After an intruder was able to jump over the fence and enter the White House, the Secret Service, an agency in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is talking about augmenting security procedures and widening the White House security perimeter to include surrounding areas in the executive mansions neighborhood. Because I work across Lafayette Park from the White House, I experience the already oppressive security around it every day. The street in front of the presidents residence is completely blocked off from traffic; uniformed Secret Service swarm, both on foot and in patrol cars out front; inside the fence motion and other sensors should warn of any intruders, and Lafayette Park is likely under constant surveillance. Thus, the peoples house in the freest nation on earth is already a mini garrison state.
Yet security agencies regularly use any incident as a way to enhance their reach and constrict the freedom they are supposed to be protecting. Despite all of these security measures, the intruder was able to enter the White House through an unsecured door. Perhaps the Secret Service should merely lock the door, much as hundreds of millions of Americans do, and call it a day.
This is just one example of DHSs bureaucratic approach to security that often defies common sense. Another is the airport security measures of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), another agency in DHS. After the 9/11 attacks, had the government done nothing, air travel would have been much safer anyway. The old paradigmcrew and passengers letting airline hijackers have their way, knowing that they probably would be freed eventually in Cuba or someplace else after the hijackers got the publicity they soughtwas shattered. From now on, crew and passengers would be much more surly in subduing hijackers, thinking that otherwise they would die and take many more of their fellow citizens with them in any building the hijacked plane hit. If the authorities wanted to do something, they should have hardened the cockpit doorsessentially the equivalent of locking the White House doorand called it a day. Instead we got ludicrous restrictions governing carry-on luggagea prohibition on carrying fingernail clippers, a limit on liquids of three ounces, and a requirement to remove and x-ray our shoes. To illustrate the absurdity of the last requirement, many other countries dont have it, and Fran Townsend, President George W. Bushs Homeland Security adviser, said after leaving office that she thought the shoe inspection requirement would have long been scrapped. If the requirement was so ridiculous, one might ask why she and Bush imposed it in the first place! Most of these dubious requirements are officials wanting to pretend to do something about a problem and security bureaucracies wanting to expand control.
The creation of DHS itself was an example of politicians needing to do something after the 9/11 attacks. The Congress, with Bushs eventual support, glued 22 disparate agencies together to form the new department and added an extra layer of administration over the top to supervise them, ensuring that the new organizations bureaucracy would be stifling. Thus, politicians desire for post-9/11 appearances actually made American security agencies less agile in battling small, nimble terrorist groups. (The same thing happened when a new weak bureaucracythe Director of National Intelligencewas added to supervise the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies.)
The DHS morass apparently has been tanking morale and leading to an exodus of personnel at nearly twice the rate of other agencies in the government, according to the Washington Post. The employees are fleeing to more lucrative jobs in private security firms.
Thus, soon we will probably hear the call for additional taxpayer dollars to pay employees more to stanch the exodus. However, hiking DHSs budget would be rewarding abject failure. Instead, the Congress should demand that the department get its act together or be dismembered. In Washington, however, adding bureaucracy and money is more common than admitting failure and reversing these trends. But increasing bureaucracy rarely enhances securityin fact, the reverse is true. And instead of hysterically bombing the Islamic Statea group that focuses on establishing an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria rather than on striking the United Statesand thereby making the group more prone to beginning such retaliatory attacks, perhaps President Obama and Congress should work on transforming DHS to better defend against terrorist groups that actually are trying to do violence to the United States.
|Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute. Dr. Eland is a graduate of Iowa State University and received an M.B.A. in applied economics and Ph.D. in national security policy from George Washington University. He spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office.|
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