Tag Archives: Department of Homeland Security

No ‘good news’ to be found in Puerto Rico

The acting head of the Homeland Security Department has stepped in it … bigly.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke sought to put a positive spin on the Trump administration’s response to the Puerto Rico tragedy caused by Hurricane Maria. The she said the magic words.

“I know that it is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating hurricane,” Duke said.

The magic words are contained in that sentence: good news story.

No ‘good news’ to be found

That ignited San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who’s been battling against a growing humanitarian crisis in her city and throughout the island.¬†“Well, maybe from where she’s standing it’s a good news story,” she said. “When you’re drinking from a creek it’s not a good news story. When you don’t have food for a baby it’s not a good news story. When you have to pull people down from their buildings, because ‚ÄĒ I’m sorry, but that really upsets me and frustrates me.”

Cruz went on:¬†“Dammit, this is not a good news story. This is a people-are-dying story. This is a life-or-death story. This is there’s-a-truckload-of-stuff-that-cannot-be-taken-to-people story. This is a story of devastation that continues to worsen because people are not getting food and water ‚ÄĒ if I could scream it a lot more louder. It is not a good news story when people are dying, when they don’t have dialysis, when their generators aren’t working and their generators aren’t providing for them. Where is there good news here?”

I’m not going to call for Duke’s head on a platter, although her remarks do have a “heck of a job, Brownie” feel to them, alluding to President Bush’s ill-considered compliment to then-FEMA director Michael Brown’s response to the Hurricane Katrina tragedy in New Orleans in 2005.

I just wish Duke hadn’t used the “good news story” phrase. She does seem to mirror the self-congratulatory tone being struck by Donald J. Trump, who keeps alluding to the “fantastic job” his emergency response team is doing, along with the local first responders in Puerto Rico.

What the citizens who live in Puerto Rico want to hear is that their country — the United States of America — is committed fully to helping them. They don’t want to hear about “good news,” or that the president’s team is doing a “fantastic” job.

They want relief. They want to know the president is focused exclusively on helping an island comprising 3.5 million U.S. citizens who are stricken. They are suffering.

They are Americans in trouble.

Secret Service not good enough for Trump?


Donald J. Trump keeps breaking with established norms, even as he prepares to become president of the United States.

For example, as the president-elect, Trump is being provided the best security in the world, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Secret Service agents are at his disposal 24/7.

However, Trump is continuing to employ private security officials at those rallies. They are using aggressive tactics to quell protestors who occasionally have their voices heard at Trump rallies.

Is this the right thing to do? Is this appropriate for a president-elect who’s already being guarded by the finest publicly paid security service in the world?

I think not.


Security officials are concerned that use of the private officers puts Trump and his staff — and his family — at heightened risk. One official noted that the presence of the private security agents creates potential confusion among the Secret Service detail assigned to protect the president-elect and his family.

So, why doesn’t Trump simply rely on the security protocol that taxpayers will be funding?

These folks are damn good at what they do, Mr. President-elect.

Is this the year the U.S. gets hit?


Well before the sun set on Sept. 11, 2001, defense analysts and terror experts were almost unanimous in their assessment of our nation’s future.

If was not a matter of “if” we would be hit again, but “when.”

The head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, that he believes this is the year it will happen.

The Islamic State, he said, is going to continue to hit Europe and well might plan a coordinated attack on our shores.

When will it occur? The general didn’t say. He cannot know.

In reality, though, he didn’t provide a serious scoop on what’s been understood since the terror attacks of 9/11.

That attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was so daring, so audacious, so brilliantly executed that it prompted President Bush and his national security team to create an entirely new Cabinet agency assigned to protect us. The Department of Homeland Security has been on the job ever since.

Now, the question always has been: Will this country be able to protect itself forever against the next terror attack? There can be zero guarantee against another attack that could rival the horror that al-Qaida brought to our shores on the beautiful Tuesday morning in New York and Washington.

But then again, had we been fully alert to the dangers that always have lurked, perhaps we shouldn’t have been so totally shocked at what transpired that day.

The Bush administration — once it gathered itself after the horror of that day — managed to keep us safe for the remainder of its time in office. The Obama administration has kept up the fight and has continued to keep the terrorists at bay.

But Gen. Stewart’s prediction of another terror attack — this time by the Islamic State — shouldn’t be seen as a big-time news flash.

