Every day, a high-stakes battle affecting the security and well-being of millions of Americans is played out far off our shores. The conflict occurs across more than 6 million square miles of ocean--an area larger than the size of the contiguous United States--where smugglers transport cocaine and other illegal drugs from South America. Their cargo is ultimately intended for sale in our cities and towns---but not if the U.S. Coast Guard stops it first.
"Cocaine trafficking is the leading drug threat to the U.S.," said Michael Walther, director of the National Drug Intelligence Center. Half the police departments surveyed in the country identify cocaine as the drug most contributing to violent crimes, according to Walther. After marijuana, cocaine is the second-most-used illegal drug in our country--more than 36 million people have tried it at least once. Its sales help support the activities of criminal gangs throughout the Americas; Mexican drug cartels; and terrorist organizations like FARC, a revolutionary group in Colombia.
From the Bellingham Herald, on border security around the Olympics:
While construction workers won't put the finishing touches on the new Peace Arch port of entry on Interstate 5 until December, federal officials say they have taken steps to make sure that nothing disrupts the flow of traffic during the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
"We hope the Olympics is a story about peaceful international competition, not about the border," said Tom Schreiber, U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman.
To minimize the chance of problems, the border agency is poised to keep 10 lanes open and staffed during the Olympics' February run. That means adding four temporary booths to the six normally available now.
While construction workers are still busy inside a new 30,000-square-foot building for border services, the most disruptive parts of the $107 million megaproject are complete, Schreiber said. The northbound overpass is up and running, and the eventual demolition of the old 1976 building won't get under way until the Olympics are over.
"They are freezing their activities that would be in the way," Schreiber said.
The construction project is under the authority of the U.S. General Services Administration. GSA spokesman Ross Buffington confirmed that the construction job will be taking a back seat to traffic flow while the Olympics are in progress.
From USA Today, on Super Bowl security:
The vast security operation protecting the Super Bowl and surrounding events ranges from Air Force F-16s patrolling the skies above Miami on game day to a buffer zone extending at least 100 yards out from the stadium.
No one without a credential or ticket can get past that barrier — and everyone is subjected to meticulous screening by law enforcement personnel. Also among the security tools: 100 magnetometers, bomb-sniffing dogs, and devices used to detect chemical or biological threats.
In the run-up to next Sunday's game between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints, the FBI is running the Joint Operations Center, which houses in one place more than 200 representatives from about 68 federal, state and local agencies that are responsible for security and responding to any threats.
Secretary Napolitano will participate in the Super Bowl XLIV Security press conference featuring members of national and local law enforcement and NFL security
Broward County Convention Center
1950 Eisenhower Blvd
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
From KGO-AM San Francisco, an interview with Secretary Napolitano following the President's State of the Union address:
According to a New York Times breakdown, President Obama used the word "jobs"29 times during Wednesday's State of the Union address and spent only nine minutes on national security. "Jobs are part of security too, economic security is part of security," says Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano who talks with KGO's Ed and Jen on the Liveline about the speech.From the Wall Street Journal, on a USCIS officer's work in Haiti:
From Homeland Security Today, on the effects of the President's proposed spending freeze:
Dozens of times a day, Pius Bannis helps decide the fate of a Haitian orphan.
An immigration officer at the American Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Mr. Bannis is charged with determining whether orphans had been matched to U.S. families before Haiti's devastating Jan. 12 earthquake. If so, he clears them to leave for the United States.
Hundreds of Haitian children have been brought to him since the quake, some only a few months old, others in their teens. With many of the country's orphanages damaged or destroyed, Mr. Bannis often pieces together cases assembled from records extracted from the rubble.
Even before the earthquake, Haiti was home to 380,000 orphans. Americans adopted 330 of them in the fiscal year that ended last September, making Haiti the 8th-most popular country for adoption by U.S. families. After the quake, the U.S. announced a humanitarian parole policy to expedite the processing of orphans already assigned to U.S. families.
Some 500 Haitian orphans have been cleared since then. Several hundred are already in the U.S., after passing through Mr. Bannis.
It is too early to say how the immigration officer's decisions will play out in the lives of hundreds of children who will stay or leave Haiti based upon his determinations.
But the impact could be great. Inundated by cases from newly overcrowded orphanages, Mr. Bannis must stay on guard against fraud.
With the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and homeland security functions exempted from a three-year freeze on most federal spending beginning in fiscal year (FY) 2011, funding for homeland security purposes should remain strong and active.
