Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 4, 2015

“We hold these truths to be self evident….”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Dan OConnor on July 4, 2015

“Active Shooter Confirmed in DC Navy Yard.”

“Shots Confirmed, Gunfire Reported Inside the Building.”

FALSE.

We now live in a tyranny of fear.  We are a fearful nation.  The United States: afraid of everything.  Land of the free and home of the helicopter parents and politicians.

Say it’s not so?

Let’s look at what unfolded Thursday morning.

The mere words; “I thought I heard gunshots” sent a dizzying panic through the nation’s capital.  Morning News shows steeped in monophonic Gregorian chants about the presidential elections quickly changed gears and had the scoop: a shooter at the Navy Yard, again.  The city went into lockdown, nervous leaders calling their security personnel demanding action against the terrorists.

Alas, there was none.

There was no shooter.  There was no terrorism.  There was a histrionic, knee jerk reaction to a phantom.

Quickly thereafter the news shifted back to the chanting and refocusing on ISIS, ISIL, Al Qaeda et al.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re sitting here a week from today talking about an attack over the weekend in the United States. That’s how serious this is,” said Michael Morell the former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Clearly he would know.  But he didn’t make his assessment in his former capacity.  No, Mr. Morell made his assessment as the security correspondent on CBS. So my question is what will be the surprise about next week if nothing happens?

Waiting to exhale, crisis averted, lets focus on some more conjurings.

This is America in 2015, the 239th year of our Independence.

We record everything that takes place.  We spy on our own people.  We spent trillions of dollars we don’t have on a threat that is less likely to kill you than getting hit by lightning.  In fact Americans are 69 times more likely to die in their tubs than at the hands of the maniacal evil genius terrorists.

I cannot help but be sarcastic.  We are quickly becoming a half assed nation.  No real strategy, no discipline, no resilience; a weak nation.

And now General Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tells us his guidance from the honorable Mr. Carter is to prepare for the long war.  The U.S. military needs to reorganize itself and prepare for war that has no end in sight.  We have been at war — hot, warm, and cold — since 1941.

Um, that’s like 75 years…so what is long? And gentlemen, what does victory look like?

We’re screwed.  We can no longer even let our kids play in a park or walk home.  Not because of the threats.  No, it is because of the mere idea there is danger everywhere…danger and legislation.

When we are attacked again, because clearly that is likely, what limited civil liberties we do still have will be usurped not by evil geniuses wearing turbans but by Americans wearing Brooks Brother suits.  And it will be done in the guise of our safety and security.

If I save money every pay period in the form of cash and then go to redeposit, I am suspected of nefarious activity.  If my tracked behavior changes in any way, I am highlighted.  If I purchase one way tickets via air, rail, or bus or simply travel too much, or post anything derogatory against the prevailing culture, meme, or trend, I am dangerous.  Before my eyes I am seeing a nation that “had it all” piss it away.  We have lost our moxie and courage and live for the sound byte.   A bit of hyperbole on my part, but it is required to illustrate our current state.

We are fearful.  And, we have become diagnostically insecure.

In one sense, security is the measured resistance to or protection from harm.  Security is also a state of mind, a physiological/psychological symbiosis. We have spent much treasure trying to quantify what is difficult to qualify.  If security is a biological state of being and a relational state in ones environment than how can it be quantified?  This is where we find ourselves now.

This is becoming a bad Seligman and Maier’s experiment where our perpetual learned helplessness is resulting in the realization that we have little of control over the outcome or state of affairs we find ourselves in and are constantly bombarded with conditioning to be afraid.

“Fatigue gentlemen, makes cowards of us all.” Vince Lombardi

Being constantly consumed with the idea that at any moment an existential threat will evaporate the United States is fatiguing; so much so that we begin to exist in a chronic state of fear.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Let us remember this Independence Day that the very idea of Independence — freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others — must be embraced and cultivated and not taken for granted.  It is a quintessential American ideal: to be independent.  Independence is not being influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc. It is thinking and acting for oneself.

