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January 5, 2010
10:03 am

From the Associated Press, on the President's meeting with his national security team:

The government has added dozens of people to the ominous lists of suspected terrorists and those barred from U.S.-bound flights, a crackdown that comes as President Barack Obama is poised to announce changes to the nation's watchlists.

At the White House on Tuesday, Obama will speak in fresh detail about the findings of the urgent, sprawling reviews he ordered of how the government screens airline passengers and how it works to detect and track possible terrorists. Obama's remarks, to come after his meeting with top security and intelligence officials, will outline steps designed to strengthen the watchlisting effort and to thwart future terrorists attacks, the White House said.

The move comes after what officials call a botched effort by a Nigerian man to blow up an airliner over Detroit on Christmas, one that exposed cracks in the nation's security system, which is built upon the ability of agencies to share information and connect dots.

Meanwhile, people flying to the U.S. from overseas will continue to see enhanced security. The Transportation Security Administration has directed airlines to give full-body pat-downs to U.S.-bound travelers from Yemen, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and 11 other countries the U.S. believes have terrorism activity - a move criticized by one Muslim advocacy group.

From The Los Angeles Times, on increased travel security measures:

A UC Irvine student from Bahrain and his father experience the increased screening efforts that took effect Monday in response to a Nigerian's alleged attempt to bring down a flight on Christmas.

Some international travelers faced increased scrutiny Monday from airport security officials before boarding flights bound for Los Angeles and other destinations in the United States.Flying from Saudi Arabia, a UC Irvine student and his father, both Bahraini, said they encountered more security than usual at London's Heathrow Airport, where they passed through metal detectors and, like other passengers, underwent pat-down searches.

Then, after arriving at Los Angeles International, they were questioned by authorities as they claimed their luggage at the Tom Bradley terminal, and officials searched a book bag the student was carrying. The passengers, who spoke on the condition that they not be identified for fear of being harassed, said authorities wanted to know why they were in the U.S. and where they lived.

Public Events
CBP Yuma Sector Border Patrol will host a community forum at the San Luis City Council Chamber
1090 E. Union St.
San Luis, Ariz.

Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
January 4, 2010
9:54 am
From Reuters, on the Deputy Secretary's international trip:

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will dispatch senior agency officials to meet with airport executives around the world to review security and technology used to screen passengers on U.S.-bound flights, the department said.

The decision was announced late on Thursday, six days after a botched attempt by a Nigerian man to blow up a plane en route to Detroit from Amsterdam.

Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute and Assistant Secretary for Policy David Heyman will spearhead a broad international outreach effort at major international airports in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America, the department said in a statement.

"We are looking not only at our own processes, but also beyond our borders to ensure effective aviation security measures are in place for U.S-bound flights that originate at international airports," Napolitano said in the statement.

"I will follow up on these efforts with ministerial-level meetings within the next few weeks," she said.

From the New York Times, on increased international travel security:

Citizens of 14 nations, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, who are flying to the United States will be subjected indefinitely to the intense screening at airports worldwide that was imposed after the Christmas Day bombing plot, Obama administration officials announced Sunday.

But American citizens, and most others who are not flying through those 14 nations on their way to the United States, will no longer automatically face the full range of intensified security that was imposed after the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight, officials said.

In the immediate aftermath of the episode, officials had put in place heightened restrictions, and the change on Sunday represents an easing of that response. But the action on Sunday further establishes a global security system that treats people differently based on what country they are from, evoking protests from civil rights groups.

Citizens of Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria, countries that are considered "state sponsors of terrorism," as well as those of "countries of interest" - including Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen - will face the special scrutiny, officials said.

From the San Diego Union Tribune, on Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requirements at the nation's borders and ports of entry:

U.S. citizens entering the United States at land or sea ports from Mexico, Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean must present one of these documents:

. U.S. passport or passport card
. Trusted-traveler document, such as SENTRI
. Radio-chip-enhanced driver's license available in some states, but not California
. Birth certificate or naturalization certificate for minors younger than 16
. Tribal identification
. Military identification for service members traveling under orders

In the months following the implementation of new travel-document requirements at U.S. land and sea port of entries last June, there was a spike in the number of people arrested along the southern border posing as U.S. citizens, customs officials say.

Between June 1 and the end of August, the latest period for which information is available, there was a 30 percent increase compared with the same period a year earlier in the number of people who tried to enter illegally by either declaring themselves to be U.S. citizens, posing as citizens using someone else's documents, or using phony ones.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials aren't sure why the increase has occurred, but believe it is tied to the introduction of stricter document requirements at the border that began last year. Among other things, it has been a year since oral declarations of citizenship, once an accepted practice, were ruled out and travelers were required to present some sort of identification.

