Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 28, 2014

QHSR at CSIS

Filed under: Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on June 28, 2014

Cohn_dhsreport_video

On Friday, June 27 Alan Cohn, DHS Assistant Secretary for Strategy, Policy, Analysis and Risk (above at the microphone) made a presentation on the QHSR.  A panel discussion followed.  There is a video and audio version of the two hour engagement available at:

http://csis.org/event/discussion-2014-quadrennial-homeland-security-review

June 26, 2014

QHSR: Translating the archetypes (especially anima/animus)

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Private Sector,Resilience,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on June 26, 2014

FRIDAY, JUNE 27 EDITORIAL NOTE:  The Friday Free Forum is on vacation this week, luxuriating in the quiet of a cool mountain glade beneath a sweep of stars, seeking to reclaim social and spiritual equanimity.  You are invited to join the QHSR discussion that is already underway below.

–+–

ORIGINAL THURSDAY POST:

How do we anticipate what we cannot predict?  That question animates the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review. Strategy generates benefits to the extent it accurately anticipates.  An effective strategy generates an initial — sometimes persisting — advantage in dealing with whatever specific challenges unfold unpredictably.

The QHSR is a bureaucratic document. This description is not meant as pejorative.  There are various DHS components, other national security agencies, White House and Congressional concerns, and many other stakeholders.  While the QHSR wants to accurately anticipate, it is not a prophetic text.  Rather than speaking truth to power, this is power in search of truth.  It can be cumbersome.

Meaningful interpretation recognizes the limitations — and opportunities — of the bureaucratic genre.  Much must be said. Where have the authors moved beyond the minimum requirements? Bureaucracies tend toward girth, but are sensitive to hierarchy.  What or who is given more attention?

The QHSR reviews previous challenges and outlines what it considers important shifts in the risk environment.  It gives particular priority to the following (page 28):

  • The terrorist threat is evolving and, while changing in shape, remains significant as attack planning and operations become more decentralized. The United States and its interests, particularly in the transportation sector, remain persistent targets.
  • Growing cyber threats are significantly increasing risk to critical infrastructure and to the greater U.S. economy.
  • Biological concerns as a whole, including bioterrorism, pandemics, foreign animal diseases, and other agricultural concerns, endure as a top homeland security risk because of both potential likelihood and impacts.
  • Nuclear terrorism through the introduction and use of an improvised nuclear device, while unlikely, remains an enduring risk because of its potential consequences.
  • Transnational criminal organizations are increasing in strength and capability, driving risk in counterfeit goods, human trafficking, illicit drugs, and other illegal flows of people and goods.
  • Natural hazards are becoming more costly to address, with increasingly variable consequences due in part to drivers such as climate change and interdependent and aging infrastructure.

Lots on the plate even here.  But these six risks are segregated from the rest. There is also a full page text-box highlighting Black Swans.  Words are carefully chosen to avoid accusations of being alarmist, but the visual rhetoric is emphatic. When push comes to shove, here are the risks  that this QHSR seems intent to especially engage.  How?

At different places in the document (especially page 16 and again in the conclusion) the following “cross-cutting” strategic priorities are articulated:

  • An updated posture to address the increasingly decentralized terrorist threat; 
  • A strengthened path forward for cybersecurity that acknowledges the increasing interdependencies among critical systems and networks; 
  • A homeland security strategy to manage the urgent and growing risk of biological threats and hazards; 
  • A risk segmentation approach to securing and managing flows of people and goods; and 
  • A new framework for strengthening mission execution through public-private partnerships.

What does “updated posture” mean?  Read pages 33-38. Compare and contrast with QHSR vers. 1.0 and your own counter-terrorism experience.  There are others better able to read-between-these-particular-lines.  I hope you will do so in the comments.

The attention to biological threats is not new, but concerns related to pandemic are even more acute. (“Of the naturally occurring events, a devastating pandemic remains the highest homeland security risk.”)  Urgent and growing are almost prophetic terms.  But once again, others are better prepared to give you the close-reading of how we are to be biologically battle-ready.

In my reading the most notable shift in this QHSR, and on which the rest of this post will concentrate, is the priority given so-called public-private partnerships (which I strongly recommended be amended to “private-public relationships”).

I perceive this enhanced priority emerges from a confluence of cyber-threats, disaster-management, and catastrophe preparedness.  In each of these domains the public good largely depends on private sector capacities and potential collaboration between private and public.

Flows of people and goods are given significant analytic attention. Flow-of-goods is treated mostly as a matter of economic security.  In time of significant crisis this is also the source-of-life.  The capacity to maintain a sufficient flow resides almost entirely with the private sector. In case of crisis, the public sector may be able to lead.  But in many cases the public sector will do better to follow and support.  Sometimes the best possible is for the public sector to get out of the way.  The latter alternative is most likely when there has been minimal private-public efforts in joint preparedness.  Leading or supporting require much more joint engagement than currently anticipated.

