Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 13, 2015

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on February 13, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

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Comment by Matt Doyle

February 13, 2015 @ 9:36 am

For this post I wanted to discuss the increasing sophistication of the surveillance technologies protecting cities, high-risk locations, and critical infrastructure around the country. This past week I read an article about the Closed Circuit TV (CCTV) surveillance system in Boston that was used to help track the Boston Bombers. In the article, Bergin (2013) effectively argued why CCTV systems can help our nation become safer and more capable when it comes to catching terrorists. The article described how the system recorded the bombers walking around, placing their bags, and walking away calmly while the explosions occurred. The footage of the suspects was then used to produce images for the public to view. While effective, the CCTV system in Boston was primarily used for a reactive response.

In his article, Bergin (2013) alluded to the fact that more technology is available. Bergin (2013) talks about intelligent surveillance systems and the possibility of preventing future attacks through proactive measures. Bigdel et al (2007) published an article about the benefits of an Intelligent Closed-Circuit TV (ICCTV) system and how ICCTVs can be used to prevent some attacks from ever occurring. Bigdeli et al. (2007) writes that “– what is really needed by the counterterrorism community is proactive security to help prevent future attacks” (p. 1). An Intelligent Closed-Circuit TV (ICCTV) system would act as a deterrent, as well as, a proactive, and a reactive security measure. ICCTV systems are still being developed, improved, and updated by new software applications, but they offer many capabilities. Bigdeli et al (2007) writes that some capabilities include: “(1) robust detection of background changes, (2) tracking and identification of people by their appearance across multiple cameras, (3) detecting suspicious events such as left luggage or dangerous behavior of people, and (4) video summation to produce brief video summaries of activity” (p. 1). Intelligent Closed-Circuit TV systems represent a potential security boost because they offer real-time proactive security capabilities. In addition to the above capabilities, ICCTV systems are future oriented because new software can be added to make them even more automated.

An example of how ICCTV systems are future oriented can be seen with the FBI’s recent announcement of their Next Generation Identification System. Their next generation system includes a database of mug shots and images of citizens from around the nation. This database, paired with new facial recognition software, will increase the facial recognition capabilities of ICCTV systems and add another layer of security to high risk areas. Pagliery (2014) reports that that the “government expects the system’s database to house 51 million photographs by next year – – and keep growing (p. 1). It has also been reported that police departments will be able to tap into the database. Images can be entered into the database from the internet, security cameras, and mugshots, and it was built to accept future collection of biometric data (Pagliery, 2014). Technology is making it possible for us to install proactive, intelligent systems for additional surveillance and detection; this will result in a safer more secure nation.


Bergen, A. (2013). Boston Tells us not to be blind to CCTV’s uses. The Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/comment/boston-tells-us-not-to-be-blind-to-cctvs-uses-20130428-2imkl.html

Bigdeli, A., Lovel, B.C., Sanderson, C., Shan, T., and Chen, S. (2007). Vision Processing in Intelligence CCTV for Mass Transport Security. Signal Processing Applications for Public Security and Forensics. http://nicta.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/14967/Vision_Processing_in_Intelligent_CCTV_for_Mass_Transport_Security.pdf

Pagliery, Jose (Sept. 9, 2014) FBI launches a face recognition System. CNN Money.

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 13, 2015 @ 1:04 pm

Ash Carter confirmed as SECDEF! Prediction at age 60 barring illness and regardless of outcome of 2016 Presidential election predict Dr. Carter might well serve for a decade.

Wiki Extract:

Ashton Baldwin “Ash” Carter (born September 24, 1954) is the United States Secretary of Defense-designate. He is a physicist and United States Department of Defense official, and was nominated by President Barack Obama on December 5, 2014, and confirmed by the Senate on February 12, 2015, to replace Chuck Hagel as the US Secretary of Defense.[2][3]

Carter was Deputy Secretary of Defense from October 2011 to December 2013, serving as the DOD’s Chief Operating Officer overseeing more than $600 billion per year and 2.4 million civilian and military personnel, and managing global 24/7 operations. From April 2009 to October 2011, he was Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics with responsibility for procurement of all technology, systems, services, and supplies, bases and infrastructure, energy and environment, and more than $50 billion annually in R&D.

