Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 12, 2014

The non-Fukushima anniversary

Filed under: Catastrophes,General Homeland Security,Radiological & Nuclear Threats — by Arnold Bogis on March 12, 2014

I hesitated to post on the anniversary of the horrific Japanese tsunami.  I don’t have anything reasonably intelligent to say about the recovery efforts. And I think Phil summarized related issues quite succinctly in a comment to his post yesterday:

At least 18,000 died, 267,000 remain displaced. Progress in recovery has been made. Enough?

While I hope some portion of grief is reserved for those who suffered and still suffer, my greater concern probably relates to survivors much farther afield.

Tohoku is not Tokyo. Some day the tsunami will roll up Tokyo Bay. Some day the earthquake will shake L.A. Yet we have not, I think, given enough thought to what we might have learned — still might learn — from 3/11.

The only thing I would like to add is my general disappointment with the focus on Fukushima (in the American press almost always referring to the nuclear plant aspect of the disaster and not the larger prefecture). The New York Times fell prey to this inclination in their editorial “Fukushima’s Continuing Tragedy:”

Tuesday was the third anniversary of the triple disaster that struck the eastern Japanese prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima: the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear power plant meltdowns in Fukushima. The catastrophe killed 15,884, with 2,636 still missing. The government’s reconstruction efforts have been insufficient and painfully slow.

There are still 270,000 refugees, of whom 100,000 live in makeshift housing. Since the disaster, more than 3,000 refugees have died from medical problems and suicide. In Fukushima prefecture, more people have died of disaster-related causes after the disaster (more than 1,650) than were killed in the disaster (1,607).

What the editorial doesn’t mention is that none of the the dead in the Fukushima prefecture are a result of the radiation released from the nuclear plant.  Obviously, some if not many of the those that have perished in related causes after the disaster could be evacuees from irradiated areas – though at this point none would be due to radiation exposure.

Andrew Sullivan of “The Dish” falls into the same trap, as he quotes another blogger:

Then there’s the psychological impact. A Brigham Young University study released last week found that a year after disaster, more than half of the citizens of Hirono, a heavily affected town near the plant, showed “clinically concerning” symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Two-thirds showed symptoms of depression.

I do not certainly mean to diminish the trauma experienced by those who had to evacuate the area around the damaged nuclear plant.

I only wish to bring attention to all those who died, were hurt, suffered great loss, and can’t return to their homes damaged by the earthquake and/or tsunami.

As a nation we have an unhealthy preoccupation with radiation.  While I wish more would have been done in terms of regulating domestic nuclear power plant spent fuel storage and emergency planning guidelines following the Japanese disaster, the preparations for a true mega-disaster on the scale of the Japanese experience are even more lacking.

WWII firebombing and homeland security

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on March 12, 2014

Okay.  I should admit up front that I don’t have an obvious homeland security connection to make between the firebombing of Japanese cities during World War II and our present security situation.

However, the topic did arise in the comments section of a post a few weeks ago.  So I thought I should share this new post by Alex Wellerstein of the “Restricted Data” blog.

Considering how many non-atomic bombs the US dropped on Japan during the war, it’s a little interesting that nobody has spent very much time worrying about what would happen if someone firebombed the United States. Why not? Because the U.S. has never imagined that any other nation would have the kind of air superiority to pull off sustained operations like that. No, if someone was going to bomb us, it would be a one-time, brief affair.

When the US did invoke American comparisons for firebombing, it was to give a sense of scale. So the Arnold report in 1945 included this evocative diagram of Japanese cities bombed, with American cities added to give a sense of relative size:

He goes on to include several provocative maps comparing and correlating cities in Japan and the U.S. along with the percentage of firebomb damage.

Alex also includes the follow clip from “The Fog of War,” where former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara explains his role in the planning of firebombing during World War II.


If you’re interested in the topic, this post is well worth your time: http://blog.nuclearsecrecy.com/2014/03/12/firebombs-usa/

9/11 from space

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on March 12, 2014

For some reason the description of mega-disasters or catastrophes, as suggested by Harvard’s directors of the Program on Crisis Leadership Dutch Leonard and Arn Howitt as something you can see from space (“If they can see your incident from space – it is generally not a good thing”), has stuck with me.

