Thursday, August 2, 2012

Congressional Quarterly - Behind The Lines

Behind the Lines for Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012 — 3 P.M. By David C. Morrison, Special to Congressional Quarterly

In This Issue: A separate peace: “Insistent, gnawing buzz” emanating at all hours from the FBI’s North Virginia Terrorist Screening Center soon to be stifled, GSA pledges . . . Confiscating the jack boots: “Let’s give every DHS officer a gun empty of ammunition and one shiny bullet,” editorial advises . . . Today’s access of angst: “Opportunities for terrorists to acquire WMDs will increase over the coming decade.” These and other stories lead today’s homeland security coverage.
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The insistent, gnawing buzz that emanates at all hours from the FBI’s North Virginia Terrorist Screening Center should be significantly reduced by mid-August and perhaps eliminated altogether by sometime next spring, The Washington Post’s Tom Jackman hears the General Services Administration informing Congress. “Over 10 years after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and the FBI's computers are finally working,” ABC News’s Jason Ryan reports.

Feds: The number of worldwide terror attacks fell to 10,283 last year from 11,641 in 2010, the lowest since 2005, State reports, pegging the drop in part to the May 2011 assassination of Osama bin Laden, ABC News’s Dana Hughes relates — as Reuters’ David Lerman sees U.S. counterterrorists focused increasingly not on Afghanistan or Pakistan but rather “a broad swath of northern Africa from Somalia through Chad, Niger and Mali to Mauritania and south into Nigeria. The U.S. Embassy and part of central Oslo were evacuated this week when a practice explosive was mistakenly left beneath a vehicle entering the compound, Bloomberg’s Mikael Holter reports.

Homies: Pia Carusone, who came to notice as chief of staff to ex-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., critically wounded in a 2001 mass shooting, has been named DHS’ No. 2 for Public Affairs, The Tucson Weekly’s Jim Nintzel notifies. Janet Napolitano, meantime, “told Congress last week that terrorists intending to harm the American people enter the U.S. from Mexico ‘from time to time,’” Cybercast News Service’s Edwin Mora makes portentous. “Let’s give every DHS officer a gun empty of ammunition and one shiny bullet. The DHS officer can keep the bullet in his pocket in case he ever needs it,” a Tacoma (Wash.) Standard-Examiner editorial advises, remarking on much-decried agency weaponry buys.

State and local: Officials from New York State’s Erie and Niagara counties urged House homelanders to restore DHS grants that have aided their communities in the past, The Buffalo News notes. “Since well before the 9/11 terrorist attacks that so heightened security awareness, Indianapolis has trained hundreds of cameras on its citizens — and these days is watching even closer,” The Indianapolis Star surveys. “Somali gangs are unique in that they are not necessarily based on the narcotics trade, as are other traditional gangs,” but there is an international terrorism tie, Cybercast News Service hears the Hennepin County (Minn.) Sheriff testifying. Some 9,000 military and civilian personnel are in southern Indiana for a field exercise simulating response to a domestic terror attack, The Associated Press spotlights.

WMD Watch: The Bayonne Fire Department has unveiled a largely DHS-funded “WMD rescue vessel” as the latest addition to its fleet, The Jersey Journal relates. Opportunities for terrorists to acquire WMDs will increase over the coming decade, The Australian hears Canberra’s chief spy warning in an unusual public address — as States worry that terror groups could use the Philippines’ porous southern border to transport WMDs. “The worst case of letting even relatively small amounts of military-grade chemical weapons get into the wrong hands is suggested by the 1995 Tokyo subway nerve gas attacks,” The RAND Blog assesses, referencing Syria’s worrisome arsenal. Under the Megaports Initiative, U.S. radiation detectors have been installed at four ports through which 92 percent of Mexico’s containerized cargo passes, Homeland Security News Wire relates.

Ivory (Watch) Towers: This past school year, Saudi Arabia sent 66,000 students to U.S. universities, four times the number before 9/11 prompted tough restrictions on Arab students, The Wall Street Journal relates. History offers a warning, but no clear pattern on the true risk of terrorism at the Olympic Games, a new report from U. Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism concludes, Global Alternative Agenda relays. Conventional wisdom says terrorism must be fought, but research by a pair of academic researchers suggests that conciliatory tactics are more effective than punishment, U.S. News notes. “It's been 10 years since Palestinian Authority terrorists murdered students and staff at Hebrew University's Mount Scopus campus, during the 2002 second Intifada,” Arutz Sheva commemorates.

