Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 17, 2015

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on July 17, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

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July 10, 2015

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on July 10, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

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July 8, 2015

DHS Secretary Johnson talks about cybersecurity

Filed under: Cybersecurity — by Arnold Bogis on July 8, 2015

Considering the cyber-events of the day – the Wall Street Journal’s website going down; the majority (if not all) of United Airline flights grounded due to a reported “router” issue; and the New York Stock Exchange ceasing trading for almost four hours due to “technical difficulties” – Secretary Johnson’s address at the Washington think tank CSIS was more than a little timely.

He didn’t seem to say anything terribly new, but anyone who follows this space more closely than I (which wouldn’t be hard…) please feel free to correct me.

 

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July 4, 2015

“We hold these truths to be self evident….”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Dan OConnor on July 4, 2015

“Active Shooter Confirmed in DC Navy Yard.”

“Shots Confirmed, Gunfire Reported Inside the Building.”

FALSE.

We now live in a tyranny of fear.  We are a fearful nation.  The United States: afraid of everything.  Land of the free and home of the helicopter parents and politicians.

Say it’s not so?

Let’s look at what unfolded Thursday morning.

The mere words; “I thought I heard gunshots” sent a dizzying panic through the nation’s capital.  Morning News shows steeped in monophonic Gregorian chants about the presidential elections quickly changed gears and had the scoop: a shooter at the Navy Yard, again.  The city went into lockdown, nervous leaders calling their security personnel demanding action against the terrorists.

Alas, there was none.

There was no shooter.  There was no terrorism.  There was a histrionic, knee jerk reaction to a phantom.

Quickly thereafter the news shifted back to the chanting and refocusing on ISIS, ISIL, Al Qaeda et al.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re sitting here a week from today talking about an attack over the weekend in the United States. That’s how serious this is,” said Michael Morell the former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Clearly he would know.  But he didn’t make his assessment in his former capacity.  No, Mr. Morell made his assessment as the security correspondent on CBS. So my question is what will be the surprise about next week if nothing happens?

Waiting to exhale, crisis averted, lets focus on some more conjurings.

This is America in 2015, the 239th year of our Independence.

We record everything that takes place.  We spy on our own people.  We spent trillions of dollars we don’t have on a threat that is less likely to kill you than getting hit by lightning.  In fact Americans are 69 times more likely to die in their tubs than at the hands of the maniacal evil genius terrorists.

I cannot help but be sarcastic.  We are quickly becoming a half assed nation.  No real strategy, no discipline, no resilience; a weak nation.

And now General Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tells us his guidance from the honorable Mr. Carter is to prepare for the long war.  The U.S. military needs to reorganize itself and prepare for war that has no end in sight.  We have been at war — hot, warm, and cold — since 1941.

Um, that’s like 75 years…so what is long? And gentlemen, what does victory look like?

We’re screwed.  We can no longer even let our kids play in a park or walk home.  Not because of the threats.  No, it is because of the mere idea there is danger everywhere…danger and legislation.

When we are attacked again, because clearly that is likely, what limited civil liberties we do still have will be usurped not by evil geniuses wearing turbans but by Americans wearing Brooks Brother suits.  And it will be done in the guise of our safety and security.

If I save money every pay period in the form of cash and then go to redeposit, I am suspected of nefarious activity.  If my tracked behavior changes in any way, I am highlighted.  If I purchase one way tickets via air, rail, or bus or simply travel too much, or post anything derogatory against the prevailing culture, meme, or trend, I am dangerous.  Before my eyes I am seeing a nation that “had it all” piss it away.  We have lost our moxie and courage and live for the sound byte.   A bit of hyperbole on my part, but it is required to illustrate our current state.

We are fearful.  And, we have become diagnostically insecure.

In one sense, security is the measured resistance to or protection from harm.  Security is also a state of mind, a physiological/psychological symbiosis. We have spent much treasure trying to quantify what is difficult to qualify.  If security is a biological state of being and a relational state in ones environment than how can it be quantified?  This is where we find ourselves now.

This is becoming a bad Seligman and Maier’s experiment where our perpetual learned helplessness is resulting in the realization that we have little of control over the outcome or state of affairs we find ourselves in and are constantly bombarded with conditioning to be afraid.

“Fatigue gentlemen, makes cowards of us all.” Vince Lombardi

Being constantly consumed with the idea that at any moment an existential threat will evaporate the United States is fatiguing; so much so that we begin to exist in a chronic state of fear.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Let us remember this Independence Day that the very idea of Independence — freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others — must be embraced and cultivated and not taken for granted.  It is a quintessential American ideal: to be independent.  Independence is not being influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc. It is thinking and acting for oneself.

Independence is not yielding to another’s authority or jurisdiction.  It is not influenced by the thought or action of others: Independence is possessing competence.

