Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 12, 2014

Counterterrorism capitulates to war

Filed under: Media,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on September 12, 2014

As you have probably already seen/heard unfold over the day, the Administration has decided not to argue terms-of-reference related to its current and anticipated action against the so-called Islamic State.

Here’s how the Daily News framed the fast-moving rhetorical controversy:

The U.S. is at war with ISIS, the White House and Pentagon said Friday, a day after Secretary of State John Kerry stubbornly declined to use the ‘W’ word.

“In the same way that we are at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates around the globe, we are at war with ISIL,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, using another acronym for ISIS, also known as the Islamic State.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby offered a similar reaction Friday.

“Make no mistake, we know we are at war with ISIL in the same way we’re at war and continue to be at al Qaeda and its affiliates,” Kirby said.

In a Thursday evening (US time) interview with CNN the Secretary of State said: “We’re engaged in a counterterrorism operation of a significant order. I think ‘war’ is the wrong reference term with respect to that, but obviously it involves kinetic military action.”

Secretary Kerry could have more effectively advanced understanding of CT by being just a bit more diplomatic. But his fussy language does reflect consistent Administration policy.

If I was in the West Wing I too would have sacrificed the high ground of maintaining the meaningful distinction.  It was high ground totally exposed to the worst sort of ideological artillery.  Given today’s reality the hill would have been over-run no matter what was done to defend it.

But the distinction is meaningful.  Since the mid-Nineteenth Century Americans have come to  expect wars to end in victory and the unconditional surrender of our enemies.  This has not always been the case, but our expectations persist.

This expectation is wildly inappropriate — entirely unrealistic — regarding the sort of adversary that has emerged (again) along the Euphrates.  We can degrade it.  We can even, in many meanings of the word, destroy it.  We will not receive a surrender.  We would be foolish to declare victory.

Americans would benefit from better understanding the difference between “war” as we typically choose to understand it and the counterterrorism operations we are actually executing.  Two very different activities.  Confusion regarding them may generate all sorts of mischief.

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Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on September 12, 2014

On this date in 1988 Hurricane Gilbert came ashore on Jamaica with a 19 foot storm surge and over thirty-inches of rain.  At least 49 were killed.  Damages were in the billions of dollars.

On this date in 2008 a freight train and a commuter train collided head-on in the Chatworth section of Los Angeles.  Twenty-five were killed and over 100 injured.

On this date in 2001 President George W. Bush briefly — and in part –addressed the American people:

The deliberate and deadly attacks, which were carried out yesterday against our country, were more than acts of terror. They were acts of war.

This will require our country to unite in steadfast determination and resolve. Freedom and democracy are under attack. The American people need to know we’re facing a different enemy than we have ever faced.

This enemy hides in shadows and has no regard for human life. This is an enemy who preys on innocent and unsuspecting people, then runs for cover, but it won’t be able to run for cover forever. This is an enemy that tries to hide, but it won’t be able to hide forever. This is an enemy that thinks its harbors are safe, but they won’t be safe forever. This enemy attacked not just our people but all freedom-loving people everywhere in the world.

The United States of America will use all our resources to conquer this enemy. We will rally the world. We will be patient. We’ll be focused, and we will be steadfast in our determination. This battle will take time and resolve, but make no mistake about it, we will win… This will be a monumental struggle of good versus evil, but good will prevail. 

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

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September 11, 2014

What the President said about evil and counterterrorism

Filed under: Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on September 11, 2014

Thirteen years ago this morning nineteen young men carried out a horrific attack on the United States.

The 911 Commission wrote it “was a day of unprecedented shock and suffering.”

Our shock might have been less if we had given greater collective attention to a range of precursor events, including the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole, the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings,  the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the Bojinka plots of the early 1990s.

If — most of us would say, when — we are attacked again we may suffer as much, but it will not be a shock.

Last evening the President of the United States spoke to us for a bit more than thirteen minutes.  He explained that we will, once again, take action in Iraq — and this time in Syria too — to preempt another attack here at home.

Here are two aspects of the President’s message worth highlighting, especially for those with a particular interest in homeland security.  Each serve to frame the President’s strategic understanding — accurate or not — regarding the threat at hand.  Last night the President said,

… we continue to face a terrorist threat.  We can’t erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm.  That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today.  And that’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge.  At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain.  And one of those groups is ISIL — which calls itself the “Islamic State.”

Please notice the problem originates with evil in the world.  The problem is set-in-motion by small groups (plural) of killers. The problem is amplified by the ability of these small groups to manipulate unjust situations for their evil purposes.

Yesterday I heard John Brennan, the CIA director, call ISIL “evil incarnate.”  The President also said, “ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple.  And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.”

Our current problem-focus is only one of many such groups.  We ought expect that whatever our success in this case, there will be future cases requiring our response.

The President outlined a multilateral, collaborative, and regionally-oriented approach that involves both US leadership and considerable, even preconditional, US restraint.  All of this is worth further analysis.  I will let foreign policy and national security bloggers, reporters and pundits do most of this.

For our purposes the second aspect worth particular attention is when the President said, “Our objective is clear:  We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.”

He might have offered the same operational descriptions without applying the label.  The label is important.

To really hear last night’s meaning, we need to study the speech given at West Point on May 28.  In those more extended remarks the President said,

For the foreseeable future, the most direct threat to America at home and abroad remains terrorism. But a strategy that involves invading every country that harbors terrorist networks is naïve and unsustainable.  I believe we must shift our counterterrorism strategy — drawing on the successes and shortcomings of our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan — to more effectively partner with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold.

And the need for a new strategy reflects the fact that today’s principal threat no longer comes from a centralized al Qaeda leadership.  Instead, it comes from decentralized al Qaeda affiliates and extremists, many with agendas focused in countries where they operate.  And this lessens the possibility of large-scale 9/11-style attacks against the homeland, but it heightens the danger of U.S. personnel overseas being attacked, as we saw in Benghazi.  It heightens the danger to less defensible targets, as we saw in a shopping mall in Nairobi.

So we have to develop a strategy that matches this diffuse threat — one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin, or stir up local resentments.  We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us… Our actions should meet a simple test: We must not create more enemies than we take off the battlefield.

What we are hearing and beginning to see is the most dramatic execution yet of this “comprehensive and sustained” CT strategy. It has already been unfolding in Yemen, Somalia, Mali and elsewhere.  I perceive it has important — and to date, not much discussed — domestic corollaries.

