Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 29, 2015

Epidemiology of violence

Filed under: Biosecurity,Public Health & Medical Care,Radicalization,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on January 29, 2015

About this time last year I first heard about a few cases of Ebola in the Guinea Highlands.  It was, I thought , a bit strange.  A long way from the Congo River basin, with which Ebola is usually associated.

But I was busy finishing a big project.  Infectious disease is not my specialty. The occasional human contraction of Ebola has typically produced a rapid and effective professional response.  As previously outlined, I also missed some other important connections that could have enhanced my attention.

I was not alone.

Fast-forward to today.  According to the most recent WHO situation update, in mid-January, 148 new cases of Ebola have been confirmed in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Compared to August and September this is good news.  At any other time and at any other place, this level of Ebola transmission would be the epidemiological equivalent of a three alarm fire.

This is not a disease we want to treat as a chronic condition.  We ought not allow it to become endemic.  It is too deadly. The current transmission cycle must be fully, wholly stopped.  Then we must each and all do better with early identification and elimination of future animal-to-human and the first human-to-human transmissions.

This is the way with networks and we are — technically and socially — increasingly a networked world.

It would be easy to move to measles or seasonal influenza.  But I want to try a more audacious analogy.

Last week Secretary Kerry spoke to the World Economic Forum.  The whole speech was better than the sound-bites I had been fed.  Following is the whiff of epidemiology I noticed in his remarks.

We have to do more to avoid an endless cycle of violent extremism, a resupplying on a constant basis. We have to transform the very environment from which these movements emerge. And that’s why we are committed to enlarging our strategy in ways that respond effectively to the underlying causes, as well as the visible symptoms of violent extremism. That’s why we’re developing an approach that extends far beyond the short term, and which cannot be limited to the Middle East or to any other region.

We need – all of us – to take these steps so that a decade or two in the future, when the economic forum meets and you hear from leaders, they’re not standing up here responding to a new list of acronyms to the same concept, but different players. We cannot have our successors come back here to face the same questions and the same challenge. The terror groups may have those different acronyms in the future and they may be targeting different countries, but if we don’t do what is required now, then I guarantee you the fundamental conflict will either stay the same or get worse.

We were very late, nearly too late, in the West African Ebola outbreak.  Thousands have — potentially will — die needlessly.  My too-simple — but not necessarily inaccurate — analysis:  When the usual professional methods were distracted and delayed, the contagion multiplied reaching an extent beyond the capacity of professionals alone.

Sierra Leone applied significant command-and-control techniques.  In retrospect, these were entirely ineffective.  Liberia — more by accident than intention — came to depend on an extraordinary network of neighbors working with neighbors. Eventually this whole community approach was adopted in Sierra Leone as well. This mostly spontaneous bottom-up engagement became the essential foundation on which current containment was achieved.

Professionals have certainly been needed at every stage.  Coordination, collaboration, communication, and clinical care have been built upon the foundation.  Spontaneous beginnings have been systematically reinforced. But until the community — really multiple communities — mobilized the deadly disease was quickly spreading.

This is the way with networks.

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DHS FY2015 Funding

Filed under: Border Security,Budgets and Spending,Congress and HLS,Immigration — by Philip J. Palin on January 29, 2015

I have been trying to discern the status and prospects of DHS appropriations.

Three facts:

  1. DHS was not included in the December Omnibus Appropriation.  The Department is currently operating on a continuing resolution set to expire on February 27.
  2. On January 14 the  fiscal year 2015 Homeland Security Appropriations bill (H.R. 240) was passed by the House of Representatives.
  3. On Tuesday, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader indicated the Senate will take up the House appropriations bill next week. How Senate action will be structured is not yet clear.

Otherwise it is all rather opaque.  At least to me.  If you have seen a credible, holistic — mostly non-partisan — analysis, please point me to it and I will highlight it here.

Excluding DHS from the December Omnibus allowed the remainder of the federal government to be funded in a way that did not further undermine public (global) confidence; yet also ensured — or at least implied — that the President’s executive actions on immigration were reserved for future attack and potential defunding.  If you will recall, the Omnibus just barely passed, so don’t be too quick to critique this technique.