President Barack Obama unveiled the freeze proposal in his State of the Union address last night. However, details of the freeze were revealed to the media by Rob Nabors, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Jan. 26. In that press conference, Nabors stated that the freeze would not affect the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs or State.
The official details of the freeze won't be known until Monday when the full federalbudget for FY 2011 is unveiled.
10:30 AM EST
U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen will participate in a media availability about counterdrug operations in the United States and the ongoing, multiagency efforts to interdict and prosecute criminals involved in these operations
Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater
14850 Roosevelt BoulevardClearwater, Fla.
What’s wrong with this picture? Put quite simply, it’s a fake. The picture (minus the black boxes) has been gaining popularity ever since it was used on several popular web pages and blogs.
The TSA Office of Information Technology (OIT) was able to determine that the original images used to make these pictures were taken from a stock photo website and doctored to mimic Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) images. The doctored images are nothing more than full frontal photos (hence the black boxes) with the colors inverted. The image of the gun and belt were superimposed. This can be done with any basic image editing software.
It’s obvious that the woman shown on the left is not the woman in the doctored photos on the right. Notice that the bracelet on the right wrist in the clothed image does not appear in the doctored images. Her arms and legs are also in different positions in the clothed photo. It can be argued that maybe the photo was taken before she entered an AIT machine. Even so, just like X-ray images, hair does not show up in authentic AIT images and faces are blurred with a privacy algorithm.
Please take a look at this blog post to see larger versions of the images below and video of what AIT images actually look like.
Thanks, Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team
A number of factors are taken into consideration when designating an event as a National Special Security Event – including a few outlined below:
- Anticipated attendance by dignitaries - Events which are attended by officials of the United States Government and/or foreign dignitaries also may create a federal interest in ensuring that the event transpires without incident and that sufficient resources are brought to bear in the event of an incident.
- Size of the event - A large number of attendees and participants generally increases the security requirements.
- Significance of the event - Some events have historical, political and/or symbolic significance and generate significant attention.
With the State of the Union address, as with all major events in the Washington, D.C. area, the Secret Service calls upon established relationships with experienced counterparts to develop and implement a seamless security plan that will create a safe and secure environment for all involved. The Secret Service has always relied heavily on the assistance received from local and federal law enforcement/public safety partners and the military for NSSEs.
A number of DHS components are also assisting in planning and security for the State of the Union, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the United States Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration. Other partner agencies include:
U.S. Capitol Police
Metropolitan Police Department
U.S. Park Police
D.C. Office of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty
D.C. Department of Transportation
D.C. Department of Public Works
D.C. Fire and EMS
Fairfax County Government
Federal Bureau of Investigation
U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia
Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region
National Park Service
Federal Aviation Administration
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
From CNN, on the Secretary's comments on global airline security standards:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Tuesday there is a "renewed sense of urgency in the international community" about terrorism after the Christmas Day bombing attempt aboard a U.S.-bound plane, and the U.S. should now push for global security standards for international airports and aircraft.
"The attempted attack on the 25th of December was a powerful illustration that a terrorist would stop at nothing to kill Americans," Napolitano said. "I believe we have an important opportunity right now, right in front of us, to strengthen the system."
Napolitano last week traveled to Spain and Switzerland to meet with her counterparts, as well as foreign ministers and airline executives. Talks focused on four broad areas -- sharing information between countries, passenger vetting, security technology and creating international aviation security standards, she said.
"I was very gratified to see there exists a broad consensus for working on these four areas among my European counterparts and a clear sense of urgency to take immediate action to strengthen security measures," she said.
The trip culminated in a declaration confirming European and U.S. commitment to advancing security initiatives and to hold further talks about security.
10 AM EST
Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute will testify about the Department’s ongoing efforts to enhance and improve security following the attempted terrorist attack on Northwest Flight 253 before the House Committee on Homeland Security
311 Cannon House Office Building
10:30 AM EST
ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton will hold a news conference to announce the results of Project Big Freeze, a gang enforcement operation which targeted gangs in more than 50 cities with ties to known drug trafficking organizations
Potomac Center North
500 12th St. SW, First Floor
We encourage you to give it a read.
The attempted attack underscores that boarding a plane in one airport can give you access to almost any airport in the world. This means that we need a truly global approach to aviation security. While the failed bombing attempt took place on a U.S. bound flight, it involved at least four airports on three continents, and threatened the lives of citizens from 17 countries.
In Toledo, I found broad consensus on this point and a clear sense of urgency to take immediate action to strengthen security measures. Specifically, my European counterparts and I signed a joint declaration affirming our collective commitment to strengthening information sharing and passenger vetting, deploying additional proven security technologies, and bolstering international aviation security standards.
