“In the Wrong Hands”

By Jim Mullen
Emergency Management, Once Removed 

It is long past time to restructure or eliminate the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 

Reservations expressed at its inception about the potential abuses of power that such an agency might commit were ignored. Post 9/11, such concerns were subsumed by decision makers more worried about the psychological and political consequences of another successful terrorist attack.
Combining multiple federal agencies under one Secretary of DHS was thought to assure greater collaboration among agencies with law enforcement and regulatory missions. It was posited that such a superagency would allow for greater efficiency in “protecting” the nation on a domestic level from terrorism.
In a 2019 post (with a nod to Lewis Carroll, titled “If seven maids with seven mops swept it for half a year…”), I cited some of the agency’s more confounding post 9/11 errors, speculating that the agency’s more recent role in executing Administration immigration policy might be a precursor of more sinister missions to come. 
I wrote, “…many of us continued to worry that in the “wrong hands”, DHS, despite its many dedicated public servants, could become rigid, arbitrary, and subservient to the whims of a future Administration tilting toward authoritarian behavior. In the “wrong hands” unexplainable and unjustified actions taken by agencies under DHS thus could go unchecked, with only the lamest of explanations proffered. “Crises” could be fabricated for political purposes, with severe long-term consequences for our nation’s values, not to mention for our actual national security. “
That 2019 post was prompted by the complicity of then – DHS officials in the despicable separation of children from their families along the Southern Border, and the caging of children – a practice worthy of some of the more reprehensible and oppressive regimes in human history.
The concerns I expressed publicly since 2003-4 about DHS, and more recently in that 2019 piece, seem, sadly, to be coming true in 2020 before our eyes. DHS deployed, without the approval of local leaders, a collection of ill-suited federal forces (ICE, CBP, really?) to attack and intimidate citizen protesters, a type of authoritarian action one might expect in Brazil, Russia, or Turkey. The identification of the agencies or personnel involved is shrouded in secrecy. (As I write this, it is reported they have “gone away”, but have they? Could they not return? Would we even know?).
How can this happen? Clearly there is an absence of professional leadership in DHS, not to mention ignorance of our Constitution. During the past three plus years we have seen the erosion of competence among officials placed in charge of that “superagency” – initially some appointees that “knew better” but apparently “went along to get along”; now DHS is led by appointees who seemingly could care less about the responsible application of the authority that accompanies their positions.  
Congress should intervene to restrict the authority DHS presently wields or break up the agency altogether. The worst fears at its inception have come true: DHS is clearly in the wrong hands today. 

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