Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 12, 2014

The non-Fukushima anniversary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWII firebombing and homeland security

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9/11 from space

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

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

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

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March 11, 2014

Privacy is theft

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

News item:

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

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

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

Narrative-Clip-1.jpg_2022572542

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

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

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

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

News item:

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

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

google-glass-diarrhea-540x600

News item:

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

Among the report’s good news bad news hopes:

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

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

25-birthday-candles

There is no need to worry about this Brave New World

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

Sharing is caring.

Secrets are lies.

Privacy is theft.

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

Everything she does will be streamed in real time.

Showing care by sharing everything.

Embracing truth by having no secrets.

Demonstrating honesty by shedding privacy.

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

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

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

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

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

Why would they refuse to wear it?

What are they trying to hide?

TheCircle-Jacket

News item:

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

March 7, 2014

Friday Free Forum

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

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

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

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

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

March 5, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

Enjoy.

March 4, 2014

Collective impact: moving collaboration into another dimension

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

Collective impact describes the next evolution of collaboration.

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

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But first a story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My wife does not fight fairly.

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

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

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Fast-forward a few more months.

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

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

According to one source,

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

Sounds like life in the homeland security enterprise to me.

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

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

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

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

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So, what is collective impact?

Here is the definition I see most frequently:

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

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Two more data points about social impact.

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

- a common agenda

- shared measurement

- mutually reinforcing activities

- continuous communication

- backbone support.

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

Five_Conditions_Collective_Impact_chart

 

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


 

February 28, 2014

Friday Free Forum

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

On this day in 1993 various law enforcement agencies raid the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.  This unfolding event will involve a wide range of natural, accidental, and intentional factors over the next fifty days.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

February 27, 2014

The Constitution as homeland

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on February 27, 2014

This is the twelfth in a series of posts closely reading the Constitution of the United States for homeland security implications. Readers are encouraged to use the comment function to add background, analysis, exegesis or exposition related to the text reproduced immediately below.

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Article. I.

Section. 2. (Third Paragraph follows)

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

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The number of Representatives elected from any state would be based on its population of free persons and temporarily indentured — male, female, and children — not including Indians.  ”Other persons”, also known as slaves or chattel property, would be reflected at three-fifths their total number in deciding how many Representatives a state would be allotted.

The number of Representatives is also the major element in a state’s proportion in the Electoral College.

Until the Civil War the Three-Fifths clause significantly enhanced the influence of slave-holding states in the House of Representatives and in Presidential elections. If slaves had not been included in political enumeration the lower house would have been predominantly — and increasingly — anti-slavery in  sentiment.   Over the whole antebellum period the Three-Fifth’s clause gave slave-holding states about 20-to-25 percent more representation in the House than if only free people had been counted.

It has also been argued that from the end of Reconstruction until implementation of the 1964 Voting Rights Act the political agenda of the former slave-holding states was amplified by suppressing the vote of former slaves and their descendants, even as these citizens were now counted as “five-fifths” for Congressional and Electoral College purposes.

The clause in bold was altered by the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868.

Homeland Security funds are often critiqued as being “unequally” distributed among the states.   Strict equality among the states was rejected by the Philadelphia Convention and its Constitution.  Rather than equality between states, the Constitution seeks a rough balancing of the whole people’s diverse interests.

The Articles of Confederacy began with:

Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled… The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.

The states sent delegates to Philadelphia.  The people of the United States made the Constitution. The Constitution set aside friendship among sovereign states for perpetual union emerging of popular sovereignty.  A war between the states eventually proceeded to confirm what the people had wrought.

The people are sovereign.  Thoughtfully — and thoughtlessly — we delegate, distribute, and redistribute our sovereignty among a variety of agents.  Today this includes the Department of Homeland Security.

February 26, 2014

Alternative reality: what if Ramzi Yousef had accomplished his goals?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on February 26, 2014

Today marks the anniversary of the Ramzi Yousef’s attempt to topple one World Trade Center tower into the other.  Some believe that he came very close to his goal.

Not to diminish the value of the lives lost that day, I’d just like to ask what would our world look like if he had been successful?

Tens of thousands may have perished.

Many pundits often talk about the “post-9/11″ world, as if reality changed that day.  Personally, what I think is that the nation woke up to reality.  In the previous decade the nation was not only attacked at the World Trade Center, but two of our embassies in Africa were bombed simultaneously and a Navy warship almost sunk.

When compared to today’s news (Al Qaeda is everywhere!), I sense a lack of strategic threat and more of a search for an overarching, global enemy.

But what about the 1990′s where Yousef had been successful?

Post-Desert Storm would the nation have blamed Iraq and invaded a decade earlier?

Pre-Aum Shinrikyo would something similar to Nunn-Lugar-Domenici been implemented sooner?