There are no public events scheduled for today.
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
December 31, 2009
11:21 am
From the Washington Post, on the intelligence review regarding last week's attempted terrorist attack:

President Obama will receive a report Thursday detailing how some government agencies failed to share or highlight potentially relevant information about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab before he allegedly tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day, while others were insufficiently aggressive in seeking out what was known about him, administration officials said Wednesday.

Intelligence intercepts from Yemen beginning in early August, when Abdulmutallab arrived in that country, contained "bits and pieces about where he was, what his plans were, what he was telling people his plans were," as well as information about planning by the al-Qaeda branch in Yemen, a senior administration official said. "At first blush, not all these things appear to be related" to the 23-year-old Nigerian and the bombing attempt, he said, "but we believe they were."

Agencies under particular scrutiny include the CIA, the National Security Agency -- in charge of electronic intercepts -- and the State Department. Each possessed pieces of the puzzle, none of which was considered overly worrisome or immediately actionable -- absent the other pieces -- under existing procedures. The National Counterterrorism Center, established after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to connect the dots government-wide, did not do so.

From The Record, on increased security for the travel sector:

Bomb-sniffing dogs and gun-toting police officers will be conspicuous at the region's airports and train stations this weekend as part of a local security clampdown following a failed attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound jet last week.

Security measures will be stepped up at New Jersey train stations and NJ Transit facilities, including the deployment of K-9 units and additional state police personnel, Governor Corzine announced Wednesday.

Similar steps - such as the deployment of K-9 units - will be taken at the region's three major airports and the PATH transit system, all of which the Port Authority operates.

While there is no known threat in the New Jersey area, local officials will "assure the safety and security" of the hundreds of thousands of travelers who will be flying in and out of Newark Liberty International Airport or riding on local train lines this weekend, Corzine said.

"We will also increase the number of officers patrolling our roadways to be on the lookout for impaired drivers or any abnormal activity," Corzine said.

From the Associated Press, on an uncovered smuggling tunnel in Nogales:

Border Patrol agents in the Arizona border city of Nogales discovered a 36-foot smuggling tunnel Tuesday that was under construction and caused a sink hole on a street.

Agency spokesman David Jimarez says the tunnel's builders knocked a hole in a drainage system in the neighboring Mexican city of Nogales and dug out an offshoot extending 25 feet into the American sister city.

Investigators don't know where the tunnel was supposed to end because it wasn't

No arrests have been made.

From USA Today, on new warnings for small business that bank online:

A rising swarm of cyber-robberies targeting small firms, local governments, school districts, churches and non-profits has prompted an extraordinary warning. The American Bankers Association and the FBI are advising small and midsize businesses that conduct financial transactions over the Internet to dedicate a separate PC used exclusively for online banking.

The reason: Cybergangs have inundated the Internet with "banking Trojans" - malicious programs that enable them to surreptitiously access and manipulate online accounts. A dedicated PC that's never used for e-mail or Web browsing is much less likely to encounter a banking Trojan.

And the bad guys are stepping up ways to get them onto PCs at small organizations. They then use the Trojans to manipulate two distinctive, decades-old banking technologies: Automated Clearing House (ACH) transfers and wire transfers.ACH and wire transfers remain at the financial nerve center of most businesses. ACH transfers typically take two days to complete and are widely used to deposit salaries, pay suppliers and receive payments from customers. Wire transfers usually come into play to move larger sums in near-real time.

"Criminals go where the money is," says Avivah Litan, banking security analyst at Gartner, a technology consulting firm. "The reason they're going here is the controls are antiquated, and a smart program can often get the money out."

There are no public events scheduled for today.
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
December 28, 2009
10:58 am
The Secretary appeared on several morning news shows today to discuss Friday's attempted terrorist attack and the resulting increase in security measures for the airline sector:

NBC's "Today Show" - link to video

MSNBC's Morning Joe - link to video

CBS News - link to blog post and video

Fox News - link to video

CNN - link to article

ABC News - link to article

There are no public events scheduled for today.
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
December 22, 2009
12:40 pm

Cross-posted from the Coast Guard Compass


Everyday, Guardians are involved in amazing rescues, national security operations and drug interdictions. Whenever possible, Guardians capture those Coast Guard operations on video. The videos truly highlight the missions and stories of America’s Guardians. Sometimes you see them on the evening news, but often you don’t.


