Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 30, 2012

Three riffs on resilience: “rolling between & through itself”

Filed under: Catastrophes,Preparedness and Response — by Philip J. Palin on August 30, 2012

From Wednesday’s  New Orleans Times-Picayune editorial page:

Not that anybody here in August 2005 could forget, but Isaac’s approach near the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was a sobering reminder of our city and region’s near destruction and of the deaths and displacement of so many of our friends and loved ones.

Katrina was not New Orleans’ introduction to trouble. The city has known perils its entire existence.

But there may have been no more perilous time than that of Katrina and its watery aftermath. At what other point was the continuing existence of the city in such doubt?

We don’t hurt today like we did during Katrina’s first anniversary, and certainly not like we hurt during the crisis itself. But the pain is still real, and it’s likely to be with us even after ongoing recovery is completed.

It’s important to note that this community still has its joie de vivre.

Not even the billions of gallons of water that flowed over and through our levees could extinguish that. In fact, for some of us the near-death experience of Katrina may have intensified that trademark joy of life. We take nothing for granted now, least of all the company of friends and family. So many died. So many are gone for good.

Consequently, our interactions with those who are here have with them an added measure of appreciation.

Even so, our world-renowned joyful spirit remains tempered with a sadness for the things that were lost and an anxiety that another disaster could upend our lives once again…

New Orleans, to quote Louisiana poet Yusef Komunyakaa, is a “testament to how men dreamt land out of water.” The engineering failures made plain by Hurricane Katrina made it appear that the water had reclaimed that land and that our dream existence had morphed into a nightmare.

But seven years later, we remain attached to the place and to the people who make the hard times worth it, displaying a spirit that’s not just joyous but might also be called indomitable.

So… just for the purposes of this blog, let’s decide that in this text the T-P editors have ascended to that perfect crystallization of Truth to which every editorial writer (and blogger) aspires:  Resilience is a function of prior experience with peril (multiplied by occurrence) + prior experience with recovery (multiplied or divided by a defined quality metric) the total of which is multiplied by the number of near-death experiences = joy of life (also known as resilience).

Any questions?

From another page in the Times-Picayune:

If New Orleans must suffer a hurricane, it won’t do so on an empty stomach. Around town, the menus for Hurricane Isaac were taking shape this morning: apple cinnamon pancakes for breakfast in Lakeview, pulled pork sandwiches for lunch on Oak Street, deep-dish pizza on Freret Street, and plenty of cold beer and chilled wine to wash away the worry.

More than a handful of New Orleans restaurants are feeding patrons hungry for something a little more exciting than their storm-kit’s potted meat…

Maybe resilience is not a matter of algorithms but a recipe, a sort of spicy gumbo adaptable to what is in season, each fixing a little different but always recognizable as mama’s or nana’s and “just like I remember”, even when it ain’t necessarily so.

Here’s the full poem by Yusef Komunyakaa, quoted above in the Times-Picayune:


when the strong unholy high winds
whiplashed over the sold-off marshlands
eaten back to a sigh of saltwater,
the Crescent City was already shook down to her pilings,
her floating ribs, her spleen & backbone,
left trembling in her Old World facades
& postmodern lethargy, lost to waterlogged
memories & quitclaim deeds,
exposed for all eyes, damnable
gaze & lamentation—plumb line
& heartthrob, ballast & watertable—
already the last ghost song
of the Choctaw & the Chickasaw
was long gone, no more than a drunken curse
among the oak & sweet gum leaves, a tally
of broken treaties & absences echoing
cries of birds over the barrier islands
inherited by the remittance man, scalawag,
& King Cotton, & already the sky was falling in on itself,
calling like a cloud of seagulls
gone ravenous as the Gulf
reclaiming its ebb & flowchart
while the wind banged on shutters
& unhinged doors from their frames
& unshingled the low-ridged roofs
while the believers hummed
“Precious Lord” & “Deep River”
as the horse-hair plaster walls
galloped along with the surge,
already folklore began to rise up
from the buried lallygag & sluice
pulsing beneath the Big Easy
rolling between & through itself,
caught in some downward tug
& turn, like a world of love affairs
backed up in a stalled inlet,
a knelt-down army of cypress,
a testament to how men dreamt land
out of water, where bedrock
was only the heart’s bump
& grind, its deep, dark churn
& acceleration, blowzy down
to those unmoored timbers,
already nothing but water
mumbling as the great turbulent eye
lingered on a primordial question,
then turned—the gauzy genitalia of Bacchus
& Zulu left dangling from magnolias & raintrees,

published in Callaloo 31.2 (2008)

August 28, 2012

Managing the Insider Threat: a book review

Filed under: Infrastructure Protection,Private Sector — by Christopher Bellavita on August 28, 2012

Today’s post was written by Nadav Morag. Morag is a faculty member at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security.

Managing the Insider Threat: No Dark Corners — a book by Nick Catrantzos (who sometimes writes for Homeland Security Watch) — is a welcome contribution to the study of insider threats: the dangers posed by individuals who have legitimate entrée to trusted information and access to systems within institutions or infrastructures.

According to a study carried out by CISCO, 39 percent of IT professionals surveyed were more concerned about insider threats than about external hackers. Disgruntled employees, those recruited by outsiders or those who purposefully infiltrate an organization, pose a serious threat to companies, the economy and national infrastructures.

Catrantzos’s book fills an important niche in bringing together the various aspects of this phenomenon in a way that others have not previously done. While studies exist that focus on aspects of the phenomenon: such as the mindset and motivations of individuals who become insider threats or those that focus on technical solutions to enhance information security, prior to the publication of Managing the Insider Threat, the field lacked a comprehensive tome that addressed all aspects of the issue.

Happily, Catrantzos has rectified this problem and his work looks not only at new research into the insider threat phenomenon but also at the key players that impact the degree to which this problem can be mitigated or, failing that, managed. In addition, Catrantzos looks at best practices in the area of background investigations, detecting deception and the legal tools and pitfalls involved in coping with insider threats. Finally, the book looks at categories of insider threats, from existential ones to those that can lead to individual workplace violence or individual acts of embezzlement. The book also includes, in the appendices, some very interesting findings from a Delphi survey of managers on the insider threat issue and their respective perceptions of it.

In addition to providing a very comprehensive and inclusive overview of the different facets of the problem, Managing the Insider Threat also provides very practical recommendations for mitigating the various facets of the insider threat phenomenon. From questions for online and classroom discussion (with an answer guide) to exercises for group projects to checklists for managers trying to gauge and cope with threats, Catrantzos has created a volume that will be incredibly useful for students studying the problem, and to managers and consultants requiring a strategy and specific policies to cope with this increasingly destructive phenomenon.

