Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 25, 2007

Revised Homeland Security Strategy Underway

Filed under: DHS News,General Homeland Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 25, 2007

Many of us have heard rumblings of an effort underway – led by White House Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend and her deputy Joel Bagnal – to revise the 2002 National Strategy for Homeland Security.  I was able to locate a presentation deck being used by Homeland Security Council officials to outline the rationale, intent, and scope of the new strategy document. It’s a cursory treatment at only 14 slides. However, some telling language reflects prevailing views amid HLS leadership about the five-year-old strategy presently on the books, as well as some useful perspectives on the nature of the threat.


The first slide’s title says it all: “The Need for a Revised Strategy.” Operating from the same strategy since 2002, the need is real and surely felt by many members in the HLS community. The original strategy was written at a time when the terrorism threat environment was different (there was no Iraq war, for one) and the bureaucracy responsible for the homeland mission was only just getting off the drawing board.

So what was really missing back in 2002? The presentation offers a short list with the suggestion that we need to “Articulate a capstone strategy to organize and unify the national effort.” I’m not sure what that means, but the next goal is indisputably important: “Institute a common framework for the broader homeland security community.”

The need for a common framework is hard to argue with. You’ll find nothing else in this presentation specifically on that topic except for the detailed graphic on the final slide depicting what may be the “framework” they have in mind. This beauty is reminiscent of the structures used by the Defense Department to align their policy guidance, planning, and operations. This one even uses the term “doctrine,” a rarity in the realm of homeland security.

DHS Strategy Management System 

Other items missing back in 2002 included, apparently, disruption and protection. The presentation justifiably takes on the very definition of homeland security put forth in the original strategy.

2002 Strategy:
•Homeland security is a concerted national effort to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do occur.

2007 Strategy:
•Homeland Security is a concerted national effort to prevent and disrupt terrorist attacks, protect against man-made and natural hazards, and respond to and recover from incidents that do occur.

Broadening the concept of homeland security is a great start.  And while a more detailed voice track surely accompanies this presentation, some things still remain outside this scope.  For example, a comprehensive strategy would include the concept of deterrence and how it applies in the context of terrorism.  Perhaps prevention can encompass deterrence, but that’s a stretch.  The only other possible hook on which to hang a reference to this would be on Slide 4, which states that Homeland Security entails “offense and defense.”  It is in the latter where we may find deterrence accounted for.  Quite a lot could be read into these 14 slides.  Let’s hope that the intellectual foundation supporting these encouraging signs come to light soon.

Updated 9/27/07: I had originally noted that DHS officials were briefing this slide deck, but was informed today that it is being used by officials at the White House Homeland Security Council. 

Update 9/27/07: UPI’s Shaun Waterman ran a related story today.

September 24, 2007

DHS Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson Announces Resignation

Filed under: DHS News — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 24, 2007

DepSec Jackson sent the following letter today to his DHS team: 

My Dear Colleague:

Today I submitted to President Bush a letter resigning my position as Deputy Secretary at DHS, effective October 26, 2007. I deeply regret that I am unable to stand alongside Secretary Chertoff and each of you until the last day of this Administration. The simple truth, however, is that after over five years of serving with the President’s team, I am compelled to depart for financial reasons that I can no longer ignore.

At DHS I found in every corner of our organization quiet heroes who routinely lift a load greater than anyone can reasonably be asked to lift. In each of you, I found a steel-edged passion for our mission, and daily I found endless inspiration in your service. The Department is in strong hands, with experienced leaders, both career and non-career. Although I will soon take leave from DHS, I do so confident in the extraordinary capabilities that our colleagues at every level within DHS bring to the vital work of homeland security.

Today I become, in Washington’s argot, a lame duck. But I don’t intend to be a dead duck quite yet. Know that I am committed during the month ahead to do everything I possibly can to continue to support you and the Department. Ask me for help as you need.

I am truly grateful to Secretary Chertoff for allowing me to be a part of his team, and for supporting me so generously in all that was on my plate. Most importantly, I am beholden, with a debt inextinguishable, to President Bush for the profound gift of being allowed to work on his behalf at DHS since February 2005, among such magnificent women and men as you.

