Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 2, 2010

“Start thinking like the people who are trying to kill us….”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on March 2, 2010

“Start thinking like the people who are trying to kill us and design our defenses to respond to the threat.” Charles S. Faddis

Today’s post, by Daniel W. O’Connor, reviews Charles S. Faddis’ 2010 book Willful Neglect, The Dangerous Illusion of Homeland Security.

In Willful Neglect, The Dangerous Illusion of Homeland Security, Charles S. Faddis goes to great lengths to convince the reader that our homeland security mission and efforts are misplaced, misrepresented, and ineffective.

Faddis, a former CIA chief of station in the Middle East and author of Beyond Repair (2009) and Operation Hotel California (2008) methodically assesses the actual protection afforded our vital infrastructure.   Quick to point out that he is not a physical security expert, the author nevertheless demonstrates a keen knowledge and application of security acumen.

In layman’s terms his experience outside the United States as an intelligence operative enable him to see right through the theater of security. The author points to countless situations in which security measures taken do not address the threat of a terrorist attack.

Faddis’ thesis is that the trillions of dollars and effort spent to create the illusion of security actually make us more vulnerable. Using his past experience and skill set, the author moves around the National Capital Region (NCR) and other key areas inspecting our critical infrastructure from the perspective of an attacker not a defender. That perspective exposes the exploitable vulnerabilities of our mass transit, natural gas, military installations, damns, and biological testing facilities.

With detailed and well-documented accounts, the author strips away the façade of security on our key installations and nodes.  Avoiding operational details, Faddis describes his methodology, use of available intelligence, attack point(s), expectation, and fallout. He supports his conceptual approach with real-world accounts and combines theory and experience to present his view of the most likely targets.

He is also very quick to point out that the vulnerabilities are so glaring that a novice trained in sabotage or rudimentary information gathering will come to the same conclusions.

Faddis believes the “it won’t happen here” mentality is more pervasive now than pre-9/11. The author painstakingly demonstrates how our laissez-faire approach to infrastructure protection could very well be our undoing. Unguarded train stations, mile-long chemical freight train lines, and unsecured biological laboratories provide all the necessary raw material for a massive mass casualty event. In my view, his methodology is sound and his information is accurate.

Faddis says we in the United States still live in a dream world. He is convinced that our homeland security enterprise fails to take the terrorist threat seriously.  Instead, homeland security is used to dispense pork and create corporate welfare.

He is convinced that our failure to adequately use the last eight-plus years of post-9/11 to revitalize and strengthen our critical infrastructure and security protocols will only lead to a more catastrophic calamity within the United States.

While I found the title of the book, Willful Neglect, initially  misleading, I think it is strategically accurate. Having done similar analysis on military installations, chemical facilities, rail logistics, and the like I can unequivocally state that the author is right in his assessment that we are unable to protect much, let alone respond adequately to the catastrophic events Faddis warns about.

Faddis’ strongest commentary is reserved for the lack of common sense used in administering the variety of homeland security grants that provide funding for hardening facilities and infrastructure.  He meticulously explains with some derision where taxpayer money has gone and its relative inadequacy and lack of efficacy in preventing terrorism.  Items like tractors to pull airplanes, fitness equipment, printers, and ornamental lighting for quaint tourist villages have been purchased with grant funds.  They do not make us safer or more secure, but that’s where the funding went.

He believes protecting long lines of rail cars packed with the most dangerous substance on earth, nuclear power plants, and bio labs must be the priority.  He notes how the black plague was initially spread (as a weapon) and that 50% of those exposed perished.   And, that these labs, holding plague and a variety of other deadly products, are easily exploitable and vulnerable.  Many of these facilities have little physical security and are literally in our back yards.

His final key point is to remind us that paperwork and bureaucracy are not what stop bad people from doing bad things.

Is Faddis correct in his assessment?   In my opinion, almost always.   The tipping point becomes what is our risk tolerance, our risk to cost threshold, and our expectations.  Retrofitting a Nation will continue to be cost prohibitive, and we cannot protect everything all the time.  However, we can be more judicious in applying funding and conducting more accurate, candid risk assessments to put that funding to better use.

Willful Neglect does not provide any new provocative information.  Unfortunately, it points out what we already know, but seem reluctant to act on: the Nation remains unprotected to a large degree; we should not be surprised when the next incident happens.  Willful Neglect is a worthy read.

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Comment by David C. Gomez

March 2, 2010 @ 3:18 am

While I have not read the book Willful Neglect, I think that most Americans do not want to live in the police state that this review suggests the author is advocating, or that is really necessary, in order to preserve our security.

While I do agree that much of our homeland security infrastructure is misplaced and only provides the illusion of security, that is America. WE are not living in the Middle East.

Americans have little tolerance for government intervention in their daily lives even to preserve them. So the amount of security they will accept is directly proportional to the amount of threat they perceive. And right now, almost nine years after the 9/11 attacks, the majority of Americans are more afraid of local criminals than they are al-Qa’ida or radical Islam.

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 2, 2010 @ 4:48 am

Agree with Dan and Chris but also with Mr. Gomez.

