It was billed as a McCarthy era smear against an innocent religious minority and likened to an attack against all Muslims and a propaganda win for al-Qaeda, which would claim the event proves that America is at war with Islam. The incident spawning such wrath was House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King’s (R-NY) hearing on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response.” Most of the criticism fluctuated between King’s use of the term “Muslim” in the hearing’s title and the focus on Muslim extremism as opposed to all forms of “violent extremism.”
Given the hysteria leading up to the hearing one might have expected Chairman King to appear in a white hood calling for the internment of all Muslims in America. In truth, when it came to Chairman King and most of the witnesses, the hearing was no different than numerous other hearings that have been held on the same topic. The witness list was conventional – the Sheriff of Los Angeles County, two Congressmen, the leader of a Muslim advocacy group, and the fathers of two American Muslim men who became radicalized and violent. Despite the attacks against Chairman King, he is not the first to use such language in his hearing’s title or focus on this topic.
The Senate Homeland Security Committee, chaired by Joe Lieberman (I-CT), held a hearing in March 2009 entitled “Violent Islamist Extremism: Al-Shabaab Recruitment in America,” which covered a specific sub-set of the larger Muslim radicalization issue in America that Chairman King focused on. The Obama Administration’s witness at the Senate hearing even used the hearing’s title in his testimony. There was little uproar at the time, and while Senator Lieberman has been attacked for his views on the need to confront radical Islamists, there was nothing even approaching the ferocity of the verbal assaults unleashed against Chairman King.
Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first witness and vocal critic of Chairman King’s hearing, and the only Muslim elected to Congress, culminated his testimony with a straw man argument as he described the death of New York paramedic Mohammed Salman Hamdani who died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Congressman Ellison claimed Hamdani was originally smeared as a co-conspirator in the 9/11 attacks because he was a Muslim (the facts supporting this alleged smear are themselves questionable) and that Chairman King’s hearing was the moral equivalent of that smear, only the hearing smeared all Muslims in America. However, as Chairman King said in his opening statement:
I have repeatedly said the overwhelming majority of Muslim-Americans are outstanding Americans and make enormous contributions to our country. But there are realities we cannot ignore. For instance, a Pew Poll said that 15% of Muslim-American men between the age of 18 and 29 could support suicide bombings. This is the segment of the community al-Qaeda is attempting to recruit.
Despite disturbing findings in the 2007 Pew Research Center poll and contrary to Congressman Ellison, Chairman King’s hearing in no way suggested that all Muslims are terrorists or that all violent extremists are Muslims. Thus, to put forward the heroic acts of a Muslim paramedic who sacrificed his life on 9/11 to save others is irrelevant to a hearing focused on the real threat of some Muslims in America being susceptible to violent radicalization including the roughly 190 Muslims who have engaged in Islamist based terrorism inside the U.S. since 9/11. Such terrorism has ranged from attempted bombings of office buildings in Dallas, Times Square and Christmas celebrations in Portland, Oregon, etc.
The reason the House Committee needed to have the hearing and its title is because radical Islamists are the very reason the Committee exists. The House Homeland Security Committee, like the Department of Homeland Security, the National Counter Terrorism Center, the Director of National Intelligence, the Defense Department’s Homeland Defense and Northern Command structure, the FBI’s National Security Branch, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and predator drone strikes in Yemen and elsewhere, were all borne out the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the ongoing threat posed by radical Islamists. These actions and agencies are not the result of the Columbine school shooting, anti-government right wing extremists, the mafia, the Ku Klux Klan, street gangs, neo-Nazis, or any other reason. Nor have any of these groups sought and received religious blessings and claimed it is their religious duty to acquire nuclear weapons and use them against the United States as has al-Qaeda.
When pressed, even Congressman Ellison has conceded the validity of holding hearings exclusively on Islamic radicalization in America as long as such hearings don’t refer specifically to Muslims or Islam in the hearing’s title. For example, Congressman Ellison said he would have no concern with a hearing on al-Qaeda in America. But this is exactly what Chairman King’s hearing was all about, and yet, because the hearing used the word Muslim in its title, Mr. Ellison and others fell off the deep end and questioned the legitimacy of the hearing’s content.
On the one hand it seems simple enough to accommodate Congressman Ellison and others who appear only to want the removal of the words Muslim or Islam in the title of any investigation into Muslim or Islamic inspired violence and to have such violence investigated in the larger context of “violent extremism.” However, to make such an accommodation would be akin to putting one’s head in the sand and pretending the threat posed by radical Islamists is entirely divorced from Islam and is of a type no different from conventional street gangs. It was this head in the sand approach that allowed Major Nidal Malik Hasan to run amok inside the U.S. Army for years talking about decapitating infidels while no one did anything to interdict him. Major Hasan’s radicalization ended in the murder of thirteen people at Fort Hood.
Congressman King has promised more hearings on Muslim radicalization in America. This is critically important as the United States tries to better understand a phenomenon which, if it consumed just one half of 1% of the estimated 1.5 million Muslims 18 or older in the U.S., could result in 7,500 violent radicals. Just nineteen men and their handlers killed nearly three thousand people in a matter of hours on 9/11. For that reason, Chairman King should call Muslims from across the U.S. to assist his Committee and the Nation in confronting this threat. For in the end, as was stated by Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Muslim Forum for Democracy, and witness at the hearing; Muslims must be on the front lines in confronting and defeating those Muslims who would slaughter innocents in the name of Islam.
It is odd to be discussing the proposed Federal FY 2012 budget while the FY 2011 budget remains in limbo or what we in Washington call a CR (continuing resolution). Despite no FY 2011 budget, on Monday, the Obama Administration released its proposed FY 2012 budget of which roughly $3.8 billion is slated for state and local homeland security grants and programs.
