Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 29, 2012

Finding “common taste and fellowship”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on September 29, 2012

On a rainy Saturday morning in the midst of truly treacherous days and the choreographed contentiousness of an election, I found the following a helpful encouragement.  In my own experience it is accurate over the long term:

Now it appears to me that almost any Man may like the spider spin from his own inwards his own airy Citadel – the points of leaves and twigs on which the spider begins her work are few, and she fills the air with a beautiful ciruiting. Man should be content with as few points to tip with the fine Web of his Soul, and weave a tapestry empyrean full of symbols for his spiritual eye, of softness for his spiritual touch, of space for his wandering, of distinctness for his luxury.

But the Minds of Mortals are so different and bent on such diverse journeys that it may at first appear impossible for any common taste and fellowship to exist between two or three under these suppositions. It is however quite the contrary. Minds would leave each other in contrary directions, traverse each other in numberless points, and at last greet each other at the journey’s end.

An old Man and a child would talk together and the old Man be led on his path and the child left thinking. Man should not dispute or assert but whisper results to his neighbour and thus by every germ of spirit sucking the sap from mould ethereal every human might become great, and Humanity instead of being a wide heath of Furze and Briars with here and there a remote Oak or Pine, would become a grand democracy of Forest Trees!

John Keats, Letter to John Hamilton Reynolds, February 19, 1818

September 27, 2012

Remembering our mission

Filed under: International HLS,Legal Issues,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on September 27, 2012

I am in New York for a few days.  I arrived Wednesday for private sector meetings on supply chain resilience, catastrophe preparedness, and related. The city is packed for the opening of the United Nations.

When I checked in the guy in front of me asked the desk clerk, “How many Presidents do you have staying here?”  “Too many,” she replied.

My President’s speech on Tuesday received considerable media attention, but most of  the coverage I saw, heard, or read focused on either the Iranian nuclear issue or domestic political implications.  Following are a few consecutive paragraphs that have — at least for me — important homeland security implications.

Before these remarks the President held up Ambassador Chris Stevens as an example, condemned the attacks on US diplomatic facilities,  and called the video that catalyzed — or justified or created cover for — the violence “crude and disgusting.”  Then he offered an explanation of the American right of free speech blending principle with pragmatism:

I know there are some who ask why we don’t just ban such a video.  And the answer is enshrined in our laws:  Our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech.

Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense.  Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs.  As President of our country and Commander-in-Chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day and I will always defend their right to do so.

Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views, even views that we profoundly disagree with.  We do not do so because we support hateful speech, but because our founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views and practice their own faith may be threatened.  We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can quickly become a tool to silence critics and oppress minorities.

We do so because given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression; it is more speech — the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.

Now, I know that not all countries in this body share this particular understanding of the protection of free speech.  We recognize that.  But in 2012, at a time when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete.  The question, then, is how do we respond?

It’s a question that is very much alive in the United States.   When more control of information is advocated, the justification usually involves some aspect of homeland security.  As Chris Bellavita recently reminded us, “the Preamble to the Constitution is especially relevant to homeland security.  It offers – in 29 words – a majestic vision of the homeland security mission.”   There can be trade-offs between security and liberty.   But the homeland that matters most is secured by preserving liberty.

September 26, 2012

Government and the cyber-domain; or command-and-control encounters complexity

Filed under: Congress and HLS,Cybersecurity,Strategy,Technology for HLS — by Philip J. Palin on September 26, 2012

There is considerable expectation that an Executive Order will soon try to pick up the pieces from a failed effort at cybersecurity legislation.  You can read more at CNET, Wall Street Journal, or The Hill (for three very different angles on reality).

Technical challenges, political problems, and real philosophical differences complicated the legislative process.  I already gave attention to many of these issues in a February post.  Whatever the text of the Executive  Order these complications will persist.

Many of the most vexing problems are not particular to cyber.  Similar issues are encountered in regard to strategy, policy, regulation, innovation, security, resilience, and competition in domains seemingly as diverse as eCommerce, supply chains, and the global financial system.

Sunday there was a brief two-page essay in the New York Times Magazine that focuses on how the Internet was created.  Following are a few key paragraphs.  As you read cut-and-paste your preferred networked-entity over the word Internet.  When I do that,  the author’s explanation still holds.

Like many of the bedrock technologies that have come to define the digital age, the Internet was created by — and continues to be shaped by — decentralized groups of scientists and programmers and hobbyists (and more than a few entrepreneurs) freely sharing the fruits of their intellectual labor with the entire world. Yes, government financing supported much of the early research, and private corporations enhanced and commercialized the platforms. But the institutions responsible for the technology itself were neither governments nor private start-ups. They were much closer to the loose, collaborative organizations of academic research. They were networks of peers.