I found a similarly strong consensus in Geneva where I met with the leaders of the airlines that are part of the International Air Transport Association — which represents approximately 230 airlines and more than 90 percent of the world's air traffic. We agreed that government and the private sector must work collaboratively both to develop enhanced international security standards and–most importantly — to effectively implement them.
These meetings were the first in a series to bring about international agreement on stronger aviation security standards and procedures. Over the next few months, the International Civil Aviation Organization is facilitating several regional aviation security meetings where we will build on the progress we made in Toledo and Geneva.
Together, we can and will strengthen an international aviation system that, for half a century, has served as an extraordinary engine for progress and prosperity for the United States and around the world.
Check out Secretary Napolitano's video below, and visit the White House website to watch the rest.
The Secretary and indeed the entire Department want to hear your thoughts on securing our country in the months and years to come. We encourage you to tell us what you think in the comment section below.
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Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. She was the governor
of Arizona from 2003 to 2009, Arizona's attorney general from 1999 to 2002, and
the U.S. attorney in Arizona from 1993 to 1998.
"One area we are now seeing more of is the whole cyber issue. We saw that with China and Google (which said its computers were hacked in China). We're seeing increasing attempts to use the Internet not only to connect different people as a facilitator of terrorist groups but also as a possible means of attack...
"It can be a denial of service attack, which really shuts down your access not only to the Internet, but in some circumstances, to services that are operated through the Internet, like communications. It can be fraud or misinformation. It can be the theft of valuable defense information or of intellectual property."
Q: Will terrorists still be focused on aviation in 2020?
A: "It's hard to predict that far out. But what we are assuming is that aviation could be (their focus), which is why we're continuing to work on the technology that is used at airports...We also are working across the international air environment because this is an international issue. We need to lift aviation standards around the world."
What are the challenges of doing
"It's a challenge of capacity. In some places, it's a challenge of
political will. In some places, it's a challenge of resources."
Q: By 2020, will we see a body scanner at every airport checkpoint?
A: "I don't know about at every checkpoint. But I think what we'll see is a rapid deployment of body scanners, and rapid improvement of technology. We'll also see improvements in explosive detection (that will increase) our ability to pick up traces on persons and on baggage and on cargo, but particularly on persons."
From the Arizona Republic, on changes to the immigrant detention system:
The head of U.S. immigration enforcement on Monday announced plans for an overhaul of the government's controversial detention system for people who face deportation.
The moves described by John T. Morton, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, address oversight, medical care and tracking of detainees at facilities in Arizona and across the country.
. Hiring 50 federal employees to oversee the largest detention facilities, which now are largely run by contractors without much government oversight, Morton said.
. Assigning regional case managers to keep tabs on detainees with significant medical problems to ensure they are getting proper care. Detainees with major problems will be housed in facilities near hospitals and medical centers, Morton said.
. In June, launching an online immigrant-detainee locator so family members can easily find their relatives when they are in custody awaiting possible deportation.
"You can look up their name and find out where they are and what the visiting hours are at that detention facility," Morton said, during a speech at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.
From the Houston Chronicle, on the clean up effort in response to the Port Arthur oil spill:
As cleanup efforts of Texas' worst oil spill in more than a decade took shape Sunday, Coast Guard officials began examining radio transmissions to find out what went wrong in the moments before an 800-foot tanker collided with a barge carrying chemicals off Port Arthur.
Saturday morning's collision ripped a 15-by-8-foot hole in the hull of the Eagle Otome, which was loaded with Mexican crude oil intended for a Beaumont Exxon refinery. The crash dumped 462,000 gallons of oil into the intracoastal waterway in what Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said was the biggest Texas oil spill since 1994.
The slick spanned a stretch of seven or eight miles of waterway, threatening marshlands that serve as nurseries for juvenile shrimp and fish.
An army of 500 people manned the cleanup effort Sunday from helicopters, skimmers, boom vessels and several other Coast Guard boats. By the evening, cleanup crews had skimmed away 1,100 barrels of the 11,000 barrels spilled.
Secretary Napolitano will brief media and provide updates about her recent trip to Spain and Switzerland to discuss strengthening the security of the international aviation system with her European counterparts and global airline industry leaders
DHS Headquarters, Building 21
Nebraska Avenue Complex
3801 Massachusetts Ave NW
11 AM PST
ICE Acting Los Angeles Deputy Special Agent in Charge Jorge Guzman will participate in a media availability hosted by the Mexican consul general in Los Angeles and the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST)
Los Angeles, Calif.