Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 16, 2015

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

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

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

From today’s New York Times:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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June 13, 2015

What law enforcement transparency looked like during the 6/13 attack on Dallas police headquarters

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on June 13, 2015

The following is a copy of the Tweets sent by Dallas police Major Max Geron during the attack on the Dallas police headquarters.  The attack started this morning, around 1230 AM.

The tweets illustrate how public officials can use social media (in this case Twitter and Periscope) during an incident to keep people informed, correct errors, quash rumors, explain actions, keep people safe, and help make sense out of what’s going on. 

Max writes for Homeland Security Watch sometimes.


– Maj. Max Geron retweeted

#BREAKING More video of shooting outside DPD headquarters

– Maj. Max Geron retweeted

Madhu ?@madwho12  19h19 hours ago

Armored van lured police, fired upon, and rammed police

– Maj. Max Geron retweeted

18h18 hours ago

Ryan Wood retweeted JG

New video from earlier of shooting outside #Dallas police headquarters. @wfaachannel8

– Maj. Max Geron retweeted

18h18 hours ago

Suspect who shot at DPD headquarters is in a van near Hutchins. SWAT on the way. Here is the scene.


– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  18h18 hours ago

I’m not aware of any injuries at this point

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  17h17 hours ago

As a precautionary measure, we’ve taken additional steps to ensure security at all police facilities.

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  17h17 hours ago

We’ve activated the Emergency Operations Center to facilitate coordination of emergency response

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

Witnesses advised that suspects in an armored vehicle open fire on @DallasPD HQ shortly after 12am #dallaspdshooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

If you have video or info of the incident you can send it to us via the iWatch Dallas app available in the App Store #dallaspdshooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

You can also send us info or video to pio@dpd.dallascityhall.com

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

We’ve received assistance from Hutchins PD, Wilmer PD, @TxDPS among others. Situation is ongoing #dallaspdshooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

Still no reports of any injuries to @DallasPD personnel. #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

We are prepping for a press conference with @dpdchief at city hall #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

We are working to LiveStream and Periscope the press conference.

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

Headed up to the presser now

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

We’re expanding the perimeter @DallasPD HQ because of the presence of possible explosives

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

Presser live on periscope now

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

On Periscope @maxdpd

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

Multiple bags with possible explosives found around @DallasPD HQ

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

If you hear explosions in the area of @dallaspd HQ, the Explosive Ord. Unit is considering a controlled demolition #dallaspdshooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  15h15 hours ago

We will be uploading video of the press conference to http://dpdbeat.com  as soon as we can

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  15h15 hours ago

#breaking As the Explosive Ordinance Robot attempted to move one of the bags @DallasPD HQ, the bag exploded on its own #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  15h15 hours ago

We are advising all of our surrounding LEO Depts to search their facilities for devices and not to touch them. #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  15h15 hours ago

We are working with @FBI and @ATFHQ

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  15h15 hours ago

#breaking Here’s the link to the talking points from the earlier press conference #DallasPDShooting http://dpdbeat.com/2015/06/13/shooting-at-dallas-police-headquarters/ …

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  14h14 hours ago

#Breaking We have found an additional package under a police truck in the parking lot @DallasPD HQ EOD is checking it #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  14h14 hours ago

#BREAKING We are also investigating a suspicious package in a dumpster at the Northeast Substation #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  14h14 hours ago

#Breaking Standoff with the suspect. Suspect vehicle has been disabled. #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  14h14 hours ago

We are working on dispatching our Priority 1 911 calls. We will work to release ad ofcrs to ans calls as soon as possible #DallasPDShooting

#Breaking Device found under police vehicle @DallasPD HQ was detonated by EOD. #DallasPDShooting

– 14h14 hours ago

Device found under police vehicle at HQ has detonated – no injuries #DallasPDShooting

– 14h14 hours ago

Dallas SWAT disabled the suspect vehicle with a .50 cal rifle. Standoff is ongoing #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  14h14 hours ago

We currently aren’t granting phone interviews but are working on an update presser w/in the next couple of hours #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  14h14 hours ago

We are currently working on processing at least 2 crime scenes inclusive of the ongoing standoff near I-20 & I-45 #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  14h14 hours ago

Maj. Max Geron retweeted Bad Guy Zero

Not “evacuating” but getting officers to clear in service from the station

Maj. Max Geron added,

Bad Guy Zero @BadGuyZero

Someone on the DPD Southeast radio frequency just said they’re in the process of clearing the station. #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  14h14 hours ago

Maj. Max Geron retweeted Nick Wing

No, follow us on social media and check our blog at http://dpdbeat.com  #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron added,

Nick Wing @nickpwing

Is this police scanner the only source of info on what’s happening in Dallas? #DallasPD #DallasPDShooting http://www.broadcastify.com/listen/feed/5318/web …

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  14h14 hours ago

ICYMI [“in case you missed it”] If you have video or info on the #DallasPDShooting you may submit it via iWatch Dallas app or emailed to pio@dpd.dallascityhall.com

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  13h13 hours ago

We held officers from deep nights shift to work on getting caught up on 911 calls.

