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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Center for Immigration Studies Strikes Back



A lengthy report by the Center for Immigration Studies released on March 18, 2010 is titled “Immigration and the SPLC: How the Southern Poverty Law Center Invented a Smear, Served La Raza, Manipulated the Press, and Duped its Donor.”  

The report targets SPLC and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) for their role in an ongoing campaign to fight hate against immigrants and Latinos. According to the new report, “The SPLC’s decision to smear FAIR [Federation for American Immigration Reform] was the work of a kangaroo court, one convened to reach a pre-determined verdict by inventing or distorting evidence. The ‘Stop the Hate’ campaign would more accurately be labeled as a campaign to ‘Stop the Debate.’”

Although highly critical of SPLC’s methodology and motives, the CIS report doesn’t closely examine the details of SPLC’s charge that FAIR is hate group and as such bears responsibility for hate crimes against Latinos. Nor does the report examine the existence of hate groups and hate crimes in relation to the escalation of the immigration debate in this country.

Instead, the CIS reports strikes back at two of the principals in the campaign to delegitimize the immigration restrictionist institutes, including CIS. The new report examines the integrity and credibility of SPLC and the National Council of La Raza, the civil rights group that relies on SPLC research for its “Stop the Hate” website.

According to the CIS report, “Rather than engage in a debate, La Raza and its allies have waged a campaign to have the other side shunned by the press, civil society, and elected officials. It is an effort to destroy the reputations of its targets. It also seeks to intimidate and coerce others into silence. It undermines basic principles of civil society and democratic discussion.”

Written by former journalist Jerry Kammer, currently a senior research fellow at CIS, the report is a must read for those who closely follow the immigration debate.

While making little contribution to our understanding of the virulence of anti-immigrant rhetoric in the public debate, the CIS report offers fascinating observations about the role of John Tanton. The current and historical links of FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA have formed the core of the criticism of these restrictionist institutes by immigrant-rights groups.

The report notes these connections:

“John Tanton founded FAIR in 1979. Six years later he was one of several individuals who were instrumental in starting the Center for Immigration Studies. CIS operated under FAIR’s non-profit umbrella for about six months, until its independent non-profit status was approved. In the late 1990s Tanton helped launch NumbersUSA. Because of the prominent role these organizations have played in the national immigration debate, he can rightly be described as the father of the modern movement to restrict immigration.”

According to Kammer, “[T] small-town doctor from Northern Michigan combines relentless organizational energies with a provincial temperament and a tin ear for the sensitivities of immigration. In an arena that requires the ability to frame issues in a way that broadens consensus, he sometimes speaks with a free-wheeling bluntness that can upset even those who admire him. Some say that Tanton has shown a tendency to be unnecessarily provocative, a tendency that some have seized upon to change the topic from immigration to Tanton himself.”

An interview with Roger Conner, the first executive director of FAIR, also touches on motivations and perceptions in the immigration debate. Conner told Kammer, “Immigration touches so many sensitivities and stirs so many passions that it requires careful handling by those who seek to change policy. Talking about Tanton, Conner said, “It is not enough to “be racially inclusive in your heart,” he said. “You have to avoid even the appearance of bigotry.”

Kammer writes, “Conner has a blunt message to those who complain of a double standard: ‘You’re right — it isn’t fair. Get over it.’” “‘Motives matter on immigration,” said Conner, “The risk of a big-tent philosophy was — and is — that if you don’t explicitly exclude the fringe groups from your tent, you can ruin it for the majority of Americans — those of us who are just as opposed to intolerance or racism as we are to excessive immigration.”

SPLC and its allies in this campaign stand on their strongest ground when they point to the highly objectionable activities and rhetoric of many of the grassroots groups associated with FAIR.

FAIR’s publications and media statements generally stick closely to the institute’s contentions about mass immigration and the “open borders” goals of CIR advocates. But there is ample evidence that grassroots organizations and activists allied with FAIR do indeed have white supremacist and nativist agendas.  