Peer networks break from the conventions of states and corporations in several crucial respects. They lack the traditional economic incentives of the private sector: almost all of the key technology standards are not owned by any one individual or organization, and a vast majority of contributors to open-source projects do not receive direct compensation for their work. (The Harvard legal scholar Yochai Benkler has called this phenomenon “commons-based peer production.”) And yet because peer networks are decentralized, they don’t suffer from the sclerosis of government bureaucracies. Peer networks are great innovators, not because they’re driven by the promise of commercial reward but rather because their open architecture allows others to build more easily on top of existing ideas, just as Berners-Lee built the Web on top of the Internet, and a host of subsequent contributors improved on Berners-Lee’s vision of the Web…

It’s not enough to say that peer networks are an interesting alternative to states and markets. The state and the market are now fundamentally dependent on peer networks in ways that would have been unthinkable just 20 years ago…

When we talk about change being driven by mass collaboration, it’s often in the form of protest movements: civil rights or marriage equality. That’s a tradition worth celebrating, but it’s only part of the story. The Internet (and all the other achievements of peer networks) is not a story about changing people’s attitudes or widening the range of human tolerance. It’s a story, instead, about a different kind of organization, neither state nor market, that actually builds things, creating new tools that in turn enhance the way states and markets work.

Legislation, regulation, many theories of management and the practice of most managers assume someone is in charge of something.  Someone is accountable for discreet action that leads to reasonably foreseeable consequences.  There are intentional practices to regulate, systematize, and evaluate.   Certainly this is part of reality, but only part and its proportion of the whole seems to be decreasing.  In homeland security I expect most of our reality cannot be accurately described in these traditional “Newtonian” terms.

When I have most seriously failed it has been because I have very reasonably, diligently, and intelligently applied the lessons learned in one corner of reality to another corner of reality without recognizing the two realities are almost totally different.


September 25, 2012

Growing more homeland security ideas

Filed under: Education — by Christopher Bellavita on September 25, 2012

On September 21st, the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security graduated its 39th and 40th master’s degree class.

To suggest the ideas explored by those graduates, here are the titles of their theses.

Most of the theses — adding to the storehouse of what we know, do not know, and might know about homeland security — will be available through the NPS Dudley Knox library in a few weeks.

(If you know of any other recent master’s or doctoral theses related to homeland security policy and strategy, please let us know – – along with enough information to find the documents.)


  • Leveraging National Guard Intelligence: Analysts in State and Regional Fusion Centers
  • The Future Mission, Tasking and Resourcing of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary
  • The FBI is Leading the Way by Making the Private Sector Part of the Counterterrorism Homeland Security Enterprise
  • Policy Options to Address Crucial Communication Gaps in the Incident Command System
  • Utilizing Social Media to Further the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative
  • Federated Search Tools in Fusion Centers: Bridging Databases in the Information Sharing Environment
  • Creating a Learning Organization for State and Local Law Enforcement to Combat Violent Extremism
  • Start Making Sense: Exploring an Emergency Learning Framework
  • Evolving the Local Fire Service intelligence Enterprise in New York State: Implementing a Threat Liaison Officer Program
  • Shaping the National Guard in a Post War Environment
  • Effective Municipal Emergency Planning for People with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs
  • FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Teams: Considering an Improved Strategy for an Evolving Homeland Security Enterprise
  • Internet Radicalization: Actual Threat or Phantom Menace?
  • Incomplete Intelligence: Is the Information Sharing Environment an Effective Platform?
  • Ready for the Future: Assessing the Collaborative Capacity of State Emergency Management Agencies
  • Unity of Command for the Federal Operational Response to a Catastrophic Disaster
  • Social Media, Social Networking, Facial Recognition Technology and the Future of Law Enforcement Undercover Operations
  • Emergent Social Software Platforms for Sharing and Collaboration on Criminal Information and Intelligence
  • The Provision of Public Health Services for Illegal Migrant Populations: Policy Options for Improving Homeland Security
  • Applying Deterrence Strategy to Agents of Asymmetrical Threats
  • What is the Best Approach to Crisis Intervention?
  • Hunting a Black Swan: Policy Options for America’s Police in Preventing Radiological/Nuclear Terrorism
  • Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Where Do We Go from Here to Bring the Fire Service into the Domestic Intelligence Community?
  • Violent Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations in Texas: Political Discourse and an Argument for Reality
  • Understanding “Swift Trust” to Improve Interagency Collaboration in New York City
  • Theory to Practice: How Developing a K-12 Curriculum in Emergency Preparedness, Life Safety, or Homeland Security can lead to Resiliency
  • Community Engagement for Collective Resilience: The Rising System
  • Integrating Unmanned Aircraft Systems into Modern Policing in an Urban Environment
  • Network Vulnerability Assessment of the U.S. Crude Pipeline Infrastructure

September 22, 2012

One day: a range of reactions, not all bad

Filed under: Radicalization,Risk Assessment,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on September 22, 2012

On the second Friday since four Americans were killed in the US Consulate at Benghazi,  two weeks since a  virulently vapid video produced in the United States caught the attention of millions of Muslims, and on the first Friday since Parisian cartoonists insisted on their right to be provocative there were a range of reactions.  Three caught my attention:

In Pakistan what the government had tried to orchestrate as peaceful protests spun out of control.  According to DAWN:

Friday which was designated by the government to demonstrate love of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and condemn the anti-Islam video produced in the US by some extremists was hijacked by our home-grown extremists who turned it into a day of unbridled violence, killings, arson and robbery.

