Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

November 23, 2010

President Kennedy on TSA and homeland security

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on November 23, 2010

Over the past few weeks, just about everything that can be said about TSA has been said.

But not everyone has said it.  At least not yet.

I was going to add more words to the TSA theatrical.  I’d been collecting stories and ideas from colleagues all week, some negative and some positive.

But I’ll save those for another time.

I remembered as I sat down to write this post – on Monday evening — John Kennedy was assassinated 47 years ago.

I was riding a New York city subway when I heard the first rumors.  A young girl was crying.  The news buzzed through the car from person to person, like a primitive twitter message.

At the next station, I ran out of the train up the stairs into the city.  Like a scene from a 40s movie, people stood around cars stopped in the middle of the street, listening to radio broadcasts.


If the president were assassinated today, the first question would be which terrorist group did it.  We have so many choices.

No doubt we would spend countless hours considering the homeland security implications of the murder.

I wondered what John Kennedy would have to say about the nation’s recent belligerent, polarizingly directionless clamor about securing the homeland.

TSA may be the current – and almost perennial – focus.  But other domains in homeland security get their turn: immigration, border security, intelligence, customs, defense, emergency management, pandemic response.  The list extends into forgetfulness.

Kennedy once said, “If more politicians knew poetry, and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a better place to in which to live.”

Based on that invitation to license, I gathered some Kennedy quotes and, with a few distorted interpretations, adopted his words to the contemporary homeland security environment.


On terror:

Terror is not a new weapon. Throughout history it has been used by those who could not prevail, either by persuasion or example. But inevitably they fail, either because men are not afraid to die for a life worth living, or because the terrorists themselves came to realize that free men cannot be frightened by threats, and that aggression would meet its own response. And it is in the light of that history that every nation today should know, be he friend or foe, that the United States has both the will and the weapons to join free men in standing up to their responsibilities.

On fear of Muslims and Islam:

For while this year it may be a Catholic [or Muslim] against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew, or a Quaker, or a Unitarian, or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that led to Jefferson’s Statute of Religious Freedom. Today, I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you, until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped apart in a time of great national peril.

On the difficulty of defeating 21st century terror, in all its forms:

We must think and act not only for the moment but for our time. I am reminded of the story of the great French Marshal Lyautey, who once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow-growing and would not reach maturity for a hundred years. The Marshal replied, ‘In that case, there is no time to lose, plant it this afternoon.

On trusting the American people to handle the truth about threats, vulnerabilities and potential consequences:

We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

On the tendency for government to keep secrets from its citizens:

The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.

On the need for government to listen to people who object to what is happening at airports:

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

On the motives of people who criticize homeland security and TSA:

Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘One who has the heart to help has the right to criticize.’ We are going to help.

On the importance of people who criticize TSA and anything else done under the banner of homeland security:

The [people] who create power make an indispensable contribution to the Nation’s greatness, but the [people] who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us.

On what to do if you don’t like the way homeland security in general and aviation security in particular is being managed:

The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need [people] who can dream of things that never were and ask “why not?”.

On the perceived efforts of TSA, DHS, fusion centers, and other manifestations of “The Man” to steal our liberties:

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.

On the security implications of people who actually believe the federal government could get its act together enough to be the brains behind the 9/11 attack or to plan the wholesale incarceration of dissidents (either from the left or the right):

The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.

On people who visibly carry weapons to political gatherings, who plan to boycott backscatter machines on Wednesday, who protest the corporate takeover of politics, and who resist everything else that can be seen as a threat to freedom:

Today we need a nation of minute men; citizens who are not only prepared to take up arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as a basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom.

On the homeland security role of the Main Stream Media, Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, Drudge Report, Huffington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, blogs, et al:

Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed — and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment — the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution — not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants” — but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.

But on the other hand:

Today no war has been declared — and however fierce the struggle may be, it may never be declared in the traditional fashion. Our way of life is under attack. Those who make themselves our enemy are advancing around the globe. The survival of our friends is in danger. And yet no war has been declared, no borders have been crossed by marching troops, no missiles have been fired.

If the press is awaiting a declaration of war before it imposes the self-discipline of combat conditions, then I can only say that no war ever posed a greater threat to our security. If you are awaiting a finding of “clear and present danger,” then I can only say that the danger has never been more clear and its presence has never been more imminent.

It requires a change in outlook, a change in tactics, a change in missions — by the government, by the people, by every businessman or labor leader, and by every newspaper. For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence — on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations. Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed. It conducts the … War, in short, with a war-time discipline no democracy would ever hope or wish to match.