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  13h13 hours ago

#Breaking 2 explosive devices were found @DallasPD HQ – all suspected packages have now been cleared there. #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  13h13 hours ago

#breaking Other suspected devices@DallasPD HQ turned out to be trash.

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  13h13 hours ago

.@JeremyWard33 “Clearing in service” means checking in service and leaving the station to answer calls

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  13h13 hours ago

Are working as quickly as we can to get people back into their residences near @DallasPD HQ could still be several hours #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  13h13 hours ago

The delay is because we must resume the search for additional explosive devices. Please be patient #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  13h13 hours ago

We are reaching out to the @RedCrossDFW to get refreshments for evacuated residents in the area of @DallasPD HQ #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  13h13 hours ago

#Breaking Our EOD robot took a hit from the initial explosion but is still functional and in use #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  12h12 hours ago

Thank you for all the well wishes. Thankful no officers were injured. #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  12h12 hours ago

Maj. Max Geron retweeted Mike North

When possible we negotiate to secure a peaceful resolution to all situations. Not always possible

Maj. Max Geron added,

Mike North @North2North

.@DallasPD .@cpdzone7 so they fire on a police head q. and now negotiate ?blow the van up..bye bye.. #DallasPDShooting #donetalking #kapow

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  12h12 hours ago

Both directions of I-45 shutdown in the area of I-45 and I-20 due to on-going standoff #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  12h12 hours ago

#Breaking Suspicious package at Northeast has been cleared and was not an explosive #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  12h12 hours ago

#Breaking We will give a follow up briefing at 8:30am for media in the lobby of City Hall. #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  12h12 hours ago

#BREAKING Dallas SWAT utilizing robot to examine the suspect vehicle. Still concerned about explosives #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  12h12 hours ago

.@CourtlandOlson #falsenarrative Officers @DallasPD HQ returned fire at the suspect

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

Whether or not susp is inj or deceased, concern continues to be threat of explosives. 2 devices were found @DallasPD HQ #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

Evacuees have been allowed back into their homes across from @DallasPD HQ following a search for additional explosives #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

Earlier this morning Dallas SWAT sniper shot the suspect through the front windshield.

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

We recently held a tabletop exercise on a similar styles attack on downtown area #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

Original reports to officers were of multiple suspects. Now indications are 1 suspect fired from multiple locs #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

We don’t know motive and will not send officers to van until we can work to make sure there are no explosives #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

Press conference live on Periscope @maxdpd

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

Susp shot at officers at @DallasPD HQ and at scene of standoff with officers returning fire both times. #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

Re: PT this prompted shooting of suspect by Dallas SWAT sniper #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

Officer searching HQ for explosives almost tripped over package that later exploded the instant it was moved #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

#Breaking @DallasPD attempted to take out the windshield of the susp veh with an explosive breach. It had no effect #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

#Breaking @DallasPD will use the .50 rifle to strategically take out the windshield of the susp veh w/ 4 or more shots #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

RE: PT – Goal is to enable access inside that susp vehicle. #DallasPDShooting We’re advising to alert the public so no alarm at gunfire

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

#Breaking Action to take out susp vehicle windshield to happen momentarily #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

.@jdmiles11 JD incorrect – 2 shots to engine block – 1 shot into suspect

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  10h10 hours ago

.@jdmiles11 Yes 2 into engine block 3rd shot hit suspect through windshield. All w/.50 cal #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  10h10 hours ago

.@ry_miller23 Suspect was in an armored vehicle.

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  10h10 hours ago

.@delgeo1 5 suspicious packages – 3 cleared, 2 explosives, 1 exploded on contact, other controlled detonation by EOD. #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  10h10 hours ago

One shot into susp veh windshield just went in with .50 cal. #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  10h10 hours ago

Are in process of trying to gain access into the armored susp vehicle by taking out the windshield with our .50cal rifle #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  10h10 hours ago

#Breaking We’ve opened the windshield and will utilize an explosive “water charge” to render any explosives inside inert #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  10h10 hours ago

#Breaking EOD techs believe black powder used in pipe bombs @DallasPD HQ – no C4 detected there #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  9h9 hours ago

We are about to go with the “water charge” in the susp vehicle. Have been prepping for a safe detonation #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  9h9 hours ago

.@IRRGoddess @Fried_Kimchi #FalseNarrative Ofcrs engaged the suspect and returned fire @DallasPD HQ and at standoff loc #DallasPDShooting

9h9 hours ago

.@CBS11Arezow Water charge uses container of water against explosive charge to disperse water and render black pwdr inert #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  10h10 hours ago

There has been no contact with the suspect in over 4 hours – believe it likely that he is deceased #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  9h9 hours ago

Maj. Max Geron retweeted Dell Cameron

Believe it likely – unable to confirm until van is cleared and officers can move in. Confirmation is premature

Maj. Max Geron added,

Dell Cameron @dellcam

@MaxDPD The @AP just tweeted “authorities confirm death of suspect.” Can you confirm that?

