Free Markets, Free People

DHS


How inept is big government?

I think the signs are clear that most of big government displays varying degrees of ineptness, from slightly to completely.  And over the years, the entire scale of government has moved relentlessly to the “completely” side of things.

Here’s a simple example of why few have any trust in government and even fewer believe what it says anymore.  In this case it has to do with security and immigration.  It has to do with basic competence.  It has to do with following and enforcing the law.  And it also has to do with a department of government which has done none of those things:

The Homeland Security Department has lost track of more than 1 million people who it knows arrived in the U.S. but who it cannot prove left the country, according to an audit Tuesday that also found the department probably won’t meet its own goals for deploying an entry-exit system.

The findings were revealed as Congress debates an immigration bill, and the Government Accountability Office’s report could throw up another hurdle because lawmakers in the House and Senate have said that any final deal must include a workable system to track entries and exits and cut down on so-called visa overstays.

The government does track arrivals, but is years overdue in setting up a system to track departures — a goal set in a 1996 immigration law and reaffirmed in 2004, but which has eluded Republican and Democratic administrations.

“DHS has not yet fulfilled the 2004 statutory requirement to implement a biometric exit capability, but has planning efforts under way to report to Congress in time for the fiscal year 2016 budget cycle on the costs and benefits of such a capability at airports and seaports,” GAO investigators wrote.

Why has it eluded both Republic and Democratic administrations? Basic incompetence coupled with bureaucratic resistance. A combination which leads to ossification – something we see more and more of as government grows more vast and inept. Also note that many of the problems we suffer today are of government’s making. Certainly if we have a means of logging arrivals into the country, having a system that tracks their exit just couldn’t be that tough to do. And DHS has had the mandate to do that since … 1996. 17 years. 17 years and nada.  Result?  We have no idea how many foreigners we have illegally in this country right now.  But they can track a Pakistani Taliban for days on end via drones.

Of course none of this should surprise anyone, because the federal government isn’t now nor has it ever really been that interested in enforcing immigration laws. When it does do so it is almost by whim.

Like I said, this is just one example of the legion of examples where big government exacerbates problems by being inept or just intransigent (or both) in the execution and enforcement of laws.  Executive departments really don’t pay that much attention to either the law or Congress.  And, as usual, there are no consequences for doing so.  The department charged with homeland security during a war on terror has lost track of a million foreigners that have traveled to this country.

And no one seems to care.

~McQ


$3.4 billion for new DHS headquarters

One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is governments at all levels building expensive monuments to itself.  From local city halls and county administration buildings to Washington DC, governments spare no expense in ensuring they have the very best in terms of buildings to house them. And, it appears, the Department of Homeland Security is not to be denied either:

Washington notables broke ground on the future home of the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday, symbolically starting construction on the biggest federal building project in the Washington area since the Pentagon 68 years ago.

The project will bring together more than 15,000 employees now scattered in 35 offices in the region, placing them on a 176-acre campus strewn with historic buildings in a long-neglected corner of Washington, five miles from the Capitol building.

Department leaders hope the $3.4 billion consolidation will help the department fulfill its core mission — protecting the homeland — in ways big and small.

“It will help us hold meetings,” Secretary Janet Napolitano said. “It will help us build that culture of ‘One DHS.’”

“It will help us hold meetings.” That’s the best she can come up with (I mean, with today’s technology, I guess virtual meetings are just too much work)? And when I read about her hope of building a culture of “One DHS”, I saw an image of my freedoms flitting out the window while a band play “Deutschland Uber Alles”.

By the way, the site on which this building will be built is the former site of an insane asylum.

I love irony.

~McQ


Terrorism in Arizona? Does anyone know about this?

I find this story to be fairly astonishing.

We’ve talked about immigration policy before and we’ve certainly noted the Federal government’s outright refusal to enforce our nation’s laws concerning some illegal immigrants.  But what about those legally here and in violation of the law or deemed a threat?

Wasn’t that supposed to be the breaking point, the point at which this administration would step in and take action?

So what’s with this:

Back on Sunday I broke the news here at PJ Media of the arrest of Abdullatif Aldosary in connection with the bombing of a Social Security Administration office in Casa Grande, Arizona, last Friday morning. I noted that while the bombing and Aldosary’s arrest had received local news coverage, there was a virtual blackout by the national media on the Iraqi refugee’s identity.

Yesterday I reported on details provided to the federal court on Monday during Aldosary’s initial court hearing, which included information on what was found when the FBI conducted a search of his Coolidge, Arizona, home last Friday night. Among the items recovered was a bomb-making manual that had been hidden behind a photograph on the wall. Also discovered were an AK-47 and a 9mm Ruger handgun, along with more than a thousand rounds of ammunition. Kerry Picket at the Washington Times also reported that they recovered several gallons of chemicals typically used in bomb making.

