Discussing the threat of “radicalization” Americans now face, Kelly invoked Dante’s journey to hell, offering a vivid picture of evil men throwing innocent people from buildings, “rape victims being stoned to death,” and headless bodies scattered around.
Claiming the threat of terror in America is as high as it was after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Kelly added that the proliferation of encrypted communications technologies is making the job of folks like him difficult. He asserted systems that allow people to communicate freely and anonymously are giving terrorists the weapons they need to spread their messages far and wide.
But despite Kelly’s most dramatic portrayals of the so-called threats the country faces, the tools and weapons terrorist organizations have been relying on to expand and bring more and more people under their wings have all been deployed by men and women like Kelly, himself. After all, the United States has been in an ongoing campaign to radicalize members of certain groups in the Middle East since the 1980s.
Ever since the U.S. first started arming and training mujahideen in Afghanistan — albeit somewhat indirectly — its own involvement with so-called rebels has helped fuel local conflicts, prop up terrorist organizations, and spread these organizations’ messages across the entire region. Those currently fighting in Syria to bring down Bashar al-Assad aren’t all Syrians fighting for sovereignty. A great deal of them are foreign militants directly associated with al-Qaeda — the terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden, whose main feat was the deadly attack on the Twin Towers in New York City.
By pulling the strings to help foment “popular” uprisings abroad, America has chosen to play with other nations’ destinies without knowing what these steps will provoke in the long run.
When these actions lead to unintended reactions, like widespread terrorism, these organizations aren’t going to stop because they are afraid of America’s military might — quite the contrary. The more the United States attacks, the more material for propaganda these power-hungry monsters will have in their hands.
Kelly also added that Congress should “change the laws” if they are not happy with the ones his agency is so passionately upholding. But what he failed to note is that agencies like his and others enjoy the protection of the executive branch and are often beyond reproach due to the incredible power bestowed on the office of the president. Like the Department of Justice (DOJ), the DHS often bends the rules of what is constitutional — or even morally acceptable — because the executive branch has grown so staggeringly powerful in the past decades.
Because of Congress’ own doing, the power that has been invested in the executive branch has become nearly unmatched, making it impossible for agencies like DHS or DOJ to be held accountable for their own wrongdoings — after all, if you’re the most powerful watcher in the land, who’s going to watch you?
Perhaps Kelly is sincere in his concerns, and therefore, he’s also sincere when he tells us we should live in fear. But perhaps he’s just another subject tasked with only one chore: To keep his agency as relevant and as necessary as ever.
So next time Kelly mentions incredible visions of death and destruction to justify embracing anti-privacy measures, more surveillance, and less freedom, remember that what he wants us to be afraid of is the messes people like him created decades ago and are now trying to handle by doing what they have always done well — fomenting more crisis, at home and abroad.