Previously, Carter was a senior partner of Global Technology Partners focused on advising investment firms in technology and defense, and an advisor to Goldman Sachs on global affairs. At Harvard’s Kennedy School, he was Professor and Chair of the International Relations, Science, and Security faculty. He served on the Boards of Directors of the MITRE Corporation, Mitretek Systems, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and as a member of the Draper Laboratory corporation. Carter has been a member of the Defense Policy Board, the Defense Science Board, and the Secretary of State’s International Security Advisory Board. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Aspen Strategy Group.

From 1993 to 1996, Carter served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy, responsible for policy regarding the former Soviet states, strategic affairs, and nuclear weapons policy.

For his service to national security, Carter has on five occasions been awarded the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medal. He received the Defense Intelligence Medal for his contributions to Intelligence. He was confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate for both the number-two and number-three Pentagon positions. Carter is author or co-author of 11 books and more than 100 articles on physics, technology, national security, and management.

On December 5, 2014, Carter was nominated by President Barack Obama to replace outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.[4] On February 12, 2015, his nomination was confirmed by a vote of 93–5.

Comment by Maggie Szymczyk

February 13, 2015 @ 4:45 pm

For this discussion I would like to discuss the IDS technology which provides the United States with low cost, portable, real time sensing capabilities that greatly enhance America’s security posture but there is also downside to the IDS Technology like dealing with civil liberties issues. IDS technology is made up of many different types of technology like CCTV, explosives detection, surveillance capabilities, automated license plate readers and other items that can be seen as intrusive. It is important to remember that IDS technology is evolving and new innovations are used to protect our homeland. We have seen in the USA PATRIOT Act that the issue of civil liberties is a big problem and many oppose the law. However, it is important to realize that USA PATRIOT Act was written in order to provide safety and security to the Americans.
The USA PATRIOT Act as described by the Department of Justice (2015) has “since its passage following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Patriot Act has played a key part – and often the leading role – in a number of successful operations to protect innocent Americans from the deadly plans of terrorists dedicated to destroying America and our way of life” (pg. 1). It is important to understand that the Act was passed in order to give agencies tools that are necessary to capture suspected terrorists before they are able to carry out terrible attack. The Act is a very controversial law however it is important to understand what the Act does for the agencies before stating opinions about it. IDS technology give tools to agencies which allows them to better do their job.
IDS technology is very much successful in helping ensure safety of the United States. Civil liberties are very important however, the use of IDS technology very rarely completely overshadows the civil liberties. There are compromises that Americans need to make in order for protection and safety. According to Bergin (2013) “The Boston bombings show that CCTV has been doing better lately. Using three security cameras in different positions in downtown Boston, and corroborating this footage with contemporaneous photographs, the FBI was able to track Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s movements as they got into position to detonate their bombs” (pg. 1). This is a great advantage that allowed to minimize the damages that could have been much greater if not for the CCTVs. The monitoring and surveillance is very important especially in the light of the recent events. Sometimes we have to compromise a little in order to achieve the ultimate goal which is ensure the safety and security of the United States and that cannot be done with some sacrifices on the part of the Americans.


Bergin, A. (April 29, 2013). Boston tells us not to be blind to CCTV’s uses. The Sunday Morning Herald. Retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au/comment/boston-tells-us-not-to-be-blind-to-cctvs-uses-20130428-2imkl.html

Department of Justice. (2015). The USA PATRIOT Act: Preserving Life and Liberty. Department of Justice. Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/archive/ll/highlights.htm

