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Really, Cambridge, really?

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Friday, February 20, 2009

I've seen a lot of stories come through regarding the use, and the uproar, over EIGHT video surveillance cameras installed in Cambridge, Mass. (For those of you not familiar with the Beantown area, Cambridge is across the river from Boston)

Apparently, the city purchased eight cameras to watch over certain streets but the cameras have yet to be 'live' because public opinion has reared its ugly head, and the city council has crumbled under the pressure. I guess the concern is centered around who would have access to the images, what they would be used for and possible invasions of privacy.

According to the Boston Globe, the cameras are part of a "controversial surveillance network" designed to link Cambridge with Boston and seven other communities. The cameras were paid for with a $4.6-million grant from the US Department of Homeland Security.

OK — eight cameras are controversial? The city is a hop, skip and a jump away from Boston where there are more surveillance cameras than I could ever count. Hey, you people who live in Cambridge — the local gas station has cameras and I would bet that most businesses you walk in and out of regularly do. Why all the fuss about these? All these were installed to do is to monitor traffic on evacuation routes.

Here's the classic quote from the local ACLU:
"Under the circumstances, when there was so little actually known about how they would be used, we felt that it was really important [that] people understood the implications of how this technology could not be fully controlled," said Nancy Murray, director of education for ACLU Massachusetts. "It's potentially liable to all sorts of abuse, from First Amendment rights to demonstrate and hold vigils, to people's privacy rights."

OK, lady, these are surveillance cameras. They are used to monitor places, help reduce crime, augment security officials and law enforcement. The implications of how this technology could not be fully controlled? Are they cameras that may morph into Transformers? Are the other thousands of cities that have deployed municipal surveillance cameras since 9/11 experiencing "all sorts of abuse?" For goodness sakes people.

OK, if you live in Cambridge and are afraid because someone monitoring these cameras might see you engaging in some criminal behavior, then the ACLU is right, these cameras are going to screw you. Life as you know it is over.

Over the years, I've talked to a bunch of law enforcement and government officials who have said local residents want and support CCTV, and its always the ACLU that comes in and causes all the ruckus. Don't they have another soap box to climb upon?

And that is my rant for the day. —Rhianna Daniels

Getting naked in the name of security

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

I just read this article in USA Today that the Tulsa International Airport has begun an "experimental" program replacing metal detectors with full body scanners. The article also said that airports in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami, Albuquerque and Salt Lake City will join the test in the next two months.

The $170,000 full-body scanners will replace the $10,000 metal detectors, although passengers who don't feel comfortable bearing it all for the sake of security can opt to go through an old fashion metal detector and surrender to a pat down.

I must admit, I'm feeling very conflicted about this technology. The security side of me acknowledges that body scanners are more advanced than metal detectors and can more readily detect hidden objects, but the business side of me wonders if it's really $160,000 better. And, on a personal level, I certainly have some hesitation about allowing a stranger to see my naked image. I know, I know, it's not suppose to be that revealing, but let's face it, that image leaves little to the imagination. [I tried posting a picture, but no luck. Just google images "full body scanner" and you'll see what I mean.] And, the TSA better be 100 percent confident that none of these images get saved, because the first time Britney Spears walks through a body scanner and it gets sold for gobs of money to some celebrity magazine, there will be rioting in the streets and the TSA will have to eat $170,000 times who knows how many machines. That would not contribute to efforts to economize the TSA and Napolitano will not be happy. I promise.

The benefits of being neighborly

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I took a petit vacation to Quebec City for the long holiday weekend and I must say, those French Canadians are crazy - in a fun way, of course. Actually, I might be a little crazy too for traveling farther North in February, but it was the last weekend of Carnival and I wanted to say goodbye to Bonhomme. If you haven't had a chance to experience Carnival, I highly recommend you check it out. I can't help but appreciate people who instead of suffering and whining about winter, choose to throw a huge 17-day outdoor party. If you go, just be sure to wear the warmest clothes you own (people wear their snowsuits, so don't worry about fashion).

Anyway, so, of course, going to Canada means crossing the border. I grew up near the border in Vermont and I know that it's usually a lot easier to get into Canada than to get out, but luckily we didn't have any problems or long waits. However, when I got back to the office this article caught my eye.

The article is about a new paper released this week by the Canadian International Council which highlights the importance of border collaboration and argues that working together can not only improve border security, but also have economic impacts as well.

Since 2001, border management in the United States has been dominated by security and law enforcement perspectives, but the author [Geoffrey Hale] argues for a much broader review of border management policies to ensure Canadian and American administrations optimize cross-border collaboration, while containing and reducing identified risks to their citizens and pursuing policies that contribute to their broader economic well-being and security.

In his paper, Dr. Hale further argues Canadians and Americans must jointly:

1. Show effective leadership to drive necessary investments in new infrastructure and technologies and strengthen cooperation among departmental agencies and orders of government.

2. Further ensure full and joint capacity-building for the processing of goods and persons, especially at border crossings that operate on a 24/7 basis.