Close air support: Two alert Miami International screeners prevented kidnappers from bundling a beaten woman aboard a Gotham-bound jet, NBC 6 News notes — as the Express-News sees a bomb threat clearing San Antonio International after a call alleged explosives had been left in three parked cars. An Air Canada passenger found a sewing needle in a catered sandwich during a flight Monday, CNN says. SecurityPoint Media’s rather meretriciously announced inauguration of security bins with ads at D.C. airports brings “nothing in terms of security beyond adding more eyeballs for advertisers,” InTheCapital inveighs. The Australian Federal Police have launched a new national airport security campaign called “Airport Watch,” modeled on neighborhood watches, (the Down Under) ABC News notes — while The New Zealand Herald has Christchurch Airport failing to meet bio-security compliance standards.

Troubled waters: Two of the people in charge of securing the Port Everglades Seaport and the Fort Lauderdale Airport aren't even licensed Florida security guards, the New Times sees a county inspector general report finding — as The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reminds that port security had recently been taken away from Broward Sheriff’s deputies and privatized to Allied Barton. New Haven officials are helming an effort to link security at Connecticut's three deep-water ports with a single video-monitoring system, The New Haven Register reports. “An important element of every port is the security detachment that provides for a secure working environment and compliance with Coast Guard regulations,” Security Management maintains. The president of Nanaimo's Port Authority dismisses a report saying Canadian ports “have slightly less stringent security rules than U.S. ports,” The Nanaimo Daily News notes.

Courts and rights: A federal judge has moved the trial date of a man charged with plotting terror attacks in Tampa to next April or perhaps May, The Tampa Bay Times tells. In a symbolic judgment addressing a suit targeting al Qaeda and Iran for complicity in the 9/11 attacks, a judge has awarded $6 billion to 110 survivors and the estates of 47 victims, including United Airlines Flight 175’s pilot, The New York Daily News relates. A former House staffer suspected of being a source for The New York Times’s disclosure of warrantless wiretapping is suing for return of computers, electronic devices and papers seized in 2007, Politico reports.

Over there: The pregnant wife of a U.K. Muslim convert accused of training for terror in Pakistan has been charged with withholding info from authorities, The Daily Telegraph tells — while The Daily Mirror sees radical imam Abu Qutada, who is fighting deportation to Jordan, losing a bid for bail from high-security Long Lartin Prison. The Taliban-tied Haqqani network “poses the most ominous threat to the fragile American-Pakistani relationship,” The New York Times leads — while Bloomberg hears the Pentagon’s Leon Panetta stating that Egypt’s leaders have agreed to counterterror cooperation and bear a special responsibility to secure the Sinai peninsula. Police in Kampala have released a photo of a “notorious terrorist” from Somalia “feared to have entered the country with plans of hitting Ugandans,” Shabelle Media Network notes.

Over here: “While he wages a culture war on Christians, the president tells Americans not to worry about global Islam,” The American Spectator assails — while a CNN commentator highlights a Pew poll showing one in six Americans still convinced that Barack Obama is a you-know-what, and The Daily Caller jabs the Obama campaign for not retailing merch directed at Muslim supporters. Rep. Michelle Bachmann’s re-election campaign says it raised more than $1 million in July, the same month she was roundly rebuked for alleging Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the government, The Huffington Post reports — as The St. Michael Patch hears the Minnesota Republican saying she hopes to work on welfare fraud with Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Mich., an outspoken Muslim, whom, The Fridley Patch reports, returns the collegial sentiment.

Holy Wars: A British nun previously fined $300-plus for shouting at women in burkhas “You are probably terrorists,” has been convicted of mailing the prototypical “white powder” to allegedly “devil worshipping” politicians, The Birmingham Mail mentions. Syrians say their uprising is becoming more radicalized, with homegrown jihadists as well as al Qaeda fighters demanding a say in the resistance, the Times updates. “What very few people know is that European companies and scientists gave Iran, Syria, Libya and Iraq the material to attempt to kill the Jews, again,” Arutz Sheva arraigns, charging Euro-firms with having supplied chemical weapon components. “Westerners imagine a stark contrast between supposedly violent Muslims on the one hand and pacifist Buddhists on the other,” an American Muslim contributor comments, pointing gleefully to Religion Dispatches’ “Monks With Guns: Discovering Buddhist Violence.”

Game Face: “As the world settles down to watch the London Olympics, the British Olympic Committee and Downing Street are staring in horror at tens of thousands of empty seats at the various sporting venues,” The Spoof spoofs. “Many sports fans have complained at the lack of availability of affordable seats, and corporate sponsors appear not to have utilized their ticket allocations, resulting in crowd numbers not seen since the Dutch won the last World Crocheting Championship in 1931. In response, the British government has extracted its forces from all overseas military operations and has suspended its membership in NATO until after the Closing Ceremony. Troops returned from Afghanistan, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, various African countries, Cyprus and Germany have been deployed, in plain clothes, to the various Olympic venues, in an effort to give the appearance that there is interest in the Games. The Sports Minister was unavailable for comment. A ministerial aide told us he was in training for his own personal high jump event, which is likely to take place, quietly, when the Games are over.” Source: CQ Homeland Security