Managing the Insider Threat: No Dark Corners is a book that is just as academically relevant as it is practitioner-relevant. The book is superbly organized, clearly written and provides excellent analysis, while also being very readable.

August 27, 2012

A nuclear glossary (with an Iranian connection)

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on August 27, 2012

Just for the information of those readers interested in nuclear topics.

A former former deputy director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a nonproliferation expert have published an online glossary to help sort out many of the terms being thrown about during the debate about what to do about Iran’s nuclear program. The product: “Nuclear Iran: A Glossary.”

At a time of hot debate over possible military action against Iran’s nuclear program, the need for a clear understanding of the issues and the controversial science and technology behind them has never been more acute.

Toward that end, scholars from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs have copublished an interactive online glossary of terms used in the discussion about Iran. The report was prepared by proliferation expert Simon Henderson and Olli Heinonen, former deputy director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Covering the jargon and history behind IAEA inspections, centrifuge enrichment, basic nuclear physics, and early nuclear weapons development in Pakistan and the United States, the glossary provides an indispensable guide to an increasingly complex problem.

In case you’re wondering, I am not paid anything by the Belfer Center for sharing such information.  I just thought others might be interested.

Though perhaps I should ask…

August 26, 2012

Cybersecurity Wiki

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on August 26, 2012

For those with an interest in a wide range of cyber-related security topics, there is a new wiki just for you.  Via the Belfer Center for Science and International Affair’s website:

Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society—with contributions from the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program‘s Explorations in Cyber International Relations project—has developed a Cybersecurity Wiki that is designed to be a curated, comprehensive, evolving, and interactive collection of resources for researchers (not just legal researchers), technologists, policymakers, judges, students, and others interested in cybersecurity issues, broadly conceived.  The general aim of the wiki is to collect in one place—and organize intelligently—important documents related to cybersecurity.

Anyone interested in cybersecurity is invited to explore the wiki. The main page (including a brief description of the project) is here; and the table of contents is here.  During the next phase of the project, experts from different disciplines will review and evaluate the current collection and make recommendations for additional resources. (Some of the suggested materials for review and possible inclusion in the next phase of the project can be found here.)

Please explore the wiki and offer critical comments about its content, organization, or any other matter.  Please send any comments to: cybersecurity-feedback@cyber.law.harvard.edu.

Note that the wiki will be closed to external editors until its initial content and organization are finalized. In the near future, outside cybersecurity experts from different disciplines and organizations will be  invited to edit and contribute content to the wiki. Experts in this area who are interested in helping devise a sustainable model for keeping the wiki up to date, either as an editor or contributor, should send an email to the address above, indicating expertise and interest.

That website for the wiki is: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/cybersecurity/Main_Page

August 23, 2012

Regarding re: resilience, recovery and more

Filed under: Catastrophes,Preparedness and Response,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on August 23, 2012

Remember when you were instructed in Algebra class to “show your work”?  I have been working on a hypothesis that diversity is more important to resilience than redundancy.   I’m not ready (able) to offer the full algorithm, but here are some elements of the equation.

Resilience: “The ability to adapt to changing conditions and withstand and rapidly recover from disruption due to emergencies.” (Presidential Policy Directive 8 and other federal documents).

“Resilience is defined as the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to retain essentially the same function, structure, identity and feedbacks…” (Diversity and Resilience of Social-Ecological Systems)

Recover: 1. to get back or regain (something lost or taken away): to recover a stolen watch; 2. to make up for or make good (loss, damage, etc., to oneself); 3. to regain the strength, composure, balance, or the like, of (oneself). (From Dictionary.com)

“The term “recovery” refers to those capabilities necessary to assist communities affected by an incident to recover effectively, including, but not limited to, rebuilding infrastructure systems; providing adequate interim and long-term housing for survivors; restoring health, social, and community services; promoting economic development; and restoring natural and cultural resources. (PPD-8 and other federal documents)

Restore: “1. to bring back into existence, use, or the like; reestablish: to restore order. 2. to bring back to a former, original, or normal condition, as a building, statue, or painting. 3. to bring back to a state of health, soundness, or vigor. 4. to put back to a former place, or to a former position, rank, etc.: to restore the king to his throne. 5. to give back; make return or restitution of (anything taken away or lost).” (See Dictionary.com)

(In contemporary usage there is little distinction between recover and restore. We may tend to recover things that have been lost and restore things that have been damaged. Sudden losses are usually recovered, while slow deterioration is typically restored. We are inclined to recover what is personally owned and restore what is shared in common. But exceptions abound. Etymologically there is a slight suggestion that recovery obscures what has been lost (covers it over), while restoration is often celebrated precisely because of what had been lost or nearly lost.)

Redundant: 1. characterized by verbosity or unnecessary repetition in expressing ideas; prolix: a redundant style. 2. being in excess; exceeding what is usual or natural: a redundant part. 3.having some unusual or extra part or feature. 4. characterized by superabundance or superfluity: lush, redundant vegetation. 5. Engineering .a. (of a structural member) not necessary for resisting statically determined stresses. b. (of a structure) having members designed to resist other than statically determined stresses; hyperstatic. c. noting a complete truss having additional members for resisting eccentric loads. Compare complete ( def. 8 ) , incomplete ( def. 3 ) . d. (of a device, circuit, computer system, etc.) having excess or duplicate parts that can continue to perform in the event of malfunction of some of the parts. (See Dictionary.com)

“Since the notions of redundancy and diversity are often confused, we will here define our usage: assume we have a group of units and that each unit is characterized by ten attributes. If all units have the same values for each attribute, we have “true” redundancy. If there are differences in values in one or another attribute we have diversity.” (From Diversity and Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems) This is a chapter in Complexity Theory for a Sustainable Future.  Elsewhere the text suggests that “too much” information sharing suppresses diversity and undermines resilience.  That’s worth a blog post or two.

(The Latin origin of redundant – redundare – means to overflow or flow back (undare referring to a wave, think undulate).  In a purely redundant system strength is derived from exact duplication.   Like the Borg, a redundant system can overflow non-systemic threats.  But any vulnerability built into the system (known or unknown) will also  propagate a wave-like system-wide threat.  Redundant systems are often strong but inflexible.  Redundant systems are highly resistant-to-change and therefore innately non-adaptive.)

