January 15, 2016
January 8, 2016
January 7, 2016
On this day last January, the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo was attacked. Eleven were killed. There were other related deaths and injuries.
On this day last January, a car bomb in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, killed at least thirty-five. More than 2700 Yemeni non-combatants have been killed since January.
On this day last January, one was killed and three were wounded by suspected gang violence in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (In Chicago four were murdered on January 6. Thirty-two residents of Chicago were murdered in January 2015. For the entire year Chicago reported at least 468 murders, the highest metro murder rate in the United States. The population of Chicago is about 2.8 million.)
On this day last January, the National Police of El Salvador reported that in the first six days of 2015 they had registered 90 homicides, On January 6 alone, 19 people were killed. At least 6,657 Salvadorans were violently killed in 2015. The population of El Salvador is about 6.3 million.
I will be on leave from Homeland Security Watch. When I may return is indefinite. I have cued up several Friday Free Forums for continued contributions. I leave you with an admonition from the Italian baroque painter Salvator Rosa, “Keep silent unless what you are going to say is better than silence.” A particular challenge given the issues that confront us and the character of our times.
As signaled before Christmas, the Department of Homeland Security has begun a focused effort to deport Central Americans who have arrived in the United States since May 1, 2014. On January 4, the Department released a statement explaining this action.
Federal immigration authorities apprehended 121 adults and children in raids over the New Year’s weekend as part of a nationwide operation to deport a new wave of illegal immigrants.
The families taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were living in Georgia, Texas and North Carolina, [DHS Secretary] Johnson said in a statement. They are being held temporarily in federal detention centers before being deported to Central America…
The raids were the first in a broad operation by the Obama administration that is targeting for deportation hundreds of families that have crossed the southern border illegally since the start of last year.
The Northern Triangle of Central America — Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala — n recent years has suffered serious and increasing violence, mostly at the hands of drug cartels serving the US market. In 2014 President Obama took action to facilitate emigrants from the region applying for refugee status. Over 200,000 Salvadorans, for example, have qualified for Temporary Protected Status. (See TPS details.) But during fiscal year 2015 barely 4300 individuals applied for the Central American Minor refugee program, only ninety had begun the DHS interview process, and only eleven had been “conditionally approved” for refugee status. (See more on CAM.)
According to a January 5 report in the Washington Post, El Salvador is now the murder capital of the Western Hemisphere. “The 2015 murder rate of about 104 homicides per 100,000 people, an increase of about 70 percent from the year before, is estimated to be among the highest in the world for countries not at war, far surpassing neighboring Honduras, which had held the title of murder capital in recent years.”
Given the profound risks Central American migrants face in their home countries, many legal experts perceive a significant majority of Central American migrants meet the standards for refugee status under the Immigration and Nationality Act. But given an overburdened immigration court system and lack of legal counsel for migrants, many who are legally (and morally?) qualified for such status are unable to effectively make their claim.
Late Tuesday the Board of Immigration Appeals temporarily halted the deportation of at least twelve of those taken into custody over the weekend. According to the Houston Chronicle, “nearly all of the small pool of immigrants who received legal assistance this week obtained a temporary delay in their deportation show[ing] they are being wrongly removed… many face deportation orders simply because they don’t know they must show up to court or are afraid to or because they lack legal help to navigate the complex asylum process.”
In comments for the Friday Free Forum, Vicki Campbell highlighted the judgment of one migrant advocate, “A year and a half after the President said he wished to make his immigration policy more humane, his agents are rounding up mothers and children with the intent of sending them to likely violence and possible death.”
January 1, 2016
December 31, 2015
The Wednesday, December 30 Wall Street Journal included an Op-Ed by William A. Galston. The entire piece is below. Such wholesale appropriation is bad practice. I have purposefully waited for one day to pass. But in my judgment this is the best short analysis and argument I have read regarding the issue. You should read it too. I also encourage you to access the WSJ website to scan the over 250 comments that readers have offered. There are some thoughtful disagreements, there are many more reflexive dismissals. The few supportive comments are indirect.
My wife and I have just returned from twelve days with extended family, mostly in Kentucky and Illinois. On the refugee crisis we encountered a wide-range of opinion: From those opening their own homes to those in need to one individual who was so consumed with anti-immigrant anger that his wife had hidden the television and disconnected Internet, blaming the media for driving her husband crazy.
At a party after the Christmas Eve service an old friend with whom I once shared Latin class reminded me that argument originally had two forms: argutare, meaning to babble, prattle, chatter and arguere, meaning to brighten, clarify, prove. “Too much tearing, not enough air” was his analysis. Maybe you had to be there (and sharing the eggnog). But fundamental to any meaningful homeland security — especially for this particular land — is an ability to communicate with each other: to brighten and clarify, not just babble and accuse.
The following is by William A. Galston:
Democracies are often better than their leaders, but they cannot be better than their peoples. As months of anger give way to a winter of fear, it is time for Americans to ask themselves some hard questions.