The House bill includes several measures designed to constrain executive discretion related to immigration.  These measures are highlighted in the Explanatory Statement that Hal Rogers, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, submitted with the bill.  Here’s a take against what the House has done.  Here’s a take mostly in favor.

On Tuesday essentially all Senate Democrats signed a letter calling for a “clean” DHS appropriations bill.  In the current context this means a bill without any (or most) of the constraints on immigration included in the House bill.  To adopt the House bill would, under current Senate rules, require twelve Senate Democrats joining all Republicans. Not going to happen.

Can something be done in the Senate and/or in conference that could give DHS its funding and later pass the House?  This is the question for which many are seeking an answer.  An obvious — and politically palatable — way forward is certainly not apparent to me.

What seems more likely is lack of closure on the FY2015 appropriations: Best case recurring continuing resolutions.  Worst case: Well, sometimes you just don’t want to go there. Worst cases tend to keep unwinding.  But in any case, plenty of distraction, demoralization, dysfunction, and potential for even worse.

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January 28, 2015

DHS Secretary State of Homeland Security hashtag (#StateofDHS ) already busy

Filed under: Immigration — by Christopher Bellavita on January 28, 2015

The DHS announcement about Thursday’s State of Homeland Security speech was short and to the point:

We will be using #StateofDHS for comments on social media.

If you search how people on Twitter are using the hashtag now (https://twitter.com/search?q=%23DHSin2015&src=typd), you’ll see it’s already active with people lobbying for changes in the rules governing Employment Authorization Cards:

“Fix legal families first as we pay taxes n live by rules no matter what. Pass #H4EAD #DHSin2015 @USCIS @DHSgov. H1B spouses lives on hold.”

#DHSin2015 Any updates on #H4EAD on 29th Jan?We are waiting.plz pass the rule and give smile to h4 spouces.@BarackObama Kindly pass d rule.”

#DHSin2015 @BarackObama How much more testing h4′s patience,After so muc request, signing petition, tweeting , emailing no results.passH4EAD”

@pradoreddy: @USCIS @DHSgov #DHSin2015 Please do not force legal H4s to choose bw career and family. They deserve both. Publish #H4EAD Rule”

“Instead of signing petitions,tweeting & waiting ,H4holders could be working & helping US economy right.Pass #H4EAD @USCIS @DHSgov #dhsin2015

The person who told me about this wrote:

“Most tweets using the hashtag are to demand work authorization for spouses of h1B via holders.  I am curious what organization saw the hastag this early and decided to use it.  Kudos to them!”

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January 27, 2015

Jeh Johnson on the 2015 state of homeland security (January 29th – 10 AM eastern/7 AM pacific)

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on January 27, 2015

From DHS (http://www.dhs.gov/DHSin2015):

On January 29, 2015, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson will discuss the past, present, and future of DHS in his State of Homeland Security address. His remarks at an event hosted by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Aspen Institute Homeland Security Group will be live streamed from this page beginning at 10:00AM ET.

 http://dhsconnect.dhs.gov/news/Pages/2015-State-of-Homeland-Security.aspx

 We will be using #StateofDHS for comments on social media.


I am led to believe the Secretary will avoid both romantic and post-modern poetry.

(thanks rd)

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“Breathes there the man, with soul so dead….”

Filed under: Futures — by Christopher Bellavita on January 27, 2015

What to be vigilant about?

Sometimes something huge. Sometimes not.

Monday night it’s oceans of snow spilling onto the northeast, painted green and yellow by the Weather Channel radar.

Monday morning it was 2 pounds of drone crashing into a White House tree, invisible to the best radar money can buy.

What to be vigilant about?

Someone credible guesses that by 2016, 1% of the world’s population (about 7 million people) will own more wealth than the other 99% combined.

I’m guessing  many of the people who attended last week’s World Economic Forum  in Davos  represent the interests of the 7 million.


[Break]

Samuel P. Huntington (the “Clash of Civilizations” guy) called these people Davos Men, or “gold collar workers”:

…these transnationalists have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite’s global operations. In the coming years, one corporation executive confidently predicted, “the only people who will care about national boundaries are politicians.”

If you’re looking for something else to be vigilant about, you can read more of Huntington’s warning in the 2004 National Interest article joyously called “Dead Souls: The Denationalization of the American Elite.”

[End of Break]


The Davos Men issued their 2015 Global Risks report a few days ago describing what they believe we should all be vigilant about.

