Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 18, 2010

Luke 10: Parable of the Good Samaritan

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on December 18, 2010

Part 1 (verses 25-29)

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

The question posed is spiritual not biological. The lawyer has asked about aionios zoe – soul without beginning or end – in the original Greek.

The lawyer and Jesus agree on the essential requirements. Both know the fundamentals of the law set out in the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy.

But being tendentious in the way that lawyers and those religiously inclined often are — and perhaps a bit of a show-off as well — the lawyer asks a crucial follow-on, “And who is my neighbor?” More literally, the Greek asks, “And who is near to me?”

At the core of Jesus’ message is love of God and neighbor. In the New Testament Greek we are to agapao: to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly. In the Hebrew of Deuteronomy, we are to ‘ahab: to hunger after, seek out as a friend, and be intimate with.

In answering who is our neighbor, Jesus tells us of the Good Samaritan.

Part 2 (verses 30-37)

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coinsand gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

The power of the parable depends on the lawyer’s – and our own – disdain for the other: Samaritan, Muslim, Jew, Catholic, liberal, conservative or whatever.

Jesus can make a sacrament even of our bigotry.

Again, Jesus does not deny the difference. The priest is different from the Levite and both are very different from the Samaritan.

Two do not recognize their neighbor and do not love their neighbor. The Samaritan – despite his religious affronts and error – personifies what the second great commandment means.

Love God. Love neighbor. “On these two commandments depend all the laws and the prophets.” (Matthew 22)

SATURDAY AFTERNOON ADDITION:  Please see very relevant story from today’s New York Times:

In Seconds Before Blast, The Making of a Hero

BALAD RUZ, Iraq — As the suicide bomber clutched the detonator to his explosive belt, preparing to spray fire and shrapnel into a religious procession here, an Iraqi police officer named Bilal Ali Muhammad faced a choice between his own life and something larger.

If he ran and took cover, Mr. Muhammad, 31, had a chance to save himself, to continue supporting his widowed mother, to help put his younger brother through college and to watch his three young daughters grow up.

Instead, the officer — a Sunni Muslim — threw himself onto the bomber, blunting the explosion’s impact on the Shiite worshipers.

“He gave his soul to the country,” said his mother, Alaahin Hassan, holding two of his daughters in her lap as dozens of black-veiled women filled her living room this week with ritualized wails of grief. “He believed in God. That made him great.”

In a country fractured by sect and ethnicity, from villages like this all the way to the government that is finally forming in Baghdad, Mr. Muhammad’s last act was a burst of heroism and humanity set against the viciousness that still stalks Iraq.



This is the sixth post in a weekend series that will conclude on December 24.  The purpose is to examine possible principles for inter-religious relations emerging from six scriptural texts.

The first post on December 3 was Tis the season… to deal directly with religious difference.

The second post on December 4 was Avoid Samaritan Towns.

The third post on December 5 was The Woman at Jacob’s Well.

The fourth post on December 11 was Jesus accused of being a Samaritan.

The fifth post on December 12 was A Samaritan town rejects Jesus  (including several reader comments)

Tomorrow: The Thankful Leper

December 17, 2010

Germans target advocacy of sharia as unconstitutional

Filed under: International HLS,Legal Issues,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on December 17, 2010

According to Deutsche Welle:

German security officials conducted raids on two alleged Islamist groups in three states on Tuesday, suspecting the groups were involved in anti-constitutional activities. Authorities searched property belonging to the groups Invitation to Paradise (EZP in German), with offices in Moenchengladbach and Braunschweig, and the Islamic Cultural Center of Bremen (IKZB in German), in the city-state on the North Sea coast, as well as the private residences of some members.

A spokesman for the German Interior Ministry, explained:

EZP and IKZB are suspected of acting against the constitutional order by planning to create an Islamic theocracy in Germany. Salafists understand the Islamic religion to be an ideology of order and a system of law that is incompatible with parliamentary democracy. According to Salafist ideology, the laws can only be from God (divine sovereignty) and can not be made by the people… Salafi Islamist networks such as these organizations are opposed to liberal democracy and as such the laws-of-association can apply. For an embattled democracy, it is necessary — without waiting for the jihad to emerge in the form of armed struggle — to take action against anti-constitutional organizations. (Original German press release is available from the Ministry of InteriorWarning: I translated this myself and my German is even more amateur than my Greek.)

The Interior Ministry emphasized there is no evidence or accusation that the suspects were planning terrorist activity.  Rather, the charge being investigated is the purposeful undermining of German constitutional principles.

I cannot find a bill of particulars and my inquiries to the German Embassy in Washington have not yet been answered.  But it seems likely action is being taken under section 90b or section 92 of the German Criminal Code relating to Crimes against Peace, High Treason and Endangering the Democratic Rule of Law.  If correct, this is a significant twist in the German anti-terrorism strategy.  This may be the first time these provisions have been applied to Islamic organizations.  The decision of the Ministry to target and reference “Salafist” groups is  worth particular note. (In 2008 Khalil Al-Anani, then with the Brookings Institution, provided a brief backgrounder on Salafism.)

The chapter entitled Crimes against Peace, High Treason and Endangering the Democratic Rule of Law is the so-called “Special Part” or “anti-Nazi section” of the criminal code.  Section 92 reads:

(1) Within the meaning of this law, a person undermines the continued existence of the Federal Republic of Germany if he causes the abolition of its freedom from foreign domination, the destruction of its national unity, or the separation of one of its constituent territories.

(2) Constitutional principles, within the meaning of this law, shall be:

1. the right of the people to exercise state power in elections and ballots and through particular organs of legislative, executive and judicial power and to elect parliament in general, direct, free, equal and secret elections;

2. the subjection of legislation to the constitutional order and the subjection of the executive and judicial power to law and justice;

3. the right to form and exercise a parliamentary opposition;

4. the replaceability of the government and its responsibility to parliament;

5. the independence of the courts; and

6. the exclusion of any rule by force and decree.

(3) Within the meaning of this law:

1. efforts against the continued existence of the Federal Republic of Germany shall be such efforts, the supporters of which work toward undermining the continued existence of the Federal Republic of Germany (subsection (1));

2. efforts against the security of the Federal Republic of Germany shall be such efforts, the supporters of which work toward undermining the external or internal security of the Federal Republic of Germany;

3. efforts against constitutional principles shall be such efforts, the supporters of which work toward destroying, invalidating or undermining a constitutional principle (subsection (2)).  (The German Criminal Code is available in an official translation.)

Number 3 immediately above strikes me as the most likely legal basis for conducting the raids and collecting evidence.

In October Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech which seems to have presaged this new legal strategy.  According to a Reuters report (I do my own translations only as a last resort):

“Now we obviously also have Muslims in Germany. But it’s important in regard to Islam that the values represented by Islam must correspond with our constitution,” said Merkel.

“What applies here is the constitution, not sharia.”

Merkel said Germany needed imams “educated in Germany and who have their social roots here” and concluded: “Our culture is based on Christian and Jewish values and has been for hundreds of years, not to say thousands.”

The Chancellor’s words are now being put into action.

