Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 6, 2012

Homeland security’s call to Friday prayer

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on April 6, 2012

At 9:58:59 the South Tower collapsed in ten seconds, killing all civilians and emergency personnel inside… The building collapsed into inself, causing a ferocious windstorm and creating a massive debris cloud. (The 9/11 Commission Report, pages 305-306)

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks were split. (Gospel of Matthew 27: 51)


Homeland security — the concept and its institutional manifestations — emerged from our response to the death of innocents. “September 11, 2001 was a day of unprecedented shock and suffering in the history of the United States.  The nation was unprepared. How did this happen, and how can we avoid such tragedy again?” (The 9/11 Commission Report, preface xv)

Many core notions of homeland security are rooted in our understanding of 9/11’s cause. “We learned about an enemy who is sophisticated, patient, disciplined, and lethal… it’s hostility toward us and our values is limitless.” (The 9/11 Commission Report, preface xv)

This enemy had long been active.  Al-Qaeda had previously attacked the USS Cole and our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.  Hundreds of innocents were killed and mutilated in these and other prior attacks.

The crucial differences on September 11 were scale and proximity.  Attacks on New York and Washington, the televised collapse of both towers, the Pentagon’s gaping wound, the weaponization of passenger planes, these claimed our attention in a way death and mayhem elsewhere had not.  We responded with anger, confusion, denial, fear, courage, generosity, care, aggression, and much more.

Homeland security still reflects these contradictory motivations.

How do we protect the innocent without ourselves killing the innocent?  How do we preserve freedom without betraying freedom?  How do we connect dots without in the process creating dots (or worse)?

At sundown tonight the Jewish festival of Passover begins. These are the last hours to remove any chametz — yeasty, leavened products — from observant households.  There are several origins for this tradition.  For many it has become a disciplined practice for eliminating prideful attitudes from worship and relationships.   During Passover the puffy chametz is replaced by unleavened matzah.

Rabbi Menachem Posner writes, “Chametz is pride and conceit. The flat matzah, on the other hand, represents humility. Usually, it is easy to tell the difference. But sometimes things are not so clear and the difference between the two is hard to see… Before Passover, we search our homes and our hearts for the…  almost indiscernible bits of pride which we have yet to identify.”

Today in many Christian traditions the crucifixion of Jesus is remembered. The gospel accounts overflow with anger, confusion, denial, fear, courage, generosity, care, aggression and much more.   Fear is especially prevalent.

The most ancient ending of Mark closes with, “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”   Matthew’s gospel has both an angel and the resurrected Jesus tell those at the tomb, “Do not be afraid.”   The instruction does not persuade.

Pride or fear are each troublesome enough, combine them and the outcome can be murderous.  In recent weeks there has seemed to be one example after another of this terrible nexus.  Men (mostly) have exploded in a collision of fear and pride.

The affective — often religious — dimension of homeland security is treacherous.   It is also ubiquitous.

Each Friday is the Islamic Day of Assembly or Jumu’ah.  Today in Jerusalem even as Christians retrace the way of the cross through the narrow streets of the Old City, the adhan echoes from  Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock.

God is great.
I proclaim there is no God but God.
I proclaim that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.
Come to prayer.
Come to success.
God is Great.
There is no God but God.

Come to success: come to falah in Arabic. Come to happiness, well-being, fulfillment.  A Muslim friend tells me it is derived from the same Arabic for tilling the soil and suggests breaking open any hardness to allow intrinsic potential to unfold.

There are social science principles, psycho-social explanations, and even biological bases for pride, fear, and religious faith.  Homeland security should avail itself of every source of wisdom.  Even religious wisdom.

Religions know something of paradox, hypocrisy, failed idealism, profound doubt, and death of both innocents and innocence.  Religions have experience with self-righteous rage, healing forgiveness, evil, transcendence, violence and love.  Religions can tell us something of  struggling with unresolved — irreconcilable? — tensions between first principles.

Put aside pride.  Do not be afraid.  Be vulnerable to relationships that can break open rocky soil and release abundance.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

April 6, 2012 @ 3:13 am

Perhaps Zen Buddahism might also be included as stripping back to fundamentals. But how exactly do religions differ from political systems? After all it is clear that the “isms” of the 20th century feared religion above all–just ask Dietrich Bonhoffer? Why?

Why did a variety of Pagan religions seem to have little bearing on Rome’s homeland security? Yet there was a MASADA and other miitary efforts against religions of various kinds!