Here’s a excerpt from the report’s conclusion:

Our lives are very different today from when the first Global Risks report was published a decade ago. Little did the world imagine the possibility of the implosion of global financial markets that plunged the world into a socioeconomic crisis from which it is still struggling to emerge. The “real world” was nowhere near as interconnected with the virtual one: Twitter did not exist, Facebook was still a student-only service, and the iPhone and Android were still one and two years, respectively, away from their commercial release. The power of interconnectivity has since shown itself forcefully – be it from the convening power of the Arab Spring, the revelation of massive cyber espionage around the National Security Agency, or fast moving developments in new disruptive business models that are fundamentally changing the global economic landscape.

… [As] people’s lives are becoming more complex and more difficult to manage, businesses, governments and individuals alike are being forced to decide upon courses of action in an environment clouded by multiple layers of uncertainty. … [D]ecisionmakers … are recognizing that risks are no longer isolated but inherently dynamic in nature and crossing many spheres of influence. Against this backdrop, the need to collaborate and learn from each other is clearer than ever….

Ten years of “doing risks” has also led to the recognition that a short-term vision prevents addressing long-term issues. Some slower-moving trends have continued inexorably: the last 10 years have brought conclusive proof that the earth’s climate is changing and that human activities are to blame – yet progress to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions remains frustratingly slow. …

Indeed, our self-perception as homines economici or rational beings has faltered in the aftermath of the financial crisis, whose effects are still unfolding socially, as persistent unemployment, ever-rising inequality, unmanaged migration flows and ideological polarization are among the factors stretching societies dangerously close to the breaking point. Social fragility is even threatening geopolitical stability, as breakdowns in cooperation within states make relations between states more difficult. And a quarter-century after the fall of the Berlin Wall, interstate conflict is once again one of the key risks in terms of likelihood and impact. Yet the means through which conflicts can be pursued are growing more varied, … – from geo-economic tools, such as trade sanctions, to cyber attacks on critical infrastructure, to the potential for a new arms race in lethal autonomous weapons systems. …

 


Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d,
As home his footsteps he hath turn’d,
From wandering on a foreign strand!

– Walter Scott, 1805

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January 23, 2015

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on January 23, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

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January 22, 2015

“Countering violent extremism”

Filed under: International HLS,Radicalization,State and Local HLS,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on January 22, 2015

Wednesday the French Prime Minister and other ministers announced several “exceptional” counter-terrorism measures. (Complete remarks in French) (Summary in English) (Reporting by The Guardian)

  • Increased protective services, especially of Jewish and Muslim places of worship.
  • Increased staffing of intelligence functions and a new legal framework for domestic intelligence operations.
  • Increased investments to counter radicalization, especially in prisons, via the Internet and in the community.
  • Increased measures to target and track specific individuals convicted or “accused” of terrorism.
  • Increased efforts, in coordination with the European Union and its member states, to implement effective border controls for the Schengen area.

The summary of the ministerial briefing provided by the French embassy in Washington DC notes, “a file containing the names of all individuals convicted or accused of terrorist acts will be created. These individuals must provide proof of their address at regular intervals and provide notification of any change of address or trips abroad. Failure to comply with these provisions will constitute an offence.” Please note convicted or accused.

Also highlighted at the ministerial briefing — though not actually discussed in any detail — was a government report released on Monday: “Une école qui porte haut les valeurs de la République” (A school that promotes the values of the Republic).

This begins to suggest “soft power” tools the French government will attempt to strengthen to counter radicalization.  The “School of the Republic” concept goes back to the 1789 Revolution and is especially associated with the Third Republic (1870-1940).  The focus has always been on unifying France around core Republican values.

According to the report, included in the priorities for a school that “carries the banner” for the Republic are (my translation):

  • First, secularism with new content related to moral and civic education, but also lay teaching about religions; with a massive effort of continuing education for teachers and operational support to teams in difficulty.
  • Second, reducing educational inequalities: to strengthen the sense of belonging to the Republic by all students, this will require new measures in favor of diversity and social mobility.
  • Finally, the mobilization of all national education partners, and primarily the parents of students: measures to develop school democracy, learning a culture of commitment…

Neither the process nor the principles articulated in the report are exportable to the United States.  But it is interesting to see the explicit connection made between counter-terrorism  – or more accurately, anti-terrorism — and public education.