Fear negates all the aforementioned.  Fear drives wedges, undercuts, and dissipates. Fear makes cowards of us all.  Therefore, let’s all remind one another that we are a Nation that declared themselves free of fear, tyranny, and oppression.  Let’s also remind ourselves that if being afraid is our method for preserving our independence, than we have summarily lost it.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.  Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln.

Happy Independence Day.

 

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July 3, 2015

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on July 3, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

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July 1, 2015

Happy Canada Day!

Filed under: International HLS — by Arnold Bogis on July 1, 2015

I don’t have any one specific Canada-related homeland security topic to discuss or highlight. In fact, this post will go up near the end of the day. However, I felt it important to wish all our Canadian colleagues, friends, and family a Happy Canada Day!

It should be obvious the important role that Canada plays in our own security.  We share a long border.  They are one of our, if not the most, important trading partners.  Canada has been an integral part of our air defense system, epitomized by NORAD, for decades.

Despite the old backpacking idea that Americans should sew a Canadian flag on their gear for extra protection overseas, Canada faces the same terrorist threat that the U.S. is dealing with today.  In case it has already been forgotten, the Canadian Parliament was attacked by a terrorist after he killed a soldier standing guard at their national war memorial.  In a scene that should be familiar to all Americans, Canada came together in solidarity following this tragedy.

Not unlike the Patriot Act, the Canadian parliament has passed legislation aimed at responding to this evolving threat.

“Canadians know that Canada is unfortunately not immune to the ever-evolving threat of terrorism,” jointly stated Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Steven Blaney, and Minister of Justice and Attorney General Peter MacKay.

This legislation “will directly address the threat of terrorism by enhancing our government’s ability to share information between relevant government departments and agencies for national security purposes; criminalizing the advocacy and promotion of the commission of terrorism offences; preventing terrorists from travelling and recruiting others; and providing our police forces with the additional tools they need to prevent, detect, deny and respond to the threat of terrorism.”

Every year one of the preeminent conferences focused on disasters is held in Toronto: The World Conference on Disaster Management.

Last, but not least, it should be pointed out that one of the most intelligent and insightful homeland security analysts working today comes from the Land of Gretzky.  Sharon Cardash, Associate Director at the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, previously served as Security Policy Advisor to Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. She has authored and co-authored many perceptive and thoughtful pieces on homeland security topics.  About the only reason to question her analytical rigor is her insistence that Tim Hortons is better than Dunkin’ Donuts…

And, following the Iraq war and the missing WMD, in case you may have forgotten how misguided our intelligence services can sometimes be, the following evidence provided by the Canadian Desk at the CIA should give us all pause…

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June 26, 2015

A message from Charleston?

Filed under: Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on June 26, 2015

By most definitions terrorism is the use of violence to achieve political objectives.

Given what we currently understand, the murder of the Emanuel Nine was a terrorist act.

Since June 17, which was also the first night of Ramadan, have we encountered the most effective anti-terrorism strategy? (Something different than counter-terrorism.)

There was prompt and effective police action.  But even more substantive — in terms of extended impact — we have experienced fearless expressions of grace that have honored the victims, while simultaneously wholly discrediting the political intentions of the murderer.

How many future terrorist actions have been prevented by the courageous integrity of the survivors?

Surely we have also seen the sort of relationships, mind-sets, individual initiative and community engagement that are essential to true resilience.

I have been in Charleston since Tuesday.  I wish you could have been here too.

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Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 26, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

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June 25, 2015

Security Mom Podcasts: Michael Chertoff on risk communication and Jessica Stern on radicalization

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Media,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Arnold Bogis on June 25, 2015

These are a little bit old, but interesting enough to share nonetheless.

Juliette Kayyem’s podcast “Security Mom” in the not-so-distant-past (a few weeks ago), focused on crisis communication with former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff and radicalization/ISIS recruitment with terrorism expert Jessica Stern.

The Chertoff conversation I found especially interesting.  It took what seems like an old issue, the color coded homeland security threat level system, and turns it into a serious discussion of risk communication.  You can find it here:

http://wgbhnews.org/post/slow-death-color-coded-terror-alert-system

From the show’s website, here is a bit of the transcript with Chertoff explaining his issues with the color scheme:

Green was a theoretical baseline of world in which there’s no terrorism. That’s not gonna happen. So then you had yellow and orange. Yellow being kind of some level of threat, orange being a heightened threat. And then you had red. And the problem is it was very difficult to define to define what red was. Did red mean an attack is literally gonna happen like tomorrow? Did it mean an attack already happened? Once you’re at red, how do you come down from red? So, we realized pretty quickly that essentially you’re really dealing with two states. Yellow is your base. And orange is your elevated. And then we tried to be focused on, again, particular regions or particular types of threats.

