Posts tagged ‘Customs and Border Protection’

AFRICA: What Does International Arms Trade Treaty Mean for Africa?

Stopping the Madness

A U.N. peacekeeper checks AK-47 magazines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2006 after the demobilization of rebel troops. (Photo by Martine Perret/United Nations Organization Mission in the DRC)

A U.N. peacekeeper checks AK-47 magazines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2006 after the demobilization of rebel troops.
(Photo by Martine Perret/United Nations Organization Mission in the DRC)

United Nations officials say they found hundreds of bodies piled up after an attack by rebels in South Sudan last week. A year ago in Mali, a rebellion by desert nomads reignited when Tuareg separatists who had fought as mercenaries for Muammar Qaddafi returned home with heavy weapons looted from Libya’s armories after the strongman’s fall.

All over the continent, from the Horn of Africa to the Sahel, conflict has erupted. National governments and international agencies are trying to head off future violence in Africa – and elsewhere around the world – through a multilateral treaty to regulate the $70 billion to $85 billion international conventional arms business.

The Arms Trade Treaty was overwhelmingly approved by the United Nations General Assembly in April 2013 and nearly 120 countries have signed the treaty. But the pact will only go into effect when 50 countries ratify the treaty. So far, only 31 have done so.

Treaty signatories have included some big arms exporters like the United States, Brazil and Sweden but others like Russia and China have not. And while more than 20 African countries have signed the treaty, only two – Mali and Nigeria – have ratified it.

The ATT regulates the international trade in conventional arms, from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships. The treaty’s aim is to foster peace and security by thwarting uncontrolled destabilizing arms flows to conflict regions — like Africa. “It will prevent human rights abusers and violators of the law of war from being supplied with arms. And it will help keep warlords, pirates, and gangs from acquiring these deadly tools,” according to the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs.

At a gathering hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington think tank, on Wednesday (April 23) government experts on Africa and arms controls said signing and ratifying the treaty wasn’t enough to stop the flow of small arms like machine guns, grenades, mortars and rocket launchers.

“The ATT is not a solution in itself. It’s a tool,” said Thomas Countryman, assistant secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, adding that it was important for individual governments to get control of “international transfers and national stockpiles of weapons” whether they were held by the military, local militias or demobilized rebel groups.

 

Countries signing the Arms Trade Treaty (brown) and countries ratifying the pact (green). Artwork by L.taki via Wikipedia

Countries signing the Arms Trade Treaty (brown) and countries ratifying the pact (green).
Artwork by L.taki via Wikipedia

He said that securing weapons stockpiles was an area where the United States could help struggling countries. The State Department’s Bureau of Political and Military Affairs has helped countries like Niger, Burundi and Angola secure stockpiles or destroy old munitions. Since 2001, in Africa alone, 250,000 small weapons have been destroyed and 350,000 have been marked with unique serial numbers with U.S. assistance to maintain inventory controls of military and police arsenals and help track missing or stolen weapons.

Raymond Gilpin, dean of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University, agreed, saying the treaty is “by no means a silver bullet.”

He noted that in some explosions of violence in Africa like the Rwanda genocide of 1994, “machetes can be as deadly or more deadly” than firearms. One of the basic problems in controlling the movement of arms – legal and illegal – in Africa is the lack of basic data: Just how many guns does a government own? Who has control of them? “Most African countries don’t have a baseline for tracking weapons,” Gilpin said.

He made several recommendations for closing the gap including public/private partnerships to make the supply chain more transparent and “muscular international diplomacy” with countries that aid and abet weapons trafficking.

 

April 24, 2014 at 11:58 pm 1 comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: FAA Releases Initial Plan for Drone Flights in U.S. Skies

FAA Roadmap

The U.S. military has flown thousands of drones like this hand-launched U.S. Army RQ-11, but commercial use is restricted in U.S. airspace  (Army photo  by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod, U.S. Army)

The U.S. military has flown thousands of drones like this hand-launched U.S. Army RQ-11, but commercial use is restricted in U.S. airspace
(Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod, U.S. Army)

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released its initial plans Thursday (November 7) for gradually integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace of the United States.