For 2012, the Obama Administration proposes cutting approximately $300 million from the FY 2010 grant budget (the last Congressionally enacted appropriation for DHS). While the cuts to the grants are real, the FY 2012 grant budget is a very reasonable proposal given the current state of the national debt and annual deficits. Some programs actually see an increase while others are slated for termination. The following is a summary of the key elements of the President’s FY 2012 proposed budget and what it means.
The Homeland Security Grant Program
The Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) is the largest of the grants and consists of four independent grant programs: Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), State Homeland Security Program (SHSP), Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS), and Citizen Corps Program (CCP). While UASI at $920 million, SHSP at $1 billion and CCP at $13 million are each slated for an increase in funding over FY 2010 actual appropriations, MMRS is put on the chopping block for termination with its program elements rolled into SHSP. The effects of zeroing out MMRS are several.
First, by zeroing out MMRS and rolling it into SHSP, the Administration could actually reduce the net increase of its proposed SHSP funding by $39 million, which has been the annual appropriation for MMRS for several years. That assumes that the States would actually spend $39 million on MMRS activities, which is something the States may or may not do under the President’s budget.
Second, in the past, MMRS has been a targeted grant insofar as the cities or MMRS jurisdictions were predetermined for funding and have developed MMRS committees and other infrastructure to manage the program. Whether these committees would stay in existence is impossible to know for sure, but most likely several would not as the funds would be managed by the States with no statutory requirement to fund the MMRS jurisdictions (DHS may have the authority to carve out funding administratively).
Third, the Obama Administration is not the first to try and zero out MMRS. For several years the Bush Administration tried to do the same thing only to have Congress reject the proposal and fund MMRS as a stand alone program. My money is on Congress stepping in and doing the same this year although it may be a closer call than in years past given the budget crisis.
While the Administration has proposed once again to end MMRS as a stand alone program, it has reversed itself on doing the same to the CCP. In the President’s proposed FY 2011 budget, CCP was slated for termination along with MMRS and several other programs. Not so in FY 2012 where CCP is set for a small increase. One suspects this is based on the priority FEMA and the Administration have now given to community preparedness and resiliency, which likely spared CCP from the guillotine during the Administration’s internal budget deliberations.
Infrastructure Protection Grants
Along with UASI and SHSP, the infrastructure protection grants – Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP), the Port Security Grant Program (PSGP) and the Buffer Zone Protection Program (BZPP) are the other big winners under the President’s proposed budget. For 2012, both TSGP and PSGP are funded at $300 million each (a $16 million increase for each program) with BZPP coming in at $50 million, a $2 million increase over prior years.
Border Security Grants
Operation Stonegarden, the program designed to fund state and local border security operations in coordination with the U.S. Border Patrol, is funded at $50 million, a $10 million cut from the FY 2010 actual appropriation.
At $670 million, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program takes a $106 million haircut compared to what it received in FY 2010. However, the $670 million request for FY 2012 is a $60 million increase beyond what the Administration asked for in FY 2011 ($610 million) for the AFG program. The AFG is the third largest grant program among all the grants now managed by DHS.
Emergency Management Grants
The Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) does well under the President’s proposal at $350 million, which is a $12 million increase over the FY 2010 actual appropriation. Given that EMPG itself was once on the chopping block several years ago it has come a long way and is now among the largest grants managed by DHS.
The Grant Graveyard
In addition to MMRS, the Administration is proposing to send several grants the way of the dodo bird. They are: the Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program (IECGP), the Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program (RCPGP), Driver’s License Security or Real ID grants, Emergency Operations Center (EOC) grants, and a hand full of other smaller programs. All of these grants, except for the RCPGP, were also pegged for termination in the Administration’s FY 2011 proposed budget. As then, the Administration seeks to roll up the activities funded by these grants under the SHSP, which is set to receive an increase in funding. However, by rolling these programs into the SHSP, the Administration’s “increase” in funding for SHSP begins to drop in real terms as activities once funded under separate grants are now set to eat into the funding pie under SHSP on top of the previously funded SHSP activities. Assuming the President’s proposal comes to fruition, roughly $238 million in activities previously funded under the terminated grants will now fall under SHSP if those activities are to be funded at all.
While I agree with the Administration’s proposal to eliminate the EOC, Driver’s License/Real ID, IECGP and the other smaller programs, I have concerns with the decision to eliminate RCPGP and MMRS. Both RCPGP and MMRS require integrated planning and other activities that foster regional collaboration and capabilities that may otherwise not exist. In other words, it’s not simply a matter of rolling the activities allowable under each grant into SHSP, but rather, ensuring the funding and infrastructure created to manage the programs is sustained as well.
While sustainment of that infrastructure is possible by rolling the MMRS and RCPGP into SHSP, it is not clear from the Administration’s proposal that it will happen. As for the cost of keeping MMRS and RCPGP - $39 million for MMRS and $34 million for RCPGP – Congress could offset the costs by spreading a $73 million cut across EMPG, AFG, TSGP and PSGP, which would have little negative impact on any of those programs. That $73 million could be used to fund MMRS and RCPGP as stand alone grants or as carve outs in SHSP with clear direction in SHSP grant guidance to maintain the projects and infrastructure currently in place.
While cutting nearly $300 million from FY 2010 actual spending, the FY 2012 proposed homeland security grant budget is reasonable and could have been a lot worse for States and localities. However, deeper cuts could be enacted, as the President’s numbers are simply the opening salvo in a long and twisted dance between the Executive and Legislative branches of government. A dance so twisted it’s still ongoing concerning the FY 2011 budget. The FY 2012 budget won’t be passed before October 1, 2011 (if it’s passed at all) and a lot can change between now and then as we gear up for the 2012 presidential election.
