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by: Amy Canfield - Friday, May 3, 2013

The trial of three protesters, including an elderly nun, who allegedly broke into the Y-12 nuclear weapons site in Tennessee last summer, has been reassigned to a federal judge in Kentucky, according to

U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Phillips was supposed to preside at the trial, scheduled for May 7. Phillips, however, was planning to retire. A filing last week indicated the case had been reassigned to a judge with the Eastern District of Kentucky. It has not been disclosed whether the current trial date still stands.

Plowshares protesters Sister Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli each face three felony charges related to the break-in and defacing of government facilities at the Oak Ridge site.

Meanwhile, G4S Government Solutions, which was on duty at Y-12 when the breach occurred, said it is ready to move past the "punishment stage and work to restore its image," according to Frank Munger's Atomic City Underground.

G4S lost its security contract following the breach and more recently lost its other major Department of Energy contract in Oak Ridge (for protective force services at ORNL, East Tennessee Technology Park and the Federal Building), Munger's report said.

"A lesson for everyone in all aspects of both physical and protective force security is what we now internally refer to as the 20/20 rule," President and CEO Paul Donahue said in a statement. "Within 20 minutes, 20 million hours of exceptional protective force support at Y-12 was wiped away."

Last week, G4S security officers received a British Security Industry Association's Award for Best Regional Team (South West) for their work at the Hinkley Point C nuclear building site in Somerset. The regional award makes G4S eligible for a national award. G4S has won six BSIA regional awards this year, according to a prepared statement.

by: Amy Canfield - Wednesday, April 3, 2013

TELL THE TSA TO KEEP KNIVES OUT OF THE CABIN. That's the message (caps included) from the Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions, representing 90,000 members, on its website.

The group this week has been leafleting at airports to get passengers on their side in opposition to the TSA's announcement last month that it will allow knives with retractable blades less than 2.36 inches and narrower than a half-inch to be carried upon planes as of April 25. The TSA will also allow on board previously banned items such as golf clubs and lacrosse sticks.

The coalition's leaflets, which encourage passengers to sign its online petition, have been distributed at major airports and will continue to be handed out this week.

by: Amy Canfield - Monday, April 1, 2013

Employees and visitors entering three federal buildings in Boston last week were no doubt surprised to learn that for the first time in years they needn't take off their shoes, coats or belts to pass through security screening.

It happened "without any fanfare or news conferences," according to a report from WGBH. What did happen was that the Federal Protective Service, which is responsible for protecting employees, contractors and visitors at federal facilities, decided, after studying the Boston sites, to use the Thomas P. O'Neill Building, John F. Kennedy Federal Building and John W. McCormack Post Office and Courthouse in a pilot project that could streamline and standardize similar screening processes nationwide.

The O'Neill building houses Homeland Security, Secret Service, Social Security and the Deparments of Justice, Labor, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing, Treasury and Small Business.

"It has not become official yet, but it is an option being tested, " Jacqueline Yost, chief public affairs for FPS, told WGBH.  "We are continually assessing our process ... to make sure we continue to be as efficient as possible while securing federal facilities, employees and guests."

by: Amy Canfield - Monday, March 25, 2013

FEMA is looking for a few good young people. Emphasis on young.

If you know a 12- to 17-year-old "who makes a difference in your community's disaster preparedness" you can nominate him or her to become a part of the National Youth Preparedness Council. Students can also nominate themselves.

The first Youth Preparedness Council was announced last July. The council supports FEMA's emphasis on and dedication to involving the whole community in preparedness related activities.

"Engaging youth is an integral step in preparing the nation for all hazards," FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said in a prepared statement. "Youth have a unique ability to influence their peers and families to be more resilient, and children play an important role in disaster preparedness, during and after a crisis."

Those selected for the council will have the opportunity to "voice their opinions, experiences, ideas and solutions to help strengthen the nation's resiliency for all types of disasters," FEMA said. Council members will represent the youth perspective on emergency preparedness and take information back to their communities. Research shows, FEMA says, that youth who are trained in preparedness are more resilient in actual disasters; they are highly effective messengers for reaching and influencing their parents and other adults; and youth engaged today will ensure a future generation of prepared adults.

Those selected, along with one of their parents or guardians, will get an expense-paid trip to attend the Youth Preparedness Council Summit this summer.

Sounds like an excellent opportunity for civic/security-minded tweens and teens. For more information, including eligibility requirements and nomination forms, go here.

The deadline is April 19.

by: Amy Canfield - Friday, March 15, 2013

Fourteen years ago, a survey of gun owners found that most respondents cited hunting as their main reason for owning a weapon. This year, the Pew Research Center finds, the vast majority of owners say they own a gun because it makes them feel safer.

The 1999 survey said 49 percent of gun owners cited hunting as their primary reason for owning a gun, followed by protection, 26 percent. Sport shooting, collections and other categories made up for the rest.

In Pew's February 2013 survey of 1,504 adults, hunting and protection as reasons have changed places. Protection was cited by 48 percent of the respondents; hunting, 32 percent.

The latest survey also asked why non-gun owners don't want to have one in their homes; opinions on stricter gun control laws; the effectiveness of stricter gun control laws; whether states should be able to ignore federal gun laws; if stricter laws would reduce the number of mass shootings; and more. It looks as partisan differences as well.

