Terrorism: February 19, 2003


The new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is being given about $40 billion a year to do the impossible, and not annoy the voters in the process. The main problem is the sheer volume of operations the DHS has to check on for terrorist activity. Each year, some 500 million people enter and leave the United States. In addition to examining these people, there are the vehicle movements across the border. Each year, over 11 million trucks cross American borders, plus 51,000 ships and 2.2 million rail cars. In addition, there will be increased surveillance of people flying and moving long distances within the United States. Americans don't like being watched in this manner, and as the terrorist threat wanes (as it will), the annoyance at DHS scrutiny will grow. In practical terms, DHS observation can be done very discretely, as in the proposed "TIP" (Total Information Program.) But even that has triggered numerous lawsuits, even as the terrorist threat remains quite high. But in the grand tradition of American government administration, the DHS will eventually turn into another jobs program, where the activity is mostly for appearances and the bureaucrats in charge know that their careers depend on not annoying the voters.


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