Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 12, 2012

Holder v. New York Times on Due Process

Filed under: Legal Issues,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on March 12, 2012

Last week HLSWatch reprinted Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech at Northwestern University’s School of Law.  In those remarks the Attorney General noted:

Some have argued that the President is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces.   This is simply not accurate.   “Due process” and “judicial process” are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security.   The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.

The lead editorial in yesterday’s (Sunday’s) New York Times maintains that judicial review is essential to the executive’s purposeful use of lethal force against a citizen.

Mr. Holder argued in his speech that judicial process and due process guaranteed by the Constitution “are not one and the same.” This is a straw man. The judiciary has the power to say what the Constitution means and make sure the elected branches apply it properly. The executive acting in secret as the police, prosecutor, jury, judge and executioner is the antithesis of due process.

The administration should seek a court’s approval before killing an American citizen, except in the sort of “hot pursuit” that justifies the police shooting of an ordinary suspect…

The complete editorial is available at: The Power to Kill.

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March 10, 2012

One year ago after the quake and tsunami: No sky, no land…

Filed under: Catastrophes — by Philip J. Palin on March 10, 2012

Snow covers remains of Minamisanriku town, Miyagi Prefecture  (March 17, 2011) Associated Press

Rescue workers walk through heavy snowfall in Sendai, northeastern Japan (March 17, 2011) Reuters

Yoshikatsu Hiratsuka grieves in front of wreckage where the body of his mother is buried in Onagawa  (March 17, 2011)  Associated Press


No sky,

No land – just

Snow falling

KAJIWARA Hashin (1864-?)

We cannot run fast

enough, to catch cascading

catastrophe’s roar

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March 9, 2012

What does MOM deserve?

Filed under: Catastrophes,Preparedness and Response,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on March 9, 2012

A phone call once a week or dinner out instead?

A card or a card and flowers ?

Are you going home for the holidays or inviting Mom to join you on a cruise?

What does Maximum Of Maximums (MOM) deserve?

According to the 2011 FEMA strategic plan, a MOM could involve:

  • Emergency medical care for 265,000 casualties,
  • Moving and distributing supplies to meet the needs of 1.5 million disaster survivors within 72 hours,
  • Restoring and sustaining basic services for an affected area of seven million people within 60 days,
  • Recovering the communities of 1.5 million disaster survivors within 5 years of the event.

When MOM visited Northeastern Japan on March 11 last year that’s close to what she left behind.   Casualties were lower, but otherwise the FEMA benchmarks are on target or a bit below actual outcomes.

What else does the Japanese experience tell us about MOM?

  • Catastrophes cascade into complexity becoming fundamentally different than emergencies or disasters.
  • Response will only be as good as mitigation, resilience, and readiness.  Recovery is mostly a function of the same.
  • MOM is beyond controlling.  She may be absorbed or if given enough space she may dissipate, but she will not be contained.

Despite the consequences in Japan and similar recent calamities, many resist embracing or even acknowledging MOM.

Among the minority who give attention to something like MOM there is a dangerous presumption she can be understood.   She cannot, not fully.

Nature affects to be sedate
Upon occasion, grand
But let our observation shut
Her practices extend

To Necromancy and the Trades
Remote to understand
Behold our spacious Citizen
Unto a Juggler turned — (Emily Dickinson)

Her juggling, her dancing, her sudden leaps and skidding stops are beyond accurate prediction.  With MOM we can only be sure of uncertainty.

To give MOM her due, regular attention is required.  Three suggestions for state and local jurisdictions and the private sector:

1.  At least 10% of planning resources should be committed to MOM.

2. At least 20% of training and exercise resources should be committed to MOM.

3.  Regular investment in mitigation especially on resilience of critical infrastructure and key resources.  I don’t think a percentage can capture this commitment.  It needs to be a strategic priority.  Zoning, building codes, public health funding, infrastructure development,  insurance decisions, licensing and regulations… all need to assume a level of catastrophic risk. Incremental yet persistent investment in mitigation is needed.

By the way, I perceive Japan met — and probably exceeded — each and all of these minimums.   The consequences were still horrific.

–+–

For more on lessons learned from the earthquake-tsunami-nuclear emergency please see:

Fukushima in review: A complex disaster, a disastrous response, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (March 6, 2012)

This is the most recent of several excellent examinations of (mostly) the nuclear emergency.  There has been considerably less high-level attention to the the earthquake-and-tsunami.  In my judgment the best single source for issues beyond the nuclear emergency is:

EERI Tohoku Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Clearinghouse

To examine fundamental issues of mass care as well as supply chain resilience and recovery, I recommend:

Disasters in Tohoku, Japan: Preliminary Findings Concerning Postdisaster Humanitarian Logistics Response, Transportation Research Board (January 2012)

The Asahi Shimbun — sometimes called Japan’s New York Times — has aggregated its coverage of response, recovery, and related at:

Special Section: 3/11 Disaster

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March 8, 2012

AG Holder: “due process takes into account the realities of combat”

Filed under: Legal Issues,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on March 8, 2012

Monday evening Attorney-General Holder spoke at Northwestern University School of Law.  According to the Law School’s website,

He talked at length about the use of federal courts and military commissions in combating terrorism and the steps that need to taken before lethal force can be used against U.S. citizens linked to terrorism. In particular, the talked about using lethal force in a foreign country, targeted against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces and who is actively engaged in planning to kill Americans.

“The Constitution empowers the president to protect the nation from any imminent threat of violent attack,” he said. “And international law recognizes the inherent right of national self-defense. None of this is changed by the fact that we are not in a conventional war.”

The AG’s complete speech is available from the Department of Justice website.  (Early Thursday morning the site is down.)

A video of his remarks is available at the Northwestern University School of Law website.

–+–

For several days my access to the DOJ site has been spotty.  With a strong solar storm heading our way, who knows what might happen.  So, with apologies for the very long post, following is the text of  the AG’s prepared remarks with a few pleasantries edited out.

I have also highlighted a few paragraphs which I consider particularly important.  The Attorney-General deserves our close reading of his full argument in context.  But regular readers will not be surprised I remain concerned about the power of the executive to intentionally use lethal force against a citizen without judicial review.

Previous posts on this issue include: Killing a Fellow Citizen and Persons and Due Process, Terrorism and War

–+–

ERIC H. HOLDER, ATTORNEY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES, SPEAKING IN CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, MONDAY, MARCH 5, 2012:

I’m grateful for the opportunity to join with you in discussing a defining issue of our time – and a most critical responsibility that we share: how we will stay true to America’s founding – and enduring – promises of security, justice and liberty.

Since this country’s earliest days, the American people have risen to this challenge – and all that it demands.   But, as we have seen – and as President John F. Kennedy may have described best – “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.”

Half a century has passed since those words were spoken, but our nation today confronts grave national security threats that demand our constant attention and steadfast commitment.   It is clear that, once again, we have reached an “hour of danger.”

We are a nation at war.  And, in this war, we face a nimble and determined enemy that cannot be underestimated.

Like President Obama – and my fellow members of his national security team – I begin each day with a briefing on the latest and most urgent threats made against us in the preceding 24 hours.  And, like scores of attorneys and agents at the Justice Department, I go to sleep each night thinking of how best to keep our people safe.

I know that – more than a decade after the September 11th attacks; and despite our recent national security successes, including the operation that brought to justice Osama bin Laden last year – there are people currently plotting to murder Americans, who reside in distant countries as well as within our own borders.   Disrupting and preventing these plots – and using every available and appropriate tool to keep the American people safe – has been, and will remain, this Administration’s top priority.

But just as surely as we are a nation at war, we also are a nation of laws and values.  Even when under attack, our actions must always be grounded on the bedrock of the Constitution – and must always be consistent with statutes, court precedent, the rule of law and our founding ideals.   Not only is this the right thing to do – history has shown that it is also the most effective approach we can take in combating those who seek to do us harm.

This is not just my view.   My judgment is shared by senior national security officials across the government.   As the President reminded us in 2009, at the National Archives where our founding documents are housed, “[w]e uphold our most cherished values not only because doing so is right, but because it strengthens our country and it keeps us safe.   Time and again, our values have been our best national security asset.”   Our history proves this.   We do not have to choose between security and liberty – and we will not.

Today, I want to tell you about the collaboration across the government that defines and distinguishes this Administration’s national security efforts.   I also want to discuss some of the legal principles that guide – and strengthen – this work, as well as the special role of the Department of Justice in protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution.

Before 9/11, today’s level of interagency cooperation was not commonplace.   In many ways, government lacked the infrastructure – as well as the imperative – to share national security information quickly and effectively.   Domestic law enforcement and foreign intelligence operated in largely independent spheres.   But those who attacked us on September 11th chose both military and civilian targets.   They crossed borders and jurisdictional lines.   And it immediately became clear that no single agency could address these threats, because no single agency has all of the necessary tools.

To counter this enemy aggressively and intelligently, the government had to draw on all of its resources – and radically update its operations.   As a result, today, government agencies are better postured to work together to address a range of emerging national security threats.   Now, the lawyers, agents and analysts at the Department of Justice work closely with our colleagues across the national security community to detect and disrupt terrorist plots, to prosecute suspected terrorists, and to identify and implement the legal tools necessary to keep the American people safe.   Unfortunately, the fact and extent of this cooperation are often overlooked in the public debate – but it’s something that this Administration, and the previous one, can be proud of.

As part of this coordinated effort, the Justice Department plays a key role in conducting oversight to ensure that the intelligence community’s activities remain in compliance with the law, and, together with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, in authorizing surveillance to investigate suspected terrorists.   We must – and will continue to – use the intelligence-gathering capabilities that Congress has provided to collect information that can save and protect American lives.   At the same time, these tools must be subject to appropriate checks and balances – including oversight by Congress and the courts, as well as within the Executive Branch – to protect the privacy and civil rights of innocent individuals.   This Administration is committed to making sure that our surveillance programs appropriately reflect all of these interests.

Let me give you an example.   Under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence may authorize annually, with the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, collection directed at identified categories of foreign intelligence targets, without the need for a court order for each individual subject.   This ensures that the government has the flexibility and agility it needs to identify and to respond to terrorist and other foreign threats to our security.   But the government may not use this authority intentionally to target a U.S. person, here or abroad, or anyone known to be in the United States.

