Tuesday, September 2, 2014

US columnist badge (medium) Homeland Security was built to fend off terrorists. Why's it so busy arming cops to fight average Americans?


From Ferguson’s military police to loaning drones and tracking your every move, the agency’s expensive, violent sinkhole of bureaucracy needs reform – now
military police cartoon
Want the federal government to reign in the local police? Follow the money. Photo illustration: DonkeyHotey / Flickr via Creative Commons
For three weeks and counting, America has raged against the appalling behavior of the local police in Ferguson, Missouri, and for good reason: automatic rifles pointed at protesters, tank-like armored trucks blocking marches, the teargassing and arresting of reporters, tactics unfit even for war zones – it was all enough to make you wonder whether this was America at all. But as Congress returns to Washington this week, the ire of a nation should also be focused on the federal government agency that has enabled the rise of military police, and so much more: the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The 240,000-employee, Bush-invented bureaucratic behemoth that didn’t even exist 15 years ago has been the primary arms dealer for out-of-control local cops in Ferguson and beyond, handing out tens of billions of dollars in grants for military equipment in the last decade with little to no oversight and even less training on how use it. “From an oversight perspective, DHS grant programs are pretty much a mess,” a congressional aide told the Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman the other day:
They don’t know what’s been bought with the money, how that equipment has been used, or whether it’s made anyone measurably any safer.
Buttressed by government policies that make it sometimes impossible for citizens to hold police accountable for civil rights violations, police can act like paramilitary forces to combat the most mundane crimes without much worry of the consequences. As Matt Apuzzo of the New York Timesreported in June:
Police SWAT teams are now deployed tens of thousands of times each year, increasingly for routine jobs. Masked, heavily armed police officers in Louisiana raided a nightclub in 2006 as part of a liquor inspection. In Florida in 2010, officers in SWAT gear and with guns drawn carried out raids on barbershops that mostly led only to charges of ‘barbering without a license.’
Read more http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/02/homeland-security-department-prevent-terrorism-busy-arming-cops