Posts tagged ‘Homeland Security’

ARMY: Big AUSA Conference Opens

AUSA.

ausa logo

The Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) holds its annual meeting and trade show this week in Washington starting Monday.

Thousands of visitors in and out of uniform are expected to visit the Washington Convention Center Monday through Wednesday to hear Army leaders and experts talk about where the Army is going and where it should be going in the future.

Speakers include Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno.

The exhibit halls will be filled with all manner of armored vehicle, unmanned aircraft systems, combat gear, communications and sensor technology and smalls arms and protective clothing.

New this year in the exhibit hall: a Homeland Security Pavilion where the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will have a display and companies and organizations offering products and services to support the homeland security mission will be showing their wares.

Since 4GWAR views itself as a counter terrorism blog focusing on the intersection of homeland security and asymmetric warfare, we’ll be taking special interest in this new feature at AUSA.

October 13, 2014 at 12:26 am Leave a comment

HOMELAND SECURITY: DHS Chief on Terrorist Threats, Border Security — Ebola

Enemies, Foreign and Domestic — and Biologic.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says the violent extremist group known as ISIL (or ISIS), poses a “potential threat” to the United States but he is also worried about homegrown lone wolf attackers driven to violence radical Islamist propaganda.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson (DHS photo)

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson
(DHS photo)

Following an address Thursday (October 9) on border security and immigration at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Johnson called the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) — “a dangerous terrorist organization” that has killed U.S. citizens and threatened to attack the West.

The al Qaeda splinter group has seized territory in Syria and Iraq, executed prisoners, kidnapped women and terrorized Kurdish, Yazidi and Christian minorities in the areas it controls. The group is also known as ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) and IS, for Islamic State.

Noting ISIL’s “very slick” social media and propaganda skills, Johnson added: “They represent a very significant potential threat for which we have to be vigilant.” But he refuted reports that that ISIL/ISIS fighters has been apprehended trying to cross illegally into Texas from Mexico. Johnson said four people were apprehended on the border who said they were members of the Kurdish Workers Party, which is fighting ISIL in Syria (and ironically, considered a terrorist group by the United Sates for its autonomy-seeking attacks in Turkey). Nevertheless, the four were arrested, detained and will be deported, Johnson said.

In a question and answer session at the Washington think tank, Johnson said he worries about Westerners who travel to the Middle East to fight in Syria’s civil war, and return to the United States or countries accorded U.S. visa waiver privileges with a radical jihadist ideology and weapons training. But Johnson said he is also concerned about domestic-based lone terrorist acts “inspired by the social media” of radical groups. “In many respects, that’s the terrorist threat I worry most about because it’s the hardest to detect and it could happen on very little notice,” Johnson said.

To counter violent extremist propaganda the Department of Homeland Security has launched community outreach programs, seeking help from leaders in U.S. communities with large Muslim populations.

Despite a surge in women travelling with children and unaccompanied minors, Johnson says the number of foreigners trying to enter the United States illegally is down since 2000 and the number of them being apprehended by the Border Patrol is up, but DHS isn’t easing up on border security efforts.

Customs and Border Protection photo

Customs and Border Protection photo

He announced several initiatives across the department — including the creation of three new task forces — to direct the resources of Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Coast Guard in three areas: the ports and maritime approaches in the Southeast, land borders in the Southwest and California and a standing joint investigative task force to support the other two.

Asked about the Ebola virus crisis in West Africa and its appearance in the United States and Spain, Johnson said DHS officers will be taking the temperatures – with non-contact thermometers of all arriving airlines passengers coming from the three African countries hardest-hit by Ebola: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Additionally, he said there would be more active screening of the estimated 150 people a day who come to the United States by air from those countries. The temperature screening will start this weekend at Newark, JFK, Dulles, Los Angeles and Atlanta airports.

October 9, 2014 at 10:49 pm Leave a comment

HOMELAND SECURITY: Protecting the Southern Border [UPDATE]

More Eyes in the Sky.

Tethered aerostat before deployment in Puerto Rico. (CBP photo)

Tethered aerostat before deployment in Puerto Rico. (CBP photo)

UPDATES with links to background information, photo of Multi-role Enforcment Aircraft.

WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security’s aviation chief says he would like to add a ninth tethered surveillance balloon to the radar-equipped, counter narcotics warning system along the southern U.S. border.

Randolph Alles, head of Customs and Border Protection’s Air & Marine Office, says he’d like to anchor the balloon, known as a tethered aerostat, on an island off the Southern California coast near the Mexican border — but it all depends on future funding, he told a homeland security conference Tuesday (October 7).

