The Homeland Security Act Criminology Essay

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Homeland Security Act enacted in November in November 25, 2002 was an act promulgated by US Congress as a response initiative to the 9/11 bombing. Basically, this Act defined the primary missions and responsibilities of all agencies concerned in anti terrorism activities and homeland protection. This Act was an offshoot to the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) 2002. Though both legislations were designed to curtail terrorism activities, each of the two Acts have differing intentions. The first instituted the guiding principles and strategies to ensure greater security for the United States seaports and merchant marine vessels docking in US ports. On the other hand, the Homeland Security Act was established for the primary purpose of creating the Department of Homeland Security that spearheaded the execution of the guiding principles and the security measures provided for in the MTSA.

The Homeland Security Act 2002 was divided into 17 titles foremost of which is the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security. From these titles, three most important provisions were summarized into: 1.) Creation of world-class work force 2.) Enhanced research, and 3.) Protection of civil liberties. .

In short, the Homeland Security Act 2002 laid the foundation for the following measures to counter terrorism:

Border Protection of US territories

Community involvement in security and protection concerns

Ensuring transparency in government

Creating a Flexible and Motivated Work Force

Promoting World Class Research and Development

Border protection was primarily given to the US Coast Guard. These sea marshals played vital role in marine safety, environment and vessel documentation. Its two-pronged mission included maritime law enforcement and federal law enforcement. Originally, US Coast Guard operated under the US Armey but by virtue of the provisions of HSA 2002, it was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security. Other existing agencies that were transferred to DHS were immigration, customs, and animal and plant health inspection service.

Involving the community through special liaisons with the private sector was essential in technology integration to promote internal security. To achieve this, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was transferred to DHS. This agency was tasked to take in coordinating inter agency activities within DHS. The Secret Service was also moved from US Dept. of Treasury to DHS. This agency used to conducted investigative missions to safeguard the US financial system. Its prime areas of concern included falsification of documents, false identifications, unauthorized electronic fund transfers and money laundering. After the 9/11 incident, another task was given to the agency which was the protection of the President of the United States, his family and other foreign dignitaries and visitors who were officially invited by US government.


Openness in government was basically a policy that ensured transparency in government operations while not necessarily betraying certain rights to privacy of constituents. Open government is a right that beholds US government to its people the right to access government documents and proceedings to enhance private participation in the government bureaucracy.

HSA 2002 provided for the flexibility to organize work force charged with the implementation of anti terrorism plans and strategies. This is the largest component of the Homeland Security Act. Around twenty existing programs of eight (8) US Departments were ceded to DHA. The integration of these agencies having vast numbers of employees was a tremendous task of the DHS notwithstanding personnel management and bureaucratic issues that may emerge due to sudden and abrupt change of inter-agency chain of command.

The Act provided for exploratory and investigative studies that delved into variety of areas on the types and nature of materials and substances i.e. bio-and agro- substances that the terrorist may use to inflict heavy damage and casualties.

... a major focus and a major mission for this department is keeping dangerous people from entering the United States and that means keeping them from entering through our airports but also through our land and seaports of entry. If we can keep dangerous people out of the country we have substantially reduced our risk because it's a lot harder to attack us or commit a crime in the U.S. if you can't get in, in order to do it Chertoff (2006)

This mission statement made by no less than the Secretary of DHS clearly stipulated a gargantuan task of working to pursue terrorist both at home and abroad. Multiple government agencies were melded to work on this mission. Ironically, prior to the existence of HSA 2002, these agencies identified in the HSA have been operating on different missions entirely different from anti-terrorism. When DHS was created, the expected obstacles to the integration of agencies and programs were numerous. First, intra-organizational difficulties were anticipated with the task of integrating military, law enforcement, agriculture, biomedicine, emergency management, insurance, fire service, and other workforces Waugh (2003). Ceding these agencies under DHA is just tip of the iceberg. Welding together these disparate agencies under one agency i.e. DHS generally required realignment of polices on rules of engagements.

