Top Leaderboard, Site wide
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
May 24, 2017 Disclaimer: Please read.

Statements and opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors, not Truthdig. Truthdig takes no responsibility for such statements or opinions.

Czeslaw Milosz: A Life

Truthdig Bazaar more items

Arts and Culture
Email this item Print this item

‘Homeland Security USA’: The Outtakes

Posted on Jan 9, 2009

By G.W. Schulz, Center for Investigative Reporting

Note: G.W. Schulz is working on a project at the Center for Investigative Reporting about homeland security in the United States, “America’s War Within,” which can be found here.

The inaugural episode of ABC’s newest reality television series did exactly as producer Arnold Shapiro told viewers it would: unabashedly celebrated the Department of Homeland Security. It also failed in every conceivable way to critically examine the largest reorganization of the federal government since World War II.

“Homeland Security USA” is the latest iteration of reality TV that like the show “Cops” romanticizes actual working police catching bad guys, except that now the cops aren’t just snagging small-time drunks and corner crack dealers. They’re federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security with far greater power using the latest technology to keep America safe from terrorists and stop international organized criminals from trafficking massive quantities of narcotics into the United States.

Shapiro received full access with his camera teams to nearly every agency folded into the Department of Homeland Security when it was created in 2003, from the Coast Guard to Customs and Border Protection, an access that no investigative journalist ever could attain. But he made a deal with the devil in exchange that would cause any journalism ethics professor to blush in embarrassment. Shapiro agreed to grant the department “pre-screening” rights over the series, according to The New York Times.

Missing, then, from the Jan. 6 premiere—and presumably from future episodes—are allegations like those unearthed by journalists and other watchdogs that some federal air marshals, for example, have accepted bribes, trafficked cocaine themselves and even sought to have a woman killed in one stupefying instance. There is nothing like the reports of border agents taking luxury cars as payment for secretly allowing illegal immigrants to cross into the United States. Not included either is any reference to the innumerable accounts from government overseers of dubious multimillion-dollar technology investments made by the department that were later abandoned after being deemed worthless.

Law enforcement bureaucrats featured in “Homeland Security USA” instead are cast as motivated not by the reliability of a government paycheck and an otherwise limitless federal budget with which to purchase new toys that frequently fail but by a simple desire to protect American families from the world’s ghastly horrors.

“I love investigative journalism, but that’s not what we’re doing,” Shapiro told The Hollywood Reporter in May. “This show is heartening. It makes you feel good about these people who are doing their best to protect us.”

By no means do the American people begrudge law enforcement officials doing their jobs. Quite the opposite. They want police heroes to maintain the highest professional standards possible and for serious lawbreakers to be placed behind bars.

So it’s indeed disheartening to realize that what some of the best news stories published and aired in recent years showed was the many ways in which the Department of Homeland Security has actually failed to protect America’s borders and keep dangerous criminals off jet airliners, disconcerting truths that clash spectacularly with Shapiro’s own take on reality, which ABC officials say will span 13 episodes.

For instance, a partnership between the journalism nonprofit ProPublica and USA Today published in November revealed that the Air Marshal Service, dramatically expanded after 9/11, contained in its ranks at least 18 people charged with felonies.

One air marshal was hired despite at the time being under FBI investigation for skimming drug profits while working as a sheriff’s deputy in Arkansas. Another allegedly sneaked cash and cocaine past airport security. Yet another allegedly tried to hire someone to murder his wife. Other marshals had been fired from past law enforcement positions for misconduct but were hired by the Department of Homeland Security anyway.

According to the story: “Since 9/11, air marshals have taken bribes, committed bank fraud, hired an escort while on layover and doctored hotel receipts to pad expenses, records show. They’ve been found sleeping on planes and lost the travel documents of U.S. diplomats while on a whiskey-tasting trip in Scotland.”

The show’s first episode, titled “This Is Your Car on Drugs,” focuses on the exploits of Customs and Border Protection. In one segment, a young woman arrives from Switzerland at the Los Angeles International Airport “with no working papers but a suitcase full of titillating surprises!” ABC described it in advanced press copy sent out before the show aired. She had revealing apparel in her suitcase, we learned during the Jan. 6 airing.

Meanwhile, the department’s inspector general discovered something else at LAX in October. Computer systems there managed by homeland security officials are susceptible to cyber attack because they’re poorly guarded, according to a report. One data system maintained by the Transportation Security Administration allowed anonymous access, which meant a hacker could log on without proper credentials. In another incident, customs authorities installed high-speed wireless Internet access at the airport for their use, but it was hampered by technical problems and no one could say after a full year whether it had ever actually worked.

