The US President's Executive Order issued October 8, 2001
established the US Office of Homeland Security. The Office
is directed to develop and coordinate a comprehensive national
strategy to strengthen protections against terrorist threats
or attacks in the US. The new Office will coordinate federal,
state, and local counter-terrorism efforts. The Secretary
of Homeland Security will provide assistance to state and
local governments to develop all-hazards plans and capabilities,
including those of greatest importance to the security of
the United States homeland, such as the prevention of terrorist
attacks and preparedness for the potential use of weapons
of mass destruction, and ensure that state, local, and federal
plans are compatible.
All federal departments and agencies shall cooperate with
the Secretary of Homeland Security in the Secretary's domestic
incident management role and shall participate in and use
domestic incident reporting systems and protocols established
by the Secretary of Homeland Security.
The act designated the Department of Homeland Security as
a "defense agency of the United States" for purposes of 35
U.S.C. § 181, which accords the chief officer of any Federal
department or agency so designated the right to inspect certain
inventions that will be disclosed by the granting of a patent,
and with respect to which disclosure might be detrimental
to the national security, for the purpose of determining whether
the invention should be kept secret.
The Secretary of Homeland Security is responsible for coordinating
federal operations to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and
recover from all domestic incidents when any of the following
(1) the initial lead federal department or agency has requested
(2) the resources of state and local authorities are overwhelmed
and assistance has been requested by the state and local authorities;
(3) more than one federal agency has become substantially
involved in responding to the incident; or
(4) he has been directed to assume responsibility for the
domestic incident by the President.
Departments included under homeland security now include:
Domestic Emergency Support Teams previously under the Department
of Justice that expeditiously provide expert advice, guidance
and support to the Federal On-Scene Commander during an incident
involving weapons of mass destruction or a credible threat.
Nuclear Incident Response Teams, Atmospheric Release Advisory
Capability, Radiological Assistance Program and the Aerial
Measuring System previously under the Department of Energy
that provides radiological response assets to respond during
a radiological incident. Strategic National Stockpile previously
under the Department of Health and Human Services that ensures
the availability and rapid deployment of lifesaving pharmaceuticals,
antidotes, and other medical supplies and equipment. Dissolve
the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board,
and transfer reporting, funding, and administrative responsibilities
for the National Infrastructure Advisory Council to the Department
of Homeland Security.
The Attorney General has the lead responsibility for criminal
investigations and intelligence operations concerning terrorist
attacks and shall also work to ensure that members of the
law enforcement community will work with the Secretary of
Homeland Security as the official responsible for domestic
incident management, to detect, prevent, preempt, and disrupt
terrorist attacks against the United States.
Some versions of the homeland security department bill included
a much narrower provision that required a connection to a
terrorism investigation before such sensitive information
could be shared.
The current version, according to the ACLU, is broad enough
to sweep in minor criminal matters. Overly broad intelligence
information sharing provisions between the Homeland Security
department and other agencies, such as the FBI or the CIA
and even with foreign law enforcement agencies. Some versions
of the homeland security department bill included a much narrower
provision that required a connection to a terrorism investigation
before such sensitive information could be shared.
Shielding information from public scrutiny.
The bill exempts information about so-called critical infrastructure
from the Freedom of Information Act. It even goes so far as
to impose criminal penalties for government officials who
disclose this information. As a result, officials who blow
the whistle on threats to public health (uranium stockpiling
or tainted blood) or private sector incompetence (poor maintenance
of railroad tracks or computer networks) could become criminals.
The legislation imposes these FOIA exemptions not just on
the federal government, but also on states and municipalities
by trumping all state and local open government laws.
About the Author:
Francesca Black develops educational material for
http://www.security-port.com and http://www.security-protection.net
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