Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 8, 2013

Some recent homeland security theses

Filed under: Education — by Christopher Bellavita on January 8, 2013

On December 14th, the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security graduated its 41st and 42nd master’s degree class.

The titles of their theses, below, suggest the ideas explored by the graduates.

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 4 to 6 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.)


• Analysis of Terrorist Funding and Strategic Capability.

• Assessing Fire Service Use of Automatic Aid as a Response Model.

• Aviation Security: Biometric Technology and Risk-based Security Aviation Passenger Screening.

• Border Law Enforcement – From a Dystopian Lens.

• Collaborative Radiological Response Planning.

• Combating Terrorism Within Local Policing Through Crime Reduction: Using Real Time Situational Awareness with a Distributed Common Operating Picture to Combat All Crime and Terrorism.

• Common Ground: Partnerships for Public Health and Medical System Resilience.

• Creating Defensible Cyberspace: The Value of Applying Place-Based Crime Prevention Strategy to Social Media.

• Domestic Intelligence: When Is It Acceptable?

• Enhancing Decision Making During Initial Operations at Surge Events.

• Enhancing Situational Awareness When Addressing Critical Incidents at Schools.

• Enhancing U.S. Coast Guard Field Intelligence Collection and Process Efforts with a Systems Thinking Leadership Strategy.

• How Do We Hedge the Homeland Security Risk? Let’s Talk Return on Investment.

• Improving TSA’s Public Image: Customer Focused Initiatives to Improve Public Trust and Confidence.

• Improvised Explosives and Related Chemical Precursors: Strategies to Identify the Threat and Protect Our First Responders.

La Guerra: The Contest to Define Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations in the Homeland Security Problem Space.

• New Technologies and Emerging Threats: Personal Security Adjudicative Guidelines in the Age of Social Networking.

• Preparing Minority Populations for Emergencies: Connecting to Build a More Resilient Community.

• Purposefully Manufactured Vulnerabilities in U.S. Government Technology Microchips: Risks and Homeland Security Implications.

• Putting the Critical Back in Critical Infrastructure.

• Rethinking Disasters: Finding Efficiencies Through Collaboration.

• Revisiting the Swine Flu Affair: Recognizing a Non-linear Homeland Security Environment for Improved Decision Making.

• Southwest Hispanic Community – The Absence of Homeland Security Threats.

• Suicide Terrorism in America? The Complex Social Conditions of this Phenomenon and the Implications for Homeland Security.

• The Emerging Domestic Threat: What the Law Enforcement Community Must Know and Prepare for In Regard to the Sovereign Citizen Movement.

• The FBI Counter Terrorism Division Global Initiative: Enhancing the Legal Attaché Program.

• The Homeland Security Ecosystem: An Analysis of Hierarchical and Ecosystem Models and Their Influence on Decision Makers.

• The North American Proliferation of Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations: Homeland Security Implications of the Hybrid Threat.

• Voice of America 2.0: A Study of the Integrated Strategic Counterterrorism Communications Strategy and its Application to the United States Counterterrorism Strategic Plan.

January 4, 2013

What is a nation of laws?

Filed under: Legal Issues,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on January 4, 2013

On Wednesday, January 2, Federal District Judge Colleen McMahon filed her decision in two Freedom of Information Act cases brought by the New York Times and American Civil Liberties Union.  The full decision is available from the Federal District Court website.

Below is a thousand word excerpt that I hope might motivate you to read — and perhaps comment here — on the full decision.

The issues which these cases and this decision highlight are fundamental to the American experiment in self-government.  These issues are not and have never been easy to resolve.  This is precisely why a vigorous and thoughtful dialogue on the issues is important.

In some contexts — marriage, parenting, worship and, I would argue, citizenship — it is often the honesty and quality of the dialogue (what is said and what is heard) that is much more helpful than agreement.  It is possible to share a sensibility even when we continue in specific disagreement.


Broadly speaking, [the plantiffs] seek disclosure of the precise legal justification of the Administrations’s conclusion that it is lawful for employees or contractors of the United States Government to target for killing persons, including specifically United States citizens, who are suspected of ties to Al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups…

The FOIA requests here in issue implicate serious issues about the limits on the power of the Executive Branch under the Constitution and laws of the United States and if we are indeed a nation of laws, not of men.  The Administration has engaged in public discussion of the legality of targeted killing, even of citizens, but in cryptic and imprecise ways, generally without citing to any statute or court decision that justifies its conclusions.  More fulsome disclosure of the legal reasoning on which the Administration relies to justify the targeted killing of individuals, including United States citizens, far from any recognizable “hot” field of battle would allow for intelligent discussion and assessment of a tactic (like torture before it) remains hotly debated.  It might also help the public understand the scope of the ill-defined yet vast and seemingly ever-growing exercise in which we have been engaged for well over a decade, at great cost in lives, treasure, and (at least in the minds of some) personal liberty…

I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules — a veritable Catch-22.  I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our Government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret…

The United States has pursued members of Al-Qaeda and affiliated groups elsewhere in the world [outside Afghanistan], both in the adjacent country of Pakistan and far from any “hot” battlefield.  In recent years, it has targeted a number of such individuals for death and killed them, using both armed forces and unpiloted remotely controlled precision aircraft known as “drones.” The Obama Administration has publicly admitted that the Government is engaged in such operations:

So let me say it as simply as I can.  Yes, in full accordance with the law — and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and to save American lives — the United States Government conducts targeted strikes against specific al-Qa’ida terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones.

