Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 30, 2014

The one percent doctrine and a 45 percent unemployment rate

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on September 30, 2014

The unemployment rate during the great depression was 25%.

If we knew, today, that within 20 years there was a chance the US unemployment rate could be 45%, would we do anything about it?

The One Percent Doctrine – invented by Dick Cheney – asserted that

If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It’s not about our analysis … It’s about our response.

It’s not about the analysis.  It’s about the response.

What if there were a one percent chance of a 45% unemployment rate by 2034? Or a 40% rate? Or 25% unemployment?  Is our policy system capable of responding – today – to a threat like this?

Or would it be treated, like climate change, as the inverse of Cheney’s One Percent Doctrine: If there’s a 1% chance the threat won’t materialize, ignore it.  Maybe it will go away.

Or maybe it will generate homeland security problems — and opportunities — for the next decade.

It’s not about the analysis.  It’s about the response.

C.P.G. Grey, in a video seen by over 2.5 million people, describes a nation where automation takes over the jobs robots can do more effectively than humans can.  The video is not about the future. It is about what’s happening now.

[It’s] easy to be cynical of the endless, and idiotic, predictions of futures that never are. So that’s why it’s important to emphasize again this stuff isn’t science fiction. The robots are here right now. There is a terrifying amount of working automation in labs and wearhouses that is proof of concept.

We have been through economic revolutions before, but the robot revolution is different.

Horses aren’t unemployed now because they got lazy as a species, they’re unemployable. There’s little work a horse can do that do that pays for its housing and hay.

And many bright, perfectly capable humans will find themselves the new horse: unemployable through no fault of their own.

But if you still think new jobs will save us: here is one final point to consider. The US census in 1776 tracked only a few kinds of jobs. Now there are hundreds of kinds of jobs, but the new ones are not a significant part of the labor force.

Here’s the list of jobs ranked by the number of people that perform them – it’s a sobering list with the transportation industry at the top.

humans need not apply occupations


Going down the list all this work existed in some form a hundred years ago and almost all of them are targets for automation. Only when we get to number 33 [computer programmers] on the list is there finally something new.

Don’t think that every barista and white collar worker need lose their job before things are a problem. The unemployment rate during the great depression was 25%.

This list … is 45% of the workforce. Just what we’ve talked about [in this video], the stuff that already works, can push us over that number pretty soon. And given that even our modern technological wonderland new kinds of work are not a significant portion of the economy, this is a big problem.

This video isn’t about how automation is bad — rather that automation is inevitable. It’s a tool to produce abundance for little effort. We need to start thinking now about what to do when large sections of the population are unemployable — through no fault of their own. What to do in a future where, for most jobs, humans need not apply.”

Here’s the video.  It takes 15 minutes to watch.  The analysis takes longer.

It’s not about the analysis.  It’s about the response.


September 26, 2014

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on September 26, 2014

On this date in 1959 the strongest typhoon to ever hit Japan comes ashore killing more than 4500 and leaving over 1.6 million homeless.

On this date in 2002 a ferry capsizes off Gambia killing more than 1000.

On this date in 1980 a suspected neo-Nazi bomb attack on Oktoberfest celebrations in Munich kills 13 and injures over 200.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?


September 24, 2014

AmeriCorps: “When did you serve?”

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Preparedness and Response,State and Local HLS — by Arnold Bogis on September 24, 2014

This past weekend as I sat on the T (that’s shorthand for the subway in Boston) three young ladies sporting City Year jackets took seats across from me. From the snippets of conversation I could hear it was easy to tell they were excited about some ceremony they took part in earlier that day.

All of a sudden a voice was raised from the end of the subway car, “Congratulations girls.  How big was your class?” A little surprised by the question, one of them slowly answered “270.”  Picking up on the situation rather quickly, another of the City Year participants asked the woman who questioned them, “when did you serve?”

That struck me. Throughout my life, and especially since 9/11, that particular question has always been wrapped up with military service.  Not to take anything from those who serve in that capacity, but I was moved to consider that perhaps AmeriCorps/City Year participants deserve some of that same respect. These young people are serving our country in their communities, strengthening our collective resilience everyday from the ground up.

So don’t stop saying thanks or buying a round for the men and women who serve(d) in the armed forces.  Perhaps just consider doing the same for AmeriCorps members too.