Finally, the following is a link to the Administration’s FY 2012 DHS proposed budget released on Monday. The grants are listed on page 537.
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It’s no secret the U.S. Government has been running its largest annual budget deficits in history, $1.5 trillion in FY 2011, all the while amassing over $14 trillion in total national debt. The new Congress, particularly the Republican controlled House of Representatives, is determined to significantly cut discretionary spending this fiscal year and beyond. How this will impact DHS homeland security grants to states and localities is unclear.
What is clear is that since the creation of the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) program and other DHS grants, states and localities have not done a particularly good job of educating Congress and the public on the significant benefits these programs provide to our nation’s security. This may result in the UASI program and other homeland security grants facing cuts in FY 2011 and 2012 as Washington attempts to right it wayward fiscal ship. Such a result is not preordained.
All federal grant programs have constituencies that benefit from such programs – law enforcement, fire service, emergency management, public health, transportation, etc. In most cases these constituencies are organized nationally for a number of reasons, not least of which to educate and advocate before Congress and the Administration on behalf of their programs.
For example, emergency managers, as part of the National Emergency Management Association and International Association of Emergency Managers, lobby hard for Emergency Management Performance Grants; the fire service through the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the International Association of Fire Fighters support the Assistance to Firefighter Grants; and law enforcement through the International Association of Chiefs of Police and National Sheriffs Association, among others, for Community Oriented Policing grants, etc. Not so when it comes to most homeland security grants. There is no nationally organized group representing homeland security directors at the State level and/or UASI managers at the local level.
Today, individual States and UASI jurisdictions often advocate on homeland security issues in a vacuum focusing on a specific member of their Congressional delegation or member of the Administration. This fragmented approach fails to present a unified national position on key issues. States and Urban Areas simply do not take advantage of the basic premise of “strength in numbers.” Thus, homeland security professionals lack the ability to adequately influence policy on a national scale in Washington, DC including, for example, fully funding the UASI program at authorized levels.
There may now be an opportunity to change this. Starting in 2005, several Urban Areas started an annual UASI conference to share information and best practices. The 2011 National UASI Conference is being held in San Francisco in June. Recently, the conference has organized as a non-profit under the Internal Revenue Code. This annual conference and the people it brings together serve as an excellent foundation to build a National Homeland Security Association (NHSA) focused on ensuring that the voices of the Urban Areas, States and other homeland security officials are heard in the federal policy and budget-making process.
A NHSA would provide a network for homeland security professionals to share best practices; coordinate on projects; respond to specific informational and analytical requests from the association’s members; serve as a clearinghouse for information about Congressional and Administration policy, funding and legislative developments; and serve as a liaison to the homeland security business community, etc.
At this moment, some States and UASI regions, such as California and the San Francisco Bay Area UASI, are trying to educate Congress and organize other UASI regions. As California and the Bay Area move to build momentum, it’s important for other UASI’s and States to support them. The cause of supporting the UASI program is not hard to sell. It’s simply a matter of educating policy makers, the media and the public at large on the benefits it and other homeland security grant programs provide, as opposed to the usual drumbeat in the media that the grant funds haven’t been spent fast enough.
The UASI and other homeland security grants have been invaluable in building not only local, regional and statewide capabilities and collaboration, but also national level resources to prevent, protect against, respond to and recover from threats and acts of terrorism and other catastrophic hazards. This includes intelligence fusion centers, critical infrastructure protection programs, urban search and rescue teams, regional planning, and statewide exercises involving local, state, tribal and federal participants. The grant programs have brought cities, counties, tribes, states and federal partners together in ways no other programs before or since have. Such benefits and capabilities simply would not exist without these grant programs and will dissipate without them.
Congress has tough decisions to make about where to cut the federal budget. As it makes those decisions, it needs to be accurately informed about which programs work and those that don’t. The House Republicans have said they do not want to impose across the board spending cuts, as such an approach wrongly treats all federal programs the same in terms of their value. With the UASI program and other homeland security grants, States and Urban Areas should have a sympathetic ear in Congress if the States and Urban Areas can speak with a compelling and unified voice. >
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Despite the current uproar, TSA has imposed many sensible and effective regulations for aviation security and the agency is operating under incredible pressure to help keep the massive U.S. aviation industry both running and secure. Screening of people and bags is better today than it was on 9/11. The increased and strategic use of onboard air marshals, hardened cockpit doors, armed pilots, trained flight attendants, and more vigilant passengers has made it far more difficult for anyone to highjack a U.S. jetliner as occurred on 9/11. However, because of that success, today’s battle to secure aviation is largely focused on preventing planes from being bombed from within by ever more elaborate terrorist methods.
As I wrote on this blog after the 2009 Christmas day attempted underwear bombing, full body scanners have a legitimate place in aviation security, assuming proper protocols for their use are in place. The same is even true of enhanced pat downs. With the scanners, so long as the image is viewed by someone who cannot see or know who the individual being scanned is, and the image is not stored on the machine, privacy issues are reduced. In addition, the technology used in Europe that renders the image nothing more than a stick figure is evolving to the point that it may replace the current machines in use by TSA, further reducing privacy issues. Despite all that, there is a fundamental underlying problem with how TSA employed both the new pat downs and the scanners and it's not new.
Risk Based or Random?
TSA’s current protocols for using full body scanners and the full body pat downs are not sufficiently risk based, unless you believe that by not knowing exactly who the terrorists are, everyone could be a terrorist. Application of the scanners can take place randomly or en masse depending on the airport or check point line. I know this, in part, because I’m a frequent flyer who poses no threat to my flights, and yet, I have gone through a full body scanner without failing any prior level of screening. Moreover, my selection for additional screening was part of a long line of people in front of and behind me who just happened to be in the line with the scanner. There was little or no judgment employed by TSA personnel in terms of who was selected for scanning or pat downs.
