Department of Homeland Security's Historical Roots

From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search

After September 11th, President George W. Bush and Congress created the Department of Homeland Security as a response to rising terror threats facing the U.S. The creation of DHS marked the largest security reorganization since World War II, bringing together 22 federal agencies. [1] President Bush announced the decision to create a new cabinet level agency with out initial approval from Congress, and over the protests of some within his administration who felt that "creating a new agency doesn't solve anything." [1] Nonetheless, most Congresspersons rallied behind the President's attempt at coordinating national security efforts.[2] Even though initial versions of the bill creating the DHS were met with deadlock, Democratic Congresspersons only held up the legislation out of concern for the labor and union rights for DHS employees, rather than concerns over citizen privacy or government largesse. [2]

Tom Ridge

Upon the formation of the Office of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge resigned his position as Governor of Pennsylvania to become the director of the new agency. Once the agency became a cabinet-level agency, his title became that of "Secretary of Homeland Security." He quit the in 2005, leaving many in the media to speculate as to why he chose to walk away from DHS. [3] "Mr. Ridge announced six national "orange alerts" (be very afraid but not so afraid that, as Mr. Ridge once reminded Americans, you fail to appreciate President Bush's leadership). They didn't make the nation more secure, but somehow came at politically opportune times. During the [Presidential] campaign, Mr. Ridge seemed deeply concerned for the safety of residents of swing states like Florida and Ohio, sending deputies there on numerous occasions." [4] While Ridge often tried to be the voice of logic at DHS, he was often overpowered by more powerful officials. [4] The political manipulation of the DHS went so far as to inquire into possibly rescheduling the 2006 Presidential elections. [5] The Justice Department responded by asserting that it had no plans to review federal laws or legal precedents regarding postponing a federal election. [5]

DHS Incompetence and Hurricane Katrina

After Tom Ridge left DHS, DHS proved to be more incompetent demonstrated by their complete lack of readiness during Hurricane Katrina. DHS failed to mobilize quickly and early to respond to Hurricane Katrina, both prior to and after it hit New Orleans. [6] "Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff spoke empathetically of the suffering of the people in New Orleans. But somehow he seemed proud that 72 hours after the hurricane hit, only 2,800 National Guardsmen had come to the city. The number is about to reach 12,000 by tomorrow. That is awfully late for the people stranded there. Yet Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who is commanding the military component of Washington's response, pleaded for patience from the people of New Orleans, promising that the U.S. Army was "building the capability" to help them." [6] "Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff took responsibility at a Senate hearing Wednesday for his department's inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina, which "unnecessarily prolonged" the suffering of people along the Gulf Coast." [7] A congressional report investigating the local, state and federal response to Hurricane Katrina summarized DHS as not ready to respond to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina despite "extensive preparedness initiatives." [8]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Patrick Tyler,"Traces of Terror, Reaction, Then Action,", "New York Times," June 7, 2002.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Julie Hirschfeld Davis,"Homeland Security Bill on Verge of Being Shelved,", "Baltimore Sun," October 1, 2002.
  3. Times Topics,"Tom Ridge", "New York Times," accessed June 10, 2010.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Editorial,"Mr. Ridge's Red Alert Day,", "New York Times," December 1, 2004.
  5. 5.0 5.1 David Johnston, "Justice Dept. Says Threat Is Not Issue for Election,","New York Times," July 17, 2004.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Tim Naftali, "Department of Homeland Screw-Up,", "Slate," September 6, 2005.
  7. "Homeland Security Chief Defends Katrina Response,", "CNN," February 16, 2006.
  8. "Executive Summary,", "GPO Report," February 15, 2006.