There are a number of technologies being explored by the U.S. government for the sake of national security. One of the best documents to review those proposed technologies is the 2012 budget request from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This document not only reveals technologies and activities given the highest priority by DHS, but it also hints at a focus on development of future technologies and gives a glimpse of the direction the government is headed in strengthening the nation’s borders and bolstering the nation’s security. It’s important to stay aware of these activities, because while the legitimate and appropriate use of such technologies would certainly lead to more secure borders and a safer nation, the inappropriate use of many of these same technologies could potentially conflict with the liberties of American citizens that are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The following are some of the more interesting technologies revealed in this budget request document from DHS.
Browsing homeland security
It appears that the last days of the colorful Homeland Security threat level are finally here. On April 20, Janet Napolitan, the Homeland Security Secretary, announced that the threat level system has been completely revamped and renamed the “National Terrorism Advisory System” (NTAS). The previous HSAS system had five levels for the severity of the advisory, and each level had its own unique color. These included Low (aqua-marine), Guarded (blue), Elevated (yellow), High (orange), Severe (red). From its first days under the Bush administration, the homeland security threat level alert system immediately came under criticism, and served as fodder for late night comedy. Many critics said that the original color-coded system, which lacked any real specific details on the nature of the terrorist threat, was often used during times when it was politically convenient to generate fear among Americans.
Post 9-11 America is a different place to the one just a decade ago. While terrorism was always a threat, and indeed a reality for citizens of the US, the Middle-East crisis brought it right to their doorstep in a form never seen before; a sustained threat that would shape politics and policing for years to come. The backlash didn’t take long to come. While the FBI, CIA and government will argue that increased security, surveillance and operations against those who don’t align themselves to US values is part of what it takes to save American freedom; many argue that it’s doing just the opposite. One such person is the outspoken former FBI agent Coleen Rowley, now a writer and speaker on the issues surrounding global terrorism and US homeland security. Having left the Bureau in 2004, she has been one of FBI’s biggest critics.