Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 27, 2014

Fragments of a fractured field

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on March 27, 2014

Some bemoan and others exult in the capaciousness of homeland security.  Whatever your attitude, this week you just needed to graze lightly across the top of the news to get a sense of substantial girth:

Dismissing a Russian threat to the United States, President Obama said on Tuesday, ““I continue to be much more concerned when it comes to our security with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan.”

The new FBI Director told a House Appropriations subcommittee that Westerners fighting with the Syrian opposition represent a “metastasizing threat” to the United States.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith,  Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, was convicted on Wednesday of conspiring to kill Americans and providing material support to terrorists.  Meanwhile the site of his father-in-law’s brazen attack — still a construction site — was back in the news for security lapses. (and here and here).

In an effort to better preserve the privacy of the people’s “haystack” when trying to find the terrorist “needle”, both the executive branch and the Congress may be ready to establish some further fire-walls between phone records (and other data) and the aggregators and analysts in the Intelligence Community.

Meanwhile the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence accuses the CIA of forsaking an especially high firewall — the Separation of Powers — in hacking Senate computers.

Of coursing hacking is a rapidly growing sport.  Over the last year the federal government has informed more than 3000 private companies that they were being hacked (presumably by entities other than the federal government).

Refining and related industries were slowed when a collision and oil spill shut the the Houston Shipping Channel for three days.  This week the waterway has had a “tapered” reopening under the careful eye of the Coast Guard.

According to the Los Angeles Times, in an effort to prevent future threats to agents and passengers “the Transportation Security Administration is calling for an increased police presence at agency checkpoints after November’s deadly shooting at LAX… The agency’s assessment covers 14 recommendations relating to employee training, improved emergency technology and law enforcement presence that will be implemented at airports nationwide.”

Local, state, and federal emergency management officials are involved in the response to the massive landslide in Washington state.  A 1999 geological study (and more) is said to have predicted a catastrophic landslide.  Several have suggested comparisons to living on the Outer Banks or on top of an earthquake fault. The Seattle Times reports on warnings going back decades. (Implications for the recent reset of flood insurance reform?)

In another — this time retrospective — analysis, the House Homeland Security Committee is expected to release a report today that will detail how opportunities were lost to prevent the Boston Marathon Bombing.

Three Secret Service agents doing advance work for the President’s trip to the Netherlands got totally wasted the night before POTUS touched down.  They were sent back to the States…  It was waaay too reminiscent of another “Spring Break” episode in Cartagena two years ago.

Some would include the Malaysian Airline mystery, others Russian pressure on Ukraine, and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa or new reports on climate change.  I am inclined to point toward what I see as threat-precursors in Somalia, Sudan, Central African Republic, Mali, and Nigeria. I am also inclined to see vulnerability-indicators related to the US electrical grid, telecommunications system, water systems, and supply chains.

In any case, there is more and more and more…

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Comment by William R. Cumming

March 27, 2014 @ 10:19 am

N.B. The excellent Secret Service culture was totally destroyed by its relocation from the Treasury Department to DHS. No new Espirit de Corps for the Secret Service likely to arise in DHS where competence seldom rewarded for its own sake.

Comment by Sally Chapman

March 27, 2014 @ 12:21 pm

Just to add to your list, the Office of the State Attorney (Florida) Jeffrey L. Ashton has released the 9th Judicial Circuit report and documents On the SA Investigation into the death of Ibragim Todashev. It can be found here: http://sao9documents.net/ If you remember, Mr. Todashev was a friend to the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing.

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