Instead Of Nominating New DHS Boss, Obama Should Look At Disbanding DHS

from the a-mistake-whose-time-has-come dept

As you may have heard, last week President Obama nominated Jeh Johnson, the former General Counsel of the Defense Department, to be the new head of the Department of Homeland Security. While he’s certainly better than some other proposed candidates, he’s not exactly known as a supporter for civil liberties. He’s been a point person defending the use of drone-strikes, even on US citizens. He also has defended the collection of metadata by the NSA. Oh, and in his remarks after President Obama announced the nomination, he talked all about 9/11 and how he’s spent his time since then trying to act in response to that.

Of course, many have questioned his qualifications to lead an organization like DHS, noting that it’s a pretty big leap from his last job:

“I think it’s a stretch because you go from administering a relatively small and homogenous staff… to administering a huge and very diverse staff, with things like law enforcement responsibility, immigration and border control responsibility,” says one former Obama Justice department official who worked with Johnson. “It’s just a very diverse set of issues and set of people to manage, and he has no experience with managing any of them.”

But, really, there’s a bigger issue here: why do we still have a Department of Homeland Security in the first place? It seems like the whole thing is a massive bureaucratic disaster. Over the years, we’ve covered how the crowning jewel of DHS, its so-called “fusion centers” that tried to bring together various groups for anti-terror purposes — the very reason that DHS was put together in the first place — were a colossal failure. They were incredibly wasteful of taxpayer funds, created no useful intelligence at all in the fight on terror, and were regularly cited for violating civil liberties. More recently, we’ve noted how Customs and Border Patrol has basically become a rogue agency that can do whatever it wants with what appears to be no oversight or consequences. We’ve similarly seen how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (another sub-agency within DHS) was involved in illegal censorship and questionable seizures of blogs, just because the RIAA complained.

And there’s plenty more. Apparently, DHS only just figured out how to actually track its finances. And this is after it spent heavily on massive tech projects that didn’t work.

Maurer says that the department has only just begun to keep adequate financial books. Several big DHS projects have been expensive failures. Billions of dollars were spent on technology to secure the southern border and screen cargo containers for radioactive materials. In both cases, the tech just didn’t work.

DHS was created in the hysteria following 9/11. It officially was created in 2003, and has now been in existence for a decade. In that time, it appears to have failed at a variety of key things, and it’s entirely unclear if it’s created any benefit at all. Matt Yglesias pointed out last week that rather than nominating a new boss, we should be admitting that creating DHS was a mistake. It seems like that would be a much more productive step at this point.

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Comments on “Instead Of Nominating New DHS Boss, Obama Should Look At Disbanding DHS”

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Anonymous Coward says:

DHS really doesn’t have any specific job from what I can tell…

Like you mentioned, I thought this was originally about “Homeland Security” that they failed miserably at. Then I get subpoenas from them about child pornography on a customer’s network, (Welcome to my job, but why ?DHS?). There is the wonder offshoot of ICE which besides closing down a few thousand websites, some of them legitimate: (,,, et al) also loves to put unemployed people trying to earn a few dollars selling fake NFL jerseys.

Anonymous Coward says:

You’re always hearing the GOP going on and on about fiscal reform. Here’s one to throw right in their lap. They won’t take it but it does prove one thing. The fiscal reform initive is about one thing only. Preventing the spending on social programs while military, security, and the political parts run at full ahead speed.

Jay (profile) says:

Yes, this is a Godwin Reference. Get over it

Look, when Germany had their 1932 (33?) moment in Reichenstad(?) where a “terrorist” bombed a building, that was a moment when they needed to combine the efforts of all of their intelligence. Germany also had their prime minister nominated, not elected. And he kept doing things against the wishes of the people. When the SS was created, it had the exact same mission to protect the Homeland while doing more questionable things as the World geared up for WWII.

We call it the SS now but that was their Department of Homeland Security.

It’s been a colossal failure to have all of the LEOs under one roof. It’s more of a failure that this bureacracy hides so much information from its citizens while trying to stamp down on their rights.

We’re truly looking tyranny in the face and all it can do is ask for a standard 4-51C paper to file.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: Yes, this is a Godwin Reference. Get over it

but that was their Department of Homeland Security

It’s not like the parallel is or ever was subtle. I can remember not long after DHS was formed Robin Williams among others making jokes about how “Fatherland Security” might be a little too on the nose.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

On another planet maybe

Instead Of Nominating New DHS Boss, Obama Should Look At Disbanding DHS

Wouldn’t it require the complicity of a multitude of politicians and bureaucrats, as well as their supporting corporations, who have grown fat in money and power from the DHS to make that happen?

Yeah… that’s likely.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: On another planet maybe

It will take far more than this for a good start. All I see them doing is throw good money after bad. Once it is all gone, they want to go back to the pool for more. I’m tapped out for more. It is time for them to make real concessions were it will actually do the most good.

Eliminating the excessive costs for medical and making a method to cause them to lower costs would be a fine start there. Lowering the money the elderly gets will have no effect on that. It will have an effect on the economy though and not a positive one.

any moose cow word says:

Re: Re: Re:

True fiscal accountability from our government institutions. This is why our federal, and many state governments, are so damn far in debt. When it comes between saving the public tax payers’ money and saving their budgets, or even their jobs, you wouldn’t believe the lengths bureaucrats will go in order to justify their existence. As it is now, the way finances are handled creates perverse incentives to waste money rather than use it responsibly. There needs to be a fundamental shift in how resources are allocated.

GEMont (profile) says:

Like a well oiled machine

Actually, the DHS has been a perfect success and has accomplished all of its original goals and much more and intends to continue to be an effective tool for those who created it, far into the future.

It is simply that the DHS’s real goals and the public’s notion of its real goals, are two entirely different things.

As always with the Fed, what you see is never what you get.

For those interested, all that is necessary to discern its true goals, is to list its actual effects on the US constitution, law, public safety, national security and the bank accounts of its leadership.

mmmmmm – smeall that coffee eh!

GEMont (profile) says:

Clearance Sale!

Just a simple note pertaining to the dis-establishment of the DHS, and any other federal government agency or operation, including the Fed itself.

The federal government in all its myriad hats has been a fully obsolete construct for well over 50 years.

As much as 90% of all Federal Government operations are designed to either appear to resolve crisis which the Federal Government, through its minions, has created beforehand, or to create crisis which it can later appear to be attempting to resolve.

The members of the federal government – mainly men and women of vast wealth – are well aware of its obsolescence and uselessness and they endeavour every day in every way at their disposal to insure its continuity and their own ability to feed at the public tax trough eternally, primarily by manufacturing false crisis which make the federal governement appear to be essential and necessary and through destabilization via the many three letter agencies it maintains for this purpose, such as the DHS.

All truly essential functions of the Federal Government could be easily handled by a pair of 13 year olds and a good computer.

Eliminating the Federal Government and its myriad agencies would save the US tax payers – and the tax payers of any other nation supporting a similar parasitic organism – hundreds of billions of dollars annually, with absolutely no noticeable effect on international and domestic intercourse, save possibly, a greater fluidity and definitely a huge increase in personal wealth among the public at large.

Like any large predator however, they will fight to the death to prevent their dissolution at the hands of their perceived prey.

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