What we do not have is a renunciation of violence against innocents in the three desert religions of current construct. Why?

These are all religions of WESTERN CIVILIZATION so perhaps violence is the construct of WESTERN CIVILIZATION and perpetration of violence against innocents its underlying theme? Utilizing new technology to do so!

When and how exactly do religions foment fanaticism?

Yes posting about religion on HLSWatch is in fact of relevance in many ways to HS.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

April 6, 2012 @ 5:15 am


I will take on one of your questions: How exactly do religions differ from political systems?

It seems to me that political systems are mundane (perhaps worth checking definition), while religions claim to be, seek to be, may actually sometimes be ultra-mundane.

Too often — perhaps most often — religions fail to keep faith with this claim and purpose. Religions bind themselves to this world, reinforcing identities and divisions that are entirely mundane (in every meaning of the term). But in all of the great faiths there is a call to universality and transcendence that, so far, extends far beyond any political identity or ideology.

To reinforce the argument, a long quote from Martin Luther King’s April 4, 1967 speech at Riverside Church:

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept — so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force — has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says : “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The “tide in the affairs of men” does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out deperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on…” We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 6, 2012 @ 8:37 am

Thanks Phil and great Dr. King quote. Very apropo!

Comment by Michael Brady

April 6, 2012 @ 11:41 am

Philip and William

Thank you for your thought-provoking comments. And provoked I am…

There is certainly human wisdom to be found in religions, but it is also a repository of human weakness. At their worst, religions represent the institutionalization of in-group out-group distinctions. Fear of the Other is an instinct older than humankind, but we have outlived any selective advantage it once conferred. We must remember that for much of their histories the major monotheistic religions enforced their calls to “universality and transcendence” with the sword and with fire. Religion has provided social cohesion in societies led by democratically elected leaders, monarchs, oligarchs, and tyrants. So it is today.

These past ten years Homeland Security has drawn its strength, funding, and authority from fear of the Other. We have killed the innocent and betrayed our commitment to justice to defend the interests of those in authority. While doing so these authorities cloaked the killing, torture, and lies in the rhetoric of fear of our neighbor and holy war against an evil Other. In our “pride and conceit” that our cause is just and preeminent we have made sharing a ride, or a meal, or a roof with a high value target a death sentence for women and children, whose numbers go uncounted because they are Other.

Emergency Services has a long and honorable tradition of defending the innocent against the capricious forces of nature. It is about preserving life in our communities, and it scales nicely. The concept of Homeland Security has a ten year history which is not nearly so proud. It is about preventing death to those we know and care about, but not those who are Other.

Comment by Dan O'Connor

April 6, 2012 @ 12:03 pm

Pride is a form of competition and one could make the assertion it was pride and the yearning to compete with God’s covenant that lead to the idea of original sin.

Taking it along those same lines; religion is not faith per se, but the organization extolling to perpetuate the idea of faith organizationally. Religion in and of itself competes for and with others in creating an organization to unite others in faith. Is it religion or faith that commands the Great Commission? And in that vein, religion is a manmade construct.

The books of the New Testament were decided upon by a committee of sorts and those who decided on what gospels were to be included and excluded were either divine in judgment or complicit in attempts to control the message. So there appears to be a need to attempt to control and shape the institution if not the idea of faith. Control is a fickle master.

“Today in many Christian traditions the crucifixion of Jesus is remembered. The gospel accounts overflow with anger, confusion, denial, fear, courage, generosity, care, aggression and much more. Fear is especially prevalent. “It very much goes to ones point of view as how one sees religion or more aptly stated organized religion and its relationship with faith. “ All these emotions Phil speaks of are of the “self” variety. They are born out of commitment, tested by strife, and attacked by betrayal, both human and ideological.

Philosophically are they born out of pride and that aforementioned competition with God?

And the binding or glue of much if not all of them is fear. Fear grows from doubt or at least that is my assertion. When we doubt our actions, ideals, and motives, and our faith we find ourselves displaying the aforementioned emotions. When we lose “faith” in our mission, our leaders and our way, we become fearful of losing the very small modicum of control that appears to exist. Well, we in fact control very little in our finite lives.

