Whether Americans are safer because of the U.S. Freedom Act is a debate that led the Congress in the past week to change some of act’s domestic spying allowances, but what there should be no argument about is that the post-September 2001 homeland security ramp-up also led to a colossal waste of money.
Although most jurisdictions receiving grants through the various Homeland Security Department programs would strongly disagree, and would defend the expenditure of every penny, it is evident that some purchases just weren’t necessary.
Things were bought because the money was available. The most obvious case in point is Ocean City’s $450,000 police command vehicle, which the City Council in 2005 agreed to buy.
At the time of that discussion, great emphasis was placed on the high-tech RV’s “presence,” which, for almost a half-million dollars, it ought to have, plus some.
Still, it would be safe to say that few people have ever seen it in action, and even fewer have witnessed a circumstance when this kind of presence was vital to protecting the peace and good order of the town.
Besides, in a town just 10 miles long, with a centrally located Public Safety Building, police can get anywhere in town in 15 minutes or less – driving the speed limit.
This is not a criticism of the department or the 2005 City Council, for that matter. No one can blame them for taking advantage of freely flowing federal money. After all, as the theory goes, if they didn’t take the money, someone else would.
That burden of guilt falls on federal authorities and the politicians who enabled them by abandoning whatever common sense they might have possessed.
All that needs to be said to put this ridiculous business in perspective is that this is also how the Town of Preston, Md., population 719, got a grant for a surveillance system on its water tower. Hey, it’s a target and you just can’t be too careful.