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Government United States

The Department of Homeland Security Needs Its Own Edward Snowden 190

Posted by Soulskill
from the any-volunteers? dept.
blottsie writes: Out of all the U.S. government agencies, the Department of Homeland Security is one of the least transparent. As such, the number of Freedom of Information Act requests it receives have doubled since 2008. But the DHS has only become more adamant about blocking FOIA requests over the years. The problem has become so severe that nothing short of an Edward Snowden-style leak may be needed to increase transparency at the DHS.
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The Department of Homeland Security Needs Its Own Edward Snowden

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  • i bet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hypergreatthing (254983) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:09PM (#47516993)

    I'm sure there are hundreds of people who are dying to be criminalized without due process and live in Russia just to be an American patriot.

    • Hundreds is a small number, I am sure there are hundreds willing and capable of doing this. Hundreds work for the DHS, probably not, but you only one of them working and having access in the DHS

    • Re:i bet (Score:4, Funny)

      by Krishnoid (984597) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:17PM (#47517037) Journal

      Why do they need to dig through all those people? I hear Edward Snowden himself has concluded his most recent assignment at the NSA, and has government experience and a security clearance to boot. My information may be a little out of date, though.

    • Re:i bet (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:27PM (#47517123)

      There's just something funny about the idea that our civilian population needs to create an informal spy agency to help it spy on its own government - that's essentially what we're proposing here.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        My gramps told me about that, wasn't it associated with some weird diary-keeping movement called "journalism", or something?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        There's just something funny about the idea that our civilian population needs to create an informal spy agency to help it spy on its own government - that's essentially what we're proposing here.

        Let me make this perfectly clear. There is not a single fucking thing about that proposition that is funny whatsoever.

        Those who died for our freedoms we're losing aren't laughing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jbmartin6 (1232050)
        Frank Herbert wrote in a few of his sf novels about a Bureau of Sabotage that did essentially that, gumming up the efforts of other government agencies
        • Frank Herbert wrote in a few of his sf novels about a Bureau of Sabotage that did essentially that, gumming up the efforts of other government agencies

          Hold it, don't we have that ? I am fairly certain is congress's job to gum up the entire society.

          • Pretty sure they give billions to trillions of dollars to make sure some government agencies work well.

      • Sounds more like incitement to sedition to me!

    • Re:i bet (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @02:48PM (#47517711)

      To "pull a Snowden" someone would first of all have to have some guts, conscience and a deep love for the values the United States of America once stood for.

      Where in the DHS would you find someone like that?

    • I'm sure there are hundreds of people who are dying to be criminalized without due process and live in Russia just to be an American patriot.

      There are thousands who are willing to give their lives for 'the American way of life' so yes, there might be more than you would think willing to sacrifice to protect Americans from their own government.

      At least, we can hope.

  • Just sayin' [sfbay-anarchists.org]

  • Or, they could become less obstinate in blocking FOIA requests.

    The thermonuclear option isn't always a good idea.

    • by Bob9113 (14996) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:21PM (#47517067) Homepage

      Or, they could become less obstinate in blocking FOIA requests.

      Why not have a herd of magical pink unicorns travel to DC and explain the problem to them. That seems like a more likely solution.

      • by mythosaz (572040)

        You think Snowden 2.0 is more likely than a judge forcing them to respond to FOIA requests?

        To each their own, I suppose.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          ...Yes? Also, it's not like there's really oversight effective enough to ensure they even comply with a judge's ruling.
        • > You think Snowden 2.0 is more likely than a judge forcing them to respond to FOIA requests?

          Yes, I do. The NSA has been ignoring FOIA for decades, what would possibly make the top-heavy bureaucracy at the TSA more responsive?

        • by NotDrWho (3543773)

          You think Snowden 2.0 is more likely than a judge forcing them to respond to FOIA requests?

          Depends. Does the judge in question have an army on hand to enforce that ruling?

        • Will any judge be allowed to?

          Or will it only go through the FISA courts, where there's even less transparency. And always ruled against.

          To each their own, delusion has its grandeur.

        • Well, that, or if that fails... what was that thermonuclear option again? It sounds like it could solve things. Or dissolve, at least.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Charliemopps (1157495)

      Righteous anger isn't always as Righteous or helpful as you'd originally thought. That's why we have a constitution, bill of rights, etc... To protect us from the whims of an angry fickle public when short term popular opinion may not be in the best interest of the long term health of the country. Amending the constitution takes a long time for a reason. DHS and other 3 letter agencies can only use 9/11 to subjugate us for so long... eventually the fear will fade, and get replaced outrage. History will not

      • by MightyYar (622222)

        I wish you were right, but suspect you are wrong. The 2nd amendment was essentially abandoned after the Whiskey rebellion highlighted the ineffectiveness of the militias, and the British burning DC to the ground finished it off. They never bothered to repeal it.

