Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 31, 2008

Int’l Security Summit Misses HLS Opportunity

Filed under: Events,International HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on March 31, 2008

As described on this blog before, the U.S. can better engage multilateral entities, such as NATO, ASEAN, and the EU, to work with important countries in pursuit of the shared interest in combating terrorism and protecting civilian populations.

In researching further details of what NATO has to offer, I decided to highlight here the Alliance’s Partnership Action Plan against Terrorism (PAP-T). The Partnership Action Plan against Terrorism deserves attention by this year’s NATO Summit, taking place this week in Hungary. The PAP-T involves nearly forty countries through NATO’s Partnership for Peace program and NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue. Participating countries agree on the level of their participation individually with NATO. PAP-T facilitates intelligence sharing and cooperation in areas such as border security, terrorism-related training and exercises, the development of capabilities for defense against terrorist attacks and for managing the consequences of attacks. The PAP-T takes a pragmatic approach and focuses on:

Consultations and information sharing

Operations and exercises

Assisting Partners’ efforts against terrorism

Targeting terrorist finances

Civil emergency planning

Cooperating with other international organizations

Science and environment

With the heads of State and Government from the 26 NATO nations, 24 Partners, and other representatives from international institutions meeting in Bucharest this week to discuss NATO enlargement and operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo as part of NATO’s biannual summit, the dearth of counterterrorism issues on the agenda is worth noting. Readers are encouraged to send in any comments with details about the Summit that actually do address this topic.

March 27, 2008

White House HSC Under Scrutiny. Again.

Filed under: Organizational Issues — by Jonah Czerwinski on March 27, 2008

The research arm of Congress issued a report questioning the statutory legitimacy of the White House Homeland Security Council. Thanks to reader William Cumming and CQ Homeland Security for identifying this paper, which FAS made available. It reveals the haphazard way in which the former White HouseOffice of Homeland Security (OHS) – led by Tom Ridge – faded away after the Department of Homeland Security stood up and Ridge took the job as its first chief. According to budget documents and appropriations bills, most of the funding and personnel that ran OHS quietly shifted to the Homeland Security Council. The only problem was that for purposes of appropriations (the law), the HSC doesn’t exist.

I’m pretty sure its there. After all I have friends there and have had the opportunity to work with the people staffing the HSC. It is no shell either. While bureaucratically denuded, the HSC issued the 23 Homeland Security Presidential Directives we have today (that often times are issued jointly as National Security Presidential Directives also). Heck, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 actually mandated the creation of a “National Homeland Security Council” to be chaired by the president. (See Title IX of the Act for more.) This was the same Act that created DHS and led to the closing of the Office of Homeland Security at the White House.

According to the Congressional Research Service, that’s also the last we’ve seen, officially, of the HSC. The public does not know how many people work there, what they do, how they do it, and where the money goes that funds this White House operation.

At issue is the practice the White House has of requesting funding for the HSC through a shell sub-account with in the “White House Office” account that was left after the Office of Homeland Security closed its doors. Harold Relyea, author of the CRS paper, found that the Congress tried to call them out on this:

In late July 2003, House appropriators, in their report on the Departments of Transportation and Treasury and Independent Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2004, revealed that the Bush Administration had changed the “Office of Homeland Security” account, previously listed for the EOP, to an account for the “Homeland Security Council.” The report also questioned the continued role of OHS, saying “it is not clear what work remains that cannot be effectively performed by the Department of Homeland Security.” The account change also implied the shift of 66 staff personnel from OHS to the HSC, which the report questioned, “given the existence and support of the Department of Homeland Security.” The committee cut the President’s request of $8.3 million for the council to $4.1 million. Senate appropriators declined to fund the HSC through the White House Office (WHO) account, as requested, and recommended the $8.3 million sought by the President for the council in a separate account for the HSC.

To get appropriations, the HSC needs to have authorization from the Congress. Relyae explains that the House has tried repeatedly to fund the HSC through its own account – separate from the WHO account – as a symbolic gesture to shine some light on the subject.

All of this emerges within the context of an ongoing debate in Washington about what the future of the HSC should be. With a new administration coming in and the new HSC head only just taking on the job, the HSC’s days look numbered.

