Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 22, 2013

“We, the people:” clients, customers or citizens?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on January 22, 2013

Barack Obama spoke about “citizens” eight times yesterday in his “We, the people” inauguration speech.

1. Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens….

2. So we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach higher….

3. We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity….

4. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty….

5. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote….

6. They are the words of citizens and they represent our greatest hope….

7. You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.

8. You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time — not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.


The emphasis on “citizens” reminded me of something I received a few days ago from an Arizona law enforcement officer I know, Pete Smith. Here is some of what he wrote:

It has become commonplace for government agencies — from local to federal — to view the people whom they serve as “customers.” It is not anomalous to hear government leaders, with the best of intentions, encourage their subordinates to go above and beyond and deliver “excellent customer service.”

I have attended the mandatory meeting where a well-paid motivational speaker told the room full of government employees that they should strive for “customer astonishment.”

Government leaders are imprudent to promulgate the idea the people they serve are customers.

In their book “The New Public Service: Serving, Not Steering,” Janet and Robert Denhardt discuss the difference between clients, customers and citizens.

Clients (or constituents) tend to be treated as a group. This framework is premised on political theory; it results in the implementation of policies focused on a single, politically defined objective. In other words, the government employee identifies an individual problem that affects a specific group and then crafts an individual solution as defined by the government employee. Solutions tend toward the highly bureaucratic, and there is a sense “the government knows what’s best.”

The “treating people as customers” paradigm operates from an economic theory perspective. It focuses on the individual interests of each person and asks the government employee to follow the adage, “The customer is always right.” While there are clear advantages to this approach as it relates to flexibility and problem-solving, its scope is limited. The government cannot, in all cases, treat people as if they are always right. Any government worker can recognize that this model is logistically untenable. In the case of law enforcement, for instance, a Court of Appeals case explicitly states that police do not have a duty to provide police services to individuals.

The third paradigm emphasizes treating people as citizens. This approach is based on democratic theory and assumes that the person (or citizen) being served has a vested interest in the outcome. In this model the government is serving citizens, in lieu of dictating the answer to them or catering to their perceived needs. Democratic theory assumes that the government will cooperate with the citizen in an effort to gain a positive outcome.


Merely semantics?

Test for yourself whether the differences in meaning between client, customer and citizens are trivial.

Reread the eight sentences at the start of this post from Obama’s January 21st speech and in place of “citizen,” substitute “client” — or even better — “customer.”

What word best describes who to enlist in “efforts to ensure a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards”?



Little girl forms the American flag with pebbles while waiting for President Obama. [by Anthony Quintano, January 21, 2013]

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January 20, 2013

Attention must be paid

Filed under: Media,Risk Assessment,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on January 20, 2013

Choice of attention – to pay attention to this and ignore that – is to the inner life what choice of action is to the outer. In both cases, a man is responsible for his choice and must accept the consequences, whatever they may be. (W. H. Auden)


Saturday I wanted to pay close attention to the situation in Algeria, Mali, and related, but had other commitments both paid and personal. As a result, I had to depend on broadcast media, mostly car radio, and what I could quickly call-up on my hand-held.

As a result, I learned that for most Americans the hostage-taking, final assault, and casualties at the In Amenas gas plant was a sort of vague echo over the horizon. Much to my wife’s surprise,  I actually cursed at NPR’s All Things Considered for their insufficient coverage.  This is, no doubt, one of the consequences to which Auden is referring.

Once I was able to sit down with a computer-on-the-Internet I found the New York Times, Al Jazeera, and French media were all rich sources of information. The BBC was, for my taste (and language skills), the best source.

But even among the best sources, there was — at least on Saturday night — a paucity of strategic context. There was little attention to the rapidly developing situation in Mali or details, for example, such as the permission given for French air assets to transit Algerian air space or the multinational character of the terrorist gang.

Sunday morning broadcast news, at least at 0730 Eastern, was even worse than Saturday night.  Inauguration preparations, AFC/NFC championship pre-game analysis,  Lance Armstrong, Manti Te’o, a complicated murder trial in Phoenix and the weather just did not leave time, apparently, for anything as lame as a four day terrorist assault on a major natural gas production facility.

Those on the US East and Gulf Coasts have learned to pay attention to weather patterns over the Sahara to provide early warning of hurricanes heading our way. Given what else is happening across West Africa — from Nigeria to Mali to Algeria to Libya and more — low pressure pulses are not the only threats to which we might usefully attend.

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January 17, 2013

Post-Sandy: Investing in resilience

Filed under: Catastrophes,Preparedness and Response,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on January 17, 2013

Last Friday the NYS 2100 Commission released its report: Recommendations to Improve the Strength and Resilience of the Empire State’s Infrastructure.   It is a helpful contribution and provides a very constructive level of detail.

