As the eighteenth birthday of the Department of Homeland Security approaches, the case for dismantling it is stronger than ever. It is time to find an American voice that says: Enough.
It is strangely easy to forget how controversial the department was when it was proposed, even within President George W. Bush’s administration.
Vice President Dick Cheney and many other Republicans were wary of creating a massive new agency, and questioned the need for a new cabinet secretary. Libertarians and Democrats raised concerns about civil liberties and accountability.
Would the consolidation of 22 agencies under one roof make America safer, or was this just an expensive public relations move to compensate for missing the 9/11 attacks, a horribly successful act of violence organized by a small group of people?
It was the beginning of a dark time in the so-called homeland, with unimaginable amounts of money and debt devoted to military spending; expansion of law enforcement powers and federal authority; erosion of civil liberty and the right to protest without being beaten up or maimed; and, also, broad power claimed by the office the presidency to use deadly force pre-emptively, and without accountability, anywhere on the globe.
That power was wielded by President Bush, then by Barack Obama, and now by Donald Trump.
As it has grown, the DHS has fulfilled every warning about a bloated, expensive bureaucracy and a looming national security state, and calls to dismantle it have been perennial.
But now another shoe has dropped: The DHS is being weaponized against us.
In Portland, Ore. the DHS deployed armed forces ostensibly to protect federal buildings and have arrested nearly 100 people. Yet a chill goes up the American spine seeing armed men without badges or clear uniforms simply jumping people and stuffing them into private rental vehicles, without any semblance of process and indistinguishable from a kidnapping. The scenes evoke memories of the East German secret police.
Worse, they are seen on video engaging in violence against peaceful demonstrators, firing baton rounds at people’s heads. DHS acting Secretary Chad Wolf, a former lobbyist known as one of the architects of the malicious family separation policy at the southern border, has indicated he would keep these forces in local cities even over the objections of local elected leadership.
And this week, the president of the United States has explicitly suggested delaying the U.S. elections in November.
Enough. We built this behemoth, it is now being used against the people, and it is time to dismantle it. There is no time to be timorous, no time to split the middle or pretend this is about law and order.
We know what this is; and it is time for every political party and political actor to mobilize the power and influence they have to communicate a clear and resounding no.