From the Wall Street Journal, on the Coast Guard's rescue of two men stranded on an offshore oil platform:
Customs officials have arrested a man they say tried to smuggle 8 pounds of heroin in his luggage on a flight from Guatemala City to Newark Liberty International Airport.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers arrested Guatemalan citizen Jose Arevalo on Oct. 31 after he was selected for routine baggage inspection. Inspectors say they found an unusually thick supportive backing on bags Arevalo was carrying, as well as false compartments in his luggage that contained a brown powder-like substance.
Authorities say the substance tested positive for heroin and has an estimated street value of nearly $370,000.
Two Chevron Corp. employees were rescued from an offshore oil platform 80 miles south of New Orleans on Monday after the facility was damaged because of Hurricane Ida, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
The workers called for help because they were worried that their living quarters "could fall into" the waters of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, said Senior Chief Petty Officer Mike O'Berry, a spokesman for the Coast Guard.
A walkway that connects crew members' living area to the rest of the platform was damaged by a wayward lift boat, stranding the two men, O'Berry said. A video shot by the Coast Guard shows rescuers hoisting the men into a helicopter in 28 mile-per-hour winds and choppy waters.
"It's a good thing we got the call when we did," Lt. Marc Lanore, a pilot at Air Station New Orleans who flew the helicopter during the rescue mission, said in a news release. "If it were any later, we may not have been able to perform the rescue because of the effects of Hurricane Ida."
From the Austin American Statesman, on DHS's efforts to eliminate human trafficking:
The Department of Homeland Security agency charged with investigating cases of modern-day slavery is enlisting the public's help to root out those involved.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement wants people to take action if they encounter possible victims of human trafficking and call its tip line anonymously at 866-347-2423 (866-DHS-2-ICE). It is part of a public service campaign called Hidden in Plain Sight, unveiled last week to draw attention to the plight of thousands of human trafficking victims in the United States.
According to the State Department, as many as 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked around the world each year, as many as 17,000 in the United States. Lured with false promises of well-paying jobs, victims are forced into prostitution, domestic servitude, farm or factory labor, or other types of work.
10 AM EST
Erroll Southers will participate in a hearing considering his nomination to be Assistant Secretary for the Transportation Security Administration before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
342 Dirksen Senate Office Building
2 PM EST Bruce McConnell, Counselor to National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) Deputy Under Secretary Philip Reitinger, will deliver remarks about balancing privacy and civil liberties protection with effective national cybersecurity via a live webcast entitled, “A Perspective on National Strategy for Identity Management and Cyber Security.”
From CNN, on a weakened Ida:
The killing of 13 people by a Muslim psychiatrist at an American army base must not lead to the victimisation of Muslim Americans, the US secretary of homeland security has said.
On a visit to the capital, Janet Napolitano said grassroots efforts were vital to preserving relations between Muslim Americans and the wider community after Friday's shootings at Fort Hood in Texas.
"We object to, and do not believe, that anti-Muslim sentiment should emanate from this," she said. "This was an individual who does not represent the Muslim faith."
Describing the killings as "a terrible tragedy", Ms Napolitano said a civil rights and civil liberties directorate in her department aimed to "prevent everybody being painted with a broad brush"."That work is ongoing and is part and parcel of how we view security," she said. "One of the things we'll do is make sure that we're reaching out to the state and local authorities within the US, because they often have better outreach to members of the Muslim community than we do." Ms Napolitano was speaking to female students at Zayed University, and took part in a private question-and-answer session with them.
Hurricane Ida weakened to a tropical storm Monday morning as it neared the U.S. Gulf Coast, where it could come ashore in the next 24 hours.
Ida's top winds fell to 70 mph (110 kph), the National Hurricane Center said in its 10 a.m. ET update.
Coastal communities between Grand Isle, Louisiana, and the Aucilla River in Florida are under a tropical storm warning.
Ida is expected to dump up to eight inches of rain in some parts of the affected area. It will begin drenching the area hours before its expected landfall Tuesday morning.