At least 23 people were killed and over 200 injured and violence in some places continued till late in the night.

The internal security system virtually collapsed, giving way to tens of thousands of violent protesters to rule the streets in several cities, from Peshawar and Islamabad to Lahore and Karachi, burn down shops, cinema houses and police vehicles, and ransack whatever else that came in the way. (MORE)

In Lebanon thousands peacefully protested. According to The Daily Star:

Peaceful demonstrations took place throughout Lebanon Friday in protest of an anti-Islam film and a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad, amid strict security measures across the country.

France closed its embassy and consulate Friday, and many French schools did not hold classes in anticipation of protests against the publishing of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad by a French satirical magazine earlier this week.

This came days after an anti-Islam film produced in the U.S. outraged many Muslims, who took to the streets in countries across the world.

Several thousand supporters of the Sidon-based Sheikh Ahmad Assir gathered in Beirut’s Martyrs Square to rally against the insults to the Prophet. (MORE)

In Benghazi tens-of-thousands of ordinary Libyans confronted and, for the time being, expelled a terrorist militia considered complicit in the consulate attack.  According to The Telegraph:

Cheering protesters in Benghazi have stormed a base occupied by a militant Islamist group accused of complicity in the killing of the US ambassador to Libya, saying they were ‘reclaiming it for the nation’.

The direct action against Ansar al-Sharia, a group whose members were seen at the consulate building where the ambassador, Chris Stevens, died last week, followed a “Rally to Save Benghazi” by activists angry that the government and security forces had failed to take on militant groups.

There had been a similar but smaller protest in the capital, Tripoli, earlier. The crowd in Benghazi numbered 30,000, leading to fears of violence as the heavily-armed Ansar al-Sharia, or “Supporters of Sharia”, staged a counter-protest.

However, the Islamists were overwhelmingly outnumbered, and the protesters moved first to evict Ansar from a hospital for which they had been providing security.

Later in the evening, chanting “Libya, Libya” they moved on the main base further from the city centre, taking it over without resistance and setting fire to cars found inside. Police and members of the official army parked outside did nothing to intervene. (MORE)

Some reports suggest at least ten Libyans were killed in clashes with Islamist militias before the evictions succeeded.

Elsewhere rallies and protests were comparatively small and peaceful.  In Cairo where several hundred had threatened violence last Friday, only “dozens” protested peacefully this Friday.   According to Reuters,

Condemning the publication of the cartoons in France as an act verging on incitement, Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa said it showed how polarized the West and the Muslim world had become.

Gomaa said Mohammad and his companions had endured “the worst insults from the non-believers of his time. Not only was his message routinely rejected, but he was often chased out of town, cursed and physically assaulted on numerous occasions.

“But his example was always to endure all personal insults and attacks without retaliation of any sort. There is no doubt that, since the Prophet is our greatest example in this life, this should also be the reaction of all Muslims.”

As a friend headlines in a still-to-be-published piece: Newsflash: All Revolutions Involve Chaos.   There will be many chaotic days ahead.  But yesterday’s very mixed results are worth our attention.   From this distance we too often hear and see only the worst.  Reality is more complicated.

September 21, 2012

Resilience: Social Networks + Civil Society

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on September 21, 2012

Previous posts have referenced the work of Daniel Aldrich, specifically his new book:  Building Resilience: Social Capital in Post-Disaster Recovery.   Thursday afternoon Dr. Aldrich was interviewed on Talk of the Nation.

In the 17 minute interview and in his book Dr. Aldrich tells great stories.  For an example of his more scholarly work check out The Crucial Role of Civil Society in Disaster Recovery and Japan’s Preparedness for Emergencies (2008)

In an August 29 Op-Ed in the New York Times, Dr. Aldrich explains:

In August 2005, my wife and our small children and I evacuated to Houston just before the storm destroyed the New Orleans home we had moved into six weeks earlier. We took with us just a bag of toys and a suitcase. We applied for federal aid, but especially in the immediate aftermath, it was family, friends and friends-of-friends who came through for us.

As a political scientist (I taught at Tulane at the time), I decided to study how communities respond to natural disasters. I’ve concluded that the density and strength of social networks are the most important variables — not wealth, education or culture — in determining their resilience in the face of catastrophe.

Aldrich gives attention to both informal networks and more formal civil society.  His evidence suggests both are needed to maximize resilience.

