Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 29, 2008

Senate Introduces its First DHS Authorization Bill

Filed under: Congress and HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 29, 2008

On Friday, the first ever Senate DHS authorization bill was introduced. Much of this is music to our ears.

The Senate bill elevates the assistant secretary for policy to the position of Under Secretary for Policy, to ensure policy coordination across the Department, it strengthens the authorities of the Office of International Affairs at DHS, and it authorizes the National Cyber Security Center, along with a private sector board to advise the Secretary on cyber security policy.

The assistant secretary of international affairs will be responsible for developing an international strategic plan. Unfortunately, the Quadrennial Homeland Security received little attention. It could have benefitted from added benchmarks in its development and certainly from greater connection to the Secretary.

A significant portion of the bill is devoted to the unexciting, but terribly important, aspects of maturing DHS as an executive agency. For example, see Titles III and IV for language on procurement and investment policies and on strategic human capital, respectively.

Title X introduces a new act entirely. The National Bombing Prevention Act creates a new Office for Bombing Prevention within the Infrastructure Protection division.

An Invitation to Readers

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 29, 2008

I was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to write for HLSwatch for many reasons. Chief among them is the chance to interact with the readers of this blog and to dive deeply into our shared interest in the wide-ranging topic of homeland security policy. Your comments on this blog remain the best way for HLSwatch to serve its purpose of informing, educating, and provoking readers and writers alike. I value of your comments and invite you to respond to these posts, and especially the comments posted by others. The dialogue is what makes HLSwatch more than a news source.

I look forward to hearing from you.


September 26, 2008

Infrastructure Security Developments

Filed under: Infrastructure Protection — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 26, 2008

I’m still out a Livermore with the Stimson Center task force and so only have a couple updates:

HLSwatch reader William Cumming sent in word that The Society of American Military Engineers, Alexandria, Va., has been chosen for the role of Secretariat for The Infrastructure Security Partnership (TISP)-a public-private partnership dedicated to improving the nation’s critical infrastructure resilience (SAME). The role of Secretariat had formerly been filled by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

As Secretariat, SAME will provide logistical support to the organization; however, TISP will retain its own identity, branding and mission. Part of SAME’s new role in moving TISP forward will include helping to initiate a series of quarterly forums addressing issues related to the nation’s infrastructure and featuring panel discussions with a wide variety of leaders.

In the meantime, David Bodenheimer of Crowell & Moring will moderate a panel discussion entitled “Securing Our Critical Infrastructure: Money, Security, and Homeland Security Opportunities” on October 2, 2008, with:
• Robert B. Stephan, Assistant Secretary, Infrastructure Protection, Department of Homeland Security
• Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, Partner, Monument Policy Group and Former Staff Director and General Counsel, House Homeland Security Committee
• Paul B. Kurtz, Partner, Good Harbor Consulting, LLC
• Mick Kicklighter, Director, Center for Infrastructure Protection, School of Law, George Mason University.

September 24, 2008

Congress Moves to Fund Homeland Security

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,Congress and HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 24, 2008

The House will consider a large spending bill to bridge fund the federal government through March 6 with $39.9 billion for Homeland Security, which $2.3 billion more than the president requested and represents about a six percent plus-up over FY 2008’s $37.7 billion enacted.

The Homeland Security Appropriations bill once again rejects the President’s proposal to cut $2 billion from the homeland security grant programs, including assistance for State and local law enforcement and other emergency responders to prevent, prepare for, and respond to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and other emergencies.

Indeed, the bill includes $4.2 billion for First Responder and Port Security Grant Programs, $2 billion above the President’s request and $24 million above 2008. Substantial increases are also in CBP, Border Protection, ICE, maritime security, aviation security, cyber security, and FEMA management, among others.

The bill cuts funding in some areas, too. For example, US-VISIT is losing $90 million of its request until DHS can produce required expenditure plans. DNDO, alays a target of Congressional scrutiny, gets $50 million below the president’s request due to continued procurement delays.

