Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 30, 2009

Border talks: Governors seek to exchange constitutional responsibility for cash

Filed under: Border Security,Homeland Defense — by Philip J. Palin on June 30, 2009

Late last night the Associated Press reported, “The Obama administration is developing plans to seek up to 1,500 National Guard volunteers to step up the military’s counter-drug efforts along the Mexican border…”

Chris Bellavita addressed this issue in a Saturday post.   Back in March I gave it some early attention.

The AP report continues, “The plan is a stopgap measure being worked out between the Defense Department and the Homeland Security Department, and comes despite Pentagon concerns about committing more troops to the border — a move some officials worry will be seen as militarizing the region.”

The good news here is that the Pentagon is reluctant.

“Senior administration officials said the Guard program will last no longer than a year and would build on an existing counter-drug operation,” according to the AP report.  “They said the program, which would largely be federally funded, would draw on National Guard volunteers from the four border states.”

The key phrase here is, “which would largely be federally funded.”

The Governors can deploy their State militias on their own authority.  But when they do, it is also on their own dime.  While I haven’t read the words, there is an implication that border state Governors want the National Guard federalized under Title 10, so they don’t have to pay the costs.

During most of American history — the Civil War being the most dramatic exception — the federal military enterprise on American soil has been exceedingly small.  Until World War II our most significant military forces consisted of either naval bases or state militias or federal troops being prepared for overseas operations.

Since World War II the size of the federal military establishment has, of course, skyrocketed.  But throughout this period the focus of the military has been on far-flung foreign adversaries.  Unfortunately domestic tranquility and the common defense now encourage looking closer to home.

The Associated Press reports, “Defense Secretary Robert Gates has expressed concern that tapping the military for border control posts is a slippery slope and must not be overused.” 

A slippery slope to where?  He does not say (or at least the AP does not say).  But history tells again and again of the danger to free institutions when military power is focused on issues of domestic security.   

In the case of the United States this is certainly not a clear and present danger.   Our current slope is very slight and firmly rooted with a military ethos and a political culture that ensures civilian authority.  

But boots-on-the-ground tend to erode any slope, no matter how gradual or well-rooted.  We have invested a great deal in the technical and intellectual competence of our professional military.  As an institution and as individuals, they are great problem-solvers.

Out of respect for our ancestors sacrifice — and our grand-children’s hope –for freedom, we should be very cautious regarding which problems we ask the military to fix.

June 29, 2009

Metro crash commentary

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Philip J. Palin on June 29, 2009

As the sun rises over the Atlantic the readers of HLSwatch are heavily concentrated around Washington D.C. 

By about 1:00 pm the rest of the continent begins to outnumber our beltway readers.  This afternoon there are two pieces from Sunday’s  Washington Post that I want to be sure the beyond-the-beltway crowd don’t miss (and I assume most of the early morning crowd has already read).

Robert McCartney is a columnist for the Post’s Metro section.  The human side of the Metro crash is well-captured in his piece, “Co-workers Proud of Train Operator’s Courage.”

Also in yesterday’s paper is “When Fail-Safe Fails” by Charles B. Perrow, emeritus professor of sociology at Yale and author of Normal Accidents and The Next Catastrophe

Some key assumptions of each author are in tension.  I don’t presume to know which is closer to the truth in this particular circumstance.  Depending on context, each have important implications for prevention and mitigation.

UPDATE: A Monday story in the Post is headlined, “Metrorail Crash May Exemplify Automation Paradox.”

Please comment on classification policy

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing — by Philip J. Palin on June 29, 2009

The White House is inviting your input on future treatment of classified information.  The following is from this morning’s White House blog:

We are very interested in receiving your comments on how classified national security information policy should be revised. I am Martin Faga, Chairman of the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB), which is an advisory committee established to promote the fullest possible public access to a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of significant U.S. national security decisions and activities. 

On May 27, 2009, the President signed a Memorandum ordering the review of Executive Order 12958, as amended, “Classified National Security Information” (pdf). The review of the Order is to be completed within 90 days. On June 2, 2009, the National Security Advisor asked the PIDB to assist in this review by soliciting recommendations for revisions to the Order to ensure adequate public input as the review moves forward.   

In response to this request, the PIDB will first solicit recommendations through this blog. We expect to receive thoughtful comments that further the discussion of policy in four areas: declassification policy, a National Declassification Center, classification policy, and technology issues and challenges. We will begin today with declassification policy and allow commenting on this topic for three days before moving on to the next topic. 


It would be great if you would copy-and-paste what you write in the DPF in comments to this blog post.  The resulting discussion on HLSwatch could contribute to the overall effort.

Baitullah Mehsud: another local thug with global ambitions

Filed under: Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on June 29, 2009


This week Pakistan’s military will intensify military operations in South Waziristan. There are plenty of targets.  But on Sunday the Islamabad government made clear that at the top of the list is Baitullah Mehsud (seen above).

