Monday, December 06, 2004

Group Wrap Up

We choose to create a homeland security blog for several reasons. We had very little prior knowledge on the subject and as concerned citizens we realize the vital role the DHS plays today and will play in the future. We thought it would be an important topic in the months surrounding the election. It was also an excellent medium to express ourselves and exchange ideas about the DHS. By having several contributors, we were able to bring together different points of views on homeland security. The flexibility and access to each other's ideas really helped develop the topic as a whole more effectively.

At the beginning of the project, we sought to shed light upon the department's spending policy, effectiveness, and current plans. It seems like the DHS is surrounded in secrecy, and as a relatively new department that is still growing, it still needs to grow and change. Keeping up with the changes also teaches us about how politics and the government really works as we see this Department develop. Near the end of the project, it seems like we have completed our goals and learned more about the DHS than we expected.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Farewell Tom Ridge

As Tom Ridge steps down and a new Homeland Security Secretary moves in I think it is important to look back on all the good things that ridge and the DHS have done in their three years of existence. Much of this blog has been devoted to pointing out the shortcomings and failures of the DHS, so I would like to take this time to brag on it a little bit.

Tom Ridge was given arguably the most difficult job that a man has ever been given under some very uncertain circumstances. He was asked, after one of the two most gruesome attacks on US soil, to not only prevent this from every happing again and to educate the American people with sending them into a panicked frenzy. Whether you attribute it to luck or hard work and insight or maybe both, Ridge has done this. America has not been attacked since 9/11 and I can confidently say that I am more aware of the threat now then I was three years ago.

Sure the DHS has some problems and some kinks in the system but that is to be expected from a brand new cog in a very elaborate government. The DHS has been forced to completely restructure several parts of the US government, including the CIA and FBI, and for my money they have done a pretty good job. The terror alert level has not been raised in over a year and I think that most Americans are starting to feel safe again. And so to Tom Ridge I say Job well done and to the next guy, whoever you may be, I hope you can pick up where Ridge left off and continue to work out the kinks and make America safe again.

Saturday, December 04, 2004


An important topic has been brought up, and that is how much privacy should be given up in order to ensure that our country is secure? No person, American, European, or elsewhere in the world is comfortable with the idea that the government could be following them around, that their personal information is in computer systems and all of this being done pretty much without their knowledge or consent. It's an unnerving thing to think about. The main question is whether or not this is all necessary to maintain a safe country. I believe, to an extent, that it is. We, as Americans, need to have faith that our government is not going to use our information against us and trust them to make proper use of it. Giving up some rights for the good of the country is not going to hurt that much. After the pass of the Patriot Act, where the government can listen into phone calls and the like for key phrases, many people have felt that their privacy has been invaded.

The government is not using this to track everyone in the United States. General citizens should have nothing to worry about. If you are not planning a terrorist attack on the country or know information about any future attacks, then the government isn't going to keep following you around. If you have nothing to hide, then why not let the government get information about you. It shouldn't be a big deal. Privacy can be given up to keep the security of our country, so I think its a good idea to keep information on the people flying on US airlines, especially people who are foreign.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Homeland Security Timeline

There was an article in USA Today on Dec 1 that had a timeline of a bunch of homeland security events ranging from the departments inception to present day. This was extrememy interesting because by tracing the different programs implemented over the years, one can gauge the effectiveness as well as the impact of this relatively new government department. Many of the topics have to do with checking airports and seaports, monitoring imports and stuff. I guess this is pretty effective, but from what I gather, if someone still wanted to smuggle something dangerous, they could still do it. This indicates a lack of effectiveness in the department.

I feel that instead of focusing on preventing items from entering America, resources could better be spent defending against the resources that do get brought in. It would be fairly easy to create a prioritized target list of plaecs terrorists are likely to strike then slowly build up defenses such as shelters, improved rescue facilities, etc.