— Michael

Michael P. Jackson

Deputy Secretary

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

The Only Thing Certain About Fusion Centers Is Change

Filed under: Congress and HLS,Intelligence and Info-Sharing,State and Local HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 24, 2007

Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment Subcommittee (Chairman Jane Harman, D-CA) of House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing titled “The Way Forward With Fusion Centers: Challenges and Strategies for Change.”

Date: Thursday, September 27, 1000
Place: 311 Cannon Building
• Charles Allen – Chief intelligence officer, Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Department of Homeland Security
• Michael Mines – Deputy assistant director, Directorate of Intelligence, FBI
• Eileen Larence – Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues, Government Accountability Office (GAO)
• Todd Masse – Specialist, Domestic Intelligence and Counterterrorism, Congressional Research Service (CRS)
• John Rollins – Specialist, Terrorism and International Crime, CRS
• Norman Beasley – Coordinator for counter terrorism, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office

Fusion Centers started back in 2003 with a good amount of support from DHS, state and local law enforcement, the FBI, and even Congress. Soon after, CQ’s Jeff Stein ran a story on April 25, 2006 about how popular the new Centers are proving to be, called “Local Intelligence ‘Fusion Centers’ Emerge as Major Force”.

At that time about 40 states had established their own “fusion centers,” where local agencies can share and act on criminal and terrorism information with representatives from the FBI and DHS. In August 2005, DHS and the Department of Justice issued guidelines to bring the fusion centers in line with federal practices.

DHS Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis Charlie Allen would follow these developments with plans to send DHS analysts and officers to one Fusion Center a month over the next two years. Two months later, DHS announced plans to embed their analysts at fusion centers in New York City, Los Angeles, Reistertown, MD, and Baton Rouge.

Today, about 43 Fusion Centers exist. Since 2003, DHS has provided more than $300 million to states and regions to establish these Centers and have assigned only about 15 of its own intel analysts to the Centers. (35 more analysts are to be deployed by year’s end.) A list of state and regional intelligence fusion centers dated March 8 was first published by Secrecy News, and by the National Criminal Intelligence Resource Center of the Justice Department in Tallahassee.

According to CQ’s Stein, the popularity of fusion centers reflects state and local disappointment with DHS’s Homeland Security Information Network (too many points of contact) and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces (too opaque).

But how well are they doing?

The Congressional Research Service issued a withering June 6 report suggesting that little counterterrorism was actually being accomplished by the Fusion Centers. They seemed to be drifting back to their comfort zones: “Although many of the centers initially had purely counterterrorism goals, for numerous reasons, they have increasingly gravitated toward an all-crimes and even broader all-hazards approach.” That might be code for “everything and anything.” Its true that connecting dots requires better understanding of the dots and the relationships between them, but do more eyes on the dots necessarily mean better connectivity?

There are those who believe these Centers actually do a little too much work.

At a recent meeting of the Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee (a DHS entity populated by private citizens and senior DHS officials), the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sent a representative to submit a prepared complaining about FC oversight and management with special focus on the concern that with the added fusion comes an erosion of privacy. The EPIC statement recommends:

• Disclosing the location, jurisdiction, and funding provided for each center.
• Suspending of funds to the centers until a full privacy impact analysis is concluded.
• An inspector general’s investigation to confirm compliance with federal laws about due process, privacy, civil liberties and civil rights.
• Requiring each Fusion Center to publicly name all its federal, state, local and private partners.
• Annual reports from each Fusion Center listing the number of arrests, prosecutions, and convictions by category of offense.
• Having any information collected, analyzed or shared with a center comply with the Federal Privacy Act.

Whoa. We’re not already doing this? Chairwoman Harman’s hearing will likely get into these issues, but will more likely focus on performance measures. With both CRS and GAO speaking at the hearing we’ll get some critical details.  But that a local user, Norman Beasley, Coordinator for counter terrorism at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, will speak means we might here the other side of the story. 

September 20, 2007

Welcome, Mr. Secretary, to the Blogosphere

Filed under: DHS News,General Homeland Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 20, 2007

Readers may have noticed that we’ll need to add a new one to the blogroll here.  Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is now blogging.  I don’t think he sleeps.  The man is dealing with one of the most motley of bureaucracies in one of the most political environments, and he still finds time to post.  Looking at my frequency of updates here lately, I’m feeling rather inadequate.