The FAA, an agency of the Transportation Department, has been studying unmanned aircraft — also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or simply drones — for years, trying to figure how to let aircraft without a pilot on board make their way into a domain already crowded with commercial airliners, private planes and jets, military aircraft, skyscrapers, bridges, radio towers, power lines and stormy weather.

As an early step in that process — expected to take 15 years — the FAA issued its first annual Roadmap outlining the steps needed to integrate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the nation’s airspace. The roadmap addresses current and future policies, regulations, technologies and procedures “that will be required as demand moves the country from today’s limited accommodation of UAS operations to the extensive integration of UAS” into national airspace in the future, according to an FAA statement that accompanied release of the 71-page roadmap that tackles such issues as operator training, air traffic control challenges and national security issues. The FAA also released the 26-page UAS Comprehensive Plan to safely accelerate working civil UAS into the nation’s airspace system.

While the military has made extensive use of drones for reconnaissance, surveillance and attack over the last dozen years, UAS are strictly limited in their operations in U.S. airspace. Research institutions, government agencies and law enforcement must first obtain a waiver, known as a certificate of authorization — which allows, but sharply restricts the areas where non-military UAS flights can take place. The agriculture, energy and scientific communities already have developed numerous uses for UAS, but are limited in their use by the FAA — as are local police and fire/emergency departments.

Drones large and small on display at the August AUVSI Expo in Washington. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Drones large and small on display at the August AUVSI Expo in Washington. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Other groups, however, have voiced privacy and civil liberties concerns about widespread use of drones — large and small — in U.S. skies, especially by law enforcement agencies.

The Associated of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the main industry group, estimates that  UAS technology will create more than 100,000 jobs and generate more than $82 billion in economic impact in the first 10 years after drones are integrated into the national airspace.

Full disclosure: 4GWAR editor John M. Doyle writes freelance articles for AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems magazine.

 

November 8, 2013 at 12:00 am 1 comment

HOMELAND SECURITY: TSA Officer Killed; San Diego Narco Tunnel Found

Shooting at LAX

TSA_Logo.svg

A shooting at an airport security checkpoint in Lose Angeles has left one Transportation Security Agency (TSA) officer dead, wounded two other TSA agents and a bystander, according to the Los Angeles Times and other news outlets.

Panic and hysteria spread through Los Angeles Airport’s (LAX) Terminal 3 Friday (October 31) following gunfire that killed 39-year-old Gerardo Hernandez. He was the first TSA employee killed in the line of duty since the agency was created shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

Police chased down and shot the suspected gunman in the leg and head. He is being treated for his injuries at an area hospital. He was identified as Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, originally from New Jersey. Authorities are still trying to determine why Ciancia pulled a semi-automatic rifle in the security lane and began shooting.

Federal authorities charged him with murder of a federal officer and committing violance at an international airport. Both crimes are punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole or the death penalty, the New York Times reported.

The incident disrupted air travel at the nation’s third busiest airport for hours. The disruptions had a ripple effect across the United States and elsewhere around the world as police searched the airport to make sure the gunman had no accomplices or had left booby traps in the busy transportation hub.

Authotrities said Ciancia had no apparent links to any terrorist group but the attack underscored the threat posed by a lone wolf gunman – whatever the motive.

Drug Gang’s Super Tunnel

U.S. officials in California have uncovered a tunnel running under the U.S.-Mexico border from Tijuana to San Diego – packed with marijuana and cocaine.

Drugs seized in Tijuana-San Diego tunnel under the border. (Photo ICE)

Drugs seized in Tijuana-San Diego tunnel under the border. (Photo ICE)

The tunnel stretched for the length of six football fields end-to-end and had lighing, ventilation and an electric rail system, officials said. The tunnel, which authorities described as a “Super Tunnel” was 35 feet below the surface, four feet tall and three feet wide. U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy told reporters it was built by Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel, CNN reported.

