Monday, June 22nd Morning Roundup - Featured News and Public Events
From CNN, on the importance of smuggling issues
The new U.S. border czar, Alan Bersin, has arrived to inspect operations at one of his most critical facilities, the Maricopa port of entry outside Nogales, Arizona.
It's the largest port of entry in Arizona, handling about 1,500 commercial trucks a day, making it a major trade corridor between the United States and Mexico, Officer James Tong of U.S. Customs and Border Protection tells Bersin.
It is also a major corridor for the smuggling of cocaine, heroin and marijuana into the U.S.
Last year, 37,000 pounds of marijuana were seized along this arid stretch of border. And on the day of Bersin's visit, two teenage girls were caught trying to sneak heroin past border guards in Nogales.
"That told me that in reaction to increased enforcement ... the cartels are ... recruiting teenagers as their new couriers," Bersin said.
Bersin said the Obama administration is forging a new alliance with Mexico in the campaign to combat the drug cartels.
"This is now viewed as a set of problems that we share in common," he said.
The cartels are implicated in more than 7,000 killings last year, including the assassination of police, judges and high-ranking government officials.
"We're very concerned about the spillover of the kind of public shootings where bystanders are caught between the cartels and between the cartels and the government," he said.
The solution, he said, is to stop not only the flood of drugs to the north, but also the flood of guns and money south into Mexico. His troops are charged with stopping the traffic in both directions. He was told that so far this year more than $2 million in narco dollars have been seized in Nogales.
From The Buffalo News, on security upgrades
You may not give it a second thought when you board a Metro Bus, descend into the subway or hop a flight at Buffalo Niagara International Airport.Secretary’s Events
But in the last four years alone, about $12 million has been poured into Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority facilities by the federal government - just to make them safe from terrorists.
Aside from major transit systems in cities like New York and Chicago, the NFTA ranks among the biggest recipients of Department of Homeland Security dollars in the nation. In the post-9/11 transportation world, such huge expenditures are now part of everyday operations.
"Technology plays an important role in keeping our transit infrastructure safe," said Sara Kuban, a Homeland Security spokeswoman.
"The goal is to reduce the threat."
In Buffalo, the new expenditures mean:
While attacks on U.S. transit systems have been practically non-existent, violence on commuter trains and subways in Tokyo, London and Madrid have heightened awareness around the world wherever large numbers of people are conveyed.
- An increase from 73 surveillance cameras in the Metro Rail system to 170.
- The addition of sophisticated new screens to monitor the subway in Metro Rail's operations center in downtown Buffalo.
- New and strengthened fencing at major bus garages and at the airport.
- The introduction of security card systems at NFTA facilities.
The mere fact that such crowds gather in commuter systems demands that precautions be taken, said Kim Minkel, the NFTA's director of health, safety and environmental quality.
12:30 PM EDT
Secretary Napolitano will participate in a media availability
Orlando International Airport
East Checkpoint, Terminal A
1 Airport Blvd
1:15 PM EDT
Secretary Napolitano will participate in a United We Serve project with members of the FEMA Citizen Corps
110 Andes Avenue
9 AM EDT
Chief Privacy Officer Mary Ellen Callahan will speak at the Government 2.0: Privacy and Best Practices Workshop hosted by the DHS Privacy Office
The Washington Court Hotel Atrium Ballroom
525 New Jersey Avenue
11:00 AM MDT
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate will participate in a roundtable discussion with fire fighters to highlight President Obama’s United We Serve initiative.
Station 8, Denver Fire Department
6:30 PM EDT
Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute will lead a citizenship class as part of President Obama’s United We Serve initiative
Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights
665 West 182nd Street, First Floor
New York, N.Y.
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate will host a roundtable discussion at a Denver, CO firehouse with local firefighters and community volunteers. The discussion will help kick off President Obama's United We Serve initiative, an unprecedented nationwide call to community service. Find out what it's all about, and what you can do in your community. Watch the event as it happens at http://www.dhson.tv/.