Independence is not yielding to another’s authority or jurisdiction.  It is not influenced by the thought or action of others: Independence is possessing competence.

Fear negates all the aforementioned.  Fear drives wedges, undercuts, and dissipates. Fear makes cowards of us all.  Therefore, let’s all remind one another that we are a Nation that declared themselves free of fear, tyranny, and oppression.  Let’s also remind ourselves that if being afraid is our method for preserving our independence, than we have summarily lost it.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.  Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln.

Happy Independence Day.

 

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9 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 5, 2015 @ 2:47 pm

Thanks DAN!

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 6, 2015 @ 10:27 am

WEATHER TERRORIZES D.C. JULY 4TH MALL CROWD! Unable to shelter in place?

Comment by Joel Palmer

July 6, 2015 @ 12:05 pm

Funny you mention the sheltering on the Mall, I was just about to do the same. If nothing else, it seems to put to the question how necessary the security measures routinely used (Schneier’s “security theater” type) given that all of them were dropped to allow folks to shelter and yet, despite all of the fear around an attack on the very same day, everyone seems fine.

Thanks, Dan, for putting together such a thoughtful piece on some of the downsides of the 75 year war and 14 year panic.

Comment by Mike Qtips

July 6, 2015 @ 5:00 pm

Well, of course. This has been going on for decades.

Scared people are easier to sell to (products OR ideas), and more docile in general.

And that’s all it takes.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

July 7, 2015 @ 9:56 pm

From my perspective, the failed leadership of this Chicago-Hollywood-Washington charade has played a hugh role in bringing uncertainty and encouraging divisiveness and fear among the populace — “If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be under the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. But, in reality it will be an Enemy from within” – James madison (1785)

The ignorance of our own brief history in our populace is appalling – many do not even know the significance of the 4th of July! Some do not even know who the first President of the United States was or who fought in the various Wars?

Ignorance is abundantly clear among the young especially when it comes to US history and the Constitution itself or the history of ‘ol Glory!

It is bewildering how so many of our young know so little — and are truly indifferent to the struggles, the sacrifices which have been made to afford Liberty!

As Samuel Adams said, “No People will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can they be easily subdued, when knowledge is wide spread and Virtue is preserved”

We have allowed self-serving politicians to spew empty rhetoric without transparency and willing and together as we saw at the “Benghazi Massacre” lie….and the same politicians withholding the truth whether in emails or other –

Therefore, it is this void in leadership which has allowed fear and crime and distrust to pervade the landscape and it is We the People who do not understand that history and knowledge is vital to taking necessary and decisive steps forward…no matter the cost for freedom and Democracy must have strong arsenal to thwart the many who seek our demise.

The church, the priests and their dastardly ways…all are to be blamed for the obvious failures we see in society.

Talk about Black Life Matters…what about the kids in Chicago and the cold blooded murders every weekend, precious youth, however because it is not a White on Black crime – good ‘ol Al and Barry and the justice department and good ‘ol Hillary, not to be seen or heard from – never bothering to visit the precious Black Life in Chicago which does matter like everyone else….

We have allowed a government to expand and serve entitlements to the extent that a majority of our population are receiving some entitlements while promised jobs and more jobs are existent — what a pity —

Politicians talk of gun laws when Chicago itself has the strongest gun laws in the country, yet crime is rampant and no one seems to give a damn — what a pity.

We either have an agent of Tehran in the White House who would allow Tehran a nuclear weapon or we have a White House executive who is incompetent and is so perverse in his ways, so biased and even seemingly despising of the Jews (Hebrew) and Israel, that he snubs our Israeli friends whenever the opportunity and in this article we talk about fear presiding over our landscape, certainly when government fails to be strong and to enforce laws rather than allow convicts to be released from prison to walk among us and far much more….as we now see in SF!

Recall this Independence week the words of Frederick Douglass:

“Find out just what People will submit to, and you have found the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.

