From the San Antonio Express-News, on yesterday's agreement:
High-ranking U.S. and Mexican government officials signed an agreement in San Antonio on Thursday they say provides an unprecedented level of cooperation between the two countries in fighting cross-border drug crime.
The letter of intent recommends a joint strategic plan in weapons and ammunition trafficking investigations. The letter was signed during the last day of a convention for Border Security Task Force (BEST) teams, which are led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The conference also was attended by senior Mexican officials.
"This will leverage the investigative capabilities of both governments and launch a more unified effort in investigating weapons smuggling cases," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.
Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina-Mora said the deal recognizes shared responsibility for the gun-trafficking problem.
"Mexico is very, very respectful of the legal constitutional framework in the U.S.," he said. "But the Second Amendment was never meant to arm foreign criminal groups, and we should go after the criminals that are illegally shipping weapons into the criminal hands of groups based in our country."
ICE assistant secretary John Morton also announced the first BEST office to open in Mexico for Mexican law enforcement officers and U.S. agents to share information and evidence. ICE has 15 BEST teams along U.S. borders.
From Federal Computer Week, on the new civic network "Our Border":
The Homeland Security Department has created a moderated social network designed to spur informed debate and discussion about topics related to the United States' Southwestern border.
The network named Our Border is hosted on the site Ning.com and is open to everyone. But although posted content is visible to anyone who visits, people need to have an account with the Ning network to participate, DHS said. However, the network is administered and moderated by DHS and all content is reviewed by the department before it's posted, according to the network's content policy.
DHS will use the network to communicate the department's policy, post photos and videos, and engage in dialogue, according to the policies detailed on Our Border. The department administers the network and plans to eventually use Ning's live chat feature on Our Border, according to DHS' privacy impact assessment.
Four discussion groups are currently available on the site: Customs and Border Protection, Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Also from Federal Computer Week, on Global Entry:
The Homeland Security Department's international registered traveler program is going strong. The program is expanding from seven airports to 20 airports starting Aug. 24, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced.
DHS started the Global Entry international trusted traveler program in June 2008 as a pilot project at three airports. It grew to seven airports last fall.
U.S. citizens and others who want to enroll in Global Entry must submit to a security check and interview and provide a fingerprint. Once enrolled, upon returning to the United States, they can use a kiosk to process their passports and scan their fingerprints. This typically results in less waiting than a manual check by U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees, DHS said.
To date, approximately 16,000 members have enrolled in Global Entry at the seven existing locations and in April, DHS signed an agreement for reciprocal treatment with airports in the Netherlands.
This month, the department will add 13 more airports to the program, Napolitano said in a news release Aug. 12.
"Expanding this vital program allows us to improve customer service at airports and concentrate our resources on higher-risk travelers," Napolitano said.
From the Palm Beach Post, on welcoming a new group of citizens and opening a new USCIS facility:
After Kalvin Berice Lindo became an American citizen on Thursday, he kissed his crying wife, took a deep breath and said, "I finally feel like I'm part of the world."
The 55-year-old man, originally from Jamaica, stood proudly with 24 others as they vowed to be great Americans. And though naturalization ceremonies take place at least twice a week in Palm Beach County, this ceremony was even more special because it took place at the grand opening of the new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building on Belvedere Road in Royal Palm Beach.
U.S. Rep Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, and newly inducted USCIS director Alejandro Mayorkas were on hand for the traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony and to congratulate the 25 for their accomplishments.
"It's a wonderful moment you'll remember forever," Klein said. "You have a special responsibility to take it upon yourself to make our country stronger and better."
The 38,000 square foot building, which opened in March, is expected to process 57,000 customers a year. More than one million people become U.S. citizens each year and about 8,000 of those become citizens here in Palm Beach County, said Sharon Scheidhauer, USCIS spokeswoman.
USCIS Office of Citizenship Chief Rebecca Carson will participate in an information session for immigrants interested in learning more about U.S. citizenship and the naturalization process
USCIS Atlanta Field Office
2150 Parklake Drive
From the Associated Press, on a mutual pledge to cooperate in the fight against cartel-related violence:
The U.S. heads of Homeland Security and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives plan to sign a letter of intent with the attorney general of Mexico again pledging cooperation and shared intelligence in the battle against drug cartels and other border violence.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora and ATF's acting director, Kenneth Melson, will meet in San Antonio on Thursday at a border security conference.