The House Appropriators take an addition step to identify key policy concerns they have going forward. These include the following:

Oversight: Requires DHS submit plans on how it will implement: Deepwater; the Security Border Initiative; National Cyber Security Initiative; Next Generation Networks program; US-VISIT; and the Automated Commercial Environment.

Federal Protective Service: Requires at least 900 FPS police to protect Federal buildings and requires GAO to review FPS needs after GAO found staff cuts left federal buildings vulnerable to crimes and terrorist attacks.

Principal Federal Official (PFO) Positions: Limits the appointment of PFOs during declared disasters or emergencies to eliminate confusion that can occur when these positions overlap with FEMA’s responsibilities.

DHS Personnel System: Prohibits DHS from implementing a new personnel system.

National Applications Office: Prohibits DHS from using satellites for other than existing purposes until DHS submits and GAO reviews an explanation of its legality. GAO recently raised questions about the strength of internal controls for DHS’ proposed approach.

US-VISIT Air Exit Program: DHS is required to complete two pilot programs before proceeding with its biometric air exit plan.

The president didn’t make out too badly though. He secured over $303 million in earmarked funds as part of this stopgap funding. You can see all the earmarks here.

September 22, 2008

Dearth of DHS Engagement of Presidential Campaigns May Be White House Doing

Filed under: Legal Issues,Organizational Issues — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 22, 2008

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman, Bennie Thompson, and Management, Investigations, and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Christopher Carney are questioning DHS’s lack of communication with the presidential campaigns as was expected to be one of several efforts to smooth the presidential transition process for the Department. CQ reported this morning that a letter sent Friday from Thompson and Carney to Chertoff asked “why the department was confused” about whether DHS should contact the candidates. One reason may be some conflicting advice from the policy community and from the White House.

What started this debate was a hearing last week at which Undersecretary of Homeland Security for Management Elaine Duke told the Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, that while the routine transition briefing books are being compiled for the presidential nominees, neither campaign has been contacted. She also noted that nor has either campaign reached out to them.

The implied concern is that the campaigns want to avoid being perceived as presumptuous by engaging executive agencies on the subject of transition planning. So why won’t DHS just reach out to them? The National Academy of Public Administration urged this, the DHS’s own Administration transition planning recommends it, and just about any pundit would suggest it goes without saying.

The problem may rest in a White House memorandum sent to all executive agencies – including DHS – on April 22 that requires they limit any contact with the presidential campaigns. The memorandum is from the President’s Counsel, Fred Fielding. DHS General Counsel, Gus Coldebella, distributed the memo to all DHS personnel two days later. The memo from Fielding explains in essence that no contact with the presidential campaigns may take place without White House approval from one of the following individuals:
• Chief of Staff to the President,
• Deputy Chief of Staff to the President for Policy,
• Deputy Chief of Staff to the President for Operations,
• Counselor to the President, or
• Assistant to the President for Strategic Initiatives and External Affairs

No wonder the Department of Homeland Security is reluctant to reach out. The campaigns won’t initiate contact for political reasons mentioned above. DHS is told not to share any information with the presidential campaigns that isn’t publicly available without going to the White House first.

This level of control is perhaps to be expected, but DHS is under unique demands to make sure that the incoming President’s team is ready to execute a seamless hand-off during a heightened level of risk to the homeland. It seems odd that the White House wouldn’t make a deliberate exception to these constraints in the case of DHS.

September 19, 2008

Roadmap for Homeland Security Enterprise Released

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Strategy — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 19, 2008

A new analysis and set of recommendations entitled Homeland Security 3.0 rolled out yesterday at the National Press Club. James Carafano and David Heyman, co-chairs of the task force that wrote HLS 3.0, were joined by John Hamre, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, to introduce the new report as the work of twenty five experts in the fields of national and homeland security, counterterrorism, political science, intelligence, law, international affairs, and civil liberties. This range of expertise represents the core thrust of the report: homeland security is bigger than any single department.

