Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 21, 2016

President Obama’s visit to a mosque

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Radicalization,Resilience — by Arnold Bogis on March 21, 2016

With the declining state of campaign rhetoric during this political season, especially as it concerns immigration, Islam, and terrorism, I thought it appropriate to bring attention back to President Obama’s visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore last month.

If you missed it behind the sheer volume of campaign and other news, it is a speech worth reading or watching.  The President hits on several important homeland security topics, while at the same time resisting the urge to frame the speech in simple security terms.

As a reporter from the Washington Post described it:

President Obama Wednesday delivered the comforting sermon to U.S. Muslims that their community leaders have been requesting for years, framing Islam as deeply American and its critics as violating the nation’s cherished value of religious freedom. Obama’s comments came in his first visit as president to a U.S. mosque.

The historic 45-minute speech at a large, suburban Baltimore mosque was attended by some of the country’s most prominent Muslims. In what appeared to be a counter to the rise in Islamophobia, Obama celebrated the long history of Muslim achievement in American life from sports to architecture and described Muslims as Cub Scouts, soldiers and parents, pointing out the mother of the pre-med college student who introduced him at the podium.

“There are voices who are constantly claiming you have to choose between your identities…. Do not believe them…. You fit in here. Right here. You’re right where you belong. You’re part of America, too,” Obama said, his volume rising as he said he was speaking in particular at that moment to young Muslim Americans. “You’re not Muslim or American, you’re Muslim and American. And don’t grow cynical.”

You can read the text of the speech at the White House website here:


Or you can watch it below:

March 18, 2016

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on March 18, 2016

William R. Cumming Forum

March 11, 2016

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on March 11, 2016

William R. Cumming Forum

March 4, 2016

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on March 4, 2016

William R. Cumming Forum

February 26, 2016

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on February 26, 2016

William R. Cumming Forum

February 19, 2016

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on February 19, 2016

William R. Cumming Forum

February 12, 2016

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on February 12, 2016

William R. Cumming Forum

February 11, 2016


Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on February 11, 2016

This post is to announce my departure.

For over seven years I have shared these screens with a wide range of people posting and commenting.  I have certainly benefited and hope to have returned the favor.

Three issues have converged to move me along.

First, Homeland Security has continued to so persistently fracture that I find it more difficult than ever to discuss it as anything but a rather arbitrary collection of functions.  It is a Rube Goldberg construction incorporating several individual bits performing practical services.  But as a whole, it seems to me less and less strategically — or conceptually — coherent.  This is frustrating to me and I don’t perceive my contribution at HLSWatch is helping close the gaps.  Perhaps the opposite.

Second, the coarsening of public discourse, our readiness to denigrate one another, and the emergence of anger as a recurring default is deeply distressing.  Various Vulgarian tribes are fighting over the remnants of the Republic.  A predilection for attack, rather than any serious attempt to understand, is epidemic. At HLSWatch I have failed to craft effective alternatives or even a meaningful defense. Both on the blog and in bilateral communications about terrorism, immigration, refugees, fear, and if or how to fight there is an explosion of stubborn factionalism that I find inherently self-destructive, probably for our polity… certainly for me.

Third — and thankfully — other aspects of my life are going rather well. I find that in other venues it is still possible to speak softly, listen carefully, work together to apprehend problems and opportunities, experiment with creative interventions, be kind to one another, and at the end of the day see that progress is often being made, even if many of us remain uncertain or disagree.  I want to focus more on where my investments generate positive returns, rather than digging a deeper deficit.


But you will not be surprised that as a parting “gift”, I  leave you with one more  potentially specious classical analogy.  Below is a passage from the Third Book of Thucydides “Peloponnesian War“.  Many traditional translations take the classical Greek word stasis and give us “revolution” or “civil strife” or something similar.  But I perceive Thucydides was quite intentional to signal “standing still” or even “locked in place”.  He describes a mutually reinforcing face-off between two roughly equal sides within several city-states, neither side typically willing to grant the other moral equivalence, each insistent on its moral superiority.

The sufferings which stasis entailed upon the cities were many and terrible, such as have occurred and always will occur, as long as the nature of mankind remains the same; though in a severer or milder form, and varying in their symptoms, according to the variety of the particular cases. In peace and prosperity states and individuals have better sentiments, because they do not find themselves suddenly confronted with imperious necessities; but war takes away the easy supply of daily wants, and so proves a rough master, that brings most men’s characters to a level with their fortunes.

Stasis thus emerged in city to city, and the places where it arrived at last, from having heard what had been done before carried to still greater excess the refining of their inventions, as manifested in the cunning of their conspiracies and the atrocity of their reprisals.

Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence, became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defense.

