From the San Jose Mercury News, on a disrupted lottery scam:
Federal authorities Monday handed a $7,000 check to an elderly San Jose woman, money that was intercepted at the Canadian border as part of a sweepstakes scam - but she still lost $300,000 in a previous scam.
The $7,000 was recovered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Canadian police have not yet arrested those involved with that scam, officials said.
The victim, an 82-year-old woman who asked not to be identified, told the Mercury News she was told by phone in early 2009 that she won $4.5 million in the Canadian sweepstakes. She said a "lovely gentleman'' who claimed to work for the U.S. Department of Justice told her she needed to pay taxes before she was to claim the winnings.
The woman cashed in her savings and sent in three checks totaling about $300,000, she tsaid. Then, the man told her she'd also won a $10 million lottery in Hong Kong and would have to pay $1 million in taxes to claim that prize. And she sent in even more money - $7,000 in cash - before authorities got wind of what was happening?.
They intercepted the envelope containing the money at the Canadian border, according to ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice.
From the Eureka Times Standard, on the damage toll form this weekend's earthquake in California:
As Humboldt County continued the process Monday of assessing the destruction left in the wake of Saturday's earthquake, the figures kept creeping up, with more than $28 million in damage now estimated in Eureka alone.
"We're still inspecting damaged buildings, so we do expect that number to increase," said Gary Bird, public information officer for Eureka's emergency response team.
While Eureka was the hardest hit in Saturday's 6.5 earthquake that struck at 4:27 p.m. about 20 miles west northwest of Ferndale, damage reports trickled in Monday from other areas of the county. Meanwhile, the Humboldt County Chapter of the American Red Cross continued to help the 14 individuals displaced by the quake connect with services, retain shelter and generally move on with their lives.
The county's state and national representatives also continued working Monday to ensure the area is in line for federal and state aid, if it's needed.
From the Associated Press, on a fuel spill in Alaska:
The U.S. Coast Guard is responding to a report that an underground diesel tank on Alaska's Adak Island has leaked fuel.
Adak Petroleum personnel said Monday night that a tank containing about 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel had reportedly released an unknown amount into Sweeper Cove.
The workers reported that the fuel is contained within the cove, and they are using recovery equipment to clean it up.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Charly Hengen says Coast Guard personnel and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation workers are making plans to fly to Adak on Tuesday to assess the size of the spill and monitor cleanup.
1:30 PM EST
National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) Under Secretary Rand Beers will deliver remarks highlighting NPPD’s critical infrastructure protection efforts at the National Infrastructure Advisory Council Quarterly Business Meeting
National Press Club (Ballroom)
529 14th Street NW
Results are in! The winners of the first annual Coast Guard Video of the Year Award are…
Drum roll please…..
With an average rating of 4.64 (out of a possible 5) stars, Coast Guard Cutter Sailfish wins first place for their video featuring the dewatering of the fishing vessel Blue Diamond about 90 miles off the coast of New Jersey. The 87-foot CGC Sailfish is homeported in Sandy Hook, NJ.
“The entire crew is pumped to win this contest!” said the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Junior Grade Steve Davies. ”When Chief Goss was taking the pictures and video during the rescue, he was just thinking about the families and friends of Sailfish. We hadn’t thought about posting anything online, but then the First District Public Affairs staff put a great video together and posted it online for everyone to see. It’s a great feeling to get some recognition for the work we did that day. The Coast Guard did a lot of great things in 2009 and we were just lucky the case was successful, the three fishermen and their vessel were saved, and that we were able to capture some of it on film.”
Click here to read more on the rescue and watch our winning video (or watch the extended version of the rescue operation here).
With an average rating of 3.53 stars, Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) 409, a Tactical Law Enforcement Team South (TACLET South) unit located in South Florida, won second place for a Navy video of the LEDET capturing suspected pirates as part of Combined Task Force 151.
“It was a great working relationship between the LEDET and the crew of USS Gettysburg,” said Lieutenant Dave Ratner, Commanding Officer of TACLET South. “It is a big honor to be involved in showing the public the Coast Guard’s involvement in non-traditional, overseas missions and our efforts to help combat the international piracy efforts.”
Click here to read about the mission and watch our second place video (or watch an extended version of the operation here).
