Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 31, 2007

The Mailman Cometh: E-Verify, No-Match, and Other Immigration Developments Short of Legislation

Filed under: Border Security,Legal Issues — by Jonah Czerwinski on August 31, 2007

Letters from the Department of Homeland Security will start being mailed out the day after Labor Day (nice touch) to warn employers of the ~ 8 million workers in the U.S. that they must fire any employee without a valid Social Security number or risk criminal charges and fines. 

DHS Secretary Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Gutierrez announced on August 16 a series of border security and immigration measures under the titles e-Verify and Social Security No-Match rule.  The measures are intended to improve worksite enforcement and enhance current guest worker programs, among other things.  The Administration has described these efforts as the next best alternative to legislation that would have reformed several immigration polices had any legislation passed. 


The e-Verify program enables employers to check the work status of their employees online. The-Verify system compares information taken from the I-9 work eligibility verification form and matches it against the Social Security Administration’s database and the DHS immigration databases. The Social Security No-Match rule instructs an employer how to respond to a no-match letter from the Social Security Administration regarding an employee whose name and SSN do not match government records.  A mismatch can imply wrongdoing on the part of either the employee or the employer.  The new rule is intended to reduce fraudulent use of Social Security numbers for the purposes of gaining or providing jobs to illegal immigrants. 

An Administration Fact Sheet on this development is available here. 

The business community gave very tepid support to the Administration’s comprehensive immigration reform efforts when they were not flat out opposing it.  The enforcement of “E-Verify” is among the more invasive measures in the announcement.  This is the most recent incarnation of the Basic Pilot and the Employment Eligibility Verification System (EEVS).  E-Verify affects employers significantly by placing the burden on them to know whether they are in violation of the law and to take measures that either confirm an employee’s legal status (via the SSN) or unemploy those who are not legal or unable to prove their status.   

The E-Verify system will be a portal through which employers may submit an employee’s SSN and other identifiers (name, etc) to match against the Social Security Administration’s records.  If the SSA returns a “No-Match” letter, employers are required to cease employment within 90 days or face fines 25% higher than previously.  The E-Verify system is said to be challenged by an error rate ranging from 4%-11%.  The Administration’s plan calls for E-Verify to begin with all 200,000 federal contractors before expanding to states.  Even with this initial tier, the error rate risks significant false positives leading to inefficiencies for employers, unnecessary hardship for workers wrongly identified as unemployable, and the risk of legal challenges.  The immigration reform bill included a redress or repeal process, but it is unclear how E-Verify is prepared in this regard. 

The following table was created by Maggio Kattar, a law firm usually hired by the private sector to help them navigate immigration restrictions.  The table illustrates the no-match procedures and prescribed timeframes:


Final Rule

Employer receives letter from SSA or DHS indicating mismatch of employees name and social security number.

Day 1

Employer checks own records, makes any necessary corrections of errors and verifies corrections with SSA or DHS.

1-30 Days

If necessary, employer notifies employee and asks employee to assist in correction.

1-90 Days

If necessary, employer corrects own records and verifies correction with SSA or DHS.

1-90 Days

If necessary, employer performs special I-9 procedure.

91-93 Days

According to this framework, affected employees may continue to be employed. However, once an employer discovers that an employee is unemployable under the no-match procedure, the employer must terminate employment or face fines. 

August 29, 2007

New Members of DHS HSAC Named

Filed under: DHS News — by Jonah Czerwinski on August 29, 2007

Must be a slow news week(s) for CQ Homeland Security to take off for about 17 days.  (They are back up on 9/4/07.)  But we’re still watching developments.  I’ve commented here in the past on the work of the DHS Homeland Security Advisory Council, which was the President’s Homeland Security Advisory Council until the Department stood up.  Outside advice is nearly always a good thing when it comes to running a bureaucracy of ~185,000 people. 

The added challenge for the HSAC is that the subject of homeland security is so frustratingly broad it is difficult to populate an advisory council with individuals representing the needed specialties while still expecting a group of people with little in common to work together.  The HSAC is ironing that out.  They have the following subgroups: 

They’ve also established a working group focused on the mission of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office.  The DNDO leadership has so far been very forward leaning in seeking outside counsel.  There are at least three groups focused on this challenge of combating smuggled nuclear weapons. 