The report also offers a meaningful framing for investing in resilience in New York and well beyond. The following long quote is from the c0-chairs’ foreword:

While the response to Sandy continues, work needs to begin now on how we build back better – in a way that increases New York’s agility when responding to future storms and other shocks. Building back better demands a focus on increased resilience: the ability of individuals, organizations, systems, and communities to bounce back more strongly from stresses and shocks. Resilience means creating diversity and redundancy in our systems and rewiring their interconnections, which enables their functioning even when individual parts fail.

There is no doubt that building resilience will require investment, but it will also reduce the economic damage and costs of responding to future storms and events, while improving the everyday operations of our critical systems. In a time of fiscal constraints, the positive sign is that inexpensive policy changes will be as critical as the financial investments we make. Hard infrastructure improvements must be complemented by soft infrastructure and other resilience measures, for example, improving our institutional coordination, public communication, and rapid decision making abilities will make us better able to recover from the catastrophic effects of natural disasters. In many respects, New York is ahead of the game in this regard. In recent storms, including Irene and Sandy, we have successfully embraced the notion of “failing safely,” accepting the inevitability of widespread disruptions and tucking in to protect our assets to the extent possible.

We cannot prevent all future disasters from occurring, but we can prevent failing catastrophically by embracing, practicing, and improving a comprehensive resilience strategy. As New York and our neighboring states continue to recover from the devastating impacts of Superstorm Sandy, we have a narrow but distinct window of opportunity to leverage the groundswell of consciousness.

I have delayed and hesitated to post on this report because, with all its strengths, it fails to sufficiently address a fundamental aspect of resilience.   The co-chairs foreshadow this issue in writing, “Hard infrastructure improvements must be complemented by soft infrastructure…”

Achieving resilience involves a different way of thinking, choosing, and behaving. There are a whole host of trade-offs. I agree with the report’s authors that the trade-off’s are worthwhile. But this will not be obvious to everyone. Resilience emerges — or not — from families, neighborhoods, and communities. It unfolds from dialogue and relationships, or not at all.

The NYS 2100 Commission report does a great job identifying and seeding the hard infrastructure topics that need to be discussed and engaged. But how will the dialogue be started and sustained? How will a soft infrastructure be cultivated that is sufficient to enable hard infrastructure decisions?

The current report reads as a set of recommendations to be implemented by the widely-respected and honored philosopher-kings of a latter day Kallipolis (Plato’s “Beautiful City” in The Republic).  New York is, for me, a beautiful place, but last time I looked its politics were more complicated than this.

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Algerian hostage situation

Filed under: Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on January 17, 2013

Islamist militants seized at least 20 hostages, including as many as seven Americans, at an Algerian natural gas complex Wednesday in a brazen attack linked by the assailants to France’s military intervention in neighboring Mali.

At least one foreign worker was reported killed in the early morning assault on the vast In Amenas gas field near Algeria’s eastern border with Libya. The attack, attributed to a unit of al-Qaeda’s offshoot in North Africa, raised concerns about a broadening of Mali’s civil war five days after French forces joined the country’s fight against Islamist insurgents. (The Washington Post)

The Guardian is providing a comprehensive and real-time updating on the situation.

Here’s a summary as of 0800 US Eastern Time:

News agencies in Mauritania are reporting that Algerian aircraft have attacked the gas complex where militants are holding foreign hostages, resulting in the deaths of a number of hostages and kidnappers. This cannot be verified at this time.

A number of the foreigners held by armed Islamist militants in Algeria are reported to have escaped. An Algerian security source said 25 people, including Europeans, Americans and Japanese, have got away. Some 30 Algerians were reported to have escaped earlier today.

One Briton and one Algerian have been confirmed killed and others are feared dead in the hostage situation at an Algerian gas field complex. The group, Battalion of Blood, is claiming it has 41 hostages.

The gunmen are claiming they took the hostages in retaliation for France’s military intervention against al-Qaida-linked rebels in neighbouring Mali. The hostage-takers are reportedly seeking a safe passage out of the isolated area, something Algerian authorities have already rejected. The militants appear to have no escape route; they are cut off by surrounding troops and army helicopters overhead.

Beginning about 0830 US Eastern Time there are many reports of military action resulting in the death of several hostage-takers and captives. It will take hours to confirm what has happened or not and the outcomes.  This is a very remote location.

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Sandy relief as approved by the House

Filed under: Budgets and Spending — by Philip J. Palin on January 17, 2013

On Tuesday evening the House of Representatives sent to the Senate a bill to fund a variety of measures related to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

The  funding was authorized through an original $17 billion measure ( HR-152) presented by Mr. Rogers, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee .

An additional $33 billion was provided via amendment by Mr. Frelinghuysen.  The Frelinghuysen amendment sometimes substituted amounts specified in what Mr. Rogers has presented, but most often added new funding.

With smaller amendments and adjustments the bill appropriates $50.5 billion in supplemental funding.

Following are specific amounts.  The legislation often includes further detail on how and when the funding must be expended.

HR-152 as originally proposed by Mr. Rogers, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee:

Department of Agriculture,Emergency Food Assistance: $6 million.