Renew: 1. to begin or take up again, as an acquaintance, a conversation, etc.; resume. 2. to make effective for an additional period: to renew a lease. 3. to restore or replenish: to renew a stock of goods. 4. to make, say, or do again. 5. to revive; reestablish. (See Dictionary.com)

(I’m surprised by the retrospective character of renew. I expected it to mean new-again and imply starting over. But that pesky “re” insists on honoring the past.  In English renew and innovate are treated as synonyms, but the Latin for innovate is much better at escaping the past.)

RE-: “a prefix, occurring originally in loanwords from Latin, used with the meaning “again” or “again and again” to indicate repetition, or with the meaning “back” or “backward” to indicate withdrawal or backward motion: regenerate; refurbish; retype; retrace; revert.” (From Dictionary.com)

Recently a couple of colleagues have argued that resilience — despite the “re” — can empower innovation.  Trying to be collaborative:  The Latin origin of resilience means to jump or leap again.  I suppose the direction of the leap — backwards, sideways, or forward — is not prescribed.   Still… if innovation, adaptation, and moving in a truly new direction is the goal, resilience will probably restrain more than enable.

“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.” Confucius

(Or at least recognize the confusion of wrong names.)

August 22, 2012

Self-Organizing Actualization

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Mark Chubb on August 22, 2012

Last week I discussed the relationship between patience and certain aspects of resilience. In that post, I suggested, among other things, that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs provides a useful framework for assessing how people demonstrate resilience without particular respect to time.

As I noted, preparedness facilitates the kinds of adaptation that meet the most basic needs outlined by Maslow: physiological, safety and belonging. But I also noted that the unprepared benefit from these efforts and achieve resilience as well through the phenomena of emergent leadership and self-organizing systems. The formation of ad hoc communities facilitates adaptive response.

The same phenomena can also inhibit the transition from response to recovery and slow or even prevent recovery. As Bill Cumming expressed in response to the post, resilience raises interesting questions about the role and influence of top-down versus bottom-up leadership.

Top-down leaders rarely display patience out of fear they will be perceived as weak or ineffective leaders in a community’s time of need. By the same token, their eagerness to do something, anything, even if it might be wrong, leaves them extremely vulnerable to turning a disaster into a crisis. (The distinction here is one of moving from a situation that results in damage or disruption to one that also undermines confidence in public institutions or cultural norms.)

If leadership is an essential ingredient to creating resilient communities, then why would it matter whether that leadership comes with formal authority exercised top-down or emerges from unlikely places within the community from the bottom-up? For starters, no one can control the emergence of ad hoc communities. As a social species, it seems the spontaneous emergence of collaborative coping is hardwired into humans. As such, its inevitable emergence creates opportunities for conflict between competing conceptions of the good and the right course of action to achieve it.

A common problem encountered in homeland security and emergency management practice illustrates this. Those charged with formal authority to control the impacts of emergencies on the community must often decide whether to order the evacuation of exposed populations they consider vulnerable. I have personally experienced the antipathy of residents committed to protecting their property or livestock under imminent threat from wildfire. Now more than ever, I have to question whether my desire as a public official to protect citizens and firefighters trumps an individual’s desire to stay in the fire area, even in peril, to protect his own livestock and property.

These questions are hard enough. But the zeal to be seen as effective if not essential to a community’s response and recovery clearly encourages many emergency managers and elected officials to reject or suppress spontaneous assistance. This has devastating effects on efforts to progress from response to recovery if only because it undermines the sense of self-esteem that accompanies successful efforts by individuals and communities to meet more basic needs.

It may be easy for public officials to resign themselves to the fact they cannot make everyone happy, but those citizens whose efforts we reject experience the rebuff as an unreasonable and unwarranted personal affront. Nothing undermines the democratic much less professional legitimacy of public servants faster than their rejection of community involvement in matters of the public good.

Even if public officials can course-correct and overcome these decisions, their efforts to inhibit or marginalize emergent leadership can have one of two effects on the self-actualization of self-organizing communities and their leaders. One potential outcome is that the sense of marginalization will take root as a self-fulfilling prophecy: “Our help is not needed or valued, so we must not be valued or needed.” The second possibility, which can often be even more disruptive to the community as a whole, emerges from efforts of marginalized groups to advance their agendas in spite of opposition. “We’ll show them, nothing will stop our community from getting what we need to prosper.”

At best, such conflicts pit the interests and vision of the few against the many. At worst, it fragments the community into competing interest groups that never coalesce around a coherent much less comprehensive vision of a shared future than benefits all.

Clearly, bottom-up leadership has its place in disaster response and recovery. Leaders at the top of emergency management organizations harm their own efforts to restore normal functioning within the community when they inhibit self-organizing collaborative responses among citizens. Aligning interests by acknowledging and addressing the concerns of emergent leaders is an essential element of adaptive response and ultimately recovery itself.

August 21, 2012

Community powered recovery

Filed under: Business of HLS,Preparedness and Response,Private Sector — by Christopher Bellavita on August 21, 2012

This post is about two sisters from Monson, Massachusets.

A tornado destroyed part of Monson in 2011.  The sisters — Caitria and Morgan O’Neill — used “two laptops and a slow Internet connection” to create what they call  community powered recovery.

They now teach other communities how to do the same thing.  They turned their experience into a business.

Caitria and Morgan O’Neill describe their idea in a TED video.

You can watch the nine minute video at the end of this post.

But first a few appropriate words from the 2012 National Preparedness Report (with my emphasis):

Efforts to improve national preparedness have incorporated the whole community…. This whole community approach to preparedness recognizes that disasters affect all segments of society.  While the Federal Government plays a critical role in coordinating national-level efforts, it is communities and individuals who lead efforts to implement preparedness initiatives throughout the Nation….

Experience has shown that community members often serve as first responders…. Faith-based and voluntary organizations, furthermore, have demonstrated remarkable speed and capacity to establish operations to care for those in need after a disaster….

Of course, preparedness is not a new concept…. What is new is the unity of effort that whole community partners are bringing to the challenge, as well as the recognition that preparedness does not just involve spending resources—it involves changing mindsets and behaviors.

Here is the TED talk

A somewhat cynical colleague watched the video and sent me the following note:

I’m delighted at the confidence, even the certainty, that the 2 sisters have that ‘someone’ will do what is necessary.  Ah the human spirit!