Unfortunately, the current use of full body scanners and pat downs is actually consistent with TSA’s longstanding approach to security screening. After 9/11 all passengers and their bags were screened for box cutters and knives. Later that year, in 2001, after the “shoe bomber” tried to blow up a jetliner over the Atlantic we were all required to remove our shoes before boarding our flights. In 2006, after a group of British Islamic radicals plotted to use liquid based explosives to destroy a slew of transatlantic flights we were all limited in the liquids and gels we could bring on our flights. And now, after the Christmas Day panty bomber, far too many travelers are being subjected to full body scanners and pat downs to try and find bombs in their underwear, which the scanners alone may or may not be able to detect. What happens to the flying public when a terrorist tries to smuggle explosives on board a plane through his anal cavity?
Things or People?
We have to decide if aviation security is about primarily screening out dangerous people or dangerous things. Thus far, it has been about the latter even though whether a thing is a threat to aviation depends very much on who is controlling it. A gun in the hand of a trained pilot or air marshal is not the same as a gun in the hand of a terrorist.
Despite its focus on things, TSA’s ability to screen out dangerous items has been mixed at best with numerous studies showing how screeners over the years missed a high percentage of fake bombs smuggled by government inspectors through the checkpoints, many in carry-on luggage, which scanners and pat downs would have no impact on. Interestingly, private screeners at San Francisco’s airport in 2007 were three times less likely to miss the bomb making material than their government counterparts.
TSA has also failed to stop known terrorists from boarding aircraft. After trying to blow up his SUV in Times Square in May of this year, Faisal Shahzad was a wanted man placed on the “No Fly List.” Yet, he was able to buy a last minute ticket and board an international flight with little luggage while traveling alone as he tried to escape to Pakistan. Only U.S. Customs agents prevented his escape by checking his flight’s passenger manifest.
...And Secondary Screening for All!
The real threat to aviation comes not from inanimate objects nor is it universal or random. While it is appropriate to apply a reasonable baseline level of screening to all passengers, when it comes to secondary screening it must be risked based and at the core of the risk is a very small group of people. This does not mean that we never put a child or an elderly grandmother through secondary screening. Intelligence and terrorist tactics can change as evidenced by the 2006 liquid based explosives plot in which the terrorists at least contemplated using their wives and infant children as mules to get the explosives onboard the airplanes. However, from the start of TSA, it has at times been putting the elderly in wheel chairs through secondary screening, but you will not hear anyone from the intelligence community say there has been a steady stream of intelligence going back to 9/11 telling us of a mass array of wheel chair bound suicide bombing grannies.
When TSA pats down a child, enhanced or otherwise, or a national news anchor, or an elderly woman in a wheel chair, or a Member of the House or Senate, etc., it has several deleterious effects. First, it is too often a waste of time and resources better spent on screening high risk passengers who might otherwise get through. Second, it can undermine the credibility of TSA and homeland security generally because those witnessing the event know it’s usually a waste of time and yet the government appears compelled to do it anyway.
There is hope. TSA recently announced that the agency will no longer subject uniformed pilots to full body scanners or enhanced pat downs. Children under twelve will also no longer be subject to the enhanced pat downs, however, they can still be physically searched. Of course, screening pilots in this way made no sense from the start. Pilots control the aircraft and in some cases are armed to protect themselves and the plane. The key to screening a pilot is confirming identity.
Human Judgment and Suspicious Behavior
A recent CBS News poll found that just 37% of Americans support ethnic profiling at the airport, with 51% opposed, a virtual flip in the numbers from January 2010. But this is the wrong question. Profiling based on religion or race alone is almost impossible since religion is not delineated on State drivers’ licenses, and most Americans cannot distinguish between a Pakistani Muslim and a Hindu from India simply on sight. Moreover, many Muslims, including those from Albania and Chechnya appear Caucasian.
While purely racial and ethnic profiling would almost certainly miss potential threats, there are factors that can and should be taken into account as part of a layered security approach. Virtually every Islamist terrorist from 9/11 on that has tried to highjack or self-detonate on an airliner has been a male roughly between the ages of 18 and 35. They have also traveled to Muslim countries for training and indoctrination. Does this mean that all Muslim men between 18 and 35 are terrorists? Of course not. Does it mean a 22 year old exchange student from Pakistan should be put under greater scrutiny at the security check point than an 80 year old grandfather from Nebraska? Absolutely.
TSA has a plan for its screeners to spot suspicious behavior among airline passengers. This has to include more and better questioning of people at the airport, in the security line and at the checkpoint to determine who should undergo secondary screening. It should also be done in partnership with local airport police. Being able to spot suspicious activity is an important layer of security that does work. It helped stop millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam at Port Angeles in Washington State when a U.S. Customs Inspector saw that Ressam was nervous and sweating despite the extremely cold weather at the time. As a result, the Custom’s Inspector ordered Ressam to secondary screening where inspectors found explosives bound for Los Angeles International Airport in Ressam’s trunk.
What saved LAX from bombing was not advanced technology or the random or mass secondary screening of border crossers. Instead, it was the effective training and good judgment of a federal law enforcement officer who sensed something was wrong. Today, many aviation passengers sense something is wrong as they are subjected to screening that does not fit their risk profile or on-scene behavior. TSA has begun to walk back some of their initial protocols for body scanners and pat downs and they deserve credit for that. Congress and the public must continue to ask questions and voice their concerns as we all try and find the right balance between privacy and effective security in the air.