The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress” –

God Bless America!

“Main Street USA”

Comment by Vicki Campbell

July 8, 2015 @ 5:29 pm

Mr. OConnor, i really agree with your sentiments about the excessive fear-mongering that has been ongoing for years now in the U.S., promoted almost exclusively by the national and homeland security communities (as well as largely conservative war-mongerers) – and amplified by what is without a doubt the greediest, most irresponsible corporate, profit-driven media establishment ever, who’s far more interested in eyes on the screen and the advertising dollars they can translate into, rather than anything seriously resembling journalistic integrity. Also, to my mind, the FBI has been singularly bad at forecasting terrorist risks and looming attacks – so much so that one feels almost guilty for saying so, their record’s so bad, it tends to quickly start feeling like child abuse…..

But I must respectfully disagree with your comments and sentiment regarding your expressed notions of “freedom” and “independence.” Not only do I not share your sentiment and definition of the notion of freedom that you suggest we must “embrace,” be vigilant about and not take for granted, but as far as I am aware, it in no way reflects anything this country was founded on whatsoever. With all due respect, I think it reflects a somewhat adolescent, and yes, very male notion of independence and freedom, one that is at once found no where in the real actual world, on any level, but also one that is fundamentally dangerous to harbor, either individually or as a nation.

This country was hardly founded on, as you put it “the very idea of Independence — freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.” i also don’t agree with your assertion that either term “is a quintessential American ideal: to be independent. Independence is not being influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc. It is thinking and acting for oneself. Independence is not yielding to another’s authority or jurisdiction. It is not influenced by the thought or action of others: Independence is possessing competence.”

As our founding documents clearly state, America was founded fundamentally on the ideas of equality and representative government. Freedom or independence is relevant and comes into play only in so far as to achieve these goals, we needed to declare our freedom from the tyranny of the British. The U.S. was founded on some very basic notions of justice and fairness, not on the “I am a rock; I am an island” theme you seem to want to overlay onto it. Independence or freedom may be a desirable state when its specifically defined in relation to some very specifically undesirable influence within a very specific context, but as an entire state of mind, or way of being, or sense of identity – being free “from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others” is not only neither good or desirable, but it is more than anything, completely impossible. We are a very interdependent species, whose social, political and economic structures and institutions are equally so, as is the world and the natural environment we live in wholly interdependent as well. To my mind, that is what needs to be embraced much more fully, especially by countries like America – and the much more responsible notion of freedom or independence that flows from that is what’s so sorely missing from much of the U.S.’s behavior around the world, which, in turn, has certainly made us much less safe overall.

We are not a rock, or an island, or absolutely any kind of entity that should be claiming or striving either one to be free “from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.” Human beings ultimately learn about themselves and the world around them through relationship with each other. We are a nation, and a people, that needs to start acknowleding its interdependence with the family of nations and “man” and certainly the natural environment, and the unavoidable and often quite glorious factors, forces and influences we are irreversably embedded amongst and within – and all the responsibilities that flow from that – and get much better at learning how to play with the other nations and kids on the playground so to speak, and start working toward coming together with others in a manner that increases peace and security for everyone, rather than that perpetually seeks to unnaturally set ourselves apart from and above others. In sum, America needs to start learning how to function in a much more responsible, interdependently manner, not one that denies its interdependency with the world it is very much a part of.

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 9, 2015 @ 6:21 am

A brilliant tome by a Columbia U. Prof published early this century entitled FREEDOM and tracing the use of that term throughout American history.

Comment by Dan O'Connor

July 9, 2015 @ 3:46 pm

Hi Vicki;

Thank you for your comments.

I really appreciate them and if you will indulge me, I will expound on my thoughts.

“With all due respect, I think it reflects a somewhat adolescent, and yes, very male notion of independence and freedom, one that is at once found nowhere in the real actual world, on any level, but also one that is fundamentally dangerous to harbor, either individually or as a nation.”