When authorities checked Aldosary’s bank statements, they found he had more than $20,000 despite the fact that he was a convicted felon, only worked as a day laborer, and had no visible means of supporting himself sufficient to warrant having that kind of balance.

Sounds like a terrorist doesn’t he?

Well, that’s where the “bombshell” comes in:

But a bombshell report came out today based on information obtained by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who had received a request from Aldosary in November 2011 for assistance in obtaining a “green card.”

According to today’s news report, the Department of Homeland Security responded to Gosar’s request on behalf of Aldosary last year by saying that he was ineligible for a change in status because of “terrorism-related grounds of inadmissibility”.

So DHS knew about this guy last year and yet he was still in this country?

Yes he was and last Friday he attempted to blow up a Social Security office.

As you might imagine Gosar wants to know why:

Gosar said DHS responded by saying Aldosary was not eligible for a permanent change to citizenship “pursuant to the terrorism-related grounds of inadmissibility, and that “individuals who engage in terrorism-related activity … are barred from receiving various immigration benefits.”

DHS did not elaborate on what the activity was. Gosar wrote that to be barred from permanent status, under federal law the immigrant must have engaged in activity “indicating an intention to cause death or serious bodily injury, a terrorist activity; to prepare or plan a terrorist activity; to gather information on potential targets for terrorist activity” or belong to “a terrorist organization” among other actions.

In light of the Casa Grande bombing, Gosar questioned why Aldosary was not detained and processed for deportation in November 2011, after it was determined he had engaged in terrorism-related activity.

The bombing happened about a block away from Gosar’s office.

“But for the grace of God, no one was injured in the bombing,” Gosar wrote.

Gosar also asked what efforts were made to track and monitor “a known terrorist.”

Of course this is all happening after the freaking guy bombed a building!

Where was DHS in all of this?  Why was this guy still wandering around?  Why hadn’t he been immediately deported?

And why in the hell isn’t this all over the news?

~McQ


DHS monitoring the internet … er, so?

There’s a tempest in a tea pot brewing right now that I’m not sure I understand.

The story from Reuters:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s command center routinely monitors dozens of popular websites, including Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, WikiLeaks and news and gossip sites including the Huffington Post and Drudge Report, according to a government document.

A "privacy compliance review" issued by DHS last November says that since at least June 2010, its national operations center has been operating a "Social Networking/Media Capability" which involves regular monitoring of "publicly available online forums, blogs, public websites and message boards."

The purpose of the monitoring, says the government document, is to "collect information used in providing situational awareness and establishing a common operating picture."

The document adds, using more plain language, that such monitoring is designed to help DHS and its numerous agencies, which include the U.S. Secret Service and Federal Emergency Management Agency, to manage government responses to such events as the 2010 earthquake and aftermath in Haiti and security and border control related to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Let’s see … a department that has the job of “homeland security” monitoring open source internet venues to collect information in order to maintain situational awareness.

Wow.  For some reason I’m underwhelmed.  My goodness, haven’t we seen shots of various command centers over the years with split video screens showing Fox, CNN and MSNBC?   They’re good sources of immediate information that help those engaged in all sorts of rather benign activity (disaster relief?) keep abreast of breaking news. 

Why all the hyperventilating over something that is and has been fairly routine for all sorts of agencies over the years?  

Look, everyone here knows I’m not a fan of big intrusive government, but what would you do here, ban the department from gathering information and intelligence from sites that are open to everyone else?   Should we also ban them from “monitoring” the NY Times and Washington Post.

Oh, and by the way, this isn’t news.  As the Reuters story claims, this has been going on since June of 2010.  And guess who broke the story then?  The Volokh Conspiracy.  As Stewart Baker points out:

The story is that people at DHS are, gasp, browsing the Internet. As I said then, there’s no scandal, other than the electrons wasted by DHS agonizing over the privacy implications of browsing public Internet sources to find out what’s happening in the world.

And if it was a nonstory in February of 2010, what does that make it in January of 2012?

Actually, it’s a lesson — that both the mainstream media and the blogosphere are doggedly overreporting anything that could be deemed a privacy violation by government, especially DHS.  If you only followed these things casually, you’d be sure that DHS was constantly violating Americans’ rights, and reports like this would be a key bit of evidence.  But when you give the “story” a little scrutiny, all you find is an agency that needs to know what’s happening in an emergency and that is looking at public social media sites for information, just like the rest of us.  There’s no privacy issue there at all, despite the heavy breathing and the headlines.