Being strategically prepared to — depending on context — lead, follow or get out of the way does not come easily.  Even the insight is atypical.  In advancing this insight the QHSR is making a potentially major contribution to safety, security and resilience.

Here is how the QHSR frames the issue (page 60):

At a time when we must do more with less, two guiding principles help public-private partnerships maximize the investment by each partner and the success of the partnership: (1) aligning interests and (2) identifying shared outcomes.

By focusing on how interests align, we can provide alternatives to costly incentives or regulations and help ensure a partnership is based on a solid foundation of mutual interest and benefit. There are many examples of public and private sector interests aligning in homeland security. Common interests include the safety and security of people and property, the protection of sensitive information, effective risk management, the development of new technology, reputation enhancement, and improved business processes. New ways of thinking about corporate social responsibility—in which societal issues are held to be core business interests rather than traditional philanthropy—also present an opportunity to identify shared interests.

Where interests do not directly align, potential partners can often be motivated by shared desired outcomes, such as enhanced resilience; effective disaster response and recovery; and greater certainty in emerging domains, such as cyberspace and the Arctic.

Aligning interests and identifying shared outcomes are absolutely a big part of effective collaboration.  But behind this reasonable rhetoric is a complicated, often treacherous cross-cultural tension.  I once spent a few years brokering decision-making between Japanese and Americans.  The intra-American — and perhaps global — private-public cultural divide is at least as profound.

The QHSR helpfully identifies five “archetypes” for framing relationships between private and public (see page 60-61).  A “Partnerships Toolkit” has also been developed.  All of this is potentially constructive.  When DHS folks started talking to me about archetypes I immediately thought of Jungian archetypes.  This matches my sense that to really work together private and public will usually require the institutional equivalent of long-term joint counseling.  But this analogous leap seemed to make some of my DHS colleagues uncomfortable.

Some were even more uncomfortable when I suggested private/public is the equivalent of the anima/animus archetype. C.G. Jung wrote, “The anima gives rise to illogical outbursts of temper; the animus produces irritating commonplaces.”  I’ll let you guess which I associate with private and which with public.

But C.G.’s most important insight regarding these contending archetypes is that each depends on each, each is fulfilled in relationship with the other, and robust elements of both are required for ongoing creativity and growth.  The recurring clinical problem is an inclination to diminish, suppress or oppress one or the other.

In the life of an individual failure to meaningfully engage both anima and animus is self-subverting and can become tragic.  Our current failure to effectively engage private and public presents a similar social threat.  To suggest why — in less than another thousand words — here’s yet another analogy:

I happened to be reading about the Battle of Austerlitz when the QHSR was released last week.  In the summer of 1804 the British Prime Minister, William Pitt, accurately anticipated Napoleon’s expansionist ambitions.  He effectively forged a strategic alliance with Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Sweden. In October 1805 the British Fleet soundly defeated a combined French and Spanish naval force at Trafalgar.  It was the right strategy and the strategy was proving effective. But then in early December on a cold fog-drenched Moravian bottom-land the entire strategy unraveled.  Europe was, once again, transformed.

There are many reasons for the Third Coalition’s failure at Austerlitz. My particular author focuses on a clique of over-confident young nobles around the Russian Czar who seriously underestimated the practical requirements of deploying two emperors and their very different armies into actual battle.  The practical requirements of a national capacity for effective private-public collaboration in crisis are much more complicated.

The QHSR has articulated the right strategy.  We will undermine the strategy by minimizing challenges involved in making the collaboration operational.

On July 16 there will be an early signal of our operational readiness and sophistication.  That’s when new applications for the Homeland Security National Training Program: Continuing Training Grants are due.  This includes Focus Area 4: Maturing Public-Private Partnerships.  Will be interesting to see what’s submitted.

Brian, please be very cautious of any proposals received from twenty-something Russian princes.

June 24, 2014

2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review – a dialogue worthy report

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on June 24, 2014

It’s only 103 pages.  Plus it’s a government report with a lot of pictures.   And there’s probably not much in it that’s new.

How long can it take to read something like that?

Turns out, longer than I expected.

After about 3 hours, I’m on page 68.  It’s not that I’m an especially slow reader.  I think it’s because the 2014 QHSR is an important and an exceptional document.

In my still forming opinion, this QHSR invites a move into Homeland Security 3.0.  It offers a strategic intent  – and the evidence to support it — that is compelling and, in a 21st century way, visionary.  It provides people who think and care about the entire enterprise subtle, refined ways to think about homeland security.  I expect that some of those ideas are already familiar to people who work with them daily.  But I have not seen them all in one place. Not before the 2014 QHSR.

I’m trying to think of an analogy to capture the feeling tone of the report.

To me it’s like the difference between someone talking about marriage while on his honeymoon, compared with someone else describing what a moderately successful marriage is like as it heads resolutely into its second decade.   Same institution, infused with time and experience.  The honeymoon is exciting and boundless.  A committed marriage takes work and a maturity that can embrace — not always willingly — ideals and reality.

