Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 10, 2009

Friday round up of stray stories

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on April 10, 2009

Following are a few stories that received insufficient attention this week.

The President has ordered Napolitano and Brennan to travel together to the Mexican border in advance of his official visit to Mexico City.  The DHS Secretary and HS advisor working in tandem is a promising signal.

The Heritage Foundation has come out for integrating the HSC and NSC, but curtailing tendency to operationalize decisions in the White House.  Nice distinction.

Violence steming from the Mexican drug war seemed to quiet a bit the last two weeks.  But the fundamental challenge continues and a long-term solution be complicated by the tactics deployed in recent weeks.  The shut-off of water to five million Mexico City residents – unrelated to the drug war – underlines the range of problems facing our southern neighbor.

Eleven Pakistani nationals in Britain on student visas were arrested earlier than planned when a senior police official forgot about the paparazzi.  Early reports suggest those arrested were planning attacks on shopping centers and nightclubs.

There are reports of al-Qaeda and Taliban forces relocating into Pakistan’s urban centers to avoid US drone attacks. The ceasefire in Pakistan’s Swat Valley is in danger of falling apart, while Taliban forces are reported moving into a new region.

Saudi Arabia announced the arrest of an eleven member al-Qaeda cell.  In a potentially related move, this morning Yemen announced the arrest of an uspecified number of terroristsAl-Qaeda operations have been increasing in Saudi’s southern neighbor.

There has been another death in Egypt due to Avian Flu.   Of 63 cases confirmed to date in Egypt, 23 have been fatal.  There has also been another confirmed Avian Flu fatality in Vietnam.  There 55 of 110 confirmed diagnoses have resulted in death.

Large grassfires and dust storms have spread across Oklahoma and Northern Texas.  Last night two small Texas towns were devastated by the fast moving flames.

Another dangerous flood crest is being predicted next week for Fargo.  The National Weather Service has forecast a, “high probability (75 percent chance) of reaching or exceeding 41 feet and a 25 percent chance of reaching or exceeding 42.8 feet.”  Farther north the Red River is cresting in Winnipeg and the flood threat has reached a critical stage.

A West Virginia chemical plant with an especially troubled history of toxic releases has failed in an effort to keep some of its records out of the public record.  The company claimed that release of the information would violate a federal anti-terrorism statute protecting “sensitive security information.”

The eruption of the Mount Redoubt Volcano has required a nearby oil refinery to suspend operations.

Thursday over 50,000 residents of Central California lost all telecommunications connections due to sabotage.

Police found “28 pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails and other devices” in the home of a Virginia teenager after a friend warned of a planned attack on their school.

The DOJ’s assertion of the state secrets doctrine is generating increasing complaints.  Dan Froomkin provides a helpful overview in his WAPO blog.

The British government has announced it will enforce an EU directive requiring Internet Service Providers, “to retain information on email traffic, visits to web sites and telephone calls made over the internet, for 12 months.”

Fox News commentator Glenn Beck has de-bunked the Internet myth of FEMA concentration camps, a myth that Beck did a great deal to spread.  The two-part debunking concludes, “there is a huge difference between skepticism and cynicism. And a lot of people say they are being skeptical are really just deeply, deeply cynical. Skepticism means asking questions, listening to the answers, approaching the facts with good faith. And when you find a fact that doesn’t support your world view, maybe you’d better change your world view. Conspiracy theorists tend to come in with a world view that is fixed. And then when they find facts that don’t work, they just ignore those facts.”

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Comment by William R. Cumming

April 10, 2009 @ 7:47 am

WOW! Nice coverage of a range of stories, some very significant. Two technical points. First, I would argue that the NSC staff and membership has no authority under the National Security Act of 1947, as amended to be operational and only the seperate authority of the NSC members can be utilized to conduct operations. This precise issue was covered in the Iran-Contra Hearings. Scowcroft’s NSC reforms were based on this premise. Oddly few other statutes or Executive Orders even mention the NSC (One is EO 12656 as amended) and when conducting FOIA and civil discovery defense in a number of cases, NSC staff argued this point in preventing disclosure and oddly not deliberative process or state secret. Oddly the issue is essentially unreviewed by the Courts, Congress, or the legal profession. The position of General Counsel to the NSC is a recent arrangement and the AG does NOT sit as a statutory member of the NSC. Two AG’s have sat as Ex Officio members of the NSC, Robert Kennedy and Edward Meese. The others sat on a case by case basis by invitation. There is NO and never has been any systematic review of NSC actions, policy or internal operations.
Note use of word “sabotage” in one story above. “Sabotage” is a defined term in Title 18 of the US Code and applies only during wartime. NO state statutes to my knowledge use the term. In several drafting sessions of PD-63 issued February 1998 it was suggested that a formal review of the scope and possible amendment of the term “Sabotage” be conducted by DOJ/OLC. As currently written would certainly exclude cyber attacks. This has not been done to my knowledge.
As to the Glenn Beck story recently the internet has been flooded with stories repeating a theme as to FEMA secret government and takeover of entire federal government in an emergency. The stories always cite superceded Executive Orders, especially EO 11490 (1969) revoked by EO 12656. EO 11490 and E0 12656 did not and do not do anything unConstitutional and certainly do not do what the conspiracy blogs posts argued. FEMA of course now exists as a statutory sub-unit only because of PKEMRA (Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006) effective March 31, 2007. One source of concentration camp stories involving FEMA stemmed from revelation of the fact that President Reagan’s first FEMA Director, Louis O. Guiffrida, a retired Lt. Col. in the Marines, had written in a paper at the National Defense University a paper arguing for camps to incarcerate those fomenting riots and civil disorders. The riots at San Franciso State University in the late 60’s had prompted then Governor Reagan to establish the California Specialized Training Institute ( a unit that still exists) to train Californina law enforcement personnel on systems and processes for riot and civil disorder control. Mr. Guiffrida was the head of that unit under Governor Reagan.

Comment by Arnold

April 10, 2009 @ 9:52 am

Why I agree with the Heritage paper, I find it amusing that the think tank that produced a long-form commercial for missile defense–“33 Minutes”–and which invokes the ghost of President Reagan at every opportunity would come out against what was arguably his model for the NSC.

What will be interesting to track is the reaction of several of the think tank and other concerned communities if the QHSR recommends some reorganization inside DHS. It seems that “wait for the QHSR” is the first argument against any reorganization. It will be interesting to see what the 2.0 version will entail.

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