The book appears to have overlooked, and Chris and Dan also, the fundamental flaw in all Homeland Security efforts to date. What is that flaw? Look at the 15 specific scenarios for national planning adopted early on and also look at the dialectic that 85% of all critical infrastructure is privately owned! What do you see? The amazing (or perhaps not so amazing) fact that regulated industry or industries that have hazardous aspects but so far have continued to escape effective regulation by lobbying at all governmental levels have escaped being identified as principal targets and therefor likely to need more bottom up review of systems and processes for defensive reasons and resilience. Computer Assisted Control Systems are developed all the time and often not even protected against minor tampering.
Is there a common theme in all this? Yes! The DHS was specifically prevented from developing much in the way of regulatory authority over critical targets and facilities. Perhaps the concensus standard setting groups could make progress but ususally they are held captive by their industry sector. Congress we know about! Just for sale to the highest bidder or just downright cheats like on federal taxes.
Still Mr. Faddis book should be bought and read but thinking needs to grow up on Homeland Security. With some expertise in targeting I can assure you that while there was a certain psychological brilliance in the 9/11 targeting by AQ they could easily have caused even more long term problems. After all two of the planes flew right over the Indian Point Nuclear Power Station which as a generic target, and after much equivocation, the NRC has decided to make some meagre regulatory changes in their regulated facilities security arrangements.
So where does this leave the US? Honest assessments by Mr. Faddis, Dan and Chris, lead to the conclusion that it is public administration and governance that has failed. Hey remember even the Roman Empire once upon a time could no longer build or maintain their roads of empire.

Comment by christopher tingus

March 3, 2010 @ 2:05 pm

Well, here on Main Street USA the most popular book and certainly recommended reading for all Homeland Security Personnel throughout the organization as well as everyone who understands that transition to peaceful harmony among people who share so many similarities as well as differences will never be overcome unless….

“From Dictatorship to Democracy” a terrific book by Gene Sharp!

I, too have walked the streets in the Middle East and despite my Hellenic descent and as an American born Greek, sure I have been approached by those less than enthused about our beloved America. Conveying an interest in listening and not quick to reply, I have learned that often engaging in conversation does not result in embrace of one another, yet respective perceptions are at least shared in mutual respect and most often the exchange gives one thought….

Since 911, we are a much better prepared nation, at least aware that America is seen by others in a different way than maybe we prefer. Certainly, we the citizenry are more aware of our surroundings, our environment and those suspicious prompting a 911.

When we discuss Homeland Security, we ask, can we do better – yes. Are the dedicated intel folks and others throughout the nation working 24×7 to thwart anyone’s effort from outside or from within to harm us – yes. Should we offer more support in budget and training – yes. Are we talking to one another and sharing information – apparently not as much as we should as we have yet to learn that an organized and shared approach especially given the technology we have today is in the best interest of our country and safeguarding us from those who seek our demise.

Do I like being asked to step out of line when I fly and subject to search, no, however someone is doing their job to protect me, fellow passengers, and especially the country we Love and so many have given their Life to enable us enjoy Liberty and protest on the street when necessary.

To those in the Middle East who care little for us, I reiterate that it is NOT America which is the real threat to you. More than eight years have passed and progress has been made to better equip and train those in society who seek individuality, freedom of choice, etc., however the stone walls of past generations, the prejudice, the hatred towards others more often than not based on the past, well, it will take many years to break through these stones.

Many of the individuals we hear about challenging America have studied here and should understand the way of Life here as they experienced the difference from other places and should acknowledge that the American people are indeed most charitable and a culture pervaded with diversity, an openness to accept Islam as another religion among many….though attempts by anyone to impose their respective values is of course met with little tolerance. All should be free to choose their religious preferance respective of differing values held by fellow neighbor. All should be respectful of the other here and wherever humans choose to live to others.

Leadership comprised with AQ, the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah are for the most part bright, articulate and good strategists and should not be underestimated, yet it is the increasing tension with a German-led EU and supported by the all powwerful global hand of the Vatican which fundamentalists and others should also not underestimate.

The policies and a growing presence of a modern EU fast deployment army and shiny new battleships in the Mediterranean which foretells real confrontation as Germany requires a prominence in the Middle East to secure oil to lubricate its substantial manufacturing sector.

Tehran and Belgians and Germans will clash and despite Tehran’s psychology today, the EU and Vatican will be too much for Tehran to handle.

It is really a shame that the educated Persian, rich in history, allows their national leadership to continue in its ways and allows the regime to blame an 81 year old author – “From Dictatorship to Democracy” – for unrest on the streets as if the well educated and adjusted, enlightened youth of Persia are mindless….

I assure you from our reading, staudy and international friendships that the youth of Persia are quite enlightened and understand that the supports of the regime must be pulled out from within and hopefully they will help to remove as quickly as possible this regime that tortures, the “Brutes of Tehran” who are capable of doing terible things, hands bloodied over and over with American soldiers, a regime of thugs hiding behind their robes….

In the west, US policy and HLS security experts seem to believe that talking tThey must be removed to enable Persians to blossom as they have so much to contribute to humnanity! God Bless this young woman who was willing to stand strong only to see who precious Persian blood spilled from the hands of these thugs. God Bless those that have been persecuted because they have been willing to stand in non-violent protest only to be murdered.