The hurricane center also warned of "large and destructive waves" caused by the storm, as it heads northwest near 16 mph (26 kph).
From the Associated Press, on a new cutter for the Coast Guard:
The U.S. Coast Guard has taken delivery of the second in a new class of
cutters built by Northrop Grumman Corp.
The first was delivered in May 2008; the latest, Friday, at the company's
Pascagoula shipyard. Eight Legend-class cutters are planned.
Bob Merchent, Northrop's vice president of surface combatants and U.S. Coast
Guard programs, called the cutters flagships of the Coast Guard fleet.
While the Waesche is only the second in her class, Merchent said she's "far
ahead" of her predecessor, the Bertholf, in fit, finish and mission
The ship, which includes two aircraft hangars and a flight deck capable of
handling rotary wing and manned and unmanned aircraft, can accommodate a crew of up to 148.
Commissioning is planned for May.
9 AM EST
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials will conduct a demonstration of CBP’s Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrator vessel
Comachee Cove Yacht Harbor
3070 Harbor Drive
10 AM CST
Science and Technology Directorate and Army Corps of Engineers officials will demonstrate the latest Portable Lightweight Ubiquitous Gasket (PLUG) concepts for closing levee breaches
U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service
Hydraulic Engineering Research Unit
9501 W Lakeview Rd
Acting Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis Bart R. Johnson will deliver remarks about the homeland security intelligence role and information sharing with state, local and tribal governments through fusion centers at the National Homeland Defense Foundation’s Symposium VII
Broadmoor (Boeing Conference) Hall
Colorado Springs, Colo.
St. Augustine, Fla.
Dubbed Operation ATLAS (Assess, Target, Link, Analyze and Share), this groundbreaking investigation brought together law enforcement agencies from over 80 countries worldwide to target and disrupt cash couriers--people employed by criminal organizations to move their illicit funds across international borders.
Operation ATLAS focused on identifying these illicit cash couriers by employing several different methods to detect cash carried in baggage, on travelers and in shipments aboard commercial flights at designated airports. ATLAS also promoted the sharing of information and intelligence among customs agencies. In the United States, this operation was led by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with participation from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and coordinated by the World Customs Organization.
Operation ATLAS is the latest and largest example of how increased international cooperation among law enforcement and customs agencies has resulted in the identification of new smuggling routes and methods used by criminal organizations throughout the world.
In September, ICE worked closely with law enforcement partners in Colombia and Mexico to uncover more than $41 million smuggled in shipping containers bound for Colombia. And in July, an ICE-led multilateral operation targeting cash couriers seized more than $3.5 million and detected an additional $4.2 million in undeclared currency at ports of entry around the globe.
This level of multilateral coordination is truly unprecedented and illustrates how the Department and our international allies are working together to shut down criminal organizations’ old ways of doing business.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
President Barack Obama promised "answers to every single question" about Thursday's shooting at Fort Hood after an attack by at least one U.S. service member that left 12 soldiers dead and 31 wounded.
Speaking at the Interior Department, Obama said he had already conferred with Defense Secretary Robert Gates about the attack and would continue to receive updates.
"We don't yet know all the details," Obama said. "What we do know is that a number of American soldiers have been killed and even more have been wounded in a horrific outburst of violence."
"These are men and women who have made the selfless and courageous decision to risk and at times give their lives to the rest of us on a daily basis," the president continued. "It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil."
U.S. Border Patrol agents netted nearly 900 pounds of marijuana during two unrelated seizures Wednesday.
The first seizure occurred just before noon when agents spotted a black 1992 Honda Accord speeding north from the Rio Grande, according to a U.S. Border Patrol statement. The agents stopped the car and found two bundles of marijuana in the passenger area. A search of the car revealed four additional bundles in the trunk. Agents arrested the driver and seized 274 pounds of marijuana.