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  9h9 hours ago

Maj. Max Geron retweeted Mark Puente

Thank you Mark. #Transparency and #engagement are critical. #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron added,

Mark Puente @MarkPuente

@justin_fenton @MaxDPD It appears everything isn’t a secret in police operations in the Big D. Kudos to the transparency.

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  8h8 hours ago

#BREAKING at least two additional pipe bombs found inside susp veh. #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  8h8 hours ago

#Breaking How officer survived truly a miracle! Bullet through door-seatblt-frontseat-backseat #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron retweeted

Shawn Williams ?@ShawnPDPD  7h7 hours ago

. @DPDChief just received a call from @GovAbbott who offered any assistance necessary to @DallasPD. #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  7h7 hours ago

Maj. Max Geron retweeted Maggie Mazzetti

All media may use photos with appropriate attribution.

Maj. Max Geron added,

Maggie Mazzetti @maggiemazzetti

@MaxDPD – The Associated Press would love to use your photos/video with attribution, would that be ok?

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  7h7 hours ago

#Breaking We can now confirm that the susp in the van is deceased but unable to confirm ID pending Med Ex. identification #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  7h7 hours ago

#BREAKING Lots of shrapnel was included in the pipe bombs that exploded – screws, nails @DallasPD HQ #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  6h6 hours ago

#Breaking During intentional detonation of susp ordnance, susp van caught fire and rounds are going off inside #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  6h6 hours ago

Officers had discovered at least 2 additional pipe bombs in the susp veh that required disposal #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  6h6 hours ago

#BREAKING At 3PM will provide Media w/ crime scene access at Lamar St. & Belleview St. Coming south on Lamar frm DwnTwn. #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  6h6 hours ago

TV Media may send 1 reporter & 1 photog per station, Print media 1 rep & 1 photog/ Radio – 1 reporter. Will have sound from @MajorCotnerDPD

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  6h6 hours ago

Sound will be available from @MajorCotnerDPD and @DPDChiefGarza from Capers at that time #DallasPDShooting

– Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  6h6 hours ago

I’m signing off. @DallasPD and @ShawnPDPD will continue w/ updates going to try and get some rest. #DallasPDShooting

 

 

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June 12, 2015

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 12, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

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June 11, 2015

A summer hiatus

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 11, 2015

A couple of weeks ago I was the only non-federalista at a DHS event where one official introduced me to another as “the HLSWatch blogger”, to which my new acquaintance replied, “Oh yes! You’re the philosopher, aren’t you?”

I’m not sure how he pegs Chris or Arnold or Christian, but I responded “Yes, I guess so.” Closing on the upbeat.

At a recent FEMA function as we offered self-introductions, the facilitator interrupted and asked me, “Would you share with the group your other persona?” I had no idea where she was going.  “Which one?” I laughed.  “There are so many.”

“Tell us about your poetry.”  Which is an infrequent invitation anywhere and especially inside the Beltway.

Just this Monday I was in Los Angeles working on supply chains but found myself in a conversation involving Heidegger, Nietzsche, Aristotle, and Plato that actually wound around to important insights on the differences between supply chains and critical infrastructure and protection versus resilience.

It really was a conversation, initiated by the other party.  So I am reasonably certain I did not slip into a solipsistic hallucination.

Clearly I have never shied away from my own set of mostly traditional humanistic frameworks. Still my principal professional persona, presumably, is that of an experienced private sector actor.  I don’t have any special claim on philosophy and my poetry is, unfortunately, mostly mildly mediocre.  Whereas I have the emotional scars and experiential receipts to prove a forty-plus year tenure in start-ups and beyond.

But as the vignettes above suggest, perhaps I have recently been a bit obsessive-compulsive — to you it may simply seem self-indulgent — regarding several abstract themes including complex adaptive theory, epistemology, and ethics (when I was not preoccupied with Nepal).

This week every issue I have considered for comment — police use of force, the Turkish election, private-public-civic collaboration in resilience, counter-terrorism in Nigeria, US immigration enforcement, and more — has seemed to me yet another example of how when fear mates with a predisposition to control their progeny are problems multiplied.

