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.
Wednesday, June 17th Morning Roundup - Featured News and Public Events
From McClatchy, on the tough but necessary steps ahead toward immigration reform:
President Barack Obama, Democratic congressional leaders and advocates of revamping the nation's immigration laws say that developing a comprehensive immigration bill this year is a top priority, despite an already full legislative plate that includes a Supreme Court confirmation hearing, overhauling America's health care system, addressing climate change and conducting two wars.From the Associated Press, on a decline in Border Patrol apprehensions:
They got a reality check on the potential bumps ahead when the White House recently postponed a bipartisan meeting on immigration that had been set for Wednesday - the second cancellation this month - because of "scheduling conflicts," administration officials told invited guests.
Still, supporters of an immigration overhaul think that Obama will succeed where other presidents have failed and will push through a comprehensive plan that will allow illegal immigrants to come out the shadows and provide them with a path to citizenship.
The number of Border Patrol apprehensions nationwide dropped for a third consecutive year, falling more than 17 percent to a level not seen since 1973, according to new government data.
The U.S. Border Patrol - charged with catching illegal immigrants near the nation's boundaries - had 724,000 apprehensions in 2008, according to the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Immigration Statistics. That was down from nearly 1.2 million in 2005.
Ninety-seven percent of those apprehensions were on the southwest border with Mexico and 91 percent of those caught were Mexican.
The report cited the slow U.S. economy and tougher border security as possible factors contributing to the drop.
The number of apprehensions reached its highest level in 1986, when Border Patrol made nearly 1.7 million apprehensions.
But the statistics are a crude measure of immigration since they only count those who are caught.
Jeffrey Passel, senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, said the data appear to follow other reports that showed steep declines in illegal immigration from Mexico.
From Government Technology, on new legislation aimed at improving and standardizing ID security requirements:
"The PASS ID Act takes positive steps toward addressing state legislatures' implementation challenges with the REAL ID." -- Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka
The Real ID Act of 2005 was designed to improve security of state-issued driver licenses and ID cards and bring them up to a uniform federal standard. However, states objected to provisions of the act, and its estimated $12 billion cost, so a number of states passed laws prohibiting its implementation, and things ground to a halt as all states asked for, or were given, extensions. Janet Napolitano, as governor of Arizona, objected to Real ID and later, as secretary of Homeland Security, asked for some viable options.
Yesterday, Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and George Voinovich (R-OH) introduced just such an option. The bipartisan "Providing for Additional Security in States' Identification" Act of 2009, or Pass ID Act, was met with generally positive reactions from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) the National Governors Association (NGA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
"This legislation will strengthen national security by offering real solutions within a framework that is more workable for states," said the NCSL in a release."The PASS ID Act takes positive steps toward addressing state legislatures' implementation challenges with the REAL ID. NCSL urges Congress to continue to work with NCSL and its members as this legislation moves through the congressional process and to take all possible efforts to ensure state costs for implementation of the Real ID, and any corrective legislation, be fully funded by the federal government."
7 PM EST
Secretary Napolitano will deliver remarks and receive an award at the 20th Annual World Affairs Council Global Education Dinner
Willard InterContinental Washington Ballroom
1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
9 AM EDT
Office of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Biodefense Chief Scientist Diane Berry will participate in a panel discussion about biodefense products at the 2009 Biodefense Vaccines and Therapeutics Conference
Almas Temple Club
1315 K Street NW
10 AM PDT
ICE - Resident Agent in Charge David Wales will participate in a news conference hosted by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department to announce the initial results of a joint investigation targeting a major local drug trafficking organization.
1445 Kansas Ave.
San Luis Obispo, C.A.
This year, the department conducted unprecedented outreach efforts to our state and local partners, ensuring that every grant dollar is invested in smart, sustainable programs. The department undertook this aggressive strategy because those state and local partners have the biggest stake in this process. Simply put, they have the ground level insight on where the threats are, and how best to prepare for and guard against them.
Now, nearly $1.8 billion is no small number, so how do we split the funding, and where does it go? Check out the breakdowns:
$1.7 billion to the Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) will be split between:
- The State Homeland Security Program (SHSP)—$861.1 million will build and strengthen preparedness capabilities at all levels through planning, equipment, and readiness activities.
- The Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI)—$798.6 million will enhance urban preparedness capabilities in 62 high-threat, high-density areas. The seven highest risk areas (Tier 1) were allocated approximately $439 million, or 55 percent of available funds, while the remaining areas (Tier 2) will receive the remaining approximately $359 million.
- The Metropolitan Medical Response System Program (MMRS)—$39.8 million, divided evenly among 124 MMRS jurisdictions, will improve regional mass casualty incident preparedness and response capabilities.
- The Citizen Corps Program (CCP)—$14.6 million will bring community and government leaders together to engage citizens in community preparedness, response and recovery activities.