New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Join the conversation

Load Comments

By samosamo, May 21, 2010 at 3:19 pm Link to this comment


“”“Homeland Security USA” is the latest iteration of reality TV
that like the show “Cops” romanticizes actual working police
catching bad guys, except that now the cops aren’t just
snagging small-time drunks and corner crack dealers. They’re
federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security with
far greater power using the latest technology to keep America
safe from terrorists and stop international organized criminals
from trafficking massive quantities of narcotics into the United

America in general is the world’s clearing house of narcotics and
if these federal agents from dhs do catch any caches of dope it
will be to redistribute them to their cartels. Just like the creation
of the cia or taxes, once made, they don’t go away just as I
would be willing to bet the cia and dhs are in cahoots with one
and the other and I also find it hard to believe that the cia would
so easily give up their already recognized drug dealing
operations from the olive north days of selling drugs in america
to pay for the iran contra scandal to pay for other covert
operations, you know just another hidden tax.

If anyone had the nerve to investigate the leaders of the current
drug cartels, I would not be at all surprised to learn most of
them lived here in the u.s.a. and went to church every sunday
and that they live in washington d.c. because it just seems how
so very too convenient that the military industrial congressional
complex that has more than just a little to do with ‘protecting’
the poppy crops in afghanistan are all HQed in the same place.

Report this

By Timestyx, May 21, 2010 at 7:37 am Link to this comment

Homelands security USA sounds like a great show, we should have an MI5 or MI6 reality show, beats watching James Bond….

Report this

By Folktruther, January 11, 2009 at 7:37 pm Link to this comment

This piece sanitizes and diverts attention from the main purpose of Homeland Security, which is to spy, imprison and threaten American dissidents.  With the 9/11-antrax homicides, the Bushite regime led a political counter revolution in the US, centralizing anti-Terrorist institutions.  A Terrorist is any one who opposes US imperalism and the enormous class inequality it engenders.

The courrption of the police is totally beside the point. Police or the military in every country are instrumental in the delivery of hard drugs. The purpose of Home Security is extolling the oppression of political opposition, espectially in a time of enormous and increasing class inequality.  Truthdig has leant itself to this purpose, helping to get people to identify with their own oppression and the oppression of other people.

Patrick Henry, you got better in distuishing between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism and now you are bigoted toward Latinos.  You’re better than that.

Report this

By samosamo, January 11, 2009 at 6:46 pm Link to this comment

What is sad is that this is what a lot of people don’t want people to be able to do, defend themselves. Taking all these abilities, defend, feed, clothe, shelter and educate, away has been a main goal of the media control that the elite and government maintain to insure the reliance on government by the people to do the jobs families had done for centuries but just like our constitution that has been shredded, these other things are much too dangerous to the elite and the current government to leave in the peoples hands. Plus it gets rid of the scum that crawls over the earth reeking havoc.

Report this
PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, January 11, 2009 at 6:02 pm Link to this comment

Thought i would share this with you as I was born in Montana and have many family there.

BUTTE, MT—Two illegal aliens, Raphael Resindez, 23, and Enrico Garza, 26, probably believed they would easily overpower home-alone 11 year old Patricia Harrington after her father had left their two-story home. 
It seems the two crooks never learned two things: they were in Montana and Patricia had been a clay shooting champion since she was nine. 
Patricia was in her upstairs room when the two men broke through the front door of the house. She quickly ran to her father’s room and grabbed his 12 gauge Mossberg 500 shotgun. 
Resindez was the first to get up to the second floor only to be the first to catch a near point blank blast of buckshot from the 11-year-old’s knee crouch aim. He suffered fatal wounds to his abdomen and genitals. 
When Garza ran to the foot of the stairs, he took a blast to the left shoulder and staggered out into the street where he bled to death before medical help could arrive. 
It was found out later that Resindez was armed with a stolen 45 caliber handgun he took from another home invasion robbery. That victim, 50-year-old David Burien, was not so lucky. He died from stab wounds to the chest. 
Ever wonder why good stuff never makes NBC, CBS, PBS, & MSNBC, CNN, or ABC news… 11 year old girl, properly trained, defended her home and herself…...against two murderous, illegal aliens .......and she wins, she is still alive. 
Now that is Gun Control. 
Thought for the day: 
Calling an illegal alien an ‘undocumented immigrant’ is like calling a drug dealer an ‘unlicensed pharmacist’

Report this

By jr., January 11, 2009 at 5:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Homeland security may turn out to be nothing more than a modern day witch hunt with a sale to pitch.

Report this

By jersey girl, January 11, 2009 at 3:08 pm Link to this comment

The title should be… Martial Law coming to your Hometown soon!

Report this

By Thomas Mc, January 11, 2009 at 8:40 am Link to this comment

I wouldn’t watch this show if it were the only thing on television.

Report this

By jr., January 10, 2009 at 10:43 pm Link to this comment

People won’t find homeland security so entertaining when THEY are the ones being harrassed for “looking” suspicious.