December 16, 2010

“Everybody’s worried ’bout the atomic bomb”

Filed under: Radiological & Nuclear Threats — by Arnold Bogis on December 16, 2010

Reporter William Broad of the New York Times has an interesting article in today’s paper on the difficulties with preparing the public for a nuclear terrorist attack.  The piece, “U.S. Rethinks Strategy for the Unthinkable,” answers one important question while raising several others.

The question answered, or at least the one for which an answer is offered: “Immediately following a nuclear detonation, do you tell people to shelter-in-place, evacuate, or a mixture of both depending on their location?”  The answer: everyone should shelter-in-place.

Suppose the unthinkable happened, and terrorists struck New York or another big city with an atom bomb. What should people there do? The government has a surprising new message: Do not flee. Get inside any stable building and don’t come out till officials say it’s safe.

The advice is based on recent scientific analyses showing that a nuclear attack is much more survivable if you immediately shield yourself from the lethal radiation that follows a blast, a simple tactic seen as saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Even staying in a car, the studies show, would reduce casualties by more than 50 percent; hunkering down in a basement would be better by far.

The Department of Homeland Security financed a multiagency modeling effort led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. The scientists looked at Washington, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and other big cities, using computers to simulate details of the urban landscape and terrorist bombs.

The results were revealing. For instance, the scientists found that a bomb’s flash would blind many drivers, causing accidents and complicating evacuation.

The big surprise was how taking shelter for as little as several hours made a huge difference in survival rates.

Health physicist Brooke Buddemeier of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory explains the results of this modeling that point to potentially huge numbers of lives saved:

If people in Los Angeles a mile or more from ground zero of an attack took no shelter, Mr. Buddemeier said, there would be 285,000 casualties from fallout in that region.

Taking shelter in a place with minimal protection, like a car, would cut that figure to 125,000 deaths or injuries, he said. A shallow basement would further reduce it to 45,000 casualties. And the core of a big office building or an underground garage would provide the best shelter of all.

Fantastic news!  Right?  One small problem: shouldn’t the public know what they should do?

On Jan. 16, 2009 — four days before Mr. Bush left office — the White House issued a 92-page handbook lauding “pre-event preparedness.” But it was silent on the delicate issue of how to inform the public.

Soon after Mr. Obama arrived at the White House, he embarked a global campaign to fight atomic terrorism and sped up domestic planning for disaster response. A senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the new administration began a revision of the Bush administration’s handbook to address the issue of public communication.

Problem solved! Or is it?

The agenda hit a speed bump. Las Vegas was to star in the nation’s first live exercise meant to simulate a terrorist attack with an atom bomb, the test involving about 10,000 emergency responders. But casinos and businesses protested, as did Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. He told the federal authorities that it would scare away tourists.

Late last year, the administration backed down.

Apparently what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas.  At least if it is a nuclear explosion anyway.

This article highlights a lot of good ideas, but exposes the biggest underlying obstacle to implementation.  We have seen the obstacle, and it is us.

Administration officials argue that the cold war created an unrealistic sense of fatalism about a terrorist nuclear attack. “It’s more survivable than most people think,” said an official deeply involved in the planning, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The key is avoiding nuclear fallout.”

The administration is making that argument with state and local authorities and has started to do so with the general public as well. Its Citizen Corps Web site says a nuclear detonation is “potentially survivable for thousands, especially with adequate shelter and education.” A color illustration shows which kinds of buildings and rooms offer the best protection from radiation.

In June, the administration released to emergency officials around the nation an unclassified planning guide 130 pages long on how to respond to a nuclear attack. It stressed citizen education, before any attack.

Involving the public more deeply in all facets of homeland security is a brilliant idea, and not a particularly new one.  Yet the concept always seem to flounder on what form that involvement should take and how to reach the desired audience with the desired message.

Get a kit, make a plan, be informed” or it’s variants have been pushed by FEMA and partners for several years, yet public preparedness levels change little.  “See something, say something” offers the notion of a dialog with the public, yet the public is not informed what it should consider suspicious.

Now imagine adding nuclear-specific knowledge to the mix.  What percentage of the public will remember this advice if they find themselves the victims of a nuclear terrorist attack?  Don’t get me wrong, I would be a supporter of any such education campaign that got traction with the public.  I am pessimistic because after seeing the difficulties encountered by Ready.gov and other related preparedness programs to have an impact, these methods don’t seem to offer much hope of success:

The document said that planners had an obligation to help the public “make effective decisions” and that messages for predisaster campaigns might be tailored for schools, businesses and even water bills.

Messages from the federal government tailored for specific audiences are unlikely to stick.  Engaging those schools, businesses, churches, and other organizations to share those messages with their employees, students, members, etc. is a more difficult route, yet one offering a greater chance of success.

To prepare this nation for something as cataclysmic as nuclear terrorism, we must think bottom up, not top down.

Further reading:

December 15, 2010

Size Doesn’t Matter

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Mark Chubb on December 15, 2010

In a Saturday post to his Disaster Zone blog, Eric Holdeman questioned why the United States had entered into a bilateral agreement with New Zealand to share lessons learned from emergency management activities and cooperate with one another in response and recovery operations when necessary. The not so subtle subtext of Eric’s post was “what does tiny, remote NZ have to offer the U.S.?” As someone with a foot in both the Yankee and Kiwi camps, I am happy to repsond, “Quite a lot, really.”

To be fair, Eric supported the ideal of collaboration as a general principle of emergency management and had nothing bad to say about entering into such a partnership in this instance. He simply wondered whether other agreements existed, and, if so, where this initiative fits in FEMA’s overall approach to collaboration.

I doubt Eric knows that the U.S., Australia and New Zealand have a longstanding mutual assistance agreement in the wildfire arena. ANZAC firefighters routinely come to the assistance of beleaguered U.S. colleagues during North America’s increasingly protracted and difficult Western fire seasons. The ANZACs’ level of skill and professionalism are highly regarded by their peers in U.S. federal fire agencies. It’s interesting to note that New Zealand has never requested U.S. assistance in return, although it has been offered a couple of times.

The benefits to New Zealand from such an arrangement are clear. Their officers and firefighters get experience that would be difficult to obtain back on their home turf. In exchange, the U.S. gets experienced fire officers who know and use the same incident command system they do. The helps comes at a time when U.S. incident managers need relief after going nonstop for extended periods of time.

When it comes to other kinds of disasters, we could expect the same sorts of benefits, especially in the United States’ sprawling Pacific territories and protectorates. New Zealand sees a direct national interest in the welfare of Pacific island states, and already engages in extensive humanitarian relief work in these and other areas around the globe, a fact recently recognized the DARA International Humanitarian Response Index.

This agreement goes beyond traditional mutual aid agreements. It includes provisions for sharing information about mitigation and recovery, areas of great interest to both countries but areas in which New Zealand might have a distinct advantage because of its less cumbersome governmental structure, which places intergovernmental cooperation at the core of its planning efforts.

New Zealand is positioned slightly ahead of the United States in the way it engages the public in mitigation and preparedness programs by linking emergency planning with broader community outcomes and the local government strategic planning process. This framework seeks to encourage transparent alignment of budgets and regulatory priorities with desired outcomes.