Several poets occur to me as potential sources of pithy quotes.  Here’s one:

We have no reason to harbor any mistrust against our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our terrors; if it has abysses, these abysses belong to us; if there are dangers, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

But I have already made this claim, more than once. Redundancy is where nagging starts.  You deserve better.  I should do better.

So… acknowledging my recent tendency to eccentric philosophical/poetic preoccupations — and, I will admit, an increasingly crowded professional life — I will take a hiatus from HLSWatch to try to find something new to say.

But if you happen to see fear approaching control at some bar, picnic, or beach, please keep them apart.

Best wishes for the summer.

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June 5, 2015

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 5, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

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June 4, 2015

DHS advisory committee issues report on employee morale

Filed under: DHS News,General Homeland Security — by Christian Beckner on June 4, 2015

At its meeting on May 21, 2015, the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) issued a report by its DHS Employee Task Force, established in October 2014 following the Department’s poor rankings in the latest federal employee survey results, and formerly known as the “DHS Employee Morale Task Force” but renamed a few weeks prior to the issuance of the report. The report has been publicly released but is not yet available on the DHS website; I have posted a copy at this link.

The report includes a brief assessment of the relevant issues that affect DHS workforce morale, makes four primary recommendations, and includes twenty-seven specific action items that derive from these recommendations. The four primary recommendations are as follows:

1. Greatly increase the emphasis on leadership qualities when filling managerial positions and when assessing the performance of incumbents.
2. Significantly improve management training, particularly leadership training.
3. Adopt proven industrial standards for personnel development.
4. Significantly strengthen communications (upward, downward and outward), making greater use of modern communication technology.

Overall, the report provides a solid initial assessment of the challenges facing DHS leadership as it attempts to address morale issues, and suggests a number of common-sense management initiatives. But its analysis should be viewed as only a starting point. This is an issue that is difficult to generalize across the Department; the issues that affect the morale and satisfaction of the frontline officer at TSA or CBP are very different than the issues that affect an intelligence analyst or policy advisor at one of the headquarters offices. Moreover, it is necessary as part of such an assessment to make a distinction between issues that are within the span of control of the leadership of the Department (such as day-to-day operational policies and norms) and those that are outside of their control (such as civil service laws, or Congressional constraints on the Department’s organizational structure).

Two issues in particular are deserving of further analysis. The first is the set of procedures (formal and informal) related to decision-making and action-taking within DHS, and the incentive structure that underlies these procedures. My observation over a number of years and spanning multiple DHS leadership teams is that it is far too difficult for motivated and forward-looking individuals to take initiative and drive change within the Department. Instead, it is much easier for offices to stifle new initiatives that they do not like, a reality exacerbated by the fragmented Congressional oversight of the Department and by the existence of numerous internal oversight and compliance offices within DHS. This observation is supported by the results of Question #32 on the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey: “Creativity and innovation are rewarded.” DHS employees express on average a much more negative response to this question than employees of other federal agencies. I would contend that the frustration and hopelessness captured in these responses is a major factor in low morale at DHS.

The second issue deserving of additional attention is reflected in the results to Question #22 of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey: “Promotions in my work unit are based on merit.” 55.6% of DHS employees disagreed with this statement in the 2014 survey – the most negative result of any agency surveyed by far, and much higher than the government-wide average of 39.3%. The apparent lack of meritocracy reflected in this result is a long-standing issue at DHS (as far back as the 2006 employee survey, DHS also had the most negative result) and needs to be rigorously assessed at the component level to determine the root causes of this, which likely includes issues related to organizational culture, personnel policies, and the lack of clear standards for promotions. Notably, the HSAC task force calls for a follow-on review of these issues, including an assessment of the Department’s promotion and compensation systems.

As noted earlier, the full HSAC report can be viewed at this link.

(Note: This piece is cross-posted from the GW Center for Cyber and Homeland Security’s Security Insights blog.)

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What do you know and how do you know it?

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Legal Issues,Privacy and Security,Radicalization,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on June 4, 2015

Monday the Supreme Court remanded for further consideration Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc.   In 2008 the Company decided not to hire an otherwise well-suited prospective employee because it is her religious practice to wear a hijab (below).

The EEOC sued on behalf of Samantha Elauf under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The Act “prohibits a prospective employer from refusing to hire an applicant in order to avoid accommodating a religious practice that it could accommodate without undue hardship.”

A Federal District Court jury originally found on behalf of the EEOC and awarded damages to Ms. Elauf, but the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision finding that Ms. Elauf had not explicitly informed the Company that her head-covering is an act of religious devotion.  Without this “actual knowledge” of a need for religious accommodation the Tenth Circuit found that the Company was within its rights to stand-by a dress-code that does not allow employees to wear “caps”.

