Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

October 18, 2013

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on October 18, 2013

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

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Comment by William R. Cumming

October 18, 2013 @ 7:51 am

The modern profession of LAW largely a corrupt one.

Lawyers are Officers of The Court meaning they must be admitted to the highest court of some State to practice law. They then become subject to the enacted Code of Professional Responsibility [Canons of Ethics] of that State. There is NO separate Code for federal legal practioners.

Lawyers used to provide two things to their clients. Information and judgment!

Now the game is to provide opinion that some activity is not illegal meaning not criminal. Those opinions are largely for sale at the going price.

Hired guns may be skilled at trial practice. They do not necessarily understand the Constitution or democratic government.

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 18, 2013 @ 7:55 am

It is increasingly clear that SCOTUS as currently constituted is undermining our Republic.

The issuance of so many 5-4 opinions is indicative that the members of SCOTUS lack the ability to provide coherent judgment on the path of the LAW!

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 18, 2013 @ 7:58 am

Given the subject of this blog I hope all readers, posters, and commenters understand that the federal judiciary has after more than a decade utterly failed to provide coherent legal guidance on the GWOT!

Comment by Claire B. Rubin

October 18, 2013 @ 8:44 am

Why are all the heads of DHS in recent years attorneys?
I guess Ridge was the only exception.

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 18, 2013 @ 9:12 am

Tom Ridge was attorney! Not sure if currently admitted to practice law in any State.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

October 18, 2013 @ 9:16 am

Bill and Embarrassed:

Maybe something for each of you.

Bill, you’re a lawyer, I’m not. I have my own critique of the aristocracy of the robe and my own curiosity regarding this specific appointment. But I wonder if this is not at least in part another example of the law being one of the last redoubts of the professional generalist.

We are increasingly a society of specialists… and in most roles and places, such specialization is helpful.

But in many large organizations the fruit of specialization seems to sour as it ascends toward the top. So… especially in the public sector lawyers continue to serve the role as a kind of strategic reserve, not so much because they are well-suited, but because they are not as constrained as others.

Embarrassed, if you are a regular reader you know I share your concern that Homeland Security has just become a sort-of National Security farm club. I also understand some other candidates refused the President’s invitation. The vacancy at the top was becoming embarrassing itself and a source of increasing dysfunction. So is this an example of neglect or the President reaching out to a talented man who would not say no? I don’t know. But I think it does say something about leadership development in homeland security and beyond… which is, perhaps, something different than a critique of HS or Jeh Johnson per se.

Comment by Embarrassing

October 18, 2013 @ 10:49 am

Phil, I agree with your thoughts, and do not mean to critique Mr. Johnson as a person, but his selection is a great example of the failure to establish the professional boundaries of this field. The fact that so many of the national security leadership continues to equate homeland security with CT is a great example of this, as if all their thinking comes from the TV shows 24 and Homeland.

As far as lawyers as generalists, I am not sure I agree. Outside the field of law, it may seem so, but as I understand, it is very specialized. Law schools dont teach leadership or management, which I think is the key role of a HS Secretary. I think Mr Johnson has an uphill battle to earn the respect and lead the emergent enterprise, and his term could be up by the time he figures out how to spell TSA, USSS, ICE, CPB, FEMA, CIS, USCG, NPPD, S&T, OHA, etc., much less dealing with 50 governors and all the unique stakeholders. We will see and I certainly wish him well. But a generalist from another field (public administration, perhaps… business- think of mcnamara’s budget reforms at the pentagon) would serve this Department better. There are plenty of policy folks at the top, not sure if there are enough real managers / leaders who get how to run a complex public organization.

Comment by Dan O'Connor

October 18, 2013 @ 11:05 am

On the surface one has to wonder why so many other qualified individuals were passed over; Thad Allen, Ray Kelly, Bill Braxton, etc. All those names were floated. So were Jane Harmon and Sheila Jackson. There are others who are capable. I wonder if they all said “no” or were never considered. Who would want the job anyway? The organization ranks dead last in the Federal Government for leadership, place to work, and a litany of other grievances. One wonders why the President chose on the surface another attorney with no legitimate experience in the homeland security realm. This is not an indictment of Mr. Johnson, but merely an observation. Perhaps he has some unique qualities we are currently unaware of.

One also has to wonder why after over a decade of education, discussion, vetting, and experience no one from the homeland security enterprise/community was entertained or selected. We’ve spent an awful lot of time and money educating and preparing homeland security leaders … apparently that skill set is not a prerequisite for the position.

I am left to draw the conclusion that the idea of homeland security with all its dendrites and complexity is a diminishing field of importance. It is all rather sad. I am sure I am shooting myself in the foot but the idea of this being purposeful, rewarding work on behalf of the nation is dying a slow death. Homeland security is a punch line and has become a euphemism or pejorative for behavior and actions that appear to be contrary to American values and its constitutional ethos.

It’s been a tremendous couple of months. We are spied on by a government who says it is merely trying to protect us (purposely hyperbolic). We discover this after a whistleblower or enemy of the state makes us aware. We spend billions on airport security and a kid is able to sneak on a plane and others blow up CO2 bombs in airports. We see terrorism continue and efface in emergent attacks on groups of people across the globe. And we see a Government that is so paralyzed with rhetoric and ideology that it simply ceases to work. They should simply ask for volunteers to do the job…this way no interests or constituencies would be damaged or enriched by the ineptness.

Imagine the surprise of people who work for DHS who are held to a standard of conduct and behavior to maintain clearances and preached to how vital and important they are find out that they are no longer “vital” “essential” or “exempted” and simply sent home. Sequester, furlough I, furlough II, probably a furlough III in January and still no leadership, budget, constraint, and foresight. It’s quite fatiguing.

And it is all part of a bigger picture that is becoming less focused and more opaque every day. It appears the entropy of the Department of Homeland Security has increased.

Henceforth I say break it up. Destroy the monolith and return the functions as best one can to their previous domains. It is not likely but that sentiment does exist.

Thank you Phil for always maintaining the most professional of hand on the reigns…I agree with you with regard to generalists being a good fit. I would make the case that leadership; quality, purposeful, and mission oriented leadership is best accomplished by a generalist. If the President wanted to shake things up maybe he should have asked General Mattis. He could have asked Jeff Bezos. The Team of Rivals idea is long gone. Is this an expectation problem? Where have all the leaders gone?

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 18, 2013 @ 12:33 pm

Thanks Phil and others!

Readers of my posting and comments know that IMO there is no such thing as “secret” law and to argue such is unethical for a lawyer and an abomination in a society where no person is above the law.

Sometimes the points I make on this blog may miss the mark for many reasons. Often lack of time or expertise to expand on my remarks. At least one of my earlier comments may serve as an example.

John Yoo should have been disbarred. But federal lawyers ethics are controlled by the respective STATES. Knowing this Mr. Yoo was able to manipulate the system to avoid accountability. The fact that he
teaches in a law school should document another of my comments.

As a former GC of DoD let’s have 100% of his opinions that he authored or signed off released to the Committee that will confirm!

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 18, 2013 @ 12:38 pm

My explanation as to the providing of an opinion on a classified matter is complicated. This long ago should have been a matter for discussion and publication by the National Security legal profession.

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 21, 2013 @ 4:10 pm

CRS has released a report on the federal response to chemical accidents. WEST, TX event?

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