Morning Roundup for July 15th, 2009 - Featured News and Public Events
From the Washington Post, on PASS ID:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is promoting a new program to make driver's licenses more secure that would cost less than the plan pushed by the Bush administration.
On Wednesday, she was to testify before a Senate committee considering legislation that would replace the former administration's Real ID card plan with something called a Pass ID. Those who support the new program say it would not gut the security requirements in current law. But others say the new ID would relax rules enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Bush's Real ID plan has been stalled well short of nationwide implementation by opposition in the states. Twelve states have voted not to participate, and others have raised complaints.
The National Governors Association helped write the new proposal. As Arizona governor, Napolitano said the Bush administration did not collaborate enough with governors in the development of its plan for implementing the congressionally mandated program.
The governors group said the current law would cost states $4 billion while the new plan could cut the costs to between $1.3 billion and $2 billion.
From the Associated Press, on the HSAS review:
The Obama administration has begun a review that could spell the end of the color-coded terrorism advisories, long derided by late night TV comics and portrayed by some Democrats as a tool for Bush administration political manipulation.
It's not likely the review will plunge an alert system into the dark all together, but short of that, everything is on the table for consideration, according to one administration official familiar with the plans. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about potential outcomes.
The alert system assigns five different colors to terror risk levels. Green at the bottom signals a low danger of attack and red at the top warns of a severe threat. It was put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and was designed to help emergency responders get prepared.
But it's been the butt of late-night television comics' jokes and criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike for being too vague to deliver enough useful information.
From the San Diego Union-Tribune, on a huge haul for CBP this year:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is reporting record drug seizures for the first three quarters of fiscal year 2009, which ended June 30.
According to the agency, which includes the Border Patrol, customs officers and air and marine operations, more than 3.3 million pounds of drugs were intercepted at and in between ports of entry along both the southern and northern borders. This is an increase of 64.3 percent compared to the same period the previous year.
The largest marijuana seizure occurred in late March, when agency officers at the Otay Mesa port of entry intercepted a commercial tractor-trailer loaded with 10,764 pounds of marijuana.
Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Jacqueline Dizdul credited a larger presence of border security personnel, among other things.
10 AM EDT
Secretary Napolitano will testify before the Senate Committee on
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs about PASS ID
342 Dirksen Senate Office Building
12 PM PDT
Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) Policy Advisor Debbie
Fulmer will deliver remarks on preparedness efforts for special needs populations at the 2009 Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI)
San Diego Convention Center
111 W Harbor Dr.
San Diego, Calif.
2 PM EDT
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Assistant
Administrator John Sammon will testify before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection about general aviation security risks
311 Cannon House Office Building
In a recent technology snapshot, our Science and Technology Directorate highlighted a project that, if successful, could help find and plug up smuggling tunnels as fast as criminals can dig them.
The Tunnel Detection Project is working on a design that places radar antennas in a trailer towed by a truck. Electromagnetic waves penetrate the earth, and what shows up on a monitor inside the truck is a picture of what’s beneath them, composed of red, yellow, and aquamarine dots. Civil engineers already use ground-penetrating technology, but it’s just to find pipes or cable a few meters beneath the earth. S&T’s taking this and giving it some oomph. They’re using much lower frequency waves to penetrate deeper into the ground, and the sophisticated imaging technology they’re working on produces surprisingly clear pictures of any tunnels that are found.
As a program director points out, tunnels have been found so far by good law enforcement work or by chance, but never by technology.
The team showed off a prototype this spring that used mock-up “border” made of sand and rocks. Soon, they’re bringing everything they’ve developed down to the Southwest to give it a spin against the rigors of the real border. What’s going to be key for them, they say, is being able to separate tunnels from rocks, plants, and other objects buried in the ground.
Check out the full snapshot.
From the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot, on the Secretary's visit to Portsmouth, VA, yesterday:
When the boss is in town, you had better put on a good show.
