Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 31, 2006

Alaska town wastes homeland security funds on cameras

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,State and Local HLS — by Christian Beckner on March 31, 2006

NPR interviewed two residents of Dillingham, Alaska yesterday about the town’s purchase of 80 surveillance cameras with homeland security grant funds – one for every 30 residents of the town of 2,400 people. The interview contains many laughable statements by the city council member who defends the purchase, based on the fact that in the past 10-15 years, “three people have frozen to death” in areas now illuminated by cameras and says that in a town of that size, that’s a real tragedy. He later defends the town’s risk profile by noting that the Japanese parachuted bombs into Alaska during World War II.

The interviewer, Michele Norris, then makes an equally laughable attempt to be “fair and balanced” in the interview with this question to the town resident who is against the cameras:

“When you look at some of what happened in the subway bombings in London…now Dillingham is a long way away from London and a very different community to be sure, but when you look at what happened there and how police were able to make arrests fairly quickly because of the cameras that were installed all throughout the city of London, does that make you rethink that maybe in the rare event that something might happen there in Dillingham, then that might be a good idea?”

I’m all for media objectivity, but this is one instance there’s no reason why a journalist should be objective. This spending is so obviously wasteful that it deserves to be widely ridiculed and criticized. This story provides another data point in support of DHS’s push to shift homeland security grant funds to risk-based allocations.

You can see near-live feeds from the cameras here.

HLS in DC, April 3-7, 2006

Filed under: Events — by Christian Beckner on March 31, 2006

Below is a list of homeland security policy events in the DC area next week. I post a list each week and will sometimes update mid-week when I find new items. You can always find current and previous postings under the “Events” category tab at right. And please note that many events require prior invitations and/or RSVPs.

4/3: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace event with Rep. Jim Kolbe on “Dubai Ports World: Where National Security and International Trade and Investment Collide.” 1779 Mass Ave, NW, 9:30am.
4/3: Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing on immigration. Dirksen 226, 9:30am.
4/3: Forum on international trade and cargo security with Sen. Max Baucus et al. Hart 512, 10am.
4/4-4/6: Navy League Sea/Air/Space Exposition. Features panel session on 4/5 on maritime domain awareness. Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.
4/4: House Homeland Security Committee hearing on the Security and Accountability For Every (SAFE) Port Act. Cannon 311, 10am.
4/4: Senate Banking Committee hearing on “A Current Assessment of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Threats and Countermeasures.” Dirksen 538, 10am.
4/4: Senate Commerce Committee hearing on aviation security with TSA Administrator Kip Hawley. Dirksen 562, 10am.
4/4: House Government Reform Committee hearing on “Travel vs. Terrorism: Federal Workforce Issues in Managing Airport Security.” Rayburn 2203, 2pm.
4/4: House Government Reform Committee hearing on “Nuclear Security: Has the NRC Strengthened Facility Standards Since 9/11?” Rayburn 2247, 2pm.
4/5-4/6: ATTC conference entitled “Expert Panel on the Development of Standards for Biodefense.” Hay-Adams Hotel.
4/5: US Chamber of Commerce’s U.S.-Canada Business Dialogue features a panel discussion of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. 1615 H St NW, 8:15am.
4/5: Senate HSGAC hearing on “The Future of Port Security: The GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security Act.” Dirksen 342, 10am.
4/5: Senate Finance Committee hearing on the nomination of Ralph Basham to head Customs and Border Protection. Dirksen 215, 10am.
4/6: House Homeland Security Committee hearing on “Protection of Privacy in the DHS Intelligence Enterprise.” Cannon 311, 9am.
4/6: House Government Reform Committee hearing on “Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth: A Post-Katrina Review of International Disaster Assistance.” Rayburn 2154, 10am.
4/6: House International Relations Committee hearing on “Checking Terrorism at the Border.” Rayburn 2172, 10am.
4/6: Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the U.S. Coast Guard with Vice Adm. Thad Allen. Dirksen 192, 10:30am.
4/6: Congressional Fire Service Institute event on DHS preparedness efforts with DHS Asst. Secretary for Grants & Training Tracy Henke. Russell 325, 10:30am.
4/6: House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on “Project Bioshield Reauthorization Issues.” Rayburn 2123, 1pm.
4/6: House Appropriations Committee hearing on the FY 2007 budget request for CBP, ICE and the Secure Border Initiative. Rayburn 2359, 2pm.
4/6: Senate Appropriations hearing on the FY 2007 budget request for DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Dirksen 192, 2pm.
4/7: Center for American Progress book event on “Before the Next Attack: Preserving Civil Liberties in an Age of Terrorism” with Yale professor Bruce Ackerman. 1333 H St, NW, 9am.
4/7: House Government Reform Committee hearing on “One Flight a Week? Is General Aviation Really Back at Reagan National?” Rayburn 2154, 10am.
4/7: National Volunteer Fire Council conference with remarks by Sec. Chertoff. Arlington Sheraton, 1:45pm.

