Posts tagged ‘Homeland Security’
Shooting at LAX
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.
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.
Victims Identified, Review Ordered
The 12 victims of Monday’s mass shooting incident at the Washington Navy Yard have been identified. The three women and nine men ranged in age from 46 to 73.
The alleged shooter, 34-year-old Aaron Alexis of Fort Worth, Texas was also slain Monday during a running gun battle with police. He was identified as a former Navy reservist and a civilian employee of an information technology subcontractor who recently started working at the sprawling Navy facility.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus today (September 17) ordered a “rapid review” of Navy and Marine Corps security procedures. Mabus said he ordered the review of “every Navy and Marine Corps base in the United States to ensure that we live up to our responsibility of taking care of our people.”
The review by a Navy admiral and a Marine Corps general is due back on Mabus’s desk by Oct. 1 — two weeks after the Navy Yard shootings.
Late Monday night Washington police ruled out reports of a second gunman, saying Aaron had acted alone. A motive for the shootings, that also wounded three people, has not been determined.
According to the Washington Metropolitan Police, these are the names of the victims:
- Michael Arnold, 59, Lorton, Virginia
- Sylvia Frasier, 53, Waldorf, Maryland
- Kathy Gaarde, 62, Woodbridge, Virginia
- John Roger Johnson, 73, Derwood, Maryland
- Frank Kohler, 50, Tall Timbers, Maryland
- Kenneth Bernard Proctor, 46, Waldorf, Maryland
- Vishnu Shalchendia Pandit, 61, North Potomac, Maryland
- Arthur Daniels, 51, Washington, DC
- Mary Francis Knight, 51, of Reston, Virginia
- Gerald L. Read, 58, Alexandria, Virginia
- Martin Bodrog, 54, Annandale, Virginia
- Richard Michael Ridgell, 52, Westminster, Maryland
Workplace Crime or Terrorism?
UPDATES with DC officials saying at least 12 killed at Washington Navy Yard shooting attack today, FBI taking over investigation
Twelve people were killed during a chaotic mass shooting incident at the Washington Navy Yard, Washington city officials this afternoon (September 16).
“At this time it appears we have 12 fatalities,” Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray told a press briefing near the sprawling Navy facility. “We have no known motive,” he added. The suspected gunman was also killed but his identity and the circumstances surrounding his death were not disclosed.
DC Police Chief Kathy Lanier said at least 12 dead were confirmed and “a few others” were wounded. Previously officials said four people were wounded and taken to area hospitals. Lanier said the FBI was now heading the investigation.
Lanier also said police were still seeking information on two other possible shooters. She shocked an earlier briefing when she announced that “we potentially have two other shooters that we have not located.” She said there was no confirmation yet that there were other shooters but witnesses said they saw two other people with guns. One was described as white male wearing a khaki/tan military style uniform with a beret and a handgun. The other was described as a black male in olive drab military style clothing with a long gun.
Officials at Med Star Washington Hospital Center said three of the wounded — a Washington police officer and two women — were being treated for gunshot wounds they were expected to survive. Lanier said her department deployed multiple active shooter teams within seven minutes after receiving the first 9-1-1 call from the Navy Yard at 8:15 a.m.
Flights at nearby Washington National Airport were grounded for a few hours and security was beefed up around Capitol Hill following the incident. There were no incidents at either location. “As far as we know this is an isolated incident,” Gray said.
According to earlier reports from local TV stations as well as the Washington Post at least 12 people were shot – including two law enforcement officers – in and around the Navy facility in Southeast Washington on the Anacostia River.
An early statement from the Naval District Washington said an active shooter was reported inside Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Headquarters (Building 197). “Several people were injured and there are reports of fatalities,” according to the statement. NAVSEA employees — which normally number about 3,000 workers — have been ordered to shelter in place, the Navy said.
Television images showed U.S. Park Police and Maryland State Police helicopters lowering baskets to retrieve people – presumably wounded – from rooftops in the area. Multiple ambulances, police cars, armored vehicles and fire trucks can also be seen in the video footage. Later images showed hundreds of Navy Yard workers exiting the facility proffering ID with their hands raised.
Many streets in the area were blocked off and nearby subway stations and schools were closed due to the incident. The Navy Yard is also near the stadium that is home to the Washington Nationals baseball team.
