Apparently there has been a little bit of a rivalry, or turf battle you could say, between the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency. The main difference between the two organizations is that the NSA does not have enforcement capabilities, they cannot arrest you, and are also supposedly bound by stricter laws regarding the surveillance of American citizens. So while it is certainly an issue to have a vast agency like the NSA spying on Americans, it would be even worse if the DHS were doing the same, complete with power to arrest (and possibly detain indefinitely without due process according to the NDAA).
But the prospect of Homeland Security gaining extensive access to sensitive information raises concern. The DHS — a cabinet-level mishmash of departments ranging from immigration to disaster relief to counterterrorism to the Coast Guard that was cobbled together during the Bush Administration — has had a mixed record on basic management, efficiency and response to major catastrophes.
Under current Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the DHS targeted law-abiding Americans for their political beliefs, most strikingly in a 2009 report [pdf] on “extremists” that warned of the dangers posed by pro-life advocates, critics of same-sex marriage and groups concerned with abiding by the U.S. Constitution.
The DHS described critics of the federal government on both ends of the political spectrum as having the potential to be radicalized, capable of engaging in physical violence or cyber attacks against the public and the government — an assessment that contrasts sharply with the department’s policy of deference toward Islamic extremists.
The administration’s political allies on the left welcomed the DHS’ report warning against rightwing extremists as a way to smear their political enemies and to fuel the narrative that domestic terrorists pose a greater threat than Islamic extremists. This development was made more ominous by news that another powerful federal agency, the Internal Revenue Service, has been singling out conservative groups for abuse and sharing confidential information with media allies.
In addition the DHS does not have the same requirements set for the NSA in terms of acquiring warrants and is not subject to the courts set up under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, according to the Daily Caller. The NSA abusing its power while spying on Americans is bad enough, we don’t need an agency with the power to arrest Americans afforded the same intrusive tactics. Already we have seen the IRS target Americans based on their political beliefs, and the DHS has shown it is not immune to the same abuses.