Army Corps of Engineers Investigations: $20 million

Army Corps of Engineers Construction: $9 million

Army Corps of Engineers Dredging and Repair: $742 million

Army Corps of Engineers Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies:  $582 million

Small Business Administration salaries and expenses: $10 million

SBA Office of the Inspector General: $1 million

SBA Disaster Loans: $100 million

SBA Administrative and Servicing Costs: $50 million

Coast Guard Acquisition, Construction, and Improvement:  $143, 899,000

FEMA Disaster Relief Fund: $5.379 billion

DHS Science and Technology $585,000

DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office Systems Acquisition: $3,869,000

Fish and Wildlife Service: $49, 875, 000

National Park Service: $234 million

Department of Interior, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement: $3 million

Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund: $100 million

Social Security Administration Administrative Expenses: $2 million

DOD, Army National Guard, Military Construction: $24,235,000

Department of Veterans Affairs, Medical Services $21 million

Veterans Medical Facilities: $6 million

National Cemetery Administration $1.1 million

DVA Information Technology Systems $531,000

DVA Construction and Major Projects: $207 million

DOT, FFA Facilities and Equipment: $14,600,000

National Railroad Passenger Corporation (AMTRAK): $32 million

Federal Transit Administration Transportation Emergency Relief Program: $5.4 billion

HUD Community Development Fund: $3.85 billion

Frelinghausen Amendment’s Additional Funding

Several other amendments were offered, usually aimed at reducing a proposed appropriation or seeking cuts in other federal appropriations equal to the new appropriations.   But as far as I can tell — remember I’m only a blogger — the following is accurate as to what was finally appropriated.

Agriculture Department, Emergency Conservation Program: $218 million

Department of Commerce, NOAA: $290 million ($150 million of this was not approved via an amendment to this amendment) mostly on related to debris mapping, improved weather forecasting, and related research.

NOAA Construction and Repairs: $186 million

FBI salaries and expenses: $10,020,000

DEA salaries and expenses: $1 million

ATFE salaries and expenses $230, 000

Federal Prison System: $10 million

NASA Repairs: $15 million

Legal Services Corporation: $1 million

DOD Army Operations and Maintenance: $5,370,000

DOD Navy Operations and Maintenance: $40,015,000

DOD Air Force Operations and Maintenance: $8.5 million

Army National Guard Operations and Maintenance: $3,165,000

Air National Guard Operations and Maintenance: $5,775,000

Army Ammunition Procurement: $1,310,000

Defense Working Capital Fund $24,200,000

Army Corps of Engineers Investigations: $50 million

Army Corps of Engineers Construction: $3.461 billion

Army Corps of Engineers Operation and Maintenance (mostly dredging): $821 million

Army Corps of Engineers Flood Control and Coast Emergencies (mostly repairs): $1,008,000,000

Army Corps of Engineers Expenses: $10 million

General Services Administration (owner/operator of federal facilities): $7 million

SBA, added $10 million to original amount for salaries and expenses.

SBA Inspector General, added $5 million to original amount.

SBA Disaster Loan Program Account: $520 million

DHS Customs and Border Control Salaries and Expenses: $1,667,000

DHS, ICE Salaries and Expenses: $855,000

DHS, US Secret Service Salaries and Expenses: $300,000

Coast Guard Acquisition, Construction, and Improvements, substituted $274,233,000 for original $143, 899,000

FEMA Disaster Relief Fund plus up of $11, 487,735,000.

DHS S&T: Replaced $585,000 with $3,249,000

Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service: Replaced $49,875,000 with $78 million.

National Park Service Historic Preservation Fund: $50 million

National Park Service Construction: $348 million instead of $234 million.

Department of Interior Operations: $360 million

EPA programs and management $725,000

Hazardous Substance Superfund: $2 million

Leaking Underground Storage Tank Fund: $5 million

EPA State and Tribal Assistance Grants: $600 million

Forest Service Capital Improvement and Maintenance: $4.4 million

Smithsonian Institution Salaries and Expenses: $2 million

Department of Labor Training and Employment Services: $25 million

HHS Public Health and Social Services  Emergency Fund: $800 million

DOT, FFA Facilities and Equipment: $30 million

Federal Highway Administration, Emergency Relief Program: $2.011 billion

AMTRAK: $86 million

Federal Transit Administration , Emergency Relief Program: $10.9 billion

HUD, Community Development Fund: $16 billion

As Senator Dirksen is regularly quoted as saying, “A billion here a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”

The House approved the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, H.R. 152, in a 241-180 vote. Among Republicans, 179 voted against it, and just 49 voted for it.  According to The Hill, the nay votes “were a protest against a bill that many conservatives say is too big and provides funding for things other than immediate relief for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.”

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January 16, 2013

Does your definition of homeland security include Rum?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on January 16, 2013

Boston Molasses Flood of 1919

Just a historical reminder that sometimes the truly unexpected happens and a “black swan”  turns out to be black molasses.

