Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 31, 2009

A Council of Governors: Reclaiming balance in a mixed government

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Homeland Defense,State and Local HLS,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on July 31, 2009

Lingering mostly unnoticed within  Title XVIII, Subtitle B, Section 1882 of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act is a single paragraph:

The President shall establish a bipartisan Council of Governors to advise the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the White House Homeland Security Council on matters related to the National Guard and civil support missions.

The instruction comes early in a seeming hodgepodge of measures to achieve “additional reserve component enhancement.”  As far as I can find, President Bush did not establish the Council and President Obama has not yet undertaken to do so.

On Tuesday in prepared testimony for the House Armed Services Committee,  Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities,  Paul Stockton offered the following:

State and local expertise and perspectives are essential to success. It is also important to be mindful of the fact that, in our nation’s Federalist system, the Governors are sovereign, independently elected chief executives of their States. As the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs, I hope to contribute to a more inclusive effort, one that involves State and local partners as partners aforethought and not as an afterthought. (Note: emphasis in original testimony.) Congress, in section 1822 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (Public Law 110-181), has provided a valuable vehicle through which to accomplish this goal: the “Council of Governors,” which would provide a forum for Governors, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Homeland Security to exchange advice, views, and recommendations on the National Guard, DSCA, and other matters of mutual interest. I will make it a top priority to implement this congressional objective.

The legislation is silent on how the Council of Governors might be established.  It could have fifty — or even more — members (the legislation does not reference “states,”  evidently terroritories might also be included).  The Governors themselves might participate.  But it could also consist of powerless appointees gathered as yet another feeble federal advisory body.

In his testimony Mr. Stockton gives primary attention to the practical benefits of involving Governors and acknowledging local capability in preventing, responding to, and recovering from catastrophic events.  The practicalities of risk-readiness innately push for State and local leadership.  As Secretary Napolitano said on Wednesday, “So how do we secure our homeland and stay true to our values?…It starts with the American people. From there, it extends to local law enforcement, and from there up to the federal government…”

Acknowledging and affirming the authority of the States in disaster preparedness and counter-terrorism is also consistent with Constitutional  protections of  State  sovereignty that – along with separation of powers, bicameralism, and the Bill of Rights — is another firewall to tyranny. 

In Federalist Paper No. 9 James Madison wrote, “The proposed Constitution, so far from implying an abolition of the State governments, makes them constituent parts of the national sovereignty, by allowing them a direct representation in the Senate, and leaves in their possession certain exclusive and very important portions of sovereign power.”

Today most Americans — unlike our Founders — do not give much thought to the threat of tyranny.  Our benign neglect is a privilege produced by an intricate, sometimes unwieldy, yet resilient constitutional architecture.  It is worth considerable concern when any aspect of the structure is weakened.

For the last half-century the authority of the States in many domains — and especially in regard to security — has been more honored in the breach than in the observance.  If you wonder about the Founders’ intent, take some time to read — and perhaps to tremble at — Madison’s comparison of the federal and state governments in Federalist Paper No. 46.  Since the close of the Civil War such language has been largely limited to the political fringe.

A Council of Governors — especially one embraced with enthusiasm and discipline by the Governors — could restore balance where the central government has grown far beyond its intended proportion. 

Q. Why would you have your government so mixed?

A. Because the experience of the ages has proved that mixed governments are best.

Q. Simplicity is amiable and convenient in most things, why not in government?

A. Human nature is such, that it renders simple government destructive, and makes it necessary to place one power over against another to balance its weight.

Pennsylvania Evening Post

March 16, 1776

(Editorial Note:  The above is related to the July 29 posting entitled CCMRF: Constitutional Consequence Management Response Force)

Five fleet features for your Friday

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on July 31, 2009

White House participates in week-long National Level Exercise. (Politico)

US vaccine plan may endanger supply (The Lancet, requires free registration) News story on the Lancet editorial from Bloomberg.

More H1N1 cases in six weeks than cases of seasonal flu in six months, according to the Business Standard of India.

Doubts raised regarding Swat, while delay continues in Waziristan (Christian Science Monitorwith a nice overview of recent Afpak developments)

Accused domestic terrorist’s connection to the Hindu Kush (Associated Press)

July 30, 2009

How To Improve Homeland Security: One Postage Stamp at a Time

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Preparedness and Response,State and Local HLS — by Christopher Bellavita on July 30, 2009

Secretary Napolitano covered a lot of ground in her talk yesterday at the Council on Foreign Relations. Homeland Security Newswire sent out a email Wednesday morning suggesting the speech would present Obama’s homeland security strategy.  The talk was significantly less than a comprehensive strategy.  That is not surprising, considering DHS will embark next week on an effort to open up the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review process to a wider audience.  No point in issuing the strategy first, then gathering the information to support it.  As someone said awhile ago: it is time for a change.

There is lot to discuss in the Secretary’s remarks: describing the “persistent and evolving” terrorist threat in language not encrusted with fear; an apparent reluctance to move beyond the decade old idea that a networked enemy requires a networked response; or the statistic that refuses to die: “…85 percent of our critical infrastructure is owned by the private sector.”

But the core of the Secretary’s remarks — at least as I read them — is the call to think anew about engaging the American people more directly in the effort to “secure our homeland and stay true to our values.”

That theme was repeated several times during the speech and the Q and A.   Here is an excerpt from an exchange between the Secretary and someone in the audience.  (It is also a transparently inelegant way for me to bring the topic back to what I wanted to post anyway, before I heard the Secretary was making a speech.):

Questioner: Secretary, … I heard you speak several times about … how we need to implicate our citizens in more efforts. Are you suggesting we need train our people from school days on to be more alert and watch more carefully their school people, their schoolmates, their workers, their family, their neighbors, and then to more effectively report what they see to some authority?