Does this make FAIR itself a “hate group,” which is responsible for the words and actions of its grassroots allies? The CIS report doesn’t weigh in directly on this issue, but the quoted observations of a former FAIR executive director about risks of a big-tent organizing tactics are clearly relevant to assessing FAIR’s own objectionable practices.

NCLR is a pro-CIR civil rights group that restrictionist institutes and anti-immigrant groups love to criticize because of its controversial name and its history of identity politics. CIS associates itself with that sniping tradition in this report. The report unprofessionally and routinely identifies NCLR not by its name or its initials but simply as La Raza.


The inclusion of the term “la raza” in NCLR’s name is explicable historically given NCLR’s origins in 1968 as part of the Chicano self-awareness and civil -rights movement. The members of that movement commonly used “la raza” as descriptor of Mexican-American and Mexican identity and of their common bonds. The Spanish word raza is variously defined to mean race, breed, and family; and when in conjunction with the article la (the), raza is commonly used among Mexican American activists to mean “our community” or “our people.”


NCLR has considered changing its name to avoid the criticism that it is a supremacist or racist group – “the race” – but instead has tried to avoid the criticism by routinely referring to itself as NCLR.


NCLR also has a special page on its website that “answers critics” and explains its name. As NCLR notes, “the full term coined by [José] Vasconcelos, ‘La Raza Cósmica,’ meaning the “cosmic people,” was developed to reflect not purity but the mixture inherent in the Hispanic people.


By allying itself with SPLC in this badly targeted campaign, NCLR has again opened itself up to criticism about its name, politics, and motivations.


CIS moves into this opening in a section of the report titled “If FAIR Played the Same Game,” which begins with this observation: “If FAIR chose to adopt the tactics of the SPLC and its allies, it would seek to divert attention from the substantive issues of immigration. It would probe for suspect motivation and association. It would take out full-page ads in Roll Call and Politico, taunting La Raza for controversial moments in its history.”


Coupled with this justifiable criticism of NCLR’s “Stop the Hate” campaign are helpful observations about Tanton and Vasconcelos. Kammer writes, for example, that “Vasconcelos was in some ways an intellectual opposite of the scientifically and quantitatively oriented John Tanton. But in a few fundamental respects, they were similar. Both became highly cultured, accomplished men with an inclination toward moralizing and intellectual arrogance. Both thought constantly of the meaning of national identity and cultural unity.”


Seized as a tactic to delegitimize their opponents, the smear campaign against the restrictionist institutes has been, at best, a debilitating distraction in the struggle for immigration reform.  The ongoing campaign highlights the all-too-common willingness of those who are convinced of the righteousness of their cause to stoop to character assassination and shoddy analysis and research. But worse still is that the effort to tar the restrictionist institutes with the "hate group" label has left us with no better understanding of the anti-immigrant backlash movement.


It’s time for NCLR, America’s Voice, Center for American Progress, Center for New Community, and the foundations that have supported this smear campaign to disassociate themselves from such character-assassination tactics. The immigration debate has been ill served by such tactics, and the reputation of the liberal immigration reform movement needlessly damaged. 

Photo: John Tanton

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Synergy in Security: National Security Complex


(This is a feature article in the March/April issue of Dollars & Sense magazine, at: http://dollarsandsense.org/archives/2010/0310barry.html )

