UPRISING: Call to Dismantle US Homeland Security

“The very premise of a ‘homeland security’ bureaucracy is chilling and ought to be questioned,” wrote the executive director of the ACLU.

After years of challenging the actions and authority of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the ACLU Monday called for Congress to dismantle the agency and break it into smaller parts.

“Its dysfunction is one of the Beltway’s worst kept secrets,” Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, wrote in an op-ed. “DHS’ overbroad mandate and unchecked powers have turned it into a tinderbox, now ignited by a president willing to trample on the constitutional limits of presidential powers.”


“The very premise of a ‘homeland security’ bureaucracy is chilling and ought to be questioned,” Romero wrote in USA Today. Noting that DHS is an “ineffective super-agency” composed of 22 different agencies, Romero argued that breaking up the department would “allow for more effective oversight, accountability, and public transparency.”

This is not the first time DHS or agencies under its umbrella, including the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), have been targeted by activists and politicians as unwieldy bastions of authoritarian power, but calls for oversight have increased since President Donald Trump took office in 2017.

“Under President Trump, ICE appears to have taken the gloves off,” the Brennan Center for Justice reported in 2018, following increased immigrant deportations under the Trump administration’s watch, which resulted a nationwide movement to abolish the agency.

ICE continues to come under fire for mismanagement and cruelty of its immigrant detention facilities. Last week a federal judge ordered ICE to obtain and implement rapid Covid 19-testing in a detention center California, following a viral outbreak there and evidence of blatant refusal to implement screening and social distancing measures for detainees who are positive for Covid-19.

Romero pointed to more recent actions in addition to those since the beginning of Trump’s reign, and highlighted reports of federal officers pulling Black Lives Matter protesters into unmarked vehicles as recently as July.

“Now, of course, we know that DHS has surveilled Black Lives Matter activist circles; descended into mosques and community centers to infiltrate Muslim communities; shot and killed foreign nationals across the border; and monitored protests using fusion center intelligence sharing hubs,” Romero wrote. He also pointed to current and former high-ranking government officials who have also called out DHS for overreach.

“It would be a cold day in hell before I would consent or agree to the unsolicited, uninvited intervention in any of my cities,” Tom Ridge, who served as the first U.S. secretary of homeland security, told Pittsburgh news outlet KDKA last month, following news of federal agents essentially kidnapping protesters in Portland, Oregon. “I certainly don’t favor that kind of action, and certainly don’t think DHS was designed for that purpose to start with.”

In an op-ed published by The Washington Post last month, Barbara Boxer, a former Democratic U.S. representative and senator from California, lamented voting to form DHS following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“I never thought that the Department of Homeland Security would be used against our own people,” Boxer wrote, referring to the deployment of federal agents in Portland. “I never envisioned a dictatorial president, a tyrannical president, a desperate president.”

But Trump seems only to have been emboldened by increased calls of authoritarianism carried out by DHS. Less than an hour before the ACLU announced their call to dismantle the department, the president tweeted that the National Guard is “ready to act immediately” to secure a federal courthouse in Portland, where protests over police brutality and systemic racism continue. 

“Years of chaos and impunity make a clear case for the dismantling of DHS,” Romero wrote. “President Trump’s use of DHS as his personal militia should be enough to start a meaningful bipartisan debate about DHS’ future.”

“If there is one thing we have learned from the authoritarianism on display in Portland, it’s that we have to remove the loaded weapon that sits on the proverbial coffee table in the Oval Office,” he concluded.

13 comments for “UPRISING: Call to Dismantle US Homeland Security

  1. Linda Furr
    August 12, 2020 at 16:47

    Thank you, ACLU and Consortium News, for making it clear what this country is supposed to be about!!!

  2. Weniger Gottquatsch
    August 12, 2020 at 07:29

    “Homeland security” is indeed “chilling”. Even more so in German: Die Heimatsicherheit.

  3. Zhu
    August 12, 2020 at 02:53

    Back when Obama first authorized disappearing people into secret pridons, fans thought it must be OKbrcause he was a Democrat. Now that a Republican is arresting Dem protesters they are outraged.