Despite hyperbolic claims to the contrary, we remain the land of the free. But are we still the home of the brave?
According to a CNN/ORC survey released on Monday, 45% of Americans are worried that they or their families will become victims of terrorism. With all due respect, my fellow citizens, this is absurd. During the past decade, seven times more Americans died from lightning strikes in the U.S. than at the hands of Islamist terrorists.
But America’s public culture, which shapes our society and our politics, is increasingly decoupled from facts. We prefer to take our bearings from our sentiments—often the least honorable ones.
Fear is a powerful motivator but a poor counselor. Driven by fear, democracies make mistakes. The World War II internment of Japanese-Americans is a blot on the nation’s history. That the action was demanded by California Attorney General Earl Warren,authorized by President Franklin Roosevelt and ratified by the Supreme Court makes it even worse.
Toward the end of his life, Warren said that he “deeply regretted the removal order and my own testimony advocating it, because it was not in keeping with our American concept of freedom.” Whenever he thought of the children torn from their homes and neighborhoods, he admitted, he was “conscience-stricken.” He had come to believe that “it was wrong to react so impulsively, without positive evidence of disloyalty.”
Warren had discovered what Greek tragedians knew: Wisdom usually comes too late. In 1988 President Reagan signed legislation authorizing financial restitution for surviving Japanese-Americans who had been forcibly relocated. “No payment can make up for those lost years,” Reagan said. “What is most important in this bill has less to do with property than with honor. For here we admit a wrong.”
Fear is the enemy of honor, because it induces us to act dishonorably. That was the effect seven decades ago, and it threatens to return today.
When the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination recently called for a moratorium on the entrance of all Muslims into the U.S., 41% of his party agreed, according to a Quinnipiac survey in mid-December. Asked whether America should admit 10,000 Syrian refugees, only 28% of Americans endorsed humanitarian relief without regard to religion, according to a mid-November Bloomberg survey. Eleven percent said only Christians should be admitted, and a majority—53%—opposed admitting any Syrian refugees at all.
Granted, no public official can honestly say that accepting the refugees entails zero risk. But is that the right standard? Does a truly brave people do the right thing only when it is risk-free? Does a truly brave people exaggerate a minuscule danger into an existential threat? Is this the course of national honor?
The brave individual, Aristotle tells us, fears the right things for the right reasons, in the right way and at the right time. The fear so many Americans feel toward Syrian refugees does not meet that test.
Demagogues manipulate public passions; they don’t create them. These would-be leaders pander to what is worst in us in the service of their destructive agendas.
Real leaders tell the people what they need to hear. True friends of democracy don’t flatter the people. Demagogues assure the people that they are thoroughly virtuous and always right. That is the core falsehood of populism.
On Jan. 20, 1939, just two months after Kristallnacht was front-page news, Gallup’s American Institute of Public Opinion made public the results of a survey asking whether the U.S. government should permit 10,000 refugee children from Germany—most of them Jewish—to enter the country to be taken care of in American homes. Sixty-one percent of the people answered in the negative. The next month, a bill authorizing the admission of 20,000 German-Jewish children was allowed to die in a congressional committee.
That May, as the German liner St. Louis sailed within sight of Miami, President Roosevelt could have issued an executive order allowing nearly 1,000 German refugees, nearly all of them Jews, to enter the country. He did not. The ship returned to Europe, its passengers left to fate as Germany overran the Continent.
Since 2011 the U.S. government has done almost nothing to alter conditions on the ground in Syria. Nor have European governments. Now a flood of refugees threatens the stability of our closest allies. Thousands of refugees already have died at sea. And yet our leaders, backed by the American people, take no responsibility for the consequences of our collective inaction.
Even those who remember the past, it seems, are condemned to repeat it. Nothing changes except the names of the victims.
With further rain looming, more families abandoned their homes on Sunday in Paraguay, the country hardest hit by the worst flooding in decades in the area bordering Uruguay and Argentina, which has already forced more than 100,000 people to evacuate.
The El Niño weather phenomenon has exacerbated summer rains, swelling rivers in the region. The River Paraguay, which flows by the country’s capital, Asuncion, has already reached 7.82 meters (25.66 feet), its highest level since 1992.
A massive firefighting effort continued on Monday to combat the [Otways] blaze. The resources included 397 staff (including 273 firefighters), 69 four-wheel drive vehicles with water tanks 11 fire tankers, bulldozers and six aircraft.
“This fire will be with us for a period of time. People need to be ready to respond to any messages from authorities, and need to have a plan for the possibility of this fire growing in size,” Mr Rourke said.
The fire has been burning since December 19, when it was sparked by a lightning strike. It has now burnt about 2300 hectares. It destroyed 116 houses in the communities of Wye River and Separation Creek.
Australia’s weather is influenced by many climate drivers. El Niño and La Niña have perhaps the strongest influence on year-to-year climate variability in Australia…most major Australian droughts have been associated with El Niño.