The question on overlapping of law enforcement procedures was found in GAO report (2004). The Border Patrol was responsible for protecting the nation's borders. However, a significant portion of the borderlands are federal or tribal lands managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and Forest Service. These bureaus were not ceded to DHS and this was where the issues needs to be ironed out by inter- agencies concerned with anti terrorism.

Apparently, the DHA 2002 gave considerations only on anti-terrorism and contingency plans which were viewed as federal in nature. Various disaster and recovery plans were formulated mainly on terrorism subjects. None of such plans gave considerations for disasters due to force majeure or natural calamities. This was found when Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana/Mississippi border last August 2005. GAO report (2006) manifested that Hurricane Katrina was one of the largest natural disasters in US history and despite massive relief operations; it was criticized as failure in federal leadership and management. The Homeland Security Act could have included disaster relief and operations due to natural calamities in view of the fact that such agency was well funded and funds continued to be made available by US Congress.

... at all levels of government - a fundamental lack of understanding for the principles and protocols set forth in the NRP and NIMS. Further, although private sector and Department of Defense (DoD) engagement was for the most part successful, there are integration issues that require more discussion and analysis Skinner, ( 2005)

Some agencies integrated into DHS were mandated to perform non-terrorism related functions until they were merged with the department. Originally. the mission of the US Coast Guard were mainly on air-sea rescue and for other environmental safety net concerns. until the agency was realigned to US marshals that provided sea-land border protection.

Decision process is another aspect of contention. Anti-terrorism approach included both military and civilian operations. Military approach necessitates highly sensitive and covert operations while civilian operations demand more transparent bureaucracy. GAO report (2003) emphasized that coordination of DHS programs with the regular programs in the estimated 100 agencies in twelve departments outside of DHS with Homeland Security responsibilities has not been easy.

Our objective is straightforward: The border should be open to trade and lawful immigration - and shut to illegal immigrants, as well as criminals, drug dealers, and terrorists (Bush, 2006).

In his address to the nation, Pres. George W. Bush announced the creation of Customs and Border Protection Office (CBP) as part of the implementing arm of the Department of Homeland Security. This initiative was made in response to the notion that terrorists would attempt to bomb US by smuggling weapons of mass destruction using any of the 7 million oceangoing cargo containers coming into US ports. CBP was created to address the threats posed by the continued use of US sea lanes and waterways of international container cargo ships.

The first initiative made by CPB was the assignment of inspectors at any US port of entry. These inspectors performed physical inspections of cargoes, review documents, manifestos, and intelligence reports. In view however, of the multitude of containers docking into different container ports all over US homeland territories, CBP devised another supplementary system of examining vulnerability of container ships. It is called the automated targeting system strategy (ATS), a computer model used to further review documentation on all arriving containers. If the assessment warranted physical inspection of cargoes, CBP made use of Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System that takes gamma-ray image of the container that enable visual analysis of anomalies. Another strategy used was the placement of CBP staff at designated foreign port to work with foreign counterparts to check high risk cargoes before its shipment to the United States. This initiative was made possible under a cooperative program among CBP members and international private trade companies. Private companies agreed to this initiative to lessen the likelihood of its vessels being inspected before entering US territories.

Another important aspect of CBP was its regulatory role of promulgating regulations that improved the effectiveness of inspection procedures and timelines of advance information on cargo manifest sent by incoming vessels for use in the targeting system.

... while CBP has taken steps to address the terrorism risks posed by oceangoing cargo containers, its targeting strategy neither incorporates all key elements of a risk management framework, nor is it consistent with certain recognized practices associated with modelling GAO (2003).

An assessment on this strategy was made to identify strategic developments and recommendations. GAO (2003) found that CBP has taken positive steps to curtail terrorism. Its initiatives succeeded in curtailing terrorist attacks on US shores. Up to this moment, there has not been any incident contrary to this report. Taking matters aside however, certain gaps were found in the CBP initiatives. Foremost was the inadequacy of Risk Management approach on two very important aspects, i.e. determining levels of risk for each container and the type of responses needed to mitigate such risk?

