Posts tagged ‘Customs and Border Protection’
LATIN AMERICA: (UPDATE) OAS-War on Drugs; Colombia on NATO; Brazil-U.S. Meeting; Ex-Guatemala Dictator
OAS Pushback on Drugs
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.
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.
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.
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.
Reading Micro Expressions
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.
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).
U.S. Arctic Strategy
“The United States is an Arctic nation,” begins the new National Strategy for the Arctic Region, released last week by the White House.
With the apparently inevitable melting of polar sea ice, areas of the Arctic previously locked in by thick ice will be open – at least in summer months – for maritime shipping, oil and gas exploration, commercial fishing scientific research and tourism. The mineral riches beneath the Arctic Sea – which is bordered by six nations, Canada, Denmark (which controls Greenland), Iceland, Norway, Russia and the United States — have prompted concerns about a “Cold Rush” of industries, corporations, speculators and governments hoping to take advantage of resources once thought inaccessible. But there are many more nations in Europe and Asia that want a say in how the top of the world is managed. [More on that in Arctic Council item below].
The brief (12-page) document released by the White House last Friday outlines where U.S. policy should be going in the High North. It calls for three strategic priority efforts:
- Advancing U.S. security interests in the Arctic, including operating vessels and aircraft through, over and under the airspace and waters of the Arctic. Providing for future U.S. energy security is also seen as a national security issue.
- Pursuing Responsible Stewardship of the Arctic, and that includes protecting the environment, conserving its resources and considering the needs of native peoples in the region.
- Strengthening International Cooperation to advance common interest and keep the region stable and free from conflict. The eight-member Arctic Council, which includes Sweden and Finland as well as the six previously mentioned Arctic nations, approved an Arctic Search and Rescue Agreement in 2011.The opening of sea lanes through Arctic nations’ territory and the extent of the mineral riches beneath the ice has raised concerns about who owns what and who controls territorial waters. A few years ago, a Russian underwater robot placed a Russian flag beneath the North Pole to assert Russia’s stake in the region. And Canada has been gearing up its defense forces and mapping its Arctic coastline to secure sovereignty over its portion of the region. The U.S. Continental shelf claim in the Arctic region “could extend more than 600 nautical miles from the north coast of Alaska,” according to the Arctic Strategy statement.
Scientists estimate that as much as 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered but recoverable oil and 30 percent of its undiscovered natural gas deposits – as well vast quantities of mineral resources, including rare earth elements, iron ore and nickel – lie beneath the waters of the Arctic Circle. Easier access has all sorts of implications. It could break the monopolies some nations like China have on resources such as rare earths (needed in advanced weapons systems and mobile devices). It could also take business away from transit points like the Panama and Suez canals and create all sorts of headaches for countries like Canada if all the world’s shipping starts taking unrestricted shortcuts through their backyard.
The United States will seek to enhance “sea, air and space capabilities as Arctic conditions change,” the new strategy says, adding that “We will enable prosperity and safe transit by developing and maintaining sea, under-sea and air assets and necessary infrastructure.”
The new Arctic Strategy also calls for eventual U.S. acceptance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The United States is the only Arctic state that is not a party to the convention. The complex series of agreements defines the rights and responsibilities of national governments in their use of the world’s oceans. Despite the support by Presidents Bush and Obama, the Pentagon, State Department and several major business and industry groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, opponents in the Senate have blocked ratification of the treaty largely on sovereignty and national defense grounds.
Patricia F.S. Cogswell, the senior director for Transborder Security on the National Security Staff, an a special assistant to the president for Homeland Security, says administration officials will be hosting roundtable discussions in Alaska sometime next month to discuss the best ways for implementing the concepts laid out by the strategy.
Arctic Council Grows
The eight member Arctic Council held their biennial ministers meeting in Kiruna, Sweden this week and decided to admit six nations – five of them Asian – as permanent observers. Only nations with territory in the Arctic (Canada, Denmark [Greenland], Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States [Alaska] can be members. Permanent observers can’t vote or speak at the meetings but they can automatically attend, unlike non-permanent observers.
Added to the list of 26 existing observer nations were: China, India, Italy, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. No non-state entities, like Greenpeace, were approved. And the application of the European Union – which has a dispute with Canada’s Inuit people over trading in the skins, meat and other parts of seals – was put on hold.
Canada’s Health and Northern Development Minister Leona Aglukkaq took over the two-year council chairmanship from Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. The United States is slated to take over the chairmanship role in 2015.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the council meeting that he looked forward to filling out the details of the new U.S. Arctic strategy “with all of you over the course of the next few years.”
