Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says that if critics don’t like what his department is doing, they should come up with better ideas, says National Public Radio in the last of a 3-part series. “Should we eliminate the watch lists? Would you then get on an airplane, or put your children on an airplane in that kind of environment? Would you open the border? What would you do, then, when a terrorist or a drug dealer came in? Would you raise your hand and say, ‘I take responsibility for that’?” Chertoff asked.
In Baltimore, millions of dollars have been spent to secure the city’s ports and other facilities. Consultant Randy Larsen sees points to the water: “Any small vessel capable of carrying a Hiroshima-size bomb could just come right up into the harbor.” Larsen’s book, Our Own Worst Enemy, bemoans what he sees as a lack of common sense when it comes to homeland security. He thinks the government spends too much on “guns, guards and gates” and not enough on intelligence and nuclear nonproliferation, which might be more effective. Stephen Flynn with the Council on Foreign Relations also thinks the department’s counterterrorism focus is wrong. He says that the agency has squandered the most useful weapon it has: the expertise and relationships that its frontline employees get when they do their more traditional, non-security jobs, such as working with companies on facilitating trade. The department’s emphasis on law enforcement and security rules alienates the very people that could help detect another attack, including those in the immigrant community, says Flynn. Almost everyone NPR interviewed cited as a major problem the failure of Congress to consolidate its oversight of Homeland Security.