Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 6, 2012

Homeland security’s call to Friday prayer

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on April 6, 2012

At 9:58:59 the South Tower collapsed in ten seconds, killing all civilians and emergency personnel inside… The building collapsed into inself, causing a ferocious windstorm and creating a massive debris cloud. (The 9/11 Commission Report, pages 305-306)

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks were split. (Gospel of Matthew 27: 51)


Homeland security — the concept and its institutional manifestations — emerged from our response to the death of innocents. “September 11, 2001 was a day of unprecedented shock and suffering in the history of the United States.  The nation was unprepared. How did this happen, and how can we avoid such tragedy again?” (The 9/11 Commission Report, preface xv)

Many core notions of homeland security are rooted in our understanding of 9/11’s cause. “We learned about an enemy who is sophisticated, patient, disciplined, and lethal… it’s hostility toward us and our values is limitless.” (The 9/11 Commission Report, preface xv)

This enemy had long been active.  Al-Qaeda had previously attacked the USS Cole and our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.  Hundreds of innocents were killed and mutilated in these and other prior attacks.

The crucial differences on September 11 were scale and proximity.  Attacks on New York and Washington, the televised collapse of both towers, the Pentagon’s gaping wound, the weaponization of passenger planes, these claimed our attention in a way death and mayhem elsewhere had not.  We responded with anger, confusion, denial, fear, courage, generosity, care, aggression, and much more.

Homeland security still reflects these contradictory motivations.

How do we protect the innocent without ourselves killing the innocent?  How do we preserve freedom without betraying freedom?  How do we connect dots without in the process creating dots (or worse)?

At sundown tonight the Jewish festival of Passover begins. These are the last hours to remove any chametz — yeasty, leavened products — from observant households.  There are several origins for this tradition.  For many it has become a disciplined practice for eliminating prideful attitudes from worship and relationships.   During Passover the puffy chametz is replaced by unleavened matzah.

Rabbi Menachem Posner writes, “Chametz is pride and conceit. The flat matzah, on the other hand, represents humility. Usually, it is easy to tell the difference. But sometimes things are not so clear and the difference between the two is hard to see… Before Passover, we search our homes and our hearts for the…  almost indiscernible bits of pride which we have yet to identify.”

Today in many Christian traditions the crucifixion of Jesus is remembered. The gospel accounts overflow with anger, confusion, denial, fear, courage, generosity, care, aggression and much more.   Fear is especially prevalent.

The most ancient ending of Mark closes with, “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”   Matthew’s gospel has both an angel and the resurrected Jesus tell those at the tomb, “Do not be afraid.”   The instruction does not persuade.

Pride or fear are each troublesome enough, combine them and the outcome can be murderous.  In recent weeks there has seemed to be one example after another of this terrible nexus.  Men (mostly) have exploded in a collision of fear and pride.

The affective — often religious — dimension of homeland security is treacherous.   It is also ubiquitous.

Each Friday is the Islamic Day of Assembly or Jumu’ah.  Today in Jerusalem even as Christians retrace the way of the cross through the narrow streets of the Old City, the adhan echoes from  Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock.

God is great.
I proclaim there is no God but God.
I proclaim that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.
Come to prayer.
Come to success.
God is Great.
There is no God but God.

Come to success: come to falah in Arabic. Come to happiness, well-being, fulfillment.  A Muslim friend tells me it is derived from the same Arabic for tilling the soil and suggests breaking open any hardness to allow intrinsic potential to unfold.

There are social science principles, psycho-social explanations, and even biological bases for pride, fear, and religious faith.  Homeland security should avail itself of every source of wisdom.  Even religious wisdom.

Religions know something of paradox, hypocrisy, failed idealism, profound doubt, and death of both innocents and innocence.  Religions have experience with self-righteous rage, healing forgiveness, evil, transcendence, violence and love.  Religions can tell us something of  struggling with unresolved — irreconcilable? — tensions between first principles.

Put aside pride.  Do not be afraid.  Be vulnerable to relationships that can break open rocky soil and release abundance.

April 4, 2012

Political Quake

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,State and Local HLS — by Mark Chubb on April 4, 2012

This week the Christchurch, New Zealand newspaper The Press featured an op-ed by University of Canterbury political scientist Bronwyn Hayward. Her essay examined the democratic fault lines exposed by the serial natural disasters that struck the city starting in September 2010 and evidenced by growing public disquiet over the government’s efforts to manage the recovery challenges confronting the small island nation’s second largest city.