I will let Josh Childs of the Boston Globe’s Straight Up” blog explain:

94 years ago, January 15, 1919, was a tragic day in the North End.
Back then, the area was heavily industrialized- packed with people and a 2.3 million gallon cast-iron tank fifty feet above street level was not out of place. The tank was full of molasses, often used as a sweetener, but in this case (and applicable to this blog), it had been slated by the United States Industrial Alcohol Company for rum production.
Unseasonably warm weather that day after near zero temperatures days before may have contributed to the disaster; just after lunch time the tank ruptured spilling the entire deadly, sticky stuff onto Commercial Street in a 30 foot wave- 21 people were killed, 150 injured.

Many officials talk about all-hazard planning, but I suspect more than a few of them have very specific hazards in mind.  A truly unique disaster that occurred almost 100 years ago is a good reminder of the danger of that approach.

(On an unrelated note, for those readers living or visiting the Boston area, I would highly recommend visiting either of the restaurants that Josh co-owns and occasionally bartends: Silvertone and Trina’s Starlite Lounge. Great food, drink, and people.)

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No definition of homeland security = No coherent strategy = No Death Star

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on January 16, 2013

The lack of a clear definition or even vague understanding of what constitutes “homeland security” has resulted in what can only be considered the total abdication by the Administration of their role in protecting not only our nation but the future of our entire planet.

The people have spoken.  This President has made the choice to ignore us. There will be no Death Star.

Over 30,000 citizens petitioned the White House for the following:

Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016.

Those who sign here petition the United States government to secure funding and resources, and begin construction on a Death Star by 2016.

By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star, the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense.

Paul Shawcross, Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget, breaks the bad news in the official response:

This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For

The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn’t on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:

  • The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We’re working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
  • The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
  • Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

Mr. Shawcross goes on to detail a number of space-related initiatives that are already underway or planned for the near future.

Though I can’t help but feel that this is a missed opportunity, perhaps the White House is better at risk analysis than many thought:


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Define homeland security? We can’t even define weight…

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on January 16, 2013

…or at least what a kilogram actually weighs.

Doesn’t it weigh a kilogram?  Maybe not:

The kilogram is unique in that it is defined by reference to a lump of crude, man-made stuff. Besides aesthetic niggles, that fact leads to an important practical problem. The international prototype kilogram (IPK), the technical name for the cylinder in Sèvres, does not in fact keep a constant mass. Over the years pollutants from the air settle on its surface, causing its mass to rise. Attempts to clean it then cause its mass to fall. As a result, what science understands by a kilogram has varied, but has done so in a way that is, by definition, unmeasurable.

The Economist editors raise a question often debated within the homeland security community:

Science would thus love to be free of this awkward lump of metal, but attempts to define mass objectively—with reference to, say, the mass of a proton—have always foundered on the question: “So how do you measure that?”

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January 15, 2013

Second time is a charm

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on January 15, 2013

You can never go wrong asking students, practitioners or policymakers to define homeland security.  You’re guaranteed at least 30 minutes of energized conversation.

I was surprised to learn last week the Congressional Research Service (CRS) updated its April 2012 report on defining homeland security.

I wondered what CRS revealed in the new version of  “Defining Homeland Security: Analysis and Congressional Considerations” that was worth a revision, 9 months after writing the April version.

Turns out (as the author noted on Thursday in this blog’s comments section), not very much.

CRS added one footnote – Note 7: “DHS is currently developing the 2014 QHSR which the department intends to publish and issue in late 2013 or early 2014.”

That was the only thing close to a substantive change.

The author dutifully renumbered the subsequent footnotes, made a few minor editing changes (like turning “Dec.” into “December” on Note 25), and fixed some equally minor punctuation glitches (like using a different apostrophe style with the word entities’, on page 2).

Really small stuff, of interest only to the pathologically pedantic.

“Move along,” the author says, “nothing new to look at here.”

But the internet wasn’t buying it.

“Homeland Security Has Too Many Definitions, Says CRS.” headlined the Secrecy News blog  – who I believe provided the first web copy of the report.

The revelation quickly went viral — ok, maybe micro-viral is a better word, considering the steadily diminishing fragment of the internet that cares about homeland security.

“Government Unable to Define ‘Homeland Security’”, announced Threat Level.

“What Does ‘Homeland Security’ Mean? Don’t Ask the Government.” jeered Reason’s Hit & Run blog.

HS Today was a bit wordier, “Surveillance, Protection & Detection – DHS Fails To Align And Prioritize Its Many Varied Missions, Congressional Report Finds.”

Even Homeland Security Watch joined the chorus, though with uncharacteristically succinct palinesque irony, “I’m sure that regular readers of HLSWatch are ‘shocked, shocked’ by these findings.”

Other sites — like  techdirt , peace news, and Red-Dragon Rising – propagated  the story.

The January 2013 report is in almost all respects the same document as the April 2012 version, including continuing to refer to the 2002 National Strategy for Homeland Security as the 2003 National Strategy for Homeland Security.  (See the reference above to “pathologically pedantic.”)

