Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 25, 2009

Fear management and other updates

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on May 25, 2009

Brewster Rockit by Tim Rickard – May 23, 2009

If you took a Memorial Day break from homeland security news, congratulations. Here’s a quick review of some of the headlines since Friday afternoon.

Economic Mess – In a profile of the Secretary and DHS in Sunday’s Parade Magazine, Secretary Napolitano,  “stands by her contention that hard times could encourage terrorism. The U.S. economic crisis ‘can have a destabilizing effect on other countries, which can result in terror or other acts of violence against us,’  Napolitano warns, adding that some Americans might be radicalized by unemployment and poverty as well.”

Pandemic –  On Friday the World Health Organization concluded its Geneva annual meeting without scaling to phase 6: a full pandemic. Bloomberg reports, ” ‘What has become clear is that it is not just the spread of the virus that is considered important; it really is the impact on the populations,’  said Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health security and environment, at a press briefing in Geneva. “This input needs to be considered from a phase 5 to phase 6 change.’”  Forty-six nations are now reporting 12,515 laboratory confirmed cases of H1N1.  The actual spread of the contagion is acknowledged to be considerably more wideapread. (See more from WHO update.)

Nuclear Terrorism –  A second North Korean nuclear test on Monday  underlined concerns regarding access to nuclear and radiological weapons by rogue states and terrorist groups.   Stealing or purchasing an existing nuclear weapon from Pakistan or a former Soviet state is generally considered the most likely terrorist tactic.  (See more from the Belfer Center at Harvard.)

Environment –  A  conference on climate change opened Sunday in Copenhagen.  At the meeting former Vice President Gore said, “It’s time to act now… We have to do it this year, not next year,” Gore told the World Business Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen. “The clock is ticking because Mother Nature does not do bailouts.” (More from AFP) But some claim the Copenhagen process has been hijacked.

Hurricane Season– The official NOAA forecast for the Atlantic season anticipates an “average year” of four to seven hurricanes.  FEMA administrator Fugate and Secretary Napolitano, in Florida for the season opening, said FEMA is ready.  The Secretary emphasized what can be done now, “People understand you can’t skimp on preparedness even in tight economic times, and we are working with localities on their preparations now, making sure that centers are set up, equipment and food and water are in position so they can be delivered very quickly.”  Without any hurricane in sight, northeast Florida has been flooded.

Tax-free Preparedness – Louisiana and Virginia have instituted a program of tax-free hurricane preparedness.  Long advocated for broader adoption by In Case of Emergency, Read Blog this program encourages risk readiness with financial savings and corporate communications.  Target stores, for example, are running related full-page advertisements in many Virginia newspapers.  (See more from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.)

Hindu Kush – Pakistani troops and Taliban insurgents are engaged in house-to-house combat in Mingora, the principal city in the Swat Valley.  There are some reports of 2.4 million internal refugees from the fighting in Pakistan’s mountainous northwest.  From a US Homeland Security perspective, Pakistani military intervention is key to disrupting and destroying terrorist training operations along the Afpak border. But even as terrorist training operations in Pakistan are under pressure, some suggest an expanded training shop in Somalia.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

May 25, 2009 @ 11:18 pm

Thanks for the memories! By Labor Day all these above issues will be over right? The events are now frothing around faster than even blog analysis can follow. Are events in the saddle?
I will pick one of the above. N.Korean possession of nukes is not terrorism but just another nation-state willing to proliferate. My guess is that most of the nuclear powers if given a new chance by history have already learned that the nukes were no help in short or long run except as creation of huge drain from worthy projects. The full costs of the arsenal are never really made public or assessed. Using the second N.Korean test as a start point have to guess that Japan and S.Korea will also be announced nuclear regimes within 3 years. Why do the anti-proliferation regimes just announce and list Israel as a nuclear capable nation? The Israeli new media do seem to be doing a “Remember the Maine” with respect to Iran. So what should be US policy. My suggestions! The US should announce NOW no first use of nukes. Second, seek immediately UN resolutions that encourage similar declarations among other nuclear capable states. The so-called nuclear clock even for nation-states ticks closer to midnight. Yes in a way all nation-states that fail to reject first use are terrorist in their policies under any definition. Now I will let Phil and Chris deal with the non-nation state actors that might use nuclear devices. I really don’t want to see a world of 2030 with 30 ballistic missile nuclear capability countries. Politicians that try and “duck and cover” on proliferation should be hammered.

Comment by Arnold

May 26, 2009 @ 2:34 pm

North Korean possession of nuclear weapons is not directly related to terrorism, but does represent a particularly worrisome problem. While many analysts point out that a state is unlikely to simply give a terrorist group a nuclear weapon (both sides of this argument most often raised in terms of Iranian intentions), North Korea worries even proponents of this view. Since it has sold pretty much everything else it can (which isn’t much), at some point elements in their leadership might decide to sell a weapon or the material required to make one, or lose control during instability.

If one finds that scenario extremely unlikely, if North Korean and possibly Iranian development of nuclear weapons drives further proliferation, that will mean there will be that many more weapons and materials possibly available to non-state actors at some point.

In addition, outside of the situation in Pakistan, I would worry most about a group obtaining enough HEU to make a crude device. Weapons are likely to be well guarded, and those of the advanced nuclear states protected by locks and other inherent physical characteristics making terrorist use difficult if not impossible. But weapons-usable material is found in caches around the world outside of weapons-related facilities and while extremely difficult, it is not technically impossible for a group to construct a crude device once in possession of the required material.

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