Evil persists.  Small groups caught up in evil can do great harm.  Terrorist potential is amplified by authentic injustice, oppression, and grievance.  We ought take care that our response does not gratuitously inflame this potential.  But we are called to act, as best we can, against sources of evil.

If this is true in Raqqa, is it true in Rockford?  If it is true in Mosul, is it true in Memphis?

In another post — or more than one — it is worth thinking together about the accuracy of this worldview. Is it helpful?  Is it skillful?  But this is what I have heard.  What about you?

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September 10, 2014

Preparing to listen to the President

Filed under: Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on September 10, 2014

Raqqa_Rump Map

At 9PM Eastern tonight — Wednesday, September 10 — the President is scheduled to outline plans to engage a radical religiously-inspired insurgency sometimes known as Islamic State (IS) or Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The confusing labels reflect a fractured reality.  I am inclined to call it the Raqqa Rump.  The wanna-be capital of the self-styled caliphate is at Raqqa (Syria).  As you know, I have a weakness for alliteration.  And the phrase signals my own view of their fundamental character.

To better hear what is being said — and not said — by the President, following is some background.

The BBC provides an overview of the group.

The Telegraph provides another summary.

Back in June START generated a fact-sheet that situates my Raqqa Rump among other terrorists, insurgents, freedom-fighters, violent extemists… whatever.

On August 27 the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point published an analysis of the current military-political context in Syria and Northern Iraq.

On Saturday (September 6) a Chatham House middle east expert published a thoughtful commentary in The Guardian.

Some further analysis and commentary from the Rand Corporation.

British Prime Minister Cameron has warned that ISIL, especially potential British returnees from the fighting along the Euphrates, are a direct threat to British and European security.  In a mid-August commentary, the Prime Minister painted a rather nightmarish picture:

We are in the middle of a generational struggle against a poisonous and extremist ideology, which I believe we will be fighting for the rest of my political lifetime. We face in Isil a new threat that is single-minded, determined and unflinching in pursuit of its objectives. Already it controls not just thousands of minds, but thousands of square miles of territory, sweeping aside much of the boundary between Iraq and Syria to carve out its so-called caliphate. It makes no secret of its expansionist aims. Even today it has the ancient city of Aleppo firmly within its sights. And it boasts of its designs on Jordan and Lebanon, and right up to the Turkish border. If it succeeds, we would be facing a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean and bordering a Nato member. This is a clear danger to Europe and to our security. It is a daunting challenge.

The immediate implications for the United States posed by those claiming Raqqa as home are a bit more ambivalent.  Obviously they are a deadly threat to any Americans they encounter in Syria or Iraq.  There has also been talk of attacks on the United States.  Some number of Americans have made a pilgrimage — horribly misguided summer break? — to Raqqa.  The numbers are estimated at between a dozen and hundreds.

There is an intent to hit the US.  There is some level of capability.  The so-called caliphate’s extra-regional capacity is, however, not thought by most informed observers to be significant — at least not yet.  Strong action now is intended to be effectively preemptive.

But whatever the reality in and around Raqqa, an opinion survey conducted last weekend found a significant majority of Americans perceive a clear and present danger.  ”Seventy-one (71) percent of respondents said that members of the militant group ISIL have the capability and resources to carry out terrorists plots in the U.S. The same poll found that 53 percent of those interviewed are “very concerned” about the threat ISIL poses to national security, while 34 percent are “somewhat concerned.””

As noted in a previous HLSWatch post, the President has recently determined to “degrade and destroy” the current threat of “systemic and broad-based aggression” by the group.  The US delegation left last week’s NATO summit with several commitments to support such an effort. Later today we should hear more about why and how.

Prime Minister Cameron is not alone among European leaders in his concern.  Tuesday the editor-in-chief of Deutsche Weld argued:

The “Islamic State” (IS) does not have to be contained. It has to be destroyed: militarily at first, but then politically, by breaking the allure of jihadism and drying up the sympathy for it. Foremost, the IS terror militia has to be fought. As if of their own accord, expectant eyes have turned to the United States for that task – and then to the entire West. NATO has, in any case, established a ten-party coalition of the willing to combat IS forces.

(Approximately 400 Germans are estimated to currently be fighting in Syria and potentially in Northern Iraq.)

On Sunday during a Meet The Press interview President Obama emphasized that the mission against the Raqqa Rump would depend on ground forces from the region — principally Iraqi military, Kurdish peshmerga and perhaps the Free Syrian Army — supported by an international coalition including Anglo-American air power.

The tactical/operational implications of Sunday’s decision by the Arab League to confront ISIS are not clear, at least to me.  A Thursday summit scheduled for Jeddah may be clarifying.

SecDef Hagel has been in Turkey for consultations.  Other than Iraqi Shias and Kurds, the Turks are probably the most important regional partner in the anti-Raqqa coalition.  So far Turkey’s involvement sounds rather restrained. (More)

It is not at all clear how Iraqi or other Sunnis will respond to this international intervention.  Ultimately it is their response that is likely to determine if this is all just another tactical clash or something more strategically significant: positive or negative.

Secretary Kerry has arrived in Baghdad.  It is not clear the new — still incomplete — Iraqi government can earn any credibility with Sunnis (or even the Kurds).  Much may depend on the radicals from Raqqa becoming so offensive as to generate (temporary) common-cause among various Iraqi factions. This is, after all, the same group that AQ-core considers crazy.

But what should be very clear is that neither the tactical nor strategic horizon is clear at all.

Homeland security will be a leading justification for expanded operations in Iraq and presumably Syria.  The immediate threat to the United States will probably, if anything, be slightly increased by more robust US engagement.  Our renewed military operations along the Euphrates and Tigris will increase the desire of some to directly target the United States.

Longer-term disruption and deterrence of attacks on Western targets depends a great deal on how the military operation and its consequences are perceived by a wildly incoherent — and so-far really rather small — cross-section of disaffected, often casually religious, volatile, violently-inclined young men in the region, in Europe, and here in the United States.

Late afternoon Tuesday the President met with Congressional leadership at the White House to discuss US military options.  According to The Hill, “None of the four leaders present in the meeting mentioned the need for congressional action following the meeting, nor did they offer many clues as to what new strategy elements Obama might announce.”

It is also worth noting that while we are — necessarily — focusing a great deal of attention on Raqqa and related, the situation in Afghanistan, Libya, and possibly in Yemen seems to be reaching a critical juncture.

Some analysis of this context — and the President’s message — here on Thursday morning… I’m not promising by when.

