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Homeland Insecurity
September 11, 2007 6:00 PM   Subscribe

Homeland Insecurity. "What happened to the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which Democratic leaders promised to make one of their top legislative priorities? What are the most deadly potential terrorist targets no one talks about—and who's lobbying against securing them? What's the one measure that could improve our chances of preventing an attack—without costing a penny? Why are the 2008 presidential candidates—Republicans and Democrats alike—nowhere on this issue? In this seven-part series Mother Jones' senior correspondent James Ridgeway examines how the government has let homeland security languish since September 11, 2001, with dire consequences."
posted by homunculus (51 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Who cares? Terrorism fear mongering is even lamer when it's done on behalf of Democrats.
posted by delmoi at 6:03 PM on September 11, 2007


Dire consequences... yes, all those attacks since 9/11/01 in the U.S. that have cost... how many lives? None?
posted by wendell at 6:13 PM on September 11, 2007


You know, I don't think Americans are scared as much as they could be. You need to heat shit up and really super-saturate the fear people.
posted by chunking express at 6:21 PM on September 11, 2007


Who cares?

You do know that the potential danger has not actually gone away? Sure, the current admin has milked it for all it's worth, but those al Qaeda goons would still love to pull more high profile stunts. What is sad is how we have a real issue, but rather than address is for the good of the country the current admin has instead just milked it to increase their own power. It borders on treason how badly they have failed the country.
posted by caddis at 6:21 PM on September 11, 2007


SHIT HAPPENS.
posted by HyperBlue at 6:28 PM on September 11, 2007


One of the things that is really sad about US politics is watching the 'left' struggle for toughness credentials by lining up behind militarist idiots.
posted by pompomtom at 6:41 PM on September 11, 2007 [4 favorites]


Fighting terrorism is not and never was the goal. The real purpose to the fearmongering is tracking and suppressing domestic dissent.
posted by Malor at 6:53 PM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


(for proof, just look at what has actually been done, as opposed to what has been said.)
posted by Malor at 6:54 PM on September 11, 2007


Fighting terrorism is not and never was the goal.

That is just as ignorant as the FOX News rah rah rants.
posted by caddis at 6:58 PM on September 11, 2007


caddis, then why is everything we've done so singularly ineffective at A) protecting us, and B) catching terrorists?
posted by Malor at 7:04 PM on September 11, 2007


You have a better chance of winning the lottery than being offed in a terrorist attack. The more you know *star*
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 7:07 PM on September 11, 2007


TERRORISTS ARE OUT THERE

9/11
posted by blacklite at 7:09 PM on September 11, 2007


singularly? there you go again.

misguided, politically based ? yeah

we could use some "leaders" who actually care about the whole country instead of just their own political party, but it isn't like they didn't try at all. To say that is just sophomoric.
posted by caddis at 7:10 PM on September 11, 2007


Sigh.

Thousands killed every year in cars, and you're worried about terrorists?

Hint: If you're afraid of terrorists, they've already got what they need -- the whole point is to cause terror.
posted by eriko at 7:10 PM on September 11, 2007


Blame the Democrats. They have enough votes to do whatever they want. Right?
posted by stbalbach at 7:18 PM on September 11, 2007


but those al Qaeda goons would still love to pull more high profile stunts.

As would some home-grown goons.
posted by homunculus at 7:19 PM on September 11, 2007


Dire consequences... yes, all those attacks since 9/11/01 in the U.S. that have cost... how many lives? None?

Inside the US, perhaps. Many of us have lost friends and family members in attacks and bombings outside the US, including, it would seem necessary to point out, American citizens.

But I understand the point here is attacks withinUS borders (or the lack thereof, since 2001), so fair enough, I guess.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:22 PM on September 11, 2007


Hint: If you're afraid of terrorists, they've already got what they need -- the whole point is to cause terror.


Sigh, omg you are just too cool and blasé for words.

The current admin has so overplayed the threat that many on the left just think it isn't even real They are guilty of the same black/white thinking (propaganda) as the admin, it's just that the roles are reversed. The world is gray. Denying the threat is as idiotic as overplaying the threat. al Qaeda is still a threat. Given that, it sure would be nice to see more rational approaches to reducing the threat than "bring it on."
posted by caddis at 7:27 PM on September 11, 2007


Have any of you fearless snarkers actually read any of the articles in this series? Because we're not talking about the kind of transparent fear-mongering we get from the government when they want to keep people distracted, AKA the The Nexus Of Terror And Politics. This series is looking at real vulnerabilities that could easily be exploited by anyone with a bit of commitment and half a brain, regardless of their ideology. And these vulnerabilities have been ignored by the same hypocrites who use the fear-mongering to control people.