The Supreme Court disagrees.

The 8-to-1 decision written by Justice Scalia strikes me as narrowly framed to discern the law’s intent.  The decision is, nonetheless, being hailed as a victory for inclusion, tolerance, and respect for religious practice.  The Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations commented, “We welcome this historic ruling in defense of religious freedom at a time when the American Muslim community is facing increased levels of Islamophobia.”

Samantha Elauf and her mother

Samantha Elauf with her mother

Title VII establishes what Justice Scalia characterizes as “favored treatment” for ” all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate to” a “religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.”  On remand the lower courts will take up whether or not accommodation in this case would cause undue hardship.

Meanwhile, Congress struggles to determine what constitutes an undue hardship on personal privacy, especially in collection of meta-data and other often prosaic but powerful tools of digital tracking.  Can the National Security Agency reasonably accommodate citizens varied expectations of privacy?  Or has any such expectation become an unreasonable delusion?

Meanwhile, a DHS red team encountered barely any hardship at all penetrating TSA security protocols.  ABC News reports, “According to officials briefed on the results of a recent Homeland Security Inspector General’s report, TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests, with Red Team members repeatedly able to get potential weapons through checkpoints.”  Overly accommodating?

Meanwhile, how well can the US economy reasonably accommodate continued drought in California, recurring floods in Texas and Oklahoma, and the accelerating financial and human costs of natural hazards around the globe?  As the escalating controversy regarding federal flood insurance demonstrates (and Bill Cumming has explained), even measures meant to help accommodate individuals to risk can actually end up causing undue hardship.

In their consideration of EEOC v A&F, I hear the Supremes offering some wisdom that can extend well-beyond the religious significance of our fashion choices.

This wisdom, at least for me, is amplified by the paradoxies — some would say, absurdities — of Samantha Elauf’s situation.   As devout, even pious, as many of her fellow citizens of Oklahoma, Ms. Elauf regularly covers her head to symbolize her obedience to God and as an expression of personal modesty.  As an all-American girl — evidenced by her Instagram account — Ms. Elauf is at ease blending this religious sensibility with the merchandising strategy of Abercrombie and Fitch.  One sample immediately below.

A&F Merry Christmas

For its 2012 calendar A&F kept the Christ in Christmas

This is a profoundly American — some adversaries would insist, satanic — tendency to accommodate what many, perhaps most, of the world could perceive as irreconcilably dueling realities.  We are being challenged again and again to appear on a supposed field of honor to kill or be killed defending this convergence of contradictions.

The brief Supreme Court opinions — Scalia for the majority: 7 pages, Alito concurring: 6 pages, Thomas dissenting: 10 pages — are examinations of applied epistemology.  What do we know and how do we know it?  And applied ethics: what is our obligation to act in accordance with what we know?

According to our magistrates, knowledge is often implicit, typically contingent on context, and, when involving humans, requires a careful assessment of intention. Knowledge is applied rightly and wisely when it recognizes contending values, honors diversity, and is especially solicitous regarding the role of individuals as moral agents.

This is a radical view of the world and our place in it that is considered naive and/or heretical and/or threatening by many millions.  It is also the great attraction of the American experience for millions more.

When we look to our most contentious homeland security issues — for example, privacy v. intelligence-operations, liberty v. security, individual v. community  — are the epistemological principles articulated in EEOC v A&F the rule or the exception?  Are we predisposed to accommodate or insist?  Are we exclusive or inclusive? How much are we tempted to the dogmatism of our critics?

When challenged to a duel do we have sufficient knowledge of self and other to select the most appropriate weapon: sword, plowshare, or pie shell (whipped cream or lemon custard)?

Non sequitur_Messing with Absolutists

Is this heresy, comedy, or serious commentary? (Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller)

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June 3, 2015

Don’t Sleep on MERS

Filed under: Public Health & Medical Care — by Arnold Bogis on June 3, 2015

In the wake of an overblown reaction to Ebola (in the U.S.), the public might be a little tired of hearing about the next dire threat to everyone’s public health.  Hopefully some are paying attention to the actions taken by the South Korean government in an effort to prevent a wide outbreak of MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) in that country:

South Korea scrambled Wednesday to try to contain an outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome, a virus that has already claimed two lives in the country, with more than 1,300 people quarantined and upwards of 500 schools set to close their doors Thursday.

Two people have died from MERS in South Korea, while 28 others have been confirmed as having the virus, five of them on Wednesday alone. This makes the outbreak the largest outside Saudi Arabia, where MERS began three years ago, the World Health Organization said, warning that “further cases can be expected.”

Another 398 cases are suspected and a total of 1,364 more people have been quarantined, the vast majority of them at home.

