The Politics of September 11th: From Agreement to Discord


"As the country returns to more normal times, or if the public is concerned with the failure of the president's policies, power drifts back to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. It's a shifting pendulum of power," said Lindsay, adding that as Americans' concerns have shifted from terrorism to the economy "in a decade we've gone from the age of terror to the age of austerity."

And this age of austerity is seeing some of the more conservative members of Congress question a department they originally supported.

Department of Homeland Security: Support Turns to the Question, Does It Keep Us Safe?

Formed in 2003, the Department of Homeland Security merged 22 federal agencies -- among them the Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Customs & Border Protection, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

DHS is now one of the federal government's largest, with an annual budget more than $50 billion and the department employs over 200,000 people.

Although its size was questioned from day one - How could it possibly be efficient, people asked. Republicans now feel more free to object to it, especially since it's now under a Democratic administration.

This week the Government Accountability Office released a report assessing DHS. At a Senate committee hearing Wednesday GAO Comptroller Eugene Dodaro praised the department, but added there are still "gaps and weaknesses" that DHS needs to address.

"Has it worked? Has it made us safer as a nation?," asked Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Collins also criticized the "intrusive" screenings that some elderly and young passengers have to endure and expressed concern that people who present a threat to the country get through.

Juliette Kayyem , a former assistant secretary of DHS, lectures at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and is the national security and foreign policy columnist for the Boston Globe. She said DHS has changed for the better over the past ten years in terms of prioritizing and interacting with the public and Congress. She points to the example of the Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, in May 2010. While the bomber was called inept and inefficient, Kayyem says it was DHS and other agencies like FBI and local responders that prevented a tragedy.

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