by Glenn Greenwald
August 29, 2011
The Los Angeles Times
examines the staggering
sums of money expended on patently absurd domestic "homeland security"
projects: $75 billion per year for things such as,
a Zodiac boat with
side-scan sonar to respond to a potential attack on a lake in tiny Keith
hundreds of "9-ton BearCat armored vehicles, complete
with turret" to guard against things like an attack on DreamWorks in Los
All of that - which is independent of the
exponentially greater sums spent on foreign wars, occupations, bombings, and
the vast array of weaponry and private contractors to support it all - is in
response to this mammoth, existential,
"The number of people worldwide who are
killed by Muslim-type terrorists, Al Qaeda wannabes, is maybe a few
hundred outside of war zones. It's basically the same number of people
who die drowning in the bathtub each year," said John Mueller, an Ohio
State University professor who has written extensively about the balance
between threat and expenditures in fighting terrorism.
Last year, McClatchy
characterized this threat
in similar terms:
"undoubtedly more American citizens died
overseas from traffic accidents or intestinal illnesses than from
The March, 2011, Harper's Index expressed the
"Number of American civilians who died
worldwide in terrorist attacks last year: 8 - Minimum number who died
after being struck by lightning: 29."
That's the threat in the name of which a vast
domestic Security State is constructed, wars and other attacks are and
continue to be launched, and trillions of dollars are transferred to the
private security and defense contracting industry at exactly the time that
Americans - even as they face massive wealth inequality - are told that they
must sacrifice basic economic security because of budgetary constraints.
Despite these increasing economic insecurities - actually, precisely because
of them - the sprawling domestic Security State continues unabated.
industry journal National Defense Magazine
"Homeland Security Market ‘Vibrant’ Despite
It details how budget cuts mean "homeland
security" growth may not be as robust as once predicted, but,
Martin, General Dynamics, Boeing and Northrop Grumman... have been
winning more contracts from DHS"; as a Boeing spokesman put it: "You’ll
still continue to see domestically significant investment on the part of the
government and leveraging advances in technology to stand up and meet those
emerging threats and needs.”
Of course, the key to sustaining this Security State bonanza - profit for
private industry and power for Security State officials - is keeping fear
levels among the citizenry as high as possible, as National Defense
expressly notes, and that is accomplished by fixating even on minor and
failed attacks, each one of which is immediately seized upon to justify
greater expenditures, expansion of security measures, and a
Polls still show that there is increasing
public concern about another terrorist attack. It is this fear
and an unrealistic American perception of risk that will continue to
propel some aspects of the market, analysts say...
Small-scale attacks, whether successful or not, will continue to prompt
additional spending, the market analysts at Homeland Security Research Corp.
say. They point to the failed 2009 Christmas plot of a man trying to blow up
a flight to Detroit with explosives sewn into his underwear and the
attempted car-bombing in Times Square early the next year.
unsuccessful, these events led to immediate White House intervention,
congressional hearings and an airport screening upgrade costing more than
The LA Times, while skillfully highlighting these
wasteful programs, depicts
them as some sort of unintended inefficiencies.
That is exactly what they
are not. None of this is unintended or inefficient but is achieving exactly
the purposes for which it is designed. That's true for two reasons.
First, this wastefulness is seen as inefficient only if one falsely assumes
that its real objective is to combat Terrorist threats. That is not the
purpose of what the U.S. Government does.
As Daniel Weeks
the Congress - contrary to popular opinion - is not "broken"; it is working
perfectly for its actual owners.
Or, as he puts it, "Washington isn't broken
- it’s fixed":
Our problem today is not a broken government but a beholden one: government
is more beholden to special-interest shareholders who fund campaigns than it
is to ordinary voters.
Like any sound investor, the funders seek nothing
more and nothing less than a handsome return - deficits be darned - in the
form of tax breaks, subsidies and government contracts.
The LA Times, and most people who denounce these spending "inefficiencies,"
have the causation backwards:
fighting Terrorism isn't the goal that
security spending is supposed to fulfill
the security spending (and power
vested by surveillance) is the goal itself, and Terrorism is the pretext for
For that reason, whether the spending efficiently addresses a Terrorism
threat is totally irrelevant.
Second, while the Security State has little to do with addressing ostensible
Terrorist threats, it has much to do with targeting perceived domestic and
political threats, especially threats brought about by social unrest from
austerity and the growing wealth gap.
This Alternet article by Sarah Jafee,
entitled "How the Surveillance State Protects the Interests Of the
Ultra-Rich," compiles much evidence - including what I offered
two weeks ago
- demonstrating that the prime aim of the growing Surveillance State is to
impose domestic order, preserve prevailing economic prerogatives and stifle
dissent and anticipated unrest.
Pointing out disparities between surveillance programs and the
threat is futile because they're not aimed at that threat. The British
Government, for instance, is continuing its efforts to restrict social media
in the wake of the poverty-fueled riots that plagued that country
New York Times
reports today, it is secretly meeting with representatives of
Twitter, Facebook, and the company that owns Blackberry,
voluntary ways to limit or restrict the use of social media to combat crime
and periods of civil unrest."
That revelation prompted taunting
condemnations of British tyranny from China and Iran, both of which have
been routinely excoriated for surveillance abuses and Internet suppression
of the type
increasingly common in the West.
Meanwhile, much of the anti-Terrorism weaponry in the U.S. ends up being
deployed for purposes of purely domestic policing.
As the LA Times notes:
those aforementioned BearCats,
"are now deployed by police across the
country; the arrests of methamphetamine dealers and bank robbers these days
often look much like a tactical assault on insurgents in Baghdad."
are used both in
the Drug War and to
patrol the border.
measures originally justified as necessary to fight foreign Terrorists are
routinely turned far more often inward, and
the NSA - created with a taboo
against domestic spying - now
does that regularly.
Exaggerating, manipulating and exploiting the Terrorist threat for profit
and power has been the biggest scam of the decade; only Wall Street's
ability to make the Government prop it up and profit from the crisis it
created at the expense of everyone else can compete for that title.
has altered the mindset of the American citizenry more than a decade's worth
So compelling is fear-based propaganda, so beholden are
our government institutions to these private Security State factions, and so
unaccountable is the power bestowed by these programs, that even a full
decade after the only Terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, its growth continues
more or less unabated.