Tooting Our Own Horn
This blog started in November 2009, and we were thrilled to pull in 1,352 viewers for the last two months of 2009. In 2010, our first full year online, 4GWAR was viewed 62,557 times.
So far this year we’ve gone over 200,000 visits. As of 9 a.m. Eastern Time today (Dec. 14) we have had 202, 013 visitors.
According to the elves at wordpress, who keep track of such things, the 4GWAR blog has had visitors from every country on Earth except four in Africa (South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Guinea and Western Sahara) and two in Central Asia (Tajikistan and Turkmenistan). Yes, we’ve even had a visit or two from North Korea.
Sometime early next year, we’ll get the final tally from wordpress.org, but its been a pretty good year so far.
To our regular visitors and followers, Thank you very much! To first time visitors, we hope you found something interesting and useful. Please visit us again soon — and tell your friends and colleagues about us.
Your 4GWAR Editor
Don’t Mess with Inspector Johnson’s “Toys”
DETROIT — Here in Detroit, iron doors and homemade fortifications don’t keep drug gangs and barricaded gunmen beyond the reach of the police, thanks to the DPD’s armored personnel carrier (APC).
The 13-ton, four-wheel, bullet-resistant behemoth has a hydraulic boom to batter down doors.
“We call it the ‘Key to the City of Detroit’ because it can open any door,” says Inspector Donald Johnson Jr., head of the police department’s Homeland Security and Tactical Support operations.
Detroit police got the APC in 1988 from the military and have been using it ever since to convince suspected lawbreakers to ‘Open up in the name of the law.’
Detroit averages 45 barricaded gunman calls a year, Johnson told the Military Vehicles Exposition and Conference in Detroit’s Cobo Center today (Thursday). “Instead of putting officers in harm’s way,” he explained, the APC is used to take down the door. Usually after that, “the individual elected not to play with us,” Johnson added.
The APC has also been used to rescue Detroit cops trapped behind a car or building by hostile fire, to pick up a wounded citizen lying in the street during a gunbattle and to serve search warrants on the fortified lairs of drug and outlaw motorcycle gangs, said Johnson. The aging APC requires a lot of maintenance, he said, adding “we have had some challenges” keep it running.
Two years ago the Police Department acquired a more modern Lenco Bearcat with the aid of a law enforcement grant. Johnson said the Bearcat cuts down on the number of police vehicles needed to respond to situations like a civil disturbance or hostage siege. Police have used its infrared sensor to spot a fugitive hiding in the brush of a vacant lot at night, said Johnson, who calls the armored vehicles his “toys.” He oversees 18 units including the bomb squad, hostage negotiators, gang enforcement and the Special Response Team.
Since 9/11, cities like Detroit have obtained APCs through federal homeland security and law enforcement grants. New York and Los Angeles are among those that have them. But citizens in other cities and towns from Berkeley, California to Keene, New Hampshire have questioned the need for authorities to acquire armored vehicles.
The Detroit P.D. holds an annual Family Day to introduce the community to the department and its assets such as robots, aviation units and the APCs. Residents’ reaction to the APC and Bearcat have been generally positive, Johnson said. Public officials and community leaders have been more resistant to the concept of high tech surveillance technology like unmanned aircraft, citing privacy and civil liberties concerns. The city council voted against funding for a police request to acquire computerized accoustic detection technology that pinpoints when and where a gunshot was fired.
Johnson said he’d like to acquire another APC but budget constraints have put those plans on hold.
The conference, sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement, ends Friday.
Has Arctic Circle Land Rush Started?
Just days after the nations of the High North met in Greenland to discuss common problems and approve an Arctic search-and-rescue treaty, comes word that one of them plans to lay claim to the land under the North Pole.
The report comes just days after leaders of the eight countries that make up the Arctic Council – Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the United States – met in Nuuk, Greenland to approve the search-and-rescue treaty and begin addressing such issues as oil and natural gas drilling.
But reports of a leaked Danish government document, first reported by Danish news media, say Denmark plans to make a claim for part of the land beneath the North Pole and elsewhere in the Arctic before a 2014 United Nations deadline.
The report on Denmark’s plans also comes shortly after leaked U.S. diplomatic cables reveal the Arctic states are rushing to stake claims to the region, which is believed to be rich in minerals. As much as 25 percent of the world’s untapped petroleum fields are believed to lie beneath the Arctic’s ice ans frigid waters. The cables, released by Wikileaks, indicated most of the Arctic nations – including Denmark – are anxious to stake a claim before the ice melts.