Having faced a much more dire economic situation in the mid-1980s than we face now, the Kiwis overhauled the public sector and consolidated local government. As a result, officials in local, regional and national levels of government find it easier to get the right people in the room and get people on the same page when critical decisions are required. This is an impressive feat even in a country with a population comparable to a U.S. state, especially in light of the widely dispersed geography and the challenging natural hazards environment to which they must respond.

Having national police and fire services helps too. Because these agencies see local government bodies and their constituencies as important stakeholders rather than masters, they do not regard themselves as being in either a subservient or competitive position relative to other programs and policy priorities. Seeing one another as partners enables them to seek opportunities for shared success.

I will be very interested to see what initiatives arise out of this agreement, and think it more likely than not that the U.S. will benefit more from the partnership than the Kiwis will.

Having made it clear that I see no relationship between New Zealand’s small size and the quality of the big ideas her government has put in place, I was chuffed to read David Brooks’s op-ed in Tuesday’s New York Times, which sought to reassure anxious Americans that our national identity and importance is not a function of where we rank in GDP league tables, debt-to-GDP ratios, longevity statistics or other measures of individual or social welfare but in the strength, stability and enduring appeal of our values and ideals. The measures that preoccupy our national discourse simply don’t tell the whole story. Other countries are not so much overtaking us as catching up, which, of course, actually benefits us both.

The importance of ideals like openness and tolerance distinguished Sweden as well as the United States. The weekend’s apparent suicide bombing has caused some Swedes to question whether this is the right course, to which their prime minister boldly responded: “Yes!” I wonder how many Americans would agree with him? The New York Times editorial board clearly wondered too, as it published an editorial Tuesday morning endorsing this action and underscoring its significance and importance to global efforts to end extremism.

Finally, I was saddened to see an article by Star-Ledger reporter Amy Brittain reporting that some of my public safety colleagues in New Jersey had succumbed to the bigger-is-better mentality in a way that is particularly difficult to understand. The newspaper identified at least 248 police, corrections officers, and firefighters who had received prescriptions for anabolic steroids, human growth hormone or both from a now-deceased physician (whose demise appears to have resulted at lest in part from his own use of these controlled substances) and paid for these so-called performance-enhancing drugs with their employer-paid prescription drug benefits. In some cases, this amounted to costs to taxpayers in the thousands of dollars.

In homeland security, size doesn’t matter. Our adversaries understand this principle explicitly and use it to exploit our inability to adapt quickly because of our condition, whether it manifests itself as a bloated bureaucracy, a muscle-bound officer or an obese citizen too disillusioned with government to exercise the privileges of liberty. The evidence of this cognitive dissonance is evident across our institutions and in our society as a whole.

At its heart, homeland security is shaped not by our ability to project power but rather by our ability to organize and mobilize collective efforts to support, defend and extend the ideal of liberty. If bigness matters at all, then the big idea may be the one instance where size make a difference.

December 14, 2010

Growing more homeland security ideas

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on December 14, 2010

On Friday, the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security  will graduate its 29th and 30th master’s degree class.

Here are the titles of the graduates’ theses (and a bit more information) to illustrate the topics covered.

Many of the theses — adding to what we know, think, and believe about homeland security — will be available through the NPS Dudley Knox library in a few weeks.

Another list (for the previous graduating class) was published in homeland security watch last September.


1. Countering violent extremism: the challenge and the opportunity. This thesis explores the application of “soft power” — the government’s ability to mitigate recruitment and radicalization by attraction rather than coercion — as a way to prevent homegrown terrorism.

2. Coast guard counter-intelligence: adopting the Army’s conceptual model. The thesis looks at how the Coast Guard’s counter-intelligence program would benefit from adopting aspects of the Army counter-intelligence structure.

3. Managing the aviation insider threat. Since 9/11/01, aviation security has focused on threats from passengers.  This thesis proposes steps to reduce security vulnerabilities associated with aviation employees.

4. Countering Islamic radicalization and Al-Shabaab recruitment within the ethnic Somali population of the United States. This thesis presents an argument for addressing domestic radicalization by modifying law enforcement best practices for stemming youth gang recruitment and initiation.

5. Improving the security of the national aeronautical domain: adopting an intelligence-led, risk-based strategy and partnership. The threat to the nation’s aeronautical domain can be reduced by more effectively using intelligence to drive aviation security strategy at the federal and local levels.

6. Local jurisdictions and active shooters: building networks, building capacities. Small unit active shooter attacks — like Mumbai and Beslan — demonstrate the difficulties local law enforcement face defending against multiple attackers and multiple locations.  The thesis describes how smaller jurisdictions can use networks to build capabilities needed to deal with such attacks.

7. Tailoring screening technology to prevent or deter terrorists from attacking commercial ferries with improvised explosive devices. The thesis evaluates current explosive detection technologies that can be applied to passenger/vehicle screening operations for commercial passenger ferries.

8. Examining the impact and effectiveness of behavior detection programs in the transportation sector. This thesis examines evidence about the effectiveness of behavior detection programs.  It asks if there are better ways to use the science and funding supporting such programs.

9. Strategy for upgrading preparedness in small and rural communities to meet national preparedness standards. The smallest units of government in the least populated areas of the country are struggling to meet national preparedness guidelines.  The thesis suggests moving from the current hierarchical response framework to a more networked approach that brings resources as needed across government boundaries.

10.  Enhancing preparedness adoption and compliance in the federal law enforcement community through financial incentives. The federal law enforcement community has not adopted the level of emergency preparedness prescribed by national directives. Preparedness grants have helped state, local, and tribal agencies improve their readiness.  The thesis asks whether federal preparedness efforts would also improve by targeting financial incentives at federal law enforcement agencies.

11. The California law enforcement community’s intelligence-led policing capacity. Intelligence led policing is intended to help California law enforcement agencies prevent crime and terrorism.  The thesis assess that capability among California agencies.

12. Altered standards of care: an analysis of existing federal and state government guidelines. Existing “standards of care” planning guidance needs to include triggers and a guarantee of care minimums designed to ensure coordination, consistency, and fair allocation of scarce medical resources during a catastrophic mass casualty event.

13. On balance without compromise: leveraging the National Guard for the 21st century security environment. The United States is facing a severe mismatch between its national security commitments and its resources.  There is a need to address and balance defense responsibilities for major combat, reconstruction, stability and other operations.  National Guard leaders have argued their component has the perfect characteristics to be leveraged for balance between the homeland defense and the homeland security missions.  However, Department of Defense strategies, doctrines and authorities limit DoD’s ability to use the Guard effectively.  The thesis proposes solutions for overcoming those obstacles.

14. Addressing the effects of emergency worker absenteeism during biological outbreaks and natural disasters. There is a likelihood of emergency service workforce shortages during natural disasters and biological outbreaks.  The thesis examines options for reducing and managing the consequences of those shortages.

