Last week I shared excerpts from essays submitted in response to the question: What homeland security advice would you give President Obama and why? Here (lightly edited) are a few more voices from the homeland:
1. Most Americans’ only personal exposure to Homeland Security is standing in security lines at our nation’s airports awaiting inspection by members of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). We try to read rapidly moving marquee-type signs telling us about how much liquid we can take onboard our flight; we wonder where we put that fingernail clipper; we think about how we are limited in the items we may carry onboard. But do we remember why? We focus on the inconveniences that we are facing rather than the reasons for those inconveniences. I propose that the administration, through Homeland Security, put display posters at every security checkpoint in the United States. These posters must depict the airliners flying into the World Trade Center buildings, people leaping from the buildings to their deaths, the dust and smoke of the collapsed buildings, the firefighters and police rescuers, photos of the funerals of the deceased firefighters and police killed that day, photos of the Pentagon; and photos of the Pennsylvania crash.
2. If we do have enemies, we should try to figure out why they are mad at us and come up with ways to live happy together. We were all created to be equal. We should try to find ways that are peaceful to settle all of our differences world wide. Killing of each other will not solve the problem but make things worst for all of us.
3. I believe we should hold suspected terrorists longer than other people even though it may go against the constitutional right of that person. The administration has to determine whether or not that person is a threat to the United States of America. If they have inside information that the person is a terrorist but don’t have enough evidence to persecute [sic] them, it should be ok for them to hold that suspect to insure the protection of the nation. Many Americans feel that this is wrong and everyone has equal rights but the bottom line is that we must insure that every citizen is safe. Do we have the right to torture suspected terrorists to get information out of them? Remember these men are people whose sole purpose is to kill innocent American lives without any regard. It is a fine line that we as Americans walk on to determine the best way to get information from terrorists. I believe that we should continue to use torture, but there needs to be some kind of regulation to it. It shouldn’t be the last possible use if the terrorist won’t reply to any other kind of interrogation. Innocent people’s lives are at stake and if citizens need to find out where the next terrorist attack is going to take place, they can’t just sit back and wait. The administration should look into regulating the imprisonment and torture of terrorists. We are getting out of hand with it and need to come down a little bit from abusing their power.
4. America must build upon existing efforts that encourage volunteerism and individual actions to create a culture of citizen responsibility in providing for the common homeland security. A DHS partnership with Hollywood will create a venue to encourage active growth of a culture of preparedness and assist in safeguarding U.S. homeland security. The average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day. The average U.S. household contains 2.24 TV sets. A meager 0.7 percent of television programming is devoted to public service announcements. In addition to television, The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) reports there were 1.4 billion domestic theater tickets sold in 2007. Support for homeland security, specifically mobilization of volunteer efforts and individual actions, can be invigorated through the entertainment medium.
5. Our borders demand attention and the administration must publicly equate border security with national security. The administration needs to visit the entire Southwest Border, extending from El Paso to San Diego, and to spend some quality time with Border Patrol agents who routinely patrol the border. An implied task of visiting the border includes actually walking parts of the border. This is the only way that key personnel from the new administration will acquire a sincere appreciation of the border and consequently accept the fact that border security is national security. This basic situational awareness and appreciation among our top leaders would serve the country well for it will draw attention and resources to the back door of the U.S.
6. We always talk about the border of Mexico and the United States, but we hardly talk about our border with Canada. There are so many ways that people from Canada can come across the border with weapons and not get caught, and I think that we need to also hire a lot more Border Patrol agents to protect the north. Terrorists can come from overseas and enter Canada and just hop the border without getting caught because there are wide gaps from Border Patrol Centers across the north. I just crossed the border a couple weeks ago going into Canada, and none of us had our passports, they took our licenses and wrote them down and sent us to the office right across the street to give us a lecture of how we need to bring our passports because it is important for security reasons. After the lecture, we were allowed to enter Canada with no questions asked. Now if it is that simple to cross the border, then I would not be surprised if we currently have terrorists in America who crossed the border with a Canadian license. There should be much stricter rules in order to cross borders.
