Essay: Sociological Structure of National Security

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Sociological Security

The Sociological Structure of U.S. National Security

The attacks on the United States on September 11th 2001 revealed a stunning set of shortcomings both in terms of the nations security and with respect to the reliability of its Intelligence Community. Indeed, it has been a popular refrain that the breaches which revealed such cataclysmic shortcomings in our National Security system as occurred on 9/11 were accommodated by massive intelligence failings. In particular, this is an idea which propagated the notion that the CIA and the FBI shared blame for declining to act on intelligence regarding a possible terrorist activity surge. Even further, it was determined that it was the very structure and culture of the Intelligence Community which prevented these agencies from sharing information regarding such threats. These were the notions that provided foundation for the new and as yet not fully effective Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which still has several years of formation ahead of it before it can aspire to be the interwoven and dynamic agency that its designers had initially envisioned. This massive overhaul of the intelligence community would be touted as revolutionary, initiating a new phase in the sociological structure of American security. This would be true for both the citizens of the United States and for those in the various agencies of the intelligence and security communities, who have experienced in the wake of September 11th a genuine change in the social orientation of security policies, practices and internal culture.

The most fundamental effecter of the social structure of U.S. security during this era is the formation of the Department of Homeland Security. A massive agency designed to function as an umbrella body under which 22 separate agencies were now to be housed, this would create a monumental challenge in terms of establishing the desired social impact to support information sharing, policy refinement and the unification of intelligence and security best practices. The approach to security has been met with significant criticism for the difficulty which the DHS has presented to streamlining its social structure. Indeed, done in response to the perspective that certain social conditions such as rigid separations between agencies and obsolescent modes of gathering intelligence, the creation of the agency would be met with skepticism by some. Among them, one Senator argued in 2002 that "simply moving agencies around among departments does not address the problems inside agencies like the FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) -- problems like outdated computers, hostility to employees who report problems, lapses in intelligence sharing. . . along with what many have termed 'cultural problems.'" (Ball, 48)

These institutional shortcomings have been regarded as a primary cause for the lapses which allowed the 9/11 attacks, justifying a response which uses the premise of a massive structural overhaul as a way of addressing conditions that are essentially social in nature. As a result, the sociological conditions by which we may describe the national security outlook in the United State are increasingly colored by the nature of bureaucracy. This invokes a number of social consequences within a security agency constituted of roughly 200,000 agents. (Ball, 49) According to the text by Ball (2005), a core difficulty encountered in terms of adapting the culture of this new agency is that many of the practical realities of the intelligence community remain unchanged. The fundamental failures in terms of hierarchy and modes of operation have gone unaltered and, by point of fact, have experienced an intensified absence of direction as the DHS attempts to find its identity. Ball reports that a broad array of "government employees, working in two dozen federal agencies for decades, now find themselves in the DHS but doing precisely the same jobs, reporting to the same congressional committees, functioning and being evaluated according to the norms, traditions, customs -- in short, the 'culture' -- of their old agencies. The problem is compounded because the new department does not have a culture, does not have norms and standards for reporting." (Ball, 49) Thus, it is described as a problem of reporting, with agencies and agents suffering from an uncertainty of the true hierarchical structure of the broader community.

In addition to these massive changes in the structural form of the community but with little concentrated attention on addressing cultural needs, the focus of U.S. security has shifted significantly. This has been the experience for such agencies as the Transportation Security Administration, which in its entrance into the purview of DHS would become a key player in shaping the security functions of the U.S. government. This would change one part of American society's direct relationship to the security community, with the average commercial flying experience increasingly impacted by the liberal application of surveillance freedoms for officials in airport contexts. For the TSA, the change in bureaucratic orientation would do nothing less that alter its ability to impose security concerns upon the domestic population.

This is a social phenomenon described by LeClerc's (2006) book review, which contends that "in the United States, particularly, techniques that previously were used for foreign intelligence are now used domestically. The military is more centralized and possesses networks of information (Dandeker). The Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security now have overarching powers, and are able to gather and combine data -- not only from governmental sources, but also from commercial sources, creating what the editors call the 'security-industrial complex.'" (LeClerc, 2) the various ageencies now falling under the catch-all Homeland Security heading are the pieces of this complex, and the social role which is now performed by such agencies carries with it implications related to a heightened focus on domestic surveillance and an increased proliferation of paranoia about the activities of American citizens. This is an indication of how the social structure of security in the United States has increasingly permeated the social tenor of the United States as a whole.

The experience of many agencies has been a sense of obstruction by the imposition of this hulking and vague Department. For those whose direct focus has been border security, or for local and state-level law enforcement agencies, the diversion of resources into the security concerns invoked by the age of terrorism has led to a shortage of manpower and focus concerning more immediate matters such as illegal immigration, the drug trade and gang activities. This suggests a tug-of-war within government as many agencies had notably resisted the integration implied by this reorganization. However, in the resolution, these strands of resistance have only amounted to further obstruction to the effective streamlining of a cultural structure at DHS. Its current state suggests that certain hegemonic impulses determined the creation of the Department but that practical realities have yet to live up to these expectant impulses. The comports with the sociological theory imposed by Noakes (2000) on the subject, with argues that "most frames support existing versions of reality by reiterating dominant expressions or reinforcing elite interpretations of events and, therefore, discourage collective action by aggrieved populations. Thus social movement research have distinguished what they call collective action frames, or interpretive schemata developed by movement entrepreneurs to encourage and facilitate social movement activity by reframing a problem in such a way as to highlight or reveal the injustice inherent in the status quo." (Noakes, 657)

Thus, the focus of those responsible for the security and intelligence constructs of the United States would direct the focus to issues of terrorism in such a manner as to justify the integration and shifting of attention in an almost unilateral way thereto. The outcome would be the structuring of national security according to impulses which created favor for less inter-agency constriction and greater domestic surveillance. Ultimately, the greater issue though is that these changes were attempted without either the aim of resolving internal cultural… [END OF PREVIEW]

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