Yesterday, Secretary Chertoff announced the appointment of three new members to the HSAC and ten new members to the subcommittees. 

The three new members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council: 

County Supervisor
Don Knabe will serve as the chairman of the State and Local Officials Senior Advisory Committee. Supervisor Knabe was first elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in November 1996. In 2006, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Knabe to the California Emergency Council. 

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue will be Vice Chairman of the State and Local Officials Senior Advisory Committee.

Dr. John “Skip” Williams is the provost and vice president for health affairs; professor of anesthesiology and of health services management and leadership at George Washington University. Dr. Williams previously served as a member of the HSAC’s Emergency Response Senior Advisory Committee.  Skip Williams is also a champion of the Homeland Security Policy Institute that Frank Cilluffo founded at GWU in 2004.  Frank’s already a member of the HSAC. 

The three new members of the HSAC’s State and Local Officials Senior Advisory Committee:  

Trenton, N.J., Mayor Douglas Palmer is the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the New Jersey Urban Mayor’s Association.  

Sugar Land, TX, Mayor David Wallace is co-chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Homeland Security Task Force and also serves as a trustee member of the Executive Committee.

IN State Senator Thomas Wyss is chairman of the Homeland Security, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs Committee in the Indiana Senate. Senator Wyss will serve as the organizational representative for the National Conference of State Legislatures. 

The two new members of the HSAC’s Private Sector Senior Advisory Committee: 

Nelson H. Balido is founder of Balido & Associates, Inc. a public strategies, multicultural marketing, and real estate consulting firm. He worked at SBC Communications (AT&T) as the director of multicultural marketing. In 2003, the governor of Texas appointed Nelson to a six-year term as the commissioner of the Texas Commission on the Arts. 

Emily Walker, managing director at Citigroup in London, recently served as business executive advisor to the United Nations World Food Program on loan from Citigroup to set up an emergency network for corporate donations to global disasters. She also served as professional staff member and family liaison for the 9/11 Commission. 

The two new members of the HSAC’s Emergency Response Senior Advisory Committee: 

Ellis M. Stanley Sr. is the general manager of the City of Los Angeles Emergency Preparedness Department. He is past president of the International Association of Emergency Managers, a Certified Emergency Manager, and a member of the National Advisory Board for Harvard University’s National Preparedness Leadership Institute.

Joseph White is the CEO of the American Red Cross, St. Louis Area Chapter. Mr. Whitehas deployed on many disaster assignments, including to Baton Rouge and New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Mr. White serves on the National American Red Cross President’s Advisory Council. 

The three new members of the HSAC’s Secure Borders and Open Doors Advisory Committee:

Thomas J. Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Donohue served 13 years as president and CEO of the American Trucking Association. 

Susan Ginsburg, Esq. is a visiting senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute and private consultant. Ms. Ginsburg served as senior counsel and team leader on the staff of the 9/11 Commission and was responsible for research and policy recommendations concerning the entry of the 9/11 hijackers, terrorist travel, and border controls. Ginsburg worked at Treasury as senior advisor and firearms policy coordinator for the Under Secretary for Enforcement. 

Stephen Payne is the president of Worldwide Strategic Partners and Worldwide Strategic Energy.  He is also board member of the National Defense University Foundation and the U.S. Baltic Foundation.

August 28, 2007

The One That Didn’t Get Away

Filed under: Events — by Jonah Czerwinski on August 28, 2007

Radio silence these last few days is due to a fishing trip off the coast of Key West with friends Max Angerholzer III, Kyle Downey, Sam Glass, and Jeffrey Lewis (you should know his blog, ArmsControlWonk.com).  Even Big Max (Jr.) joined us for the fun.


In Key West, they call it a grand slam if your boat catches at least one dolphinfish, a wahoo, and a sailfish.  The last one is the most difficult, but we caught our grand slam with the sailfish coming in at 7’10” and almost 50 pounds.  All of us caught a dolphin fish except Sam; he reeled in our wahoo.  Special thanks to Daniel Foster for lending us his home as our Key West base for those few days off.