But the Secretary seems to be enjoying himself.  The Leadership Journal, as the blog is named, affords him some freedom to rebut his critics in the press without interruption.  A recent post of his took the New York Times to task for an editorial about DHS authorities and performance.  Attending to this topic would demand a daily update with all the commentary underway from the GAO to the IG to the Congress.  Heck, perhaps HLSWatch.com will rise to the attention of the Leadership Journal….

Before we get ahead of ourselves, following is the caveat set for the Secretary’s blog:

• This Journal is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact your local police or FBI office or submit a tip to the FBI online.

• Do not send in questions or status inquiries about your specific immigration or citizenship case or questions about your passport or visa. Contact USCIS directly regarding citizenship, and the State Department regarding international travel.

• This is a thought journal, not a substitute channel for services or general questions. See “Contact Us” on www.dhs.gov, to get help from the Department and components.

• Reporter questions will not be posted. Reporters should contact the Press Office through their normal channels.

However, you can always report criminal activity or request citizenship status reports right here on HLSWatch.com.

Update 9/20/07: You can not report criminal activity or request citizenship status reports right here on HLSWatch.com

September 18, 2007

Show Me the Money – and More

Filed under: Business of HLS,Technology for HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 18, 2007

The Security Breakfast Series launched in WDC this morning. Titled “What’s Next: The Future of Homeland Security Technology,” the event included a mix of official DHS representatives and private sector leaders mainly from the venture capital and investment banking community. Crowell Moring and Legend Merchant Group were core sponsors.

Main theme over danishes: there’s money to be made in homeland security and the government is looking for us to wise up to the fact.

Bob Hooks, Director of Transition for DHS S&T, made two important points. First, the asymmetric nature of the threat faced by DHS and its component agencies is far broader than that which DOD must confront. Second, technology as a “force multiplier” serves a central role in meeting DHS needs in this mission. To make it even easier for the investors in the room, Hooks brought an unclassified document that lists (without too much specification, of course) the high priority technology needs the Department seeks.

Drawing a difference between DHS and DOD is easy to do, but Hooks’ point suggested an added challenge. Technology is in great need at DHS, but the budget is far smaller than anything similar at DOD. Hence the market forces that came for coffee this morning. An underlying assumption made explicit by almost every panelist was that the most successful technologies for homeland security will require a commercial application. Michael Steed of Paladin Capital drove this home with a drumbeat of investments his group has made in funds valued at several million dollars. Heck, the Department was even smart enough to bring on a Chief Commercialization Officer to help the private firms get the idea.

Tom McMillen of Homeland Security Capital Corp spoke to the trajectory of the threats DHS will likely consider top priorities while suggesting that a Democratic win of the White House in 2008 is sure to generate greater federal investment in homeland security (at the expense of Iraq funding, which is about $452, 447, 997, 763 to date).

However, another important role of the private sector in securing the homeland was out of scope for today’s discussion. In addition to selling services and solutions for DHS to defend against terrorism, the private sector is also in many ways the target of terrorism. What makes the asymmetry in protecting the homeland so much broader than that which the Pentagon deals with has both to do with the methods that must be defended against and the spectrum of targets that includes almost anything in the civilian domain. Private industry, however, is not only a target or vector for terrorism. There are ways in which the private sector — global shipping, banking industry, HAZMAT, etc — can become part of the defense in doing daily business.

The guys at the DNDO call this “grafting security onto the private sector.” In this way, a globally flung network of shipping fleets could be vectors for detecting the presence of dangerous materials. The international banking industry could partner as they sometimes do through SWIFT to detect the presence of dangerous money flows. As the public and private sector begin to work more collaboratively from this standpoint, we might see the asymmetry winnow. Moreover, if terrorists use our weaknesses against us, let’s use theirs against them: they don’t have international alliances through the World Customs Organization, but we do. They don’t have working relationships with the global banking community, and yet we do. Indeed when panelists this morning spoke of how technology has the potential of being a “force multiplier” for federal efforts to secure the homeland they may have sold it short. A broader perspective on how the public and private sectors can work together and exploit our shared strengths – “grafting security” onto the private sector – could go a long way in shifting the asymmetry.