Scientists say climate change and global warming could melt much of the polar ice, making the waters around the North Pole navigable – and more accessible for oil and gas exploration and drilling.
In a token gesture, Russia asserted its land claims in 2007 when it placed a small metal Russian flag in the sea bottom beneath the pole. Canada, which asserts is has sovereigity over any Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans – should the ice melt prediction come true – has conducted military exercises (some with U.S. and Danish participation) to assert its sovereignty in the region. Norway has also hosted multi-national wargames in the Arctic — the most recent had a defense-of-North Sea-oil fields as part of its scenario.
The U.S. Norway and Denmark – through its rule over Greenland – are the only other countries that border the Arctic Ocean. Here is a Russian publication’s take on the controversy, including an explanation of why Denmark thinks it has a claim on the North Pole.
Most of the Arctic nations conduct military exercises and scientific missions in the region’s seas and skies. In the photo above, the Seawolf-class attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) returns to port at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton after participating in Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2011 in the Arctic Circle.
The Connecticut and the Virginia-class attack submarine USS New Hampshire (SSN 778) worked with the Navy’s Arctic Submarine Laboratory and the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory to test new equipment and train for under-ice operations in an Arctic environment.
Lawmakers Want More UAVs
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may have scrapped its plan for a virtual fence of sensors and cameras to monitor the U.S. border with Mexico, but DHS officials and members of Congress are very still very high on unmanned aircraft as a surveillance tool.
The top Republican and Democrat on the House subcommittee that oversees border security both say they are impressed by the work unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) do patrolling the Southwest border.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a unit of DHS, operates seven unarmed Predator B UAVs. Three are based in Sierra Vista, Arizona, two more are based along the border with Canada and there are two maritime variants based in Texas and Florida.
Michael Kostelnik, head of CBP’s Air & Marine Office, says the Predator Bs are force multipliers allowing U.S. authorities to monitor vast stretches of desert, woodlands and ocean for up to 20 hours.
Kostelnik said the UAVs, if flying over Japan’s earthquake and tsunami-damaged nuclear facilities could supply “unprecedented situational awareness” through their full motion video cameras and high definition radars.
Both the chairwoman of the Homeland Security subcommittee of border and maritime security, Rep. Candice Miller (R-Minnesota) and the senior Democrat, Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas said they were impressed by the CBP UAVs.
“I’m happy to get you more UAVs,” said Cuellar, who described himself as a “big supporter.”
There is no money requested for UAVs in the Fiscal 2012 Homeland Security budget. The aircraft, which go for about $18 million apiece, require a crew of two — a pilot and sensor operator. Kostelnik, a former Air Force major general and NASA official, said CBP and the military services are having trouble training enough pilots fast enough to remotely operate the growing inventory of unmanned aircraft.
He said it takes CBP about $3,500 per flight hour to operate a UAV, compared to $7,000 per hour for its manned aircraft. “The longer you can fly, the more economical it is,” Kostelnik said of the UAVs, which can remain aloft up to 20 hours.
In addition to UAVs, Miller, the chairwoman, said her subcommittee intended to explore the potential of using “robotic land systems” on the southern border.
Like A Bridge Under Troubled Waters
Believe it or not, this wet and overloaded soldier is using a bridge to cross this Florida swamp – a rope bridge.
It’s all part of training during the third and final phase of the 61-day U.S. Army Ranger School course. Based at Fort Benning, Georgia, the Ranger School tests students’ skills, strength, endurance and adaptability under grueling physical and psychological conditions during 18-to-20-hour days. The average graduation rate is just 40 percent.
Those who do graduate are entitled to wear the black and gold Ranger shoulder tab on their uniform. In addition to officers and non-commissioned offers of the 75th Ranger Regiment, the school also trains a select number of candidates each year from the other U.S. military services, including Reserve components, as well as foreign military services.
The Ranger course is broken down into three phases: the physical assessment and woodland terrain phase at Camp Rogers and Camp Darby at Benning; the mountain phase at Camp Merrill in Dahlonega, Georgia; and the swamp phase at Camp Rudder at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
The first phase spends 21 days training students in small unit tactics as well as squad- and platoon-size mission planning. But first they have to pass a rigorous series of physical fitness and infantry capabilities tests including being able to do 49 pushups in two minutes, complete a five-mile run in 40 minutes or less, combat water survival, day/night land navigation and timed, long marchs in full gear.