Baitullah is accused of assasinating Benazir Bhutto and has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks across Pakistan.  In April he threatened “the heart of American  power… Not in Afghanistan, but in Washington, which will amaze the entire world.”  The United States has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture or killing.

In early 2008 a terrorist cell in Spain — operating under the direction of Baitullah Mehsud — was captured by Spanish police before they could complete an attack on the Barcelona subway system.  Scotland Yard has reported Baitullah is behind plans to attack targets in Britain.

A Pashtun tribal leader and veteran of the successful Afghan insurgency against the Soviets, Baitullah is thought to command a force of roughly 20,000 fighters concentrated in his tribe’s South Waziristan heartland.  He assumed particular prominence in the Mehsud tribe following the July  2007 death of Abdullah Mehsud.  In late 2007 Baitullah was a co-founder of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)  or Taliban Movement in Pakistan.

Claiming close relations with Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, Baitullah — still under age 40 — is considered one of the most important rising figures in terrorist networks.  He does face inter-tribal and factional competition, but Baitullah has demonstrated a ready ability to take on (and out) any rivals.  Some also suspect the tribal warlord of being well-connected with senior leadership in the Pakistani intelligence services.

More information:

Baitullah Mehsud: Who is He? (DAWN, Pakistan)

Pakistan’s Most Wanted: Baitullah Mehsud (Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency)

Profile: Baitullah Mehsud (BBC News)

Waziristan operation to focus on Baitullah Mehsud (LongWarJournal)

Taliban Commander Baitullah Mehsud (TIME)

Homeland security this week

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 29, 2009

Following are a few Homeland Security events for the coming week.  For more information  access the embedded links.  Please use the comment function to identify other events you would like to bring to readers’ attention.  If you are attending or monitoring any of these events, please use the comment function to report out to the rest of us.

Congress is taking an Independence Day recess. 

Monday, June 29

DHS Chemical Sector Security Summit opens in Baltimore. Continues through Wednesday.

11:00 am (eastern) Washington D.C.  Heritage Foundation hosts the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the World at Risk panel discussing WMD proliferation and terrorism.

Tuesday, June 30

11:30 am (eastern) Washington D.C. The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a briefing on “Learning to live to live in a world with the  H1N1.pandemic.”

Wednesday, July 1

9:00 am (eastern) Washington D.C.  The Carnegie Endowment and WorldPublicOpinion.org host a discussion on “Pakistani Public Opinion on the Swat Conflict, Afghanistan, and the U.S.”

12 noon (eastern) Washington D.C. The Henry Stimson Center will host a briefing on “Preventing Catastrophic Terrorism.”

Thursday, July 2

2:00 pm (eastern) Washington D.C.  The American Association for the Advancement of Science will host a panel discussion on H1N1 pandemic.

9:00 am (eastern) Washington D.C.  The American Enterprise Institute hosts two panel discussions and releases a new report on presidential succession and continuity of government.

Friday, July 3

Saturday, July 4

Two-hundred thirty-third anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence at Philadelphia.

June 27, 2009

“…that kind of debate among two Cabinet officers … will inevitably lead to better policy.”

Filed under: Border Security,General Homeland Security,Homeland Defense,State and Local HLS — by Christopher Bellavita on June 27, 2009

When is a “food fight” better described as using the dialect to develop policy?

Spencer Hsu’s “Pentagon, DHS Divided On Military’s Role at Border” outlines some legitimate policy differences between the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security over the military’s role in domestic security.

The debate goes to the heart of the military’s role, which has expanded since the 2001 terrorist attacks, with an increasing commitment of troops and resources to homeland defense, particularly to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear attack or other domestic catastrophe. The deployment of new troops to the [US – Mexican] border [to help counter narcotics efforts] would represent a mission the military has not traditionally embraced.

Bert B. Tussing, director of homeland defense and security issues at the U.S. Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership is quoted briefly in the article:

“What we’re seeing … here is a move toward reframing where defense begins and ends…. Traditionally the military looks outward, but looking outward has begun a lot closer to home, and it may involve looking just across the border.”

Last October, Bert wrote a substantive strategic analysis of this topic: “New Requirements for a New Challenge: The Military’s Role in Border Security.”  The article is available here, and is worth reading if this is a homeland security-related issue you follow.

From a process perspective, Hsu’s article provides an example of the role metaleadership plays (at least implicitly) in the way the Obama administration treats wicked problems:

A senior White House national security official said the president is comfortable with the disagreement and “wants to see the kind of creative tension and full-out debate that major policy decisions engender.”  The official added, “It’s the president’s view that . . . frankly, that kind of debate among two Cabinet officers like Secretary Gates and Secretary Napolitano, both of whom he holds in high regard, will inevitably lead to a better policy.”

