Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 6, 2009

Mixed bag of afternoon updates

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on May 6, 2009

At this afternoon’s PFO media briefing, Secretary Napolitano cautions, “It’s not time to declare victory over H1N1.”  But she also announced that today’s was the last daily brief.   The full transcript is available from the DHS website.

Secretary Napolitano testified this morning before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  You can access her prepared testimony.  There is also an archived webcast of the full hearing (1 hour and 48 minutes long) available from the Committee’s website.  Jena McNeill with Heritage did real-time blogging.  A Reuters report focuses on border security.

Craig Fugate, nominated as FEMA administrator, is in a long holding pattern. “I am maintaining my hold on the FEMA nominee until I get answers to my specific requests — requests that I have had before the acting FEMA administrator for more than 60 days,”  Senator Vitter explained in a statement. Hurricane season is not waiting.  More from the Tallahassee Democrat.

At last week’s nomination hearing of Tim Manning (FEMA Deputy Administrator), Chairman Lieberman expressed concern regarding the DHS National Exercise Program.  A report released today by the Office of the Inspector General shares the Chairman’s concern.  “The Federal Emergency Management Agency… established a National Exercise Program and standardized the terrorism exercise process. However, the Department of Homeland Security has not secured adequate participation and support from other federal departments and agencies; state, territorial, and local entities; or the private sector in planning, implementing, and evaluating exercises or in the corrective action processes. In addition, after-action reports, best practices, and lessons learned from Top Officials exercises have not been disseminated to a broad national audience.”  (See the complete OIG report).

The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection has approved reauthorization of the Transportation Security Administration for fiscal years 2010 and 2011. (See: HR 2200) The bill now moves to the full committee.

According to The Hill, The DOJ OIG says, “the FBI failed to add targets of terrorism investigations to the Consolidated Terrorist Watchlist, the roster of more than 68,000 known or suspected terrorists used by law enforcement and border officers.” (See the complete IG report)

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Comment by OU812

May 6, 2009 @ 4:27 pm

Charlie the Legend Shares Another Tablet with the Unenlightened (article below)

Another post Administration hero makes a stand. Great job Charlie. Where was this wealth of courage, wisdom, and perspective while still a cog of the machine?

1. Nice job talking a cheap shot at your former organization for producing an “ill-advised,” “rambling,” and “not professionally written,” assessment. Guess all of that wonderful leadership and experience you shared with the troops during your tenure at DHS didn’t stick. Amazing how things went downhill so fast after your departure. Too bad you didn’t have a bunch of your cronies still on site to carry on your vision (tongue and cheek: Charlie’s boys are responsible for this fiasco and this report has been in the works for months).

2. Releasing the DoJ memos could send the agency into the “dark age.” News flash. The cave has been dark for quite some time and Glaucon is no where in sight.

3. What can Moses offer us a new about the enemy’s actual capabilities vice their intentions? Almost eight years after 9/11 the best that can be offered is that “we are likely going to suffer another attack.” Very helpful.

Washington Insider with Ronald Kessler

Former Intel Chief: Obama, Congress Creating Risk-Averse CIA


Monday, May 4, 2009 11:02 AM

By: Ronald Kessler Article Font Size

President Obama’s release of memos on CIA interrogation tactics could send the agency into a “dark age” leading to another successful terrorist attack, Charles Allen, who recently left as chief of intelligence of the Department of Homeland Security, tells Newsmax.

“I feel that we’re headed into a very dark period that could last up to a decade, where we’re not going to be very courageous because we’re going to get potentially punished,” Allen says.

From 2005 until Jan. 20 of this year, Allen was undersecretary of Homeland Security for Intelligence and Analysis, detailed to DHS from the CIA. In the Newsmax interview, Allen repudiated a controversial report issued by his former office warning law enforcement about the potential for violence from returning military forces.

The report said that fears of possible new restrictions on firearms, as well as the return of military veterans facing problems returning to civilian life, could “lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.”

Calling the report “ill-advised,” “rambling,” and “not professionally written,” Allen observes, “It was sort of a situational awareness alert, but it seemed to be poorly written and not based on empirical data to support some of the judgments, particularly the issue relating to veterans.”

Allen is a legendary figure in American intelligence circles. Having joined the CIA in 1958, he has served as a deputy director of the Counterterrorism Center and as the national intelligence officer for counterterrorism.

When the 9/11 attacks occurred, Allen was a special assistant to the director of Central Intelligence. In that role, Allen coordinated spy satellite coverage. As he told me for my book “The CIA at War: Inside the Secret Campaign Against Terror,” for three days after 9/11, he slept on an air mattress in his office.

Allen cites the chilling effect John Deutch, as director of Central Intelligence, had on the CIA. In September 1995, Deutch issued instructions requiring high-level approval for recruitment of assets with so-called human rights violations. Deutch fired two agency officials because they had recruited Guatemalan assets who had engaged in political assassination.

“Deutch said we should recruit people who were not hardened terrorists,” Allen says. “He said you could always propose such a recruitment up to the director if necessary. But you didn’t want to bring up somebody that was highly controversial. You wouldn’t waste your time to try to justify the recruitment.”

The risk-averse atmosphere generated by Deutch impaired the agency’s ability to detect the 9/11 plot, Allen says. As a result, “When al-Qaida began to build in 1996, we didn’t have direct penetration at the level that was required,” he says.