Along those lines, here is recently released footage of the 9/11 attack as taken from the International Space Station.


March 11, 2014

Remembering March 11, 2011

Filed under: Catastrophes — by Philip J. Palin on March 11, 2014


A Kanji for Silence

Privacy is theft

Filed under: Cybersecurity,General Homeland Security,Privacy and Security — by Christopher Bellavita on March 11, 2014

News item:

The Custom and Border Protection (CBP) official at Hartsfield–Jackson airport scanned Martin Bryant’s fingerprints.

“What’s that little device you’ve got clipped on?” he asked.

Bryant was entering the United States from the UK.  He was wearing a Narrative Clip.  The Clip is “a tiny camera that takes a photo of what’s in front of you every 30 seconds.”


Bryant planned to use the Clip to document his trip, to “capture the flavor of his journey.” As he approached the CBP official, “a terrible realization dawned on me – I’d forgotten to take the Clip off.”

The story has a sort of happy ending.  Bryant had to delete the airport pictures he took — or rather, the Clip took, but he was eventually allowed to continue his travels.

It was the first time the CBP officials had seen that particular device.  Bryant writes that he

…expected stern faced, intolerant treatment from officials who wanted to get rid of an odd British geek’s weird little camera as soon as possible, and instead they took the time to understand what they were dealing with and respond in an appropriate manner.”

News item:

Homeland security students contemplate how wearable technology, like Google Glass, can assist first responders for event security, disaster response, and other tasks.

Wearable glass technology could be valuable in reinforcing the [TSA’s]… security techniques for its Behavior Detection Officers…. A computerized eyeglass device could assist in gauging a passenger’s physiological responses, such as pupil dilation or micro facial expressions. The technology could also potentially monitor a traveler’s walking gait to determine if the person is concealing an item, as well as provide a remote feed where other officers can analyze what the wearer is seeing.


News item:

The PEW Research Center issues a report on Digital Life in 2025, reminding readers that the World Wide Web is 25 years old on March 12.

Among the report’s good news bad news hopes:

Augmented reality and wearable devices will be implemented to monitor and give quick feedback on daily life….

People will continue – sometimes grudgingly – to make tradeoffs favoring convenience and perceived immediate gains over privacy; and privacy will be something only the upscale will enjoy.


There is no need to worry about this Brave New World

Here are three slogans from the David Eggers book, The Circle. Repeating them 15 minutes twice a day will put any concerns you might have to rest, once in the morning and once before you turn off all your devices and go to sleep.

Sharing is caring.

Secrets are lies.

Privacy is theft.

Here’s an excerpt from The Circle (208 ff).  An elected official decides to provide ultimate transparency by wearing a steroids version of the Clip during every waking moment.

Everything she does will be streamed in real time.

Showing care by sharing everything.

Embracing truth by having no secrets.

Demonstrating honesty by shedding privacy.

I intend to show how democracy can and should be: entirely open, entirely transparent,  Starting today… I will be wearing [the Clip on steroids]. My every meeting, movement, my every word, will be available to all my constituents and to the world.

“And what if those who want to meet with you don’t want a given meeting to be broadcast?” she is asked.

‘Well, then they will not meet with me.… You’re either transparent or you’re not. You’re either accountable or you’re not. What would anyone have to say to me that couldn’t be said in public? What part of representing the people should not be known by the very people I’m representing?

It begins now for me… And I hope it begins soon for the rest of the elected leaders in this country – and for those in everyone of the world’s democracies.

Before too long, in Eggers’ transparent new world, no one gets elected or appointed to any office unless they promise to wear “the Device.”

Why would they refuse to wear it?

What are they trying to hide?


News item:

Happy birthday, World Wide Web.  Without you, life would be

March 7, 2014

Friday Free Forum

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

This week in 1918 the so-called Spanish Flu emerged at Ft. Riley, Kansas.  By noon on March 11, one-hundred soldiers were hospitalized.  The pandemic would peak in late 1918.  Estimates vary, but 25 to 50 million deaths worldwide are blamed on the virus.

On this day in 1942 in Smithfield, North Carolina a car collided with a truck carrying military munitions killing four and injuring more than 100.