I do grant you your due respect and I can assure you I am not an adolescent. However I am a male.

And for the sake of a vibrant discussion I share with you some amplifying comments;

I chose a definition of the word to amplify both the date in time (Independence Day being the day this was published) and the current threat being portrayed.

Independence; noun
The state or quality of being independent.
Freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.

A competency.

There is an American theme that does capture these ideas. The “play with others” and other soft power adjectives you allude to are a reasonable accommodation to an ideal.

That said, revolution and that reasonable accommodation do not peacefully coexist. And further, there is no suggestion that we go it alone…instead it is a call to free ourselves from the utter stupidity of total and I daresay tyrannical desire for security. As for the idea that you asserted that America was founded fundamentally on the ideas of equality I say balderdash.

You state that “As our founding documents clearly state, America was founded fundamentally on the ideas of equality and representative government. Freedom or independence is relevant and comes into play only in so far as to achieve these goals, we needed to declare our freedom from the tyranny of the British. The U.S. was founded on some very basic notions of justice and fairness, not on the “I am a rock; I am an island” theme you seem to want to overlay onto it”.

I fundamentally disagree. That was a secondary requirement. There were more documents than the Declaration of Independence that shaped and formulated our country. And while many like to cuddle and embrace with the ideals of Locke and amplified by Jefferson, the largest part of the independence movement had far more to do with business, taxation, and resistance to Britain’s new found necessity of proximal presence.

The Treaty of Paris, which marked the end of the French and Indian War, granted Britain large amounts of territories west of their existing colonies. In addition, the colonies themselves had already begun to set their sights on expanding their western boundaries; at the expense of their current tenants, the Native Americans.

So the idea of justice and fairness is a bit suspect. But let me continue.

Quite a bit of Colonial blood had been shed to fight the French and Indians. And after this fight it becomes readily apparent that this war has been extremely costly to Britain. Part of the British colonial burden so to speak. The Seven Years’ War had been an economic engine for the colonies, especially Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. Like all war time economies, they dry up and a recession follows. That leads to levying additional taxes. The taxes initially asked of the American colonists were lower than those asked of mainland English citizens.

However, the idea of being thwarted from moving westward, the economic turndown, the increase of taxes, and emerging British policies would exacerbate the situation. The revenue raised from taxing the colonies was to pay down their war debt.
However, the newly blooded militias and colonial leadership as Americans had a different emerging disposition. What was the purpose of maintaining garrisons if the threat of the French was dissipated?
Clearly it wasn’t a human rights issue. Perhaps it was the British coming to understand that the colonies, armed, ambitious, and hungry for expansion may grow to be a problem.

So, starting in 1765, different factions of colonial society began to reject the authority of the British Parliament. They rejected the authority to tax the colonies without any representatives in the government, and resisted with increasing vigor the British attempts to collect duties on goods such as sugar and molasses that for many years had gone uncollected through widespread smuggling by colonists. The desire to define “freedom” and “fairness” would emerge after.

The opposition of the Stamp Act, a taxation measure designed to raise revenues for a standing British army in America and the Quartering Act (which required the American colonies to provide food and shelter for British troops) were hotly denounced and infuriated the colonial assemblies. This in turn enflamed anti British sentiment as it was affecting business.

Men like Patrick Otis, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock saw significant impact on their revenue streams and…saw the British as overly oppressive.

Finally the tea act pushed the hostilities into conflict. So while it would be nice to assume that America was founded fundamentally on the ideas of equality and representative government and/or some very basic notions of justice and fairness the facts or more appropriately the inferred historical interpretation makes the idea that the initial motivation for declaring independence was economic.

Further still, please see below;
From the Declaration;

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

There is not a great deal in these points with regard to our nation being founded fundamentally on the ideas of equality and representative government. That would come later. The national government had no money to pay either the war debts owed to European nations and the private banks, or to pay Americans who had been given millions of dollars of promissory notes for supplies during the war.