THe link is from lexus nexus and can be found here

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Privacy Rights

I feel that the proposed plan of the TSA is borderline insane. There are many ways to check on terrrorist activity aside from querying every single person around. There have been countless cases of innocent civilians being detained, or even charged with crimes, for resembling--closely or loosely, it doesnt even matter--suspected terrorists, people they dont even know for sure to be a threat. This seems to be focusing lots of resources on what is a veritable needle in a haystack search. Except in this case, there might not even be a needle, or there might be and it moves around and changes, or disguises itself to look like hay.

What I am trying to say is that this is a criminal waste of resources, not to mention unnecessary violation of privacy and I think that it is an extremely poorly thought out plan.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Thoughts on the Ready Campaign

Daniel’s response to the article on the teaming up of the DHS and the Ad Council in support of the Ready Campaign seems logical. While the campaign encourages parents to talk with their children about natural disasters and other emergency situations, there is no set safety procedure for a terrorist attack. The Ready Campaign may have sparked communication between parents and their children, but it lacks convincing evidence that we can be safe during a terrorist attack.

Just like the nuclear scares of the latter part of the 20th Century that drove many to build fall-out shelters, I believe that the government is trying to convince America that there are ways to remain safe from terrorist attacks. Contrary to popular belief of the time, there was no way to remain safe from a nuclear attack, and there are little ways to remain safe from a terrorist attack. Safety is directly proportional to the amount of time a person has before a disaster strikes. A tornado, hurricane, flood, or even fire often provides time to prepare; a bomb does not. And since most of the terrorist attacks we are accustomed to happen within a split second, I am skeptical to believe the government has a solution.

The Ready Campaign seems more like a “filler” for the DHS—something for public relation’s sake. I seem very critical of the plan, but that is only because I was angered to see how much money does not go to good use by the DHS. If the DHS can prove to make the Ready Campaign effective, I may be eating my words. Until then, I think this will be another belly-up disaster—I mean failure.

Privacy vs. Security

Grants article about the proposed plan of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) poses an interesting question. How much privacy should be limited or taken away in the name of better security? I completely understand the European nations’ concerns that this new act would be in conflict with their existing privacy laws; however, I also realize the importance of airline safety in the aftermath of 9/11. I think that the line between privacy and security is an interesting balance that must be carefully looked at when making any decision such as this. My only hope is that US citizens will not sit back and allow the government to completely strip them of all privacy in the name of security because that would be a very sad existence.

In respects to current problem I think that is important for the governments of all parties involved to sit down and hash this thing out because right now the only losers are the airlines. If they follow the new regulations European nations will fine them and if they don’t the US will fine them. The biggest problem that I see in this how situation however, is that it seems as if the US government is being very secretive. If they release some actual details about the proposed plan other then just the broad overview that they have given us it could dispel a lot of the fears held by Europe and myself. This is one of the many problems currently plaguing the DHS.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

New Meaning to the Term: "Check-In"

Legal questions in Europe, U.S. surround passenger screening program

The Transportation Security Administration has proposed a new plan that may violate the privacy of those who fly commercial airlines. “Secure Flight” is an operation that was recently instituted by the TSA, a division within the Department of Homeland Security, that demands the personal information of flyers so that it can be compared to the information of suspected terrorists. While many airline corporations realize the need for such actions, there are rising concerns in Europe that the operation may break European Union privacy laws.
When I first read of the news, I agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union that the Secure Flight test may violate a law that states the DHS can not spend money to use commercial databases until the Government Accountability Office has reviewed the plan. I feel that this would just add to the idea of an overbearing government that is suppose to stand for freedom. Privacy is a right to those who live in America; it seems that since 9/11 our freedom of privacy has been overtaken by safety concerns.
Here is a case where the government is doing what is best. By examining flight information, they will be able to track potential terrorists. The government is already capable of accessing more personal information than most people realize. I would certainly not want to step foot on an airplane unwarily with a person that has intentions of doing something destructive. If this new order by the TSA can prevent such things as that, I am all for it. This may also lead to the location of larger groups of terrorists--where they live and where they meet. The benefits of the TSA’s plan will far outnumber the bad effects. This is a simple program that will ultimately increase safety for the nation with making little noticeable effect on every day lives.