Allen says Obama’s release of the memos and condemnation of the tactics used, along with criticism from members of Congress who were briefed on the coercive interrogation techniques back in 2002, is a “debacle” that is once again creating an “extremely risk-averse atmosphere.”

“There’s going to be a tendency not to take risks, and not to go against our hardest targets,” Allen says. “We’re talking about doing operations in certain areas of the world which are hostile or are denied areas. We need to take risks, to put people in under deep cover with little or no protection. Or to do a technical operation or to recruit a terrorist. I don’t know now whether we’ll come up with those kind of forward-leaning, cutting-edge intelligence operations.”

At the same time, “We have Sen. Patrick Leahy calling for a truth commission,” Allen says. “Leahy was banished from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for leaking information,” he says, referring to Leahy’s admission in 1987 that he leaked material about the Iran Contra affair to an NBC reporter. “Now it seems he is vindictive toward the agency and our officers. So I think there’s a very decidedly adverse atmosphere that’s been created.”

The need for a strong CIA has never been greater, Allen says.

“The threat of proliferation and the spread of weapons and technology are occurring,” he says. “This is a time when we need HUMINT operations [intelligence from human assets] and technical operations beyond where we are. We are doing some things that are exciting, using HUMINT-enabled technical collection, some of which is stunning. But will that be sustained and continued and intensified? And will we take the risks that go with that?”

At this point, “It’s incumbent on the administration to now go out of its way, in a whole series of ways, to reassure not just CIA but the intelligence community as a whole, that we need to move ahead with real vigor,” Allen says. Otherwise, “Over a five year period, unless we continue at the same aggressive level that we have been at since Sept. 11, we are likely going to suffer another attack,” Allen says.

Allen says al-Qaida could initiate a series of attacks.

“That could create the consternation in this country that one major attack would incur,” he says. “We’re not a hardened society. The British never shut down the tube the day of the explosions in London in 2005. The trains ran, the airports remained open, the buses ran, except for the one that had its top ripped off. We’re not in that frame of operation. So I think it would have a very devastating effect.”

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 6, 2009 @ 5:16 pm

No comment on comment preceding. CIA problems are far deeper than anyone knows and really a whole new legal/Congressional charter is probably necessary. I have high confidence in the skill set Leon Panetta brings to that troubled organization. The premise of Allen’s statement is that now once again the CIA will be risk averse. That is not true. What in general has occurred is risk aversion to the difficult task of talking truth to power and not trying to have “political” clout or power when the unelected begin to believe they are the chosen ones. We do need a competent CIA and we need one that does not miss the big issues, nor immediate threats.
As to the PM post above the OIG report on the TOPOFF series is devastating and finally proves consclusive that the disruptions caused by the DHS formation, the destruction of the Preparedness Directorate in FEMA by first its removal and then it reconsolidation means that Tom Manning has a very very tough job ahead of him with his confirmation by full Senate looming. Clearly the Under Secretary for Preparedness (the only one ever probably) George Foresman during his reign from December 2005 to March 2007 seems not have understood that the National Exercise Program was key in designing a civil domestic crisis management system and process and chain of command. The OIG report’s bottom line is that almost nothing was learned from the first four TOPOFF Exercises except to “do better” next time. Well now with NLE V(National Level Exercise)around the corner let’s see if lessons learned can be captured and that those that are or might be in the domestic civil crisis chain of command actually participate as players and not just observers.

Comment by Peter J. Brown

May 7, 2009 @ 5:45 am

TOPOFF tends to be too darn expensive, too walled off and too top-heavy. Trying to access results in an attempt to translate them into meaningful and timely recommendations from the standpoint of moving the interoperability agenda ahead, for example, proved more than a bit frustrating. Resources that were allocated for TOPOFFs might have been been more wisely spent on augmenting broader regional exercises like the Strong Angel series in California which was far more user-friendly, interactive and easily accessible for non-participants. Developing a more flexible and more responsive surge-oriented exercise framework so that a new series of regional drills might allow participants to see how National Guard, USAR, MMRS and DMAT components all fit together in an EMAC-based environment in each FEMA region might help. It is happening now but it needs to be reinforced and better funded. With NIMS now established, it would be a good idea to try and build more of a realistic front end on these exercises as well, meaning more emphasis on mobilization and staging rather than everyone arriving in their motels the night before and then plunging into the exercise in question. This might be too unrealistic given the constraints, but I get the sense the importance of the front end often gets downplayed at all levels.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 7, 2009 @ 8:02 am

Peter’s comments are worthy ones and deserve full consideration. The problem is that exericises in general declined over the Clinton and Bush administrations. TOPOFF was created to deal witha highly specialized problem. Cabinent members and appointees who did not realize that their positions held crisis management content. So what to do was an attempt to fix by statute what was a completely Executive Branch deficiency. Top federal jobs are not easy ones and amatuer night cost the country or sometimes regions dearly. Katrina an example. It was Chertoff, in office for 8 months who was completely unprepared, not Michael Brown. And of course we had again a White House that except for a bull horn shortly after 9/11 did not know its job either and proved that by the time of Katrina in August 2005. Note that neither event really had a full-scale investigation despite various commissions and reports. Too bad because we need sometimes to document some hard lessons. Again that it what the DHS OIG is stating. As to expense of TOPOFF compared to what? A single F-22? This investment is miniscule in my judgement compared to what is needed. Clearly STATE and LOCAL governments have virtually no preparedness budget and certainly none to practice mobilization of resources on a routine basis.

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