Or perhaps before crying wolf, one ought to take a breath and get into the details of the story.  There are plenty of things to concern one’s self with other than this non-story.

For instance:

U.S. officials told the New York Times that they’re “looking closely” at Shabab’s use of Twitter and their options for legal and other responses. Separately, Sen. Joe Lieberman (@JoeLieberman), Chair of the Homeland Security Committee, called on Twitter to shut down the Taliban’s accounts.

Other Western governments have also turned against Twitter. British Prime Minister David Cameron (@Number10gov), for example, raised the prospect of banning Twitter during social disturbances, following its use by rioters in the U.K., and Mexican prosecutors have accused Twitter users of terrorism for spreading false rumors that have led to real-life violence.

An Israeli legal advocacy group, Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center, has separately threatened Twitter with legal action for hosting the Shabab and Hezbollah accounts. Who will win in court is unclear: It’s a First Amendment versus providing services for terrorists toss-up.

And:

US Representatives Darrel Issa (R-CA) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced a bill into the House of Representatives in mid-December that would roll back the National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy, which mandates that any published research that was funded by the federal science agency be submitted to the publically accessible digital archive PubMed Central upon acceptance for publication in journals. The bill, H.R. 3699, would also make it illegal for other federal agencies to adopt similar open-access policies.

The legislation, referred to as the Research Works Act, is being applauded by the Association of American Publishers, a book publishing industry trade organization that claims the NIH policy and others like it undercut the scientific publishing business, which seldom receives federal funds. “At a time when job retention, US exports, scholarly excellence, scientific integrity, and digital copyright protection are all priorities, the Research Works Act ensures the sustainability of this industry,said Tom Allen, president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers in a statement.

Want to get your britches in a bunch, there are two stories that should help wad them up.  Censoring Twitter (and that’s precisely where all of that is headed) and making opaque research which you, the taxpayer has funded to help a crony profit?  Now both of those are worthy of condemnation and outrage.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Why is Janet Napalitano still Secretary of DHS?

Tim Cavanaugh wonders if her latest utterances (not much different than her previous ones) are enough to finally get her fired?  I don’t know, but to say I have no confidence in her abilities would be an understatement.  Every time she has opened her mouth to comment on a security situation, she’s been wrong.  As Cavanaugh notes, that’s a reason to be concerned:

But it’s more than a joke because not all the people making those wildly wrong claims about Shahzad’s background and motivation were pundits or minor potentates like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The “one-off” attack line came from the highest official in the American government charged with preventing attacks exactly like Shahzad’s: Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

It was her department which released the confidential memo, essentially a republishing of the scare-mongering Southern Poverty Law Center’s dubious assessment of supposed right-wing hate groups, in which DHS warned against “returning veterans” being a threat.  It has appeared, at least to many, that she is more concerned about the possibility of a domestic, right-wing problem than facing the facts that the recent threats and failed bombing attempts have all come from international Islamic terrorists.

This is an obvious politicization of her office. (Napolitano’s favored targets — health care protesters and disgruntled veterans — are distinguished not by their propensity toward violence but by their opposition to the administration.) But if you believe in the necessity of a Department of Homeland Security, every day Napolitano is in charge of it creates an actual risk to life and property. Napolitano has a positive burden of proof: She needs to demonstrate some understanding of how to do her job, or she needs to be fired, for the security of the United States and the safety of the American people.

I have to agree – at every opportunity she’s downplayed the real and emphasized that which hasn’t materialized yet. She seems, like much of the left, to be obsessed with the possibility of domestic right-wing violence with little or no evidence of its existence.  That speaks to me as politicizing the problem based on an agenda.  We don’t need a politically driven hack in the highest domestic security position in the nation.  Perhaps it’s time for President Obama to say “heckofa job, Nappy” and help her transition into a less demanding profession – that of a retired politician, or perhaps a political science professor at a backwoods college somewhere in the NorthEast.

~McQ


Department Of Interior SWAT Teams Dispatched To The Gulf?

A massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has prompted a large coordinated response from the owner of the rig, BP, and the U.S. government. President Obama addressed the issue in a short speech yesterday where he said:

Earlier today, DHS Secretary Napolitano announced that this incident is of national significance and the Department of Interior has announced that they will be sending SWAT teams to the Gulf to inspect all platforms and rigs. And I have ordered the Secretaries of Interior and Homeland Security as well as Administrator Lisa Jackson of the Environmental Protection Agency to visit the site on Friday to ensure that BP and the entire U.S. government is doing everything possible, not just to respond to this incident, but also to determine its cause.