Three people are in custody charged with drug trafficking. If convicted they face mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years in prison, according to Reuters.

Members of the San Diego Tunnel Task Force — numerous tunnels for smuggling people, drugs and weapons have been discovered between the United States and Mexico in recent years – found the subterranean passageway Wednesday (October 27) night in the course of a long-term investigation, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Authorities also seized about 325 pounds of cocaine along with more than eight tons of marijuana associated with the would-be operators of the tunnel, San Diego TV Station XETV reported.

It was the eighth large-scale smuggling tunnel discovered in the San Diego area since 2006, according to ICE. In total, federal authorities have detected more than 75 such tunnels in the last five years, mostly in California and Arizona.

November 3, 2013 at 1:18 am Leave a comment

HOMELAND SECURITY: Customs and Border Protection Seeks Technology to Close Security Gap

Maritime Weak Link

A group of CBP UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters on patrol over the Caribbean. (CBP photo)

A group of CBP UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters on patrol over the Caribbean. (CBP photo)

Maritime Domain Awareness – knowing who and what are in and around U.S. waters – is still “a major gap” for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unit charged with securing the nation’s borders, according to a top official of Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

“Nobody has a good solution set for MDA. We don’t, neither does the Navy or the Coast Guard,” Randolph Alles, assistant CBP commissioner and head of the agency’s Office of Air and Marine told a recent homeland security conference in Washington.

The solution, he said, is a number of technology programs to help see bad guys at night, on the water and on land. To that end, Alles, a retired Marine Corps major general, plans to put sensors, on as many of his 260 aircraft – like Guardian Drones and Blackhawk helicopters – and 300 watercraft that budget restraints will allow.

Randolph Alles, head of the Homeland Security Department's air force and navy: Custom and Border Protection's Office of Air & Marine. (CBP photo)

Randolph Alles, head of the Homeland Security Department’s air force and navy: Custom and Border Protection’s Office of Air & Marine. (CBP photo)

Alles told the conference, sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA), that he wants to take a “building block approach rather than a large system approach” because of tight money. His estimated budget for technology appropriations will hover between $50 million and $70 million per year for the near term, he said.

Alles, who took over as head of OA&M in January, said he wants to link video and data from numerous sensors. “Integrating all of these systems is one of my technology objectives,” he told the IDGA conference Oct. 17 – the day the U.S. government shutdown ended.

October 23, 2013 at 12:36 am Leave a comment

HOMELAND SECURITY: Border Security surge; Nominee for FBI Chief [UPDATE]

More Border Agents?

If a compromise deal on pending immigration legislation holds up, it would double the number of federal agents on the U.S.-Mexican border. But according to Reuters, some officials question the benefits of the $50 billion pricetag for the boost from 21,000 to 40,000 border security agents.

Customs and Border Protection photo

Customs and Border Protection photo

In addition to the federal agent surge and completion of a 700-mile-long border fence, the compromise would also include $3.2 billion for a high tech border surveillance plan – including unmanned aircraft, infrared ground sensors and long range thermal imaging cameras, the New York Times reported.

James Comey tapped for FBI Post

[Updates with Comey nominated, praised by Obama, adds photo and link to 2008 UAV demonstration for FBI]

As predicted, President Obama formally nominated James Comey – a former high-ranking official in the George W. Bush administration – to be the nation’s next FBI director.

President Obama announced he is picking James Comey (left) to replace retiring FBI Director William Muller. (White House video screenshot)

President Obama announced he is picking James Comey (left) to replace retiring FBI Director William Muller. (White House video screenshot)

At a White House announcement in the Rose Garden, Obama praised Comey’s integrity — without going into specifics of his opposition, when Comey was Deputy U.S. Attorney General, to the continuation of a warantless eavesdropping program that he believed was  unconstitutional. Comey threatened to resign in opposition to the move. President George W. Bush later backed Comey’s position.