The low band radar-equipped Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) costs about $35 million a year to operate. “That’s not enough to keep the system going at current speed,” Alles told the Homeland Security Week conference sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA).

TARS was created in the 1980s by U.S. Customs – then part of the Treasury Department – to interdict cross border narcotics traffickers using small, low-flying airplanes. The lighter-than-air aerostats, once tethered to the ground by a cable, are stationed between 12,000 and 15,000 feet above the ground. The Defense Department took over the program in the 1990s and last year it was turned over to CBP, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Six of the current eight aerostat sites are located along the Southwest Border at Yuma and Fort Huachuca, Arizona; Deming, New Mexico; Marfa, Eagle Pass, and Rio Grande City, Texas. There are also two additional sites monitoring the Caribbean — in the Florida Keys and Puerto Rico. Alles said it would cost about $15 million to acquire a new site and the aerostat, sensors and support equipment – not counting annual operating costs.

Alles, an assistant CBP commissioner and retired Marine Corps major general, says TARS needs a radar upgrade. While the system on board now is fine for tracking airplanes, he wants to get a maritime radar that can track vessels approaching the United States on the water.

The radar replacement is just one of the plans Alles has for improving sensors on all of CBP’s aircraft and maritime vessels. A  10-year capitalization program draws to an end in 2016. Alles said he and Air & Marine staff are working on a new recapitalization plan.

Alles’ goal is to integrate sensors with all CBP aviation platforms, including the P-3 Orion and Dash 8 fixed wing aircraft, Blackhawk helicopters and the Predator unmanned aircraft system. But so far, only $44 million is being sought in the next  federal budget for two more King Air 350 twin-engine Multi-role Enforcement Aircraft, equipped with wide area marine search radar with air search capability and a ground moving target indicator..

Multi-role Enforcement Aircraft (CBP Photo)

Multi-role Enforcement Aircraft (CBP Photo)

 

October 8, 2014 at 11:30 am Leave a comment

HOMELAND SECURITY: Four Day Conference Kicks off in Washington

Homeland Security Week.

Customs and Border Patrol photo

Customs and Border Patrol photo

Border management and immigration, cyber security and emergency response and disaster relief will be among the topics discussed as the four-day Homeland Security Week conference opens Monday (October 6) at th Washington Convenion Center.

Government officials scheduled to attend include  U.S. Border Patrol Chief Michal Fisher, Randolph Alles, the head of the Air and Marine Office at Customs and Border Protection and the chief technology officer at the Department of Homeland Security,  Wolfe Tombe. Experts from government, academia and industry will be participating in panel discussions and roundtable sessions. Companies in a wide range of the security industry including thermal imaging, radar, video cameras, law enforcement equipment and information technology security will be in the exhibit hall.

Maritime security, battling transnational organized crime — particularly in the areas of narcotics and money laundering — and weapons of mass destruction  will also be discussed at the event, sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA)

Your 4GWAR editor will be there catching up with old colleagues and sources. Here’s a story we got out of last year’s event.

Customs and Border Protection photo

Customs and Border Protection photo

 

October 5, 2014 at 9:09 pm Leave a comment

COUNTER TERRORISM: New Threats, New Challenges, New Response UPDATE

9/11 2001 and 2014

UPDATES with additional Obama remarks, criticism by Sens. McCain and Graham, Middle East coalition agreement and maps of Iraq and Syria by the Institute for the Study of War

Burning World Trade Center towers Sept. 11, 2001 (National Park Service)

Burning World Trade Center towers Sept. 11, 2001
(National Park Service)

It’s the 13th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania that left nearly 3,000 dead, hundreds injured and untold numbers traumatized by an surprise attack from a little known, but vicious, enemy.

Now America is gearing up to battle extremist terrorism again.

In a televised address from the White House Wednesday night (September 10) President Barack Obama outlined plans to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the violent militant group that calls itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The extremist group has emerged from the Syrian civil war to rout Iraqi military units and seize a swath of northern Iraq. The group, also known as ISIL (for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) has killed captured prisoners, threatened non Sunni Muslims like Shia and Yazidi with extermination, killed two American journalists in gruesome videos and forced Christian Iraqis to convert to Islam, flee the country or be killed.

“ISIL is not “Islamic.”  No religion condones the killing of innocents.  And the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim,” Obama said in his 14-minute address. He added: “And ISIL is certainly not a state.  It was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border.  It is recognized by no government, nor by the people it subjugates.  ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple.  And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.”