It has long been the case that technology outpaces the law. When the founders ratified the 4th Amendment in 1791 to protect against unreasonable government searches and seizures, they could not have imagined the use of land line telephones let alone encrypted video teleconferencing. Despite all the changes in technology over the last century, U.S. law has usually caught up ensuring that government's ability to protect the public through electronic surveillance of criminals and other threats has been consistent with the principles articulated in the 4th Amendment and with private property rights generally.
In 2010, technology has once again leaped passed the law, and it has done so in an age of global terrorism and international criminal organizations. Terrorists and criminals now regularly use the internet, including social networking sites, such as Facebook, peer-to-peer messaging, e.g., Skype, and wireless hand-held devices, such as a Blackberry to communicate via encrypted technology making it harder for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to monitor their conversations. As with the advent of the land line telephone, we can and must find the right balance today between public safety, free enterprise and freedom of communication and speech.
According to the New York Times, in order to close legal and technical gaps in electronic surveillance, the Obama Administration will propose a series of changes in 2011 to communications law. These include requiring communications services that encrypt messages to provide a way to unscramble them; foreign-based providers doing business inside the U.S. would have to install a domestic office capable of performing intercepts; and developers of software that enable peer-to-peer communication would have to redesign their service to allow for interception. The government's ability to access the information would still be subject to court approval. In fact, the proposal is not so much an expansion of government authority, but rather, application of established government authority in a new medium.
While the need for the law to sync up with technology is very real, there are still questions and potential unintended consequences that must be addressed prior to the Administration's proposal coming to pass. For example, the costs associated with changing the technical design of some of these systems could be very large and would likely be passed onto consumers, assuming companies could even absorb the costs in the first place. Does the risk of terrorists evading current government surveillance techniques warrant such a large disruption to the technology or are there other reasonable alternatives? The United Arab Emirates (UAE) recently concluded no such alternatives exist and threatened to block all of BlackBerry's e-mail and text messaging services in the UAE unless Research In Motion, (RIM), the Canadian maker of Blackberry, created technical "backdoors" to allow law enforcement to eavesdrop on the company's users. Talks between the UAE and RIM are ongoing.
There is also the risk that criminal hackers, rogue governments and even terrorists could exploit the technological backdoors established for law enforcement. This creates not a privacy versus security concern as much as a security versus security clash. The purpose of encrypted files and communications is to ensure unauthorized personnel don't have access to the information and the very notion of a "backdoor" could result in little more than a self imposed vulnerability exploited by the very people the backdoor is designed to help stop. In an age where cyber crime and terrorism are actually growing, it would be a sad irony if the U.S. actually weakened cyber security in an attempt to strengthen homeland security.
We have seen challenges involving the law and technology before, and we have overcome them while maintaining innovation and privacy. In 1994, Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act. The act was designed to bring the law in-line with advancements in technology by giving law enforcement the same wire-tapping authority over digital networks and cell phones as had been the case for traditional land line telephones. Despite dire warnings from some groups, cell phone innovation did not stop and privacy was not eviscerated. In fact, communications technology has progressed so far and fast that we are once again at a place where it has outpaced the law to the point of potentially undermining homeland security.
The innovation and progress generated under the internet has been monumental and any changes to it today must be done with great care and understanding. At the same time, we cannot allow the internet to become a "free plotting zone" where terrorists and criminals can hatch plots with the safety of knowing that law enforcement agencies either lack the ability to intercept their communications or cannot read the intercepted communications because of encryption or can't decipher the information in a timely manner to stop the next attack.
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I did not know Brain Cannizzaro in life but I had the privilege of eulogizing him in death. Like so many firefighters on September 11, 2001, Brian died while trying to save others. With so many deaths occurring on that terrible day among firefighters and police officers, then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani could not attend all of the funerals in person. As such, he had members of his cabinet attend several of the funerals on his behalf. Brian's was the funeral I attended and spoke at in Staten Island.
Brian was just one month younger than me. He was born in December 1970. He died just a few blocks from me when the twin towers came down. As I spoke at his funeral, I could only imagine the pain his family must be going through. I knew then that it is unnatural for a parent to bury a child, a fact I understand even more having become a parent myself. Brian left behind his wife Jackie and son Christopher. A memorial fund was created in Brian's honor.
What I remember most about the eulogy was what I said about Brian's character as a firefighter. It was something Mayor Giuliani had spoken of at many firefighter funerals before:
Firefighters defy every basic human instinct when they rush into a burning building. As they search for victims, they do not ask what race or nationality you are, what religion you practice, or what income bracket you fall under. Rather, they act simply to save lives while risking their own. Their acts of bravery represent the best in us even if they must respond and often die as a result of the worst among humanity.
Brian Cannizzaro would have turned forty this year. His death reminds us all that those that perished on September 11, 2001 are not simply statistics in the worst act of terror in history. Each was a person with a history and life cut short. Had he lived, Brian and I may have never crossed paths, but I will never forget the honor of thanking him and his family for the sacrifice he made for us all.
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Faisal Shahzad, a recently naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, has been arrested for the attempted car bombing of Times Square on May 1st. While the investigation is far from over, the attempted terrorist attack raises the question once again of whether our homeland security system worked in this latest case. To answer that question, one must examine the system's actions through each phase of the homeland security continuum: prevention, protection, response and recovery.
When it comes to homeland security and counter-terrorism the most important phase is prevention. While the bombing has been relegated to an "attempt" since the bomb did not actually explode and no one was killed or injured; there can be little doubt the system failed in this phase insofar as it was unable to prevent a terrorist from parking and then igniting a vehicle borne improvised explosive device in the heart of Times Square on a busy Saturday night.