But I do think the new report — and the reaction it triggered — unwittingly suggests an answer to the question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

The answer is yes, it makes a little sound the first time. (see Fierce Homeland Security and HS Today).

But it makes a bigger impact the second time around.


Meanwhile in other news, Janet Napolitano agrees to remain the DHS Secretary.

Second time can be a charm.


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January 10, 2013

CRS: Homeland security ill-defined

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on January 10, 2013

Thanks to the FAS Secrecy Project, a Congressional Research Service report on Defining Homeland Security is available for your consideration. From the report’s summary:

Varied homeland security definitions and missions may impede the development of a coherent national homeland security strategy, and may hamper the effectiveness of congressional oversight. Definitions and missions are part of strategy development. Policymakers develop strategy by identifying national interests, prioritizing goals to achieve those national interests, and arraying instruments of national power to achieve the national interests. Developing an effective homeland security strategy, however, may be complicated if the key concept of homeland security is not defined and its missions are not aligned and synchronized among different federal entities with homeland security responsibilities.This report discusses the evolution of national and DHS-specific homeland security strategic documents and their homeland security definitions and missions, and analyzes the policy question of how varied homeland security definitions and missions may affect the development of national homeland security strategy.

I’m sure that regular readers of HLSWatch are “shocked, shocked” by these findings.

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What was, what is, and what will be

Filed under: Catastrophes,Preparedness and Response,Private Sector,Risk Assessment,Strategy,WMD — by Philip J. Palin on January 10, 2013

Earlier this week the World Economic Forum released its annual report: Global Risks 2013.

According to the WEF survey of 1000-plus “global experts”, over the next ten years the most serious risks by potential impact are:

  • Major systemic financial failure
  • Water supply crises
  • Chronic fiscal imbalances
  • Food shortage crises
  • Diffusion of weapons of mass destruction

Of these most consequential risks the expert survey — complemented by a series of workshops — found that water supplies and fiscal balance are already widely in crisis (What a surprise!). The risk of food shortages and systemic financial failure will increase as water and fiscal problems worsen. Increased diffusion of WMD almost seems simple in comparison.

Combined with the November release of Global Trends 2030 by our friends at the National Intelligence Council, we now have even more excuses for bad dreams.

In his preface to the report, Klaus Schwab, the founder and Executive Chairman of the WEF comments,

I think you will agree [the report] makes a compelling case for stronger cross-border collaboration among stakeholders from governments, business and civil society – a partnership with the purpose of building resilience to global risks. They also highlight the need for strengthening existing mechanisms to mitigate and manage risks, which today primarily exist at the national level. This means that while we can map and describe global risks, we cannot predict when and how they will manifest; therefore, building national resilience to global risks is of paramount importance.

The report offers suggestions related to definitions of resilience and good practice in resilience.

I was one of those contributing to the WEF survey and workshops. WEF does a great job of bringing together a broad mix of public and private policy makers, academics, and fellow-travelers. The report is helpful and I look forward to the follow-on work. The Davos Summit, January 23-27, focuses on “resilient dynamism” and will kick-off several important initiatives.


I paused while reading of the WEF report to take a call from the operations manager for a grocery chain in the New York metro area. I will do a case study on their Hurricane Sandy preparedness and response. One store on Staten Island was flooded under three feet of water. It reopened within a week. Another store within three blocks of the New Dorp Beach inundation zone — the deadly ground zero for Sandy — stayed open without interruption. There are a range of smart, heroic and almost miraculous tales.

There is also a very open, practical self-criticism in how the grocers are working to prepare for and adapt to the likelihood of something-worse-than-Sandy.

I perceive a yawning gap between the analysis and attitude encountered at the grocery chain and that revealed in the WEF report. It is a contrast often found between the theoretical and the operational.

The point is not that the operators are hubris-free and the theoreticians — including me — abide with such overabundant pride (though the thought does occur and recur). Rather, it seems to me, that this gap is where many of our vulnerabilities originate.

The WEF report (and many more) is in the future tense. These are issues we can reasonably anticipate will influence the operational environment for the next ten years or more.

Operational thinking and even planning is considerably more present tense. The possibilities of now — both opportunity and threat, strength and weakness — are at the heart of the operational worldview.

Past, present, and future are characteristics of English. Other linguistic systems focus much more on action being finished or unfinished. Any meaningful notion of homeland security will remain unfinished (and perhaps worse) until we can more effectively communicate across the operational-theoretical continuum.


Through me what was, what is, and what will be, are revealed. Through me strings sound in harmony, to song. My aim is certain, but an arrow truer than mine, has wounded my free heart! The whole world calls me the bringer of aid; medicine is my invention; my power is in healing.

Metamorphoses, Ovid: Book I:521-523, Apollo begging Daphne to yield to him. I realize that quoting a Latin poet, even in translation, will not help bridge the gap. But it is beautiful, is it not? The Latin is luscious. And doesn’t it evoke an image of homeland security begging for affection? A big part of the challenge is to respect the insight that exists across the continuum, learning how to fully engage different dialects.