“This is a 10-year assignment.  I make this nomination confident that long after I’ve left office, our nation’s security will be in good hands with public servants like Jim Comey,” Obama said, calling for the Senate to “act promptly with hearings and to confirm our next FBI director right away.”

As a U.S. attorney in New York, Comey successfully prosecuted more than a dozen men for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. service members.

If he is confirmed, Comey, 52, the former top federal prosecutor in Manhattan and areas north of New York City, will replace Robert S. Mueller III, who is leaving the agency after a dozen years. Comey’s nomination has been expected since last month when news reports indicated he had emerged as the top candidate.

Obama also praised the outgoing FBI director. “Under his watch, the FBI joined forces with our intelligence, military and homeland security professionals to break up al Qaeda cells, disrupt their activities and thwart their plots,” the president said, adding: “Countless Americans are alive today, and our country is more secure, because of the FBI’s outstanding work under the leadership of Bob Mueller.”

Earlier this week, the current FBI director told Congress that while the FBI has used drones in its investigations, it has been rare and only for surveillance purposes.

According to NBC, Director Robert Muller acknowledged that the FBI used drones in investigative practices but said the agency is working to establish better guidelines for their use.

Back in 2008, when your 4GWAR editor was working at Aviation Week, we went down to Quantico, Virginia to see a demonstration for FBI officials of a catapult-launched Insitu Scan Eagle unmanned air vehicle. You can see a short video of the launch and recovery here.

June 20, 2013 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

LATIN AMERICA: (UPDATE) OAS-War on Drugs; Colombia on NATO; Brazil-U.S. Meeting; Ex-Guatemala Dictator

OAS Pushback on Drugs

Drug Enforcement Administration photo

Drug Enforcement Administration photo

The Organization of American States (OAS) is holding its annual general assembly meeting in Antigua, Guatemala and the War on Drugs will be Topic A.

According to the Los Angeles Times, several Latin American governments are expected to call on the United States to find “alternatives to what is seen as an approach to fighting drugs that leans heavily on law enforcement — a strategy that has cost tens of thousands of mostly Latin American lives.”

The hemispheric organization recently issued a report that urged governments to decriminalize some drug use. Latin American nations like Mexico, Honduras — and host nation Guatemala — have been battered by drug-related corruption and violence that has left thousands of civilians, soldiers and police dead.

While the OAS study calls for discussion on legalizing marijuana, it makes no specific proposals and found there is “no significant support” among the 35 OAS members for legalizing cocaine or other drugs, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. delegation, headed by Secretary of State John Kerry, isn’t expected to accept the concept of decriminalizing marijuana use. At the Summit of the Americas last year, President Obama said he believed drug legalization was “not the answer” to the problem of drug-related violence and narco terrorism.

A senior State Department official in the U.S. delegation told reporters Tuesday (June 4) in a background briefing that Kerry “wants to contribute to a really good conversation” about counter narcotics strategy because “last year when this started, there was a lot of buzz about legalization, but there really wasn’t much behind it. There weren’t a whole lot of facts in that conversation.”

No” to NATO

Colombia’s defense minister says the South American nation may sign a cooperation agreement on human rights, justice and troop training with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – but has not intention of joining NATO.

U.S. and Colombia Marines training in Colombia. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Juancarlos Paz)

U.S. and Colombia Marines training in Colombia. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Juancarlos Paz)

Juan Carolos Pinzon told a radio station that Colombia “cannot be a member, does not want to be a member of NATO.” His remarks came after President Juan Manuel Santos said his nation and NATO were going to sign an agreement “to start a whole process of reaching out, of cooperation, also with a look at entering that organization.”

That report caused an uproar among Colombia’s neighbors, especially leftist governments in Bolivia and Venezuela. But NATO officials, quoted by the AP said no membership deal is in the works. Colombia, which has been fighting a 60-year insurgency by leftist guerillas’ aligned with narcotics cartels, has been a key U.S. ally in the war on drugs.