March 26, 2008

Homeland Security Secretary in Middle East

Filed under: International HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on March 26, 2008

We’ve discussed on this blog the opportunities for greater cooperation between the U.S. and critical countries in the Mediterranean and Middle East regions that is focused on the shared interest we have in protecting civilians.  Secretary Chertoff is in Kuwait today meeting with government counterparts, including:

  • Assistant Undersecretary of Kuwait’s Interior Ministry for Border Security Affairs Major General Suleiman Al-Fahad,
  • Director General of the General Directorate of Security of Land Borders Brigadier Abdullah Al-Mehanna, and
  • Undersecretary of the Interior Ministry Lieutenant General Ahmed Al-Rujaib.

The focus of his meetings appears to be on border security and what he called “security cooperation.”  This is critically important dialogue that can enable the U.S. to demonstrate both our capabilities and our lessons learned over the past five years of having the Department of Homeland Security.  However, Kuwait is low-hanging fruit in the diplomatic realm.

Working with Kuwait is valuable, but it isn’t exactly difficult to obtain their cooperation.  (Long history there.)  However, the same cannot be said about their media. Chertoff sat for a brief media roundtable yesterday (transcript here) in Kuwait City to field some questions. Sure there were some softballs about our airports, but these questions typified the exchange:

President Bush has mentioned…that the … U.S. fights terrorism overseas to prevent terrorists from performing terrorist acts in the U.S. What’s your comment on these thoughts and these statements from the President, given the fact that some Arab countries are in contradiction with those statements?

How are you trying to convince Arab countries with this policy, and is that part of your agenda for the trip?

Can you comment on the policy of the U.S. to manage crisis in the Middle East, given the fact that Syria and Iran are in almost a war state?

Is there a list of what’s called the blacklist of people (inaudible) to the U.S…?

But this question is the one that we sort of expected:

Since the U.S. announced a launch on a war on terrorism after the event of September 11th, in your assessment is the world a safer place now after all that has been done? And… what is the level of cooperation between Kuwait and the United States in achieving a safer world?

Hmm. Is the world safer? He didn’t ask whether terrorism has been vanquished. Just whether there’s been any improvement since the several hundred billion dollars have been spent over the past seven years in response to the 9/11 attacks.  The answer?

“Well, let me answer the second question first — it’s easier.”

March 24, 2008

REAL ID Showdown Averted?

Filed under: Border Security,Intelligence and Info-Sharing,Privacy and Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on March 24, 2008

Waiting in the HLSWatch.com inbox upon my return from Big Sky, Montana, were scanned copies of correspondence between DHS Assistant Secretary for Policy Stewart Baker and Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath about the state’s request to opt out of the REAL ID Act.

DHS granted an extension on Friday to the state of Montana so that it can comply with the REAL ID Act. The only thing is that Montana never asked for an extension. Montana governor Brian Schweitzer made news over his intention to defy the law passed by Congress in 2005. Schweitzer is leading a charge (joined by Maine, South Carolina, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma) to oppose the REAL ID Act and any efforts by DHS to impose penalties for non-compliance.

The 9/11 Commission recommended that the U.S. rationalize the state identification regime in order to reduce the risk of fraud (suspected to aid terrorists and criminals alike). The Commission argued that the federal government should “set standards for the issuance of … driver’s licenses.” The REAL ID Act requires that a standardized driver’s license be used for “official purposes.” At this point, DHS proposes to define “official purposes” of a REAL ID as accessing federal facilities and nuclear power plants and boarding commercial aircraft. The main beef states have with the Act is the lack of funding to pay for the mandate. DHS is stretching out the compliance period over almost ten years (2014) to make it easier on states, but that only avoids the REAL problem according to Governor Schweitzer. Schweitzer and the Montana state legislature oppose it on principle.

(It sure doesn’t help that the Secretary suggested contrarians should “grow up” about security measures, such as the REAL ID provisions. The statement emboldened critics to examine his tenure more closely and shift the focus away from REAL ID.)

Montana seeks a complete waiver, but DHS’s Stewart Baker explained in a letter to Montana’s Attorney General that DHS has only the authority to carry out the statute or grant extensions to state’s that “meet the requirements” of the REAL ID Act.