From the LA Times, on expanded powers for ICE agents:
Reporting from Washington - In an effort to plug a hole in U.S.- Mexico drug enforcement, the U.S. departments of Justice and Homeland Security announced an agreement Thursday that will give designated immigration agents expanded powers to pursue drug investigations.
A key goal is to end the long-standing turf battles between the Justice Department's Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement that many critics believe have hampered investigations.
The agreement will allow an "unlimited" number of ICE agents to be cross-designated as DEA agents, giving them the authority to investigate suspected drug smugglers at the border and internationally -- a prerogative that in the past has been jealously guarded by the DEA.
Both departments also pledged greater information sharing and better coordination of activities.
"Moving past old disputes and ensuring cooperation between all levels of our Departments has been one of our top priorities since taking office," U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement.
The agreement "will strengthen our efforts to combat international narcotics smuggling, streamline operations and bring better intelligence to our frontline personnel," they said.
From the Associated Press, on a local dialogue:
Alan Bersin, the Obama administration's border czar, said Thursday the key to achieving comprehensive immigration reform rests with a secure border.
"The only way we believe we will have immigration reform is if we have strong enforcement," Bersin, assistant Homeland Security secretary for international affairs, told a border communities task force.
Bersin, who is in charge of illegal immigration and border issues, said strong enforcement at the border, in the work place and in the interior is vital "so that the American people come to believe that there are labor markets that work, that there are communities that work and that there's a border that works."
He and other DHS officials held a 90-minute dialogue over immigration-related issues with southern Arizona members of a border task force.
Speakers including several clergymen offered suggestions and criticism in particular of the Border Patrol, from the need for a streamlined complaint process and feedback on complaints to an abrupt manner in which agents sometimes toss food at illegal immigrant detainees in holding cells.
From the Associated Press, on Secure Flight:
Don't be surprised if you're asked to provide your date of birth and gender when booking plane tickets later this summer.
The Transportation Security Administration has launched a new program called "Secure Flight" to improve security and reduce misidentification of passengers who have names similar to individuals on government watch lists.
As part of Secure Flight, airlines will ask passengers buying tickets to provide their name exactly as it appears on the government-issued identification they plan to use when traveling. Later this summer, airlines also will begin asking passengers to provide their birthdates and gender.
From WWTI-TV, on a new addition to CBP's ranks:
Unmanned aircraft deployed at Fort Drum (John Moore, NewsWatch50) A monitor inside an operations trailer shows a close-up view of a boat skimming across the water on Lake Ontario.
The image was taken from an unmanned aircraft more
than three miles away.
A Predator B Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) has been temporarily based at Fort Drum since early June in an experiment by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office.
The Department of Homeland Security is using the extensive restricted air space over Fort Drum to test whether the drone could be a good fit along this stretch of the northern border.
Video of a boat on Lake Ontario captured from 19,000 feet above (John Moore, NewsWatch50) U.S. Customs and Border Protection has five of the aircraft but so far none of them based permanently in the Northeast.
The Predator will operate out of Fort Drum for about three weeks for testing and training, and to evaluate its use to law enforcement.
John Stanton, director of CPB's Office of Air and Marine, said state, provincial and local law enforcement agencies were quick to take up the offer of added surveillance of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River."So while we were flying, we were asked by our partner law enforcement agencies if we would be kind enough to be on the lookout for suspicious activities," Stanton said.
9 AM EDT
Secretary Napolitano will deliver remarks at the Esperanza National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast
JW Marriot Hotel, Ballroom
1331 Pennsylvania Avenue
6 PM EDT
U.S. Coast Guard Band will perform
The George Washington University
21st and H Streets NW
TSA is always asked about what folks can and can't bring on a plane. Blogger Bob, a Transportation Security Officer for TSA and popular voice on the TSA blog, took on the topic of traveling with camping and hunting and fishing equipment.
I received an e-mail from someone today asking about bear mace, and thought maybe I should write a blogpost for all of you summer campers, hunters and fishermen out there. (And in case you didn’t know, bear mace is more effective than a gun, as bullet wounds usually just make bears more aggressive)
- Animal repellants can go in your checked luggage if the volume is less than 4 ounces and its active ingredient is less than 2%. Bear Mace usually exceeds these limits.