        • by khallow (566160)

          They never bothered to repeal it.

          Meaning it has never been abandoned.

          • by MightyYar (622222)

            Tell that to the framers, who feared a large standing army and thus wrote the 2nd amendment. We currently have the most impressive standing army that the world has ever known.

  • Dismantle DHS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chas (5144) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:12PM (#47517007) Homepage Journal

    I still don't get why we still have this elaborate subsidy for a bunch of glorified mall cops.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's the TSA, not the DHS.

      That said, I don't know why the DHS exists either, who the fuck thinks of America as the "Homeland" ?

      That seems like some idea out of a fascist nationalism.

      Couldn't they come up with a better name?

      • The fact that they came up with that name and didn't see any irony in it tells you a lot. Remember, "they hate us for our freedom".
      • Re:Dismantle DHS (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Archangel Michael (180766) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:28PM (#47517125) Journal

        Created under GWB, and the left hated it, extended under BHO, and the left goes silent. I'm trying to figure out at what point does principle gets put aside for politics?

        • The left only hated the ban on unionization.
        • Principle is hypergolic with politics.
        • A BHO is essentially the same thing as an extension, that is just what Microsoft calls it.
        • by alexo (9335)

          Created under GWB, and the left hated it, extended under BHO, and the left goes silent. I'm trying to figure out at what point does principle gets put aside for politics?

          You don't have any Left to speak of, there's Right and Even-More-Right.

        • Who the fsck do you think you are kidding? The left go silent? I don't see a single post in favour of them. Do you really think only those on "the right" know how to post on Slashdot?
        • Re:Dismantle DHS (Score:4, Interesting)

          by houghi (78078) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @03:30PM (#47518067)

          1st. Left? What left?
          2nd. Created under right and the left hated it, extended under left and the right hated it.
          So you still think you have some say in this?

          Only a fool will think that if you do the same thing over and over again, you will get a different result.
          Voting R one time and D the next time and then R again and back to D is not doing things differently. Building a guilotine and off with their heads if they do not perform as promissed is doing things differently.

          • 1st. Left? What left?
            2nd. Created under right and the left hated it, extended under left and the right hated it.
            So you still think you have some say in this?

            Only a fool will think that if you do the same thing over and over again, you will get a different result.
            Voting R one time and D the next time and then R again and back to D is not doing things differently. Building a guilotine and off with their heads if they do not perform as promissed is doing things differently.

            Have to wonder how many supporters of anyone other than R and D are going to be on this watchlist.

        • I'm trying to figure out at what point does principle gets put aside for politics?

          When it gets you elected. Because in that case, those who don't put principle aside for politics, don't get elected.

        • Created under GWB, and the left hated it, extended under BHO, and the left goes silent. I'm trying to figure out at what point does principle gets put aside for politics?

          More like you're just deaf.

          I'm left of center and I was for Obama but the only thing I can say for him over Bush is that he's not literally stupid.

          There is no more left and right in American politics.

      • But certainly. How about Security Squad?

      • by Chas (5144)

        That's the TSA, not the DHS.

        I know the difference. I said "Subsidy for glorified mall cops."

        The TSA is a subsidy for wannabe mall cops.

        There is a difference (though not much of one).

    • I know. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:27PM (#47517111)

      I still don't get why we still have this elaborate subsidy for a bunch of glorified mall cops.

      Because the American public is ill informed and they do not want to be better informed.

      They watch the news and have "facts" spoon fed to them by people with their own agenda.

      When a politician actually says, "Hold on here! We need to think about this police state crap!" they are labeled as being "soft on terror" and the public being incapable of having a thought that isn't planted there by the media, goes along. And people are totally afraid because of the irresponsible and incompetent media.

      In the article, an AMERICAN of Libyan decent was held without cause by the border thugs. I assure you that many Americans have no problem with that because she is an Arab - who cares what the ramifications are on our society and freedoms. See, we the stupid people only want freedom for people like us. The others can rot in jail.

      So, mix in unwarranted fear, bigotry and stupidity and we have the DHS.

      • They watch the news and have "facts" spoon fed to them by people with their own agenda.

        It's actually a little bit worse than that. We could all be spoon-fed "facts" saying the DHS is terrible, and we could all agree it should be dismantled. And then the DHS will politely go about its way while the rest of us do nothing. While we very much enjoy judgmentally shaking our heads at the terrible things that go on in this world, very few people are willing to do anything about it.

  • Yes, but more (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Every single government department that has power over other people needs a watchdog or oversight committee.

    • by NoKaOi (1415755)

      Every single government department that has power over other people needs a watchdog or oversight committee.