On this day in 1965 a civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama was intercepted by state and local law enforcement.  Police action resulted in seventeen marchers being hospitalized.  It came to be known as “Bloody Sunday”.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

March 6, 2014

DHS Budget Proposal

Filed under: Budgets and Spending — by Philip J. Palin on March 6, 2014

The President has proposed.  This Congress is likely to dispose in a different way.

The FY2015 White House outline calls for a roughly $1.05 billion reduction in the DHS budget to $38.2 billion.  An additional $6.8 billion is targeted at disaster relief.

Early application of green eye-shades seems to suggest Science & Technology, ICE and Coast Guard would lose while cyber would win.  But (again) the Congress is likely to use a considerably different spreadsheet.

According to White House documents:

The Budget provides $2.2 billion for State, local, and tribal governments to hire, equip, and train first responders and build preparedness capabilities. To better target these funds, the Budget proposes eliminating duplicative, stand-alone grant programs, and consolidating them into the National Preparedness Grant Program.

Similar proposals in prior years have not been picked up by Congress.

Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Hal Rogers (R-KY) said in a written statement:

The Committee will take a very close look at the President’s request, conduct vigorous oversight over federal agencies, and go line-by-line through the budget to make informed and responsible decisions with the taxpayer’s money. It is important to remember that it is the Congress, not the White House, that holds the ‘power of the purse’ and will decide where to cut, where to sustain, and where to invest tax dollars to the most benefit of the American people.

More and, probably, different yet to come.

Neighbors: Engaged or Not

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Resilience — by Philip J. Palin on March 6, 2014

Maybe you saw the reports of a neighborhood’s response to an avalanche last Friday:

Rescue officials say about 100 neighbors converged to help find three people buried Friday when an avalanche swept down a mountain in a residential area of Missoula in western Montana and crushed a house at the bottom.

“It was very chaotic but a lot of energy,” said Jeff Brandt, assistant chief of operations for the Missoula Fire Department.

Scores of neighbors had already started the rescue effort when he arrived about half an hour after the slide, and some 20 professional responders helped provide focus to the effort, Brandt said. An 8-year-old boy was pulled from the snow just as he arrived, he said.

The three people remained hospitalized Saturday, a day after the avalanche slid down 4,768-foot Mount Jumbo into the northeast Missoula neighborhood…  MORE

In crisis situations, we see this again and again.  We saw it on 911.  We saw it at the Boston Marathon.  In a few weeks we will see the annual festival of neighborliness called the Red River Flood.

But it is interesting to me that among urban public safety personnel a positive neighborhood response tends not to be expected.  In a few situations I have even heard police, firefighters or emergency management tell “civilians” not to get involved and let the professionals take charge.  Over a beer in Baltimore, Chicago, or Philadelphia many (not all) pledged to protect and serve the public consider that same public their greatest threat.

On March 13, 1964 Kitty Genovese was killed in a middle-class neighborhood of Queens.  Her story became a modern parable of corrupt priests, fearful pharisees, and bad Samaritans.

According to the New York Times and the story told and re-told, scores of neighbors did nothing even as they heard her screams for help.  Maybe you can depend on your neighbors in Missoula, but not in the big cities became a common understanding.  Since then we have looked for and found corroboration. Expect the worse and you will not be disappointed.

There are tw0 new books out on the Genovese story.   A debate is renewed over what happened — even more what did not happen — a half-century ago.  In the current New Yorker Nicholas Lemann reviews the books, sympathizes with the argument that urban apathy was amplified far beyond reality, and concludes, “The real Kitty Genovese syndrome has to do with our susceptibility to narratives that echo our preconceptions and anxieties.”

Meanwhile in the Daily News, Catherine Pelonero, author of the one of the new books, defends much of the urban myth.  (“In speaking of myths and mythologies we do not make claims regarding empirical truth,” a favorite professor explained, “but instead point to the power of popular perception.”) Yet even she writes, “The witnesses weren’t chronically hard-hearted  New Yorkers who couldn’t bother intervening while a neighbor was murdered.  They were normal people hobbled by a mix of fear, self-interest, and apathy.  We all fail at times, and how bravely we behave varies from day to day, moment to moment.”

