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An Analysis of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 Essay

As a response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States government established a separate agency within the federal system to prevent future terrorist activities. Hence, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created, along with the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (HSA). The HSA identified and explained the principle, jurisdiction and duties of the Department of Homeland Security. The HSA also reinforced sentences for transgressing national security laws and expanded federal control of local law enforcement agencies.

However, critics argued that the HSA instead promoted American global dominance at the expense of civil liberties. For instance, Title II pushed for the establishment of a Directorate of Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection, tasked with the creation and maintenance of a database containing public and private information on virtually any individual in the United States. Telephone records, banking transactions, school records, employment history – these can be gathered to piece together a profile that can be used against innocent people suspected as terrorists.

In the HAS’ Title V: Emergency Preparedness and Response, there is no specific mandate of federal control over the “local first responders” – the police, the firemen and the emergency personnel. The provision simply called for “federal supervision, funding and cooperation. ” (Van Bergen, 2002) Although centralization is perfect for emergency preparedness on a sufficiently large scale, it could also lead to the loss of local control and to potential federal militarization. (Van Bergen, 2002) According to the United States Northern Command (USNC), “Prohibiting direct military involvement in law enforcement is in keeping with long-standing U. S. law and policy limiting the military’s role in domestic affairs. ” (Van Bergen, 2002)

In addition, the Posse Comitatus Act (18 USC 1385) “generally prohibits U. S. military personnel from interdicting vehicles, vessels and aircraft; conducting surveillance, searches, pursuit and seizures; or making arrests on behalf of civilian law enforcement authorities. ” (Van Bergen, 2002) The four statutory exceptions to this prohibition are the following: counter-drug assistance (10 USC 371-81); Insurrection Act (10 USC 331-34); crimes using nuclear materials (18 USC 831); and chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction (10 USC 382).

(Van Bergen, 2002) One of the most serious consequences of the HAS is the Critical Infrastructure Information Act of 2002 (CIIA). The CIIA offered corporations confidentiality and immunity from civil liability with respect to the “critical infrastructure information” (CII) that they submitted “voluntarily” to the DHS. CII may include virtually any information about physical or cyber infrastructure that can be useful to terrorists or other parties that intend to cause damage to the facility.

(Steinzor, 2003) No one may use it in any civil action arising under federal or state law without obtaining the written consent of the company. Government officials who will violate the CIIA will face up to a year in prison. The CIIA is very dangerous, as it would immunize corporations and their employees from malfeasance in their operations, from racial discrimination to embezzlement, violations of environmental regulations and negligence that will harm the public physically and or financially.

Hence, the CIIA might also end up granting immunity to enterprises that were guilty of negligence in the face of terrorist attacks, allowing them to escape accountability for putting other people’s lives in danger. Terrorist groups such as the Al Qaeda might use the CIIA to their advantage, because their operatives assume quiet and unobtrusive Western lifestyles and identities to avoid capture and to successfully carry out missions. But with the misleading nature of the HSA, the question ordinary Americans should be asking is: Who should they be afraid of, the terrorists or their own government?

References

Van Bergen, Jennifer. (2002, December 2-4). Homeland Security Act: The Rise of the American Police State. Retrieved January 2, 2008 from http://www. ratical. org/ratville/CAH/HSA_RoAPS. html. Steinzor, Rena. (2003, March 12). ‘Democracy Dies Behind Closed Doors:’ The Homeland Security Act and Corporate Accountability. PDF File. Retrieved January 2, 2008 from http://www. progressiveregulation. org/perspectives/secrecy_white_paper. pdf.

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