LEDET 409 places second in the 2009 Coast Guard Video of the Year contest. Click the image to watch the extended version of the joint operation.
With an average rating of 3.35 stars, Coast Guard Air Station Astoria won third place with a video featuring the rescue of a paraglider from a cave on the shoreline of Cape Lookout. The rescue swimmer, AST3 Robert Emley, and his flight crew were featured as the Guardians of the Week a few days after the SAR case. Amazingly, this rescue was just one of five missions in 12 hours the air crew conducted that day.
Click here to read about this daring rescue and watch our third place video.
AirSta Astoria places third in the 2009 Coast Guard Video of the Year contest. Click the image to watch the video of the rescue operation.
All of the video nominations were fantastic, but the top three winners were determined by the public’s vote using YouTube’s rating system of one to five stars. The winning units will receive an HD Flip video camera in a waterproof case to enhance their ability to capture and share imagery of their operations.
Congratulations to all of this year’s top 11 videos! Excellent job using video to highlight the missions and stories of America’s Guardians.
The next contest featured on the Compass blog will be the People’s Choice Award for this year’s Coast Guard Photo Contest. Click here for details.
From USA Today, on advanced imaging technology:
Air travelers strongly approve of the government's use of body scanners at the nation's airports even if the machines compromise privacy, a USA TODAY/Gallup poll finds.
Poll respondents appeared to endorse a Transportation Security Administration plan to install 300 scanners at the nation's largest airports this year to replace metal detectors. The machines, used in 19 airports, create vivid images of travelers under their clothes to reveal plastics and powders to screeners observing monitors in a closed room.
"It would seem much more thorough than the process that we're doing now," poll respondent Joel Skousen, 38, of Willcox, Ariz., said. "It would put me more at ease getting on a plane."
In the poll, 78% of respondents said they approved of using the scanners, and 67% said they are comfortable being examined by one. Eighty-four percent said the machines would help stop terrorists from carrying explosives onto airplanes. The survey was taken Jan. 5-6 of 542 adults who have flown at least twice in the past year.
Only 29% of respondents say they are more concerned about air safety since the alleged Dec. 25 attempt by a Nigerian passenger to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight. Bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab got through an airport metal detector in Amsterdam with powder explosives in his underwear.
From CNN, on ICE's Secure Communities program:
Evans Mesadieu has racked up a lengthy rap sheet during the three years he has lived illegally in the United States.
He has been convicted of at least six charges, including battery on a law enforcement officer and cruelty to children.
Each time he was arrested, Mesadieu lied about his status, using 15 aliases in Georgia and Florida that allowed him to continue living illegally in the country.
Now, he faces deportation back to his home country, the Bahamas, because of a new fingerprinting program launched by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
"What we are introducing to the process is the digital exchange of the fingerprints so that we can run them through the databases, not only at the FBI but at the Department of Homeland Security for immigration purposes in a matter of minutes and get them back to the law enforcement officials," said John Morton, assistant secretary of homeland security.
The Secure Communities program was launched in one county in October 2008 and has been growing ever since. It is now available in 108 counties in 11 states, and DHS hopes to have the program available nationwide by 2013.
"Secure Communities is all about public safety, and it is all about trying to identify for removal from this country serious criminal offenders in local communities," Morton said.
From the Associated Press, on this weekend's earthquake in California:
Residents of a Northern California county gingerly cleaned up Sunday after the area dodged a catastrophe, escaping a 6.5 magnitude earthquake with little more than bumps, cuts and broken glass.
Entrances to Eureka's Bayshore Mall were blocked as engineers surveyed for damage. Area bridges suffered some bent rails, and local stores reported messy aisles where bottles and jars flew from shelves and shattered, authorities said.
"We're very, very fortunate that it's not worse, but there is a lot of damage," Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., said in a Eureka press conference. "This is a big deal."
Still, the Saturday afternoon temblor - centered in the Pacific about 22 miles west of Ferndale - caused only limited structural damage and a few hours of power outage. There were no major injuries, other than an elderly resident's fracture hip.
A preliminary estimate of damage in Eureka came to $12.5 million, said the city's fire chief, Eric Smith. No countywide assessment was available.