Indeed, the article that ran this morning in Congressional Quarterly by Dan Fowler captures this thrust with the report’s subtitle taking front and center: “Building a National Enterprise To Keep America Free, Safe, and Prosperous.” [Full disclosure: I served on the task force and participated in the international affairs group.]

The methodology for this report was smart in its simplicity: Assemble a broad cross-section of relevant experts, organize them into basic groups of discipline, and ask them to answer to two questions: (1) What are five of the most important problems that need to be solved in the homeland security mission space? (2) What are the corresponding practical responses to those problems?

The outcome is an actionable set of recommendations that look across the strategic challenge of securing the homeland without focusing on one department or competency.

What emerges is a useful definition of the goal, too: Establishing America’s homeland security enterprise. Such an enterprise involves more than managing DHS. It demands executive leadership across the federal government that can understand the best role for our state and local partners and the enormous opportunities on the international level. As such, the report breaks down the challenge into five groups:

1. Empowering a National Culture of Preparedness
2. Shifting to a Strategy Focused on Sustaining a Resilient National Infrastructure
3. Expanding International Cooperation
4. Developing a Framework for Domestic Intelligence
5. Establishing National Programs for Professional Development

We are seeing the beginning of what will become a significant contribution from the policy community on the next phase of governance in keeping America free, safe, and prosperous. Look for additional contributions from the Center for American Progress, the Homeland Security Policy Institute, and others. Combined with the work of the National Academy of Public Administration and the Council for Excellence in Government, the next Administration will have a wealth of intellectual support in assuming leadership.

September 18, 2008

DHS Releases New Strategic Plan

Filed under: Strategy — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 18, 2008

DHS released its update Strategic Plan on Tuesday. Attempting to solidify its core missions of immigration, customs and border control, critical infrastructure, and preparedness, this document covers 2008-2013. That’s quite a reach. I’m guessing the next Administration might ant to revisit a document slated to guide the Department for the next five years.

The impetus for updating the DHS Strategic Plan could have been simply to give the first one something a little more actionable. Round one of the Department’s Plan – released in 2004 – read like a PR document rather than a plan. This new version emphasizes risk analysis and management techniques as well as an all-hazards approach to operations.

The new Strategic Plan reasserts Secretary Chertoff’s priorities of protecting against “bad people,” “dangerous goods,” and failing infrastructure and strengthening emergency preparedness and response, as well as management responsibilities. And the basic philosophy remains:

Vision: A secure America, a confident public, and a strong and resilient society and economy.

Mission: We will lead the unified national effort to secure America. We will prevent and deter terrorist attacks and protect against and respond to threats and hazards to the Nation. We will secure our national borders while welcoming lawful immigrants, visitors, and trade.

Core values:
• Duty: Embodying Integrity, Responsibility, and Accountability

• Respect: Honoring Our Partners and One Another.

• Innovation: Creating Opportunities

• Vigilance: Safeguarding America

Today is also the roll-out event at the Press Club of HLS 3.0. This is the follow-up report to DHS 2.0, which influenced much of the reforms that took place at DHS in 2004 and 2005. As with the first, James Carafano and David Heyman co-chaired the task force that wrote this new report. I served on the team that developed the international issues for DHS. For a preview of the content, see this post.

September 17, 2008

A Rough Week for DHS Cyber Programs

Filed under: Cybersecurity — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 17, 2008

What a week for DHS cyber security efforts. Congressional hearings, think tank studies, and GAO reports all arguing that the Department is underpowered and disorganized in its effort to carry out its role as a lead in the National Cyber Security Initiative, a multi-billion dollar program to protect federal and private sector internet assets against attack and exploitation.