In an other episode, Juliette talks with Jessica Stern about radicalization, in general, and ISIS in particular. It is a wide ranging conversation, but I’ll share one of her conclusions regarding the threat that ISIS poses to Americans here at home that gets back to risk communication from the Chertoff discussion:

For a police officer, for the FBI, for the president, for people working in government — this should be keeping them up at night. But for a person sitting at home in Brighton or Cambridge —  for any given individual, you’re more likely to die from a beesting than you are in a terror strike. You’re probably more likely to die in your bathtub.

You can listen to it herehttp://wgbhnews.org/post/inside-minds-isis-members

Or by clicking on this link:

Stern ISIS MIX 1

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June 23, 2015

Another essay about eliminating the Department of Homeland Security

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on June 23, 2015

Matt Mayer, who worked at the the Department of Homeland Security nine years ago, wrote an essay for Reason  (Free Minds and Free Markets) called “Why We Should Eliminate the Department of Homeland Security. Let’s dismantle the Frankenstein monster and divide its responsibilities more effectively.”

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack, President George W. Bush rightly resisted Congress’ urge to create a new federal department charged with the homeland security mission. Bush believed the federal government could protect America with a strong homeland security council managed by the White House, similar to the National Security Council. Following relentless pressure, he acquiesced and the federal government gave birth to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on March 1, 2003.

The new department largely consists of agencies and offices pulled from other existing cabinet departments. After twelve years of mediocre-to-poor operations and countless scandals, it is clear President Bush’s initial instinct was right. The core functions overseen by DHS can be managed more effectively elsewhere, especially where territorial battles undermine operational efficacy.

It is time to eliminate DHS and put the various components where they are a better fit. Eliminating DHS would result in annual fiscal savings of more than $2.5 billion, with 4,000 fewer employees. Those reductions, however, only represent part of the rationale for eliminating DHS. The other reasons to do so are that DHS is riddled with performance inefficiencies and that its existence creates inefficiencies in other federal entities due to the need to coordinate across organizational boundaries. America can’t afford more of the same as terrorist threats reemerge….

The essay is worth reading.

I’m guessing that somewhere in the editing process the original title of Mayer’s essay may have been changed.  The url link to the article is http:… president-bush-was-right-before-he-was-w

Free minds at work.

(h/t doc)

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June 22, 2015

Contents: Current issue of Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on June 22, 2015

Volume 12, Issue number 2 of the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management was released today.  The articles are behind a paywall, but you can see the abstracts by going to the Journal’s site. You also may be able to find the Journal in an academic library.

Here are the contents of the latest issue, with links to the abstracts:

Quadrennial Homeland Security Reviews: What Value for Whom?
Kahan, Jerome

Fixing a Failure to Identify Intelligence in the Domestic Setting: Aligning Collection and Analysis to Address an All-Hazards Mission
Tromblay, Darren E.

State Intervention During Public Health Emergencies: Is the United States Prepared for an Ebola Outbreak?
Maras, Marie-Helen / Miranda, Michelle D.

Coerced Confusion? Local Emergency Policy Implementation After September 11
Hildebrand, Sean

A Medical System for Supporting Civilian Crisis Response
Ren, Chiang H. / Smith, William K. / Christensen, James

The Response Phase of the Disaster Management Life Cycle Revisited Within the Context of “Disasters Out of the Box”
De Smet, Hans / Schreurs, Bert / Leysen, Jan

Understanding Risk Communication Gaps through E-Government Website and Twitter Hashtag Content Analyses: The Case of Indonesia’s Mt. Sinabung Eruption
Chatfield, Akemi Takeoka / Reddick, Christopher G.

A Spatial and Longitudinal Analysis of Unmet Transportation Needs During Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
Joh, Kenneth / Norman, Alexandria / Bame, Sherry I.

A Two-level Agent-Based Model for Hurricane Evacuation in New Orleans
Liang, Wei / Lam, Nina S.-N. / Qin, Xiaojun / Ju, Wenxue

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June 19, 2015

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 19, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

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Emanuel shooting victim’s son speaks of his mother

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 19, 2015

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June 18, 2015

Emanuel: God with Us

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 18, 2015

Late last evening Chris Bellavita wrote encouraging a delay in my hiatus in order to comment on the shootings in Charleston.  I wrote back,  but did not intend to post anything here.  This morning, after listening to some of the news coverage and comments by others, I have — for better or worse — copied below how I responded to Chris.

While I have never intended to obscure my own spiritual predispositions, I am of the opinion that in a secular, pluralistic, potentially post-modern culture, it is more helpful to use language that is less loaded  and, perhaps, simpler than religious lexicons.  But this may be an instance where to do so is to dishonor the victims.   At least that is my self-justification for bending that principle here.