Some may argue that it was the alert street vendor who notified police of the smoking SUV that helped prevent this attack. However, had the bomb worked properly inside an SUV with tinted windows, it's highly unlikely that even the street vendor's alerting police would have done any good or even if the vendor would have had time to do so. Indeed, the vendor would likely have been the first person killed. In truth, while the vendor's actions were highly laudable, it was nothing short of the bomb maker's failure that averted mass carnage.
Another element of the system that needs to be more closely examined for potential failure in this case is the immigration and naturalization process. Shahzad is a naturalized citizen meaning he had to go through what is supposed to be a rigorous process from student, to worker, to permanent resident, to citizen, with a deep background check along the way. Shahzad's path to citizenship ended in April 2009 and was expedited by virtue of his marrying a U.S. citizen. Whether this marriage was a sham, as has been done in numerous other terror cases, must be thoroughly reviewed.
While the homeland security system failed to prevent Shahzad from attempting to execute his terrorist plot, a more subtle question is whether it was reasonable for the system to have done so. In other words, while the attack was not prevented was it realistically preventable? The post event investigation into Shahzad is already starting to yield clues, some of which may or may not turn out to be true, apparently missed by intelligence and security agencies leading up to May 1st.
The Obama Administration has now stated that Shahzad is an operative of the al-Qaeda linked Tahrik-e-Taliban who trained Shahzad in Waziristan before dispatching him to the U.S. in February of this year. Shahzad's plot allegedly started as far back as December 2009, if not earlier. ABC News is reporting that Shahzad may have had contacts with the al-Qaeda recruiter, Anwar Awlaki, among other terror leaders. In addition, there are reports Shazhad conducted at least one dry run in Times Square before he went "live" on May 1st. Finally, according to CBS News, from 1999 to 2008, Shahzad was on a U.S. Customs watch list - Traveler Enforcement Compliance System for having brought large sums of cash into the U.S.
There is no doubt that stopping men like Shahzad is no easy task. Doing so is often the equivalent of trying to find a single needle among multiple haystacks. Thus, whether this specific attack was reasonably preventable is not yet clear. It's a matter of what intelligence and security agencies knew or should have known and when, and what they did as a result of what they knew.
None of the cameras, barriers, security guards or police was enough to deter Shahzad from rolling up in his SUV and leaving it parked illegally in Times Square with a home made bomb inside it. Thus, protection as a form of deterrence failed in this case. Protection as a form of mitigation was not tested in this instance as the bomb did not detonate. However, had the bomb detonated it likely would have killed scores of pedestrians, which it apparently was designed to do given it was parked in Times Square on a Saturday night.
While the response is ongoing, the immediate response taken in and around Times Square appears to have worked well. Once the NYPD was alerted to the presence of the car bomb, the police quickly moved pedestrians and motorists away from the scene and then locked down the area. The Fire Department was immediately notified as was the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force. A hunt for potential secondary devices, a well known terrorist tactic, quickly ensued. Once those already inside local theatres were about to exit, the police ensured they used exits outside the perceived danger zone.
Despite the success in responding in Times Square, there were serious gaps exposed in the search for Shahzad once he was identified as the likely bomber. Here, the system worked, but not without multiple layers failing before the final layer succeeded. The NYPD admittedly lost Shahzad while surveilling him on the Monday following the attack. Once officials new Shahzad was the man they were looking for he was placed on the federal no-fly list. Nonetheless, he was able to purchase with cash a last minute ticket to Pakistan. Shahzad was literally in his seat on the aircraft as it was departing the gate when U.S. Customs officers boarded the plane and arrested him. It was the final review of the passenger manifest by Customs that alerted them Shahzad was on the plane.
The reason for this near miss with Shahzad exposes a larger gap in the no-fly list. One of the fixes to the no-fly list following the Christmas Day panty bomber's attempt to bring down a jetliner over Detroit was to require all carriers to check the no-fly list within 24 hours of being notified of an update. Emirate airlines, the carrier Shahzad was on in his attempt to escape, apparently did not check the no-fly list in time. Now that time frame has been reduced to two hours. However, in such urgent circumstances, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) should call the airlines and notify them immediately, which the agency has done in the past, but did not do in this instance.
It is being reported the FBI asked TSA not to call all the airlines and alert them to Shahzad's new status. The Bureau did reportedly allow TSA to call certain domestic carriers but not Emirate for fear it could jeopardize the investigation. However, if these reports are true, it begs the question: what is the point of urgently putting someone on the no-fly list and expecting all airlines to check it if you aren't willing to proactively notify those same airlines of the urgent update for fear it could hamper your case?
Americans are resilient people and New Yorker's are among the most resilient of us. The day after the attempted bombing, Times Square looked no different than it did the day before the failed terrorist attack. People were out, businesses were open. In short, life went on. It's hard to know what recovery would have looked like had the bomb exploded. Would the Crossroads of the World been shut off to vehicular traffic forever? One hopes and suspects that New Yorker's and the tourists who flock there would have grieved but nonetheless committed themselves to rebuilding and continuing Times Square as we know it.
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With last Saturday's failed bombing in Times Square, the issue of federal funding to support New York City's homeland security efforts has once again been raised in the news media. What is clear from the events in Times Square is that New York City remains at the top of the terror target list. With the distinction of being target number one comes significant funding needs to enhance and maintain security. The question is, is New York getting enough, and if not, how much federal funding assistance should New York get? The answer is complicated, but in short, the city likely needs more funding and the allowable uses of those funds should be re-examined as should the federal government's budgeting methods for such grant funds.