That’s the sense I’m getting so far from the QHSR.

I know those are imprecise generalizations.  But it’s Tuesday, my day to post, and the other homeland security watch writers would like this week to be about the QHSR. Rightly so.

(Did you ever have one of those weeks — even on a Tuesday — when there were a dozen important things to do, but you couldn’t clone yourself because your 3-D printer was out of PolyJet photopolymers? Well, it’s something like that.)

The second QHSR took two years to put together.  And it shows.  In a good way.

I was prepared initially to dismiss the report as another check the box exercise.  But — even after only 68 pages — I can’t. It’s worth a deliberate read.

I do have to dismiss any temptation to comment before I’ve finished reading the entire document. (OK, Islam and Muslim are not mentioned, but terrorism shows up over 4 dozen times)

Thoughtful reflections will have to wait on such QHSR topics as:

  • Lone offenders
  • Drivers: of change, of challenges, of risk, of budgets, of markets
  • Cyber law enforcement incident response
  • The lack of public confidence in the government’s ability to function
  • Exchanging information at machine speed
  • Whether there is a national homeland security strategy, and if there isn’t so what?
  • Growth in domestic energy supplies
  • Universal values, enduring missions, enduring national interests
  • Risk segmentation
  • A “clean” audit opinion (apparently a good thing)
  • Nuclear terrorism and bioterrorism
  • Three dimensional printing (and supplies, of course)
  • Expansion of electronic payment systems
  • Pandemics
  • Climate change
  • Disaster driven migration
  • Cyber-physical convergence
  • Eroded public health capacity
  • Seriously deteriorated (past tense) infrastructure
  • Panama Canal expansion
  • Four (potential) black swans
  • Economic security
  • Priority biological incidents
  • Networked communities
  • National risk management
  • Rapid escalation of biological events
  • Faint signals
  • Risk informed
  • Information-driven community oriented policing
  • Publicly communicate tailored descriptions of homeland security capabilities
  • Emphasize strategic communications that project the effectiveness of homeland security capabilities
  • Weather maps for cyberspace
  • Ensuring a healthy cyber ecosystem
  • Self-mitigating, self-healing cyber systems
  • Mid-range incidents and levels of risk
  • Improving the confidence of our partners
  • Five (public-private) partnership archetypes for homeland security
  • Flexible models
  • “Immigration will always be, first and foremost, and opportunity for our country.”

And lots more to discuss, disagree with, and argue about.

Or maybe a better word is “dialogue.”

In a 1996 essay called “On Dialogue,” David Bohm distinguishes between discussion and dialogue.

Discussion is almost like a ping-pong game, where people are batting the ideas back and forth and the object of the game is to win or to get points for yourself.  Possibly you will take up somebody else’s ideas to back up your own – you may agree with some and disagree with others – but the basic point is to win the game. That’s frequently the case in a discussion.

“In a dialogue, however, nobody is trying to win. Everybody wins if anybody wins. There is a different sort of spirit to it.  In a dialogue, there is no attempt to gain points, or to make your particular view prevail. Rather, whenever any mistake is discovered on the part of anybody, everybody gains. It’s a situation called win – win, whereas the other game is win – lose.  If I win, you lose. But a dialogue is something more of a common participation, in which we are not playing a game against each other, but with each other. In a dialogue, everybody wins.”

The 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Report is worthy of much dialogue.

 

 

June 23, 2014

Legal opinion supporting extrajudicial execution of a citizen

Filed under: Legal Issues,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on June 23, 2014

In response to a FOIA-related court order a key Justice Department legal opinion has been released. The July 2010 memo was the basis for the government’s extrajudicial killing of an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, in 2011. The Washington Post provides a PDF of the memo here.

June 21, 2014

QHSR Context

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 21, 2014

In the Homeland Security Act of 2002 the Department of Homeland Security is required to undertake what is clearly intended as a thoughtful reconsideration and anticipation of reality.  According to the law:

Each quadrennial homeland security review shall be a comprehensive examination of the homeland security strategy of the Nation, including recommendations regarding the long- term strategy and priorities of the Nation for homeland security and guidance on the programs, assets, capabilities, budget, policies, and authorities of the Department. 

The entire legislative mandate is provided in the new QHSR.

Congress was inspired by the preexisting Quadrennial Defense Review.  You can find the QDR here.  Despite a similar purpose, the QHSR and QDR are apples and oranges in terms of resources inputted and product outputted.   But precisely because of their differences, comparisons and contrasts between the two documents can point to potential “creative tensions” between Homeland Defense and Homeland Security.

Probably worth at least scanning the first QHSR released in February 2010.

While you’re at it scan the National Security Strategy, also from 2010.  Are the Quadrennials coherent with it? Consistent?  Where do you perceive one or both of the Quadrennials suggesting something different?  Very different or just a nuance?  Significant nuance or just a gloss?  A new NSS is in draft… will be interesting to compare the new with the current.