There are no public events scheduled for today.
Yesterday, I joined White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan to announce recommendations that DHS has made to the President for improving the technology and procedures used to protect air travel from acts of terrorism.
The attempted attack on Northwest Flight 253 is a powerful illustration that terrorists will go to great lengths to try to defeat the security measures that have been put in place since Sept. 11, 2001. The steps I outlined yesterday will strengthen aviation security—at home and abroad—through new partnerships, technology and law enforcement efforts.
These steps include
- Re-evaluating and modifying the criteria and process used to create terrorist watch lists—including adjusting the process by which names are added to the “No-Fly” and “Selectee” lists.
- Establishing a partnership on aviation security between DHS and the Department of Energy and its National Laboratories in order to develop new and more effective technologies to deter and disrupt known threats and protect against new ways by which terrorists could seek to board an aircraft.
- Accelerating deployment of advanced imaging technology to provide greater explosives detection capabilities—and encourage foreign aviation security authorities to do the same—in order to identify materials such as those used in the attempted Dec. 25 attack. The Transportation Security Administration currently has 40 machines deployed throughout the United States, and plans to deploy 300 additional units in 2010.
- Strengthening the presence and capacity of aviation law enforcement—by deploying law enforcement officers from across DHS to serve as Federal Air Marshals to increase security aboard U.S.-bound flights.
- Working with international partners to strengthen international security measures and standards for aviation security.
Additionally, last week I dispatched Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute, Assistant Secretary for Policy David Heyman and other senior Department officials to meet with leaders from major international airports in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Australia and South America to review security procedures and technology being used to screen passengers on U.S.-bound flights and work on ways to collectively bolster our tactics for defeating terrorists
Later this month, I will travel to Spain for the first of a series of global meetings with my international counterparts intended to bring about broad consensus on new international aviation security standards and procedures.
These steps come in addition to the Department’s immediate actions following the attempted attack on Dec. 25, 2009—including enhanced security measures at domestic airports and new international security directives that mandate enhanced screening of every individual flying into the United States from or through nations that are State Sponsors of Terrorism or other countries of interest and threat-based, random enhanced screening for all other passengers traveling on U.S.-bound flights.
I want to thank the Department of Homeland Security personnel who have been working day-in and day-out to implement these security measures since Christmas—as well as the traveling public for their continued patience. The public remains one of our most valuable layers of defense against acts of terrorism.
President Barack Obama has declared "the buck stops with me" over major intelligence flaws exposed by an Al-Qaeda attack on a US passenger jet and ordered a sweeping homeland security overhaul.
Releasing two reports on the thwarted Christmas Day bombing, Obama said spy agencies did not properly "connect and understand" disparate data that could have busted the plot as it was planned by an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen.
He said the probes revealed that US analysts knew alleged attacker Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was an extremist and knew Al-Qaeda in Yemen was plotting an attack -- but could not connect the two strands of intelligence.
And as critics charge his administration is too soft on terror and slow to act after the attack, Obama said the United States is "at war with Al-Qaeda" but promised terrorists would not force Americans to adopt a "siege" mentality.
"I am less interested in passing out blame than I am in learning from and correcting these mistakes to make us safer," Obama said, signaling there would be no immediate firings of top spy chiefs over the security breakdown.
"Ultimately the buck stops with me. As president, I have a solemn responsibility to protect our nation and our people, and when the system fails, it is my responsibility."From the Washington Post, on the use of full body imaging technology:
The United States will urge governments around the world to deploy controversial whole-body imaging scanners at airports to detect explosives and other objects hidden beneath people's clothing, President Obama said Thursday.
The announcement came as Obama and top security aides detailed intelligence failures and responses to aviation security gaps uncovered in the Dec. 25 incident in which a 23-year-old Nigerian man linked to al-Qaeda allegedly tried to blow up an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight with explosives hidden in his underwear.
On air travel screening, administration officials elaborated on decisions previously announced: ramping up the presence of federal air marshals, for example, particularly on the 2,000 daily U.S.-bound international flights, and buying 300 advanced imaging scanners, as previously planned, to augment 40 already in place and 150 set to be deployed later this year.