I spend a good deal of my time and energy working with people who expect the worst and that may well include human nature.  Given this expectation they plan, act, and at times decide not to act in anticipation of viciously self-interested behavior.  I am aware evidence for this predisposition exists.  It is not, however, the only or always predominant evidence.

Emerging directly from the Genovese case is the empirically demonstrated “Bystander Effect“. We are, it would seem, more heroic when there are fewer folks about.  The larger a crowd,  the more we tend to defer to the heroism of others.

But — or especially — in a crowd, when one steps forward to help, s/he will often be followed.  A significant element in social resilience is facilitating individual initiative to help.

Dorothy Day was about nine years old when she lived through the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire.  Years later she recalled:

What I remember most plainly about the earthquake was the human warmth and kindliness of everyone afterward. For days refugees poured out of burning San Francisco and camped in Idora Park and the race track in Oakland. People came in their night clothes; there were new-born babies. Mother and all our neighbors were busy from morning to night cooking hot meals. They gave away every garment they possessed. They stripped themselves to the bone in giving, forgetful of the morrow. While the crisis lasted, people loved each other.

It shows a susceptibility to narratives that echo my preconceptions and aspirations, but it seems to me part of being involved in homeland security, a large part of any presumed leadership role, and a significant part of being fully human is to do our best to love each other.

But I am embarrassed to speak in such terms.  Is my embarrassment part of the homeland security problem or is it just that love is as tough to define as homeland security?

March 5, 2014

A Video Library from the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security

Filed under: Education,General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on March 5, 2014

In this quiet space between the end of Downton Abbey and baseball’s opening day, it may be worth your time to peruse the NPS Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s video library on YouTubehttp://www.youtube.com/user/npsCHDS

It is a treasure trove of homeland security education, containing everything from lectures to faculty media appearances to discussions with students about their thesis work.

Among the jems is the video based on Chris’ blog post from last year “Lilacs out of the dead land: 9 lessons to be learned from last week.”



Another is a discussion with Cynthia Renaud about her thesis “Making Sense at the Edge of Chaos: A Framework for Effective Initial Response Efforts to Large-Scale Incidents.”



A new nuclear terrorism resource: “Nuclear Security Matters”

Filed under: Radiological & Nuclear Threats — by Arnold Bogis on March 5, 2014

I realize this seems like the topic I just can’t let go of, but since a nuclear explosion on U.S. soil would be the ultimate homeland security issue I can’t but help share some further links regarding the upcoming nuclear security summit.  Here is the press release about the website “Nuclear Security Matters” that Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs created:

Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs today launches a new website – Nuclear Security Matters – that provides policymakers, researchers, journalists, and the interested public with a wealth of facts, analysis, key documents, and other resources critical to the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit goal of preventing nuclear terrorism around the globe.

Nuclear Security Matters was developed by the Belfer Center’s Project on Managing the Atom with input from Center nuclear experts Graham AllisonMatthew Bunn,Trevor FindlayGary SamoreWilliam Tobey, and others.

The Nuclear Security Summit 2014, set for March 24-25 in The Netherlands, is a gathering of more than 50 world leaders aimed at preventing nuclear terrorism around the globe. The goal of the summit is to catalyze action to lock down, consolidate, and eliminate stockpiles of hazardous nuclear and radiological material and protect nuclear facilities around the world. Initiated by President Obama, the first Nuclear Security Summit was held in Washington D.C. in 2010, followed by a second summit in Seoul in 2012.

In the weeks leading up to the Summit, Nuclear Security Matters offers visitors an array of documents, research materials, key facts and questions, analysis and commentary in one accessible location. More than 150 reports, articles, and documents by Belfer Center and other nuclear scholars and practitioners examine issues related to nuclear terrorism threats and vulnerabilities, progress and security gaps in countries around the world, and recommendations for further action. Numerous official documents provide details on international treaties and agreements and actions taken by countries to reduce stockpiles and lock down hazardous nuclear materials.

Current featured items include:

  • first-of-its-kind survey of nuclear security professionals in 18 countries identifying factors that have caused changes in nuclear security and accounting practices in the past 15 years.
  • detailed review of the current threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism, briefed to officials from participating countries responsible for organizing the Summit in The Hague.
  • Interview on nuclear security progress with Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, White House coordinator for defense policy, countering weapons of mass destruction and arms control.
  • New commentary by Matthew Bunn on what to expect from the upcoming summit,William H. Tobey on ongoing failures in nuclear security that must be addressed, and Alex Wellerstein on mapping the effects of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear Security Matters will be updated frequently with relevant documents and original commentary and research from nuclear experts at the Belfer Center and elsewhere.

