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Dept. of Homeland Lunacy
Seattle Times staff columnist
When it comes to homeland security, I give up.
I've tried to highlight the absurdity of trying to protect every cranny of our country from al-Qaida attack. I've critiqued everything from the waste of buying anti-terrorist locks for Sammamish City Hall to the illogic of not having security cameras outside our airport. And yes, I've resorted to that columnist stock-in-trade: mocking and satirizing.
But it turns out nothing I can make up is as ludicrous as what the Department of Homeland Security is actually doing.
Two weeks ago, I wrote how Auburn's SuperMall had been designated as "critical infrastructure," meaning it's a terrorist target that is vital to the operations of the U.S. For this it got a $50,000 grant.
I imagined what else might be on our state's "we can't live without it" list. How about Muckleshoot Casino, I wrote. It's a bigger deal in Auburn than the SuperMall. And as long as we're talking vital, I said, nothing tops Dick's Drive-In. At 1 a.m. anyway.
Well, guess what?
A federal inspector general has analyzed the nation's database of top terrorist targets. There are more than 77,000 of them — up from 160 a few years ago, before the entire exercise morphed into a congressional porkfest.
And on that list of national assets are ... 1,305 casinos! No doubt Muckleshoot made the cut (along with every other casino in our state).
The list has 234 restaurants. I have no idea if Dick's made it. The particulars are classified. But you have to figure it did.
Why? Because here's more of what the inspector general found passes for "critical infrastructure." An ice-cream parlor. A tackle shop. A flea market. An Amish popcorn factory.
The report says our state has a whopping 3,650 critical sites, sixth in the U.S. It didn't identify them — remember, we wouldn't want this list of eateries, zoos and golf courses to fall into the wrong hands.
That number, 3,650, is so high I'm positive we haven't heard the most farcical of it yet.
Let's face it, I've been eclipsed. Anything I dream up now will surely be drowned by reality. The War on Terror has moved beyond satire.
And yet ... there is one more thing that's got me wondering. The report says our state boasts 65 "national monuments and icons" — somehow twice as many as Washington, D.C.
What in the world could they be? We have only one official national monument, Mount St. Helens. Even the dimmest terrorist wouldn't attack something that blows itself up with regularity.
So what are the other 64? If you were a terrorist wanting to strike at the true soul of the Northwest, what icon would you target? And why?
Some are easy, like the Space Needle. How about the Fremont Troll? That giant roadside egg in Winlock? The world's largest squirting clam, in Long Beach?
Let's compile our own list. Send me your submissions and I'll print the best.
Go ahead and make 'em as absurd as you want. No way it can top the spectacle going on at homeland security.
Danny Westneat's column appears Thursday and Sunday.
Reach him at 206-464-2086 or email@example.com.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company