At the height of our “unipolar moment,” would the U.S. have acted even more aggressively than it did post 9/11?

Drones, NSA surveillance, and enhanced interrogation techniques.  All topics not only addressed but settled by now?

Focus on terrorism – would it have ended by this century or would it simply be a confirmation on the seemingly never ending nature of this conflict?

What questions am I missing?

Previewing the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Radiological & Nuclear Threats — by Arnold Bogis on February 26, 2014

Last week George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs hosted an event on “Previewing the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit.”

Harvard professor, and nuclear expert, Graham Allison provided his insight regarding the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit. The conversation is interesting on a lot of levels.  For me personally, I was very intrigued by the idea of the summit as an “action-forcing event.”

Despite the amount of time spent on deterrence and non-proliferation, this topic is incredibly relevant for homeland security as any failure in nuclear security can have a potentially large impact on the resilience of our nation.

 

Old news (about a stolen radiation source), but new analysis

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Radiological & Nuclear Threats — by Arnold Bogis on February 26, 2014

Last December the funny papers and cable news were all over the story of radioactive material that went missing in Mexico. This website’s own Phil Palin covered the news here.

The material was recovered, and the thieves ended up hospitalized for radiation exposure.

What I’d like to share is analysis of the implications for U.S. domestic radioactive source security.  In other words, it can happen here.

Tom Bielefeld, a physicist who is an associate at the Managing the Atom Project at Harvard, recently broke down the issues involved in this case for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. In particular, he notes several cases in “Western democracies” which should raise concern:

  • In July 2011, in the parking lot of a Texas hotel, a thief broke into a truck and stole a radiography camera containing 33.7 curies of iridium-192. The truck drivers had forgotten to switch on the vehicle’s alarm system when they went to dinner. Even though the hotel’s security camera recorded the thief’s car as it left, the device was never found.
  • In February 2013, thieves stole another radiography camera in a small town north of Manchester, England. A courier had left it in his van, which was parked in front of the residence where he stopped for a weekend. The device turned up a month later, at a nearby shopping mall, luckily undamaged.
  • In Canada, the Nuclear Safety Commission lists 17 cases from the past eight years in which radioactive materials were stolen from vehicles, or in which the vehicle itself was stolen with a radiation source in the trunk. Five of these cases involved radiography cameras. All five were eventually recovered.

The news isn’t all bad:

It is true that, in many countries, the situation today is somewhat better than it was 10 years ago. Largely, this is because the US government made the issue a priority after 9/11, when it launched programs for security upgrades in countries where unprotected radiation sources were abundant and presumably within reach of terrorists. US experts have worked in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, helping local partners install security equipment in hospitals and at disposal sites. They have also recovered radiation sources from abandoned facilities and assisted foreign governments in formulating new regulations to improve oversight.

It ain’t all good either:

While US initiatives to strengthen radiological security elsewhere in the world have been at least partially successful, progress at home has been surprisingly difficult. According to a 2008 report by the National Academies, there are more than 5,000 devices containing high-activity radiation sources in the country, including 700 with category-1 sources. So, if terrorists wanted to mount a dirty bomb attack in the United States, they might not have to go abroad to try to steal the material for it.

And there’s this:

Many stakeholders argue that the current regulations provide good-enough protection. In reality, however, there is still little reason for such confidence. In fact, in some US facilities, security conditions remain hair-raising, even when these facilities have been checked by inspectors. This came to light in a 2012 report published by the Government Accountability Office: GAO investigators visited a number of hospitals all over the country to see how the NRC’s new security rules were being implemented, and came back with some sobering findings. For example, one hospital kept a blood irradiator, a category-1 source containing 1,500 curies of cesium-137, in a room with the access code written on the door frame. Another hospital kept a similar device on a wheeled pallet down the hall from a loading dock.

Tom does not leave us without specific recommendations:

Ultimately, good security needs both: strong, strictly enforced regulations and actively participating licensees. Strong regulations are required because investments in security usually don’t generate profits for the businesses. But no security system can work effectively without a vigilant staff that understands the terrorism risk is real. Much like the long-established “safety culture” that has almost certainly prevented many serious radiation accidents, a new “security culture” is needed. This means that businesses, regulators, and government agencies are all aware of security threats, understand their individual responsibilities, and adapt their practices accordingly.