From some of the worst floods ever known in Britain, to record-breaking temperatures over the Christmas holiday in the US and and forest fires in Australia, the link between the tumultuous weather events experienced around the world in the last few weeks is likely to be down to the natural phenomenon known as El Niño making the effects of man-made climate change worse, say atmospheric scientists…“What we are experiencing is typical of an early winter El Niño effect,” said Adam Scaife, the head of Met Office long-range forecasting.
Some 2.3 million people in Central America will need food aid as the current El Niño weather pattern, one of the strongest on record, exacerbates a prolonged drought, the United Nations warned today in the latest alert on the impact of the phenomenon which causes floods in parts of the world and drought in others.
“Unfortunately, another dry spell in 2015, this time exacerbated by El Niño, has again caused significant losses during the first crop cycle, the Primera season,” UN World Food Programme (WFP) Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Miguel Barreto said in Panama…
The WFP alert came just two days after UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Anthony Lake warned that 11 million children are at risk from hunger, disease and lack of water due to El Niño in eastern and southern Africa alone.
Mr. Barreto said $75 million is needed in Central America, where the drought has already lasted two years in the Dry Corridor that stretches from Guatemala to Nicaragua, but resources are being depleted.
On Monday December 28, the Dallas Morning News headline read “TOTAL DEVASTATION” and reported:
Hundreds huddled in shelters Sunday while trying to add up the damage to their homes, churches and schools caused by deadly storms that blew through North Texas.
Eleven people, including an infant, were killed in Dallas and Collin counties, and as many as 11 tornadoes were reported to the National Weather Service.
Hardest hit Saturday was Garland, Texas, a city of 230,000 people 20 miles northeast of Dallas, where eight people died and 15 were injured, police Lt. Pedro Barineau said. Most of the fatalities occurred on highways as multiple cars became caught in the severe weather, and several vehicles plunged as far as 17 feet from a bridge, authorities said. Barineau said 600 homes and businesses were damaged…
The tornadoes that roared through Texas reached as high as EF-4, with winds reaching 175 mph, Oram said. This is the USA’s first EF-4 tornado to strike in December in 15 years. It is also the farthest west a tornado of that strength has formed in December, according to the tornado research site U.S. Tornadoes.
Until the holiday season outbreak, only 10 people had died in tornadoes across the nation this year, the fewest number on record. Wiley blamed the rare run of December tornadoes in part on a strong El Niño that has been pushing spring-like temperatures across much of the North and East. El Niño also can take some blame for the snowstorm — another trait of the system is colder than normal temperatures in parts of the South, Wiley said.
Today the Mississippi River at St. Louis is expected to crest close to its second highest level on record, the April 28, 1973 flood crest (43.2 feet). This is still short of the record 1993 crest (49.6 feet)… The St. Louis crest will then combine with the rain-swollen Ohio River and move downstream into the Mid-South and Lower Mississippi Valleys later next week and into mid-January.
Since December and November have been so warm and so wet, the atmosphere and watershed are behaving more like the spring. Temperatures over much of the Mississippi Valley have averaged 8-12 degrees Fahrenheit above normal and featured highs in the 60s and 70s during December. During November and December, frequent storms loaded with abundant moisture have delivered rainfall well above average to much of the Mississippi Basin. The pattern is typical of an El Niño, but rainfall of this magnitude has crossed into uncharted territory for the region.
The Amazon forests of Central and South America are at increased risk of fires in 2016 due to the ongoing El Niño, according to NASA scientists.
This El Niño, which has helped trigger more than 100,000 fires in Indonesia and spewed an estimated 1.75 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents into the atmosphere, will next threaten tropical forests in Southeast Asia and in southern Mexico, Guatemala and other countries in Central America, said James Randerson, an Earth system scientist at the University of California, Irvine.
The higher fire risk in the tropics is one of many of El Niño’s impacts that scientists are observing. In rain-starved California, models are projecting that the weather phenomenon, which is the strongest seen since 1997-98, will likely include heavy precipitation beginning in mid- to late December.
December 25, 2015
December 24, 2015
For some families it means listening for any noise suggesting homeland security raids have started, as Phil Palin posted earlier today:
The Department of Homeland Security has begun preparing for a series of raids that would target for deportation hundreds of families who have flocked to the United States since the start of last year, according to people familiar with the operation.
An emergingly ironic backdrop to the last of Jeff Kaliner’s three-part letters from Syria’s largest city, Aleppo
Dear Pen Pal:
The Russians have begun their air strikes. It’s not as easy as it used to be. Russian jets are faster, more accurate, and more deadly. My mother fled the country last week with my sister, they should be in Turkey but I haven’t heard anything back yet. Dad told me he has been in contact with them but won’t let me see any letters or talk to them.
Sleep and rest has become difficult as the regime is becoming more confident with Russian support. There isn’t much that can be done on our end. It doesn’t look like the U.S. is willing to increase their part in our liberation. Everyone says that we are winning the war. This war isn’t even close to over.