15. Preventing bulk cash and weapons smuggling into Mexico: Establishing an outbound policy on the southwest border for Customs and Border Protection. On the Southwest Border, the drug trafficking organizations  are continuing to smuggle bulk cash and weapons into Mexico and border violence continues to increase.  While US border authorities routinely inspect people and items coming into the United States, much less is done to inspect items leaving the country.  This thesis describes the policy option available for outbound border operations.

16. Social media integration into state-operated fusion centers and local law enforcement: potential uses and challenges. Social media, if leveraged appropriately, could enhance communication among fusion centers, law enforcement, and private citizens to better detect and deter terrorism. This research explores potential benefits and implementation challenges of integrating social media into fusion centers.

17. Closing the loop on visa security: a case for change. Responsibility for issuing U.S. visas is currently divided between the U.S. Department of State  and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  This results in a duplication of effort, unclear responsibilities, an increased need for communication and collaboration between government departments, and a loss of mission focus.  In an effort to increase security, streamline the immigration process, and address identified problems, this thesis recommends that the visa issuing function should be exclusively the responsibility of, and performed by, DHS.

December 13, 2010

X Marks the Spot – Jurisdictionally Speaking…

Filed under: Congress and HLS — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on December 13, 2010

As the House of Representatives reorganizes itself for the 112th Congress, it is time to revisit, yet again, what to do about the jurisdiction of the House Homeland Security Committee.  Specifically, how should “Rule X,” which determines Committee organization and oversight, be formulated to ensure that homeland security is best served. Since its creation as a “Select” (aka “temporary”) Committee in 2003 during the 108th Congress, there has been a constant drumbeat of experts, pundits, and Department of Homeland Security officials calling for oversight and legislative jurisdiction to be unified under one Committee. Reports abound of the 100+ Committees and Subcommittees that DHS has to appear before and of legislation getting stalled because of jurisdictional infighting inside of Congress. Those outside of Washington are probably scratching their heads and wondering why does this matter? Isn’t it really an insider’s game of turf battle and power grabs?

Well, yes and no. There is obviously a tradition in DC of protecting one’s turf and preserving power. And that has played a significant role in not only how Congress treats homeland security, but in how the Department has developed. The jurisdictional fights, while inherently D.C., have a tremendous impact on how homeland security has developed and how it will continue to grow. Split jurisdiction means that the Department lacks a clear guiding voice on how it should move forward on security issues. Instead, it has many keepers in some areas — all of whom have different and potentially conflicting interest. The jurisdictional split also means that the Department does not have a clear overseer to hold it accountable and ensure that efficiencies and effectiveness are front and center. As a result, DHS reports to many, causing it to be sluggish and not able to fully maximize its resources to the homeland security mission.

When the Homeland Security Act was passed and DHS was created, 170,000 employees and 22 departments and agencies were merged. Among the entities that moved to the new Department:

  • Coast Guard –  Department of Transportation
  • TSA – Department of Transportation
  • U.S. Customs Services – Department of Treasury
  • Secret Service – Department of Treasury
  • Immigration and Naturalization Service – Department of Justice
  • Border Patrol-  Department of Justice
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – Department of Agriculture
  • Critical Information Assurance Office – Department of Commerce
  • National Infrastructure Protection Center – FBI
  • Various other entities from Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, GSA,  Health and Human Services, Justice, & Treasury

The creation of DHS was the biggest reorganization of the government since the Department of Defense was created in the National Security Act of 1947.  In creating the agency, Congress deemed it necessary to rethink how we approached federal governance in a post-9/11 world.  The new Department was to help the nation heal and be prepared for the next attack.  Its mission was (and is) simple, as described on the DHS website:

to lead the unified national effort to secure the country and preserve our freedoms. While the Department was created to secure our country against those who seek to disrupt the American way of life, our charter also includes preparation for and response to all hazards and disasters. The citizens of the United States must have the utmost confidence that the Department can execute both of these missions.

Unfortunately for the agency, confidence is constantly being questioned as the agency has tried to manage itself over the past 7 years.  Whether uniting jurisdiction in one Committee will solve the agency’s problems is unknown and questionable, but the voices of those who say it is the right thing to do are many. For example:

  • The 9/11 Commission: Of all our recommendations, strengthening congressional oversight may be among the most difficult and important.  So long as oversight is governed by current congressional rules and resolutions, we believe the American people will not get the security they want and need.  The United States needs a strong, stable, and capable congressional committee structure to give America’s national intelligence agencies oversight, support, and leadership.
  • CSIS/BENS Task Force on Congressional Oversight of the Department of Homeland Security: The result is a Department of Homeland Security that is hamstrung by a system of Congressional oversight that drains departmental energy and invites managerial circumvention. Until Congress confronts the hard task of correcting this mismatch, DHS is at risk of failing to achieve its full potential.
  • The Center for Public Integrity: The Department of Homeland Security is still coping with an extraordinary number of demands from Capitol Hill, which are tripping up a fledgling organization. And the crazy quilt of oversight is making it difficult for Congress to provide cogent guidance on budgeting, organization, or priorities for a department still struggling on all those fronts.
  • Homeland Security Policy Institute:  Congress must not let its homeland security efforts remain unfocused and dispersed. Consolidation of authority under a single permanent standing committee is the best answer to a problem that has already persisted two years too long.
  • Heritage Foundation: It has been seven years since the Department of Homeland Security was created, and yet Congress has still not reformed oversight of homeland security. The lack of congressional action has become something of a joke, even catching the attention of institutions like National Public Radio that would normally dismiss oversight of a department as an “inside the Beltway” issue.

Left. Right. Center.  It seems that the jurisdictional issue is one that unites across the political spectrum.  I have not seen outside of Congress a good analysis of why jurisdictional should not be consolidated. The strongest argument made to not consolidate in 2003-2004 was that expertise over the various portions of the Department resided with existing Committees. To create a new Committee without that expertise and historical knowledge would lead to more chaos according to many of the Committee Chairmen in that timeframe.  Indeed, in creating the temporary “Select” Committee on Homeland Security in 2003, then Speaker Hastert tried to address this concern by naming almost all Chairmen to the Committee.  That proved disastrous as many used the position to ensure that the Committee did not encroach upon their existing jurisdictions.  The majority of Chairmen did not show up for the Committee’ mark-up of its first authorization bill, requiring then-Chairmen Chris Cox (R-CA) to defend against several dozen amendments offered by Democratic Members without a Republican majority. The result? The mark-up was canceled.

When the Committee became permanent at the beginning of the 109th, the jurisdictional fighting did not cease.  A number of Committees raised concerns with the proposed Committee’s jurisdiction and pushed back.  In a legislative history prepared by the Speaker’s Office in early 2005, a number of areas were identified as needing to remain with the existing Committees.  They can be viewed here.

At the beginning of the 110th, with the Democrats taking over the House, there was discussion about how to revise jurisdiction.  Some jurisdictional battles were resolved between Committees.  For example, the Homeland Security and Transportation & Infrastructure Committees entered into a Memorandum of Understanding on how they would share jurisdiction over emergency preparedness and related issues.  At the beginning of the 111th Congress, there was discussion once again about jurisdiction. No significant changes, however, were made to the House Homeland Security Committee’s jurisdiction.