Lots of good information. You can read all of the results here.


by: Amy Canfield - Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Flight attendants aren't happy with John Pistole of the Transportation Security Administration. The TSA administrator announced this week that airline passengers soon will be allowed to carry on small pocket knives, golf clubs (two each), ski poles, billiard cues, toy baseball bats and hockey and lacrosse sticks.

The Flight Attendants Union Coalition, which represents 90,000 flight attendants, called the decision "outrageous and shortsighted, and asked Pistole to reconsider," according to a news report in the Philadelphia Inquirer. American Airlines' flight attendants union, with 16,000 members, agreed that knives of any kind should not be allowed on board.

Knives with retractable blades measuring less than 2.36 inches and narrower than a half-inch and the aforementioned athletic gear will be allowed as of April 25, bringing the United States in line with international rules.

"We believe that these proposed changes will further endanger the lives of all flight attendants and the passengers we work so hard to keep safe and secure," FAUC said, according to the news report.

The TSA said it was an "intelligence-based, risk-based decision." The biggest threat to travellers is explosives, not pocket knives or sports equipment, TSA spokesman David Castelveter told the Inquirer.


by: Amy Canfield - Monday, March 4, 2013

Passengers at the nation’s largest airports experienced long lines at some security checkpoints over the weekend, and it’s only likely to get worse, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said in a news report from Reuters.

Mandatory spending cuts that went into effect Friday because of the federal government’s sequestration immediately led to the elimination of overtime for Transportation Security Administration officers and customs agents. Upcoming furloughs will only make the situation worse, Napolitano told the news service.

Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport had long lines—between 150 percent and 200 percent delays—Napolitano said, and advised passengers to get to their airports earlier than usual. The TSA website did not show any major delays at any U.S. airport on Monday morning, Reuters said.

Some lawmakers have accused Napolitano and other administration officials of “fear-mongering and exaggerating the impact that would be seen from the deep spending reductions known as the sequester,” which cut a total of $85 billion from government agencies between March 1 and October 1, Reuters said.

But Napolitano said the problems were real.

"Look, people, I don't mean to scare, I mean to inform. If you're traveling, get to the airport earlier than you otherwise would," she said in the Reuters report.

She said TSA would begin sending out furlough notices to employees on Monday and Customs and Border Protection will send them out later this week.


by: Amy Canfield - Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Transportation Security Administration has announced that five more airports will offer TSA PreCheck by April 1, bringing the total number of airports participating to 40.

Eligible passengers flying on participating airlines out of Austin-Bergstrom International, Cleveland Hopkins International, Memphis International, Nashville International and Raleigh-Durham International airports may receive TSA PreCheck benefits.

“Offering TSA PreCheck at five additional airports is a key step to including more low-risk travelers in the expedited screening process,” TSA Administrator John S. Pistole said in a prepared statement. “This pre-screening initiative helps TSA focus its resources on those individuals we know less about, and strengthens our capabilities to ensure security for travelers when they fly.”

Eligible passengers include U.S. citizens who have opted-in through Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and US Airways as well as those who are members of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler programs, including Global Entry, SENTRI and NEXUS. Canadian citizens traveling domestically in the United States who are members of NEXUS are also qualified.

by: Amy Canfield - Monday, February 25, 2013

More than 900 people died in mass shootings in the past six years, the majority killed by people they knew, according to a report in USA Today. The 934 deaths account for less than 1 percent of gun-related homicides, and nearly half involve a suspect slaying his or her family members.

USA Today examined FBI records and news accounts to identify 146 mass shootings since 2006 that matched the FBI definition of mass shooting, where four or more people are killed.

A separate analysis of 56 mass shootings since 2009 from a group of mayors promoting gun control reaches similar conclusions.

Fifty-seven percent of cases reported by Mayors Against Illegal Guns involved domestic violence. The group, co-founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is made up of more than 850 U.S. mayors.

by: Amy Canfield - Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Heard enough about sequestration and its potential impact?

Well, here's some more, pertaining to security if the automatic, across-the-board budget cuts totaling $85 billion for fiscal year 2013 go into effect March 1.

I've read numerous news reports over the past few days dealing with everything from the Department of Homeland Security saying it would be forced to shut down its research and development lab, to the TSA stating it will need to furlough employees—resulting in longer lines at airport security checkpoints. The Pentagon says is would have to furlough civilian workers as soon as April. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol says its ranks would be cut. Port security could be threatened by sequestration as well, according to a report in the U-T San Diego.

Meanwhile, some nuclear arms sites would need to put employees on unpaid leave for weeks or months. Remember the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee? It would have to furlough 700 to 1,000 personnel for as much as six months, reports said.

"Clearly, these layoffs will adversely impact efforts to improve security" at Y-12, where three elderly peace activists, including an 82-year-old nun, last July reached a secured area that houses weapon-grade uranium, the Knoxville News Sentinel quoted an analysis from Democratic House Appropriations Committee members as saying.

And that's just the short list. But Y-12? Oh, my.


I just read a USA Today article on the sequestration's impact on FBI background checks for gun purchases. You can read it here.