The president outlined a strategy for eliminating ISIS, which critics claim has taken too long to evolve and doesn’t go far enough. Obama said he was sending 475  more troops to Iraq to serve as advisers and trainers of Iraqi forces. That would bring the number of American troops there to more than 1,500 — just a few years after the United States withdrew combat troops from the war-shattered country. Obama also promised more airstrikes against ISIS/ISIL in Syria as well as Iraq, a step he has declined to take in the past. Since August, the United States has launched 150 airstrikes against ISIS/ISIL targets in Iraq. The United States has also been dropping cargo pallets of food, water and other relief supplies to Iraqi refugees hiding in the mountains.

Iraq Situation Report by the Institute for the Study of War. (click to enlarge)

Iraq Situation Report by the Institute for the Study of War.
(click to enlarge)

“Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are.  That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq.  This is a core principle of my presidency:  If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven,” Obama said, noting U.S. actions against al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia. He also stressed that the additional forces will not have a combat mission. “We will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq,” he pledged.

But if ISIS/ISIL is left unchecked it could pose a treat to the Middle East and beyond, including the United States. American intelligence agencies believe that thousands of foreign nationals, including Europeans and some U.S. citizens have flocked to Syria over the last three years to fight against the Assad regime and other rebel groups. There is concern that those fighters, now battled-tested and exposed to extreme radical ideology, could return to their home countries and launch terrorist attacks. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson made that point back in February.

Obama called on Congress to authorize and fund the training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels. He also said the United States will work with partner nations to redouble intelligence and counter terrorism efforts to prevent a terror attack by ISIS/ISIL in America. Lastly,Obama to keep support relief efforts for the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have fled their homes to avoid persecution by ISIS/ISIL. Obama pledged to head a coalition of partner nations to battle the threat. “Already, allies are flying planes with us over Iraq; sending arms and assistance to Iraqi security forces and the Syrian opposition; sharing intelligence; and providing billions of dollars in humanitarian aid,” Obama said.

Syrian Situation Map by the Institute for the Study of War. (click on image to enlarge)

Syrian Situation Map by the Institute for the Study of War.
(click on image to enlarge)

Shuttle diplomacy by Secretary of State John Kerry has born fruit. Leaders from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and the Gulf Cooperation Council – an alliance of the Sunni Arab Gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – have pledged to “stand united” against “the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant,” according to The Guardian website.

But the British newspaper notes there are several thorny issues such as whether the Assad regime will allow coalition warplanes into its airspace to bomb ISIS/ISIL and whether U.S. advisers will enter Syria with the retrained rebels. There are also questions about what role pro-Assad Russia will play as well as Shia-majority Iran, which sees ISIS/ISIL as a threat on its border.

September 11, 2014 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC: Ex-Coast Guard Chief Named U.S. Special Arctic Envoy

Getting Serious.

Arctic ice in Greenland. NASA photo by xxxxxxxx

Arctic ice in Greenland. (NASA photo)

Secretary of State John Kerry announced Papp’s appointment Wednesday (July 16). Admiral Papp retired as commandant in May after 39 years in the Coast Guard. Among his accomplishments was restoring the heavy ice breaker Polar Star to service. “I could not be happier that he agreed to postpone his well-deserved retirement and join our effort in a cause about which he is both passionate and wise,” Kerry said in a statement.

The United States is one of eight nations with territory in the Arctic that make up the Arctic Council, which deals with issues such as climate change, the environment, shipping, oil and gas and indigenous peoples.  The Arctic is growing hotter faster than any part of the globe. Global warming has melted sea ice to levels that have given rise to what experts describe as a kind of gold rush scramble to the Arctic, according to the Associated Press.

Next year the U.S. will take over the revolving chairmanship of the council. “The United States is an Arctic nation and Arctic policy has never been more important,” Kerry said. U.S. officials estimate the Arctic holds 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of undiscovered gas deposits.

Polar bears need ice to hunt (NOAA photo by K. Elliott, 2005)

Polar bears need ice to hunt (NOAA photo by K. Elliott, 2005)

Former Alaskan Lieutenant Governor Fran Ulmer was also named special adviser of Arctic Science and Policy.  She is currently chair of the President’s U.S. Arctic Research Commission.