The only thing as silly as cowering in the face of baseless fear-mongering is pretending that no threat exists when confronted with real security flaws.
posted by homunculus at 7:42 PM on September 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


caddis, nobody is claiming that there is no threat of terrorism at all. What is sensible to claim, however, is that the threat of terrorism, right now, is substantially less important than, say, making sure you cook your pork to the correct temperature.
posted by odinsdream at 7:44 PM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


dammit, I like my pork pink and this has caused substantial tension in our family, despite our long record of no trichinosis
posted by caddis at 7:46 PM on September 11, 2007


The way I see it, Homeland Security has been a not-so-covert cover for deporting illegal Central and South American 'illegal' immigrants. In the state where I currently reside, Homeland Security is frequently invoked to rid our nation of the the nefarious influence of poor Latino populations. They are our new 'next door neighbor' evils. 'They' are the ones causing drunk driving accidents, robbing our local Quik E Marts and molesting our young. What have you done for me, lately, Homeland Security? Other than deport and divide members of underprivileged latino families?
Top legislative priorities? Seriously? What effective measures have been enacted to truly enforce the dismantling of terrorism and terrorist cells in the United States? Homeland security, in all sincerity, appears to be erroneously applied to those who frequently come to our country simply in search of a better life. Are there terrorist cells here? Without a doubt. Do they means us harm, sincerely? I imagine so. But please do not invoke the hallowed name of 'Homeland Security' to mean anything other than immigration control.
Ack. It's late. I shouldn't even been posting. Homeland Security has always been a bee in my proverbial bonnet, though.
posted by msali at 7:55 PM on September 11, 2007


People will blow you up if they want to blow you up. The key is to not have people who want to blow you up.

Trying to mitigate threats using ridiculous draconian measures only encourages a false sense of safety. Security theatre.

If there are people who demonstrably want to blow you up then the only thing you can do is talk to them. Scary, but true.

I don't think this will ever be taken into account, though. Let's just broadcast more Britney Spears at them and x-ray some shoes. I'm sure they'll get over it.
posted by blacklite at 7:58 PM on September 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


Hint: If you're afraid of terrorists, they've already got what they need -- the whole point is to cause terror.

Terrorists aren't even on my list, personally. I'm more afraid of disease and lightning, which mean not much at all. I mainly get aggravated when I read about how many targets have been left wide open by the same fuckers in charge who use terrorism as an excuse for things like illegal domestic surveillance.

My favorite, though, are the chemical plants which are still vulnerable, thanks largely to the efforts of Dick Cheney's son-in-law. If a chemical plant got hit, I don't think Cheney would be on Fox reprimanding his son-in-law. On the contrary, he'd just use it to roll back more civil rights and probably make up some shit about why we need to bomb Iran.
posted by homunculus at 7:59 PM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


DHS' Failing Grades
posted by homunculus at 8:07 PM on September 11, 2007


Yeah homunculus, I read the articles. I also thought they weren't very good, and not much better than I'd expect from Fox news.

Basically, what we need is good intelligence and good police work. What I mean by that is not the data mining thing, but actual thoughtful investigation. The whole "security flaws" thing seems to be about building higher walls and tighter cages, and not much different than what the President wants to do. If one tenth of the effort we put into attacking the terrorists in Iraq, or checking people's shoes in airports was used towards basic police/intelligence work, I think the threats would be minor, and you wouldn't need all the "security" efforts.

Really this is a bunch of handwaving, and not much new or interesting.
posted by Eekacat at 8:10 PM on September 11, 2007


"What happened to the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which Democratic leaders promised to make one of their top legislative priorities?"

HR 1. 1. How can it be any more of a priority?
posted by ALongDecember at 8:16 PM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm not convinced that terrorists need to hit big targets. We've become such a nation of cowards and gawkers that minor incidents, especially if repeated a couple times, would have us nail-biting, trembling, and capitulating. What might work? drive-bys at the strip mall, SUV's on sidewalks, the old razor-blade-in-the-apple bit made unchimerical, poisoned restaurant ketchup bottles, dragon's teeth on highways, etc. Terror is easy when people want to be afraid, and it's the scary news we love. So "Bring it on, I'm bored."
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 8:24 PM on September 11, 2007


I'm not convinced that terrorists need to hit big targets.

For right now at least that seems to be the preferred target. The audience for al Qaeda attacks is not the West. They know they are not going to change our thoughts through attacks. These are just show for the Islam audience at home. For that show you don't want some wimpy kill ten people attack in some US coffee shop. No, taking down an icon, especially a western capitalist icon, like the twin towers, now that is pure theater. Shop in your mall without fear, fly without fear, live without fear. Yet don't be surprised if al Qaeda, or some similar misfit group, attempts another 9-11 level attack.