(Please e-mail me if you have suggestions about additions to this list for this week, or future weeks).

Interpol engages on the bioterrorism threat

Filed under: Biosecurity,International HLS — by Christian Beckner on March 31, 2006

Interpol held an Asian Regional Workshop on Preventing Bioterrorism this week in Singapore, the latest in a series of Interpol meetings on the topic of bioterrorism. From a news report on the meeting:

Police forces around the world are beginning to recognise bioterrorism as a serious threat despite sceptics who doubt that preventive measures are needed, the head of Interpol said in Singapore today.

Ronald Noble, secretary-general of the international police agency, warned of the danger of biological weapons during a workshop for police and other officials from across Asia.

Experts say a bioterrorist attack could be difficult to immediately detect and germs could be carried unnoticed by infected victims across continents.

“Some people still question whether the threat of bioterrorism is real, they question whether it is truly necessary to prepare for it. I have no doubt that the threat is real,” Noble said.

“If we have the chance to take measures to protect the citizens of our nations, to help reduce the chances of our countries of becoming a target, then we have a duty to do so,” he said.

“Police around the world are now also beginning to recognise and respond to this threat.”

Interpol’s engagement on the issue of bioterrorism seems like an appropriate and forward-leaning response to this threat, given the likely global impacts of a bioterror- or agroterror-related outbreak or pandemic. This is another indicator that Interpol is quietly playing a very important role in global counterterrorism and homeland security efforts.

DHS announces NIAC meeting

Filed under: DHS News — by Christian Beckner on March 31, 2006

From the Federal Register on Thursday:

SUMMARY: The National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) will meet in open session.
DATES: Tuesday, April 11, 2006, from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The agenda for the meeting will be available here in the next few days.

March 30, 2006

DHS reevaluates UASI grant decisions

Filed under: State and Local HLS — by Christian Beckner on March 30, 2006

From the San Diego Union Tribune:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will re-evaluate the formula it used in deciding to remove San Diego from a list of cities eligible to apply for anti-terrorism funding, the mayor announced Thursday. Mayor Jerry Sanders arrived in Washington, D.C., Wednesday to lobby the federal government to reverse its decision.

“I am pleased that the Department of Homeland Security was willing to listen to our concerns and take another look at border proximity and the presence of military bases as risk factors,” he said.

With the help of local legislators, Sanders said “we were clearly able to make a compelling case that San Diego belongs on the list of cities receiving the most homeland security dollars.”

This comes on the heels of a meeting that Sec. Chertoff held in February to reevaluate Las Vegas’ eligibility for UASI grants, and a lot of criticism about the exclusion of San Diego and Las Vegas. I wrote in Januarythat these two cities had good reason to be upset about their exclusion, and I’m glad to see that DHS is reconsidering their involvement in the UASI program.

Highway Watch revisited: what next for trucking security?

Filed under: Ground Transport Security — by Christian Beckner on March 30, 2006

Fleet Owner magazine has an article today that interviews the departing director of the American Trucking Association’s Highway Watch program, cites the program’s accomplishments, and highlights some of the challenges that it faces:

To date, Highway Watch has trained nearly 250,000 transportation professionals to identify and report emergencies and suspicious activities. [Don] Rondeau noted that although many large carriers have been trained and developed security protocols, he believes vulnerabilities remain in many medium and small trucking companies.

“I think that it will be difficult but we must do it,” Rondeau said. “We have to recognize that the owner-operator and the mid-sized trucking companies make up the bulk of the industry. They make up a significant portion of the risk associated with any potential event. If you’re a bad guy would you take advantage of a large corporation, or a guy that’s driving in his office? At the end of the day…we’d be remiss if we didn’t make sure that all members that are elements of the transportation sector could harden their security.”