The law requires special procedures, reviewed and approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, to make sure that these restrictions are followed, and to protect the privacy of any U.S. persons whose nonpublic information may be incidentally acquired through this program.    The Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence conduct extensive oversight reviews of section 702 activities at least once every sixty days, and we report to Congress on implementation and compliance twice a year.   This law therefore establishes a comprehensive regime of oversight by all three branches of government.  Reauthorizing this authority before it expires at the end of this year is the top legislative priority of the Intelligence Community.

But surveillance is only the first of many complex issues we must navigate.   Once a suspected terrorist is captured, a decision must be made as to how to proceed with that individual in order to identify the disposition that best serves the interests of the American people and the security of this nation.

Much has been made of the distinction between our federal civilian courts and revised military commissions.   The reality is that both incorporate fundamental due process and other protections that are essential to the effective administration of justice – and we should not deprive ourselves of any tool in our fight against al Qaeda.

Our criminal justice system is renowned not only for its fair process; it is respected for its results.   We are not the first Administration to rely on federal courts to prosecute terrorists, nor will we be the last.   Although far too many choose to ignore this fact, the previous Administration consistently relied on criminal prosecutions in federal court to bring terrorists to justice.   John Walker Lindh, attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid, and 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui were among the hundreds of defendants convicted of terrorism-related offenses – without political controversy – during the last administration.

Over the past three years, we’ve built a remarkable record of success in terror prosecutions.  For example, in October, we secured a conviction against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab for his role in the attempted bombing of an airplane traveling from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.   He was sentenced last month to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  While in custody, he provided significant intelligence during debriefing sessions with the FBI.  He described in detail how he became inspired to carry out an act of jihad, and how he traveled to Yemen and made contact with Anwar al-Aulaqi, a U.S. citizen and a leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.   Abdulmutallab also detailed the training he received, as well as Aulaqi’s specific instructions to wait until the airplane was over the United States before detonating his bomb.

In addition to Abdulmutallab, Faizal Shahzad, the attempted Times Square bomber, Ahmed Ghailani, a conspirator in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and three individuals who plotted an attack against John F. Kennedy Airport in 2007, have also recently begun serving life sentences.   And convictions have been obtained in the cases of several homegrown extremists, as well.   For example, last year, United States citizen and North Carolina resident Daniel Boyd pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim, and injure persons abroad; and U.S. citizen and Illinois resident Michael Finton pleaded guilty to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction in connection with his efforts to detonate a truck bomb outside of a federal courthouse.

I could go on.   Which is why the calls that I’ve heard to ban the use of civilian courts in prosecutions of terrorism-related activity are so baffling, and ultimately are so dangerous.  These calls ignore reality.   And if heeded, they would significantly weaken – in fact, they would cripple – our ability to incapacitate and punish those who attempt to do us harm.

Simply put, since 9/11, hundreds of individuals have been convicted of terrorism or terrorism-related offenses in Article III courts and are now serving long sentences in federal prison.   Not one has ever escaped custody.   No judicial district has suffered any kind of retaliatory attack. These are facts, not opinions.   There are not two sides to this story.   Those who claim that our federal courts are incapable of handling terrorism cases are not registering a dissenting opinion — they are simply wrong.

But federal courts are not our only option.   Military commissions are also appropriate in proper circumstances, and we can use them as well to convict terrorists and disrupt their plots.   This Administration’s approach has been to ensure that the military commissions system is as effective as possible, in part by strengthening the procedural protections on which the commissions are based.   With the President’s leadership, and the bipartisan backing of Congress, the Military Commissions Act of 2009 was enacted into law.   And, since then, meaningful improvements have been implemented.

It’s important to note that the reformed commissions draw from the same fundamental protections of a fair trial that underlie our civilian courts.   They provide a presumption of innocence and require proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.   They afford the accused the right to counsel – as well as the right to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses.   They prohibit the use of statements obtained through torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.   And they secure the right to appeal to Article III judges – all the way to the United States Supreme Court.   In addition, like our federal civilian courts, reformed commissions allow for the protection of sensitive sources and methods of intelligence gathering, and for the safety and security of participants.

A key difference is that, in military commissions, evidentiary rules reflect the realities of the battlefield and of conducting investigations in a war zone.   For example, statements may be admissible even in the absence of Miranda warnings, because we cannot expect military personnel to administer warnings to an enemy captured in battle.   But instead, a military judge must make other findings – for instance, that the statement is reliable and that it was made voluntarily.

I have faith in the framework and promise of our military commissions, which is why I’ve sent several cases to the reformed commissions for prosecution.  There is, quite simply, no inherent contradiction between using military commissions in appropriate cases while still prosecuting other terrorists in civilian courts.   Without question, there are differences between these systems that must be – and will continue to be – weighed carefully.   Such decisions about how to prosecute suspected terrorists are core Executive Branch functions.   In each case, prosecutors and counterterrorism professionals across the government conduct an intensive review of case-specific facts designed to determine which avenue of prosecution to pursue.

Several practical considerations affect the choice of forum.

First of all, the commissions only have jurisdiction to prosecute individuals who are a part of al Qaeda, have engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, or who have purposefully and materially supported such hostilities.   This means that there may be members of certain terrorist groups who fall outside the jurisdiction of military commissions because, for example, they lack ties to al Qaeda and their conduct does not otherwise make them subject to prosecution in this forum.   Additionally, by statute, military commissions cannot be used to try U.S. citizens.

Second, our civilian courts cover a much broader set of offenses than the military commissions, which can only prosecute specified offenses, including violations of the laws of war and other offenses traditionally triable by military commission.  This means federal prosecutors have a wider range of tools that can be used to incapacitate suspected terrorists.   Those charges, and the sentences they carry upon successful conviction, can provide important incentives to reach plea agreements and convince defendants to cooperate with federal authorities.

Third, there is the issue of international cooperation.   A number of countries have indicated that they will not cooperate with the United States in certain counterterrorism efforts — for instance, in providing evidence or extraditing suspects – if we intend to use that cooperation in pursuit of a military commission prosecution.   Although the use of military commissions in the United States can be traced back to the early days of our nation, in their present form they are less familiar to the international community than our time-tested criminal justice system and Article III courts.   However, it is my hope that, with time and experience, the reformed commissions will attain similar respect in the eyes of the world.

Where cases are selected for prosecution in military commissions, Justice Department investigators and prosecutors work closely to support our Department of Defense colleagues.  Today, the alleged mastermind of the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole is being prosecuted before a military commission.   I am proud to say that trial attorneys from the Department of Justice are working with military prosecutors on that case, as well as others.

And we will continue to reject the false idea that we must choose between federal courts and military commissions, instead of using them both.   If we were to fail to use all necessary and available tools at our disposal, we would undoubtedly fail in our fundamental duty to protect the Nation and its people.   That is simply not an outcome we can accept.

This Administration has worked in other areas as well to ensure that counterterrorism professionals have the flexibility that they need to fulfill their critical responsibilities without diverging from our laws and our values.   Last week brought the most recent step, when the President issued procedures under the National Defense Authorization Act.   This legislation, which Congress passed in December, mandated that a narrow category of al Qaeda terrorist suspects be placed in temporary military custody.

Last Tuesday, the President exercised his authority under the statute to issue procedures to make sure that military custody will not disrupt ongoing law enforcement and intelligence operations — and that an individual will be transferred from civilian to military custody only after a thorough evaluation of his or her case, based on the considered judgment of the President’s senior national security team.   As authorized by the statute, the President waived the requirements for several categories of individuals where he found that the waivers were in our national security interest.   These procedures implement not only the language of the statute but also the expressed intent of the lead sponsors of this legislation.   And they address the concerns the President expressed when he signed this bill into law at the end of last year.

Now, I realize I have gone into considerable detail about tools we use to identify suspected terrorists and to bring captured terrorists to justice.   It is preferable to capture suspected terrorists where feasible – among other reasons, so that we can gather valuable intelligence from them – but we must also recognize that there are instances where our government has the clear authority – and, I would argue, the responsibility – to defend the United States through the appropriate and lawful use of lethal force.

This principle has long been established under both U.S. and international law.   In response to the attacks perpetrated – and the continuing threat posed – by al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces, Congress has authorized the President to use all necessary and appropriate force against those groups.   Because the United States is in an armed conflict, we are authorized to take action against enemy belligerents under international law.   The Constitution empowers the President to protect the nation from any imminent threat of violent attack.   And international law recognizes the inherent right of national self-defense.   None of this is changed by the fact that we are not in a conventional war.

Our legal authority is not limited to the battlefields in Afghanistan.   Indeed, neither Congress nor our federal courts has limited the geographic scope of our ability to use force to the current conflict in Afghanistan.   We are at war with a stateless enemy, prone to shifting operations from country to country.   Over the last three years alone, al Qaeda and its associates have directed several attacks – fortunately, unsuccessful – against us from countries other than Afghanistan.  Our government has both a responsibility and a right to protect this nation and its people from such threats.

This does not mean that we can use military force whenever or wherever we want.  International legal principles, including respect for another nation’s sovereignty, constrain our ability to act unilaterally.   But the use of force in foreign territory would be consistent with these international legal principles if conducted, for example, with the consent of the nation involved – or after a determination that the nation is unable or unwilling to deal effectively with a threat to the United States.

Furthermore, it is entirely lawful – under both United States law and applicable law of war principles – to target specific senior operational leaders of al Qaeda and associated forces.   This is not a novel concept.   In fact, during World War II, the United States tracked the plane flying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto – the commander of Japanese forces in the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway – and shot it down specifically because he was on board.   As I explained to the Senate Judiciary Committee following the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the same rules apply today.

Some have called such operations “assassinations.”   They are not, and the use of that loaded term is misplaced.   Assassinations are unlawful killings.   Here, for the reasons I have given, the U.S. government’s use of lethal force in self defense against a leader of al Qaeda or an associated force who presents an imminent threat of violent attack would not be unlawful — and therefore would not violate the Executive Order banning assassination or criminal statutes.

Now, it is an unfortunate but undeniable fact that some of the threats we face come from a small number of United States citizens who have decided to commit violent attacks against their own country from abroad.   Based on generations-old legal principles and Supreme Court decisions handed down during World War II, as well as during this current conflict, it’s clear that United States citizenship alone does not make such individuals immune from being targeted.   But it does mean that the government must take into account all relevant constitutional considerations with respect to United States citizens – even those who are leading efforts to kill innocent Americans.   Of these, the most relevant is the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, which says that the government may not deprive a citizen of his or her life without due process of law.