–+–

Related — at least in my fevered brain — is the rather extraordinary dust-up emerging over the “summit” to be hosted by the White House on February 18.  This is part of the ongoing Countering Violent Extremism effort by DHS, State, and “The Interagency”.

In the White House statement on the upcoming session (almost the only detail available so far), it is explained:

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) efforts rely heavily on well-informed and resilient local communities.  Boston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis-St. Paul have taken the lead in building pilot frameworks integrating a range of social service providers, including education administrators, mental health professionals, and religious leaders, with law enforcement agencies to address violent extremism as part of the broader mandate of community safety and crime prevention.  The summit will highlight best practices and emerging efforts from these communities. At the same time, our partners around the world are actively implementing programs to prevent violent extremism and foreign terrorist fighter recruitment.  The summit will include representatives from a number of partner nations, focusing on the themes of community engagement, religious leader engagement, and the role of the private sector and tech community. 

The too often contorted  lingo — and bureaucratic behavior — around CVE has been a fair target from the beginning.  It was not surprising when Victor Davis Hanson at the National Review took aim at the summit.  Or when his NR colleague Rich Lowry did so in Politico’s magazine (I can’t quickly find an online link).  But in yesterday’s  New York Times, Thomas Friedman piled on big time.

Some of the critiques are constructive.  Failing to differentiate between nearer-term counter-terrorism and longer-term anti-terrorism is not constructive.  Both are needed.  Well-conceived, the measures of each are complementary.  But in conception and practice they are two very different undertakings.

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January 20, 2015

“Why has American national security policy changed so little from the Bush administration to the Obama administration?”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on January 20, 2015

That’s the question Michael J. Glennon asks in his book “National Security and Double Government.”

His answer: national security policy is determined largely by “the several hundred managers of the military, intelligence, diplomatic, and law enforcement agencies who are responsible for protecting the nation and who have come to operate largely immune from constitutional and electoral restraints.” The president, congress and the courts play largely a symbolic role in national security policy, Glennon claims.

You can read a Harvard National Security Journal article that outlines Glennon’s argument at this link: http://harvardnsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Glennon-Final.pdf.  The paper is not an especially easy read, but I found it to be well researched and – for  me – persuasive.

His book adds more analysis to the argument, using (from Graham Allison’s Essence of Decision) the rational actor model, the government politics model, and the organizational behavior model. Glennon extends that framework by discussing culture, networks, and the myth of alternative competing hypotheses.  The book is richer, in my opinion.  But the core of Glennon’s position is in the paper.

This link takes you to a video of Glennon talking about his book at the Cato Institute: http://www.cato.org/events/national-security-double-government (the talk starts at the 5:20 mark).

From the Cato site:

In National Security and Double Government, Michael Glennon examines the continuity in U.S. national security policy from the Bush administration to the Obama administration. Glennon explains the lack of change by pointing to the enervation of America’s “Madisonian institutions,” namely, the Congress, the presidency, and the courts. In Glennon’s view, these institutions have been supplanted by a “Trumanite network” of bureaucrats who make up the permanent national security state. National security policymaking has been removed from public view and largely insulated from law and politics. Glennon warns that leaving security policy in the hands of the Trumanite network threatens Americans’ liberties and the republican form of government.

Some blurb reviews:

“If constitutional government is to endure in the United States, Americans must confront the fundamental challenges presented by this chilling analysis of the national security state.”
Bruce Ackerman

“Glennon shows how the underlying national security bureaucracy in Washington – what might be called the deep state – ensures that presidents and their successors act on the world stage like Tweedledee and Tweedledum.”
John J. Mearsheimer

“National Security and Double Government is brilliant, deep, sad, and vastly learned across multiple fields–a work of Weberian power and stature. It deserves to be read and discussed. The book raises philosophical questions in the public sphere in a way not seen at least since Fukuyama’s end of history.”
David A. Westbrook

“In our faux democracy, those we elect to govern serve largely ornamental purposes, while those who actually wield power, especially in the realm of national security, do so chiefly with an eye toward preserving their status and prerogatives. Read this incisive and richly documented book, and you’ll understand why.”
Andrew J. Bacevich

