America has never been a nation to create solutions to problems that have yet to occur. The prevailing wisdom was that terrorism and the need for a unified intelligence gathering community geared specifically to detect and protect against terrorism was uneccessary because terrorism simply wasn't an American problem. This reasoning however has been proven to have been extremely naive. In the wake of 9/11, our nation has come to the very real understanding that bureaucratic infighting, territorial law and intelligence agencies, and a total complacence on the part of the U.S. citizenry left us wide open for attacks. All of the security measures now in place or being considered (all of which in some part are in place in virtually every other western nation) could have been in place long ago and could have prevented 9/11. But, as our government does not spend money on possibilities but rather in responses, we have more than three-thousand dead, the loss of billions of dollars, and a war on our hands. However, at least now we do have a newly formed body that is intended to reconstruct the manner by which information is shared from agency to agency and, with broader powers of investigation, wire tapping, and data-mining, the Federal Government should be able to root out future terrorist attacks before they happen. While some detractors look at the Homeland Security department as a burgeoning Big Brother, and there is the danger of it reaching too far, part of living in a community is giving up some personal freedoms for the betterment of all. Therefore, if the Homeland Security department needs to watch over all of us to protect us, then those of us with nothing to hide will not be harmed. It is the purpose of this paper to argue for the Homeland Security department and for it's stated purposes.
Terrorism is a relatively small-scale attack upon a much larger enemy. Terrorists rarely attacks military targets, however. It is marked by a distinctly anti-civilian method of attack. Civilians provide good targets for terrorists on several different levels. First, they are much less likely to defend themselves against attack. Second, they are much more vulnerable than military targets. Third, attacking civilians demonstrates a government's inability to protect its people -- which tears at the very fabric of the faith placed by many in the institutions of government they trust to protect them. Terrorism is, truly, different things to different people (Lefebure, 8).
The point of investment in a Homland Security Department, and billions that are sure to follow, is to finally begin what many are now saying should have started long ago -- the development of a comprehensive strategy to protect the United States from bioterrorist and other attacks. More money will also have to go to producing and stockpiling drugs to treat anthrax, such as Cipro and other antibiotics, as well as vaccines to protect against other potential threats like smallpox. But getting the drugs manufactured will do no good if they can't be shipped out into the field. The National Pharmaceutical Stockpile has in place around the country eight "push packets" -- 50-ton pallets of medical supplies and drugs that are kept in secure locations and can be airlifted to the site of a disaster within 12 hours. Thompson ordered one such packet driven to New York immediately after the World Trade Center attacks. The White House is now seeking $643 million in new spending, in part to expand the stockpile by at least four new packets (Time, 65). The Office of Homeland Security would be in charge of making sure that all people in the U.S. would have available recourses to biological attacks as well as other forms of terrorist aggression.
The Office of Homeland Security is formed to bring together all of the minds, computers, and agents of all the information gathering and law enforcement agencies in the U.S. And to force them to talk with each other and share all of their information. The legislation consolidates 22 federal agencies and approximately 170,000 employees into the new Homeland Security Department, whose secretary would be a Cabinet member ("Homeland Security Dept. Faces Tough Road to Reality," p1008319u5465). Specially trained data miners then, will take that information and look for patterns that might be indicative of people engaged in terrorism living and operating in the United States.
Opponents of the Department of Homeland Security observe that the money might be better spent on making the world better rather than just shoring up our walls. To date, the Administration's antiterrorism effort has been spotty, politicized, corporate-friendly and subordinated to war against Iraq. A true national security policy would have as its goals making the UN Security Council an instrument of war prevention and disarmament, bringing about a legitimate Palestinian state by ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, promoting economic development and democracy in Arab nations and creating new programs of intelligence sharing and international policing of Al Qaeda and other terror gangs. So, the answer is, no, we're not safer these days ("Age of Anxiety," 3). But, this kind of view does not take into consideration the very long time it will take to stabilize the world such that terrorism is no longer an attractive option for the disenfranchised and oppressed. Until then, we need protections.
Critics also point at the holes in actual application of the policies of the Department of Homeland Security. It is stunning that the Customs Service, at most recent count, was still checking fewer than 2% of trucks and containers entering the country. How can it be that the Immigration and Naturalization Service released John Lee Malvo, an illegal immigrant, after they had arrested him only months before he allegedly began a crime spree (Gergen, 64)? Unions of government workers and many Democratic lawmakers said Bush was asking for too much authority and would be empowered to arbitrarily slash salaries and benefits. But with both chambers of Congress soon to be under Republican control, Democrats have grudgingly accepted the new personnel rules. The existing holes demonstrate the necessity of further investment and expansion of powers.
Still other critics say that actions taken by the administration of President George W. Bush and Congress since Sept. 11 in the effort to combat terrorism effectively erode individual freedoms while exceeding the historical powers assumed by past presidents in times of national emergency, according to a new report from a New York think tank. Despite their intent, these actions also hold little prospect of improving the chance of stopping terrorist threats, ("Report: Anti-terror powers curtail rights," p1008327w4275). The problem, however, is not with the erosion of individual freedoms, because while the office will exceed historical levels of surveillance o f the American people and their foreign guests, nothing in the constitution says that any of this is illegal. In fact, in many ways, our privacy is a privelige that, when terrorism is defeated, we will have returned to us.
Some also will argue that there is a problem with granting a single department of government with nearly unlimited powers -- that those powers would be ultimately used against the very people that they are intended to protect. By allowing the government unfettered access to our data, our computers, and our library records, we give up possibly too much of our privacy. The fact is, however, that while all of this is a possibility, the President is not looking to create a totalitarian all-seeing EYE hovering above us all. To that end, a compromise has been reached that limits the departments abilities. For now, the new department will merely analyse intelligence gathered by others. But several figures, including Richard Shelby, the senior Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and a commission chaired by Jim Gilmore, the former governor of Virginia,…