By all accounts, the Coast Guard didn't disappoint Monday morning, when its members performed an anti-terrorism exercise for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
The secretary boarded the cutter Frank Drew around 10 a.m. Soon after, the ship began making its way up the Elizabeth River under escort.
As it passed the shipping terminal, three 25-foot response boats swarmed up the water behind it. With one boat providing cover at the cutter's stern, Maritime Security Response Team members in the other boats clambered up the cutter's side toward the bridge.
A few minutes later, in the exercise's second phase, an MH-60J helicopter swooped in low behind the cutter and hooked a sharp left turn over its stern. A line dropped and, within 20 seconds, six team members had "fast roped" to the deck and proceeded to make their way across the ship.
And check out this report from WAVY-10 TV. They have some great video from the demonstration.
From the Associated Press, on increased cooperation between Mexico and the U.S. on curbing arms trafficking:
Mexico and the United States have agreed on a protocol for sharing information in arms trafficking cases.
Top officials of both countries say the guidelines are aimed at helping them bring more cases against weapons traffickers.
Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina-Mora made the announcement Monday at a joint news conference with John T. Morton, the assistant secretary of homeland security for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Mexican authorities say much of the country's drug cartel violence is fueled by weapons smuggled in from the United States.
9 AM PDT
DHS Chief Veterinarian Thomas McGinn III, DVM, will
participate in a panel discussion about public health and animal
health at the 2009 American Veterinary Medical Association
Washington State Convention & Trade Center
800 Convention Place
9:30 AM MDT
DHS Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Special
Representative for Border Affairs Alan Bersin will participate in a
Nogales Border Patrol Station
1500 West La Quinta
The MSRT was originally created as part of a response to weapons of mass destruction threats, and they now train – and train, and train – for the full spectrum of maritime challenges, from domestic law enforcement operations to counterterrorism. The MSRT utilizes canine explosive detections teams, tactical delivery vessels, and multiple specialized resources in their efforts. Today, they demonstrated a vertical insertion – very quickly boarding and controlling a boat by fast-roping in from an HH-60 helicopter. Suffice it to say: very cool stuff.
From the Associated Press, on immigration enforcement:
An overhauled federal program allowing local and state law enforcement officials to arrest and deport immigrants will focus on the most serious criminals and limit officers' police powers, the Homeland Security Department said Friday.
The agency reworked the program, which had been criticized by the Government Accountability Office and led to a Justice Department investigation of the Maricopa County, Ariz., sheriff's office.
Government investigators said the previous program - cited as an example of misguided immigration enforcement by the Bush administration - did not clearly spell out when and how officers could use their arrest authority.
The revised program now requires local and state law enforcement agencies to first resolve any criminal charges that led to the arrest of the immigrants.
It also creates three priority levels for the immigrants who are to be arrested and detained. Immigrants convicted or arrested of major drug offenses or violent offenses such as murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery or kidnapping are the top priority.
From the Washington Post, on the Bertholf's bust last week:
The Coast Guard says a cutter based in Alameda has seized two speedboats, recovered a bale of cocaine and detained four suspected smugglers off the coast of Guatemala.
The bust was made Wednesday night by the cutter Bertholf about 80 miles from the Central American nation.
Officials say four boats were spotted by a patrol aircraft before a marksman aboard a Coast Guard helicopter shot out the engines of two speedboats.
From the Washington Post, on funding for the H1N1 vaccine:
The United States is ready to announce another $1 billion in orders for swine flu vaccinations.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says she will announce Monday that Washington has approved another billion dollars to buy components of the vaccine. Sebelius said on Sunday that research is under way to provide a safe and effective vaccine to fight a flu strain that could be a pandemic.