July 17, 2014 at 11:49 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Nigeria and Cameroon Battle Boko Haram, Kenyan Governor Arrested, Ebola Out of Control

HOT SPOTS

Nigeria Blast

Nigeria's location (CIA World Factbook)

Nigeria’s location
(CIA World Factbook)

An explosion at a shopping mall in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, has killed 21 and injured 17, according to officials.

No organization has claimed responsibility for the attack at the Emab Plaza mall in Abuja’s upscale Wuse 2 neighborhood, the Associated Press reported, but many in Nigeria are blaming the radical Islamist group Boko Haram, which is behind a wave of bombings, killings and kidnappings.

On Monday (June 23) a bomb at a medical college in the northern city of Kano killed eight people. At least 14 more were killed last week in a bomb blast in Damaturu, a state capital in Nigeria’s violence-wracked northeast. That attack came at a World Cup television viewing site. In May, twin car bombs at Jos in the central part of the country left more than 130 people dead. A car bomb at a bus station killed 24 more in the Christian quarter of Kano.

According to the AP, two separate explosions in Abuja in April killed more than 120 people and wounded about 200 more at a busy bus station. Both of those blasts were claimed by Boko Haram.

Meanwhile, government officials are cautioning Nigerians to be on the alert in the wake of the Abuja blast.  A government spokesman told Voice of America that the government will continue warning Nigerians about the dangers posed from terrorists.  “We have issued the alert earlier on. It’s an ongoing event. Even yesterday we have a security awareness programs with principals of schools, an initiative that was introduced by the government,” said the spokesman Mike Omeri. “We have also been campaigning on the media for citizens to be more careful and they should be alert even before the World Cup, and the venues for viewing should be more secured.”

But critics say the government and security forces have not been doing enough — including finding and rescuing hundreds of high school girls kidnapped in April by Boko Haram. Despite worldwide condemation and pledges  to provide assistance in locating and returning the girls, they still remain prisoners, their whereabouts uncertain. According to the Canadian news site CBC News, of 395 students who were at the secondary school in the village of Chibok, near the Cameroon border, on April 14, 219 remain unaccounted for. Meanwhile, witnesses say, Islamic extremists have abducted 60 more girls and women and 31 boys from villages in northeast Nigeria.

Cameroon’s Boko Haram Crackdown

Cameroon (CIA World Factbook)

Cameroon
(CIA World Factbook)

Cameroon, Nigeria’s neighbor to the south, has been having its own troubles with Boko Haram militants and this week Cameroon’s military killed 10 suspected Boko Haram members in a clash near the border town of  Mora. Officials said they also arrested 50 Nigerian businessmen on suspicion of collaborating with Boko Haram.

More is just across the border with Nigeria’s Borno state, where the Boko Haram insurgency has raged for five years. The group opposes Western teaching in Nigeria’s schools and wants to create Islamic state practicing strict Sharia law.

Colonel Chioka Pierre told Voice of America that Nigeria security forces have been conducting sweeps as part of an intensified crackdown on violent incidents, believed to be connected to Boko Haram.  He said they have been searching more than half a dozen border villages to prevent incursions or to stop militants from using Cameroon as a hideout or launching pad for attacks.  He said local residents were cooperating with the military to root out Boko Haram suspects in the area.

Kenya: Governor Charged

A regional governor in Kenya has been arrested and charged with terrorism and murder over attacks attacks in the Lamu district in which scores of people were killed.

Issa Timamy was charged over the attacks on the Mpeketoni town area. He faces several charges including murder. Kenya’s president has blamed the attacks on political networks, despite claims of responsibility by the Somali Islamist group al-Shabab, according to the BBC.

At least 60 people were killed in the attacks earlier in June killed, as gunmen descended on hotels and a police station.

HEALTH

Ebola Outbreak

Electron micrograph of an Ebola virus virion. (Centers for Disease Control)

Electron micrograph of an Ebola virus virion.
(Centers for Disease Control)

NPR is reporting that an Ebola outbreak in West Africa is now the largest and most deadly wave of that virus ever recorded. The first cases were confirmed in Guinea in March. Health in West Africa officials thought they had the disease under control, but they did not. A rash of new cases has popped up in the neighboring countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization is calling for “drastic action” and announced an 11-nation summit meeting of the growing crisis.

As of Sunday, 635 cases of haemorrhagic fever – most confirmed to be Ebola – including 399 deaths have been reported across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, AFP reported via The Guardian. This week the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the outbreak of the virus, which is deadly in up to 90% of cases, was “out of control,” AFP said.

.

 

June 26, 2014 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

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