Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 12, 2014

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.

)

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print

March 11, 2014

Remembering March 11, 2011

Filed under: Catastrophes — by Philip J. Palin on March 11, 2014

Silence

A Kanji for Silence

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print

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

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print

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?

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print

March 6, 2014

DHS Budget Proposal

Filed under: Budgets and Spending — by Philip J. Palin on March 6, 2014

The President has proposed.  This Congress is likely to dispose in a different way.

The FY2015 White House outline calls for a roughly $1.05 billion reduction in the DHS budget to $38.2 billion.  An additional $6.8 billion is targeted at disaster relief.

Early application of green eye-shades seems to suggest Science & Technology, ICE and Coast Guard would lose while cyber would win.  But (again) the Congress is likely to use a considerably different spreadsheet.

According to White House documents:

The Budget provides $2.2 billion for State, local, and tribal governments to hire, equip, and train first responders and build preparedness capabilities. To better target these funds, the Budget proposes eliminating duplicative, stand-alone grant programs, and consolidating them into the National Preparedness Grant Program.

Similar proposals in prior years have not been picked up by Congress.

Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Hal Rogers (R-KY) said in a written statement:

The Committee will take a very close look at the President’s request, conduct vigorous oversight over federal agencies, and go line-by-line through the budget to make informed and responsible decisions with the taxpayer’s money. It is important to remember that it is the Congress, not the White House, that holds the ‘power of the purse’ and will decide where to cut, where to sustain, and where to invest tax dollars to the most benefit of the American people.

More and, probably, different yet to come.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print

Neighbors: Engaged or Not

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Resilience — by Philip J. Palin on March 6, 2014

Maybe you saw the reports of a neighborhood’s response to an avalanche last Friday:

Rescue officials say about 100 neighbors converged to help find three people buried Friday when an avalanche swept down a mountain in a residential area of Missoula in western Montana and crushed a house at the bottom.

“It was very chaotic but a lot of energy,” said Jeff Brandt, assistant chief of operations for the Missoula Fire Department.

Scores of neighbors had already started the rescue effort when he arrived about half an hour after the slide, and some 20 professional responders helped provide focus to the effort, Brandt said. An 8-year-old boy was pulled from the snow just as he arrived, he said.

The three people remained hospitalized Saturday, a day after the avalanche slid down 4,768-foot Mount Jumbo into the northeast Missoula neighborhood…  MORE

In crisis situations, we see this again and again.  We saw it on 911.  We saw it at the Boston Marathon.  In a few weeks we will see the annual festival of neighborliness called the Red River Flood.

But it is interesting to me that among urban public safety personnel a positive neighborhood response tends not to be expected.  In a few situations I have even heard police, firefighters or emergency management tell “civilians” not to get involved and let the professionals take charge.  Over a beer in Baltimore, Chicago, or Philadelphia many (not all) pledged to protect and serve the public consider that same public their greatest threat.

On March 13, 1964 Kitty Genovese was killed in a middle-class neighborhood of Queens.  Her story became a modern parable of corrupt priests, fearful pharisees, and bad Samaritans.

According to the New York Times and the story told and re-told, scores of neighbors did nothing even as they heard her screams for help.  Maybe you can depend on your neighbors in Missoula, but not in the big cities became a common understanding.  Since then we have looked for and found corroboration. Expect the worse and you will not be disappointed.

There are tw0 new books out on the Genovese story.   A debate is renewed over what happened — even more what did not happen — a half-century ago.  In the current New Yorker Nicholas Lemann reviews the books, sympathizes with the argument that urban apathy was amplified far beyond reality, and concludes, “The real Kitty Genovese syndrome has to do with our susceptibility to narratives that echo our preconceptions and anxieties.”

Meanwhile in the Daily News, Catherine Pelonero, author of the one of the new books, defends much of the urban myth.  (“In speaking of myths and mythologies we do not make claims regarding empirical truth,” a favorite professor explained, “but instead point to the power of popular perception.”) Yet even she writes, “The witnesses weren’t chronically hard-hearted  New Yorkers who couldn’t bother intervening while a neighbor was murdered.  They were normal people hobbled by a mix of fear, self-interest, and apathy.  We all fail at times, and how bravely we behave varies from day to day, moment to moment.”

I spend a good deal of my time and energy working with people who expect the worst and that may well include human nature.  Given this expectation they plan, act, and at times decide not to act in anticipation of viciously self-interested behavior.  I am aware evidence for this predisposition exists.  It is not, however, the only or always predominant evidence.

Emerging directly from the Genovese case is the empirically demonstrated “Bystander Effect“. We are, it would seem, more heroic when there are fewer folks about.  The larger a crowd,  the more we tend to defer to the heroism of others.

