Posts Tagged ‘DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY’
With their newfound majorities in both houses of Congress, Republicans are holding the budget of the Department of Homeland Security–and the safety of their fellow Americans–hostage.
Amidst all this turmoil, it’s easy to forget another Republican outrage that happened five years ago: The slander they cast on the patriotism of the tens of thousands of police, firefighters, construction workers and others who risked their lives to save their fellow Americans on 9/11.
The World Trade Center on September 11, 2001
This “gift” was sponsored by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and eagerly supported by other Republicans in the House and Senate.
Rep. Cliff Stearns
The responders were informed that their names must be run through the FBI’s database of suspected terrorists. Otherwise, they would be denied treatment for their numerous, worsening ailments.
In 2010–nine years after the worst terrorist attack in American history–Congress passed the Democratically-sponsored James Zadroga 9/11 Health And Compensation Act.
The law was named for a New York City detective who died of a respiratory disease in 2006 after his contact with toxic chemicals at Ground Zero.
The law authorized $1.8 billion to be spent over five years to treat injuries of police, firefighters, emergency workers, construction and cleanup crews caused by exposure to toxic dust and debris at the site.
From the outset, Republicans bitterly opposed the legislation. They argued that providing healthcare for ailing September 11 heroes would bankrupt the nation.
Of course, they hadn’t voiced such concerns when President George W. Bush needlessly launched the nation into a $1 trillion war against Iraq in 2003.
For Republicans, the heroes of 9/11 had become “welfare-seeking bums.” If they couldn’t afford their own medical care, so what?
Republicans slandered the proposal as a new “entitlement program,” like Medicare. They demanded that the responders return to Congress every year to make their case, claiming this would prevent fraud and waste.
“If this issue is so credible based on the results of September 11, we shouldn’t be afraid of going through the (budget) authorization process and fight for the spending bill,” said Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.).
Republicans forced Democrats to accept an amendment that deliberately cast a slur on the men and women who answered their country’s call in its supreme moment of agony. Only then was the legislation passed.
The amendment read: “No individual who is on the terrorist watch list maintained by the Department of Homeland Security shall qualify as a screening-eligible WTC survivor or a certified-eligible WTC survivor.
“Before determining any individual to be a screening-eligible WTC survivor…or certifying any individual as a certified eligible survivor….the Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, shall determine whether the individual is on such list.”
The amendment provoked outrage among non-politicians, Democrats and even some Republicans. Among these:
- Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) whose district encompassed Ground Zero, said it was “absurd” to consider that any of the 9/11 heroes would be terrorists. He added that the screenings were a “waste of money.”
- Rep. Peter King (R-NY) called the exercise “shameful” and “a waste of time,” adding: “It put a cloud over extraordinarily good people for no reason.”
- “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart noted that the federal government didn’t run background checks on any other group of people receiving financial benefits. These included Social Security recipients, Medicare patients and even Wall Street bankers bailed out during the recession.
Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, advised doctors and hospital administrators to begin letting patients know before the new program took effect in July, 2011.
Specifically, patients seeking help under 9/11 treatment and monitoring programs were told that their
- government ID numbers
- and other personal data
would be provided to the FBI to prove they were not terrorists.
Firefighters rescuing victims at the World Trade Center
Howard’s instructions to medical providers included a sample letter to responders designed to minimize alarm:
“Although neither we nor [the Centers for Disease Control]/NIOSH anticipate the name of any individual in the current Programs will be on the list, CDC/NIOSH is expressly required by law to implement this particular requirement of the Act.
“Thank you for your understanding. We look forward to working with you and ensuring that you continue to receive uninterrupted services under the new WTC Health Program,” it concluded.
By August, 2011, the FBI had screened some 60,000 emergency responders to the attacks on the World Trade Center and had not uncovered any suspected terrorists. To date, no matchups have occurred between known terrorists and those seeking treatment.
Glen Kline, a former NYPD emergency services officer, best summed up the disgrace of these background checks: “This is absurd. It’s silly. It’s stupid. It’s asinine. I mean, who are we even talking about–the undocumented workers who cleaned the office buildings?
“We know who all the cops, firefighters and construction workers were. They’re all documented. Is the idea that a terrorist stayed to help clean up? And then stayed all these years to try and get benefits?”
Thus, self-righteous Right-wing legislators–who never lifted a beam from a trapped 9/11 survivor or inhaled toxic fumes that spewed from the crater that was once the World Trade Center–now stood in judgment over those who did.