The Supreme Court has made clear that the Due Process Clause does not impose one-size-fits-all requirements, but instead mandates procedural safeguards that depend on specific circumstances.   In cases arising under the Due Process Clause – including in a case involving a U.S. citizen captured in the conflict against al Qaeda – the Court has applied a balancing approach, weighing the private interest that will be affected against the interest the government is trying to protect, and the burdens the government would face in providing additional process.  Where national security operations are at stake, due process takes into account the realities of combat.

Here, the interests on both sides of the scale are extraordinarily weighty.   An individual’s interest in making sure that the government does not target him erroneously could not be more significant.   Yet it is imperative for the government to counter threats posed by senior operational leaders of al Qaeda, and to protect the innocent people whose lives could be lost in their attacks.

Any decision to use lethal force against a United States citizen – even one intent on murdering Americans and who has become an operational leader of al-Qaeda in a foreign land – is among the gravest that government leaders can face.   The American people can be – and deserve to be – assured that actions taken in their defense are consistent with their values and their laws.   So, although I cannot discuss or confirm any particular program or operation, I believe it is important to explain these legal principles publicly.

Let me be clear:   an operation using lethal force in a foreign country, targeted against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces, and who is actively engaged in planning to kill Americans, would be lawful at least in the following circumstances: First, the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; second, capture is not feasible; and third, the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.

The evaluation of whether an individual presents an “imminent threat” incorporates considerations of the relevant window of opportunity to act, the possible harm that missing the window would cause to civilians, and the likelihood of heading off future disastrous attacks against the United States.   As we learned on 9/11, al Qaeda has demonstrated the ability to strike with little or no notice – and to cause devastating casualties.   Its leaders are continually planning attacks against the United States, and they do not behave like a traditional military – wearing uniforms, carrying arms openly, or massing forces in preparation for an attack.   Given these facts, the Constitution does not require the President to delay action until some theoretical end-stage of planning – when the precise time, place, and manner of an attack become clear.   Such a requirement would create an unacceptably high risk that our efforts would fail, and that Americans would be killed.

Whether the capture of a U.S. citizen terrorist is feasible is a fact-specific, and potentially time-sensitive, question.   It may depend on, among other things, whether capture can be accomplished in the window of time available to prevent an attack and without undue risk to civilians or to U.S. personnel.   Given the nature of how terrorists act and where they tend to hide, it may not always be feasible to capture a United States citizen terrorist who presents an imminent threat of violent attack.   In that case, our government has the clear authority to defend the United States with lethal force.

Of course, any such use of lethal force by the United States will comply with the four fundamental law of war principles governing the use of force.   The principle of necessity requires that the target have definite military value.   The principle of distinction requires that only lawful targets – such as combatants, civilians directly participating in hostilities, and military objectives – may be targeted intentionally.   Under the principle of proportionality, the anticipated collateral damage must not be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage.   Finally, the principle of humanity requires us to use weapons that will not inflict unnecessary suffering.

These principles do not forbid the use of stealth or technologically advanced weapons.   In fact, the use of advanced weapons may help to ensure that the best intelligence is available for planning and carrying out operations, and that the risk of civilian casualties can be minimized or avoided altogether.

Some have argued that the President is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces.   This is simply not accurate.   “Due process” and “judicial process” are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security.   The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.

The conduct and management of national security operations are core functions of the Executive Branch, as courts have recognized throughout our history.   Military and civilian officials must often make real-time decisions that balance the need to act, the existence of alternative options, the possibility of collateral damage, and other judgments – all of which depend on expertise and immediate access to information that only the Executive Branch may possess in real time.   The Constitution’s guarantee of due process is ironclad, and it is essential – but, as a recent court decision makes clear, it does not require judicial approval before the President may use force abroad against a senior operational leader of a foreign terrorist organization with which the United States is at war – even if that individual happens to be a U.S. citizen.

That is not to say that the Executive Branch has – or should ever have – the ability to target any such individuals without robust oversight.   Which is why, in keeping with the law and our constitutional system of checks and balances, the Executive Branch regularly informs the appropriate members of Congress about our counterterrorism activities, including the legal framework, and would of course follow the same practice where lethal force is used against United States citizens.

Now, these circumstances are sufficient under the Constitution for the United States to use lethal force against a U.S. citizen abroad – but it is important to note that the legal requirements I have described may not apply in every situation – such as operations that take place on traditional battlefields.

The unfortunate reality is that our nation will likely continue to face terrorist threats that – at times – originate with our own citizens.   When such individuals take up arms against this country – and join al Qaeda in plotting attacks designed to kill their fellow Americans – there may be only one realistic and appropriate response.   We must take steps to stop them – in full accordance with the Constitution.   In this hour of danger, we simply cannot afford to wait until deadly plans are carried out – and we will not.

This is an indicator of our times – not a departure from our laws and our values.   For this Administration – and for this nation – our values are clear.   We must always look to them for answers when we face difficult questions, like the ones I have discussed today.   As the President reminded us at the National Archives, “our Constitution has endured through secession and civil rights, through World War and Cold War, because it provides a foundation of principles that can be applied pragmatically; it provides a compass that can help us find our way.”

Our most sacred principles and values – of security, justice and liberty for all citizens – must continue to unite us, to guide us forward, and to help us build a future that honors our founding documents and advances our ongoing – uniquely American – pursuit of a safer, more just, and more perfect union.   In the continuing effort to keep our people secure, this Administration will remain true to those values that inspired our nation’s founding and, over the course of two centuries, have made America an example of strength and a beacon of justice for all the world. This is our pledge.

Thank you for inviting me to discuss these important issues with you today.

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March 7, 2012

What’s Good for Us

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,State and Local HLS — by Mark Chubb on March 7, 2012

Efforts to improve the efficiency and accountability of government services, as I discussed last week, are more likely to involve questions of quality than quantity. This, of course, presents certain problems, in part because our judgments about such things are influenced not only by different perspectives but also different values.

As the nation’s political discourse has become more hostile and divisive, I have discerned equally clear and consistent calls for consensus. To me, these calls often strike a dissonant chord, that comes across more like, “Be reasonable, do it my way,” than “What can we do that will satisfy everyone.” I chafe at this suggestion not because I dislike agreement (or alternatively, like disagreement), but rather because of the dangers such mindsets pose in monocultures.

Sadly, too many public safety organizations present just such problems. Not long ago, many public safety organizations suffered under the self-imposed oppression of autocratic, top-down management styles. Today, the pendulum has, in too many instances, swung too far the other direction. Some agencies are, in the words of a colleague, in danger of letting “the inmates run the asylum.” (The corollary to this perspective goes something like this: “You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but you might find it helpful.”)

Recently, some people have tried to convince me that this new cultural orientation reflects a generational shift in the workforce, others argue it is evidence of maturity or even diversity. (“We all agree, so anyone who disagrees with us is not only wrong but self-serving, petty, immature and intolerant.”) Consider me less than convinced.

Instead, what I see is a growing tendency to promote consensus as a way to avoid making decisions. It works this way: If I agree with you or you with me, I will support you and urge others to follow your direction. If what you suggest does not benefit me, even if it might arguably benefit others, I will not only refuse to support you, but I will actively organize others to oppose you. Moreover, if you don’t take the hint and desist from the course of action I dislike, I will attack you personally.

I find some of the most supportive and compliant people in my organization are the youngest and least senior employees. That is not to say, however, that they are the least experienced or mature. Note this distinction: Many of the employees with limited tenure in my organization defer to positional power not only because they lack tenure, but also because they often bring diverse experience outside public safety agencies to their positions. Put simply, they appreciate their positions in the organization and are usually more prepared to play them because they have no expectations of preferential much less deferential treatment. In many cases, they view their jobs as just that: a job, not an entitlement or a calling or a vocation or a profession. They work to live, not live to work.

Much of the conflict I experience in the workplace involves what I term “violent agreement.” Put another way, “Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.” These days, it seems when people get what they want it often comes to them as a surprise. The problems this poses are amplified by the fact that many of their requests come in without goals or priorities attached.

This problem operates at all levels of the homeland security system. When I worked for a regional professional organization of public safety executives in the mid-1990s, I cautioned the board I worked for that their requests of Congress to expand federal grant opportunities would come at significant cost to them in the long run. As more resources became available, I suggested, more people would begin lining up at their desks with their palms extended. And as the line grew, they could expect that it would require them to pile the bills higher and higher to meet any one demand just so they could move on to the next one. And if, heaven forbid, the money stopped flowing, so too would the gratitude and support they received from those lining up to tell them how important and respected they were.

I would like to say I was proved wrong in my prediction, but sadly the evidence suggests otherwise. In addition to what I predicted, we have also experienced something I only feared. Ready access to more resources clearly made many public safety organizations less creative, flexible and responsible. In many ways, this has made them less reasonable as well. Not only are many public safety professionals unprepared to respond to calls for new ways of doing things close to their core business, they are also incredibly incensed that anyone would have the temerity to expect this of them. Two of the many examples of this that have come to my attention in recent weeks involve the cities of San Jose, California and Phoenix, Arizona.

In San Jose, an IBM Global Business Services team has recommended significant changes in the way the city manages fire department resources. For starters, they have openly questioned the practice of allocating firefighting resources to equalize or at least minimize disparities in response times across a geographic area. They have rightly noted that evidence of the effectiveness of this strategy is not only lacking, but that much of the evidence that does exist suggests marginal improvements in response times greater than three minutes and less than ten minutes do not pay in aggregate. In other words, they are inefficient because it costs more to shave a few seconds off average response times than any additional firefighting crew can ever hope to save in fire losses. The same can be said of emergency medical service, where the evidence points to bystander interventions, particularly CPR and automatic external defibrillators as key factors in improving outcomes in cases of witnessed cardiac arrest.

What makes the San Jose case even more interesting is the fact that IBM suggests a risk-based resource allocation as an alternative. This would result in staffing fluctuations based on trends in call volume and severity. It might also result in more units, staffed with fewer people being based in more flexible locations. Which is to say, it sounds an awful lot like the way private-sector ambulance services manage themselves already.

This, of course, not only frightens, but also angers firefighters. You see, EMTs who only ride ambulances get paid far less than firefighters. Using firefighters to perform roles as EMTs may make them more productive, but it does not improve efficiency and is thus steadfastly opposed by most firefighters.

