Examining the politics and price of U.S. security

FBI, firefighters
Boston firefighters, right, talk on Tuesday, April 16, 2013, with FBI agents and a crime scene photographer at the site of the Boston Marathon explosions.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, Congress will delve into an examination of domestic security.

The House Homeland Security Committee plans to hold a hearing on Thursday about the marathon bombings, which killed three people and injured more than 250.

The chairman of the panel, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said in a statement that "it is imperative that we understand what happened, what signs may have been missed and what we can improve."

Last week, President Barack Obama ordered a full review of how the government handled intelligence leading up to the Boston bombings, according to a report in the New York Daily News.

One of his critics, though, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, called the bombings nothing less than a failure of the security apparatus, the Daily News report said.

Graham also evoked the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, which led to the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others.

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"With all due respect, Mr. President, Benghazi and Boston are compelling examples of how our national security systems have deteriorated on your watch," Graham said in the Daily News.

The Boston bombings have elicited painful reminders of Sept. 11, 2001. Since then, the U.S. has spent $791 billion on domestic security, according to MSNBC, and this week's congressional hearing will likely examine the issues surrounding what methods are effective and what Americans can expect in the coming years.

Despite that huge sum of money, public safety cannot be made airtight, says former Assistant Defense Secretary Lawrence Korb.

"No matter how much you spend on defense, you can't buy perfect security," he said in a 2011 public policy article. "It's all about making choices and trade-offs as you look at what role you want the United States to play around the world."


Our decimated military
"The attacks of 9/11 came just about a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. During that decade, Francis Fukuyama published his seminal article, 'The End of History,' which argued that the end of the Cold War signaled the triumph of liberal democratic capitalism and its impending expansion throughout the globe. Charles Krauthammer, the conservative pundit, went further, saying that the United States should use its overwhelming military power to spread its values more rapidly." (By Lawrence Korb, in the journal Democracy)

Boston bombings expose limits of post-9/11 security
"The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks led to a massive buildup of security to make the country safe. Subsequent plots, including attempts to conceal bombs in shoes and underwear, prompted hasty additions to that edifice, as officials sought to fill in cracks that terrorists might exploit." (The Washington Post)

Tsarnaev case raises questions about post 9/11 intelligence reforms
"Share and share alike was supposed to have been a lesson learned by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies from the 9/11 attacks almost 12 years ago." (CNN)

How Obama's Response To Terrorism Has Shifted
"President Obama's time in office has not been defined by terrorism as President George W. Bush's was. Yet incidents like the one in Boston have been a regular, painful through-line of his presidency." (NPR)

A hidden world, growing beyond control
"The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work." (The Washington Post)