Tossed the right way, food fights can nourish.

Trying to track the scope of risk, recent homeland security headlines

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Risk Assessment — by Philip J. Palin on June 27, 2009

I find it challenging to consistently track all-hazards (or, what I think is a better framework, “all-risks”).  

My own interests and expertise push forward specific concerns.  The  unfolding events of each day push forward other concerns.  I am most often surprised by those risks that fall in-between.  I don’t  so much mind making a conscious choice and losing the bet.  Being surprised is a  bigger problem.

So I try to keep on my intellectual radar a wide range of threat-capabilities, more than specific threats.  For example, the threat of losing electric power, regardless of cause, is usually toward the top of my list.  The cascade of second and third order effects of losing power exposes a wide range of vulnerabilities.  I might be able to reduce or mitigate those vulnerabilities in advance.

I am not trying to — could not — capture all possible risks, even for  just the last few days. But what are the most important risks  not referenced below?  How do you define important?  What would you take off the list and why?


Three dead in Chicago heatwave

Thunderstorms spawn tornadoes and watersprout

House passes climate change bill

Boehner promises climate bill will cause bureaucratic nightmare

A tropical wave has formed south of Cuba

US rate of H1N1 infection increases

US swine flu vaccination program considered

H1N1 spreads across Southern Hemisphere: Australia, Brazil, and South Africa

Swine flu vaccine: the race is on


Leaky dam increases flood risk

Utility device sparks wildfire

DC Metro control system fails test

Safety board can’t investigate ammonia leak

Chemical leak sends five students to hospital


House committee passes Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act

Dems moving to gut chemical security bill

Military command is created for cyber security

Pakistan bombs Taliban in Waziristan

Islamabad urges US to stop drone attacks inside Pakistan

Calderon says Mexican democracy is at stake

Pentagon, DHS divided on military’s role at border

People on terrorist watch list allowed to buy guns

Shift possible on Terror Suspects’ Detention


House passes DHS appropriations bill

Johnson testifies on I&A mission and budget

June 26, 2009

Homeland security: seeking the holy grail of shared reality

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 26, 2009

renwick_waugh_-the-knight-of-the-holy-grail_1912… The Knight of the Holy Grail, Frederick J. Waugh, Renwick Gallery

As I walked out of a breakfast meeting yesterday morning, a bright young thing scurried up beside me and asked, “What was that really all about?”

We had been introduced just before the meeting convened. It was not clear to me if he was an intern or just-hired GS-zero-something. (He has now confirmed he is a full-time federal contract employee. This is his first job out of a Masters program.)

“Whaddya mean?”

“What’s the back-story? Who’s really trying to do what?” he said.

It had been a typical Washington D.C. event.  A private sector group had hosted a meeting that mixed a few civilian and uniformed feds, with a few civilian and uniformed non-feds, with some academics, and a couple of hard-to-define gad-flies. 

I belong to the last category.  A gad-fly’s principal value is biting a horse on its rump in order to prompt a gallop, preferably in a specific direction. But sometimes any movement is better than nothing.

“Aaa… what do you think?”  I worried that my sub-text alert system was malfunctioning.  I had not perceived much of any agenda, hidden or otherwise. The apple strudel, crisp on the outside with a warm fruity interior, had struck me as the most substantive aspect of the meeting. 

My younger colleague proceeded to spin an impressive web of connections and potential conspiracies.   Drawing on evidence from Politico, graduate studies in a security field, this blog, and — most impressive to me — some serious familiarity with Ludwig Wittgenstein, he framed the breakfast coffee-klatch as having the potential to change the world as we know it.

I am a child of the Quantum Era, I know everything is connected. I believe in emergence. This may be the only thing in which I deeply believe.

Maybe it is a gad-fly’s  aversion to webs that kept me some distance from the young man’s description of the reality we had each just experienced.

A similar attraction and dissonance skipped along my synapses this morning as I read for a third time the collection of  “voices from the homeland” that Chris Bellavita posted yesterday. (Please scroll down, those comments  are separated from these by only one wretched post.)

Do these people inhabit the same planet? 

Imagine for a moment breakfast with essayist number 2 (if we do have enemies, we should try to figure out why they are mad at us) and essayist number 3 (we should hold suspected terrorists longer than other people even though it may go against the constitutional right of that person) and essayist number 15 (most people don’t realize the consequences of being under full Sharia law).

There’s a discussion that should distract me from the strudel.  Maybe we should wait for dinner where  something stronger than coffee can be offered.

Unfortunately these diverse realities seldom sit together over a meal. Instead they collide in the more rarefied confines of dueling essays, snarky blogging, television commentary, or Congressional hearings… where, most often, value is generated by finding or causing a new fracture rather than cultivating enhanced commonality.