Meanwhile, in Phoenix, the management consulting firm Management Partners, has recommended replacing many uniformed officers with lower-paid but similarly or better-qualified civilian staff. This and other interventions, including new technology for compiling electronic patient care reports in the field, could save the city as much as $5.1 million per year.

Both cities face some formidable challenges in implementing their consultants’ visions. San Jose has already cut staffing by 18 percent since the recession began. Their firefighters union is openly hostile to absorbing any further cuts.

Phoenix Fire Chief Bob Khan has defended his department’s performance by arguing that joint labor-management committees have already begun implementing many of the consultant’s recommendations. I suspect this means they are happy to implement the ones they like — those that do not offend anyone, but expect a fight over the rest.

All this leaves me wondering why, in an era when public safety employees like many in the public itself openly question the old saw, “What’s good for GM is good for America,” they still believe that what’s good for them is what the community wants, expects and supports. When job security, pay and benefits trump public safety, I have to wonder. I wonder no less though when these same things (masquerading as public safety) are said to trump efficiency and accountability.

It is not my place to tell the public they cannot have public safety, efficiency and accountability all at once. It is not my responsibility to defend job security, pay and benefits that far exceed the median household incomes of those who pay for these services. And it is not reasonable to assume they – the public – will tolerate public service leaders who will accept or make such arguments for very much longer.

 

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March 6, 2012

Occupy the Three Little Pigs

Filed under: Events,Futures,General Homeland Security,Preparedness and Response — by Christopher Bellavita on March 6, 2012

Here’s a weatherman talking:

“We have no idea what’s going to happen [in the weather] beyond three days out.”

Here’s an explanation about why it’s so difficult to get weather forecasts right:

“Weather forecasting is complex and not always accurate, especially for days further in the future, because the weather can be chaotic and unpredictable…. Moreover, the earth’s atmosphere is a complicated system that is affected by many factors and can react in different ways.”

As difficult as it is to predict what is going to happen in a system where the material parameters are known,  imagine trying to predict how human systems will behave several months from now.

—————————

Imagine you are sitting on top of a mountain and you can see:

Organizers calling on “redeemers, rebels, and radicals” to occupy Chicago during the the G8 and the NATO summit in Chicago in May.

The G8 summit switching its location (on Monday) to Camp David.   Administration officals explain “the prospect of the antiglobalization protests common to such gatherings was not a factor in the decision to change locations.” But folks are still coming to Chicago anyway.

Republican and Democratic political conventions coming this summer to Tampa and Charlotte.

Some Americans demonstrating to exercise their First Amendment rights. They don’t like what’s going on in the country and they want their voice to be heard. Other people demonstrating to smash windows and throw urine on police officers. Cities trying to figure out how to pay for all this.

The Occupy Movement in several cities issuing Good Neighbor policies, trying to guide behaviors for the next incarnation of the movement.

Sophisticated police departments who experienced Year 1 of Occupy increasingly able to identify “the good guys” from the “bad guys.”

Anonymous and Occupy join hands.

A growing domestic intelligence network sharing information about potential threats from a stutteringly resurgent occupy movement.

Popular uprisings in other countries continue to be routine news.

Both houses of Congress agreeing to the provisions of HR347, innocently titled the “Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011.”  (According to one of the few representatives who voted against the bill,  it should be called “the ‘First Amendment Rights Eradication Act’ because it effectively outlaws protests near people who are ‘authorized” to be protected by the Secret Service.”  Apparently that also includes restricting protests at National Special Security Events, like political conventions.)

Social media tools — hardware and software — making it even easier than it was a year ago to spread information and rumor, truth and lies, and streaming video.

Add to those terrain features, the pressure gradients of unemployment, gas prices, a fragile global and national economy, the 1% versus 99% meme, terrorists looking for a win, a congress that seems unable to agree on much, stuff we have no clue about right now, and a presidential campaign.

With those images in mind, as you sit on top of your imaginary mountain, watch this 121 second video from The Guardian.

 

Now make a forecast: what will happen in Chicago in May, in Tampa in August, Charlotte in September, Oakland tomorrow, and other America cities any day now?

If a nation knows there’s a good chance a storm is coming, how does it prepare?  What does the 72 hour kit for that look like?

 

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March 5, 2012

Increased chances of Iranian conflict does not equal increased radiation threat

Filed under: International HLS,Radiological & Nuclear Threats,Risk Assessment — by Arnold Bogis on March 5, 2012

Normally I would welcome any reason to extol the virtues of brushing up on your nuclear and radiological-related preparedness planning. However, I strangely find myself wanting to push back on some nuclear-alarmism that I’ve come across lately from usually professional and restrained quarters.

To be clear before I begin: I believe nuclear terrorism has been and remains a real threat; that a dirty bomb is a question of when and not if; and that the two are entirely different animals that look similar in the same manner that one’s house cat may occasionally remind you of a lion in the wild…but not really.

The meme I suspect is emerging is that heightened tensions in the Middle East, in particular the increased threat of conflict with Iran over it’s nuclear program, is increasing the chances that the U.S. will either be the victim of a nuclear or radiological attack or that we may be involved in treating radiation-related casualties originating from hostilities in the Middle East. The mistaken perceptions involve current Iranian capabilities and the results of any possible attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, particularly by Israeli forces.

First capabilities: no evidence has been made public that Iran has enriched uranium beyond 20%.  While that gets them a lot closer to having the material for nuclear weapons (it is a strange fact, but enriching uranium up to 20% is more difficult than taking it from 20% to 90% and above, which is generally considered weapons grade; as Harvard’s Graham Allison has put it: “In effect, having uranium enriched at 20 percent takes Iran 90 yards along the football field to bomb-grade material.”), it does not give them a nuclear capability at this moment.  Barring work at a secret enrichment facility, this means that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon to use (whether directly or through allied terrorist groups) against any potential attacker.

Yes, this could change in the future through any number of potential scenarios.  Yes, there are serious concerns for U.S. national security if Iran was to become a nuclear state.  The most likely of these would not involve Iran directly attacking the U.S with a nuclear weapon.  Many others have sunk their teeth into this topic and debated various outcomes.

A dirty bomb could be a possibility, but in taking stock of that particular threat the pieces don’t point toward any special Iranian capability. Neither the low-enriched or high-enriched uranium that Iran is producing, or any of the stages of pre-enriched material, would make particularly effective dirty bomb material.  Uranium is not highly radioactive, in fact one can handle highly enriched uranium with nothing more than a simple gloved hand. In other words, the Iranian nuclear program does not add to their capability to carry out or assist others in carrying out a dirty bomb attack.

An Israeli or U.S. attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities could potentially embolden, radicalize, or otherwise incentivize terrorists to carry out a dirty bomb attack.  One can imagine a desire to carry out some sort of event involving radiation in retaliation.  Yet the particulars of Iran’s nuclear program do not affect the odds of this occurring, nor would the products be particularly helpful.

If homeland security officials at all levels want to prevent a dirty bomb attack, in addition to planning and exercising to respond and recover from any such incident (deterrence through denial of goals), they can take stock of the radioactive sources in their own jurisdictions and connect with the owners and licensees about security and safety. Every big city has potential dirty bomb ingredients without the necessity of terrorists attempting to smuggle in Iranian radioactive sources.

The second layer of concern seems to center on the possibility that hostilities between Iran and Israel, and maybe the U.S., would involve populations being exposed to high levels of radioactivity.  However, at this point in Iran’s nuclear development that is also unlikely.

Despite the bluster out of some corners, Israel is not going to use nuclear weapons it does not officially acknowledge having to destroy a nascent nuclear capability the goal of which is contested by various world powers.  Nuclear weapons are political weapons that are best used to deter nuclear attack and invasion.  It is often pointed out that a reason Iran might want to either develop a breakout capability or the weapons themselves is that they witnessed what happened to Iraq and Libya and what has not happened to North Korea.

An Israeli nuclear strike on Iran without direct nuclear provocation would likely result in their achieving North Korean-like pariah status.  Instead, if they decided it was in their national security interest to strike the Iranian nuclear program it would involve conventional weapons.  These bombs may cause dispersion of nuclear material, but as I mentioned before the uranium involved would not be highly radioactive and the effects would be more toxic and less radioactive.

Would there be detectable raised levels of radiation in the surrounding areas  following such an attack?  Likely. Are we talking about an Iranian Fukushima?  Probably not.

Israel could decide to bomb the nuclear reactor at Bushehr, but this would do little to stop any weapons program as light water power reactors are poorly suited for the production of plutonium for bombs and this particular one is under stringent IAEA safeguards.  In addition, it would earn the ire of potentially sympathetic Gulf nations who may bear the brunt of the radiation released.

Following any strike by Israel on its nuclear program, Iran is judged likely to attack Israel with missiles.  Whether launched from Iranian territory or by allied groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, some of these weapons may be targeted at the Israeli nuclear reactor at Dimona.  It is possible that the reactor would sustain enough damage to release radiation, but these facilities are not soft nor large targets.  The relatively unsophisticated missiles involved would have to be lucky in both hitting the target and achieving enough damage to release any radiation.  Only in the worst case might there be a call to evacuate any casualties to the United States due to radiation injury.

So to end this already too long foray into predicting the results of events that may never occur, let me just reiterate:

  • homeland security officials at all levels should worry about the security of radioactive sources within their jurisidcitions and make sure that they are prepared to respond and recover from any dirty bomb attack;
  • yes Dorothy, a nuclear terrorist attack is possible, if not likely, and should be regarded as a national catastrophic event planned for on a regional basis including non-traditional partners (in FEMA-speak this is a MOM event requiring a WOC response);
  • in the short-to-medium term, events regarding Iran’s nuclear program will not directly impact the risks of a radiological or nuclear attack upon the U.S.
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March 3, 2012

Fukushima on PBS Frontline

Filed under: Catastrophes,Media,Radiological & Nuclear Threats — by Arnold Bogis on March 3, 2012

This past week, PBS’ acclaimed show Frontline put a spotlight on the story of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown.  You can watch the entire episode, as well read the supplemental materials, here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/japans-nuclear-meltdown/

It is a moving story and I highly recommend watching the episode.  It made me think about how we rate or judge performance in catastrophic incidents.  It is often easy to look back and critique, but for those working in the midst of crises who operate on limited data and without the benefit of a strategic vantage point the decisions are not so clear. In this case it seems that the process resulted in (eventually) the correct calls being made.  A different decision at any of various points may have resulted in the evacuation of almost 30 million people in and around Tokyo.

