by Frances Edstrom
I guess you could say things have improved in the first decade of the twenty-first century. In G.W. Bush’s first year in office, 3,000 American civilians were killed by a handful of terrorists. In Barack Obama’s first year in office, a terror attack on an airliner bound for the U.S. was narrowly averted.
But ask yourself what has improved. Certainly not the U.S. intelligence community’s ability to act quickly and effectively. That prize goes to the civilian citizens who ride airplanes and helped thwart the Crotch Bomber’s plan to blow them to smithereens. Both President Bush and President Obama famously declared that the “system” failed. The difference between then and now is that an enormous ($40 billion or so) portion of the budget supports Homeland Security, and an equal or even greater amount (about $43 billion) goes to the office of the Director of National Intelligence. These are new items in the budget created since 9-11. Don’t forget that the CIA has a budget, too, but it’s a secret.
A mere week before the Crotch Bomber’s attempt, Dennis C. Blair, Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, wrote in the Washington Post: “It has been famously argued that information is power and, therefore, should never be shared. The Sept. 11 attacks showed the fatal flaws in that logic. Our nation is becoming safer every day because we are aware that information increases in power only when it is shared. Our mission is a fully integrated intelligence community, and there is no turning back. My most urgent priorities are to permanently instill this new culture and to use every tool at my disposal – from joint duty to recruitment and communications – to build a generation of intelligence leaders for whom this culture is business as usual.”
Sharing intelligence would be a good idea. Citizens are urged to report suspicious activitiy, but when they do, are sued for discrimination and made to pay to defend themselves (the flying Imams controversy).
But what have we done with our Homeland Security budget? Every senator and congressman had to get a piece of it sent home. The result is new equipment and bigger budgets doled out to police and firefighters in the largest cities to the smallest hamlet. Unfortunately the effect has very little to do with Homeland Security and everything to do with job security for our esteemed elected officials.
What effort has really gone into streamlining the intelligence gathering capabilities of the U.S.? Nothing you would read in the press indicates that Congress is doing anything other than shoring up votes at home by grandstanding to various fringe constituencies as to how intelligence is gathered (waterboarding?) or how we treat prisoners (Gitmo?), not whether we are able to actually gather intelligence and share it in time to avert another terror strike.
In the meantime, even if our fellow Americans have not lost lives to these terrorists, our military continue to do so, and to the crudest weapons.
Civilian citizens daring to travel on airplanes, who have been the heroes in the War Against Terror, are rewarded with more airport screening, more delays and less freedom. For what?
Until Washington and its many gobbling politicians, agencies, and czars actually get to work and use the cheapest weapon against terror of all — common sense — Americans are forced to take care of their own security, and are becoming reminiscent of the little Dutch boy who saved his country by sticking his finger in the leak in the dike.
He forces back the weight of the sea
With the strength of a single arm!
He listens for the joyful sound
Of a footstep passing nigh;
And lays his ear to the ground, to catch
The answer to his cry,--
And he hears the rough winds blowing,
And the waters rise and fall,
But never an answer comes to him
Save the echo of his call.
THE LEAK IN THE DIKE
by Phoebe Cary (1824-1871)