The LA Times has one of the periodic exposes of how bloated the security and anti-terrorism sector of our economy has become. As we’ve noted many times, it seems that policy and spending are driven not by a comprehensive overlook of the terror threat but by people sitting around, having a few drinks and imagining what terrorists might do.
On the edge of the Nebraska sand hills is Lake McConaughy, a 22-mile-long reservoir that in summer becomes a magnet for Winnebagos, fishermen and kite sailors. But officials here in Keith County, population 8,370, imagined this scene: An Al Qaeda sleeper cell hitching explosives onto a water-skiing boat and plowing into the dam at the head of the lake.
The federal Department of Homeland Security ago gave the county $42,000 to buy state-of-the-art dive gear, including full-face masks, underwater lights and radios, and a Zodiac boat with side-scan sonar capable of mapping wide areas of the lake floor.
Up on the lonely prairie around Cherry County, population 6,148, got thousands of federal dollars for cattle nose leads, halters and electric prods – in case terrorists decided to mount biological warfare against cows.
We see this sort of behavior from parents who won’t let their kids play baseball or something because they heard something from someone about some kid whose heart … I don’t know … it’s such a violent game. Here’s a nerf ball, kid. But it’s a big nerf ball so you can’t stick in your mouth and swallow it. But not too big so that you don’t try to stand on and get hurt. And put this helmet on. And drinks all your meals through straws. You can never be too safe.
Of course, you can be too safe. We’re spendings tens of billions on this, decking out local law enforcement agencies like standing armies, creating huge databases of information about our citizens and … is it having an effect? No terrorist has ever been caught or arrested with this approach; the only ones we’ve caught have been through brave actions of citizens or information from concerned relatives. The defenders of the security state are reduced to saying we have no way of knowing what plots were never attempted because of their counter-measures — the national security equivalent of “jobs created or saved”.
Large sums of Homeland Security money, critics complain, have been propelled by pork barrel politics into the backyards of the congressionally connected.
The problem here is that no one apart from me and Ron Paul wants to get control of this spending. Because if they do then, the second a terrorist attack happens, a zillion assholes will pop out to claim that budget cuts are the reason the attack happened. We’ve seen this before. The explosives hadn’t even cooled before people were blaming Policy X for the Undie Bomber attack. And that invective was never corrected when it turned out that Policy X was completely unrelated.
We can never make the nation 100% secure. It’s time to stop spending money like we can.