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September 9, 2014

Brush with national preparedness month

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Christopher Bellavita on September 9, 2014

The Yellow Point Fire is one of the fires burning in Oregon today.  It’s about 25 miles from where I live. The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) is doing a good job keeping people affected by this comparatively small fire aware of what’s going on. It is also posting information on a blog , Facebook,  and Twitter. The information helps people like me who want to know what’s going on.  It also got my wife to finally see the value of using Twitter. Maybe more importantly, the ODF social network efforts help the families of the people fighting the fires know what their family members are doing.

None of this is remarkable. In less than a decade, social media is as integral a part of disaster response as, well…responders.

My family is in three different parts of the country this week.  Since September is National Preparedness Month, the fire reminded me maybe it was time to review my family communication plan.  I did that and discovered I actually did not have a family communication plan.  I had one “in theory.” But not in reality.

I found this DHS website and advice  basic, succinct and helpful.

Identify a contact such as a friend or relative who lives out-of-state for household members to notify they are safe. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members. 

Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has a cell phone, coins or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact. If you have a cell phone, program that person(s) as “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel will often check your ICE listings in order to get a hold of someone you know. Make sure to tell your family and friends that you’ve listed them as emergency contacts.

Teach family members how to use text messaging (also known as SMS or Short Message Service). Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.

Although I should have known about the other homeland security “ICE”, I didn’t.  I do now, however. My family also has a written emergency communication plan.

Thanks, Ready.gov

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September 5, 2014

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on September 5, 2014

On this day in 1996 Hurricane Fran comes ashore killing 27 and causing over $3 billion in damages.

On this day in 1666 the Great Fire of London is brought to a close.  Over 10,000 buildings were destroyed.  Fewer than ten people are thought to have died.

On this day in 1972 the Black September terrorist group attacks the Munich Olympics taking hostage Israeli athletes and coaches.  Eleven of the hostages, one German police officer, and five members of Black September would eventually be killed.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

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September 4, 2014

Proactively managing a chronic condition

Filed under: Radicalization,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on September 4, 2014

A decade ago the Afghanistan mission was seen as giving a possibly moribund post-cold war NATO new relevance, scope, and purpose.

At a summit meeting today and tomorrow NATO will consider a scheduled withdrawal from a still-divided, dysfunctional, and vulnerable Afghanistan, endeavor to respond effectively to Russian aggression in Ukraine, and review a deteriorating international security environment across wide areas of North Africa and the Near East.

While the current threat may be less existential, I perceive Europe has not confronted an equally complex security context since perhaps 1949. The implications for the United States are also complicated and multi-layered.

Yesterday — on his way to the NATO summit — the President met with his Lithuanian, Estonian, and Latvian peers in Tallinn. These three Baltic states constitute the Northeastern frontier of the alliance.

Given the venue (Tallinn is 230 miles from St. Petersburg, 650 miles from Moscow, and 780 miles from Kiev), the President’s formal remarks needed to focus mostly on the Russian threat. Given the reality of this threat — and the institutional DNA of the alliance — today’s NATO consultations are also likely to be dominated by Putin’s provocations.

But Wednesday afternoon (local time) the President answered reporters questions on how NATO might take up what is happening just outside the southeastern corner of the alliance. Here are his most extended comments:

Even before ISIL dominated the headlines, one of the concerns that we have had is the development of terrorist networks and organizations, separate and apart from al Qaeda, whose focus oftentimes is regional and who are combining terrorist tactics with the tactics of small armies. And we’ve seen ISIS to be the first one that has broken through, but we anticipated this awhile back and it was reflected in my West Point speech.

So one of our goals is to get NATO to work with us to help create the kinds of partnerships regionally that can combat not just ISIL, but these kinds of networks as they arise and potentially destabilize allies and partners of ours in the region.

Already we’ve seen NATO countries recognize the severity of this problem, that it is going to be a long-run problem. Immediately, they’ve dedicated resources to help us with humanitarian airdrops, to provide arms to the Peshmerga and to the Iraqi security forces. And we welcome those efforts. What we hope to do at the NATO Summit is to make sure that we are more systematic about how we do it, that we’re more focused about how we do it.

NATO is unique in the annals of history as a successful alliance. But we have to recognize that threats evolve, and threats have evolved as a consequence of what we’ve seen in Ukraine, but threats are also evolving in the Middle East that have a direct effect on Europe… We know that if we are joined by the international community, we can continue to shrink ISIL’s sphere of influence, its effectiveness, its financing, its military capabilities to the point where it is a manageable problem. And the question is going to be making sure we’ve got the right strategy, but also making sure that we’ve got the international will to do it. This is something that is a continuation of a problem we’ve seen certainly since 9/11, but before. And it continues to metastasize in different ways.

And what we’ve got to do is make sure that we are organizing the Arab world, the Middle East, the Muslim world along with the international community to isolate this cancer, this particular brand of extremism that is, first and foremost, destructive to the Muslim world and the Arab world and North Africa, and the people who live there. They’re the ones who are most severely affected. They’re the ones who are constantly under threat of being killed. They’re the ones whose economies are completely upended to the point where they can’t produce their own food and they can’t produce the kinds of goods and services to sell in the world marketplace. And they’re falling behind because of this very small and narrow, but very dangerous, segment of the population. And we’ve got to combat it in a sustained, effective way. And I’m confident we’re going to be able to do that.

The foregoing sets-out the institutional (NATO) and international (North African and Near Eastern) context.  Action is signaled.  But in terms of US strategic objectives for actions taken within this context, I found the following comments from earlier in the press conference to be most helpful:

Our objective is to make sure that ISIL is not an ongoing threat to the region.  And we can accomplish that. It’s going to take some time and it’s going to take some effort. As we’ve seen with al Qaeda, there are always going to be remnants that can cause havoc of any of these networks, in part because of the nature of terrorist activities.  You get a few individuals, and they may be able to carry out a terrorist act.

But what we can do is to make sure that the kind of systemic and broad-based aggression that we’ve seen out of ISIL that terrorizes primarily Muslims, Shia, Sunni — terrorizes Kurds, terrorizes not just Iraqis, but people throughout the region, that that is degraded to the point where it is no longer the kind of factor that we’ve seen it being over the last several months.

We will shrink it.  We will degrade it.  We will over-time and with deliberate effort eliminate its capacity for systematic and broad-based aggression. We can reduce it to a manageable problem. But there are always going to be remnants that can cause havoc. The threat of violent extremism will continue to metastasize for the foreseeable future. New groups — new “its” — will emerge.  The long-term solution will arise — or not — within the host cultures, within Arab and Muslim and other social constructs.  Working with a broad alliance of committed and mobilized partners we can mostly contain the threat to us. We will try to facilitate more creative engagement of the problem by locals. But it is beyond the capacity of the United States alone to solve this problem. It will continue to be with us for a long time. We will continue to be targeted and sometimes they will hit us where it hurts.