Obama called on U.S. intelligence and security communities to strengthen terrorist watch lists, especially the nation's no-fly list, by expanding criteria for people to be included. The president also demanded reviews that could lead to additional travelers being subjected to time-consuming secondary security checks at airports, as well as visa denials and revocations at consulates.
One sensitive debate is whether and how to expand scrutiny at airports beyond the roughly 4,000 people on the U.S. Transportation Security Administration's no-fly list and a "selectee" list of about 14,000 people identified for further questioning, said one senior domestic security official. Alleged Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was never placed on those lists.There are no public events scheduled for today.
The President spoke to the American public this afternoon, outlining the details in the White House's report on the failed Christmas Day terrorist attack. The report itself focuses on the shortcomings related to intelligence collection, sharing and integration within the intelligence community. You can download a pdf copy of the report here:
Read the summary of the security review
The President simultaneously issued a directive for multiple federal departments and agencies, ordering corrective actions with respect to intelligence, screening, and watchlisting systems and programs. Relevant to this blog, the President ordered DHS to undertake the following:
- Aggressively pursue enhanced screening technology, protocols, and procedures, especially in regard to aviation and other transportation sectors, consistent with privacy rights and civil liberties; strengthen international partnerships and coordination on aviation security issues.
- Develop recommendations on long-term law enforcement requirements for aviation security in coordination with the Department of Justice.
Read the President's Directive on corrective actions (pdf).
Secretary Napolitano, Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan, and Robert Gibbs briefed the press shortly after the President's statement, delving further into the report and detailing the recommendations and findings within.
The Secretary discussed the immediate steps DHS took after the attempted attack, noting that DHS strengthened screening requirements for passengers entering the United States and deployed additional law enforcement officers, behavior detection officers, and explosive detection K-9 units to airports across the country. It's worth mentioning that while these additional measures are both seen and unseen, that they add to the "layers of security" already in place at airports and on airplanes traveling to and from the United States.
The Secretary also outlined five long-term steps the department is taking to correct the shortcomings that led to the attempted attack:
- Re-evaluate and modify the process for creation and modification of terror "watchlists" - including adjusting the process by which names are added to the “No-Fly” and “Selectee” lists.
- Establish a partnership on aviation security between DHS and the Department of Energy and its National Laboratories in order to develop new and more effective technologies to deter and disrupt known threats and proactively anticipate and protect against new ways by which terrorists could seek to board an aircraft.
- Accelerate deployment of advanced imaging technology to provide greater explosives detection capabilities—and encourage foreign aviation security authorities to do the same—in order to identify materials such as those used in the attempted Dec. 25 attack. The Transportation Security Administration currently has 40 machines deployed throughout the United States, and plans to deploy at least 300 additional units in 2010.
- Strengthen the presence and capacity of aviation law enforcement—by deploying law enforcement officers from across DHS to serve as Federal Air Marshals to increase security aboard U.S.-bound flights.
- Work with the Department of State to strengthen international cooperation on aviation security measures, ensuring that we have a consistent system to screen passengers flying to the United States from countries around the world. As I write this, senior department officials - led by Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute - are on a multi-country, multi-continent mission to begin this process, and Secretary Napolitano will travel to Spain later this month to meet with her international counterparts in the first of a series of global meetings intended to bring about broad consensus on new international aviation security standards and procedures.
We mentioned it in the morning roundup, but the Secretary will participate in a briefing this afternoon at the White House with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan to discuss the report on the attempted Christmas Day terrorist attack.
You can watch the briefing live on the White House’s website at 3:45 PM EST today.
From AFP, on today's release of the attempted terrorist attack review:
The White House will on Thursday release an unclassified version of a report into intelligence failures relating to terrorist watch-lists, following the thwarted Christmas Day airliner attack.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said he anticipated the public portion of the report "will be released tomorrow" after President Barack Obama receives a classified version of the data from his top anti-terror expert John Brennan.
"I think you'll see tomorrow that this is a failure that touches across the full waterfront of our intelligence agencies," Gibbs said, adding that Obama would make a public statement on the review on Thursday.
"The review will simply identify and make recommendations as to what was lacking and what needs to be strengthened," Gibbs said.