September 11, 2007

Where Are We Six Years After 9/11?

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Risk Assessment,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 11, 2007

Conflicting opinions emerging these days about the state of our homeland security.  Walter Pincus and Joby Warrick noted in their coverage of official statements yesterday that while Secretary Chertoff was explaining to the Senate how the threat of terrorism is as bad as it was six years ago, the President’s Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor, Fran Townsend, struck a different chord in an interview with Wolf Blitzer by calling al Qaeda’s leader an “impotent… man on the run from a cave.”  Where to go from here with a threat assessment like this?

In addition to invoking the need for greater investments in HLS capabilities, intelligence gathering resources, and a general sense of resolve, the recently foiled attacks in Germany came to be useful fodder for assessing the risk today.  The DNI suggested that the plans of those aspiring terrorists in North Rhine-Westphalia were uncovered due to warrantless surveillance of communications traveling through the U.S.  (The Senate Committee pointed out that the German cell was located almost ten months prior to that surveillance law being passed.) 

So what can we learn about the recently disrupted cell in Germany on this sixth anniversary of 9/11?  What materiel was too easy for them to procure in preparation for their plans?  How were they able to coordinate and communicate without notice until the late stages as it were?  Could we see the same trend emerge here in the U.S., and would we be able to detect it early enough?  How well could we manage the aftermath of an attack with 700kg of hydrogen peroxide were we not to stop it beforehand? 

I’ve noted the work of a London-based group here before named Exclusive Analysis.  They are kind enough to send me their proprietary products and I’m, as they say over there, keen on sharing it here on occasion.  They recently assessed the terrorist threat in light of the foiled Germany plot.  The main findings, backed up by proper British prose, are as follows: 

The intercepted plot does not demonstrate an evolution in capability of European jihadi networks. 

Currently the risk of attack is moderated by flaws in leadership within jihadi networks.  

European jihadi networks will likely evolve better organisational leadership in a gradual ‘survival of the fittest’ fashion; attack targets are likely to be chosen in order to maximise human fatalities. 

According to this, we’re lucky that the terrorists are unlucky — or at least unsophisticated.  Both of these mitigating factors are due to change, and so is the venue.  This places the “fight’em over there so we don’t have to fight’em here” mantra into a different perspective.  Note how rarerly this rationale is invoked on this anniversary of 9/11.

September 10, 2007

New Nat’l Applications Office to Open at DHS in OCT

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing,Organizational Issues,Privacy and Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 10, 2007

A new office opens in October at DHS that will manage civilian use of intelligence community and DoD assets. The National Applications Office is the post-9/11 incarnation of what used to be called the Civil Applications Committee that started in 1974 as the result of the President’s Commission on CIA Activities Within the United States (Rockefeller Commission).

Beginning next month, the National Applications Office (NAO) will serve as the “principal interface” between the intelligence community and the Civil Applications, Homeland Security, and Law Enforcement Domains.  According to Bobby Block at the Wall Street Journal, it was a May 25 memo that empowered DHS through the NAO to gain access to some of the U.S.’s most powerful intelligence-gathering capabilities.  Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell designated DHS as the executive agent and functional manager of the National Applications Office.  It was this May 25 memo to Secretary Chertoff that assigned responsibility to DHS for:

• Enabling a wide spectrum of civil applications, homeland security, and law enforcement users greater access to the collection, analysis, and production skills and capabilities of the intelligence community;

• Enhancing intelligence and information sharing and dissemination to federal, state, and local government and law enforcement users;

• Educating customers about the capabilities and products of the intelligence community;

• Advocating future collection technology needs of the civil applications, homeland security and law enforcement customers in the intelligence community and Department of Defense forums; and

• Providing a forum for discussion of proper use oversight and management of new uses of classified information on behalf of domains, in addition to already established uses.

Last week, the House Homeland Security Committee convened a hearing about the NAO as noted here. Witnesses from DHS included Charlie Allen, Chief Intelligence Officer; Hugo Teufel, Chief Privacy Officer; and Dan Sutherland, the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Officer.