So, looking forward to January, what changes should be made in Congress to the Committees to better oversee and legislate on homeland security issues? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Emergency Preparedness/FEMA:  Jurisdiction over FEMA and emergency preparedness issues should be transferred to the House Homeland Security Committee. While the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee will object, there are few reasons to keep jurisdiction at T&I.  Under the current Rule, T&I has jurisdiction over generic emergency preparedness while Homeland has jurisdiction over emergency preparedness activities relating to terrorism.  The same entity (FEMA) and personnel are responsible for both in today’s all-hazards approach to emergency preparedness.
  • Border Security and Immigration:  Homeland Security has jurisdiction over border security generally while Judiciary has jurisdiction over immigration, visa, and non-border enforcement (e.g. ICE).  There is a larger question about whether immigration administration should be married with border security and whether USCIS belongs in DHS at all (but that is a subject of another blog).  What is clear, however, is that non-border enforcement elements such as ICE should be within the jurisdiction of Homeland, esp. given its related work on CBP, over which it has jurisdiction.
  • Secret Service: Currently, Judiciary has primary jurisdiction over most of Secret Service’s elements.  Since the agency was moved to DHS, oversight and legislative authority over the agency should also be moved over.
  • Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC):  Another agency that moved to the Department, of which jurisdiction should be given to Homeland.
  • Coast Guard:  Currently T&I has primary jurisdiction over the Coast Guard.  The agency itself is complicated and has a number of non-security functions and responsibilities. That said,  authority over it should probably be moved over to Homeland Security.’
  • Cybersecurity: Cybersecurity, other than that involving government-wide cybersecurity efforts relating to government computers, has never really had a home jurisdictionally. Originally, Homeland was going to be given jurisdiction over the issue in 2005, but other Committees protested so the rules were left silent on the issue, except for the existing government systems jurisdiction granted to Government Reform.  As an issue that is too important to be left unaddressed, civilian cybersecurity efforts should be within the jurisdiction of Homeland Security. Military and intelligence efforts should remain within Armed Services and Intelligence.

There are other areas where overlapping jurisdiction can be further clarified. Among them are the Federal Protective Service, emergency communications, and some infrastructure protection programs. They should certainly be explored though the items listed above should clearly be addressed.  If we are going to demand that DHS continue to improve and evolve in its efforts to protect America, then Congress must do its part to assure the agency is well-organized and armed with the right tools.

December 12, 2010

Walking a tightrope: Mr. Holder on terrorist stings and entrapment

Filed under: Legal Issues,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on December 12, 2010

Friday evening Attorney-General Holder spoke to the annual dinner in San Francisco of the Muslim Advocates.   Applause greeted many of his comments, including:

There can be no “us” or “them” among Americans. And I believe that law enforcement has an obligation to ensure that members of every religious community enjoy the ability to worship and to practice their faith in peace, free from intimidation, violence or suspicion. That is the right of all Americans. And it must be a reality for every citizen. In this nation, our many faiths, origins, and appearances must bind us together – not break us apart. Our justice system must be used to empower, not to exclude or target. And security and liberty must be guideposts – not opposing forces – in ensuring safety and opportunity for all.  (Read his prepared remarks)

The audience of mostly Muslim lawyers was less pleased with the Attorney-General’s defense of “sting operations” directed against potential terrorists.

Some have expressed concerns about the recent charges brought against Mohamed Osman Mohamud in Portland, Oregon, for his alleged involvement in planning – and attempting to execute – a terror attack during a Christmas Tree-lighting celebration.

Mr. Mohamud’s arrest was the result of a successful undercover operation – a critical and frequently used law enforcement tool that has helped identify and defuse public safety threats such as those posed by potential terrorists, drug dealers and child pornographers for decades. These types of operations have proven to be an essential law enforcement tool in uncovering and preventing potential terror attacks.

Since 2001, more than 400 individuals have been convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related violations in federal courts. And in those terrorism cases where undercover sting operations have been used, there is a lengthy record of convictions.

The use of sting operations has been effective in flushing out several freelance operators.  There has, however, been concern that such tactics have amplified the actual threat presented by several suspects.  This was previously discussed at HLSWatch in regard to the wanna-be Portland Christmas Tree bomber. (Here and here.)

Saturday in Stockholm two explosions were linked to threats emailed to a Swedish news agency and others. It appears a vehicle-bomb caught fire but did not fully detonate, while nearby an apparent  suicide bomber killed himself, perhaps earlier than he intended.  While both blasts occurred in a busy shopping area only two others were slightly injured.

According to the BBC:

Police are investigating a set of e-mails sent shortly before the blasts threatening attacks because Sweden had sent troops to Afghanistan. Sweden has some 500 soldiers deployed in Afghanistan as part of the international military force.

The e-mails, with MP3 audio files in Swedish and Arabic, were sent to the Swedish security service and the TT news agency. They called for “mujahideen” – or Islamist fighters – to rise up in Sweden and Europe, promising Swedes would “die like our brothers and sisters”.

They also attacked the country for caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad drawn by Swedish artist Lars Vilks.

The investigation of the Stockholm bombings is still in its earliest stages, but media reports suggest that Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, a 29-year-old Iraqi Swede was acting alone.  According to coverage of the Swedish blasts in The Guardian (UK):

“The worrying thing about this development is that there is almost zero chance of finding lone jihadists like this before they strike, and that – as each is acting alone – there can be greater numbers of attacks,” said Claude Moniquet, head of the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Centre in Brussels.

Well… Mr. Holder might point to the Portland suspect, two recent arrests in Virginia and Maryland, and the product of other sting operations in the United States.  

Sting operations — like most police tactics — work best when tough procedures and protocols, combined with professional supervision, and the highest prosecutorial standards eliminate short-cuts and give the suspects plenty of space for extracting themselves.  When this is done and the suspects demonstrate not just a readiness for pulling the trigger but a commitment to doing so, I would rather sting than be stung.

Luke 9: A Samaritan town rejects Jesus

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on December 12, 2010

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.

Gospel of Luke
Chapter 9

It is now late in the ministry of Jesus. He is setting out to Jerusalem and his death.

Perhaps this Samaritan village had received him previously. Perhaps there were people there who had accepted Jesus as Messiah. But whatever the case, this time they did not welcome him.

Many New Testament commentators, with no more evidence than we have available here, speculate the Samaritans resented that Jesus would still go to the Mt. Zion Temple for Passover when the Jerusalem priests and Pharisees had mostly rejected him. Why not remain in Samaria and worship with us on Mt. Gerizim?

There is a nuance to the original Greek that we may not hear. An especially literal translation suggests something going on that sounds awkward in English: “And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.”

It is as easy to speculate the Samaritans did not want to help Jesus head toward Jerusalem because they were concerned for his safety.

Whatever the Samaritans motivation, the reaction of James and John is as prideful and angry as usual. And once again, they are rebuked by Jesus. Jesus and his disciples move on to another village, almost certainly another Samaritan village.

The differences between Samaritan and Jew persist. We have seen Jesus does not allow these differences to obscure the faithfulness of Samaritans, but neither does he deny the difference. In rebuking James and John, we certainly hear Jesus calling for a toleration of difference and rejection of violence.