Some background on AmeriCorps:

AmeriCorps engages more than 75,000 Americans in intensive service each year at nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups across the country.

Since the program’s founding in 1994, more than 900,000 AmeriCorps members have contributed more than 1.2 billion hours in service across America while tackling pressing problems and mobilizing millions of volunteers for the organizations they serve.

AmeriCorps Programs

AmeriCorps programs do more than move communities forward; they serve their members by creating jobs and providing pathways to opportunity for young people entering the workforce. AmeriCorps places thousands of young adults into intensive service positions where they learn valuable work skills, earn money for education, and develop an appreciation for citizenship.

This is the broadest network of AmeriCorps programs. These groups recruit, train, and place AmeriCorps members to meet critical community needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment.
VISTA provides full-time members to nonprofit, faith-based and other community organizations, and public agencies to create and expand programs that bring low-income individuals and communities out of poverty.
AmeriCorps NCCC is a full-time, team-based, residential program for men and women ages 18-24. Its mission is to strengthen communities and develop leaders through direct, team-based national and community service.

A little bit of information on City Year:

At City Year, we’re working to bridge the gap in high-poverty communities between the support the students in the communities actually need, and what their schools are designed to provide. In doing so, our model is designed to support students as they progress from elementary through high school in order to continue to build the nation’s urban graduation pipeline.

Our progress can be attributed to a unique, holistic approach, which we call Whole School Whole Child. It’s based around a group of carefully selected, highly trained young adults—our corps members—who provide individualized support to at-risk students, while also establishing an overall positive learning environment in the schools throughout America that need us the most. It’s their dedication and hard work that’s helping students reach their full potential, while also having a positive effect on the community as a whole.

If you haven’t had enough yet, I’ve embedded a couple of videos below.  Former Presidents Clinton and Bush taped videos in celebrations of the program’s 20th anniversary this year, and President Obama spoke at this year’s swearing in ceremony in Washington, DC.







September 23, 2014

Six master’s degree theses

Filed under: Education,General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on September 23, 2014

Here are the titles – and abstracts – of six master’s degree theses recently completed at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security.  The theses will be publicly available in 4 to 6 weeks.  If you’re interested in seeing one or more of them, please email me (my first and last name [at] gmail.com) and I’ll put you in touch with the author.

Farewell To Arms: A Plan For Evaluating The 2001 Authorization For Use Of Military Force And Its Alternatives

On September 14, 2001, Congress passed the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Over the past 13 years, the AUMF has served as the primary legal foundation for the use of force against terrorist organizations and other counterterrorist operations. Since its passage, threats facing the United States have evolved and new groups have emerged. Yet, Congress has failed to reexamine the statute. This thesis examines whether the AUMF serves as the proper foundation for addressing current terrorist threats or whether an alternative legal tool is more appropriate. … [The] thesis … [analyzes] the evolution of terrorist threats, constitutional concerns, the consequences of altering the legal structure upon which national counterterrorism strategies rely, international legality, and precedent. Ultimately, [the] thesis recommends that Congress sunset the AUMF and implement a tailored approach to force authorization – one that balances constitutional protections and security, while providing a foundation for crafting future force authorizations.


Now Is The Time For CVE-2. Updating And Implementing A Revised U.S. National Strategy To Counter Violent Extremism

The United States (U.S.) national strategy countering violent extremism (CVE) has yet to be updated and currently does not provide the necessary national framework to best combat self-radicalization and violent extremism (VE) in the United States. … “What are the necessary and effective components of the national U.S. CVE strategy that best prevent self-radicalization and VE in the United States?” This research examined the concepts and strategies surrounding extremism and self-radicalization in the U.S., the United Kingdom … and Australia. … One .. finding was the identification of overarching elements that, if implemented, would increase the effectiveness and applicability of the U.S. CVE strategy. These elements include: 1) identifying the federal agency in charge of administering the U.S. CVE strategy, 2) developing a more robust and actionable national CVE framework, 3) refocusing the federal government on support and not local engagement of CVE, 4) requiring all CVE related terms be defined in every document, and 5) requiring regular evaluations and updates of the U.S. CVE strategy. ….