In a June 2011 paper on the outcomes of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami Dr. Aldrich argues, “Neighborhoods and communities where individuals can overcome collective-action problems, promote “voice,”not “exit,” and provide each other with informal insurance and mutual assistance are the ones that recover the most quickly.”

September 20, 2012

Answers to: “What kind of government have you given us?”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on September 20, 2012

Answers to the questions posed on Tuesday’s post (in bold).

Q.1 Where did the Constitutional Convention meet in 1787?
New York

Q.2 Which of the following isn’t a right guaranteed under the First Amendment?
Freedom of speech
Right to bear arms
Freedom of religion
Right to petition the government

Q.3 How many amendments were in the ratified Bill of Rights?

Q.4 What document did the Constitution replace?
The Articles Of Confederation
The Bill Of Rights
The Declaration of Independence
The Royal Colonial Charter

Q.5 Who wrote the original Bill of Rights and introduced it to Congress?
Alexander Hamilton
George Washington
James Madison
Thomas Jefferson

Q.6 Who was the first person to sign the Constitution?
Ben Franklin
George Washington
James Madison
Thomas Jefferson

Q.7 Which series of documents was written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to convince states to approve the Constitution?
The Freedom Pamphlets
Poor Richard’s Almanac
The Philadelphia Letters
The Federalist Papers

Q.8 Which of the following doesn’t have an official role in changing or amending the Constitution?
The House of Representatives
The President
The States
The U.S. Senate

Q.9 When someone “takes the Fifth” amendment, a person is allowed to:
Use a gun to defend themselves
Confront their accuser in court
Refuse to answer questions that incriminate themselves
Avoid cruel and unusual punishment

Q.10 What is the minimum age for a presidential candidate?
There is no minimum age
25 years of age
30 years of age
35 years of age

Q. 11.The longest possible time a person can now serve as president is…
4 Years
8 Years
10 Years
12 Years

Q. 12 Which amendment took the longest to ratify?
The 27th amendment took 202 years, 7 months, 12 days.

Q. 13 Which Amendment took the shortest amount of time to ratify?
The 26th Amendment – granting 18-year-olds the right to vote – 3 months, 8 days.

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on September 20, 2012

Dilbert is written and drawn by Scott Adams

This time I agree with the pointy headed boss.

Persistence is a key to success.  So is knowing when to quit and move on.  The deciding factor is context.

And maybe — just maybe — this is where resilient recovery and resilient adaptability meet.

How bad is it?  What are the options?  What can be saved? What must be let go?  What’s the upside?   How bad’s the downside?

What is the context… really?

What is reality?

Ultimately resilience — its strengths, its agility, flexibility, the rapid-firing feedback loops, the relationships and firm foundations — matters in order to more effectively deal with reality.

A willow tree is resilient.  It also has no choice but to persist or die.  Individuals and communities can uproot and re-root depending on what they understand of reality.

September 19, 2012

Resilience or Adaptability?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on September 19, 2012

Frazz is written and drawn by Jef Mallett.

In the face of challenges there are things that I can change.   When good can be preserved or retreived, may I be resilient.

In the case of some profound challenges, there are things I cannot preserve, or retrieve, or change.

May I have the wisdom to know the difference.

September 18, 2012

“What kind of government have you given us?”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on September 18, 2012

An American short story says someone asked Ben Franklin in 1787 what kind of government the Constitutional Convention came up with.

“A republic, if you can keep it,” Franklin supposedly replied.

That’s a fine American story that deserves retelling every now and then.


Monday was Constitution Day in the Republic we received from the Founders.

Constitution Day became a national observance in 2004, when Senator Robert Byrd … added the Constitution Day clause to his 2004 federal spending bill because he believed that all citizens should know about their rights as outlined in the Constitution. This clause mandates the teaching of the Constitution in schools that receive federal funds, as well as federal agencies.

I wonder whether this is a law people in schools and federal agencies paid attention to yesterday.


I think the Preamble to the Constitution is especially relevant to homeland security. It offers – in 29 words – a majestic vision of the homeland security mission:

1. Form a more perfect union
2. Establish justice
3. Insure domestic tranquility
4. Provide for the common defense
5. Promote the general welfare
6. Secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

I (unfairly) compare the Preamble to the 32 words of the National Preparedness Goal:

A secure and resilient Nation with the capabilities required across the whole community to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk.


In honor of Constitution Day, here’s a quiz assessing basic Constitutional knowledge.