Napolitano: … I think there’s actually an important role that we can play in educating even our very young about watching for and knowing what to do if—if you’re in an airport and you see a package left with no one around; you know, that sort of thing. I also think we could do a much better job at educating young people about … how to handle themselves so that they can protect themselves also if something untoward were to happen.  So do we have a plan in that—in that way, or have we actually worked that angle of this? Not yet….

It just so happens that this week’s “How to Improve Homeland Security” essay responds directly to the Secretary’s charge.    The essay was written by a law enforcement leader with significant experience working with educational institutions.  The idea offers one way to use “soft power” to help bring homeland security back home.

What one sentence best describes your idea about how to improve homeland security?

Improve homeland security by promoting homeland security concepts and principles through an educational campaign directed at persons who are under 21 years of age.

The idea in more depth

As of July 2009, there were over 307,000,000 people living in the U.S.  A small percentage of those people are criminals and an even smaller number commit acts of terrorism. If community members played an active role in noticing and reporting suspicious activity, the chances that a terrorist would go unnoticed would be quite small. The challenge is to get people involved. One strategy is to conduct a national educational campaign targeted at children and young adults. Educating people at an early age about what they can and should do to prepare for and respond to emergencies, as well as how to protect the homeland, has the potential to effect behavior now and in the future. One specific idea within this framework is to conduct a nationwide contest to design a new U.S. postage stamp based upon the theme “What homeland security means to me.” The educational component of the campaign would involve disseminating literature that explains the contest and contains highlights about what individuals can do to protect the homeland and prepare for natural and manmade disasters. Students from kindergarten through college would be eligible to submit designs that represent what homeland security means to them. Parents would most likely be involved with younger students, which would help to educate an even broader range of people. The design entries could be posted as displays in airports or other public places throughout the country thereby further exposing even more people to the question “What is homeland security?” The winning design would become a postage stamp. Thousands of stamps are used to send letters throughout the world, which serves to further expose people to the idea of homeland security.

Problem or issue this idea addresses

This idea addresses the lack of recognizable messages about what homeland security means in a way that engages people without being intrusive. It is about exposing our youth to the idea that homeland security involves a broad spectrum of activities and that we all share responsibility for ensuring the United States is a safe place to live and work. It is a short range program with long range desired outcomes in the form of improved personal accountability for the prevention of terrorism and preparedness for disasters. There are plenty of negative messages about homeland security. Rather than allowing these messages or no messages to be the ones people remember, the federal government should consider a proactive marketing campaign that promotes citizenship and the role community members play in protecting the homeland.

Who benefits and how

If this idea were to become a reality, the entire population of the United States serves to benefit. Children and their parents as well as young adults would be exposed to the concepts of homeland security through their participation in the contest. Other people would be exposed through the products produced by the contest, namely the stamp and displays. Federal agencies would have a better idea about what the public perceives homeland security to be, based upon the contest submissions. This knowledge could possibly be used to shape future communications and policy decisions. Ultimately, the general public stands to benefit if the campaign generates national attention that results in either the prevention of terrorism or increased preparedness for manmade and natural disasters by the general population.


The first step is quite simple: determine the process and basic costs for developing a commemorative stamp. Further implementation would require a funding source. A possible source could be a grant from the Department of Homeland Security, or the Department of Education, or both. Support from just one US Senator could facilitate interest in funding and supporting the contest. The curriculum and messages would have to be developed with input from subject matter experts. Input from marketing and education experts would also be strongly advisable in developing supporting material to generate interest in the contest. Contacting professional organizations, such as the American Council on Education, to obtain their support in promoting the contest would help spread the word. Print, online and media advertisements would be ideal, though costly. Corporate sponsorship is an option to explore either for promoting the contest or providing the prize.

Outcomes and measurements

The desired outcomes include: an improved perception of the federal government’s effectiveness in securing the homeland; increased reporting of suspicious behavior that could be criminal or terrorist in nature, which would, theoretically, increase the likelihood that a terrorist act could be prevented; and individuals taking direct action to prepare for and respond to emergencies. Outcomes could be measure by sample surveys performed before and after the campaign. The surveys could measure perception, knowledge and reported behavior change. Data gathered from law enforcement agencies could be an indicator of changes in reporting behavior. Measuring the absence of crime is difficult, but there might be a way to track when the average person on the street took action to report a tip that resulted in the prevention of a large scale terrorist attack.


“Prevention of a large scale terrorist attack?”  Isn’t that a somewhat grandiose objective from such a seemingly simple idea?

Secretary Napolitano gets the last word here.  From her speech on Wednesday:

Three years ago, it was an attentive store clerk who told authorities about men trying to duplicate extremist DVDs. This led federal agents to eventually round up a plot to kill American soldiers at the Fort Dix army base here in New Jersey—in New Jersey.

Just last month, a—just last month, a passenger saw two employees exchange a bag at the Philadelphia airport that had not been properly screened. That passenger’s vigilance ultimately stopped a gun from getting onto the plane.

So there’s no doubt that building a culture of preparedness in our communities will require a long-term commitment from all aspects of our society. But there are, as I said, simple ways for you as individuals and community and business leaders to engage right now … [to become] better first preventers as well as first responders.

July 29, 2009

CCMRF: Constitutional Consequence Management Response Force

Filed under: Biosecurity,Chemical Security,Homeland Defense,Radiological & Nuclear Threats — by Philip J. Palin on July 29, 2009

Yesterday the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities heard testimony on chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosives(CBRNE)  consequence management.  (See and hear the video.)

 David Heyman, DHS Assistant Secretary for Policy, set out the CBRNE threat.  Reviewing a list of recent events, Heyman concluded, “We can no longer discuss risk abatement of chemical, biological, and nuclear/radiological attacks as if these types of attack are unthinkable or undoable. U.S. intelligence, and the most recent intelligence around the world, continue to report that terrorists are intent on acquiring CBRNE weapons for use against the United States.”