“…Michael Glennon provides a compelling argument that America’s national security policy is growing outside the bounds of existing government institutions. This is at once a constitutional challenge, but is also a case study in how national security can change government institutions, create new ones, and, in effect, stand-up a parallel state….”
Vali Nasr

“Instead of being responsive to citizens or subject to effective checks and balances, U.S. national security policy is in fact conducted by a shadow government of bureaucrats and a supporting network of think tanks, media insiders, and ambitious policy wonks. Presidents may come and go, but the permanent national security establishment inevitably defeats their efforts to chart a new course….”
Stephen M. Walt, Robert and Renee Belfer

I’ve spoken to three people I consider to be members of the “shadow national security state.”   One person said Glennon’s argument is nothing new.  The second told me he’s got it exactly right.  The third said it’s even worse.

 

 

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January 19, 2015

“Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on January 19, 2015

MLK day 2015 2

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January 16, 2015

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on January 16, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

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January 15, 2015

There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.

Filed under: Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on January 15, 2015

New York Post cover

The Kouachi brothers’ assassination attack on the editorial meeting at Charlie Hebdo killed twelve.

The next day with the Kouachi’s on the run, Amedy Coulibaly assassinated a French policewoman and subsequently took hostages at a kosher grocery in Paris.  Four hostages were killed.

The Kouachi brothers and Coulibaly were well-acquainted with each other.  Based on statements made by the murderers it would seem the Kouachis self-identified with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula while Coulibaly, at least most recently, had pledged loyalty to the Islamic State.

The connections between these three men and their relationships with AQAP, IS, or other extremist organizations will take time to carefully trace.  It is not yet clear, for example, if others had any operational control, or even prior knowledge, of the attack.

“Is this a Mumbai or a Boston?” We don’t know yet. (Though some early signals lean toward a more-connected, less free-lance relationship with terrorist nodes.)

All three assailants were well-known to French police and other Western security agencies.  All had criminal records.  All had publicly expressed sympathy with terrorist organizations and ideology. At some point, all had been under surveillance.  So are over 1600 French citizens.  The potential threats far exceed the resources reasonably available to maintain some balance between security and due process.

I am surprised we have not seen more Mumbais and Bostons (or we might say, Bed-Stuys and Utoyas).  These lone-wolf or small wolf-pack attacks are very difficult to prevent. For twisted egos they practically guarantee mass-media validation. Jim Bittermann at CNN commented: Chérif Kouachi was a failed soccer player and a failed rap artist who finally found a way to claim our attention.

As long predicted, one of the blow-backs of the Syrian civil war will almost certainly be some increase in deadly events of this sorts. Several thousand egos are being simultaneously abused and inflamed.  But — none of those killing and finally killed last week were veterans of that conflict. There is even evidence that close encounters with the self-styled Caliphate have disillusioned many Western volunteers.

Intelligence operations, border controls, law enforcement vigilance and prosecutorial attention can help contain these threats.  The mid-December Lindt Cafe hostage taking in Sydney probably could have been prevented under new legislation that took effect on New Years Day.  Coulibaly could have still been in prison for his last offense, but he was released early. There is, however, no full-proof way to prevent these sort of small-scale operations.  Bigger more complicated efforts are much more likely to “leak” in a way we will notice. Even then to recognize the risk we require considerable expertise and just about as much luck.

In calendar year 2002, 1119 people were murdered in France. In 2012 the number had fallen to 665.  Last week was horrific.  Last week’s number was not — sadly — significantly outside historical proportions. On the same day of the Charlie Hebdo attack thirty-seven Yemeni police recruits were killed by what is widely assumed to be an AQAP vehicle bomb.  But this other mass-murder does not surprise us.

Of course it is not just the number of dead that matters.  We are horrified by how the targets were selected and the manner in which they were killed. The French Premier, Manuel Valls, proclaimed, in most English translations, “We are at War.”  But here is the complete quote (and my personal translation).

Nous faisons une guerre, pas une guerre contre une religion, pas une guerre de civilisation, mais pour défendre nos valeurs, qui sont universelles. C’est une guerre contre le terrorisme et l’islamisme radical, contre tout ce qui vise à briser la solidarité, la liberté, la fraternité. 

