Saturday, January 02, 2010

Is the USA now over-emphasising homeland security?

According to US government figures, there were NO violent deaths from terrorism on US soil in the period 2002 -2006 (when the statistics stop, but probably the figure was still zero in 2009).

The US government can no doubt argue that this is because there are now hundreds of thousands of people employed to prevent terrorism.

On the other hand, some people might like to ask: how many ordinary people are affected by these measures? Sixty six million passengers flew through Atlanta in 2008, 50 million through Heathrow, and so on.

Meanwhile, Americans might want to ponder the fact that there were a quarter of a millio (252,966 to be exact) violent deaths during 2002-2006 on US roads (not to mention those who were injured).

Moreover, there were 146,814 deaths in the USA from firearms during the same period, 2002-2006. Of those who were killed, 1610 were up to 14 years old; 12,242 were 15 to 19 years old; and 20,563 were 19 to 24 years old. That's approximately 34,000 YOUNG people killed just in these five years when no one was killed due to terrorism.

So should the US stop all measures against foreign terrorism on US soil? No, but the US might want to be more balanced and sensible about countering such terrorism.

If President Obama is serious about improving Homeland Security, I would recommend the following three steps as the minimum:

1. Decrease emphasis on gathering every conceivable bit of information on every visitor, emphasise analysis of all the information that the US already gathers through existing channels, and (more important) emphasise follow through on the basis of the information collected.

2. Throw out all the redundant information that is collected, which clogs up the possibility of adequate analysis - for example, all foreign visitors to the USA must not only give BOTH eye-scans but also all TEN fingerprints. This is overkill with a vengeance! One eye-scan and one index finger print should be more than adequate for almost any purpose but if the US wants to insist, perhaps it could be satisfied with two eye-scans and two index-finger-prints? Does the formality of the pre-travel registration really help anything beyond creating additional bother for all passengers travelling to the USA?

3. Order an assessement of the IQ of all employees connected with anything to do with homeland security. One or two agents who are not up to the mark or are mentally lazy are all that are needed to stymie a whole system - because, as in the recent case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Anyone who has any contact with any official to do with TSA or homeland security knows that many of these officials may be (just) able to follow procedures, but following procedures is never going to provide security; following procedures intelligently is what is going to provide security. All TSA/ homeland security employees with an IQ of less than 120 should be let go. A slimmer but more intelligently organised and much better co-ordinated corps can help deliver security, but the present bloated, ill-organised, uncoordinated and unintelligent scattering leaves the security of the USA very much to chance.

A friend sharing a coffee break says that perhaps the US likes and wants to have a bloated, ill-organised, uncoordinated and unintelligent scattering of agents and this huge amount of undigestible information as part of scaring its own population into paying for the sales of all the security-related equipment and for providing employment during a downturn.

Another person (an American) argues even more cynically that it is part of an elaborate plot by the US elite to limit freedoms in the USA, and that the limits on freedom are going to get much tighter with even more scare-mongering.

Please let's not be that cynical! Specially at the start of a new year and a new decade! Let's be positive and seek to spread truth, intelligence, balance, justice, love and all the other good things - which are what new beginnings are all about. Sphere: Related Content


Anonymous said...

Well done Prabhu.
The number of jokes (actually sad ones) on crossing borders quite supports your suggested action (IQ etc)

I just cant get over the difference in appreciation and application of counter measures between terrorism and say fire arms and road violent deaths.

34'000 young people shot violently, but no official action to curb this, at least not that we are aware of ?
All that education (costly) lost, all those dreams, all the sorrow caused.

As for road related violent deaths, a quarter million on 4 years. same remark.

Here one could envisage a whole lot of simple formal or technical improvements, some already existing on a freewill basis such as alcohol or drug breath test before starting, or even a heart rate that if got high would slow down the vehicle, at minor expense (exercise machines have them all over here)

Did you know that in Canada, BC, only next month is it not allowed to talk on have a mobile phone and drive at the same time. I could not believe this.

In Europe it has been banned for many years, with hefty fines, Even in less developed India, it was around 2002 that this was banned with a mighty fine.

Contrast this with the avalanche of expense, no bars held back, for aviation security, in the name of terrorism, and all the hassle it puts on passengers.

Your remark on eye scans and fingerprints, same contrast, to prevent how many deaths ? None actually.

Yet a quarter of a million road deaths, and scant action or measures taken from what I can see.

Anrosh said...

History says - that any country that has had RULES over emphasized lag behind - Is America heading this way ? over scrutiny, fear, and cynicism will forbid many good guys from entering america who had always had human capital as its bests asset to spear ahead in the world --