Dear Pen Pal,
Today was a sad day in my town. More protesters have gone “missing” in the last three days. I don’t get why the government must take them away when all they are doing is singing peacefully not causing any trouble. But on the bright side the rebels have beaten the extremists in yet another battle. My father and brother were fighting in that battle and I was so scared that they would not be returning. But luckily they did return with just bumps and bruises.
I hope this war will end soon and there will be peace in the land. I wish everything would return to normal and the children would never fear of their parents disappearing or a sniper shooting them.
No one should have to go through this whether they are young like me or old like my father. We should be living in peace and harmony with no dictatorship or Islamic extremists.
No one should fear walking through the streets knowing a bomb could go off at any second.
Dear Pen Pal –
Today in Aleppo we had many explosions nearby. This is normal for us now.
My family has lived here for my entire life however it has never been like this. My father worked every day at the local store. My mother stayed at home with us kids, my two brothers and I. We would always play in the street. Everything was normal.
Then the regime began making trouble. I wasn’t sure what it was. Our mother always told us that the explosions were just fireworks. Then one day we woke up to find the neighbor’s house decimated by an explosive. There were bodies in the street. There was blood everywhere.
After we saw this our mother told us what really was happening. She said to us we were being attacked. We asked why? We could see the blank stare. She didn’t know either. When our father walked in. He told us, “This is an attack by ISIS. They want to take control of our city’’.
Fortunately the explosions subsided. We could leave! But our father wanted to stay. We didn’t have anywhere to go. This was still our home. He said, “We must stay. We must fight. We can’t let these bullies take over our home.”
Now there is only my family and one other. Our life has changed. We will wait for the war to end, and everybody to return. We must survive.
Cory St. Pierre
Jeff Kaliner teaches a homeland security class at the Clark County Skills Center in Vancouver, WA. His students were asked to step into the shoes of a child living in Aleppo and write a letter to a pen pal, relative or friend in the United States. Specifically, Kaliner asked the students to describe what they saw, heard and felt. Thanks to his students for sharing how they look at the world.
Above, Flight into Egypt by Jacopo Bassano (1545) Norton Simon Museum
The Department of Homeland Security has begun preparing for a series of raids that would target for deportation hundreds of families who have flocked to the United States since the start of last year, according to people familiar with the operation.
The nationwide campaign, to be carried out by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents as soon as early January, would be the first large-scale effort to deport families who have fled violence in Central America, those familiar with the plan said. More than 100,000 families with both adults and children have made the journey across the southwest border since last year, though this migration has largely been overshadowed by a related surge of unaccompanied minors…
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has been pushing for the moves, according to those with knowledge of the debate, in part because of a new spike in the number of illegal immigrants in recent months. Experts say that the violence that was a key factor in driving people to flee Central America last year has surged again, with the homicide rate in El Salvador reaching its highest level in a generation. A drought in the region has also prompted departures.
“Jeh Johnson wants to send a message to Central Americans: don’t come north. But Washington hasn’t solved the underlying problem of massive violence in their home countries that is causing them to come north in the first place,” said Margaret Stock, an immigration attorney in Anchorage.
Though illegal entries overall have dropped sharply in recent years, the Obama administration has been bracing for a surge of unaccompanied children and families from Central America in coming months. In recent weeks, it had begun to add capacity to handle the increase, because migrants are housed at least temporarily in government facilities.
More than 12,000 individuals in so-called family units were apprehended at the border in October and November, compared with about 4,500 in the same months last year.
The number of unaccompanied minors caught during those two months topped 10,000, compared with about 5,000 in the same period last year.
El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras consistently rank among the most violent countries in the world. Gang-related violence in El Salvador brought its homicide rate to ninety per hundred thousand in 2015, making it the most world’s most violent country not at war. All three countries have significantly higher homicide rates than neighboring Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama.
Extortion is also rampant. A July 2015 investigation by Honduran newspaper La Prensa found that Salvadorans and Hondurans pay an estimated $390 million and $200 million, respectively, in annual extortion fees to organized crime groups; meanwhile, Guatemalan authorities said in 2014 that citizens pay an estimated $61 million a year in extortion fees. Extortionists primarily target public transportation operators, small businesses, and residents of poor neighborhoods, according to the report, and attacks on people who do not pay contributes to the violence…
The nature of the violence is distinct in each country, but there are common threads: the proliferation of gangs, the region’s use as a transshipment point for U.S.-bound narcotics, and high rates of impunity are major factors contributing to insecurity in the region.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, during FY2015 (through September 30):
Overall, the Department apprehended 406,595 individuals nationwide and conducted a total of 462,463 removals and returns. The U.S. Border Patrol reported 337,117 apprehensions nationwide, compared to 486,651 in FY 2014. At the same time, ICE removed or returned 235,413 individuals in FY 2015, with 86 percent of these individuals considered a “top priority” (Priority One) – those considered border security or public safety threats.