By Tom Barry
In his January 17, 1961 farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower cautioned: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”
Five decades later, this complex, which Eisenhower defined as the “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry,” is no longer new. And while Eisenhower’s warning is still pertinent, the scale, scope, and substance of the complex have changed in alarming ways. It has morphed into a new type of public-private partnership—one that spans military, intelligence, and homeland-security contracting, and might be better called a “national security complex.”
Not counting the supplemental authorizations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, current levels of military spending are, adjusting for inflation, about 45% higher than the military budget when Eisenhower left office. Including the Iraq and Afghanistan war budgets, military spending stands about 30% higher, adjusted for inflation, than any of the post-WWII highpoints—Korea, Vietnam, and the Reagan build-up in the 1980s. Private military contracting, which constituted about half of the Pentagon’s spending in the 1960s, currently absorbs about 70% of the Department of Defense (DoD) budget. No longer centered exclusively in the Pentagon, outsourcing to private contractors now extends to all aspects of government. But since 2001, the major surge in federal outsourcing has occurred in the “intelligence community” and in the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Since Sept. 11, 2001, a vastly broadened government-industry complex has emerged—one that brings together all aspects of national security. Several interrelated trends are responsible for its formation and explosive growth: 1) the dramatic growth in government outsourcing since the early 1990s, and particularly since the beginning of the George W. Bush administration, 2) the post-Sept. 11 focus on homeland security, 3) the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 4) the Bush-era surge in intelligence budget and intelligence contracts, and 5) the cross-agency focus on information and communications technology.
The term “military-industrial complex” no longer adequately describes the multi-headed monster that has emerged in our times. The industrial (that is, big business) part of the military-industrial complex has become ever more deeply integrated into government—no longer simply providing arms but also increasingly offering their services on the fronts of war and deep inside the halls of government—commissioned to carry out the very missions of the DoD, DHS, and intelligence agencies. In the national security complex, it is ever more difficult to determine what is private sector and what is public sector—and whose interests are being served.

Different Departments, Same Companies


In 2008, the federal government handed out contracts to the private sector totaling $525.5 billion—up from $209 billion in 2000. That’s about a quarter of the entire federal budget. The DoD alone accounts for about $390 billion, or nearly three-quarters of total federal contracts.
The living symbol of the new national security complex is Lockheed Martin, whose slogan is “We Never Forget Who We’re Working For.” That’s the U.S. government—sales to which account for more than 80% of the company’s revenues, with most of the balance coming from international weapons sales and other security contracts facilitated by Washington. In addition to its sales of military hardware, Lockheed is the government’s top provider of IT services and systems integration (see Table 1, below).
Whether it is military operations, interrogations, intelligence gathering, or homeland security, the country’s “national security” apparatus is largely in the same hands. Various components of the U.S. national-security state are divvied up among different federal bureaucracies. But increasingly, the main components are finding a common home within corporate America. Corporations such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, L-3 Communications, and Northrop Grumman have the entire business—military, intelligence, and “homeland security”—covered.
Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing led the top ten military contractors in 2008 (see Table 2).
The 2003 creation of the Department of Homeland Security has helped spawn an explosion of new companies, and new divisions of existing companies, providing “homeland security” products and services. Before President Bush created DHS in the wake of Sept. 11, the agencies that would be merged into the new department did very little outsourcing. From less than 1% of federal contracts (as a total dollar amount) in 2000, outsourcing by DHS has quadrupled as a portion of federal contracting from 2003 to 2009.
Top Ten U.S. Government Contractors, 2008
Although DHS contracts with scores of new companies, its top contractors are all leading military contractors that have established “homeland security” divisions and subsidiaries.
The top ten DHS contractors in 2008 were Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, IBM, L-3 Communications, Unisys, SAIC, Boeing, Booz Allen Hamilton, General Electric, and Accenture, all leading military contractors. Other major military contractors among the top 25 DHS contractors include General Dynamics, Fluor, and Computer Sciences Corp (see Table 3).
Top Ten DoD Contractors, 2008
There is no public list of corporations that contract for U.S. intelligence agencies. But based on company press releases and filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Tim Shorrock concludes in his new book Spies for Hire that the top five intelligence contractors are probably Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, SAIC, General Dynamics, and L-3 Communications. Other major contractors include Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI International, DRS Technologies, and ManTech International, also leading military contractors.
Top Ten Homeland Security Contractors, 2008
Within the past eight years—since Sept. 11, 2001—the intelligence budget has soared, rising from an estimated $30 billion in 2000 to an estimated $66.5 billion today. Intelligence agencies have channeled most of the new funding to private contractors, both major companies like CACI and thousands of individual contractors. Private contracts now account for about 70% of the intelligence budget. Intelligence community sources told the Washington Post that private contractors constituted “a significant majority” of analysts working at the new National Counterterroism Center, which provides the White House with terrorism intelligence.
The major military contractors are now moving their headquarters from their production centers, often in California and Texas, to the Washington Beltway in pursuit of more intelligence, military, and homeland security contracts. The gleaming Beltway office buildings of the security corporations are now the most visible symbol of this national security complex.