The larger seizure took place in the late afternoon when agents saw a black 1997 Lincoln Town Car also speeding away from the Rio Grande. Agents attempted to stop the vehicle, but the driver accelerated north onto Farm-to-Market Road 493 from Military Highway 281. The driver lost control of the vehicle and it came to rest in a dirt culvert. The driver ran away and evaded arrest, but a passenger was taken into custody. Authorities found eight bundles of marijuana with a total weight of 604 pounds.
The drugs from the seizures have an estimated street value of $702,400.
From the Associated Press, on possible DNA testing for immigrants:
The Obama administration is considering using DNA tests for some foreign refugee applicants following a Bush-era pilot program that found massive fraud among those claiming family links to join relatives already in the United States.
The State Department said Thursday that it and the Homeland Security Department are nearing a decision on ways to reinstate a refugee resettlement program that was suspended last year when the fraud was uncovered.
"These new procedures will likely include DNA testing," the State Department said in a statement given to the Associated Press.The U.S. experiment using genetic testing ended in 2008 and was aimed only at proving family relationships.
From the Orange County Register, on a change in ICE's policy towards illegal immigrants:
Immigration agents in charge of chasing down illegal immigrants who are avoiding deportation orders are increasingly focusing their efforts on arresting those with criminal records.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement statistics reflect a shift in the new administration's focus compared to the last three years. For instance, three years ago only 22 percent of those arrested by fugitive operations agents in the Southern California area had criminal records. During this fiscal year, more than 50 percent of the 3,039 arrests in the same area had a criminal history
Secretary Napolitano will participate in a meeting with the European Parliament to discuss coordination to combat international crime and terrorism.
Altiiero Spinelli Building
Rue, Wiertz, 60
12 PM LOCAL
Secretary Napolitano will participate in a media availability with members of the European Parliament.
Ana Politovskaia Press Roo
2:15 PM LOCAL
Secretary Napolitano will join World Customs Organization Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya announce the results of Operation ATLAS.
World Customs Organization
Rue du Marche, 30
Whether you are boarding a flight to Des Moines, on an AMTRAK train that shares a track with freight transports, or on the road behind a truck carrying hazardous materials - TSA has a hand in making sure that you are safe along the way. (Planes, trains, and automobiles, indeed.) I suppose it goes without saying that with this level of public interaction comes with a lot of opinions. The rules for what you can and can't bring onto an airplane are complicated, and sometimes frustrating. Why in the world would a government agency tell you that you have to take your flip-flops off before going through a metal detector? Well, flip-flops can be modified to conceal a small compartment – just about any shoe can, even the slimmest stiletto. Who knew? Behind each of these rules is a lot of research, intelligence, and consideration - and that's not easy to explain at an airport checkpoint.
So, almost two years ago, TSA began an experiment, launching a blog to directly engage with the public. Today the idea might seem pedestrian, but in January of 2008 it was among the first ten government blogs in existence, and "risky" would have been an understatement in describing what TSA was proposing: an online public forum where one of the government's newest and most controversial agencies would discuss its most controversial rules and decisions and let travelers do the same. Good times.
Almost two years later, the results speak for themselves. Over one million hits to date; dozens if not hundreds of public comments and discussions on each post; and a reputation as a space where government responds quickly to public concern, and proactively addresses issues that may generate questions and confusion. Now, it goes without saying that the DHS blog would laud the efforts of one of its component blogs, right? Except today, you don't have to take our word for it.
Yesterday, Adobe and MeriTalk honored the TSA Blog with a Merit Award during a ceremony at the Ronald Reagan building here in Washington, D.C. Merit Awards "recognize excellence in innovative implementations that aim to deliver a more efficient and transparent government." The TSA Blog earned the award for "demystifying airport security processes and debunking myths by providing simple, non-bureaucratic explanations of why TSA does what it does to keep the traveling public safe."
