ThreatsWatch.Org: Commentary

Self Defense is National Defense

The most important factor in national security is you

By Michael Tanji

The defense of a nation ultimately depends on the wherewithal and actions of that nation’s citizens. The true measure of how secure a nation is against attacks of all sorts is not the number of federal agents employed or size of its intelligence agencies, but by how well those at every level of power and authority recognize current and emerging threats and prepare to deal with them.

In 2001, in the span of a few minutes, the people of this nation were reminded that threats to national security were not ethereal, far-off affairs that impacted someone else. Nearly every day since then we have been subjected to daily bombardment of information about threats to the nation and to ourselves as individuals. The response to these threats has ranged from military action to boosting the size, power, and authority of national security establishments. These are not entirely flawed courses of action, but they are by no means the ultimate source of protection for any citizen who values their life and liberty.

Consider the following:

Despite improvements, the Homeland Security Department still falls short in protecting its critical IT systems and data, according to a new report from the department’s Inspector General Richard L. Skinner.

Current regulations to protect the control systems that support power plants nationwide fall short of federal recommendations, posing a serious threat to the electric infrastructure and national security, witnesses testified at a hearing Wednesday. One lawmaker threatened legislation if standards don't improve.

A Ledbetter [TX] area business owner [James Walton] fatally shot a suspected burglar Sunday morning – the second time in three weeks that he killed an intruder . . . KDFW reporter Rebecca Aguilar has been indefinitely suspended, based on concerns about how Aguilar treated Walton [in an interview in which she berated Walton to the point of tears].

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives said they are suspicious of a proposed merger giving China a share in the 3Com computer security company . . . The company sells hacker-prevention hardware and the Pentagon is one of its key customers.

A Mexican national infected with a highly contagious form of tuberculosis crossed the U.S. border 76 times and took multiple domestic flights in the past year, according to Customs and Border Protection interviews and documents obtained by The Washington Times.

Security screeners at two of the nation's busiest airports failed to find fake bombs hidden on undercover agents posing as passengers in more than 60% of tests last year, according to a classified report obtained by USA TODAY.

In what could be the largest data security breach to date, MasterCard International on Friday said information on more than 40 million credit cards may have been stolen.

A somewhat eclectic and by no means comprehensive list of stories that all have a common if unwritten theme: the big national security machine cannot do it all, and in some cases it can do things that are expressly not in our best interests.

This is not to say that the security establishment is working against us out of malice, but when you are as large, complex, and secretive as the Pentagon, Department of Homeland Security, or any agency in the intelligence community, left and right hands are going to operate in a certain amount of ignorance of each other. It is also worth noting that a large patchwork of often conflicting policies can make a particular security decision make sense from one angle, but be outrageously misguided from another. Some of that is conflicting priorities, but a lot of it is politics (more on how to deal with that in a moment).

At a more granular level it is worth noting that when it comes right down to it, we do not in fact live in the police state that so many fear-mongers would have you believe. People who exercise their right to self defense are subjected to ridiculous scrutiny by those who feel that such actions are the sole domain of the state. The real and unreported story behind most self-defense cases is the fact that the police aren’t under any obligation to keep you alive. Don’t trust me, go look up Supreme Court case South v. Maryland.

What can any given individual citizen do to rectify these situations? Quite a lot actually, though each action requires a certain level of effort and not all of them are without financial or time-related costs.

For starters, get educated on both the foreign and domestic threats that we are facing today, as well as the emerging threats that we may have to deal with tomorrow. This doesn’t mean going to grad school to study national security, but you have to go beyond the 30-minute summary on the evening news and the half-page of print in the local paper. Seek out subject matter experts, not talking heads.

Second: vote. Use your newfound education and communicate your informed opinions to your elected representatives at all levels of government. The demands of everyday life often preclude attendance at political events, but politicians get phone messages and email and they appreciate the impact of a deluge of communication on the issues. If you want the laws of this nation to reflect a certain disposition with regards to security, you need to make a serious effort to influence those who make those laws.

Third, do your best not to place yourself under the “protection” of broken, fake or otherwise wildly imperfect security regimens. If you can avoid flying, drive; when online don’t rely solely on your Internet Service Provider, but buy and understand how to operate firewall and anti-virus software; Protect your personal information by pulling as much of it back as you can from vendors and other commercial concerns that promise you a few pennies in savings for your personal information (corporations are the real masters of data mining). If you have no choice but to subject yourself to the control of a security system you lack confidence in, be aware of your surroundings and don’t feel bad about reporting anything you feel is hinkey. Embarrassed and alive beats shy and dead.

Finally, acquire some new, or practice your old, self-defense and self-reliance skills. This is not an advertisement for the handgun industry; just identify the threats you are most likely to face and acquire the tools and practice the skills necessary to deal with them. You should also prepare yourself and your family for that gap period between when a crisis of any sort occurs, and when the government actually shows up to help you. The ultimate lesson of events like Katrina is not “FEMA sucks” but “bureaucracy blows.” Think about the last time you went to renew your driver’s license; do you really want to trust your life to that sort of methodology and mindset? Get to know your neighbors, find out what skills and tools they have, build your own neighborhood coalition of the willing that will band together when times get tough.

ThreatsWatch is all about “Supporting Security by Enhancing Awareness.” While we usually focus on the far-away, it would be a disservice to you all if we did not take a moment to reflect on what can happen right here at home. We face a wide range of threats to our lives and liberties daily and while these threats may lack the impact of September 11th or the scale of an insurgency, they are no less important to the defense of the nation and the preservation of freedom.

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