Two new posts follow below:

HLS Biz Watch

Filed under: Business of HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on August 28, 2007

ICF International won three nine-month contracts worth a total of $1.6 million from the San Francisco Office of Emergency Management to help coordinate and improve local disaster preparedness. 

Serco Inc. won a three-year contract from the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center for $62 million to expand its existing port and antiterrorism security systems at Navy ports. 

Both the RHG Group and Transcom won $7 million contracts from DHS for transportation services.

DHS Leadership Schedule (subject to change, and usually does)

Filed under: DHS News — by Jonah Czerwinski on August 28, 2007

Tuesday, August 28
10:00 AM EDT
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Chief of Citizenship Alfonso Aguilar will participate in a task force on new American volunteer outreach.
Boston City Hall, Piemonte Conference Room, 5th Floor
One City Hall Plaza, Boston, MA

1:45 PM CDT
Secretary Michael Chertoff and Governor Bob Riley will view a demonstration by the U.S. Coast Guard’s Deployable Operations Group (DOG) Coast Guard Aviation Training Center
Hanger 2
8501 Tanner Williams Road
Mobile, AL
** Media must contact Lieutenant Aaron Ortenzio (251)583-1359 or Lieutenant Junior Grade Tavis McElheny (251)533-9013 no later than 12:00 PM on Tuesday for clearance. B-roll opportunity will be available.

3:15 PM CDT
Secretary Michael Chertoff and Governor Bob Riley will view a demonstration of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System
Coast Guard Aviation Training Center
Hanger 2
8501 Tanner Williams Road
Mobile, AL
OPEN PRESS ** Media must contact Lieutenant Aaron Ortenzio (251)583-1359 or Lieutenant Junior Grade Tavis McElheny (251)533-9013 no later than 12:00 PM on Tuesday for clearance. B-roll opportunity will be available.

3:25 PM CDT
Secretary Michael Chertoff will participate in a press availability with Governor Bob Riley Coast Guard Aviation Training Center
Hanger 2
8501 Tanner Williams Road
Mobile, AL
OPEN PRESS ** Media must contact Lieutenant Aaron Ortenzio (251)583-1359 or Lieutenant Junior Grade Tavis McElheny (251)533-9013 no later than 12:00 PM on Tuesday for clearance.

Wednesday, August 29
8:00 AM EDT
Senior Advisor for the Privacy Office Toby Levin will lead a panel discussion on privacy incident response at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s 2007 Security Conference and Workshop “The Keys to Securing the Homeland”
Sheraton Hotel, Potomac Room
300 South Charles Street
Baltimore, MD

9:00 AM EDT
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Emilio Gonzalez will lead a groundbreaking ceremony for the Miami and Caribbean Office
Corner of North West 59th Avenue and Miami Gardens Drive
Miami, FL

10:15 AM EDT
Privacy Office Director of Privacy Technology Peter Sand and Privacy Impact Assessment Coordinator Nathan Coleman will lead a panel discussion on privacy documentation guidance at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s 2007 Security Conference and Workshop “The Keys to Securing the Homeland”
Sheraton Hotel, Potomac Room
300 South Charles Street
Baltimore, MD

1:30 PM EDT
Privacy Office Director of Privacy Technology Peter Sand will lead a panel on privacy technology at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s 2007 Security Conference and Workshop “The Keys to Securing the Homeland”
Sheraton Hotel, Potomac Room
300 South Charles Street
Baltimore, MD

2:30 PM EDT
Senior Advisor for the Privacy Office Toby Levin will lead a panel on privacy policy guidance discussion at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s 2007 Security Conference and Workshop “The Keys to Securing the Homeland”
Sheraton Hotel, Potomac Room
300 South Charles Street
Baltimore, MD

Thursday, August 30
10:00 AM EDT
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Emilio Gonzalez and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz will participate in naturalization ceremony for 151 new Americans
Broward County Library.
100 South Avenue
Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Friday, August 31
Events TBD

August 21, 2007

Terrorism Index Released

Filed under: Risk Assessment,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Jonah Czerwinski on August 21, 2007

Yesterday included a post here highlighting a number of critical questions posed by the GAO in a wide ranging study of national challenges that will take about 100 years to address.  Among them was a set of questions dealing with homeland security that I believe would be excellent fodder for a presidential debate leading up to 2008.  The Center for American Progress decided not to wait for the politicians.  They ran their third annual Terrorism Survey of policy wonks earlier this summer and released the findings yesterday. 