So, big ups to our friend to Curtis "Blogger Bob" Burns and the entire team who work every day on the TSA Blog to combat misconceptions, respond to public questions and criticisms, and explain in human terms the reasons behind our security measures. From the President on down, this administration has worked since day one to make government a more transparent, open, engaging institution, a place from which the public can expect more information and answers from their elected officials and government employees. Congratulations to TSA for staying ahead of the curve on this one.
"Blogger Bob" Burns just after receiving the Merit Award.
Head over to the TSA Blog to check out some of their latest responses.
The Senate late Wednesday confirmed by voice vote Tara O'Toole as undersecretary of the Homeland Security Department's Science and Technology Directorate.
Her nomination had been held up by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., over concerns about past lobbying work. But an aide to McCain said he would allow the nomination to go forward after she responded to questions.
"Dr. O'Toole is assuming her role at a critical time, as the H1N1 flu pandemic is spreading across the nation at an alarming rate," Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joseph Lieberman said in a statement. "Dr. O'Toole brings a remarkable breadth of experience to this job that is so crucial to our nation's security. She is an inspired choice and I congratulate her on her confirmation."
From Information Week, on IdeaFactory:
The Department of Homeland Security is latching onto one of the Transportation Security Administration's most innovative IT initiatives, a Web 2.0 crowd-sourcing portal called IdeaFactory. Like TSA, Homeland Security will use the platform to encourage its employees to come forward with new ideas on how to do things.
IdeaFactory is a custom-built, .NET Web application that lets employees submit ideas for new programs and rule changes. Other users can rate the ideas, comment on them, pick favorites, and forward them to others. When a proposal gets enough attention, it's sent to an "idea committee" that reviews it and decides what steps to take. It's essentially a digital, and transparent, ideas box.
From Homeland Security Today, on the first public meeting of the Long-Term Disaster Recovery Working Group:
The departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) hosted the first public meeting of their Long-Term Disaster Recovery Working Group Wednesday in New Orleans, La., to begin the development of a national disaster recovery framework.
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, along with representatives from about 20 federal offices, joined the Louisiana Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, the Louisiana Recovery Authority, and the City of New Orleans at the University of New Orleans to discuss 16 specific topic areas.
Questions debated by the government officials at the form ranged from the roles of federal, state and local governments in disaster recovery to unmet needs in recovery to best practices for incorporating public input into recovery efforts.
Napolitano called the public forum a useful means of strengthening the ongoing recovery of the Gulf Coast region, which is still rebuilding more than four years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
1:40 PM Local
NPPD Cyber Protection and Awareness Director of Critical Infrastructure Jenny Menna will deliver remarks about the Cyberstorm exercise at the Swedish EU- Presidency International Conference on Resilience-Resilient Electronic Communications
Folkets Hus at the Stockholm City Conference Centre
3 PM Local
NPPD United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team Acting Director Randy Vickers will deliver remarks about the Government Forum of Incidence Response and Security Teams at the Swedish EU- Presidency International Conference on Resilience-Resilient Electronic Communications
Folkets Hus at the Stockholm City Conference Centre
10 AM EST
ICE Office of Investigations Deputy Assistant Director Janice Ayala will testify about organized retail crime before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security
2141 Rayburn House Office Building
2:15 PM EST
NPPD Counselor Bruce McConnell will deliver remarks about DHS’ cybersecurity initiatives at the INPUT Fed Focus Conference
Tyson’s Corner Ritz Carlton
1700 Tyson’s Blvd
2:30 PM EST
NPPD Deputy Under Secretary Philip Reitinger will deliver closing remarks about the importance of integrity, security, and reliability in software and the DHS’ perspective on software security progress at the 11th Annual Software Assurance Forum
Crystal Gateway Marriott 1700 Jefferson Davis Highway
For well over two centuries, the Coast Guard has worked to safeguard our Nation and its citizens, to secure our maritime borders, and to serve as a responsible steward of our oceans, our coasts, and the Great Lakes. – Admiral Thad Allen, Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard
The Coast Guard has a centuries-old tradition as America’s primary federal maritime law enforcement agency. Over the years, the missions have changed, but the Coast Guard’s roles have remained the same: maritime safety, security and stewardship. Tomorrow, Admiral Allen will discuss the merits of a National Ocean Policy and improved governance framework as he testifies before Congress as a member of the Obama Administration’s Ocean Policy Task Force. This initiative represents a significant opportunity to employ a “whole government” approach to manage the use and protection of our marine resources and maritime waterways with an emphasis on sustainability and predictability.