The letter of intent isn't as weighty as some previous agreements but was being used by officials to again pledge cooperation to stop escalating cartel-related violence.
From Weather.com, on the latest tropical outlook:
Tropical Depression 2 is slowly but surely gaining organization in the eastern Atlantic and is likely on its way to becoming Tropical Storm Ana.
Meanwhile, what is that big thunderstorm complex to its right? It's a well-developed tropical low that has now emerged off the coast of Africa. It definitely bears watching.
Model run after model run of several models continues to develop this tropical low into an eventual tropical depression, tropical storm and then hurricane.
A model run, by the way, is the time when a computer program produces a possible future weather scenario given the atmospheric conditions at the present time.
Generally speaking, this is done about 2 to 4 times a day (a few weather models, however, are run every 2 to 3 hours).
One such weather model that develops this large disturbance is the GFS (Global Forecast System) model. You can see its depiction of the tropical Atlantic for this coming Sunday morning below.
Take note of what happens to TD 2 (perhaps by then, Ana). It shows an eventual weakening of TD 2 as it approaches the northern Windward Islands.
Meanwhile, the GFS predicts that the tropical low just now off the coast of Africa could very well be a tropical storm or a hurricane by this Sunday. Could this be Bill?
From NextGov, on setting the record straight on the cyber mission:
Reports of a struggle among agencies about who should oversee governmentwide cybersecurity are inaccurate, and the biggest problem in locking down federal networks is recruiting enough information security workers, said Homeland Security Department officials.
"The misconception that concerns me most is that infighting is happening" among the federal agencies involved in cybersecurity initiatives, said Phil Reitinger, deputy undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate in an interview with Nextgov. "I just don't see that. Are there disputes between agencies? Yes. Are there arguments between components of DHS? Yes. We're people -- that's how it works.
But the degree of collaboration and joint work around the mission is really amazing. There's hard commitment in DHS and across agencies . . . and a deep well of shared experience."
11 AM CDT
Secretary Napolitano, Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina-Mora, Mexican National Public Security System Executive Secretary Jorge Tello Peón, ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton and ATF Acting Director Kenneth E. Melson will participate in a press conference
Grand Hyatt Hotel
Texas Ballroom Salon F (Fourth Floor)
600 East Market Street
San Antonio, Texas
9 AM PDT
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate will participate in a media availability for the opening of the new Los Angeles Emergency Operations Center (EOC)
500 E. Temple Street
Los Angeles, Calif.
10 AM PDT
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Public Affairs Manager Suzanne Trevino will participate in a media availability about paperless boarding pass technology with Continental Airlines representatives
San Diego International AirportTerminal
23707 N. Harbor Drive
San Diego, Calif.
1 PM PDT
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas will officially open the new USCIS field office in West Palm Beach and participate in a naturalization ceremony
USCIS West Palm Beach Field Office
9300 Belvedere Road
Royal Palm Beach, Fla.
3 PM CDT
TSA Public Affairs Manager Sari Koshetz will participate in a media availability to introduce the new Explosive Detection System (EDS) equipment
White Oak Road
It was a routine stop at the bridge at the Laredo, Texas, border, as an Oklahoma man in a pickup truck was attempting to cross over into Mexico. But a vehicle inspection unveiled much more, as CBP officers discovered a cache of 22 rifles, two shotguns, a 9 mm pistol, ammunition and other weapons parts hidden in the truck.
A subsequent ICE investigation of that failed smuggling attempt led agents to the residence of a former firearms dealer where nearly 1,000 weapons were discovered, along with a large store of ammunition and $30,000 in cash. That routine stop at the Laredo bridge resulted in unraveling a sizable cross-border gun smuggling operation.
It’s exactly the type of investigation that the Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) initiative was set up to tackle. This partnership initiative, led at DHS by ICE, brings together federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies under a shared umbrella with a common goal: To target cross-border crime and associated violence.
With collaboration from CBP, the BEST initiative is the Department of Homeland Security’s response to the increase in violence at the southwest border, where the activities of drug cartels, weapons traffickers and other criminal organizations are taking a toll on communities all along the border.
What is most innovative about the BEST initiative is the way in which it brings law enforcement partners together under one roof with a shared mission. This allows for closer working relationships, more efficient communication and improved coordination among the various entities. Cooperation is key to the success of the BEST initiative.
There are now 15 BEST forces operating on the southern and northern U.S. borders, and they’re getting outstanding results. And right now, from August 11 to 13, 2009, we’re taking a closer look at the progress that has been made, as well as plans for the future, at the BEST Conference in San Antonio, Texas.