By querying 108 experts (representing a weighted breakdown of an equal number of conservatives and liberals, as well as a bulk identifying themselves as moderate), CAP – in partnership with Foreign Policy – gives us a stark assessment of where we stand in terms of combating terrorism and generally keeping America safe from deadly adversaries.  The survey asks 30 direct questions (and a number of questions about the participants themselves).  The results are insightful and the authors provide their own analysis here. 

A few specific questions are worth noting: 


The single greatest threat as “Nuclear materials/weapons” shows the only perfectly even breakdown that I could find so far.  28 Conservatives and 28 Liberals considered this the singled greatest threat.  Its unclear if they meant nuc weapons generally or in the possession of someone or some country in particular.  Perhaps another line in this answer set sheds light on this: Iran ranks as dangerously as climate change according to the weighted totals. 


No one strongly believes that we are winning a war on terror.  Judging by the totals, this one isn’t even remotely close.  The survey’s methodology shows the cross-section of participants.  This is a group representing an even spread across the political spectrum.

The following is the fifth question with only the top two options listed.  They are the most surprising of the answers: 


Not a single conservative chose a stable and secure Iraq as the most important U.S. policy objective.  But 26 liberals did.  At least the so-called “hearts and minds” issue remains in the top slot.  Just how we pursue that objective would take another survey entirely.

The eighth question in the survey gets down to judging the institutions responsible for improving the picture:

Below are departments and agencies involved in protecting the American people from global terrorist networks and in advancing U.S. national security goals. Thinking about the period from 9/11 to the present day and recognizing that different offices within U.S. government agencies/ departments perform at different levels, please rate each agency /department overall on a scale of 0 to 10.

 Survey says:


No HSC?  The Department of Homeland Security is ranked slightly below average across the board.  It is helpful that the surveyors included the National Security Council, which fared worse than any of the other eight agencies on the list.  But no mention of the White House Homeland Security Council?  Perhaps that’s a worse fate. 

The following question helps to convey the political balance that the Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy strove for.  The former is not known for doing this, but its not their role anyway.  This topic, however, is too important to represent only half of the political spectrum. 


According to this response, the breakdown between conservative and liberal gradients is almost perfectly equal.

August 20, 2007

If I Were President…

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on August 20, 2007

Wouldn’t it be great if homeland security ranked up there with the big five of presidential debates (health care, social values, economy, taxes, all out war)? Many of us watched as John Kerry and George W. Bush agreed during their first debate of the 2004 campaign that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists represented the most serious threat to the homeland. We watched and thought this was kerry-bush-debate-2004.jpgremarkable for two reasons. First, these two agreed on something. Second, they were about to start focusing on the details of securing the homeland as part of a public discourse as a determinant for the election. Or so we thought. The campaigns soon returned to their corners and the topic of homeland security was returned to its somewhat bumper-sticker status.

In the next election, which is apparently already underway, we likely will not witness the ascension of homeland security to the top of the issues list beyond the necessary nod to such things as grants tied to risk, securing public mass transit, and perhaps an enlightened reference to rolling back root causes.

But let’s be hopeful. The GAO issued a study they call 21st Century Challenges: Reexamining the Base of the Federal Government. In it, the GAO identifies twelve “reexamination areas” in which the public’s attention should be invested. Among those areas is homeland security. The writers of this report close in on eight broad areas to be addressed with specific questions as follows:

What is an acceptable level of risk to guide homeland security strategies and investments, particularly federal funding? For example, how should risk be managed in making sound threat, risk, and criticality assessments, developing countermeasure options, and implementing those options considered the most effective and the most efficient? What criteria should be used to target federal funding for homeland security in order to maximize results and mitigate risk within available resource levels?

What new international and domestic strategies and related tactics will effectively confront the asymmetric tactics we now face and, for the longer term, address the root causes of terrorism? For example, how can we best anticipate, and thus counter, asymmetric threats such as suicide attacks, biological and chemical terrorism, and cyber attacks? What approaches will address the root causes of terrorism, whether from domestic or international groups? For example, should the current U.S. approach to overseas broadcasting be realigned to target and better reach audiences in areas where new threats are?