August 16, 2012

Near-misses, mitigation, and resilience

Filed under: Catastrophes,Infrastructure Protection,Preparedness and Response,Risk Assessment — by Philip J. Palin on August 16, 2012

A giant tulip poplar fell in our yard.   It’s girth was nearly twice my reach.  A storm uprooted and deposited it precisely parallel to our house about eight feet from the west wall.  If it had fallen east at almost any other angle it would have caused significant damage.

This happened two years ago. There are several smaller trees as close to our house.  There is one even larger oak towering over the northwest corner. I have done nothing to mitigate the risk.

There is a program at Wharton that specializes in near-misses.  In 2008  the Wharton researchers added two new layers to the bottom of a pre-existing Safety Pyramid and renamed it the “Risk Pyramid.”  The two new layers are:

  1. Foreshadowing Events and Observations.
  2. Positive Illusions, Unsafe Conditions and Unobserved Problems – Unawareness, Ignorance, Complacency

(From  Assessment of Catastrophic Risk  and Potential Losses in Industry (2012) Kleindorfer, Oktum, Pariyani, and  Seider)

I am not unaware or ignorant of the risk.  I have observed the risk.  I don’t hold positive illusions regarding the risk.   I have observed near-misses and I recognize them as foreshadowing events.  But I am complacent.

Why am I complacent?

According to Alan Berger et al there are  “Five Neglects” common in risk management:

1. Probability neglect – people sometimes don’t consider the probability of the occurrence of an outcome, but focus on the consequences only.

2. Consequence neglect – just like probability neglect, sometimes individuals neglect the magnitude of outcomes.

3. Statistical neglect – instead of subjectively assessing small probabilities and continuously updating them, people choose to use rules-of-thumb (if any heuristics), which can introduce systematic biases in their decisions.

4. Solution neglect – choosing an optimal solution is not possible when one fails to consider all of the solutions.

5. External risk neglect – in making decisions, individuals or groups often consider the cost/benefits of decisions only for themselves, without including externalities, sometimes leading to significant negative outcomes for others.

Some of these factors influence my complacency — especially consequence neglect — but my inaction is mostly a matter of avoiding near-term costs.   It will certainly cost me money, time, and several beautiful trees (all current sources of enjoyment) in order to mitigate the uncertain, if very likely, future loss of (more) money, time and one or more fallen trees.

To overcome these neglects and short-term thinking, scholars at the Wharton School of Business have identified an eight step process:

Step 1 Identification and recognition of a near-miss

Step 2 Disclosure (reporting) of the identifiedinformation/incident

Step 3 Prioritization and classification of information for future actions

Step 4 Distribution of the information to proper channels

Step 5 Analyzing causes of the problem

Step 6 Identifying solutions (remedial actions)

Step 7 Dissemination of actions to the implementers and general information to a broader group for their knowledge

Step 8 Resolution of all open actions and review of system checks and balances

I have done everything except Steps 3, 7 and  8.  In other words, I have done everything except make an explicit decision regarding priority and implementation.  I am kicking the can.  I am procrastinating.  I am not actively choosing, I am passively choosing to accept the consequences of inaction.

This is not just a personal problem.  This is at the core of many organizational, even national problems; even in the best organizations, even in the best nations.

Embedded in the links above are entirely reasonable recommendations regarding management processes to overcome this recurring problem.   Mostly it comes down to variations on creative nagging.  We use data to nag, processes to nag, required reporting to nag. We schedule meetings mostly as an elaborate way to nag. Laws and regulations nag… and throw in some threats for good measure.  By writing this blog I’m nagging myself to take action.

As a colleague says, “Humans typically talk and talk and talk, and if they keep talking about something long enough they will actually do something about it.”

Resilience is enhanced by taking personal responsibility for recognizing and mitigating risks.   Resilience is reduced by inattention, denial, lack of communication, and inaction.   Ignoring near-misses increases the likelihood — and often the scope — of future loss.

What about other near-misses:  floods, wildfires, earthquakes, power outages, communications failures, supply chain complications, and more?  When are these stress events one-offs and when are they pieces of a pattern?   When does an infrequent risk deserve sustained attention and action?

How about this:  When a key asset (such as your home) is catastrophically vulnerable to a demonstrably recurring event (such as high winds)  and this vulnerability is amplified by a specific threat (such as a giant tree), action should be taken to reduce potential consequences (take down the tree).

Excuse me, I’ve got some calls to make.  How about you?

August 15, 2012

Patient Resilience

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Strategy — by Mark Chubb on August 15, 2012

In my last post, I reflected on the difference between patience as a strategic virtue and more conventional notions of persistence and perseverance. This week, I want to raise some questions about how the notion of patience fits with the concept of resilience.

Among most disciplines with well established notions or frameworks for assessing resilience — notably engineering and psychology — resilience is expressed in terms of the ability of an individual or system to bounce back or recover an acceptable, if not normal, level of functionality after experiencing a challenge, particularly a challenge that exceeds its capacity to resist or deflect harm. The capacity of any one individual or system to exhibit such characteristics is most often measured in terms of the time required to regain the stated level of functionality after experiencing a harmful event.

Time is also important to the notion of patience, but in a different way. This begs a question: Can one be patient and resilient at the same time? Put another way, does resilience require some degree of impatience if not a sense of urgency?

Homeland security and emergency management practitioners, particularly those working in government, are expected to demonstrate measurable results. But we know not everything that can be measured is meaningful and many things that are meaningful can be difficult to measure. Is this the case when it comes to assessing the relationship between patience and resilience? How can we avoid the potential trap of focusing on time as a measurement, especially if it turns out not to be all that meaningful?

In my experience, the rush to advance from response to recovery and then through a recovery process holds many perils. Not the least of these is the sense that people have a say in the process, which lends democratic legitimacy to decisions the group must make or live with long-term. Even if the community has a well-established consensus about recovery priorities, a rush to or through recovery by some can leave others struggling to keep up despite the fact that their recovery process is proceeding at an entirely reasonable pace.

This suggests that any meaningful assessment of recovery and resilience requires consideration of what makes each individual or community’s adaptive journey unique. The question is not how fast but how well they move through the process of adaptation. If time matters at all, the question should not be how fast an individual or group adapts but whether they adapt fast enough to avoid suffering further adverse consequences.

What adaptive behaviors should we expect to observe then if we are to gain an objective appreciation of resilience and recovery progress? This seems a simple enough question, but again, each individual or group will have different answers. Therefore, it seems logical to look for frameworks that can help us with the assessment.

The best framework that comes to mind for making such an assessment is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Herein lies a problem, though. Adaptation is at its core a form of learning. That means every step we take to meet even the most basic needs, will inform, shape and ultimately fulfill higher needs.