I was immediately puzzled when I first heard this yesterday. Why on Earth would the DOI have SWAT (“S”pecial “W”eapons “A”nd “T”actics) Teams? What exactly would they need them for, and why would they be dispatched to “inspect” oil rigs in the middle of the Gulf? I was not alone in my puzzlement:

In an odd turn, Obama announced he’d be sending SWAT teams out to all oil rigs and platforms in the Gulf to inspect them, as pointed out by RealClearPolitics. We’re not sure what a Special Weapons And Tactics team is going to do on an oil rig but we’re pretty sure it’ll make good fodder for Tom Clancy’s next book.

I have to believe that Obama was being colorful in his language instead of literal. I checked the DOI website and could find no announcement about “SWAT teams” or any mention of such teams whatsoever. So, it must be the case that the man whose speeches cause tingles to run down the legs of newscasters, oceans to recede, and Nobel Prizes to fall from the sky simply misspoke.

One interesting thing to note is that DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s declaration of the oil spill as an incident of “national significance” brings the whole mess within her Department’s purview. That of course allows all sorts of resources not otherwise available (i.e. money) to be employed in the cleanup, but it also raises the question as to what exactly the limits of the DHS are. Apparently they are quite willing to spend gobs of money and effort (and possible deploy SWAT teams!) to tackle an invasion of viscous minerals upon our southern shores, but are completely uninterested in doing anything about an invasion of vicious criminals upon our southern border, other than to challenge the right of individual States to defend themselves. Perhaps Arizona should spill a bunch of oil along the border and see what happens.


Is This A Proper Use Of A Government Web Site?

What do you think? This is an official U.S. Government Web site managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The purpose of this particular page is obviously purely political:

Dear Mr. President,

We strongly support your commitment to comprehensive health reform.

This is not a luxury. The continuing, sharp escalation of health care costs for families, businesses, and government is unsustainable. Reform is imperative.

We believe that health reform must be enacted this year.

Reform is needed to help America’s families struggling with rising costs and those who are losing their insurance. At the same time, real health reform is crucial to keeping American businesses competitive in the world economy and for the country’s long-term economic viability. As our country faces economic challenges, the time for reform is now.

We support health reform that follows these principles:

* Protect families’ financial health
* Assure affordable, quality health coverage for all Americans
* Provide portability of coverage
* Guarantee choice of doctors
* Invest in prevention and wellness
* Improve patient safety and quality of care
* End barriers to coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions
* Reduce long-term growth of health costs for businesses and government

During these extraordinarily challenging times, we need to put aside past differences and address the health and economic crisis. Our shared interest must come before narrow interests so we can achieve a health system that is affordable and provides high quality for all Americans. We will support your budget with its reserve fund dedicated to achieving health care reform in a fiscally responsible manner. Each of us must be prepared to contribute to achieving this fundamental goal.

By signing this statement we affirm our commitment to work with you and our Congressional leaders to enact legislation this year which provides affordable, high quality coverage for all American

Is that what official government websites are for – ginning up petitions to support pending legislation that support a president’s political agenda?

I don’ t think so.

~McQ


Department Of Homeland Security Reacts

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano reacts to the uproar over the, and I use the phrase very loosely when referring to it, “analysis and intelligence” report released by her department on “rightwing extremists”:

The primary mission of this department is to prevent terrorist attacks on our nation. The document on right-wing extremism sent last week by this department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis is one in an ongoing series of assessments to provide situational awareness to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies on the phenomenon and trends of violent radicalization in the United States. I was briefed on the general topic, which is one that struck a nerve as someone personally involved in the Timothy McVeigh prosecution.

Let me be very clear: we monitor the risks of violent extremism taking root here in the United States. We don’t have the luxury of focusing our efforts on one group; we must protect the country from terrorism whether foreign or homegrown, and regardless of the ideology that motivates its violence.

We are on the lookout for criminal and terrorist activity but we do not – nor will we ever – monitor ideology or political beliefs. We take seriously our responsibility to protect the civil rights and liberties of the American people, including subjecting our activities to rigorous oversight from numerous internal and external sources.

I am aware of the letter from American Legion National Commander Rehbein, and my staff has already contacted him to set up a meeting next week once I return from travel. I will tell him face-to-face that we honor veterans at DHS and employ thousands across the department, up to and including the Deputy Secretary.

As the department responsible for protecting the homeland, DHS will continue to work with its state and local partners to prevent and protect against the potential threat to the United States associated with any rise in violent extremist activity.