There is a brigade-size federal active duty element allocated to NORTHCOM as a “CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force”  a/k/a CCMRF. A second brigade is scheduled to be in place by October.  A third by October 2010.  While specializing in CBRNE threats, the same forces could be deployed in response to a variety of events.

In his prepared testimony, General Victor Renuart, the USAF four-star who heads NORTHCOM, explained, “CCMRF is a task force (approximately 4,700 people) that operates under the authority of Title 10. CCMRFs are self-sustaining and may be tailored to any CBRNE event. A CCMRF is composed of Army, Marine, Navy and Air Force units with unique CBRNE training and equipment and general purpose units trained to operate in proximity to a hazardous or contaminated environment. CCMRF capabilities include event assessment, robust command and control, comprehensive decontamination of personnel and equipment, HAZMAT handling, air and land transportation, aerial evacuation, mortuary affairs, and general logistical support to sustain extended operations.”

In October 2008 the American Civil Liberties Union initiated a FOIA request that raised several concerns regarding the CCMRF, including, “The deployment of CCMRF marks the first time an active military unit has been given a dedicated assignment to Northern Command, which was established in 2002 to assist federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate support of civil authorities. It raises important questions about longstanding separation between civilian and military government within the United States — a separation that dates to the Nation’s founding and that has been reiterated in landmark statutes, most importantly, the Posse Comitatus Act 18 U.S.C. Para. 1385.” 

The Posse Comitatus Act forbids federal troops to be deployed with police powers. Following Hurricane Katrina an effort to significantly weaken the Posse Comitatus Act  was initially successful, but the legal changes were subsequently overturned in 2008. The current language is the same originally adopted by Congress in 1878. 

The potential life-saving and order-restoring capacity represented by the CCMRF is widely recognized.  The use of active duty federal troops for this purpose is seen by some as a creeping militarization of the home front.

At yesterday’s hearing the Congressmen — of both political parties — kept coming back to “who’s in charge?”  About nineteen minutes into the hearing, Mr. Smith, the subcommittee chairman, interrupted an explanation of HSPD-5’s intricacies, asking, “Does anyone of those groups have the lead?” 

If there’s a real catastrophe, what’s the real chain-of-command? It is a good question.  The answers, of course, are variations on “Well, it depends.” 

As the hearing proceeded — maybe because of the provisional answers offered — the questions were increasingly directed to General Renuart.  The implicit assumption seemed to be: the man in uniform will be in charge.  Encouraging this impression is a principal reason why uniforms are worn.  

If the General is in charge, then who’s in charge of the General? The prepared testimony of each witness was constitutionally restrained: federal forces will be deployed at the request of Governors to support civil authorities. The  protocols of HSPD-5 and the National Response Framework will ensure effective collaboration across roles and responsibilities.

 But what about when local civil authority has been overwhelmed by the catastrophe?

About half way through the hearing Congressman Kline began his inquiry by stating, “I am still, sort of grappling — and I think all of us are at one level or another — with the fundamental question of who’s in charge.”  The Congressman then reviewed a variety of National Guard and DOD assets and asked, “When are these forces federal, when do they work for the state, when do they work for the Governor, when do they work for the General?”

The General responded, appropriately and accurately, well… it depends.

A bit later Congressman Miller, asked what happens, “if the Governor and the local officials don’t get it; they absolutely have  become overwhelmed — as they did with Katrina — and don’t make the call (to the President) quick  enough?”

There was a pregnant pause before the General responded.  “Well, Mr. Miller, I think  the President ultimately has a responsiblity for the nation to make a determination of the speed at which some event is unfolding.  That is not a NORTHCOM decision.  My role is to ensure that, if I’m asked, to be sure that I have all the pieces in place to be supportive.  So I would defer to the national leadership to make a policy decision as to the ability of an individual state. That’s really not mine to call.”

I expect the General’s answer is accurate… even in its  opacity.  Is it an appropriate answer? In terms of civil-military authority, certainly yes.  In terms of constitutional balance of powers? Probably not.

Funny how the Tenth Amendment can suddenly rise up as if from the dead:  “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

General Renuart is a practical man.  He wants to do his duty.  In a time of crisis he will be prepared to render protection and care.  How can we allow him to do so with confidence while preserving the practical benefits of local capacity and the constitutional protections of state sovereignty?

The hearing was rather chaste in exposing the Tenth Amendment issue, but the bare skin was there for all to see.  Whether titilating or horrifying probably depends on your taste.

Buried in the prepared testimony — never referenced in open session — was an interesting suggestion for how we might restore some constitutional  modesty and, even perhaps, some honest dignity.  More on this in a Friday post.


A July 30 New York Times editorial entitled: The military is not the police.

This morning: Napolitano talks terrorism to Council on Foreign Relations

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

At 9:00 am (eastern) Secretary Napolitano will deliver remarks about homeland security and DHS’ approach to preventing terrorist attacks at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. 

There will be a live webcast that you can access at: http://www.cfr.org/publication/19879/cfr_live_webcast.html

 This is being promoted as a major policy speech.  I will be airborne during her remarks and after landing will be scrambling into the evening.  Please use the comment function to leave your impressions or links to insightful coverage of the speech.

Some news coverage leading up to the speech: Wall Street Journal and Reuters.


Secretary Napolitano’s prepared remarks are available from the DHS website.

Here is some coverage from after the speech:

Security chief urges collective fight against terrorism (Washington Post)

Janet Napolitano sets new tone on terrorism  (Politico)

Public’s help needed in terror fight, Napolitano says (CNN)

US must do more to inform public on terror (Bloomberg)

Obama’s homeland security looks a lot like Bush’s (NPR)

July 28, 2009

Is Cyber Going the Way of Robotics?

Filed under: Cybersecurity — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on July 28, 2009

Yesterday, a group of private and government entities, led by Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), unveiled the U.S. Cyber Challenge, a program aimed at recruiting and training 10,ooo cybersecurity professionals.