Not to leave anything ambiguous, GAO released three new studies this week:
DHS Faces Challenges in Establishing a Comprehensive National Capability
DHS Needs to Better Address Its Cybersecurity Responsibilities
DHS Needs to Fully Address Lessons Learned from Its First Cyber Storm Exercise

The pointy end of the spear is US-CERT. The US-CERT’s mission is to:

• analyze and reduce cyber threats and vulnerabilities
• disseminate cyber threat warning information
• coordinate incident response activities

They have a way to go. A new GAO report finds that US-CERT “lacks a comprehensive baseline understanding of the nation’s critical information infrastructure operations, does not monitor all critical infrastructure information systems, does not consistently provide actionable and timely warnings, and lacks the capacity to assist in mitigation and recovery in the event of multiple, simultaneous incidents of national significance.”

DHS spokesperson Laura Keehner explained that “We are undertaking something not unlike the Manhattan Project.” “Billions of dollars are going into this effort. We’re the first to admit there is more work to be done….” Of course, US-CERT was founded five years ago. In the last year, more cooks have been added to the kitchen, too. The DHS CIO has a leadership role, the Under Secretary for National Protection and Programs has a leadership role, the director of the National Cyber Security Center has a leadership role, the Assistant Secretary of Cyber Security and Communications has a leadership role.

This may be what drove James Lewis of the Center for Strategic & International Studies to tell Congress in testimony yesterday during a hearing on cyber issues that the core problems “are the lack of a strategic focus, overlapping missions, poor coordination and collaboration, and diffuse responsibility.”

Lewis serves on the Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency along with 30+ other leading lights in this area, including Pete Allor of IBM and Paul Kurtz of Good Harbor. They make a pretty straight forward recommendation: If this is to be a truly national cyber initiative, move it to the White House. Getting this effort bogged down in DHS, the intelligence community, and DOD risks hobbling the whole endeavor, which is far too important.

September 15, 2008

Bipartisan Call to Address HLS Priorities

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 15, 2008

The mission of securing the homeland is far larger than the Department of Homeland Security. More than 87,000 governmental jurisdictions at the federal, state, and local level have homeland security responsibilities. A total of 32 agency budgets comprise Federal homeland security funding in 2009. Of those, five agencies – DHS, DOD, HHS, DOJ, and DOE – account for approximately $60.7 billion (91%) of total Government-wide gross discretionary homeland security funding in 2009.

Tackling HLS challenges facing the U.S. in the next Administration requires an enterprise perspective to orchestrate this massive mission.

James Carafano and David Heyman called it. Two of the more influential thinkers in homeland security policy at The Heritage Foundation and CSIS, respectively, they say in a new article today that “voters have heard little about homeland security” from the presidential candidates.

The seventh anniversary of 9/11 came and went with sincere calls by both camps to honor those we lost, inspire those live on, and capture or kill those who are responsible and remain at large. However, Heyman and Carafano are right to assess that “the risks to America’s hometowns are as high as they’ve ever been, if not higher.” A lot of work remains to be done here at home to keep Americans safe from terrorist threats.

In bipartisan spirit, their article takes both the Obama and McCain camps to task for how they would address urgent policy issues related to securing the homeland. For example:

• Is a post-Katrina FEMA on the right track?

• Should we welcome foreign visitors or place tighter controls at the border to protect America from terrorist threats?

• Should we build border fences or invest in tougher immigration enforcement?

• Should government regulate private-sector security to ensure critical infrastructure is protected, or encourage voluntary public-private partnerships?

• How should we fund continued investments and operational costs of our local first responders?

• Should the Patriot Act be reauthorized as is?

• Should we scan all cargo coming into America for radiological or nuclear bombs?

An enterprise, indeed. This is about more than one department. This also is about more than just the federal government, and more than about simply the “homeland.” What will the candidates propose to build such an enterprise? We have analyzed the positions of both candidates based on campaign positions here. But Carafano and Heyman offer five recommendations for McCain and Obama to consider:

• Foster a culture of preparedness by focusing on making communities and individuals more self-reliant and less dependent on Washington.
• Shift from a strategy that tries to “child-proof” critical infrastructure to one that builds and sustains an infrastructure that can take a hit and keep going.
• Expand international cooperation, since real homeland security begins far from home.
• Develop a clear framework for domestic intelligence, one that safeguards liberty and defeats terrorists equally well.
• Improve professional development in security and public safety at all levels of government — ensuring that leaders really can lead.