Frankly, after Montana’s governor has called the law “nonsensical”, “kooky,” and “hare-brained,” and invited other states to join him in a showdown over “the DHS coercion to comply,” I’m impressed with Baker’s dispassionate response. Baker wrote in a response the same day he received McGrath’s letter:

Under the statute, the Department [of Homeland Security] can only grant an extension of the compliance deadline [as opposed to a waiver.] Therefore, I can only provide the relief you are seeking by treating your letter as a request for an extension.

Of course, Schweitzer’s whole deal is that he’ll never seek an extension because it would be interpreted as intention to implement the Act.

March 22, 2008

4 Administration HLS Officials Named

Filed under: DHS News,Organizational Issues — by Jonah Czerwinski on March 22, 2008

The Bush administration has named four candidates to fill top homeland and national security positions after a protracted effort to fill the top White House counterterrorism post, left open since January.

wanstein.jpg beckstrom.jpg leiter-nctc.jpg charbo.jpg

HLS Advisor to POTUS – Wainstein

Frances Fragos Townsend announced her resignation last November as Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. In that position, Townsend also served as chair of the White House Homeland Security Council. News reports surfaced that known figures, such as retired Army Gen. John Abizaid, former CENTCOM Commander, and Adm. (Ret.) James Loy, former Coast Guard Commandant and Deputy Homeland Security Secretary, turned down offers by the White House to succeed Townsend. With one year left in this term, it is hard to blame them for declining to return to government service on that note. Townsend’s former deputy, Joel Bagnal, a former Army colonel, has served in an Acting position since her departure and according to those I’ve spoken with, he maintains a great deal of respect in the interagency.

On Wednesday, the President nominated Kenneth Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division, to replace Frances Townsend at the White House. Townesend came from the Department of Justice, and Wainstein seems to fit the mold of stalwart Administration supporter and institutional insider that would serve Townsend’s successor well. Since the position is not Senate confirmed, his prickly relationship with the Senate Judiciary Committee is unlikely to be an issue. Wainstein’s main responsibility at this point, barring any attack on the homeland in the meantime, will be to shepherd a transition to the next Presidential administration.

Chief CT Advisor – Leiter

Vice Admiral (Ret.) John Scott Redd stepped down as director of the National Counterterrorism Center last October for health reasons. The post went officially unfilled until this week when the White House announced that the President is nominating Michael Leiter to become succeed VADM Redd. Leiter is well respected in the intel community and has served since Redd’s departure as Acting Director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

Cyber Czars Named – Beckstrom, Charbo

The president announced a multi-agency cybersecurity initiative late last year after the director at the National Cyber Security Division, Amit Yoran, resigned in October 2007. The job was previously a White House position held by Howard Schmidt and Richard Clarke.

Four months later, President Bush picked Scott Charbo as Deputy Undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate at DHS, primarily in charge of the Department’s cybersecurity mission. It seems Charbo will have two roles: combating attacks on U.S. cyber netrworks and weathering attacks from the House Homeland Security Committee. Chairman Thompson is not a fan.

Last Thursday, Secretary Chertoff announced the appointment of Rod Beckstrom as Director of the National Cyber Security Center, which replaces the National Cyber Security Division that Yoran led.

As part of the Administration’s recently announced Cyber Initiative, DHS is responsible for leading federal efforts to protect government networks against cyber-associated threat. Beckstrom is the co-founder of the open-source wiki software system, TWIKI.net, founder of Cats Software, and author of The Starfish And the Spider, which is about the advent of leaderless, decentralized organizations and the power of networks (both human and electronic).

March 20, 2008

UK Releases Next Security Strategy

Filed under: Strategy — by Jonah Czerwinski on March 20, 2008

The United Kingdom released its next national security strategy, entitled “Security in an Interdependant World.” It lays out “guiding principles” that underpin their strategy. The strategy also provides a threat assessment, defines “drivers” of insecurity, the UK’s responses to these threats and drivers, and an organizing framework for how the UK plans to work with and leverage other countries, organizations, and efforts to achieve national security. The strategy is similar in some ways to our national and homeland security strategies, but differences in emphasis and threat perception represent a divide in the way the U.S. views global threats and the way our closest ally does.

The UK strategy identifies six guiding principles that serve as both functions of the security strategy and the goals of it. They are “human rights, the rule of law, legitimate and accountable government, justice, freedom, tolerance, and opportunity for all.” The document notes, however, that the strategy can not be static in its pursuit of these goals. The UK government acknowledges that they must continually review the focus of its efforts, including identifying other “sectors or countries or international institutions [that] should be encouraged to play their part.”