On Tuesday, Obama said that the review into the terrorist watch-listing system had revealed "human and systemic failures" that led to the attempted downing of a Northwest jet carrying 290 people on Christmas Day.
From the New York Times, on enhanced airport screening and security procedures:
As he arrived at O’Hare International airport here on Wednesday, Dennis Weyrauch, a passenger, described two hours of waiting and scrutiny at the airport in Amsterdam before his plane took off: as happened to all passengers on his flight, his carry-on bag was searched methodically by hand, the insides of bottles in his toilet kit studied and his body patted down.
“It was thorough; it was extensive; it felt like a police pat down,” said Mr. Weyrauch, who is 53 and a lawyer from Eagle, Idaho. “It seemed excessive to tell you the truth. I didn’t get any additional measure of comfort from the security measures, and I wondered, as a practical matter, how long they’re going to be able to do this.”
At airports around the country nearly two weeks after a thwarted terrorism attempt on a flight to Detroit, dozens of travelers told of remarkably different experiences with security measures. For domestic flights, many noticed little new, aside from more police dogs in terminals and, in some instances, random pat-downs and bag checks.
From the Associated Press, on the indictment of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab:
A Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day was indicted Wednesday on charges including attempted murder and trying to use a weapon of mass destruction to kill nearly 300 people.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, was traveling from Amsterdam when he tried to destroy the plane by injecting chemicals into a package of pentrite explosive concealed in his underwear, authorities say.
The failed attack caused popping sounds and flames that passengers and crew rushed to extinguish.
The bomb was designed to detonate "at a time of his choosing," the grand jury's indictment said.
There is no specific mention of terrorism in the seven-page indictment, but President Barack Obama considers the incident an attempted strike against the United States by an affiliate of al-Qaida.
Abdulmutallab has told U.S. investigators he received training and instructions from al-Qaida operatives in Yemen. His father warned the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria that his son had drifted into extremism in Yemen, but that threat was never fully digested by the U.S. security apparatus
Secretary Napolitano will participate in a briefing with Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan, and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
From the New York Times, on President Obama's meeting and subsequent remarks on the last month's attempted terrorist attack:
President Obama said Tuesday that the government had sufficient information to uncover the terror plot to bring down a commercial jetliner on Christmas Day, but that intelligence officials had "failed to connect those dots."
"This was not a failure to collect intelligence," Mr. Obama said after meeting with his national security team for nearly two hours. "It was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had."
He added: "We have to do better, we will do better, and we have to do it quickly. American lives are on the line."
The tone of the president's remarks on Tuesday - the sharpest of any of his statements since the incident nearly two weeks ago - underscored his anger over the lapses in intelligence as well as his efforts to minimize any political risks from his administration's response.
The president said he was suspending the transfer of detainees from the Guant?namo Bay military prison to Yemen, where a Qaeda cell has been connected to the Dec. 25 attack. While Mr. Obama also renewed his commitment to close the prison, halting the transfer underscores the difficulty he faces in closing the center and reflects the criticism Republicans have directed at the administration.
From USA Today, on the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative and travel to and from the Olympics:
When the 2010 Winter Olympic Games start in Vancouver on Feb. 12, they not only will draw athletes from across the globe but legions of citizens from the USA - all of whom will need to present newly-required forms of identification to cross the border.
In anticipation of that, and in the face of criticism of the increased documentation requirements and costs for cross-border travel that went into effect last June, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has launched a $2 million marketing campaign to remind people in the Northwest about identification options for border crossings.
Last month, the department began targeting Washington, Idaho and Oregon with radio, television, print and Internet ads, said Joanne Ferreira, public affairs officer with Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection office.
The ads, featuring Olympians such as skier Bill Demong, include reminders that identity documentation will be required to get back into the USA and direct people to a Homeland Security travel website -www.GetYouHome.gov -to find out about the various document options, several of which are less expensive than obtaining a passport.
"I know I'll stick my landing at the border crossing coming home," Demong says in one 30-second TV spot.
3 PM EST
NPPD Infrastructure Protection Assistant Secretary Todd Keil will discuss the Infrastructure Protection mission and the important role of resilience in a Webinar entitled “Infrastructure Resiliency: The Next Frontier in Homeland Security.” For more information: http://www.dhs.gov/critical-infrastructure