Two months ago, Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano criticized and dismissed Arizona’s controversial immigration law as “misguided,” as “not the kind of law I would have signed” and as “bad law enforcement law” because it could create a “slippery slope” toward racial profiling. Within two weeks time, Napolitano admitted before a Senate committee that she had not actually read the 10-page-long law.
In late December, Napolitano stated that the unsuccessful Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound flight failed “in no small part to passengers and crewmembers who acted quickly and courageously to subdue the attacker and gain control of the situation.” She called it an “attempted attack,” and insisted that “the system worked.” Within two weeks time, Napolitano acknowledged that it was indeed serendipitous that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s bomb blast was limited in scope to his immediate testicular region.
And then, of course, there was the DHS threat assessment released in April 2009 which targeted “rightwing extremism” and focused DHS resources on veterans returning from combat overseas, single-issue (pro-life) activists, and those of us who believe that the federal government should be limited in scope. It took her a few months to renege on that one, but renege she did.
With a well-deserved reputation for incompetence, as well as a track record of embarrassing herself only to sheepishly change course later, is it any wonder that despite all of the assurances that the images produced by x-ray backscatter body scanning devices would never be stored in any way, such images are in fact being recorded and stored by the U.S. Marshals Service? From a cnet.com article:
For the last few years, federal agencies have defended body scanning by insisting that all images will be discarded as soon as they’re viewed. The Transportation Security Administration claimed last summer, for instance, that “scanned images cannot be stored or recorded.”
Now it turns out that some police agencies are storing the controversial images after all. The U.S. Marshals Service admitted this week that it had surreptitiously saved tens of thousands of images recorded with a millimeter wave system at the security checkpoint of a single Florida courthouse.
These “devices are designed and deployed in a way that allows the images to be routinely stored and recorded, which is exactly what the Marshals Service is doing,” EPIC executive director Marc Rotenberg told CNET. “We think it’s significant.”
William Bordley, an associate general counsel with the Marshals Service, acknowledged in the letter that “approximately 35,314 images…have been stored on the Brijot Gen2 machine” used in the Orlando, Fla. federal courthouse. In addition, Bordley wrote, a Millivision machine was tested in the Washington, D.C. federal courthouse but it was sent back to the manufacturer, which now apparently possesses the image database.
Look, I’m a realist. I know that Janet Napolitano was likely not sitting in the Florida courthouse with a cup of coffee, checking out the folks who come in for filings and trials and more. But this woman has had enough chances. Time and time again, everything she touches as director of Homeland Security fails, and under the doctrine of respondeat superior, I consider this to be on her watch.
I’ll also be the first one to maintain that there is no right to privacy contained within our Constitution. Look if you’d like to, but it’s not there. The closest constitutional problem here would be with the Fourth Amendment and its protection against unreasonable search and seizure; however, even with my libertarian streak, I’ll be the first one to argue that so long as it is being done right and with due deference to the implied right to privacy, I consider airport scanning necessary to achieve a compelling government interest. That being said, when the director of Homeland Security repeatedly assures the American people that her agency has undertaken due diligence to provide for reasonable privacy protections while surreptitiously allowing just the opposite to go on behind the scenes, all credibility on the subject matter has been lost.
As far as I’m concerned, Napolitano should never have been tapped for the position in the first place. Since she was, however, time and time again she has proven herself to be not just incompetent, but on the completely wrong side of every issue and every situation which has reached her station. Call it schadenfreude, but as much as part of me guiltily enjoys watching this administration fly its incompetent flag up high, when it comes to Napolitano and DHS, matters of national security are of far too much import to laugh at.