Meeting in Brazil

Tom Kelly, the Acting U.S. Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs is in Brazil this week for the 2013 U.S.-Brazil Political Military Dialogue.

Brazil (CIA World Fact book)

Brazil (CIA World Fact book)

The meeting – which seeks to strengthen defense and security relations between the two countries comes in advance of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s visit to Washington with President Obama later this year.

Brazil, South America’s largest country by population and area, is also home to the continent’s largest economy. In recent years, Brazil has enlarged its military and military equipment – submarines, aircraft and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets – as part of a new security strategy to protect both its water resources in the Amazon and energy resources in the South Atlantic.

– –

Guatemala See-Saw

Last month, the former dictator of Guatemala was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity in the Central American country. But just a few days later (May 21), the country’s highest court overturned the verdict. Because of a jurisdictional dispute in the case dating back to April 19, Reuters reported.

Efrain Rios Montt, 86, was convicted May 10 of overseeing the killings of more than 1,000 of the Maya Ixil population in the early 1980s. But the Constitutional Court threw out the verdict and ordered the proceeeding void going back to April 19 when a jurisdictional dispute arose after one of the presiding judges suspended the trial — because of a dispute with another judge over who should hear it.

It was unclear when the trial might restart.

Guatemala map (CIA World Factbook)

Guatemala map (CIA World Factbook)

June 4, 2013 at 11:54 pm Leave a comment

HUMAN GEOGRAPHY: Tiny Facial Giveaways May Indicate Lying or Worse

Reading Micro Expressions

U.S. Border Patrol photo

U.S. Border Patrol photo

ARLINGTON, Virginia – Think you know when someone’s lying – because they won’t meet your gaze, or they can’t sit still or they’re sweating profusely?

You’re probably wrong says San Francisco State University professor David Matsumoto.

“There is no such thing as a Pinocchio response,” Matsumoto, founder and director of the Culture and Emotion Research Laboratory at San Francisco State, told a Human Geography conference outside Washington, D.C. recently. “There’s no set of behaviors that reliably differentiate” between who’s telling the truth and who isn’t, he said. At least none that the average interrogator can spot.

Hundreds of studies conducted with thousands of participants in recent years indicate that the average accuracy rate for an individual to detects liars and truth tellers is just 54 percent. “Bottom line: we’re no better [at it] than flipping a coin,” Matsumoto said.

But his research indicates that there are tiny facial expressions – micro-expressions he calls them – that can give away what a person under stress is thinking. They’re hard to spot with the naked eye but readily visible on slow motion video.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo

U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo

As an example, he showed video of a witness testifying at the O.J. Simpson murder trial. Some visible signs – breathing, blinking – indicated the witness was agitated. But when Matsumoto stopped the video, a facial expression not readily visible at normal speed was now apparent. Video usually shows movement at 30 seconds per second but the micro-expression image was captured in just three frames, indicating it took just one-tenth of a second.

Most people don’t see the changes but if they do “they don’t know what it is. But if I freeze frame on it, it’s very clear what his emotional state is,” Matsumoto said. And they “seem to be culturally universal,” he added.

He cautioned that such split second expressions are not a guaranteed indicator of lying but that the person being questions bears careful scrutiny. His program has been able to train law enforcement and other professionals how to spot micro-expressions.

Matsumoto is also studying whole body gestures and movements as indicators of intent and whether people who have experienced violent attacks can identify potentially violent persons by their facial expressions. So far his research indicates two types of potentially threatening facial expression: one contemplating premeditated assault (like an assassin or terrorist) and one indicating the loss of impulse control (someone who suddenly snaps and attacks.) But more research is needed, he said.

Human geography is a multi-discipline study of not only the physical nature of the earth but the people who live on it and how they relate among themselves and with others along political, economic, cultural, linguistic, geographic lines.

The two-day conference was sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA).

May 20, 2013 at 1:42 am Leave a comment

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