What has the U.S. faced recently that comes close?  Are responsible organizations, in and out of government as well as at every level, ready to face such a challenge?

I hope so.  But I wouldn’t bet my own money on it.

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March 2, 2012

Taking preparedness a litte too far…

Filed under: Humor — by Arnold Bogis on March 2, 2012

Continuity of Government planning is important and should be taken seriously at all levels of government: federal, state, and local.  However, like a newcomer to the World Series of Poker, Wyoming has apparently decided to go all in:

State representatives on Friday advanced legislation to launch a study into what Wyoming should do in the event of a complete economic or political collapse in the United States.

House Bill 85 passed on first reading by a voice vote. It would create a state-run government continuity task force, which would study and prepare Wyoming for potential catastrophes, from disruptions in food and energy supplies to a complete meltdown of the federal government.

That seems a little over the top.  Well…maybe a bit more than that.  But still, I’m sympathetic to any group that seriously wants to plan for the worst case scenario.  Yet…

The task force would look at the feasibility of Wyoming issuing its own alternative currency, if needed. And House members approved an amendment Friday by state Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, to have the task force also examine conditions under which Wyoming would need to implement its own military draft, raise a standing army, and acquire strike aircraft and an aircraft carrier.

What is not explained in the article is exactly how a land-locked state could access the aircraft carrier in times of trouble.  If the situation is really as bad as requiring your own air wing and power projection capability, perhaps accessibility might be a problem if your borders don’t exactly have any deep harbors.  But I could be going out on a limb here…

 

[A big tip o' the hat to Daniel Drezner at Foreign Policy for the link to this story.]

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366 Homeland Security Words

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing — by Christopher Bellavita on March 2, 2012

The Electronic Privacy Information Center posted a copy of a document titled “Department of Homeland Security, National Operations Center, Media Monitoring Capablity, Desktop Reference  Binder” (or MMCDRB for short).

The headline of the EPIC story: EPIC Obtains New Documents on DHS Media Monitoring, Urges Congress to Suspend Program

The reaction to the “desktop reference binder”  included such monochromatic headlines as:

Words to get your website on a government watch list – Social media monitoring!

Homeland Security has its eye on your Metro tweets, D.C. riders

The Department of Homeland Security Is Spying On Your Social Media Updates

Why is the government monitoring social media networks?

The DHS surveillance of OccupyWallStreet (Ok, different, but related.)

DHS Monitoring Of Social Media Under Scrutiny By Lawmakers

The Department Of Homeland Security Is Searching Your Facebook And Twitter For These Words

There is a lot that can be written about this manual and the complex issues illustrated by almost every section of the 40 page document.  But that’s not what I want to write about. I want to write briefly about the search terms in the manual.

———————

One can always get a good 50 minute discussion going in a graduate seminar by asking “What is Homeland Security?”

The question can be addressed through a variety of inquiring systems (meaning ways of gathering and processing information about a question):

- Deductively –  by starting from general principles

- Dialectically — focusing on the conflicts  in homeland security

- Abductively — basically hunches and guesses

- Idealistically – Including ideas from as many perspectives as possible

- Pragmatically — an open systems, do-whatever-works approach

- or Detour and Access — beating around the bush, gaining access to homeland security by detouring around messy issues

No doubt there are other inquiring systems.  Let me mention one more.

One unintended, albeit minor, consequence of the MMCDRB is to assist with an inductive answer to the what is homeland security question.

———————

Induction is about generating abstractions by aggregating specific instances.  If deductive inquiry starts with principles and moves to data. Inductive inquiry starts with data and moves to principles, or at least propositions.

Without getting into the many (serious) problems of inductive inquiry, one can take the current list of “key words and search terms” in the MMCDRB, mix up the pieces — in this case alphabetically — and get a snapshot of how broad homeland security has become in the last decade.

Try it for yourself. There’s a story, a controversy, a fear, a mission or a budget in every word.

Key Words and Search Terms

1.         2600
2.         Abu Sayyaf
3.         Afghanistan
4.         Agent
5.         Agriculture
6.         Agro
7.         Agro Terror
8.         Aid
9.         Air Marshal
10.       Airplane (and derivatives)
11.       Airport
12.       Al Queda (all spellings)
13.       Al-Shabaab
14.       Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF)
15.       Ammonium nitrate
16.       AMTRAK
17.       Anthrax
18.       Antiviral
19.       AQAP (Al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula)
20.       AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb)
21.       Arellano-Felix
22.       Artistics Assassins
23.       Assassination
24.       Attack
25.       Authorities
26.       Avalanche
27.       Avian
28.       Bacteria
29.       Barrio Azteca
30.       BART
31.       Basque Separatists
32.       Beltran-Leyva
33.       Biological
34.       Biological infection (or event)
35.       Biological weapon
36.       Black out
37.       Blister agent
38.       Blizzard
39.       Body scanner
40.       Bomb (squad or threat)
41.       Border
42.       Border Patrol
43.       Botnet
44.       Breach
45.       Bridge
46.       Brown out
47.       Brush fire
48.       Brute forcing
49.       Burn
50.       Burst
51.       Bust
52.       Cain and abel
53.       Calderon
54.       Canceled
55.       Car bomb
56.       Cartel
57.       Cartel de Golfo
58.       Center for Disease Control (CDC)
59.       Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
60.       Chemical
61.       Chemical burn
62.       Chemical fire
63.       Chemical Spill
64.       Chemical weapon
65.       China
66.       CIKR (Critical Infrastructure & Key Resources)
67.       Ciudad Juarez
68.       Closure
69.       Cloud
70.       Coast Guard (USCG)
71.       Cocaine
72.       Collapse
73.       Colombia
74.       Communications infrastructure
75.       Computer infrastructure
76.       Conficker
77.       Consular
78.       Contamination
79.       Conventional weapon
80.       Cops
81.       Crash
82.       Crest
83.       Critical infrastructure
84.       Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
85.       Cyber attack
86.       Cyber Command
87.       Cyber security
88.       Cyber terror
89.       DDOS (dedicated denial of service)
90.       Deaths
91.       Decapitated
92.       Delays
93.       Denial of service
94.       Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
95.       Dirty bomb
96.       Disaster
97.       Disaster assistance
98.       Disaster management
99.       Disaster medical assistance team (DMAT)
100.    DNDO (Domestic Nuclear Detection Office)
101.    Dock
102.    Domestic nuclear detection
103.    Domestic security
104.    Drill
105.    Drug
106.    Drug Administration (FDA)
107.    Drug cartel
108.    Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
109.    Drug trade
110.    Drug war
111.    E. Coli
112.    Earthquake
113.    Ebola
114.    Eco terrorism
115.    El Paso
116.    Electric
117.    Emergency
118.    Emergency Broadcast System
119.    Emergency Landing
120.    Emergency management
121.    Emergency response
122.    Enriched
123.    Environmental terrorist
124.    Epidemic
125.    Erosion
126.    ETA (Euskadi ta Askatasuna)
127.    Evacuation
128.    Execution
129.    Exercise
130.    Explosion (explosive)
131.    Exposure
132.    Extreme weather
133.    Extremism
134.    Facility
135.    Failure or outage
136.    FARC (Armed Revolutionary Forces Colombia)
137.    Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS)
138.    Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
139.    Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
140.    Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
141.    First responder
142.    Flood
143.    Flu
144.    Food Poisoning
145.    Foot and Mouth (FMD)
146.    Forest fire
147.    Fort Hancock
148.    Fundamentalism
149.    Fusion Center
150.    Gang
151.    Gangs
152.    Gas
153.    Grid
154.    Gulf Cartel
155.    Gunfight
156.    Guzman
157.    H1N1
158.    H5N1
159.    Hacker
160.    Hail
161.    Hamas
162.    Hazardous
163.    Hazardous material incident
164.    Hazmat
165.    Help
166.    Heroin
167.    Hezbollah
168.    Home grown
169.    Homeland Defense
170.    Homeland security
171.    Hostage
172.    Human to ANIMAL
173.    Human to human
174.    Hurricane
175.    Ice
176.    IED (Improvised Explosive Device)
177.    Illegal immigrants
178.    Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE)
179.    Improvised explosive device
180.    Incident
181.    Industrial spill
182.    Infection
183.    Influenza
184.    Infrastructure security
185.    Interstate
186.    IRA (Irish Republican Army)
187.    Iran
188.    Iraq
189.    Islamist
190.    Jihad
191.    Juarez
192.    Keylogger
193.    Kidnap
194.    La Familia
195.    Law enforcement
196.    Leak
197.    Lightening
198.    Listeria
199.    Lockdown
200.    Looting
201.    Los Zetas
202.    Magnitude
203.    Malware
204.    Mara salvatrucha
205.    Marijuana
206.    Maritime domain awareness (MDA)
207.    MARTA
208.    Matamoros
209.    Meth Lab
210.    Methamphetamine
211.    Metro
212.    Mexican army
213.    Mexicles
214.    Mexico
215.    Michoacana
216.    Militia
217.    Mitigation
218.    MS13 or MS-13
219.    Mud slide or Mudslide
220.    Mutation
221.    Mysql injection
222.    Narco banners (Spanish equivalents)
223.    Narcos
224.    Narcotics
225.    National Guard
226.    National infrastructure
227.    National laboratory
228.    National Operations Center (NOC)
229.    National preparedness
230.    National preparedness initiative
231.    National security
232.    Nationalist
233.    NBIC (National Biosurveillance Integration Center)
234.    Nerve agent
235.    New Federation
236.    Nigeria
237.    Nogales
238.    North Korea
239.    Norvo Virus
240.    Nuclear
241.    Nuclear facility
242.    Nuclear threat
243.    Nuevo Leon
244.    Organized crime
245.    Outbreak
246.    Pakistan
247.    Pandemic
248.    Phishing
249.    Phreaking
250.    Pipe bomb
251.    Pirates
252.    Plague
253.    PLF (Palestine Liberation Front)
254.    PLO (Palestine Libration Organization)
255.    Plot
256.    Plume
257.    Police
258.    Pork
259.    Port
260.    Port Authority
261.    Powder (white)
262.    Power
263.    Power lines
264.    Power outage
265.    Prevention
266.    Public Health
267.    Quarantine
268.    Radiation
269.    Radicals
270.    Radioactive
271.    Recall
272.    Recovery
273.    Recruitment
274.    Red Cross
275.    Relief
276.    Resistant
277.    Response
278.    Reynose
279.    Reyosa
280.    Ricin
281.    Riot
282.    Rootkit
283.    Salmonella
284.    San Diego
285.    Sarin
286.    Scammers
287.    Screening
288.    Secret Service (USSS)
289.    Secure Border Initiative (SBI)
290.    Security
291.    Service disruption
292.    Shelter-in-place
293.    Shootout
294.    Shots fired
295.    Sick
296.    Sinaloa
297.    Sleet
298.    Small Pox
299.    Smart
300.    Smuggling (smugglers)
301.    Snow
302.    Social media
303.    Somalia
304.    Sonora
305.    Southwest
306.    Spammer
307.    Spillover
308.    Standoff
309.    State of emergency
310.    Storm
311.    Strain
312.    Stranded/Stuck
313.    Subway
314.    Suicide attack
315.    Suicide bomber
316.    Suspicious package/device
317.    Suspicious substance
318.    SWAT
319.    Swine
320.    Symptoms
321.    Taliban
322.    Tamaulipas
323.    Tamiflu
324.    Tamil Tiger
325.    Target
326.    Task Force
327.    Telecommunications
328.    Temblor
329.    Terror
330.    Terrorism
331.    Threat
332.    Tijuana
333.    Tornado
334.    Torreon
335.    Toxic
336.    Trafficking
337.    Transportation security
338.    Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
339.    Tremor
340.    Trojan
341.    Tsunami
342.    Tsunami Warning Center
343.    TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan)
344.    Tuberculosis (TB)
345.    Tucson
346.    Twister
347.    Typhoon
348.    U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS)
349.    U.S. Consulate
350.    United Nations (UN)
351.    Vaccine
352.    Violence
353.    Viral Hemorrhagic Fever
354.    Virus
355.    Warning
356.    Watch
357.    Water/air borne
358.    Wave
359.    Weapons cache
360.    Weapons grade
361.    Wildfire
362.    WMATA
363.    World Health Organization (WHO and components)
364.    Worm
365.    Yemen
366.    Yuma