December 21, 2015
Friday an omnibus appropriations bill funding the federal government through the end of September 2016 was signed by the President. It is 2009 pages long. I have not mastered it. I welcome your corrections or additions to what is below
$11.057 billion for Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which is responsible for securing our borders as well as regulating and facilitating international trade and immigration. At this funding level, CBP will have the resources to hire and maintain 21,370 Border Patrol agents and 23,775 CBP Officers. (DHS)
$10.922 billion for the Coast Guard including $160 million for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). When OCO is excluded, the total amount is $933 million more than the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and $1.007 billion more than the request. (DHS)
$4 .86 billion for the TSA. (DHS)
$5.832 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Within this total is $1.9 billion to support investigations in high-priority mission areas, including human trafficking and smuggling, child exploitation, commercial fraud and intellectual property rights enforcement, gangs, cybercrimes and terrorism. (DHS)
$1.63 billion for the National Protection and Programs Division including Infrastructure Protection, Cyber and Infrastructure Analysis, Federal Protective Service, and Biometric Identity Management. (DHS)
$1.5 billion, the same as fiscal year 2015 and $289 million more than the request, in funding to equip and train first responders and state, tribal and local officials for homeland security protection and response. (DHS)
Firefighter grants for equipment and staffing are funded at $690 million which is $10 million more than the fiscal year 2015 level and $20 million more than the request. (DHS)
$350 million is for the Emergency Management Performance Grants to ensure emergency management personnel and capacity is sustained nationwide. (DHS)
$100 million for the Predisaster Mitigation Program, quadrupling these funds from $25 million in fiscal year 2015, and $190 million for flood hazard mapping and risk analysis, almost doubling the program from $100 million last year. (DHS)
$7.4 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund. (DHS)
(Editorial note: We are willing to pay much more to clean up and try to repair Humpty Dumpty than to strengthen his shell, pad his falls, or stop him from sitting on walls.)
$50 million in new funding for the Secretary of Homeland Security to distribute as needed to state and local governments, universities, and non-profit organizations, to prepare for emergent threats from violent extremism and complex, coordinated terrorist attacks. The bill also provides $3.1 million for the new Office of Community Partnerships, which will focus on countering violent extremism. (DHS)
$314 million in Department of Energy cybersecurity work, which is $10 million more than the fiscal year 2015 level, for cybersecurity activities. (DOE)
$21.3 million for the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to help ensure that federal laws and policies related to terrorism appropriately consider privacy and civil liberties.
$3.7 billion appropriated to Department of Justice, FBI, ATF and related agencies to help prevent radicalization in our communities and support our first responders and federal agents ensuring that if terror strikes, measures are in place to protect and save lives. One of the biggest agencies in our fight to prevent terrorism within the CJS bill is the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The FBI’s counterterrorism and counterintelligence operations are funded at $3.4 billion to uncover, investigate and disrupt current and future threats to our national security. The National Security Division (NSD), housed in the Justice Department, is funded at $95 million to coordinate efforts between federal prosecutors, law enforcement and the Intelligence Community to combat terrorism. Other Justice Department agencies are funded as follows: the U.S. Attorneys Office at $51 million to prosecute terrorism cases; the Bureau of Prisons at $18 million to stop extremism and radicalization in federal prisons; the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) at $98 million to fight terrorism with a drug trafficking nexus; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) at $15 million to disrupt and prevent the use of firearms and explosives in terrorist acts; and U.S. Marshals Service at $13 million to handle threat investigations. The National Institute of Justice is provided $4 million to provide community leaders with evidence-based practices for bolstering resilience and developing responses to prevent and mitigate threats posed by violent extremists. (DOJ)
$7.228 billion for the Centers for Disease Control, $278 million more than last year. (HHS)
$175 million for the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund to support the Department of State efforts to strengthen the capacity of foreign law enforcement, and to facilitate a more integrated interagency effort to analyze threats and identify priorities for counterterrorism activities. (STATE)
$750 million to respond to the surge of unaccompanied children coming from Central America to the U.S. The funds will be used to implement a U.S. strategy focused on border security and the reintegration of migrants as well as to address the causes of the migration, including programs to improve education and employment, support families, counter gangs and professionalize police forces in Central America. Seventy-five percent of the funds for the central governments of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala is subject to certification that they have met certain requirements related to governance, corruption and human rights. (STATE) (Note: $695 million is provided within CBP and ICE to house, process and transport up to 58,000 unaccompanied children and families with children.)
$300 million in disaster relief to help rebuild communities devastated by floods in 2015. This level of funding is expected to assist approximately 4,000 households composed of homeowners with flood damage and no flood insurance, and very low- to extremely low-income renters with flood damage. This funding can also assist with rebuilding small businesses and more resilient infrastructure in impacted communities. (HUD)
The Department of Defense (DoD) Appropriations Act, 2016 provides $572.8 billion in base and Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) funding, compared to $554.1 billion enacted in fiscal year 2015 and $577.9 billion in the President’s budget request. The base budget appropriation is $514.1 billion with $58.6 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations of the Department of Defense, compared to $63.9 billion for DoD OCO enacted in fiscal year 2015. (DOD)
Intelligence agencies are separately funded. According to the Director of National Intelligence the FY2016 budget for non-military intelligence operations is $53.9 billion. (DNI, 16 differentmilitary and non-military intelligence agencies)
The comparative proportions are informative, don’t you think?