Comment by Ally M

February 13, 2015 @ 7:23 pm

For this post I wish to discuss the risk management approach to homeland security. Risk management is essential to homeland security which makes it a topic that should be discussed more. Risk management is looking into the possible connections between threats, vulnerability, and consequences. These risks are looked at in great detail through risk assessments. As the threats begin to change more vulnerabilities emerge which could lead to a greater amount of consequences. Threats to this nation are constantly trying to find vulnerabilities within our defenses to take advantage of. We have to constantly try to find the vulnerabilities first to either create a solution or mitigate the consequences to as minimal as possible. Every stakeholder that is a part of the homeland security community needs to be able to manage the potential risks. The use of risk management can reduce vulnerabilities, mitigate consequences, and facilitate securing the homeland. For example this nation’s economy has now become a major target for threats. By enhancing the United States economy through risk management its vulnerabilities will be reduced and the likely consequences either prevented or mitigated. The economy needs to become more resilient to a potential terrorist attack, especially cyber attacks. Terrorists understand how vital our economy is to our nation’s way of life. Now their goals for their attacks have shifted to devastate our economy in any way they can. Knowing this information the economy needs to become resilient. This means that the economy needs to be able to bounce back as fast as it can after a disaster or emergency occurs. The economy’s capabilities and risks need to be assessed then prioritized into which risks will reduce vulnerabilities and mitigate the greatest amount of consequences. It is known that not every threat can be stopped but with risk management actively being used by the homeland security community it can become better prepared. This is not a one and done approach. Risks need to be constantly managed to better secure the homeland.

This is a concept that is not only applied to homeland security. Risk management can be used in everyday situations. If this country can educate its citizens to use and understand the risk management approach for the smaller things in life it will greatly increase this country’s homeland security capabilities. For two reasons, one it will allow for individual citizens to enhance their risk management skills which will allow for them to better prepare for emergencies. This will lead to communities becoming more resilient which is the end goal. Two, it will help secure our nation’s future in the homeland security field and enhance our society. By educating the youth of this country in using risk management they will be more qualified to fill the homeland security roles when they are ready to take over. This education will allow for everyone to have the ability to locate vulnerabilities when they arise in any job or situation and be able to use creative thinking to find solutions. It will expand our capabilities of approaching a problem from many different angles. Using this approach will enhance the overall strategic thinking of the homeland security community. Since this has not occurred yet another solution needs to be used in order to make sure that all of the homeland security community stakeholders are using the risk management approach properly. If even one stakeholder is not going properly through risk assessments it creates a weak link in our defenses. This is why designated individuals need to be highly trained in the risk management approach and then tasked with keeping all stakeholders on target. These designated individuals are also known as risk officers, whose focus is only on risk management. By finding solutions to these challenges it will help secure the homeland by reducing vulnerabilities and mitigate consequences of these challenges.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

February 13, 2015 @ 9:05 pm

For this post, I wish to point to the continued failings of this administration which continues to follow the wisdom of the Rev Wright and the warped perceptions that somehow Tehran is a US pal as has been the Muslim Brotherhood to this seemingly treasonous White House!

The “Brutes of Tehran” now reportedly control the following and soon will have WMD in hand:

Iran Now Controls Four
Middle Eastern Capitals
Robert Morley | February 10
Iran now controls the capital cities in four Middle Eastern nations. The Jerusalem Post reported February 8 that Yemen fell to Iran in its regional proxy war, via the Houthi militant group.

The Post added: “Yemen is perfectly set to become a sectarian war that will see millions more in foreign funds transferred to various proxy forces in
the country ….”

Since 2009, America, unwilling to commit ground troops to fight al Qaeda in Yemen, has been conducting an aggressive drone warfare campaign over the nation. In the 120 attacks reported by the media, over 800 people were killed, including 83 civilians.

Yemen was supposed to be the role model for how to fight wars without having to get your hands dirty. It was supposed to work by pairing American airpower with a campaign of building local allies to fight on the ground.
In Yemen, America’s ground allies lost.

Yet what makes this defeat doubly disastrous isn’t that the drone warfare campaign probably contributed to the local government’s waning support, but that it was America who put the final nail in the coffin of the supposedly “U.S-backed” Yemeni government.

Effectively, America worked with an Iranian-backed militant group to overthrow America’s ally. America has worked with the Iranian-sponsored
Houthis from as far back as at least November—long before the Houthis overthrew the American allied government in Yemen.