Boots on the Ground, Computers in Cubicles


Another feature of this evolving, ever-expanding complex is that all the U.S. government departments involved in national security—DoD, State Department, DHS, and intelligence—are outsourcing the boots-on-the-ground components of their missions through the use of private security and military provider firms. Companies such as ArmourGroup (which includes Wackhenhut), DynCorp, MPRI, and Xe (formerly Blackwater Worldwide) have injected the private sector directly into the public sector through their work as interrogators, military trainers, prison guards, intelligence agents, and war-fighters.
Five dozen of these security contractors have organized themselves into the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA). After Blackwater came under worldwide scrutiny for its massacre of unarmed Iraqis in central Baghdad on Sept. 17, 2007, the firm left IPOA, whose code of conduct for “peacekeeping” operations it had flagrantly ignored. Blackwater created a new association of private military contractors called Global Peace and Security Operations—conveniently without any potentially embarrassing code of conduct.
Top Ten IT and Systems Integration Federal Contractors, 2009
Private contractors are not only on the frontlines of war and clandestine operations, but have also penetrated the national security bureaucracy itself. Reacting to a March 2008 GAO report on conflicts of interest within the Pentagon, Frida Berrigan of the New America Foundation’s Arms and Security Initiative observed that alarming numbers of “cubicle mercenaries” are now working within federal bureaucracies as administrators, contract managers, intelligence analysts, and cybersecurity chiefs. No longer does the “large arms industry” that Eisenhower warned about just peddle goods like weapons and missiles, it also sells itself through its services.

Common Dominators of the New Complex: Information and Security


Private contractors are also in control of the core of the complex’s information and intelligence systems. Information and communications technology is the fastest-growing sector in government contracting. The DHS’s expanding involvement in cybersecurity, information systems, and electronic identification programs, for example, is adding billions of dollars annually to the national security boom.
Lockheed Martin led the ranks of information technology (IT) contractors in 2008, followed by Boeing and Northrop Grumman. Although IT contracts are expanding rapidly, there are few new entrants to the list of top IT providers to the government. Among the top 100 IT contractors, there were just twelve new entrants, as traditional military giants dominated the list (see Table 4).
One of the largest sources of federal contracting at DHS has been the EAGLE (Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge Solutions) IT program, which awarded $8.2 billion in contracts in the past three years. Among the leading contractors are CACI, Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin, SAIC, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, and BAE Systems—all major military contractors. Most of the EAGLE IT bonanza is in the form of “indefinite-delivery, indefinite quantity contracts” that provide generous operating room for IT firms to determine their own solutions to DHS’ vast IT and cybersecurity requirements.
The major military corporations have quickly formed new branches to focus on these new opportunities outside of their traditional core contracts with the Pentagon. This year, for example, Northrop Grumman created a new Information Systems division to seek military, homeland security, and intelligence IT contracts. Recognizing the interest in the Obama administration in cyber-security and information war, corporations such as Booz Allen Hamilton and Hewlett-Packard, among others, have created new cybersecurity divisions or subsidiaries. Similarly, the new administration’s focus on transnational disease has led military companies such as General Dynamics to acquire medical subsidiaries.