Now, after time has passed and other realities set in, compromises by Hamilton and Jefferson enacted and a sense of stability and/or “what now” commenced, there was reflection and the creation of a democratically-elected representative government responsible to the will of the people was established…all except for those 3/5 of a person; the slaves.

That compromise on the slaves, initially proposed by Jefferson but struck down by the South enabled a unified South to consolidate power and maintain slavery in America for another eighty years. So a contradiction (that would summarily play out during the Civil War). The new Constitution established a relatively strong federal national government that included an executive, national courts, a bicameral Congress that represented both states in the Senate and population in the House of Representatives. Congress had powers of taxation that were lacking under the old Articles of Confederation.

This new federalism was led by Washington, Alexander Hamilton and other veterans and they convinced Congress to adopt a new Constitution that provided for a much stronger federal government, including an effective executive in a check-and-balance system with the judiciary and legislature.

This was a very fiery time in terms of determining what our government would look like. The Constitution was ratified in 1788 and new government under President George Washington took office in New York in March 1789. Only then under the careful guidance of James Madison were the Bill of Rights drafted and the guarantee of the inalienable rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence made law. That was in 1791 some 15 years after the Declaration of Independence was declared.

The American shift to liberal republicanism, and the gradually increasing democracy gave birth to the ethic that has formed a core of political values in the United States.

I apologize for the length of this but I felt you may have missed my point almost and mildly insinuated that I was either naïve or childish and was just banging around the jingoistic nationalist “shoot em all” mantra. I assure you I am not. And the fact remains that independence allows flexibility, adaptation, and transitions faster than coalitions and consensus centered alliances. I do agree that “…we are a very interdependent species, whose social, political and economic structures and institutions are equally so, as is the world and the natural environment we live in wholly interdependent as well.” But the blog post and its context was not about that. It was specifically about reflection on how we currently behave and was that the intended behavior when a group of men, albeit white aristocrats, chose to rebel against economic exploitation and risk losing.

However, in the guise of uniting the world for more peace and security, I would, like you, idealize for it. The problem is man is inherently flawed, either by biology or theology. Whether the need to compete against one another or because of original sin, man does not coexist peacefully with man. History demonstrates that. Now, while violence is down and death from war is down, we are clearly no more secure with that downturn in violence.

I see my country much like I see my mother; flawed in many ways but still my mother. I do not propose to dampen my patriotism or fervor to celebrate an idea that has blessed the world with many good things and unfortunately with some bad too. I am not a European. I am not an Irishman; I am an American.

“America needs to start learning how to function in a much more responsible, interdependently manner, not one that denies its interdependency with the world it is very much a part of.”

If you have a successful model I would like to see it. When we celebrate our past I don’t believe we are denying our need for interdependency. On some levels I think you aspire to a more global model where we all get along and unite. 3 millennia of history refute that proposition. But we should still aspire. My country right or wrong, but my country.

Thank you for inspiring me to write this down and I look forward to any opportunity to further discuss this with you. Be well!

Comment by S. T. More

July 13, 2015 @ 9:10 pm

Dan, thank you for the very effective and informative rejoinder to Vicki. I enjoyed it and appreciate the effort. While impressed with the history lesson and welcoming of your candor, I disagree with the statement in your reply post (entertaining as it was), that it is necessary to “free ourselves from the utter stupidity of total and I daresay tyrannical desire for security.” By your own admission, your post contained sarcasm and hyperbole to make your points, but I found this statement to be an oversimplification that lightly dismisses the fears of people who do not want, and should not accept terrorism or attempted acts of terrorism in this country to be the new normal. While you make valid points about the efforts of the media to hype the risks from terrorism, the fact is that people have a right to expect and demand its government to provide for the nation’s security. It is a valid question to ask and debate at what cost that security comes, but it is not realistic to wish away the concerns of citizens by indicting them as ignorant and manipulated masses.

I look forward to more interesting exchanges on this and other subjects.

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