3. Immediately improve the coordination of trusted shipper programs to better harmonize entry requirements, reduce duplication of services and implement additional land pre-clearance projects.

President Obama is set to visit Canada soon and I'm sure this will be one of the many things on the agenda.

More Vegas, less hate

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I just returned from a productive trip to the 2009 Milestone Integration Platform Symposium in Las Vegas. Yes, Vegas was cold (about 50 degrees at the high point) but the Milestone team put on a good event that brought out a "who's who" of the security industry. Today's story on the newswire outlines some of the sessions but I plan to write more for our April issue.

If you remember, I was pretty down on Vegas after my last trip. Well, it's back to having a warm place in my heart again. Red Rock was a neat property but be warned as it is an expensive cab ride from the airport and for some strange reason, all the restaurants in the hotel close at 11 pm. It's not like you can walk to another property next door like you can on the Strip. Thank god room service was still running.

Thanks to Milestone for the invitation — great chance to network and see everyone. Even if I will see them again for TechSec next week. See you there?

Uphill battle

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

I apologize about the infrequency of my blog posts this week. We've been finalizing our March issue this week (takes up more time than I'd like to admit) and I've been the sickest I've been in years. It is times like these I wish I could clone a healthier version of myself (I wonder if she'd be more productive too?)
Officials have been talking and talking and talking about the security plan at Ground Zero/WTC for seven years now. And I just came across another item today. The bad economy is forcing the NYPD to cut back on its plans to assign 800 officers to the area near Ground Zero and Wall Street.
The article from Newsday says that the move is a result of budget cuts and the fact that Freedom Tower is still facing significant delays.
Police commissioner Ray Kelly has warned from some time that budget restrictions could slow down plans to add manpower and install 3,000 security cameras. To date, 300 have been installed, the newspaper reported.
If the NYPD can't keep enough men on the street or secure enough money to fund projects already in motion to protect the site of this nation's most deadly terrorist attack, how can any department hope for funding? It's an uphill battle, folks.

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Security stimulation

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

So more news keeps coming in about the economic stimulus package. The House and Senate have reconciled the two versions of the bill and settled at $789 billion (less than the amount approved in either the House or the Senate), but it's still not clear what the final numbers are regarding security-related projects.

I've been in close contact with the folks over at the American Association of Airport Executives and they expect the reconciled numbers to stand at $1 billion for explosive detection equipment and $1.1 billion for airport improvement projects (although they were lobbying for $1 billion in EDS and $3 billion in AIP).

Also included in the bill are enhancements to seaports which the Senate passed for $40 billion and the House for $35 billion, but of course, the final numbers aren't known for that either.

Other security related projects expected to be included are funds for a new DHS headquarters (see earlier blog) and a couple hundred million for a border security fence, infrastructure and technology upgrades.

I'll keep you updated as reports are released.

Oklahoma!

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Friday, February 6, 2009

peanut2

In summer 2007, I had the great pleasure of visiting Oklahoma to view the security installations at a number of Choctaw Nation casinos. Along that fine journey with Frank Baitman, who was the president of Petards at the time, Brad Wills, CEO of Wills & Associates, and Dan Breshears, executive director of public safety for Choctaw Nation, we stopped at this historical landmark, which I've come to fondly remember as the Giant Peanut.

Although Durant, Okla., argues it is home to the world's largest peanut, I guess there is some controversy over that title.

Regardless, this is a reminder of one of my more memorable trips.

Looking for a new job?

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

The job board on the Security Director News Web site is now looking like a pretty fine place to search out new employment opportunities. If you saw the sorry state it was in last week, I do apologize.

Check out the new and improved version if you have a chance and leave any feedback/comments in the field below or e-mail me at editor@securitydirectornews.com.

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Just 'some guy's' opinion

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Former VP Dick Cheney is stirring up some controversy today. In an interview with Politico, he warned that there is a “high probability” that terrorists will attempt a catastrophic nuclear or biological attack in coming years, and said he fears the Obama administration’s policies will make it more likely the attempt will succeed.

Some choice quotes:
“When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry."

Protecting the country’s security is “a tough, mean, dirty, nasty business. These are evil people. And we’re not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek.”

Hey, I'm Switzerland here but according to a recent Security Director NewsPoll, 44 percent of of readers said they thought Obama's national security team choices were poor. On the flip side, 25 percent ranked them as OK and 30 percent opined that the choices were great.

I may be simple minded but all I want is for our country to be safe. Is it as dirty of a job as Cheney expresses? Do you think his views are valid? Or is he just spewing negativity?
—Rhianna Daniels

House approves national office for campus security

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Yesterday, the House approved the creation of a national office to help university security forces train for and prevent violent incidents. The National Center for Campus Public Safety, which would be run through the Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, would issue grants to campus safety agencies and encourage research into college safety and conduct training, according to this article by the Associated Press.

The bill, H.R. 748, had also cleared the House in the last session of Congress but was not taken up by the Senate. No word on when or if the Senate make take up this issue (I hear they have some important stuff going on at the moment). Look for more about this in our March issue.

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