After writing Chris and Arnold I visited the Emanuel AME website.  I wanted to know what parts of scripture the Wednesday evening Bible Study was considering.  I did not find that, but I did find this quote:

Jesus died a passionate death for us,  so our love for Him should be as passionate.

Sister Jean German Ortiz

–+–

Chris:

I will be in Charleston most of next week.  I have visited Mother Emanuel.  Given the prominence of church spires on it’s skyline, Charleston is sometimes called the “Holy City”.

Especially since the killing of Walter Scott in North Charleston the city has been very proactive in its engagement with the black community. Paradoxically, this event will, almost certainly, further advance that sometimes difficult-to-sustain process.

As you know, there is an ancient tradition of Christian martyrdom. In this tradition the martyr is a person of faith whose unjust death serves to inform and empower the potential for justice.  Martyrdom challenges the living to recognize and respond to the call for justice with justice and compassion and courage and love.

At least in the Christian tradition — and especially in the churches founded by slaves and former slaves — the core of our faith is to be vulnerable… to each other, to the whole of reality. Recently I heard Sister Simone Campbell say, “We would be better off if we made peace with insecurity. We’re all vulnerable. Security is all illusion.”  I would not be surprised that many of those killed during their Wednesday evening worship were in those pews precisely because of this awareness.

If Jesus is God and the crucifixion is fact then the central act of any authentic Christianity is to be vulnerable: To know that even God is vulnerable. If the Easter narrative has any meaning, we will be surprised by how being vulnerable to love — as well as all the rest — can overcome injustice and is the foundation of profound community.

Especially within the orthodoxies of Homeland Security, these are counter-cultural claims.  Even among most who call themselves Christians to be this vulnerable is often beyond our ability. But in this inability is an invitation to another paradox: Emanuel is derived from the Hebrew meaning “God is with us”… especially in our weakness, especially in our vulnerability, especially in failure, pain, and death.  In these arid places, especially God is there.

I would never have written anything like this for HLSWatch, but I will write it to you and Arnold… and myself.

Phil

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June 17, 2015

Three new articles from Homeland Security Affairs

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on June 17, 2015

The June 2015 issue of Homeland Security Affairs published an article “examining the threat posed by unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and current policy responses to that threat…, an essay examining the need for [an] integrated response paradigm for fire services and law enforcement, [and an essay examining] the use of lean technology in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.”

In “UAS on Main Street” Alison Yakabe analyzes the threat to strategic infrastructure and public safety posed by the proliferation of unmanned aircraft systems in the U.S. The article provides a thorough assessment of existing federal and state legal and policy responses to the problem, and recommends a number of more effective legal and policy approaches.

Michael Marino et al. assess the emerging threat of active shooter attacks and fire as a weapon in “To Save Lives and Property: High Threat Response”, and argue that the fire service and law enforcement have been slow to adapt to the threat. They recommend a set of reforms that would result in the development of an integrated response paradigm which would position the fire service and law enforcement to respond more effectively to these kinds of attacks.

In “The Continued Relevance of the November 2008, Mumbai Terrorist Attack: Countering New Attacks with Old Lessons,” Shahrzad Rizvi and Joshua Kelly analyze the use of lean technology by the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack. They offer a series of recommendations that will help public safety and counterterrorism managers to counter these kinds of attacks more effectively in the future.

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June 16, 2015

Baseball cyber attack. “Game changer” no longer a cliché.

Filed under: Cybersecurity — by Christopher Bellavita on June 16, 2015

To editorial cartoonists, opinion writers, bloggers, news and sports casters, and the rest of the commentariat: Merry Christmas.

From today’s New York Times:

St. Louis Cardinals Investigated by F.B.I. for Hacking Astros

The F.B.I. and Justice Department prosecutors are investigating front-office officials for the St. Louis Cardinals, one of the most successful teams in baseball over the past two decades, for hacking into the internal networks of a rival team to steal closely guarded information about player personnel.

Investigators have uncovered evidence that Cardinals officials broke into a network of the Houston Astros that housed special databases the team had built, according to law enforcement officials. Internal discussions about trades, proprietary statistics and scouting reports were compromised, the officials said.

The officials did not say which employees were the focus of the investigation or whether the team’s highest-ranking officials were aware of the hacking or authorized it. The investigation is being led by the F.B.I.’s Houston field office and has progressed to the point that subpoenas have been served on the Cardinals and Major League Baseball for electronic correspondence.

The attack represents the first known case of corporate espionage in which a professional sports team has hacked the network of another team. Illegal intrusions into companies’ networks have become commonplace, but it is generally conducted by hackers operating in foreign countries, like Russia and China, who steal large tranches of data or trade secrets for military equipment and electronics.
Major League Baseball “has been aware of and has fully cooperated with the federal investigation into the illegal breach of the Astros’ baseball operations database,” a spokesman for baseball’s commissioner, Rob Manfred, said in a written statement.

 

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