"Just Keeping You Safe": The Cheka Checks In

by William Norman Grigg
Dec. 20, 2010

"What are you doing here?" Paul asked the armed stranger who had materialized outside his workplace.

"Just keeping you safe," replied the interloper, who had invaded the property without invitation or explanation.

The visitor was clad in what Paul described as a SWAT-style dark blue jumpsuit, mirrored sunglasses, and a baseball cap. He had arrived in a white SUV equipped with running lights and displaying police markings advertising that it belonged to the Department of Homeland Security.

Paul (who asked that his last name not be used) was the only employee who saw something amiss as the Homeland Security officer busied himself peering into windows and doorways, taking pictures, and making notes on a clipboard.

Understandably annoyed by the functionary's unwarranted intrusion and patronizing reply to his question, Paul continued to demand an explanation. The visitor persisted in his Oracle at Delphi routine, offering cryptic, dismissive responses to Paul's questions.

Through sheer tenacity Paul managed to obtain a business card identifying the visitor as Mark Cerchione. His title is -- take a deep breath -- Inspector for Region 10 of the East Command for the Department of Homeland Security's National Protection and Programs Directorate, Federal Protective Service. This vital human cog in the State's apparatus of public order has an office located at 550 West Fort Street, Room 370 in Boise.

Roughly an hour after Paul's encounter with Mr. Cerchione, and about fifteen minutes after Paul related it to me, I contacted Mr. Cerchione on his cell phone.

"That's very interesting," Mr. Cerchione replied when I identified myself as a writer in Idaho who had been told that a Homeland Security official had paid a visit to an appliance repair company in Boise. "I'm not allowed to talk about specifics but I can refer you to the regional office in Seattle. This was just a normal, routine procedure -- nothing special."

"It hardly seems `routine' for the Department of Homeland Security to pay a visit to a workplace," I commented.

"Look, this was just a normal part of my day," insisted Cerchione. "Asking me about this is like asking a Boise City police officer why he looked in on a construction site."

"But you're not a Boise police officer -- you're a Fed," I pointed out, leaving aside the fact that a similar unannounced visit from a local cop could likewise be cause for concern. "That makes this newsworthy."


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