A National Applications Executive Committee will be established to provide interagency oversight. A DHS fact sheet issued on 15 August describes how the NAO will work with the “advice and support” of three customer domain working groups:

• Civil Applications Domain Working Group: This working group will continue the efforts of the Civil Application Committee that have been ongoing for more than 30 years, including scientific, geographic and environmental research.

• Homeland Security Domain Working Group: The “Homeland Security Domain” includes those government agencies and activities involved in the prevention and mitigation of, preparation for, response to, and recovery from natural or man-made disasters, including terrorism, and other threats to the homeland. This domain can encompass the many operational and administrative components of DHS, as well as other federal, state, local, and tribal elements who partner with the department. Its work will complement the Civil Applications Working Group in areas like natural disaster response.

• Law Enforcement Domain Working Group: This working group includes federal, state, local, and tribal entities, and those activities which support both the enforcement of criminal and civil laws, and the other operational responsibilities and authorities of these entities.

UPDATE 9/11/07: For video stream and complete statements for the record by those testifying before the House Homeland Committee, click here.

September 5, 2007

Nuclear Defense Reaches Out to Small Boats

Filed under: Port and Maritime Security,Radiological & Nuclear Threats — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 5, 2007

This is a placeholder post for lack of time today. DNDO and the Coast Guard announced today the West Coast Maritime pilot.  This effort builds upon the Securing the Cities initiative and the recent feat by DHS to outfit and train all Coast Guard boarding teams with nuclear detection capabilities. 

Seattle and San Diego made the list for this pilot due to the massive flow of small boats making use of these domains, the significant military installations there, and the proximity to international borders.

The main purpose of this new pilot is to create more effective coordination among the defensive efforts at the international, national, and state/local levels by creating a framework for the deployment of detection capabilities, training, response protocols, and alarm resolution.  Following is an excerpt from today’s announcement:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) announced today the West Coast Maritime pilot program that will provide maritime radiation detection capabilities for State and local authorities in Washington’s Puget Sound and California’s San Diego areas. The three-year pilot program involves the development of a radiation detection architecture that reduces the risk of radiological and nuclear threats that could be illegally transported on recreational or small commercial vessels. The pilot will be conducted in close coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection.

HLS Biz Watch

Filed under: Business of HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 5, 2007

Nortel Government Solutions began a new contract this month with a potential value of $39 million to support U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) procurement strategy development, project planning, reporting, purchasing and database management. The new award is scheduled to run through November 2011. 

Rainmaker: To transform from paper-based technology to information technology, USCIS is preparing to release a contract for its Business Systems Transformation initiative with an estimated value of $235 million. 

Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) won a three-year, $85 million contract from ICE to provide information technology operations and maintenance support. 

G&H International Services of DC won a $1.6 million contract from DHS to provide research and development for the Public Safety and Security Institute for Technology Program.

Four Congressional Hearings This Week

Filed under: Congress and HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 5, 2007

“Homeland Security Achievements and Priorities”
House Committee on Homeland Security
Date: Wednesday, Sept. 5, 10:00 a.m.
Place: 311 Cannon House Office Building

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff

The National Applications Office
House Committee on Homeland Security
Date: Thursday, Sept. 6, 10:00 a.m.
Place: 311 Cannon House Office Building

Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis Charlie Allen

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Officer Daniel Sutherland

Privacy Office Chief Hugo Teufel, III

“A DHS Status Report: Assessing Challenges and Measuring Progress”
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee
Contact: Michael Alexander – Democratic Staff Director at 202-224-2627
Date: Thursday, Sept. 6, 1:30 p.m. (Originally scheduled for July 31)
Place: 342 Dirksen Bldg.

David M. Walker – Comptroller General, Government Accountability Office

Paul A. Schneider – Undersecretary of Homeland Security for management

“Immigration Security”
House Judiciary — Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law
Contact: Ur Jaddou – Democratic Counsel at 202-225-3926
Date: Thursday, Sept. 6, 1 p.m.
Place: 2141 Rayburn Bldg.
Agenda: STRIVE Act