Chronic insecurity under Bush

The Senate Homeland Security Committee rips the White House for poor performance on implementing key reforms to better protect the nation.

Published June 17, 2005 1:45PM (EDT)

President Bush has gotten a lot of mileage out of talking up the job he's done to protect Americans in the war against terrorism. When it comes to implementing key security reforms, though, his administration has put in a lousy performance. This week, the Senate Homeland Security Committee criticized the White House for missing its deadlines for half a dozen national security reforms that would make the country safer, including imposing stricter port protections and creating a national transportation security plan.

In a letter to White House chief of staff Andrew Card, senators Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn. -- the committee's chair and ranking Democrat, respectively -- chastised the administration for its failure to take action. "In the war on terrorism delay can be a form of failure," the senators wrote, and "the consequences of failure are unthinkable."

According to the Associated Press, the administration also blew its deadlines for increasing aviation security staff, and for funding a civil liberties panel to oversee counterterrorism investigations. The latter has angered civil-liberties advocates, who blame the administration for empty talk about prioritizing the panel, but taking no timely action. Muslim immigrants in America, including a 16-year-old girl, continue to suffer the consequences.

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security is having some administrative troubles of its own. According to an article entitled "Hemorrhaging Money for Homeland Security" in this week's Der Spiegel, the department and its various sub-organizations have been on a two-year spending spree, stocking up on a lot of largely useless inventions that purport to protect Americans.

"To this day, the harbor nuclear detectors are incapable of distinguishing between bombs and kitty litter or bananas, leading frustrated customs officials to simply shut them off," the German magazine reported. "The new $1.2 billion explosives detectors for the Transportation Security Administration, a part of Homeland Security, are equally unreliable."

Despite the fact that the department's 2005 budget is a whopping $50 billion, the article noted that "only four of the Department of Homeland Security's 33 homeland protection programs are considered effective." But department secretary Michael Chertoff isn't letting the private sector's poor track record interfere with doing big business; at a recent meeting of 400 security industry executives, he told the crowd, "We need you to make America a safer place."

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

MORE FROM Page Rockwell

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Homeland Security War Room