Bloggers left and right have been having a good time recently showing up some of the silly activities that are occupying the Department of Homeland Security while the incoming cargo containers still mostly aren’t getting checked for dirty bombs. (I’ve engaged in this sport myself at least once.)
But a little bit of reflection suggests that there’s less scandal here than meets the eye.
When DHS was created, it absorbed what used to be the U.S. Customs Service and the enforcement most of what used to be the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Together, those two units are now U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
In addition to fighting terrorism, ICE has a huge portfolio of routine inspections activities to manage. We don’t want those activities to stop. But, since the Customs and Border Patrol folks who work for ICE are “officials of the Department of Homeland Security,” the opportunities for satire are unlimited.
Right this second, “officials of the Department of Homeland Security” are calculating duties on imported rutabagas, without any suggestion that the rutabagas in question belong to Osama bin Laden. Other “officials of the Department of Homeland Security” are stamping the passports of equally innocent Australian tourists landing at LAX.
The “Homeland Security” label may be a foolish one to apply to such routine operations, but that doesn’t make it a scandal that DHS is doing its ordinary jobs along with (we hope) its more sensitive job.