      It's called the judicial branch. Unfortunately, they suck at their jobs.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:23PM (#47517087)

    The problem has become so severe that nothing short of an Edward Snowden-style leak may be needed to increase transparency at the DHS.

    Such a leak is just as likely to have exactly the opposite effect. The Snowden leak hasn't exactly made the NSA any more forthcoming regarding their activities. No, the ONLY thing that is going to force DHS to be more transparent in the long run is a motivated Congress. Oversight of the executive branch is after all their job. But since the Dems and Reps are so busy trying to grab power they can't be bothered. The judiciary is no help since they have their head stuck in the sand over standing [wikipedia.org] that they are worse than useless. So the executive branch can do whatever the hell they like without consequence until at least one of the other branches of government starts doing their damn job. All a leak is likely to do is show them what they need to do the be even less transparent than they already are.

  • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:24PM (#47517095)
    The whole point of being the secret police is that they're the SECRET fucking police. We've allowed literally half of the government agencies to be consolidated under one uber-agency whose charter is some nebulous bullshit about "keeping the fatherland safe". And then people are SURPRISED when it follows the example of the Gestapo and the KGB.
  • by ScooterComputer (10306) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:25PM (#47517107)

    The simple way to fix this is just shut the DHS down. It was a bureaucracy conceived in panic: poorly engineered and even more poorly implemented. Just shut it down. Turn all the records over to Congress and start over.

    Simple reboot. Fix the glitch. Just like Milton's payroll issue.

    • by oodaloop (1229816)

      Fix the glitch. Just like Milton's payroll issue.

      That didn't end well, iirc.

    • Homeland Security is an institution based in FUD: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. The more they panic the populace the more Congress will capitulate and grant them ever increasing power and funding. Secrecy grants them a shield to deflect all criticism: in the event of an attack they can simply state they were underfunded or were not granted the powers they needed to protect the people regardless of whatever the truth may be and no one except initiated would be the wiser. Instead of confronting terrorism usin

    • And Milton could set the building on fire before he leaves.

  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:41PM (#47517245) Homepage Journal
    Snowden was able to do what he did at the NSA because he had the wealth to be able to afford to run away. Most people who work in government jobs don't have that luxury.
  • Amend FOIA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Joe Gillian (3683399) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:45PM (#47517263)

    The problem here is that we need Congress to amend the Freedom of Information Act. DHS can hide the way they do because they can claim a "national security" exemption to FOIA - one of the very few things (apart from ongoing criminal investigations and ongoing collective bargaining, among a handful of others) that can be used to block a FOIA request. The national security exemption also tends to be the most often abused, especially by police departments and other law enforcement agencies. A lot of the time, the agencies know they won't win when the people requesting the records appeal, but it's a handy way to stonewall records requests right out of the gate.

    What should happen is that FOIA should be amended to make it clear when the national security exemption does and does not apply, so that it can't be used to hide behind anymore.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @01:58PM (#47517355) Homepage
    this is the do everything forever department created after september 2001 and designed to be an intractable part of the amorphous war on terror. to date its various wings include
    U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: so bogged down by congress it can barely stock the staplers and ink the stamp pads
    U.S. Customs and Border Protection: charged with manning our immigration checkpoints that exist, paradoxically, nearly 100 miles inside our borders as well as directly upon them. congress pumps money into these guys, who cant seem to go more than a week without accidentally killing someone across the border.
    Federal Emergency Management Agency: home of "secret death camps" for rabid neo-conservatives, and for the rest of us a red flag which completely exposed the bumbling incompetence of the DHS after Hurricane Katrina. their latest campaign has been telling people through billboards about the need to make an emergency plan. As if to tacitly admit theyre just as inept and meaningless as they were 9 years ago
    U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement: packs undocumented immigrants into shanty camps, and really thats about it. Completely neutered after NAFTA for its customs enforcement, and just as paralyzed by congress. Arizona mistakenly began shipping their "illegals" to ICE facilities only to find ICE released them, as it isnt a magic button to get the sheriff re-elected.
    Transportation Security Administration home of the freedom grope, these guys are highschool drop outs and police academy rejects itching for a reason to ruin your summer.
    U.S. Coast Guard there is no conceiveable reason this agency should not be under control of the pentagon, or something more relevant to its mission, but this is the seventh department its been reassigned to since its creation and like the fat kid in gym class, it probably wont be very permanent.
    National Protection and Programs Directorate purportedly does something with "cybersecurity" but its amorphous enough to land firmly in the camp of cabinet level private toilets designed to pitch federal tax dollars into. mostly a 2.5 billion dollar per year dole for government contractors.
    U.S. Secret Service they guard the president and for some mind boggling reason, investigate counterfeit currency.