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January 8, 2013

Some recent homeland security theses

Filed under: Education — by Christopher Bellavita on January 8, 2013

On December 14th, the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security graduated its 41st and 42nd master’s degree class.

The titles of their theses, below, suggest the ideas explored by the graduates.

Most of the theses — adding to the storehouse of what we know, do not know, and might know about homeland security — will be available through the NPS Dudley Knox library in 4 to 6 weeks.

(If you know of any other recent master’s or doctoral theses related to homeland security policy and strategy, please let us know – – along with enough information to find the documents.)


• Analysis of Terrorist Funding and Strategic Capability.

• Assessing Fire Service Use of Automatic Aid as a Response Model.

• Aviation Security: Biometric Technology and Risk-based Security Aviation Passenger Screening.

• Border Law Enforcement – From a Dystopian Lens.

• Collaborative Radiological Response Planning.

• Combating Terrorism Within Local Policing Through Crime Reduction: Using Real Time Situational Awareness with a Distributed Common Operating Picture to Combat All Crime and Terrorism.

• Common Ground: Partnerships for Public Health and Medical System Resilience.

• Creating Defensible Cyberspace: The Value of Applying Place-Based Crime Prevention Strategy to Social Media.

• Domestic Intelligence: When Is It Acceptable?

• Enhancing Decision Making During Initial Operations at Surge Events.

• Enhancing Situational Awareness When Addressing Critical Incidents at Schools.

• Enhancing U.S. Coast Guard Field Intelligence Collection and Process Efforts with a Systems Thinking Leadership Strategy.

• How Do We Hedge the Homeland Security Risk? Let’s Talk Return on Investment.

• Improving TSA’s Public Image: Customer Focused Initiatives to Improve Public Trust and Confidence.

• Improvised Explosives and Related Chemical Precursors: Strategies to Identify the Threat and Protect Our First Responders.

La Guerra: The Contest to Define Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations in the Homeland Security Problem Space.

• New Technologies and Emerging Threats: Personal Security Adjudicative Guidelines in the Age of Social Networking.

• Preparing Minority Populations for Emergencies: Connecting to Build a More Resilient Community.

• Purposefully Manufactured Vulnerabilities in U.S. Government Technology Microchips: Risks and Homeland Security Implications.

• Putting the Critical Back in Critical Infrastructure.

• Rethinking Disasters: Finding Efficiencies Through Collaboration.

• Revisiting the Swine Flu Affair: Recognizing a Non-linear Homeland Security Environment for Improved Decision Making.

• Southwest Hispanic Community – The Absence of Homeland Security Threats.

• Suicide Terrorism in America? The Complex Social Conditions of this Phenomenon and the Implications for Homeland Security.

• The Emerging Domestic Threat: What the Law Enforcement Community Must Know and Prepare for In Regard to the Sovereign Citizen Movement.

• The FBI Counter Terrorism Division Global Initiative: Enhancing the Legal Attaché Program.

• The Homeland Security Ecosystem: An Analysis of Hierarchical and Ecosystem Models and Their Influence on Decision Makers.

• The North American Proliferation of Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations: Homeland Security Implications of the Hybrid Threat.

• Voice of America 2.0: A Study of the Integrated Strategic Counterterrorism Communications Strategy and its Application to the United States Counterterrorism Strategic Plan.

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January 4, 2013

What is a nation of laws?

Filed under: Legal Issues,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on January 4, 2013

On Wednesday, January 2, Federal District Judge Colleen McMahon filed her decision in two Freedom of Information Act cases brought by the New York Times and American Civil Liberties Union.  The full decision is available from the Federal District Court website.

Below is a thousand word excerpt that I hope might motivate you to read — and perhaps comment here — on the full decision.

The issues which these cases and this decision highlight are fundamental to the American experiment in self-government.  These issues are not and have never been easy to resolve.  This is precisely why a vigorous and thoughtful dialogue on the issues is important.

In some contexts — marriage, parenting, worship and, I would argue, citizenship — it is often the honesty and quality of the dialogue (what is said and what is heard) that is much more helpful than agreement.  It is possible to share a sensibility even when we continue in specific disagreement.


Broadly speaking, [the plantiffs] seek disclosure of the precise legal justification of the Administrations’s conclusion that it is lawful for employees or contractors of the United States Government to target for killing persons, including specifically United States citizens, who are suspected of ties to Al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups…

The FOIA requests here in issue implicate serious issues about the limits on the power of the Executive Branch under the Constitution and laws of the United States and if we are indeed a nation of laws, not of men.  The Administration has engaged in public discussion of the legality of targeted killing, even of citizens, but in cryptic and imprecise ways, generally without citing to any statute or court decision that justifies its conclusions.  More fulsome disclosure of the legal reasoning on which the Administration relies to justify the targeted killing of individuals, including United States citizens, far from any recognizable “hot” field of battle would allow for intelligent discussion and assessment of a tactic (like torture before it) remains hotly debated.  It might also help the public understand the scope of the ill-defined yet vast and seemingly ever-growing exercise in which we have been engaged for well over a decade, at great cost in lives, treasure, and (at least in the minds of some) personal liberty…