7. The Obama Administration must address Congressional oversight as it concerns DHS. Currently, DHS has reporting responsibilities to eighty-six different committees between the House of Representatives and the Senate. Aside from the obvious redundancy, DHS has to employ a significant number of staff to respond to requests from these committees and furthermore, many of the committees have their own agendas which result in conflicting instructions to DHS as far as how it operates. The resulting confusion is a tremendous waste of time, money, and resources as DHS struggles to appease the various committees, and often simultaneously. Congress then has to waste considerable time and energy resolving the various committee conflicts when passing legislation relating to DHS’ operations or more importantly, its budget appropriations. The Administration, therefore, is encouraged to request legislation restricting the Committee oversight of DHS to a Select Committee on Homeland Security, similar to the arrangement that the Intelligence Community has with Congress. In doing so, Congress will provide effective oversight of DHS, and eliminate the confusion by having one set of standards and instructions. DHS will be able to direct the considerable resources used to address Congress into other areas that require them.
8. FEMA should not be under the Department of Homeland Security but rather a coordinating partner similar to the relationship between the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
9. Change all Homeland Security (HLS) work to unclassified, while making secret and top secret work only very rare.
10. Improve railroad security. When considering the massive amounts of hazardous chemicals, solids, and explosive materials that are transported around the country on a daily basis — and the major cities they operate through — an existing terrorist cell in the United States could capitalize on this breach of security quite easily, with devastating results.
11. Create a National Public Safety Reserve Corps comprised of former military and public safety officers – possibly augmented by compulsory national service – to assist with border protection and other homeland security problem areas.
12. Work with the Secretaries of Education and Labor to develop programs to formally ‘professionalize’ careers in the security field.
13. The prominent attention given to nuclear, cyber and bioterrorism threats is dangerously eclipsing other menaces. Implementation of a robust and comprehensive array of pre-emptive measures, in order to further limit proliferation of state-of-the-art advanced conventional armaments and potentially dangerous dual-use COTS [commercial off the shelf] technologies – such as mortars, unmanned aerial vehicles, and thermobaric weapons — would be recommended.
14. The key to neutralizing the vulnerabilities of communications networks is to re-establish the historical interactions between the government and the commercial communications industry. Early communications companies based in the east and midwest were contracted by government agencies, including the Department of Defense. As newer companies formed primarily on the west coast, they had little experience or interaction with the federal government. This would lead to government initiatives counterproductive to communications entities, with the companies viewing government as a threat to their business interests. Beginning in the 1980s, government agencies began to use communications software inferior to that available on the commercial market. The lack of shared goals between the two sectors increased the rate of federal communications obsolescence.
15. People are trying to be persuaded that Islam is a peaceful religion/lifestyle. While this holds true to some degree, most people don’t realize the consequences of being under full Sharia law. Muslims in a country are generally peaceful depending on the size of the Muslim population there. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, when a nation’s Muslim population reaches 10% or over, violence begins to become more frequent. Through their ability to manipulate the government in an effort to take advantage of civil liberties, they infiltrate our communities slowly, but thoroughly. When you reach this stage of the game, any person who blatantly insults or disregards Islam is often threatened or subject to punishment, kind of like Hitler’s Nazi Germany. To speak ill is blasphemy and is punishable by any means seen fit. When a country reaches 40% Muslim, real terror begins to take place with militia warfare and chronic terrorist attacks. When you’ve reached 60% unless citizens are willing to renounce their belief system and accept Muslim law, they are more than likely persecuted. Right now America’s Muslim population is less than 5%, but with the Islamic 20-20 plan that could change very quickly. The Muslims have a plan to take over American and pretty much all of the Western hemisphere by the year 2020.
16. What are the greatest security challenges to the average American? He/she is more likely to be fearful of losing employment, being in a car accident, or becoming a victim of crime rather than al-Queda’s Islamic fundamentalism. And these domestic, home-grown fears are justified. More Americans are killed on our nation’s highways in one year than all the U.S casualties from 9-11, Iraq, and Afghanistan combined. The same holds true for murder, yet we try to pretend that the real threats are lurking beyond our borders. I remember reading a story of a young boy who was having trouble assembling a puzzle of the world. His father told him to flip the pieces over, as on the other side was a puzzle of a man. The moral of the story? If you want to remake the world, or in this case make it more secure, you should begin with yourself.