DHS fairy tale is cheap rip-off of Alice in Wonderland
By Bill Conroy,
Posted on Thu Sep 6th, 2007 at 09:59:29 PM EST
Surprise, surprise…. The Department of Homeland Security is a mess. That’s what a new government report says. But then Narco News predicted this outcome some three and a half years ago, not too long after the new mega-bureaucracy was rolled out in 2003 to protect the “homeland” in the wake of 9/11.
But back then, no one in the government, or the agenda-setting media, was listening. DHS was as American as apple pie, and so they were eating it up with the flag waving high overhead.
But today things are different: the president is a lame duck with lame ratings and the Congress has hopped from an elephant to a donkey. So now, more than four years into the mess that is DHS, we are finally starting to find that the pie was made from some bad apples.
Hence, even the Washington Post is willing to print a story pointing out the obvious:
Hobbled by inadequate funding, unclear priorities, continuing reorganizations and the absence of an overarching strategy, the Department of Homeland Security is failing to achieve its mission of preventing and responding to terrorist attacks or natural disasters, according to a comprehensive report by the Government Accountability Office. The highly critical report disputes recent upbeat assessments by the Bush administration by concluding that the DHS has failed to make even moderate progress toward eight of 14 internal government benchmarks more than four years after its creation.But if only the Washington Post and other agenda-setting media would have been on the ball, or had the balls, years ago, (before the “These colors don’t run” bumper stickers began to fade) to apply a more critical eye to DHS, maybe the disaster that followed Hurricane Katrina could have been mitigated — or at least a bit of substance might have been advanced over image.
… In one of its harshest conclusions, the 320-page document states that the DHS has made the least progress toward some of the fundamental goals identified after the 2001 attacks and again after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005: improving emergency preparedness; capitalizing on the nation's wealth and scientific prowess through "Manhattan project"-style research initiatives; and eliminating bureaucratic and technical barriers to information-sharing.
… "It's a very damning report," said Michael Greenberger, director of the University of Maryland's Center for Health and Homeland Security and a Justice Department official in the Clinton administration. "If you look at these grades, nearly one-third fall into the lowest category, and among those third are critically important, almost foundational tasks upon which the others rest."
On the DHS hype front, and as yet more evidence of the shallowness of the media agenda setters, Narco News reported on Sept. 1, 2005, as the hurricane aftermath disaster was playing out (and as CNN’s Anderson Cooper “was really affected by the bodies” along the Gulf Coast) that DHS’ U.S. Customs and Border Protection seemed to be more interested in the click of the camera than in the fate of the victims:
The crews for three U.S. Customs Blackhawk helicopters stationed at Crestview Airport in Florida are "livid" because they have not been directed to provide full-time support for the ongoing hurricane-relief effort in the nation's Gulf Coast region, according to Mark Conrad, a former regional Internal Affairs supervisor for U.S. Customs. Conrad says instead of helping people left desperate in the wake of Katrina's wrath, the Blackhawks actually were slated to transport a CNN news crew to take video shots of those people.If only the Washington Post and CNN had read Narco News, or at least chosen to pursue a less arrogant path and not dismiss the results of Narco News’ investigative reporting, maybe we would have given the democracy a fighting chance to work before so many lives were lost.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection leadership in Miami is behind the press-play strategy, Conrad says.
And the warning signs were there, published way back in early 2004, in the form of a serialized online book focused on the former U.S. Customs Service, which has since become a major component of DHS.
From that book, published only by Narco News:
Some 22 agency puzzle pieces have been brought together to form the Department of Homeland Security. However, blending the diverse cultures of these various federal agencies — and their nearly 200,000 employees — into a cohesive operation is likely to take years. As a result, it is useful to pay attention to the cultures of the affected agencies, as it may offer insight into what the future holds for the nation in terms of homeland security. To that end, this book is an exploration of the culture of one of those agencies: the U.S. Customs Service.But then the Washington Post and CNN were not the only media agenda-setters who sucked on the teat of a clever Administration spin machine — causing them to miss the train-wreck that is DHS.
… Customs is like a fast train on bad track. We can be content with attaching the agency to a bigger bureaucracy — the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — in the hope that somehow that will solve the problem. But that’s like adding more cars to the train; it will only make the train do more damage when it does crash.
