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Security Breach 101

$41 billion Homeland Security budget buys little

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The guards at the nuclear missile launch facility in White Shield, ND, take their jobs very seriously.

Sure, a retired Catholic priest and two guys dressed in clown suits managed to breech the E-9 Minuteman II facility in June with bolt cutters and to disable the entry-hatch lock that provides access to the live warhead in attempt to take it off line. And sure, the men, who are activists with the anti-war group Nukewatch, were in there long enough to pour their own blood all over the missile lid and spray paint anti-war slogans on it, Defense Tech news reported.

But the important thing is that the facility guards eventually caught them and, as they told Defense Tech, forced them to eat "a lot of gravel" as they were taken into custody.

This is just one example of how little our $41 billion (that we know of) Homeland Security Budget buys us these days.

The undercover investigators with the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) didn't dress in clown suits when testing our nation's security earlier this year, but they might as well have. A GAO report released three weeks ago details how the investigators ordered enough radioactive material over the phone to make two dirty bombs. Sure, the material was detected at the border (they wouldn't say where exactly), but border security agents waved them through after the GAO agents presented them with counterfeit documents no one bothered to scrutinize.

In April, the Department of Homeland Security released a bombshell report called "Detention and Removal of Illegal Aliens" late in the day on a Friday with no accompanying press release after Congress and most news people had gone home.

Like the other incidents above, almost nothing was written about it, which was probably the idea. According to the report, the Detention and Removal Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had inadvertently misplaced 45,008 illegal aliens from countries known to sponsor terrorism or protect terrorist groups. Most had overstayed their visas or were rounded up at the border and in other immigration busts over the last four years and then released and told to show up for deportation hearings. Then they vanished.

It freaked the 9/11 Commission out pretty badly three years ago when its members learned about the "Western Hemisphere Exception," under which people "returning" to the US from Western Hemisphere countries aren't required to present a passport. In its final report, the commission recommended that all travelers entering the US be subject to biometric identity verification.

Congress passed a law in 2004 mandating the creation of this biometric system and President Bush has been running around promising to put the same kind of system in place as part of his immigration reform plan, as if this is all new or something. But in the two years since the law passed, Bush's own Department of Homeland Security hasn't seen fit to get off its ass and do more than send out a press release giving the biometric ID program a name (PASS) and promising to implement it some day.

And this column wouldn't be complete without mentioning the internal e-mail I recently obtained from US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency responsible for fighting fraud in our immigration process. In it, near powerless immigration security agents express shock and wonder over the size of an immigration loophole through Puerto Rico that thousands of people are using to enter the country illegally, most of them from African nations, some of which al-Qaeda has been making great headway in of late.

"Carlos, are you making this stuff up?????" USCIS Chief of Staff Tom Paar wrote in an reply e-mail in January to Carlos Iturregui, one of the agency's department heads, about the situation.

In a response e-mail, Dan Crocetti, head of USCIS's Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) program, wrote, "Carlos has articulately pointed out long-standing inadequacies in our immigration system. While the lack of resources is a significant element, particularly on the enforcement side, it's well beyond that. Resolution would require a major department-wide effort at a minimum."

So far, that effort has yet to be made, USCIS whistle blower Michael Maxwell recently told a congressional committee.

The anecdotes above are among dozens every month that haven't gotten widespread news coverage but that illustrate the government's mind-bending failure in the homeland security arena. Read enough of this stuff and the left-wing kooks who think President Bush is actively trying to facilitate another terrorist attack on this country to enhance his own power begin to sound rational.

The only other explanations for these reports are government incompetence of such magnitude that it defies rational belief or a deliberate attempt to leave our borders wide open to serve big business with cheap illegal labor, no matter what the cost. (Which still doesn't explain how the guys in the clown suits breached a nuclear facility. Heck, even France has better nuclear security than we do.)

In about a month, members of Congress, and in particular Republican members of Congress, will return home to their districts to sing their parties' praises on homeland security issues in an attempt to get themselves re-elected.

I'm already licking my chops.

Got a story idea? E-mail Tara at tara.servatius@creativeloafing.com.

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