1.Where did the Constitutional Convention meet in 1787?
– Boston
– New York
– Philadelphia
– Washington

2. Which of the following isn’t a right guaranteed under the First Amendment?
– Freedom of speech
– Right to bear arms
– Freedom of religion
– Right to petition the government

3. How many amendments were in the ratified Bill of Rights?
– 8
– 9
– 10
– 12

4. What document did the Constitution replace?
– The Articles Of Confederation
– The Bill Of Rights
– The Declaration of Independence
– The Royal Colonial Charter

5. Who wrote the original Bill of Rights and introduced it to Congress?
– Alexander Hamilton
– George Washington
– James Madison
– Thomas Jefferson

6. Who was the first person to sign the Constitution?
– Ben Franklin
– George Washington
– James Madison
– Thomas Jefferson

7. Which series of documents was written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to convince states to approve the Constitution?
– The Freedom Pamphlets
– Poor Richard’s Almanac
– The Philadelphia Letters
– The Federalist Papers

8. Which of the following doesn’t have an official role in changing or amending the Constitution?
– The House of Representatives
– The President
– The States
– The U.S. Senate

9. When someone “takes the Fifth” amendment, a person is allowed to:
– Use a gun to defend themselves
– Confront their accuser in court
– Refuse to answer questions that incriminate themselves
– Avoid cruel and unusual punishment

10. What is the minimum age for a presidential candidate?
– There is no minimum age
– 25 years of age
– 30 years of age
– 35 years of age

11. What is the longest time a persons can serve as president?
– 4 years
– 8 years
– 10 years
– 12 years

And two fill-in-the-blank bonus questions:

12. Which amendment took the longest to ratify?__________

13. Which Amendment took the shortest amount of time to ratify?__________

Answers later this week.

(If you want a tougher test, go to this link: http://www.constitutionfacts.com/?page=quiz.cfm. Once you pass their 10 question gatekeeper quiz, you gain access to a much tougher 50 question quiz.)

“Right” or “rights” shows up in the Constitution 16 times. “Duty” appears twice — both times about money.

Maybe that’s some Founding Father humor.

Perhaps the imbalance between rights and duties hints at one way we could lose the Republic we were given 225 years ago.

Hope you had a reflective Constitution Day.

September 17, 2012

The National Academies on Resilience

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on September 17, 2012

The National Academies, in particular the Committee on Increasing National Resilience to Hazards and Disasters operating under the authority of the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (Exactly?  It’s hard to tell…), has released an impressive new report on resilience.

It is bound to both to tug on the heartstrings of some and infuriate others.

I have to say, while I haven’t read the entire 200+ page report, it does seem to attempt to blend the expertise of a varied staff.  There were engineers, economists, medical professionals, sociologists, etc.

They chose a definition of resilience as a jumping off point:

“The ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, or more successfully adapt to actual or potential adverse events.”

And came up with a vision for resilient nation in 2030:

  • Individuals and communities are their own first line of defense against disasters.
  • National leadership in resilience exists throughout federal agencies and Congress.
  • Community-led resilience efforts receive federal, state, and regional investment and support.
  • Site-specific risk information is readily available, transparent, and effectively communicated.
  • Zoning ordinances are enacted and enforced. Building codes and retrofit standards are widely adopted and enforced.
  • A significant proportion of post-disaster recovery is funded through private capital and insurance payouts.
  • Insurance premiums are risk based.
  • Community coalitions have contingency plans to provide service particularly to the most vulnerable populations during recovery.
  • Post-disaster recovery is accelerated by infrastructure redundancy and upgrades. A resilient nation in 2030 also has a vibrant and diverse economy and a safer, healthier, and better educated citizenry than in previous generations.

To get there they list six recommendations:

Recommendation 1: Federal government agencies should incorporate national resilience as a guiding principle to inform the mission and actions of the federal government and the programs it supports at all levels.

Recommendation 2: The public and private sectors in a community should work cooperatively to encourage commitment to and investment in a risk management strategy that includes complementary structural and nonstructural risk-reduction and risk-spreading measures or tools. Such tools might include an essential framework (codes, standards, and guidelines) that drives the critical structural functions of resilience and investment in risk-based pricing of insurance.

Recommendation 3: A national resource of disaster-related data should be established that documents injuries, loss of life, property loss, and impacts on economic activity. Such a database will support efforts to develop more quantitative risk models and better understand structural and social vulnerability to disasters.

Recommendation 4: The Department of Homeland Security in conjunction with other federal agencies, state and local partners, and professional groups should develop a National Resilience Scorecard.

Recommendation 5: Federal, state and local governments should support the creation and maintenance of broad-based community resilience coalitions at local and regional levels.

Recommendation 6: All federal agencies should ensure they are promoting and coordinating national resilience in their programs and policies. A resilience policy review and self-assessment within agencies and strong communication among agencies are keys to achieving this kind of coordination.

Perhaps most encouraging, this particular project apparently was completed under time and budget, allowing the Academies to spend a year spreading the resilience gospel.

So if the National Academy “resilience train” pulls up on your stop, think seriously about giving this group of serious and dedicated individuals a hand with their mission of furthering the discussion on resilience.