Perhaps the President cannot — ought not — be quite as clear as the previous paragraph. Though he seems clear enough.  Isn’t this a reasonable “translation” of what he is saying? Isn’t this consistent with prior comments and behavior?

His tone is more reminiscent of Eisenhower’s farewell than Kennedy’s inaugural.  More inclined to elusive balance than heroic gesture.

If my paragraph accurately channels the President, doesn’t this authoritatively frame the counter-terrorism element of the homeland security mission?  Certainly it would communicate a current commander’s intent.  It also seems — to me — to effectively describe the strategic reality.

–+–

Today’s Times of London (paywall) has published a joint op-ed by Prime Minister Cameron and President Obama. (Draft available at Prime Minister’s website.)  Reflecting the themes suggested above, here is one of their –no doubt, carefully vetted — paragraphs.

We know that terrorist organisations thrive where there is political instability and weak or dysfunctional political institutions. So we must invest in the building blocks of free and open societies, including the creation of a new genuinely inclusive Government in Iraq that can unite all Iraqis, including Sunni, Shia, Kurdish, Christian and other minority populations. When the threats to our security increasingly emanate from outside the borders of our Alliance, we must do more to build partnerships with others around the globe who share our values and want to build a safe, tolerant and peaceful world – that includes supporting the partners who are taking the fight to ISIL on the ground, as we have done by stepping up support for Kurdish and Iraqi Security Forces. And we should use our expertise to provide training and mentoring to forces elsewhere, whether in Georgia or the Middle East, strengthening the capacity of forces there to tackle local threats.

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September 3, 2014

DC Event: “Lessons in Resiliency from the Civilian Front in Israel: Operation Protective Edge”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on September 3, 2014

Just a heads up. If you are in the DC area, this Friday, September 5, the George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute is hosting an event on Israeli lessons for resilience:

Featuring Meir Elran of the Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv, who will discuss the successful resilience demonstrated by the Israeli civilian front during Operation Protective Edge. Elran will discuss the factors which contributed to this success and how they are applicability to future threats including active and passive defense, the performance of the IDF Home Front Command and local government as well as public reactions and conduct during emergencies.

If interested, you can RSVP here: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e9qapd2m6c713350&llr=mysjo9cab

I’d like to expect the best, but I fear that ultimately the Boston Marathon bombing response will come up.  Through the Israeli lens, closing down the city in an attempt to apprehend the suspects was the wrong thing to do. Yet the difference in experience is rarely brought up in terms of lessons learned.

The Israeli experience included a campaign of terrorist attacks on a temporal scale the U.S. hasn’t seen.  Combined with a small geographic area the effort to minimize the impact on the community in Israel took a very problem-specific approach.  However, that does not mean that it will or should work in the U.S.  Conditions are different.  Social constructs and relations with government at all levels is different.  What appears to be foolish choices by U.S. authorities in the minds of Israeli officials can actually be quite efficient and appropriate to the American context.

That is long way around to saying that at this particular event if the idea that Bostonians are less resilient for the actions of one particular Friday then the speaker in question HAS NO IDEA OF WHAT HE HIS TALKING ABOUT.

And I stand by that statement.  Friends in Boston kept living their lives during that period and in fact look upon that Friday as an event that brought the community even closer together.

Boston is stronger due to the choices made during that eventful week. I hope voices forged in a different fire do not influence what should be perceived as a victory here at home.

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September 2, 2014

On climate change, TSA medications, bitcoin, hackers, social media, cell phones and the future

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on September 2, 2014

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (interesting name) tries to bring rationality and evidence into a senate climate change debate this summer by using data to counter another senator’s alternative reality. But to no avail. The Senate did not take a position on the question of whether climate change threatens the nation.

Is TSA confiscating medications? The TSA News blog (which points out that it is not affiliated with TSA) describes confusion about how nitroglycerin pills and other medication is treated by screeners.

Big Think  goes against the mainstream bitcoin current and offers one man’s reasons why bit coin may be the best form of money we have ever seen.

Security Watch unscientifically surveyed some hackers trying to learn why they did what they did. Few of them hack for monetary reasons. Most do it because they are bored. Almost 90 percent of the hackers think their own personal information is at risk. As far as I could tell, no terrorists or state-sponsored hackers were included in the survey.

On the Homefront notes that DHS’ Science and Technology directorate is looking for  ideas about what the future might look like. The public is asked

to ponder and think of solutions to questions such as, “Based on what we know today, what do you think the homeland security environment will look like in 20 to 30 years? What challenges will DHS components, responders, and our other end users face? How should the homeland security community change in order to best respond to these challenges? What should S&T plan for now to ensure the nation is more resilient and secure in the future?”

Small Wars Journal  points readers to J.M. Berger’s list of “ten things you need to know about reporting on terrorists on social media.”  Number 7: Random people tweeting specific threats is not [ISIS] making specific threats against America.

Bruce Schneier worries about the unintended side effects of California’s mandatory cell phone kill switch law .

“The law raises concerns about how the switch might be used or abused, because it also provides law enforcement with the authority to use the feature to kill phones. And any feature accessible to consumers and law enforcement could be accessible to hackers, who might use it to randomly kill phones for kicks or revenge, or to perpetrators of crimes who might—depending on how the kill switch is implemented—be able to use it to prevent someone from calling for help.”

The Scientific American investigates how hot the 2014 US summer was. Was it hotter than average? Colder? About in the middle? The answer is . . . yes….

Apparently looking at temperatures for a single year doesn’t tell you much. According to the people at Scientific American the warming trend the U.S. Senate can’t agree about is only obvious when you look at lots of years, like 100: http://www.climatecentral.org/news/the-heat-is-on

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August 29, 2014

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on August 29, 2014

On this day in 2005 Hurricane Katrina came ashore near Buras-Triumph, Louisiana.  The hurricane is implicated in the death of more than 1800 Americans and damages exceeding $100 billion.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

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August 28, 2014

Reality is random

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on August 28, 2014

A quick review of the summer, now quickly closing:

So far the wildfires have been less destructive than I anticipated.  But worse is likely still ahead.  The exceptional drought in California and extreme drought in Nevada and Southern Oregon set-the-stage for a dangerous autumn.  Precisely when or where?