As we mark the 12th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, we’re reminded of the continuing tension between gathering all the information needed to protect the United States from another attack and safeguarding the privacy and civil liberties of the people being protected.
Two seemingly unrelated events this year — the Boston Marathon bombing and the revelation of far reaching U.S. domestic spying programs – underscore the nagging problems a constitutional democracy faces while trying to protect itself.
The 9/11 Commission Report, issued by a blue ribbon panel following the 2001 attacks, recommended restructuring the U.S. Intelligence Community to eliminate structural barriers to performing joint intelligence work. “The importance of integrated, all-source analysis cannot be overstated. Without it, it is not possible to ‘connect the dots,” the Commission Report stated.
Are Arctic shipping lanes for real?
A continuing concern of the five countries that border the Arctic Ocean is that melting sea ice will create — sooner rather than later — previously non-existent shipping lanes that could pose all sorts of headaches like oil spills and search and rescue operations in a remote and hostile environment with little infrastructure.
But Tom Ricks’ Best Defense blog notes there’s an article out by an experienced maritime shipping executive that pooh-poohs the idea that melting sea ice in the Arctic will lead to a “Cold Rush” of commercial interests at the top of the world crowding Arctic waters with cargo ships, tankers and cruise ships.
The article, in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine, maintains that despite record low formation of Arctic sea ice in recent years, “it is virtually certain” that the Northwest Passage across the top of Canada won’t ever be useful to international trade. That’s because transiting the Arctic may not be as cheap or fast as proponents suggest, according to the article’s author, Stephen Carmel.
Visibility may still be poor due to fog that is common in the region, winds can blow large chunks of ice into transit lanes. Neither the Northwest Passage nor the Northern Sea route across Russia can accommodate the largest container ships. Also ships will need additional structural toughening and and crews will need more training to transit Arctic waters — all of it expensive., says Carmel, a senior vice president with the Maersk Line and former merchant ship’s master.
Easing Privacy, Civil Liberties Concerns
Unmanned aerial vehicles — also known as unmanned air systems, remotely piloted aircraft or simply, drones — have been getting a lot of attention lately because their use in missile strikes against terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Critics of U.S. policy say those strikes also kill civilians, causing hard feelings against the United States among the very people it’s trying to win over.
There is also concern that when the Federal Aviation Administration finally allows drones to fly in U.S. airspace, many will be used by police, government agencies, paparazzi and just plain snoops to spy on people — violating innocent people’s privacy and suspected criminals’ civil rights.
An organization of aviation-friendly state officials is also concerned that a growing wave of UAV-restricting state laws could hurt a burgeoning industry that they predict will some day create thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in commercial business and tax revenues for the states.
Already, at least six states have passed legislation restricting UAVs including who can fly them and what they can be used for. Several of those laws limit how law enforcement can use the robotic aircraft in investigations.
Now the Aerospace States Association has come up with guidelines for state lawmakers on how they can regulate UAVs without killing off a job-creating industry in its infancy. The association, after consulting with two state government national organizations and other stakeholders like the American Civil Liberties Union, came up with proposals such as when a search warrant should be required for an aerial search of property by a UAV.
Your 4GWAR editor was at the association’s briefing on the guidelines at the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (the Industry’s largest trade group) conference and expo in Washington earlier this month.
You can see that story — written in collaboration with colleague Michael Bruno — in the latest (Aug. 19) issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology (subscription required).
Unmanned aircraft play a vital role in counter terrorism, counter insurgency, maritime and border security as well as special operations.
U.S. sailors and Marines prepare to launch MV-22 Ospreys from the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) as the ship operates in the Red Sea on June 30, 2013. The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group and the embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit are deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
See the photo below for an idea of what the Osprey looks like in flight.
Lessons in Resilience
Seeing as how we are in the midst of a historical “Perfect Storm” of Independence Day, the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War – and the 150th anniversary of that war’s biggest battle at Gettysburg, it seems like a good time to speak of zombies.Many newspaper columns, newscasts and blog postings today will recount the three-day battle in Pensylvania in 1863 and what it means to Americans today. But your 4GWAR editor thinks it’s worth considering how we would survive future catastrophes.We recently finished re-reading Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Gone With The Wind” and have been struck by the parallels between that epic book and the popular cable-television series “The Walking Dead.”