Where you agree with the QHSR but perceive a problem with implementation, how would you better ensure effectively advancing the effort?

Where you disagree with the QHSR, please explain what you perceive is wrong in the underlying analysis and/or outline your alternative.

Chris, Arnold and I have exchanged notes and hope to give most of the first week of summer to the QHSR (pending of course personal or planetary explosions). Given the emails I have received from many of you since Thursday there seems to be a lot to say.  I hope you will say it here.

Feedback — especially thoughtfully (concisely) argued — can have an impact.  Positive or negative and I urge you not to forget the positive.  Do not underestimate how difficult the fight may have been to get into the QHSR something that seems to you self-evident.

Full Disclosure: I was involved in preparing the QHSR, at least enough to receive a thank you email.  I also received a modest honorarium for a specific engagement with prior drafts.   My work focused almost entirely on private-public relationships.  I tried to have influence on supply chains and catastrophe preparedness but totally failed.  Even on private-public — where I was given considerable time and opportunity — I cannot find where the QHSR reflects any specific recommendation that I made.  So no pride-of-authorship.

But I did come to respect — and appreciate — the process and people doing their best to fulfill the mandate and serve the nation.  At least some of them are as frustrated as some of you seem to be, so don’t over-do an inclination to question intent or effort.  It is much more constructive to focus on the meaning or implications of what is actually in the document.  As you will see on Thursday, while they may not have listened to me, I perceive there is much to commend in how the QHSR anticipates the challenges ahead.

June 20, 2014

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 20, 2014

On this day last year the Canadian province of Alberta experienced the start of a period of sustained flooding that displaced more than 100,000 and caused damage exceeding $5 billion.

On this day, also last year, the Colorado Black Forest Fire was declared 100 percent contained after burning more than 14,000 acres, destroying 486 homes, and resulting in two deaths.

Symantec, the computer security firm, has released a warning related to cyberattacks planned for today.  According to the warning the target will be the global energy industry.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

 

June 19, 2014

What’s a comma worth? Or “Re-visioning the homeland security vision”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on June 19, 2014

As Phil noted, it is now time for the commentariat to dig into the 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review.

My initial spoonful is hope.  Someone fixed the comma problem with the 2010 Vision.

Here’s the 2010 vision for homeland security:

 

2010 QHSR homeland security vision

 

 

Here’s the 2014 vision:2014 qhsr homeland security vision

 

Thank you to whoever  fixed that.

Or is it whomever?

Quadrennial Homeland Security Review

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 19, 2014

This afternoon the QHSR has been released.  It is available for your consideration at:

http://www.dhs.gov/quadrennial-homeland-security-review-qhsr

The document will be the focus of my post next Thursday.  I hope we can generate some thoughtful discussion.

As you will see, the QHSR highlights some key issues — especially related to risk and collaboration — that will certainly frame how both Homeland Security and homeland security unfold in the years ahead.

It is worth your careful consideration and some further conversation here (and elsewhere).

Warlords, tribes, contending gods, battles and a besieged city

Filed under: Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on June 19, 2014

mask_of_agamemnon

In the midst of mayem and deep uncertainty, as nations tremble and empires flail, it may be worth revisiting the Iliad.

But if you do, resist (briefly) the poetic allure.  Instead give more attention to the convoluted plot, human psychology, and social anthropology of the Great Tale. (I prefer Robert Fagles translation.)

Is Abu-Bakr al-Bagdadi our new Agamemnon? Is ISIS the Mycenaean wedge at the fore of loosely assembled Sunni tribes? Is Maliki a misunderstood Priam or is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani more analogous? Who is your Hector? Who is the Paris we can all agree to blame.

Instead of playing Baghdad for Troy, you might want to consider Kabul or Bangui or Bamako.  Dare we imagine Islamabad or Abuja?  Damascus or Jerusalem?  Some shining city on a hill. Maybe Troy is Kurdish. Your hometown?

Who are your heroes?  Your villains? In Homer’s telling every god and mortal — Greek and Trojan — is capable of conceit, self-delusion, and brutality… and their opposites.

Are we so different now?  There are many more of us. Our weapons are surely more horrible.  Has our heroic capacity matured with our capability to kill?  Achilles is the best known of Homer’s so-called heroes.  But he spends much of the war sulking. When vengeance pushes him furious into battle he sadistically sullies his win; as we have seen this week in Mosul and many places before.

That this story has in some form persisted these — what, 3000? — years must reflect some realism and recurring relevance of the text.

Especially in its current form the Iliad is a product of the Axial Age. Looking back five (or 30) centuries the supposed casus belli — Helen’s kidnapping — is as absurd as the assassination of an Archduke. Battle is opportunity for personal valor, compelling comradeship, and even stirring pageantry.  But warring is also reduced to the reality of individual encounter and inglorious gore, any alleged greater purpose somehow receding.  Socrates fights valiantly at Delium, but Sparta still wins the war.  Socrates saves the life of Alcibiades at Potidaea and he, who will drink hemlock rather than depart his homeland, becomes teacher, friend, perhaps lover, of that most ambiguous of men. Awareness of — even comfort with — such ambiguity Homer offers as civilizing: probably a Fifth Century theme added to older, less self-critical verse.