And:

Here are some specific recommendations for the various parties involved in transport security:

  • The NRC must further strengthen its regulations. Given the scale of damage that a “dirty bomb” could cause, it’s difficult to understand why there are still no armed escorts required for category-1 transports. A real-time location-tracking system should be mandatory, not just for vehicles transporting category-1 sources, but also for those with category-2 sources. Similarly, the requirement for drivers to identify “safe havens” for rest stops, before their trip begins, should be extended to category-2 transports.
  • The states could do a lot more, too. Those that do not yet require armed escorts for category-1 transports should implement such a policy soon—and not wait for the NRC to change its rules. And if there is one lesson from the Mexican incident for the states, it’s that all of them should be proactive when it comes to helping licensees identify secure parking areas.
  • The companies themselves play the main role in protecting radioactive sources. They need to be aware that someone might be after their cargo. Drivers, in particular, must be trained to follow security protocols, avoid risky situations, and respond appropriately should they come under attack. Managers should equip their trucks with low-cost security systems—such as GPS tracking systems, duress buttons, or vehicle disabling devices—even when they are not legally required to do so.

If you are concerned about dirty bombs, the entire piece is worth your time:

http://thebulletin.org/mexico%E2%80%99s-stolen-radiation-source-it-could-happen-here

February 25, 2014

Baseball, the White House and Homeland Security

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on February 25, 2014

August 28, 2011.

The New York Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 8-3 in the second game of a day-night double header.

New York hit five home runs. Ivan Nova — in his rookie year — won his 10th straight game.

Who cares about an uneventful baseball game that took place two and a half years ago?

I promise there’s a homeland security connection here.

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After spending the last few months away from homeland security concerns, I’ve been trying to reconnect with what the front burner issues are in the Enterprise (if “enterprise” is even used anymore).

I went to the White House website to look at their “Issues” page.   Homeland Security is one of 23 important issues featured on the White House site.

Here’s what I found:

The headline item on the page was a video of President Obama, DHS Secretary Napolitano, and FEMA administrator Fugate talking about “on going response efforts to Hurricane Irene.”

The date of the briefing?

Yep, August 28, 2011 — the same day Curtis Granderson hit two home runs; and Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, and Andruw Jones each hit one.

None of those people play for the Yankees anymore. Things change.  Except, it seems, on the White House homeland security issues page.

The site also features information about:

- The July 2011 Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime
- The June 2011 National Strategy for Counterterrorism
- The Administration’s success managing tornado damage in Joplin and Tuscaloosa, with a nod to DHS efforts during the BP oil spill.
- A March 2009 US-Mexico border initiative
- A May 2009 Cyberspace Policy Review
- A March 2010 Surface Transportation Security Priority Assessment
- And a reminder of the principles guiding the May 2010 National Security Strategy.

And that’s pretty much it for that web page. There are a few half-hearted efforts on the right hand side of the page to be somewhat current – like two September 2011 commemorations of the 9/11/01 attacks, and a blurb about a 2013 Canadian border initiative. But that’s about it.

It does not look like anyone at the White House cares that much about the homeland security issue page.

I realize in the scheme of things this is not a big deal. Homeland security is not a website. I appreciate how difficult it is to keep the content and the look of a website current. Homeland Security Watch looks basically the same today as it did when Beckner wrote the first post on December 2, 2005.

I can only guess why no one at the White House deems the homeland security issues page important enough to keep current. I know they have the capability to pay attention. Maybe the interest is not there.

Compare the worn-out homeland security issues site with the White House sites dealing with the economy, education, ethics, health care, urban and economic mobility– to name just a few. Those sites look like they live in the second decade of the 21st Century. Plus they have updated information (mostly).

So what gives here?

My guess is in the list of administration priorities for the second term, homeland security does not matter  much.

Not because homeland security is unimportant. “The president’s highest priority is to keep the American people safe,” the issue page declares.

Perhaps the website is out of date because — for the most part — homeland security is being handled.

Compared with the messiness of the other issues on the president’s agenda, thousands of men and women engaged in homeland security work seem to be doing a more than adequate job accomplishing the core mission: keeping the American people safe.

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The first spring training baseball games of the 2014 season will be played on Tuesday.

In spite of the Boston Marathon attack last year, I continue to believe the country is in good homeland security shape if there can still be time for baseball.

The Boston attack reminded us that effective homeland security does not mean complete safety or security.  There remains a lot of tuning to be done in the Enterprise.

An out of date White House website might simply mean that people are busy working, not playing on the Internet.

I hope that’s the reason.

February 22, 2014

Homeland security and The Long Telegram

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

At 9:22 PM (Moscow Time), February 22, 1946 George Kennan transmitted his “Long Telegram” to the State Department.   It was received at 3:52 Eastern Time.

Sixty-eight years ago this afternoon.

It was an acute analysis of the Soviet angle on reality, how this squared with other takes on reality, and how the United States could (should) play the gaps.

Kennan counseled what came later to be known as containment.  He did not like the word.  Given the realities of Soviet power and Russian nationalism, Kennan perceived the issue was less a matter of containing our adversary and more a matter of maintaining credible, coherent, and effective geo-political advantage.