I truly believe the whole long war rhetoric is true, but I differ on the level of danger and how to win. As others have said, it is far better to have polices such that these losers don't hate you, are not threatened. That kills recruiting, and frankly it makes sense to be friends with people around the world rather than trying to intimidate them with your political, economic and military might. It's the Christian thing to do also, but then W. is perhaps the Antichrist.
posted by caddis at 8:43 PM on September 11, 2007


City council took a dump on PGW's proposition to build a LNG terminal in Philly's Port Richmond neighborhood. Considering the expert's descriptions of an explosion involving a LNG tanker ship (either accidental or purposeful), it mystifies me that someone would want to dock one less than five miles from a major city's central business district and directly next to a densely populated working class neighborhood.
posted by The Straightener at 8:57 PM on September 11, 2007


You do know that the potential danger has not actually gone away?

Every time I get behind the wheel I put myself in danger. Bad things happen. Some bad things are more likely then others, and terrorism is not very likely at all. So, who cares? Other things are more important, like having a government that doesn't suck.
posted by delmoi at 9:51 PM on September 11, 2007


There are so many bad things in this reporting it's not even funny. I know some of this stuff very well, and this is the second time in a couple of days that I've seen a Mother Jones article on Metafilter that failed at very, very basic fact checking.
posted by niccolo at 11:48 PM on September 11, 2007


posted by wendell Dire consequences... yes, all those attacks since 9/11/01 in the U.S. that have cost... how many lives? None?

Yeah, I guess the Anthrax Mail Terrorist(s) victims don't count. Remember that? Anyone?
posted by fandango_matt at 1:32 AM on September 12, 2007


Yeah, I guess the Anthrax Mail Terrorist(s) victims don't count. Remember that? Anyone?

False flag, or a disgruntled former government employee, perhaps.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:11 AM on September 12, 2007


Caddis, Terrorists don't need to hit any targets anymore. All they need to do is say they will and Americans freak out. In fact, they don't even need to say they'll hit anything. They just need to call each other with a bit more frequency and Americans will freak out.

As Malor has pointed out, everything the current administration has done thus far to "catch terrorists" hasn't actually caught any terrorists -- unless you count al-jazeera cameramen -- but has done a lot to curb American civil liberties.

GO AMERICA!
posted by chunking express at 6:49 AM on September 12, 2007


Yeah, I guess the Anthrax Mail Terrorist(s) victims don't count. Remember that? Anyone?

President Bush called them "a second wave of terrorist attacks upon our country." Then I guess he forgot about them. "Americans... wondered if there was a second wave of attacks still to come."
posted by kirkaracha at 7:29 AM on September 12, 2007


Dire consequences... yes, all those attacks since 9/11/01 in the U.S. that have cost... how many lives? None?
Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
Homer: Oh, how does it work?
Lisa: It doesn't work.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: It's just a stupid rock.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you?
Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:32 AM on September 12, 2007


Honestly now - when W said, "They hate us for our freedoms," how many of you knew his response was going to be getting rid of the freedoms?

Anyone?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:36 AM on September 12, 2007


dammit, I like my pork pink and this has caused substantial tension in our family, despite our long record of no trichinosis
posted by caddis at 7:46 PM on September 11 [+] [!]


The comparison of terrorism and trichinosis is surprisingly apt. In reality, there's less than 10 episodes of trichinosis in the USA annually (it's rare enough that it featured in the first episode of House). And those cases are usually caused by the consumption of wild game, not domesticated pigs. Osama wants you to be afraid of undercooked pork!
posted by mek at 9:48 AM on September 12, 2007


Blame the Democrats. They have enough votes to do whatever they want. Right?

No, actually. They do not have enough votes to override a veto or even enough to shut down a fillibuster.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:29 AM on September 12, 2007


Osama wants you to be afraid of undercooked pork!

Osama wants you to never eat pork.
posted by caddis at 10:30 AM on September 12, 2007


great articles. thanks. the village voice's loss is Mother Jones' gain ...

the backstory of course, is *why* the politicians in power are waiting and hoping for another big attack to use it as an excuse for more militarization.

extranational terrorism (e.g. white supremacists or islamic militarists) should be a police problem, but it needs a national police solution, which we haven't even come close to figuring out.