I agree that these are real risks. The security of an open system like trucking is in a sense only as good as its weakest link. That’s why I worry that we haven’t done enough to secure the trucking sector, especially hazmat trucks, and the 770,000 shipments of hazardous materials that are moved on trucks each day. As I noted in a post in December 2005, the only two significant things that DHS has really done on trucking security are fund Highway Watch and conduct background checks on hazmat drivers. And while useful, that is not enough.


Does the trucking sector need the same degree of security as the aviation system? Absolutely not, since the threats and consequences are different, and the system is inherently difficult to protect. But we know that terrorists have used trucks dozens of times to carry out attacks. MIPT’s terrorism database includes 432 incident documents that include the word “truck.” And we know that there are scenarios where a truck can be used to cause substantial damage, both from painful experience and from hypothetical scenarios such as an intentional BLEVE. (See this video of an accidental LPG tanker truck BLEVE).

The threats and needs for trucking security are without a doubt greater than the level of funding that DHS has provided to address them. Instead, the DHS FY 2007 budget request shows little interest in trucking security; funding for Highway Watch (via the trucking industry security grant program) is nowhere to be found, and the TSA wants to eliminate funding for a hazardous materials truck tracking pilot project which is funded at $4 million this year. And there are no new initiatives to supercede these programs, as far as I can tell.

More thought needs to be given to a strategic, layered approach to trucking security – one that has a role for Highway Watch, but doesn’t end there, and includes activities such as better training and enhanced information-sharing for state Highway Patrols, incentives for the voluntary inclusion of security tools in truck telematic systems, a more direct role for security investment in the Intelligent Transportation Systems funding stream, and integration with air and maritime security activities.

The Onion on US-Mexico migration

Filed under: Humor — by Christian Beckner on March 30, 2006

See here for The Onion’s take on the current national debate over immigration:

In response to criticism over World Wrestling Entertainment hiring policies, World Wrestling Entertainment Chairman Vince McMahon defended the league’s reliance on Mexican wrestlers as “the only way fans can witness the grueling, bone-crunching maneuvers that American wrestlers want nothing to do with.”

McMahon made the remarks after the Border Patrol, an unaffiliated Texas-based tag team known for wrestling masked Mexicans and then reporting them to Immigration and Naturalization Service officials, revealed that dozens of illegal Mexican wrestlers join the WWE each year….

It is not known exactly how many Mexican wrestlers are on the WWE payroll, since many lack Social Security numbers, or even clear and verifiable identities, as McMahon himself admitted Monday. “I know as much about these masked wrestlers as the fans do,” McMahon said. “What’s certain is, they often seem marvelous and mysterious, saintly, and even rude.”

Yet some American-born wrestlers say they see the influx of Mexicans as a threat to current titleholders, with some going so far as to start on-camera feuds and challenge the Mexicans to special “Retirement Matches.”

March 29, 2006

Thad Allen confirmed as new Coast Guard commandant

Filed under: DHS News — by Christian Beckner on March 29, 2006

Sen. Ensign (R-NV) dropped his hold on Thad Allen’s nomination as Coast Guard commandant yesterday, and Allen was swiftly confirmed today. Sec. Chertoff’s statement in reaction to the confirmation:

I am delighted that Thad Allen has been confirmed by the Senate as the 23rd Commandant of the United States Coast Guard. Thad is a highly-respected Coast Guard veteran who has served our nation with distinction for more than three decades. He will more than justify the confidence that the President and Senate place in him. I commend the Senate for acting quickly to confirm Thad, and I look forward to his continued leadership at the department.

Democrats release a homeland security platform

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christian Beckner on March 29, 2006

The Democratic Party released a policy platform document today entitled “Real Security: The Democratic Plan to Protect America and Restore Our Leadership in the World.” The document contains one section on homeland security, which contains five bullet points:

  • Immediately implement the recommendations of the independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission including securing national borders, ports, airports and mass transit systems.
  • Screen 100% of containers and cargo bound for the U.S. in ships or airplanes at the point of origin and safeguard America’s nuclear and chemical plants, and food and water supplies.
  • Prevent outsourcing of critical components of our national security infrastructure — such as ports, airports and mass transit — to foreign interests that put America at risk.
  • Provide firefighters, emergency medical workers, police officers, and other workers on the front lines with the training, staffing, equipment, and cutting edge technology they need.
  • Protect America from biological terrorism and pandemics, including the Avian flu, by investing in
    the public health infrastructure and training public health workers.