For more information, go to: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=13457&page=R5

Death for the idea

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on September 17, 2012

Der Tod für die Idee (Death for the Idea), Paul Klee (1915)

“Ideology is the science of idiots.” John Adams, second President of the United States

Koran, Sura 41: 34


There have been several earnest and helpful efforts to make sense of what happened last week, why it happened, and what it suggests will happen.  Five pieces I have found in one way or another illuminating:

The Embassy Protests and Arab Uprising, Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy)

Culture divide fuels Muslims raging at film, New York Times

Does Middle East unrest go beyond film?, National Public Radio

Divided We Stand: Libya’s Enduring Conflicts, International Crisis Group

The Dignity of Difference, Being (interview with Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of Great Britain)

But in my judgment all of these analyses fail to capture the deep distinctions of  felt culture and fundamental worldview that differentiate most Americans from most Arabs and increasingly divide Muslim from Muslim.

I’m not up to the task either.  But in Sunday’s New York Times there were two long pieces — purposefully twinned — that describe a crucial shift in Western culture over the last 100 years that lends a helpful lens to contemporary US-Arab relations.

There is absolutely no mention of Benghazi or Cairo or Islam or US foreign policy.  The articles deal with how high art could once be profoundly shocking to sophisticated Western audiences in a way that is unimaginable today.  The gulf between my grandfather hearing Stravinsky and my own reaction begins to explain the difference between today’s Times Square and Tahrir Square.

If you can feel the weight and meaning of this generational shift in the West, you will have a toe-hold on understanding the complexities that last week exploded in death, injury and destruction across a good portion of the Arab world and beyond.

If the analogy sounds interesting, check out: Shock Value.

September 15, 2012

Key questions and some early answers

Filed under: International HLS,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on September 15, 2012

Friday morning just as mid-day prayer was beginning across the heart of the Muslim world Mike Hayden, retired Air Force General, former Director of the National Security Agency and former Director of the CIA, appeared on CBS This Morning.

At the top of the interview he set out a helpful framework for observing what would unfold.  Hayden offered,

“How many people demonstrate in how many cities?”

“How close to American installations are they allowed to get?”

“How violent are they?”

“What do these governments… do to protect Americans and American installations?”

“We are going to learn an awfully lot about how much power, how many legs this movement has.”

I might want to edit Mr. Hayden’s comment to reference “these movements have”, but otherwise let’s look at how his questions were answered.

How many people demonstrate in how many cities?

The  Friday demonstrations were quite wide-spread, ranging from Morocco to Indonesia.   There were related protests in Australia and elsewhere on Saturday morning.  Precise numbers are difficult.  But media reports most often estimated hundreds rather than thousands.  In Cairo Bloomberg News report “more than 1000 people” joined the protests. By Saturday morning Egyptian police out-numbered protesters in Tahrir Square.

How close to American installations are they allowed to get?

In Tunis and Khartoum the embassy perimeters were temporarily penetrated during clashes with security forces.   But even in these two cases host governments demonstrated considerable commitment to containing the demonstrations (more below).

How violent are they?

The “protests” ranged from signs and shouts, to throwing rocks, to petrol bombs, to looting a school, to a sustained attack by the Taliban on Camp Bastion in Southern Afghanistan.   Other than the Taliban attack and raids on Sinai peacekeepers, there was apparently no repeat of the para-military operations that seems to have characterized the capture of the US Consulate in Benghazi and the death of diplomats there. (I heard rumors of an organized after-sundown attack in Sana, but cannot find it confirmed.)

Below is a map developed by Max Fisher at The Atlantic.  He explains, “I’ve charted the violent protests in red and the protests that did not produce violence in yellow. It’s an imperfect distinction; I’ve counted the stone-throwers in Jerusalem as a violent protest but the flag-burners in Lahore as non-violent. But it gives you a somewhat more nuanced view into who is expressing anger and how they’re doing it…”


What did the (host) governments do?

Police and security forces were effectively deployed.  Attacks were condemned.  Arrests were made.   In Egypt — allegedly after a push by the White House — significant steps were successfully taken by both the government and the Muslim Brotherhood to dampen demonstrations.  Despite the domestic political risk from Salafists, the current Islamist government decided to deploy its political and religious legitimacy to fulfill international — and some would say, religious — obligations.  They have also been proactive in framing the issue by having State media highlight condemnations of the offending video by Secretary Clinton and others.

What did we learn?

Well… you tell me.

September 13, 2012

Timetable for September 14

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on September 13, 2012

The US Embassy in Cairo is shown by the star in the map above.  This is in the central city just south of Tahrir Square, the site of the dramatic protests that resulted in the resignation of Hosni Mubarak.  Thursday night the Egyptian government placed several large concrete blocks in the streets between Tahrir Square and the embassy grounds.

The events of September 14, 2012 — the 27th of Shawwal — may be more influential than usual, especially in regard to homeland security.

Tripoli (Libya) and Cairo are six hours ahead of New York.   At 6:00AM in New York it is 12 noon in Cairo.  Sana, Yemen is seven hours ahead of New York.

