Homeland Security: Going Places the Government Shouldn’t Go

by Jack Kenny

It’s not a question likely to be asked in a high-school civics class or found in a college textbook, but as a reality check on how government really operates, try answering the following: Which agency, bureau, or department of the federal government exercises jurisdiction over the following matters?

• Tracking down fraudulent Native American art.

• Investigating pickpocketing.

• Teaching children about the dangers lurking on the Internet.

• Warning elderly senior citizens about scam artists.

• Instructing nightclub strippers to beware of sex traffickers.

If you guessed it is the Department of Homeland Security, you could be working for the federal government. The above activities constitute but a partial list of varied activities of the third largest federal department (after Veterans Affairs and Defense), ostensibly created to protect us from acts of terror and natural disasters. Rather than asking how tracking down pickpockets and educating strippers helps America fight terrorism, we might ask how DHS has not yet put preventing jaywalking on its ever-growing list of responsibilities. Then again, maybe it has. The department has done such a thorough job of empire building that no one seems to know exactly what it’s doing, including the DHS officials themselves.

“They have not solved or prevented any terrorist acts in the United States,” Wendell Oliver, a retired Virginia police officer who has written two textbooks on homeland security, told the Albuquerque Journal. “But there is also no evidence they have necessarily done any great harm — other than waste money.” It could be argued that given the type of people and organizations they have put on their “watch lists,” some of the fusion centers have also contributed to a climate of fear and suspicion that could pose a greater threat to the nation’s freedom and stability than the wasteful and duplicative spending cited in studies of Homeland Security operations. But the waste itself is harmful in that it diverts into nonproductive uses dollars that might otherwise be spent defending both security and freedom.

Yet despite its fumbling overreach and ham-handed procedures, Homeland Security is, writes John Whitehead of the civil-libertarian Rutherford Institute, “ruthlessly efficient when it comes to building what the Founders feared most — a standing army on American soil.” Before that “army” grows any larger and Congress wastes more money on it, it should be abolished, with its legitimate responsibilities returned to the parent agencies that make up the DHS. America’s safety will not be diminished and our freedom will be more secure with Homeland Security gone.
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