The State Homeland Security Program Tribal (SHSP Tribal) will allocate $1.7 million for eligible tribal applicants to implement preparedness initiatives.
The Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) will allocate $15 million to support target-hardening activities at non-profit organizations at high risk of a terrorist attack.
The Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program (RCPGP) will allocate $34 million to enhance catastrophic incident preparedness in selected high-risk urban areas and support technical assistance funding in FY 2009. RCPGP supports coordination of regional planning for catastrophic events.
Every community is touched by these issues, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that the process is fair and inclusive. We’ve listened to our partners, we’re dedicated to supporting programs that show success, and we’ve streamlined the process to make it more efficient. As the Secretary said herself,
“These grants provide direct support for regional preparedness, urban security and medical response efforts in communities across the country,” said Secretary Napolitano. “The new grants management initiative launched this year will generate better value for every grant dollar while strengthening our nation’s ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from all disasters.
Let us know if you have some real-world examples of how your community or organization is using a preparedness grant.
Tuesday, June 16th Morning Roundup - Featured News and Public Events
From The Associated Press, on the agreement signed yesterday between the U.S. and Mexico on strenghtening border security:
The U.S. and Mexico formalized an agreement Monday to work together to secure legal travel and trade across the countries' shared border.
The agreement is outlined in a letter of intent signed by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Mexico's Finance Minister Agustin Carstens.
It expands a 2007 agreement and formalizes plans announced earlier this year to search vehicles at border crossings for bulk weapons and cash being smuggled from the U.S. into Mexico where more than 10,800 people have been killed by drug violence since December 2006.
Napolitano said the cooperation will include sharing information such as data about stolen cars.
Officials have said many of the weapons used in cartel violence in Mexico have come from the U.S.
Both countries are responsible for what goes into Mexico from the U.S., Napolitano said Monday at a news conference. "Our view is that we can either point fingers at each other, or we can work together," she said.
Officials said the agreement will improve communication and strengthen coordination on border enforcement. For instance, the U.S. will train Mexican customs agents and dogs and use more technology along the border.
"The more we work together, the better the service and security we provide to our peoples and economies," Carstens said in a statement.
From The New York Times, on a long overdue reunion:
Growing up among strangers in a refugee camp in the Darfur region of Sudan, 4-year-old Wesal Adam knew her parents mostly as faces in photographs and voices on the phone.
She knew that her father, Motasim Adam, and her mother, Wejdan Adam, lived in Brooklyn and that Mr. Adam drove a cab. But she did not know what they felt like or smelled like or how much they loved her - if at all.
Wesal did not know why she had been separated by deserts and oceans from her parents, but once she learned to talk she knew that her lack of certain papers was keeping her from them.
But on Monday morning at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wesal and her father walked off a plane, reuniting the family and bringing a joyful end to a struggle that lasted more than two years.
From The Philadelphia Inquirer, on a big step forward for the Philadelphia International Airport's baggage screening system:
Mark Gale, acting Philadelphia Aviation Director, said the total cost of the new baggage handling systems at the airport's international terminal will be $50 million. The balance will be paid from airport funds, primarily bond funds,
The first part of the project for the A-East international terminal is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2010. A second phase will involve construction of an airfield building for rescreening bags arriving on international flights.
Gale said much of the screening by the Transportation Safety Administration is currently done manually, and the new machines will greatly speed the process.
Napolitano said in a statement: "These state-of-the-art baggage screening systems will enhance, airport security, streamline check-in procedures for passengers, and increase safety for TSA employees."
Secretary Napolitano and Administrator Fugate will announce FEMA preparedness grants and participate in a media availability
Location: DHS HQ, Washington, D.C.
Customs and Border Protection Aire and Marine reps will participate in a demonstration of a Marine Advanced Concept Technology vessel.
1900 SE 15th Street
Fort Lauderdale, FL
9:30 AM EDT
US-CERT Director Mischel Kwon will participate in a panel discussion at the Symantec Government Symposium
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Under Secretary for Management Elaine Duke will testify before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia, on pandemic influenza preparedness and the federal workforce
342 Dirksen Senate Office Building
National Protection and Programs Infrastructure Protection Security Division Director Sue Armstrong will testify before the House Committee on Homeland Security about Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS)
311 Cannon House Office Building
ICE San Antonio Field Office Director, Michael J. Pitts will participate in a press conference with the Webb County Sheriff’s Office announcing the deployment of Secure Communities to six additional Texas counties.
902 Victoria Street
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications Peter Fonash will testify before the House Science and Technology, Subcommittees on Research and Science Education and Technology and Innovation on federal response to the 60-day Cyberspace Policy Review
2318 Rayburn House Office Building
National Protection and Programs Risk Governance and Support Division Assistant Director Robert Kolasky will deliver remarks about building a homeland security national risk assessment at the Security Analysis and Risk Management (SARMA) Annual Conference
George Mason University
3401 Fairfax Drive, Room 330