Posts tagged ‘Homeland Security’
A reset for America’s counter terrorism strategy was announced by President Obama Thursday (May 23) … authorities in London are collecting evidence a day after the brutal slaying of an off-duty British soldier by two men allegedly protesting the treatment of Muslims … meanwhile a man in Florida said to have links to one of the Boston Marathon bombers is slain after an altercation with the FBI.
Recalibrating War on Terror
President Obama today (May 23) outlined his revised plan for countering terrorism and ending the global war on terror.
Speaking at the National Defense University in Virginia, Obama pledged to continue “our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations” but, he added, “this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”
The president layed out a series of policy changes and clarifications as well as calling for Congress to allow the closing of detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where 166 alleged terrorists – many now conducting a hunger strike – have been held for years without trial.
Obama also said he was setting new guidelines for when U.S. citizens and foreign nationals can be targeted for death by missile-armed unmanned aircraft, the so-called drones. He defended the use of drone attacks in the past but said the threat has changed in Afghanistan and elsewhere and only when targets pose a “continuing, imminent threat” to the United States and only when avoiding civilian casualties is a “near-certainty,” the Washington Post reported.
His remarks came a day after the White House revealed that four U.S. Citizens have been killed in drone strikes since 2009. For an outline of the plan, click here.
– — –
Horror in London
An off-duty British soldier was run over by a car and then hacked to death May 22 by two men believed to have ties to radical Islamist groups. Both of the alledged attackers were shot and wounded by London police responding to 9-1-1 calls. One of the suspects men held up a bloody knife and meat cleaver in hands red with blood as he ranted to passersby about his reasons for the attack.
The soldier was identified as Lee Rigby, 25, a drummer with the 2nd Battalion, of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, according to CBS. Rigby, who served in Afghanistan, leaves a wife and two-year-old son. He was not in uniform at the time of the attack which took place near the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, a section of Southeast London.
The man waving the bloody blades and justifying his attack to passersby who filmed him with their cell phones, was identified as 28-year-old Michael Adebolajo, a British-born convert to Islam of Nigerian descent. The second suspect, also hospitalized with gunshot wounds, was not identified.
Authorities in Britain took two other people into custody on conspiracy charges today (May 23) and government investigators were looking into whether the alleged attackers were “lone wolves” or part of a larger terrorist organization.
Rigby is the first person to have died on British soil in an apparent attack by Muslim extremists since the 2005 suicide bombings on London’s transit system, in which 52 people were killed, the Los Angeles Times reported. An additional 1,200 police officers were out patrolling London May 23.
– — –
Marathon Bombing Mystery
There’s been a new wrinkle in the investigation of last month’s bombing of the Boston Marathon.
A man identified as a friend of one of the two alleged bombers was shot to death in Orlando, Florida May 22 after allegedly attacking an FBI agent who has questioning him, the Associated Press reported.
Ibragim Todashev, a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was himself slain in a gunbattle with police just days after the bombing, was shot after attacking the FBI agent who did not suffer life-threatening injuries. Todashev, a mixed martial arts fighter from Russia, had lived in the Boston area before moving to Orlando, Fla., over the past couple of years.
Tsarnaev’s younger brother, Dzhokhar, was captured and charged in the bombing.
The FBI gave no details on why it was interested in Todashev except to say that he was being questioned as part of the Boston investigation. But some of Todashev’s former roommates said that he knew Tsarnaev from athletic circles in Boston and that the two Russian immigrants might have trained together, the AP reported.
And officials are looking to see if there are any links between Tsarnaev and a triple muder in Boston a year-and-a-half ago.
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).
(UPDATE below in italics: one suspect, two police officers killed, second suspect at large)
The joy and exuberance of the 117th Boston Marathon were shattered a little more than four hours into the 26.2-mile race on Monday when two bombs shattered storefronts and bodies near the finish line.
The latest casualty report puts the death toll at three – including an 8-year-old child and two young women – and 180 injured, many of them suffering horrendous injuries to their legs.
[A SHOCKING AND ALMOST INCREDIBLE DEVELOPMENT:
Early Friday morning two men -- identified Thursday by the FBI as suspects in the bombing -- reportedly tried to rob a convenience store in Cambridge, Mass., shot and killed two police officers, hijacked an SUV and fled. They engaged in a four-mile firefight with pursuing police. One suspect was killed, the other fled and is the subject of a massive manhunt in the Boston area. Stories can be read here, here and here.]