As public health experts strained to explain during the height of Ebola concern in this country, and what was proven during the SARS outbreak earlier this century, it is impossible to close borders and prevent a disease from spreading globally.  On that scary notion, there is worry that MERS has spread to China:

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities quarantined 88 people, including 14 South Koreans, after a 44-year-old South Korean man, the son of one of the people who has contracted the virus, defied medical advice and flew to Hong Kong on May 26 while he had symptoms of the virus. He then traveled to the southern Chinese province of Guangdong by bus.

China informed WHO on May 29 that the man had tested positive for the virus and had been isolated at a hospital in Huizhou, Guangdong, while Chinese authorities try to track down other people who might have been exposed.

If you haven’t followed earlier news about this emerging infectious disease that originated in the Middle East, here is a little background provided by the CDC:

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is an illness caused by a virus (more specifically, a coronavirus) called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). MERS affects the respiratory system (lungs and breathing tubes). Most MERS patients developed severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. About 3-4 out of every 10 patients reported with MERS have died.

Health officials first reported the disease in Saudi Arabia in September 2012. Through retrospective investigations, health officials later identified that the first known cases of MERS occurred in Jordan in April 2012. So far, all cases of MERS have been linked to countries in and near the Arabian Peninsula.

MERS-CoV has spread from ill people to others through close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person. However, there is no evidence of sustained spreading in community settings.

MERS can affect anyone. MERS patients have ranged in age from younger than 1 to 99 years old.

 

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Community Policing at Work in Boston

Obviously, there are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding the Boston Police and FBI shooting of a suspected ISIS sympathizer. Recent reporting indicates he and co-conspirators were planning on attacking Boston police personnel, after discarding an earlier plot to behead anti-Islam political activist Pamela Geller.

Putting aside the details of a quickly evolving case (the specifics of which will likely take some time to become clear and final), what I found interesting about today’s development’s was the vivid dividends of Boston Police’s community outreach efforts.

Police showed a surveillance video of the shooting to Boston-area religious leaders Wednesday. They said in a news conference that they did not see Rahim shot in the back or talking on the phone.

“What the video does reveal to us very clearly is that the individual was not on a cell phone, was not shot in the back, and that the information presented by others not on the case was not accurate,” Darnell Williams, president of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts said.

Other faith leaders said the video was not high quality, but that they could tell Rahim was pursuing the Boston police officer and FBI agent who had approached him.

Imam Abdullah Faaruuq of the Mosque for the Praising of Allah called the video “vague,” but said that at least part of the investigators’ account was supported.

This outcome is not a happy coincidence or random gathering of community leaders.  Instead it is the result of years of engagement by the Boston Police with various communities.  It is work that takes time, leads to little immediate results, but is vitally important in the long run for situations such as this.  A video of a portion of this press conference:

 

You can watch more of Boston Police Commissioner William Evans in the following talk on “Latest Trends in Big City Policing,” recently given at a conference hosted by Rave Mobile Safety. While I should warn you it is not the most succinct presentation, it manages to be both informative and funny.  Commissioner Evans talks a lot about community policing, sharing stories about Occupy Boston, the Marathon Bombings, and sharing his opinion on issues such as the use of body cameras.  He also might mention casing Patriot owner Robert Kraft’s house with the current Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh…

 

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Erroll Southers reminds us that not all terrorism is related to Islam

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Arnold Bogis on June 3, 2015

Recent and not so recent events in Boston notwithstanding, I think it is important to be reminded that the definition of terrorism does not include “Islam,” “Islamic,” “radical Islam,” etc.  That is obviously not to say that there is no such things as Islamic terrorists, but it also means that you can have a wide range of actors such as Christian terrorists, racist terrorists, anti-government terrorists, environmental terrorists…well, you get the point.

However, I often worry that many in the media and even homeland security professionals have missed or forgotten this concept.  Earlier today the folks at Security Debrief pointed out a recent TED talk by homeland security expert Erroll Southers where he deftly makes the case for recognizing the wider nature, and danger, from homegrown violent extremism.  You can catch the highlights at Security Debrief or watch his entire talk below.

Just my opinion, but I would recommend sharing this with any colleagues, friends, and/or family that might think that if it ain’t related to Islam it’s not terrorism.

 

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June 1, 2015

Rafe Sagarin: 1972-2015

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on June 1, 2015

In 2002, Rafe Sagarin worked in Washington, D.C. as a science advisor to a California Congresswoman.

Sagarin was a marine ecologist. He looked at the barricades, armed guards, and other security features of post 9/11 Washington through an ecological frame.  He described what he saw as an ecology of fear.

That observation led to one of the few fundamentally creative insights in homeland security thinking. Sagarin asked what biology had to contribute to homeland security. His answer: “plenty.”

