"A choice, not an echo." -- Barry Goldwater

Why We Don’t Need a Department of Homeland Security

The Bush administration’s attacks on the United States Constitution will bear unanticipated fruit under his successor’s leadership.   In the attached report, the Department of Homeland Security’s Extremism and Radicalization Branch, Homeland Environmental Threat Analysis Division (I’m not kidding), our government labels as threats to national security the following:  Second Amendment supporters, veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and unspecified “antigovernment” activists.  The report’s classification of threat categories is so broad that it’s easy to find oneself in at least one of them.  Since I, for example, support the robust Second Amendment intended by our nation’s founders, the Obama administration regards me as a threat to national security.  Likewise, the thousands of Americans who attended the Tea Party events around the nation this week are now evidently regarded by their government as national security threats by virtue of their “antigovernment” political beliefs.

Creating a new Department of Homeland Security was a bad idea.  The problems with intelligence gathering that contributed to the 9-11 tragedy arose from poor administration and turf defense among agencies competing for slices of the federal budget.  Because the Bush administration lacked the competence to reorganize and coordinate the existing agencies, and to give the appearance of asserting leadership in the aftermath of a national disaster, the Bush administration created a new cabinet level department responsible for a great many functions already being performed by other existing agencies.

But there is more.  Once created, bureaucratic power acts to preserve itself and advances its institutional interests by serving the interests of its political masters.  The DHS report on “rightwing extremism” illustrates this principle.  Department of Homeland Security, meet your new boss, Barack Obama.  Secretary Janet Napolitano, your mission is to characterize your boss’s political opponents as “rightwing extremists” and threats to national security.  The Bush administration’s creation of the new DHS was not simply another instance of poor administration and leadership.  Rather, it established a new tool for political leaders seeking to demonize their opponents.  Bush’s intentions in creating DHS don’t matter now, because it’s no longer his department.  The more power government has, the greater is its potential threat to our freedom.  The DHS report is a startling reminder that big government is dangerous.

My response to the DHS report is:  I am not an unnamed and dehumanized “rightwing extremist.”  My name is Scott Boykin, and I am an American.

Scott Boykin is an attorney in Birmingham and the Chair of the Alabama Republican Liberty Caucus.

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