In this post 9/11 world with the 2012 Department of Homeland Security budget at over $56 billion at what point can we be certain that we are safe?
Aside from the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Department of Homeland Security is the largest employer in the United States. According to the Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Request by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, The FY 2012 budget is $57.0 billion in total funding, $47.4 billion in gross discretionary funding and $43.2 billion in net discretionary funding.
I have no issue with the amount of money requested or the fact that DHS has 230,000 employees; so long as they properly do what they were tasked to.
As explained on their website the DHS has gone through some changes over the past ten years,
Eleven days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge was appointed as the first Director of the Office of Homeland Security in the White House. The office oversaw and coordinated a comprehensive national strategy to safeguard the country against terrorism and respond to any future attacks.
With the passage of the Homeland Security Act by Congress in November 2002, the Department of Homeland Security formally came into being as a stand-alone, Cabinet-level department to further coordinate and unify national homeland security efforts, opening its doors on March 1, 2003.
In 2003 22 different agencies and departments were integrated, all or in part, into the single agency now known as DHS. From The U.S. Customs Service (Treasury) to the U.S. Secret Service, all were now tasked with the following mission,
The Department of Homeland Security has a vital mission: to secure the nation from the many threats we face. This requires the dedication of more than 230,000 employees in jobs that range from aviation and border security to emergency response, from cybersecurity analyst to chemical facility inspector. Our duties are wide-ranging, but our goal is clear - keeping America safe.
I have written numerous articles about the lack of National Security we have here in the U.S. and how departments like the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are nothing more than window dressing designed to make the traveler feel safe.
This is not just opinion, this comes from years of study in the counter terror field long before this country was familiar with the term, interviews with law enforcement officials as well as those working the streets to TSA employees and pilots.
We are just as vulnerable today, if not more so, than we were on 9/11 2001.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of the TSA, of children that received humiliating and invasive full “pat downs”. Both children and adults were made to stand up when in wheel chairs. One child, a four year old named Ryan was made to remove his leg braces and walk on his own through security. A former Miss USA, Susie Castillo, said that she was "molested" by a TSA agent at Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport. She claimed her vagina was touched four times.
Then there is the case of Lena Reppert. Mrs. Reppert is 95, and was traveling to say her final goodbyes to her daughter in what would most likely be her last flight. Battling leukemia for over eight years, doctors had said she didn’t have much time to live.
According to reports, TSA agents singled her out because she was in a wheelchair. During a “pat down” in a private room the agents found that Reppert was wearing a Depend adult diaper. She was given two options; either don't fly, or lose the Depend.
We have gone from taking away grandmothers’ nail clippers to taking away their diapers.
So how are we safer? According to those that should know, the Department of Homeland Security states that there have been 25,000 security breaches at U.S. airports since November 2001. Let me clarify that, since they don’t; 25,000 security breaches that we KNOW about. How many more are they unaware of?
On July 8, an incident occurred when a cleaning employee discovered a stun gun on a JetBlue plane. According to channel 7, WHDH in Boston,
It happened on JetBlue flight 1179, which originated at Logan Airport. In a statement, JetBlue confirmed that Friday night, while cleaning an aircraft in Newark, the crew discovered what they deemed to be a suspicious object in a seatback pocket. The TSA came aboard the aircraft and initiated an investigation into the matter.
A Port Authority spokesperson confirmed that the object was a dangerous weapon -- a stun gun.
“I was really surprised. It’s a pretty big lapse in security if you can get something like that by the TSA at this point,” said Joseph Fasolo.
Earlier in July, a Nigerian National managed to make it through TSA screening and fly cross-country from New York to Los Angeles, using fake IDs and an expired boarding pass. In a separate incident, another passenger boarded a flight without having their boarding pass checked at all.
Another not so heard of incident is even more concerning, this took place on July 8, while Saleh Ali Alramakh, a 21 year old Saudi caused a flight to be diverted to land in Cleveland. As explained by Channel 8, Fox in Cleveland,
The Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, native is accused of causing a disturbance prior to take off of United flight 944 from Chicago to Frankfurt, Germany, last Friday.
Alramakh was permitted to return to his seat, but he was accused of causing additional problems shortly after takeoff.
According to the government, Alramakh was told again to be seated before passengers claim he verbally and physically assaulting a crew member.
At least one passenger helped restrain Alramakh while the plane was diverted to Cleveland.
Three times Alramakh was given a chance to comply. Then, much like the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (the man who tried to detonate an underwear bomb on December 25, 2009), a passenger took down the suspect. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, was also brought down and restrained by passengers.
I hope that during the investigation of this incident the TSA will ask why Alramakh was not escorted from the plane while it was still on the ground in Chicago. Once in the air who do we the passengers rely on for safety, the crew, each other?
It seems as though our so called safety ends after we board the plane. If you are not lucky enough to have an Air Marshall on your flight, you may have a pilot who went through the advanced training to carry a gun. Then again, the pilot is behind a bullet proof reinforced door and is not allowed to open it once inside.
Just yesterday, Sara Gallienne was surprised to find that she had been able to board a plane with a three-inch knife in her carry-on bag not once, but twice. The report in the Daily Mail stated,
Sara Gallienne had not realised the blade was in her luggage until she got home. But that hadn't stopped her successfully carrying it through TSA checkpoints at both Richmond and Providence, Rhode Island.
More frightening was the TSA response to this “breach.” The article continues,
The TSA has seemingly played down the incident saying its greatest focus needs to be on explosives rather than blades.
'We continue to take the discovery of knives and other prohibited items seriously, however, in today's post-9/11 security environment, intelligence tells us our officers' greatest focus needs to be on the biggest threat to aviation security today - explosives and explosive components,' TSA said in the statement.
The TSA specifies that the greatest focus needs to be on explosives and explosive components even though the entire DHS with a budget in the billions was developed due to the hijackings of 9/11 in which all the terrorists used box cutters.
Just Friday of last week a federal appeals court voted against a constitutional challenge to full-body scans in airports. The Wall Street Journal reported,
The court disagreed with the group in a 3-0 rejection of their suit, contending that intrusions on individual privacy must be balanced against the promotion of legitimate government interests.
“The need to search airline passengers to ensure public safety can be particularly acute,” the court wrote in its ruling. Body scanners, unlike other forms of screening technology, are “capable of detecting, and therefore of deterring, attempts to carry aboard airplanes explosives in liquid or powder form,” the court stated.
But the court also determined that the Transportation Security Administration improperly deployed the technology in 2007 by failing to give notice of its plans to the public, according to the WSJ.
The court stated that body scanners are “capable of detecting, and therefore of deterring, attempts to carry aboard airplanes explosives in liquid or powder form”. Last February I wrote about bombs being surgically implanted inside individuals,
According to a January 30th report from MI5, the United Kingdom's counter-intelligence and security agency, Britain and the United States are facing a new al-Qaeda terror threat from suicide “body bombers,” with explosives surgically planted inside them.
This same story just started to come to light again as recently as July 7, when the Daily Mail reported,
Security at airports across the world is to be beefed up because terrorists may be using bombs surgically implanted inside their bodies to try to blow up planes, officials have warned.
But in a bid to foil airport scanners, the militants may have taken the most drastic measures, cutting themselves open and planting bombs within their bodies, leaked U.S. intelligence suggests.
As I have said many a time before, “the counter terror experts and law enforcement have to be right 100% of the time, the terrorists only have to get it right once.”
Next month as I am on flight that I am not looking forward to, I will be relying on the passengers around me as much as they are relying on me. Just another day at the breach.
Friends Of Ours