- Camp Stoves can go in either your carry-on or checked bag. Oh yeah, you do have to empty the fuel first. (It has happened)
- Insect repellents that are sprayed on the skin are considered a personal use item and are permitted in carry-on (3-1-1 applies) and checked baggage.
- Insecticides that are used to kill little creepy crawlies (Ant killers, cockroach killers, spider killers etc) are prohibited altogether."
- Empty Gas Cylinders are allowed in checked or carry-on bags as long as the regulator valve is removed and we can see inside.
- Flare Guns are allowed in your checked baggage, but they have to be stored and declared just like a regular firearm. The flares are a no go and have to be purchased at your destination.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak at the World Affairs Council Global Education Dinner about our Department’s increasing focus on the issue of cybersecurity.
Of all the threats America faces, the integrity of our cyber infrastructure demands special attention. These are no longer emerging threats. They are with us now, and are happening every day. Over the past two years, for example, cyber crime has cost Americans more than $8 billion.
Any victim of identity theft understands the damage and permanent harm that this can cause to personal finances, credit, and reputation. Cyber threats also pose clear national security risks to major public and government networks and systems – from banking and energy to communications and transportation.
For this reason, President Obama has made cybersecurity the object of one of his first executive actions, declaring our nation’s cyber infrastructure as a strategic national asset and outlining a comprehensive plan for how our nation will prepare for and respond to cyber threats.
Our Department is playing a key role in this effort. For example, we are taking the lead in defending federal executive branch networks and systems – the “dot-gov” domain – as well as coordination with the private sector to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure and key resources.
What the Department is Doing
This is a top priority for us. Accordingly, I have centralized all of the Department’s cybersecurity functions under a new deputy undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate, Philip Reitinger. This individual will coordinate cyber security across the Department, including our U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) and our National Cyber Security Center.
We’re also in the process of recruiting some of the best and brightest to lend their talents to our Department. We recently asked a well-known former computer hacker to join the Homeland Security Advisory Council to help us better understand the kind of threats that can come from hackers seeking to do harm.
Because cyber threats are not limited by international boundaries, we are also working with our overseas partners. For example, we are part of a coalition called the “International Watch and Warning Network” where 15 countries collaborate on policy issues, and response to cyber attacks.
Of course, the government can’t do this work alone. Everyone has a role to play in making cybersecurity a regular habit. For more information on that front, I encourage you to visit the U.S. CERT website to learn about how you can help.
By taking prudent, common-sense measures, we can reduce our individual and collective vulnerability to cyber threats and increase our resiliency as a nation. Because cybersecurity is not an end point, but rather an ongoing set of efforts, this will continue to be a major priority for our Department in the weeks and months ahead.
From the Chicago Tribune on a drug ring disrupted:
Federal authorities say they've disrupted a Canada-to-United States Ecstasy ring with the arrest of 20 people, most in western New York.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Buffalo and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement say the suspects are charged in a 24-count indictment with conspiracy to smuggle the drug into the U.S. from Canada and distribute it.
Of those arrested, 17 live in the Buffalo area, two are from New York City and one is from Chicago.
If convicted, they face up to 40 years in prison and fines of $2 million.
From Govtech. More on grants:
From the Wall Street Journal, on a new GAO report linking U.S. guns to cartel violence in Mexico:
The new allocations include steps the DHS has taken to improve the ability of state, local and tribal governments to apply for and use FEMA grants, according to the release, including: considering stakeholder feedback; ensuring that state, local and tribal governments understand how funds can be used to sustain long-term project; and developing a more transparent, efficient application process.
The tribal grants target an area heretofore, overlooked, according to some. "We are particularly happy with the funds designated to tribal emergency managers who are a critical yet often overlooked partner in the nation's layered emergency management system," said Russell Decker, the International Association of Emergency Managers president. "We are also encouraged by the secretary's pledge to make the grant process less cumbersome for local, tribal and state recipients. It's clear the administration is listening to the key stakeholders."