Dr. Hayward has written and spoken eloquently about the roots of resilient citizenship, which she sees emerging from an individual’s sense of social agency, ecological understanding and embedded citizenship. Together these principles represent the innate capacity of individuals to take responsibility for their own lives, organize and cooperate with one another for the common good and accept a degree of uncertainty as part and parcel of living in the natural world.

In the New Zealand central government’s response to the Canterbury earthquakes, Hayward sees a failure to recognize the importance of these principles in the lives of citizens. The government’s top-down approach to managing recovery efforts, she argues, has done more harm than good and threatens to further render the social fabric.

Local government does not escape criticism either. Dr. Hayward notes the tendency of local officials to exclude the public from their deliberations while displaying an exaggerated sense of self-importance. Sadly, she concludes that central government action and threats of further action inhibit efforts within the community to correct what some now see as an electoral error.

The command and control approach to recovery taken by the New Zealand government comes at a time of growing social and economic inequality that would not seem all that unfamiliar to most Americans. Hayward observes that the young people who mobilized and organized themselves to aid their fellow citizens have been marginalized at just the time when their contributions to the community are both most needed and most vital to the renewal of the community’s stocks of social, economic and political capital:

Bringing the community with you is the only effective way through a disaster long term.

[At] its best democracy is the form of government that most clearly supports the priorities and aspirations of a local community. As Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen reminds us, good democracy delivers great economic and social prosperity, enabling scrutiny, transparency and local voice.

Not all of our young people can be builders, road engineers, painters or architects. To create meaningful long term, local employment and training will require thoughtful, on-going, and public debate.

Only local leadership elected with widespread public support can effectively claim the mandate to lead our community and to implement plans that enable everyone – the young, the old and future generations – to flourish.

FEMA’s rhetorical commitment to a whole of community approach and its emphasis on community recovery give me hope that the United States can avoid the mistakes plaguing Christchurch these days. Nevertheless, it is worth noting as Hayward reminds us in her essay, central government’s most important role in the aftermath of a disaster lies not in how fast they respond or how much aid they give, but in how well they support and encourage local governance and participatory democracy.

April 3, 2012

A new blog for state and local homeland security professionals

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on April 3, 2012

What do homeland security professionals actually do when they are doing homeland security?

Jason Nairn asked this question a few years ago. He wrote what he learned in a master’s degree thesis titled “State and Local Homeland Security Officials: Who Are They and What Do They Do?”.

Here’s the abstract:

“Today, hundreds of colleges and universities throughout the United States of America are offering prospective students homeland security certificates, bachelor’s and master’s degrees to educate a new cadre of homeland security officials. Yet, when asked, a practicing homeland security professional will likely admit that he/she has little idea what these students will be able to do when they graduate. The problem is that homeland security, in its current form, is not clearly defined and few understand what homeland security officials actually do, especially at the state and local levels. This research addresses this problem by asking state and local homeland security officials about who they are and what they do. By conducting interviews with state and local homeland security officials in practice, this research provides insight into the world of nonfederal homeland security officials, their activities and their backgrounds. It further provides a set of recommendations for developing educational, training and developmental programs that support homeland security officials at the state and local levels.”

Jason’s interest in what state and local homeland security professionals do continues. He recently started a blog called Homeland Security Roundtable. The blog:

is dedicated to fostering discussion, collaboration and networking among homeland security professionals [who] operate at the state and local levels…. [The blog is] seeking contributors [who] are current or former state or local homeland security professionals in responsible charge or individuals interested in state and local homeland security, such as academics interested in engaged and informed discussion.

With his permission, we reprint his first post and encourage interested state and local homeland security professionals to visit the Homeland Security Roundtable:


Occupy Groups Evolve, Begin a New Season and Explore New Roles

As across the country Occupy groups are beginning a new season of occupying, or not occupying, two questions come to mind:

1. How has the movement changed / evolved since it began?

2. What has law enforcement done to better prepare to manage this and other similar movements?

According to my observations of several midwestern Occupy groups at least two things are happening that speak to the evolution of the movement. First, Occupy groups all across the country are developing “Good Neighbor Policies” to deal with individuals and groups within the movement that are either disrespectful or hazardous to their members. The widespread adoption of this approach is indicative of the movement’s hierarchy, which begins in New York, and also the degree to which Occupy groups all across the country dealt with the infiltration of their encampments by the criminal and the under-served mentally-ill. Occupy meetings have had lively debates in the off-season about what to do about threats to their safety. The answer was call the police, which is interesting.

Local Occupy groups have been feeling around in the off-season for some other, fresher, issues to adopt that might revitalize numbers and refocus attention on the movement. This may be a regional phenomenon, as certain Occupy groups, such as the “Occupy the SEC” group in New York, are making substantive contributions to the conversation about our financial system which is at the core of the original movement. But Occupy groups in northern and midwestern states and Canadian cities have disbanded or broken up due to lack of focus, lack of interest, lack of resources, and lack of a reason to continue.