A threat assessment in the strategy document identifies the following primary risks faced by the UK:

  • Terrorism
  • Nuclear weapons and WMD
  • Transnational organized crime
  • Instability driven by failed and failing states
  • Civil emergencies
  • State-based threats to the UK

The threat assessment acknowledges that threats posed by other countries or states remains the same as in 1998. The UK reasserts the view articulated in its 1998 Strategic Defence Review that

“for the foreseeable future, no state or alliance will have both the intent and the capability to threaten the United Kingdom militarily, either with nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction, or with conventional forces.”

The current U.S. view of countries like Iran and Syria differ profoundly from this assessment. Our national security strategy argues that “Syria and Iran, continue to harbor terrorists at home and sponsor terrorist activity abroad.” And that “We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran.” What do the British know that we don’t? Or are they missing something we’re not?

Okay, back to the slopes for me. We’ll dig into other relevant aspects of the new UK national security strategy next time.

March 19, 2008

Deterrence Makes a “Comeback.”

Filed under: Cybersecurity,Strategy — by Jonah Czerwinski on March 19, 2008

Eric Schmitt and Tom Shanker wrote in the New York Times about current government efforts to adapt deterrence — described in the article as a hold-over strategy of the Cold War — to the terrorist threat of today. Deterrence, the effect of dissuading an adversary from taking a certain approach, strategy, or measure at your expense — is a strategy as old as war itself. Even Sun Tzu explained over 2000 years ago that “‘The supreme act of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” And while the President and many other pundits said in the wake of 9/11 that terrorists could not be deterred, policy makers and practitioners have never set aside deterrence as a component of anti- and counter-terrorism programs.

The difference between Cold War deterrence, when threat of retaliation was the currency of dissuasion, and today is that terrorists are difficult to retaliate against if they die in the attack or go underground. (We’ll probably never again have the opportunity we had after 9/11 to route them in a discrete geographic domain like Afghanistan.) Terrorists today respond instead to a fear of failure.

Policy options to pursue deterrence against terrorists is the subject of work done by the Council on Foreign Relations, RAND, and others, including the Nuclear Defense Steering Committee and the Nuclear Defense Working Group from 2004 to today. Schmitt and Shanker show how deterrence never really left the scene after the Cold War’s end, even at the local level. Paul Browne, the New York City Police Department’s chief spokesman is quoted explaining how deterrence helped to prevent a 2003 attempted attack on the Brooklyn Bridge. Indeed, everyone from CENTCOM to SpecOps to the State Department invest in deterrence.

The article points out some of the more recent applications of deterrence in cyberspace. Cyberspace represents a unique challenge and opportunity. The ubiquity of anonymous social hubs throughout the net offer those seeking support, recruits, and sympathy for terrorist attacks an advantage only available in cyberspace: It is hard to capture or kill someone on the Internet. However, the cyber domain also offers us an advantage: We can track and observe the behavior of terrorist groups on the Internet without their knowing, and use the information we gain to disrupt and even deter them.

I had the opportunity to visit a nondescript office building outside of DC in 2005 where several floors were filled with government experts tracking and analyzing radical and fanatic traffic on the web. They had Arabic and Farsi translators, tech specialists, hackers, counter-terrorism experts, and cultural analysts observing targeting activity all over on the Internet that represented likely threats or threatening groups and individuals. I asked why they didn’t just shut down the sites that clearly fostered anti-American or anti-Western sentiment, or those that flat out called for recruits to attack the U.S. They told me that it was better to know where these people were (a la Afghanistan) rather than run them underground only to pop up somewhere unknown (a la Waziristan) on the net. We use information gathered from activities like this to interrupt terrorist efforts through a number of means, including disinformation. Sowing doubt among terrorists and their supporters can be as effective in gaining a deterrent value as aiming nuclear weapons at a superpower.

In a sense, the cyber domain is the closest thing we have to what Afghanistan offered in the weeks and months that followed 9/11. It is the only place we can identify an active domain for us to target.