Opaque Communities: A Framework For Assessing Potential Homeland Security Threats From Voids On The Map

Opaque communities are groups of two or more families or cohabitation partnerships that are inaccessible to non-members, affiliates, or associates either through explicit or implied restriction of member interaction outside of the group. [These communities] confound homeland security situational awareness and integration efforts, generating … threat perceptions that often escalate into governmental interventions and violent confrontations. Opaque groups’ disinclination to interact with the surrounding public stymies governmental situational awareness capabilities necessary for homeland security functions, prompting stakeholders to embrace a default tendency to perceive threat streams emanating from such groups and employ a respective confrontational posture. Concurrently, authorities have repeatedly attributed member’s individual crimes and discreet instances of illicit behavior to the entire community, creating self-imposed barriers to viable alternative investigative and enforcement options. Governmental failures to communicate with and effectively address past incidents involving opaque communities have led to tactical response disasters. Future inabilities to foster contact with such groups could present grave, unforeseen challenges to homeland security and surrounding community resiliency efforts. This thesis explores whether governmental entities [should] adopt a common set of operational assumptions regarding threats emanating from opaque communities and, if so, whether alternative interactional frameworks for integrating such communities into homeland security efforts are available.


Should We Stay Or Should We Go Now?—The Physical, Economic, Geopolitical, Social And Psychological Factors Of Recovery From Catastrophic Disaster

“Should we continue to build there?” is a question asked after other past disasters; it is especially more poignant as local, state and federal governments deal with pre-disaster mitigation funding and post-disaster emergency management funding issues. The goal of this research [was] to develop a way of answering that question through a better understanding of the social, economic, and cultural problems, and opportunities of rebuilding. As a result, shortcomings in the assumptions of existing response and recovery plans can be identified, and current community planning can consider future catastrophic events. Through pre-identification of physical, social, and political limitations other communities have faced, pro-active land use, response and recovery planning decisions could be implemented that increase the chance that communities can successfully emerge from disaster. This study investigates examples of past catastrophic disasters and the positive and negative experiences as those communities struggled to return to normalcy. The end result of the research is an assessment that identifies the economic, geopolitical, and social factors of recovery following a catastrophic disaster. ….

Immigration Adjudication Reform: The Case For Automation

A bill that has passed the United States Senate, S. 744, proposes a “Lawful Prospective Immigrant” (LPI) status and a “path to Citizenship” for an estimated 11-12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the Agency that would be responsible for processing applications for LPI status or other immigration benefits authorized by immigration reform legislation or administrative relief programs introduced by the White House. Current Agency receipts of applications for immigration benefits range between 6 and 7 million per year. Depending on the eligibility criteria for new immigration benefits, Agency receipts could triple. The operational impact of these legislative or executive actions on USCIS could bear significant national security risks. This study evaluates whether the implementation of automated tools would mitigate external operational impacts on USCIS. Two existing automated systems are studied. The Secure Flight system, operated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the Automated Continuous Evaluation System (ACES) as utilized in the Joint Reform Effort (JRE) were selected for their complexity, maturity, and similarity to immigration adjudications. This analysis demonstrates that automated tools can improve the quality of immigration adjudications by supporting a comprehensive assessment, including accuracy, timeliness, completeness and validity. Further, automation would improve the Agency’s operational responsiveness when external factors such as policy changes affect workloads. These factors thereby improve national security by supporting the Agency’s mission to uphold the integrity of the immigration system and to prevent and intercept illicit actors from entering or remaining in the United States.


Eyes Of The Storm: Can Fusion Centers Play A Crucial Role During The Response Phase Of Natural Disasters Through Collaborative Relationships With Emergency Operations Centers

Through the maturation of the national network of fusion centers, processes, and capabilities originally designed to detect and thwart terrorist attacks are now applied to disaster responses. The fusion process, which involves the synthesis and analysis of streams of data, can create incident specific intelligence. The sharing of this information can enhance the operating picture that is critical to key decision makers and the discipline of emergency management. This thesis examined three case studies of fusion center disaster responses through a collaborative-based analytical framework. The resulting analysis of the case studies identified the crucial role played by fusion centers in responding to disaster events in a collaborative effort with emergency operations centers. This thesis concludes that fusion centers offer the greatest impact through enabling information sharing throughout the response phase. The specific benefits of the sharing of information directly influence executive briefings and the deployment of resources. This thesis also modeled a collaborative response. The research determined that the depth and breadth of these relationships involving cooperative responses must be proportionate to the incident and include a level of redundancy. Through a system design model, over connectivity through efficiency was shown to increase the likelihood of fracturing cooperative relationships.



