Department of Homeland Theatrics: DHS’ Secret Police and The ‘Siege’ of Portland

By Anatole d’Ecotopia

It’s not easy living in Portland under siege from extremists… but sometimes you just do what you gotta do.

Of course, the “extremists” I’m referring to are not the individuals who have exercised their first amendment rights over the last two months in protest of police brutality, or even those who have escalated protest into violence, or even those who have engaged in property destruction or looting.

The extremists I am referring to are would-be “President for Life” Donald Trump and the person chosen by Trump to head America’s SS/Gestapo equivalent, the Department of Homeland Security — who have jointly unleashed an illegal and unconstitutional small army of paramilitary thugs onto the streets of Portland.

Of course, “legality” and “constitutionality” are concepts largely beyond the mediocre grasp of the bloated orange presidente, and principles utterly irrelevant to the cynical purposes of  “Reichsführer-SS Chad”, AKA Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolfe. Equally irrelevant: The fact that no one invited them here, they have been asked to leave, and both the Oregon ACLU and Attorney General have been forced to bring suit against an agency of the Federal Government of the United States. These extremists have made it plain they intend to be here for awhile… whether anyone wants them or not.

What is equally plain is that their presence is a combination of political theatre and contingency planning for the implementation of martial law. But there is nothing particularly new about that: It’s what “Homeland Security” was created for in the first place.

Only Americans of a certain age, political disposition, and attention span can be expected to understand this without explanation, and even then… that expectation may be in vain. We all lead our lives in an eternal now of mediated perceptions, in which events of two decades past may as well be two centuries, or even two millenia. To those of us who have that longer perspective, the antics of Reichsführer Chad may be outrageous… but they are in no way exactly surprising.

Somehow, the United States managed to muddle by for most of its existence with neither the concept of an American “homeland” or a cabinet level consolidation of federal departments in defense of any such thing. This, along with the apparently permanent addition of American flag lapel pins as required political costuming, resulted from the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks. The Department of Homeland Security was formed roughly a month later. The announcement of its formation reads in part “… The mission of the Office will be to develop and coordinate the implementation of a comprehensive national strategy to secure the United States from terrorist threats or attacks. The Office will coordinate the executive branch’s efforts to detect, prepare for, prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks within the United States…”

The sweeping scope of this mission was susceptible to overreach and abuse from the very beginning. The consolidation of agencies that created DHS included stripping some 18,000 federal employees of pension and other union rights — partially mitigated after the unions sued. In 2006, The U.S. General Accounting Office uncovered roughly $2 billion of credit card abuse by DHS employees. A 2015 DHS IT audit uncovered over a hundred computer systems rated as “secret” or “top secret” with expired security credentials and other exploitable flaws.

Likewise from the very beginning, DHS has been about optics over substance — And the absolute poster child for this optic obsession is the Transportation Security Administration. TSA’s “blueshirts” are not particularly making us “safe” from anything… but they make a great show of doing it.

Again, one must be an American of a certain age to have living memory of a time when the process of boarding an airplane and getting processed into the country drunk tank… was not essentially the same process. Stripped of our belts, shoes, and dignity, we have spent the last two decades submitting to indignities that ensure no safety other than preserving TSA’s $8 billion operating budget. And, of course, Reichsführer Chad understands this implicitly. TSA is where he made his bones in the Republican Cosa Nostra.

Chad Wolf’s ascendancy to secret police commandant over Portland (well, just Portland for now) is a fairly typical success story for those of the Trump Party. Originally from Plano, Texas, he began his career as a staffer for GOP luminaries like Phil Gramm, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and Chuck Hagel. He went on from there to TSA in 2002, becoming Assistant Administrator of Transportation Policy in 2005. He predictably left government almost immediately after that appointment to become a lobbyist, returned to TSA with equal predictability after Trump took office, and was appointed TSA chief of Staff in 2017.

Reichsführer Chad’s final ascendancy to his current elevated status has far less to do with any particular ability on his part, far more to do with what passes for competency within the Trump administration. As reported in Mother Jones, Wolf only shifted from Chief of Staff to Acting Secretary because (a) previous secretary Kirstjen Nielsen did not even meet Trump’s standards of competency (b) Trump himself has managed to let 9 out of 11 top positions in DHS go vacant. Reichsführer Chad was neither the first nor best choice — he was the only choice. Whether or not his resume as lobbyist and office administrator is the stuff of which secret police commandants are made in any competently managed criminal kleptocracy, they fit the prevailing standards of the Trump administration quite nicely.

It should at least be noted in passing that Portlanders do not merely have Trump and Wolf to thank for their current risk of extraordinary rendition. A certain amount of credit should go as well to Portland mayor Ted Wheeler, whose fundamental inability to manage Portland Police Bureau (currently under his direct authority per Portland’s system of city government) has resulted in PPB’s continued brutality against those protesting such brutality, escalating into existence the very situation Reichsführer Chad now proposes to end by way of — you guessed it — further violence and brutality. Wheeler’s lax control over PPB has earned him the nickname “Teargas Ted”.

Nothing better exemplifies Teargas Ted’s detachment and ineffectuality as police commissioner than the fact that Reichsführer Chad was able to engineer a meeting with the head of Portland’s notorious Police Union, a meeting to which neither Wheeler nor the chief of police were invited. As of this writing, no meeting between Wolf and Wheeler has taken place.

If this country is exceptionally lucky, we might see Trump peaceably depart the White House by year’s end. If not, the likelihood of seeing current events in Portland play out in cities across the country seems all too likely.

But even if we are lucky enough to wind up with the comforting mediocrity of a Biden presidency, all of the pieces will probably remain in place for this atrocity to reoccur. We’ve already considered the unlikelihood of Biden taking on the corrupt establishment of police unions. He is probably no more likely to dismantle DHS, or take that damned flag pin from his lapel.

But if situations like the real “siege of Portland” are permitted to persist… that flag may wind up removed from more than lapels.

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