“If you simply paper over the problems of these agencies and shove them into a new department (DHS), the underlying problems will still exist,” stresses Ron Schmidt, who is the attorney handling the Hispanic Customs agents’ class-action lawsuit.
A Nov. 4, 2004, Narco news reporter’s notebook points out that reality:
Bamboozled by the myth of a `free press' Between February and May of this year, Narco News published online, chapter by chapter, a book called Borderline Security: A Chronicle of Reprisal, Cronyism and Corruption in the U.S. Customs Service. The book was the culmination of a multi-year intensive investigation into the dysfunction and racism that pervades this nation’s federal law enforcement agencies. In particular, the book focuses on problems within U.S. Customs, which is now part of the Department of Homeland Security mega-bureaucracy.But the fact remains that Narco News deemed the project important enough the publish, despite the fact that the mainstream book-publishing giants couldn’t quite see their way to doing the same.
... This may all sound like sour grapes, because Borderline Security, my book, didn’t merit the attention of the mainstream book-publishing world. There are some who will spin it that way no doubt, because it’s easier to blame the messenger. But, consider for a moment, if it’s not the messenger, then it might be the message that is preventing this book, or another book like it, from seeing the light of day in the world of the mainstream press.
Following, from the November 2004 reporter’s notebook, are some of the excuses advanced to explain their hesitation:
THE REJECTIONS Random House Publishing GroupWhat vision, what courage.
Thanks so much for giving me a chance to consider Bill Conroy's Borderline Security for Ballantine. Mr. Conroy is a strong writer…. Unfortunately, I just don't see this as having a wide enough scope for us to really break it out in this crowded market….
The Perseus Books Group
Many thanks for sending me Bill Conroy's proposal for Borderline Security. While Conroy has dug up some damning evidence about the US Customs Service, I have to say I don't really acquire in this area of investigative journalism, and I don't think Basic Books would be the most suitable house for it.
Kensington Publishing Group (Pinnacle, Zebra books, Citadel Press)
I've had a chance to read your proposal for Bill Conroy's Borderline Security ... and I'm afraid I'm going to pass. While I like it, it would be difficult to put on our nonfiction list.
Thomas Dunne Books (a division of St. Martin’s Press)
Thank you for sending me the proposal for Bill Conroy’s Borderline Security. I have no doubt that it will be a very interesting book; however, I’m afraid that it’s not quite right for my list.
Penguin Group USA
I'm returning Borderline Security by Bill Conroy. There's some chilling information here, but I think it would need to be a hardcover, and our hardcover program is not large enough at this time to do this sort of book.
Thanks so much for the chance to read Borderline Security by Bill Conroy. This is a comprehensive, intelligent investigation, and Mr. Conroy clearly knows that which he writes. But, ultimately, I'm just not convinced there's a wide enough audience for a book-length work on the subject of U.S. Customs Security, so I don't think I've got the vision you're looking for.
Thank you for sending us your proposal and sample chapters of Borderline Security: A Chronicle of Reprisal, Cronyism and Corruption in the U.S. Customs Service, which takes on a large U.S. governmental agency with vigor and intelligence. It takes courage and persistence to write such an expose. Unfortunately, despite the book's interesting subject and the dedication of the author, we do not feel that it would fit into our present publishing plans.
But still, the spin will continue, as the Washington Post reports:
At a hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee yesterday, Secretary Michael Chertoff sought to preempt the GAO's findings, saying the Bush administration has "unequivocally" made the nation safer since 2001 and deserves credit for the absence of another strike on U.S. soil.
It’s the favorite reasoning of the defenders of dysfunction. But to me, it’s a logical fallacy intended to mislead — a line right out of Alice in Wonderland:
If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?
Isn't that what Chertoff is saying: "everything would be what it isn't" (if not for DHS and Bush)?
The probelm is, and Alice knows this deep down inside, outside the rabbit hole, you can’t prove that because something did not happen it would have not happened anyway — even without DHS' existence.
But it’s convenient for DHS’ leadership to throw up that Wonderland smokescreen to avoid taking responsibility for the bloated bureaucracy’s dysfunction — and the real harm it has already caused.
Maybe its time for the “brave guardians” of our free press who regurgitate and spew this spin to sit down with a copy of Alice in Wonderland and digest that “contrary wise” illogic — along with some humble pie.