Friday, September 7, 2007

JMO - One for the people and one not

Fridays are one of my two favorite days for reading newspapers, Sunday being the other one. I get between four and six national and local papers, sit down with lunch, and read them cover to cover, and with scissors and a notepad. I like to read about the world. I remember a professor in one of my graduate classes several decades - seems eons, but isn't really - coming in with a stack of articles (it was a water resources class) and asking the question after handing each student one article, "So, what does this (article) have to do with the water resources of Lynden?"

Lynden is a small town outside of Bellingham, Washington where I was living and attending graduate school. The town is a blip on the map. It's water resources are small but also big. It sits near the US-Canada border and shares the aquifer of rural lower British Columbia. It's an area of dairy farms on both sides of the border with (then) development encroaching with the addition of new wells and the problems of depleting aquifer and water quality. So it was always interesting to find ways everywhere else in the world related to Lynden.

And the point? Well, The Washington Post reported that a federal judge has struck down the controversial portions of the USA Patriot Act on warrantless searches, especially silencing the recipents of the warrants from saying anything to the individual in the warrant or to the public. This is a really big, Woo Hoo to me. The return of our civil rights and liberties on our privacy and against illegal searches.

According to the article under the Patriot Act the number of warrantless searches have risen from 9,000 in 2000 to nearly 50,000 in 2005, and likely higher in 2006 and 2007. It's an FBI being big brother in our lives, intruding without any real justification and only a whim of reason. And while I agree some people under suspicion by the FBI is appropriate to be under investigation, there is this thing called a court. And if they are serious, they can always get a FISA warrant.

The reality is that, as reported elsewhere, that 90+% of the warrants aren't for suspected terrorists but are for criminal investigations, for background investigations or for related or incidental individuals to a primary suspect or investigation. In short, in many of cases the FBI is simply fishing. And it's very easy you or I to be the person they're fishing for information. Ordinary, innocent citizens who would never know.

So, I'll take heart moderation is winning against oppression, so far at least. And the "one not"?

Well, it seem the Government Accountability Office has issued an assessment saying the Homeland Security Department we've entrusted to keep us safe and secure from terrorists and whom has consumed so much of our tax dollars haven't succeeded very much beyond beginning. We're no more safe than on September 10, 2001. And that's news?

To me, no it's not because I always thought it all was a shame or scam - take your pick - to sell us fear and get money to aly our fears in the name of fighting terrorism. The problem has to do with the assimilation of many other federal agencies into one massive agency under Bush. Many then said it wouldn't work and shouldn't be done. I argued to simply improve people communications and data sharing (legally) between the agencies would be better, simplier and cheaper.

I'm for dismantling the Homeland Security Department back into smaller agencies with specific purposes and missions. They're more efficient and effective that way. And just improve the electronic and human resources between agencies and you'll be better off and doing a better job of protecting America and Americans. It's the case that bigger isn't better. The federal government isn't Walmart.

And so, one good note and one bad note. Now if the bad guys in Washington will get their proverbial heads out of the sand - yeah, it could have been differently said - and solve the second issue, we could actually have a safe and secure America, one that terrorist fear than laugh.

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