Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Despite Rhetoric, DHS Not Really Fighting Terror

The new TRAC report on DHS Immigration Enforcement has gotten extensive coverage by the traditional news media, including CNN, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, Time, US News and World Report and the Orange County Register. It's also been picked up in the blogosphere, by Bruce Shneier and others.

Based on some of the comments I've read, I think it makes sense to clarify and summarize some key points of the study:
  • Despite rhetoric by DHS' immigration agencies (ICE and CBP) that fighting terrorism is their most important job, 99.98% of DHS immigration cases in the last 3 years have nothing to do with national security or terrorism.

  • Of the 620 criminal prosecutions by the Department of Justice that were labeled international terrorism, domestic terrorism or terrorism finance, only 31 had any involvement by DHS. In other words, DHS had no role in 95% of terrorism related criminal prosecutions.

  • In a similar 3 year period ten years ago (1994-1996) there were 52 terrorism and 185 national security cases handled in immigration court. Before 9/11 those numbers were down to 12 and 106 (1999-2001). Since 9/11, those numbers have barely changed -- 12 terrorism and 114 national security cases in 2004-2006.
One logical conclusion is that the DHS really has very little to do with fighting terrorism. TRAC co-director David Burnham was quoted in the CNN article as saying "The DHS claims it is focused on terrorism. Well that's just not true. Either there's no terrorism, or they're terrible at catching them. Either way it's bad for all of us." By that, I believe he meant that it's bad for us if we've created this huge bureaucracy to fight terrorism if the threat's not there, and of course it's bad for us if the threat is there: because the DHS sure isn't finding it.

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