(We make war, but not a war against a religion, not a war of civilizations, but to defend our values, which are universal. It is a war against terrorism and radical Islam, against everything that aims to shatter solidarity, liberty, fraternity.)

Next month the United States will host a long-planned — but just calendared – international conference on counter-terrorism. The purpose of the February 18 session is to “better understand, identify, and prevent the cycle of radicalization to violence at home in the United States and abroad,’’ the White House said.  Even if we could fully understand the root causes, I’m not persuaded this knowledge would allow us to consistently identify and/or prevent.  Besides, the root causes are complicated, even by-the-textbook complex.

It seems to me that humanity is trying to adapt to a broad-based social revolution that began more or less four centuries ago and has been accelerating, gyrating, imploding and exploding ever since.  Some places and people have adapted reasonably well, others quite badly.

All of the great religions (inherently conserving institutions) have been challenged and changed by this great transformation. Islam has been undergoing its own “reformation” for at least the last century.  The contemporary convulsion in many Muslim states and between strands of Islam can be compared to the collision of a great flood with a great rock.  The flood does not stop.  The rock persists.  The water may swamp the rock or be diverted by the rock or build-up behind the rock until spilling over it.   The rock may even be carried with the flood until it is deposited far downstream.  In any case, big rocks and fast water are a dangerous combination.

We are —  especially if we are weird (western educated industrial rich democratic) — a part of this flooding.   Those less-weird who are threatened by the flooding may view us as the cause of their distress.  There are also some who have attempted to ride the waves of this cascade, nearly drowned, and were barely saved by a last-chance grasp for edges of the rock. These are especially inclined to curse us and attempt to change the course of this flooding. (Shakespeare puts the lines used as today’s title in the mouth of Brutus, friend and assassin of Caesar. A very complicated character.)

Is this war?  Both war and guerre (the French term) are derived from the Old High German werra meaning confusion, perplexing, disarray, strife, and quarrel.  So yes, we all make war.

But I will also share that last Friday a French friend wrote me, “It is just terrorism.”

I thought she might be saying something in English that had a nuanced meaning in French. But when I asked, she wrote, “No, this phrasing has nothing to do with French at all. I said this on purpose but I didn’t have time to explain why. I feel that it is very important to reduce those thugs to what they are, terrorists. This isn’t Islam, this isn’t a cause.  This is nothing. Nothing but sheer terrorism in the name of absolutely nothing. When put in such a context we can make different moral judgments and we can rebound more easily. It doesn’t change the course of anything. It is murder for the sake of murder.”

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When the fever breaks

Filed under: Biosecurity,Public Health & Medical Care,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on January 15, 2015

According to the most recent WHO update Ebola has caused over 8300 deaths since the outbreak began in late 2013.  New disease transmissions are occurring, but the rate of transmission has been dramatically reduced by rigorous contact tracing, early intervention, and behavioral changes.

There continues to be the risk of transmission spikes and endemic transmission cycles.  There is much still to do.  But the worst projections have been avoided and sufficient capacity now exists to contain and further reduce the risk.

For me the most remarkable aspect of this still emerging story has been the role of informal networks, neighbors, and motivated volunteers in organizing rigorous contact tracing and behavioral interventions.   In the January 19 New Yorker there is a fine piece of long-journalism by Luke Mogelson that focuses in on this “whole community” angle of the epidemic.

A few excerpts, but please read the whole story:

Neighborhoods have mobilized, health-care workers have volunteered, and rural villagers have formed local Ebola task forces. Individuals who survive Ebola are usually immune to infection, and in many places they have become integral to stemming the epidemic. “Communities are doing things on their own, with or without our support,” Joel Montgomery, the C.D.C. team leader in Liberia at the time, told me when I met him in Monrovia…

To build a network of active case-finders who could cover all of West Point, Gbessay recruited three volunteers from each of the slum’s thirty-five blocks. Most of them were young and had a degree of social clout—“credible people,” Gbessay called them. The quarantine had done little to alleviate popular skepticism of the government’s Ebola-containment policies, however, and, for a while, hostility persisted. “At first, the cases were skyrocketing,” Gbessay said. “We used to see seventy, eighty cases a day. But by the middle of September everyone started to think, Look, I better be careful. Today, you talk to your friend—tomorrow, you hear the guy is gone. So they started to pay attention.”