10 AM EDT
Secretary Napolitano will observe an MSRT Demonstration
4000 Coast Guard Blvd.
11 AM EDT
Secretary Napolitano will participate in a media availability
4000 Coast Guard Blvd.
10:30 AM CDT
Chief Privacy Officer Mary Ellen Callahan will deliver remarks at the American Library Association’s 2009 Annual Conference
McCormick Place West
2301 S Lake Shore Drive
11 AM PDT
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chief Veterinarian Thomas McGinn III, DVM, will participate in a panel discussion about Homeland Security Presidential Directive 9 at the 2009 Washington State Convention & Trade Center
800 Convention Place
Late Wednesday night, the crew of the cutter’s first drug bust and disrupted a major drug smuggling operation in international waters. Two suspected drug smuggling boats, four suspected smugglers and a bale of cocaine were seized as evidence some 80 miles off the coast of Guatemala.
Head over to the Coast Guard Compass for the rest. We can't wait for the pics and video.
Experts say that the virus may return in a more virulent strain during this fall’s flu season. This isn’t a cause for panic; rather, it’s a chance to reinvigorate our preparedness efforts across the country.
The most critical steps to containing this virus won’t take place in Washington, they’ll take place in homes, schools, communities and businesses across the country.
Families should consider how they would take care of children if schools close. Businesses should have plans for employees to work from home if needed. State, local, and tribal governments and community organizations should have procedures in place to deal with a future outbreak.
I encourage everyone to visit www.flu.gov to learn more about the steps you can take and make sure you have the most accurate, up-to-date information.
Here at the Department of Homeland Security, we continue to work with President Obama, Congress, governors, mayors, state and local health departments, school districts, private sector partners and other federal agencies to develop a nation-wide plan that incorporates the lessons we learned this spring to prepare for the fall flu season.
H1N1 may return this fall, but with your help, we are doing everything possible to keep the country safe and healthy. Thank you for doing your part.
The national security cutter program is a vital component of the Department's effort to rebuild the Coast Guard's fleet so that it can continue its proud history of executing important missions to support the nation's maritime security and safety while protecting our economic prosperity.
Last week I visited the cutter Dallas in a shipyard in Charleston. The Dallas, and her sister ship Gallatin, are undergoing extensive work to repair major structural and machinery problems that are the result of their age and overuse. The national security cutter program will replace these 40-year old, Vietnam era vessels with modern, capable ships to secure America.
In Wednesday's seizure off the coast of Guatemala, the crew of the Bertholf disrupted four drug smuggling speedboats at the same time with their multiple pursuit boats and helicopter. The crew successfully captured two vessels and four suspects while disrupting the other two boats.
The continued renewal of the Coast Guard fleet and use of modern technology across the department is an indispensable part of our strategy to improve the ability of DHS to secure our nation and protect its citizens.
From The New York Times, on the H1N1 Summit:
The Obama administration warned Americans on Thursday to be ready for an aggressive return of the swine flu virus in the fall, announcing plans to begin vaccinations in October and offering states and hospitals money to help them prepare.
"The potential for a significant outbreak in the fall is looming," President Obama said by telephone link from Italy to the White House's H1N1 Influenza Preparedness Summit, held at the National Institutes of Health.
With good planning, "we may end up averting a crisis," Mr. Obama said. "That's our fervent hope."
The summit meeting was jointly led by the secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius; the secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano; and the secretary of education, Arne Duncan. It gathered health and school officials from across the country and took questions by video link from the governors of several states, most of whom wanted to know who would pay for preparations like the vaccination drive.
From the Associated Press, on the best part of waking up:
Customs agents discovered an extra ingredient in a shipment of Colombian coffee: nearly a half-ton of cocaine.
U.S. Customs officer Troy Simon said Thursday it was his agency's biggest cocaine find at the Port of New Orleans since more than two tons turned up in a transformer shipment about 10 years ago.
He said officers opened the shipping container Monday after a gamma-ray scan showed squarish shapes on top of the rounded burlap bags of coffee beans.
They turned out to be 15 duffel bags.U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Virginia Dabbs says they held 400 packages of cocaine weighing a total of 994 pounds.
2:30 PM EDT
U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen will participate in a Change of Command ceremony for the Coast Guard’s Pacific Area in which Vice Admiral Jody Breckenridge will relieve Vice Admiral David Pekoske
Coast Guard Island