September 21, 2014

Washington Post piece examines DHS employee turnover

Filed under: DHS News,General Homeland Security — by Christian Beckner on September 21, 2014

The Washington Post has released a new story this evening looking in-depth at the issue of DHS turnover.    It’s a must read for regular readers of this blog and for former and current employees of DHS.   I’ve quickly typed out and posted some initial reactions to the piece at the new blog that we’ve started at the GWU Homeland Security Policy Institute; you can find my comments on it here.

September 19, 2014

Friday Free Forum

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

On this date in 1985 a strong earthquake kills about 400 in Mexico City.

On this date in 2010 the Macondo Well, source of the Deepwater Horizon spill, was sealed.

On this date in 1676 Jamestown, the capital of the Virginia colony, is burned to the ground by insurgents led by Nathaniel Bacon.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?


September 12, 2014

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on September 12, 2014

On this date in 1988 Hurricane Gilbert came ashore on Jamaica with a 19 foot storm surge and over thirty-inches of rain.  At least 49 were killed.  Damages were in the billions of dollars.

On this date in 2008 a freight train and a commuter train collided head-on in the Chatworth section of Los Angeles.  Twenty-five were killed and over 100 injured.

On this date in 2001 President George W. Bush briefly — and in part –addressed the American people:

The deliberate and deadly attacks, which were carried out yesterday against our country, were more than acts of terror. They were acts of war.

This will require our country to unite in steadfast determination and resolve. Freedom and democracy are under attack. The American people need to know we’re facing a different enemy than we have ever faced.

This enemy hides in shadows and has no regard for human life. This is an enemy who preys on innocent and unsuspecting people, then runs for cover, but it won’t be able to run for cover forever. This is an enemy that tries to hide, but it won’t be able to hide forever. This is an enemy that thinks its harbors are safe, but they won’t be safe forever. This enemy attacked not just our people but all freedom-loving people everywhere in the world.

The United States of America will use all our resources to conquer this enemy. We will rally the world. We will be patient. We’ll be focused, and we will be steadfast in our determination. This battle will take time and resolve, but make no mistake about it, we will win… This will be a monumental struggle of good versus evil, but good will prevail. 

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

September 5, 2014

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on September 5, 2014

On this day in 1996 Hurricane Fran comes ashore killing 27 and causing over $3 billion in damages.

On this day in 1666 the Great Fire of London is brought to a close.  Over 10,000 buildings were destroyed.  Fewer than ten people are thought to have died.

On this day in 1972 the Black September terrorist group attacks the Munich Olympics taking hostage Israeli athletes and coaches.  Eleven of the hostages, one German police officer, and five members of Black September would eventually be killed.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

September 3, 2014

DC Event: “Lessons in Resiliency from the Civilian Front in Israel: Operation Protective Edge”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on September 3, 2014

Just a heads up. If you are in the DC area, this Friday, September 5, the George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute is hosting an event on Israeli lessons for resilience:

Featuring Meir Elran of the Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv, who will discuss the successful resilience demonstrated by the Israeli civilian front during Operation Protective Edge. Elran will discuss the factors which contributed to this success and how they are applicability to future threats including active and passive defense, the performance of the IDF Home Front Command and local government as well as public reactions and conduct during emergencies.

If interested, you can RSVP here: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e9qapd2m6c713350&llr=mysjo9cab

I’d like to expect the best, but I fear that ultimately the Boston Marathon bombing response will come up.  Through the Israeli lens, closing down the city in an attempt to apprehend the suspects was the wrong thing to do. Yet the difference in experience is rarely brought up in terms of lessons learned.

The Israeli experience included a campaign of terrorist attacks on a temporal scale the U.S. hasn’t seen.  Combined with a small geographic area the effort to minimize the impact on the community in Israel took a very problem-specific approach.  However, that does not mean that it will or should work in the U.S.  Conditions are different.  Social constructs and relations with government at all levels is different.  What appears to be foolish choices by U.S. authorities in the minds of Israeli officials can actually be quite efficient and appropriate to the American context.

That is long way around to saying that at this particular event if the idea that Bostonians are less resilient for the actions of one particular Friday then the speaker in question HAS NO IDEA OF WHAT HE HIS TALKING ABOUT.

