Homeland Security and Public Safety

If Gophers Were Terrorists (Opinion)

Envision what would happen if authorities discovered that these burrowing animals were trained terrorist operatives attacking critical infrastructure.

[Photo: Botta's Pocket Gopher. Courtesy of Chuck Abbe/Nine Sisters Photography via Flickr.]

I’ve recently read several stories about burrowing animals weakening levee systems to the point of failure both in the United States and abroad. I thought about this new hazard I hadn’t previously considered. As with any new “threat,” it must be addressed, so envision what would happen if we discovered that these animals were, in fact, trained terrorist operatives attacking one element of our critical infrastructure.

First, there would be the predictable congressional hearings by multiple committees in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Since there isn’t a designated Gopher Committee, these legislative bodies would have many committees that viewed this issue as part of their legislative domain. Testimony would come from newly minted gopher experts. 

We’d learn that gopher issues exist in Europe and the U.S. This then makes it a classic, international terrorist threat. As an international and domestic issue, the FBI and CIA would each claim jurisdictional authority. Self-appointed experts would point out that there’s not one central figure directing all gopher activity, but “bands of rodent terrorists” classified as moles, beavers and the like that have a history of attacking critical infrastructure.

Congress would do what it does best: appropriate large quantities of money to address this emerging threat. The amount of appropriated funds would have a direct correlation to the media coverage of the precipitating critical infrastructure failure — since we’re not motivated to do anything before an event actually occurs.

There’d be lots of lobbying during the process; rural and urban states would compete for funding. Cities and counties would proclaim that, “All gophers are local.” Fire, law enforcement, public health, hospitals and other disciplines would lobby for funding for their field. They’d argue that animal control should not be getting all of the funds. For years, each would make the case that they should have dedicated funds for equipment.

Gopher Centers of Excellence would be established at numerous universities to study the social dynamics of gophers and their cousins. We’d learn that gophers live in colonies, and indoctrination in the technique of burrowing is passed down from parents to their pups. The culture of burrowing would be recognized as one that will take decades to eliminate. The nation’s borders would become areas of concern. There would be calls for underground fences along the Canadian and Mexican borders that need to be patrolled 24/7. The National Guard would receive another mission: augmenting civilian anti-gopher efforts. 

Eventually someone would want to flush the burrowing creatures out of their dens. This water method would be compared to waterboarding and called inhumane. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would rise up in arms pointing out that not all gophers are terrorists. There would be accusation of gopher profiling. If you burrow, then you are a terrorist. Media coverage would be intense and a Southwest state would pass a law allowing Gopher Enforcement Officers to stop and detain unsuspecting gophers. 

After years of intense spending, highlighted by federal civilian contractors raking in millions of dollars in consulting fees, the funding gravy train would trail off. Without another catastrophic infrastructure failure, the nation would tire of the energy and time it takes to maintain a high level of anti-gopher activity. 

A new threat might capture our attention. Take pigeons for instance: Have you ever noticed how they seem to be everywhere, listening to our conversations and monitoring our movements?

Eric Holdeman  |  Contributing Writer

Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.

He can be reached by emailTwitter and Google+.

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