Friday, November 18, 2011

CQ Behind The Lines

I know I haven't posted in quite a while...sometimes life has a way of getting in the way.

By David C. Morrison, Special to Congressional Quarterly
War surplus: Vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan wars may find jobs operating surveillance technologies stateside for CBP . . . Vote of absolutely no confidence: Ex-DHS chief Tom Ridge "would be the worst person you could think of to clean up the mess at Penn State" . . . Comedy of terrors: Chataugua Airlines pilot accidentally locks himself in bathroom of LaGuardia-bound plane and sparks terror scare. These and other stories lead today's homeland security coverage.

DHS balks at Texas lawmakers’ proposals to redirect equipment returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to the U.S.-Mexican border, fearing CBP could be saddled with the long-term costs of operating high-tech systems, The Houston Chronicle’s Stewart Powell relates. On the other hand, vets returning from those fronts may find jobs operating satellite comm, blimps and other surveillance technologies stateside for border control, Nextgov’s Aliya Sternstein hears a DHS official testifying.

Homies: “For what it’s worth, DHS rejects the accusation [that it has] been coordinating Occupy Wall Street evictions with local law enforcement agencies,” Salon’s Peter Finocchiaro relates. In his new book, veteran Dem pol George McGovern calls for TSA and the entire DHS to be eliminated, The Hill’s Keith Laing recounts. DHS launched a review yesterday of all deportation cases currently before the immigration courts with the goal of speeding ejections of convicted criminals and sparing those without a felony record, The New York Times’ Julia Preston reports. The budget being proposed by the House for DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate “is so bare bones it would essentially terminate most research and development,” National Defense Magazine’s Stew Magnuson hears undersecretary Tara O’Toole testifying.

Feds: “When it comes to the war on terror, the GOP has struggled to find an Obama soft spot . . . Al Qaeda has been defeated in Afghanistan and the Taliban is on the ropes,” USA Today’s DeWayne Wickham writes. The White House yesterday threatened to veto a defense authorization bill over a provision forbidding stateside criminal trials for terrorism suspects, The Hill’s Jeremy Herb relates. Justice’s civil rights probe into Alabama’s draconian illegal immigration measure has led to a state-federal deadlock over access to children’s enrollment data, The Washington Post’s Jerry Markon mentions. California and Texas lawmakers formed a rare alliance to secure $240 million in federal funds to pay for jailing illegal immigrants despite a congressional drive to reduce Washington’s red ink, the Los Angeles Times’ Richard Simon relates.

State and local: A top ICE official has accepted responsibility for his agency failing to notify Milford (Mass.) Police that a witness in a hot-button DUI case had cut off his monitoring bracelet and gone walk-about, the Daily News updates. In West Milford, N.J. yesterday, DHS agents reviewed more than 15 apparent attacks on local water and sewage facilities since summer, The Bergen County Record records. South Texas law enforcement officials and Democratic congressmen debunk claims by Republicans that the border has become a war zone, The Houston Chronicle, again, recounts — while Calexico’s KXO Radio News reports a delegation of Southwest border officials meeting yesterday with DHS’s Janet Napolitano and CBP’s Alan Bersin. A Georgia man was arrested for allegedly placing “Car Bomb” and “50-Foot Clearance IED” signs on a woman’s disabled car parked near his home, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution records.

Bugs ‘n bombs: The Lansing, Mich., Police Board of Commissioners was treated to a special presentation on bioterrorism at a Tuesday meeting, WLNS 6 News notes. Scientists and security specialists are in the midst of a fierce debate over airing data about experiments on a strain of bird flu virus that made it more contagious and thus a powerful potential bioterror weapon, NPR reports. The cybersecurity of the North American power grid is “in a state of near chaos,” The Montreal Gazette sees a white paper from a U.S. energy consultancy declaring. The Michigan State Police bomb squad was called out this week to investigate the discovery of an explosive device on the grounds of Oakland Southwest Airport, Detroit’s WDIV News relates.

Close air support: A Chataugua Airlines pilot who accidentally locked himself in the bathroom of his LaGuardia-bound plane caused a terror scare, The New York Post reports. “Jersey Shore” reality starlet Jwoww’s complaints to the contrary, TSA insists she was not singled out for an individual “enhanced screening” at a Fargo, N.D. checkpoint, Government Security News updates. A TSA officer at O’Hare Airport has been fired for posting anti-Muslim, racist statements on his Facebook page, Chicago’s ABC 7 News notes. Permitting holders of federal security clearances to access expedited airport security lines, as suggested by TSA’s John Pistole, “overlooks some disturbing implications,” Fierce Homeland Security frowns. Canada’s airport security agency is collecting too much info about innocent travelers and failing to protect it properly, Postmedia News reports a federal privacy watchdog finding. With the E.U. having decided this week that full-body scanners pose a risk to passenger health to the point that they cannot be used, “TSA is not pleased,” SlashGear says.