I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules — a veritable Catch-22.  I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our Government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret…

The United States has pursued members of Al-Qaeda and affiliated groups elsewhere in the world [outside Afghanistan], both in the adjacent country of Pakistan and far from any “hot” battlefield.  In recent years, it has targeted a number of such individuals for death and killed them, using both armed forces and unpiloted remotely controlled precision aircraft known as “drones.” The Obama Administration has publicly admitted that the Government is engaged in such operations:

So let me say it as simply as I can.  Yes, in full accordance with the law — and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and to save American lives — the United States Government conducts targeted strikes against specific al-Qa’ida terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones.

John O. Brennan, Ethics and Efficacy Speech (Apr. 30, 2012).

Al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in late 2011.  speaking on September 30, 2011 the day of Al-Awlaki’s death, at the “Change of Office” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Ceremony in Fort Myer, Virginia, President Obama described Al-Awlaki as follows:

Awlaki was the leader of external operations for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  In that role, he took the lead in planning and directing efforts to murder innocent Americans.  He directed the failed attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009.  He directed the failed attempt to blow up US cargo planes in 2010.  and he repeatedly called on individuals in the United States and around the globe to kill innocent men, women, and children to advance a murderous agenda.

At the time of his death, Al-Awlaki was not in or near the field of battle in Afghanistan, where active military operations were taking place.  He was located about 1500 miles from Afghanistan, in Yemen, a country with which the United States is not at war (indeed, which the United States counts as an ally).

Killed with Al-Awlaki was an individual named Samir Khan.  Al-Awlaki’s teenaged son, Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, was killed in a separate strike in Yemen on October 14, 2011.

Al-Awlaki, his son, and Khan were all United States citizens…

The decision to target a United States citizen for death is made by the President on the recommendation of senior Government officials… According to the Attorney General of the United States and other senior Executive Branch officials, these decisions are made pursuant to a process that is constitutionally and statutorily compliant.  In particular, Government officials insist that a United States citizen can be targeted by the Executive Branch and still be accorded due process of law.

The Government’s vociferous insistence that its decisions to kill United States citizens are lawful, and most especially its references to due process, may seem odd in the context of war — although there is and long has been robust debate  about what to call the anti-Al-Qaeda operation, and whether anti-terrorist operations in countries other than Afghanistan and adjacent territory in Pakistan can fairly or legally be classified as a war… However, even if there were no such debate, it is not surprising that the Government feels somewhat defensive.  Some Americans question the power of the Executive to make a unilateral and unreviewable decision to kill an American citizen who is not actively engaged in armed combat operations against this country.  Their concern rests on the text of the Constitution and several federal statutes, and is of a piece with concerns harbored by the Framers of our unique form of Government…

The Framers took steps to address their fear in the document they drafted.  In particular, the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution provides that no person shall be “deprived of life… without due process of law.”  The words “due process of law” are not further defined in the the Constitution, or in the Bill of Rights.  However, “The first, central, and largely uncontroversial meaning of “due process of law,” the meaning established in the Magna Charta and applied vigorously by Coke against the first two Stuart Kings, was that the executive may not… restrain the liberty of a person within the realm without legal authority arising either from established common law or from statute.  In other words, executive decrees are not “law.”…

When a person is accused of committing a crime, and the Government has the power, upon conviction, to deprive him of life or liberty, the particular rights enumerated in the Fifth and Sixth Amendments (ranging from the right to indictment to the right to counsel) are recognized as setting the minimum guarantee of the Due Process Clause.

Read the full decision.

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January 3, 2013

Due process: Collect, keep, and kill

No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land. (Clause 39, Magna Carta)

No person shall… be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law… (Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States)


Recent months have seen one-time expediencies dressed-up as new principles to frame the relationship between citizen and State.  Three examples:

On the Friday after Christmas the Senate reauthorized broad executive authority for  electronic surveillance and collection. The vote was 73-to-23 and extended for five years the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The House adopted the legislation earlier in the year.  On Sunday the President the signed the extension into law. Proposed amendments, including those offered by Senator Wyden,  that would have enhanced Congressional oversight of FISA were defeated.  FISA was originally intended to provide due process for the gathering of intelligence on non-citizens and so protect the privacy of citizens.  There has been increasing concern regarding how FISA methods now unintentionally — but perhaps quite widely — sweep up citizen communications as well.

According to a December 13, 2012 Wall Street Journal report, there may be good cause for concern.   In an exclusive investigative report, Julia Angwin found that new Department of Justice guidelines, “now allow the little-known National Counterterrorism Center to examine the government files of U.S. citizens for possible criminal behavior, even if there is no reason to suspect them. That is a departure from past practice, which barred the agency from storing information about ordinary Americans unless a person was a terror suspect or related to an investigation. Now, NCTC can copy entire government databases—flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others. The agency has new authority to keep data about innocent U.S. citizens for up to five years, and to analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior. Previously, both were prohibited.”