John O. Brennan, Ethics and Efficacy Speech (Apr. 30, 2012).

Al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in late 2011.  speaking on September 30, 2011 the day of Al-Awlaki’s death, at the “Change of Office” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Ceremony in Fort Myer, Virginia, President Obama described Al-Awlaki as follows:

Awlaki was the leader of external operations for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  In that role, he took the lead in planning and directing efforts to murder innocent Americans.  He directed the failed attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009.  He directed the failed attempt to blow up US cargo planes in 2010.  and he repeatedly called on individuals in the United States and around the globe to kill innocent men, women, and children to advance a murderous agenda.

At the time of his death, Al-Awlaki was not in or near the field of battle in Afghanistan, where active military operations were taking place.  He was located about 1500 miles from Afghanistan, in Yemen, a country with which the United States is not at war (indeed, which the United States counts as an ally).

Killed with Al-Awlaki was an individual named Samir Khan.  Al-Awlaki’s teenaged son, Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, was killed in a separate strike in Yemen on October 14, 2011.

Al-Awlaki, his son, and Khan were all United States citizens…

The decision to target a United States citizen for death is made by the President on the recommendation of senior Government officials… According to the Attorney General of the United States and other senior Executive Branch officials, these decisions are made pursuant to a process that is constitutionally and statutorily compliant.  In particular, Government officials insist that a United States citizen can be targeted by the Executive Branch and still be accorded due process of law.

The Government’s vociferous insistence that its decisions to kill United States citizens are lawful, and most especially its references to due process, may seem odd in the context of war — although there is and long has been robust debate  about what to call the anti-Al-Qaeda operation, and whether anti-terrorist operations in countries other than Afghanistan and adjacent territory in Pakistan can fairly or legally be classified as a war… However, even if there were no such debate, it is not surprising that the Government feels somewhat defensive.  Some Americans question the power of the Executive to make a unilateral and unreviewable decision to kill an American citizen who is not actively engaged in armed combat operations against this country.  Their concern rests on the text of the Constitution and several federal statutes, and is of a piece with concerns harbored by the Framers of our unique form of Government…

The Framers took steps to address their fear in the document they drafted.  In particular, the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution provides that no person shall be “deprived of life… without due process of law.”  The words “due process of law” are not further defined in the the Constitution, or in the Bill of Rights.  However, “The first, central, and largely uncontroversial meaning of “due process of law,” the meaning established in the Magna Charta and applied vigorously by Coke against the first two Stuart Kings, was that the executive may not… restrain the liberty of a person within the realm without legal authority arising either from established common law or from statute.  In other words, executive decrees are not “law.”…

When a person is accused of committing a crime, and the Government has the power, upon conviction, to deprive him of life or liberty, the particular rights enumerated in the Fifth and Sixth Amendments (ranging from the right to indictment to the right to counsel) are recognized as setting the minimum guarantee of the Due Process Clause.

Read the full decision.

January 3, 2013

Due process: Collect, keep, and kill

No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land. (Clause 39, Magna Carta)

No person shall… be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law… (Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States)


Recent months have seen one-time expediencies dressed-up as new principles to frame the relationship between citizen and State.  Three examples:

On the Friday after Christmas the Senate reauthorized broad executive authority for  electronic surveillance and collection. The vote was 73-to-23 and extended for five years the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The House adopted the legislation earlier in the year.  On Sunday the President the signed the extension into law. Proposed amendments, including those offered by Senator Wyden,  that would have enhanced Congressional oversight of FISA were defeated.  FISA was originally intended to provide due process for the gathering of intelligence on non-citizens and so protect the privacy of citizens.  There has been increasing concern regarding how FISA methods now unintentionally — but perhaps quite widely — sweep up citizen communications as well.

According to a December 13, 2012 Wall Street Journal report, there may be good cause for concern.   In an exclusive investigative report, Julia Angwin found that new Department of Justice guidelines, “now allow the little-known National Counterterrorism Center to examine the government files of U.S. citizens for possible criminal behavior, even if there is no reason to suspect them. That is a departure from past practice, which barred the agency from storing information about ordinary Americans unless a person was a terror suspect or related to an investigation. Now, NCTC can copy entire government databases—flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others. The agency has new authority to keep data about innocent U.S. citizens for up to five years, and to analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior. Previously, both were prohibited.”