The Axial Age, at least as conceived by Karl Jaspers, brings us greater integration and more alignment of belief and behavior.  Quarreling gods, random warlords and associated violence are gradually supplanted by purposeful principles and imperial command: Cyrus, Ashoka, Alexander, Qin Shi Huang, Augustus and their successors.  Certainly we continue to pillage, rape and murder. But we are rather more organized about it. Boundaries —  political, physical, philosophical — are put in place (with significant exceptions, some extending over thousands of miles and centuries).

According to Stephen Pinker, Joshua Goldstein, Norbert Elias and others we can measure — despite all the bloody brutality — real long-term reductions in violence. The Westphalian consensus retrieved and strengthened Axial values. The survivors of the European wars of religion deciding  that violence ought be a State monopoly has been especially hard on warlords.  Until recently.

Maybe it is the result of that Archduke’s assasination, but however it happened we seem to have entered a transaxial, post-Westphalian period.  Era or interlude?

By transaxial I mean the once-upon stand-alone axes which cultures use to mitigate internal strife now intersect and conflict and — so far — no Frank Gehry is emerging to transform multiple axes into beautiful torque (think Bilbao Guggenheim or LAs Disney concert hall).  The contradicting lines are dramatic just now along the Tigris, Indus,  Niger  and Nile rivers.  But something similar can erupt even along the Danube or Ohio or Dnieper or James.

This crossing of axes made more dangerous as violent capabilities are more widely distributed.  In many cases, the State being only one of many deadly players.

All of which is difficult enough.  But what — even in this long-view — has recently caused me particular concern is for transaxial and post-Westphalian to merge with what might be neo-Manichean.

At the heart of the Axial transformation was a rough sense of shared humanity.  Whether it was Buddha, Zoroaster, Confucius, Deutero-Isaiah, or Socrates/Plato each recognized in others a reality deserving respect.  In the Treaty of Westphalia the signatories pledge to honor their heretical adversaries and solemnly undertake “Universal Peace, and a perpetual, true, and sincere Amity.”  Whatever they felt toward lousy Lutherans or corrupt Catholics, they were encouraged in what came to be known as Humanism.  It could and did fail, but as Pinker might say, “It could have been — had been — much worse.”

Today with Boko Haram, the Anti-Balakas, ISIS, and others — some closer to home — there is a growing conception of being engaged in cosmic conflict between “us” and “them” — Good and Evil — that justifies, even galvanizes mass murder.  This is not just ancient tribalism, but apocalyptic wish-fulfillment.  This is an ideology of annihilation.  It is Achilles mocking Hector’s offer of mutual honor.  It is a shrill chorus of pre-historic savagery.  It must be rejected… especially if noticed in ourselves.

–+–

Overpowered by memory
Each man gives way to grief.
Priam weeping for man-killing Hector
Throbbing crouching before Achilles’ feet
As Achilles himself also weeps
Now for his father
And again for Patroclus
Their sobs rising and falling throughout the house.

(Book XXIV)

May we be able to share, even with our enemies, more than grief.

June 18, 2014

House Homeland Security hearing: “The Critical Role of First Responders: Sharing Lessons Learned from Past Attacks”

Filed under: Congress and HLS — by Arnold Bogis on June 18, 2014

Earlier today the House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on “The Critical Role of First Responders: Sharing Lessons Learned from Past Attacks.”

What I thought was particularly interesting was in the current political climate this hearing is not about any contentious issue or other fodder for cable news pundits.  Rather, it actually seems to be a relevant review of local responder knowledge.

Okay…there might have been an underlying current regarding potential changes to homeland security grant funding.  But considering the low bar set these days, this hearing actually suggested that Congress was doing it’s job.

Witnesses

Deputy Commissioner John Miller
Intelligence and Counterterrorism
New York City Police Department
New York City, New York
Witness Statement [PDF]

Chief James Schwartz
Arlington County Fire Department
Arlington, Virginia
Witness Statement [PDF]

Chief James Hooley
Boston Emergency Medical Services
Witness Statement [PDF]

Dr. Brian A. Jackson
Director
RAND Safety and Justice Program
The RAND Corporation
Witness Statement [PDF]
Witness Truth in Testimony [PDF]

Jackson Lee, Representative from Texas, noted that first responders are not only providing homeland security but should be considered national security.

June 17, 2014

A Smart Practice: How two California police departments use social media to engage with their communities

Filed under: Social Media — by Christopher Bellavita on June 17, 2014

I came across a presentation — below — describing how two police agencies in California’s Silicon Valley use social media.

Their strategy is not the run-of-the-mill advice to  ”Get a facebook account and start tweeting.”