Revolving-Door Security Consultants


Another manifestation of the new national security complex is the rise of a new series of consulting agencies that act as an interface between government and their clients. That’s an easy connection for such companies as the Chertoff Group, Ridge Global, and RiceHadley Group, since all their principals recently left government, where they had presided over the unprecedented wave of outsourcing.
Two of these national security agencies are headed by the DHS’s first two secretaries, Michael Chertoff and Tom Ridge, while the newest group brings together Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley, who only a year ago were serving as secretary of state and national security adviser, respectively.
When announcing his group’s formation, Chertoff boasted, “Our principals have worked closely together for years, as leaders of the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the National Security Agency and the CIA.” Indeed, a leading member of this new group is former CIA director Michael Hayden (2005-2009), who also directed the National Security Agency (1999-2005). Others include former DHS deputy Paul Schneider (who was head of acquisitions for NSA and the U.S. Navy prior to his position at DHS); Admiral Jay Cohen (Ret.), who was DHS director of science and technology and previously the Navy’s technology chief; and Charlie Allen, who was the intelligence chief at DHS and, according to Michael Chertoff, “pretty much head of everything you could be for the CIA.”
The Chertoff Group has now hooked up with Blue Star Capital, a transatlantic investment company specializing in mergers and acquisitions in the security business. In its announcement of the new partnership, Blue Star emphasized their joint interest in “generating opportunities” across the national security spectrum—“in the homeland security, defense, and intelligence markets.”
Chertoff himself applauded the value of the merger: “I believe there are many areas of opportunity within the Homeland Security, Intelligence and Defense sectors where the synergies between Blue Star and the Chertoff Group will provide real value.”

Taking Back Security


The “unwarranted influence” that concerned Eisenhower during the Cold War now pervades national politics and is rarely questioned. Nor has there been any evaluation of the achievements of the increasingly privatized national security complex. In his 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama talked about the need for fiscal restraint, but exempted “national security” from the planned spending freeze. Despite manifold evidence of vast waste and scandalous profiteering in the security apparatus—to say nothing of “unnecessary wars”—the president didn’t see fit to scale back the security agencies. By failing to do so, he has all but guaranteed that the outsourcing bonanza will continue. With “national security” off limits for budget cuts, Obama signaled that safeguarding the nation against the “unwarranted influence” and “rise of misplaced power” will not be priorities for this administration.
As major corporations such as Lockheed Martin and security consulting agencies such as the Chertoff Group extend their corporate tentacles into the intelligence, military, and homeland security terrains, the greater threat they pose. The corporate penetration of all the government’s information-gathering, communications, intelligence, and data systems undermines democratic governance. The new corporate domination of data-mining, communications, and cybersecurity systems—with little or no government oversight —threatens individual liberty and privacy. This also creates a powerful vested interest in a large and growing “national security” apparatus—and one that is deeply integrated with the top echelons of the intelligence agencies, military, and other parts of this secretive state-within-the-state.
In the end, it’s not the contractors that are the central problem with the national security complex—it’s the outsourcers, that is, the elected politicians and the government administrators they appoint or confirm. The contractors are working to maximize profits, and are answerable mainly to company shareholders. The outsourcers, however, are ultimately answerable, at least in principle, to the public. What is at stake is who really controls public policy—a democratically accountable government, or an unaccountable fusion of governmental and corporate power.
Tom Barry is a senior policy analyst and director of the TransBorder Project at the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C. Barry is the author of numerous books on U.S. foreign policy, and he blogs on border security, immigration, and homeland security issues at borderlinesblog.blogspot.com.
Sources: Center for Defense Information, “Military Budgets 1946-2009,”; Center for Arms Control and NonProliferation, “2008-2009 U.S. Defense Spending Highest Since WWII,” Feb. 20, 2008; FedSpending.org, a project of OMB Watch; USASpending.gov; Tim Shorrock, New Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, 2008; FY2009 Intelligence Budget, GlobalSecurity.org; F.J. Hillhouse, “Outsourcing Intelligence,” The Nation, July 24, 2007; Walter Pincus, “Lawmakers Want More Data on Contracting Out Intelligence,” Washington Post, May 7, 2006: David Horowitz, ed., Corporations and the Cold War, 1969; GAO, “Defense Contracting: Army Case Study Delineates Concerns with Use of Contractors as Contract Specialists,” March 2008; Frida Berrigan, “Military Industrial Complex 2.0,” TruthOut, Sept. 14, 2008; “2009 Top 100,” Washington Technology; DHS, Enterprise Solutions Office, EAGLE contracts; Global Homeland Security 2009-2019, VisionGain, June 23, 2009; Chertoff Group web pages, chertoffgroup.com; Homeland Security & Defense Business Council web pages, AntiWar.com, July 28, 2008; Allison Stanger, One Nation Under Contract: The Outsourcing of American Power and the Future of Foreign Policy (Yale University Press, 2009); Project on Government Oversight (POGO); Deborah Avant, The Market for Force: The Consequences of Privatizing Security(Cambridge University Press, 2005); Center for Public Integrity, “Making a Killing: The Business of War,” 2002, “The Shadow Pentagon,” 2004; Peter Singer, Corporate Warriors (Cornell University Press, 2003).