Report this

By KDelphi, January 10, 2009 at 5:16 pm Link to this comment


Report this

By 1twenty1, January 10, 2009 at 2:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Authoritarianism reigns supreme in these Unquieted States o Amerika.  If you want to be a “hero” you’d best be wearing a uniform and I’m not talking bellhop togs either.  For the most part our police type authorities are honest, competent and duty-bound.  They should be well compensated for that.  However, in this age of mandatory sentencing and “tough on crime” draconian laws I would favor automatic doubling of sentencing for “authorities” caught using those positions of authority to abet their crimes.

Also tasers should be banned at once.

Report this

By hippy pam, January 10, 2009 at 2:09 pm Link to this comment

Who was it that made the statement about “give them bread and circus”????????I’d say most Americans are satisfied with that!!!!!!

Report this

By freeyourmind, January 10, 2009 at 1:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in a democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power in our country.”  Edward Bernays, Author-Propaganda Nephew of Sigmund Freud

Report this

By samosamo, January 10, 2009 at 12:48 pm Link to this comment

With a new incoming president with smarts, one would think that this is one governmental department that has to go the way of the dodo. I would be surprised if obama did the right thing and dismantled DHS, but I bet that he will not.

Report this

By devi, January 10, 2009 at 2:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Another typical piece of crap for the “Stupid Morons -
called American Gentiles” Bedtime consumption,at best
another attempt to feed the general public “Horseshit”.

A better way to demonstrate this is to inform oneself:

Report this
Virginia777's avatar

By Virginia777, January 10, 2009 at 12:35 am Link to this comment

wow, our tax dollars at work!

forcing right-wing propaganda down the throats of couch-potatoes…


Report this

By jr., January 9, 2009 at 3:29 pm Link to this comment

Life in a prison state, YUK!!!

Report this

By knute, January 9, 2009 at 3:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I watched a portion of this first episode out of curiosity. It was exactly what I expected. It showed the camo garbed heros with their assault rifles and their huge support network tracking down a small mexican family in the desert. Just one example of the ridiculous waste of taxpayer money in a disproportionate responce proving nothing but that america has become a police state. I was discusted, but not at all surprised. Just another example of a media that has long been the lap dog of this administration.

Report this

By mill, January 9, 2009 at 11:55 am Link to this comment

the Bush Administrations spin-fiction machine keeps churning out the gibberish, enabled by the Arnold Shapiro’s of the world.

Report this

By abdo, January 9, 2009 at 10:53 am Link to this comment

when are we going to see unexciting reality shoes about like single parents? farm worker illegal or not or even more boring like how to hold your government accountable after they broke international lows defied the constitution lied to the nation and destroyed to country ? wouldn’t that be fun?

Report this

By Maani, January 9, 2009 at 10:26 am Link to this comment

Is it just me, or is the entire concept of a “reality” TV series about DHS employees so bizarre that even Kafka would not have considered it?

Report this

By davidperi, January 9, 2009 at 8:16 am Link to this comment

New reality programs along with a new administration…hope these programs can give some security to Americans.

Report this

By bruce radley, January 9, 2009 at 8:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am afraid that it’s only a matter of time before America embraces the goosestep as it’s newest dance craze.

Report this

By eileen fleming, January 9, 2009 at 7:24 am Link to this comment

After the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, Israel’s economy was devastated, but then came 9/11, and “suddenly new profit vistas opened up for any company that claimed it could spot terrorists in crowds, seal borders from attack and extract confessions from closed-mouthed prisoners…

“Many of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs are using Israel’s status as a fortressed state, surrounded by furious enemies, as a kind of twenty-four-hour-a-day showroom—a living example of how to enjoy relative safety amid constant war…Israel now sends $1.2 billion in “defense” products to the United States—up dramatically from $270 million in 1999…

“That makes Israel the fourth-largest arms dealer in the world…Much of this growth has been in the so-called “homeland security” sector.

“Before 9/11 homeland security barely existed as an industry. By the end of this year, Israeli exports in the sector will reach $1.2 billion—an increase of 20 percent.

“The key products and services are precisely the tools and technologies Israel has used to lock in the occupied territories.

“Israel has learned to turn endless war into a brand asset, pitching its uprooting, occupation and containment of the Palestinian people as a half-century head start in the “global war on terror…

“Israel’s policy of erecting walls and checkpoints to seal off the occupied territories are also “laboratories where the terrifying tools of our security states are being field-tested Palestinians—whether living in the West Bank or what the Israeli politicians are already calling “Hamasistan”—are no longer just targets. They are guinea pigs…”-Naomi Klein

The Rest:

Report this
Right Top, Site wide - Care2
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Right Internal Skyscraper, Site wide

Like Truthdig on Facebook