It is about a philosophy, instead of a program. It’s about selecting a voice, defining your engagement strategy, seeing social media as an ecosystem, conducting virtual ride-alongs, shaping how people make sense of in-progress events, rumor control, and more.

The presentation identifies what needs to happen for the strategy to succeed, what can go wrong, and how to anticipate and mitigate potential downsides.

The presentation was developed by Lt. Zach Perron (Palo Alto PD) and Capt. Chris Hsiung (Mountain View PD).  It probably works better when one of the officers is presenting the slides. But the slides also work on their own.

I consider what they propose as a smart practice (http://bit.ly/1i7335R) instead of a best practice.  Few agencies will be able to adopt all elements of the social media strategy, but every public safety agency should be able to take something away from the ideas in the presentation.

Here’s the presentation: (or go to this link). Use the on-screen arrow to advance the slides.

June 16, 2014

Monday Musings

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on June 16, 2014

Just a couple of random thoughts for a Monday.

  • Why is the discussion around preparedness framed in such a binary manner? Personal preparedness is important, both for one’s self and loved ones regardless of the situation as well as to lessen the burden on any official response in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. However, I am just wondering if it should be thought of as such a zero-sum situation. The standard frame is that if we (i.e. citizens/non-professionals) are not prepared to take care of ourselves for some period of time following a disaster than we shouldn’t expect immediate help and are responsible for placing additional burden on the government or other dedicated professional responders (such as the Red Cross or other trained volunteers).Yet we live in a democracy.  So should it be us/them rather than just simply we? Those professionals are our neighbors, friends, relatives, and fellow Americans.  Would it be at all useful if instead the frame is a discussion about the social compact involved in preparedness, response, and recovery rather than personal responsibility vs. big government? I’m thinking along the lines of the debate about healthcare.  Here it is predominately about personal choice vs. socialized medicine or government intervention, while in most other democratic, rich, industrial nations  it has long been decided as a community that some above basic-level of care is a responsibility of the entire society and the questions involve what form and how to pay for it. Bad stuff happens.  Let’s not focus on assigning blame or roles but rather collective responsibility.

 

  • There are a whole mess of issues wrapped up in the ISIS/Iraq/Syria/Middle East situation goings on. One that I find particularly interesting is the conventional wisdom that if ISIS is somehow able to carve out an independent area from land formerly part of Iraq and Syria that the odds of a 9/11-scale attack on the United States would dramatically increase. Putting aside questions about the possibility of them winning, holding on to the land, the short to medium term viability of such a state, etc., why is it such accepted dogma that Bin Laden living in Afghanistan made the attacks on 9/11 possible?  Does it matter that the pilots were trained in U.S. flight schools?  Or that vital planning took place in Germany and Malaysia? Or the plan was hatched by KSM, who had previously traveled the globe planning and attempting various terrorist attacks? Bin Laden at the time had refuge in Afghanistan, but I don’t believe that was central to the viability of the plot. Failed states and ungoverned spaces can lead to increased chaos and provide refuge for terrorists and other bad actors.  However, they are not essential to any large scale plot against the U.S. homeland or any other nation for that matter.

 

  • Despite today’s U.S. World Cup victory against Ghana, I wonder why are we so (comparatively) bad at soccer?  Putting aside the more American-centric sports for the moment, we still do well at the Summer and Winter Olympic sports that aren’t usually celebrated nightly on SportsCenter. Why hasn’t this translated to the football pitch yet? Oh well…go U.S.A.!

 

 

 

June 13, 2014

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 13, 2014

Fridays that fall on the thirteenth of the month have, since at least the 19th Century, been considered unlucky in many Western countries.  There are several theories related to the origin of the superstition, including the combining of older superstitions that all Fridays and the number thirteen are ill-omens.  Double your fun.

On this day in 2011 one in a series of significant aftershocks hit Christchurch, New Zealand, already suffering from a significant February earthquake.

On this day in 2010 the Gulf Oil Spill entered its fifty-fourth day.  The release of oil from the damaged well-head continued until August.

Today strikes me as a potentially quite consequential day for terrorist activity on an arc extending from at least Abuja, Nigeria to Islamabad, Pakistan.  There is a mirror image of this arc that crosses the Euphrates just north of Baghdad.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

June 12, 2014

Foxes, hedgehogs and homeland security

“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

                                                                                         Archilochous

PART I: COUNTERTERRORISM

On May 21 the Secretary of Homeland Security affirmed that counterterrorism is the primary mission of the Department.  But speaking to a large crowd of mostly state and local officials, Mr. Johnson evidently felt compelled to — or did not have the energy to do more than — review the many activities of the Department and, at least to my ears, focused particular attention on the challenge of illegal immigration (See Part II below).  The DHS website does not provide a transcript.  I wonder if whoever prepared the read-out was actually there.