Yesterday, fortunately, my 10:30 appointment had canceled.  I was able to listen, ask, and comment in private.  It was already hot and humid, so we slipped into the Renwick Gallery where we whispered about our individual perceptions of threat, vulnerability, motivation, and purpose.  The painting above dominates the Grand Salon.

We did not always agree.  My young friend is predisposed to see intention where I tend to perceive randomness.  But it was a worthwhile 40 minutes.  At least a young man, just beginning his career, felt as if someone was listening.  An older man nearing the close of his career was flattered to be asked his opinion.

Reality is hard to know with any certainty.  The best we can do is to listen to one another — really attend to one another — and then respond with  whatever experience, judgment, and insight we might have.  Earnest is not bad.  The issues are serious.  But humility, especially with a bit of humor, is probably even more worthwhile.

As elusive as the grail.

June 25, 2009

The asymmetric threat of wretchedness

Filed under: Congress and HLS,International HLS,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on June 25, 2009

Yesterday the Senate unanimously passed a measure that would triple non-military assistance to Pakistan (S. 962).  The House passed similar  legislation on June 11 (H.R. 1886).  A conference committee will now seek to resolve differences in the legislation, especially in regard to tougher House provisions for financial auditing and accountability.

The Senate measure provides $1.5 billion per year for five years in humanitarian and economic support.

Since mid-April roughly 2 million people have been displaced as a result of operations against neo-Taliban forces in the Swat valley.  Tens of thousands more are streaming out of South Waziristan where a sustained fight against Taliban, neo-Taliban, and al-Qaeda is expected in the next several days.

“In Pakistan, some 300,000 refugees are living outdoors, in tents or similar structures, said Michael Kocher, vice president of international programs for the International Rescue Committee.”

According to CNN, “extreme heat plagued Pakistan, with temperatures in May and June soaring past 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). The heat is escalating the discomfort for many.”

“People are living in cramped situations, often unsanitary situations, and it’s very hot,” Kocher said. “In many places, there is not enough clean water or adequate sanitation. Heat exacerbates that problem.”

The refugee — or internally displaced persons (IDP) — camps are, however, only the tip of a sharp spear.  According to a report released yesterday by Refugees International, “the vast majority of the displaced – over 80 percent – are staying with host families who are quickly running out of resources. One aid organization has even reported ‘pockets of starvation’.”

The same report notes, not surprisingly, that “Jihadist groups” have begun to fill the assistance vacuum.  Taliban and their allies are providing food, shelter, and medical assistance where the Pakistan government, United Nations, and others are not.  The Taliban is also seeking to intimidate NGOs that are in place to leave.

For years the United States has urged Pakistan to be more aggressive against our adversaries along the Afpak border. These include several who have specifically threatened attacks on the United States.  Since mid-April, there has been a substantive change. Pakistan is fighting hard.  Our adversaries over-reached and they are paying the price.

But for our resilient foe, every crisis presents an opportunity.  The more Pakistanis who are displaced, the longer they are displaced, and the more difficult their displacement, the more opportunity is given our adversaries.

The annual budget of Pakistan, adopted Saturday, is roughly $36 billion.  Another $1.5 billion in non-military assistance from the US is not insignificant. But unless this funding is deployed quickly and effectively there is a real danger it will be entirely too little, too late.

The House and Senate bills, hyperlinked above, are worth reading.  Each are well-crafted pieces of legislation.  The legislative  requirements for audits and reports are entirely reasonable, if at times just a tad anal.  There is a very real concern the funds will be squandered by bureaucracy, corruption, and the purchase of military toys. (For Pakistan’s track-record in this regard, please read Pakistan on the Brink by Ahmed Rashid.)

But I hope and pray the House and Senate conferees have the ability, “to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed, and (have the) wisdom to know the one from the other.”  And to do so with remarkable alacrity.

“Stakeholders in the process of our protection” (Part 2): More voices from the homeland

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on June 25, 2009

Last week I shared excerpts from essays submitted in response to the question: What homeland security advice would you give President Obama and why? Here (lightly edited) are a few more voices from the homeland:

1.    Most Americans’ only personal exposure to Homeland Security is standing in security lines at our nation’s airports awaiting inspection by members of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).  We try to read rapidly moving marquee-type signs telling us about how much liquid we can take onboard our flight; we wonder where we put that fingernail clipper; we think about how we are limited in the items we may carry onboard.  But do we remember why?  We focus on the inconveniences that we are facing rather than the reasons for those inconveniences.  I propose that the administration, through Homeland Security, put display posters at every security checkpoint in the United States.  These posters must depict the airliners flying into the World Trade Center buildings, people leaping from the buildings to their deaths, the dust and smoke of the collapsed buildings, the firefighters and police rescuers, photos of the funerals of the deceased firefighters and police killed that day, photos of the Pentagon; and photos of the Pennsylvania crash.

