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:
From USA Today, on new warnings for small business that bank online:
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.
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.
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.
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.
UPDATE: Voting continues! Head over to the Coast Guard Compass to check out the second video for the contest. Go cast your vote!
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
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.
TSA Blog Team
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.
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
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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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.
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
Integrating DHS virtually, physically remains a big priority Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano Tuesday emphasized progress the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has made to integrate its disparate components in a year-end speech of the department's accomplishments in 2009.
"Sometimes I don't even see DHS as an organization of components, I see it as an organization of missions and responsibilities. That is the genesis of my vision for One DHS," Napolitano said in a speech at the headquarters of US Citizenship and Immigration.
Acknowledging that the work to standardize processes and tie together infrastructure at DHS began under former Secretaries Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff and would continue long after her tenure, Napolitano stressed the progress represented by a consolidated DHS headquarters that broke ground this year and a department-wide intranet coming online next year.
The DHS headquarters, to be located on the campus of Saint Elizabeth's hospital in southwest Washington, DC, will help unify the DHS components into one department simply by collocating them in the same physical space, Napolitano asserted. The consolidated DHS campus also will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars as the department's components pull their resources into shared maintenance and operations costs at one location.
The DHS intranet, slated to become operational in early 2010, will help sharing and collaboration virtually across the entire department, she added.
From Government Technology, on EINSTEIN 1 on Michigan’s government network:
In a move that could change security monitoring for states nationwide, Michigan announced it will deploy the federal government's network monitoring system EINSTEIN 1. The system, which all federal agencies are required to use, is run by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The federal-state partnership is the first of its kind, which Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm hopes will increase the types of cyber-threats Michigan can detect. The project could have implications for similar ones in others states in the future.
"It will enable greater federal and state coordination to promote mutual cyber-security interests and, if successful, will inform the efforts of state governments to enhance their own cyber-security efforts," Granholm said in a statement.
Michigan's collaboration with the DHS will include services from the agency's U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), which will identify possible abnormal activities on Michigan's networks and address threats to the cyber-infrastructure.
EINSTEIN 1 automates the collection and analysis of computer network security information from participating agency and government networks to help analysts identify and combat malicious cyber-activity that may threaten government network systems, data protection and communications infrastructure.
In 2008, the DHS updated the system, adding automation and a real-time reporting function. At the same time, the George W. Bush administration mandated that all federal agencies use it. Time will show whether those improvements translate to best practices for state network monitoring.
From the Los Angeles Times, because, come on – puppies!:
Federal authorities in San Diego County rescued 15 sick puppies that were being smuggled across the U.S. border from Mexico to be sold here as Christmas presents, officials said today.
The 2-month-old puppies, described as mixed-breed miniature poodles, were discovered Monday evening by Customs and Border Protection officers at the Tecate Port of Entry, according to San Diego County officials.
A majority of the animals were suffering from parvo, a virus that is often deadly. The puppies would be receiving intensive care from San Diego County Department of Animal Services or a local adoption center, officials said.
Officials identified the alleged smuggler as Raul Jimenez Gonzalez. He told authorities that he had a bottle of tequila as he attempted to cross the border, but federal officers saw something move in the back seat of his vehicle, according to county officials.
The puppies were discovered under a blanket in the back seat.
12 PM EST
Secretary Napolitano will deliver remarks at the “Women in Power” luncheon
Ritz Carlton Hotel, Salon I & II
1150 22nd Street NW
2 PM EST
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Acting Administrator Gale Rossides will testify about TSA’s response to the improper Web posting of an outdated, unclassified version of a Standard Operating Procedures document before the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Management, Investigations and Oversight.
311 Cannon House Office Building
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Thursday that overhauling the nation's immigration laws is still a top priority for President Barack Obama and that Congress is poised to act despite some lawmakers' concerns that a push could complicate Democratic re-election prospects.
Napolitano, Obama's point person on the topic, said key Senate Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, are onboard with moving ahead early next year. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Senate's immigration subcommittee, is working on the bill.
"We're ready to go, and the president wants to get it done,"
Napolitano said in a meeting with The Arizona Republic's Editorial
That might prove tricky in an election year, with some Democrats
already on the defensive and fatigued by a protracted and bruising battle over
Historically, presidents see their party lose congressional seats in midterm elections, and lawmakers generally prefer to avoid having to vote on controversial or divisive issues such as immigration as they run for re-election.
For some Democrats, particularly those running in the South and Southwest, passing nothing might be preferable to having to vote for a controversial measure, said Kareem Crayton, an associate professor of law and political science at the University of Southern California.
From Homeland Security Today, on the DHS National Info-sharing Initiative
On Wednesday Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the launch of a new information-sharing initiative designed to help federal, state, local and tribal first responders communicate better during
The new program, called Virtual USA, according to Napolitano, will enable first responders nationwide to link disparate tools and technologies in order to share the location and status of critical assets and information. These may include power and water lines, flood detectors, helicopter-capable landing sites, emergency vehicle and ambulance locations, weather and traffic conditions, evacuation routes, and school and government building floor plans.
"Our first responders need interoperable tools to make accurate and timely decisions during emergencies," said Secretary Napolitano. "Virtual USA makes it possible for new and existing technologies to work together seamlessly during disaster response and recovery and gives the public an opportunity to contribute information in real-time to support the efforts of police officers, firefighters and other emergency management officials."
As outlined in a release by DHS Virtual USA will integrates existing communications frameworks, utilizing current information-sharing platforms to permit new and existing technologies to seamlessly exchange information with one another. The initiative will attempt to foster dynamic information sharing among all federal, state, local and tribal practitioners.
From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, on homeland security grants
Dallas-Fort Worth was named one of the top 10 terrorism targets in the country by the federal government this week, a designation that paves the way for millions in extra homeland security funding to the region.
"This is not, I stress, bad news for Fort Worth or the North Texas region," Mayor Mike Moncrief said Thursday. "This is good news. It's something that needed to happen before it did."
Dallas-Fort Worth, Boston and Philadelphia were all added to the ranking of Tier 1 high-threat urban areas by the Homeland Security Department in its annual review. All cities not in the top 10 are lumped into Tier 2.
The bulk of the federal funding to fight terrorism comes from Homeland Security's
Urban Areas Security Initiative Program. Moving to Tier 1 instantly creates the possibility of 30 percent more funding for the three urban areas.
The Metroplex is now eligible for $25 million in fiscal 2010. The $5.8 million increase is bigger than that of any other urban area except New York City, according to federal documents.
"They moved us into Tier 1 so that we can increase our surveillance, especially for domestic terrorism," said Melissa Patterson, Tarrant County emergency management coordinator.
The money will fund a wide range of public services, including intelligence-gathering units focused on domestic terrorism and first responders trained to help during a variety of disasters, Patterson said. Some of the funding will also likely go toward preparing for future public health efforts such as mass vaccinations.
From Brownsville Herald, on a drug seizure a the southwest border
U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized more than 100 pounds of marijuana and arrested one Brownsville woman, officials said.
Elizabeth Noemi Almazan, 22, was arrested Monday afternoon at Veteran's International Bridge and later charged with possession of a controlled substance-marijuana, court records show.
The arrest took place when Almazan drove a 1995 white Dodge Dakota truck to an inspection booth at the bridge and was referred to a secondary inspection area, said an agency release.
At the secondary inspection area, CBP officers used various imaging devices and a narcotics detecting canine to confirm the presence of narcotics in the tires and tailgate of the truck, CBP said.
The officers removed 33 packages of marijuana from the tailgate and tires weighing approximately 107 pounds and with a street value of $107,000, the agency reported.