While New York is unique in terms of the level of risk it faces and its resulting security needs, it is also unique in several other respects. The size and density of the city (over 8 million people spread across 305 square miles) and its agencies is simply unprecedented at the local and state level, which also helps drive costs up given the sheer magnitude of resources to be funded. The NYPD's roughly 34,500 officers is more than double the second largest department in the U.S. in Chicago, which has approximately 13,000 officers. Unlike any other major city, New York is actually comprised of five counties, which are more often referred to as boroughs with each borough a part of the city government. Cities such as Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago are part of a larger, independent single county - Los Angeles County, Cook County and Harris County respectively.
SOURCES OF FUNDING
New York City, as with other major urban areas such as Los Angeles and Washington, DC, receives federal homeland security grant funds from a variety of programs. These include the Port Security Grant Program, (PSGP), the Transit Security Grant Program, (TSGP), the State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) and the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI).
It is the UASI program that often gets the most attention since it is the largest funding source for cities like New York. From fiscal year (FY) 2003 through FY 2009, New York has received approximately $951 million in UASI funds. While there have been some wild fluctuations in the past, on average, New York's share of UASI funds has been $135 million per year (14%), on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars from the other grant programs. No other jurisdiction in the U.S. comes close to this level of funding.
UASI FY03: $596,351,000 NYC: $149,000,000
UASI FY04: $671,017,498 NYC: $47,000,000
UASI FY05: $854,656,750 NYC: $207,000,000
UASI FY06: $710,622,000 NYC: $125,000,000
UASI FY07: $746,900,000 NYC: $134,000,000
UASI FY08: $781,600,000 NYC: $144,000,000
UASI FY09: $798,631,250 NYC: $145,000,000
ASSESSING RISK AND NEEDS
One of the great challenges in determining how much federal assistance New York and other localities and states need for homeland security is that the data available to make such decisions is limited. Shortly after 9/11, the White House Office of Homeland Security used a FEMA study to come up with the $3.5 billion annual national grant budget for states and localities. No one would argue the FEMA study was anything more than an educated guess, but it was the best available data at the time. However, to continue nine years later to follow the numbers it produced is indefensible.
Today, the answer of appropriate funding levels must come from two avenues despite limitations in assessing both areas: risk and target capabilities assessments at the state and local level, followed by a policy decision at the national level as to what is the long term federal responsibility to assist financially in driving down terrorism risk through enhanced state and local capability.
Some states and localities, such as the San Francisco Bay Area, are moving aggressively in the direction of using data by conducting annual risk assessments and follow-on capability assessments based on those capabilities most directly related to addressing the identified risks. The data is then rolled-up to update plans, including spending plans. This process must become institutionalized in each of the states and major urban areas across the country with involvement from DHS in order to help establish the appropriate national grant budget and individual allocations to states and local governments.
THE PURPOSE OF HOMELAND SECURITY GRANTS
From the start, the homeland security grants have largely been about building long term counter terrorism capacity through plans, equipment purchases, training and exercises and less about operations designed to thwart a specific terrorist plot. Over time, that has changed somewhat with specific percentages of certain grants, such as the UASI, eligible to fund overtime costs for security and investigative operations, as well as for hiring intelligence analysts that support intelligence fusion centers.
It is in the area of operations that New York City in particular sees much of its greatest expense in securing the city. DHS and Congress should re-evaluate whether the limits on such expenses should be raised for New York City and possibly other jurisdictions that can clearly demonstrate they are expending large sums of money for counter terrorism operations as opposed to general crime control.
While the line between crime and terrorism in the area of policing is not always a bright one, there are clear demarcation lines in some cases. In New York, the NYPD has two bureaus dedicated to terrorism prevention: the intelligence and counter terrorism bureaus with each being a good place to start in terms of additional federal funds or the loosening of restrictions on grant funds already awarded for the purpose of funding operations.
In addition to overtime costs are the costs associated with the straight-up hiring of officers. The NYPD has seen its ranks drop from just under 41,000 during 9/11 to roughly 34,500 today. While programs such as the Justice Department's COPS program are designed specifically for hiring officers, this may be an area that DHS and Congress should explore as well. In fact, in FY 07, DHS created a staffing pilot program that allowed UASI grant funds to be pay for regular time of full time counter terrorism personnel. The program was not continued into FY 08.
CITY VERSUS CITY
New York's homeland security needs have sometimes been pitted against other cities and states. However, the argument that New York can only be funded at the expense of other jurisdictions has always been a false choice. New York can receive enormous amounts of funding without having to cut off other at risk parts of the country. At $207 million, New York's 2005 UASI allocation remains the largest the city has ever received, while 42 other jurisdictions also received significant funding that year ranging from $45 million for Chicago to $24 million for Dallas/Fort Worth and $8.7 million for Denver, etc. While New York is the number one target it is by no means the only target and resource allocations must reflect that.
To help avoid pitting New York against the rest of the country, Congress and the Administration should fully fund the UASI program at its authorized levels through FY 2012 as they build out a more robust process for determining what the national level of funding should be beyond that year. For example, in FY 2010, the federal government appropriated $832,520,000 for UASI despite an authorization level of $1,050,000,000. For FY 2011, the authorization amount is $1,150,000,000 with the Administration asking for $1.1 billion, $200 million of which has been designated for security at terrorist trials, leaving roughly the same amount as was appropriated in FY 2010. Rather than earmarking those $200 million for terror trials, those funds should be blended into the larger pot of funds with an eye towards increasing the allocations for high risk jurisdictions such as New York, the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, etc.