Another 21 days is spent in the mountain phase at Dahlonega, Georgia learning to lead small units in a mountainous environment.
The final phase takes 17 days to learn rope bridge, small boat and swamp maneuvering under the same grueling conditions in Florida’s swamps and coastal waters.
A fourth, Desert phase at Fort Bliss, Texas, was eliminated in 1995.
To see a Defense Department photo slide show of the Ranger Swamp training click here.
Keep it simple and inexpensive and …
The U.S. military foresees new jobs and new challenges for unmanned systems (robotic vehicles that operate on land, air and water – and underwater) in the next 10 to 20 years: from remotely-controlled cargo-carrying helicopters to robots that can evacuate wounded troops from the battle line.
But Pentagon planners told an industry gathering in Washington this week that they also anticipate flat defense budgets – if not funding cuts – in the near term, so those robots can’t be too expensive, too complicated or too specialized.
Representatives from all the armed services told the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), which just ended its three-day Program Review, what they need and what programs they’re planning or already working on.
The Army says it is exploring the use of small unmanned aerial systems – hand-launched little aircraft that fit in a backpack – that can give company and even platoon-sized units a constant view of what or who is around them. “A pair of flying binoculars,” is how Lt. Col. James Cutting, director of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for the Army’s G-3, operations office, puts it.
There’s “an insatiable demand for all kinds of airborne ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) today,” Cutting adds.
Pentagon planners are also looking at testing ground troops’ abilities to engage opposing forces that also have UAS capability. In Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. drones have owned the airspace but that may not always be the case in future conflicts, they say.
Small unmanned ground vehicles are being studied for their effectiveness in detecting hidden underground tunnels. Amy Clymer, operational manager for Rapid Reaction Tunnel Detection at the Defense Department’s Joint Capabilities Technology Development Program, says robots being tested in Arizona can slip through an 8-inch diameter drill hole, descend on a tether into a tunnel, change shape into a small wheeled or tracked vehicle equipped with lights and a video camera, explore the tunnel and then compress to their original size for extraction through the drill hole.
Clymer says 129 illegal tunnels have been detected under the Mexico-U. S. border since 1990, with 69 discovered in the vicinity of Nogales, Arizona alone – 47 of them found between 2008-2010.
The tunnels are used primarily for moving illegal drugs although there could be other uses such as people smuggling into the U.S. and illegal weapons smuggling out of the U.S. into Mexico.
Tunnel robots have been used to detect contraband smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza. They also have the potential to help detect tunnels in countries where secret tunnels have been a problem in the past including Iraq, Bolivia, Afghanistan and under the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, Clymer said.
Don’t Fence Me In
After a year’s study, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has decided to end its trouble-plagued program to build a virtual security fence along the border with Mexico.
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Friday (Jan. 14) that the department was scrapping the project, first envisioned in 2005, to secure the southwest border with a system of video cameras, radar and sensors, combined with a command and control system to link them to DHS ground and air assets along the border. The idea was to create a “virtual fence.”
But the program, called SBInet, “cannot meet its original objective of providing a single, integrated border security technology solution,” Napolitano said in a written statement.
She ordered a reassessment of the multi-billion dollar program last January and froze funding for it and lead contractor Boeing Corp., pending the reassessment. The program, which critics said had not been sufficiently developed before the contract was awarded, was plagued by delays and cost overruns – infuriating congressional leaders. Only about 50 miles of the Arizona border was covered by SBInet technology in two test phases after more than four years’ work.
Napolitano said a new border strategy will assess the best technologies for border security based on the unique needs of each region.
Some congressional leaders hailed the decision, which had been expected since last year’s halt.
”From the start, SBInet’s one-size-fits-all approach was unrealistic,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. He called the decision to use technology “based on the particular security needs of each segment of the border” a “far wiser approach, and I hope it will be more cost effective.”
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the senior Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said SBInet was “a grave an expensive disappointment since its inception.” Thompson, who had been chairman of the panel until Republicans won control of the House last fall, noted the committee held 11 hearings on the project and commissioned five Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports “all while this program cost taxpayers nearly $1 billion for only 53 miles of coverage.”
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the current chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he understood the department’s decision to end SBInet but “I continue to have very serious concerns about the Obama administration’s lack of urgency to secure the border.”
King complained that DHS has taken a year to make a final decision on SBInet and “will spend all of 2011, and maybe longer, deciding what to do next.”
Calling that pace unacceptable, King said he expected the administration to present a plan with necessary staffing, fencing and technology requirements in its 2012 DHS budget proposal “including timelines and metrics.”