March 17, 2008

New Guest Contributor Series

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on March 17, 2008

Starting this week, HLSWatch.com begins an occasional series of special edition posts submitted by guest experts, including members of Congress, Executive Branch officials, think tank specialists, and expert practitioners commenting on homeland security policy challenges.

Our first guest is Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA). Now in her seventh term, Harman serves on the Homeland Security Committee and chairs the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Information Sharing. She served eight years on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence – the final four as Ranking Member – where she helped craft and pass the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004. Harman also sponsored the SAFE Port Act of 2006, which focused on establishing a “layered container security strategy” and enhanced port and maritime security. Representative Harman will address the misconceptions and potential of the Interagency Threat Assessment and Coordination Group, which is operated jointly by the National Counterterrorism Center and DHS.

This occasional series of guest expert contributors will be maintained in the spirit and style of HLSWatch.com as a bipartisan, objective, fact-driven analysis of strategic homeland security policy issues. (The next contributor will be a Republican.) Readers also should consider this series a forum, like with all posts on this blog, and feel welcome to comment on these posts.

NOTE: Hosting these guests also gives me a chance to enjoy my vacation in Big Sky, Montana.  I’ll do my best to manage the blog from here, but look for more frequent updates after this week.

March 13, 2008

US, EU Convene Over Visa Waiver Today

Filed under: Immigration,International HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on March 13, 2008

Led by the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. yesterday signed agreements with Latvia and Estonia enabling them to join the U.S. visa waiver program (VWP). Negotiations with Hungary begin tomorrow in Washington. Enter Commissioner Frattini.

The European Commissioner handling the Justice and Home Affairs portfolio is itching to get his time with Secretary Chertoff. He told reporters that his “proposal will be to go ahead with political discussions from now until June at a high political level.” Higher than Chertoff? Perhaps he is hoping that Secretary of State Rice will weigh in on his interest in maintaining momentum for an EU-wide visa waiver agreement.

Chertoff maintains that the U.S. negotiates visa waiver status on a country-by-country basis, but the European Commission views this as an EU issue that should lead to a waiver for all EU member states. Frattini and the EU are being challenged by a split in the ranks.

The Commission has jurisdiction over visa reciprocity for the EU, but the slow pace of the supranational government led the Czech Republic earlier this year to sign their own deal, which spurred a chain reaction. In addition to Latvia and Estonia, both EU members, 15 other EU countries already participate in the visa waiver program. As the European Commission seeks to negotiate a visa-waiver pact for the entire 27-nation EU, Frattini’s negotiating hand is weakening. Nevertheless, Commissioner Frattini is hoping to use today’s meeting with Chertoff to strike a visa waiver for the EU before October.

The U.S. needs to be careful in making sure that further negotiations avoid the appearance of undermining EU governance mechanisms. We gain nothing by doing so and risk fracturing a reluctant ally in the fight against terrorism. A unified and well organized EU is better that the sum of its parts in this context. One way to move forward would be to agree to a set of principles in negotiating further agreements with EU nations that protects privacy in the way the EU seeks and accelerates country-by-country progress toward the VWP requirements among remaining EU nations to facilitate a broader blanket for this program.

March 11, 2008

2008 Wish List: Part II

Filed under: Congress and HLS,Strategy — by Jonah Czerwinski on March 11, 2008

Today Congresswoman Jane Harman, chair of the Homeland Security Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment Subcommittee, published an op-ed in a California paper about how urgent homeland security is – or should be – as a national priority, suggesting that the next President must address the lack of an “effective strategy against major threats.”

She describes a horrific scenario that could take place at LAX: a dirty bomb attack on a highly populated civilian area. Try not to get spun up on the suggestions that terrorists might obtain enough americium from smoke detectors to make a bomb. (Estimates of the necessary amount of detectors range from 1500 to 7500.)

The real value in Harman’s article is the brief treatment she gives of the priorities the next President must embrace to secure the homeland. Readers will recognize some as similar to those included in the previous post entitled 2008 Wish List: Part I. Congressman Harman identifies enhanced intelligence, better stewardship of hazardous materials, stronger partnerships with international partners, and deeper involvement with the state and local authorities.  These are her words:

• Take the offensive against potential threats. Part of this equation is better intelligence – understanding the motivations and capabilities of our enemies, and using that information to anticipate and prevent attacks. For all its tough talk on terrorism, the Bush administration has done a particularly poor job on this front.