On December 13, 2014, the U.S. Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund almost the entire government through the September 30 end of the fiscal year.
But one Federal agency was pointedly exempted from full funding: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Its funding will expire on February 27.
With their newfound majorities in both houses of Congress, Republicans intend to hold the security of the United States as a hostage.
Their goal: To force Obama to rescind the changes he has made in American immigration policy.
With more than 240,000 employees, the DHS is the third largest Cabinet department, after the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.
The Defense Department is charged with military actions abroad. DHS is responsible for protecting the United States inside and outside its borders. Its goal is to prepare for, prevent and–if prevention fails–respond to man-made accidents, natural disasters and terrorism.
Among the agencies now operating under its mandate:
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection
- U.S. Coast Guard
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
- Federal Law Enforcement Training Center
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
- Transportation and Safety Administration (TSA)
- U.S. Secret Service
- Science and Technology Directorate
- Domestic Nuclear Detection Office
- Office of Intelligence and Analysis
- Office of Operations Coordination and Planning
Yet each of these agencies has a vital role to play in protecting the nation. A nation whose security Republicans are willing to threaten to get their way on a matter of domestic policy.
Right-wing Republicans argue that even if DHS’s funding were stopped, most of its employees would stay on the job. That’s because they perform work considered necessary to protect human life and property.
But while those employees were safeguarding the country, they wouldn’t be paid until the shutdown ended. It’s hard to give your full attention to protecting the lives of others when you have to worry about paying a mortgage or feeding your family.
Of course, the Republicans responsible for this shutdown would continue to receivetheir hefty paychecks.
And there is something else to consider. DHS is best-known for its mission to prevent terrorist attacks on America. And America may well be in the crosshairs of North Korean terrorism at this very moment.
On November 14, 2014, Sony Pictures came under relentless attack by cyberterrorists, who the FBI has linked to North Korea.
The reasoon? Sony’s production of “The Interview,” a comedy depicting the assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Calling themselves “Guardians of Peace,” or GOP, they shut down the company’s computer system and revealed employees’ personal information such as salaries, addresses, and Social Security numbers.
(Ironically, “Guardians of Peace” appropriated the same abbreviation–GOP–used by the Republicans for “Grand Old Party.”)
Warning issued by “Guardians of Peace” (GOP)
On December 17, 2014, Sony Pictures cancelled the Christmas Day premier of “The Interview” after the nation’s five largest movie chains refused to show the movie, following a terror threat posted online.
And then on February 5, 2015, Anthem Insurance announced that its database had been hacked–and sensitive medical information on up to 80 million customers and employees accessed.
According to an anonymous source, the hackers used malware that’s been used almost exclusively by Chinese cyberspies.
* * * * *
As the Third Reich came to its fiery end, Adolf Hitler sought to punish the German people for being “unworthy” of his “genius” and losing the war he had started. His attitude was: “If I can’t rule Germany, then there won’t be a Germany.”
In his infamous “Nero Order,” he decreed the destruction of everything still remaining–industries, ships, harbors, communications, roads, mines, bridges, stores, utility plants, food stuffs.
Fortunately for Germany, one man–Albert Speer, the Minister of Armaments–finally broke ranks with his Fuhrer.
Risking death, he refused to carry out Hitler’s “scorched earth” order. Even more important, he mounted a successful effort to block such destruction or persuade influential military and civilian leaders to disobey the order as well.
As a result, those targets slated for destruction were spared.
Since the election of America’s first black President, Republicans have waged a similar “scorched earth” campaign.
Their avowed goal–as stated openly by Kentucky’s U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell–was “to make Barack Obama a one-term President.”
Literally during his first Inauguration, Republicans, in a secret meeting, agreed to block every effort he made to repair the economy. Acting as extortionists, they have repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if they didn’t get their way in legislative matters.
And just as repeatedly, they have blocked legislation that would have helped the poor, unemployed, women, elderly, disabled or middle-class. At the center of their fury has been the Affordable Care Act, providing medical care to all citizens.
Even after Congress passed it and the Supreme Court affirmed it, House Republicans shut down the government in October, 2013.
By doing so, they hoped to pressure Obama into killing his signature piece of legislation. The effort failed.
Like Adolf Hitler, their attitude has been: “If I can’t rule America, there won’t be an America.”
It remains to be seen whether a Republican Albert Speer will step forward to save America from the self-destructive excesses of this Nation’s own fanatics.