Thursday, February 9, 2012

Safety and Security

Independence Avenue in Washington, DC, is one of the city’s main arteries, running from the Potomac River up to the Capitol and beyond. The Department of Agriculture is there, the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, and the HEW building. It’s also the site of a number of the Smithsonian’s museums: the Freer, Air and Space, American Indian, Hirschhorn and others.

None of the government buildings are open to the public. You need passes, badges, proof of employment. There are large, 3-foot-tall concrete blocky impediments alongside one side of the avenue, designed to prevent angered motorists from driving their cars in the buildings’ lobbies.  The museums have metal detectors and guards who, if you set off the detectors (belt, shoe buckle, and for all I know tin ears) will wave their magic wand before clearing you for entry. 

In other words, the bad guys have won: security measures and traffic blockages have become so commonplace in our nation’s capital that we hardly notice them anymore. On Capitol Hill on a bright winter day, there were more cops than tourists. The former were everywhere, riding motorcycles and bicycles, on foot and in squad cars, and this on a day when Congress was in recess.

The problem of course, is that we’re now in a chicken-and-egg situation. Have all these measures really deterred the bad guys? Or are the bad guys not that interested in wreaking havoc in Washington, finding it cheaper and more expedient to blow up their own citizens in the Middle East?

There’s very little accounting in security work—it’s taken for granted that the more we take (possibly non-existent) threats seriously, the better we are.  Although once in a while it’s reported in the media that some deluded citizen has been arrested for trying to send money to a terrorist group in some unfortunate war-torn semi-nation, we do not get a monthly report on the actions of the various tax-funded governmental security groups. In fact, we don’t even know how many groups there are.

According to an article in the Washington Post, “The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.”

A quick count comes up with the following:

·                        National Security Council--Foreign relations and activities of foreign terrorist factions
·                        Council of Economic Adviser--Economic response and recovery from terrorist attacks
Direct Intervention & Prevention
·                        Department of Defense - Provide direct military response
·                        Federal Bureau of Investigation - Locate and arrest terrorists inside US and coordinate with international law enforcement agencies
·                        State Department - Negotiate with foreign countries - preserve coalition against terrorism
·                        Treasury Department - Locate and freeze funds of terrorist groups
·                        Coast Guard - Patrol U.S. ports and waterways
·                        Immigration & Naturalization Service - Patrol borders, controls entry into the US by foreign nationals
·                        Customs Service - Locate & seize smuggled weapons, explosives, biological weapons, etc.
·                        Drug Enforcement Agency - Control drug trade (drug trafficking known to be a source of funding for terrorist groups)
Intelligence/Information Gathering
·                        Central Intelligence Agency - Gather terrorist information in foreign countries
·                        Federal Bureau of Investigation - Gather terrorist information inside USA
·                        National Security Agency - Intercept all forms of terror-related communications
·                        Defense Intelligence Agency - Coordinate intelligence efforts of military branches
·                        National Reconnaissance Office - Launch and monitor surveillance satellites
·                        Special Operations Command - Gather information on terrorist locations and defenses
·                        US Space Command - Monitor US and Canadian airspace
·                        Treasury Department - Gather information on worldwide terrorist financial assets
·                        Securities and Exchange Commission - Detect stock trading in support of or related to terrorist groups
Preparedness & Recovery
·                        Federal Emergency Management Agency - train and equip local emergency service providers - coordinate all federal recover efforts
·                        Office for Domestic Preparedness - Train local fire and medical responders
·                        National Guard - Provide local security - Assist in recovery efforts
·                        Joint Forces Command - Reserve Units - Provide military support to local agencies
·                        Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms - Train local agencies in explosives handling
·                        Centers for Disease Control - Identify and isolate cases of bioterrorism-related disease
·                        Department of Health & Human Services - Assist local agencies respond to large-scale acts of bio-terrorism
·                        Environmental Protection Agency - Respond to acts of chemical warfare
·                        Nuclear Regulatory Agency - Protect nuclear facilities - respond to radiation-related attacks
·                        Agriculture Department - Protect safety of food supply, crops and livestock
·                        Food & Drug Administration - Provide information on and testing of bio-terrorism disease medications - monitor safety of food supply
·                        Transportation Department - Ensure the safety of US transportation system
·                        Veterans Administration - Provide backup hospital space and medical treatment
·                        National Infrastructure Protection Center - Protect critical computer networks

Now mind you, these are entities that do not belong to the Department of Homeland Security.  Feel any safer now?

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