And I stand by that statement.  Friends in Boston kept living their lives during that period and in fact look upon that Friday as an event that brought the community even closer together.

Boston is stronger due to the choices made during that eventful week. I hope voices forged in a different fire do not influence what should be perceived as a victory here at home.

September 2, 2014

On climate change, TSA medications, bitcoin, hackers, social media, cell phones and the future

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on September 2, 2014

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (interesting name) tries to bring rationality and evidence into a senate climate change debate this summer by using data to counter another senator’s alternative reality. But to no avail. The Senate did not take a position on the question of whether climate change threatens the nation.

Is TSA confiscating medications? The TSA News blog (which points out that it is not affiliated with TSA) describes confusion about how nitroglycerin pills and other medication is treated by screeners.

Big Think  goes against the mainstream bitcoin current and offers one man’s reasons why bit coin may be the best form of money we have ever seen.

Security Watch unscientifically surveyed some hackers trying to learn why they did what they did. Few of them hack for monetary reasons. Most do it because they are bored. Almost 90 percent of the hackers think their own personal information is at risk. As far as I could tell, no terrorists or state-sponsored hackers were included in the survey.

On the Homefront notes that DHS’ Science and Technology directorate is looking for  ideas about what the future might look like. The public is asked

to ponder and think of solutions to questions such as, “Based on what we know today, what do you think the homeland security environment will look like in 20 to 30 years? What challenges will DHS components, responders, and our other end users face? How should the homeland security community change in order to best respond to these challenges? What should S&T plan for now to ensure the nation is more resilient and secure in the future?”

Small Wars Journal  points readers to J.M. Berger’s list of “ten things you need to know about reporting on terrorists on social media.”  Number 7: Random people tweeting specific threats is not [ISIS] making specific threats against America.

Bruce Schneier worries about the unintended side effects of California’s mandatory cell phone kill switch law .

“The law raises concerns about how the switch might be used or abused, because it also provides law enforcement with the authority to use the feature to kill phones. And any feature accessible to consumers and law enforcement could be accessible to hackers, who might use it to randomly kill phones for kicks or revenge, or to perpetrators of crimes who might—depending on how the kill switch is implemented—be able to use it to prevent someone from calling for help.”

The Scientific American investigates how hot the 2014 US summer was. Was it hotter than average? Colder? About in the middle? The answer is . . . yes….

Apparently looking at temperatures for a single year doesn’t tell you much. According to the people at Scientific American the warming trend the U.S. Senate can’t agree about is only obvious when you look at lots of years, like 100: http://www.climatecentral.org/news/the-heat-is-on

August 29, 2014

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on August 29, 2014

On this day in 2005 Hurricane Katrina came ashore near Buras-Triumph, Louisiana.  The hurricane is implicated in the death of more than 1800 Americans and damages exceeding $100 billion.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

August 28, 2014

Reality is random

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on August 28, 2014

A quick review of the summer, now quickly closing:

So far the wildfires have been less destructive than I anticipated.  But worse is likely still ahead.  The exceptional drought in California and extreme drought in Nevada and Southern Oregon set-the-stage for a dangerous autumn.  Precisely when or where?

The hurricane season was predicted to be “below-normal” and results to-date track the projections.  But tomorrow we remember the ninth anniversary of Katrina’s landfall in Louisiana.  We know it will happen again in New Orleans or Houston or Miami or Hampton Roads or following the path of Sandy.

A powerful mid-August low pressure cell brought flooding from Detroit to Baltimore and into New England.  The long-standing record in Islip, New York for rainfall in a 24 hour period was seven inches.  On August 13 the city received nearly 13 inches. Detroit was hit again this week.   More extreme weather has been statistically confirmed.

The 6.0 earthquake in sparsely populated Napa is another proverbial wake-up call for the eventual hit on dense urban areas.  The 1906 San Francisco quake is estimated to have been a 6.8.  The Richter scale is a base-10 logarithmic, so the 6.8 earthquake is almost 16 times stronger than the 6.0.  The 2011 Tohoku earthquake was 9.0 or over 31,000 times stronger than a 6.0 (That’s not a typo.  You can do the calculations here.)  San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Memphis, Anchorage know it is just a matter of time.

