Homeland Security: Compromise a Solution?


So I’m watching 24 last night, and at one point one of the Muslim characters who works for CTU (Counter-Terrorism Unit for those who don’t watch the show) is flagged by the Department of Homeland Security, and she is then unable to do her job properly because she has to work around having her security clearance . . . hampered with. It really wasn’t clear how it was changed because she could still do what she needed to do, it was just taking too long for the urgency of the matter at hand (four suitcase nukes out in the nation, about to detonated at any second). This got me thinking about the job of the Department of Homeland Security, and you know what? I wouldn’t want the top job in that department.

Just think about what it means: you’d have to negotiate between keeping the country safe and ensuring civil rights are not violated; you’d have to ensure that terrorists were unable to carry out plots against us (us being any and all Americans, civilian or not), but you’d have to do so without impinging on anyone’s “freedoms”*–in effect, you have to know what people are doing but you have no way to know because finding out will violate someone somewhere’s rights; you’d have to understand what happened before, so that it not happen again, plus you’d have to know what might happen, what’s likely to happen, and what will probably happen and all without benefit of a crystal ball; and you’d have to find some way to disrupt terrorist communications, money filtering, and what all else. Somehow.

Just how on earth would you do that? Again, not a job I’d want.

Furthermore, the repercussions of failure are incredible. All those people who told you that you couldn’t do this, you couldn’t do that will be the very first to howl when the next terrorist act takes place. They’ll howl longest and loudest. HOW could you let this happen? How could you be so blind and ineffective? What? Did you do it on purpose? Did you plan it yourself? You can’t do your job, but you can’t fail at it, either.

What a horrible position to be in.

And lest it’s not clear, I AM implying (um, pretty much cold stating) that we tie the hands of these agencies and then we blame them when they fail. Yep, that’s what I’m saying, and what’s the answer? I just don’t have it, I’m afraid, but I do know that if we buy into the hype and fear that the media instills in us about “Big Brother” listening in or staking us out or stealing our freedoms, we’re complicit in the next terrorist attack. And when, not if, that happens, all we can do is cherish and celebrate our freedom from phone tapping and profiling and not being forced to have a “national i.d.” and not bother with the fact that we’ve suffered another blow, been taken once more to our knees. And we certainly cannot blame the agencies who are charged with our safety, right? I mean, how can we? Isn’t that hypocritical?

I don’t know what’s worse helping the terrorists harm us or keeping our “right” to the illusion of privacy (does anyone REALLY think anything we say or do or spend is private?). But I do know that I lean more toward some sort of compromise by which I don’t relinquish all my rights but I don’t bow down to the backlash of fear of terrorism and give the terrorists free reign to tear us apart.

By “backlash of fear of terrorism” I mean to use the term “backlash” as occurs when the pendulum swings too far the other way (this is a crazy reductive definition, but it’ll do for an opinion-based blog). Backlash of fear of terrorism works as follows: Some people, myself included, feel it’s okay to sacrifice a freedom we don’t really have in the first place if doing so will unearth a terrorist plot or help in the disarming of one, but other people argue that we feel this way only because we’ve bought into the hyped fear of terror, the “terror” of “terrorism.” This latter scenario is a bit like this: In order to combat terrorism, I hereby give the government free and total reign and control over every aspect of my life and being, all my bank accounts, phones, belongings, internet communications, even my very thoughts are now no longer mine but the government’s. Has anyone heard anyone say this? It’s a ridiculous and a completely false reading.

I contend that it’s an equally ridiculous and false fear, hyped by the same media and bought into by the backlashed, that all of our freedoms will be stripped from us if we allow a bit of freedom to the people whose job it is to keep us safe. That scenario is a bit like this: Once we trade in our drivers license/passport/social security card for one “national i.d.” we may as well just don grey and black striped clothing, adopt a neutral robotic expression, and bend over.

Maybe BOTH sides are too reactionary, too paranoid? It’s possible. That’s why a compromise works for me. But hey, that’s just me.

Back to what happened on 24, the lead CTU guy ended up logging on to the Muslim woman’s computer with his own creds so that she can do her job efficiently. I would have done the same thing. Of course, this is television, so she’ll end up being a terrorist or being made to do the terrorists’ bidding because they have her puppy held hostage, or hey, she may end up being a mandroid (nudge-y wink at Tally).

At the end of the day, I wouldn’t want to impinge on anyone’s right to do their job simply because they are Muslim or whatever else might flag at Homeland Security, but I also wouldn’t want to ignore people who flag at Homeland Security, either. What’s the compromise to be made? No one seems interested in one; it’s my way or the highway on both sides, so we have a stalemate, and I feel pretty confident that this frozen posture is just the thing to help the terrorists plan and carry out their next act. Nothing reactionary about that: Anyone here think there are no terrorists currently planning some attack on Americans, raise your hand . . . .