Please read, When the Fever Breaks.  As you read it I wonder if you will, as I did, perceive key principles that are potentially relevant to a wide range of homeland security challenges.

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January 14, 2015

A MOOC: Central Challenges of American National Security

Filed under: Education,General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on January 14, 2015

This is an opportunity not directly related to homeland security.  However, I thought some of topics addressed by this course will be of interest to this blog’s readership.

For all the details, see: https://www.edx.org/course/challenges-of-american-security-harvardx-hks211-2x#.VLcv-SvF-Sr

The instructors are impressive.  A former DOD official, and more importantly, the man who built the current Harvard Kennedy School of Government.  And of course a major New York Times  reporter.

You can audit this course for free.  For a small fee, you can get a certificate  that indicates you did the work. Unfortunately, you are not going to get “Harvard” credit…

About this Course

How can Iran be stopped from getting a nuclear bomb—negotiations, sanctions, or military action? As a participant in this course, you will advise the president in deciding whether, and how, the U.S. should act. Once you’ve made your assessment, you will move on to wrestle with other scenarios preoccupying policy makers. Between the Assad regime and ISIS, civilians in Syria and Iraq face unimaginable atrocities. Should the U.S. intervene? China’s rise is rattling capitalist economies and a half-century of Pacific peace. What counterbalancing actions should Washington take? Leaks are a fact of life — but why do they happen? Who gets them, and why? Should journalists publish or withhold them? Does legal accountability lie with the leaker—or the journalist?

This seven-week course casts you as advisors on the hardest decisions any president has to make. We will go behind the veil to see the dynamic between the press and the U.S. government, to explore these dilemmas. We will also have to contend with the reality that government secrets rarely stay that way. Participants will learn to navigate the political landscape of an era in which private remarks become viral tweets, and mistakes by intelligence agencies become front-page stories.

Weekly assignments require strategic thinking: Analyzing dynamics of challenges and developing strategies for addressing them.  Students will learn to summarize their analyses in a succinct “Strategic Options Memo,” combining careful analysis and strategic imagination with the necessity to communicate to major constituencies in order to sustain public support. They will also examine how policymaking is affected by constant, public analysis of government deliberations.

 

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January 13, 2015

Charlie Hebdo Attack and One-Sided War

Filed under: Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Nick Catrantzos on January 13, 2015

Comparing it to recent attacks in Ottawa and Sydney misses important differences. The Paris assassinations of 12 people at the offices of the French periodical, Charlie Hebdo, involved more than a single attacker. These attackers were heavily armed and made a getaway, unlike the so-called lone wolves to whom they are being compared.

There will be no workplace violence discussions here, in part because certain features of workplace violence cases are altogether absent. Disturbed individuals who bring carnage to a workplace tend to be seeking not so much victory as relief. Consequently, they give little thought to escape and often die after carrying out their attacks, whether by their own hand or via suicide by cop. Clearly, the Paris attack was bereft of such elements.

Cries of Allahu Akbar are becoming a unifying thread running through attacks by armed killers against unsuspecting and unarmed victims. This common feature does appear to salute the effectiveness of the public relations arm of violent radical Islam that promotes murder stewed in the brine of antipathies legitimized — whether through propaganda, casuistry, or xenophobic bigotry — through a religious imprimatur.

The bottom line is that violent radical Islam and its adherents are waging a declared war against Western culture, institutions, and citizenry. In doing so, they are taking calculated advantage of civil liberties and freedom of maneuver that the radicals never see in their own countries of origin, where dissent is suppressed and deviation from ecclesia and state-enforced orthodoxy becomes freedom- and life-threatening.

We are neck-deep in a war with one self-imposed, knee-capping disadvantage: The adversary recognizes this situation, while we refuse to acknowledge it. Instead, we go to great lengths to discount violent radical Islamist terrorism. The net result is the kind of self-hobbling that limits the ability to conceive of let alone implement meaningful response.

Otherwise, what form might some kind of meaningful response take?

We, in the West, could begin by defining as a renunciation of citizenship any direct linkage to such terror groups and supporters. Want to link arms with ISIS and fight against the infidel?

Fine. Just don’t expect to be allowed to return to the country that has hosted you in your formative years of fostering resentments.

Refuse to assimilate by learning the language and adhering to the laws of the free country you inhabit but hate?