Ebola is not casually transmitted.  It has usually been possible to contain it.  But the increasing number of Ebola cases since March highlights the challenges emerging from increased density and mobility. While the Ebola threat to the US is scant, implications for other novel viruses are worth keen attention.  In May several of us exercised a pandemic’s impact on the US supply chain.  As one grocery executive said, “There’s no real solution to this one.  It’s mostly a choice between very bad and awful.”

The March disappearance of MH370 and the shooting down of MH17 in July are each surreal in their own way.   In the last half of July three passenger planes crashed in an eight day period.  Aviation remains comparatively very safe and has consistently become safer over-time.  But with more people flying in more planes more accidents will occur even if the proportion of accidents declines compared to overall use.  Similar can be anticipated for transporting oil and hazardous materials by railway, pipeline, or truck.

Back in February I predicted Syrian-sourced terrorist attacks on Europe. There has been one.  A few more have been preempted.  Given what has happened this summer in Gaza and Northern Iraq, I am surprised we have not seen more attempts.  We will and in the US too.

The Nigerian girls continue to be held captive.  More have been captured.  More boys and girls have been killed.  Boko Haram has also declared creation of an Islamic State (whether related or not to the one in Eastern Syria and Northern Iraq is not yet clear).  Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other Salafists control large swaths of Libya.  Al-Shabaab has lost ground in Somalia but is increasing its activities in Kenya, Djibouti, and Uganda. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula continues to operate in Yemen and plot operations far-afield.  Religious differences amplify tribal conflicts across the Sahel. The summer months have not been encouraging in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Central Asia.  Political divisions have deepened.  Communal conflict has increased.  The same might be said for places and people closer-at-hand.

North American demand for drugs and Latin American suppliers (some with connections to Central Asia and terrorist-related distributors) continue to develop a thriving market for their dangerous products and associated violence.  As with any complex adaptive system the consequences are manifold and often unintended.  But we have seen across the United States and throughout Central America that children are frequently the innocent victims.

For any child of the enlightenment and every Type-A personality there is in this quick review strong motivation to identify causation.  Is there an epidemiology of evil?  Is there a target-zero?  Some sort of pump-handle to remove and thereby mitigate or prevent unnecessary death, injury and destruction?

Perhaps.  Certainly our retrospective forensic skills are often strong enough to recognize what we missed.  But prospectively?  There are many more of us interacting in many more ways and our connections are increasingly interdependent. The potentialities are as logarithmic as the Richter.  Reality is robustly random.  Extremes are not anomalies, they ought to be expected. But they cannot be precisely predicted.

Plenty of opportunities for October surprises.

We are left with what we can apply in the fleeting present: preexisting resources and relationships, a commitment to accurately observing unfolding reality, and a predisposition to positive — and if we can, collaborative — action.

August 26, 2014

In a democracy, the public’s responsibility is to challenge the police when they see misconduct (Part 2)

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by David Gomez on August 26, 2014

[David Gomez is a retired FBI agent and current Homeland Security Consultant. This is part 2 of a 2 part post. You can read part 1 at this link.]

As a young police officer I was taught that the most important thing in police work was to go home to your family every night. That meant learning to use the training, tactics, and command presence that we all learned in the academy to remain safe. It didn’t mean shooting every person we came across that posed a threat. Rather we were required to memorize the 10 Management Principles of the LAPD.

Based on the Nine Principles of Policing developed by Sir Robert Peel in the 1800s, the one I remember most vividly to this day is the one that says:

“Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

Meaning that all police are all inherently part of the community they serve, even though they may live dozens of miles away. New York Police Commissioner and former LAPD Chief-of-Police William Bratton in this New York Times article recounted those management principles, first espoused by Sir Robert Peel in the early 1800s.

Those were the guidelines I followed early in my career until a certain level of cynicism overtook me. That police cynicism was hard to overcome, and didn’t leave until I had spent a significant amount of time in the FBI. Interestingly, the cynicism returned for a time after 9/11, when I saw all terrorists as personifications of evil, rather than merely as criminals to be investigated. The situation in Ferguson, MO., has once again brought that cynicism back to the forefront. But this time it is local police that are the object of my focus.

The images and conduct of police reported out of Ferguson are disheartening at best. First, there was an absence of any semblance of police strategy in dealing with both lawful and violent protestors. The police treated both equally badly, showing up in camouflaged combat gear and automatic weapons more suitable for jungle warfare than an urban environment, and arresting citizens, reporters, politicians, and criminals equally without regards to motive or intent. Tear gas was used indiscriminately to disperse crowds that were not attacking police, but merely protesting the death of one of their own at the hands of police. The right to peacefully assemble took a vacation from Ferguson for a few days last week.