These are thumbnail recommendations that deserve deeper treatment by both candidates. It is clear from Obama’s campaign material that he has thought about these issues and he offers his own plan. McCain on the other hand only just updated his website to now have a page on HLS. Let’s hope we get both campaign’s talking more about this issue so important to American voters.

September 10, 2008

Congress Judges Progress on 9-11 Reforms

Filed under: Congress and HLS,General Homeland Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 10, 2008

On the seventh anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the House Committee on Homeland Security released last night a report of the findings made by the majority staffs overseeing progress made in implementing the requirements of HR1 – the first law passed by the Democratic Congress in 2007 that placed into law the remaining recommendations of the 9-11 Commission.

This new report focuses on statutory requirements in the following areas:
(1) aviation security;
(2) rail and public transportation security;
(3) port security;
(4) border security;
(5) information sharing;
(6) privacy and civil liberties;
(7) emergency response;
(8) biosurveillance;
(9) private sector preparedness; and
(10) national security.


It would seem from this report’s treatment that the judgment is being passed on the political leadership, not the system as a whole. The report argues that many of the missed opportunities are due to political ideology, not the competence of the 180,000 employees of the DHS enterprise.

So how will the Dems do better if they take charge in January? Look for future posts here that focus on the change anticipated from the Democrats. And since the McCain campaign is now also running on a change platform, I hope to blog about how McCain plans to do things differently, too.

In the meantime, take a look at the work of these two professional staffs and let me know what you think.

UPDATE — DHS leadership is not going to take this laying down, of course. You can read the press released they issued today right here.

September 9, 2008

WMD Report Grade Released Tomorrow

Filed under: International HLS,Radiological & Nuclear Threats,Strategy — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 9, 2008

The bipartisan Partnership for a Secure America gave the U.S. an overall grade of C in its progress toward preventing a nuclear, biological, or chemical attack on U.S. soil and combating the proliferation of WMD abroad. Three D’s, eight C’s, and seven B’s.

Spencer Hsu at the Washington Post first reported the story today in advance of tomorrow’s roll-out at the PSA offices in Washington, DC. Lee Hamilton, co-chairman of the 9-11 Commission and Obama adviser will introduce the findings with Republican Slade Gordon, also a member of the 9-11 Commission and former Congressman from Washington. Both 9-11 Commission chairs, Hamilton and Gov. Tom Keane, sign the report’s introduction.

The WMD Report Card will be released tomorrow. Get the information on attending here

The WMD Report Card is not only a report for well-known experts no longer in government to criticize those still in. The WMD Report Card offers advice. On the nuclear threat, for example, it recommends that the U.S.:

Conduct a comprehensive re-evaluation of the changing threat of nuclear terrorism

Eliminate bureaucratic obstacles to proliferation prevention

Strongly encourage foreign partners to live up to commitments under G8 Global Partnership, UNSCR 1540, and other agreements.

Resolve outstanding bilateral legal disputes to facilitate continuation and expansion of the Proliferation Security Initiative.

Strengthen existing science and human engagement programs to leverage US science and technology capacity, global development assistance, and other potential inducements as a means of building deeper and sustained cooperation for the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, materials and know-how.

Full disclosure: I serve on the PSA’s Board of Directors. However, this project was well underway before I joined. Executive Director Matt Rojansky, led the charge on this with PSA’s new Associate Director, Michael Landweber. I look forward to seeing how tomorrow’s roll-out unfolds.

Fortunately, PSA’s report comes as the Congressionally mandated WMD Commission, which is charged with expanding counter-terrorism efforts to prevent WMD, is slated to report out soon. Members of the WMD Commission are consulting the PSA report according to the Washington Post and what sources tell me. Let’s hope this gets on the radar of the presidential candidates, one of whom will inherit an evidently average effort to deal with one of the greatest threats to national security.