Friday is the Islamic day of assembly, especially committed to communal prayer.  The mid-day or Dhuhr prayer is scheduled for just about noon local time.   Several Islamic organizations in Egypt have called for a “Friday of Anger” to protest the anti-Islamic video entitled “Innocence of Muslims” that was produced in the United States.  The protests are likely to surge following the mid-day prayer.  Similar protests have been called in Yemen, Sudan, Iraq, and elsewhere.

Pope Benedict is scheduled to land in Beirut at about 12:45 PM local time.  The Pope is to consult with Lebanese and regional political and religious leaders, especially regarding the situation in Syria, and to convene a Synod of Bishops.  In many Christian churches September 14 is commemorated as the Feast of the Exaltation recalling the cross of the crucifixion as both a source of pain and instrument of salvation.

In Jerusalem many devout Jews are preparing for Rosh Hashanah (begins Sunday night) by participating in the Selichot liturgy, a series of penitential prayers seeking God’s mercy.

There will, of course, be extensive media coverage of whatever unfolds.  A few less-traditional sources:

The US Embassy in Cairo Twitter Feed: http://twitter.com/USEmbassyCairo

Al Jazeera Live Blog of anti-Islam film protests: http://blogs.aljazeera.com/liveblog/topic/anti-islam-film-protests-10701

AhramOnline is an Egyptian news source majority owned by the government: http://english.ahram.org.eg/

The Guardian (U.K.) is blogging live at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/middle-east-live/2012/sep/14/friday-protests-anti-islam-us-film-live

Sarah El Sirgany is an independent journalist in Egypt who contributes to CNN, The Guardian, The Monocle and other English-language media: http://twitter.com/Ssirgany

If you have other sources — or impressions — please use the comment function to share.  I will be airborne most of Friday and offline.


At about 7AM (Eastern) an AFP reporter in Sana is describing “hundreds” of protesters about 500 yards from the US embassy being confronted by Yemeni security forces firing warning shots and using water cannon.

Beginning shortly before 8AM (Eastern) several reports suggest an increasing number of confrontations between security forces and protesters in Cairo.

This morning the Egyptian President, a long-time member of the Muslim Brotherhood, appeared on television urging Egyptians to avoid violence.  According to the Associated Press:

Ahead of the clashes, Islamist President Mohammed Morsi spoke for more than seven minutes on state TV, his most direct public move to contain protests since an angry crowd assaulted the embassy Tuesday night, scaling its walls and tearing down the American flag.

“It is required by our religion to protect our guests and their homes and places of work,” Morsi said. “So I call on all to consider this, consider the law, and not attack embassies, consulates, diplomatic missions or Egyptian property that is private or public.”

He denounced the killing of the American ambassador in Libya, who died in an attack Tuesday night on the U.S. Consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi along with three other Americans.

“This is something we reject and Islam rejects. To God, the attack on a person to Allah is bigger an attack on the Kaaba,” he said, referring to Islam’s holiest site in Mecca.

In recent days the Muslim Brotherhood had joined with other Islamist organizations in calling for peaceful protests regarding the film produced in the US denigrating the Prophet.  The Guardian is reporting, however, that Friday morning the Muslim Brotherhood disassociated itself from the protests.

Shortly after 8AM (Eastern)/2PM (Local) AhramOnline reported:

Ahram Online reporters on the scene say that most of the fighting is now taking place in Tahrir Square as security forces try to push demonstrators away from the US embassy premises a few hundred feet away.

Mostly peaceful protests are being reported from several cities around the world.  I have seen one report of “several hundred” protesters challenging police barricades in Islamabad.

Sarah El Sirgany reports from Cairo that some — mostly young protesters — are attempting  an end-run around Egyptian security forces by moving along the Nile River in order to approach the US embassy from the West and South, rather than directly from Tahrir Square.  Police are moving to intercept.

Shortly before 9AM (Eastern) several reports of attacks on the German and British embassies in Khartoum, Sudan.  Reuters and Al Jazeera are reporting that as security forces have preserved a perimeter around the US embassy frustrated protesters have set the German embassy aflame.

That will have to be it for me. When I’m on the ground again in a few hours we should have a pretty good idea how this day transpired.  At this moment I am cautiously optimistic, but more cautious than optimistic.

September 12, 2012

Four are killed in Libya: An epidemic of idiots, an etymology of idiocy

Filed under: International HLS,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on September 12, 2012

Sam Bacile is very sure of himself (and smart enough to use a pseudonym).  He is sure that the Prophet Mohammed was a fraud and worse.   Mr. Bacile is sure “Islam is a cancer” that threatens the world.  He has made a (bad) film to share his certainties.

Toward the scorners He is scornful, but to the humble He shows favor. (Hebrew Bible, Proverbs 3:34)

In recent days the film became available in an Arabic translation.  Some who have now seen the film’s trailer — or heard rumors of it — are sure the film reflects official American disdain for Islam.   In response they have protested, rioted, and murdered.

