U.S. homeland security and risk assessment

Doty, Philip
July 2015
Government Information Quarterly;Jul2015, Vol. 32 Issue 3, p342
Academic Journal
Risk is constitutive of homeland security policy in the United States, and the risk apparatus supports growing concentration of executive power, increased surveillance, and secrecy. For example, the Transportation Security Administration in the Department of Homeland Security employs risk assessment particularly against groups considered “other.” Using the work of mostly European scholars, especially the literatures about Foucault's governmentality and Beck's risk society, the paper combines theory with empirical work by governmental agencies on transparency, secrecy, and risk assessment methods used in the Department of Homeland Security, providing insight into the securitization of the American state. Risk is a means to futurize threats to the polity, to create the security imaginary , a fictionalization that creates a moral panic and a climate of fear in seeking to cope with uncertainty. With those limitations of risk in mind, we can question four important elements of risk in U.S. security practice: “connecting the dots”; the quantitative bases of risk assessment algorithms; how risk assessment tends to ignore the important if circular intentionality of terror; and the difficulties inherent in controlling populations by classification, especially other-ed populations. The paper concludes with suggestions about unmasking the uncertainty of risk assessment and enabling oversight of its practice by legislative, judicial, and public actors.


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