This conference, the second of its kind, brings together federal law enforcement officials from a variety of agencies; state and local officials; members of Congress and other elected officials; and our partners from Mexico, Canada, Columbia, and Argentina to discuss the challenges of combating the drug trade, money laundering, gang activity, arms trafficking, human smuggling and other types of cross-border crime.
As assistant secretary for ICE, I am at the conference, meeting with our partners in this successful law enforcement venture—and exploring ways in which we can strengthen these partnerships in order to crack down on criminal activity and tighten security at the borders. I’ll post a wrap-up after the conferences concludes.
John Morton is the Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
One day after President Obama concluded a summit in Mexico, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Tuesday that securing the Southwest border required targeting several issues at the same time: illegal immigration, drug trafficking and violence in Mexico.
Napolitano said her strategy was unlike the Bush administration's, when "the issue of the Southwest border was walled off from all other issues."
"Our approach is to view Southwest border security, along with enforcement of our immigration laws in the interior of the country, counter-narcotics enforcement and streamlined citizenship processes together," she said. "These things are inextricably linked."
Napolitano said the U.S. government is cooperating with the Mexican government more than ever to battle drug-related violence, citing efforts to stop the drugs flowing north and guns and cash flowing south.
"We have a unique opportunity now with Mexico to really break up these cartels," she said. "Shame on us if we don't take full advantage of that."
Napolitano also announced an additional $30 million in federal funds for local law enforcement in California and other border states to better fight trafficking and violence. Agencies in California will receive nearly $7.4 million. The money is in addition to $60 million announced in June.
From the Deming Headlight, on the Stonegarden announcement:
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano took the occasion Tuesday of a Southwest Border Security Conference at the University of Texas at El Paso to announce an additional $30 million for Operation Stonegarden.
The announcement was seen via video conference in five U.S. Border Patrol Stations, including Deming. San Diego, Tucson, and Texas' Del Rio and Rio Grande Valley stations were also online.
Operation Stonegarden, in which the Luna County Sheriff's Office and the Deming Station of the USBP participate, provides funds for equipment and operational costs related to border-area crime. The $30 million is in addition to $60 million already
allocated for the current fiscal year.
"I think that's going to allow state agencies and other municipalities to get involved in coordinating efforts on border violence," said Luna County Sheriff Raymond Cobos, who was at UTEP. "It's a very positive thing."
From the Atlantic Online, a profile of and interview with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate:
Craig Fugate, the new head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under President Barack Obama, is an unusual choice for the job, historically speaking. Unlike many of his predecessors, most famously Michael "Heckuva Job" Brown under President George W. Bush, Fugate (pronounced few-gate) has experience in the relevant subject matter. A former firefighter, Fugate managed disasters for 20 years in Florida, the fiasco capital of America. Even more bizarrely for FEMA, often a dumping ground for friends of the powerful, Fugate has no political connections to Obama. Instead, he got his job the old-fashioned way-when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was looking for candidates, people kept mentioning his name. He has a reputation for telling it like it is-in a field where "it" is usually bad. And what Fugate has to say may come as strong medicine for his fellow citizens, nine out of 10 of whom now live in a place at significant risk for some kind of disaster.
A bear of a man with a white goatee, an aw-shucks accent, and a voice just slightly higher than you expect, Fugate has no university degrees but knows enough to be mistaken for a meteorologist by hurricane experts. He grew up in Alachua County, smack in the middle of Florida. Both of his parents died before he graduated from high school. As a teenager, he followed his father's example and became a volunteer firefighter. Then he became a paramedic, earning the nickname "Dr. Death" for having to pronounce more people dead on his first day than anyone before him. But he found his calling when he moved into emergency management, in 1989. Obsessively planning for horrible things he could not really control seemed to inspire him. "He is emergency management," says Will May Jr., who worked with Fugate for more than 20 years and is now Alachua's public-safety director. "That's what he does. He spends practically all his waking life working in it, thinking about it, talking about it, planning how to do things better."