It’s difficult to comment on platitudes; four out of five of these recommendations are directionally correct, but the devil is in the details, and the report does not elaborate on any of these points. The recommendation against outsourcing of national security infrastructure is a crude, kneejerk reaction to the Dubai Ports World episode, which I think is short-sighted for the reasons that I noted in this previous post.

CBO study looks at costs of container disruption

Filed under: Port and Maritime Security — by Christian Beckner on March 29, 2006

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report today entitled “The Economic Costs of Disruptions in Container Shipments,” in response to a congressional request for better data on the potential impacts of a disruptive event to port operations. The report models two scenarios:

  1. An unexpected one-week halt to all container traffic through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, the country’s two largest ports for such shipments;
  2. An unexpected three-year halt to all container traffic through those two ports as well as an initial precautionary one-week stoppage of container shipments at all U.S. ports.

The estimated economic costs of disruption in each of these scenarios:

CBO’s analysis of those scenarios provides rough estimates of the costs to the U.S. economy of disruptions in container traffic. Although in 2004 approximately $500 million worth of containerized imports flowed into the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach each day, the loss in production (gross domestic product, or GDP) from a oneweek shutdown of those ports would probably be less—between $65 million and $150 million per day.

Daily costs would be at least that large in the case of a three-year closure of those ports and an initial one-week stoppage of container movement at all U.S. ports. Simulations commissioned by CBO suggest that the three-year shutdown would reduce real (inflation-adjusted) GDP by between 0.35 percent and 0.55 percent, or $45 billion to $70 billion, per year. That reduction translates into daily costs ranging from $125 million to $200 million.

These totals are significantly lower than the frequently-cited estimate of $1 billion – $2 billion/day, a number put forward by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco during the 2002 port strike on the west coast (which is for the entire west coast, but is still larger even after you adjust for LA/Long Beach’s share). The difference between the models seems to relate to the fact that the CBO report is an “interindustry study” and assumes the ability of economic actors to adapt to changed circumstances; for example, by rerouting the shipment of goods to other ports or changing inventory management procedures. Nevertheless, these are still significant totals, and I believe that they provide a strong and sustained rationale for action on port and maritime security.

Overall, a very solid report, and I think that these statistics and figures should become the new baseline on which to model and assess disruptions to port operations and container movements.

US and Singapore sign LOI on homeland security R&D

Filed under: International HLS — by Christian Beckner on March 29, 2006

From the Xinhua news service:

Singapore and the United States signed here Wednesday a Letter of Intent (LOI) on Cooperation in Science and Technology for Homeland Security Matters, vowing to work toward a mutual agreement.

According to a joint statement issued by Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the two countries will carry out collaborative scientific and technological research and development and share solutions “to tackle homeland security and safety issues, ranging from terrorist incidents and border security to disaster rescue and recovery.”

The LOI was signed by Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, who arrived here Tuesday for a three-day official visit.

This sounds similar to the UK-US agreement on homeland security R&D reaceed in December 2004, although perhaps less ambitious in its scope. I’m a strong supporter of these types of agreements: cooperative efforts on homeland security R&D with key partner nations can be a critical lever for improving our own homeland security capabilities. This agreement isn’t a one-way street; the United States can learn from Singapore’s homeland security capabilities. I was in Singapore a few years ago, and was very impressed by the proficiency of the security measures at Changi Airport. We can likely learn a lot from their port and cargo security operations as well. Overall, this is a very positive contribution to DHS’s efforts to build a global network of homeland security stakeholders.

USA Today on the DHS “brain drain”

Filed under: DHS News,Organizational Issues — by Christian Beckner on March 29, 2006

USA Today gives front-page treatment to a story familiar to HLS Watch readers: the “brain drain” at DHS:

The Homeland Security Department is losing top managers and rank-and-file employees in a brain drain that could affect morale and the nation’s safety, according to members of Congress and labor experts.

Homeland Security is “hemorrhaging on the front lines and higher up,” says New York University professor Paul Light, an expert on the federal workforce. The turnover comes amid renewed threats of terrorism and as the department readies itself for another hurricane season.

Key vacancies include top leaders in the department’s cyber-security, technology and disaster response divisions.