The program deemed a “national talent search and skills development” program, brings together several programs under the CSIS umbrella, including the following:

  • The Forensics Challenge, a program funded by the US Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center, that is a competition in digital forensics that pushes competitors to uncover evidence on digital media.  Think TV crime show for the government. The program, which started in 2006, currently has nearly 600 teams competing.
  • The CyberPatriot Defense Competition, run by the Air Force Association, is a high-school competition in computer network defense and security.   Competitors assess a network, discover threats, and then respond to the threats while keeping the network running, much likes system administrators across businesses, agencies, and other entities do every day.  The program is actually in its second year.

Winners of these programs will be invited to compete in elite national challenges held at the University of Texas at San Antonio, NYU Polytechnic, and other schools.

With this announcement, it seems that the cyberworld has taken a page from their brethren in the robotics space by reaching out to youth to develop the next generation of professionals.  The announced programs, while not necessarily new, are attempting to capture the energy of the National Robotics Challenge and the FIRST Robotics Competitions. Conceptually, the program is a great idea.  As the Partnership for Public Service found in its report Cyber In-Security, Strengthening the Federal Cybersecurity Workforce, “the pipeline of potential new talent” for federal cybersecurity jobs “is inadequate.”   While the report focused on the federal government space, the lack of trained cyber professionals is lagging equally in the private sector and non-profit space.

The U.S. Cyber Challenge folks should also be given a nod for recognizing that cybersecurity is not a narrow field, but requires professionals with various talents and skills.  By bringing in one place three programs that hit upon the trifecta of cybersecurity – system administration, vulnerability assessment, and forensics expertise, the program is taking a comprehensive approach to the issue.  That is not to say there isn’t room for future expansion that would include other efforts such as building stronger systems, more robust detection sensors, and evaluating cyber offensive efforts – all of which are being done today in both the private sector and government.

If cyber is following the robotics path, it would be interesting to see the federal government, working with the private sector, develop the equivalent of a DARPA Grand Challenge for cybersecurity.  DHS, through HSARPA, would be an excellent place to house the program.  HSARPA could use a strong and interesting program to rejuvenate its efforts.

While there is a lot of positives with the U.S. Cyber Challenge announcement,  the program does some drawbacks.  It is not clear, from reading the materials, whether the programs are making concerted efforts to reach out to community colleges, which have mobilized in recent years to lead the efforts to train the cybersecurity workforce.  Those behind the programs and at CSIS may want to consider how to better integrate this important group (if they haven’t already).

Also, these programs are not the first attempts to shore up the federal government’s cybersecurity workforce.  For years, the government has run the Scholarship for Service and DoD’s Information Assurance Scholarship Program.  NSA (later joined by DHS) for years have designated numerous universities and colleges as centers of excellence in information assurance and cybersecurity.

These programs have provided mixed-results to the federal government, with many fantastic candidates finding themselves searching for jobs as they were routinely told they were overqualified or unneeded at agencies.  In addition, the pay being offerred to skilled researchers and cyber professionals often is lagging compared to what they could get in the private sector. These issues were all raised in the Partnership for Public Service’s report as needing to be addressed.

In sum, better-trained cyber professionals, developed at a young age, is not a new idea.  Attention to the issue has ebbed and waned, often following in the same pattern as our federal government’s prioritization of cybersecurity.  Hopefully, the energy and dedication by many in the cybersecurity space will push these efforts forward in a meaningful and (increasingly expansive) manner.

Seven indicted for terrorism in North Carolina

Filed under: Legal Issues,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on July 28, 2009

The US Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina has indicted seven on federal terrorism charges.  According to the News & Observor, “All are charged with conspiring to provide support to terrorists and conspiring to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons abroad. The charges are related to allegations that they helped raise money and provide training for terrorism operations in Tel Aviv, Israel.”

The seven count indictment filed with the federal court reads, in part, “In the period from 1989-1992, Daniel Patrick Boyd, a/k/a “Saifullah” traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan where he received military style training in terrorist camps for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad.”  The indictment then sets out how Boyd sought to involve members of his family and others in terrorist actions.

A study of federal terrorism indictments released last week found that of 214 defendents involved in terrorist cases that have been resolved, 91 percent were convicted.  The study, completed by former federal prosecuters for Human Rights First, argues this demonstrates the counterterrorism efficacy of the legal system.

A Saturday frontpage story in the New York Times reported that the Bush administration seriously considered declaring even more US citizens as “enemy combatants” and placing them in military stockades.  According to the Times, “Former officials said the 2002 debate arose partly from Justice Department concerns that there might not be enough evidence to arrest and successfully prosecute the suspects in Lackawanna. Mr. Cheney, the officials said, had argued that the administration would need a lower threshold of evidence to declare them enemy combatants and keep them in military custody.”

The so-called Lackawanna Six were convicted of  terrorism-related charges in May, 2003.


Indepth background piece (07/29) is available from the Washington Post.

More on the Pakistan connection (07/30) is available from the Associated Press.

July 27, 2009

Homeland security this week

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on July 27, 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.

Monday, July 27

Blackhat USA training events opened on Saturday (July 25)  in Las Vegas and continue through Thursday.

National Level Exercise (NLE 09) begins and continues through Friday.

11:30 pm (eastern) Washington DC, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)luncheon and panel discussion  focused on cybersecurity.

2:00 pm (eastern) Washington DC, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure conducts a hearing about the role of federal government in disasters

Tuesday, July 28

10:00 am (eastern) Washington DC, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will hold a hearing on the nomination of  Alexander G. Garza, M.D., for the position of DHS Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs and Chief Medical Officer.

10:00 am (eastern) Washington DC, House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities hosts a  hearing on chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosives consequence management.

11:00 am (eastern) Washington DC, American Enterprise Institute hosts speech by Jayson Ahearn, Acting Commissioner of Customs and Border Patrol.