The hurricane season was predicted to be “below-normal” and results to-date track the projections.  But tomorrow we remember the ninth anniversary of Katrina’s landfall in Louisiana.  We know it will happen again in New Orleans or Houston or Miami or Hampton Roads or following the path of Sandy.

A powerful mid-August low pressure cell brought flooding from Detroit to Baltimore and into New England.  The long-standing record in Islip, New York for rainfall in a 24 hour period was seven inches.  On August 13 the city received nearly 13 inches. Detroit was hit again this week.   More extreme weather has been statistically confirmed.

The 6.0 earthquake in sparsely populated Napa is another proverbial wake-up call for the eventual hit on dense urban areas.  The 1906 San Francisco quake is estimated to have been a 6.8.  The Richter scale is a base-10 logarithmic, so the 6.8 earthquake is almost 16 times stronger than the 6.0.  The 2011 Tohoku earthquake was 9.0 or over 31,000 times stronger than a 6.0 (That’s not a typo.  You can do the calculations here.)  San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Memphis, Anchorage know it is just a matter of time.

Ebola is not casually transmitted.  It has usually been possible to contain it.  But the increasing number of Ebola cases since March highlights the challenges emerging from increased density and mobility. While the Ebola threat to the US is scant, implications for other novel viruses are worth keen attention.  In May several of us exercised a pandemic’s impact on the US supply chain.  As one grocery executive said, “There’s no real solution to this one.  It’s mostly a choice between very bad and awful.”

The March disappearance of MH370 and the shooting down of MH17 in July are each surreal in their own way.   In the last half of July three passenger planes crashed in an eight day period.  Aviation remains comparatively very safe and has consistently become safer over-time.  But with more people flying in more planes more accidents will occur even if the proportion of accidents declines compared to overall use.  Similar can be anticipated for transporting oil and hazardous materials by railway, pipeline, or truck.

Back in February I predicted Syrian-sourced terrorist attacks on Europe. There has been one.  A few more have been preempted.  Given what has happened this summer in Gaza and Northern Iraq, I am surprised we have not seen more attempts.  We will and in the US too.

The Nigerian girls continue to be held captive.  More have been captured.  More boys and girls have been killed.  Boko Haram has also declared creation of an Islamic State (whether related or not to the one in Eastern Syria and Northern Iraq is not yet clear).  Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other Salafists control large swaths of Libya.  Al-Shabaab has lost ground in Somalia but is increasing its activities in Kenya, Djibouti, and Uganda. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula continues to operate in Yemen and plot operations far-afield.  Religious differences amplify tribal conflicts across the Sahel. The summer months have not been encouraging in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Central Asia.  Political divisions have deepened.  Communal conflict has increased.  The same might be said for places and people closer-at-hand.

North American demand for drugs and Latin American suppliers (some with connections to Central Asia and terrorist-related distributors) continue to develop a thriving market for their dangerous products and associated violence.  As with any complex adaptive system the consequences are manifold and often unintended.  But we have seen across the United States and throughout Central America that children are frequently the innocent victims.

For any child of the enlightenment and every Type-A personality there is in this quick review strong motivation to identify causation.  Is there an epidemiology of evil?  Is there a target-zero?  Some sort of pump-handle to remove and thereby mitigate or prevent unnecessary death, injury and destruction?

Perhaps.  Certainly our retrospective forensic skills are often strong enough to recognize what we missed.  But prospectively?  There are many more of us interacting in many more ways and our connections are increasingly interdependent. The potentialities are as logarithmic as the Richter.  Reality is robustly random.  Extremes are not anomalies, they ought to be expected. But they cannot be precisely predicted.

Plenty of opportunities for October surprises.

We are left with what we can apply in the fleeting present: preexisting resources and relationships, a commitment to accurately observing unfolding reality, and a predisposition to positive — and if we can, collaborative — action.

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August 27, 2014

3,287 Days Ago

Filed under: Disaster — by Jerry Monier on August 27, 2014

This essay was originally written on the evening of August 29, 2013 with the title of 2920 Days Ago.  Since then, the essay has been updated to reflect the passing of an additional year since Hurricane Katrina.  The views represented in this essay are those of the author and do not reflect the views of his employer.

Any random date on a calendar represents an important personal or professional milestone.  Birthdays commonly represent another year of personal maturity and growth.  Wedding anniversaries represent the passing of another year of sharing the ups, downs, struggles and celebrations of life with a significant other.  In other instances, a specific date reminds us of the significant tragedies that have influenced the collective resilience of the United States of America.  The date December 7, will always be “a date which will live in infamy” influencing the builder and baby boomer generations of American society.  The date 9/11 will always memorialize the sacrifices of persons who fell victim to the terror attacks of that day having given rise to an American enterprise known as Homeland Security.  The personal perspectives and memories of these events change with the passing of each year.  This essay was originally written on the evening of August 29, 2013 and represents the author’s observations in the years following Hurricane Katrina’s landfall near the Louisiana-Mississippi state line on August 29, 2005.

It is about 9:10 PM Central Time on August 29, 2013. I have just finished reading a bedtime story to my seven-year-old daughter. As I lay with her and watch her fall asleep, my mind wanders back to the night of August 29, 2005.  My location at that time was the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, located on the campus of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA. I was tasked with executing a plan developed the previous week, during the now well-known Hurricane Pam exercise. Our goal was to establish a field hospital at this facility. Over the upcoming days, our facility would treat an estimated 6,000 survivors requiring medical intervention,  An additional 18,000 survivors were triaged and then transported to various mega-shelters located throughout the United States.

In the short time spent with my daughter that evening a year ago, I closed my eyes and listened to her calming bedtime lullabies.  My mind began to shift between the past and present. Earlier in the week, a professional colleague had commented in an email about the “Big 8” coming up this week. That email, coupled with my own thoughts, brought me to realize how much has and has not changed in the days, months, and years since August 29, 2005.  This Friday, August 29, 2014, represents the 9th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the passage of 3287 days.

3287 days has spanned three presidential terms.

3287 days has spanned the terms of three Secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security.

3287 days has spanned the tenure of three FEMA Administrators.

3287 days has spanned the terms of two Governors in Louisiana.

3287 days has spanned the terms of two Governors in Mississippi.

3287 days has spanned the terms of two Mayors in New Orleans.

3287 days has included three significant tropical weather systems making landfall or affecting the same Louisiana coastline affected by Hurricane Katrina.

3287 days has included two significant tropical weather systems making landfall near New York City, and impacting the Northeastern states of the United States.

3287 days has included the largest oil spill in American History impacting the same coastal communities and social economies affected by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike.