December 20, 2015
The three candidates for the Democratic Party presidential nomination met in New Hampshire on Saturday night, four days after a Republican debate in Las Vegas. Both sessions focused significant attention on terrorism. The Democrats shared a stage at Saint Anselm College. The Republicans met at the Venetian Hotel and Casino. The content for the two events was as differentiated as the venues.
Here’s a transcript from Saturday night. More later.
A few excerpts from St. Anselm (added to this post early on Monday morning, December 21):
The former Senator and Secretary of State said:
I have a plan that I’ve put forward to go after ISIS. Not to contain them, but to defeat them. And it has three parts. First, to go after them and deprive them of the territory they occupy now in both Syria and Iraq.
Secondly, to go after and dismantle their global network of terrorism. And thirdly, to do more to keep us safe. Under each of those three parts of my plan, I have very specific recommendations about what to do.
Obviously, in the first, we do have to have a — an American-led air campaign, we have to have Arab and Kurdish troops on the ground. Secondly, we’ve got to go after everything from North Africa to South Asia and beyond.
And then, most importantly, here at home, I think there are three things that we have to get right. We have to do the best possible job of sharing intelligence and information. That now includes the internet, because we have seen that ISIS is a very effective recruiter, propagandist and inciter and celebrator of violence.
That means we have to work more closely with our great tech companies. They can’t see the government as an adversary, we can’t see them as obstructionists. We’ve got to figure out how we can do more to understand who is saying what and what they’re planning.
And we must work more closely with Muslim-American communities. Just like Martin, I met with a group of Muslim-Americans this past week to hear from them about what they’re doing to try to stop radicalization. They will be our early warning signal. That’s why we need to work with them, not demonize them, as the Republicans have been doing…
You know, I was a senator from New York after 9/11, and we spent countless hours trying to figure out how to protect the city and the state from perhaps additional attacks. One of the best things that was done, and George W. Bush did this and I give him credit, was to reach out to Muslim Americans and say, we’re in this together. You are not our adversary, you are our partner.
And we also need to make sure that the really discriminatory messages that Trump is sending around the world don’t fall on receptive ears. He is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter. They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists. So I want to explain why this is not in America’s interest to react with this kind of fear and respond to this sort of bigotry.
The Senator from Vermont said:
Number one, our goal is to crush and destroy ISIS. What is the best way to do it? Well, I think there are some differences of opinion here, perhaps between the secretary and myself. I voted against the war in Iraq because I thought unilateral military action would not produce the results that were necessary and would lead to the kind of unraveling and instability that we saw in the Middle East.
I do not believe in unilateral American action. I believe in action in which we put together a strong coalition of forces, major powers and the Muslim nations. I think one of the heroes in a real quagmire out there, in a dangerous and difficult world, one of the heroes who we should recognize in the Middle East is King Abdullah II of Jordan. This small country has welcomed in many refugees.
And Abdullah said something recently, very important. He said, “Yes, international terrorism is by definition an international issue, but it is primarily an issue of the Muslim nations who are fighting for the soul of Islam. We the Muslims should lead the effort on the ground.” And I believe he is absolutely right.
The former Mayor of Baltimore and Governor of Maryland said:
We have invested nowhere near what we should be investing in human intelligence on the ground. And what I’m talking about is not only the covert CIA intelligence, I’m also talking about diplomatic intelligence. I mean, we’ve seen time and time again, especially in this very troubled region of nation-state failures, and then we have no idea who the next generation of leaders are that are coming forward.
So what I would say is not only do we need to be thinking in military terms, but we do our military a disservice when we don’t greatly dial up the investment that we are making in diplomacy and human intelligence and when we fail to dial up properly, the role of sustainable development in all of this. As president, I would make the administrator of USAID an actual cabinet member. We have to act in a much more whole of government approach, as General Dempsey said.
And I do believe, and I would disagree somewhat with one of my colleagues, this is a genocidal threat. They have now created a safe haven in the vacuum that we allowed to be partly and because of our blunders, to be created to be created in the areas of Syria and Iraq. We cannot allow safe havens, and as a leader of moral nations around this Earth, we need to come up with new alliances and new ways to prepare for these new sorts of threats, because Martha, this will not be the last region where nation-states fail.
And you’ve seen a little bit of this emerging in the — in the African Union and the things that they have done to better stabilize Somalia. We need to pay attention here in Central America as well. So this is the new type of threats that we’re facing and we need to lead as a nation in confronting it and putting together new alliances and new coalitions.
Lot’s more in the transcript. Substantive discussion and distinctions, mostly coherent consideration of real issues and a couple of worthwhile positions well-outside conventional wisdom.