2.    If we do have enemies, we should try to figure out why they are mad at us and come up with ways to live happy together.  We were all created to be equal.   We should try to find ways that are peaceful to settle all of our differences world wide.   Killing of each other will not solve the problem but make things worst for all of us.

3.    I believe we should hold suspected terrorists longer than other people even though it may go against the constitutional right of that person.  The administration has to determine whether or not that person is a threat to the United States of America.  If they have inside information that the person is a terrorist but don’t have enough evidence to persecute [sic] them, it should be ok for them to hold that suspect to insure the protection of the nation.  Many Americans feel that this is wrong and everyone has equal rights but the bottom line is that we must insure that every citizen is safe.  Do we have the right to torture suspected terrorists to get information out of them?  Remember these men are people whose sole purpose is to kill innocent American lives without any regard.  It is a fine line that we as Americans walk on to determine the best way to get information from terrorists. I believe that we should continue to use torture, but there needs to be some kind of regulation to it. It shouldn’t be the last possible use if the terrorist won’t reply to any other kind of interrogation.  Innocent people’s lives are at stake and if citizens need to find out where the next terrorist attack is going to take place, they can’t just sit back and wait.  The administration should look into regulating the imprisonment and torture of terrorists.  We are getting out of hand with it and need to come down a little bit from abusing their power.

4.    America must build upon existing efforts that encourage volunteerism and individual actions to create a culture of citizen responsibility in providing for the common homeland security. A DHS partnership with Hollywood will create a venue to encourage active growth of a culture of preparedness and assist in safeguarding U.S. homeland security. The average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day.   The average U.S. household contains 2.24 TV sets.   A meager 0.7 percent of television programming is devoted to public service announcements.   In addition to television, The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) reports there were 1.4 billion domestic theater tickets sold in 2007.  Support for homeland security, specifically mobilization of volunteer efforts and individual actions, can be invigorated through the entertainment medium.

5.    Our borders demand attention and the administration must publicly equate border security with national security.  The administration needs to visit the entire Southwest Border, extending from El Paso to San Diego, and to spend some quality time with Border Patrol agents who routinely patrol the border. An implied task of visiting the border includes actually walking parts of the border. This is the only way that key personnel from the new administration will acquire a sincere appreciation of the border and consequently accept the fact that border security is national security. This basic situational awareness and appreciation among our top leaders would serve the country well for it will draw attention and resources to the back door of the U.S.

6.    We always talk about the border of Mexico and the United States, but we hardly talk about our border with Canada. There are so many ways that people from Canada can come across the border with weapons and not get caught, and I think that we need to also hire a lot more Border Patrol agents to protect the north. Terrorists can come from overseas and enter Canada and just hop the border without getting caught because there are wide gaps from Border Patrol Centers across the north. I just crossed the border a couple weeks ago going into Canada, and none of us had our passports, they took our licenses and wrote them down and sent us to the office right across the street to give us a lecture of how we need to bring our passports because it is important for security reasons. After the lecture, we were allowed to enter Canada with no questions asked. Now if it is that simple to cross the border, then I would not be surprised if we currently have terrorists in America who crossed the border with a Canadian license. There should be much stricter rules in order to cross borders.

7.    The Obama Administration must address Congressional oversight as it concerns DHS. Currently, DHS has reporting responsibilities to eighty-six different committees between the House of Representatives and the Senate. Aside from the obvious redundancy, DHS has to employ a significant number of staff to respond to requests from these committees and furthermore, many of the committees have their own agendas which result in conflicting instructions to DHS as far as how it operates. The resulting confusion is a tremendous waste of time, money, and resources as DHS struggles to appease the various committees, and often simultaneously. Congress then has to waste considerable time and energy resolving the various committee conflicts when passing legislation relating to DHS’ operations or more importantly, its budget appropriations. The Administration, therefore, is encouraged to request legislation restricting the Committee oversight of DHS to a Select Committee on Homeland Security, similar to the arrangement that the Intelligence Community has with Congress. In doing so, Congress will provide effective oversight of DHS, and eliminate the confusion by having one set of standards and instructions. DHS will be able to direct the considerable resources used to address Congress into other areas that require them.

8.    FEMA should not be under the Department of Homeland Security but rather a coordinating partner similar to the relationship between the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

9.    Change all Homeland Security (HLS) work to unclassified, while making secret and top secret work only very rare.

10.    Improve railroad security. When considering the massive amounts of hazardous chemicals, solids, and explosive materials that are transported around the country on a daily basis — and the major cities they operate through — an existing terrorist cell in the United States could capitalize on this breach of security quite easily, with devastating results.

11.    Create a National Public Safety Reserve Corps comprised of former military and public safety officers – possibly augmented by compulsory national service – to assist with border protection and other homeland security problem areas.

12.    Work with the Secretaries of Education and Labor to develop programs to formally ‘professionalize’ careers in the security field.