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Homeland Security Department Disaster


(This is the second in a series on the state of the Department of Homeland Security. The first part is at: http://borderlinesblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/americas-failing-homeland-security.html )

The Department of Homeland Security is a disaster.

Since its early days DHS has been an “area of risk,” according to the Government Accountability Office. Employee morale is abysmal, ranking among the worst of all federal agencies. Within DHS, private contractors outnumber federal employees. Seven years after its creation DHS is still grappling with a debilitating identity crisis.

DHS is a $55 billion department in search of a separate identity and a clear mission. A mash-up of 22 separate agencies, DHS continues to struggle to define itself – and to define exactly what is homeland security.

Since its beginning it has been the object of widespread criticism and frustration. Its signature feature – the color-coded terror advisory alerts – is commonly regarded as useless or even comical. DHS failed spectacularly its first big test in responding to Hurricane Katrina of August 2005, and the launch by DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff of its immigrant crackdown that same year has been widely derided as mean-spirited, ideologically driven, and largely disconnected from the post-9/11 national commitment to homeland security.

From the beginning DHS has been dogged by questions about its role with respect to DOD, FBI, and the CIA. Initially the U.S. public -- and even the department’s first secretary Tom Ridge – believed that the new department would consolidate and oversee the intelligence about threats to the U.S. homeland. Upon taking control of the new department, however, Ridge learned that DHS wouldn’t have a central role in homeland security-related intelligence but would be obligated to rely on the CIA, FBI, and DOD for threat assessments and most other intelligence.

The absence of a prime role in intelligence for the new Homeland Security Department highlighted the existential crisis at DHS. What is the vision, the mission, the essential justification for the creation and continued existence of this megabureaucracy of 220,000 employees?

The new department certainly has important governmental functions, such as border control, immigration policy enforcement, emergency management, transportation security, Coast Guard, and Secret Service. But since its creation DHS has been on a search for unifying identity. Apart from describing its parts, DHS hasn’t been able to say simply and clearly what it is as a whole.

One way DHS has faced this challenge is by simply declaring that it is a unified whole. In the introduction to One Team, One Mission, Securing Our Homeland: DHS Strategic Plan 2008-2013, Chertoff stated:

“We are a unified Department with a shared focus: strengthening our Nation – through a partnership with individual citizens, the private sector, state, local, and tribal governments, and our global partners. We must also coordinate across Federal agencies, while shaping homeland security policy and coordinating incident management.”
So what was that one mission for which this one team is responsible for?

The DHS mission, according to its strategic plan, is:
“We will lead the unified national effort to secure America. We will prevent and deter terrorist attacks and protect against and respond to threats and hazards to the Nation. We will secure our national borders while welcoming lawful immigrants, visitors, and trade.”
The DHS vision statement, animating this mission, is: “A secure America, a confident public, and a strong and resilient society and economy.”