Guardians are no strangers to big picture approaches to the governance of our nation’s waterways. For nearly two decades, Guardians have participated in scenario-based strategy development exercises aimed at forecasting the threats and opportunities to the Coast Guard’s missions through the Evergreen Process and as recently as 2007 issued a Coast Guard Strategy for Maritime Safety, Security and Stewardship which called for a national policy to “address concerns ranging from increased use of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to new uses in the Arctic.” More recently, Coast Guard cutters have assisted researchers at NOAA by deploying global drifter buoys to help us better understand our oceans while the polar icebreaker Healy has been involved in multiple initiatives to map and better understand the changing Arctic landscape.
Log on to Coast Guard Compass tomorrow morning for more on Admiral Allen’s appearance on Capitol Hill and check out the Commandant’s Twitter page to follow his testimony live.
For more information on the Coast Guard’s role in the Ocean Policy Task Force, please visit Admiral Allen’s blog posts on the establishment of the Task Force, the Task Force’s Arctic Awareness trip, marine spatial planning, and the Ocean Policy Task Force’s Interim Report.
With National Cybersecurity Awareness Month now finished, I would like to remind everyone that cybersecurity is not an issue that requires our attention only one month a year. Instead, we need to be thinking about cybersecurity every time we turn on a computer. Further, as the threat of cyber attacks continues to increase, the U.S. Government and the nation as a whole need to continue to develop and identify the young cybersecurity experts who will keep our computers and digital networks secure and resilient.
One of the ways the U.S. Government cultivates future cyber defenders is through competitions such as the U.S. Cyber Challenge. This program, which is comprised of three separate cybersecurity challenges, has the goal of identifying 10,000 young Americans with the skills to fill the ranks of cybersecurity practitioners, researchers, and leaders. The program nurtures and develops their skills, gives them access to advanced education and exercises, and where appropriate, enables them to be recognized by colleges, companies, and government departments and agencies where their skills can be of the greatest value to the nation.
One of the amazing stories from this year’s U.S. Cyber Challenge is Michael Coppola. Michael is a high school senior and is the leading point scorer through two rounds of the Netwars challenge. Despite not having much formal cybersecurity training, Michael is beating teams of adults and cybersecurity professionals, and, as you can see in the interview excerpt below, remains humble and grounded. Keep up the good work, Michael!
Q. So, Michael, what we'd really like to hear about is what it was like to participate in the NetWars competition. But for starters, how did you even find out about it?
A. In May, a news collective, Digg, pointed me to an article on Forbes.com that described the NetWars contest but didn't provide any information on how to actually participate. About a month later, a link to the contest surfaced on the 2600 news feed, and the rest is history
Q. And just out of curiosity, you're in your senior year in high school - had you already taken computer science courses at school?
A. Yes, I've taken a few, but they don't offer computer security classes. I've taken Graphic Design, Web Design and Animation, and Computer Networking and Repair. I enrolled to take Introduction to Programming this year, but they cancelled it, because they couldn't find a suitable teacher.
Q. Did you ever wonder about what you might "win" or get out of it?
A. The original flyer said something about "cyber camps," but I didn't really know what that meant. I played just to play, and if I won anything from it, then all the better.
Q. Were you surprised when you won? Did you know that the second highest score came from a TEAM of five (?) players working together?
A. I was actually very surprised to be honest. I didn't expect to win, because I assumed that the people I was competing against would be in college with formal educations. Also, I had no idea the second place contestant was in fact a team of five until you asked me!