Wednesday, July 29

Blackhat USA briefings begin in Las Vegas and continue on Thursday.

2:00 pm (eastern) Washington DC, House Homeland Security Commitee conducts hearing on “Beyond Readiness: An Examination of the Current Status and Future Outlook of the National Response to Pandemic Influenza.”  (Thanks to William R. Cumming for mentioning)

Thursday, July 30

Missouri Conference on Coordinated School and College Safety and Security opens in Columbia, Missouri  and continues on Friday.

Friday, July 31

9:00 am (eastern) New York City, American National Standards Institute and the Internet Security Alliance host a stakeholder panel on the financial impact of cyber risk.

July 26, 2009

Arrests made in Rosas killing

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

Several arrests have been made in the Thursday evening death of CBP agent Robert Rosas.  This was the first death of a border agent in the line of duty in nearly a decade.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, “Mexican federal law enforcement authorities said Saturday night that a man who was detained outside Tecate has been identified as the gunman in the shooting death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Robert Rosas.”

“The suspect, Ernesto Parra Valenzuela, 36, is in federal custody, Commissioner Elias Alvarez Hernandez, head of federal police forces in Baja California, said at a news conference in Tijuana.”

New York Times background report

Napolitano statement on Agent Rosas

Ahearn statement on Agent Rosas

July 24, 2009

You, me, I, it, terrorism and humanity

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

Yesterday I had lunch with a prominent business leader.  I was interviewing  him on how to build more effective public-private collaboration in homeland security. 

My luncheon host told me story after story of unfortunate and sometimes surreal encounters with local uniformed police officers. 

Given the nature of his business, this individual works with a number of other law enforcement agencies.  He summarized the difference, “They’re all tough, but the local cops don’t  recognize I’m human.  They treat me and my people as threats or impediments.” 

This was not the only time I had heard this complaint during a week of interviews. 

Four hours later, about six blocks from where I had lunch, I asked another business leader about his relationship with the local police force. “Fantastic,”  he quickly replied.

Both men are in their fifties or early sixties, affluent, white and their businesses, while not identical, interact with law enforcement for similar purposes.   What my line-of-inquiry finally uncovered is that three of the second man’s senior colleagues are married to local police.  

The first business leader is limited to official channels.  The second business leader almost never uses official channels.


The piece Chris Bellavita posted yesterday, Once (or more) upon a time in America, had more readers than any single post in the last three months, more than double our typical daily readership. 

The  quotes Chris provides  share a common character. The immigration  suspects are treated as something other than human.  Even if their citizenship was suspect, their humanity should not have been in question.

Yesterday Chris linked the immigration stories to the arrest of Henry Louis Gates.  Today I offer a connection to recent abuse of prisoners by US forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Insiders are reporting that Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is “furious,” “disgusted,””dumbfounded,” and absolutely committed to, in the words of one denizen of the E ring, “helping our soldiers reclaim their own souls.”

The confidential memo written by Mullen — and purposefully leaked — is more careful in its language. “Somehow, despite our best efforts, a misguided and misled few have managed to tarnish that reputation and breach the very trust we have worked so hard to earn… I am appalled by even the suggestion that someone in an American uniform would behave in such a way. We haven’t all absorbed or applied all the lessons of Abu Ghraib. The stress of combat, however real, is a poor excuse for casting aside our values…  The message to our people must be clear: the mistreatment of detainees in any way will not be tolerated under any circumstances. It is essential to who we are as a fighting force that we get this right. We are better than what I saw in those pictures. We must prove it.”

A half century ago Martin Buber suggested that everyday in every encounter, I face a choice: will I engage the other as “you” or “it”?

Is the cop on the corner a human being or a thug in uniform?  Is the loud homeless person wearing a Santa hat in July a full person or just an annoyance or even a threat?  Is the suspected terrorist — or even the convicted terrorist — due a minimum of human dignity or something considerably less?

Do we meet the other — here at this blog, on the street, or in our imagination — as a thing to be manipulated or a fellow human being with whom we are to be in dialogue?

Every time I reduce another person to an “it,” to the very same degree I reduce myself to the same condition.   The terrorists have reduced me to a Zionist Crusader.  Will I join them in this dehumanization?

I have sometimes done so.  When I do so, that’s when the terrorists have truly won.

UPDATE:  Several weekend news reports seem relevant to Buber’s insight as to whether we perceive another as a you or it.

Racist posts traced to Homeland Security

DHS employee sues over immigration search

Seeing arrest in black and white

Bush weighed using military in arrests

Whistleblower tells of America’s healthcare nightmare

An abortion battle: Fought to the death

Oppression and violence — or not-so-simple neglect —  is much easier  when we are confident of our own rectitude and dismissive of others. This is a trap that seems to entice almost everyone across  political, philosophical, and other divisions. Practical solutions are much easier to find when cultivated with a modicum of restraint, self-criticism, listening, and recognizing what we fundamentally share with others.

July 23, 2009

If a dog barks on the internet …?

Filed under: DHS News,Events,General Homeland Security,Strategy — by Christopher Bellavita on July 23, 2009

If you are interested enough in homeland security to be reading this, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Academy of Public Administration want you to participate in something called the National Dialogue on the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR). Information about the Dialogue can be found at this link.

The first “meeting” is scheduled for August 3 through 9.  It is intended to be a “conversation between you, other Homeland Security stakeholders, and DHS on an innovative web-based platform.” (One hopes the “you” might also include unaffiliated people with a point of view about homeland security.)

The first dialogue “will seek your opinion on general priorities of different Homeland Security mission areas. During this session, you will be able to evaluate the missions and goals proposed by DHS study groups, and rate, tag, and suggest your own alternative proposals.”

Two additional dialogues are scheduled for later in 2009.  The QHSR has to be turned in to Congress on Thursday, December 31, 2009.  Presumably by the close of business, before everyone leaves for the long weekend.