For the past several years, the Coast Guard has been recognizing the top videos of the year. We’ve narrowed it down to 11 finalists (a tribute to the Coast Guard’s 11 statutory missions), but we want your help in deciding which one is the “Coast Guard Video of the Year” for 2009.

The link above will take you to a first look video compilation of the 11 finalists for video of the year. Starting next Monday (December 21, 2009), the Compass blog will highlight one video per day together with audio from a member of the Coast Guard unit involved in the mission. You can then follow the link to the Coast Guard YouTube “Video of the Year 2009″ playlist to use the rating and comment feature to cast your vote.

Votes will be accepted until January 8, 2010. The units with the top three videos will receive a Flip video camera to enhance their ability to capture and share imagery of their operations.

For updates on the contest, you can watch comments in the YouTube playlist, stay tuned to the blog, check the Coast Guard Facebook fan page or follow the Twitter hashtag #uscgtopvideos.


UPDATE: Voting continues! Head over to the Coast Guard Compass to check out the second video for the contest. Go cast your vote!

Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
December 22, 2009
8:50 am
By now you may have seen the announcement that the President has selected Howard Schmidt as the Cybersecurity Coordinator. I said on more than one occasion that it was important to get the right person, and we at DHS will be honored to work with Howard and under the leadership he will bring to the issue of cybersecurity. Howard has been involved in cybersecurity for many years, and I first met him when I was a cyber crime prosecutor with the US Department of Justice and he was a special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations in the 1990s. He built his own computers even then, and I’ll bet he still does.

Howard has demonstrated the ability to work across government regardless of party, and across industry, for many years. He helped establish the Information Technology – Information Sharing and Analysis Center, served on the President’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Board , has held key security positions in several private sector companies, has personally investigated cases and until recently continued to serve as an agent in a reserve capacity for the Army Criminal Investigations Division. It is hard to find someone in the cybersecurity community with whom Howard has not worked.

I and we look forward to continuing to work with Howard and his great team at the White House.


Phil Reitinger is the Deputy Under Secretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate and Director of the National Cybersecurity Center
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
December 21, 2009
8:13 am
An American Airlines jet taxis down a recently cleared runway at Washington Reagan National Airport, two days after a recorded 16.4 inches of snow fell on our nation's capital.

Cross-posted from the TSA Blog while sitting at Washington Reagan National Airport

Can you believe it? It’s that time of year again where turkeys head for the hills and people head for the airports. It’s the busiest travel time of the year and a time when people who rarely fly, or have never flown, take to the skies, so we wanted to provide some clarification and tips for those who might come to the blog looking for some information.

Here’s some guidance related to the most common questions we’ve been hearing lately. Please remember that each time our officers have to search a bag or a person, the line slows down.

The 4-1-1 on 3-1-1 (Liquids, Gels & Aerosols): Let me start by saying this. If you’re checking a bag, make it easy on yourself and just put your liquids in your checked luggage. That way, you don’t have to worry about 3-1-1. I know that suggestion doesn’t work for everybody. Some liquids are essential and some of you understandably would not like to pay to check your luggage. If you’d rather take liquids in your carry-on, please continue reading…

3-1-1 is the name for our liquid policy. You can read here for more details, but here is the gist of 3-1-1… Each passenger is allowed to take one clear quart-sized sealable bag and fill it with as many liquids in 3.4 oz or less sized containers that will fit, while still being able to seal the bag. Basically, don’t stuff it to the point where it won’t close.

Make sure you take the bag out of your carry-on prior to sending it through the X-ray, or our officers may have to search your bag.

If you have liquids, aerosols, or gels that are used for medical purposes, they do not need to adhere to our 3-1-1 policies and do not have to be placed in a bag. You may be asked to go through a TSA Family Lane (see below) so we can expedite the screening process. The liquids, gels and aerosols will need to be removed from your bags.

Answers to common questions: Stick deodorant is not limited to 3.4 oz or less, but gel or spray deodorant is. Also, any liquid makeup such as eyeliner should be placed in the baggie. That goes for perfume as well. Powder makeup is fine.

Family Lanes: Frequent flyers hate it when they’re in line behind a family, and guess what… families hate it when the frequent flyer is behind them tapping their foot and sighing. That’s why we created Family Lanes. They’re designed to let families take their time and ask questions without feeling rushed by the experienced frequent flyers who can zip through a checkpoint in no time. Also, as stated earlier, anybody carrying medically necessary liquids, aerosols and gels in excess of 3.4 oz may be directed to a Family Lane.