If, like me, you just can’t get enough, here is the video of yet another presentation on the summit. Participants included:

Matthew Bunn
Professor of Practice; Co-Principal Investigator, Project on Managing the Atom, Harvard Kennedy School

Laura Holgate
Senior Director, WMD Terrorism and Threat Reduction, National Security Council

Samantha Pitts- Kiefer
Senior Program Officer, Nuclear Materials Security Program, Nuclear Threat Initiative

Gary Samore (moderator)
Executive Director, Research, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School (Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism)

If for some reason the video I attempted to attach to this post does not work, you can view it at:





March 4, 2014

Collective impact: moving collaboration into another dimension

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on March 4, 2014

Collective impact describes the next evolution of collaboration.

I’ll say what “collective impact” means a few paragraphs from now, and will include a chart and a youtube video.  I’m still learning about the idea, so this is quite preliminary.


But first a story.

I came across the phrase a few months ago when a friend returned from a weekend conference wanting to quit her job and devote all her efforts to achieving something called collective impact.

I’ve been around long enough to recognize true believer symptoms. Someone in the honeymoon embrace of a cult is not going to be talked down from a new idea high.  Even if the idea is simply a restatement of something anyone who’s been paying attention already knows. So I did my best to listen politely.

A few weeks later, my wife started speaking with a collective impact vocabulary.

I can’t pretend to listen politely to her because we’ve been married too long.

Instead I went to my default academic trick. “That sounds interesting. Is there any research on it?”

Ten minutes later I had two articles from the Stanford Social Innovation Review in my e-mail: “Collective Impact,” and “Embracing Emergence: How Collective Impact Addresses Complexity.”

My wife does not fight fairly.

She knows anything with the words “emergence” and “complexity” in the title eviscerates my “If this were important I would already know about it” resistance.

It took me a few weeks to read more than the title. I grudgingly allowed myself to learn I didn’t know enough about collective impact to critique it.


Fast-forward a few more months.

I had an opportunity to talk with some fusion center directors. In preparing for that meeting, I read the 2012 National Network of Fusion Centers report (released in June 2013).

It struck me as I was reading the document that many of the dynamics described in the report were similar to the problems collective impact wants to address.  And they weren’t problems unique in homeland security to fusion centers: governance, measurement, goals, multiple stakeholders, and so on.

According to one source,

Collective impact is a significant shift from the… current paradigm of “isolated impact,” because the underlying premise of collective impact is that no single organization can create large-scale, lasting… change alone. There is no “silver bullet” solution to systemic… problems, and these problems cannot be solved by simply scaling or replicating one organization or program. Strong organizations are necessary but not sufficient for large-scale social change.”

Sounds like life in the homeland security enterprise to me.

Collective impact is also not a silver bullet. It is not particularly appropriate for technical problems, claim its advocates.

However – and here I rely on what advocates say because I have not seen the research – collective impact initiatives are “being employed to address a wide variety of issues around the world, including education, healthcare, homelessness, the environment, and community development.”

It seems to me collective impact might be a helpful way to think about – and act within — “the information sharing environment,” “cyber security,” “preparedness,” “border security,” and who knows how many other thorny homeland security issue areas.

One test of its utility will be if someone says, “We already do that, but we call it….”


So, what is collective impact?

Here is the definition I see most frequently:

“Collective impact is the commitment of a group of actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a complex social problem.”


Two more data points about social impact.

There seems to be wide agreement that five conditions have to be met if collective impact is to have a chance of working. These are the conditions I thought about while I was reading the Fusion Centers Report. The information sharing environment has a shot at achieving all five. (Insert the appropriate NSA caveat here):

a common agenda

– shared measurement

– mutually reinforcing activities

– continuous communication

– backbone support.

Here’s a chart with more words about each of those conditions:



I’ll close with a 2 minute youtube video that summarizes the concept.  I think collective impact is an idea worth exploring.


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