Al-Qaida managed to get our guard up. Our task always has been to ensure we stay on the highest alert possible.

The enemy, though, is as cunning as they come. Many of us will not be surprised when they strike again.


Terror vs. gun deaths


Here’s an interesting statistic that today drew some attention on one of the many Sunday morning TV news/talk shows.

In the past decade, 153,144 people have died in this country from gun violence; 3,046 individuals have died at the hands of terrorists during that same period.

This came from Chuck Todd, moderator of “Meet the Press,” citing the stats¬†provided by¬†the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

He asked Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, about whether the country needs to do as much to combat gun violence as it has done to battle terrorism.

Lowry gave a reasonable and intelligent answer, which was that government’s fundamental role is to protect citizens against foreign enemies; he added that any gun-related action “on the margins” won’t do anything and that more comprehensive action runs the risk of infringing on the Constitution’s Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”

Meet the Press tackles gun violence

The discussion was fascinating.

Still, I’m a bit baffled by the fact that with such a huge disparity between gun-violence deaths and terror-related deaths, we still have been unable — or unwilling — to deploy government’s machinery to impose additional restrictions on gun ownership that does not infringe on citizens’ right to own a firearm.

After all, the government created a whole new Cabinet-level agency — the Department of Homeland Security — immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Still, madmen take guns into public places and massacre thousands more innocent victims … and we do nothing?


Speaker gets past this rocky road

House Speaker John Boehner has had more fun than what he experienced the past couple of weeks.

It’s been like, well, herding cats. His Republican caucus all but went into apoplexy over a plan to fund the Department of Homeland Security. The TEA party wing of the caucus remained dead set against it. Other Republicans joined with Democrats to fund DHS until September.

Without the money, DHS would have had to shut down; 30,000 federal employees would have been furloughed.

Crisis is averted. For now.


The speaker’s difficulty with his the TEA party cabal is far from over. I’ll just suggest that his fear will be that they’ll be so angry with him they might try to launch an intraparty insurrection to get Boehner removed from his post.

Who would get the gavel? Louie Gohmert, the East Texas chucklehead? Would it be Steve Scalise, the majority whip from Louisiana who once spoke to a David Duke-sponsored outfit?

My hunch is that Boehner will survive any possible rebellion.

But the vote to fund DHS now allows the House of Representatives to get on with more serious matters. Lawmakers ought to focus on things such as, oh, a budget, infrastructure legislation, some national security issues. You know, the stuff to which they all signed on to do on behalf of all Americans.

I’m glad the deal was struck. Boehner actually worked with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the despised former speaker. That, by itself, might be cause for the TEA party wing of the GOP to break out the pitchforks and torches.

Isn’t governing fun, Mr. Speaker?

Governing looks like the old way

So, this is what the new style of governing looks like on Capitol Hill.

Republicans control both legislative houses. The Senate wants to move away from the stalemate over funding the Department of Homeland Security; it wants to vote on a “clean” funding bill that doesn’t contain measures to strip out President Obama’s executive action on immigration. The House of Representatives — led by its TEA party coalition — wants to stick it to Obama.


Neither side can persuade the other chamber that their way is the right way.

We’re stuck.

Ain’t governing fun?

House Speaker John Boehner is having a difficult time corralling the rebels in his GOP caucus. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has done a better job of taking control of the Senate.

DHS has enough money to function until Friday. Then¬†lawmakers either (a) vote on yet another short-term deal or (b) vote on a “clean” bill that might just anger the House TEA party rabble rousers enough to try to oust Boehner as speaker.

Meanwhile, the agency charged with protecting our borders from oh, you know, drug smugglers and terrorists is being kicked around like an unwanted critter.

This isn’t the way it was supposed to work when Republicans took control of government’s legislative branch.

House members reaching into Senate affairs

It’s downright fun to watch members of one congressional body suggest the way members of the other congressional body should do their job.

Let’s presume that the upper chamber, the Senate, would prefer that the lower chamber, the House of Representatives, mind its own business.

House conservatives push McConnell to gut filibuster

Then again, they’re all on the same team, yes? They’re all interested in doing what’s right and correct for the country, aren’t they?

Maybe so. Maybe not.

U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, thinks the Senate should change its filibuster rules to strip power from Democrats. He wants Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to invoke the so-called “nuclear option” by not allowing Democrats to filibuster GOP-sponsored bills to death. The issue at hand is the Department of Homeland Security funding measure that’s being kicked to death on the floors of both chambers.