So it appears as if the decision to let the Yemeni government fall was a strategic one. But one that will leave America’s other allies to wonder how trustworthy America is.

In Yemen, America was the kind of ally you don’t want. Sadly, America will see little benefit from its loss of prestige and reputation in Yemen. The whole situation could quickly turn into a disaster—especially
if America continues to support the Houthis’ war.

The Houthis are pushing south and west in an effort to eliminate al Qaeda from the Red Sea/Bab el-Mandeb strait coastal area. If they gain control,
the geopolitical consequences could be very far reaching.

Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry reported on the significance of the Houthi takeover of Yemen. The Houthis, and by extension Iran, are about to gain control over one of the world’s most strategic waterways. Mr. Flurry
explains the implications on oil markets, global trade, European security and more in his Key of David program “The Yemen Crisis.”

The Jerusalem Post concluded by quoting Uzi Rabi, a Yemen expert and director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studieat Tel Aviv University: “Iran sees itself as the rising power in the region, Rabi told the Post in December, adding that an Iranian Revolutionary Guard official was quoted as saying that the
Islamic Republic of Iran now controls four Middle Eastern capitals: Sanaa, Beirut, Baghdad and Damascus.”

Watch as Iran looks to add more capital cities to that list. A couple of candidates: Cairo and Tripoli. Iran is working hard to exploit the chaos in Libya, and it almost got its way in Cairo when the Muslim Brotherhood initially overthrew
Egypt’s military leaders. To understand why these nations are destined to fall into Iran’s orbit read “Egypt and Libya to Join Iran’s Terror Net

Comment by Christopher Tingus

February 13, 2015 @ 9:28 pm

and a weakened US enables Tehran to broaden its grasp throughout the Middle East and with its already bloodied hands of US service youth, this White House and its obvious leanings toward Iran and snubbing the (Hebrew) Jew, well, an interesting read follows:

Rise of the New
Persian Empire
Callum Wood | February 12

Under the magnanimous rule of Cyrus the Great, the Persian Empire extended from the foothills of the Himalayas to the banks of the Nile River. It was a vast conglomeration of peoples, creeds, religions and languages tied together in
large part by the governing policies of King Cyrus.

Cyrus believed that the empire would remain stable if its subjects were allowed to keep their own customs while still paying homage to Persia.

Today, Iran—the progeny of that dynasty— is once more vying to carve out an empire. But unlike ancient Persia, Iran relies on fear, extortion, intimidation and bloodshed—conversion by the sword.

As such, it is vital to see where Iran’s empire is expanding and the threat it poses internationally.


The installment of Shiite, pro-Iranian officials in Iraq’s government has been one of the key ways Shiite Iran has gained influence. A Sunni-Shia fissure emerged in Iraq as a consequence. Violence further widened the rift.

Then came the fall of northern Iraq to Islamic State terrorists. Under the guise of peacekeeper and concerned neighbor, Iran has used the battle with the Islamic State to gain even more influence and popularity in Iraq.

Iran now boasts unprecedented military involvement in the nation. And the side benefit of this is the fact that Iran’s actions are condoned and even aided by the United States.


The civil war in Syria long ago morphed into a proxy war between the regional powers of Saudi Arabia and Iran. And Iran is winning that war.

Much like in Iraq, the Syrian regime has been propped by the finances, weapons and guidance from Iran. Without Tehran’s military aid, Bashar Assad would have fallen to the rebel troops long ago.


Until September last year, Yemen was divided into two key power blocs. One was the U.S.-backed government; the other was al Qaeda in the Arabian
Peninsula (aqap). But that all changed when Iranian-backed Houthi rebels stormed the capital, took the presidential palace and demanded more control of the government.

The result was the resignation of the Yemeni government. Pre-Yemen, Iran already controlled the Strait of Hormuz, through which flows 40 percent of the
world’s oil. Tehran has historically threatened to shut the strait down, sending oil prices skyrocketing and weak economies skydiving. Now Iran has control of the Bab el-Mandeb too—the vital sea gate on the southern end of the Red Sea.


