Texas Congressmen Prepare to Introduce New Security Legislation in 2012

Congressmen from Texas vow to tackle security issues in 2012, specifically border security and cyber space protection. They intend to introduce a bill to the House Homeland Security Committee that would add new technology to the border patrol, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as standard airplanes and helicopters.

Congressmen such as Lamar Smith and Francisco Canseco argue that the bill is necessary because “only 44 percent of the Southwest border is under operational control of the Border Patrol.” They criticize the Obama administration for reducing the number of National Guardsmen along the 2,000-mile border shared with Mexico.

Meanwhile, Texans in Congress are also hoping to advance a bill that heightened security over the Internet. Texas is home to several important government institutions and private groups, including the 24th Air Force and the University of Texas at San Antonio, which make security their business. Congressmen want to continue protecting sensitive information that the federal government stores online, and to make sure that “no enemy ever turns the Internet against the United States.”

The cyber space security bill would create a quasi-governmental entity to oversee any information shared with the private sector. Private firms would be encouraged to share information on cyber threats without mandating new security measures. The Department of Homeland Security would evaluate all cyber space security risks and then determine the best way to mitigate them.

While the concern of Texas congressmen is heartening (and of course none of it has to do with the fact that San Antonio gets an economic boost from greater cyber space security measures), as usual, the legislation has the potential to go too far if Congress isn’t careful. For one thing, there is the question of why the border needs so much more security when the number of crossings has plummeted, and there is no real evidence that violence from Mexican drug gangs has spilled over into the United States. If the southern border is as vulnerable as the Texas congressmen claim, why haven’t there been more instances of terrorists smuggling bombs, biological chemicals, or other weapons across it? Who is to say that if they chose to, they couldn’t do so even with greater security measures in place?

As for the cyber space security bill, one critic has argued that it has “declared American soil part of the formal battlefield, permits the U.S. military to arrest and indefinitely detain U.S. citizens on the suspicion of supporting or sympathizing with broadly defined terrorists.” This person claims that it could prevent American citizens from expressing views critical of the government over the Internet.

That, of course, would not be a good thing. As an experienced federal criminal defense attorney knows, it is very easy for ordinary citizens to get accused of illegal activity over the Internet based on a misunderstanding. As the net grows wider, it will be harder for people to know what is “normal” expression and what is a cyber crime. Likewise, more security along the border just means that more innocent people will be searched and charged with crimes. At some point, security buffs need to consider where to draw the line, so that people can still chat and move around without fear of getting arrested.