Congressional Republicans, who 13 long years ago helped create a dumb massive federal "homeland security" bureaucracy, vowed this week that they'll keep it operating only if Barack Obama takes a harder line on immigrants to America. There's a simple solution here: Keep immigration open, and let the bureaucracy wither.
At issue is continuing funding for the Department of Homeland Security. The House GOP today passed a bill that will give the department the money it needs to stay open—$40 billion—but that would also overturn Obama's executive orders last year to make work authorization easier for immigrants and to reduce deportations of children brought to the U.S. without documentation.
Senate Democrats vowed to stop the bill, but for the wrong reasons:
Republicans are picking an unnecessary political fight that risks shutting down the Dept. of Homeland Security and endangering our security.
— Senator Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) January 14, 2015
Reid agrees with leading Republicans. "I know there's a lot of consensus on our side that the last thing we need to do is to do something to jeopardize the security of our own citizens," Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told Reuters.
But is there a consensus that floating the Department of Homeland Security keeps American citizens out of jeopardy?
As a veteran, government employee, and defense reporter over the past two decades or so, the most direct contact I've had with the DHS is letting its employees wave a wand over my junk in an airport. There's one memorable exception. In late 2007, I attended the wedding of one of my then-fiancee's university friends. I struck up a conversation with another college friend of theirs, a conservative blue-blood from Northern Virginia. She had worked in George W. Bush's reelection campaign, and after his victory had been rewarded with a senior planning job in the Homeland Security headquarters.
"Nice," I said. "What do you do?"
"Well..." she stammered. "I can't talk about a lot of it. But it's, uh, like, subways and trains..."
"You mean infrastructure protection?"
"Uh, nah, it's just, ah... like, blueprints and stuff... subcontractors... security companies..."
Over the course of 15 minutes, it became apparent that she didn't know what she was paid upwards of $85,000 a year to do. It seemed to involve handing more money over to more people to do something.
She's now a homemaker with an SUV and an Old City townhouse; her husband, a former GOP lawyer, works for a federal environmental department and brags about summarily rejecting citizens' and journalists' Freedom of Information Act requests. Both share Benghazi-related material on Facebook and complain that the federal government is too large.
We fund DHS, and DHS theoretically protects us from dangerous threats. Like levee-busting hurricanes, theoretically. Or bombs at marathon finishing lines, theoretically. Or mass-shooters, theoretically. Or cyber-attacks, theoretically.
The Department of Homeland Security sends its state and local partners intelligence reports with little meaningful guidance, and state reports have sometimes inappropriately reported on lawful meetings...
The Department of Homeland Security, for example, does not know how much money it spends each year on what are known as state fusion centers, which bring together and analyze information from various agencies within a state...
The DHS has given $31 billion in grants since 2003 to state and local governments for homeland security and to improve their ability to find and protect against terrorists, including $3.8 billion in 2010...
The DHS also provides local agencies a daily flow of information bulletins.
These reports are meant to inform agencies about possible terror threats. But some officials say they deliver a never-ending stream of information that is vague, alarmist and often useless. "It's like a garage in your house you keep throwing junk into until you can't park your car in it," says Michael Downing, deputy chief of counterterrorism and special operations for the Los Angeles Police Department.
Homeland Security is now the third-largest federal cabinet department, behind the Pentagon and the VA. Larger than State. Than Treasury. Housing and Urban Development. Commerce, Labor, Agriculture, Interior, all that. Ask America to take a selfie, and the first thing you notice is its commitment to looking all tough and military with security and shit. More rockets' red glare, less amber waves of grain.
But mostly, politically connected nitwits pulling down six figures to something something safety something infrastructure terrorists something. It's nice to know that Republicans and Democrats alike are equally committed to ensuring nothing endangers the American public's financing of this nitwittery, upon which the safety of our republic very clearly depends.