it's good thing that terrorist attacks in the U.S. are *not* a major threat, but they may be at some point in the future, and we're still not prepared. again, good articles.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:52 AM on September 12, 2007


saw Mos Def speaking on (I think) Bill Mahr, talking about immediate threats vs. more nebulous threats from terrorism (his language was more colorful of course). One of his contrasts was that if some gangbangers are going to shoot you, they don’t keep sending you warnings on videotapes, they just roll up on you and blow you away.
Plenty of models out there for counterterrorism (GSG9 of course) the FBI did a fair job on the El Rukins.
What’s more at issue though, what’s truly dangerous is that the doubt in the legitimacy in law and order is more widespread. And one might say justly so. Taking from Mos Def - there have been many people (black) completely railroaded by corrupt or racist police. Such that many poor black people don’t believe many things the police or government officials say or do and as a result won’t call them when real crime occurs.
This, I think, is of the same order such that the lies occlude any genuine examination of and remedies for the otherwise legitimate (albiet overstated) threat of terrorism.
It’s a very new concept to many better off white folks that their government would lie, fail, and crap all over them on many levels. Ethnicity aside - it was this dichotomy in the perception of government operation that was ultimately revealed by the difference in reaction to the O.J. verdict. For many people it was a shock.*
Similarly, it’s shocking to think the government doesn’t operate in one’s best interests or actively works against the interests of its citizens with impunity particularly in (potentially or actual) life threatening affairs.
Articles like this (while in some particulars factually questionable) show, perhaps not by design, the “impunity” part of this. It can be exposed, politicians can be called on it, there can even be some direct confrontation, but the whole show just keeps rolling along. And there’s the difference between the threats and the acts.

*Hell, it was a shock to me that no one’s balls were on a hook for the Iraq war, so I’m not on a high horse here.
It’s the getting away with it part that is so galling.
(Still got the hook out in my garage tho, so...)
posted by Smedleyman at 1:50 PM on September 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Al-Qaida has revived, extended its influence, and has the capacity to carry out a spectacular strike similar to the September 11 attacks on America, one of the world's leading security thinktanks warned yesterday."
posted by homunculus at 10:29 AM on September 13, 2007


dude, don't choke on all the propaganda.
posted by chunking express at 11:10 AM on September 13, 2007


Mos Def's points (on Real Time) were strong, and they went past mere trust issues. Even if there are credible terrorist threats and even if (big ifs here) they pose a significant threat to a large number of American lives, that threat is still dwarfed by concerns like the War on Drugs, Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, police abuse, etc. that largely target, punish, and kill black people.

If African-Americans could trade the institutionalized oppression they face for a plane crashing into a building annually... well, I'd take that deal, and I'm just a white gay guy. (You'd still be much MUCH more likely to die in a car crash... >40 000 annually in the USA alone)
posted by mek at 11:10 AM on September 13, 2007


Every time I get behind the wheel I put myself in danger. Bad things happen. Some bad things are more likely then others, and terrorism is not very likely at all. So, who cares?

Well, let's say that one particular security feature, if implemented, would cost $10,000 and it would prevent a psycho attack that would cost 100 lives?

The question isn't whether you care or not. The question is, do you go ahead and implement that security feature.

I see people quoting Schneier's phrase "security theatre", but ignoring his other key concept which is that security is a process with a cost. If you "don't care", then you've made a defacto choice about those costs.
posted by storybored at 11:34 AM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you only count monetary costs, storybored, you're already in chains. There are social costs, too; loss of liberty is a central issue.
posted by Malor at 10:07 PM on September 13, 2007


If you only count monetary costs, storybored, you're already in chains. There are social costs, too; loss of liberty is a central issue.

Not every security countermeasure necessarily curtail social liberties. Most bad countermeasures do but good ones shouldn't.

The social cost of locking the doors in commercial airplane cockpits I would guess are minimal.

So would implementing locks on nuclear/chemical warheads so that unauthorized tampering deactivates it.

The absence of good security measures eventually leads to bad security measures. For lack of a locked cabin door....we now have the Dept. of Homeland Security.
posted by storybored at 10:22 AM on September 14, 2007


If one tenth of the effort we put into attacking the terrorists in Iraq, or checking people's shoes in airports was used towards basic police/intelligence work, I think the threats would be minor, and you wouldn't need all the "security" efforts.

If 100% of what you'd spent in Iraq had been spent on bubblegum instead you'd be safer yet.
posted by dreamsign at 11:48 PM on September 15, 2007


I am not up for opening a new thread, although perhaps this is interesting enough for that, but here are some quotes relevant to the our current situation:
"You can support the troops but not the president."--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)
"Well, I just think it's a bad idea. What's going to happen is they're going to be over there for 10, 15, maybe 20 years."--Joe Scarborough (R-FL)

"Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?"--Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99

"[The] President . . . is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation's armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy."--Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)"

American foreign policy is now one huge big mystery. Simply put, the administration is trying to lead the world with a feel-good foreign policy."--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"If we are going to commit American troops, we must be certain they have a clear mission, an achievable goal and an exit strategy."
--Karen Hughes, speaking on behalf of George W Bush

"I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning . . I didn't think we had done enough in the diplomatic area."--Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)

"I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our over-extended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today"--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is."-- Governor George W. Bush (R)-TX
posted by caddis at 12:59 AM on September 16, 2007


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