The latest high-level departure came last week, when management chief Janet Hale announced she was leaving. She joined an exodus of top officials who have quit recently, many in the aftermath of Homeland Security’s failures surrounding Hurricane Katrina last fall.

This month, operations chief Matthew Broderick resigned. Last month, Science and Technology Undersecretary Charles McQueary resigned. And in January, Chief Financial Officer Andy Maner quit.

Meanwhile, the job of cyber-security chief has been vacant since last summer. David Paulison has been the acting chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency since Michael Brown resigned the $148,000 post in September; no permanent replacement has been found. FEMA is part of Homeland Security.

I actually don’t think that the departure of these senior managers is the key problem; that’s a natural part of the political appointee cycle. Instead, I’m more concerned about the delays with which people are replaced and posts are filled. And of arguably greater significance is the apparent dissatisfaction among the ranks of DHS’s career employees, both at headquarters and in the constituent agencies; they’re the lifeblood of DHS, who will still be around long after the current wave of political appointees has left the Department.

March 28, 2006

Chemical security legislation: the state of play

Filed under: Congress and HLS,Infrastructure Protection — by Christian Beckner on March 28, 2006

Last week I wrote about the chemical security forum where Sec. Chertoff laid out the DHS perspective on the issue. The media reaction to the event on major editorial pages has been largely negative towards DHS’s approach; the Philadelphia Inquirer described the event as a “bit too cozy with industry” and the New York Times wrote:

Take this week, when Mr. Chertoff appeared before executives of the chemical industry, whose plants remain one of the nation’s greatest vulnerabilities more than four years after 9/11. Mr. Chertoff did not chastise the industry for failing to protect chemical plants adequately. He proposed weak federal safety standards. He did not even fully embrace a recently introduced bipartisan Senate bill that would create meaningful standards.

Security Info Watch published a story today that offers the latest prognosis and assessment of chemical security legislation, in the wake of Chertoff’s remarks last week:

In many ways, the House and Senate bills as well as Chertoff’s proposal are right up the alley with the petrochem industry. Standardization of security is something good for the industry, says Spear, who adds that the legislation isn’t all rosy in the chemical industry’s eyes. Written into the legal language is text that may possibly move beyond security concerns and into environmental concerns. The primary issue is ISTs, or Inherently Safer Technologies. The concern with ISTs is that that the government could require that chemical plants change the chemicals they use or the processes they employ so that there would be less risk at the plants to begin with.

It’s something that the chemical industry thinks is a real hold-up with the legislation. In S.2145, it’s not clear whether the legislation is open to the requirement of ISTs, but the letter writing from the industry has already begun.

“As your committee considers S. 2145, I respectfully request that provisions dealing with inherently safer technologies (ISTs) and federal preemption of state law be clarified,” wrote Nance K. Dicciani, the president and CEO of Honeywell’s Specialty Materials division in charge of the company’s chemical plants to Senator Collins. “Honeywell believes the current language could be interpreted by the Department of Homeland Security as authorizing ISTs, and by states to allow conflicting requirements that could adversely impact interstate commerce.”

The second concern, as Dicciani’s letter indicated, is whether states would be able to pre-empt the federal regulations, creating what really could be a messy scenario where security requirements are moving targets, entirely dependent on which side of the state line you stand.

“We would like uniformity in the form of federal standards,” says Spear. “This is a heavily regulated industry already. We’re not unaccustomed to regulations within the chemical industry. In fact, many times regulations are helpful because they provide clarity on how we’re supposed to comply. The worst thing you can have in the chemical industry is ambiguity in regulations.”

I can’t escape the conclusion after reading this that the chemical industry is trying to shift the goalposts in this debate. The Collins-Lieberman bill already was an attempt to craft compromise legislation. Its lack of a mandate for the use of inherently safe technologies is a victory for the chemical industry. That’s countered by a provision that allows states to set stricter standards, which seems consistent to me with the finest principles of federalism (and if companies don’t like a certain state’s standards, they can use the market to respond by shifting investment to other states).

My main concern with this shift isn’t with the actual policy issues, but the fact that this could lead to additional delay. The time for any party in this debate to introduce new points of contention has passed. We don’t have the luxury of delaying this legislation any longer.

