Time to Eliminate the Department of Homeland Security
In response to the 9/11 attacks, the US government created the Department of Homeland Security, a cabinet department whose actual need was, and continues to be dubious at best. And nine years after its creation, DHS has done little to increase safety while implementing policies that constantly threaten individual privacy and civil liberties. At The Washington Examiner, Gene Healy makes the case for abolishing DHS:
…in a new study, my Cato Institute colleague David Rittgers makes a provocative and compelling argument for going much further. He argues that, 10 years after the Sept. 11 attacks, it’s time to abolish the Department of Homeland Security.
Rittgers sees particular danger in DHS’ grant programs, under which the department has ladled out some $34 billion to states and localities since its inception.
The talismanic properties of the phrase “homeland security” enable politicians “to wrap pork in red, white and blue in a way not possible with defense spending,” Rittgers argues. “Not every town can host a military installation or build warships, but every town has a police force that can use counterterrorism funds.” As a result of the “gold-rush pathology” encouraged by the grants — to offer just one example — the midsize town of Grand Forks, N.D., now “has more biochemical suits and gas masks than police officers to wear them.”
The issue isn’t simply waste. DHS largess often threatens civil liberties and privacy in ways that garden-variety pork does not.
Over the past decade, homeland security grants have been used in an apparent attempt to turn Main Street America into a London-style Panopticon, funding security cameras in sleepy hamlets nationwide. And, as investigative journalist Radley Balko notes, DHS handouts also further a burgeoning culture of police paramilitarization, funding armored personnel carriers for such “unlikely terrorist targets” as the towns of Adrian, Mich., and Germantown, Tenn.
All this has done very little to enhance public safety — not that you’d learn that from the agency itself, which is especially resistant to using cost-benefit analysis. In 2006, a senior economist at DHS admitted, “We really don’t know a whole lot about the overall costs and benefits of homeland security.”
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