Your 4GWAR editor is going to drop the “royal We” normally used when directly addressing the blog’s readers – and rely on the singular pronoun “I” to express my sadness, anger and hurt.
I have run three marathons although I could never qualify to run Boston. But if I had been running there on Monday, I probably would have been crossing the finish line about 40 minutes after the blast. I would have seen all that chaos and pain first hand. And that is disturbing to contemplate.
Boston is one of my favorite cities and I have visited it many times – most recently, the day of the bombing. So I take this attack very personally. I left Boston Sunday, the day before Marathon Monday by train a little more than 25 hours before the first bomb went off.
There is still no one in custody. No suspects have been identified – that we know of. But I believe justice will be served. Remember, it took more than 10 years, but Osama bin Laden now sleeps with the fishes.
Make no mistake about it. The bombings in Boston were acts of terrorism – even if this turns out to be the work of a nut job like the Unibomber or just some crooks who wanted to divert attention from some other illegal activity.
When acts of violence like those in Boston, occur, they have a profound effect on a community and often on the larger society. And it almost doesn’t matter what the motivation was. I say this as someone who lived through the Washington area sniper siege back in 2002. That, too, was the act of criminals with non-political motives. But it was terrorism nonetheless. Schools canceled field trips and recess. Night life in Washington suburbs dried up because people were too afraid to go out at night. Restaurants, stores and movie theaters all lost business.
The day of the first shootings, I saw police cars with their sirens wailing rush to the street outside the store I was in — just a few hundred feet from where one of the first victims was shot. Helicopters hovered over head and police in bullet proof vests toting machine guns scoured a nearby parking lot.
During that period I pumped gas while crouching behind my car: One of the early attacks came at a service station. I ran in a zig zag pattern from the car to the ATM and kept a nervous eye on the nearby woods. The snipers used similar woods as cover to shoot a schoolboy on his way to class.
Experts like to cite specific factors that determine whether an act of violence is “terrorism.” But I believe this distinction is a legalistic one – like the definition of hate crimes. If all violent acts are hate crimes, how do you enforce the law against hate crimes? Where do you get the resources to combat them?
Of course every violent act isn’t an act of terrorism but authorities need to take a look at widening the definition to encompass acts that terrorize people on a large scale.
A last word. Boston is a tough town, just ask anyone who’s driven there. It’s people are tough. They can be demanding of themselves and difficult with others. But they are fair and they are unrelenting in wanting to fix things that are no functioning properly. I am sure Boston will get through this crisis.
Corrects: that I left Boston the day before the bombings NOT the same day as the attack.
A New Gold Rush
As it raises its defense spending as part of a strategy to secure its borders and offshore oil deposits, Brazil has become a big draw for foreign defense contractors like BAE Systems, Eurocopter, Boeing, Saab and Dassault, according to the Financial Times.
Brazil is building a fleet of five submarines — one of them nuclear-powered — with French contractor DCNS. And aircraft from France (Dassault’s Rafale), the United States (Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet) and Sweden (Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen) are all vying for Brazil’s much delayed selection of a contractor to build a new fleet of more than 30 multi-role jet fighters.
Brazil is Latin America’s largest country and the sixth-largest economy in the world.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute ranks Brazil 10th in military spending in 2011 — up from 11th in 2010. Brazil’s military budget was $35.4 billion, SIPRI calculated, or 1.5 percent of Brazil’s gross domestic product. it’s defense spending has risen 19 percent since 2002, even though it dropped 8.2 percent from 2010 to 2011.
Overall, Latin America’s defense spending dropped 3.3 percent in 2011. It was up 5.1 percent in 2010. The biggest increase was Mexico’s: up 5.7 percent in 2011 and up by 52 percent since 2002 — largely due to increased military involvement in the country’s war with drug cartels, SIPRI said in an April 2012 report.
Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer S.A. has signed an agreement with Anglo-Italian helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland establishing a joint venture to explore producing helicopters in Brazil, both companies announced recently.
Preliminary studies by Embraer and AgustaWestland indicate strong market potential for twin engine, medium lift helicopters — especially to meet the needs of the of the offshore oil and gas market. Other key market sectors, such as the military, “show promising potential as well,” the companies said.
