Homeland Sinecurity

A chat with the man who does nothing, all day long, for the Department of Homeland Security

Then take a look at the rest of the bloated and incompetent assemblage of bureaucratic fiefdoms that were lumped together two years ago and given the portentous name Department of Homeland Security.

This is the entity that the New Republic earlier this year called a "bureaucratic Frankenstein, with clumsily stitched together limbs and an inadequate, misfiring brain."

It's the agency that Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) told the New Republichas left America "arguably in worse shape than we were before."

It used to be that, if the feds screwed something up, you could blame individual, incompetent agencies like the INS or the Federal Protective Service. Now, though, they're part of an enormous, amorphous, untouchable bureaucracy. If you're Barry Mallek, it's an absurdist, boring bureaucracy, too.

In his borrowed, glassed-in cubicle at the Federal Building, Mallek has Scotch-taped a half-dozen training certificates on the wall, to show anyone who's interested that he shouldn't be characterized as an "officer trainee," as his new plastic badge says. In what appears to be an intended insult that may as well have been written in Ptydepe, the agency has told Mallek that he must retake his federal police training, though he's as experienced and trained as any of his peers.

"If I were made to go to the basic police academy again, like I did in 1970, that would be a waste of money," he says. "I've got 2,500 hours of formal training at the basic police academy, the federal law enforcement academy, special agent training. I've been certified for the laws of South Carolina, and the same thing in Georgia."

So he's applied for a waiver; he doesn't expect an answer on that score for a few months, though. Meanwhile, he tries to keep busy.

"Yesterday I must say I conditioned myself; I walked around quite a bit. Right now I've been sitting here reading. I'll go up to the law library. I kind of pride myself on my knowledge of the law. That's only professional, you know," he explains. "Also, I kind of hang around, you know, hang out. A lot of the time I just watch."

Do you hear that, Mr. Terrorist Bent on Attacking U.S. Government Facilities? The Department of Homeland Security is on the lookout for you.

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