No one has to again attack the US and its economic heartbeat skips woth each Wall Sreet bonus check reminding us of Hank Paulson’s groupies who never did come up with an explanation where the first billions of stimulus fiat dollars were distributed….we are decaying from within and no one needs to worry too much about us as we decline in our global reach because of our own doing….

Government has overstepped its bounds in so many way as special interest groups starting in the early 80’s and “entrusted” elected officials serving personal agenda. The US Constitution and State Constitution (especially here in Massachusetts -(MA/DOR) as a foremost example) are being circumvented by government agencies and the Rights of good citizens stripped of them. If anyone dares protest anything, they are on the “list” as one on the ladder to becoming a terrorist….

Fiat dollars are being printed in the billions and the present hugh deficit depicts our failing into a third world nation status, yes, bankrupt in monetary terms, however bankrupt in trustworthiness and so many other ways!

Look…we have such massive drug use, pornography rampant, scandalous churches, schools failing, parents overburdened by taxes and fees, working and just overwhelmed.

The greed and corruption even within the beltway, never mind Wall Street and we expect all this to get better.

Hold on as the ride promises many bumps ahead and a precipitous decline which has already been foretold.

Pay down your debt if you can and light your candles in prayer as we reach substantial numbers in global population, much poverty and unless we seek repentence and are willing to reach out to one another despite our differences, not necessarily to embrace one another, yet willing to engage in communication and compromise rather than strapping bombs or holding a gun to another, all of are in peril.

In fact, it is only China which I see planning for the future, its people storing food, collecting gold, precious metals, numerous resources and looking to continue its long history and the future. Yes, China is not without issue and in fact, many issues are evolving which do not bode well for government officials, however stability exists far more than in the west.

Religion in the west has always been a dividing point and generational prejudices continue and will evolve into a much broader war. America can no longer afford to safeguard the European officials who go out of their way to criticize America and yes, take the 200 WMD from European soil and permit the European Union to take care of its own. We cannot deceive ourselves any longer for the ongoing void in leadership in the beltway despite the party affiliation is resulting in an America which will default in its loan obligations and no longer be the beacon of hope to those in despair.

As far as Homeland Security, protect the power grid. Protect our DoD satellite communications. Distrust the “KGB Putinites” and the “Brutes of Tehran” – Budget more monies to the dedicated folks at NSA and other intel folks for technology promises many advantages to mankind, however neecssitates the requirement that we as a nation keep our technology a steop ahead.

We should all be particularly concerned about the new weapons technology which challenges another higher into our atmposhere with unimaginable shock and awe!

You, Mr. President talk of diminishing our nuclear weapons arsenal while all others seek to secur such technology and weapons or increase the arsenal, despite the empty rhetoric.

It is time to enforce strong immigration laws. A US citizenship status must be earned, not provided without obligation. We have no Winston Churchill to lead us. We as a government and we as a people have no money remaining other than to look at expenditures at the local, state and federal level line by line, accountable. I must use the dreaded word, transparency!

We need far less partisanship and much more commitment to attentively listen to the taxpayer/the voter, the majority.

The consensus here on Main Street USA witnesses a gridlock on Capital Hill, you, Mr. President who willingly enjoined the good ‘ol boys only to be duped for the professional politicians who should have immediate term limits adopted for they have placed us in great peril from within.

While I am a proponent for a strong civil defense organization, federal funding of our first responders far too exposed to the local politician who uses public safety as a pawn, an advocate for folks at the NSA, the DoD, intel folks, and those who understand that we are still very much a Judeo-Christian based nation and the many good fellow citizenry are aware of the external threats and demand that dedicated and committed people serving our nation and its principles be funded, however we are very, very worried that corporate and financial institutions have already “raped us” and we are in a precipitous decline NEVER to attain the quality in Life or the position to reach out to others and offer hope!

In concluding, we have seen recent incidents where we trusted too much and safeguards in the system enabled the adversary to gain position and harm us. This is always a hard lesson to learn, however no one should leave a donut hole on the counter to enable others to cause us harm especially from within.

Thank you to all that serve with such dedication and commitment to save old glory from the dastardly deeds of those whose evil ambitions focus on harming a people who send their Sons and Daughters, Fathers and Mothers to a land far yonder to protect the innocent from the abuse of those engaing in the cold murder of God’s precious creation often citing religious and spiritual basis and as God witnesses all, tears and a hand in wrath against those who choose such course.

God Bless America and all those aspiring to live within God’s principles clearly set forth whether Muslim, Greek Orthodox, Hebrew, Catholic or other….

Do I think the future is bright, no. Do we here on Main Street USA support Homeland Security efforts…in every way given parameters.

We expect accountability and we demand that all be equipped and trained properly and political appointees sent to the unemployment benefits section and professionals, the best of the best fill the roster for we are besieged by determined and willing killers not truly interested in anything other than stroking their own ego and lusting for power over others, not truly seeking justice and morality for those who choose to live in the civilized world than in the darkness of the wicked….

Christopher Tingus
Harwich, MA 02645

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