10:30 AM CDT
Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement Acting Director John Leech will deliver remarks at the 2009 Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) Conference
Grand Hyatt Hotel
600 E Market St.
San Antonio, Texas
1:45 PM MDT
National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) Control Systems Security Director Sean McGurk will deliver remarks at the 2nd International Symposium on Resilient Control Systems
1784 Science Center Dr
Idaho Falls, Idaho
Today, Yahoo News posted an op-ed on H1N1 co-written by Secretary Napolitano, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. In the op-ed, the trio outlines progress on planning for a potential fall resurgence of the H1N1 flu virus, their coordination with local jurisdictions for quick response in case of flu outbreaks, and the importance of proper preventative measures to minimize the spread of the H1N1 virus. An excerpt below:
"Parents should talk to their employers and make child care arrangements in case their kids get sick. And if a school closes, learning shouldn't stop. Schools need to create opportunities to learn online and work with parents to find ways for students to bring textbooks and other resources home. If you're an employer, you should plan to get by with a reduced staff. You don't want an employee who's ill to spread flu in the workplace. If you're a medical provider, you should plan to handle more calls and patient visits. An outbreak will bring people who have flu and people who have flu-related symptoms or concerns into your office. To help people get ready for flu season, we've created a "one-stop" website - www.flu.gov. You'll find tips to prevent, and respond to an outbreak and checklists and fact sheets that will help families, businesses and others get prepared."
I just returned from Guadalajara, Mexico, where President Obama and I met with our Mexican counterparts to continue our collaboration and cooperation on a range of border issues. Today, I'm at the University of Texas at El Paso for their sixth annual Border Security Conference.
Later this morning, I will deliver remarks outlining the cohesive strategy that we've brought to our border security and immigration enforcement efforts. As someone who has been working on these issues for many years, it's clear to me that as our shared border challenges evolve, our approach must evolve as well. That is exactly what we are doing.
In the six months since President Obama's inauguration, we've instituted polices that reflect the reality that border security, enforcement of immigration laws in the interior of the country, and counter-narcotics enforcement are inextricably linked. In my remarks today I will discuss a new strategy, one that relies on simultaneously addressing all these challenges.
It's an approach that uses the laws we have in ways that are smart, tough, and effective. The UTEP speech will be streamed live at 1:15 PM EDT this afternoon and I invite you to tune in here.
Janet Napolitano is the Secretary of Homeland Security.
You can check out the live stream of the Secretary's remarks here.
From the Los Angeles Times, an interview with the Secretary:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is attending a conference in Texas on border security. She sat down with a Times reporter Monday to discuss a number of issues, including the Mexican drug war, immigration detention in the U.S. and legislative reforms.
How effective have the new technology and extra personnel at the border been, and what more can be done to target the drug cartels and border violence?
They have been very effective because they have been coordinated, they have been targeted, they have been done in collaboration with the Mexicans, which is a change from years past. . . . How has it worked so far? It's done well. What do we need to be doing more of or do differently? We want to continue our joint efforts to add to Mexican civilian law enforcement.
At some point, for example, the military needs to leave Ciudad Juarez and we need to have a civilian law enforcement capacity there. . . . You have got to be able to match manpower with technology, with really good, smart, targeted, intelligence-driven law enforcement to really have a system that makes sense.
From the Associated Press, on the North American Leaders Summit:
President Barack Obama and his counterparts from Mexico and Canada emerged Monday from a speed summit united on recession-fighting and Honduras' ousted leader but still divided on security and trade, the areas that most define their partnership.
The annual three-way meeting lasted barely more than four hours, spanning dinner Sunday night and Monday's morning of talks. There were repeated shows of friendship as the leaders gathered at the Institutos Cabanas, a 19th century home for poor children that's now a sprawling art museum, but there were no concrete announcements.
Further, questions about domestic policy - especially Obama's efforts to overhaul U.S. health care - took much of the attention as the three leaders appeared together before reporters in a graceful stone-arched courtyard.
From the Associated Press, on a new tool to fight smugglers:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection unveiled on Monday a prototype vessel for high-speed pursuits of smugglers ferrying people and drugs from Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean.
The 43-foot boat is faster, more stable and carries about twice as much fuel as the agency's current vessels, which were rolled out from 2001 to 2005.
The $875,000 prototype has infrared cameras and sensors that give detailed images as far as the horizon goes. Currently, agents often use goggles, which detect things only as far as the naked eye can.
The agency hopes to get funding to replace its fleet of about 65 vessels for high-speed chases that are stationed in the Gulf of Mexico, Florida's Atlantic Coast and in the Pacific Ocean near the borders with Canada and Mexico.