The list is not final.  The manual notes, “As natural and manmade disasters occur, new search terms may be added.”

 

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Cuban oil drilling: preparedness with both hand tied behind our backs

Filed under: Catastrophes,International HLS — by Arnold Bogis on March 2, 2012

Have you ever done something in a particular way for so long that you just can’t imagine changing your habits?  Even if new developments in your life suggest that maybe it’s time for a change?

Well….Cuba is opening up it’s waters for oil drilling, we don’t talk or do business with Cuba, and in light of the BP oil spill some people are rightly getting pretty nervous.

As the Washington Post reported yesterday:

As energy companies from Spain, Russia and Malaysia line up to drill for oil in Cuban waters 60 miles from the Florida Keys, U.S. agencies are struggling to cobble together emergency plans to protect fragile reefs, sandy beaches and a multibillion-dollar tourism industry in the event of a spill.

Drawing up contingency plans to confront a possible spill is much more difficult because of the economic embargo against Cuba. U.S. law bars most American companies — including oil services and spill containment contractors — from conducting business with the communist island. The embargo, now entering its 50th year, also limits direct government-to-government talks.

As one oil industry executive put it:

“This is a case of Cold War ideology colliding with 21st-century environmental policy, and it is the environment that is at risk,” said Lee Hunt, president of the International Association of Drilling Contractors.

To put it in a bit of monetary perspective:

The Deepwater Horizon liabilities could exceed $43 billion. Containing the oil in Louisiana employed 5,000 vessels. Cuba’s total gross domestic product is $50 billion. Pinon said that Cuba, with a tiny navy and a thin coast guard, has only 5 percent of the resources needed to contain a spill approaching the size of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

“The U.S. Coast Guard is terrified,” he said.

The company first on (in?) the ground is Repsol, an apparently well respected Spanish firm. As former DHS Assistant Secretary Juliette Kayyem puts it (who, by the way, was all over this story last October):

Hopefully, the 2010 BP oil spill has terrified the industry enough that sheer self-preservation will make oil drillers ultra-cautious. Repsol, for its part, is a publicly traded powerhouse, with operations in 29 countries. But so, of course, was BP.

Other than the Coast Guard, Juliette sees others “worried” about these developments:

The real story here is how little these developments seem to matter to our lawmakers. The usual anti-Cuba congressional contingent, many from Florida, wrote a letter to the president of Repsol, expressing their serious concern with Repsol’s plans to “partner’’ with the “Castro regime.’’ The operations will provide “direct financial benefit to the Castro dictatorship.’’

Surely, that can’t be right?  A sovereign country has the right to drill for oil in waters internationally recognized to be it’s own, correct?  The important thing in this case would be to ensure that the best companies are unimpeded in their work and that contingencies are worked out in advance?  Back to the Post:

“This is a disaster waiting to happen, and the Obama administration has abdicated its role in protecting our environment and national security by allowing this plan to move forward,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Ros-Lehtinen and her colleagues sponsored legislation to deny visas to anyone who helps the Cubans advance their oil drilling plans. They have also sought to punish Repsol.

“We need to figure out what we can do to inflict maximum pain, maximum punishment, to bleed Repsol of whatever resources they may have if there’s a potential for a spill that would affect the U.S. coast,” Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) told in January a congressional subcommittee that oversees the U.S. Coast Guard.

Well so much for that reasoning. Thankfully, overcoming obstacles through creative diplomacy, some preparedness work is being accomplished:

Because of the embargo, the talks between Cubans, Repsol and the Coast Guard are taking place in the Bahamas and Curacao — not Havana or Miami — under the auspices of the U.N. International Maritime Organization, paid for by charitable donations from environmental groups and oil industry associations.

It seems to me that the U.S. has been trying to get rid of the Castros since President Eisenhower.  How has that worked out?  Perhaps it is time to let bygones be bygones and concentrate on the real threats to our safety and security.

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February 29, 2012

Mo’ Better Blues

Filed under: Organizational Issues,State and Local HLS — by Mark Chubb on February 29, 2012

The implicit social contract between government and the governed broke down decades ago for many Americans. As the electorate lost confidence in our political and appointed leaders’ empathy, integrity and wisdom, these leaders starting shifting attention from themselves to government employees.

At first, attention focused on whether government was doing things right. Increasingly, people question whether government is doing the right things. Our preoccupation has shifted from worrying that government was trying to do everything to wondering whether it can do anything. Many now question whether we even need government. And a good many more don’t care much one way or the other.

As we have traveled along this continuum from ambivalence to antipathy (and back), the public has rightly questioned both our purpose and our progress.

Many in power have framed public concerns in terms of two cardinal virtues: efficiency and accountability. And too many leaders have erroneously oversimplified this otherwise accurate prescription by translating it into the management mantra: “Do more with less.”

Anyone who has spent any time at all in public service has heard this mantra repeated often enough. Few find it soothing, even fewer find it inspiring.

The challenge for government is not doing more with less. The challenge for government has always been the same: How do we do better.

Any economist will tell you efficiency has nothing to do with less. It’s about minimizing losses, not inflicting them. An efficient economy maximizes aggregate welfare.

Welfare is far more a question of quality than it is a matter of quantity. Once you have enough, more makes less and less difference. Indeed, mounting evidence suggests more actually is less.

Because efficiency focuses on how much better off everyone is collectively, we need accountability to temper its application. Accountability without a sense of responsibility is retributive and irrational. As such, accountability demands equity, which focuses on increasing individual opportunity even if it means generating a little less welfare for all.

The challenge and opportunity for government is not in producing more for less. It is in maximizing aggregate welfare while promoting or advancing individual opportunity.

This is where things ought to get tricky, and does. Opportunity to do what?

The principal ideological and philosophical difference between those who support government and those who oppose it comes down to a difference of opinion about a single, simple expectation: Whether when given any opportunity people will look after themselves or others first.

This distinction should matter just as much to homeland security professionals as it does to politicians and ideological elites. How we operationalize “do better” depends very much on whether we assume individuals look to maximize their own opportunities or those of others.

When better assumes individuals look after themselves first, we have to worry about how far people will go to get what they want. We also have to worry what people will do to get what they need.

If we look after one another first, we have good cause to believe others will look after us. This eliminates or at least minimizes how much concern we should have about what people will do to meet their basic needs.

This still leaves us with the question of what people will do to get what they want. We cannot eliminate this concern for two reasons: 1) even someone with an altruistic orientation should reasonably strive to maximize gain, especially when the benefits are shared widely, and 2) one’s willingness to share will almost invariably vary depending on whether opportunities are expanding or contracting.

When things are good, people are in a better position to share. But to the surprise of many, they often do not.

As we’ve seen during the latest recession and long recovery, people will share even when (or perhaps especially because) it hurts. This may either be due to empathy or an expectation of future reciprocity. But whatever the reason, such benevolence can neither be overlooked nor taken for granted.

What then can we do to encourage renewed optimism in the capacity of government to promote if not do good by doing better? We can start by raising expectations rather than minimizing them. Instead of explaining what government cannot do, we should emphasize what it does better than the market.

To follow this up, we can show it’s not a question of quantity but quality that makes the difference. At a local level, this means less emphasis on response times and staffing and more on what we do to take care of people when they need help and have nowhere else to turn.

Finally, instead of arguing for employment conditions that give public workers more — more pay, more benefits, more security, we should emphasize the important part collective bargaining plays in ensuring equity and quality. Contracts bind both parties, not just management.

If we want to save the public service ethos, we need to start by sacrificing our egos.

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February 28, 2012

Merge the Army National Guard and the United States Army Reserve

Filed under: Homeland Defense — by Christopher Bellavita on February 28, 2012

Several years ago I came across a description of what homeland security looked like before our War for Independence:

[Early] settlers of the Thirteen colonies faced a variety of threats including Indians, Spaniards, Frenchmen, Hollanders and pirates. Lacking the resources to support fulltime soldiers, they met their defense needs with less costly militia. Twelve of thirteen colonies passed legislation requiring each adult male from 16 to 60 “…to own a modern weapon, train regularly with his neighbors, and stand ready to repel any attack on his colony.”

That’s where the National Guard came from:

The military organization we know today as the National Guard came into existence with a direct declaration on December 13, 1636. On this date, the Massachusetts General Court in Salem, for the first time in the history of the North American continent, established that all able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60 were required to join the militia. The North, South, and East Regiments were established with this order. The decree excluded ministers and judges. Simply stated, citizen-soldiers who mustered for military training could be and would be called upon to fight when needed.