“Religions know something of paradox, hypocrisy, failed idealism, profound doubt, and death of both innocents and innocence. Religions have experience with self-righteous rage, healing forgiveness, evil, transcendence, violence and love.” Religion is a construction of man and it has both noble and ignoble manifestations. That our trust in man is breached often should be no surprise. Spiritually, it is by design. We need to trust and are wanton to be trusted. But often our pride prevents that candid interaction.

Our desire to exercise control and to have the ability to shape our future drives both prideful behavior and ignorance to remaining humble and vulnerable. Holistically, all security, not merely “homeland security” requires us to identify, make aware, mitigate, and simply accept our risk. It is a fete de compli ; we cannot be safe against all things all the time. We cannot protect ubiquitously, universally, and ad infinitum. Is it prideful hubris that drives us to such desires or is it attempts to control? Is that a rationalism or reality we ignore? Is that fate or faith?
From each citizen through a National consciousness, I completely and whole heartedly agree with Phil; put aside pride. Do not be afraid. Be vulnerable to relationships that can break open rocky soil and release abundance.

Thank you for sharing.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

April 6, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

Michael and Dan:

Provoking thoughtful comments is a particular pleasure, and your two comments are, it seems to me, complementary.

Religion is a human creation, an attempt to organize and institutionalize what I have called the ultra-mundane. It can be done. But such efforts will always include profound contradictions.

The fatal fault — hubris to try being technical — of religion is to breed pride in “our otherness” and fear of “their otherness.” This is arguably contrary to the core teachings of each of the great faiths (IBID, MLK).

Homeland security — another human creation — has, if I am following Michael’s reasoning, fallen into the same deadly trap.

Comment by Michael Brady

April 6, 2012 @ 2:55 pm


This is the best talk about Easter I’ve had in many a year. It led to a related post at Eclectic Breakfast


Be well and in community, this holiday weekend and every other.


Comment by William R. Cumming

April 6, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

Almost all humans want to believe they are “special” in some way. That belief can sometimes skew reality.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

April 7, 2012 @ 5:52 am

Potentially relevant to this dialogue:

This morning I happened to hear on BBC 4 a convivial conversation between the atheist philosopher John Gray and the Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams as they walk through the cathedral at Canterbury. It is 14 minutes in length and can be found at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01f6bf8

It is a radio program, so have your speakers on and select “Listen Now”

This week’s cover story at Time Magazine by Jon Meacham may, depending on your point-of-view, be even more relevant. But you will need to purchase a news stand copy or be an online-subscriber. The set up can be viewed at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2111227,00.html

Comment by Doomsayer:Political and Religious Fallout

April 7, 2012 @ 11:47 am

jkRead your Bible, read history, read the Qur’an as religion and the sword have slain many and the stone walls of dysfunction built by those with spokes to Rome and to Jerusalem have pitted Christian bureaucracy and those of Islam who are both so adverse to one another will inevitably lead us to War and soon. Our inability to see past ourselves will eventually lead us to our demise.

This WH riddled “Goldman Sachs” administration and its intent to tear America’s core values will not only bankrtupt us, but pull the veil of uncertainty and injustice once egain to assure that Rome and the Christian fighters and the Islamic religions will clash w/certainty and with far much more shock and awe as the world has seen for Germany again leads the EU and its sidekick, the Vatican along with Hamas, Hezbollah, the “Brutes of Tehran” and the “KGB Putinites” – their coffers overflowing – will assure us all of a future whereby the sword will be raised, many struck and little if anything will be done for We have enabled those from the inside to compromise our Judeo-Christian values….

The clock ticks and the lac of integrity, the self-agenda, the arrogant greed, an unemployment rate which continues despite the broken promises of a Chicago community organizer and Grandma and smug-smiled Pelosi always pointing to everyone else to blame much like this generation seeking to take no responsibility globally for holding those we “entrust” to represent the values of utilizing 21 st century technological advancements….to better prepare us all for the centuries and universes beyond, however much like this Chicago’s community organizer and his narrow perspectives seeking to retell the stories of the pastand the wrongs committed against others whether from those originating in Africa or Europe…We have far much more at hand today as cyber attack, dirty bomb and so much more concern the most enlightened as well as a border to the south and Mexico who requires our assistance if in fact we are to thwart the increasing security threats poised by so many striving to cripple us from within.