September 8, 2008

Rice Leads International Talks on Terrorism, But Where is DHS?

Filed under: International HLS,Organizational Issues — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 8, 2008

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met over the weekend with the leaders of Libya and Tunisia to seek better cooperation on counterterrorism. This is exactly the geography that needs our attention. There is fertile ground for the U.S. to articulate shared interests with the countries of northern Africa.

Yet, while Algeria recently has endured a surge in terrorism-related violence, with more than 100 people killed last month, it will be difficult to gain the cooperation we seek. We need them more than they need us in this effort.

The Post reported how Rice noted that “Our counterterrorism people think that cooperation here is good. But there is always more that you can do to tighten sharing of information, to make sure you have all the right channels to give technical support in terms of the terrorism threat.”

Indeed, we have a lot to give and a lot to gain. But providing the “technical support” and “information sharing” Secretary Rice offers requires Departments other than hers. While this may be a discussion brokered by diplomats, the Secretary of Homeland Security should have a seat at the table.

This is why this blog and its readers have repeatedly outlined options for unifying efforts overseas by the Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security. Granted, the kind of assistance these countries seek in return for cooperation with the U.S. may be well beyond that which is necessary for combating terrorist threats, but we have an interest in limiting the vulnerability of populations everywhere to the threats of terrorist violence. If that means training up border officials in Egypt, outfitting maritime security guards in Morrocco, or installing detection equipment along the Mediterranean, this is a job best led – or at least supported – by the Department of Homeland Security.

For more on policy options that can help elevate such cooperation on the international level, see these posts and other resources:

Europe Steps In to Bridge Mediterranean. But Where’s the U.S.?

DHS International Programs Under Scrutiny

Middle East Eyes Homeland Security

Int’l Security Summit Misses HLS Opportunity

As I understand, DHS did serve a role in these talks with Algeria and Tunisia. Its unclear if it was advance/prep or actual conduct of the meetings. I’ll update this post if I get details about the role DHS served.

September 5, 2008

Bush Renews Emergency Declaration for 7th Year Running

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Legal Issues — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 5, 2008

On September 14, 2001, President Bush issued Executive Order 13223, declaring a national emergency in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It is a one-year declaration made under the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)).

That emergency declaration comes with powers and authorities the President specifies to respond to the cause of the emergency, al-Qaeda’ terrorist threat in this case. The declaration was actually reinstated every year since. Last week, President Bush renewed the national emergency for yet another year. CRS did a study for the Congress outlining the powers that Bush invoked. These include:

• 10 U.S.C. 123. Authorizes the President, in time or war or national emergency declared by Congress or the President, to suspend the operation of any provision of law relating to the promotion, involuntary retirement, or separation of commissioned officers of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard Reserve.

• 10 U.S.C. 123a. Authorizes the President, at the end of any fiscal year when there is in effect a war or national emergency, to defer the effectiveness of any end-strength limitation with respect to that fiscal year prescribed by law for any military or civilian component of the armed forces or of the Department of Defense.

• 10 U.S.C. 527. Authorizes the President to suspend the operation of three specified sections of Title 10, United States Code, concerning the authorized strength of commissioned officers on active duty in senior grades, the distribution of commissioned officers on active duty in general officer or flag officer grades, and the authorized strength of commissioned officers on active duty in general officer or flag officer grades.

• 10 U.S.C. 2201(c). Authorizes the President to make a determination that it is necessary to increase the number of members of the armed services on active duty beyond the number for which funds have been appropriated for the Department of Defense.

• 10 U.S.C. 12006. Authorizes the President to suspend the operation of three specified sections of Title 10, United States Code, concerning the authorized strengths of armed forces reserve commissioned officers in an active status, reserve general and flag officers in an active status, and filling senior Army and Air Force Reserve commissioned officer vacancies.

• 10 U.S.C. 12302. Authorizes the President to call members of the Ready Reserve (retired military persons) to active duty.

• 14 U.S.C. 331. Authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to order any regular officer of the Coast Guard on the retired list to active duty.