Yes, this whole National Dialogue could turn into another one of those anemic “we involved our stakeholders” justifications slogged out with the National Response Plan, Target Capabilities List, Universal Task List and their mechanical cousins.

But it might also be an opportunity for well-intentioned people to discover how broad collaboration, Web 2.0, social networks, mashups, and lord knows what else can contribute to a homeland security future worth creating.

You can sign up on the www.homelandsecuritydialogue.org website to receive emails for “news and announcements about the National Dialogue, and be notified when each Dialogue is live.”

I am persuasively informed that signing up does not put you on any of the special “lists” that may or may not be maintained by agencies that may or may not exist.

Besides, as we learned during the Web 1.0 days:internet_dog1

Once (or more) upon a time in America

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on July 23, 2009

Narrative is the dominant homeland security methodology.

It would be desirable if policy debates were decided on the basis of objective data.  But stories seem to do as acceptable a job framing and advancing policy as scientifically sound inquiry.  Especially when the issue is complex – like immigration.

In a 2008 article I reviewed seven defensible definitions of homeland security. Each definition presents a story about the meaning of homeland security.

The last of those definitions described homeland security as a “a symbol used to justify government efforts to curtail civil liberties.” Within this semantic construction, government agents ignore the Constitution’s guarantee of fundamental liberties in the name of a more secure America.

On July 22, the Immigration Justice Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardoza School of Law released a document called “Constitution on Ice: A Report On Immigration Home Raid Operations.”

The report fuels the narrative that homeland security creates more fear than security.

I am tempted to say I have taken the story excerpts that follow out of context.  But as I read and re-read the report, “context” becomes just another  weasel word that hopes “this cannot actually be as bad as it looks.  There’s got to be something else going on in every single one of the stories the report does not talk about.  Maybe once, maybe twice this could happen.  But this many times?”

I’m looking for some interpretive help here, but the agency criticized in the Cardoza report apparently responded to press inquiries with non sequitors:

“The men and women of I.C.E. are sworn to uphold the laws of our nation…. We do so professionally, humanely and with an acute awareness with the impact enforcement has on the individuals we encounter. While I.C.E. prioritizes our efforts by targeting fugitives who have demonstrated a threat to national security or public safety, we have a clear mandate to pursue all immigration fugitives.”

Here are some examples of that acute awareness (you can find the stories and supporting documentation in the Cardoza report):

“I was at home with my wife when the door bell rang. I opened the door and noticed approximately 7 uniformed ICE agents with vests and guns standing at my door . . . I opened the door to look at the paperwork and five agents entered my house . . . . The agents then told my wife to stand in the center of ‘OUR’ living room. Not once did anyone say they had a warrant.”

“The 68-year-old woman told Action 4 News that she heard a knock at her door Tuesday morning. But before she had a chance to get up she said U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were inside her home . . . When she asked them why they came into her home they allegedly responded, ‘Show us your papers.’ [The woman] complied by showing them documentation proving that she’s been a United States citizen for 40 years.”

“… in North Bergen, NJ, a tenant opened her door and ICE agents searched the entire apartment without permission or legal justification. The tenant was arrested notwithstanding the fact that she had recently been granted legal immigration status and had documents proving that her official work permit card would soon be coming.”

“… in Newark, NJ, between 5:30am and 6:00am, there was loud pounding on the door. Believing it was another tenant who was locked out, a resident opened the door to find six ICE agents displaying holstered firearms. The officers forced the door to stay open and detained the resident without a warrant, probable cause, exigent circumstances, or a reasonable basis for believing that he was unlawfully present in the United States.”

“… in Hudson County, NJ, at 6:30am, ICE agents did not identify themselves while banging on the door. When a tenant opened the door to see who was outside, the ICE agents forced their way inside illegally, and illegally interrogated people in their home. One resident was forcibly stopped from calling her attorney.”

“Respondent persuasively argues that an egregious violation that was fundamentally unfair occurred during his arrest. . . . ICE agents used excessive force while searching his home . . .. ICE agents entered his home and his private bedroom in the early hours of the morning armed with pistols. They forced him into the hall and required him to stand in his underwear before his brother, sister-in-law and their children. . . . ICE agents refused to produce a warrant or identify the person they claimed to be seeking. Finally, they tied a plastic cord around the Respondents wrists as handcuffs and forced him to accompany them to their office in Manhattan.”

“… in Morris County, NJ, at 6:45am, ICE agents took out their guns, banged on a door, and forced their way in once the tenant opened the door to find out who was there. ICE agents illegally entered and searched the home. An ICE agent yelled at one of the residents who tried to call her lawyer. The ICE agent used abusive language – yelling ‘F*** you’ and ‘You are a piece of s***’.”

“… in Riverhead, NY, Residents were awakened by loud voices yelling ‘Police! Open the door!’ and the sounds of windows and doors being forced open. When one resident entered his kitchen he found an ICE agent climbing through an unlocked window. With one leg inside the home, the armed agent yelled, ‘Open the f****** door!’ When the resident unlocked the door, other agents stormed into the residence. Once inside, ICE agents immediately cuffed all residents, kicked in an interior door, and rifled through dresser drawers without consent, looking for immigration documents.”

“…in Metter, GA, ‘The ICE agents involved in the raids forcefully broke into many of the trailers in the Plaintiff Robinson’s [trailer] parks. The ICE agents caused intentional damage to at least one door and four windows in the Highway 46 Park. In the Turkey Ridge Road Park, the ICE agents ripped the skirting from the perimeters of a trailer and caused damage to the flood boards. Upon information and belief, [ICE Agents] did not have warrants or other legal justification for their actions. As a result of the unlawful and terrorizing actions of the ICE agents, the tenants who rented from Plaintiff Robinson were so terrified that many simply fled from the area.’ “

“… Mrs. G was cooking when she heard the doorbell ring. She went to the front gate and saw a man and a woman in plain clothes. As she was unlocking the gate to ask them what they wanted, the man forced the gate open and the two individuals entered her house. Mr. G was led into his house without first being asked for his permission to enter. In the house, Mr. G saw his pregnant wife crying and handcuffed to a chair, along with two strangers.”