Some translations (above is the New International Version) include details on the rebuke of James and John. The King James Bible adds to the end of verse 55 and beginning of verse 56, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives. But to save them.”

The intolerance of his disciples – loyal and loving to Jesus though they may be – exposes the corrupt spirit that still abides in them. Jesus does not destroy. Jesus creates, most dramatically through the sacrament of self-sacrifice.

In any case, violence and anger aimed at the Samaritans was quickly rebuked by Jesus.


This is the fifth post in a weekend series that will conclude on December 24.  The purpose is to examine possible principles for inter-religious relations emerging from six scriptural texts.

The first post on December 3 was Tis the season… to deal directly with religious difference.

The second post on December 4 was Avoid Samaritan Towns.

The third post on December 5 was The Woman at Jacob’s Well.

The fourth post on December 11 was Jesus accused of being a Samaritan.

The series will resume on December 18.

December 11, 2010

John 8: Jesus accused of being a Samaritan

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on December 11, 2010

The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

“I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

At this the Jews exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word.Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

“You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

Gospel of John
Chapter 8

What are we to make of silence? Jesus is accused of being a Samaritan and demon-possessed, as if either one or the other was not bad enough. He responds directly to one charge and not at all to the other.

If Jesus is able to convince the accusers he is not demon-possessed, does he mind being considered a Samaritan?

The news of his extended stay in Samaria — and of those baptized there — has almost certainly followed Jesus. In chapter 8 he has returned to Jerusalem, and the scribes and Pharisees seek to hold him accountable for associating with the heretical other.

To deny the charge of being a Samaritan would have implied support for the prejudice against Samaritans. The silence of Jesus implies there is no dishonor in being a Samaritan.

His argument against being demon-possessed would – if accepted – have compelled the scribes and Pharisees to see Samaritans and even Gentiles as having the same claim to God’s glory as the Jews.

“If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him,” Jesus proclaims. It is knowledge of God that constitutes true faith. Other tests are merely forms of religious self-glorification.


This is the fourth post in a weekend series that will conclude on December 24.  The purpose is to examine possible principles for inter-religious relations emerging from six scriptural texts.

The first post on December 3 was Tis the season… to deal directly with religious difference.

The second post on December 4 was Avoid Samaritan Towns.

The third post on December 5 was The Woman at Jacob’s Well.

Tomorrow: A Samaritan town rejects Jesus.

December 10, 2010

Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood and the place of homeland security

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,Congress and HLS,Technology for HLS — by Philip J. Palin on December 10, 2010

             Representative Harold “Hal” Rogers (R-Kentucky).  Picture by the Associated Press

Earlier this week the House Republican Steering Committee and House Republican Conference tapped Harold “Hal” Rogers as the next Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.  Selection of the senior member of Kentucky’s House delegation was greeted by protests from Left and Right.

Mr. Rogers previously served as both chairman and ranking-member of the Homeland Security subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.  He also served on the transportation and defense appropriations subcommittees. (See his official biography.)

Elected in 1980 to represent one the nation’s most economically challenged congressional districts, Mr. Rogers has been effective directing federal funds to a wide array of local wants and needs.  As such he has been assailed by the Lexington Herald-Leader (KY), New York Times, and others as the “Prince of Pork.”  This accusation headlined most of the news coverage given his pending role as chairman of the Appropriations Committee.  Mr. Rogers has joined other GOP leaders in pledging no-new-earmarks.

Constituting less than .05 percent (half of one percent) of the federal budget I perceive outrage over earmarks to be one of those symptoms that complicate diagnosis and treatment of the underlying disease.  In this particular case the pork barrel critiques of Mr. Rogers also obscure his substantive legislative record and specific interest in homeland security.

Full disclosure: from 2005 through 2007 I was Chairman of the Board of a company with a facility in Mr. Rogers congressional district.  As such I often participated in local economic development activities and met with Mr. Rogers or his staff.  During several of these discussions, homeland security was a topic.  While we would not have turned down an earmark sponsored by Mr. Rogers, the company I served did not receive such support. 

From this experience I came away with three strong impressions:

1. Mr. Rogers is an accessible and intelligent man.  He has a particular interest in homeland security and especially in how science and technology can be a force-multiplier.  In my first encounter with the Congressman he quizzed me on homeland security like the former prosecutor he is.  He knows the issues. He understands the complications. He is sophisticated in his strategic approach to homeland security challenges.  He listens.  This personal impression was confirmed by watching him question witnesses in subcommittee hearings. 

2. Mr. Rogers is consistently bipartisan in his approach.  The old saw says there are three parties on Capitol Hill: Republicans, Democrats, and Appropriators. While Mr. Rogers is certainly conservative in most ways, appropriators tend to be pragmatic and less partisan.   This approach served him well in the Minority, it is likely to mark his return to the Majority and to leadership of the full Appropriations Committee.  Chairing Appropriations has been a long-time personal ambition.  On December 31 he will turn 73.  Mr. Rogers is not looking to squander this opportunity.  Leaving a meaningful legacy is one of the more constructive motivations.

3. Like all members of  Congress and most busy professionals,  Mr. Rogers is — at least in part — a creature of his staff and contacts.  Every staff member I met was smart, competent, and wildly over-worked.  Both on Capitol Hill and back in the District what I observed was a tendency for the most narrowly self-interested people to be the most assertive and effective communicators, proposers, and planners.  On several occasions I saw senior public servants choke and defer when Mr. Rogers or his staff were entirely prepared to listen to alternatives.  In retrospect I was one of a whole host of folks who should have — could have — pushed harder on key issues of homeland security.  My hesitation — our hesitation, or cynicism, or laziness, or disdain — just offers opportunity to others who are more willing and ready claim a Congressman’s attention.

Because homeland security — the mission, not the budget per se — is important to me, I will be glad to see Mr. Rogers become Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.   He is more interested in and better able to meaningfully engage homeland security than any other serious candidate for the leadership role.  

As always in democracies — even those with republican constitutions — the quality of leadership will reflect and largely depend on the quality of those who choose to seriously engage the process.

December 9, 2010

When Gophers Attack!

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Humor,Risk Assessment,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Arnold Bogis on December 9, 2010

If current terrorist threats aren’t enough to keep you up at night, seemingly out of nowhere comes the gopher menace.  These crafty and malicious creatures pose a dire threat to critical infrastructure, not just across the United States but around the world!

So writes Eric Holdeman in his latest column in Emergency Management magazine. His article, “If Gophers Were Terrorists,” is a funny piece that nicely encapsulates the trajectory homeland security has taken since 9/11.

First, the threat is exposed:

I’ve recently read several stories about burrowing animals weakening levee systems to the point of failure both in the United States and abroad. I thought about this new hazard I hadn’t previously considered. As with any new “threat,” it must be addressed, so envision what would happen if we discovered that these animals were, in fact, trained terrorist operatives attacking one element of our critical infrastructure.

Then the obvious initial reaction:

First, there would be the predictable congressional hearings by multiple committees in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Since there isn’t a designated Gopher Committee, these legislative bodies would have many committees that viewed this issue as part of their legislative domain. Testimony would come from newly minted gopher experts.