13.    The prominent attention given to nuclear, cyber and bioterrorism threats is dangerously eclipsing other menaces. Implementation of a robust and comprehensive array of pre-emptive measures, in order to further limit proliferation of state-of-the-art advanced conventional armaments and potentially dangerous dual-use COTS [commercial off the shelf] technologies – such as mortars, unmanned aerial vehicles, and thermobaric weapons — would be recommended.

14.    The key to neutralizing the vulnerabilities of communications networks is to re-establish the historical interactions between the government and the commercial communications industry. Early communications companies based in the east and midwest were contracted by government agencies, including the Department of Defense. As newer companies formed primarily on the west coast, they had little experience or interaction with the federal government. This would lead to government initiatives counterproductive to communications entities, with the companies viewing government as a threat to their business interests. Beginning in the 1980s, government agencies began to use communications software inferior to that available on the commercial market. The lack of shared goals between the two sectors increased the rate of federal communications obsolescence.

15.    People are trying to be persuaded that Islam is a peaceful religion/lifestyle.  While this holds true to some degree, most people don’t realize the consequences of being under full Sharia law.  Muslims in a country are generally peaceful depending on the size of the Muslim population there.  Unfortunately for the rest of the world, when a nation’s Muslim population reaches 10% or over, violence begins to become more frequent.  Through their ability to manipulate the government in an effort to take advantage of civil liberties, they infiltrate our communities slowly, but thoroughly.  When you reach this stage of the game, any person who blatantly insults or disregards Islam is often threatened or subject to punishment, kind of like Hitler’s Nazi Germany.  To speak ill is blasphemy and is punishable by any means seen fit.  When a country reaches 40% Muslim, real terror begins to take place with militia warfare and chronic terrorist attacks.  When you’ve reached 60% unless citizens are willing to renounce their belief system and accept Muslim law, they are more than likely persecuted.  Right now America’s Muslim population is less than 5%, but with the Islamic 20-20 plan that could change very quickly. The Muslims have a plan to take over American and pretty much all of the Western hemisphere by the year 2020.

16.    What are the greatest security challenges to the average American?  He/she is more likely to be fearful of losing employment, being in a car accident, or becoming a victim of crime rather than al-Queda’s Islamic fundamentalism.  And these domestic, home-grown fears are justified.  More Americans are killed on our nation’s highways in one year than all the U.S casualties from 9-11, Iraq, and Afghanistan combined.  The same holds true for murder, yet we try to pretend that the real threats are lurking beyond our borders.   I remember reading a story of a young boy who was having trouble assembling a puzzle of the world.  His father told him to flip the pieces over, as on the other side was a puzzle of a man. The moral of the story?  If you want to remake the world, or in this case make it more secure, you should begin with yourself.

June 24, 2009

CSM applauds DC emergency response

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Philip J. Palin on June 24, 2009

Dave Cook with the Christian Science Monitor sends kudos to DC emergency response agencies. The Mayor? Well, not so much. It is a short piece, most of it is reproduced below.

Emergency response to Metrorail crash shows post-9/11 gains
Communications and coordination in D.C. area were smooth, akin to rescue after Hudson plane crash.

By Dave Cook | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the June 24, 2009 edition

Washington – First responders’ effective handling of Monday’s rail accident in Washington, coupled with the smooth rescue after a Hudson River plane crash in January, may indicate that the post-9/11 demand for better, faster emergency response is being met – at least in some of the nation’s big cities.

“The regional response that is required during extraordinary incidents (Hudson and Metro being two good recent examples) has, in my opinion, significantly improved since 9/11,” Daniel Kaniewski, deputy director of George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute, wrote Wednesday in an e-mail interview. He served in the Bush White House as special assistant to the president for homeland security and senior director for response policy.

Triggering an effective response

On Monday afternoon, one Metrorail train slammed into a second train stopped outside the Fort Totten Station in Northeast Washington. The impact pushed part of the moving train onto the top of the stationary train. Two-thirds of the moving train’s lead car was crushed, killing nine and injuring more than 70 people.

The Metrorail accident, which disrupted the daily commute for thousands in the Washington area, tested how the nation’s capital would cope with a major incident. What happened was “an effective regional response,” Mr. Kaniewski said in an online commentary.

In the wake of the accident, emergency vehicles converged on the scene. “As I monitored the radio traffic of the local agencies involved, I expected to hear chaos; but instead I heard the calm and ordered dispatch of emergency units and informative reports from arriving personnel,” Kaniewski wrote.

Response teams working in unity

“When the DC resources became stretched, pre-identified units from surrounding jurisdictions were alerted and communicated on the same channel as DC units. There were no apparent coordination or communications issues … police, fire, emergency medical services, transit, and emergency management officials worked together in a unified manner,” the homeland security expert said.