When the suffering reached them from Us, why then did they not call Allah in humility? On the contrary, their hearts became hardened, and Satan made their sinful acts seem alluring to them. (Quran, Al-Anaam 6:42-43)

An idiot in Los Angeles shares his idiosyncratic notions.  Once only a few neighbors would have been annoyed.  Today his ravings or their echoes are heard 7000 miles away.  Most appropriately ignore the ignorance.  But some other idiots take offence and respond with violence.

On a day dedicated to the memory of murdered innocents,  my representatives — the representatives of my nation and my values — are killed.  I am offended.  I am angry.  I hunger for  retaliation (literally “return like for like”, especially evil for evil).  The President promises, “Make no mistake, justice will be done.”

But with each permutation this idiocy threatens to make idiots — violent idiots — of more and more.

For the ancient Greeks an idiot (idiotes) was — among other things — a man who neglected civic obligations to focus on private affairs.   The term could also be applied to those who were patently self-interested in how they engaged civic life.

Aristotle argued, “The citizen in an unqualified sense is defined by no other thing so much as by sharing in decision and office.” (Politics, Book III, 1275a22) An idiot does not know how to share. An idiot does not know how to ask an authentic question. An idiot does not know how to listen sympathetically to an answer with which s/he disagrees. An idiot does not know how to frame, shape, and make a decision that will be shared by others. The idiot is blinded by and bound to the limits of self.

Idiots are sure of themselves in a way that is possible only for those lost inside themselves.

Timothy McVeigh was an idiot.  Anders Breivik is an idiot.  Mohamed Atta was an idiot.  James Holmes is an idiot.   Last night a gang of idiots committed murder in Benghazi.  These are each extreme examples of a global epidemic of self-absorbed, self-justifying, self-referential, self-assertive idiocy.

I am not immune.  I too can be an idiot.  Too often I mistake my own belief as the Truth.   I am strongly inclined to assume my personal experience as universal.  I conflate and confuse private and public realities.   I am unable or unwilling to honestly engage the different reality of another… and for this failure I often blame the other.  Regular readers have seen me make all these mistakes.  In my obsession with etymology I am probably being an idiot here and now.

There is disagreement on effective therapy. But many agree the typical rhetoric of  policymaking, strategizing, and analyzing  feeds the disease with self-assertion (and talking points).  Especially in matters of life and death a purposeful stepping out of  our selves is an essential discipline.  Take a walk, get a coffee, bum a smoke, tell a joke…

I read poetry. Reading poetry requires a patience and attention outside-the-self. I am not advocating poetry instead of policy.  I’m advocating the poetic as a complement to the political, practical, and policy-oriented thinking that dominates our professional lives.   Intentionally step outside the box before you decide.

The situation of our time
Surrounds us like a baffling crime.
There lies the body half-undressed,
We all had reason to detest,
And all are suspects and involved
Until the mystery is solved
And under lock and key the cause
That makes a nonsense of our laws.
O Who is trying to shield Whom?
Who left a hairpin in the room?
Who was the distant figure seen
Behaving oddly on the green?

… Delayed in the democracies
By departmental vanities,
The rival sergeants run about
But more to squabble than to find out,
Yet where the Force has been cut down
To one inspector dressed in brown,
He makes the murderer whom he pleases
And all investigation ceases.
Yet our equipment all the time
Extends the area of the crime
Until the guilt is everywhere,
And more and more we are aware,
However miserable may be
Our parish of immediacy,
How small it is, how far beyond,
Ubiquitous within the bond,
Of one impoverishing sky,
Vast spiritual disorders lie.
Who thinking of the last ten years,
Does not hear howling in his ears…

There are two atlases: the one
The public space where acts are done,
In theory common to us all,
Where we are needed and feel small,
The agora of work and news
Where each one has the right to choose
His trade, his corner, and his way,
And can, again in theory, say
For whose protection he will pay,
And loyalty is help we give
The place where we prefer to live;
The other is the inner space
Of private ownership, the place
That each of us is forced to own
Like his own life from which it’s grown,
The landscape of his will and need
Where he is sovereign indeed,
The state created by his acts
Where he patrols the forest tracts
Planted in childhood, farms the belt
Of doings memorised and felt,
And even if he find it hell
May neither leave it nor rebel.
Two worlds describing their rewards,
That one in tangents, this in chords;
Each lives in one, all in the other,
Here all are kings, there each a brother…

Our news is seldom good: the heart,
As ZOLA said, must always start
The day by swallowing its toad
Of failure and disgust. Our road
Gets worse and we seem altogether
Lost as our theories, like the weather,
Veer round completely every day,
And all that we can always say
Is: true democracy begins
With free confession of our sins.

Excerpts from New Year Letter (January 1, 1940) by W.H. Auden

Auden dedicated this poem to Elizabeth Mayer.   I dedicate these thoughts to two men and a woman who I know did not sleep last night and may not sleep again this night.  To you and your colleagues, best wishes dealing with the idiots.

September 11, 2012


Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on September 11, 2012

Next Page »