Makes You Want to Scream Dept.

In that department this week, two items stand out:

  • First, the ACLU announced that the terrorist watch list now contains over 1 million names.  Your first reaction might be that if the number of terrorists is into seven figures we are truly doomed — it only took 19 plus a support organization of perhaps a few dozen to carry out 9/11.  The ACLU’s assessment is well worth reading.

  • Stratfor reported that the Denver Water Board without warning closed the road over Dillon Dam in Summit County, CO, not to thwart any specific threat but just because they were worried.  Because this road is one of the few across Summit County,  the board’s action has greatly inconvenienced residents and emergency response units alike (and generated a few lawsuits).  As Stratfor notes, insider threats, for which closing a road obviously does nothing, present a much greater risk to a dam than whatever explosives jihadis could cobble together, assuming that they’d want to waste one of their infrequent American operations on a dam in the middle of nowhere.

Here’s the critical fact:  There is no evidence that the people who inflate watch lists or close massive structures in the Rockies are any dumber than the rest of us.  Instead, this appears to be system-level effect of a microprocess called the bureaucratic gate.  Simply put:  There is no cost to bureaucrats for putting you on a list or closing a dam; there is a risk, however, that by taking you off the list or opening the road across the dam, something bad could happen and they would be blamed.  Operate this system over time and you can guess the result.

At the geostrategic level, the result is that we do Osama bin Laden’s job for him, damaging the health of our economy, undermining peoples’ trust in the government, and giving potential opponents a clear indication that we have no idea what we are doing.

What’s the solution?  Perhaps this situation is inevitable in an electoral democracy, where every failing of a candidate is blasted forth as if it were evidence of treasonable intent.  On the other hand, when enough people get tired of being detained while trying to board aircraft, perhaps the problem will correct itself.  Until then, it is a situation that screams for adult supervision at the highest level of our government, and if the current Congress and administration are incapable of providing it — or unwilling to — then voters should consider their choices when selecting their replacements.

One only hopes that in the meantime our potential enemies don’t see our confusion and inability to think clearly about our security as an opportunity.

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