GAO reports on radiological smuggling out Tuesday

Filed under: Congress and HLS,Radiological & Nuclear Threats — by Christian Beckner on March 28, 2006

On the eve of his Senate hearing on “Neutralizing The Nuclear And Radiological Threat: Securing the Global Supply Chain,” Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) distributed three GAO reports to the media that will be publicly released at the hearing. From CNN’s description of the first report:

Two teams of government investigators using fake documents were able to enter the United States with enough radioactive sources to make two dirty bombs, according to a federal report made available Monday.

The investigators purchased a “small quantity” of radioactive materials from a commercial source, according to a Government Accountability Office report prepared for Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Chairman Norm Coleman, a Minnesota Republican.

The investigators posed as employees of a fictitious company and brought the materials into the United States through checkpoints on the northern and southern borders, the report stated.

And the second report:

A second GAO report notes that while the departments of State, Energy and Defense have provided radiation-detection equipment to 36 countries since 1994 to combat nuclear smuggling, operating the equipment has proven challenging.

Those challenges include technical limitations of some of the equipment, a lack of supporting infrastructure at some border sites and corruption of some foreign border security officials.

And on the third report:

A third GAO report observes that, while the Department of Homeland Security has made progress in deploying radiation-detection equipment at U.S. ports — which include 670 portal monitors and more than 19,000 pieces of hand-held radiation detection equipment as of last December — the agency’s program goals are “unrealistic” and its cost estimate is “uncertain.”

GAO’s analysis concluded that the program may exceed its budget by $342 million.

I’ll loathe to make a judgment until I see the full reports, but my initial impression from a close read of this story and related stories is that this is not necessarily the bad-news story for DHS, DOE, et al. that the relevant news headlines would imply. There are still gaps in the system, and the GAO is right to point these out. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. But I think the federal government has made a lot of solid progress in the area of radiological and nuclear detection in the last four years, dealing with a challenge which is always going to be inherently difficult due to the scientific realities of detecting certain types of materials.

Also, while we definitely do need to improve border detection capabilities, I think we need to be careful not to put all of our resources on the single point of failure at the border. Instead, we need a smart, layered strategy for nuclear and radiological detection that integrates border detection efforts with interior detection efforts, includes an enhanced role for state and local law enforcement, and is integrated with the intelligence community.

Update (3/28): The reports and the prepared testimony from the hearing are available here.

Border legislation moves forward in the Senate

Filed under: Border Security,Congress and HLS — by Christian Beckner on March 28, 2006

Border security legislation is moving forward fast and furiously in the Senate, with the Specter bill moving out of the Judiciary Committee by a 12-6 vote tonight following a series of amendments. Meanwhile, Sen. Frist is still indicating that he wants to move on the stripped-down border security legislation that he introduced last week as an alternative to the Specter bill, put Minority Leader Harry Reid has promised to tie up that bill procedurally. Meanwhile, President Bush gave a speech today that reiterated his support for a guest worker program, arguing that this would not amount to amnesty. All this come against the backdrop of the protests this weekend in Los Angeles and other cities over the prospect of new immigration and border security legislation. And don’t forget that we’re still in the mid-innings of this debate: all of this is really just positioning for the likely House-Senate conference to reconcile H.R. 4437 and whichever bill passes the Senate.

I’ve offered periodic predictions as to the likely outcome of this debate on border security legislation. It’s still difficult to forecast the endgame with any certainty, but one way to predict the outcome is to ask: who needs to compromise? And who can afford not to compromise? For example:

  • Will compromise with the Senate and the White House help or hurt the ability of the House Republicans to retain control of the House in the November elections?
  • Will the supporters of Specter’s bill be tarred with the charge of “amnesty” to their political detriment?
  • Will Sen. Frist jeopardize his ability to attract Hispanic voters in a Presidential run by putting forward this alternative bill?
  • How strongly will Bush insist on a guest-worker program at the end of the day – would he sign a bill without one as a political necessity in September or October?
  • Will the rallies and protests against punitive legislation build support for a more lenient bill, or will they instead backfire?

The debate on the Senate floor in the next couple of weeks about this legislation should be interesting. Stay tuned.

New blog from security expert Jeff Jonas

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing,Privacy and Security — by Christian Beckner on March 28, 2006

Fellow IBMer Jeff Jonas, one of the top experts in the country on the issues at the intersection of security, privacy, and technology, has started a new blog. He’s written a number of very interesting posts in the past few weeks on issues such as data-mining, NSA surveillance, information-sharing, and endurance races. Check it out.

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