Foods: Pies are permitted, but they are subject to additional screening if our officers see any anomalies. (Additional screening of pies does not include our officers tasting the pie, no matter what they tell you…) Cakes, bread, donuts, turkeys, etc. are all permitted. If it’s a live turkey, you might want to have a word with the airline. Here is a list of items that should be placed in your checked bags or shipped: cranberry sauce, creamy dips and spreads (cheeses, peanut butter, etc.), gift baskets with food items (salsa, jams and salad dressings), gravy (mmm gravy), jams, jellies, maple syrup, oils and vinegars, sauces, soups, wine, liquor and beer.

Gifts: Wrapped gifts may need to be unwrapped. If there’s something in the gift that needs to be inspected, we have to open it. Our officers try their best not to mangle the gift wrap, but it’s not a guarantee and it also slows down the line for everybody else when we have to do this. It is suggested that you wrap the presents when you arrive at your destination. You also have the option of shipping the items as well.

Snow Globes: We are not in cahoots with the Heat Miser, but snow globes are not permitted in your carry-on luggage. They are sealed containers full of liquid that would have to be opened and destroyed to test. We’re not in the business of busting snow globes, so we suggest you place them in your checked baggage or mail them ahead of time.

ID & Boarding Pass Checking & Secure Flight: As you approach a TSA checkpoint, you will see an officer checking IDs and boarding passes. Please have your acceptable ID and boarding pass out and ready to present to our officer. If your ID is in a plastic sheath or other type of holder, it will need to be removed so our officers can properly inspect your IDs. By having your ID and boarding pass out and ready, you’ll help move the line along faster. The several seconds it takes to get your ID and boarding pass out might not seem like much time, but it really adds up when you’ve got people in line behind you.

Also, folks have had questions about the Secure Flight program and whether the name on your ticket has to match the name on your ID. The Secure Flight watch-list matching process occurs before a passenger even gets to the airport so if you get a boarding pass, the Secure Flight watch-list matching process is done. In other words, you are clear once you get that pass.

If you have lost or forgotten your ID, you will still be permitted to fly as long as you help us verify you are who you say you are by answering a few questions for us.

Inconsistencies: You may notice your screening experience at one airport doesn’t match the experience of another airport. We realize this happens, and some of it is intentional. While it can be a little confusing for our passengers, it also makes things unpredictable for those who might wish to do us harm.

Our officers also can use their discretion in different scenarios that allows them to use common sense and not abide by a checklist mentality that can be studied and defeated by those who wish to do us harm.

Shoes on Belt: We recommend you place your shoes on the X-ray belt as opposed to placing them in a bin. Why? It keeps the bins from getting too cluttered and allows our officers to get a better look at items to ensure prohibited items do not get on the plane. It also speeds things up when they get a better view and don't have to stop the X-ray belt for searches.

-----------------------------------The best piece of advice I could give a traveler is to arrive early if you have the time. No matter what happens, (aside from a flight being cancelled) if you get to the airport early, you should be fine. Worst case scenario is you’ll have some time to kill while you wait on your flight.

For any pilgrims who might be flying, be sure not to bring your muskets through the checkpoint and clothing with large buckles is discouraged as it will most likely alarm the walk through metal detector.

Is this all a bit too much to remember? Print out this handy dandy checklist (PDF) so you don’t forget anything.

For a complete rundown, check out our “What to Know before You Go” blog post. It has everything broken down by category.

Also, we’re going to be Tweeting a TSA Holiday Travel Tip every day, so follow us on Twitter @tsablogteam for travel tips, blog post announcements, and other useful information.


Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
December 18, 2009
11:35 am

From KTRK-TV Houston, on the Secure Communities initiative:

The Houston Police Department has teamed up with the Department of Homeland Security for a new program designed to identify and deport criminal illegal immigrants. But as you might imagine, the program is already stirring up some controversy.

The program isn't new, but it's new to Houston. While police say this technology puts the department on the cutting edge, some in Houston's immigrant community are skeptical.

It's called the 'Secure Communities' initiative, a sweeping new plan to target and remove potentially dangerous criminal illegal immigrants from the city's jails and eventually the country.

"Non citizens, if they commit a serious crime against people here, they ought to be deported after they serve their time," said Houston Mayor Bill White. "There are some people who have not been and there are some people who've come back."

Using the latest technology, anyone arrested for a Class C misdemeanor or above, will have their fingerprints taken and electronically compared to local and national databases all over the country, including the FBI's and the Department of Homeland Security's, where immigration history information can be accessed.

From the USA Today, on a seizure of counterfeit goods:

When federal and sheriff's investigators showed up with a search warrant at Bargain Corner Jean Store here, they found about $130,000 worth of fake True Religion, Ed Hardy, Affliction and other high-end jeans, T-shirts and sneakers.