Borders & Papers: Federal and state authorities “are working hard to stay ahead of a new and dangerous trend: fake IDs that are so good it can be very difficult to tell them from the real thing,” Cleveland’s FOX 8 News leads. Washington’s “Whatcom County is almost all farmland [but] that calm has been jarred by a bursting paramilitary force,” as Border Patrollers in CBP’s Blaine Sector swell to 327 agents from 45 in 2000, The Seattle Times tells. DHS, the Texas Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement agencies “are all coming together to ensure border towns such as ours remain safe,” Laredo’s KGNS 8 News notes. A nondescript white warehouse in southern California hid a sophisticated smuggling tunnel used to transport tons of cannabis into the United States, CNN notes — and check The New York Times: “Cat-and-Mole Games on the Mexican Border.”

Ivory (Watch) Towers: A Harvard Law School professor criticizes the “homeland security feel” of the university’s lockdown of Harvard Yard against the 99 Percent movement, ThinkProgress relates. Former Pennsylvania governor and DHS chief Tom Ridge “would be the worst person you could think of to clean up the mess at Penn State,” The Philadelphia Daily News inveighs. A fugitive animal rights terrorist believed to be hiding in western Massachusetts would be within striking distance of several research labs that use animals in experiments, the Boston Herald reports.

Courts and rights: An Idaho man accused of firing two shots at the White House last week has been charged with attempting to assassinate President Obama or his staff, The Associated Press reports — while The Christian Science Monitor predicts a second look at White House security procedures. A white supremacist convicted last month of a gun charge related to a domestic terrorism plot has been indicted for an alleged identity theft scheme, The Spokane Spokesman Review relates. A judge denied bond to four North Georgia seniors accused of plotting to bomb federal buildings and disperse the toxin ricin because they “may still intend to harm federal authorities,” the Journal-Constitution recounts.

Rulings reconsidered: A lawyer representing the first person ever convicted for violating narco-terrorism laws told a D.C. federal appeals court yesterday that the evidence in the case was insufficient to support the charges, Legal Times relates. “A closer examination of the evidence and the way in which the FBI carried out the investigation casts serious doubts about the Fort Dix Five’s convictions,” a Guardian op-ed objects. A commonly invoked anti-hacking law is so overbroad that it criminalizes conduct as innocuous as using a fake user name on Facebook, The Register hears a legal authority attesting.

Over there: A Texas man convicted Monday of seeking to abet al Qaeda terrorists attempted to enter Canada a couple years ago but was turned back at the border, Postmedia News learns. Urging aspiring jihadists to emulate its practices, a 144-page field manual being distributed by Afghanistan’s Haqqani network gives special praise to al Qaeda as a small Muslim group that “terrifies” its enemies, Newsweek notes. The intentions of the tiny emirate of Qatar “remain murky to its neighbors and even allies — some see a Napoleon complex, others an Islamist agenda,” The New York Times spotlights. Libya’s secularists warn that Qatar is using its leadership position to bring its Islamist allies to power, FrontPage Magazine, relatedly, frowns. Anti-terror experts met Thursday in Algiers to discuss ways of preventing the financing of armed militant groups, focusing on north Africa’s Sahel region, Agence France-Presse reports.

Holy Wars: That Balkan jihadists “are eager to wage holy war reveals the moral depravity and spiritual darkness at the heart of Islamic fundamentalism,” Jeffrey T. Kuhner comments in The Washington Times. “Travel for many from the Middle East has often been quite difficult, but following 9/11 and the Arab Spring, it seems to be worsening,” The Kuwait Times tells. “In the past 20 years, prison conversions to Islam and the Internet have become the two most common ways people become associated with extremist groups,” Futurity Research News relays from a new academic study. Target-hardening measures taken by Jewish organizations receiving DHS dollars include upgrades to surveillance and alarm systems, stronger doors and windows, shatter-resistant windows and security barriers in front of buildings, Homeland Security Today tells.

Such sweet torture: “Pentagon officials expressed outrage when an independent audit revealed that defense contractor KBR Inc. had charged them up to five times more than market price for the service of torturing Iraqi citizens,” The Onion reports. “’At a time when our government is facing budget cuts across the board, it is reprehensible that someone would charge $150,000 to grab an innocent civilian off the street, fly him to a prison in an undisclosed location, and deprive him of sleep while forcing him to maintain an excruciatingly painful stress position for 40 hours,’ said Douglas B. Wilson, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, adding that the service should have cost ‘$40,000, tops.’ ‘Sure, they got this particular individual to talk, but is that any reason to tack on $250 dollars per nipple-clamp used to electrocute him?’ The Defense Department later confirmed it looked forward to continuing its work with KBR on projects throughout the region.