* people have a “right” to the freedom of all sorts of things in all the various and amusing misreadings of the Constitution that float around; illegal immigrants sue because their “right” to a drivers’ license is violated. Um, sorry, but no one has a “right” to drive, much less to own a piece of plastic saying one can do so.


19 thoughts on “Homeland Security: Compromise a Solution?

  1. Fuzzy remember your article about days before Sep 11 and after how things have changed dramatically. Before Sep 11, they will say get the hell out of here. It has changed I fully agree with you can’t have it both ways, a middle ground maybe. Nothing pleases them even that. There is no perfect solution for this problem. Airport security is delaying sometimes but is better than getting exploded in mid air. Only thing is they should follow consistency all across the board, not target just a few individuals makes it difficult for them because not all are terrorists. If they have consistent laws and follow it, everyone will follow without hesitation, but they keep changing the rules.

  2. the problem with this country is that no one ever seems to want to find a middle ground on anything. everything is too divisive. and this coming from the country that claims to be a melting pot.

  3. I am with Chris on the consistency thing. I went to an Air Force show back back in October or November and they confiscated my box cutter BUT they allowed my date to go through with a knife on his key ring. I didn’t mind them taking the box cutter, I had totally forgot about it in the bottom of my person, but it did bother me more about them returning his keychain. Never even gave it a second glance. I think most people just want to know what the rules are and that they apply to everyone.

  4. Hei Fuzz.

    The thing is that these agencies have had the means and the ways for decades to get what they want to know of anybody and they have used these without telling the populace!! Chris’s comment is excellent, I fully agree with it. Rii xx HuGGiz.

  5. I think you need to

    A. Profile equally; let no words like race or creed become part of any policy.
    B. Tear down all the walls and enforce the current broken laws; broken as in fix the loop-holes. Let as many “tax” paying and SS Paying people come here as long as they pay fairly and are treated fairly by the system – We’re fat because we won’t chop our own fields do our own yard work and save that blood money to use at the BUFFET (Big Uncommonly Fat Friends Eating Together).
    C. Take the “press #1” for English off the phone in the USA. Add the Spanish equiv. for pressing it to get Spanish. The defaults here are that we fought for the country and its English speaking; whether we can write it now or even spell it now, we started in English

    The constitution is written in English or the one I see on the wall. We should stay in our country not slowly sell the farm to the outsiders. That why it’s called “Welcome” and not “Here is your free job/home, take mine please.”

    For those who don’t agree or like the freedoms, Which is actually a farce; freedom is just another way of saying “you’re responsible for your own actions”, can try their best to find a small boat off the coast trying to leave here to go to Cuba or, stow away of a ship headed for Red China. They’ll really like to hear you’re on your way to their promised land. 😉

  6. Chris, you are so very wise!! I agree that consistency is key, but I do think there is SOME sense in looking more closely at some people than others. I mean if someone is a non-U.S. citizen from Saudi with one way cross country tickets (as were the men on the 9/11 flights), it just makes sense to look at them more than Grandma and Grandpa Mayflower, you know? Maybe I’m too budget conscious in this regard . . . I certainly wouldn’t mind being further delayed or more closely scrutinized to keep things safe AND fair. Huggs Wise One!! xx

    I know, Kerry, isn’t it frustrating? It’s like you have to see it my way. Now. And if you don’t agree with me 100%; we’ll just face off until you do. It’s ridiculous, and SO anti-democratic, American as you suggest. Why does everyone insist on being friends only with those who think exactly as they do? Or why can’t people give some ground, meet in the middle, and come up with something that works for both? It seems so simple, but with all the “I’m right” chest beating and grunting, it just boils down to who’s more stubborn and close-minded. Haven’t got there yet, but we will. Sigh. Huggs.

    Pris and Rii, I think Chris has a point, too. See what I responded to him. :)) And Rii, yes, that’s as I’ve said; we have no privacy, or at least, it’s not absolute, but people have bought the hype and the comfort of believing this illusion. I don’t think that everything I say or do is being scrutinized by the DHS, at least I hope not, what a bore for them for one, and what a waste of my tax dollars for another. But I don’t kid myself about their ability to do so. Huggs to you both.

    Hey Tim, and welcome!! :)) Profile equally? That’s impossible, that means NO profiling at all. And if that’s what you mean, okay. No comment on B. And YES on C, couldn’t agree more!! Thanks for your great comments!!