Second, the manner in which the police chief, the mayor, and even the governor fumbled the narrative regarding what was happening in Ferguson was appalling. There were dueling press conferences, leaks of information, conflicting reports, and a total lack of comprehension about the role of the media during a homeland security crisis. As of this writing over two million tweets have been posted about the events in Ferguson, the majority of them negative recitations of police misconduct.  Whether about perceived or actual misconduct, these tweets drove the narrative of police conduct in Ferguson. In the 21st century, a comprehensive media strategy is an essential requirement of every homeland security professional’s compendium of tools.

Finally, the actions of a few rogue officers negatively influenced the perceptions of millions of viewers on television. Followers of social media who read and watched St. Louis area police officers posting racist comments on Facebook, or pointing loaded automatic weapons at lawful protesters and threatening to “f*cking kill” them if they didn’t move back was a public relations and policy nightmare.

In discussions about the police response in Ferguson, retired NYPD Lieutenant John Comiskey pointedly reminded me, “Police work is more like a humanitarian or peace keeping mission than a combat mission. It’s not about simply arresting people.” Or as another former police officer, Andrew Priest, put it, “Police work is 97% being a priest, 3% being a warrior.” Police work has also been described as ninety-nine percent boredom and one percent sheer terror.

In the city of Ferguson, however, for a time we saw no priests, no peacekeeping, and no humanitarians, only warriors. Sheer terror among the police officers seemed to have replaced common sense and effective police work.

Working as a rookie cop in Los Angeles, I may have felt closer to the South Central community where I worked than other cops, because I grew up just outside the city line. My sister—a nun—taught school in Watts, and my mother was a cafeteria worker at a public school there as well. I participated in the Basic Car Plan, which was that era’s community-based policing. For all the criminals I dealt with daily, I learned that there were plenty of families just like mine—only African American—living in Watts. Good people, fair, hard working, law–abiding people. People who supported the police, but were always wary of the rogue cop element that exists in every police department. While the LAPD developed in me an “us against them” survival instinct, the people I met in South Central helped me overcome the negative aspects of that instinct.

Ferguson, Missouri is not Mayberry, North Carolina. Neither is it South Central Los Angeles in the 1970s or even today. It is a town obviously polarized by race, politics and poverty. As events unfold over the shooting death of Michael Brown, Ferguson became a lightning rod and protest platform for political and social activists including anarchists, communists, the Ku Klux Klan and others. In a direct affront to Constitutional values, even members of the mainstream media have been harassed and arrested by police under the guise of maintaining civil order.

We can never return to Sheriff Andy Taylor and the Mayberry of television. But we—as law enforcement and homeland security professionals—can aspire to be Andy-like in our approach to lawful citizens protesting the questionable death of a young black man in their own town. That type of emotional-led police training and experience is what differentiates good, community-based policing from oppressive, us against them policing that has permeated the airwaves of late. Empathetic policing and emotional intelligence seem to be what are missing from the police department of Ferguson, Missouri and surrounding communities.

Sunnil Dutta is wrong. In a democracy, it is the public’s responsibility to challenge the police in the face of what they perceive as police misconduct. The police’s responsibility in turn is not to respond in kind. After all, an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind, even as it restores peace. I hope that is a lesson professor Dutta will now convey to his homeland security student’s at Colorado Technical University.

August 25, 2014

In a democracy, the public’s responsibility is to challenge the police when they see misconduct (Part 1)

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by David Gomez on August 25, 2014

[David Gomez is a retired FBI agent and current Homeland Security Consultant. This is part 1 of a 2 part post.]

In the Andy Griffith Show, the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina served as the setting for small town sheriff Andy Taylor, his hapless but good-hearted deputy Barney Fife, and an array of citizen characters that represented life and policing in early 1960s small-town America. There was Floyd the talkative barber, Howard the county clerk, and Gomer and Goober Pyle. There was also a criminal element represented by Otis Campbell, the town drunk who let himself in and out of his cell when inebriated, and Ernest T. Bass, the local good-hearted troublemaker who like to chuck rocks.