Meanwhile the White House is, according to several sources including Presidential adviser John Brennan, developing a legal and procedural framework for the deadly use of drones. Addressing the use of drones during an October 18 appearance on “The Daily Show,” President Obama said,  “One of the things we’ve got to do is put a legal architecture in place, and we need Congressional help in order to do that, to make sure that not only am I reined in but any president’s reined in terms of some of the decisions that we’re making.”  According to a May report in the New York Times, “Mr. Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret “nominations” process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical. He had vowed to align the fight against Al Qaeda with American values; the chart, introducing people whose deaths he might soon be asked to order, underscored just what a moral and legal conundrum this could be.”   Among the President’s decisions, presumably, was the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen who was killed by drone-delivered Hellfire missiles on September 30, 2011 and his sixteen year-old son, also born in the US, who was killed in another drone attack two weeks later.  Both citizens were killed in Yemen.

The predominant motivation in each instance above — and others — is the protection of the American people and nation.  There is no imminent threat of Orwellian intention or intervention.

In each of these examples legislators and the executive are attempting to develop due process that is appropriate to their understanding of the present challenge.   (The judicial branch is poised to soon rejoin consideration of the issue.)

Nonetheless while it is, I suspect, the specific intention of no one, the space where individual liberty adjoins civil authority is being incrementally reshaped.  In the Anglo-American tradition there has long been in both theory and practice the presumptive primacy of individual initiative, what Blackstone termed “the absolute rights of man.”  The balance is shifting toward a presumed ability by the government to maintain order.

Perhaps this is the inevitable outcome of more and more diverse individuals living in dense proximity to each other.  Perhaps it is a prudent response to demonstrated risk.  Perhaps it reflects an emerging social consensus that liberty is less valued than previously.  Or we might be in the process of  redefining liberty.  These shifts might even be the accidental consequence of what Nassim Taleb has termed “naive interventionism”.  The preference, even obligation, to “do something” over doing nothing, even when the doing is non-productive or counter-productive.

Whatever the cause, the pattern can be perceived and seems to be persisting.

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January 2, 2013

Harsh Realities of Disaster Funding

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on January 2, 2013

It seems that the current session of Congress will adjourn without addressing the funding requirements of Superstorm Sandy recovery:

New York area-lawmakers in both parties erupted in anger late Tuesday night after learning the House Republican leadership decided to allow the current term of Congress to end without holding a vote on aid for victims of Superstorm Sandy.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said he was told by the office of Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia that Speaker John Boehner of Ohio had decided to abandon a vote this session.

In remarks on the House floor, King called the decision “absolutely inexcusable, absolutely indefensible. We cannot just walk away from our responsibilities.”

Representative King suddenly finds himself on the wrong side of an argument within his own political party. Without taking a position on the size of any appropriate federal appropriation of recovery funds, I’d just like to highlight a few points:

Does the base of the Republican party find itself strongly represented in the Northeast?  Probably not.  Do House members from the Midwest elected on platforms dedicated to cutting federal spending want to vote for large aid packages for New York City? Probably not. Does Representative King understand the political currents he is wading against? I would guess yes…but this is the same individual who voiced strong support for the IRA “back in the day,” but now positions himself as a premier defender against global terrorist threats.

It probably is also not a good time to remind the good member of Congress of his own words during the kerfuffle over the “Ground Zero Mosque:”

Even though a mosque is supposed to be a religious setting, ground zero may not be an appropriate spot for this or any proposed mosque, King said.

“Right at this moment in history, it’s bad form to put it there,” he said. “There are things you are allowed to do, but that aren’t appropriate to do.”

He might want to consider the facts that his fellow caucus members took those words to heart in regards to their own view of the viability of a large aid package to Sandy’s victims.

Such Congressional spending may be usually presented as a moral choice, but in reality it is always a political one.  It does not matter if King’s past and current opinions have been morally and/or politically justified, but his current lack of influence/importance for his constituents is a result of the underlying dynamics existing within his own political party.

He might even learn a valuable lesson about the negative effects of demonizing a group–whether they be Muslims or recipients of any type of federal government aid.

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January 1, 2013

Cartoonists look at the fiscal cliff in 2012

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on January 1, 2013


1 cliff


2 matson022712












3 tumblr m17eo0xqe11rrhzimo1 400 thumb


3 You First 512


4 22778 image



5 112431 Taxmegeddon by Rick McKee The Augusta Chronicle


6 10Stinson061712a


7 Fiscal Cliff



8 cartoon re fiscal cliff

8 fiscal cliff 342x222

8 fiscal cliff cuts cartoon parachutes

8 romney vs obama fiscal responsibility usa election 2012 cartoon



9 119367 600

9 EC 121005 breen425x283

9 Federal Debt


10 cliffnotes


11 Fiscal Cliff vs Armagedon


11 hc fiscal cliff 20121120










12 124792 600

13 matson2120312

12 124782 600

12 124791 600

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