Governing Security: The Hidden Origins of American Security Agencies

Governing Security: The Hidden Origins of American Security Agencies

Governing Security: The Hidden Origins of American Security Agencies

Governing Security: The Hidden Origins of American Security Agencies

Synopsis

The impact of public law depends on how politicians secure control of public organizations, and how these organizations in turn are used to define national security. Governing Security explores this dynamic by investigating the surprising history of two major federal agencies that touch the lives of Americans every day: the Roosevelt-era Federal Security Agency (which became today's Department of Health and Human Services) and the more recently created Department of Homeland Security.

Through the stories of both organizations, Cuéllar offers a compelling account of crucial developments affecting the basic architecture of our nation. He shows how Americans end up choosing security goals not through an elaborate technical process, but in lively and overlapping settings involving conflict over agency autonomy, presidential power, and priorities for domestic and international risk regulation. Ultimately, as Cuéllar shows, the ongoing fights about the scope of national security reshape the very structure of government, particularly during-or in anticipation of-a national crisis.

Excerpt

A gray dawn began to break over New Orleans on Monday, August 29, 2005, as Hurricane Katrina ripped into the Louisiana Coast. It was 6:10 a.m. At that moment, as thousands of people stuck in the Crescent City were still scrambling to find shelter from the storm, the winds were powerful enough to make even the waters of the mighty Mississippi River reverse course to flow away from the ocean. Less than two hours later, a barge broke loose from its moorings, smashing into New Orleans’s Industrial Canal. Before long, millions of gallons of water were spilling onto the residential streets of the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish. Upon learning of the breach, the National Weather Service predicted flash floods of up to eight feet of water. The water did not reach the Superdome, where ten thousand refugees had gathered. But the hurricane did. Shortly after the flash flood warning, Katrina tore two holes in the roof of the arena. Elsewhere in the city, water from multiple canal breaches mixed with fuel and industrial runoff. By early afternoon, the breaches were well on their way to placing much of New Orleans under a muddy soup of polluted water, and no fewer than eight Gulf Coast refineries had shut down.

Severe though these consequences were, they did not come as a complete surprise to some public officials. The preceding Friday, three days before Hurricane Katrina struck, Governor Kathleen Blanco had declared a state of emergency in Louisiana. She authorized National Guard commanders to call up to 2,000 reservists to active duty. Governor Blanco ordered an additional 2,000 Guardsmen to active duty the next day. On Sunday, August 28, the state adjutant general, Major General Bennett C. Landreneau, established five task forces to conduct aviation search-andrescue missions, to deliver food, water, and other supplies, and to help the Corps of Engineers repair storm levees. National Guardsmen also helped implement contraflow—the use of all lanes of the highway system for outbound traffic only—by directing traffic and erecting barriers. Not . . .

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