“… during the Nassau County 2007 Community Shield Operation, ICE agents were criticized for donning cowboy hats and flaunting shotguns and automatic weapons.”

“… a Connecticut ICE agent boasted [in an email message] to a state police officer, ‘We have an [operation] scheduled for Wed, 05/02/07 in New Haven . . . [I]f you’re interested we’d love to have you! We have 18 addresses — so it should be a fun time!! Let me know if you guys can play!!'”

During last night’s press conference, President Obama was asked to comment on the arrest in Cambridge of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

He said, “… there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.  And that’s just a fact.”

A story or two might suggest a narrative.  Story upon story upon story mature into fact.

July 22, 2009

How To Improve Homeland Security: Give the ODNI Oversight Responsibility for Fusion Centers

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing — by Christopher Bellavita on July 22, 2009

Darwin has as much to contribute to homeland security as Newton.

The Newtonian metaphor says understand the basic forces in play, and then use those forces to create the outcomes you want.  It is the logic that underpins planing and efforts like the National Strategy for Homeland Security.

The Darwinian metaphor thrives on complexity.  It attends to variation, selection and reproduction.  First allow a hundred flowers to bloom.  (Like the upcoming National Dialogue for the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review seeks to nourish. ) Then watch the variations emerge.  Some will be selected and reproduced. Other variations will die.

To me, fusion centers are a fine example of Darwinian logic in homeland security.  There was no comprehensive national plan to create fusion centers.  In original intent, Founding-Fathers-federalism fashion, states and cities decided they were not getting the intelligence they wanted.  Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, New York and a handful of other jurisdictions took responsibility for processing – or “fusing” – their own intelligence.

Currently, there are more than 70 fusion centers in the country.  Apparently each one differs from the others.  Today’s guest blogger — Jason P. Nairn — thinks we can do better.

Jason is with the Michigan Department of Management and Budget, with responsibility for Security and Emergency Management.  Jason argues it is time to bring the largely uncoordinated evolution of fusion centers into more effective alignment.  He believes the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) ought to start exerting some direction over fusion centers.

Newton is about understanding in order to control.  Darwin is about understanding in order to appreciate the creativity of complex adaptive systems.  Homeland security can gain from using both ideas.  But when it comes to fusion centers, Jason Nairn thinks it’s time for a bit more Newton and a little less Darwin.

1.    What one sentence best describes your idea about how to improve homeland security?

Enhance the effectiveness of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) by making the ODNI responsible for the regulation and support of state fusion centers.

2.    Describe your idea in more depth

While state fusion centers are ostensibly owned and operated by states, they are designed, constructed, operated and approved according to guidelines, standards and requirements developed by a variety of agencies at the federal level.  These guidelines are often presented as “voluntary,” but compliance affects the quality of information a state fusion center receives from federal agencies.  For instance, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Intelligence and Analysis State and Local Programs Office (SLPO) has a primary role in the state fusion center program.  The SLPO and their state-assigned personnel provide a conduit, according to DHS, to the rest of the intelligence community.  However, DHS’s role is rivaled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which has a major role in fusion center operations, as does the Department of Justice (DoJ), the Department of Defense (DoD), the Central Intelligence Agency and the ODNI.  Each of these agencies comes with guidelines for their participation in a state’s fusion center.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s role has been via their Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment, but their resources and thus their effectiveness is limited.    DHS and FBI officials, however, are currently assigned to many of the states’ fusion centers and thus involved in their daily operations.  While DHS, DoJ and FBI continue to work on collaboration, with notable results, there have been reports of tussles over access to and control of information between DHS, FBI, states and other agencies.  As the ODNI was developed to deal with these types of issues in the intelligence community, and as it would be advantageous for a consolidated, single entity for states to deal with in the development and operation of state fusion centers, the ODNI should be given sole and comprehensive authority to regulate and support state fusion centers.

3.    What problem or issue does your idea address?

States are required to deal with several federal agencies in the design, construction, and operation of fusion centers.  The ODNI’s oversight of the program would provide states with a single source for guidance and information and would make the participating federal entities responsible to comply with their oversight.  The ODNI’s oversight would also involve the development of a single set of guidelines and requirements for fusion centers, rather than the fractious, component-based programs that are currently in place.

4.    If your idea were to become reality, who would benefit the most, and how?

States would benefit the most by having a streamlined process and clear expectations with regard to federal intelligence participation in the design, construction and operation of fusion centers.  State and local homeland security professionals would benefit from better-run fusion centers and clearer expectations due to consolidated control.

5.    What are the initial steps needed to get the idea off the ground?

Congressional action is required to reorganize the federal program and provide ODNI with the authority and resources to manage the important state fusion center program.

6.    Describe the optimal outcome should your idea be selected and successfully implemented. How would you measure that outcome?

Optimally, states will develop fusion center facilities and programs according to a comprehensive set of guidelines and requirements provided by and enforced by a single government agency with the authority to bring all of the intelligence community’s resources to bear to assist the states.  In return, the federal government will be assured that state fusion centers, among which there is currently some significant disparity, meet a single set of minimum standards.

July 21, 2009

Flight Restriction Debate Making Comeback?

Filed under: Aviation Security — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on July 21, 2009

I read with interest this morning a little-noticed article in the Martha’s Vineyard Gazette entitled “Obama Air Space Curbs Worry Pilots.”  The story notes the increasing angst among the general aviation (GA) community, as well as in the recreational aviation business, in Martha’s Vineyard of the expected Presidential family vacation to the island.

