Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Friday, February 15, 2008

A Painful Look at Homeland Security

The terror-threat level is being reset on the Michael Chertoff Bodily Functions Sensor System.

Last spring, as the national designated worrier, the agency director reported acute gut feelings about an imminent attack, but his scare-response scale has now been lowered to chronic insomnia.

In an interview, Chertoff reports he is not sleeping any better than last year but not any worse over the possibility of an "earth-shattering" event such as "a nuclear or a dirty bomb attack or a nuclear or biological attack."

Last year's biological disclosure brought Chertoff a stern rebuke from the Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson:

"What color code in the Homeland Security Advisory System is associated with a 'gut feeling?' What sectors should be on alert as a result of your 'gut feeling?' What cities should be asking their law enforcement to work double shifts because of your 'gut feeling?'”

Such warnings, the Chairman pointed out, could result in communities depleting scarce homeland security resources and subverting "a risk-based approach to homeland security."

But that may be unfair to a director whose agency last year was cited by Congress for failing to fill a quarter of its top leadership posts as a result of "over-politicization of the top rank of Department management" and whose employees reported the lowest job satisfaction among 36 federal agencies.

With all these handicaps, perhaps Chertoff should be commended for finding unorthodox methods of assessing threats and keeping the public informed. The man obviously takes his job to heart.

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