Many Homeland Security Programs Can Be Ended Under Obama, ACLU Says

By Josiah Ryan | December 3, 2008 | 6:10pm EST

President-elect Barack Obama speaks at a news conference in Chicago, Monday, Dec. 1, 2008. (l-r): Attorney General-designate Eric Holder; Homeland Security Secretary-designate, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano; Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Vice President-elect Joe Biden; Secretary of State-designate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.; National Security Adviser-designate Ret. Marine Gen. James Jones; United Nations Ambassador-designate Susan Rice. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(CNSNews.com) – Many of the programs created under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after 9/11 can be dispensed with, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. And the incoming Obama administration will make major renovations in the DHS that will strengthen privacy rights for individuals, civil rights activists said at a conference on Wednesday.
 
“There is a real opportunity for the new administration and all the new folks coming in to  take a serious look at all of the programs that were set up in the immediate aftermath of 9/11,” Tim Sparapani, a senior legislative counsel at the ACLU, told CNSNews.com.
 
“We have to believe that some of the programs are not actually effective. When you look at them with a cold eye I think you will find that a lot of them can be dispensed with,” he said.
 
Sparapani spoke at an all-day conference hosted by the Democratic staff of the House Department of Homeland Security Committee entitled, “A Path Forward: Constitutional Protections in Homeland Security."
 
In addition to Sparapani and the ACLU, there were speakers from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, among others.
 
President-elect Obama revealed his national security team on Monday, naming Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as the next secretary of DHS.
 
Douglas DeLeaver, the immediate past president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives told CNSNews.com: “For the first time since the founding of DHS it will experience a major renovation” under Obama and Napolitano.
 
The culture of the Obama administration will actually change the nature of the DHS, said DeLeaver.
 
“I really think the change is that the new administration is going to be an open administration with transparency,” he said. “We have some stagnant people sitting in there right now, because when they came on board they all took their buddies with them. But now a change is going to come about.


“The Obama administration is going to want direct answers instead of fog. People are going to be held responsible – and I don’t think that is happening right now,” DeLeaver added.
 
The incoming changes at DHS are not politically motivated, Sparapani told CNSNews.com. But instead they result from an infusion of fresh faces and fresh perspectives.
 
“We now get a fresher set of eyes that are not invested in the establishment of the  programs who can take a clear-headed look,” said Sparapani, “I think it’s just the natural changing of things in Washington that creates an opportunity to undo some things that never should have been done in the first place.”
 
Sparapani said he does not know whether it was “vigilance or luck” that has prevented the United States from being attacked again since 9/11, but he said he hopes the Obama administration will choose carefully which programs to keep and which to let go.
 
“Let’s hope that the Obama folks are giving close scrutiny in deciding which programs should be kept and what should be scrapped, said Sparapani. “If so, hopefully we will extend this period of time when we haven’t been attacked.”

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