    TL;DR: the DHS was designed with no one particular in mind. the first thing our president told us after 9/11 was to "go shopping" and in order to bolster that order from the commander in chief, the consumer confidence index in 2001 got its own department into which lands of home would ostensibly become secure as if by magic. its scope is so broadly defined and its mission so incongruent that it cannot possibly function in any meaningful fashion. Its not off-the-map like the NSA, rather, its largesse makes it incapable of escaping scrutiny.
    • by perpenso (1613749) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @03:22PM (#47517983)

      U.S. Coast Guard there is no conceiveable reason this agency should not be under control of the pentagon ...

      The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits the U.S. armed forces from enforcing the law. That is why the National Guard is normally under the command of a State Governor and the Coast Guard is normally under the command of a civilian agency. When under such command they are not considered part of the U.S. armed forces and a Governor can have the state National Guard units enforce the law, for example during natural disasters, riots, etc. Similarly when under civilian command the Coast Guard can enforce maritime law, enforce safety regulations, arrest smugglers, etc.

    • by radarskiy (2874255) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @06:40PM (#47519313)

      "U.S. Secret Service they guard the president and for some mind boggling reason, investigate counterfeit currency. "

      No, they investigate counterfeit currency and for an accidental reason guard the president. At the time that Congress requested a protection detail for the President, the Secret Service was the largest law enforcement agency at the federal level. The FBI had not yet been created.

  • by tekrat (242117) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @02:16PM (#47517491) Homepage Journal

    Let me get this straight; because this article is making my mind blow..... When Mr Snowden did what he did, the comments here on Slashdot both hailed him as hero and decried him as a traitor. This is still unresolved.

    And now we're saying that we NEED to have a Snowden-style event to have any kind of transparency at DHS? So, Americans need to give up their Hawaiian gymnast girlfriends, go on the lam, be hunted by every three-letter agency, have to move to Russia, have a price put on their heads, and still be hated by 50% of America who'd want to thrown them in a deep dark hole for the rest of their lives without a trial..... All so *you* can have some nice "transparency" at the DHS?????

    Sorry, but if that's what's required, PLEASE NOW ADMIT THAT AMERICA IS A FASCIST POLICE STATE, and that if the price of freedom is so high that most people aren't willing to give up everything for that freedom, we have become land of the sheep.

    Also, if you feel that's what's required; do it yourself; or start a revolution to take your country back from the oligarchs that have made into a greedy-self-serving-piece-of-shit-excuse for a nation. Mr Snowdens are few and far between and you're lucky to have the ones you have.

  • by Dr. Tom (23206) <tomh@nih.gov> on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @02:32PM (#47517607) Homepage

    You all remember the recent smallpox discovery at the NIH ... well it turns out they found quite a number of samples of various other things, and their disposition was somewhat odd: some of them went to the FDA, the CDC, or were destroyed, but a number of samples (they didn't say what) were sent to Homeland Security.

    WTF?!

    What possible business can H.S. have with vials of deadly diseases?

    'The original smallpox samples, along with ten others that were unclearly labeled, were securely transferred to the CDC’s high-containment facility in Atlanta., the FDA said, and 32 other vials have already been destroyed. The remaining 279 were transferred to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Bioforensic Analysis Center “for safeguarding.”'

    http://www.salon.com/2014/07/1... [salon.com]

    • What possible business can H.S. have with vials of deadly diseases?

      If there is a god, they wanted to take a good look inside whether the stuff is still in there.

  • We need direct action to dismantle the Fascist regime presently in power by eradicating the NSA and the TSA, returning the FBI to Law Enforcement, charging the members of Congress found to be conducting rampant Insider Trading with Federal Charges rather than giving them a pass and revoking the Patriot Act. Until then, it doesn't matter if we have 1,000 Snowdens, because it wont mean jack shit beyond tabloid fodder.
  • by epyT-R (613989) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @03:42PM (#47518155)

    Needs about 350 million edward snowdens. Time to vote these criminals out people! Democrats and republicans both.

  • Most of the US states need one... most of the departments in those states need them... Many major and even minor cities need them.

    Whistleblowing and leaking should become a core part of our democracy. Yes, government must keep some things secret... like your identity info so assholes aren't stealing your ID every two seconds to rob you. Or national security secrets like the plans to the latest hydrogen bomb. By all means keep those secrets.

    But pretty much everything that doesn't need to be kept secret... sh

  • Since DHS doesn't deal with actual information, it is reasonable that they do not respond to Freedom of Information requests.

  • by Kuroji (990107) <kuroji@gmail.com> on Thursday July 24, 2014 @12:24AM (#47520713)

    Likely they were discovered earlier than Snowden and became the subject of an extrajudicial execution, much as some have clamored to have done to Snowden.

"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." -- John Wooden

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