On May 28 the President told West Point graduates:

For the foreseeable future, the most direct threat to America at home and abroad remains terrorism.  But a strategy that involves invading every country that harbors terrorist networks is naïve and unsustainable.  I believe we must shift our counterterrorism strategy…  So we have to develop a strategy that matches this diffuse threat — one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin, or stir up local resentments.  We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us.  And empowering partners is a large part of what we have done and what we are currently doing in Afghanistan. 

The domestic analog of this strategy also needs to empower its partners.  Our homeland security framework should be especially attentive to vulnerabilities and creative regarding strengths. This is certainly important in terms of counterterrorism, but applies across most other hazards as well… if we will take the opportunity to notice.

Neither this White House nor its predecessor has given anything close to the same quality of attention to partnering with the private sector or the states or other crucial domestic players that is given to collaborating with NATO or the G-7 or key individual allies. The diplomatic-military-intelligence triad enjoys an advantage of clout, connections, and intellectual capital that far exceeds what we call homeland security.  Counterterrorism and cybersecurity are just about the only aspects of HS that earn any sustained attention by policy elites.

And this is no longer the elite of yore: foxes ala Isaiah Berlin moving from investment banking to the OSS to the Herald-Tribune to an embassy or two and then decamping for a few years at the Ford Foundation.  More and more our modern masters are process managers, mathematicians, and other rather wonky hedgehogs “who know one big thing”.  And they are inclined to leave other big things — if any might emerge — to someone else.  They notice what they know.

Since mid-May I have had two separate conversations with recently retired senior counterterrorism guys.  One has been out for about a year.  The other just retired last month.  They sounded alot alike.  Most of what they said you already know.  What struck me was what they did not say — seemed unwilling to seriously address — even in an informal setting and with their official duties behind them.  (But then again, look what I am doing with the conversations.)

The potentially meaningful silence I observed related to terrorist motivation. Americans currently fighting in Syria were mentioned by both.  Domestic terrorist trends were discussed. Recent events in the Sahel were reviewed.  In each exchange there were similar references to “behavioral indicators” and “spatial analysis” and “antecedent conduct” and “heuristics” and “covariance” and “probability”.   There was considerable reluctance to engage any questions related to ideology, religion, tribal-identity, grievance, or social, economic, and political “co-indicators”.  When these questions were asked both experts bridged-back to statistics as quickly as possible.

Speaking of statistics, an N of 2 is seldom significant.  But still the similarity was striking.  Rather than discussing fleshy and potentially very bloody human beings, my conversation partners might have been describing Brownian physics: The random motion of particles suspended in flux.

PART II: IMMIGRATION

I considered Secretary Johnson’s May 21 remarks misaligned with his audience.  He had a crowd with rather specific priorities.  He gave a generic speech.  Lost opportunity.

The somewhat greater focus I heard him give immigration may have been more the result of narrative punch than proportion or intention.  The Secretary mentioned that on Mother’s Day his wife joined him to visit a hosting center in Texas for detained unaccompanied minors (UAMs in trade-talk).  I was not taking notes, but his brief description was sufficient to imagine the kind of purgatorial scenes widely reported this week.

Immigration Center

Holding area for unaccompanied minors in Nogales, Arizona (USAToday).  Please note portable toilets in the far ground. Those are cots in the fore ground.

Mr. Johnson shared being profoundly affected and having since taken several steps to mitigate the troubling situation. This was more than three weeks ago.  I have wondered how much the Secretary’s action might be cause of (or only coincident with) this week’s media blitz.  I also wonder if our attention to this issue will be any more long-lasting or effectual than that given the kidnapped Nigerian school girls.  The crucial difference may be that Secretary Johnson is paying attention and has the authority to ensure others notice and act as well.

In the case of both Nigeria and Nogales a “policy problem” has been personalized.  In each case the “others” — even the “its” — who are victims have reclaimed their humanity. Or more accurately many of us have acknowledged what was always the case, but we had neglected to notice.

We are usually as effective depersonalizing victims as we are dehumanizing terrorists.

III. (IN)ATTENTION, INTENTION, AND INFLUENCE

Behavioral indicators and other more objective analytic techniques have emerged, in part, to discourage unthinking, unhelpful, misleading, gross profiling of potential terrorists; such as most Muslims or at least those with beards… or Sikhs who wear beards and turbans (but are not Muslim and at least in the United States have only been the target — not the source — of terrorism).

I am in favor of science, social science and statistics. I very much depend on hedgehogs and have tried to be better at burrowing into a hedge myself.

But this need not — ought not — exclude the knowledgeable, mindful, insightful application of the humanities (e.g. languages, literature. art, philosophy, religion, history).  We should especially avoid excluding our humanity.

In dealing with homeland security problems we need to recognize cause and effect.  This can often be done with a decidedly disinterested stance.  But there are other contexts when subjective human insight can play an important role. There is a place for empathy even in counterterrorism.

At West Point the President also said, “We must not create more enemies than we take off the battlefield.”  We might begin by recognizing that many of our most precious values are disruptive to more traditional societies… as well as some neighbors down the street.  Being disruptive is often — even accurately — perceived as threatening.  Living our values with integrity while defusing the unintended threat to others is a task requiring both fox and hedgehog, as many as we can get with eyes and ears wide open to the unexpected.

