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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of Oct 30 - Nov 5, 2002

Opinion Columns

Real ‘homeland security’ being neglected

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Qwest, the telecommunications giant serving 14 Western states, is the latest mega corporation to "restate" its audited numbers after investigations were begun into whether the company cooked its books by overvaluing itself, á la Enron style.

Qwest will reduce its stated assets by nearly $40 billion—billion not million—and reduce reported revenues by a staggering $531 million.

Although investigators of the Securities and Exchange Commission and Justice Department have yet to nail Qwest and executives who manipulated the books (while unloading tens of millions of dollars of their stock), it’s reasonable to conclude that Qwest lied to mislead investors and lenders about the worth of the company by either instructing or allowing its auditors to report false information.

That’s called fraud and it, along with other crimes, is increasing.

As President Bush and members of Congress who’ve endorsed the planned war on Iraq drum up billions of dollars for the battlefield as well as "homeland security," far less attention is given to this unavoidable fact: Average Americans are more likely to be victims of homeland crime before being victimized by international terrorism.

This isn’t an argument against stripping Iraq’s Saddam Hussein of weapons of madness.

But statistics of increased domestic crime are a powerful argument for politicians who thrive on table pounding and red meat war talk to look inward and consider what really is homeland security.

President Bush is so obsessed with the war on terrorism that, for example, he’s proposing to transfer $330 million out of community policing programs to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be prepared to counter terrorism.

Looked at another way, homeland police, who’re expected to be not only vigilant against terrorists as well as provide security for their communities, are having federal resources cancelled even as domestic crime increases and their responsibilities multiplied.

Statistically, average Americans are virtually immune from being victims of international terrorism, while, in 2001, more than 4,000 Americans for each 100,000 population were victims of some sort of crime, ranging from murders to property crimes.

The president’s political marketing geniuses have cobbled together an elaborate mechanism for riveting the public’s attention on overseas terrorists and away from problems at home, including an alert system with color codes and periodic warnings to be vigilant for terrorism that might occur, maybe someplace and maybe some time.

As Americans wait for those nebulous terrorist threats to materialize sometime, someplace, U.S. families can count on another 15,000 or so of their members being murdered, millions more having their homes burglarized and autos stolen, and thousands of women raped.

And unless corporate America has learned a lesson about the pitfalls of cheating employees and shareholders and the tax collector, then more Americans can count on becoming statistics as victims of fraud.

Like sin, crime will always be with us.

However, if Congress and the president believe more exotic weapons, more sophisticated intelligence gathering, higher pay for the military and tough talk will eventually keep terrorists at bay if not eliminate them, then why not the same set of tools for homeland forces in large and small towns on the frontlines of a war on crime that takes a far heavier toll everyday than Al Qaeda?



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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.