First, like “Gone With The Wind” – from here on referred to as GWTW – much of “The Walking Dead” (which we’ll call TWD from here on) is set in and around Atlanta, an Atlanta that has been shattered by catastrophe. In the book the catastrophe is war and invasion. In TWD, it’s another type of invasion: a strange plague that reanimates corpses into mindless predators of the living. As we read about main character Scarlett O’Hara’s escape from Atlanta through the war-ravaged countryside (in the novel, not the 1939 film above), we were reminded of the desolation and destruction TWD’s protagonist, Rick the sheriff’s deputy, encounters as he rides into a silent Atlanta filled with abandoned vehicles and corpses – some of them hungry and walking around.
But there are other parallels. Both the book and TV show deal with the ruination of a civilization: the former, a Southern autocracy based on cotton and slave labor; the latter a modern day America, stripped of all the vestiges of modern society from clean water and food to electricity, medical care and government services and civil order.
How the characters deal – or fail to deal – with a world turned upside down is the basic story in both works. Many of the characters are unable to cope with the new reality – especially when they realize that the world they knew isn’t coming back. Lee’s surrender doesn’t end the hunger, poverty and social chaos that has engulfed the Southern gentry since Sherman’s march through Georgia.
And Rick and his frightened, cantankerous and despairing companions spend almost as much time bickering among themselves about survival and how much of their humanity they must jettison to achieve it as they do looking for food and shelter in a world menanced by ruthless humans as well as the canibalistic undead.
Both of these works of fiction give pause and make one wonder what will become of us if the lights, cell phones, cable and air conditioning don’t come back on after disaster. What will become of us if we can’t go home again? If society doesn’t right itself after the emergency has passed? That’s a reality still being faced by the survivors of natural disasters like the earthquake/tsunami that struck Japan or Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy.
Of course, the idea of the dead rising and stalking the living for food is a macabre fantasy but it stands in for a lot of real disaster scenarios like earthquakes, the collapse of civil society, pandemic or widespread failure of the electrical grid for a prolonged period of time. But some organizations have used a zombie apocalypse as a generic example of how civil society can quickly break down, although at least one Republican senator has criticized the Department of Homeland Security for participation in such an exercise.
“If you are prepared for zombies, you’re prepared for anything,” says the Website of Zombie Squad, which encourages citizens to prepare to survive a zombie apocalypse, but failing that: “When the zombie removal business is slow we focus our efforts towards educating ourselves and our community about the importance of disaster preparation. If you are prepared for zombies, you’re prepared for anything. To satisfy this goal we host disaster relief charity fundraisers, disaster preparation seminars and volunteer our time towards emergency response agencies.”
It all sounds very tongue-in-cheek, but there’s a message every bit as serious as the Boy Scout motto: “Be Prepared.”
When your 4GWAR editor was working for a homeland security publication, we attended several conferences and press briefings where business groups urged their members to be prepared not only for disaster but for how they would resume conducting their business and serving their customers if their headquarters was destroyed or their communications infrastructure was badly damaged or their workforce suffered a large number of casualties.
The buzz word at the time was resiliency. Not only were government and the private sector expected to block or prevent catastrophes, but also have a game plan for responding immediately to one and another plan for returning to normal — or a semblance of normal — as soon as possible.
People in Israel continue to ride buses even after a bus bombing. After the bombing of the Boston Marathon last April, people were back out running on the streets and organizing marathons to show their support for the victims and their resolve not to be cowed by terrorism.
Something to think about.
SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.
President Barack Obama leaves Washington Wednesday (June 26) for an eight-day trip where he will visit South Africa — Africa’s largest economy — Senegal in West Africa and Tanzania in East Africa. Obama will not be visiting Tanzania’s neighbor, Kenya, his late-father’s birthplace. Details here.
Officials from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Cyber Command, the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps are slated speakers. Details here.
And on Thursday (June 27) Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks at the Brookings Institution on the military’s role in cyberspace and the threat posed by cyber attacks. Details here.
Maritime Domain Awareness
C-SIGMA, a maritime domain awareness group, co-founded by the former science and technology adviser to the U.S. Coast Guard holds a two-day conference on monitoring ocean-going vessels from space via a global network of satellites starting Wednesday (June 26) in Cork, Ireland. Details here.
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.
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.
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.