"Only you can prevent terrorism!" -- Cinders the Bear, mascot of the new, improved Department of Homeland Security
That's one way to interpret DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano's message on national counter-terror strategy.
"Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called on Americans on Wednesday to join a 'collective fight against terrorism,' emphasizing the shared role of individuals, as well as of local, federal and foreign governments in confronting a persistent threat," reported the Post.
"Almost eight years after the September 11 attacks, the American public remains insufficiently engaged in the fight against terrorism, the nation's homeland security chief warned Wednesday," echoed CNN on-line.
"Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano, laying out her thinking on how to best protect the United States from terrorist attacks or natural disasters, called Wednesday for closer collaboration with foreign partners, more intensive cooperation with local law-enforcement officials, and far greater involvement by ordinary citizens in watching for and responding to threats," chimed the Times.
Meet the new stodge, not substantially different than the old.
Come now, is there anyone in the past eight years who hasn't recommended more cooperation between law enforcement, more alertness and snitching from the public and new ways of thinking about national security?
The country does not lack in any of these areas. There is no shortage of people watching out for terrorism, conducting counter-terror theatre, or endlessly thinking about the unthinkable. (Translated: "It is easy for terrorists to [fill in the blank] so we should [fill in the blank].)
"[The nation] needs better technology, training and linkages to share information with 780,000 local law enforcement agents, Napolitano said, promising to strengthen 70 state-run intelligence 'fusion centers' that began under the Bush administration," continued the Post, unintentionally limning the vast expanse of the counter-terror infrastructure.
An army of experts in the employ of various arms of the government as well as the private sector have devoted themselves to furnishing security seminars, newspaper articles, Powerpoint slide presentations on the nature of the menace and what is being done.
From Chickasha, OK, to Ft. Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania, and everyplace in between as well as south and north, counter-terrorism agencies and workers have spread out to train and watch and watch and train some more.
"[We] approach a chemical lab in a home," writes someone at the Chikasha newspaper. "On first glance it seems it could be a methamphetamine lab, but that would be a serious mistake. After studying the contents we believe it is used to make [ricin] toxins. We don bright orange haz-mat suits and respirators and again approach with extreme caution."
"Has the U.S. government done everything it can to educate and engage the American people? The answer is 'no,'" said Napolitano today, in carry over from the WaPost.
In the way Napolitano means, this is absolutely not true.
So If you read stuff which, in some way, attempts to convince you the new way is different, or that there has been some shortfall in informing the country about terrorism, you're being grandly misled. And if you think the Obama administration has instituted a change in the national reliance upon fear-mongering as an instrument of policy, then you haven't been paying attention.
There has been no noticeable ebb in the flow of threat prognostication.
"Napolitano noted that American hotels were targeted in bombings this month in Jakarta, six Americans were among 164 people killed in a commando-style assault in Mumbai in November and three Americans were among 54 killed in a Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in September," reported the Post in attempting to convey Napolitano's points.
However, in the real world, one where statistics actually mean something, this is lukewarm stuff. Yes, we know, every life is precious. But maintaining perspective is one thing that has never been present in any national discussion on terrorism.
For working examples, one can view an article on deaths due to smoking here, or expand it to include annual global mortality rates due to poverty and naturally occuring infectious diseases.
The reasons for this are many but one of the most central is the obvious fact that any discussions on terrorism immediately become highly politicized. And they are politicized in a manner that renders national security, as a topic for discussion, a way in which to commit career suicide if one is perceived as 'weak' on terrorism.
So any realistic mainstream discussion of the substantial possibility that the country is over-invested in a counter-terror infrastructure is off limits. (With the possible exception being cable TV comedy shows.)
This condition allows no room for anyone to actually do anything different except continue tending the growth of homeland security. Janet Napolitano and the Obama administration can shuffle the cards a bit, but it's the same old strategy. Deep critical thinking, restraint, common sense -- all left town a long time ago.
One argument for the case of reining in, instead of expanding, the work of 'fusion cells'. The case of John Towery, exposed here.
George Smith also blogs here.