One of the enduring criticisms of the DHS is that its sprawling bureaucracy effectively thwarts its stated objectives, namely, protecting US territory from terrorist attacks and responding to natural disasters. Napolitano unwittingly admitted as much in her address. For instance, she named two specific individuals arrested for terrorist activity over the last two years: Najibullah Zazi, arrested in 2009 for plotting to attack the New York City subway system and Faisal Shahzad, who attempted to explode a car bomb in Times Square last year. In neither of these cases was the DHS responsible for thwarting the attack. Zazi was thwarted by the FBI and the NYPD. Shahzad, on the other hand, was able to actually park his faulty car bomb in Times Square, which was noticed by a local vendor when it malfunctioned. Napolitano described the DHS as follows:
At the Department of Homeland Security over the last two years, we've seen some extraordinary progress and hard work pay off. But that could not have happened without the dedicated, professional men and women of this great Department, like the nearly 50,000 Transportation Security Officers who work tirelessly, and often thanklessly, to deter and prevent terrorist attacks on passenger planes; the more than 20,000 Border Patrol agents who put their lives on the line to protect our borders; the more than 10,000 officers and investigators who enforce our immigration laws, and bring to justice those who seek to traffic drugs, arms and people; the more than 40,000 men and women who serve in the United States Coast Guard protecting our maritime borders; or the thousands of scientists and engineers working on the next generation of security technology; the security guards at government buildings; the trainers of our law enforcement professionals; or the intelligence analysts working around the clock to stay ahead of emerging threats.Apparently unaware of the irony, she then goes on to state that DHS has failed to detect nearly 80% of terrorist plots in the United States over the last decade. She continues:
But the homeland security enterprise extends far beyond DHS and the federal government. As I said, it requires not just a "whole of government," but a "whole of nation" approach. In some respects, local law enforcement, community groups, citizens, and the private sector play as much of a role in homeland security as the federal government. That is why I like to say that "homeland security starts with hometown security." . . . A study just last year study found that, between 1999 and 2009, more than 80 percent of foiled terrorist plots in the United States were thwarted because of observations from law enforcement or the general public.So, according to Napolitano, local law enforcement, community groups, citizens, and the private sector play as much of a role in homeland security as the federal government, but more than 80% of foiled terrorist plots in the United States were thwarted because of observations from law enforcement or the general public rather than the DHS. The secretary then states that this is the reason why DHS has nationalized the "If you see something, say something" campaign, and begun to recruit a nationwide network of citizen spies. The success of that program was made abundantly clear just the other day outside a Wal-Mart in Kirksville, Missouri. From the Kirksville Daily Express:
A report of an armed man acting erratically in the Wal-Mart parking lot Wednesday led to the store being temporarily locked down before Kirksville Police responded to and defused the situation with no injuries. KPD responded to control the scene and ordered a lockdown of the store both to keep shoppers in and prevent the individual from entering the store.Given the predictability of such incidents, it may be the case that Napolitano's suspicious activity reporting initiative is actually little more than a ploy to attract Facebook friends. She continued in the speech:
After identifying the vehicle and person in question, Hughes said a decision was made on the scene for police to attempt contact . . . No weapon was found and the individual was taken into custody without incident less than 20 minutes after police arrived on scene. The individual was talking on a cell phone at the time of the incident. It's likely that is the object the passerby identified as a gun. [Emphasis added.]
Both the "If You See Something, Say Something" and SAR initiatives have been designed, and tested, with civil liberties and privacy in mind. Both are aimed at identifying suspicious behaviors and increasing our shared ability to protect the country.
Today, we’re also premiering several additional resources to better connect citizens and communities with the kinds of information and tools that DHS offers. I urge you to visit our new "Hometown Security" resource page on DHS.gov, and to stay connected via the Department’s new Facebook page as well.
How many taxpayer dollars have thus far been wasted in the DHS Facebook-friend campaign? We might never know, but at least it provides a forum for the public to confront the abuses of the DHS. Here is a short selection of the top comments responding to Napolitano's address on Facebook:
As one later commenter noted, gotta love the freedom of speech. The hubris of the Department of Homeland Security ensures both that it will fail in its mission and that its policies will result in a dangerous erosion of civil liberties and individual privacy. The reason for this is quite simple: the DHS has set for itself an impossible goal inconsistent with its original mission, and far exceeding any organization's actual capacity. Napolitano: "Our goal, quite simply, is to ensure the safety of all travelers and cargo as they travel across the globe."