This may help explain the phenomena of emergent leadership and self-organizing teams that we often witness after disasters. Those who have successfully mitigated their exposure or prepared to meet their basic needs are better equipped to help others. The ability to offer assistance has the immediate effect of redefining associations, rearranging priorities and redrawing boundaries that separate communities. Emergent leadership helps provide a sense of safety and security by giving direction and purpose to the response. It also helps give individuals a sense of belonging by defining them as members of groups they might not previously have seen themselves a part of or which did not previously exist. The creation of these new ad hoc communities in the immediate aftermath of disaster provides opportunities for self-actualization as individuals rise above their circumstances and the limitations imposed on them by forces beyond their control to bring a sense of order to the chaos they see around them.

Here’s where things get really complicated, though. The euphoria that accompanies a surge in the immediate aftermath of a disaster can soon fade as the harsh reality of the situation sinks in. The sloping sides of Maslow’s pyramid make it hard to stay on top for very long.

The pain and suffering that accompanies the Sisyphean struggle to regain a sense of normalcy can make it awfully difficult for us to appreciate the value of the struggle itself. But this experience and the mindset that produces it is the very essence of patience and resilience.

If we see pushing that rock uphill time and again as ultimately futile, then that’s what it is. On the other hand, if pushing the rock uphill is how we earn our way, how we prove our mettle, how we encourage others to persevere or how we give our life purpose for awhile, then it can mean much more than any one of us can fully appreciate.

For this reason, I prefer to see patience as an essential element of resilience. Those willing and able to exercise patience inspire others not to accept the tragedy or inevitability of their circumstances, but rather to make the most of them. This is especially, if not profoundly, true when the end does not yield rewards greater than the compensation expected from the means.

August 14, 2012

Another National Strategy to Implement

Filed under: Biosecurity — by Alan Wolfe on August 14, 2012

Without much fanfare at all, the White House released a “National Strategy for Biosurveillance” on July 31, 2012, promising to “unify national effort around a common purpose and establish new ways of thinking about providing information to enable better decisionmaking [sic].”

Unfortunately,  this strategy lacks clear ways and means that would allow for a coordinated national biosurveillance effort. Rather than leveraging the “whole of government” approach and implementing an oversight process that has broad authorities, this strategy avoids directing roles and responsibilities that are necessary to avoid duplication of effort and power struggles over who is supposed to be in charge of this overall program.

This is not a new issue.

After the 2005 avian influenza flu scare, Congress directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2007 to stand up a National Biosurveillance Integration Center (NBIC). So DHS obediently complied, with a plan to stand up the NBIC in 2008 and have it fully operational in 2009.

Its responsibilities included rapidly identifying and tracking biological events; integrating and analyzing data from various environmental and clinical sources; disseminating alerts and appropriate information; and overseeing the development of interagency coordination through a National Biosurveillance Integration System (NBIS).

DHS’s Office of Health Affairs stood up NBIS in 2004, an IT system that relied on open source information and added some intelligence and threat analysis.

In 2007, the White House released HSPD-21, “Public Health and Medical Preparedness,” tasking the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to “establish an operational national epidemiologic surveillance system for human health, with international connectivity where appropriate” that included working with the Federal, State, and local surveillance systems (where they existed) for public health purposes.

DHHS has oversight of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which of course has a long history of monitoring and tracking disease outbreaks that might affect human or animal health.

In 2008, DoD created an Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center to be a global health surveillance proponent for its deployed forces.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) immediately criticized the DHS plan in this 2008 report. It stated  “Threats of bioterrorism, such as anthrax attacks and high-profile disease outbreaks, have drawn attention to the need for systems that provide early detection and warning about biological threats, known as biosurveillance systems.” DHS had not, from the GAO’s point of view, taken the necessary steps to plan and budget its NBIC and would not meet the statutory requirement to be operational by September 30, 2008. DHS had not formalized information sharing agreements with outside agencies (such as the Departments of Defense, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Interior, State, and Transportation), and of course, Project BioWatch has to feed into the NBIC.

Project BioWatch is hardly a “national” system with only 30-odd sites in U.S. metropolitan areas, but it is part of the overall data collection effort.

The GAO returned in 2010 to report that there did not appear to be a comprehensive national biosurveillance strategy that clearly identified the USG objectives or a focal point with responsibility, authority, and funding to lead the effort. In particular, the GAO noted that the NBIC had not been fully successful in collaborating with its Federal, state and local partners, because (surprise) those agencies had basically stonewalled NBIC, citing excuses such as lack of funds, lack of authorities, and so on.

The Presidential Decision Directive-2, “National Strategy to Counter Biological Threats,” which was released in December 2009, called for a national biosurveillance capability, as did the DHHS National Health Security Strategy. The lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities, joint strategies, policies, and procedures for operating across agency boundaries had limited NBIC’s ability to do what it had been chartered to do – maintain situational awareness of biological threats across the nation and effectively communicate to decision-makers what the current state of biological threats were.

So the National Security Staff has responded to the GAO recommendation after about two years of discussions and reviews.  With the White House’s release of this (yet another) national strategy, surely the roles and responsibilities of the various USG agencies involved will be clarified.

Except … they aren’t.

The strategy does detail four core functions of the national biosurveillance enterprise, to include scanning and discerning the environment; integrating and identifying essential information; alerting and informing decision-makers; and forecasting and advising on the impacts of biological disease outbreaks.

But this is hardly startling stuff. Everybody gets the goodness of a concept proposing an “all-nation” system that saves lives by providing actionable and timely information on biological threats.

What may be less well understood and not fully recognized is the startling scope of this effort. Biosurveillance does not, as a layperson might expect, involve the collection and analysis of only biological threats (both natural and man-made), but rather all hazards – chemical and radiological incidents and accidents included – that might affect the health of the biosphere (humans, animals, and crops). This is a huge task, and one might wonder if any one agency could hope to integrate and make sense of this data, even if all the Federal agencies cooperated with DHS’s NBIC as they’ve been directed.

But that’s all going to be addressed in 120 days, when a “strategic implementation plan” will lay out the roles and responsibilities, specific actions and activity scope, and perhaps most importantly, a mechanism for evaluating progress toward specific goals within those four core functions.

It’s doubtful there will be any additional funds for this effort (given budget realities), but the developers of this strategy are optimistically calling for “new thinking and revised methodologies” that will enable this enterprise to work and to allow those timely decisions to save lives and reduce the impact of whatever threats this biosurveillance enterprise takes on.

