Homeland What?

The Department of Homeland Security is the bureau calling the shots when it comes to protecting the United States against terrorists. No doubt that the headquarters of the DHS itself are a fortress-like, high-security complex, guarded by dozens of steely-eyed pros that make Clint Eastwood look like a wimp.

Well, not quite.

Some whistleblowing guards say the Homeland Security premises--which are located in a residential area of Washington D.C.--are anything but secure. Derrick Daniels, one of the guards formerly assigned by his employer, Wackenhut Services, to watch the complex, told the Associated Press about a recent anthrax scare.

After an ominous white powder was discovered in the mail last fall, DHS security personnel responded in a rather odd way.

"Giftuards said they watched in amazement as superiors carried [the envelope] by the office of Secretary Michael Chertoff, took it outside and then shook it outside Chertoff's window without evacuating people nearby," reported AP.

Daniels, who claims that the DHS guards are pathetically undertrained, said the area wasn't evacuated for more than an hour afterwards. When the order was finally given, some employees "had already gone to lunch and had to be rounded up and quarantined."

But according to other staffers, this was not the only incident. Former guard Bryan Adams admitted that he "didn't have a clue about what to do" when a DHS employee reported a suspicious bag in the parking lot. So he did the most logical thing: Close the vehicle checkpoint with a cone and alert superiors.

What happened immediately after Adams had sounded the alarm? You guessed it: Nothing.

No one sealed off the area. No one evacuated the nearest buildings. Finally someone called a federal bomb squad, "which arrived more than an hour after the discovery."

Luckily for the DHS, the bag was full of gym clothes... after all, it doesn't seem the agency is ready to deal with a real threat.

Of the two vehicle checkpoints on the property, one is only guarded during morning and evening rush hours; the other features two guards in a car and no barriers whatsoever.

And although DHS spokesman Brian Doyle insists that these security measures are adequate--due to a 10-foot fence topped with barbed wire that keeps vehicles away from the buildings--former guards claimed "they knew of two instances in which individuals without identification got into the sensitive complex."

But what about Homeland Security's top-secret information highway?

If you have envisioned something akin to the futuristic-looking control room of the popular TV series 24, whence the agents seem to be able to manage the whole world via a few keystrokes... um... not so much.

In fact, the House Government Reform Committee just released its 2005 annual report card on federal computer security, and the Department of Homeland Security flunked for the third straight year. Criticized issues include basics like proper password management and restricting access to sensitive information... an open invitation to hackers, viruses, and potentially, hostile governments or clever terrorist organizations. (By the way, the Department of Defense also received an F for security gaps in their computer system...)

Considering that these are the people entrusted with keeping us safe, we should probably be prepared for just about anything.


Posted 03-21-2006 4:34 PM by Doug Casey