• Secure dangerous materials. The ingredients for a dirty bomb can be found in thousands of facilities across the United States – from hospitals to laboratories to water treatment plants – which often have extremely lax security.

Cesium and americium bind chemically to concrete and asphalt and become lodged in cracks on the surface of sidewalks, streets and buildings. Clean-up is nearly impossible. In some cases, demolition is the only practical solution.

• Enhance international relationships and cultivate new ones. Our allies are an extended defensive barrier, and there is much we can learn. Our solid relationship with the British enabled us to disrupt a terror plot to smuggle liquid explosives onto airplanes bound for the United States in 2006.

• Make state and local law enforcement a truly integral part of a homeland security strategy. Federal communication with these partners must improve. Law enforcement stands on America’s front lines and can offer valuable perspectives that inform the national intelligence cycle. They know their communities best. Programs established through the recently enacted 9/11 act will help facilitate information-sharing and avert needless panic caused by ambiguous “gut feelings.” DHS’s continued unwillingness to include local first responders meaningfully in preparing intelligence products borders on the irresponsible.

These explanations are pretty short on detail, but it is an op-ed. Hopefully, this is a sign of productive oversight from her Subcommittee on these important priorities. A hearing on the priority and potential role of the Congressionally mandated Quadrennial Homeland Security Review would be an ideal setting in which to address these questions.

March 10, 2008

DHS Kicks Off Next Cyber Security Excercise

Filed under: Cybersecurity,Strategy — by Jonah Czerwinski on March 10, 2008

Tomorrow, the National Cybersecurity Division – part of DHS’s Office of Cyber Security and Communications will hold its second large-scale national cyber exercise, Cyber Storm II. The exercise follows Cyber Storm I, held Feb. 6-10, 2006, the first government-led, full-scale exercise (FSE) on cyber security. These FSEs are intended to improve public and private sector interaction for enhanced decision making and information sharing, as well as better public communication techniques and stronger response and recovery capabilities.

The Cyber Storm II scenario will include coordinated cyber and physical attacks on critical infrastructure to simulate a political and economic agenda. Participants in the FSE include Federal, State, local, and international governments, as well as private sector entities from multiple critical infrastructure sectors.  The adversary for Cyber Storm I was depicted in this rendering (click to enlarge):


The National Cybersecurity Division (NCSD) is responsible for providing cyber security coordination and preparedness under Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7. The shorthand mission for NCSD is to coordinate the federal government’s “interaction with state and local government, the private sector and the international community concerning cyberspace vulnerability reduction efforts.”

I’d like to add one more goal for Cyber Storm II: Define cybersecurity once and for all.

In an article published by CSO Magazine, Rick Lawhorn, the former Chief Information Security Officer for GE Financial, identifies four different definitions of cyberterrorism or Cybercrime that need to be reconciled:

State Department definition, Title 22 of the U.S. Code, Chapter 38, Section 2656f(d): premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.

FBI definition: the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

Defense Department definition: the calculated use, or threatened use, of force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives.

United Nations definition: any act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian, or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act. Article 2(b) of International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, May 5, 2004)

Lawhorn is right. The absence of a standard definition of the cyber threat hobbles efforts to track it, understand it, and identify the characteristics that comprise its profile.  This same gap plagues efforts to combat overall terrorism. This is most apparent when we attempt to work with allies overseas, but the recent REAL ID showdown with Montana, South Carolina, and Maine are another example close to home. If cybersecurity is achieved by orchestrating federal, state, local, and international governments, as well as private sector entities from multiple critical infrastructure sectors, a baseline definition is an unavoidable first step.

UPDATE — DHS Issued a press release this evening with a link to more information about Cyber Storm II.

March 6, 2008

DHS Anniversary Prompts Wave of Judgement in CQ

Filed under: Strategy — by Jonah Czerwinski on March 6, 2008

CQ ran a story today commemorating the fifth anniversary of DHS by citing the roundtable Secretary Chertoff convened on Monday with about ten bloggers. At the roundtable, Chertoff outlined the Department’s goals over the next year and fielded questions on a range of topics. Details about this gathering are available here.  In follow-up, CQ Homeland Security’s editor invited more than two dozen experts in government, think tanks, and the private sector to comment (in about 200 words) on whether the creation of DHS was a good idea and, if you had the chance to do it all over again, what would you have done differently?

