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Obama gets down to business

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wow. What a rush. The election fury definitely caught up with me and I'm exhausted from election overstimulation. And even though the results are in, I can't keep myself from reading news report after news report about everything from what type of puppy the Obama's should get to speculation about his administrative appointments. But, luckily, I haven't completely squandered precious work hours for nothing. I came across this article that referenced Obama's plan for the future of TSA workers. Here's an excerpt:
In another letter, Obama said getting TSA screeners collective-bargaining rights “will be a priority for my administration” and a means to better workplace conditions and cut down on TSA’s high attrition. “It is unacceptable for [transportation security officers] to work under unfair rules and without workplace protections,” he wrote.

Obama also wrote that he may dismantle TSA’s pay-for-performance system, the Performance Accountability and Standards System, if he finds it is unfair and not transparent, and put TSA employees back on the General Schedule.

Unionizing TSA workers and paying them better wages seems like it would draw more qualified people and thus boost their credibility as security officials (and not just hope their spiffy new uniforms demand authority). It seems like more qualified and committed employees would lead to an overall improvement of security in the aviation industry, but from a business standpoint, unions equal less money to the bottom line and it's not like airlines are exactly rolling in it. However, despite the controversy, I think it's a good sign that Obama's addressing these kind of security issues before he's even sworn in as Commander-in-Chief.

President Obama

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

For those of you who didn't stay up past midnight eastern to watch Obama's acceptance speech, here is a photo from last night. The stage he presented his speech on was lined with presidential-caliber bulletproof glass.

Don't touch that buoy

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's no secret that copper theft is a big problem. I was talking with the security director at Detroit Energy last month and he said thieves are even hitting transformers to grab the stuff.

Well, now there is this. Right in my home state of Maine.

(Here is the place where I would have embedded some snazzy video of this story. But the darn code won't work so you are going to have to visit their web site
to see it.)

Here's the gist: A U.S. Coast Guard annual inspection found that bells in seven buoys were stolen and it appears the bells were taken for their metal. The bells weigh more than 150-pounds. (Can you imagine taking a 150-pound bell off a buoy floating in the middle of the ocean? Is the metal even worth that much???)

The Coast Guard says anyone caught taking the bells will face serious consequences. (I would assume the perpetrators are aware of that.)

Apparently this has been going on for some time. Lighthouse News (I know ... and yes, it's a real publication) in August reported that the trend was sweeping the coastline. My question is: How do you mitigate these incidents of theft?

Election anxiety

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

So I was a little late getting to work today because I was doing my civic duty by waiting in line to vote. It actually wasn't so bad because I live in Portland, Maine (which is by far the biggest city in Maine, mind you), but I did have to wait for about 45 minutes. I didn't mind the wait. Actually, I purposely held off casting my vote until election day because I wanted to have the whole experience. I wanted to stand in line with my neighbors, go into the seclusion of the voting booth and go home with my "I voted today" sticker (which is disappointingly ugly, by the way). And I did. Now all I can do is wait and see what happens tonight. Unfortunately I don't have cable, but I did manage to get myself invited to a friend's election party, so I'm grateful I'll be able to share some of my election anxiety with others. Oh, and because I'm so jacked up on election craziness, this post has nothing to do with security-related issues, in case you were waiting for that disclaimer.


Rock the vote

Monday, November 3, 2008
Election Day is less than 24 hours away and we've all been subjected to a host of news reports about the campaigns. Today I figured why buck the trend.

We put together a short piece on the candidates homeland/national security views for last week's e-news blast and in case you missed it or need a refresher, you can review it here.

And in a much less serious note, here are their respective Saturday Night Live appearances.

What's the value of video?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I found this ASIS video on You Tube that gives an overview of the group's 2008 conferences.

I couldn't find any other videos from security associations on You Tube, and the few ASIS videos that are up there are provided by the video's producer as part of his demo roll. Many manufacturers are jumping on board as Sam pointed out yesterday, and I do like Honeywell's Security Stories series. But I can't help but wonder if this is a useful medium for security practitioners. Have you used video such as these to research technologies or opportunities?

(I guess if you don't, you are not going to bother to read this blog entry, huh?)

On one side, it is far easier (and less expensive) to watch a product demo from the comfort of your office than it is to attend a trade show. But on the other hand, who has the time? And aren't you watching enough video from your surveillance system anyway?