3287 days has spanned four Directors of the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness or the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

3287 days has included countless reports published by the GAO and Congressional Research Service on the preparedness of the United States.

3287 days has included acts of terror committed in the United States.

3287 days has included a school shooting in Newtown, CT.

3287 days has included congressional fact finding and the publishing of A Failure of Initiative.

3287 days has included the passing of PKEMRA legislation.

3287 days has included the development of homeland security to an all hazards environment.

3287 days has included the expansion of homeland security’s focus.

3287 days has included the expenditure of 14 plus billion dollars to build hurricane protection levees around the metropolitan New Orleans area.

3287 days has included the expenditure of 17 plus billion dollars in recovery aid to the State of Louisiana.

3287 days has included the development of catastrophic response plans for major metropolitan areas.

3287 days has included the production of Quadrennial Homeland Security Reviews-each having their own characteristics and personalities and political spin.

3287 days has included the development of several Homeland Security or National Security Strategies.

3287 days has included the development of National Frameworks for Prevention, Response, Preparedness, and Mitigation.

3287 days has included numerous policy changes, defining how we as a nation respond to and recover from catastrophes.

3287 days has included the birth of two beautiful daughters.

3287 days has included the earning of an undergraduate degree.

3287 days has included the earning of a prestigious graduate degree.

3287 days has included many memories.

3287 days has included five career moves.

3287 days has included the rebuilding of Louisiana’s emergency management culture in the face of constant adversity.

3287 days has included the demonstration of resilience in an enterprise known as emergency management.

3287 days has included an unknown number of reports, academic papers, research, and the development of think tanks based on the premise of resilience.

3287 days has included the deaths of 1,836 US residents due to Hurricane Katrina

3287 days has included an influenza pandemic.

3287 days has included a significant natural disaster in Japan with numerous cascading effects, including the loss of fixed nuclear reactors.

3287 days has included the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

3287 days has included a national recession.

3287 days has included detrimental budget cuts to government agencies in the state of Louisiana, potentially impacting their ability to respond to the needs of their residents in the future.

3287 days has included the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

3287 days has included the development and implementation of Presidential Policy Directive 8.

3287 days has included the development and introduction of THIRA.

3287 days has included the consumption of numerous bottles of whiskey.

3287 days has included the process of healing.

3287 days has included a synthesis of interaction, experience, and complexity.

3287 days has included the demonstration of resilience by multiple stratums of society.

As my daughter fell asleep I realized just how much can actually occur in the span of 3287 days. By the same token, I also realized how much can be lost over 3287 days.

In the past 3287 days, I have observed the negative effects of partisan politics on American society.

In the past 3287 days, I have observed the negative effects of finger pointing and blame on the homeland security enterprise of the US.

In the past 3287 days, I have observed how the success of the homeland security enterprise is only as good as the most recent catastrophe.

In the past 3287 days, I have observed attempts to define the concept of homeland security.

In the past 3287 days, I have observed the struggle to define an all hazards approach to resilience.

In the past 3287 days, I have observed how the physical, social and political attributes of the term risk reduction has been negatively applied to public policy.

In the past 3287 days, I have observed an increase in dependency upon the federal government.

In the past 3287 days, I have observed a political desire to “not be the next Katrina.”

In the past 3287 days, I have observed hundreds, if not thousands of applicants and speakers describe their “Katrina Story.”

It is now 9:46PM in the evening, and I have come down from the attic where my personal notes from the “Katrina Days” are stored in a fireproof container.  I open my notes from late August of 2005 and begin to process the emotions of eight years ago, and how my thoughts and perceptions have changed over the past 3287 days.

As the clock approaches 10PM, I locate a picture of an elderly couple and a golden retriever.  A colleague took the picture on the morning of August 31, 2005 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center (PMAC).  The couple arrived as part of the initial push of evacuees from the New Orleans area.  This picture has had a place of prominence in every office that I have occupied over the past 3287 days.

Jerry M picture

As I recall, the only belongings the couple had with them were several days of food for their golden retriever. I remember how I checked on them constantly while they were at the PMAC. I remember making sure they had water and food while they waited on metal chairs outside the PMAC in the dense, late summer humidity of Baton Rouge. I remember walking outside in the late evenings and early morning hours 3287 days ago and seeing the couple sleeping in those folding metal chairs, each with their head on the other’s shoulder. I remember the golden retriever staying awake and observant while his masters slept. I remember walking outside and noticing the couple was missing. 3287 days since then, and I still wonder what happened to that couple.

As I continue through my notes, I remember the promises of federal assistance and how a community embraced those who needed assistance with or without government direction.

3287 days ago, I witnessed the student body of LSU adopt survivors rescued from a nursing home as their own grandparents.

3287 days ago, I witnessed a medical community embrace volunteerism and their professional oath to serve those in need.

3287 days ago, I witnessed a new football coach and his players move pet crates to establish a pet shelter for companion animals who had evacuated with their owners.

3287 days ago, I witnessed my wife, sister-in-law, and father-in-law come to my aid and staff what would become one of the largest companion animal evacuation shelters in America.

3287 days ago, I witnessed a dog named Ollie become the first pet evacuee housed at this shelter.

3287 days ago, I witnessed employees of the State of Louisiana demonstrate and renew a level of energy and commitment to the people of Louisiana.

3287 days ago, I witnessed the best of a community.

3287 days ago, I witnessed what is now termed “self-organizing communities” prior to it becoming another buzz word of this emerging enterprise of homeland security

3287 days ago, I witnessed resilience.

3287 days ago, I witnessed the best of Louisiana.

3287 days ago, I witnessed the resilience of America.

3287 days ago, I determined that I was PROUD to be a Louisiana responder and emergency manager.

It is now 10:30 PM in the evening and the memories of that night and the days to follow continue to flow.

3287 days ago, at this time, I was told to expect the first wave of evacuees from New Orleans.

3287 days ago, I looked a minimal staff of medical volunteers, state employees, and 100 or so LSU students in the eyes and told them that I didn’t know what to expect.

3287 days ago, we accepted our first wave of nursing home evacuees.

3287 days ago, I didn’t know that we would eventually receive the patients and heroic medical practitioners from Charity Hospital in New Orleans.

3287 days ago, I didn’t know that we would hear the first-hand stories of orderlies feeding hospital patients semi-frozen peas one pea at a time to maintain their nutritional intake and survival.

3287 days ago, I didn’t know that something as simple as a beacon light on a crane would shut down the evacuation of patients from New Orleans area hospitals.

3287 days ago, I didn’t know that I would experience the emotional roller coaster of planning for the dead, while rejoicing each birth that occurred at our makeshift campus hospital.

