Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 7, 2014

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on February 7, 2014

On this date in 1812 the strongest of many aftershocks hit the mid-Mississippi River valley.  Earthquakes began in December.  On February 7 an estimated 7.7 hit again.

On this date in 1904 a fire destroys over 1500 buildings in Baltimore. One death is blamed directly on the fire.  On this day in 2009 more than 170 Australians are killed in a wildfire.

Today the Sochi Winter Olympics officially begin.  The opening ceremonies are widely thought to be a significant terrorist target.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

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Comment by William R. Cumming

February 7, 2014 @ 1:28 am

Well they can’t have it both ways! Either HLS is part of National Security or it is not! But if it is here is what an expert DoD panel, the DEFENSE SCIENCE BOARD, said about CLIMATE and NATIONAL SECURITY in 2011 [and this is a long file]:


Now what I find interesting is the extraordinary silence so far from DHS and FEMA on climate change. Review the first QHSR for climate issues and policy!

And also note statutory mandates on FEMA at:


And the US SENATE like King Canute trying to hold back the tide has passed a bill freezing NFIP [NATIONAL FLOOD INSURANCE PROGRAM 42 USC Sections 4001 et seq] policy premium rates.

Folly folly everywhere!

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 7, 2014 @ 2:06 am

Hoping someone reviews major legislation to determine HLS implications. N.B. This is hard substantive work but perfect for some grad student that is ambitious to publish!

How about starting with the about to be enacted FARM bill? IMO food chain safety is an HLS topic.

Because of drought and changing tastes the American beef cattle herds are in decline. But unlike some countries the USA does NOT test every cow at slaughter for MAD COW DISEASE!

Extract from Wikipedia:

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease, is a fatal neurodegenerative disease (encephalopathy) in cattle that causes a spongy degeneration in the brain and spinal cord. BSE has a long incubation period, about 30 months to 8 years, usually affecting adult cattle at a peak age onset of four to five years, all breeds being equally susceptible. In the United Kingdom, the country worst affected, more than 180,000 cattle have been infected and 4.4 million slaughtered during the eradication program.

The disease may be most easily transmitted to human beings by eating food contaminated with the brain, spinal cord or digestive tract of infected carcasses. However, it should also be noted that the infectious agent, although most highly concentrated in nervous tissue, can be found in virtually all tissues throughout the body, including blood. In humans, it is known as new variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (vCJD or nvCJD), and by October 2009, it had killed 166 people in the United Kingdom, and 44 elsewhere. Between 460,000 and 482,000 BSE-infected animals had entered the human food chain before controls on high-risk offal were introduced in 1989.

A British and Irish inquiry into BSE concluded the epizootic was caused by cattle, which are normally herbivores, being fed the remains of other cattle in the form of meat and bone meal (MBM), which caused the infectious agent to spread. The cause of BSE may be from the contamination of MBM from sheep with scrapie that were processed in the same slaughterhouse. The epidemic was probably accelerated by the recycling of infected bovine tissues prior to the recognition of BSE. The origin of the disease itself remains unknown. The infectious agent is distinctive for the high temperatures at which it remains viable, over 600 degrees Celsius (about 1100 degrees Fahrenheit). This contributed to the spread of the disease in the United Kingdom, which had reduced the temperatures used during its rendering process. Another contributory factor was the feeding of infected protein supplements to very young calves.

Comment by John Comiskey

February 7, 2014 @ 5:19 am

HLS: A neologization of sorts?

As readers of this blog are aware, this blogger is attempting to define HLS for a number of reasons and at the present time so as to help colleges develop HLS curricula that will help prepare students for HLS.

One of the bloggers tactics is to examine current and evolving events through HLS lenses. This week’s tactics asks whether or not HLS is a neologism. Neologize was a recent dictionary.com word of the day meaning to make or use new words or create new meanings for existing words OR to devise or accept new religious doctrines. See: http://dictionary.reference.com/wordoftheday

Is HLS simply a means to create (compound) meaning for pre-existing words as in homeland + security = homeland security?

Homeland means different things to different people. William Safire’s January 2002 depiction is most instructive. See: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/20/magazine/the-way-we-live-now-01-20-02-on-language-homeland.html?pagewanted=print

Security also means different thing to different people. This blogger’s google search yielded “About 561,000,000 results (0.51 seconds)” See: https://www.google.com/search?q=homeland+security+probability+statistics&source=lnms&sa=X&ei=F5WsUsXJCYKVygG26IGIBA&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAA&biw=1024&bih=620&dpr=1#q=security+
The blogger noted that the google home page is sporting Olympic colors.

Somewhat similar to neologisms are the branding of events with antiquated Roman Numerals as in Super Bowl XLVIII and XXII Olympic Winter Games. More than one Super Bowl fan thought twice about the Roman Numeralization of the big game. See: http://www.numericana.com/answer/roman.htm

XLVIII & XXII share many of the same phenomenon. High-profile and iconic national/international sports events replete with threats and the exposition of societal vulnerabilities. Terrorists abound adding toothpaste laden bombs to their arsenal of shoe, diaper, water bottle, and body cavity bombs. Mother Nature threatened the day and time of XLVIII, but might not have deposited enough snow for some of XXII’s events. Global Climate Change can be a double edge sword.