Bye-bye travel size

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I've noticed several news reports lately (like here, here and here) about the TSA's expected easement of liquid restrictions by 2009. I spoke with my TSA source, Ann Davis, who said the removal of the liquid ban was possible but not definite.

"We've commented in the past that new technology may be available to potentially allieviate the liquid ban, but it's not really in the plans. It's not imminent or in the works to do so at this time," Davis said.

The reports all started from comments made by Kip Hawley, the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration. Hawley wrote a lengthy blog entry on the TSA's Web site about the technology being deployed in airports around the country. In it, he outlined a time line about liquid ban changes, including removing size restrictions on liquids (hurray for no more 3.4oz shampoo bottles!). Here's a little of what he wrote:

We are deploying the best technology and training as fast as we can get it. The goal is to remove all the restrictions on liquids when we have automated systems that can accurately separate threat from non-threat liquids. Here’s the plan:

Now: We are pretty close to having a network of AT-X-Ray deployed so that nearly 70% of daily passengers will be using major airports with AT. TSA is getting the hardware installed so that when the software is ready in the next year or so, all we have to do is a software upgrade. We will be testing software versions in the coming months.

Fall-2009: Size restriction removed, but all liquids will have to be placed in a separate bin. AT X-Ray software will be advanced enough to tell the difference between threat and non-threat but not yet proven to tell the difference when it is hidden in a bag.

End of 2010: No restrictions. AT X-Ray will have upgraded software that is proven to detect threat liquids in any configuration and is deployed in enough places so that TSA can change the rules to meet one uniform standard for the country.

Well, we can hope at least.


Great Lake workers off the TWIC hook (temporarily anyway)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

If you're a port worker on the Great Lakes and still haven't received your TWIC, you've lucked out. The U.S. Coast Guard, which is heading up the Transportation Workers Identification Card program, has extended the deadline for Great Lakes port workers to December 1 due to a power outage at a Transportation Security Administration facility that delayed the activation of TWIC cards. The original compliance date was scheduled for Oct. 31 (Halloween wasn't the only impending doom for those of who procrastinated).

The Department of Homeland Security is requiring national compliance of all port workers by April 14, 2009, but the Coast Guard and TSA are rolling out the program in stages, starting with New England port workers who were required to comply by Oct. 15. Ann Davis, a spokesperson for TSA, didn't anticipate any issues with the New England roll-out (see her comments

from an interview I did with her here), but I expect to speak with her today and will give an update on how it actually went.

UPDATE: Just spoke to Ann Davis at TSA. Sounds like so far so good for the New England TWIC rollout. "I haven’t heard of any issues and as far as I know everything went very smoothly in New England," she said. "Compliance has been successful and I haven't heard of anyone being turned away." Let's just hope the rest of the country can be as together as us New Englanders.


First class all the way

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

This is a great article to read after you've read today's Newswire piece on the changes to matching passengers to the No Fly List.

This articles scares the bejesus out of me. But it has taught me how to upgrade myself to first class by using a fraudulent boarding pass. To me, that is worth having to read the other itty bitty parts on how we are failing miserably when it comes to airport security.

TSA tries paperless

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm pretty new to this space, so maybe this is old news, but I just read an article about the TSA testing electronic boarding passes. Basically, it allows passengers to download their boarding pass to PDA's and present the device to security for approval. Security officers just scan the bar code on the screen, check the person's ID and that's it. No paper, no stopping at the hotel or airline kiosk to desperately try to print out your boarding pass, both of which I've found rarely saves me any time.

Electronic boarding passes certainly sound convenient, although the article doesn't specify how passengers will obtain the electronic version of their boarding pass. I assume it'll be fairly simple, but sometimes when technology gets involved things get tricky. I'm a big fan of my BlackBerry, but don't know if I trust it (or myself) to pull up the right screen when I'm in a panic in the airport security line.

However, I'm wondering if electronic boarding passes will be an added security feature and augment the issue of using fake boarding passes to avoid the no-fly list, as this Slate article points out.

The original article also mentioned the possibility of adding fingerprint scanners to verify identity. Sounds like a good security measure, but I assume that means one would have to submit their fingerprints before they can fly? That doesn't sound like a hassle at all.