But — or especially — in a crowd, when one steps forward to help, s/he will often be followed.  A significant element in social resilience is facilitating individual initiative to help.

Dorothy Day was about nine years old when she lived through the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire.  Years later she recalled:

What I remember most plainly about the earthquake was the human warmth and kindliness of everyone afterward. For days refugees poured out of burning San Francisco and camped in Idora Park and the race track in Oakland. People came in their night clothes; there were new-born babies. Mother and all our neighbors were busy from morning to night cooking hot meals. They gave away every garment they possessed. They stripped themselves to the bone in giving, forgetful of the morrow. While the crisis lasted, people loved each other.

It shows a susceptibility to narratives that echo my preconceptions and aspirations, but it seems to me part of being involved in homeland security, a large part of any presumed leadership role, and a significant part of being fully human is to do our best to love each other.

But I am embarrassed to speak in such terms.  Is my embarrassment part of the homeland security problem or is it just that love is as tough to define as homeland security?

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print

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.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print

A new nuclear terrorism resource: “Nuclear Security Matters”

Filed under: Radiological & Nuclear Threats — by Arnold Bogis on March 5, 2014

I realize this seems like the topic I just can’t let go of, but since a nuclear explosion on U.S. soil would be the ultimate homeland security issue I can’t but help share some further links regarding the upcoming nuclear security summit.  Here is the press release about the website “Nuclear Security Matters” that Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs created:

Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs today launches a new website – Nuclear Security Matters – that provides policymakers, researchers, journalists, and the interested public with a wealth of facts, analysis, key documents, and other resources critical to the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit goal of preventing nuclear terrorism around the globe.

Nuclear Security Matters was developed by the Belfer Center’s Project on Managing the Atom with input from Center nuclear experts Graham AllisonMatthew Bunn,Trevor FindlayGary SamoreWilliam Tobey, and others.

The Nuclear Security Summit 2014, set for March 24-25 in The Netherlands, is a gathering of more than 50 world leaders aimed at preventing nuclear terrorism around the globe. The goal of the summit is to catalyze action to lock down, consolidate, and eliminate stockpiles of hazardous nuclear and radiological material and protect nuclear facilities around the world. Initiated by President Obama, the first Nuclear Security Summit was held in Washington D.C. in 2010, followed by a second summit in Seoul in 2012.

In the weeks leading up to the Summit, Nuclear Security Matters offers visitors an array of documents, research materials, key facts and questions, analysis and commentary in one accessible location. More than 150 reports, articles, and documents by Belfer Center and other nuclear scholars and practitioners examine issues related to nuclear terrorism threats and vulnerabilities, progress and security gaps in countries around the world, and recommendations for further action. Numerous official documents provide details on international treaties and agreements and actions taken by countries to reduce stockpiles and lock down hazardous nuclear materials.

Current featured items include:

  • first-of-its-kind survey of nuclear security professionals in 18 countries identifying factors that have caused changes in nuclear security and accounting practices in the past 15 years.
  • detailed review of the current threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism, briefed to officials from participating countries responsible for organizing the Summit in The Hague.
  • Interview on nuclear security progress with Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, White House coordinator for defense policy, countering weapons of mass destruction and arms control.
  • New commentary by Matthew Bunn on what to expect from the upcoming summit,William H. Tobey on ongoing failures in nuclear security that must be addressed, and Alex Wellerstein on mapping the effects of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear Security Matters will be updated frequently with relevant documents and original commentary and research from nuclear experts at the Belfer Center and elsewhere.

If, like me, you just can’t get enough, here is the video of yet another presentation on the summit. Participants included:

Matthew Bunn
Professor of Practice; Co-Principal Investigator, Project on Managing the Atom, Harvard Kennedy School

Laura Holgate
Senior Director, WMD Terrorism and Threat Reduction, National Security Council

Samantha Pitts- Kiefer
Senior Program Officer, Nuclear Materials Security Program, Nuclear Threat Initiative

Gary Samore (moderator)
Executive Director, Research, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School (Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism)


If for some reason the video I attempted to attach to this post does not work, you can view it at:

http://forum.iop.harvard.edu/content/preventing-nuclear-terrorism-prospects-upcoming-summit

 

 

 

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print

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.

———————————————

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.

———————————————

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….”

———————————————

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.”

———————————————

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.


 

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print

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?

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print

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.

–+–

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.

–+–

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.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print

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?

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print

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.

 

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print

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

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print

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.

————

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.

————

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.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print

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.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
« Previous PageNext Page »