Are existing incentives sufficient to support private sector protection of critical infrastructure it owns, and what changes might be necessary? How can intelligence and information on threats be shared with other levels of government and other critical entities, yet be held secure?

What is the most viable way to approach homeland security results management and accountability? For example, how should progress in the current war on terrorism be measured and assessed? What are the appropriate goals for prevention, vulnerability reduction, and response and recovery? Who is accountable for the many components of homeland security when many partners and functions and disciplines are involved? How can these actors be held accountable and by whom?

What should be the role of federal, state, and local governments in identifying risks – from nature or man – in individual states and localities and establishing standards for the equipment, skills, and capacities that first responders need?

What costs should be borne by federal, state, and local governments or the private sector in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters large and small – whether the acts of nature or man, accidental or deliberate?

To what extent and how should the federal government encourage and foster a role for regional or multistate entities in emergency planning and response?

Those questions are ideal prompts to direct the attention of the presidential candidates and nominees for this next election. Indeed, answers to those questions would set the stage for a heck of a transition.

August 16, 2007

NYPD Intel Unit Releases Study on Terror Radicalization in U.S.

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Jonah Czerwinski on August 16, 2007

The NYPD released a study created by their Intelligence Division that analyzes the nature and evolution of terrorism radicalization and recruitment.  Entitled Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat, the report presents a “conceptual framework for understanding the process of radicalization in the West,” which is based on an analysis of five U.S.-based incidents: 

Lackawana, New York
Portland, Oregon

Northern Virginia

New York City –
Herald Square Subway
New York City – The Al Muhajiroun Two (see page 66 of the report)

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly introduces this new study by explaining that “understanding this [terrorist recruitment] trend and the radicalization process in the West that drives it is vital for developing effective counterstrategies.”  This is why, Kelly continues, the “NYPD places a priority on understanding what drives and defines the radicalization process.” 

The NYPD suggests that a prime differentiator in the cases of the five incidents studied is that the perpetrators are “unremarkable.”  The authors of the report, Mitchell D. Silber and Arvin Bhatt of the NYPD Intelligence Division, apply the term about a dozen times in the report to suggest a new evolution of the terrorist threat in the U.S.: It could be anybody.

By this the report intends to explain that the traditional antecedents to an attack – perpetrators with criminal records, a presence on watchlists, observable anti-American behavior, travel to certain overseas locations – no longer necessarily present themselves even when a terrorist plan has become operational.  The report explains that the process of radicalization and recruitment can be characterized as follows: 


Each of the four stages is treated with detail.  In addition to a serious, if somewhat academic, definition of radicalization, the report provides an in-depth threat assessment from the perspective of the NYPD as informed by such well known experts as RAND’s Brian Jenkins.  In the end, the treatment given by this report may do well to highlight the interconnected nature of this threat across national boundaries and thereby give better impetus to a collaborative approach with allies and friends.  This is something the NYPD is known for doing well.  Another byproduct could be a more intentional assessment of drivers, which we called “root causes” years ago before the use of that phrase fell out of popular favor. 

This vitally important subject is covered in other posts here with links to related content from across the policy community.

August 14, 2007

HLS Technology Discussion

Filed under: Technology for HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on August 14, 2007

The launch of the DC Security Breakfast Series takes place next month. Begun at the Harvard Club in New York in June, this appears to be a valuable addition to Washington wonkdom, albeit with an earlier start on the day. Details:

What’s Next: The Future of Homeland Security Tech

September 18, 2007, 8:00-9:30am

David Bodenheimer, Partner, Crowell & Moring



  • Crowell & Moring LLP
  • Legend Merchant Group
  • RSVP required: Gordon Platt via gordonplatt [at] yahoo [dot] com

    Note: Thanks to reader Claire for noticing a missing piece of information: The host asked that I not disclose the location.  Those interested in attending may contact via RSVP.  I do not believe that there is a cost associated with this event.

