1 February 2004. Thanks to J.

Economic Terrorism Using the Department of Homeland Security

by Jorge Arbusto

The Department of Homeland Security is sure doing its best to "protect" American citizens from terror. So good in fact, since its inception, there has not been a single attack on American soil. While I won't delve too deep into political beliefs about the system, its 'overseers', et al, I would like to take the time to point the finger and laugh a bit. Laugh at how the same system can be used directly against itself, and the economy of the United States.

Firstly I would like to state that I am by no means a terrorist, I love my country, and would die for it (for the "right" reasons of course and I mean right as in morally right), so please don't take this writing as nothing more than a look at the flaws in the system.

While I could find no data on the costs associated with an elevated level on the Department of Homeland Security website, I decided to create a fictitious account of how much I think it would cost to raise the terror alert. Using standard wages I would like to get an estimate of how much it costs the taxpayers every time the terror alert is elevated. Being I didn't know where to look exactly for an overall base, I decided to use the New York City Police Department's information on salaries. Police Officer earns over $44,000, on average, in the first year.... While this may not be a nationwide salary, I decided to be fair and make my own average of $30,000.00 per year to keep things modest for counties whose officers don't make that much. Either way, the numbers are scary, yet amusing.

Thirty thousand per year broken down into a weekly paycheck of 40 hours is roughly $576.92, or $14.42 per hour. Supposing the terror warning system was elevated right this minute, due to some "background chatter", or "intelligence which suggests...", how many law enforcement agents would be summoned to work? Sadly I could not find anything on any government web page with the statistical information on this, which is sad because I would really like to be fair on this, so again I have to resort to making up my own numbers here. Let's say per state we add an additional 300 officers, that being 100 officers per 8 hour shifts -- since we do want 24 hour protection.

300 officers for 50 states, or let's eliminate Alaska and Hawaii to be further fair on the subject. 300 officers multiplied by 48 states totalling 14,400 more officers on the beat. Officers which will be paid overtime, of course. We indicated that the officers would average a lowly $14.42 per hour, however, since overtime is almost always time and a half the pay rate now becomes $21.61 per hour. $155,592.00 per day per state, for $7,468,416.00 nationwide. Not bad, not bad at all for protecting the people. Again, being fair about these numbers, we'll add an additional $10.00 for say, gasoline, tolls, or whatever else is associated with raising the terror level, since we don't expect our officers to all walk around now do we?

$1,555,920.00 per state per day, $74,468,416.00 nationwide. Rather a scary number isn't it? Probably a lot more closer to reality than we would like it to be. Leaving the figure at the previous $7.5 million (I rounded it out to avoid typing much), I would wonder how long could the United States sustain such figures on something, say, as terrorists making nothing more than line-noise. I wouldn't want to go into the economic state of the United States right now because I'm not an economist for one, and most of the information I read nowadays all seem to contradict one another.

Let's say someone assembled a worldwide group of online misfits with too much time on their hands, and each member of the group just started talking just for the sake of talking. Sure it would be an asinine thing to do, sure there's a chance of getting caught. But let's just suppose for a second the entire group was using a slew of proxy servers to avoid divulging too much information about their identities, how long would it take before so many 1) false alerts confuse the system making it work against itself (meaning injecting so many false positives a real attack will not be detected) 2) the United States digs itself deeper in debt all because of someone's pipe dream of an alert system?

How about 100 false alerts per year? $7.5 billion down the drain (that's the conservative price). $75 billion is more realistic, in fact I believe it's a lot lower than what it truly costs. But leaving it at $7.5 billion, how much are you willing to keep dishing out in taxes (because they WILL eventually be raised) in order to support such a broken system?

Well it is slightly unfair to be so critical of the DHS, but why should I allow my tax dollars to go to waste on this system? It's unproven for one, I think many have seen how people have already bypassed the system by sneaking weapons on planes, and let's be realistic, the way it's advertised and overhyped, if I were a terrorist I would either wait until the warnings went down, or inject some false positives in the mix, or hell... I would just make the United States keep spending until eventually people start getting laid off due to massive amounts of money gone down the drain on false alerts.

What about ECHELON and similar systems? I probably could write an extensive document detailing how the system works, but I won't. Instead let's (again) suppose I wanted to create false alerts to fool the system, raising the alert level. How fast could it be done? How about taking a look at the virus issue plaguing systems worldwide. Say a virus author had a virus with ECHELON flagged words embedded in the data. Again, sorry to laugh, it's not that I don't take terrorism serious, I just find it amusing that the system is so shoddy it can be used against its own self.

So while I would have liked to continue writing a more detailed document on the system, I choose not to. After all I wouldn't want to be labeled as unpatriotic, or even worse, sent to Guantanamo after being labeled a terrorist. Boo! Was that the boogeyman? Nope just someone with too much time on their hands.

"Terrorist Threat Seen for 2 Airlines' Flights" ouch... That's got to hurt someone in the pockets.

Yours truly,
Jorge Arbusto