As with the rest of our homeland security state, when it comes to border security, reality checks aren’t often in the cards. The money just pours into a world of remarkable secrecy and unaccountability. Last week, however, the Government Accountability Office released a report about a Transportation Security Administration decision to spend $200 million a year on a “behavioral screening program” involving 3,000 “behavior detection officers” at 176 airports. The GAO concluded that, $1 billion later, it worked “probably no better than chance.” Put another way, 3,000 specially trained TSA agents could rely on their expensive profiling techniques to pick twitchy passengers out of screening lines as likely terrorists, or they could look at you and flip a coin.
The lesson here: nothing, not even a program without meaningful content that costs an arm and a leg, will stop our national security officials from constantly up-armoring this country and so making it more secure from one of the least pressing dangers Americans face: terrorism. That endless securitization process is transparent in a way that, until the Snowden revelations, nothing much else about our security state was. Any alarming incident, any nut who tries to light his shoes or stashes a bomb in his underwear or enters an airport and blows away a TSA agent, and you promptly get the next set of calls for more: more weaponry, more surveillance, more guards, more draconian regulations, more security technology, more high-tech walls, more billions of dollars going to one “complex” or another, and more of what passes in twenty-first-century America for safety. Much of this — like that TSA profiling program or our vast set of global eavesdropping operations — has a kind of coin-flipping quality to it.
Still, it should never be claimed that this mania for what we insist on calling “security” provides no security for anyone. After all, it guarantees the safety of those officially guarding us. They always know that some small set of maniacs or other will make sure the funding never stops, their jobs will remain secure, and the military-industrial-complex, homeland-security complex, and border-security complex will continue to thrive in a country that’s been looking a little on the peaked side of late. In this context, TomDispatch regular Todd Miller, who covers our borderlands for this site, offers us the latest news about how to keep border security rolling in dough. The formula is simple enough, if nonetheless startling: stop thinking of our borders as just those strips of land running between the U.S. and Mexico and the U.S. and Canada. Turning borderlands into Border World is the obvious way to create a cash cow.
- Border Patrol International
“The American Homeland Is the Planet”
Todd Miller • November 19, 2013 • 3,100 Words