Fine, but you don’t get to stay there to defame and undermine and attack it.

A slow awakening is costly, but it can still avail. Ask the British, who took a long time to realize that the thugs and thugee were an existential threat in India during another century. Once the British finally awoke to this realization, however, they named the threat, studied it, and took severe measures to wipe out in six years a threat that had gone unchallenged and unabated for three hundred years until that point.

This success required closing exploitable gaps in the legal system, implementing harsh measures to contain and bring thugs to justice, and demonstrating the unrelenting resolve to pursue these measures until the threat was extinguished. Then, despite whatever fears of a new totalitarian state there may have been, the British returned to a permissive legal and societal order that had existed before the existential fight had begun. (For a study of this case, consult John Coloe’s 2005  master’s thesis, Government actions in the demise of the Thugs [1829-1835] and Sikh terrorists [1980-1993] and lessons for the United States.)

We, in the West, can do the same, but before there can be resolve, there must be clarity. We have little hope of winning a war if the only one who knows we are in mortal combat is the adversary but not the defender.

The author was a contributor to a security industry study on workplace violence response after having had a workplace violence practice while a consulting security director for Kroll Associates. His area of interest is insider threats, on which he has published a text, Managing the Insider Threat: No Dark Corners. He has also developed curricula and taught in homeland security programs for the University of Alaska and Colorado Technical University. Views expressed here are solely his own.
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January 12, 2015

Haiti

Filed under: Catastrophes — by Philip J. Palin on January 12, 2015

Five years on what so fully captured our attention is now too easy to forget.  More than 160,000 were killed.  The recovery has been difficult for thousands more.

There has been a tendency to dismiss Haiti as Haiti, too forsaken to have any lessons for anyplace else.  Yet when the Tohoku Triple Disaster struck, some experts saw comparable patterns in the initial response.  One has told me, “If not for the Japanese trucking companies voluntary action, Tohoku was sliding toward Haiti.”

Several colleagues at the White House, DOD, and with various voluntary agencies have commented on important lessons that each of them learned.  ”Catastrophes are entirely different beasts, as different as a Lynx from a Lion,” said one.  Another wondered aloud, “Would Americans display the resilience we saw in the Haitians, if hit as hard?”

So it has been a long day.  It is almost too late.  But while not nearly enough, a few words in honor of those who died, those who worked so hard to save lives, and for the struggle that continues today.

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George Washington University creates Center for Cyber and Homeland Security

Filed under: Cybersecurity,Education — by Christopher Bellavita on January 12, 2015

From the web: http://homelandsecurity.gwu.edu/george-washington-university-establishes-new-gw-center-cyber-and-homeland-security

January 12, 2015

The George Washington University establishes new GW Center for Cyber and Homeland Security

WASHINGTON—Today, The George Washington University announced the establishment of the GW Center for Cyber and Homeland Security (CCHS), which integrates and builds upon the activities of two existing policy centers within the George Washington University: the Homeland Security Policy Institute (HSPI) and the GW Cybersecurity Initiative. This new Center will build on the longstanding track record of these two entities and continue to engage in policy-relevant research and analysis on critical issues and challenges related to cybersecurity, counterterrorism, and homeland security.

The new Center will be governed by a Board of Directors and a Policy Advisory Committee, and will continue HSPI’s longstanding Senior Fellows program. It will carry out its work through four standing task forces that will shape the Center’s research and policy agenda and whose members will be drawn largely from the ranks of its governance committees and Senior Fellows:

Counterterrorism and Intelligence Task Force
Cybersecurity Task Force
Homeland Security Strategies and Emerging Threats Task Force
Preparedness and Infrastructure Resilience Task Force.

The Center is also establishing a corporate membership program, to provide a means for companies with interests in these areas to support the work of the Center and participate in its activities, including through events developed with the specific interests of its corporate members in mind.

The Center will operate under the continued direction of Frank Cilluffo, a former Special Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, and Christian Beckner, a former senior staffer with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee [who also started Homeland Security Watch].

The goal of these efforts is to establish and strengthen the re-named Center as a leading venue for independent and non-partisan policy analysis and research on homeland security, counterterrorism, and cybersecurity issues; and to provide valuable insights and context to key stakeholders in government, the private sector, and the media.

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