The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries. To forestall an intending criminal, or to suggest the idea of a crime where it was wanting, was equally commended, until even blood became a weaker tie than party, from the superior readiness of those united by the latter to dare everything without reserve; for such associations… were formed by ambition for their overthrow; and the confidence of their members in each other rested less on any ethical (or religious) sanction than upon complicity in crime.

The fair proposals of an adversary were met with jealous precautions by the stronger of the two, and not with a generous confidence. Revenge also was held of more account than self-preservation. Oaths of reconciliation, being only proffered on either side to meet an immediate difficulty, only held good so long as no other weapon was at hand; but when opportunity offered, he who first ventured to seize it and to take his enemy off his guard, thought this perfidious vengeance sweeter than an open one, since, considerations of safety apart, success by treachery won him the palm of superior intelligence. Indeed it is generally the case that men are readier to call rogues clever than simpletons honest, and are as ashamed of being the second as they are proud of being the first.

This ancient description of a society ripped-asunder seems entirely too familiar for my comfort.  The challenge — at least for me — presented by such extremes (and extremists) is to find where it is possible to productively focus any remaining constructive resources.  There are now, I perceive, other more fertile places.

February 5, 2016

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on February 5, 2016

William R. Cumming Forum

January 29, 2016

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on January 29, 2016

William R. Cumming Forum

January 22, 2016

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on January 22, 2016

William R. Cumming Forum

January 15, 2016

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on January 15, 2016

William R. Cumming Forum

January 8, 2016

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on January 8, 2016

William R. Cumming Forum

January 1, 2016

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on January 1, 2016

William R. Cumming Forum

December 25, 2015

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on December 25, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

December 24, 2015

“What are things like in America?” – Letters from Aleppo (Part 3 of 3)

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on December 24, 2015


For some families it means listening for any noise suggesting homeland security raids have started, as Phil Palin posted earlier today:

The Department of Homeland Security has begun preparing for a series of raids that would target for deportation hundreds of families who have flocked to the United States since the start of last year, according to people familiar with the operation.

An emergingly ironic backdrop to the last of Jeff Kaliner’s three-part letters from Syria’s largest city, Aleppo



Dear Pen Pal:

The Russians have begun their air strikes. It’s not as easy as it used to be. Russian jets are faster, more accurate, and more deadly. My mother fled the country last week with my sister, they should be in Turkey but I haven’t heard anything back yet. Dad told me he has been in contact with them but won’t let me see any letters or talk to them.

Sleep and rest has become difficult as the regime is becoming more confident with Russian support. There isn’t much that can be done on our end. It doesn’t look like the U.S. is willing to increase their part in our liberation. Everyone says that we are winning the war. This war isn’t even close to over.


Mani Singh



Dear Pen Pal,

Today was a sad day in my town. More protesters have gone “missing” in the last three days. I don’t get why the government must take them away when all they are doing is singing peacefully not causing any trouble. But on the bright side the rebels have beaten the extremists in yet another battle. My father and brother were fighting in that battle and I was so scared that they would not be returning. But luckily they did return with just bumps and bruises.

I hope this war will end soon and there will be peace in the land. I wish everything would return to normal and the children would never fear of their parents disappearing or a sniper shooting them.

No one should have to go through this whether they are young like me or old like my father. We should be living in peace and harmony with no dictatorship or Islamic extremists.

No one should fear walking through the streets knowing a bomb could go off at any second.


Anali Ruiz



Dear Pen Pal –

Today in Aleppo we had many explosions nearby. This is normal for us now.

My family has lived here for my entire life however it has never been like this. My father worked every day at the local store. My mother stayed at home with us kids, my two brothers and I. We would always play in the street. Everything was normal.

Then the regime began making trouble. I wasn’t sure what it was. Our mother always told us that the explosions were just fireworks. Then one day we woke up to find the neighbor’s house decimated by an explosive. There were bodies in the street. There was blood everywhere.

After we saw this our mother told us what really was happening. She said to us we were being attacked. We asked why? We could see the blank stare. She didn’t know either. When our father walked in. He told us, “This is an attack by ISIS. They want to take control of our city’’.

Fortunately the explosions subsided. We could leave! But our father wanted to stay. We didn’t have anywhere to go. This was still our home. He said, “We must stay. We must fight. We can’t let these bullies take over our home.”

Now there is only my family and one other. Our life has changed. We will wait for the war to end, and everybody to return. We must survive.
Cory St. Pierre


Jeff Kaliner teaches a homeland security class at the Clark County Skills Center in Vancouver, WA. His students were asked to step into the shoes of a child living in Aleppo and write a letter to a pen pal, relative or friend in the United States. Specifically, Kaliner asked the students to describe what they saw, heard and felt. Thanks to his students for sharing how they look at the world.

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