John Brennan is Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism
The conference hall was packed this morning, as privacy professionals from around the world crammed together to hear from royalty - the Prince of Asturias, the Spanish heir to the throne - and politicians alike.
The Secretary and the Minister both made clear that their vision of information sharing had to be consistent with privacy and civil liberties protection. Minister Rubalcaba began his speech with an emphatic statement - security and privacy are common principles, and can co-exist! He also warmly welcomed Secretary Napolitano, recognizing that her presence at this conference demonstrated the shared will of Europe and the US to work together.
Secretary Napolitano specifically acknowledged the completion of the work of the High Level Contact Group in crafting data protection principles, and encouraged movement towards a binding data protection agreement, stressing "what unites us far outweighs what divides us - including a long-standing respect for human rights and individual liberties."
As a privacy professional, this interaction between privacy leaders and policy leaders heralded a new era in transparency, one of the hallmarks of the Obama Administration; personally, it was heartening to witness this important dialogue. As both the Minister and Secretary Napolitano made clear, security and privacy can reinforce each other. At the Department of Homeland Security's Privacy Office, we try to implement this principle every day.
Mary Ellen Callahan is the Chief Privacy Officer for the Department of Homeland Security
Hundreds of privacy experts from around the world met in Madrid on Wednesday for a three-day conference which aims to arrive at a global standard for the protection of personal data.From the Associated Press, on the increase of gun and cash seizures at the Mexican Border:
US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano as well representatives from data protection agencies from 50 nations and top managers from key Internet firms like Google and Facebook are taking part in the event, billed as the world's largest forum dedicated to privacy.
Artemi Rallo Lombarte, the director of the Spanish Data Protection Agency, an independent control authority which is organising the 31st International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy, said laws regulating privacy vary greatly around the world.
"These differences are far from being an obstacle, they should instead enrich our initiatives to promote the effective guarantee of rights through a global convention for the protection of privacy and personal data," he said in a opening address to the conference.
"This is one of the main goals of this international conference," he added.
Participants hope the international standards reached at the gathering will serve as the basis for a universal, binding legal instrument on data protection.
U.S. authorities on Tuesday reported a spike in seizures of guns and cash along the Mexican border since they began assigning more agents to stem the flow of southbound contraband.From the Homeland Security Today, on the standardized tribal ID cards:
Nearly 600 illegal weapons were seized along the border by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials from March through September, an increase of more than 50 percent from the same period of 2008.
The agencies seized more than $40 million in cash along the border from mid-March through September, nearly double the amount in the year-ago period.
The seizures represent a tiny fraction of business done by Mexican and Colombian drug lords. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, those drug lords generate $18 billion to $39 billion in wholesale drug proceeds in the United States each year. Cash proceeds are smuggled across the border to Mexico.
But U.S. officials said the figures demonstrate that heightened enforcement is paying off.
Tohono O'odham Nation is latest to move on enhanced ID card The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has struck a fourth agreement for enhanced tribal identification cards compliant with US travel laws with a Native American tribe, the department announced Tuesday.Public Events
DHS and the Tohono O'odham Nation, which has lands in Arizona and Mexico, agreed to standards for an enhanced tribal card to be carried by the roughly 28,000 registered members of the tribe. The identification card complies with the specifications of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which mandated strict requirements for travel documents for citizens of the United States, Canada and Bermuda--who may previously have not required a passport--on June 1.
"This agreement will strengthen safety along our borders while providing Tohono O'odham members a secure and standardized ID card," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement. "In the months ahead, we will continue to build upon these efforts-from secure identification to preparing for emergencies-with our tribal partners across the country."
9 AM EST
CBP Acting Commissioner Jay Ahern will deliver remarks at the Commercial Operations Advisory Committee quarterly meeting
Ronald Reagan Building
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
10 AM EST
U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen will testify about the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force process and coastal and marine spatial planning before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard
253 Russell Senate Office Building