My response is listed second under the Academia and Think Tanks grouping.  Since its available by subscription, I’ll only excerpt my comments below.

All are worth a read, but I recommend reading the contributions from Clark Ervin (former DHS IG), P.J. Crowley, Scott Hastings (former US-VISIT CIO), James Lee Witt, Bennie Thompson, and Sec. Chertoff.

Jonah Czerwinski, managing consultant for Global Business Services at IBM and a senior adviser on Homeland Security Projects at the Center for the Study of the Presidency

“The stand-up of DHS has delivered both winners and losers during a tumultuous start challenged by self-inflicted wounds. The path forward requires a strategy that rebalances the homeland security mission with clear priorities and a new strategic framework.

Some pre-existing organizations, like the Coast Guard, enjoyed heightened authorities and larger budgets due to the reorganization that created the Department of Homeland Security. Others, such as FEMA, suffered an “org” chart demotion with real consequences on peoples’ lives as seen in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Newly created entities, such as the Science and Technology Directorate, continue to struggle with the growing pains of integration and the battle for interagency legitimacy. A lot could have been done differently.

Initial objections by the Bush administration to creating a unified Homeland Security Department gave in to a real-word political science experiment that Congress passed in the form of the Homeland Security Act of 2002. The lack of initial administration support for DHS slowed progress and forced DHS to fight unnecessary bureaucratic battles with the Pentagon and the intelligence community, not to mention new counterparts overseas.

The department’s strategy to this day falls short of prioritizing its resources and investments around its uniquely difficult mission: combat significant threats while maintaining — even enhancing — daily operation of the economy and overall quality of life for all Americans and visitors. And don’t forget natural disasters. A framework that puts this entire mission into a workable perspective may be achieved by the forthcoming — and first ever — Quadrennial Homeland Security Review. Regardless, the next president inherits DHS with a responsibility to elevate this department’s stature, rationalize its White House coordinating entities, and craft a strategy sufficient to the task.”

March 4, 2008

Chertoff Convenes Bloggers

Filed under: DHS News,Events — by Jonah Czerwinski on March 4, 2008

Yesterday Homeland Security Secretary Mike Chertoff sat down with a group of homeland security bloggers to discuss the upcoming 5-year anniversary of the Department, accomplishments under his watch, and other topics. In what became more of a rapid fire reverse panel discussion, Chertoff sat opposite the eight of us fielding exactly one question from each person. The topics ranged from immigration modernization to cyber security to warrantless wiretaps. As usual, the Secretary enthusiastically – if sometimes combatively – took on every question with the gusto of a real policy wonk.

Rather than rehash for you the details, you can access transcript of the roundtable from the DHS website. The transcript does not name questioners, but I asked the first question on USCIS Transformation, and others in the group were Ryan Singel of Wired, Townhall.com’s Amanda Carpente, Jeff Stein of CQ, J.P. Freire from American Spectator, Counterterrorism Blog’s Andrew Cochran, and Rich Cooper, former DHS official and contributor to Security Debrief. It was a great opportunity to meet these individuals in person

Because the meeting became more like a press interview than a discussion, I believe that we could have used the time better. Actually, we could’ve simply used more time, but that’s impractical. See the transcript for the details. It gets exciting when Jeff Stein digs in on the use of intel from warrantless wiretaps. See Ryan Singel’s distillation for highlights, too.

Where the Candidates Stand on HLS Part III

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on March 4, 2008

Scroll past the “economic stimulus” plan, the “tax cuts” plan, and the “lower taxes” plan on John McCain’s campaign website and you find more on his positions regarding judges, abortion, and lobbyists. However, if you haven’t clicked back to Google yet, there you’ll find some content on protecting against terrorism and securing the homeland. Not surprisingly, he calls out immigration and border security as their own issues. He and Ted Kennedy co-wrote last year’s ill-fated immigration bill.

To learn about McCain’s views on combating terrorism, you’ll find it among, again not surprisingly, his positions on continuing the Iraq War. The net of all this is that McCain is no slouch when it comes to counterterrorism. Parsing brawn and brains is the tough part. A closer look reveals his campaign’s priorities and perspectives on the mission of securing the homeland, but its an incomplete picture.