• 14 U.S.C. 359. Authorizes the Commandant of the Coast Guard to order any enlisted member of the Coast Guard on the retired list to active duty.

• 14 U.S.C. 367. Authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to detain enlisted members of the Coast Guard beyond their terms of enlistment.

• 10 U.S.C. 603 Authorizes the Secretary of Defense to appoint qualified persons to any officer grade in the armed forces.

President Clinton declared national emergencies to address threats posed by terrorists who threaten to disrupt the Middle East peace process by assisting in, sponsoring, or providing support to terrorist acts. President Clinton also invoked – as has Bush – the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). The IEEPA authorizes the President to regulate or prohibit any foreign bank transfers involving any foreign country or one of its citizens.

September 4, 2008

Air Transit Still at Risk

Filed under: Aviation Security,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 4, 2008

Suspected terrorists have recently been tracking airplane crew members of the Israeli national airline, El Al, in Toronto, purportedly in preparation for an attack on airline personnel. Al Haaretz reports today that Israeli intelligence thinks Hezbollah seeks to attack Israeli targets abroad to avenge the February assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah’s number two and suspected of being involved in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. barracks in Beirut. Hezbollah blames Mossad for the assasination.

I wouldn’t exactly call this alarmist either:
• July 2002: Two people are killed by a gunman firing on El Al passengers at LAX before an Israeli security official shot and killed the gunman.

• May 2003: EL Al canceled a flight to Kenya after receiving an intelligence warning of a planned attack.

• September 2003: An El Al flight from Tel Aviv to Los Angeles diverts to Montreal because of a warning of a terror attack planned for its layover in Toronto.

• November 2005: Seven Dutch youths arrested for planning to attack an El Al plane.

• June 2006: Swiss authorities uncover an attempt by a Muslim terror cell to attack an El Al plane in Germany.

• November 2006: Germany arrests six on suspicion of planning to blow up an El Al plane leaving from Frankfurt.

• Summer 2008: Hezbollah cell caught collecting against Israeli targets in Canada, including the Israeli Embassy in Ottawa.

September 2, 2008

Wake-Up Call Seven Years After

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Infrastructure Protection — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 2, 2008

China won the competition to host the recently concluded 2008 Olympics on July 13, 2001 – just two months before 9/11. For those wondering whether or not we are more secure today than we were before 9/11, consider a broader metric offered today by Thomas Friedman.

Friedman reflects on how China and America have spent the last seven years:

China has been preparing for the Olympics; we’ve been preparing for al-Qaeda. They’ve been building better stadiums, subways, airports, roads and parks. And we’ve been building better metal detectors, armored Humvees and pilotless drones.

The Olympics are over – and were a triumph. Al Qaeda, on the other hand, remains a threat. Fighting terrorism is harder than putting on a $50 billion international competition. (The latter is the Olympics.) But, Friedman points out that the hidden costs are beginning to show:

Compare arriving at La Guardia’s dumpy terminal in New York City and driving through the crumbling infrastructure into Manhattan with arriving at Shanghai’s sleek airport and taking the 220 mph magnetic levitation train, which uses electromagnetic propulsion instead of steel wheels and tracks to get to town in a blink.

At least he notes that China is not equally blessed. Beyond Beijing, that country is still in worse shape than the U.S. Friedman’s point is different: Consider how much modern infrastructure has been built in China since 2001 and how much infrastructure has been postponed in America since 2001. The next president needs a devoted nation-building program in America.

“The next president,” Friedman explains, “can have all the foreign affairs experience in the world, but it will be useless if we, as a country, are weak.” Homeland Security, in other words, is a critical part of keeping America competitive and investments in securing America can also pay dividends in quality of life. A safe and efficient public transportation system is both more secure and more effective.

The next election is not about who is tough enough on terrorists. Both Obama and McCain are equally committed to combating terrorism. The real metric is who is “strong enough, focused enough, creative enough and unifying enough to get Americans to rebuild America.”