3287 days ago, I never thought that I would reach a point of acceptance, and see those following days in an entirely different perspective.

A lot has happened over the past 3287 days. 

In the past 3287 days, the people of Louisiana have demonstrated resilience throughout various natural and man-made adversities.

In the past 3287 days, I have realized that our homeland security enterprise should not be about resilience, rather resilience has and continues to be the strong narrative of this enterprise known as the United States of America.

In the past 3287 days, I have wondered what happened to that elderly couple and their golden retriever.

In the past 3287 days, I have realized that our homeland security enterprise has emphasized processes and frameworks rather than focusing on the social networks and community empowerment.

In the past 3287 days, I have realized that our enterprise should be focused on helping that elderly couple with a golden retriever.

In the past 3287 days, I have realized that our enterprise is a service industry.

In the past 3287 days, I have realized that there are those who need our help.

In the past 3287 days, I have realized that no matter the governmental policy, citizens will help others, regardless of race or socio-economic status.

In the past 3287 days, I have realized the significance of citizen responsibility

In the past 3287 days, I have realized that in the absence of political motivation, people will help people.

In the past 3287 days, I have realized that an overabundance of partisan politics will gum up the works of our enterprise.

In the past 3287 days, I have realized the righteousness of our society.

In the past 3287 days, I have realized that an elderly couple with a golden retriever, an expectant mother, or a dog named Ollie will be taken care of by our “Great Society.”

In the past 3287 days, I have realized that regardless of media biases, this is a great country, and that the resilience of this country is truly dependent upon its citizens.

As for the next 3287 days, I am not sure what lies ahead. 

I know that in the next 3287 days, my daughters will be sixteen and thirteen years of age, respectively.

I know that in the next 3287 days, my wife and I will be celebrating our 18th wedding anniversary.

I know that in the next 3287 days, I will have aged nine years, and be that much closer to retirement.

I know that in the next 3287 days, the people of Louisiana will continue to demonstrate resilience.

I know that during the next 3287 days, I will have eight more opportunities to reflect upon those days following August 29, 2005.

I know that during the next 3287 days, I will continue to ponder the gains and losses made to better the emerging enterprise known as homeland security.

———-

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jerry Monier is a Spring 2013 graduate of the CHDS Masters Program. In the past 3287 days, Mr. Monier has served as a national level homeland security consultant, public health preparedness manager for the State of Louisiana, and most recently, the Chief of Preparedness for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in Louisiana. During Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Monier was employed by Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and was assigned to establish a field hospital at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center located on the campus of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  The PMAC Field Hospital provided medical care to 6,000 survivors and triaged an estimated 18,000 survivors of Hurricane Katrina.  The views expressed are his own and do not reflect those of his employer.

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August 26, 2014

In a democracy, the public’s responsibility is to challenge the police when they see misconduct (Part 2)

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by David Gomez on August 26, 2014

[David Gomez is a retired FBI agent and current Homeland Security Consultant. This is part 2 of a 2 part post. You can read part 1 at this link.]

As a young police officer I was taught that the most important thing in police work was to go home to your family every night. That meant learning to use the training, tactics, and command presence that we all learned in the academy to remain safe. It didn’t mean shooting every person we came across that posed a threat. Rather we were required to memorize the 10 Management Principles of the LAPD.

Based on the Nine Principles of Policing developed by Sir Robert Peel in the 1800s, the one I remember most vividly to this day is the one that says:

“Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

Meaning that all police are all inherently part of the community they serve, even though they may live dozens of miles away. New York Police Commissioner and former LAPD Chief-of-Police William Bratton in this New York Times article recounted those management principles, first espoused by Sir Robert Peel in the early 1800s.

Those were the guidelines I followed early in my career until a certain level of cynicism overtook me. That police cynicism was hard to overcome, and didn’t leave until I had spent a significant amount of time in the FBI. Interestingly, the cynicism returned for a time after 9/11, when I saw all terrorists as personifications of evil, rather than merely as criminals to be investigated. The situation in Ferguson, MO., has once again brought that cynicism back to the forefront. But this time it is local police that are the object of my focus.

The images and conduct of police reported out of Ferguson are disheartening at best. First, there was an absence of any semblance of police strategy in dealing with both lawful and violent protestors. The police treated both equally badly, showing up in camouflaged combat gear and automatic weapons more suitable for jungle warfare than an urban environment, and arresting citizens, reporters, politicians, and criminals equally without regards to motive or intent. Tear gas was used indiscriminately to disperse crowds that were not attacking police, but merely protesting the death of one of their own at the hands of police. The right to peacefully assemble took a vacation from Ferguson for a few days last week.

Second, the manner in which the police chief, the mayor, and even the governor fumbled the narrative regarding what was happening in Ferguson was appalling. There were dueling press conferences, leaks of information, conflicting reports, and a total lack of comprehension about the role of the media during a homeland security crisis. As of this writing over two million tweets have been posted about the events in Ferguson, the majority of them negative recitations of police misconduct.  Whether about perceived or actual misconduct, these tweets drove the narrative of police conduct in Ferguson. In the 21st century, a comprehensive media strategy is an essential requirement of every homeland security professional’s compendium of tools.

Finally, the actions of a few rogue officers negatively influenced the perceptions of millions of viewers on television. Followers of social media who read and watched St. Louis area police officers posting racist comments on Facebook, or pointing loaded automatic weapons at lawful protesters and threatening to “f*cking kill” them if they didn’t move back was a public relations and policy nightmare.

In discussions about the police response in Ferguson, retired NYPD Lieutenant John Comiskey pointedly reminded me, “Police work is more like a humanitarian or peace keeping mission than a combat mission. It’s not about simply arresting people.” Or as another former police officer, Andrew Priest, put it, “Police work is 97% being a priest, 3% being a warrior.” Police work has also been described as ninety-nine percent boredom and one percent sheer terror.

In the city of Ferguson, however, for a time we saw no priests, no peacekeeping, and no humanitarians, only warriors. Sheer terror among the police officers seemed to have replaced common sense and effective police work.

Working as a rookie cop in Los Angeles, I may have felt closer to the South Central community where I worked than other cops, because I grew up just outside the city line. My sister—a nun—taught school in Watts, and my mother was a cafeteria worker at a public school there as well. I participated in the Basic Car Plan, which was that era’s community-based policing. For all the criminals I dealt with daily, I learned that there were plenty of families just like mine—only African American—living in Watts. Good people, fair, hard working, law–abiding people. People who supported the police, but were always wary of the rogue cop element that exists in every police department. While the LAPD developed in me an “us against them” survival instinct, the people I met in South Central helped me overcome the negative aspects of that instinct.