Laws often evolve from well-intentioned actions, yet sometimes prove themselves to be ineffective. Given such odds, how could this possibly work?

The United States Army Reserve is a comparative newcomer, “formed [on] 23 April 1908 to provide a reserve of medical officers to the Army.”

Today’s post was written by Major Shane Crofts. He argues it is time for the two forces to merge.

Major Crofts serves as the Logistics Management Officer for the Wyoming Army National Guard.  This essay reflects his opinions, and does not reflect Army National Guard or DOD policy.

——————————-

My idea is to merge the Army National Guard (ARNG) and the United States Army Reserve (USAR) into one force.  In reality, this would mean integrating all USAR forces into the ARNG of the state the USAR resides.

There are so many similarities between these two Army reserve components that most outside observers don’t know the difference.  Both are trained, equipped, and organized the same way.  Each force consists of citizen-soldiers, employed full-time across all walks of life, who train periodically (typically one weekend/month and two weeks/year).

The only real difference is the authority creating the two forces.  USAR soldiers serve on Title X, under federal control at all times.  National Guard soldiers serve their Governors in Title 32 status, until mobilized for federal missions.

Army Reserve soldiers, many of them residing in the same communities as National Guard soldiers, normally don’t get mobilized for domestic missions — like disaster response — unless called upon for a national emergency by the President.  Conversely, National Guard soldiers can be immediately called upon by their respective Governors in a State Active Duty status for local emergencies.

Combining these forces would increase the number of military responders available for domestic missions by 70%.  In fact, after the initial turbulence of making the change I am suggesting, (which would be substantial), the efficiencies created by merging these forces would save taxpayer money, and greatly enhance our ability to respond to domestic emergencies, manmade or natural.

The National Guard traces its roots back to the Massachusetts militia formed in 1636.  As such, it is the oldest branch of our military.  National Guardsmen have participated in every campaign in America’s history. In addition to the distinguished overseas service of many National Guard units, guardsmen also serve a key role in Homeland Defense, and in domestic response to natural disasters and emergencies.  In this capacity National Guardsmen have been called upon to fight floods and forest fires, search for missing persons, perform counterdrug missions with local law enforcement, provide security at major events, and assist law enforcement with crowd control and riot response.

The National Guard consists of 355,000 soldiers located in more than 3,300 communities around the nation, and has more than 4,600 personnel deployed every day in support of domestic operations. As a force comprised of citizen-soldiers who live and work in the communities they serve in, Guardsmen routinely get called to support civilian authorities. This unique dual-role capability of supporting federal and state missions is the historical core competency of the NG.

The United States Army Reserve was established April 23, 1908 by Title 10 of the US code as a strategic reserve of the US Army.  As with the National Guard, the role of the USAR has been greatly enhanced since transitioning to an operational reserve after 9/11.

The USAR consists of more than 205,000 soldiers located in 1,100 Reserve Centers around the nation.  Close to 16,000 Army Reservists are deployed around the world, and almost 200,000 soldiers deployed since 9/11.

A 1993 agreement left the USAR with combat support units, and the NG with combat arms units, and a dual focus of wartime and domestic support. The core competency of the USAR is providing support units to the Army for federal mobilization, and its units include: theatre support, civil affairs, engineering, training divisions, and chemical and biological detection companies. It has more than two-thirds of the Army’s medical brigades, civil affair units, dental units, combat support hospitals; and nearly half of the Army’s Military Police, medical and supply units.  Many of these support units are considered critical dual use units identified by the National Guard Bureau as essential to every state to support state missions.  In fact, every one of National Guard Bureau’s “Essential 10” capabilities resides in the USAR.

This proposal offers substantial benefits to the Army National Guard.  Force structure brings resources, and the ARNG would stand to increase its presence in every state.  The ARNG would presumably absorb the Army Reserve’s budget ($8.1 Billion in 2011), and take control of its 6 installations and 1,100 Reserve Centers.  In addition, the ARNG would be the beneficiary of 16 operational commands, and 6 training commands, most of them commanded by two-star Generals. While current commanders will likely remain in place, these highly-sought after commands would enhance career opportunities for NG officers in the states in which they reside.

This idea will be unpopular to some people.  The US Army Reserve has struggled to maintain relevance since the elevation of the Chief of National Guard Bureau to a four-star General three years ago. A recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) gave the Chief of the NGB full membership in the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).  The US Army Reserve remains subordinate to the Army Chief of Staff.

The USAR has reorganized several times since 9/11 to reduce “overhead”, and has been reduced to a few two-star billets. The National Guard consists of 54 State Adjutant Generals, fully supported and resourced by 54 Governors and Congressional delegations from each state and territory.

The Office of the Chief of the Army Reserve, commanded by a 3-star General, and consisting of five General Officer positions, and eight Regional Support Commands, commanded by a two-star General would be rendered obsolete as peacetime headquarters whose functions would be assumed by the Joint Forces headquarters in the gaining states.  Reducing headquarters and peacetime “overhead” will create efficiencies, ultimately providing cost savings.

The Army also will likely oppose this concept.  National Guard soldiers are somewhat less accessible as a strategic reserve, since a Governor can theoretically reject federal mobilization of his/her NG forces.  In light of proposed budget and manpower cuts across the Army (up to 90,000 active duty soldiers proposed), the idea I am proposing in this essay should be considered.

While virtually transparent to the two organizations’ civilian “customers,” the internal transition could be painful across the board.  There will be impacts on manning, equipping, funding, facilities, and training.  Lifecycle management would be extremely important as headquarters and senior level positions are eliminated, and support personnel working in those headquarters transition to NG headquarters.

The two services wear identical uniforms, yet speak different languages, and have entirely different cultures.  The change I am proposing would need to be carefully planned and phased over 3-5 years, modeled after a corporate merger, with the idea of gaining efficiencies, but without the hostility of a takeover.

An extensive awareness campaign for all stakeholders is key, primarily focused on US Army Reserve soldiers to ensure they view the change as a positive opportunity rather than a negative reorganization.  It is also critically important to retain the historical lineage and honors of Army Reserve units.

Ideally, all USAR soldiers will be retained, and have increased career opportunities, while also greatly increasing the number and distribution of military first responders available to a Governor faced with a disaster.  In a constrained budget environment, the Department of the Army must look to create efficiencies by eliminating duplicative recruiting, training, mobilization, overhead, and facilities.  A successful merger will be measured by initial attrition and retention rates, command climate surveys, and success with recruiting goals.  Ultimately cost savings and increased readiness will be achieved.

Considering the costs associated with a large standing Army, a strong reserve component is more important than ever.  National Guardsmen and Reservists have contributed to every war our nation has ever been involved in, and are also a critical piece of the Homeland Security enterprise.  This merger is an idea that has been suggested and dismissed before.  But as we transition to a post-war environment, and face diminished resources, we should again consider the merging of the US Army Reserve and the Army National Guard.  It’s the right thing to do for national and homeland security, and it’s the right thing to do for our most important resource, our nation’s young citizen-soldiers.


 

 

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February 27, 2012

Nuclear blast simulator: NUKEMAP

Filed under: Catastrophes,General Homeland Security,Radiological & Nuclear Threats,WMD — by Arnold Bogis on February 27, 2012

Recently the web saw the emergence of a new online nuclear detonation simulator: NUKEMAP.

Created by Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science at the American Institute of Physics and blogger at “Restricted Data The Nuclear Secrecy Blog,” this simulator is the best example of an admittedly small class of apps. It allows one to pick the target and yield of the device, either through drop down boxes or by entering unique values.  For the sake of simplicity, it defaults with an idealized air burst which eliminates the computational messiness of modeling the influence of unique geography and weather.

So this isn’t your National Lab/FEMA 3-D model tailored to individual cityscapes.  But it gives you a general idea about the varying effects of different sizes of nuclear weapons.

The features, in Alex’s own words:

  • Easily draggable target marker (which has an adorable little atom on it)!
  • Bright, stomach-churning colors indicating major negative effects of atomic detonations!
  • Effects described include zones of 500 rem exposure, major overpressures, and fire! Plus, the legend breaks these down into easy-to-understand descriptions of what they mean for your average person caught inside of them.
  • Lots of pre-sets for both places to drop them (I didn’t want to discriminate) and yields of historical weapons! It has never been easier to put a 50Mt H-bomb on the Eiffel Tower.
  • Automatically tries to drop the bomb on wherever Google thinks you are accessing the Internet from (based on your IP address)!
  • You can link to specific detonations and send them to your friends to enjoy forever!
  • Automatic zooming to make sure that all of a given nuke’s effects fit within the view window! (This can be disabled.)
  • More historically contextualized than your average web app!

While obviously trying to inject some levity in the most serious of subjects, among Alex’s stated goals for this project was to visually explain the difference between fission and fusion weapons effects:

I have in the past made maps of this sort for use in teaching, when I want to emphasize how “impressive” the first hydrogen bomb was when compared to the first atomic bombs. If you dropped a Fat Man-style bomb onto downtown Boston, the results wouldn’t be pretty, but the effects would be limited to the immediate area surrounding the peninsula, primarily. (In other words, I would tell the students, Harvard is probably not too bad off, fallout excepting, but MIT is completely fried.) Do the same thing with an Ivy Mike-sized bomb and you’ve set houses on fire all the way out to Concord (a visual argument, when done with appropriate build-up and theatricality, that never failed to result in a horrified gasp from the auditorium of undergrads). It becomes quite clear why many of the atomic scientists of the day considered H-bombs to be exclusively genocidal weapons.

For homeland security planners what this simulator makes vivid is how the threat has changed since the end of the Cold War. Multiple Soviet warheads in the hundred kiloton or megaton range is a totally different story than a single nuclear terrorist device around the size of the Hiroshima bomb or even lower.  While any local and state response will be immediately overwhelmed, the current threats are still national  catastrophes than can and should be planned for at a regional level.

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A discussion on cybersecurity legislation

Filed under: Cybersecurity — by Arnold Bogis on February 27, 2012

Last week, the George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute (HSPI) held a “Conversation on Cybersecurity Legislation with Mike McConnell, Michael Chertoff, and Senior Congressional Staff.” Video of the event, along with background materials, can be found here: http://www.gwumc.edu/hspi/events/cyberPRF413.cfm

On one hand, the sausage-making portion of the discussion with congressional staff was interesting, if not too enlightening to one uninitiated in the dark legislative arts. On the other, former DHS Secretary Chertoff and former DNI McConnell seemed to echo some of Phil’s framing of the cyber issue in his last post.