December 18, 2015
After Paris and before San Bernardino a Washington-Post ABC News poll found that 83 percent of registered voters perceive “a terrorist attack in the United States resulting in large casualties is likely in the near future.”
In a more recent poll seventy-seven percent of Americans express significant skepticism that it is possible to stop terrorist attacks carried out by individuals, so-called “lone wolfs” or those inspired but not directed by ISIS, al-Qaeda, and similar organizations. There is much more confidence that larger-scale coordinated attacks can be preempted. But even here a majority of poll respondents doubt all such attacks can be stopped.
The media reports on these polls (linked above) tend to perceive increasing anxiety or fear and focus on political consequences.
But the more recent poll, conducted between December 10 – 13, also asked the question, “How worried are you that you or someone in your family will become a victim of terrorism?” Despite (because of?) the proximity of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks the percentage responding as “not too worried” or “not worried at all” increased from 49 percent in a June poll to 57 percent last week.
These survey results seem coherent with my own perceptions:
Continued terrorist attacks on the United States are likely. Variations of the Boston bombings or San Bernardino shootings are most likely. An urban swarm attack, ala Mumbai or Paris, will — almost certainly — eventually be carried out.
We should be proactive and smart in taking reasonable and effective steps to reduce these probabilities. In the homeland security domain this ranges from a strategy of social solidarity to well-targeted intelligence operations. But at some time and place all of our best efforts will fail.
In any case, these terrorist operations are unlikely to directly threaten me or my family directly. They do not — or at least, need not — present an existential threat to the nation.
Given the polls reported above, other recent polls, and my own conversations with a wide range of Americans, it would seem that more than sixty percent share very similar views. It is, it seems to me, a very realistic perspective on probabilities.
It is remarkable that political leadership seems unwilling or unable to build-on the realism of a significant majority of the population. It is even worse when some putative leaders are focused on stoking an unachievable fantasy of complete security on the part of a fearful minority.
UPDATE: On December 16 the Department of Homeland Security released a National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin, a new approach to providing public alert. Rather than the old (bad) color codes, it attempts to provide some context. The first alert opens with:
We are in a new phase in the global threat environment, which has implications on the homeland. Particularly with the rise in use by terrorist groups of the Internet to inspire and recruit, we are concerned about the “self-radicalized” actor(s) who could strike with little or no notice. Recent attacks and attempted attacks internationally and in the homeland warrant increased security, as well as increased public vigilance and awareness.
This is hardly new, but perhaps someone had been waiting for “official” notice.
December 17, 2015
Tuesday evening in Las Vegas the Republican presidential candidates all had something to say about terrorism… and immigration, refugees, cyber-war and whether or not we are already engaged in World War III. The following focuses on what I heard regarding terrorism.
Senator Paul said, “If we truly are sincere about defeating terrorism, we need to quit arming the allies of ISIS. If we want to defeat terrorism, the boots on the ground — the boots on the ground need to be Arab boots on the ground.” He also said,”every terrorist attack we’ve had since 9/11 has been [the result of] legal immigration… I want more rules, more scrutiny, and to defend the country, you have to defend the border.”
Senator Cruz said, “If I am elected president, we will hunt down and kill the terrorists. We will utterly destroy ISIS. We will stop the terrorist attacks before they occur because we will not be prisoners to political correctness. Rather, we will speak the truth. Border security is national security and we will not be admitting jihadists as refugees. We will keep America safe.”
Mr. Bush said, “We need to destroy ISIS in the caliphate. That’s — that should be our objective. The refugee issue will be solved if we destroy ISIS there, which means we need to have a no-fly zone, safe zones there for refugees and to build a military force. We need to embed our forces — our troops inside the Iraqi military. We need to arm directly the Kurds. And all of that has to be done in concert with the Arab nations. And if we’re going to ban all Muslims, how are we going to get them to be part of a coalition to destroy ISIS?The Kurds are the greatest fighting force and our strongest allies. They’re Muslim.”
Governor Kasich said, “Then here at home, there are things called the Joint Terrorism Task Force, headed by the FBI, and made up of local law enforcement, including state police. They need the tools. And the tools involve encryption where we cannot hear what they’re even planning. And when we see red flags, a father, a mother, a neighbor who says we have got a problem here, then we have to give law enforcement the ability to listen so they can disrupt these terrorist attacks before they occur.” In regard to operations against ISIS, the Governor said, “This is not going to get done just by working with the Sunnis. And it is not going to get done if we just embed a few people. We have to go massively, like we did in the first Gulf War where we destroyed Saddam’s ability to take Kuwait. We need to have a coalition that will stand for nothing less than the total destruction of ISIS and we have to be the leader. We can’t wait for anybody else.”
Ms. Fiorina said, “Why did we miss the Tsarnaev brothers, why did we miss the San Bernardino couple? It wasn’t because we had stopped collected metadata it was because, I think, as someone who comes from the technology world, we were using the wrong algorithms.”