A couple of points – if what we saw is the level of intelligence the department is gathering and is indicative of the sophistication of the analysis it sees fit to publish, we are all in very deep trouble. That is one of the worst products I’ve ever seen produced by an agency anywhere, and I’ve read hundreds of intelligence analysis in my time. No specifics, vague and over-generalized threats, and nonsensical reasoning were its hallmark. That was my primary problem with it. As I pointed out, half of America, to include the news media, falls under their “rightwing extremist” umbrella.

Secondly, as the commander of the American Legion so aptly put it, the report resorted to a “casual defamation” of all soldiers with its claim that they were likely to be recruited by right wing hate groups. So yeah, she needs to meet with him and she needs to apologize for that ‘casual defamation’ and also admit that the product that was sent out was, to be kind, a piece of crap.

~McQ


You Might Be A Right-Wing Extremist If …

With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy, the Department of Homeland Security has apparently decided it is necessary to warn the nation’s law enforcement agencies about a new and growing threat – right-wing extremists.

For instance, you  might be a right-wing extremist if you’re a member of any groups:

“…that are dedicated to a single-issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration …”

The report, entitled “Right-Wing Extremism – Current Economic and Political Climate Refueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment”, doesn’t mention whether those who are on the left and dedicated to single-issues, such as support for abortion or unlimited immigration might be extremists as well.

You can read the report here. (pdf)

David Weigel of the Washington Independent has trouble understanding the right-wing outrage this report sparks:

Seriously, though, I struggle to find anything wrong in a close — not a willfully obtuse — reading of the report.

Well maybe it’s the little things, David – like the apparent belief by DHS that any problem brewing domestically will occur only on the right. And perhaps it is implication that soldiers are likely to succumb to the draw of radical right-wingers:

Returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to rightwing extremists. DHS/I&A is concerned that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities.

Of course they have to go back to the early ’90s and Timothy McVeigh to substantiate this claim. Apparently they’ve been unable to find any more recent possible problems on which to pin their caution. And of course they also use as intel a claim made on a white-supremacist web-site which claimed (without any proof) that “large numbers of potentially violent neo-Nazis, skinheads, and other white supremacists are now learning the art of warfare in the [U.S.] armed forces.”

Well, there you go!

My favorite “you might be a right-wing extremist if” moment came with this little tidbit from DHS:

Rightwing extremist chatter on the Internet continues to focus on the economy, the perceived loss of U.S. jobs in the manufacturing and construction sectors, and home foreclosures.

The “perceived loss of US jobs?!” Heh … well I guess we won’t need all of that ‘stimulus’ money for unemployment if they’re only perceived losses, huh? But look at the topics – “extremist chatter” focuses on “the economy … jobs … and home forclosures?” Heck, then half the news media is extremist. And we here at QandO fall into that camp. And that’s with a less than obtuse reading of the sentence above, wouldn’t you say, Mr. Weigel?

And of course, DHS covers guns, gun laws and the current gun buying spree in a rather amusing way:

Open source reporting of wartime ammunition shortages has likely spurred rightwing extremists—as well as law-abiding Americans—to make bulk purchases of ammunition. These shortages have increased the cost of ammunition, further exacerbating rightwing extremist paranoia and leading to further stockpiling activity.  Both rightwing extremists and law-abiding citizens share a belief that rising crime rates attributed to a slumping economy make the purchase of legitimate firearms a wise move at this time.

So when you buy that gun and ammo, which is it? Is it because you’re a paranoid rightwing extremist or a law abiding citizen who thinks such a purchase is a “wise move at this time”? Only DHS knows for sure. But if you’ve happened to write about the “perceived loss of US jobs”, the economy or “home foreclosures” on the internet and are a military veteran, I imagine you can figure out into which category you fall (heh … me included).

And don’t you dare be a state’s rights guy who believes that the federal government should respect the 10th Amendment:

Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely.

In all, DHS is convinced that the economic downturn along with the “historic Presidental election”, code for “hey, we elected a black guy”, ensures a return to the ’90s and the rise of skin heads and militias.

By the way, you weren’t supposed to know about any of this.

LAW ENFORCEMENT INFORMATION NOTICE: This product contains Law Enforcement Sensitive (LES) information. No portion of the LES information should be released to the media, the general public, or over non-secure Internet servers. Release of this information could adversely affect or jeopardize investigative activities.

In reality it contains a bunch of warmed over nonsense, conjecture and unsubstantiated cites from anonymous websites. But remember, don’t tell anyone in the media about this BS passed off as “Intelligence and Analysis” because if they ever got wind of it they’d conclude there was very little analysis or intelligence on display in the document – and we wouldn’t want to embarrass DHS, would we?

Hope and change.

~McQ

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