What interest does Iran have with Libya?

In the April 2011 Trumpet, editor in chief Gerald Flurry explained, “All you need to do is get a good map of the Middle East, with the emphasis on the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. … They are the two seas that comprise the most important trade rout in the world. … If Iran gets control of that trade route, it could create enormous damage and chaos in America and Europe almost overnight.” Control or influence in Libya would grant Iran access to 1,100 miles of Mediterranean coastline—posing a significant danger to Europe and any shipping through the crucial seaway.


Bahrain has experienced Iranian-fueled infighting since the “Arab Spring” of 2011. The ruling royal family in Bahrain is Sunni, while the majority
of the population is Shiite.

This tiny nation can dually serve Iran’s purposes.

If taken by Iran, it could lead to the ouster of America’s 5th Fleet—giving more control of the Persian Gulf to Iran—and it could also pose a significant threat to Iran’s lone counterweight, Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia

The Saudis are wary of the encircling Iranians. If Iran is to take unchallenged control of the Middle East—as is its aim—Saudi Arabia must be confronted.

While well equipped, the Saudi Army has rarely had to prove its mettle in conflict. Iranian forces on the other hand are both well armed and
well trained.

If conflict looms, the Saudis will need reliable allies.

The Trumpet has forecast such an alliance for decades. Watch the Key of
David episode “The Psalm 83 Prophecy” for more
on this exciting Bible prophecy.


Southern Lebanon is the home of Iran’s most effective terrorist group, Hezbollah. Funded, trained and armed by Iran, Hezbollah has been used to carry out attacks around the globe, most recently in Syria and northern Israel. The terrorists provide a key ally for Bashar Assad and are Iran’s closest and most effective way of attacking Israel.

Hezbollah’s existence ensures Iran has immediate access to Syria and northern Israel. It is the latter of these two that Iran will undoubtedly work to exploit next.


Standing in the Iranian empire’s way is the small sliver of democracy known as Israel. Iran harasses Israel through its allies in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and southern Lebanon. On numerous occasions Iran has been caught in the
act of attempting to smuggle weapons to Israel’s enemies.

Israel holds one thing that Iran, and all Muslims, have long desired: Jerusalem.
The city of peace has been fought over for centuries and today is no different. Its significance and ties to the Iranian empire cannot be
overstated. It’s tied to a prophesied confrontation between the king of the north (expounded in our booklet Germany and the Holy Roman Empire)
and the king of the south.

“[T]hanks to [Mr.] Obama, Iran is the one country in the Middle East that is becoming increasingly powerful as a result of the unrest in the region.”

Melanie Phillips, Jerusalem
Post, February 6

Comment by Justyna Gromadzka

February 13, 2015 @ 10:23 pm

For this week’s post I wanted to discuss the threat that distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks pose to our nation. In a DDoS attack, thousands of computers all try to contact a targeted website at the same time. This overwhelms the servers and results in the website being inaccessible. Such attacks are not only happening more often but they are becoming a bigger threat. Cyber criminals have been becoming increasingly sophisticated and along with that the attacks they carry out are becoming more sophisticated. In 2014 “the average DDoS attack’s peak bandwidth nearly doubled, while the average peak volume of DDoS attacks more then tripled” (Prolexic, 2015). This should be a major concern for private companies, government agencies, and citizens.

These attacks do not merely cause inconvenience, but can result in major monetary looses and security breaches. Furthermore. when such attacks occur, citizens might loose trust in the company or government to protect their information in the cyber domain. As stated in the 2014 Cisco Security report, “Users of all types are now even more likely to question the trustworthiness of the technology they rely on every day whether at work or in their personal lives” (CISCO, 2014). These types of attacks are relatively low cost to carry out but can cause major issues for our nation. For this reason, they are appealing to not only cyber criminals but cyber terrorists as well.