A new study by the Government Accountability Office says most firearms recovered in drug violence in Mexico come from the U.S., a finding that will likely fuel the politically charged debate over the U.S. government's efforts to stem gun trafficking across the border.
Drug-related murders have more than doubled in number to 6,200 last year from 2,700 in 2007, according to the GAO study, a draft of which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The study is set to be released Thursday.
Mexican officials have pushed for the U.S. to enact tougher gun laws and to help restrict arms smuggling as Mexico attempts to battle drug cartels on its territory. "The availability of firearms illegally flowing from the United States into Mexico has armed and emboldened a dangerous criminal element in Mexico, and it has made the job of drug cartels easier," said Rep. Eliot L. Engel, (D., N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, which is holding a hearing on arms trafficking Thursday. "It is simply unacceptable that the United States not only consumes the majority of the drugs flowing from Mexico, but also arms the very cartels that contribute to the daily violence that is devastating Mexico."
6:30 PM EDT
Secretary Napolitano will deliver remarks at the Fifth Annual Tribute to the U.S. Coast Guard dinner
National Building Museum
401 F Street NW
8:00 AM EDT
Office of Risk Management and Analysis Director Tina Gabbrielli will deliver remarks at the Security Analysis and Risk Management (SARMA) Annual Conference
George Mason University
3401 Fairfax Drive, Room 329
10 AM EDT
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) representatives will participate in the Montgomery County Workplace Safety Committee Annual Safety Fair
Montgomery County Courthouse
2 East Airy Street
10 AM EDT
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Assistant Commissioner for International Trade Dan Baldwin will testify before the House Committee on Small Business about textiles enforcement
2360 Rayburn House Office Building
10 AM EDT
National Protection and Programs (NPPD) Deputy Under Secretary Philip Reitinger will deliver remarks at the Federal Computer Week Solutions Seminar
The Willard InterContinental Washington
1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
12:00 PM EDT
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Secretary John Morton and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Michele Leonhart will participate in a news conference to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate the cross-designation of ICE agents with Title 21 authority
The National Press Club, Studio Room, 4th Floor
529 14th St. NW
3:30 PM MDT
TSA Public Affairs will participate in a news conference about American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding going to Jackson Hole Airport for construction on a new in-line baggage screening system.
Jackson Hole Airport
1250 East Airport Rd.
Jackson, WY 83001
2 PM EDT
U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Office of Civil Rights Director Terri Dickerson and Chief of Staff Admiral Clifford Pearson will testify before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, about civil rights and diversity in USCG
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
2 PM EDT
Acting Chief Financial Officer Peggy Sherry will testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization and Procurement, about oversight of the federal government’s consolidated financial statement
2154 Rayburn House Office Building
Straight to the numbers:
Buffalo: $5.5 million will go to Buffalo and the surrounding areas as part of the Urban Area Security Initiative program. This is a 10 percent increase from the previous year. More from Empire State News.
Oklahoma: $14 million to Oklahoma. $4.4 million specifically for Oklahoma City and $2.2 million for Tulsa. More from the Oklahoman.
Syracuse: $2 million will go to Syracuse specifically for antiterrorism. More from News10Now TV.
San Diego: $16.2 million for preparedness and antiterrorism. More from KPBS-TV.
New York non-profits: “Sixty-one non-profit organizations throughout the city will receive more than $4 million. The money will fund security measures at targeted institutions, namely yeshivas and synagogues. Under the grant program, organizations will receive up to $75,000 that can be used to train security personnel and purchase security cameras.” More from NY-1 TV, New York.
Tampa Bay: $8 million dollars for antiterrorism. More from The St. Petersburg Times and The Tampa Tribune.
Jersey City-Newark: $41 million dollars focusing on “first responders and safety programs.” More from The Jersey Journal.
Tennessee: $20.3 million to be distributed across Tennessee’s 11 Homeland Security Districts. More from The Chattanoogan.
Toledo: $2.2 million for preparedness and security initiatives. More from WTVG-TV.