The GA community expects that the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) will issue a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) to increase security during the family’s visit. TFRs, for those not familiar, “defines an area restricted to air travel due to a hazardous condition, a special event, or a general warning for the entire FAA airspace.” The FAA sends out detailed information on a TFR through a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM).  Given the necessary security precautions taken to protect to the President and other VIPS, notice often comes a couple of days, at most, before enforcement.

Following 9/11, the focus on TFRs among the GA community increased significantly as their use significantly.  The increases use of TFRs occurred for a variety of reasons, including increased concern over the security of certain high-risk locations (i.e. New York and D.C.), regulations that allowed for TFRs to be put in place for major sports events and air shows, and an increase in natural disasters such as wildfires that required restrictions for public safety reasons.  (Note: In addition to TFRs, there are certain Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZs) that provide a more permanent no-fly zone around cities and areas such as D.C.  As those of us who live in Washington know, there have been several scares requiring evacuted government buildings and dispatched fighter jets resulting from air violations.)

As TFRS increased, there were rumblings among some in the GA community that TFRs and ADIZs shoul be scaled back, especially as more unknowing pilots found themselves facing criminal charges or other enforcement action for violating the restricted air space.  Those rumblings, however, seem to have calmed down some in the last couple of years as the restrictions became more of the norm and groups like the Aircraft Oowners and Pilots Association (AOPA) increased efforts to educate and provide instructions to the GA community about FAA TFR NOTAMs.

Getting back to the Gazette story, I wonder if we will see a renewal to revisit the TFR/ADIZ debate in a more comprehensive manner.  The story notes that any TFR restrictions on Martha’s Vineyard could have a devastating economic effect on some of the small businesses operating tour and aviation services onto the island.  In particular, the article profiled the owner of a biplane tour business, finding that he could lose more than an 1/8 of his business if a TFR was placed into effect during the Presidential visit.  The article also noted that during the summer, approximately 70% of traffic into the island’s airport is from GA aircraft.

Whether this TFR issue will simply fly away is still to be seen. The difference from past arguments on the issue is an increased focus on the economic impact, especially on small businesses, caused by the security restriction.  Given the state of the economy, will we see an economy versus security debate emerge?

July 20, 2009

Homeland security this week

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on July 20, 2009

Before starting the new week, please see a Sunday morning post on resilience as public policy, just a quick scroll below.  This builds on a post and comments from Bastille Day.

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.

Monday, July 20

Tuesday, July 21

2:00 pm (eastern) Washington D.C. House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, and Science and Technology will conduct a hearing on protecting the electrical grid.

2:00 pm (eastern) Washington D.C. Senate Judiciary Committee,  Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security will conduct a hearing on E-Verify.

Wednesday, July 22

DHS Workshop on Future Directions in Cyber-Physical Security Systems opens in Newark, New Jersey.  Continues on Thursday.

Thursday, July 23

10:00 (eastern) Washington D.C. House Homeland Security Committee, Subcommittee on Management, Investigations, and Oversight Hearing will conduct a hearing on the Air Marshal program.

10:00 am (eastern) Washington D.C. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization and Procurement  conducts a hearing on E-Verify.

12 noon (eastern) Washington D.C. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment conducts a hearing on the Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) Act

4:00 pm (eastern) Washington D.C. The Woodrow Wilson Center hosts a discussion of Afghanistan and Pakistan: Conflict and Resistance to Modernity.

Friday, July 24

12:30 (eastern) Washington DC  The Cato Institute hosts a luncheon discussion of REAL-ID, PASS-ID, or no national ID. 

2009 Annual Conference of the National Association of Counties opens in Nashville.  Continues through Monday.

July 19, 2009

Homeland security how to’s

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on July 19, 2009

In the great American tradition of how-to guides, a few recent homeland security-related releases:

How to fix the Stafford Act

The National Critical Infrastructure Advisory Council has made several recommendations to amend the Stafford Act (PL 93-288). This is the core federal legislation for federal financial and physical assistance to states after a disaster. Among other suggestions, the NIAC said the aid available to private companies, which own much of the nation’s critical infrastructure, should be clarified. (For more see the NIAC PowerPoint, large file)

How to influence the future of homeland security

“What goals and priorities do you think should inform our nation’s Homeland Security policies for the next four years? Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano invites you to participate in the National Dialogue on the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR). This groundbreaking, web-based interactive dialogue is designed to allow a broader range of opinions and ideas to inform the QHSR process.” Please visit and contribute at www.homelandsecuritydialogue.org/

How NOT to provide meaningful Congressional oversight

Over 80 Congressional committees claim jurisdiction over some aspect of the Department of Homeland Security. “In 2007 and 2008, DHS officials attended more than 370 hearings and gave more than 5,000 briefings to staffers and members of Congress representing 108 committees, according to department records. No other agency spends as much time on Capitol Hill: Officials at Veterans Affairs, a department of comparable size and budget, testified at half the number of hearings, 183, before just two committees, and gave 413 briefings over the same time period.”  The Center for Public Integrity has launched a sustained program of investigation and advocacy.

How to replace REAL ID, PASS Go, and collect $200

Secretary Napolitano’s testimony on PASS-ID is available from the DHS website.  But it did not convince the Los Angeles Times, which in a detailed editorial rejoinder argued, “One question that neitherthe backers of Real ID nor of Pass ID have adequately answered is: If this law were in place before 9/11, would it have prevented the attacks? Given that terrorists would still be able to steal or forge identity documents, or even obtain them legally as many of the 9/11 hijackers did, the answer is almost certainly no. Tracking identity is a poor way to fend off terrorists; a better approach would be stronger measures to prevent them from smuggling weapons or explosives onto airplanes. Rather than trying to save Real ID with a less destructive bill, better to let it die of its fatal flaws.”

How to dismantle a nuclear bomb

The BBC tells you how in seven easy steps, just in case. “The aim is to develop methodologies we could use in inspections of a real nuclear facility but in an environment in which can do trial and error.”

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