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Issue of the Week: Homeland Security

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Illustration by Cody Angell
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday November 27, 2002

On Monday, President Bush signed into law a bill that will create a Department of Homeland Security. The bill, passed last week by the Senate by a vote of 90-9, streamlines 22 government agencies, 170,000 employees and $40 billion into a single department, slated to be headed by Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge. It will be months before the new department is up and running, but most members of Congress ¸ from both sides of the aisle ¸ are calling the bill a victory. Is the Homeland Security bill a step in the right direction for America and its safety?


A more secure homeland good, but be cautious

Better security on the home front is something few could argue against. Nonetheless, the effectiveness of the new agency, and the door it opens for curious, and potentially unconstitutional maneuvers without warrants should be thoroughly questioned.
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Kendrick Wilson

The new Homeland Security Bill lifts many limits for what can be done with personal information without a warrant. The Wall Street Journal, not a bastion of liberalism, reported last week that following Sept. 11, 2001, even with limitations on the use of personal information, the FBI circulated lists of hundreds of people they wanted to question ¸ not suspects, but people who might have information. Only a year later, businesses across the country had copies (many of which were filled with errors) and some were using them to screen job applicants and customers.

Such privacy intrusions are precisely the reason old-school conservatives like outgoing Majority Leader Dick Armey and Rep. Bob Barr have announced that they plan to collaborate with the ACLU on personal privacy issues.

Molly Ivins, an excellent political columnist, is quick to point out that "The blowhard right-wingers sometimes put down Barry Goldwater these days as ╬the liberals' favorite conservative,' and so he was. But in your heart, you know Goldwater would have had a cow over all this."

The new Department of Homeland Security must be held accountable for its actions.

Kendrick Wilson is a political science sophomore. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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Jason Baran

America tries to re-visit Era of Good Feelings

Behold the new Department of Homeland Security. This is the first new department created in a very long time. The new department is a noble effort to look responsive and dutiful. On this count, the administration gets high marks for doing the best it can, given the circumstances.

Unfortunately, the problem is far more complex and pervasive than a re-organization of government ¸ complex as it may be ¸ can possibly solve.

First, this reorganization will take ¸ according to the White House ¸ two years, maybe longer. What about the interim? Even when everything is completed, there's no guarantee that it will work because of the existing agency cultures. The best that can be expected is improvement, but comprehensive cooperation seems unattainable.

Second, this massive, expensive, lengthy re-organization ¸ while indicating the American resolve to be safe and indomitable ¸ is a loud and clear message that terrorists can dictate action. This is an unpleasant admission. This ¸ coupled with potential domestic spying and surveillance ¸ borders on the unacceptable, if not inevitable.

The new department is probably politically necessary and for that, the administration and Sen. Lieberman should be commended. One wishes there could have been a better way.

Jason Baran is public policy and administration grad student. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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Jason Winsky

What are we willing to give up for safety?

The big words are everywhere these days, and the 2002 Homeland Security Act is peppered with them. New government departments are being created with titles such as the Department of Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection. It's no wonder that more than a few Americans are concerned about the possibility of people in trench coats running around (besides Wolf Blitzer).

It seems that Americans are faced today with a terrible choice: Either contend with a Big- Brother government on our backs or deal with a Big-Brother terrorist network within our country. These are times when the big questions are being asked that no one wants to answer: What will you give up in order to be safe?

If the government said, tomorrow, that we could all be safe if we allowed the government to videotape us in public, would we agree? What about reading our mail? Tracking us on the Internet? Registering all of our firearms? What would you give up for the promise of safety?

There aren't any easy answers to these questions, but we better start thinking about them, because the government damn well is. If we don't tell our government exactly how far we are willing to compromise our rights, pretty soon they won't be asking us anymore ¸ they will be telling us.

Jason Winsky is a political science junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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Tylor Brand

Watching U.S. slowly close the iron venetian blinds

How much more can they take?

This newest neo-fascist bill gives us TIPS (the plan that might mean your plumber might be looking for more than just the offending lunker in your crapper) and VIPS (which allows civilian volunteers to keep an eye on us if the cops are otherwise directed), which means if the terrorists don't get you, your neighbor just might!

But even worse, this $37.7 billion (up from $19.5 billion) bureaucratic spy network is planning on using "information technology" to create a massive database headed by John Poindexter ¸ the same malignant polyp whose brilliant idea for funding the fascist contras in Nicaragua was to sell arms to Iran and drugs to L.A. gangs ¸ that will store information from damn near the entire private sector, which means if you buy anything with plastic, the feds know what and when. And they'll wonder why.

Finally (but sadly not last), as a favor to defense and intelligence workers, the clause that protected whistleblowers has been stricken from the law so they can now be fired and sued if they talk about what our government is doing. But history shows that they deserve our trust, doesn't it?

Good advice is to be careful ¸ don't let the cameras think you're anything but patriotic, or you may find yourself in our new privatized Ministry of Love doubleplus quickly.

Tylor Brand is a philosophy sophomore. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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Mariam Durrani

Tom Ridge: Not the right man for a difficult job

The idea itself is reasonable.

What with John Malvo killing nearly 13 people in D.C. and the Sept. 11 terrorsits, it is essential for the government to crackdown on illegal immigration.

Secondly, the anthrax scare has yet to be solved. Who did it?

Nobody knows. The new head of the Department of Homeland Security, a.k.a. Tom Ridge, a.k.a. the previous director of Homeland Security, hasn't found a clue in the past year to solve or prevent either of these problems. The idea of a reorganization designed to fix the kinks of the system and avoid future attacks is timely.

What's worrisome is when Georgie gives an obscene amount of power to a man whose highlights simply include district attorney for four years, House Representative for 13 years and governor for seven years.

Sorry, but there are other folks in D.C. with the same or more experience who could do more in a year after the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history than a color-coded threat alert system. A second-grader with a color wheel could probably do that.

Oh, but the second-grader didn't campaign with Georgie when Bush senior fought the 1980 election, or vacation with the First Family in Kennebunkport. We are in desperate need of quick reaction. But is Ridge the right man? His history suggests no. Let's just hope that time with Georgie in Maine is well-spent, or at least instructional.

Mariam Durrani is a systems engineering senior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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Jessica Lee

No faith in ╬Homeland Corporate Security' bill

Following the cookie crumbs of the new Homeland Security bill, it's no surprise that corporate America again has its hands in the Congressional cookie jar.

The presidential signature is a sign that the American people, compromised by fear, have decided to give up many of their rights without a fight.

In many cases the bill will be used to aid companies in the "name of national security." According to Public Citizen, the bill "waives the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) for the new department, thereby giving a green light to the department to meet in secret with advisory committees (even those unrelated to national security), many of whom will be comprised of industry representatives." Remember Cheney and the energy meetings?

Under the bill, if corporations leak information to the department "in the name of national security," that info then cannot be used in any civil lawsuits. This will let corporations escape liability for harmful products or activities that threaten human health to the environment.

It undercuts our rights as Americans to request information under the Freedom of Information Act, and gives corporations who evade taxes extra benefits.

Remember when this transformation is complete in a few years, that it was the Republicans who signed it into effect, not the Democrats who will then be in charge.

Jessica Lee is an environmental science senior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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