McCain has been alive for WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Cold War, and various other battles throughout the 20th century. And one can sense his preference for drawing upon this framework in viewing the threat of terrorism in the 21st century. Secure the borders. Fight the enemy where he is. Wherever he is. Assemble weapons for the worst case scenario, just in case. But do these platforms still promise the same success in fighting al Qaeda as they did in fighting the Germans, Japanese, or the Vietnamese?

His campaign turns to this pretty directly:

the quality intelligence necessary to uncover plots before they take root, the resources to protect critical infrastructure and our borders against attack, and the capability to respond and recover from a terrorist incident swiftly.

And he embraces a long view of the battle as follows:

just as America must be prepared to meet and prevail against any adversary on the field of battle, we must engage and prevail against them on the battleground of ideas. In so doing, we can and must deprive terrorists of the converts they seek and teach the doctrine of hatred and despair.

But these are not plans. These are platitudes. The campaign doesn’t seem to offer the details required to judge his priorities and the success or failure he’ll likely encounter by pursuing them. He comes close to addressing challenging homeland security issues in one particular area. Immigration.

Immigration touches on many aspects of American life. It represents the avenue to the American Dream for many, the funnel of prosperity through trade for many others, and even the hope of building bridges through student exchanges across the globe. Immigration also represents the vector through which the 9/11 terrorists initiated their attacks.

McCain offers the following:

A secure border is an essential element of our national security. Tight border security includes not just the entry and exit of people, but also the effective screening of cargo at our ports and other points of entry.

McCain’s campaign continues by suggesting that a secure border will contribute to addressing our immigration problem most effectively if we also:

Recognize the importance of building strong allies in Mexico and Latin America who reject the siren call of authoritarians like Hugo Chavez, support freedom and democracy, and seek strong domestic economies with abundant economic opportunities for their citizens.

Recognize the importance of pro-growth policies — keeping government spending in check, holding down taxes, and cutting unnecessary regulatory burdens — so American businesses can hire and pay the best.

Recognize the importance of a flexible labor market to keep employers in business and our economy on top. It should provide skilled Americans and immigrants with opportunity. Our education system should ensure skills for our younger workers, and our retraining and assistance programs for displaced workers must be modernized so they can pursue those opportunities

Recognize the importance of assimilation of our immigrant population, which includes learning English, American history and civics, and respecting the values of a democratic society.

Recognize that America will always be that “shining city upon a hill,” a beacon of hope and opportunity for those seeking a better life built on hard work and optimism.

Beyond these rather detailed treatments of the immigration challenge, and yes he uses “siren call” –McCain dedicates a significant portion of his platform to fighting in Iraq and spending more money on a missile shield. Not exactly the departure from the past one would expect from the Maverick.


The general election campaign ought to allow the two candidates to debate this issue specifically. By my account, Obama offers the most detailed and thought through plan for Homeland Security. His position would benefit from treating the national security/homeland security concept and the international dimensions of the job. McCain has a lock on the immigration debate, but he remains boxed in by his choices regarding Iraq and his party’s position on missile defense. Furthermore, he needs to open the aperture on what his plans for securing the homeland would be. The Clinton campaign has yet to take this topic seriously. I ran out of time searching for her campaign’s stance on the issue. I’ll ask again for readers to send suggestions if you’re inclined.

March 2, 2008

HLSWatch Interviewed on NPR’s “Homeland Security Inside & Out”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on March 2, 2008

The post we ran here about federal efforts to address threats posed by small boats was the subject of an interview on NPR’s Homeland Security Inside & Out.  The hosts of the show, Dave McIntyre and Randy Larsen, also invited me to stay on for a section on the show that discusses suggested homeland security priorities for the President.  You can listen to both sections by clicking through here.  The webpage for this show is available here.

Dave and Randy asked about what the recent DHS attention to the small boat threat may mean for the boating community and public waterways, as well as funding issues.  On the topic of presidential priorities we took a step back from reorganization or funding issues and instead spent the five minutes discussing a new strategic framework that would enable the president to make the best decisions about gauging threats, determining how best to deter, deny, or defeat them, and generally take a broader view of the challenge.  FF to 38:11 of the show for this piece.  Readers may notice certain ideas from an earlier post here are invoked shamelessly.