Nevertheless, every democracy recognizes the necessary restraints of national security — and the question remains whether those restraints need to be more strictly observed if we are to oppose this kind of attack as well as outright invasion.

[Senator Kennedy] On Afghanistan:

Mr. President, the time has come for the American people to be told the blunt truth about [Afghanistan]…… to pour money, material and men into the [mountains of Afghanistan] without at least a remote prospect of victory would be futile and self-destructive. Of course, all discussion of ‘united action’ assumes the inevitability of such victory; but such assumptions are not unlike similar predictions of confidence which have lulled the American people for many years and which, if contained, would present an improper basis for determining the extent of American participation.

Despite this series of optimistic reports about eventual victory, every member of the Senate knows that such a victory today appears to be desperately remote, to say the least, despite tremendous amounts of economic and material aid from the United States, and despite a deplorable loss of … manpower….  I am, frankly, of the belief that no amount of American military assistance in [Afghanistan] can conquer an enemy which is everywhere and at the same time nowhere….

On the role of intelligence and defense in homeland security:

I was assured by every son of a bitch I checked with — all the military experts and the CIA — that the [Bay of Pigs Invasion] plan would succeed.

Words scheduled to be delivered at a luncheon speech, Dallas Texas, November 22, 1963

We in this country, in this generation, are, by destiny rather than choice, the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of ‘peace on earth, goodwill toward men.’ That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as it was written long ago, ‘except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.’

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Comment by William R. Cumming

November 23, 2010 @ 6:01 am

Well Chris a great and wonderful post. Yes the world might be a very different place if JFK had lived a full life. Like others he grew in office and was still showing potential when he died. His words do live on. Unfortunately of course his achievements were largely misunderstood even in his times, and his failures understood better. His greatest achievement of course was the Cuban Missile Crisis and his leadership in prevention of the worst possible outcome–nuclear war.
One sentence of yours I find of great interest-
“Today we need a nation of minute men; citizens who are not only prepared to take up arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as a basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom”!

Ignoring for the moment the taking up of arms and focusing on the latter portion of the sentence, all elements of the government at all levels seem to be actively working to deny the basics of information to the public. Much of MSM the same. This alone may result in the taking up of arms in various ways. Not all arms are weapons. The power of an idea has proven throughout history to often defeat even highly organized violence–eventually but often with more difficulty than might have been.
We (the US) clearly have arrived at some critical historical passage point in our history and I summarize that simple is “whether government of the people, by the people, and for the people can long endure”! I certainly hope so. Personally I detect the edge of violence in our society. A troubling sign. The country badly needs leadership, and JFK was such a man. Leadership means uniting not dividing.

The critical lack now in the US polity is leadership. Perhaps it can be made up for by individual efforts to retain and expand our democracy. Perhaps not but this will be moment when all the worst decisions in US leadership in the past are becoming identified as having carried the seeds of disaster. Clearly, an entire profession called economics misread their own greatest minds, and we still have no Nobel in economics for the impacts of greed and corruption on the free market. Perhaps too late for some young econmist to focus on those issues.

Again great post. Many thanks for taking the time and effort.

Comment by TSA: Jack Kennedy & Robert McNamara

November 24, 2010 @ 9:30 am

Jack Kennedy who I last saw at a Harvard football game smiling and so vibrant with Life and optimism, willing to dream, peering through his telescope on the Cape looking at the moon and beyond, never would have been able to grasp the idea of seeing a Chinese flag flying atop the first colony established on the moon.

TSA, Homeland Security and Jack Kennedy as well as his well educated and so impressive…oh, Jackie, how proud you were to show us the White House and refer with so much pride of our beloved Republic, America the beacon of hope for the oprressed who gladly stood in line seeking visa and to adhere to immigration laws established to become a US citizen.

Here in Massachusetts, we have Barry’s pal, Deval, another one who touts “change” with the only change we see here on Main Street USA as the little change we had in our pocket now to go and pay for illegals seeking an education while this morning, a line as far as you can see in the Dominican for example and from embassy to embassy globally, people wait and apply for visa, adhere to immigration law, yet the lawbreaker is the victim – in fact, it seems governing here and globally is in fact done by many lawbreakers, people “entrusted” by precious vote whether here or at the polling places Afghan/Iraq.