Remember when then-Majority Leader Harry Reid did the same thing when Republicans were in the minority? You’d have thought GOP senators’ heads would explode.

Now the fortunes are reversed. The GOP controls the Senate, along with the House. But among the Republican majority there exists a restive band of malcontents, the TEA party caucus, that wants to shake things up not only in their own body, but in the other one as well.

That’s where Labrador and fellow House TEA party insurgent Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., are seeking this change in Senate rules.

Someone needs to inform both of these young men about the institutional rivalry that exists between these two bodies. Senators represent their entire states and serve for six years. Those House members represent certain congressional districts, which have been gerrymandered — more than likely — to elect people of certain ideological stripes; they’re elected to mere two-year terms.

The Senate considers itself a more deliberative body; the House by nature is more raucous. Senators likely won’t admit to it, but they look down their noses at their House colleagues.

Thus, it is at some peril that Reps. Labrador and Huelskamp seek to tell the folks at the other end of the Capitol Building how to conduct their business.

Tread carefully, fellas.


'Delusional wing' of GOP stalls DHS funding


That’s the only word I can think of to describe what’s happened today in the U.S. House of Representatives.

A majority of the House rejected a plan to keep the Department of Homeland Security functioning for the next three weeks.


The Senate had approved a bill to fund the agency until September. Senators had agreed to strip out provisions aimed at stopping President Obama’s executive order on illegal immigrations, which House and Senate TEA party members detest passionately.

So House, given a chance to keep DHS operating — and protecting our borders against the bad guys — went along with what Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., called the “delusional wing” of the GOP. It stopped the funding measure.

This is no way to run a government. It’s no way to take the reins of power, which Republicans did when they took command of the Senate in January. The GOP now controls both legislative chambers and this is the result they’ve produced on the first big showdown of the new congressional session.

House Speaker John Boehner has lost control of the body he’s supposed to lead.

The House of Representatives, early in this new era, has disgraced itself.


Preposterous plan saves DHS, for now

Roger Daltrey sang it loudly at the end of The Who classic, “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss!”

Republicans had vowed to govern better than Democrats did when they took over both congressional chambers at the beginning of the year. That vow is in jeopardy.

Why? The House of Representatives, which the GOP has controlled since 2011, is going to fund the Department of Homeland Security — but only until March 19. Then the House and Senate will have deal once again with imminent closure because of Republican anger over an executive action taken by President Obama to deal with illegal immigration.


Congress appears ready to avoid a shutdown at the end of today. The GOP-run Senate wants to approve a funding measure that doesn’t include a provision to strip the executive order of its authority. The GOP-run House, though, isn’t ready to swill that Kool-Aid.

What a terrible way to run the government. A Band-Aid here and there. Then we return to the same crisis mode that sends everyone’s blood pressure through the ceiling.

Obama sought to delay deportation of 5 million illegal immigrants. Congress didn’t like that the president acted alone, even though his predecessors have done so on the same issue over the years.

Republicans are so intent on stopping the deportation order that they’re threatening to de-fund the very agency, the Department of Homeland Security, that is charged with protecting the nation against bad guys trying to sneak into the country.

What kind of governance is that?

The new boss is no better than the old boss.



Vigilance required … even right here

If the 9/11 attacks more than a dozen years ago taught Americans anything it all, they should teach us to be on high alert no matter where we live and what we’re doing.

Thus, warnings to mall shoppers have gone out across the country in the wake of a threat made against The Mall of America by an al-Qaeda affiliate, Al-Shabaab.

Yes, that means Westgate Mall in little ol’ Amarillo, Texas.


Al-Shabaab has threatened to strike malls in three western countries. Department of Homeland Security officials take the threat seriously. The Mall of America is in Minneapolis, which is home to a large Somali immigrant population. The Twin Cities region also reportedly has produced many recruits who’ve signed up to fight with Islamic State and other terrorist organizations.

Make no mistake, these threats go right to the heart of where we need to be alert. Malls represent — to many people around the world — some elements of American excess. Americans, of course, do not see it that way, nor should we. Do we stop doing business at these places just because a terrorist group has leveled a threat? Of course not.

But these monstrous organizations have shown how seriously the world must take their threats.

The 9/11 assault should stand as proof that these organizations mean business.