Sagarin argued biology offers 3.5 billion years of experience and more than 20 million answers to the question of how one survives and thrives in a hostile and unpredictable world.

He wrote several books and numerous articles amplifying that theme. See, for example, “Learning From the Octopus: How Secrets from Nature Can Help Us Fight Terrorist Attacks, Natural Disasters, and Disease,”  and an article in Foreign Policy called “Adapt or Die.”

Here’s an excerpt from an article he wrote for Homeland Security Affairs:

The most famous line of the 9/11 Commission report was that 9/11 represented a “failure of imagination” and this was certainly an apt description of the security situation up until 9/11. However, now that we imagine almost anything to be a threat to our security, a more pernicious problem faces all of our security systems: a failure of adaptation.

Adaptation is the process of changing structures, behaviors, and interactions in response to changing conditions in the environment. Adaptability is the capacity to adapt to these changes—something that despite an unprecedented amount of attention, financial resources and human lives sacrificed in the name of security since 9/11, has still largely eluded us.

Fortunately, we have at our disposal a vast storehouse of largely untapped knowledge that could guide us in developing adaptable security systems. It is a massive set of proven solutions, and teachable failures, to the very same problem that unites all of the threats we face—that is, how to survive and thrive in a risky, variable and uncertain world. Remarkably, this database is completely unclassified and free to use by anyone.

The solutions I’m referring to are all contained in the staggering diversity of life on Earth—millions of individual living and extinct species, and countless individuals within those species—which have been developing, testing, rejecting, and replicating methods to overcome the challenges of living on a continually changing planet. These organisms have been experiencing security challenges and developing solutions since long before the latest Presidential administration or Congress has been working on their security agenda, since long before 9/11 finally woke most of us to the new post-cold war reality, since long before industrialization pushed our biogeochemical cycles into chaos, and since long before humans ever walked the Earth.

Indeed, the 3.5 billion year history of life imbues biological systems with more experience dealing with security problems than any other body of knowledge we possess. And because we ourselves are biological creatures, our own species’ evolution and the modern manifestations of that evolutionary process, is not only an integral part of this natural database, but perhaps the most important set of data to consider.

This means that in addition to the ecologists, paleontologists, virologists and evolutionary biologists that have something novel to contribute to our security debate, so too do anthropologists, psychologists, soldiers and first responders who have extensive behavioral observations of people and societies under the stress of insecurity in an uncertain environment.

Last Thursday, Sagarin was riding his bicycle after work. He was hit by a truck and died.  He was 43 years old.

rafe sagarin

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May 29, 2015

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on May 29, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

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May 28, 2015

2015 National Preparedness Report

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Christopher Bellavita on May 28, 2015

The 4th edition of the National Preparedness Report was released on May 28th.  The Report is available at this link: https://www.fema.gov/national-preparedness-report.

Major findings include:

· Recent events, including the epidemic of Ebola virus disease, have highlighted challenges with coordinating the response to and recovery from complex incidents that do not receive Stafford Act declarations.

· Businesses and public-private partnerships are increasingly incorporating emergency preparedness into technology platforms, such as Internet and social media tools and services.

· Environmental Response/Health and Safety, Intelligence and Information Sharing, and Operational Coordination are additional core capabilities to sustain, which are capabilities in which the Nation has developed acceptable levels of performance for critical tasks, but which face potential performance declines if not maintained and updated to address new challenges.

· Cybersecurity, Housing, Infrastructure Systems, and Long-term Vulnerability Reduction remained national areas for improvement, and Economic Recovery re-emerged as an area for improvement from 2012 and 2013. Access Control and Identity Verification is a newly identified national area for improvement.

· Perspectives from states and territories on their current levels of preparedness were similar to previous years. All 10 core capabilities with the highest self-assessment results in 2012 and 2013 remained in the top-10 for 2014; Cybersecurity continues to be the lowest-rated core capability in state and territory self-assessments.

· While Federal departments and agencies individually assess progress for corrective actions identified during national-level exercises and real-world incidents, challenges remain to comprehensively assess corrective actions with broad implications across the Federal Government.

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Exploring a possible strategic analogy: Density = Mass/Volume

Over the last many days an extraordinary volume of water has encountered the structural and human density of the fourth largest city in the United States.  The Greater Houston metropolitan region has a population of 6.22 million and a population density of 630.3 persons per square mile.

During the month of May over twenty inches of rain has fallen across much of East Texas.  In the Houston area on Monday night over ten inches fell in a period of only six hours. Rain continued to fall on Tuesday and Wednesday.

This quantity of rain in a comparatively contained space over such a short period of time would profoundly challenge the equilibrium of most natural environments.  The built environment on which humans depend is seldom as resilient. Pack millions of humans into a dense urban environment and whatever our individual resilience, there will be a range of interdependencies that increase everyone’s risk. We can be surprised.