I have $1.75 billion in – treasure – rare earths available by friend and Geologist who is reluctant to sell the lot to China for it will afford China a dominant position in rare earths and lend many advantages to China into the 22nd century and far more…Pleading with the “good ‘ol beltway fellas” these past two weeks to open their eyes, to become in sync with reality and understand that they must write the cehck, yet they are now just signing law into teh books to prohibit their own – insider trading – so if you wre a betting man, would you bet on the scientists and enginneers who are at the helm of China or these fellas on both sides of the Congressional aisle who reside in “Sleepy Hollow” as the deficit soars, unemployment continues, and the power struggle to retain the coffers are foremost as the banker pals will do their utmost and are capable of anything to maintain the status quo to their benefit!

Dare question their intent and You as a natural born American are labeled as terrorist! Should DHS and other agencies be looking within and truly scrutinizing those from Executive office down the ranks whos eactions may indded be construed as acts of treason….

We here on “Main Street USA” are in peril not from Hamas and Hezbollah to the extent we are from those within who indifference and self-agenda versus the best interests of our beloved Republic have positioned us with such weakness, naval vessels strained to their seams, airforce jets needing replacement…etc.
Chinese nurclear submarines under the Atlantic, yet with their interest towards Europe and the Middle East where they foresee great trouble and a Germany which will inevitably lead the wolrd to war once again….

Barry Obama, we know Black History and the story about the slaves as well as what the Irish, the Greeks, the Armenians and so on and so forth had to endure, however replacing the bust at the WH of Winston Churchill with Martin Luther King clearly depicts your narrow perspectives as this is the 21st and 22nd centuries and if we continue on this path of devisivness and self-absporption, we, too may very well end up on the 20 nations list of the poorest….

DHS and its political appointees, these local unions who have local communities pay 60% and up to 80% of salaries towards retirement and healthcare and other perks for Life…they have raped our children of any future.

Thank God for those that serve this nation’s highest military command and the men and wo,men who so proudly serve our nation. I am quite serious. This ineptness from Washington’s politicians demands line by line accountability, transparency of all sorts unless a national security reason and term limits as well as recall initiatives for elected officials.

Thank God for all that serve each and e ery day that we do Not know by name, yet they are committed here and globally to protect our Liberty! We take our Republic and our Constitution – under siege by Barry Obama et al – w/far less appreciation as We should for it is the cornerstone bequethed to us.

Barry Obama may whisper to the “KGB Putinites” and conduct closed backroom door sessions with the “Brutes of Tehran” however if he or this Massachusetts “Mitt the Unfit’ who can so easily turn and make a $10k bet in front of us on “Main Street USA” where we have been stripped of any change remaining in our pocket, well, as an elder, fortunately I will Not be here to see ethe eventual calamity which will inevitably happen as it has in the past and we have seen –religion — whether dating back to 800 Ad – before or after – religious wars batlle on aand today is no different….

Christianity and Islam have never stopped knocking their heads together and religion from generation to dysfunctional generation have left million and millions slain or punished and given the narrow perspective and the lust for power despite what our Creator asked from us, guess, what, We are all to endure hardship never endured by mankind….

Christopher Tingus

Comment by Philip J. Palin

April 8, 2012 @ 5:55 am

I am no doomsayer. I aspire to be quite the opposite. I try to contribute to homeland security precisely to avoid doom. But I am inclined to agree, “Our inability to see past ourselves will eventually lead to our demise.”

While we are tempted to deadly self-absorption, there are alternatives. In his original comment in this series, Bill Cumming referenced Buddhism’s possibilities.

Yesterday — Saturday — I visited an exhibit of works by the 18th Century Japanese artist Ito Jakuchu. Thirty scrolls capture a wide range of the natural world with startling intimacy. I don’t think any photos here would do justice to the works.

The scrolls serve as a “congregation” for a triptych of three manifestations of Buddha, one of which is giving a sermon on the harmony of all creation. A similar sermon features in each of the great traditions. Tribalism, selfishness, and in some cases even family are offered as impediments to this intended harmony.

The English “Easter” is derived from “Austron” a pagan goddess of fertility worshiped at the Spring equinox. The old Anglo-Saxon means “to shine.” Early evangelists to Britain evidently grafted the resurrection story to this pre-existing religious tradition. In the spirit of such openness and celebrating the harmony of all creation: Happy Easter!

Comment by John Comiskey

April 8, 2012 @ 8:39 am

I miss posting but I most always gain something from your post.
I gave up coffee for lent and it nearly killed me. As I sip my third cup today, I especially enjoyed your post. As I make my way to 10:30 mass, I offer all denominations and all people’s peace.

John C

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