Senator Rubio said, “ISIS is a radical Sunni group. They cannot just be defeated through air strikes. Air strikes are a key component of defeating them, but they must be defeated on the ground by a ground force. And that ground force must be primarily made up of Sunni Arabs themselves, Sunni Arabs that reject them ideologically and confront them militarily. We will have to embed additional American special operators alongside them to help them with training, to help them conduct special missions, and to help improve the air strikes… And beyond that, I would say we must win the information war against ISIS. Every war we have ever been involved in has had a propaganda informational aspect to it. ISIS is winning the propaganda war. They are recruiting people, including Americans, to join them, with the promise that they are joining this great apocalyptic movement that is going to defeat the West. We have to show what life is really like in ISIS territory, and we have to show them why ISIS is not invincible, by going out and conducting these attacks and publicizing them to those who they recruit.”
Governor Christie said, “What we need to do… is restore those tools that have been taken away by the president and others, restore those tools to the NSA and to our entire surveillance and law enforcement community. We need a president who is going to understand what actionable intelligence looks like and act on it.” The Governor said or suggested much more, but mostly by criticizing what others have done or propose to do and promising he will be stronger.
Mr. Trump‘s comments were, at least to me, incoherent. Every quote I begin to cut and paste seems ridiculous. I sort of know what he means, but only by finishing sentences for him.
Much more was said, the Washington Post provides an annotated transcript.
Hugh Hewitt, a conservative radio broadcaster, who CNN had asking questions initiated an exchange with Ben Carson regarding the role of healing violence. This is not the term used in Las Vegas by either man, but the work of surgeons, such as Dr. Carson, is sometimes described with this phrase. The pediatric neurosurgeon responded that in fighting terrorism he is prepared to practice extreme triage. Here’s one part of the exchange:
HEWITT: So you are OK with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilians? It’s like…
CARSON: You got it. You got it.
Dr. Carson and most of the other Republican candidates — many others as well — have situated the current terrorist threat as a particular thing in a particular place or places. This diagnosis drives the treatment: complete eradication.
There is an abiding sense of terrorism as an external epidemic or an internal cancer — perhaps some weird hybrid of both — that will continue to threaten if it is not entirely exterminated. Dr. Carson is not alone in deciding that the threat is self-evidently sufficient to justify the most heart-wrenching triage.
Is a chronic coronary condition the more accurate analogy? There is a significant weakness in our global circulatory system. Blockages tend to form, threatening various ruptures that could kill us. This sort of diagnosis would tend to drive wellness, reinforcing therapies, and less drastic surgical interventions. Triage is much less relevant to this diagnosis.
Earlier in the evening at the undercard debate Senator Graham said, “This is a religious war between radical Islam and the rest of the world. And there’s only one way you’re going to win this war. Help people in Islam who reject radical Islam to fight over there and destroy this ideology. Donald Trump has done the one single thing you cannot do: Declare war on Islam itself. ISIL would be dancing in the streets, they just don’t believe in dancing. This is a coup for them. And to all of our Muslim friends throughout the world, like the King of Jordan and the President of Egypt: I am sorry. He does not represent us. If I am President, we will work together and with people of faith all over the world to destroy this radical ideology. Declaring war on the religion only helps ISIL.”
Senator Graham is still using the language of destruction. But what I hear him describing is much more a matter of building up the strength of a whole system, not just for some to survive but for everyone to thrive.
UPDATE: Mid-day on Thursday the President visited the National Counterterrorism Center. His remarks on the terrorist threat can be found here.
This has been an especially busy several days in homeland security. The list of issues and events could be quite long. The following strike me as requiring at least a reference here.
The decision to close the Los Angeles public schools after receiving an emailed terrorist threat was defended by the LA Times editorial board. They wrote, “with the San Bernardino shootings still a vivid memory, and with a somewhat more detailed threat in hand, district officials believed they had little choice but to close the schools. Had anything happened to a student or teacher, the horror would have been unspeakable, a wound from which it would be hard to recover. It’s easy to understand why the district erred on the side of safety.”
New York received a very similar — even identical — threat but decided differently.
“We are born of immigrants. That is who we are. Immigration is our origin story. And for more than two centuries, it’s remained at the core of our national character; it’s our oldest tradition. It’s who we are. It’s part of what makes us exceptional,” the President told new citizens who had just participated in a naturalization ceremony at the National Archives. Given increasing public anxieity regarding immigrants, it was a powerful, even poignant event.
Writing in Politico Michael Hirsh argues that the recent terrorist attacks and even more recent climate deal in Paris reflect the darkest and the brightest aspects of life on our planet. He writes, “The question is whether the political leaders who signed what is being called “L’accord de Paris” were more effective in their efforts to preserve this civilization than the terrorists were in theirs to destroy it. Granted, the climate pact has plenty of holes—the biggest of which is that it is fairly nonbinding—but it still represents the strongest global consensus in two decades on climate change, bringing in nearly every nation on earth…”