A 'Patriot' Shares the Skinny on Homeland Security

By Al Kamen
Monday, May 1, 2006

Loop readers know the heart-warmingly redemptive tale of Michael D. Brown , the former Bush loyalist tossed out of his FEMA job after Hurricane Katrina, only to emerge as a vocal administration critic and speech-giving consultant.

Comes now the "shocking first-hand experiences" of former Department of Homeland Security inspector general Clark Kent Ervin in a tell-all book hitting stores tomorrow, "Open Target: Where America Is Vulnerable to Attack."

The onetime top aide to Gov. George W. Bush in Texas writes how he came to Washington eager to serve, only to see his Senate confirmation blocked. He nonetheless served as IG from January 2003 to December 2004.

The book is 230 pages of score-settling and a drumbeat of "alarming security lapses" at DHS, Ervin writes. "I did my job, but the department's leaders have not done theirs."

Our colleague Spencer S. Hsu reports that publisher Palgrave Macmillan has printed 150,000 copies of Ervin's case, which singles out port security, air cargo screening and the borders as the nation's most vulnerable points.

The 170,000-worker department is America's "Maginot Line" -- providing a false sense of security while wasting millions, Ervin relays. Former DHS secretary Tom Ridge "wanted spin" and "would deny that there were problems to fix." Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) "stalled" Ervin's nomination, inexplicably "stormed out" of sessions with him and refused even to send aides to his office briefings.

Meanwhile, Ridge's team considered Ervin a traitor, turncoat, pariah, showboat or "media hound." Ervin prefers "patriot."

If a Briefing Falls in the Forest . . .

Rep. Leonard L. Boswell (D-Iowa), a member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, offered a floor amendment Wednesday to the intelligence reauthorization bill that said the panel should give regular updates to the House on Iran's drive for nuclear weapons. The amendment wasn't given a vote.

But when Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) convened a briefing Thursday for committee members to hear assessments from various government officials, we're told there was no sign of Boswell.

Asked if he attended, Boswell spokesman Susan McAvoy said Thursday that the briefing "was on his schedule and, as far as I know, he was there." Asked if she could check with Boswell either that day or Friday, she said she was sticking by her statement.

Okay. So he wasn't there.

Try Some Chips on Immigration?

The focus on immigration has sparked creative ideas on how to deal with the issue. Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), on their recent trip to Latin America, picked up some unusual suggestions in a chat with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe .

The senators, according to an account Specter put in the Congressional Record, asked Uribe about seasonal workers who don't return home. Uribe had a nifty solution.

"President Uribe said he would consider having Colombian workers have microchips implanted into their bodies before they are permitted to enter the United States to work on a seasonal basis," Specter reported.

"I doubted whether the implantation of microchips would be effective," Specter reflected, "since the immigrant worker might be able to remove them."

No Love Boat, But You'll Feel Connected

Tired of the Hamptons in August? Sick of the same old people on the Vineyard? Then the 10-day Freedom Cruise, heading to the Greek Isles, Croatia, Turkey, Malta and Sicily is just the thing for you.

Reagan White House aide Oliver North , founder of the Freedom Alliance, is inviting you to seminars with luminaries such as Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association; the reclusive former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.); former attorney general Edwin Meese III ; American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene ; and former representative Bob Barr (R-Ga.) for discussions on combating terrorism, "defusing the Iranians" and "domestic issues like government spending."

If that's not exciting enough, there are five blackjack tables, one roulette wheel, three poker tables and 126 slots aboard Holland America's new ms Noordam.

Sorry, the 583-square-foot deluxe suites, costing $13,426 for two, long ago sold out. But there are still 241-square-foot deluxe rooms for only $7,410 for two and cheapo 185-square-foot rooms for only $5,114 for two.

Sure, the last 10 days in August can be brutally hot on the Mediterranean, but Ephesus is fascinating, Dubrovnik is stunning, and where could you hear such diverse opinions all in one spot?

Don't Leave Your Office Without 'Em

Loop Public Service Reminder: Despite the recent altercation when a Capitol Police officer stopped Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) sans ID pin, lawmakers apparently are still not wearing them.

A source reports that Thursday morning he got off the Senate subway from the Hart Building and headed toward an escalator up to the Senate press gallery. That's where he saw a police officer detain a gentleman walking ahead of him.

The officer demanded the man show identification. So Sen. John E. Sununu (R-N.H.) showed his ID and was permitted to go his way.

Avoid delays. Wear your ID pins. Thank you.

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