There were, however, some ruffled feelings along the way…  (To read the rest of the story, including comments on the Mayor’s interventions and implications for crisis communications policy and training, please access the Christian Science Monitor.  Web-based media need all the clicks they deserve and can get.)

DHS appropriations: another reading from the Report together with Additional Views

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 24, 2009

From page 11 of the Committee Report:

Maritime Security — Our nation’s ports are critical to ensuring that individuals and businesses have access to the many products on which they rely. Port security is in the hands of CBP, Coast Guard, port authorities and local police agencies. In 2002 Coast Guard estimated that $7 billion was needed to implement the sea port security improvements mandated in the Maritime Transportation Security Act. To date, Congress has appropriated $2.18 billion for grants to help ports meet these requirements. The Committee has provided an additional $250,000,000 for port security grants in this bill. In addition to these grants, over the last two years, the Committee has provided $93,800,000 in additional resources for Coast Guard efforts to increase maritime safety and security, over and above the Administration’s requests. These investments brought on more watchstanders and boat and marine inspectors, and increased capacity for security-related activities and investigations. As a result, the Coast Guard has a more robust capability to ensure the safety and security of U.S. ports through domestic and international activities. For example, the Coast Guard helps reduce risk to the U.S. by verifying the use of effective anti-terrorism measures in foreign ports. Out of 500 ports screened in 135 countries, seven were found to have serious flaws, requiring vessels from those ports to take additional security steps as a condition of entry into U.S. ports.

A few natural, accidental, and intentional threats with our varied responses

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 24, 2009

NAO Terminated

Yesterday morning the Wall Street Journal scooped — and in the afternoon  Secretary Napolitano confirmed — termination of the National Applications Office.

AQ Nuke Threat and Indiscriminate Nuke Detection

As al-Qaeda renews its threat to use a nuclear weapon — if it can get its hands on one — the GAO reports little progress in the US effort to detect nuclear devices in cargo. “The monitors now in use can detect the presence of radiation, but they cannot distinguish between threatening and nonthreatening material. Radioactive material can be found naturally in ceramics and kitty litter, but would be of no use in making a bomb, for instance,” according to Eileen Sullivan reporting for the AP.

Swat Consolidated, Waziristan Targeted

Missile strikes from US drones killed between 45 and 70 people yesterday – reportedly including three militant commanders – in the stronghold of Baitullah Mehsud, the al Qaeda ally and leader of the Taleban in Pakistan… It came as Pakistani forces also pounded the area — seen as an al Qaeda sanctuary and possible hiding place for Osama bin Laden — with air strikes and heavy artillery in preparation for a ground attack on Mr Mehsud.  Meanwhile, according to government reports, “Security forces are carrying out search and sweep operations in various parts of the Swat valley in the final phase of the military operation.”

Automation Failure Probed

Investigators are focusing on how and why automatic slowing and stopping apparently failed in the deadly DC Metro collision.  Attention is also being given to how Monday’s accident may or may not be related to other rail accidents.

Intense Heat Threatens Heartland

The National Weather Service has released excessive heat warnings for an area stretching from Northeast Oklahoma to Southwest Iowa and from the middle of Kansas to metropolitan St. Louis.  Kansas City, ground zero for the heat wave, will have temperatures in the upper 90s with a heat index predicted at 105 degrees.

H1N1  Threatens H3N2  (Mostly)

As flu season begins in the Southern Hemisphere, Australian health professionals  find the new H1N1 strain competing effectively with the previously established H3N2 strain. In most cases, humans are reacting to the new strain with the same mild symptoms as the prior strain.

Andres Opens Hurricane Season

Andres is the first named tropical storm of the Pacific hurricane season.  The Atlantic continues calm, with no significant energy waves as yet emerging off Africa.


A new series of articles have been published online by the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management including, “A Game Theory Approach for Evaluating Terrorist Threats and Deploying Response Agents in Urban Environments.”

June 23, 2009

DHS appropriations: another reading from the Report together with Additional Views

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 23, 2009

From pages 10-11 of the Committee Report:

Transit systems are vulnerable to terrorist attack, as demonstrated in London, Madrid, and other locations around the world. Since 9/11, $1.67 billion has been provided to protect those systems in the United States, and the transit industry has estimated that a total of $6 billion is needed for security training, radio communications systems, security cameras, and access controls. The $250,000,000 provided in this bill for transit and rail security, coupled with the $150,000,000 provided in ARRA that has not yet been awarded, puts us one step closer to meeting these identified security needs. In addition to grant dollars provided directly to transit systems, both TSA and S&T have stepped up their efforts in this area. TSA requested additional surface transportation inspectors to participate on Visible Intermodal Protection and Response teams, which conduct unannounced, high-visibility exercises in mass transit or passenger rail facilities. The Committee has provided $25,000,000 for these activities. In addition, the Committee has fully funded 9/11 Act activities for surface transportation, including funding to continue vulnerability and threat assessments of high risk entities, to conduct additional security exercises and training programs, and for critical information sharing activities. S&T has begun a new research program that focuses on the risk of explosives in rail and transit facilities. Prior research has focused on finding effective methods to counteract, defeat, and mitigate the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), with a heavy emphasis on deterring the threat to commercial aviation. Within an overall increase of $24,660,000 in fiscal year 2010 for explosives research is $5,000,000, as requested by the Administration, to expand those efforts to address the specific threat of IEDs to mass transit. As recent attacks worldwide have shown, the threat to mass transit from IEDs must be addressed, and the investments in this bill provide a step forward in that direction.