Ferguson, Missouri is not Mayberry, North Carolina. Neither is it South Central Los Angeles in the 1970s or even today. It is a town obviously polarized by race, politics and poverty. As events unfold over the shooting death of Michael Brown, Ferguson became a lightning rod and protest platform for political and social activists including anarchists, communists, the Ku Klux Klan and others. In a direct affront to Constitutional values, even members of the mainstream media have been harassed and arrested by police under the guise of maintaining civil order.

We can never return to Sheriff Andy Taylor and the Mayberry of television. But we—as law enforcement and homeland security professionals—can aspire to be Andy-like in our approach to lawful citizens protesting the questionable death of a young black man in their own town. That type of emotional-led police training and experience is what differentiates good, community-based policing from oppressive, us against them policing that has permeated the airwaves of late. Empathetic policing and emotional intelligence seem to be what are missing from the police department of Ferguson, Missouri and surrounding communities.

Sunnil Dutta is wrong. In a democracy, it is the public’s responsibility to challenge the police in the face of what they perceive as police misconduct. The police’s responsibility in turn is not to respond in kind. After all, an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind, even as it restores peace. I hope that is a lesson professor Dutta will now convey to his homeland security student’s at Colorado Technical University.

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August 25, 2014

In a democracy, the public’s responsibility is to challenge the police when they see misconduct (Part 1)

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by David Gomez on August 25, 2014

[David Gomez is a retired FBI agent and current Homeland Security Consultant. This is part 1 of a 2 part post.]

In the Andy Griffith Show, the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina served as the setting for small town sheriff Andy Taylor, his hapless but good-hearted deputy Barney Fife, and an array of citizen characters that represented life and policing in early 1960s small-town America. There was Floyd the talkative barber, Howard the county clerk, and Gomer and Goober Pyle. There was also a criminal element represented by Otis Campbell, the town drunk who let himself in and out of his cell when inebriated, and Ernest T. Bass, the local good-hearted troublemaker who like to chuck rocks.

Fast forward 50 years later, and police work is not so simple anymore. There are terrorists, anarchists, drug lords, and violent gang members to worry about. Not to mention the proliferation of legally and illegally armed citizens, some of who present a direct threat to the safety of the modern police officer. Mayberry was a fictional town, but today’s hometown security threats are real and omnipresent.

The question is how much has policing changed from the time of Andy Taylor?

On August 19th, Sunnil Dutta, commenting on police and protestor conduct in Ferguson, Missouri, wrote in the Opinion Section of the Washington Post, “I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me.” Dutta, an adjunct professor of Homeland Security at Colorado Technical University and a 17-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department went on to write,

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me.

In the piece Dutta argues that the responsibility for not getting hurt by police lies with lawful protestors. The tag line of the article—and it is unknown if headline editors at the Washington Post added this—was: “It’s not the police, but the people they stop, who can prevent a detention from turning into a tragedy.” In effect, Dutta is saying, “Police are the real victims here; you made me do this, so it’s your fault.” Unfortunately, the “you made me do this” line is the same ‘blame the victim’ argument I frequently get from my six-year old twin boys.

As a former LAPD detective, and a fellow homeland security professional, I was saddened to read this. While most of Dutta’s comments about police work rang true, some did not. For example, Dutta writes, “cops are not murderers. No officer goes out in the field wishing to shoot anyone, armed or unarmed,” which is patently untrue. To deny that a rogue element exists among police officers is to deny the hard truth.

One need only look at the history of the LAPD and the Rampart police scandals to know these officers exist. I know because I worked in Rampart with some of those officers and others whose greatest desire was to become involved in a shooting. They were the exception, no doubt, but they exist.

In a similarly themed article, former patrol officer Justin Freeman, writing for PoliceOne.com in an article titled why people see cops as ‘arrogant’ stated:

…think about the workday of a police officer. Her job assignments consist, primarily, of being dispatched to successive 911 calls. When someone calls 911 for police service, there is a tacit admission by the caller that the situation at hand has deteriorated beyond his or her control, and police are needed in order to bring the situation back under control. That is the unstated assumption that the officer has going into each situation — not that a social equilibrium needs to be maintained, but that a situation needs to be quickly and efficiently brought back under control. Freeman’s article goes on to develop the theme that over time, and in response to all the calls for service, police officers develop a well-reasoned mistrust of the citizens they encounter on the job as a matter of officer safety.

To paraphrase Freeman with something I frequently heard on the LAPD, “there are three types of people in this city: Cops, people who love cops, and assholes.” If you are treated badly it’s because the police officer doesn’t know or trust you enough to discern if you are one of the first two types. Which to most cops is pretty much everyone they meet on a day-to-day-basis.

Was police work always like this? Or has 9/11, the threat of terrorism, and concerns over homeland security changed the nature of policing? Some argue that the police response to the public during homeland security incidents is a law enforcement education and training issue that police commanders have failed to pursue since 9/11. The responsibility to educate police on the public’s perception of them, demonstrate that police are a part of the community they serve, and hold police accountable to a higher standard of conduct is a managerial imperative that is not always followed (Comiskey, personal communication, 2014).

As a young police officer I was taught that the most important thing in police work … [to be continued on Tuesday, August 26th]

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August 24, 2014

One day. Forty earthquakes. One story.

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on August 24, 2014

Here is a map of the magnitude 2.5 or greater earthquakes reported by the United States Geological Survey on August 24, 2014. (The red lines are the plate boundaries.)

Global earthquakes 2.5+ August 24, 2014

And here’s a list of those earthquakes:

list of 8.24 14 earthquakes

And here’s a picture of a fire in the Napa, California mobile home park where my mother-in-law lives.

napa mobile home park

Her home did not burn. But almost everything inside was treated the way you might expect a 6.1 earthquake would treat the contents of a mobile home.

One story of one earthquake on one day.

 

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August 22, 2014

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on August 22, 2014

On this day in 1949 an 8.1 earthquake struck a sparsely populated area off British Columbia and the Alaska panhandle.  There were no deaths.  But it demonstrated the potential energy of the Cascadia fault system.

On this day in 2008 a train derailed near Luther, Oklahoma.  Crude oil and ethanol being transported exploded.  The fire continued for over 24 hours.

On this day in 1831 Nat Turner led a slave rebellion in Southhampton County, Virginia.  Up to seventy died in the rebellion.  At least 100 were killed in the aftermath.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

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