My personal concern is that the deliberate inclusion of tracking bioterrorism incidents and naturally-occurring biological disease outbreaks, in addition to chemical and radiological incidents and accidents, is simply too much to handle. It’s information overload. The focus of this enterprise ought to have been kept to natural disease outbreaks, which is certainly where the legitimate concerns originated. There is no appreciable threat of terrorist misuse of the life sciences today; rather, the insider threat caused by the creation of hundreds of biological laboratories, in response to numerous DHS and DHHS grants, may be the greater threat source.

The USG has this bad habit of trying to develop optimal strategies that attempt to eliminate risk and prevent incidents by controlling the threat, rather than focusing on the more achievable mitigation and resilience measures that might be implemented at the State and local level.

I am even less confident that a single office will get the authority to convince the three major players, DHS, DHHS, and DoD, to play nicely –  specifically, to standardize their biosurveillance information and release it in a timely fashion so that these decision-makers can be informed.

A more likely outcome will be the jockeying of political appointees to create new authorities and to obtain additional funding for an effort that remains poorly scoped and poorly overseen.

But hey, let’s come back in four months and see if that “strategic implementation plan” is out. Maybe we’ll see some realistic direction and achievable goals and objectives in that document. And maybe we’ll see an effective interagency approach that employs a “whole of government” concept, with a program that is both resourced and executable within the next year.

But I’m not counting on it.



August 13, 2012

Perhaps not the best choice…

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on August 13, 2012

…and no, I am not referring to the recent announcement of Paul Ryan as the Republican Vice Presidential nominee.

Instead, I’m describing my reaction to this full page ad for the “Emergency Management & Homeland Security Program” at Florida State University in the college ranking issue of Newsweek.

In case you think I in anyway altered this photo, you can see a similar shot (without the action movie-appropriate words) here from their website:


Obviously, among the many questions that these pictures bring up, is been where and done what exactly? As best as I can tell from the information provided on their website, here are the profiles/resumes of the program’s leaders:

Dr. Audrey Heffron Casserleigh is the Director of the Center for Disaster Risk Policy at Florida State University, and the Director of the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Program in the College of Social Sciences at Florida State University. As Center Director Dr. Heffron Casserleigh manages the intersection of academic research and government projects for a variety of agencies including FEMA, Health and Human Sciences, and the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Dr. Heffron Casserleigh has written over 20 articles and appears in the press on MSNBC and the AP. She has served as a lecturer and consultant to the US Department of State, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Korean Secret Service, Chinese Academy of Sciences, American and International Red Cross, Ghanian National Disaster Agency and the Italian National Emergency Management Organization. She currently serves on the Directorate Board for the International Society for Crisis and Emergency Management (ISCEM).

As EMHS Director, Dr. Casserleigh has overseen the tremendous growth of the program in the past five years, and she is currently focused on increasing exchanges between FSU and international programs to the benefit of students and faculty.  Dr. Casserleigh’s areas of dedicated research include man-made disasters and the organizational behavior of terrorist networks.


David F. Merrick (MS) is the Deputy Director for the Center for Disaster Risk Policy and an Adjunct Instructor in the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Academic Program at Florida State University.  As Deputy Director, Mr. Merrick is responsible for managing a $1.4 million research and instructional budget as well as client and project management.  Landmark projects have included a nationwide disaster housing resource program for FEMA, extensive training and exercises for the US Department of Health and Human Services Senior Leadership, development of a groudbreaking Special Needs registration program, and the internationally acclaimed TEST (Tabletop Exercise System Technology) used in the United States, Philippines, Korea, Croatia, and the Czech Republic.

Mr. Merrick is a recognized expert in disaster technology systems and has over fifteen years of experience in software design and development. He has conducted extensive research on exercise design and evaluation, special needs populations during a disaster, and the ideological franchising and expansion of terrorist organizations. Mr. Merrick has been sponsored by the US Department of State to conduct emergency management training in Ghana, and has presented research around the world, including Prague (2008), the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing (2010), the Philippines (2010 and 2011), Romania (2011) and the University of Oxford (2012).  Mr. Merrick is a current member of the International Emergency Managers Association (IAEM) and The International Emergency Management Society (TIEMS).

Courses taught at FSU include Disaster Systems, Introduction to Terrorism: Preparedness and Response, Homeland Security Policy and Practice, and Advanced Topics in Terrorism.  Mr. Merrick has also extensively guest lectured in the Foundations of Emergency Management and Public Health and Emergency Management courses.

His ongoing research is centered around topics such as information and communication technology usage in disaster management, crisis mapping, open source situational awareness, and terrorism.

Okay…so been where doing what exactly again?  And the insights gleaned from these experiences to be passed along to the lucky student include…? There doesn’t seem to be any mention of particular “Mega Disasters” or “Global Security” issues that these individuals have personally dealt with or are able to teach about.

I don’t wish to come off as rude or demeaning. They are operating in a serious educational institution and offering education on a very important subject.  Their students seem to be working on serious topics in important offices. And I would only want to encourage additional students from all areas of study to consider this field.

However, when the very importance, practicality, and perhaps even existence of this subject as a separate academic field is in question, the choice of this type of advertisement doesn’t help. In fact, if the faculty would take their sunglasses off, they might even notice that the legitimacy of their academic venture is in no way secure.  Perhaps it’s time to provide links to those 20 articles Dr. Casserleigh?

August 10, 2012

Brennan defines “bad guys” (NYPD looks for bad guys)

Wednesday, John Brennan, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, spoke to the  Council on Foreign Relations.  His remarks focus on US operations in Yemen including the use of drones.  This is the latest in a series of extended statements by Mr. Brennan designed to explain and defend US policy regarding the lethal use of drone technology beyond Afghanistan.

Ritika Singh at LAWFARE has posted the first transcript I could find.

There is a Question and Answer session with Mr. Brennan that is considerably longer than his prepared remarks.  During this element of the program he engaged a range of issues, including Syria and cybersecurity… and bad guys.

While looking for the transcript, I stumbled across a very helpful consideration of the NYPD’s new “Domain Awareness System” at the Council on Foreign Relations website.  (If CFR can headline attention to NYPD technology projects,  I think HLSWatch can clearly address Yemen.)  Please see the CFR briefing by Matthew Waxman.

August 9, 2012

US v Japan: Adversity and resilience

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on August 9, 2012

This afternoon — Thursday — at 2:45 PM Eastern the Japanese and US women’s soccer teams will meet in a rematch of last year’s World Cup championship.