Early 2oth century transportation systems were overwhelmed by XLVIII and 21st century transportation were built/retrofitted for XXII. In both cases the public was/will be asked to say something if they saw something. Those same people were also asked/will be asked to buy something by high-profile and now iconic commercials in the spirit of the games. The much vaunted national/international games might be as much about commercialism and security as they are about athletes passing a ball, running, skiing, skating, jumping, and all those other wonderful things that great athletes do.

My XLVIII AAR is mostly positive. Save the much disappointed Broncos and their fans, all went relatively well. The weather was delightful and nothing blew up. Complaints were mostly about traffic jams, parking (lack of), and less than adequate public transportation. Concerns about game-related human trafficking and prostitution were largely abated. Concerns about illegal gambling were conspicuously absent.

Bottom line: Nothing significant happened. This raises the ultimate of counterterrorism question: Did nothing significant happen because CT officials did something or would nothing have happened had the CT officials done nothing? Or as was the case prior to 9/11 not existed to the degree that they do now?

Comment by John Comiskey

February 7, 2014 @ 5:22 am

(continued from above)

XXII has begun. The eyes of the world are on country that seeks to regain former world power status. Much is at stake. Should Black Widow or other terrorists strike with or without toothpaste laden explosives, Russia might lose both face and aspirations of world power. Other concerns include Anonymous like cyber attacks and mass homosexual/anti-government protests.

Whether one is talking about one’s homeland or motherland or hometown or mothertown (if there is such a thing)people want to be secure. If one invites people to their land or town they are obligated to provide for the safety and security of their guests. Sometimes that takes a lot of doing and perhaps some neologizing.

Comment by E. Earhart

February 7, 2014 @ 6:44 am

Mr. Cumming- thanks as always for the history lesson. I doubt the US congress will exhibit the good sense and humility of Canute . . .
[King Canute] commanded that his chair should be set on the shore, when the tide began to rise. And then he spoke to the rising sea saying “You are part of my dominion, and the ground that I am seated upon is mine, nor has anyone disobeyed my orders with impunity. Therefore, I order you not to rise onto my land, nor to wet the clothes or body of your Lord”. But the sea carried on rising as usual without any reverence for his person, and soaked his feet and legs. Then he moving away said: “All the inhabitants of the world should know that the power of kings is vain and trivial, and that none is worthy the name of king but He whose command the heaven, earth and sea obey by eternal laws”. Therefore King Cnut never afterwards placed the crown on his head, but above a picture of the Lord nailed to the cross, turning it forever into a means to praise God, the great king. By whose mercy may the soul of King Cnut enjoy peace.

(Henry of Huntingdon, Chronicle)twelfth-century Chronicle of the history of England, http://faculty.history.wisc.edu/sommerville/123/Canute%20Waves.htm

Comment by E. Earhart

February 7, 2014 @ 8:37 am

JH Comiskey: Below are cut neologism-word of the day link you referenced. Could they be talking about HLS?

Noun: a new word, often consisting of a combination of other words, that is understood only by the speaker: occurring most often in the speech of schizophrenics.

Example sentences:

Please give me a strong incentive to keep reading your blog by avoiding the use of this awful neologism.

Seven days a week, blog posts full of numbingly dense, abstraction-and- neologism -riddled prose await the reader.

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 7, 2014 @ 8:44 am

Thanks Double E! And thanks to John for his valiant efforts to define HLS! Maybe King Canute had a Prince Valiant!

Remember I would define HLS as CIVIL SECURITY!

What few understand is that some think federal programs, functions, and activities preempt STATES and their local governments. While others think that in large part federal programs, functions, and activities are efforts to deal with the failures of STATES and their local governments. Some would characterize federal programs, functions, and activities as an insurance mechanism with spreading of risk, risk analysis, taking of loss reduction measures, and cross subsidization.

Why do I argue for CIVIL SECURITY? Few understand them impact of continuous warfare and large budget outlays since 1945 under the name of defense!

In fact the civil sector of government has suffered huge opportunity costs [as economists would state] because so much money and talent has been absorbed by DoD and its very wasteful minions.

An example was FEMA and its predecessors being told to protect the population of the USA for usually less than $150M annually. And an annual R&D budget within that outlay of $15M or less each year.

The great falsehood in the arguments of a civil defense shortfall in the US compared to the Soviets is that in counting Soviet efforts the US included COG [continuity of government] and COOP [continuity of operations]while excluding it for US! And many analysts of the history of civil defense got it wrong. Professor Dee Garrison, PhD for one. COG and COOP were always separately funded and authorized and never part of civil defense.

