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The only IED threat you should be worried about

Fear Factoid
Homeland Security’s IED Fantasies

The Washington Post leads with a seemingly frightening story Saturday (it appears in the top left column on the front page, above the fold): “IEDs Seen as Rising Threat in the U.S.” That should make commuting on I-95 interesting. But this isn’t a news story. It’s a budget story, the sort of fearmongering common to American government agencies since the Cold War: Panic the masses about a terrifying possibility, however preposterous, then make a pitch to Congress for more funding.

Here’s the key in this story: “Chertoff's department said in a draft report on IEDs earlier this year that national efforts ‘lack strategic guidance, are sometimes insufficiently coordinated . . . and lack essential resources.’” This, even though the story points out that Chertoff himself “said his department has provided $1.7 billion in grants related to the IED threat, trained workers at 16 ports and deployed thousands of new explosives detectors at airports, and plans to increase the screening of small boats and private aircraft that might carry bombers or bombs.” So what’s this about lacking resources when $1.7 billion has been provided to address one of the least likely threats in the nation?

Needless to say, there’s never been an IED attack in the United States. Bomb threats, yes. But those have been around since King Philip’s War. Needless to say, IEDs are the weapon of choice in Iraq and Afghanistan principally because they have a support system. Insurgents have the help of the populace, and the Iraqi or Afghan army and police, they can dissimulate themselves in nearby houses, they can operate willy-nilly. Hard to imagine a terrorist having those luxuries on I-95 or a downtown street, where American vigilantism goes the other way.

Still, the Post story has to play fear factor, quoting law enforcement bigwigs without verifying the stupidity of what they say: Their title absolves the reporter from checking, no matter how lowly the source, no matter how provincial or irrelevant: “ ‘National coordination of IED prevention efforts is absolutely crucial,’ said Lt. Shawn E. Stallworth, a Michigan State Police detective and member of the National Bomb Squad Commanders Advisory Board. The group this year called for "urgent action" to increase training in handling the threat posed by large-vehicle bombs.”

As always, follow the money. We’ve learned thing none from cold war hysteria. Needless to say, too, that the greater danger, between the IED threat and the threat posed by the Department of Homeland Security (and its media acolytes) isn’t the IED threat.

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