Accident or intention: responding with outrage or deliberation

Filed under: Ground Transport Security,Preparedness and Response — by Philip J. Palin on June 23, 2009

Yesterday at 5:49 pm I received a text from DC’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency: “Metro reports that 2 trains collided and one train is on top of the other train.  Metro reports massive injuries at this time. The green line and the red line are affected. Further information to follow.”

This morning we have much more information.  There have been seven, and probably more,  fatalities and scores of  injuries. It is entirely too early to identify a cause, but signal system failure or operator error are the top suspects.  The operator of the colliding train is among the dead.

The dramatic scene of crumpled cars will keep the story near the top of this morning’s television news.  DC commuters have a tough day ahead. 

Consider how different the tone and scope of reporting — and our response — might be, if the text message had read something like, “Metro reports an explosion on a red line train.  Metro reports massive injuries at this time. The green line and the red line are affected. Further information to follow.”

Even if the fatalities and injuries had been fewer and the visual images no more dramatic,  for most of us the emotional reaction would be  much more agitated if the cause had been a terrorist attack.

Is the difference in response appropriate?   Is the difference unavoidable?  Are our very different responses helpful?

From an ethical or moral perspective the outrage we feel in response to a terrorist attack is appropriate.   The dehumanization that empowers such an attack is worthy of anger and more.

Some neuroscientists argue that the difference we feel depending on the natural, accidental, or intentional origin of an event is innate.  The brain’s amygdala reacts with fear and/or outrage, long before the prefrontal cortex begins to “think” about the event.

But when we do begin thinking, how we respond to accident or intention continues to be very different.

Today most of us — especially regular Metro riders — will discount the risk of recurrence.  We will, without much emotion, read the news reports and be interested in the eventual NTSB findings.  Unless there is credible evidence of gross negligence or a cover-up (which would stimulate outrage) our more analytic tendencies will define our response.  We will wait for evidence to inform how technology, hiring, training, and other systems might be improved. 

In response to an accident we value deliberation.  We approach the situation with a largely detached sense of our innate limitations, but with hope and faith in learning what we can to reduce the likelihood of a similar accident in the future.  We recognize that human judgment is involved in and responsible for the system.  But unless there is evidence of evil intention or gross negligence, we focus on the system more than the individuals.  This is even true when operator error is the principal culprit.  We seek to design and build systems that discourage operator error.

In case of an accident rather than blaming and punishing, we usually — most of us — focus on learning and improving.  Accidents will happen.  We look to systematically minimize accident potential and build a resilient system.

In the aftermath of a terrorist event the emphasis is flipped.  We tend to focus mostly on blaming and punishing.  Learning and improving the system can easily get lost in the outrage.

Human evil — banal or purposeful — is outrageous.  There is no value in suppressing the sharp alarm that responds to evil intention.  But outrage is insufficient and not well-suited for long-term strategic action.

(To sign-up for District of Columbia  HSMEA alerts: Text “DC” to 411911 or sign-up at https://textalert.ema.dc.gov/)

June 22, 2009

DHS appropriations: another reading from the Report together with Additional Views

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 22, 2009

From page 10 of the Committee Report:

In the area of air cargo, TSA has met the 9/11 Act mandate requiring 50 percent of air cargo carried on passenger aircraft be screened for explosives. However, the more challenging mandate of screening 100 percent of that cargo looms ahead, with a deadline of August 2010. TSA has informed Congress that, by that date, it will be able to screen all air cargo that originates domestically before it is carried on passenger aircraft but it may not be able to meet the deadline with international air cargo. Screening international air cargo poses unique challenges since TSA would need to place personnel overseas to screen U.S.-bound cargo and/or strengthen relations with foreign airports and companies to screen cargo before it is placed on an aircraft heading to the United States. This Committee believes that assuring 100 percent of air cargo carried on passenger aircraft is screened is an important mandate, one that TSA can meet within the timeframe Congress has set. Therefore, the Committee has provided $122,849,000 in fiscal year 2010 for these efforts. This recommendation includes funding for TSA to address the international challenge, as well as for incresed oversight activities to make sure that the certified shippers, freight forwarders, companies and other entities screening air cargo domestically adhere to our stringent security requirements.

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