10:30 AM MDT
Secretary Napolitano will meet with members of the Southwest Border Task Force and participate in a video teleconference
Undergraduate Learning Center, Room 220
500 West University Ave
El Paso, Texas
11:15 AM MDT
Secretary Napolitano will deliver remarks at the Border Security Conference and participate in a media availability
University of Texas at El Paso
Undergraduate Learning Center, Room 106
500 West University Ave
El Paso, Texas
10:30 AM EDT
Office of Health Affairs (OHA) External Affairs Director Bob Davis will participate in a breakout session on nuclear crisis and emergency risk communication at the 2009 National Conference on Community Preparedness.
Hyatt Regency Crystal City Hotel
2799 Jefferson Davis Highway
10:30 AM MDT
Assistant Secretary John Morton will announce the repatriation of $2.4 million from a joint investigation between U.S. and Mexico
Grand Hyatt Hotel
600 E Market, Salon F, 4th Floor
San Antonio, Texas
11:00 AM EDT
Cincinnati Resident Agent in Charge Rich Wilkens will announce the arrests and indictments of 50 individuals as part of a national marriage fraud scheme dubbed Operation Honeymoon’s Over
221 East 4th St – Suite 400
1:00 PM EDT
ICE Acting Field Office Director Phil Miller will give a tour of the South Louisiana Correctional Facility for local media and Non – Governmental Organization’s
South Louisiana Correctional Center
3843 Stagg Ave
U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Mexico for his first summit with his Mexican and Canadian counterparts, with economic and security issues high on the agenda.
During the two-day North American Leaders Summit, Mr. Obama, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper are discussing efforts to stem the spread of the H1N1 flu virus, economic competitiveness, national security, and global climate change, White House officials said. Canada and Mexico are the U.S.'s first- and third-largest trading partners, respectively, and trade-related issues are another focus of the meeting.
Late Sunday afternoon, Mr. Obama joined Mr. Calderon in what one senior administration official described as a "cordial" bilateral meeting. Mr. Calderon raised objections to a U.S. ban on Mexican trucks shipping goods across the border, a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
"I think there's been a clear understanding that this issue was one that was a priority issue and one that everyone would like to see resolved as quickly as possible," the administration official said.
From the Washington Post, on H1N1:
As the first influenza pandemic in 41 years has spread during the Southern Hemisphere's winter over the past few months, the United States and other northern countries have been racing to prepare for a second wave of swine flu virus.
At the same time, international health authorities have become increasingly alarmed about the new virus's arrival in the poorest, least-prepared parts of the world. While flu viruses are notoriously capricious, making any firm predictions impossible, a new round could hit the Northern Hemisphere within weeks and lead to major disruptions in schools, workplaces and hospitals, according to U.S. and international health officials.
"The virus is still around and ready to explode," said William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University School of Medicine influenza expert who advises federal health officials. "We're potentially looking at a very big mess."
President Obama arrived in Mexico on Sunday for a two-day summit that will include discussions on swine flu, along with Mexico's drug wars, border security, immigration reform and economic recovery.
"Everyone recognizes that H1N1 is going to be a challenge for all of us, and there are people who are going to be getting sick in the fall and die," said John Brennan, the U.S. deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism and homeland security. "The strategy and the effort on the part of the governments is to make sure we . . . collaborate to minimize the impact."
From MSNBC, on counterfeit cash:
Nicholas Ostergaard has a new policy at the Jukebox, the deli and pub he owns in Indian Trail, N.C.: "No more hundreds."
The Jukebox now accepts nothing bigger than a $50 bill after a teenager paid for an $11 order last month with what turned out to be a fake $100 bill and walked away with $89 in change.
"I instantly thought it was fake," Ostergaard said. But when he checked the bill with a detector pen - a common device that uses iodine to verify U.S. currency - "it came up it was real."
That made the deli another victim in what the U.S. Secret Service said was an ambitious counterfeiting operation that has spread as much as $60,000 in phony currency at businesses from Hickory to Greensboro, in central North Carolina, just since May.
8:45 AM EDT
Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute will deliver remarks at the 2009 National Conference on Community Preparedness
Hyatt Regency Crystal City Hotel
2799 Jefferson Davis Highway
8 AM EDT
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate will deliver opening remarks at the 2009 National Conference on Community Preparedness
Hyatt Regency Crystal City Hotel
2:30 PM MDT
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Secretary John Morton will participate in a panel discussion on The Merida Initiative at the Border Security Conference
University of Texas at El Paso
500 W. University Ave.
El Paso, Texas