Secret America

Since the 9/11 attacks, the US Government has formed top secret programs all over the United States.  These agencies are charged with protecting Americans from terrorists. However, no one knows everything they do or how much they cost.  Even Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and CIA, does not know the scope and size of secret programs in Top Secret America.

PBS’s Frontline TV show recently aired a show called “Are we Safer?” which reported on the sprawling post-9/11 terrorism-industrial complex.

Flash back to the year that changed America forever.  September 9, 2001 a Maryland state trooper pulls a man over for driving erratically.  The driver politely greets the officer and has the proper registration.  The officer lets the man go.  Nothing out of ordinary happened at that point in time.

The driver, Zihad Jarrah, was on his way to catch United flight 93.  That flight, with Zihad Jarrah on it, was one of the terrorist’s flights that crashed in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  There were no survivors.  The near miss of Zihard demonstrated to the government that the need to have a massive surveillance system or organization tracking suspicious individuals was imperative.

Within 9 days of 9/11 Congress launched a global offensive against Al Qaeda and gave billions of dollars in funding to agencies involved in counter terrorism.

Prior to 9/11, there were about thirty different data bases that contained pertinent criminal information that was not being correlated.  Different government agencies fused together to form one organization whose headquarters cost 3.4 billion dollars.  The inception and implementation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) happened almost instantly.  The agency’s main priority was/is to fortify domestic defenses.    This was the largest merger in our government’s history.

Fusion bases were formed in every state to help get information fast and disseminated quickly.  Maryland, the state where Zihad Jarrah slipped through the cracks, was one of the first of the 72 national Fusion centers created by DHS. To date DHS has spent over $420 million on the state’s Fusion centers.

However, the agency has been met with mixed emotions.  Since 9/11, the need for behavioral analysis training has increased dramatically.  Some government agencies have begun to use emotion recognition training tools such as microexpression training .  This training can aid security professionals in detecting concealed signs of emotion, which can be potential threats to national security and the safety of American citizens.  However, violating American citizen’s rights in the process has come under debate.

In one incident police gathered information on 53 protesters and labeled them as terrorists.  This caused an outrage from civilians who felt their civil liberties were being taken away.  These peace activists, some of whom were Catholic nuns, had their files (as potential terrorists) made accessible to federal and state officials.

The DHS’s main information gatherers are city cops.  The SAR, Suspicious Activity Report, a local police form is the war on terror’s best weapon.  It is filled out by cops if they suspect any type of terrorist activity with a suspect they have stopped or observed.

What are your thoughts on this type of profiling?  Is it necessary and harmless?

The government has gone so far as to employ license plate readers.  Cameras are everywhere in public places to guard approaches to tunnels bridges or other static targets.  “Big Brother” is definitely watching.  DHS believes it is a way to provide greater security to Americans.  However, Fusion center’s technology post 9/11 was not involved in much of the catching of bombers or threats on American soil.   Those threats were exposed by observant citizens and local law enforcement agencies

Are we a safer America now opposed to nine years ago?

Well, what do you think of  “Big Brother” type programs such as Google Maps and Google Earth?  Are they an invasion of privacy/civil liberties?

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