The 2011 match was played in the still early-days of Japan’s recovery from the earthquake-tsunami-nuclear emergency. The Japanese surprised many, winning in a penalty goal shoot-off. Abby Wambach, the star US forward, said, “Maybe their country needed them to win more than our country needed us to win.”

Each team’s style and strategy tend to reinforce national stereotypes.

Elliott Almond, writing in the San Jose Mercury News, explains popular excitement with the US team, “It is difficult to remain composed while watching soccer’s version of the Cardiac Kids. The Americans have a penchant for breathtaking rallies… The resilience has been a big part of why the latest soccer heroines have captured their country’s imagination like few others.”

AP reporter Joseph White describes the Japanese team as, “disciplined, tactical and savvy.”

Japanese mid-fielder Homare Sawa told Kyodo news service, “They (the Americans) are very physical and know where to put long balls and we have as a team to make sure we don’t let Wambach and (Alex) Morgan show what they are capable of doing. At the end of the day it comes down to the will to win,” said Sawa. “Our strength lies in our never-say-die attitude and obviously I don’t know how the game is going to pan out but we just have to dig in deep and give it our all.”

Ganbatte ne!

In team sports we can tease out the interplay of individual and group resilience.   The doubt, hurt, failure of one can be absorbed into the strength of the team.  The courage and conviction of one can like lightning transform everyone else.  Home court can — often does — offer an advantage.  The relationship with fans and between members of the team can complement or detract from individual competence.

After last year’s loss the US women’s soccer team may have faltered abit.  According to Joseph White, “coach and players were bummed out. Coach Pia Sundhage went home to Sweden and tuned out soccer completely for a while. Goalkeeper Hope Solo went on “Dancing With the Stars.”  But they were soon back together, practicing and playing as hard as ever.  The US team entered the Olympics ranked number 1 in the world.

“Every single player on this team, whether they’re even here or not, even players that are left back in the United States, they’ve given us all an opportunity to train, to work, to dedicate, to sacrifice, every single day since the World Cup, so that we can have this one chance, the one more chance, the 90 more minutes,” Wambach said.

The sports narrative tracks what science is beginning to tell us about resilience.  According to the science, losing to Japan last year could even enhance the chances of the US team this afternoon.

Resilience emerges from adversity.

There is, however, a Goldilocks aspect to the kind and amount adversity that generates resilience.  Either too little or too much adversity seems to suppress resilience.  According to Whatever Does Not Kill Us: Cumulative Lifetime Adversity, Vulnerability and Resilience, “Experiencing low but nonzero levels of adversity could teach effective coping skills, help engage social support networks, create a sense of mastery over past adversity, foster beliefs in the ability to cope successfully in the future, and generate psychophysiological toughness.”

Psychological research has found that peripheral engagement with adversity (such as the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake-and-tsunami) can enhance resilience.   Findings also suggest that very low experience with adversity results in non-resilience.  I know it’s gratuitous, but did Tiger Woods’ phenomenal success since age 8 leave him  vulnerable to the inevitable losses the years would bring? Extraordinary adversity also undermines resilience.  Did American Somoa’s soccer team’s 16 years of constant losing produce resilience?

My reading of the science (potentially suspect) suggests the US team’s resilience is likely to be higher against Japan than any other team, precisely because the US lost to Japan last year.  The science is clear that we are more resilient to, for example, our second or third flood, but resilience to floods does not necessarily enhance resilience to wildfires or other natural disasters.

Nearly two decades after playing my last high school football game our coach told me, “I would never have said this out loud, but my goal was much more about teaching you how to lose than how to win.”  We were conference co-champions, so he had also taught us to win.  But by my late 30s  I understood — and deeply appreciated — the wisdom needed to lose.

This afternoon two teams that have each known the agony of defeat and thrill of victory will face each other.  Both will bring to the game great skill and deep passion. Whichever team is victorious many of us will look to the losers as well as the winners for inspiration.  We will wince at anger.  We will cheer grace and determination.

How well we lose has much to do with how well we live.



At the end of the first half it’s US 1/Japan 0.  Graham Parker is live blogging the game for The Guardian.  During the half-time hiatus he writes:

Fascinating game, as the US came storming out in the opening moments with all of the adrenaline of the semi-final still seemingly coursing through them.

Japan though are not World Champions by accident and were consistently dangerous – both on speedy counters and with their ability to unlock tight defenses. Solo had to make one fantastic save to keep her team ahead, but it’s clear that Japan will have more chances in this one.

That said, the US are always dangerous, and could have doubled their lead with Iwashimizu’s desperate clearance bouncing off the post. The game is fantastically poised for the second half. As I said earlier – next goal may be absolutely crucial.

The US scored a second goal at about minute 55 of the game.  Relevant to our resilience topic, Graham Parker remarks:

If this were almost any other team than the Japanese you’d think this was game over, but they seem to play the same game regardless of the score.

The Japanese score for the first time in minute 62 (of a 90 minute game).  It’s US 2/Japan 1.

A frenetic second half demonstrates the strength, persistence, and — perhaps — resilience of each team.

The US wins the gold, 2 to 1.

After the win, Parker reports:

The Japanese players are in tears, but Sasaki (Japanese coach) smiling stoically as he consoles them. They’ve really played their part in this tournament.

Catharsis for the USA as they gather round the flag on the sideline, beaming broadly in relief and joy.

The Friday New York Times has a report on the soccer game that is full of resilience implications.  Please see:  For Determined Japanese Team; Silver Must be Good Enough.

At least the implications pop for me.   A friend has written, “you are, as usual, being way too subtle.  Be explicit about the analogy you are suggesting for homeland security.”  I think there are many meaningful analogies, but in the comments I have been more explicit regarding one.

August 8, 2012

Perfecting Patience

Filed under: Strategy — by Mark Chubb on August 8, 2012

If you’re anything like me, patience does not come easy. Don’t get me wrong, I am neither relentlessly achievement-focused nor all that goal-driven. I am just as prone to distraction and procrastination as anyone else. But when I think I know what to do, and others aren’t ready to join me to get it done, I find it hard to hold back.

As I have matured (read: gotten older), I’ve come to appreciate the importance of patience and its role in helping me achieve strategic successes. I’ve also come to appreciate what make it distinctive and worthy of my effort and focus.

In my younger years, I was encouraged to be persistent. The importance of perseverance was often emphasized too. I’m sure both of these practices have their place, but they clearly are not the same as patience.

