Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Changing Homeland Security: The Year in Review -- 2007

Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Changing Homeland Security: The Year in Review -- 2007

Article excerpt

As New York City and the nation prepared to remember the sixth anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks, the talk started about September 11th fatigue: "a weariness of reliving a day that everyone wishes had never happened."

"I may sound callous, but doesn't grieving have a shelf life?" one person asked. "We're very sorry and mournful that people died, but there are living people. Let's wind it down." 1

That gets my vote for 2007's most startling homeland security story.

One gets startled when something happens one was not expecting. Perhaps I should not have been so surprised.

I spoke with a lot of thoughtful homeland security professionals last year. In December I asked many of them to answer two questions: 2

* From your perspective ? and using whatever criteria you like ? what would you say was a top homeland security-related story or issue in 2007?

* And, in 25 words or less, why?

Their responses present a snapshot of Homeland Security 2007 as captured by people who work with and think about these issues all year. Their ideas remind us of the continuing debate about the meaning, scope, and effect of homeland security. Not every important topic or trend is mentioned. 3 What is cited, however, outlines the still emerging terrain of homeland security.

Intelligence ? arguably the core of preventing another major attack ? was a significant issue in 2007. Several national intelligence estimates and related products revealed more information about "the threat" and about how the intelligence community does its work. Unsurprisingly, the more one knows about this element of the nation's security, the more questions are raised. Can we rely on the accuracy and objectivity of intelligence generated by government? How does intelligence actually help the nation be better prepared? What goes on inside the more than forty fusion centers across the country? Who is watching what they do?

Do you recall Andrew Speaker and what he taught the nation about preparedness?

Did the behavior of James B. Comey (revealed last year) demonstrate anything about ethics, courage, and loyalty in homeland security?

What about the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development trial? Are there any lessons to be learned there about whether the United States Constitution is a "suicide pact" or an effective strategy for making sure the nation remains secure?

Speaking of strategies, have you had the chance to read the "updated" National Strategy for Homeland Security? What did you think about it? What do you plan to do differently because of it?

School shootings, mall shootings, gang shootings, a bridge collapse, wild-land fires, one fake news conference ? are these homeland security concerns? Should they be?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had neither spectacular successes nor dramatic failures in 2007. 4 As the Bush era in homeland security enters its final year, DHS continues to search for organizational coherence. We were cautioned when DHS began in 2003 that it took the Department of Defense half a century to find its coherence. Does the nation have the patience to wait that long?

On the other hand, do most Americans even think about homeland security? We have not been successfully attacked since 2001. Although jurisdictions have to write harder, they still get homeland security grants. Air travelers routinely complain about the Transportation Safety Administration's (TSA) "security theater." 5 Immigration and border security are political fodder. Al Qaeda has "regenerated" its capabilities. While the military part of the surge in Iraq appears to be succeeding, southwest Asia swirls further into disorder. Arrests at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and trials in Miami and Los Angeles raise questions about the nature of a homegrown terrorist threat. 6

In early January 2008, a New York Times editorial castigated presidential candidates for not focusing more attention on homeland security. …

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