture something rather like a multipart socket wrench. They confiscated it as a weapon. They didn’t even give him a chance to check it. It was only $10 down the tube, but it shows what morons the TSA has doing this work.
This is the face of Homeland Security, folks.
READER CHUCK HERRICK accuses me of “conditional patriotism” in light of my various posts criticizing homeland security. He says if I were a real patriot, I’d be happy to surrender my civil liberties in the name of war, and that I shouldn’t set preconditions of governmental competence before I am willing to do so:
I was there during Vietnam. I watched when the war came to a close in the ’70′s and all the long-hairs promptly cut their hair, quit demonstrating, and went out and got corporate jobs and started collecting material possessions. When the draft ended, it was like a light switch was thrown. What I’m stating is that today’s version of that convenient lack of patriotism is alive and well in today’s Libertarianism. And, you’re not even being asked to carry a weapon and go into battle. All you’re being asked to do is to give up a few, “cherished” liberties in order to beat our enemies. Frankly, it’s rather pathetic.
You signed on for the former? No, you did not. I’ve made my case that in WWII, the ineptness in the government and in the military was just as egregious. You’ve a capacity for research. Use it to do some historical research on just how inept the government could be during WWII. My bet is that what you’ll find will stagger you.
I’m not that easily staggered. But Herrick misunderstands. I’m not talking about competence (everyone makes mistakes), but good faith. By refusing to deal seriously with the problems of homeland security, and by substituting bureaucratic wish lists and appearance-oriented political solutions for real action, the powers-that-be have made clear that they’re not serious about the war, at least on the home front. Ashcroft won’t fire the people who screwed up before 9/11 — when even FBI agents were speculating that Osama bin Laden had a mole in FBI headquarters because the incompetence seemed so spectacular — and yet I’m supposed to pretend that searching old ladies at airports and confiscating tweezers proves they’re serious? You want me to sacrifice civil liberties for a war, you’ve got to show me a war. Then we’ll talk.
The Vietnam analogy, it seems to me, cuts the other way. That was another war that was waged with more of an eye toward the wellbeing of the bureaucrats waging it than toward actually winning. (Herrick, whose email indicates that he works for the federal government, may take that the wrong way, but there you are). The Drug War is another example. Both of those failed, miserably. Homeland Security is looking more like those conflicts than like, say, World War Two. That’s my beef.
Herrick apparently confuses me with those protesters who felt that it was immoral to wage war in Vietnam. My own view is that it was immoral to wage war halfheartedly.
Reader Kenneth Summers says this:
What bothers me far more is restrictions on liberties in the absence of war, precisely because there is no distinct “end to hostilities”. This is why, in the “WOT”, I think we need to be extremely careful about what we allow. Ditto for the War on Crime. Big fat Double Ditto for the War on Drugs. Our liberties will be safer if we actively take out Iraq and Soddy Arabia [spelling intentional - more so after I looked up the derivation] in a hot war than if we pussyfoot around and keep accepting incremental restrictions.
An example is the FDR presidency – the programs, rights infringements, and restrictions which remained after his presidency (works programs, gun restrictions, ridiculous tax policies) were primarily those implemented for fighting the depression and Prohibition crime. Those that were lifted (censorship, military tribunals, travel restrictions, rationing – I even include the draft here because it would have ended, as it did after WWI, were it not for the cold war) were those for fighting the war. Unlike a war, there is no “return to normalcy” for crime and economic downturns.
I think that — as the post that somehow set off Mr. Herrick noted — restrictions on civil liberties so far haven’t been very onerous. But I also think that Homeland Security has been a joke, from the airline tweezer-ban right on down the line. I think that it’s allowed to be a joke because people in the government don’t think it’s very important. And if they don’t think it’s very important, why should I?
UPDATE: Reader Chris Mosely emails:
Unfortunately, it’s worse than you thought. The *very day* the feds announced the arrest of the skating kingpin, a man living in NJ, who was known to have sold fake ID to at least one Sept 11 hijacker, eluded police and FBI by fleeing to Egypt:
In other words, the long arm of the law can reach into Italy to find a guy who bribed skating judges, but can’t arrest someone in New Jersey who aided the Sept 11 attackers.
BTW, if you read the AP article it also says that this guy wired money to Saudi Arabia. Surprise!
I’ve been giving the feds the benefit of the doubt on “homeland security” but this tears it for me.
Well, nobody’s perfect, and I’m prepared to forgive (almost) any number of honest mistakes. I’m less forgiving when it appears that people aren’t taking the issue seriously.
ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader points out that it was the British, not any part of the Homeland Security apparatus, that found this al Qaeda training camp in Alabama. Another reader sends this quotation from Petronius Arbiter: “We tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing and a wonderful method it can be for creating an illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.” I’ve seen this quote before, and I don’t think it’s really Petronius. But it’s apt, nonetheless.
ERROR-CORRECTION UPDATE: Lynxx Pherrett says I’m wrong about the Alabama Al Qaeda training camp. Uh, okay. But I wasn’t “disingenuous” — I was writing what I thought to be true.
I’VE BLOGGED REPEATEDLY on the Secret Service’s problems, but this takes the cake:
DETROIT –– A Secret Service agent has admitted he scrawled anti-Muslim statements on a prayer calendar during the home search of a man charged with smuggling bogus checks into the United States, authorities said Thursday.
Not only is that a sorry-ass thing to do in general, but the damage it does to relations with the American Muslim community — who for everyone’s sake had better be on the right side — is just incalculable. This guy shouldn’t just be fired. He should be prosecuted, and given the maximum sentence they can manage.
I keep saying that homeland security is a joke. But this isn’t even funny.
JOE BIDEN’S RAVING LUNACY — (and Orrin Hatch’s) and why it means homeland security is a joke. My FoxNews column for tomorrow is up.
HEY, FBI — DON’T YOU KNOW THERE’S A WAR ON? Apparently not:
Editor — Al Qaeda has the upper hand in the war against terror because the security agencies responsible for protecting us act like a bunch of sissies.
Case in point: I was recently hired for an FBI counter-terrorism position based on my ability to speak several foreign languages, my thorough knowledge of Middle Eastern culture and my extensive travel abroad. Each FBI employee who interviewed me told me, “We’re desperately in need of language skills.”
I’m a blue-blooded American, 44 years old, who has taught college several years for the Department of Defense, and I was excited my skills would be helpful in the war against terror. Then came the FBI’s lie detector test.
I admitted I’d smoked marijuana about 20 times when I was 18. I’ve never used drugs since. But within five minutes I was put out on the street.
I told the FBI agent who kicked me out that “I doubt very seriously that Bin Laden screened any of the hijackers for drug experimentation when they were kids.” The FBI agent confided, “You wouldn’t believe the number of super- qualified individuals we’ve turned away. Just last week we let go a highly qualified psychologist for the same reason. It’s very frustrating.”
Moral of the story: Don’t hold your breath for the FBI to save you.
Message to the homeland security crowd: If the war is important enough to justify a new cabinet-level department, sweeping powers for law enforcement, and (you know it’s coming) higher taxes, then it’s important enough to get rid of these pantywaist just-say-no rules. If it’s not important enough to get rid of those rules, then it’s not a war, and you guys need to turn in your badges.
Homeland security remains a joke, and the people in charge remain unserious.
(Via email from Stefan Sharkansky, who also has the letter on his blog, I notice).