In Philadelphia Secretary Johnson saw a thousand state and local leaders and he didn’t seem to fully recognize their potential.  In the particular moment he was unable to differentiate this crowd from other crowds. He only saw what he was prepared to see. But fortunately when Secretary Johnson saw a thousand illegal immigrants crowded into a detention center in McAllen, Texas he recognized: these are children.  Not just UAMs. His observations and  actions were informed by being a father as well as a cabinet secretary.  Solutions will remain elusive, but much more likely when the problem is engaged as a whole.

June 11, 2014

The scariest news from an eventful week

Filed under: Radiological & Nuclear Threats,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Arnold Bogis on June 11, 2014

A lot of bad things occurred this past week. Real bad things.  Perceived bad things.  Real people died.  Real cable news pundits produced not-so-real outrage.

In regards to foreign terrorism those Afghanistan Taliban prisoners recently released and the situation in Iraq are getting most of the attention, and obviously given our country’s recent history in shaping events in both of those nations. However, I’d argue what transpired in Pakistan is much more worrisome.

Gunmen attacked Pakistan’s international airport in Karachi Sunday night, and the fighting continued into Monday morning.

The reported death toll has been rising: The latest from Pakistan media is that at least 23 are dead, including airport guards and the 10 militants said to be behind the attack.

A spokesman for the Airport Security Force told The Associated Press that the military was called in, but after that the fighting is now over.

The New York Times reports:

“Security forces sealed off the airport, and flights began being diverted away from Karachi within minutes of the fighting. Witnesses saw smoke rising from the airport’s old terminal, and one Pakistani news channel showed footage of a fire burning close to a plane.”

The AP notes that Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, “has been the site of frequent militant attacks in the past.”

Just for a moment, let this sink in.

Pakistan is a nuclear power.  It produces a lot of nuclear weapons.  This requires producing a lot of nuclear weapons-useable material.

This nuclear power cannot keep it’s largest international airport in it’s largest city safe. This was not a small airfield in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.  This was JFK or O’Hare or LAX being attacked by armed militants.

Any insurgency in a nuclear weapons state should be worrisome.  Since they are able to assault the most important airport in perhaps the most important city in a nuclear weapons state should be especially worrisome.

In my opinion, ignore the loud voices worried about the situations easiest to explain/blame someone. Worry about the ones few are talking about but that include nuclear weapons and material.

The Atlantic hosts “Going Viral: Keeping Communities Healthy Through Public Health Emergency Preparedness”

Filed under: Public Health & Medical Care — by Arnold Bogis on June 11, 2014

By the time you read this post, you are likely too late to go to this event (sorry…I just learned about it yesterday).  However, there is a live webcast involved and I am hoping for a video to post when it ends. See the end of the following announcement from The Atlantic for video and twitter information.

The program will feature a one-on-one interview with Irwin Redlener, MD, Director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at the Earth Institute and Professor of Health Policy & Management and Professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University.  Following the interview, Redlener will join with Eric Toner, MD, Senior Associate at the UPMC Center for Health Security, for a broader conversation on how public and private sectors can support each other to reduce risks, respond to crises, and enable healthier living. GSK is the underwriter of the event.

Media interested in attending the event should contact The Atlantic’s Alexi New (anew@theatlantic.com). For those unable to attend in person, the event will be webcast live via The Atlantic’s Events Channel.  Follow the conversation on Twitter via @Atlantic_LIVE#GoingViral.

AT A GLANCE:
Going Viral: Keeping Communities Healthy Through Public Health Emergency Preparedness

Wednesday, June 11, 2014
8:30 – 10:00 AM (8:00 AM Guest Arrival and Registration)

National Press Club
529 14th Street, NW – 13th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20045

Webcast Link:http://bit.ly/1hyM7iR
Follow the conversation on Twitter:@Atlantic_LIVE#GoingViral

AGENDA

8:30 am Welcome Remarks

  • Emily Akhtarzandi, Managing Director, The Atlantic
  • William Schuyler, Vice President for Government Relations, GSK

8:35 am Interview

  • Irwin Redlener, Director, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Earth Institute; Professor of Health Policy & Management and Professor of Pediatrics, Columbia University
  • Moderated by: Steve Clemons, Washington Editor-at-Large, The Atlantic

9:00 am Panel Discussion

  • Andrew GarrettDirector, National Disaster Medical System, Office of Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Irwin Redlener, Director, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Earth Institute; Professor of Health Policy & Management and Professor of Pediatrics, Columbia University
  • Robin Robinson, Director, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority; Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Eric Toner, Senior Associate, UPMC Center for Health Security
  • Moderated by: Steve Clemons, Washington Editor-at-Large, The Atlantic

UPDATE: Video of the event is now available here: http://www.theatlantic.com/live/events/going-viral/2014/

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