    August 13, 2007

    This week’s schedule for DHS leadership (subject to change)

    Filed under: DHS News — by Jonah Czerwinski on August 13, 2007

    Monday, August 13
    11:00 AM CDT
    Secretary Michael Chertoff will participate in a press availability with Mayor Ray Nagin
    New Orleans City Hall, 1300 Perdido Street
    New Orleans, LA

    2:00 PM CDT
    Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Ralph Basham and Mexico Customs Administrator General Juan Jose Bravo will sign a Bilateral Strategic Plan agreement that establishes the principles the U.S. and Mexico will follow in the exploration and deployment of projects to enhance the flow of commerce and the security of the border.
    Salón Panamericano de Palacio Nacional
    Mexico City, Mexico

    2:30 PM CDT
    Secretary Michael Chertoff will participate in a press availability with Governor Kathleen Blanco U.S. Coast Guard Sector New Orleans
    200 Hammond Highway
    Metairie, LA

    3:45 PM MDT
    Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis and Chief Intelligence Officer Charlie Allen will participate on a panel on strengthening intelligence through diversity at the Border Security Conference.
    University of Texas, El Paso
    University Undergraduate Learning Center
    500 West University Avenue
    El Paso, TX

    Tuesday, August 14
    8:30 AM
    Secretary Michael Chertoff will deliver remarks at the Border Security Conference on securing and managing our nation’s borders.
    University of Texas, El Paso
    University Undergraduate Learning Center
    500 West University Avenue
    El Paso, TX

    9:15 AM MDT
    Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad W. Allen and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Chief Patrol Agent, El Paso Sector, Vic Manjarrez will participate on a panel at the Border Security Conference.
    University of Texas, El Paso
    University Undergraduate Learning Center
    500 West University Avenue
    El Paso, TX

    1:15 PM MDT
    Secretary Chertoff will deliver remarks to the Border Patrol Academy
    Indian Police Academy Memorial
    Federal Law Enforcement Training Center
    1300 West Richey Avenue
    Artesia, NM

    Wednesday, August 15
    10:00 AM PDT

    Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad W. Allen will preside over a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Coast Guard’s Joint Harbor Operations Center
    Coast Guard Sector Seattle
    1519 Alaskan Way South
    Seattle, WA

    Thursday, August 16
    9:00 AM EDT
    Secretary Chertoff will deliver remarks at the quarterly meeting of the Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
    Ronald Reagan Building
    Rotunda Ballroom
    1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC

    10:30 AM EDT
    U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Emilio Gonzalez will deliver the keynote address at the groundbreaking of a new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Field Office.
    11411 East Jefferson Avenue
    Detroit, MI

    Friday, August 17
    Events TBD

    August 9, 2007

    Data Consolidation Proposal Billed as “Secure Flight” Measure

    Filed under: Aviation Security,Technology for HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on August 9, 2007

    DHS announced today passenger prescreening measures to improve matching against government watch lists.  To do this, DHS is publishing two regulations:

    (1) Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) Predeparture Final Rule, which enables DHS to collect manifest information for international flights departing from or arriving in the United States prior to boarding; and

    (2) Secure Flight Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), which lays out DHS plans to assume watch list matching responsibilities from air carriers for domestic flights and align domestic and international passenger prescreening.

    According to the DHS announcement, the changes are intended to improve targeting for determining which passengers pose a threat.  The result should be more accurate assessments of potentially dangerous passengers while easing the imposition on legitimate travelers.   This includes “better resolution for misidentified passengers,” the announcement says.  I presume this means applying more effective redress protocols to enable passengers wrongly identified as being on a watchlist so that they may be removed from it.  Presently, it is not clear how this change affects the existing DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP).

    APIS results from a mandate in the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA).  The new measure will require air carriers to submit passenger data 30 minutes prior to departure or as each passenger checks in for the flight.  According to the statement:

    Receiving both APIS and PNR data at least 30 minutes before a plane departs allows DHS to perform security checks against federal watch lists prior to passenger boarding, taking this responsibility from carriers and eliminating potential flight diversions due to watch list concerns.  For vessels departing from foreign ports bound for the United States, current requirements to transmit passenger and crew arrival manifest data between 24 to 96 hours prior to arrival will remain unchanged, but requires vessel carriers to transmit APIS data 60 minutes prior to departure from the United States. The APIS final rule follows an NPRM [notice of proposed rulemaking] published in the Federal Register on July 14, 2006.

