Homeland security? You're kidding, right?
By Alan Caruba
I have been trying to figure out why we haven't had a second 9-11 since 2001. One would think that al Qaeda, to whom is attributed vast intellect, funding, and an invisible international network of operatives, would have delivered a second devastating blow by now? Are we just lucky? Are we more secure?
It took between 1993 when the first bombing of the Twin Towers occurred and 2001 when the really spectacular event imprinted itself on our memory. We may well just be dealing with people who have more patience than we do. Or we may have degraded their capabilities to launch another attack. Or they may be concentrating their focus on Israel as they establish a base in Gaza? Or? Or? Or!
I have no doubt that many dedicated Americans are working in our intelligence and justice agencies to protect our lives, probably having prevented attacks. Critics have said the reorganization of these agencies simply created an even larger bureaucracy. Others say it has enhanced the connectivity needed in a new era of anti-terrorism.
For a long time now I have been thinking about how utterly defenseless this nation is in real terms. To put it another way, if a couple of teenage vandals can break into a Massachusetts town's water supply, we're doomed.
For example, nine million cargo containers arrive at our major ports every year. It is probably impossible to inspect them all, but lucky for us, the Bush administration has just finalized a no-bid contract with Hutchison Whampoa Ltd to use our most sophisticated equipment to detect radioactive materials passing through the Bahamas. Never mind that this Hong Kong company is well known for its close connections with the Red Chinese army and government. (They also own facilities at both ends of the Panama Canal!) Did I mention that a Red Chinese company runs the largest port on the West Coast?
Pretty soon we'll have a similar inspection deal with some nice folks in the Philippines. Who needs Americans guarding the nation when others will gladly do it for us? At least with Dubai Ports, our own people are inspecting cargo debarking from the United Arab Emirates for here. All those other nations in which it operates ports aren't worried and, apparently, neither was our ever-vigilant White House until the deal was widely reported.
To insure that our ports are "secure", your government has embarked on producing a Transportation Worker Identification Credential. I'll bet that makes you feel better. However, as Harold Evans, a contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report noted recently, "We are coming up to the fifth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks and the fourth year since Congress authorized the money. Some $70 million has been spent developing the card if you include the $24 million testing a prototype. So where is it?"
That's why an estimated half million legal and illegal immigrants marching around downtown Los Angeles, waving Mexican flags, barely evoked any reaction whatever in the White House. If we can out-source our security to the Red Chinese, why would anyone think we might actually be worried about eleven million illegal aliens demanding to be U.S. citizens by the end of next week?
Mexico has an even better system in place on its southern border than we do on ours. They don't want competition from other Latin and South American immigrants. When asked, President Bush said he was against amnesty, but is he for stopping these folks from coming here? Is he for sending a lot of them back to Mexico? No way, Jose!
Recently, USA Today ran an article "Brain drain hits Homeland Security" reporting that "top managers and rank-and-file employees" are bailing out. Could it have something to do with the fiasco of last year's Katrina? Could it be that all those separate governmental fiefdoms that have been joined together still don't really get along with one another? Could it be that all the inter-agency politics that existed before is now -- how shall I put this -- worse? Could it be that even the folks at FEMA know how unprepared they are for the next hurricane season?
Could it be we're doomed?
As this is being written, every day countless foreign visitors are arriving at our airports, deplaning, showing their visas, filling out forms, and disappearing into America never to be found again. Most will presumably go home, perhaps after attending one of our universities like that former Taliban spokesman at Yale, or after a nice vacation or a business trip. The problem is we have no system to track any of them.
I have friends who have devoted their lives to emergency management. The good news is that some efforts are being made to improve communications programs and there are lots of first responders training all the time to help the rest of us. As one of them put it, "Somewhere there's a big file cabinet filled with plans to attack us somehow, somewhere." My best guess is that it's in a mud hut somewhere in Waziristan.
Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba 2006
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