Part of those efforts were to ensure survival and control of nuclear weapons. The best open source book on the subject is Dr. Paul Bracken’s, PhD, 1982 book entitled COMMAND AND CONTROL.

I once mentioned the Bracken Book in a briefing to high level DoJ officialdom. It caused a stir because it so clearly analyzed concepts created by President Carter then being implemented under President Reagan.

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 7, 2014 @ 9:29 am

Anyone following the story of the electric transformer station in CA knocked out months ago intentionally? Terrorism?

Comment by E. Earhart

February 7, 2014 @ 9:40 am

Consistent with Bobbitt and others that today’s threats do not recognize borders . . .

Dr. Tom Frieden is the director for the Center for Disease Control.

It is increasingly clear that the health of other nations has a direct impact on the health of us here in the United States – infectious diseases do not recognize borders. Improving global health security therefore saves American lives while boosting our international partnerships and increasing stability overseas.

And when we invest the time and resources to help other countries protect their own people, we are ultimately helping protect Americans, too.


Comment by E. Earhart

February 7, 2014 @ 9:48 am

Mr Cumming,
Following the story. Definitely intentional and well thought out. But what of the political motive many consider essential? Unless of course, as others have suggested, inducing a state of terror/fear/sense that government is powerless, directed at society, your Civil Society, is a political motive?

Others I suppose will simply put forward this is just criminal behavior.

Comment by E. Earhart

February 7, 2014 @ 11:16 am

China, Russia, Nature . . . still the biggest threats to a civil society?

Agriculture Said To Be A Growing Target Of Chinese Espionage.
The New York Times reports that while China “has long been implicated in economic espionage efforts involving aviation technology, paint formulas and financial data,” two recent cases “suggest that the agriculture sector is becoming a greater target, Robert Anderson Jr., assistant director of counterintelligence at the FBI, said, “Agriculture is an emerging trend that we’re seeing. … It’s pretty clear cut.

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 7, 2014 @ 12:20 pm

Thanks for your comments Double E! Since I define TERRORISM [meaning direct action] as violence against innocents attacks on the grid are somewhat remote and thus criminal acts other than terrorism! But grid attacks are a close call! What is worrying is that LE and DHS and DoE seem to have no clue as to perps of this attack!

And thanks for the AG link.

Comment by Meredith

February 7, 2014 @ 2:14 pm

John: “If one invites people to their land or town they are obligated to provide for the safety and security of their guests.”

I completely agree with you that a land or town should provide safety and security for their guests. Taking Super Bowl XLVIII for an example, we were shown the crazy amounts of security perimeters and agencies that joined together to provide safety for all guests. While you stated “sometimes that takes a lot of doing”, I believe it is something that venues, states or land’s should consider before inviting people. Looking at the Olympics, Russia had to of considered the safety and security measure that needed to be put in place before they put in for a bid to host the Olympics. Since their win for the bid, they have had over 2 years to prepare for the guests arrival. It seems that they have been preparing because an article from Reuters stated “Russian organizers launched a robust defense of Sochi, which cost an estimated $50 billion to stage, making it the most expensive Games – summer or winter – in history.” http://news.yahoo.com/russia-seeks-soothe-security-jitters-eve-winter-games-121603734–oly.html However, many people are still fearful that the security measure are not enough to prevent a terrorist attack. I’m interested to see how the games go and if the security preparations Russia has taken will prevent terrorist attacks.

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 7, 2014 @ 4:21 pm

Sochi really a Black Sea beach town! Attack vectors from water covered?

Comment by Christopher Tingus

February 8, 2014 @ 12:37 pm

Friday Free forum:

China, Russia, Nature….what about the real thugs in Tehran more than these KGB Putinites” and all of Tehran’s State sponsored terrorism w/so much blood of our American youth on their hands….I say NO to the “Brutes of Tehran” in every way, however the extended press office of the White House aka New York Times says differently:


Christopher Tingus
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645

Comment by Justin Blake

February 14, 2014 @ 5:09 pm

Meredith, you make some great points about the security of the Olympics in Russia. The security concerns about Russia stem mostly from their ability to manage the corruption within the country. As you mentioned the current Olympics have cost over fifty-billion dollars. According to FoxNews.com “at least ten of the Olympic venues built have cost more than double what they should have cost. The biggest cost overrun was the twenty-five mile highway built to the Olympic venues which cost $9.4 billion by itself.”
Spending this kind of money should ensure the most technologically advanced and high-end facilities ever built. Keeping this in mind the images coming out of Sochi are of horrible accommodations for guests and athletes. There are also reports of rampant hacking and information stealing. Richard Engle of NBC News reported on the story using brand new computers. “Within minutes of turning these devices on they were already being hacked and phished for information.” How can anyone expect the Russians to provide adequate security when they can’t even police their own country. Some cost over-runs and hacking should be expected at such large-scale events, but these Olympic games gave well exceeded those limits. The Russian government should never be trusted with another important event of this scale again.




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