Debates have ensued over the prudence of losing focus on the 1%. Some Occupiers have suggested taking up hydraulic fracking, the controversial process of rock fracturing for oil and gas extraction that has become a boon for northeastern shale deposit owners. Indeed a “Stop Hydraulic Fracking” banner was unfurled by Occupy Lansing members at Michigan’s Capitol during a State of the State Address protest activity. Others have set their sights on “Occupy the Homes”-type scenarios where foreclosed homes can be occupied as a way to bring attention to the foreclosure crisis and back to the banks. One thing is certain, some of the energy of last summer has waned, and the movement can no longer support individual groups in every city in the country.

Another interesting question that stems from all of this is, “Is the Occupy Movement over when the tents come down?”

Another trend of note is that some Occupy groups are attempting to incorporate, seeking the protections and rights and permanence of corporate entities, mostly in the non-profit vein. Occupy Detroit, for instance, has a fiduciary. That is the United Auto Worker’s Union (UAW) which shares a joint bank account with Occupy Detroit. Occupy Detroit has investigated the possibilities of incorporating in order to access the resources necessary to expand their movement. These relationships cause one to wonder how the movement will navigate the conflicts of interest generated by working both against and with financial institutions and governments.  Look for taglines like “We’re not just a protestor, we’re also a customer!”

It is as yet unclear how law enforcement has used the lull in action to learn the lessons of 2011. The Occupy Movement has an unpredictable relationship with the police. Many in the movement feel that the police are part of the 99%, and have consequentially been cooperative with authorities. Others, as stated in this article, note that the police are the “face of 1% power”.

But one thing is certain, law enforcement can and should learn something from the last year’s events. This article is a good start… As is this document.

April 2, 2012

Biosecurity and Crisis Standards of Care

Filed under: Biosecurity,Catastrophes,Preparedness and Response — by Arnold Bogis on April 2, 2012

I wish I could weave a proper narrative connecting the two issues I mention in the title of this post.  But beyond the obvious facts that a natural pandemic or bioterrorist attack could strain medical and public health resources at every level to the breaking point, thus requiring what is referred to as “crisis standards of care” –the basic concept of expending available if limited resources in helping the most people instead of just a few at everyday levels of effort where everything possible is tried to save lives. Alternatively, there are scenarios that could require crisis standards of care that aren’t related to biology, say a nuclear attack, or biological attacks or naturally occurring outbreaks of disease that can be adequately responded to without extraordinary measures.

All that a wordy explanation that the following is just for your information in case you missed it.

The first is a collection of biosecurity-related articles from the journal Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science. The publishers, the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, describe this effort as looking back at progress made over the past decade:

To document and synthesize the achievements of the past decade and help chart the direction of future efforts, the Center for Biosecurity, with support from the Sloan Foundation, has assembled this series of 7 review articles as a special feature A Decade in Biosecurity. These articles, commissioned by the Center and peer reviewed, describe the current state of affairs in biosecurity policy and practice, identify remaining challenges and priorities, and articulate priorities for the field in the years ahead. The articles are authored by leaders in the field, with topics chosen to address the most critical policy issues and to offer recommendations for the future.

Hopefully they won’t mind me reproducing their content page below:

A Decade in Biosecurity: Contents

By Tom Inglesby and D. A. Henderson, Coeditors-in-Chief
Journal contents

Public Health Surveillance and Infectious Disease Detection

By Stephen S. Morse
Despite improvements in the past decade, public health surveillance capabilities remain limited and fragmented, with uneven global coverage. Recent initiatives provide hope of addressing this issue, and new technological and conceptual advances could, for the first time, place capability for global surveillance within reach.
Read article
| Journal contents

Preventing Biological Weapon Development Through the Governance of Life Science Research

By Gerald L. Epstein
Since before the September 11 attacks, the science and security communities in the U.S. have struggled to develop governance processes that can simultaneously minimize the risk of misuse of the life sciences, promote their beneficial applications, and protect the public trust.
Read article
| Journal contents

The Evolution of Law in Biopreparedness

By James G. Hodge, Jr.
Over the past 10 years, a transformative series of legal changes have effectively (1) rebuilt components of federal, state, and local governments to improve response efforts; (2) created a new legal classification known as “public health emergencies”; and (3) overhauled existing legal norms defining the roles and responsibilities of public and private actors in emergency response efforts. Read article | Journal contents