Everyone will tussle for funding:

There’d be lots of lobbying during the process; rural and urban states would compete for funding. Cities and counties would proclaim that, “All gophers are local.” Fire, law enforcement, public health, hospitals and other disciplines would lobby for funding for their field. They’d argue that animal control should not be getting all of the funds. For years, each would make the case that they should have dedicated funds for equipment.

After years of anti-gopher activity without further attacks, attention will turn to new threats:

A new threat might capture our attention. Take pigeons for instance: Have you ever noticed how they seem to be everywhere, listening to our conversations and monitoring our movements?

Making matters even worse, Mr. Holdeman fails to point out the ability of our pigeon adversaries to use their droppings as an ingredient in gunpowder.  The possible amounts involved could be staggering…

All jokes aside, the article is a great bit of satire that does a marvelous job exposing the predictable manner in which the U.S. reacts to new threats.  The entire piece is worth reading:


Of course to win the WOG (War On Gophers), we should turn to Bill Murray as he is already licensed to kill gophers by the Government of the United Nations:

License to kill gophers

December 8, 2010

How to Live

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Mark Chubb on December 8, 2010

Dumonstier-17th century portrait of Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

Over the past few days I have been reading Sarah Bakewell’s new biography of the 16th century French essayist, nobleman and public servant Michel de Montainge entitled How to Live or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer. Bakewell’s unique approach frames her portrait not as a series of snapshots but rather as twenty shorts not unlike YouTube videos in word alone.

As Bakewell notes, the question borrowed from the man himself which serves as the basis of her examination of his life and work is a very different question than the ones we usually ask. Neither she nor Montaigne is asking how we should live or how we do live or how others live and what lessons we should take from their lives. Rather the question is something much closer to this: What does the act of living entail?

How we participate in and experience the world around us begins with how we experience ourselves. Yet we often fail to take the time to ask ourselves who we are or how we feel or what it is that makes us feel fulfilled or sad, anxious or curious, or how we know the difference between any such complex emotions. Even simple experiences like the sensation of warmth or rain often eludes us as we hurry to our next engagement.

For a 16th century man of high station and extensive education, Montaigne took great interest in even the most mundane details of daily life; not only his own life but also the lives of the peasants and townspeople around him. His observations and musings reflect not only an innate curiosity about himself and the world but a willingness to put himself in others’ places. In doing so, he developed a deep reluctance to draw definitive conclusions about the things he saw and felt.

This tendency makes reading Montaigne even today seem more like reading a well-written blog than something scrawled on parchment in the dim light of a candle over a 20-year period more than 400 years ago. Indeed, Montaigne was a very modern man and someone whose thoughts about the current state of our world I cannot help but wonder about.

What attracts me to Montaigne more than any other feature of his writing though is his desire to use the essay — a form that he practically invented — as a window into his own consciousness, as an attempt to peel back the layers of the onion of his own understanding and wipe away the tears of bias that cloud his vision of the truth. The truth Montaigne seeks and the one we seek as homeland security professionals is not something profound and unapproachable. Rather it is that which lies before us at all times.

We need not ask what motivates others to behave as they do to understand their intentions. All we have to do is look at our own actions and ask with all humility and without expectation of certainty: What are we doing? What makes us do it? And what do we hope to achieve from doing it?

Ever the pragmatist — even before there was such a thing to be called — Montaigne takes both sides in the question of living in turbulent times. The conflicts of his age involved protestants and Catholics, and were every bit as savage as those we see playing out today. Rather than taking sides or endorsing conflict as a means of resolving disputes, Montaigne takes the view in his essay “Of Experience” that such events reflect the flawed but full expression of the human condition. Savagery and civility are both rooted in human reason and emotion.

I recommend Bakewell’s intriguing treatment of this important historical figure. And I welcome your observations  about how we might learn lessons from our own experience and actions that will expose our biases and improve our appreciation of others as we confront turbulent times and the conflicts in the world around us.

December 7, 2010

Who are the Harry Yarnells of homeland security?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on December 7, 2010

Today we recall the 69th anniversary of the day that will live in infamy.

A few months ago I came across a story about Pearl Harbor I had not read before. Here it is:


“Dawn was breaking on Sunday morning, the seventh day of the month, on the island of Oahu. Aside from its status as a tourist mecca, the island was home to several major American military facilities, including the huge naval base at Pearl Harbor and the Army’s Hickam airfield. For the soldiers and sailors, the day began like any other Sunday, with a skeleton crew on duty while many others slept off their Saturday night revelries.

“But this was no ordinary Sunday.

“For over a week, unknown to the island’s commanders, a large fleet had been steaming toward the Hawaiian Islands, operating under strict radio silence and without running lights to avoid detection. The fleet sailed to the north of the islands, far beyond the normal shipping lanes, to reduce the chances of being detected by U.S. Naval patrols or commercial ships.

“This time of year found the northern Pacific storm-tossed, and as the fleet pressed on toward its target, it adjusted its course to sail inside rain squalls.

“Early that Sunday, following a high-speed run, the fleet’s aircraft carriers came within one hundred miles of Pearl Harbor, their principal target. An hour before daybreak pilots scrambled into their planes.

“Shortly thereafter the carriers launched their strike aircraft, more than 150 in all, a mix of fighters, dive-bombers, and torpedo planes, which quickly moved into formation and headed through the night sky for Oahu. Their mission: execute Raid Plan No. 1.

“As the aircraft approached Pearl Harbor, the weather cleared, as if on cue. This enabled the strike formations to use the battery of searchlights at Kahuku Point as a navigation aid to guide them toward their targets.

“Dawn was now breaking. As sunlight streamed over the horizon, the airborne strike force pressed home its attack over Pearl Harbor, achieving complete surprise.

“Dive bombers and torpedo planes went to work on the ships lying at anchor along Battleship Row, where the U.S. Navy’s capital ships were berthed. Fighter aircraft peeled off and strafed the airfield, hitting parked planes, fuel storage tanks, and hangers.

“Army Air Corps pilots rushed to take off after the attacking force, but by the time they were aloft, the attackers had completed their strikes and vanished. Failing to locate the attackers, the Army aircraft returned to base, whereupon a second wave of carrier strike aircraft hit them.

“A New York Times reporter on the scene reported that the attacks were ‘unopposed by the defense, which was caught virtually napping.’

“Surveying the results, the American defenders were filled with anger — and relief.

The attack, executed on the morning of Sunday, February 7, 1932, occurred at the outset of a U.S. Army-Navy war game called Grand Joint Exercise 4.

“Rear Admiral Harry Yarnell, commander of the newly commissioned American aircraft carriers Saratoga and Lexington, had launched the attacking planes. The ‘bombs’ dropped were flour bags, which could be found splattered on the Navy’s ships still sitting at anchor.

“Red-faced, the Army Air Corps commanders sought to minimize the attack’s results. They argued that the damage incurred to Hickam Field was minimal, and asserted that they had found and attacked Yarnell’s carriers. [Although the New York Times reported that “the Pearl Harbor defenders had yet to locate [Yarnell’s] task force 24 hours after the attack.”]

