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Despite billions and billions spent on security theater and surveillance, in on week, we have seen two horrific explosions that killed or injured hundreds of innocent people:  one at the Boston Marathon Monday and one last night at a fertilizer plant near Waco, Texas. In both explosions, hundreds of innocent people were gravely injured , three are dead in Boston, and the death toll is still rising in Texas. The West Fertilizer plant explosion devastated area buildings including a nursing home, an apartment building, and a middle school.  

These are horrific tragedies, and my thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the communities at large. My niece was running the Boston Marathon, and the explosion knocked my father-in-law to the ground.

Watching these tragedies unfold creates an unsettling juxtaposition with my job, where I witness grave government abuses of power and massive profit-driven waste at the expense of public safety and personal civil liberties.

 

News reports indicate that the West Fertilizer plant

. . . reported to the Environmental Protection Agency and local public safety officials that it presented no risk of fire or explosion, documents show.
As far back as 1972, The Occupational Health and Safety Association (OSHA) has no records of an inspection at the plant, but the preliminary news reports indicate that:
In 2006, the West plant was cited for failing to obtain or to qualify for a permit.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality investigated West Fertilizer in June 2006, after receiving a complaint of a strong ammonia smell.

Agency records show that the person who lodged the complaint said a lingering ammonia smell was "very bad."

Mike Elk of In These Times appeared on Democracy Now this morning to discuss the West tragedy. He said there hadn't been an inspection at the West plant in at least 5 years. Elk also highlighted some troubling statistics: OSHA only has 2,200 inspectors for 8 million workplaces, which means they could inspect every workplace once every 129 years. Elk also pointed out that 4,500 people die in American workplace accidents every year, but OSHA's budget is only $550 million. (Compare that to the tens of billions in the intelligence budget that we spend protecting Americans from other "threats.")

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board announced it will conduct an investigation into the West Fertilizer explosion. The FBI is aggressively investigating the Boston Marathon explosion. However fruitful these absolutely necessary investigations are, they will not bring back those lost in the blasts, nor will they heal the maimed.

While surveillance tapes have been helpful in reconstructing what happened in Boston, the broad surveillance state's apparatus failed to detect or deter the attack. The surveillance state substitutes surveillance technologies - video cameras, GPS-tracking, massive data collection - for traditional, gumshoe police work.

The surveillance industrial complex the U.S. has created, and the civil liberties we have tossed aside in the process failed to detect, let alone prevent, these tragedies.
We do not need to, in the words of former NSA and CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden, "feel safe." We need to be safe.

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