Extraordinary external volume can seldom be entirely avoided.   This is true for potential threats  beyond precipitation. Denial of service attacks, mass suicide bombings, and uncontrolled oil spills are other examples. Unusual volume, concentrated in time and/or repeating time after time, disrupts and destroys.

Urban population density is a choice, but for the last two centuries it has also been a persistent — and accelerating — choice.  There are real benefits.  Density is likely to increase in the years ahead.

Given the loss of life, destruction of property, and the extent of human misery caused, I am sure some will be appalled at my lack of apparent empathy, but the floods in Texas and Oklahoma have — among other things — reminded me of some junior high physics problems.

Density Volume Mass

If density and volume are each highly elastic and mostly beyond our control, we seem to be left with mass as the input with which we might still hope to influence outcomes.

In seventh grade I was taught that mass is the property of a body which determines the strength of its mutual gravitational attraction to other bodies and its resistance to being accelerated by a force, such as a volume of water. Generally we protect populations and the built environment by increasing the size and weight of dams, walls, and other “resistance” structures that retain, divert, disperse or otherwise reduce the force of any threatening volume.

At least here on earth, we don’t always give much attention to gravity because there’s not much we can do about it.

Mrs. Holman taught me that gravity is the weakest of the four fundamental interactions of nature, the others being electromagnetic, strong nuclear and weak nuclear.  Yet despite its comparative weakness, gravity is absolutely necessary to the universe as we know it.  Both gravitation and electromagnetism act over infinite distance to mediate diverse actions.

Both as a matter of physics and as a metaphor for broader application, gravity determines mass through interactions and relationships among multiple bodies.  In addition to adding size and weight to strengthen the built environment, what ought we do in regard to interactions and relationships to reduce the risk of volume and density converging?

In the midst of the flooding in Oklahoma and Texas, as in the recent earthquake in Nepal, as in the aftermath of Sandy and Katrina, and in the ongoing recovery from the Triple Disaster in Japan, there has been a tendency to emphasize “weighty” engineering solutions. Good. Great.

But interactions and relationships are also an important part of the formula.

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May 27, 2015

Belatedly Recognizing EMS Week

Filed under: Public Health & Medical Care — by Arnold Bogis on May 27, 2015

Last week was actually EMS Week, but I thought it is never too late to recognize the job that EMTs and Paramedics do during disasters, such as the flooding in Texas and Oklahoma, and everyday when they treat and transport a family member who’s fallen or had a heart attack.

The  National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) provides a little background on EMS Week:

In 1973, President Gerald Ford authorized EMS Week to celebrate EMS, its practitioners and the important work they do in responding to medical emergencies. Back then, EMS was a fledgling profession and EMS practitioners were only beginning to be recognized as a critical component of emergency medicine and the public health safety net.

A lot has changed over the last four decades. EMS is now firmly established as a key component of the medical care continuum, and the important role of EMS practitioners in saving lives from sudden cardiac arrest and trauma; in getting people to the hospitals best equipped to treat heart attacks and strokes; and in showing caring and compassion to their patients in their most difficult moments.

Whether it’s the team at Grady EMS in Atlanta who had the expertise to transport the nation’s first Ebola patient, the volunteer firefighters and flight medics called to search for and rescue survivors in the Everett, Wash. mudslide or the thousands of EMS responses that happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and don’t make the news, EMS is there for their communities at their greatest time of need.

Below I’ve posted a short video featuring Kevin Horahan, a paramedic as well as a Senior Policy Analyst within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  He quickly spans EMS from the everyday response to their role in the healthcare system and role they play in helping to foster resilience.

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May 26, 2015

Annotated Worldwide Threat Assessment 2015

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing — by Christopher Bellavita on May 26, 2015

The “CHDS/Ed” website hosts learning materials used by various Center for Homeland Defense and Security programs.  One of those items is a multi-media annotated version of the 2015 Worldwide Threat Assessment.  It is available at this link –  https://www.chds.us/coursefiles/NS4156/WWTA_digital_publication/WWTA_2015/index.html

Here’s what CHDS/Ed says about the threat assessment:

The Worldwide Threat Assessment has been presented to Congress annually by the Director of National Intelligence; and before that office was created, it was presented by the CIA Director in his position as the Director of Central Intelligence. This annual threat assessment testimony, published as text, is one of the most informative top-level products of the U.S. Intelligence Community that is publicly available. Since 2014, the Center for Homeland Defense and Security at the Naval Postgraduate School has produced and provided a multi-media enhanced, annotated version of the text document.

The text version of the 2015 Assessment is available at this link: http://www.dni.gov/files/documents/Unclassified_2015_ATA_SFR_-_SASC_FINAL.pdf

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