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Homeland Security

Super security for Super Bowl

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A first-ever multi-agency operation is being conducted in the Port of New Orleans Maritime Security Operations Center, one of the five new maritime security interagency operations centers located on the lower Mississippi River.

The occasion? Super Bowl XLVII, of course.

To be held Feb. 3, the game at the Superdome is expected to draw 150,000 fans to New Orleans, starting now. Meanwhile, Mardi Gras festivities and parades, which pose security challenges on their own, get suspended for Super Bowl week, but will resume on Feb. 6, adding another build-up to security issues.

Response boats, patrol vehicles and personnel started conducting security operations at the Port of New Orleans on Jan. 28, according to news reports.

On terra firma, more than 1,200 New Orleans Police officers will start working 12-hour shifts Wednesday night. Another 370 officers and sheriff's deputies from outside the city and more than 200 Louisiana State Troopers will be part of the detail as well, according to a report from WWL-TV.

"Basically, you're going to see 400-plus police officers every hour of the day in the downtown core, in the French Quarter, on Frenchman Street," NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas told WWL-TV.

Security plans for the days leading up to the game and after have been underway for more than a year, officials said.

"We're going to be using the Mississippi Highway Patrol motorcycle units to move the VIPs, owners, some of the talent around, the teams, because traffic is going to be a challenge on game day and we just want to make sure we get people to where they're supposed to be," Ronnie Jones, spokesman for the Louisiana State Police, said in the report.

There will also be federal agents from the FBI, ATF, DEA and Homeland Security on duty during the big game.

I hope your favorite team wins!


Doctor of Security

New Jersey City University has launched the country’s first doctorate program in security studies, but is the profession ready?

JERSEY CITY, N.J.—Since 9/11, the number of academic programs in security-related fields has exploded. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in security studies or homeland security are now available at more than 350 programs nationwide, according to some estimates.

When granting security clearance, U.S. agencies lack consistency, says report


WASHINGTON—Federal agencies lack a clearly defined policy for determining the issuance of security clearances, an oversight that left unfixed could lead to national security breaches, according to a new study from the Government Accountability Office.

NIST issues revised FIPS 201

Changes include options for mobile devices and additional biometric capabilities

WASHINGTON—The National Institute of Standards and Technology has released a new draft of its security standard for the Personal Identity Verification cards that all federal employees and contractors must use.

SUNY Canton launches homeland security program


CANTON, N.Y.—The State University of New York in this city has created the first four-year homeland security degree program in the entire SUNY system.

Pistole: TSA might not have detected new underwear bomb

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

John Pistole, administrator for the Transportation Security Administration, has admitted the TSA might not have been able to stop the most-recent underwear bomber with existing technology.

Following AQAP's failed plot to smuggle a new-and-improved underwear bomb aboard a U.S.-bound airplane, Jeffrey Goldberg, a columnist for Bloomberg and national correspondent for The Atlantic, asked Pistole whether the TSA's full-body scanners, now at 180 U.S. airports, would be able to detect such a device if terrorists were able to make one in the United States.

Pistole tactfully danced around the question. "The advanced imaging technology gives us the best chance to detect the underwear-type device," he told Goldberg, but admitted after a follow-up question that it "is not 100 percent guaranteed." Pistole continued:

“If it comes down to a terrorist who has a well-concealed device, and we have no intelligence about him, and he comes to an advanced-imaging technology machine, it is still our best technology. But it’s really an open question about whether the machine, or the AIT operator, would detect the device.”

What about a lo-tech, TSA pat-down? Also not a 100-percent guarantee, Pistole said.

Goldberg left the conversation "unconvinced that the TSA can keep up with advances in jihadist bomb-making."

In his column, Goldberg shares Bruce Schneier's sentiment that the recent foiled underwear-bomb plot (and Pistole's "calibrated answer") should, rather than be cited as a reason to increase airport security, be a strong argument against it. Instead, more focus and resources should be applied to discovering and dismantling plots before they reach the airport because, as Goldberg writes, "if the only thing standing between the bomber and his target is a TSA pat-down, bet on the bomber."


Why profiling at airports is a bad idea

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bruce Schneier makes a strong argument against the case for profiling at U.S. airports in his column for Forbes. In addition to believing profiling is a bad idea for a number of reasons—it's inaccurate, serves to alienate those "who are in the best position to discover and alert authorities about Muslim plots before the terrorists even get to the airport," and just plain wrong—he also argues that "it actually puts us all at risk."

Past events have proven that terrorists come in all shapes, sizes, sexes and skin colors—from Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, the Nigerian underwear bomber, to Jose Padilla, the Hispanic-American accused of plotting a dirty bomb attack on American soil. Terrorists will find ways to avoid profiing, which is why Schneier argues that randomized secondary screening is more effective because it creates too much uncertainty and acts as a deterrent. "Focusing on a profile increases the risk that TSA agents will miss those who don’t match it," Schneier writes.

Schneier points out that what people really want when they argue for profiling are TSA agents who can apply judgement in their decisions of who to screen more carefully. And with controversial headlines about TSA agents patting down wheelchair-bound senior citizens (including, last week, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger) and four-year-old girls, who doesn't think TSA agents may be a little out of touch with reality. (Though TSA agents did just last week discover weapons in a child's stuffed animals and an elderly person's walker.) Unfortunately, Schneier points out it's unlikely TSA agents will be applying good judgment any time soon. "Judgment requires better-educated, more expert, and much-higher-paid screeners." Schneier writes. "And the personal career risks to a TSA agent of being wrong when exercising judgment far outweigh any benefits from being sensible."

As usual, Schneier does a good job arguing against "security theater" and for sensible security practices that strike the right balance between managing risk and allowing people to travel without fear of molestation.

House committee approves bevy of homeland security bills

Legislation would impact port security, TWIC program and the nation's preparedness for WMD attack

WASHINGTON—The House Committee on Homeland Security this week approved a group of bills that would impact, among other things, the country's preparedness for an attack by weapons of mass destruction, port security, and the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program.

AQAP informant was the suicide bomber

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Interesting development to the story about AQAP's foiled plot to bomb another U.S. airliner with an underwear bomb.

The New York Times is reporting that the informant who tipped off the CIA to the plot was the suicide bomber himself. This agent infiltrated the Yemen-based terror cell, volunteered for the suicide mission, and eventually left Yemen with the bomb and delivered it to CIA and other inteliigence agencies, the newspaper reported. This underwear bomb is reportedly more sophisticated than the one used in an unsuccessful airplane bombing over Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009. A U.S. official told the newspaper that this underwear bomb could be detonated two ways in case one method failed, and "undoubtedly would have brought down an aircraft," the newspaper reported.

The informant also delivered information that led to the drone strike that killed Fahd al-Quso, a senior AQAP member, on Sunday.

The name and nationality of the agent is understandably not being disclosed. Though it was disclosed that it was not the CIA that recruited him.

Give that man a medal.

Informant helps foil second underwear-bomb plot


WASHINGTON—A tip from an infiltrated terror cell in Yemen has helped U.S. intelligence agencies seize a second underwear bomb, deemed more sophisticated than the one used in an unsuccessful airplane bombing on Christmas Day in 2009.