     The Screening Coordination Office, which is led by Kathy Kraninger at DHS, is leading an effort to provide air carriers with “consolidated data submission requirements,” according to the statement.  This is to be done by integrating Secure Flight data and the APIS data into one stream. This is a helpful fact sheet describing implications of this change.

    Once published in the Federal Register, the APIS final rule and the Secure Flight NPRM will be open for comment via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.

    August 8, 2007

    DHS Privacy Office Updates Targeting Records

    Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing,Legal Issues,Privacy and Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on August 8, 2007

    DHS Chief Privacy Officer Hugo Teufel III last Friday announced that the Department has released four Privacy Act records involving DHS’s Automated Targeting System (ATS). These records have been posted to the department’s public Web site and were scheduled to appear Monday in the Federal Register.  The four records are an updated System of Records Notice (SORN), the Discussion of Public Comments Received on the SORN, a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Privacy Act Exemptions, and a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA).  

    After receiving hundreds of comments regarding the initial SORN published in November 2006, the department revised it in the following way:

    •        ATS-P will retain the information for a far shorter period of time. The retention period is now 15 years (7 years active and 8 years dormant), a significant decrease from the proposed 40-year period.

    •        Under ATS-P, the purposes for which Passenger Name Record data (PNR) may be used have been narrowed.

    •        The SORN implements the department’s mixed system policy, which administratively extends the protections of the Privacy Act of 1974 to non-U.S. persons by providing access and redress to their PNR data.  

    According to Teufel, DHS does not collect information on race, ethnicity, religion, or orientation, or make decisions based on such information, and to the extent such information may be provided by a carrier, the department filters that information.  More information about this announcement is available.

    US-VISIT Opens Renovated Biometric Support Center

    Filed under: Border Security,Technology for HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on August 8, 2007

    US-VISIT last week opened a newly remodeled Biometric Support Center (BSC) in
    San Diego, Calif. The BSC/West was established in 1995. Initially, it was opened to provide fingerprint verification services to Immigration and Naturalization Service.  The BSC/West operates 24/7 with a staff of twenty-seven.  The BSC/West counts the following metrics:

    •        54,962 fugitive warrant verifications.

    •        622,000 fingerprint comparisons in FY 2007.

    •        81 verifications of unknown deceased subjects in FY 2007. 

    TSA Tests New Passenger Imaging Technologies

    Filed under: Aviation Security,Technology for HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on August 8, 2007

    TSA last week announced contract awards to begin testing millimeter wave imaging machines and backscatter machines at airports in Phoenix, Los Angeles, and New York’s JFK. These passenger imaging technologies screen passengers for weapons, explosives, and other metallic and non-metallic threats under layers of clothing.

    The announcement includes contract awards to American Science & Engineering (backscatter), L-3 Communications (millimeter wave), and Rapiscan Systems (backscatter). Total cost of the initial contracts is ~$2.3 million, with options to escalate. More information available here.

    August 5, 2007

    GAO on Sentinel, US-VISIT, DOS Visas

    Filed under: Border Security,Intelligence and Info-Sharing — by Jonah Czerwinski on August 5, 2007

    GAO just released three studies.  The first reviews FBI’s management of acquiring and implementing Sentinel, which is a program slated to replace and improve upon the FBI’s failed Virtual Case File project.  The Sentinel program is critical to FBI’s need to modernize case management and information sharing obligations.  Think of this as a case of the opposite of the Deepwater project run by Lockheed for the Coast Guard: this GAO report actually focuses on how well the project is going.  For GAO to publish something positive is a rarity.  This report highlights “best practices” used by FBI to implement Sentinel with IBM.  Complete report available here.

    sentinel-org-chart.jpg (click thumbnail)

    The second study scrutinizes the privacy protection capabilities of the US-VISIT technology.  Intended to track all those people who enter and exit at any of the country’s 285 air, sea, and land ports of entry, US-VISIT is an ambitious undertaking — and a frequent subject of GAO studies.  Given the various sources of information DHS draws upon in order to run US-VISIT, matters pertaining to privacy rank at the top for members of Congress.  This GAO report gets into just this topic, but also weighs in on the information sharing capabilities of US-VISIT to determine if the program does a good enough job of sharing the info that it hoovers with the practioners who need it operationally.  Following is an image from the GAO study that illustrates this range of entities within the US-VISIT orbit.  Complete report available here.