A telling shortcoming  – one that has existed since the creation of DHS – is that DHS doesn’t have a leadership role in counterterrorism. In actual matters of homeland security, DHS is subservient to the same competing constellation of federal agencies – CIA, FBI, DOD, and NSA – that was responsible (along with the Bush White House) for the failures of communication and intelligence coordination that left the country open to the Sept. 11 attacks.

By the end of the Bush administration DHS had yet to establish, let alone demonstrate, that it was a leader in security, that it had a unified team, or that there was some important new role the department was playing moving the country toward its vision of a secure America, a confident society, and a resilient economy.

Its statements of leadership, purpose, and unity couldn’t gloss over what a mess the department was – evident even to the casual observer and documented by an embarrassing stream of critical reports from its own inspector general, the Government Accountability Office, and House oversight committees.

The Obama administration has done its best to shore up the credibility and integrity of DHS. The appointment of Janet Napolitano as the new DHS secretary went a long way to show that DHS would be moving beyond the ideological fervor, mean-spiritedness, and corporate coziness that characterized Chertoff’s tenure. Napolitano has ordered major reviews and overhauls within the vast bureaucracy, and she has proved to be smart, effective, and serious about her job.

With Napolitano at its helm and under a new administration, DHS has become a fixture in U.S. governance, passing from a start-up venture created in throes of the U.S 9/11 response to an increasingly consolidated institution in the DC firmament. Less dogmatic and more honest than her predecessor, Napolitano has made a “unified DHS” a goal rather than merely stating it as an accomplishment.

In implicit recognition of its problems, DHS now notes on its website:
“Six years on since the Department's creation, our goal is simple: one DHS, one enterprise, a shared vision, with integrated results-based operations. Through a consolidated headquarters, we are bringing 35 locations together. We are implementing a series of wide-ranging efficiency initiatives that leverage the economies of scale in our Department in order to recover hundreds of millions of dollars and create a culture of responsibility and fiscal discipline.”
But determination, better management, leadership skills, along with an improved team of top officials, won’t be enough to rescue DHS.

Dressing up immigration enforcement in new and less divisive language and eliminating some of the excesses of the previous administration haven’t altered the severity, tragedy, and divisiveness of the immigrant crackdown. The recent integration of the Homeland Security Council into the National Security Council, while appropriately recognizing that homeland security and national security overlap, also raises new questions about the defining duties of DHS.

It’s an immense new federal bureaucracy that has yet to explain what it is doing that its member agencies weren’t doing – or couldn’t have done -- before its creation. What’s the added value, if any, of our Department of Homeland Security?


Next: The Much-Vaunted Resiliency of the Homeland Security Enterprise

Thursday, March 11, 2010

National Magazine Award Nomination

Some personal news. That article I wrote for the Boston Review, "Death In Texas," has been nominated along with the magazine and its editors, Deb Chasman and Joshua Cohen, for a National Magazine Award in the Public Interest category.

Here's the link to the announcement: http://magazine.org/ASME/ABOUT_ASME/ASME_PRESS_RELEASES/nma-2010-finalists-list.aspx

This type of article is rare, mostly because there are few publications and editors that provide the kind of moral support and freedom to delve into a topic that the Boston Review did for me.

The Public Interest category certainly fits this piece, which is also just a small part -- in many ways a product -- of the inspiring public interest advocacy on these issues by such groups as Detention Watch Network, Grassroots Leadership, ACLU, and Justice Strategies.

I have a new article in the latest issue of another Boston-area publication, Dollars & Sense, that explores the evolution of the military-industrial complex. Here's a link to the magazine's table of contents: http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2010/0310toc.html It's titled: Synergy in Security: Rise of the National Security Complex.

Concern about the uses and crimes of this complex is how many of us got involved in progressive politics. Most of those concerns remain, decade after decade, but what's so shocking and difficult to comprehend is why we accept, decade after decade, that billions, trillions of dollars are wasted in the name of national security. I will circulate the article here when there is an online version.