Meanwhile the White House is, according to several sources including Presidential adviser John Brennan, developing a legal and procedural framework for the deadly use of drones. Addressing the use of drones during an October 18 appearance on “The Daily Show,” President Obama said,  “One of the things we’ve got to do is put a legal architecture in place, and we need Congressional help in order to do that, to make sure that not only am I reined in but any president’s reined in terms of some of the decisions that we’re making.”  According to a May report in the New York Times, “Mr. Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret “nominations” process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical. He had vowed to align the fight against Al Qaeda with American values; the chart, introducing people whose deaths he might soon be asked to order, underscored just what a moral and legal conundrum this could be.”   Among the President’s decisions, presumably, was the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen who was killed by drone-delivered Hellfire missiles on September 30, 2011 and his sixteen year-old son, also born in the US, who was killed in another drone attack two weeks later.  Both citizens were killed in Yemen.

The predominant motivation in each instance above — and others — is the protection of the American people and nation.  There is no imminent threat of Orwellian intention or intervention.

In each of these examples legislators and the executive are attempting to develop due process that is appropriate to their understanding of the present challenge.   (The judicial branch is poised to soon rejoin consideration of the issue.)

Nonetheless while it is, I suspect, the specific intention of no one, the space where individual liberty adjoins civil authority is being incrementally reshaped.  In the Anglo-American tradition there has long been in both theory and practice the presumptive primacy of individual initiative, what Blackstone termed “the absolute rights of man.”  The balance is shifting toward a presumed ability by the government to maintain order.

Perhaps this is the inevitable outcome of more and more diverse individuals living in dense proximity to each other.  Perhaps it is a prudent response to demonstrated risk.  Perhaps it reflects an emerging social consensus that liberty is less valued than previously.  Or we might be in the process of  redefining liberty.  These shifts might even be the accidental consequence of what Nassim Taleb has termed “naive interventionism”.  The preference, even obligation, to “do something” over doing nothing, even when the doing is non-productive or counter-productive.

Whatever the cause, the pattern can be perceived and seems to be persisting.

January 2, 2013

Harsh Realities of Disaster Funding

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on January 2, 2013

It seems that the current session of Congress will adjourn without addressing the funding requirements of Superstorm Sandy recovery:

New York area-lawmakers in both parties erupted in anger late Tuesday night after learning the House Republican leadership decided to allow the current term of Congress to end without holding a vote on aid for victims of Superstorm Sandy.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said he was told by the office of Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia that Speaker John Boehner of Ohio had decided to abandon a vote this session.

In remarks on the House floor, King called the decision “absolutely inexcusable, absolutely indefensible. We cannot just walk away from our responsibilities.”

Representative King suddenly finds himself on the wrong side of an argument within his own political party. Without taking a position on the size of any appropriate federal appropriation of recovery funds, I’d just like to highlight a few points:

Does the base of the Republican party find itself strongly represented in the Northeast?  Probably not.  Do House members from the Midwest elected on platforms dedicated to cutting federal spending want to vote for large aid packages for New York City? Probably not. Does Representative King understand the political currents he is wading against? I would guess yes…but this is the same individual who voiced strong support for the IRA “back in the day,” but now positions himself as a premier defender against global terrorist threats.

It probably is also not a good time to remind the good member of Congress of his own words during the kerfuffle over the “Ground Zero Mosque:”

Even though a mosque is supposed to be a religious setting, ground zero may not be an appropriate spot for this or any proposed mosque, King said.

“Right at this moment in history, it’s bad form to put it there,” he said. “There are things you are allowed to do, but that aren’t appropriate to do.”

He might want to consider the facts that his fellow caucus members took those words to heart in regards to their own view of the viability of a large aid package to Sandy’s victims.

Such Congressional spending may be usually presented as a moral choice, but in reality it is always a political one.  It does not matter if King’s past and current opinions have been morally and/or politically justified, but his current lack of influence/importance for his constituents is a result of the underlying dynamics existing within his own political party.

He might even learn a valuable lesson about the negative effects of demonizing a group–whether they be Muslims or recipients of any type of federal government aid.

January 1, 2013

Cartoonists look at the fiscal cliff in 2012

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on January 1, 2013


1 cliff


2 matson022712












3 tumblr m17eo0xqe11rrhzimo1 400 thumb


3 You First 512


4 22778 image



5 112431 Taxmegeddon by Rick McKee The Augusta Chronicle


6 10Stinson061712a


7 Fiscal Cliff



8 cartoon re fiscal cliff

8 fiscal cliff 342x222

8 fiscal cliff cuts cartoon parachutes

8 romney vs obama fiscal responsibility usa election 2012 cartoon



9 119367 600

9 EC 121005 breen425x283

9 Federal Debt


10 cliffnotes


11 Fiscal Cliff vs Armagedon


11 hc fiscal cliff 20121120










12 124792 600

13 matson2120312

12 124782 600

12 124791 600

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