Persistence is mostly about repetition. It’s externally focused and emphasizes doing something over again until you perfect it or it succeeds. This certainly has merit, as no one gets very good at any complex task without repeating and perfecting its essential elements. At the same time, persistence neither requires patience nor particularly benefits from its application. The harder you work, the more time you devote to perfecting execution, the faster you will achieve proficiency.

Perseverance suggests a mindset or internal orientation toward challenging or difficult tasks. We are much more likely to persevere when we think we’re right and all we need is time for people to come around to our view. It’s easier to persevere when we see things happening before others and expect the environment or their understanding of it to evolve in ways that will convince them to see the rightness of our advice. It’s only difficult to persevere when we don’t think that will happen in time to avert a bad outcome or we have to accept accountability for a failure to convince them to see things our way.

If procrastination is about failing to take action when we know we should and perseverance is mostly a question of keeping our powder dry and waiting for the solution to become apparent to others then patience must mean something else altogether.

I have become convinced that patience differs qualitatively from both persistence and perseverance in that it requires the alignment of both of these disciplines. Patience does not imply inaction. Indeed, patient people use their time wisely to perfect the essential elements of their craft. At the same time, they must display perseverance while waiting for the right opportunity to deploy their skills in ways that will influence outcomes.

In these ways, patience is a proactive rather than reactive response to circumstances beyond our control. Rather than resigning ourselves to accept external circumstance, patience affords us an opportunity to work on what we can control while waiting and watching for the right opportunity to arise. In some cases, it also opens our eyes to opportunities to acquire new skills that complement or enable us to fulfill our aspirations.

The discipline of patience requires us to approach problems in a different way. We usually think intentions influence our actions. This view suggests we get the results we desire by aligning our efforts to what we want to achieve. In reality, this works less often than it should because we tend to focus on what we know or think we know, which blinds us to opportunities to succeed by adapting our execution to changing circumstances. Sometimes it blinds us to change altogether.

Exercising patience requires us to recognize that more often than not our intentions follow our attention. We see opportunities only when we look actively for them. As such, patience requires us to adopt a perspective outside ourselves. This demands much more of us than persistence or perseverance. Putting ourselves in the position of others also exposes us to risks because it may make us seem less in control from others’ perspectives.

Anyone with genuine accountability for performance inevitably encounters situations that require her to cede control in exchange for getting others to take responsibility for tasks. This is especially true in a complex world where no one person possesses all the skills required to complete complex missions.

As it has become clearer to me that patience really is the paramount strategic virtue and differs significantly from persistence and perseverance, it has also become clear to me that perfecting patience requires persistence and perseverance. You only become good at it through focus and repetition.

August 7, 2012

Run. Hide. Fight. Surviving an active shooter event. And more.

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Christopher Bellavita on August 7, 2012

From the people at Ready Houston: a six minute video suggesting what to do if you’re at work, or church or elsewhere and someone starts shooting.

FEMA offers an online course called “Active Shooter: What You Can Do.” It takes about 45 minutes to complete the course, according to the website.


If you live in Oregon and you want a license to carry a concealed handgun, you can take your certification test online (at this link).  The website describes the simple three step process:

Step 1: Watch the safety class below and then when you are done click “Begin Test” to start your FREE test.
Step 2: If you pass the test you will then be able to add the certificate to your cart ($47).
Step 3: Get your certificate in the mail and take it to your local sheriff’s office for processing to recieve your ID Card.
Note: Your official Oregon Concealed License Certification will be promptly mailed via the US Postal Service within 24 hours of purchasing your certificate.


DHS issued a two page document called “PERFORMANCE VENUES – INDICATORS OF VIOLENCE & PROTECTIVE MEASURES,” available at this link.

According to the DHS document, one indicator “of surveillance by potential attackers” includes Persons using or carrying video/camera/observation equipment in or near the facility over an extended period.

Julio Rausseo, an “independent journalist,” believes “It has now come to the point in this Country where filming and taking a picture has turned into suspicious activity, and could lead to some sort of violence.”

You can hear his debate with an Amtrak police officer about the First Amendment, homeland security, TSA, journalism, videos, threats and related issues at this link.

Nothing especially new in any of this. Just the measureless more.

August 6, 2012

Hiroshima: the weapons of war must be abolished, before they abolish us

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on August 6, 2012

“A blinding flash swept across my eyes.  In a fraction of a second, I looked out the window towards the garden as a huge band of light fell from the sky down to the trees.  A thunderous explosion gripped the earth and shook it.  There seemed no alternative to death as the earth heaved.”

A survivor of Hiroshima, 1945

Today was the 67th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.  Let us keep firmly in our mind the consequences of any single nuclear explosion.

When the blow came, I closed my eyes but I could still feel the extreme heat.  It was like being roasted alive many times over.  I noticed that the side of my body was very hot.  It was on fire.  I tried to put it out, but it would not go out so easily.  You could hardly recognize me, my lips and my face were all popped up and I had to force my eyes open with my fingers in order to see.

The blast was so intense it felt like hundreds of needles were stabbing me all at once.

People had no hair because their hair was burned, and at a glance you couldn’t tell whether you were looking at them from in front or in back.

There were lots of naked people who were so badly burned that the skin of their whole body was hanging from them like rags.

A tremendous blast wave struck our ship.  A giant ball of fire rose as though from the bowels of the earth, belching forth enormous white smoke rings.  Next we saw a giant pillar of purple fire, ten thousand feet high, shooting skyward with enormous speed.  Awestruck, we watched it shoot upward like a meteor coming from the earth instead of from outer space.  It was a living thing, a new species of being, born right before our incredulous eyes.  It was a living totem pole, carved with many grotesque masks grimacing at the earth.

I looked at the face to see if I knew her.  It was a woman of about forty. A gold tooth gleamed in the wide open mouth.  A handful of singed hair hung down from the left temple over her cheek, dangling in her mouth.  Her eyelids were drawn up, showing black holes where the eyes had been burned out.

–“Testimony of Toshiko Saeki,” and “Testimony of Yoshito Matsushige,” Voice of Hibakusha, http://www.inicom.com/hibakusha/index.html.  Fujie Urata Matsumoto, as quoted in Takashi Nagai, We of Nagasaki: The Story of Survivors in an Atomic Wasteland

For a visual history, watch this video shot nine months after the explosion:

If you can stand more, I would strongly suggest reading John Hersey’s powerful New Yorker piece: http://archive.org/details/hiroshima035082mbp

If you have been moved to do something, please support the Global Zero campaign:

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