The threat to New York City is simply different than any other jurisdiction in the U.S. The city's risk profile is unlikely to change over the next decade. Just over nine years since 9/11 it is time for the federal government to re-examine its role in funding state and local homeland security efforts in general and New York City's in particular. The events of May 1, 2010 in Times Square are a reminder that when it comes to homeland security much of it occurs at the local and state level even if it is a national effort. As part of our federal system, a critical element of federal power in protecting the homeland is providing states and localities with the resources they need to help achieve government's first priority: protecting the nation from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Nowhere is this more relevant than in New York City.
During the presidential campaign of 2008, then candidate Obama told us words matter. He was right, especially when it comes to providing a clear picture to the American people and the world concerning the nature and objectives of war and homeland security. Now the Obama Administration is updating the National Security Strategy of the United States and in doing so is removing any so-called "offensive" terminology concerning Islam in the hope it will win hearts and minds across the Muslim world. While outreach to the Muslim world is welcome, this particular act is a mistake that displaces facts for feelings.
The Obama Administration early on declared the term "War on Terror" inadequately described the nature and focus of the current conflict. This was a fair critique of the Bush Administration's vague use of language. The new Administration replaced War on Terror with "War against al-Qaeda," which is a more definitive description of the enemy and the nature of our engagement against it. However, it's not enough, and it's the next level of definition, answering who and what is al-Qaeda and why they are fighting us that the Administration now seeks to obfuscate.
In answering such questions there are three irrefutable facts. First, every member of al-Qaeda, regardless of race, gender or ethnicity is a Muslim. Second, the religious faith of those members serves as the ideological underpinning in their war against the U.S. and its allies. A simple reading of Usama bin Laden's 1996 and 1998 fatwas shows a movement steeped in religious doctrine and history, even if it is a perversion of such doctrine and history. Indeed, the vast majority of Muslims want no part of al-Qaeda's radical interpretation of their faith and the U.S. has said from the outset that we are not at war with Islam. Third, the terms radical Islam or Islamist terrorist were hardly part of the American lexicon in the 1990's or on September 11, 2001. Nonetheless, radical Islam spread and the U.S. was attacked on numerous occasions throughout that period with thousands of Americans killed.
The Obama Administration believes such terms as "radical Islam," "Islamist terrorism," and "militant Islam," etc. should be dropped because they are offensive to many in the Muslim world, which the U.S. clearly needs in its efforts to defeat al-Qaeda, its affiliates and the broader religious ideology upon which they are built. The offending terms have, at times, been replaced with such descriptors as "man caused disasters," "violent extremism," "isolated extremists," and "overseas contingency operations" each of which is meaningless in its attempt to adequately describe the events or people they seek to depict. They are also directly at odds with the Administration's goal of more precisely describing our struggle against a defined enemy.
The current Administration is not alone in its thinking. At the end of the Bush Administration in 2008, the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties issued a January report entitled Terminology to Define the Terrorists: Recommendations from American Muslims. In March of that year, the National Counter Terrorism Center released Words that Work and Words that Don't: A Guide for Counterterrorism Communication. Each document called for, among other things, substituting words such as "Islamic terrorist" and "global caliphate" with "violent extremists" and "global totalitarian state" in an effort to disassociate al-Qaeda from mainstream Islam and avoid offending the broader Muslim community by using derogatory words of a non-Islamic nature to describe al-Qaeda. However, an August report from U.S. Central Command, entitled Freedom of Speech in Jihad Analysis: Debunking the Myth of Offensive Words, systematically refuted both the NCTC and DHS findings and rightly concluded that "we should avoid readily accepting the notion that criticism or notice of an Islamic tenet, such as jihad, by the U.S. Government is tantamount to the demonization of all Muslims or Islam."
The reason the U.S. needs the Muslim world to defeat al-Qaeda is exactly the reason that referring to al-Qaeda in the context of its self pronounced religious basis is accurate. Indeed, neither the NCTC nor DHS report refutes this fact, but instead each asserts that by ignoring it we can better win hearts and minds. Would the U.S. need the Muslim world if al-Qaeda was a "Christian Militia?" Of course, few people feared offending Christians recently when the Michigan based Hutaree Christian Militia was disrupted by the FBI for plotting to kill police officers in the militia's religious war against the U.S. Nor does anyone flinch at the term "white supremacist" when describing neo-Nazis or other such groups. Should Christians and Caucasians demand an alteration of the language used to describe these groups given the vast majority of Christians and whites are neither in a militia nor racial supremacists?
Misleading ourselves and allies by blurring the definition of who we fight will not encourage others to support our cause as that cause will become incomprehensible to all involved. Imagine telling our military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies to be on the look out for "isolated violent extremists who may seek to engage in man caused disasters." How does one even begin to counter such an amorphous threat? Al-Qaeda is as much a movement as it is an organization and Muslims cannot discredit radical Islamists if such radicals and their views cannot be identified for discrediting.
Finally, there is a serious risk to distorting reality in the aim not to offend. It creates a politically correct climate that causes people to ignore the facts for fear of being branded a racist or bigot. Such forces were on direct display in the U.S. Army's handling of Major Nidal Malik Hasan. Neither the Army nor the FBI took any action against Hasan despite overwhelming evidence he had become radical and potentially violent based on his embracing radical Islam. In the end, Hasan shot and killed thirteen people at Fort Hood last year. Major Hasan had no doubt as to what he was doing or why. Just like the Islamist terrorists on-board United Flight 93 on 9/11, Hasan screamed "Allahu Akbar" meaning "God is greatest" as he began his massacre.
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That is a question that was posed to me by the editors of Emergency Management Magazine. My answer appears in the March edition of the magazine in an article entitled Analysis: Collecting and Sharing Information Is Not Enough. The article is now available on-line. In reaching my conclusion, I spoke to a number of current and former government officials many of whom now serve in business and academia. What do you think? Are we any better at this?
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