Stana (2004) reported that ATS was not significantly effective for the main reason that CBP did not have a uniform national system for reporting and analyzing inspection statistics by risk category that could be used for program management and oversight. Data basis for inspection could not be obtained immediately, highly erroneous and were not verified according to risk category. Reports on file in every port differ considerably with those kept in other ports. Data were inconsistent and statistics did not reflect accurately inspection reports.

The use of cargo manifest as the principal source of data for ATS is not the most reliable piece of information to determine the level of risk posed by the subject cargo ship. ATS required each incoming cargo ship to send its manifest in advance for processing. Such manifest can be manipulated to fit the level of assessment that preclude physical inspection

While CBP employed and trained "targeters" to conduct decisions on the level of vulnerability of cargo containers that warrant inspection, these "targeters" did not undergo assessment test to check on their competence. "Targeters" who got low test results may be retrained until they passed certain level of proficiency. This would do well to note that only highly qualified personnel will decide on highly sensitive decision on whether to inspect a cargo container or to forgo it.

The integrated approach to human resource and technology expansion is another gap in risk management of CBP at container terminals. It was found that CBP did not take any parallel steps to build infra facilities at port site to house the scanning equipments and its operators. Risk mitigations should be in place in regards to physical factors that may lessen the effectiveness of these hi-tech equipments. Another crucial gap on the use of scanning equipment created safety hazards considering that these scanners emitted gamma rays which may affect the health of seamen.

Privately-sponsored simulations on the effectiveness of ATS proved that it is not the perfect tool to detect vulnerability of cargo ships with regards to detection of bomb materials hidden in its hold. GAO report (2003) found that inspectors failed to detect the depleted uranium materials purposely hidden in a cargo ship. Although the subject ship was targeted, it was never physically inspected.

The formulation of CBP anti-terrorism strategies were based on opinions of in-house experts or reports generated thru government sponsored investigations. External experts and other collegial bodies' were not consulted in identification and deliberation of issues and concerns.

CBP has taken steps to check cargoes at its port of origin at most likely, at its destined port of call in the United States. However, it did not take into account the possibility of tampering or exploitation of cargoes while en route to its final destination.

CBP has taken steps to characterize the risk of cargo vessels as low, medium or high-risk. This risk characterization however, was applicable only to seafaring vessels and not to other forms of cargo carriers like trucks and railway trains.

The future of Homeland Security

As expected, the merging of different agencies and programs under the Department of Homeland Security created numerous obstacles. Foremost were the administrative and operational agency issues arising from the integration of non-terrorism oriented programs to anti-terrorism strategies. Though HSA 2002 called for the participation of federal and local bureaucracy, it remains to be seen whether these more fundamental issues on intra-agency cooperation, collaboration, and teamwork effectively build solidarity in combating terrorism.

The intra-reorganization and loss of security of tenure among employees of DHS could trigger massive retirement among highly skilled and experienced long-time employees. Some may opt to transfer to other private entities as consultants. This situation can drain the pool of human resources in the agency. On the other side however, DHS recruited highly eligible staff from private and federal agencies. It might be noted that their skills and capacity are yet to be tested and proven.

At the outset, DHS need to resolve the following issues and concerns:

Refocus its strategies to include "all hazards" approach

Develop mitigating measures for disasters caused by natural calamities

Strengthen inter and intra-agency collaboration and sharing of information technology

Enhance federal and local cooperation in emergency planning and rescue

Empower private sector in disaster rescue and relief operations

... the common wisdom used to be that "terrorists want a lot of people watching and not a lot of people dead" because killing many would alienate support. Now, evidently, some do not seek broad support. Small groups motivated by religious fervour may be the most dangerous Waugh ( 2003).

The challenge pertained to small groups of terrorist attacking innocent people to gain world attention to their cause which is to bring America to its knees. The small band of terrorist subject of this challenge maybe diminutive, but their acts of terrorism has already been substantiated. In so doing, DHS must adjust to the shifting modalities of threats in order to react in well coordinated and most appropriate response to the threat.