Our nation has been dealing with DDoS attacks for years now. However, with the recent increase in the amounts and sophistication of such attacks, many “key parts of telecommunications and financial services infrastructure have been stressed to a dangerous level” (Menn, 2013). The U.S. banks, internet provides, and security companies just can not keep up with the recent attacks since nation-state entities such as Iran can devote a lot of time and resources on these attacks (Menn, 2013).

Our society, as most of the world, is very dependent on technology for many daily functions. Such a dependence and growth in the utilization of the internet also results in increased risk for cyber attacks. In order to better protect out nation from DDoS attacks we must asses our risks and vulnerabilities. Only then can we effectively manage the risks we face and have a better chance against these attacks. In order for this to occur, however, Government agencies, internet, providers, and private companies must come together and try to come up with new solutions.

Cisco (2014). Cisco Annual Security Report. Cisco Systems Inc. http://www.cisco.com/web/offer/gist_ty2_asset/Cisco_2014_ASR.pdf

Menn, J. (2013). Cyber attacks against banks more sever then most realize. Reuters. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/18/us-cyber-summit-banks-idUSBRE94G0ZP20130518

Prolexic. (2015). Global DDoS Attack Stats. Retrieved from http://www.prolexic.com/knowledge-center-ddos-attack-report-2014-q2-quarterly-trends-infographic.html

Comment by Colton Strano

February 13, 2015 @ 10:46 pm

Technology has been improving our way of life and making humans more productive. But on the flip side to that, it has also opened up doors to new threats and attacks that we are not ready for. This past year, CISCO as released their 2014 security report that outlines the many different problems and threats our nation should be looking more closely into.

Cyber attacks have been increasing years after year and not only coming more frequently, but also more sophisticated. Technology allows for new opportunities for companies but also allows for more opportunities to be attacked in the cyber world. Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and the trust of the general public towards our government protecting us against cyber attacks are two very important topics that need to be addressed on a more serious notion. “DDoS attacks should be a top security concern from organizations in the public and private sector in 2014,” says John N. Stewart, senior vice president and chief security officer at Cisco. “Expect future campaigns to be even more extensive and to last for extended periods. Organizations, particularly those that operate or have interests in industries that are already prime targets, such as financial services and energy, need to ask themselves, ‘Can we be resilient against a DDoS attack?’” (CISCO, 2014). Attacks like these can have a crippling effect on our nation’s economy as well as the protection of critical infrastructures.

Joining DDoS attacks as a top concern, so is gaining and keeping the trust of Americans that our nation can and will secure our critical infrastructures, private networks, and digital banking data from cyber attacks. The general public will be the first to feel the repercussions of the governments failure to protect banks or secure networks from cyber attacks. Loosing the trust of the public will force our nation into a downward spiral and lose all of the progress made post 9/11. “While trends such as cloud computing and mobility are reducing visibility and increasing security complexity, organizations must still embrace them because they’re critical to their competitive advantage and business success. But security gaps are emerging—and widening—as security teams try to align traditional solutions with new and rapidly evolving ways of doing business. Meanwhile, malicious actors are working faster to exploit the gaps that nonintegrated point solutions simply cannot address. And they are succeeding because they have the resources to be more nimble” (CISCO, 2014). Business competition should not be the reason the strongest nation in the world collapses from, and with all of the resources America possess, finding a way to balance the need for technology and the means to protect it should be just as easily done as it can be said.

Cisco (2014). Cisco Annual Security Report. Cisco Systems Inc. http://www.cisco.com/web/offer/gist_ty2_asset/Cisco_2014_ASR.pdf

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 14, 2015 @ 7:41 am

Thanks to Ally, Maggie, Matt, and Colton and Justyna for highly interesting comments.

Would any agree with me that the Private Sector after the last week and the President’s speeches in Silicon Valley and Stanford mean that all must finally come to grips with cyber security?

My guess is the SEC will soon require a breakout in all required corporate filings [like the 10K] as to expenditures on security virtual and physical and perhaps identify all attacks whether or not previously reported?

Comment by Stephen

June 30, 2015 @ 11:36 pm

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