    us-visit-diagram.jpg(click thumbnail)

    The third study details the challenges faced by the State Department in adjudicating large and growing numbers of visa applications while facilitating the legitimate flow of visitors.  The GAO study starts off with this problem statement: 

    DOS has acknowledged that long waits for visas may discourage legitimate travel to the United States, potentially costing the country billions of dollars in economic benefits over time, and adversely influencing foreign citizens’ opinions of our nation. 

    This helpful chart below makes the point that we need to be ready for a surge in immigration requests.  Of course, this portends challenges not only for State, but also USCIS.  How DHS plans to manage such a trend is difficult to discern now that immigration reform is off the table this Congress.  It was that legislation that would have provided an avenue for much needed modernization of USCIS capabilities.  Even with the recent increases in fees charged by USCIS, they won’t be able to collect enough to fund technology upgrades that are needed immediately because those fees will take a while to roll in.  Complete report available here.


    August 2, 2007

    National Response Framework Emerges

    Filed under: Organizational Issues,Preparedness and Response — by Jonah Czerwinski on August 2, 2007

    Out of the ashes and tumult of Katrina, a new National Response Plan is near ready.  This might be considered a debut for the National Protection and Programs Directorate at DHS, but I am certain many had a hand in the drafting of this document.  CQ Homeland Security’s Eileen Sullivan obtained from Hill sources a pre-decisional draft of what is now termed the National Response Framework.


    There will be no shortage of analysis by the press, but I thought a few specific items warranted highlighting as of this first glance.

    Two places we witnessed painful missed opportunities in the response to Hurricane Katrina included the failure to fully tap into the resources of the private sector and the inability, or perhaps reluctance, to optimize the resources and aid donated by well intentioned allies and friends overseas.

     The National Response Framework includes this text to address the role of the private sector:

    The Private Sector. A quick word about certain nomenclature used herein is appropriate. Common English usage draws a binary distinction between the public and private sectors – meaning those organizations and activities that are formally governmental at all levels, and those that are not. The private sector thus includes many distinct entities, including for-profit businesses (publicly-traded or privately owned), trade associations and nongovernmental organizations, not-for-profit enterprises, faith-based organizations and other voluntary organizations. Of course from another perspective, the private sector is comprised not only of organizations, but of individual citizens and families, who have important obligations to be prepared for emergencies, as discussed further in Chapter I. 

    Private sector businesses play an essential role in protecting critical infrastructure systems and implementing plans for the rapid restoration of normal commercial activities and critical infrastructure operations in the event of disruption. The protection of critical infrastructure and the ability rapidly to restore normal commercial activities can mitigate the impact of a disaster or emergency, improve the quality of life of individuals and accelerate the pace of recovery for communities and the nation. The private sector, NGOs in particular, contributes to response efforts through engaged partnerships with each level of government to assess potential threats, evaluate risk and take actions as may be needed to mitigate threats.

    Not a whole lot more than that could I find in my first run through the draft.  Several mentions of the private sector are threaded throughout the document, but it appears that the main plug-in for private sector coordination remains the Incident Command Structure.  There were some readers a while ago with significant experience in the plans that preceded the NRP and FEMA’s history in this regard.  Your comments on how this works would be greatly appreciated.  In the current draft, the ICS is depicted as follows:


    The new Framework provides a nod to the importance of thinking ahead in terms of how the U.S. can effectively manage offers of assistance from other countries.  In what may appear to be a necessary division of labor, the NRF states rather clearly that the State Department has that task.  This may also reflect a cautious approach to accepting aid out of concern that any hasty approval or denial of aid offered could risk unintended diplomatic consequences unrelated to the emergency itself.  Here is language from the draft NRF to this effect:

    For major incidents in which foreign governments, individuals or organizations wish to make donations, the U.S. Department of State is responsible for coordinating such donations. Detailed guidance regarding the process for managing international donations is provided in the International Support Annex.