  7. Tough jobs. There are so many tough jobs. Ones we have talked about here and on other related blogs. Thank god there are people that will stand up and take the heat. It amazes me that for every job out there that I don’t want to do, there is someone with an avid love affair with the occupation and the pain in the ass that it comes with!
    As for consistency, in reality, there is none! Criminals are more likely to have certain traits, certain behavior “ticks”. A trained observer will lock onto someone that exhibits those and may choose to further and investigation. It may be as simple as a watchful eye and a casual conversation and it may be more serious than that. To a limited extent you have to put some trust in instincts, otherwise, you will get lost in sorting through all those that want to live their life right! Here are some good fiures for you. About 92% of the American population are good, law abiding citizens. 6 to 7% can go either way with a societal nudge. 1 to 2% will make law enforcement deal with them. I guess I am for spending 90% of my time with 8% of the population and leave the rest alone to live their lives. Is that realistic? I think so, but the actual practice is tricky!

  8. Thanks for a truly excellent comment response, Gregg! You make perfect sense, and I do believe that it makes sense to look more closely at some people than others; the way you’ve broken it down with stats just supports my instinct on that one. I agree it’s nice to think about equality in terms of treatment regarding crime/terror, but it’s not logical or feasible, not really. It’s the practice that makes it difficult, as you say. Treating everyone the same would cost a fortune, take far more man (and woman) power than we have, and severely impact every area of our lives, but truly equal treatment? Yes, as Hemingway concluded the very lovely Sun Also Rises, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

  9. Thanks for the spoiler lol, wanna say something about Lost as well lol.

    (ok i just teasing ya, you probably know my feelings on 24 if you read my blog)

  10. Lucky you, Monty, you get to watch them all for the first time!! You know you can watch them online the day after they air, right? Click the 24 link in my blogroll if you’re interested. :))

  11. First thing to do to arrive at a solution is to put a bag over all politicians heads. …….. Consider that you were given the responsibility of securing this nation. You go before the congress and they ask you what is the best way to stop the Muslim extremist terrorism. The quickest means is to arrest all Muslims in this country and not let anyone in that appears to be Arab. Eventually you work your way through the detainees until you’ve decided who is and who isn’t. That is a quick solution. Now the people that asked you for that will say that’s racial profiling and you’re a bad person and should lose your job. They say just because all the terrorist have been Arab Muslims doesn’t mean all terrorists are and you should look at grandma Moses too. ……. Therefore the job of Homeland Security and those who make decisions within should be removed from the political system. There are plenty of laws to govern their behavior. Congress does not have the competence to micro manage that office. All too often their decisions and views are based on political objectives and seeking power over everyone else.

    The technology to eavesdrop has always been around and upgrades as new technologies arrive. To assume that you are being watched all the time is ridiculous. People that work in Homeland Security are no different than any of us. They want to do a good job and live normal lives too. They are not all a bunch of demigods just waiting to jump us if we say something they deem dangerous to the American way of life. Usually there is always an individual that would come forward if the system were being abused. There is always a chance of getting another Hoover in the FBI but not as likely as once was. We must have a check and balance system to insure that no one side can over control things. As far as giving up our personal privacy, you sure as hell shouldn’t be on here. You have given up much to acquire a drivers license, credit cards, loans, many other things. You have more to worry about from those systems than the government.

    In terms of freedoms in this country, I don’t take the loss of any of them lightly. I don’t want to have to show my ID / passport to go from one state to another, but I’ve accepted to do that very thing if I fly from one state to another. It’s only a matter of degree. Racial profiling is a good thing if it fits the situation. The rest of the time it doesn’t make any sense and no good investigator is going to waste his time doing it when it won’t provide him with sound information. There are always going to be conflicts to make equal treatment likely. We are all individuals and different in all aspects of life. Laws and the use of them must always be somewhat grey in order to work properly. Now I know there are some who want everybody to be the same and all treated just alike and sing that “kum-by-ya” song (ie. DNC), well you a bunch of idiots to think that human beings are going to fit in a mold. Back to subject, we do have freedoms in this country and we should appreciate them more and guarded carefully.

    Equality is never achievable what we are really talking about is a level playing field so that all individuals have the opportunity to do their thing. It still requires the individual to strive to be better. There will always be variations to the equality term because we are people and thus imperfect in it’s distribution, ie. knife or box cutter.

    Now I have successfully wound everybody down the garden path so that nobody remembers what the hell we were talking about. I don’t know…Blah, blah, blah

  12. Fuzzy, you are right about the job of Homeland Security, it is quite a balance. Certainly, my position is that their efforts to protect security are tame in comparison with some historical examples. First, President Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War. The write of habeas corpus, also known is the great writ, is one of the most powerful legal tools in American jurisprudence. It literally means, “where’s the body,” but it’s meaning does not tell you exactly what it does. It allows a person who is imprisoned to get back into court to challenge the legaity of their imprisonment. That is a far more significant right than anything that is supposedly compromised under the Patriot Act. Also, during World War I, the government deported known communists such as Emma Goldman. They actually had domestic terror in World War I because there were letter bombs that were sent to very important officials and Wall Street was bombed following the war. The Nazis who were here attempting to perform acts of sabatoge in World War II were swiftly executed. So, yes, I agree Homeland Secutiry is a tough job, but you can bet that in another time the reponse to what we are dealing with now would be swift and there would not be much room for communists running antiwar groups and radicals planning acts of terror here. Finally, the US has greater technology than any country in the world and I am sure most people would trust it our hands than anywhere else.