For Kennan the ultimate source of this advantage was a culture of self-criticism and self-correction.  Reality is a solid bet. Soviet self-delusions would result in eventual collapse.  We should be strong, watchful, engaged, realistic… and patient.

While foreign policy was the clear priority, the “Long Telegram” includes an important element of what some might now call a “homeland security” component.

Here are the closing three paragraphs of Kennan’s note:

Much depends on health and vigor of our own society. World communism is like malignant parasite which feeds only on diseased tissue. This is point at which domestic and foreign policies meets Every courageous and incisive measure to solve internal problems of our own society, to improve self-confidence, discipline, morale and community spirit of our own people, is a diplomatic victory over Moscow worth a thousand diplomatic notes and joint communiqués. If we cannot abandon fatalism and indifference in face of deficiencies of our own society, Moscow will profit–Moscow cannot help profiting by them in its foreign policies.

We must formulate and put forward for other nations a much more positive and constructive picture of sort of world we would like to see than we have put forward in past. It is not enough to urge people to develop political processes similar to our own. Many foreign peoples, in Europe at least, are tired and frightened by experiences of past, and are less interested in abstract freedom than in security. They are seeking guidance rather than responsibilities. We should be better able than Russians to give them this. And unless we do, Russians certainly will.

Finally we must have courage and self-confidence to cling to our own methods and conceptions of human society. After all, the greatest danger that can befall us in coping with this problem of Soviet communism, is that we shall allow ourselves to become like those with whom we are coping.

Cut “Russians”, “Soviet”, “communism” and replace with your preferred adversary.   Does it remain wise counsel?  Especially as I read today’s headlines from Kiev, Caracas, Quetta and elsewhere, seems so to me.

February 21, 2014

Friday Free Forum

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

On this date (UTC) in 2011 a 6.1 earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand.   The prior September the city had experienced a 7.2 magnitude quake.  185 were killed.

On this date in 1891 an explosion of coal dust in a deep mine at Springhill, Nova Scotia killed 125 and injured many more.

On this date in 1970 a bomb detonated aboard SwissAir Flight 330.  While a controlled landing was attempted the plane crashed killing all 47 aboard.  On the same day a similar cargo bomb exploded in a second plane, but that aircraft was able to land safely.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

February 20, 2014

More, more concentrated, more specialized: More vulnerable?

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

graph_us_population_1790_2010

There are many more of us.

In my lifetime the population of the United States has more than doubled. Over these six decades, the population of the world has grown from a bit less than 3 billion to more than 7 billion.

Growth rates are slowing in many places, even reversing in some affluent corners.  But our historical experience does not avail us many analogies well-suited to the present context.

popmap-o

US Census Bureau Image

We are more densely concentrated than ever before.

In 1870 one out of four Americans lived in urban areas. By 1920 the urban-to-non-urban ratio was 1-to-1. In 2010 four out of five Americans lived in urban areas. Today about 75 percent of Americans are concentrated on about three percent of the nation’s territory.

Demographers believe that — for the first time — since 2008 a majority of humans live in cities. This is a profound transition, but so suddenly achieved the full implications of our new condition cannot be confidently claimed.

For most of human history the vast majority of people have produced their own food or lived very close to where their food and other consumables were produced. The systems on which modern urban concentration depend have mostly emerged in the last four generations.  They continue to emerge.

Whether this is a brave new world or one blithely unaware can be debated. In any case, never before have so many depended on so few so very far away.

For at least 5000 years humans have gathered in cities.  To live in cities was to be civilized.  Athens at its classical peak housed about 140,000 (about 30 percent slaves). In the Third Century Rome exceeded one million inhabitants, the greatest concentration of humans until 18th Century Beijing (when Rome had collapsed to about 100,000).

Only in the last century has technology allowed the vast majority of us to detach ourselves from the task of feeding ourselves and selling the excess of our crop to others.  For most of human history there has not been sufficient excess to support anything like contemporary density.

Crop Concentrations

Map by William Rankin from Census data

To supply these dense concentrations we increasingly specialize.

The map above (click on image for more detail) suggests the kind of crop monocultures that have emerged to supply the intense demand of our cities.  Similar maps can be displayed for other monocultures: pork, chickens, pharmaceuticals, aircraft, micro-chips, financial services and more.  All of which makes sense in terms of rapid exchange of information, availability of expertise, and services for processing, packaging, transport, and such.

High volume, concentrated sources of demand and supply, and specialized production and processing tend to be very efficient… most of the time.

The same efficient networks are just as adept at spreading contamination and disruption. The networks in effect becoming fat targets — much fatter than previously — for hurricanes, earthquakes, drought, pandemic and even just stupid mistakes.

Peter Drucker wrote, demography “is the future that has already happened.”

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