A Decade of Countering Bioterrorism: Incremental Progress, Fundamental Failings

By Richard Danzig
This article suggests that our responses over the past decade can be sorted into 4 levels in order of increasing difficulty: we rapidly appropriated funds, augmented personnel, and mandated reorganization of agencies; we amplified ongoing efforts; we have so far had only glimmers of possibility in evolving new strategies to deal with this largely unprecedented problem; and, still to be realized, we need to overcome resistances inherent in our country’s cultural and political framework. Read article | Journal contents


Assessing a Decade of Public Health Preparedness: Progress on the Precipice?
By Elin Gursky and Gregory Bice
Balancing traditional public health roles with new preparedness responsibilities heightened public health’s visibility, but it also presented significant complexities. Currently, a rapidly diminishing public health infrastructure at the state and local levels as a result of federal budget cuts and a poor economy serve as significant barriers to sustaining these nascent federal public health preparedness efforts. Read article | Journal contents

U.S. Medical Countermeasure Development Since 2001: A Long Way Yet to Go

By Philip Russell and Gigi Kwik Gronvall
The U.S. government has taken significant steps toward developing and acquiring vaccines, drugs, and other medical countermeasures (MCMs) to protect and treat the population after a biological attack, but the efforts lack central leadership and accountability and the pace of progress has been slow. This article reviews areas of progress and summarizes the areas where improvements are needed. Read article | Journal contents


The People’s Role in U.S. National Health Security: Past, Present, and Future
By Monica Schoch-Spana
Over the past decade, assumptions have been made and unmade about what officials can expect of average people confronting a bioterrorist attack or other major health incident. The reframing of the public in national discourse from a panic-stricken mob to a band of hearty survivors is a positive development and more realistic in terms of the empirical record. Read article | Journal contents

The crisis standards of care piece comes from the Institute of Medicine.  It builds off of an earlier report that defined the topic and provides templates for those organizations that will need to do the difficult work of planning for such an ethically fraught state and implementing altered standards of care with all of the potential repercussions:

Crisis Standards of Care: A Systems Framework for Catastrophic Disaster Response 

In 2011 alone, a tornado devastated Joplin, Missouri, and earthquakes rocked New Zealand and Japan, underscoring how quickly and completely health systems can be overwhelmed. Disasters can stress health care systems to the breaking point and disrupt delivery of vital medical services.

At the request of the HHS, the IOM formed a committee in 2009, which developed guidance that health officials could use to establish and implement standards of care during disasters. In its first report, the committee defined “crisis standards of care” (CSC) as a state of being that indicates a substantial change in health care operations and the level of care that can be delivered in a public health emergency, justified by specific circumstances. During disasters, medical care must promote the use of limited resources to benefit the population as a whole.

In this report, the IOM examines the effect of its 2009 report, and develops vital templates to guide the efforts of professionals and organizations responsible for CSC planning and implementations. Integrated planning for a coordinated response by state and local governments, EMS, health care organizations, and health care providers in the community is critical to successfully responding to disasters. The report provides a foundation of underlying principles, steps needed to achieve implementation, and the pillars of the emergency response system, each separate and yet together upholding the jurisdictions that have the overarching authority for ensuring that CSC planning and response occurs.

The report can be downloaded here: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13351

It can be read online here: http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=13351

Catastrophic losses: 2011 most expensive

Filed under: Catastrophes,Preparedness and Response,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on April 2, 2012

Last week Zurich Re(insurance) released its annual survey of catastrophes. Given events in Japan and Thailand, none of us are surprised it was a bad year.   In terms of total economic loss (above) it was the worst year on record.  The total insured loss was a bit less than 2005 when hurricane’s Katrina, Rita, and Wilma hit the United States.   Compared to most industrial and post-industrial nations, Japan has a low rate of insurance penetration.

Neither economic nor insured losses capture the full range of catastrophic events.  The continuing drought and famine in the Horn of Africa is not featured in the report. Four other examples that are under represented by financial data:

The report includes a special section on the Thai flooding.   According to the report,

The size of the Thailand flood loss came as a shock to the insurance industry. Although Thailand had been known for being prone to flooding, less known was the large amount of exposure that had built up in Thailand in recent years, most of which originated from foreign companies that had diverted their manufacturing operations there…

The Thailand flood is a textbook example of how a natural catastrophe can cause extreme property loss accumulations… a large affected area, high intensities, long duration, high concentration of property values, high insurance penetration, high vulnerability of insured goods, and insufficient protection and preparedness.

Concentrations of population, wealth, and the systems on which population and wealth depend are increasingly fat targets for natural, accidental, and intentional hazards.

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