In fact, both sides of the Congressional aisle where Barry and his Goldman Sachs fellas have intentionally failed as the Constitution and even the Massachusetts State Constitution as well as other states, yet this is the bluest of all and most corrupt…all are on board with this redistribution of wealth and direct circumvent of the Rights of citizen and requirements thereof….

TSA and security Chris…groping a Dad’s teeanage son or daughter, even younger, intersting how the spiralling deficit, Barry’s modification program for those who he promised and they voted for him who had no intent to follow through because he is the man, the puppet of the God,an Sachs fellas…and TSA, just another example of ever bigger government with its taxes and fees, its disregard for the law and Constitution, when for 40 years, a little country surrounded by enemies, Israel and its El AL needs not to grope, but to profile, to make inquiry of and to know who is flying….

TSA and groping, yes, Chris…more words for the “TSA Theatrical.”

Before her departure with daughter in tow and her gal pals costing us millions for her to visit (who?) in Spain rather than visiting Lexington and Concord or the Grand Canyon, far less expensive and teacing her daughter that American histiry is not all about slavery issues…I will not even reference her as First lady as she herself has never been proud to be an American…Barry’s wife replaced Chruchill’s bust with Martin Luther King’s..that’s how narrow her and his perspective, for Martin with a number of friends marched together and is very much lauded, however today, with TSA and an intrusive government groping in every way telling us that the those seeking our demise necessitate such touch and feel governing, well, put Winston Churchill’s bust back in his place for the obvious lack of political will on both sides of the aisle and the artogant self-agenda of those “entrusted” by pledge to Constitition and to a flag I fly on porch upside down depicting the peril, the distress of our nation…it is indeed another Winston Churchill we desperately need before we are besieged any further, not by AQ and the Taliban, the home grown and treasoness citizenry who even think of taking up arms against fellow citizen in the name of Allah. A Koran which teaches Love and compassion towards all fellow children created by the Lord, not text maniuplated by clerics to fill their coffers and promote hatred and disharmony among all.

Your reference to good ‘ol Jack brings memory of a speech by Bob McNamara which is quite applicable and probably worth our present esteemed Secretray of defense taking note of as well –

His speech, given on 18th Sepetember 1967 in San Franscisco begins with:

“In a complex and uncertain world, the gravest problem that an American Secretary of Defense must face is that of planning, preparation and policy against the possibility of thermonuclear war.

It is a prospect that most of mankind understandably would prefer not to contemplate. For technology has now circumscribed us all with a horizon of horror that could dwarf any catastrophe that has befallen man in his more than one million years on earth.

Bob McNamara, who I last saw contently sitting on a curb eating an ice cream all alone as I rode past him with my 10 speed bike enroute to see “Uncle” Teddy’s bridge – the bridge. I stopped and wanted to reach out and thank Mr. Secretary to saving us as we had been hiding at school under our desks in drill preparing for attack and as I watched this American hero, so content he was sitting there eating I think a chocolate ice cream, I waved and went off to the bridge!

Bob McNamara ended his San Francisco speech sent to me by my Grandmother’s cousin, George Christopher, Mayor of San Francisco for many years and contributing himself a great deal to this wonderful city….

Mr. Secretray said, “Is tne Soviet Union seriously attemping to acquire a first strike capability against the United States? This is a question we cannot answer with absolute certainty, we believe the answer is no.”

Well, let no civilized man or woman fail to understand that the present “Brutes of Tehran” as I reference them with not only the blod of our young and brave fallen sons, on their hands, but the same willing to not only kill innocents, but willingly spill the rich blood of a young woman who represents the educated Iranian population who has little respect for such cold blooded murdering to sustain its own perverse and self-serving lust for power, gold hidden away in Asian coffers with the utmost disregard for not only Hebrew and their covenant with the Lord who no one will break, but all those who seek harmony and the same hope for all that good ‘ol Jack aspired in his commitment to freedom.

It is time to put an end to groping, unless necessary and it is time to hire Israeli intelligence and El Al security people to teach us how its done…

This new program which I refer to as “Government Reaching Out to Pissoff Everyone” (GROPE – TSA) must cease unless absolutely necessary and more inquiry and profiling of passenger as well as related screening procedures must take place – here near Milton, MA, a kid from Charlotte supposedly hid in the wheel well of an aircraft and then fell as the plane began its approach into Boston and when the wheels were lowered, down fell the young man…how absurd a story, yet where is surveillance and with our creativity and competencies, every airport should have the latest in equipment and trained TSA employees who can be respected when making personal inquiry.

God Bless America!

Christopher Tingus
PO Box 1612
Harwich, MA 02645

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