For some strange reason, I thought that the mission of the Department of Homeland Security was to protect the homeland from terrorist attacks. It could be that the source of this mistaken belief is the DHS’s own mission statement (published in their Security Strategic Plan for 2008 to 2013):
We will lead the unified national effort to secure America. We will prevent and deter terrorist attacks and protect against and respond to threats and hazards to the Nation. We will secure our national borders while welcoming lawful immigrants, visitors, and trade.
Although I take issue with the DHS’s view that returning war veterans are a domestic terrorist threat, at least that still falls under their stated mission of combating terrorism. So imagine my surprise to learn the DHS was recently behind a bungled sting to protect Canadian children from American pedophiles.
Now don’t get me wrong. I want to protect children from pedophiles, but I would have thought that the FBI has both the expertise and jurisdiction to conduct such an investigation. In this particular sting, the DHS sought to lure in pedophiles by setting up a web site that supposedly was fronting for a sex tourism operation. The imaginary package tour would depart from Cleveland, Ohio to destinations in Canada where children there would be victimized by the “tourist.” I am assuming the reason this kind of sting came under the purview of a federal agency was the fact that a border would be crossed. However, if you stop to think about it, the homeland being protected was actually Canada’s.
Why did the DHS sting fail? Because an American computer programmer stumbled across the site and notified the web hosting service of its illegal nature. Not surprisingly the hosting service took it down. After the programmer learned that she had actually thwarted a federal sting, she wondered why the DHS hadn’t hosted the site on a server in its own possession while disguising that fact.
Looking beyond the sting’s failure, to me the worrisome aspect of this case is the mission creep of the DHS. Congress allocates this department a set amount of money each year to protect the homeland against terrorism and natural disasters. Why are they taking this money and duplicating the efforts of other federal agencies? Or why are their agents going after copyright violators? Obviously our federal laws should be enforced, but should the DHS be assuming the lead in cases that actually have nothing to do with the safety of our homeland? Just as the Congress now claims jurisdiction over huge swaths of human activity in the name of the interstate commerce, apparently the DHS seems to be claiming jurisdiction over any illegal activity that endangers anyone’s safety or property. But that’s not where their resources are needed.
I recently addressed another incident in which the federal government seems confused about which agencies should be doing what kind of law enforcement. The post was entitled, Who knew that the Department of Education has a S.W.A.T. team?!?!