Obviously, these two men fall into Phil’s descriptive pot “Those that may make money on increased attention to cybersecurity are in favor of the current proposal.” In fact, both gentlemen agreed that the current legislation is a start, but that more is required.  To be fair, both also have extensive knowledge of the threats and vulnerabilities involved in the cyber domain.

More interesting, to me at least, was their description of the issue of regulation vs. collaboration that serves to reinforce Phil’s frame.  To paraphrase Chertoff: “how can you expect a company that is worth $10 million to voluntarily spend $1 million on cyber security, despite the fact that the cascading vulnerabilities could cost the nation $10 billion?” While McConnell discussed the military’s initial aversion to Goldwater-Nichols reforms, now credited with producing a superior fighting force that not only collaborates because they have to, but because of the specific design of the system such cooperation is something they now want to accomplish.

Phil characterized it in his last post:

While the efficacy of the new bill is debatable, it is clear the current approach — depending almost entirely on voluntary collaboration — has not worked. The weakest links in the cybersecurity system are the least willing to show up, talk turkey, and truly collaborate in sharing information and changing behavior. What do you do when “pretty please”, earnest presentations on self-interest, and peer pressure do not work? What do you do when neglect by one “house” on the block endangers the safety of the entire block (or city)?

Sanctions are needed. But no matter how tough, sanctions will not be sufficient. Whatever sack of sanctions are available, unless the sanctions are used to craft collaboration (rather than mere compliance) cybersecurity will not be enhanced.  The threat of regulatory sanctions may encourage collaboration, but a rigid regulatory approach alone will only achieve minimal compliance, which in cyberspace will always lag behind new threats and vulnerabilities.

If you are interested in cybersecurity, I would highly recommend going back and re-reading Phil’s piece with his intriguing suggestion that cybersecurity lessons can be derived from the model of the Coast Guard: http://www.hlswatch.com/2012/02/24/creating-a-cyber-coast-guard/

Then watch the HSPI event, which may shed some light on the competing legislative priorities and processes that may, hopefully, someday result in a bill: http://www.gwumc.edu/hspi/events/cyberPRF413.cfm

Update:

One new item from today and one a few days old (h/t to Bill Cumming) on the cyber front.

The Washington Post reports on the tussle between the White House and NSA over the access and monitoring for threats/privacy rights divide:

The National Security Agency has pushed repeatedly over the past year to expand its role in protecting private-sector computer networks from cyberattacks but has been rebuffed by the White House, largely because of privacy concerns, according to administration officials and internal documents.

The most contentious issue was a legislative proposal last year that would have required hundreds of companies that provide critical services such as electricity generation to allow their Internet traffic be continuously scanned using computer threat data provided by the spy agency. The companies would have been expected to turn over evidence of potential cyberattacks to the government.

NSA officials portrayed these measures as unobtrusive ways to protect the nation’s vital infrastructure from what they say are increasingly dire threats of devastating cyberattacks.

But the White House and Justice Department argued that the proposal would permit unprecedented government monitoring of routine civilian Internet activity, according to documents and officials familiar with the debate. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe administration deliberations; internal documents reviewed by The Washington Post backed these descriptions.

A few days ago, the Government Security News website reported on remarks by former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden that covered topics not usually associated with cyber issues: mitigation, response, and recovery:

So, when Hayden says the U.S. may be spending too much time thinking about cyber vulnerabilities and not enough time thinking about the actual consequences of a successful cyber attack, it probably makes sense to pay attention.

“We may be at the point of diminishing returns by trying to buy down vulnerability,” the general observed. Instead, he added, maybe it’s time to place more emphasis on coping with the consequences of a successful attack, and trying to develop networks that can “self-heal” or “self-limit” the damages inflicted upon them.

“I cannot stop them at the perimeter,” Hayden acknowledged, “so, how do I deal with the fact that they are on the inside.”

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February 24, 2012

Creating a Cyber Coast Guard

Filed under: Congress and HLS,Cybersecurity,Private Sector — by Philip J. Palin on February 24, 2012

It is not yet clear if the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 will be taken up by the whole Senate — as previously announced — or disappear into committee review while under sustained attack by those opposed.

Senator John McCain, one of those opposed, has promised a competing piece of legislation:

The fundamental difference in our alternative approach is that we aim to enter into a cooperative relationship with the entire private sector through information sharing, rather than an adversarial one with prescriptive regulations. Our bill, which will be introduced when we return from the Presidents’ Day recess, will provide a common-sense path forward to improve our nation’s cybersecurity defenses.

Last Friday I outlined the perceived — in my judgment, real — tension between collaboration and compliance that any approach to effective cybersecurity will require. The real debate is over how to resolve this tension: with more dependence on voluntary cooperation or the threat of regulation. (To be clear, the proposal unveiled on February 14 by Senators Lieberman, Collins, and others does not create new regulations per se, but it does initiate a public-private process that would eventually create a regulatory regime.)

Some private sector organizations have welcomed the opportunity to frame-up the process, others are ready to do what they can to stop any movement to regulation. So far the private sector line-up on each side seems mostly to reflect revenue streams. Those that may make money on increased attention to cybersecurity are in favor of the current proposal, those that see cybersecurity mostly as a cost are opposed. (The cost-benefit discussion is, so far, not very sophisticated on either side.)

While the efficacy of the new bill is debatable, it is clear the current approach — depending almost entirely on voluntary collaboration — has not worked. The weakest links in the cybersecurity system are the least willing to show up, talk turkey, and truly collaborate in sharing information and changing behavior. What do you do when “pretty please”, earnest presentations on self-interest, and peer pressure do not work? What do you do when neglect by one “house” on the block endangers the safety of the entire block (or city)?

Sanctions are needed. But no matter how tough, sanctions will not be sufficient. Whatever sack of sanctions are available, unless the sanctions are used to craft collaboration (rather than mere compliance) cybersecurity will not be enhanced.  The threat of regulatory sanctions may encourage collaboration, but a rigid regulatory approach alone will only achieve minimal compliance, which in cyberspace will always lag behind new threats and vulnerabilities.

Whichever of the current sides win, execution will be key. The current legislation addresses execution primarily under Title III through a DHS National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications. The new entity would combine several existing offices, and would be directed by a Presidential appointee confirmed by the Senate. Here are the director’s duties enumerated in the current legislation:

(1) manage Federal efforts to secure, protect, and ensure the resiliency of the Federal information infrastructure, national information infrastructure, and national security and emergency preparedness communications infrastructure of the United States, working cooperatively with appropriate government agencies and the private sector;

(2) support private sector efforts to secure, protect, and ensure the resiliency of the national information infrastructure;

(3) prioritize the efforts of the Center to address the most significant risks and incidents that have caused or are likely to cause damage to the Federal information infrastructure, the national information infrastructure, and national security and emergency preparedness communications infrastructure of the United States;

(4) ensure, in coordination with the privacy officer designated under subsection (j), the Privacy Officer appointed under section 222, and the Director of the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties appointed under section 705, that the activities of the Center comply with all policies, regulations, and laws protecting the privacy and civil liberties of United States persons; and

(5) perform such other duties as the Secretary may require relating to the security and resiliency of the Federal information infrastructure, national information infrastructure, and the national security and emergency preparedness communications infrastructure of the United States.

Title III continues for another 28 pages. Included under Authorities and Responsibilities of the Center, “serve as the focal point for, and foster collaboration between, the Federal Government, State and local governments, and private entities on matters relating to the security of the national information infrastructure.”

On page 114 of the proposed legislation a supervisor training program for the Center is set out. The current language suggests Senator Akaka and his staff have persisted in pushing his perennial concerns. It’s all good. It could be better.

The currently proposed training program  is mostly internally focused. I suggest language be added to focus on mission achievement. Consider for a moment a supervisor training curriculum focused on just one of the duties listed above, ” support private sector efforts to secure, protect, and ensure the resiliency of the national information infrastructure”

What is the nature of the private sector?

What are the private sector’s current efforts related to cyberspace?

What does “secure”, “protect”, and “ensure the resiliency” of cyberspace mean?

What is the national information infrastructure?

What does it mean to “support” the private sector? Why this verb rather than another?

That would be an interesting — valuable — curriculum.   Develop similar curricula around each of the statutory goals, include private sector participants in the curriculum… and a whole new approach to private-public collaboration might be cultivated.

This curriculum should  include a heavy dose of culture, a culture of private-public collaboration.  If the Center becomes a cyber-SEC none of us will be any safer.   Cybersecurity cannot focus on accountability after-the-fact.  The focus must be on cultivating a culture of prevention and resilience, not compliance.

For this purpose, I propose the Akaka Academy for Cybersecurity give close attention to the way the Coast Guard cultivates a collaborative relationship with owners and operators of marine vessels. Just for a taste of what I mean, consider the implications of the following written instruction from a Coast Guard flag officer… and this is not atypical, this approach is entirely consistent with  standard Coast Guard practice.

The Coast Guard’s objective is to administer vessel inspection laws and regulations so as to promote safe, well equipped vessels that are suitable for their intended service. It is not the Coast Guard’s intent to place unnecessary economic and operational burdens upon the marine industry. In determining inspection requirements and procedures, inspection personnel must recognize and give due consideration to the following factors:

  • Delays to vessels, which can be costly, need to be balanced against the risks imposed by continued operation of the vessel, with safety of life, property, and the environment always the predominant factor over economics;
  • Certain types of construction, equipment, and/or repairs are more economically advantageous to the vessel operator and can provide the same measure of safety;
  • Some repairs can be safely delayed and can be more economically accomplished at a different place and time;
  • The overall safety of a vessel and its operating conditions, such as route, hours of operations, and type of operation, should be considered in determining inspection requirements;
  • Vessels are sometimes subject to operational requirements of organizations and agencies other than the Coast Guard; and
  • A balance must be maintained between the requirements of safety and practical operation. Arbitrary decisions or actions that contribute little to the vessel’s safety and tend to discourage the construction or operation of vessels must be avoided.

I know of no better example of effective private-public collaboration than that of the U.S. Coast Guard with the industry it helps regulate, serve, and sometimes save.  It is a cultural model well-suited to the cyber domain.

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