Yak Attack

A place to unwind and spend some time yakking.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The famous phrase is, "How safe do we feel?"

Have you heard that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is getting into the education business? Specifically, our buds at DHS are handing out our money to create Centers of Excellence, which are charged with protecting Mr. and Mrs. America and “their way of life” by looping universities into DHS partnerships to conduct research for the government. So far, there are four Centers of Excellence; number one deals with terrorism and economic impact; number two dabbles in terrorism and animal agriculture; number three scopes out terrorism and post-harvest food; and the fun begins with number four, which examines terrorism through the rose colored glasses of behavioral and social sciences.

Center number four, The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), was awarded its 3-year, $12 million grant back in January 2005. Gary LaFree (ironic name, isn’t it?), a professor of criminology at the University of Maryland, is the START director. Since its inception, START has built a relationship with 5 major university partners, brought on board Arie W. Kruglanski, Clark McCauley and Kathleen J. Tierney to head up the center’s three “thematic working groups” and began offering fellowship money to lure graduate students, and those who have completed graduate school within the last five years, to conduct research for START.

LaFree hit the mother lode when he discovered Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations Inc had index card records of 70,000 international terrorist incidents catalogued from 1970 to 1997. He convinced Pinkerton to let him record their data in a computer database, which gave him an edge in the competition for the Center of Excellence grant. Squeezed out of the running was a similar database project conducted by Sam Houston State University with $2 million of financial help from the Department of Justice. He stated in an article that originally ran in the Baltimore Sun, "As a private money-making concern, Pinkerton didn't have all the political pressure that the State Department does… Pinkerton tended to err on the side of inclusiveness."

Interestingly, Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations Inc, which merged with Burns International in 2001 to form Securitas Security Services USA, Inc., is now part of the world’s largest security service company. Allan Pinkerton, founder of Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations Inc., helped form our nation’s first secret service to infiltrate Confederate territory during the Civil War. Burns International’s founder, William J. Burns, was appointed in 1921 to the directorship of the National Bureau of Fingerprint Investigation, which morphed into the FBI.

LaFree refers to START as “the Manhattan Project of the social sciences.” The intentional correlation to the research consortium that produced the most destructive force, to date, ever unleashed on people just doesn’t buff the soul with warm fuzzy vibes, now does it? He also stated in the Baltimore Sun, “"The famous phrase is that one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter," defining terrorism and terrorists by technique which involve, “a "sub-state" agent, violence or the threat of it, and goals that are political, religious or social.”

How come I don’t feel safer now that you’re on the dole, LaFree?

post script: as I was adding this entry, I noticed that a fifth Center of Excellence was awarded a grant in October. They're concerned about critters, too, of the microbial variety.


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