My wife headed to Washington, D.C., Tuesday for a Homeland Security meeting to discuss potential changes in the test given to immigrants wanting to become citizens. As has been the case each of the many times she has traveled during the past two years, she was taken aside and given special attention by airport security.

Indeed, she, I and her two young adult children always get the metal-detecting wand passed over us and our luggage opened no matter which airport we’re departing from, no matter what our destination. On my last flight, two months ago, I was searched three times, including an extra wanding as I was boarding the plane in Portland, Oregon.

This comes as no surprise. Because of civil rights, antiwar, pan-Indian and other disputatious activities over the past 40 years, I have a fat FBI file (obtained via the Freedom of Information Act). Moreover, my stepchildren lived in Libya with their father for all but a few months of their growing-up years from 1981-2001. Although both are American citizens, they (and we) have obviously made it onto The List.

Although I am no fan of large chunks of the Patriot Act and despise the Administration that now enforces it, I’m happy to do my part to make everybody safer. Before 9/11, I used to be amazed at how lax U.S. airport security was and how relatively strict places like London and Singapore were. So it wouldn’t disturb me to be selected out of the queue for an extra look-see and a tiny bit of inconvenience at the airport … if, that is, Homeland Security were doing its job on other fronts.

But it’s not.

Despite all the money poured into that new mega-department, even its own computers aren’t secure
For the fourth year in a row, most federal agencies have received low grades for failing to protect their computer networks from hackers and other cyberterrorists, according to a computer security report card issued today by the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology. The subcommittee released its report [December 8].

The Department of Homeland Security was one of eight agencies that received a grade of F for its network security efforts. In 2002, 13 agencies received a failing grade. …

"Obviously, the fact that the federal government has moved from an overall score of F to D and 14 agencies showed improvement in their scores is a positive sign," said Bob Dix, the subcommittee's staff director. "However, Chairman [Adam] Putnam is still disappointed that there is not more progress being made, faster."

Dix said the fact that there are still eight agencies with failing grades is troubling to Putnam, who believes the issue hasn't been given the priority it deserves.
And, that ain’t all.

As David Niewert points out over at Orcinus, we’ve found more weapons of mass destruction in the hands of domestic terrorists than in Iraq, yet our government’s efforts to stop another Oklahoma City are haphazard at best:
It's been largely speculation, up until now, that domestic terrorism is not a significant component of this administration's "war on terror." But in its handling of the Texas cyanide bomb case, it's becoming especially apparent that this is precisely the case…

But what's really problematic is the kind of intelligence-gathering gap this lack of communication actually represents. Certainly it raises questions about how thoroughly, and with what energy, the current investigation is being pursued. It's especially important to determine whether there are more of these bombs out there, as several of the news reports so far have suggested. …

Notably, this is the second such case already this year, and both have been cracked due to sheer blind luck. Another would-be domestic-terrorism attack was recently prevented because relatives and friends grew concerned. One has to wonder how long we're going to stay lucky.
While our government flouts international law and common sense with its handling of the non-POWs at Guantanamo and expends tens of billions of dollars and hundreds of American lives in Iraq, its anti-terrorist activities at home are sometimes, to put it charitably, downright pathetic:
Documents naming Winchester [Virginia] as one of 10 potential meeting places for suspected domestic terrorist conspirators were found a year ago, but most local law enforcement officials did not know about it until Thursday.

Federal officials first discovered that Winchester could be a meeting place for home-grown terrorists after a Tennessee State Police trooper found documents listing 10 cities along interstates in the eastern part of the United States during a January 2003 traffic stop.

The driver, William Krar, 62, of Noonday, Texas, has since pleaded guilty to a chemical weapon charge and is connected with illegal weapons and white supremacist and anti-government literature - and federal officials believe other conspirators may be at large, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The list in Krar's car included Winchester and Roanoke; Harrisburg and Scranton, Pa.; Chattanooga, Bristol, and Knoxville, Tenn.; Jackson, Miss.; and Shreveport, La.

One year later, local law enforcement officials are in the dark.

"I have received no information from anyone prior to this that Winchester was a designated meeting area for terrorists," city Police Chief Gary W. Reynolds said on Thursday. "This particular incident, if true, certainly needs to be fixed."
While the prospect that my wife or children or I will be flying somewhere seems to put TSA officials on yellow alert, and while foreign tourists are being fingerprinted, large quantities of air cargo passes into the country without so much as a second glance. In addition, gargantuan amounts of freight are still coming into American ports every day, most of it uninspected. Some 75% of the U.S. ports, ferry terminals and fuel-chemical tank farms, as well as 5000 American ships, failed to meet their December 31 deadline for submitting maritime security plans showing how they will deal with terrorism threats.

When the range of terrorist targets is so broad and the potential weapons so diverse, the difficulty in obtaining our security without compromising our liberty cannot be underestimated. In truth, we can never be wholly secure. But, as is typically the case in this Administration on so many issues, when it comes to security, we’re receiving a lot of talk, a little bit of action and oodles of unfunded and underfunded mandates.

Frankly, even while they’re running the wand under my arms or asking my stepdaughter to remove the metal hairclips from beneath her hijab scarf, I don’t feel much safer than I did on September 12, 2001.

Take the Poll:

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Thu Jan 15, 2004 at 04:08 PM PST.


Do you feel safer from terrorists now than you did two years ago:

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