  13. And, by the way, we are at war and their is an enemy that would have no hesitation in destroying a city or killing as many people as possible. You can’t sit down and talk to a rabbid dog. This is a serious threat to the United States and if we don’t confront it harshly and try to win this struggle, your kids and grandkids will have to confront it later and you can bet that the cost will be significantly higher for them.

  14. I believe in the old saying… Where’s theres smoke, there’s fire. Homeland Security can only be effective in restraining terrorism if they receive valid help from concerned citizens. Nobody or organization can be all places at all times. If I notice suspicious activity from any individual, I will report it. Unfortunately, that may be that I notice Middle Easterners doing things that may in truth be innocent, yet masked just as I would report unusual activities of any ethnicity. We all know what appears normal and what seems to raise questions. It doesn’t just happen at the Airports. It can happen anywhere at anytime.

  15. Here, hear, Heyman!! Very well said; I can absolutely see where you are coming from and why. I tend to agree with much of what you are saying because to my mind it makes sense. Obviously, you aren’t advocating rounding up all the Muslims in this country (though someone might latch onto your first para and say that). I also think that you are spot on about the Kumbaya crowd; it’s so NICE and happy to think that all the world will join hands and sing in perfect harmony, if only they had a Coke, but it just isn’t realistic. Idealism of that sort is lovely, but the trouble I see with it, is that people then can’t see or understand that there are bad people doing bad things in this world, always has been, always will be. Some people just like to kill others, some people just like to watch people suffer; that’s fact. It’s not changing because lots of people wish it would or think it should. It’s not changing, period. Everyone is not the same, every culture/religion/ideology stands for and against something different; by the nature of standing FOR something, you must stand against something else, and as long as that is going on . . . well, it’s obvious, there will be conflict. Hell, the people who dream of a utopian world clash all the time with those who don’t agree that it’s possible, but they don’t even see that as indicative of the impossibility of their deam. Or maybe they just want to wipe anyone who doesn’t see their view off the planet? But no, that wouldn’t be peaceful and loving and good, now would it?

    Okay, now I’m all blah blah blah! LOL. Great comments, Heyman, thanks!! :))

  16. Of course, Wyatt, I agree with you, and I think the legal knowledge you bring to the table is impressive and enlightening, thank you!! I’m not sure that it’d be such a good thing to turn back history, I mean a lot mistakes and horrors occured because of too swift and too harsh treatment of purported enemies and “commies.” I wouldn’t want that to be the atmosphere again, nor would I be happy knowing that my country didn’t learn from its mistakes and history (brief though it might be). I wish there were some way to balance out the extremes of violence and nonviolence, but neither side is willing to consider the merits of the other side’s position, and BOTH have merits, I think. A dialogue would be nice. But that’s my own utopian ideal, huh?

    Thanks for your ever-great comments, Wyatt!! :))

    Good point, River, and I think a lot of people do pay attention to their surroundings; I see it all the time on the commuter rail and in the city–plus there are always announcements reminding us to be on the lookout for anything suspicious . . . who can hear these and not realize the significant changes that have occured? A lot of people it seems. Too bad. The announcements used to remind us to throw our trash in the garbage can and not on the ground or leave it in the cars, now they remind us to report suspicious persons or lone bags and knapsacks. Um, I guess that’s an indicator that all is not sweetness and light in the world, in our country? Thanks for your comments!! :))

  17. Well, you can only look back and say it all was a mistake because no one will ever know what would have happened had it not been done that way. I mean, you can criticize the Patriot Act today, but no one can say that without out we would not have been attacked. You can certainly say we have not been attacked though without it.

  18. I think a lot of people thought it was a mistake to round up Japanese Americans and put them in interment camps, and I think a lot of people thought the McCarthy hearings were exactly the wrong-headed witch hunts they were. At least a lot of people were speaking out against these things. I guess I just feel there must be a line somewhere in the middle, between hugging and sobbing as we sway to Kumbya and sip a Coke and harrassing and imprisoning and/or executing everyone up who doesn’t look, act, and think as we do. I just don’t get how these bizarre extremes can’t be seen as the bizarre extremes they seem. (oh, God, I’m sounding like Dr. Seuss again . . . a sure sign I’ve been online too long!! LOL). Huggs and much respect as always Wyatt. :))

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