  4. Dave Clark
    August 11, 2020 at 15:34

    I did think Homeland Security would be used against US citizens but I never thought ANYONE would ever think to fly planes into tall buildings. Twice in one day too!

    • Robert Edwards
      August 11, 2020 at 16:48

      Just looks at the “likes” on this and you will understanding this is more than a movement. The Department of Homeland Security, and the other security/secret agencies, should be disbanded; they are obsolete and their only role is to defend the super rich and corporate behemoth.

  5. Mark Walker
    August 11, 2020 at 15:32

    When the identified primary problem between the 3 agencies was identified to be communication barriers due mainly to incompatible radio equipment, what we ended up with instead was *another* layer of abstraction above these agencies. Yet more bureaucracy.

    We’ve had this ‘mission accomplished’ for a while now. The result was not effectiveness, it was gigantic expendatures for the non-solution, DHS.

  6. Barbara Mullin
    August 11, 2020 at 15:31

    Isn’t Joe Biden bragging that he actually wrote part of the Patriot Act? Big need to look into both political parties on these issues.

  7. zman
    August 11, 2020 at 13:24

    Tom Ridge is wrong. DHS was written with just those abilities in mind. They knew exactly what they were doing when they wrote the treasonous thing. The creation of Homeland Security, the (anything but)Patriot Act and TSA are some of the worst things ever created…right up there with the (non)federal reserve. All should be revoked and those that wrote and enacted them should be tried for treason.

  8. Aaron
    August 11, 2020 at 13:05

    Abuse, waste, and corruption – Welcome to the U.S.A.!!
    Like The Eagles mid-90’s tour/album, “Hell Freezes Over”, Ridge must admit it’s way too late for his conscientious objections at this point.

  9. James A.
    August 11, 2020 at 13:04

    Imagine Barbara Boxer claiming that she had no idea that this DHS would be used against the good citizenry of our grand republic. As soon as the “Department of Homeland Security” was created anyone with a brain should’ve known that it most certainly would be used against people. I imagine Boxer probably voted for the Patriot Act and most of the legislation that created this authoritarian bureaucratic heap. They are political police and they are doing their job, the same sort of job these same sort of people would be carrying out in any social order, “democratic” or otherwise.

    August 11, 2020 at 13:02

    “The very premise of a ‘homeland security’ bureaucracy is chilling and ought to be questioned”

    I should say so. Even the name carries echoes of the Stasi or the KGB.

    But it is just one of many repressive and repulsive post-9/11 creations. The entire Patriot Act is sickness wrapped in a flag.

    Words like “ought” or “should” now carry no meaning when applied to Washington. That’s not in the least an exaggeration.

    It an interesting observation that American conservatives are among the most intense supporters of such measures. True conservatives are supposed to oppose government interference in citizens’ lives, but that very much does not characterize the kind of conservatives with which America is endowed.

    And that observation brings us back to the Chris Hedges’ article about the unavoidable rise of hyper-nationalism in America.

    • DH Fabian
      August 11, 2020 at 19:36

      We HAVE been “questioning” it ever since Congress passed the Homeland Security Act in 2002. Those in power have seen no reason to answer. I’m mystified why you think it’s “an interesting observation that American conservatives are among supporters of such measures.” It might have been considered odd (or hypocritical) years ago, but not today. The meaning of “conservative” changed significantly since the “Reagan Revolution,” and now refers to the hard right wing. Similarly, Democrats and liberals changed the word “progressive” to refer to traditional capitalist middle class ideology — something very different from its original meaning. The meanings of words used to refer to political ideas change over time.

  11. Dienne
    August 11, 2020 at 12:52

    “I never thought that the Department of Homeland Security would be used against our own people….”

    Excuse me? You mean the agency that is legally allowed to strip search any “suspicious” person attempting to get on an airplane? You didn’t think *that* agency would be used against our own people? Alex, I’ll take “Head in the Sand” for $1,000, please.

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