Fast forward 50 years later, and police work is not so simple anymore. There are terrorists, anarchists, drug lords, and violent gang members to worry about. Not to mention the proliferation of legally and illegally armed citizens, some of who present a direct threat to the safety of the modern police officer. Mayberry was a fictional town, but today’s hometown security threats are real and omnipresent.

The question is how much has policing changed from the time of Andy Taylor?

On August 19th, Sunnil Dutta, commenting on police and protestor conduct in Ferguson, Missouri, wrote in the Opinion Section of the Washington Post, “I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me.” Dutta, an adjunct professor of Homeland Security at Colorado Technical University and a 17-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department went on to write,

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me.

In the piece Dutta argues that the responsibility for not getting hurt by police lies with lawful protestors. The tag line of the article—and it is unknown if headline editors at the Washington Post added this—was: “It’s not the police, but the people they stop, who can prevent a detention from turning into a tragedy.” In effect, Dutta is saying, “Police are the real victims here; you made me do this, so it’s your fault.” Unfortunately, the “you made me do this” line is the same ‘blame the victim’ argument I frequently get from my six-year old twin boys.

As a former LAPD detective, and a fellow homeland security professional, I was saddened to read this. While most of Dutta’s comments about police work rang true, some did not. For example, Dutta writes, “cops are not murderers. No officer goes out in the field wishing to shoot anyone, armed or unarmed,” which is patently untrue. To deny that a rogue element exists among police officers is to deny the hard truth.

One need only look at the history of the LAPD and the Rampart police scandals to know these officers exist. I know because I worked in Rampart with some of those officers and others whose greatest desire was to become involved in a shooting. They were the exception, no doubt, but they exist.

In a similarly themed article, former patrol officer Justin Freeman, writing for PoliceOne.com in an article titled why people see cops as ‘arrogant’ stated:

…think about the workday of a police officer. Her job assignments consist, primarily, of being dispatched to successive 911 calls. When someone calls 911 for police service, there is a tacit admission by the caller that the situation at hand has deteriorated beyond his or her control, and police are needed in order to bring the situation back under control. That is the unstated assumption that the officer has going into each situation — not that a social equilibrium needs to be maintained, but that a situation needs to be quickly and efficiently brought back under control. Freeman’s article goes on to develop the theme that over time, and in response to all the calls for service, police officers develop a well-reasoned mistrust of the citizens they encounter on the job as a matter of officer safety.

To paraphrase Freeman with something I frequently heard on the LAPD, “there are three types of people in this city: Cops, people who love cops, and assholes.” If you are treated badly it’s because the police officer doesn’t know or trust you enough to discern if you are one of the first two types. Which to most cops is pretty much everyone they meet on a day-to-day-basis.

Was police work always like this? Or has 9/11, the threat of terrorism, and concerns over homeland security changed the nature of policing? Some argue that the police response to the public during homeland security incidents is a law enforcement education and training issue that police commanders have failed to pursue since 9/11. The responsibility to educate police on the public’s perception of them, demonstrate that police are a part of the community they serve, and hold police accountable to a higher standard of conduct is a managerial imperative that is not always followed (Comiskey, personal communication, 2014).

As a young police officer I was taught that the most important thing in police work … [to be continued on Tuesday, August 26th]

August 24, 2014

One day. Forty earthquakes. One story.

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

Here is a map of the magnitude 2.5 or greater earthquakes reported by the United States Geological Survey on August 24, 2014. (The red lines are the plate boundaries.)

Global earthquakes 2.5+ August 24, 2014

And here’s a list of those earthquakes:

list of 8.24 14 earthquakes

And here’s a picture of a fire in the Napa, California mobile home park where my mother-in-law lives.

napa mobile home park

Her home did not burn. But almost everything inside was treated the way you might expect a 6.1 earthquake would treat the contents of a mobile home.

One story of one earthquake on one day.


August 22, 2014

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on August 22, 2014

On this day in 1949 an 8.1 earthquake struck a sparsely populated area off British Columbia and the Alaska panhandle.  There were no deaths.  But it demonstrated the potential energy of the Cascadia fault system.

On this day in 2008 a train derailed near Luther, Oklahoma.  Crude oil and ethanol being transported exploded.  The fire continued for over 24 hours.

On this day in 1831 Nat Turner led a slave rebellion in Southhampton County, Virginia.  Up to seventy died in the rebellion.  At least 100 were killed in the aftermath.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

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