They hauled out 1,500 items in 40 trash bags and 18 boxes from the store, the owner's minivan and employees' cars.

Not everything was counterfeit, investigators said. Mixed in were some pairs of legitimate Levi's and Wrangler jeans. But federal agents acted after being tipped off by one of the affected brands.

Counterfeiting "is a multibillion-dollar industry, a global crime and a serious threat," says Marcy Forman, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center in Arlington, Va.

Apparel-related counterfeiting doesn't get the same attention as counterfeit toothpaste, batteries or Christmas lights because no one dies or gets physically hurt from knockoffs of pricey jeans, purses and belts. But arguments that the phony products are made without safety standards - often using child labor and sold by people connected to terrorist activity or organized crime - are starting to gain traction.

Public Events
TSA Public Affairs Manager Dwayne Baird will participate in a media availability to highlight holiday travel tips
Boise Air Terminal/Gowen Field
3201 Airport Way
Boise, Idaho

Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
December 17, 2009
1:44 pm
When Secretary Napolitano took the reins at DHS, she outlined five major priorities for the Department: guard against terrorism; secure our borders; enforce immigration laws, prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters; and unify and mature DHS.

This final objective was the focus of the Secretary’s town hall meeting with employees this week. A standing-room-only crowd of employees packed the USCIS Tomich Center in Washington, DC, and more employees from across the country tuned in via video teleconference, to hear the Secretary highlight the Department's 2009 accomplishments and share her vision for creating One DHS.

After her remarks, the Secretary fielded questions from both the audience and from employees across the country who submitted questions via e-mail.

Video of Secretary Napolitano’s One DHS Town Hall with Employees – both the speech and the question-and-answer session with DHS workers – is now available below.

Secretary Napolitano made clear at the town hall that DHS’ biggest asset is its people, and she is proud to serve alongside the dedicated men and women who contribute to one of the most important missions around – protecting the American homeland and the American people. As she said, "DHS and our 230,000 employees are connected by a common mission and responsibility to protect the United States from all threats and disasters."

Please take a moment to watch the town hall below.

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Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
December 17, 2009
12:39 pm
From the Kansas City Star, on the government’s plan to combat human trafficking:
The Obama administration is weeks away from announcing a new surge - this one aimed at escalating the war on human trafficking in America.

"In January we are going to be announcing a major set of initiatives," Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, told The Kansas City Star.

Napolitano disclosed the administration's plans at the conclusion of The Star's six-month investigation exposing numerous failures in America's anti-trafficking battle.

Although details of the plan were not released, advocates and other experts said they're cautiously optimistic that this is the best chance in years to address many of the problems revealed in the newspaper's five-part series. They're also hopeful that the administration, which has reached out to them and asked what changes are needed, will correct structural flaws in the broken system.

"It is time to go back to the drawing board and promote a more seamless, coordinated plan," said Florrie Burke, a nationally known advocate for trafficking victims.

From the Associated Press, on the H1N1 vaccine:
After weeks of shortages, swine flu vaccine is plentiful enough that nearly half the states now say everyone can get it, not just people in high-risk groups.

But the good news comes with a challenge for health officials: how to keep persuading people to get vaccinated when swine flu infections are waning.

"We're worried that people might be thinking out of sight, out of mind," said Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health authorities say that getting vaccinated could be a lifesaver if a new wave of illnesses materializes this winter.

The swine flu vaccine supply started with just a trickle from manufacturers in early October, leading doctors to reserve it for pregnant women, people with asthma, children and young adults, and others at high risk of becomingly severely ill.

But now 95 million doses are available, and 10 million more are coming out every week. Health officials in 24 states have lifted their recommended restrictions, as have communities in other states, said Paula Steib, spokeswoman for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

From the Associated Press, on a drug seizure in Arizona:
U.S. Border Patrol agents say they have arrested eight suspected drug smugglers near Sentinel and seized 260 pounds of marijuana loaded into backpacks.

An agent detected a group of backpackers crossing the desert early Tuesday about five miles south of Interstate 8.

As authorities closed in, the group dropped their backpacks and ran. But agents apprehended all eight suspected smugglers and a search of the area turned up six makeshift burlap-style backpacks containing eight bundles of marijuana.

Border Patrol officials say the marijuana has an estimated street value of $208,000. The suspected smugglers and marijuana was transported to the Wellton Border Patrol Station for processing.

Public Event
2:30 PM EST
U.S. Fire Administrator Kelvin Cochran will testify about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance
253 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C.
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.


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