“Finally, [the Army commanders] protested the attack on legal grounds — it was improper to begin a war on Sunday.”


That account is from the book “7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores War in the 21st Century,” by Andrew F. Krepinevich (pp. 1-3).

Another account of the February 7, 1932 “attack” was written by Jack Young in an essay called “The Real Architect of Pearl Harbor.”

Young notes the U.S. Navy ignored the implications of the exercise. The after action report made no mention of Yarnell’s attack.


“Yarnell’s reward for his achievement was his assignment in 1933 as Commandant of the Pearl Harbor Naval Station, a backwater rear admiral posting. In the years that followed, the Navy appropriated funds for 12 battleships and only one aircraft carrier. President Roosevelt was building up the Navy but with the wrong ships.

“Although the Navy refused to learn from the exercise, the Japanese paid close attention, and their observers provided a thorough report to Tokyo. In 1936, Japan’s Navy War College circulated a study of ‘Strategy and Tactics in Operations Against the United States.’ One of its main conclusions was ‘in case the enemy’s main fleet is berthed at Pearl Harbor, the idea should be to open hostilities by surprise attack from the air.’

“Admiral Yamamato followed the exact strategy demonstrated by Harry Yarnell’s 1932 exercise, taking his task force under radio silence through the Northern Pacific with rain squalls and rough weather, away from the commercial maritime and naval sea routes, to a point just north of the island of Oahu from which point he launched his attack on the day that will live in infamy.”


Two thousand four hundred and three Americans were killed at Pearl Harbor on this day, 69 years ago.  You can read their names at this link.

December 6, 2010

WikiLeaks lists ‘targets for terror’

Filed under: Risk Assessment,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on December 6, 2010

According to the Times of London (subscription required)

WikiLeaks raised the stakes in its battle with America last night (Sunday night) by releasing a secret list of all the global industries and assets that the US most wishes to protect. Security experts said that the cable, published by the whistleblower website as part of an unauthorised package of diplomatic correspondence, was a gift for terrorist organisations. It spelt out hundreds of pipelines, undersea cables and factories across the world, including a number in Britain, that would cause most damage to US interests if destroyed.

The BBC has a related story that is available without subscription: List of facilities “Vital to US Security” leaked.

The Office of Management and Budget has instructed federal employees not to access the still-officially-classified documents.  A copy of the memo is provided by the TPM blog.   Avert thy eyes O ye innocents!

Now that nearly everyone else — including our adversaries — have access, we evidently are trying to contain the damage by restricting our own public servants access to the information. 

P.J. Crowley, the State Department spokesperson, suggested the OMB counsel’s office may be a bit “overzealous” here.  In the midst of all the serious fallout that PJ is in the middle of handling, I expect he had some choice words — behind closed doors — regarding the late Friday OMB circular.

As of Monday morning WikiLeaks continues to be available via a Swiss domain: www.wikileaks.ch

December 5, 2010

John 4:1- 30, The Woman at Jacob’s Well

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on December 5, 2010

Part 1 (verses 1-8)

The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

Gospel of John
Chapter 4

To even speak to this woman is scandalous. To speak to any woman unaccompanied by her father, brother, husband or other male relation is to imply a sexual interest.

To drink from her Samaritan hands would have – according to the Pharisees – made any faithful Jew impure. She is spiritually polluted.

Yet Jesus asks her for a drink.

Despite instructions to his disciples to avoid Samaritan towns, Jesus has traveled into the heart of Samaria, into the shadow of Mt. Gerizim.

Despite a clear religious code separating male from female and Jew from Samaritan, Jesus seeks sustenance from her.

Part 2 (verses 9-15)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

The woman is surprised by the Jewish man’s request, but she is not intimidated. She responds to Jesus’ request by noting it is inappropriate. Samaritan and Jew are to avoid each other as much as possible.

Jesus responds obliquely. He speaks in the third person (at least in this translation) and suggests she should ask him for a drink of living water. She would do so, he says, if she knew the gift of God.

Once again she responds directly and practically. Again Jesus responds cryptically, claiming – contrary to all evidence – that he has great power.

I hear a deeply ironic, even dismissive tone when she says, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus speaks of eternal life. She is tired of coming to the well each day… and dealing with the troublemakers who linger about.

Jesus has chosen to bridge what separates his religious identity from the other by focusing on what each share in relationship to God. This is received skeptically, even cynically, but Jesus persists.

Part 3 (verses 16-25)

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,” she replied.”

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

The gospel continues with the woman gathering her neighbors to listen to Jesus. “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.” (verses 39-41)

So much for not visiting the towns of Samaritans.

How Jesus told the woman everything she did is an issue for another day. In any case, Jesus puts aside his cryptic comments and shifts to matters profoundly personal.

In my reading her initial reaction is defensive. She expects the Jew to belittle her Samaritan tradition.

Instead Jesus critiques both Jew and Samaritan pointing to a more fundamental understanding of worship. The Greek used for worship here is proskuneo. This is to bow down to kiss, a humble intimacy, or a profound submission. Jew or Samaritan is not important. What is important is to be truly and spiritually in relationship with God.

Jesus reaches out to the woman of another faith – and her co-religionists – by initiating the conversation, taking the conversation to a deeply personal level, and emphasizing the transcendent aspects of faith rather than the instrumental aspects of religious practice.

These readings will continue next Saturday. This weekend series began on Friday, December 3 with Tis the season… to deal directly with religious difference.

The second post, on December 4, was Avoid Samaritan Towns.

December 4, 2010

Matthew 10:1-10 Avoid Samaritan Towns

Filed under: Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on December 4, 2010

He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.

Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 10

Jesus accepts the differences which exist between Jew, Gentile, and Samaritan. Moreover, he knows these differences will be obvious to the twelve. Further explanation is not needed.

Based only on this passage, a reader might guess – especially if  of Gentile heritage – that Jesus deployed a sequential strategy, beginning with the “lost sheep of Israel,” then moving on to the two other traditions.

In Matthew 15, though, Jesus is shown actively resisting the entreaties of a Gentile woman saying, “I was sent only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He then compares Jews and Gentiles as analogous to one’s own children and dogs, and the Gentiles are the dogs.

The mission of Jesus evidently excludes all but his own faith tradition.

But wait, the encounter with this Gentile woman is also reported in the Gospel of Mark (7:24-30). Here the response of Jesus is, “Let the children be fed first…” A tantalizing suggestion of sequence.

Whatever the original intention of Jesus, in both Mark and Matthew the Gentile woman persuades Jesus to extend his purpose to her. “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” The gospel of Luke also includes an account – roughly contemporaneous with the story of the Gentile woman – of Jesus healing the servant of a Roman Centurion. (Luke 7)

These encounters with Gentiles – and with Samaritans – are nonetheless infrequent. Jesus continues to focus mostly on the lost sheep. The differences between the three identities are not denied. But neither are the differences insuperable.

Tomorrow: The Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well

This is the second in a series.  A preface on the purpose of the series is available at: Tis the season… for dealing directly with religious difference

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