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
Three Helos on Deck
An Aviation boatswain’s mate prepares for flight operations aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). The Bonhomme Richard is the lead ship in the only forward-deployed amphibious ready group now in the East China Sea.
In addition to five Harrier AV-8B jump jets, the Bonhomme Richard carries four Sea Knights and six anti-submarine warfare helos — either the the Sea Stallion or the Seahawk. Both of those aircraft can also serve as transport for personnel or supplies from one vessel to another in the ready group.
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.
Expo in Detroit
Next week, thousands of U.S. and foreign military personnel, contractors, program managers, manufacturers, government officials and journalists – your 4GWAR Blog editor included – will be in Detroit for a four-day military ground vehicle conference and expo, sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement.
The event at Detroit’s Cobo Convention Center has focused information sessions on July 10th and 13th with the exhibit hall open and a number of presentations on the 11th and 12th.
Among the speakers will be current and retired military officials from the United States, Portugal, Israel, India and the Czech Republic. Also government officials from Canada, Honduras, Lithuania, Mozambique, Serbia, Tanzania and the United Arab Emirates will be on hand to discuss their country’s products, services and needs.
With the end of the Iraq War and Afghanistan winding down after more than a decade, U.S. and NATO military planners are looking ahead to future threats and technologies while trying to deal with reduced funding and equipment worn out in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It should be an interesting show. We’ll keep you posted next week.
Life in Prison
A Nigerian man who pleaded guilty to trying to blow up a U.S. Airliner over Detroit with a bomb hidden in his underwear has been sentenced to life in prison.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 25, the so-called “Underwear Bomber,” pleaded guilty last Fall (Oct. 12) to eight terrorism and conspiracy charges in federal court in Detroit.
He was accused of attempting to detonate a bomb secreted in his underwear as a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam was beginning its descent over Michigan’s Detrotit Metropolitan Airport on Christmas Day 2009. According to a federal indictment, Abdulmutallab intended to blow up the plane, killing the other 289 people aboard the Airbus aircraft. The bomb he ignited failed to explode, however, and passengers and crew managed to subdue him and extinguished the blaze. He was the only one burned.
According to the eight-count indictment, Abdulmutallab traveled to Yemen to join violent jihad on behalf of al Qaeda. Federal prosecutors said Abdulmutallab, the son of a Nigerian banker who warned U.S. officials that his son may have become radicalized, was influenced by the fiery U.S.-born jihadist cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki. Al-Alaki was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen last September.
The bomb Abdulmutallab was given contained two high explosives, PETN and TATP, prosecutors said. They played a video in the courtroom (see it here) that demonstrated the explosive power of the device’s ingredients.
Abdulmutallab’s failed bombing attempt led to stricter – and controversial – passenger screening measures at U.S. airports. Because he successfully slipped his explosive device through airport security in Amsterdam and Nigeria, U.S. officials speeded up their deployment of whole body scanners that revealed what was beneath passengers’ clothes — including the passenger. The screening sparked complaints from civil liberties groups, conservative politicians and some parents of small children.
Take a look at all that frozen wasteland. The Russian tanker Renda follows a path through the ice of the Bering Sea made by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB-20). The Seattle-based Healy – the only polar ice breaker in the U.S. fleet — assisted Renda on its mission to deliver more than 1.3 million gallons of fuel to Nome, Alaska, after a winter storm restricted a scheduled delivery by barge.
The storm prevented November’s scheduled delivery, leaving Nome’s 3,500 residents without enough gasoline and diesel fuel before the next scheduled delivery in late May or June. The 370-foot tanker set out from Russia in mid-December. It stopped in South Korea to pick up diesel fuel and then called at Dutch Harbor, Alaska to load up unleaded gasoline. Renda left the Alaskan port — accompanied by Healy — on Jan. 3.
The 420-foot Healy — yes, the ice breaker is bigger than an oil tanker — is designed to break 4 ½ feet of ice continuously at three knots and can operate in temperatures as low as 50 degrees below zero (Farenheit).Unlike most ocean-going vessels, the Healy has a blunt, rounded bow that enable it to ride up on top of the ice. As the bow goes up and the stern (rear) sinks below the water, the force of buoyancy acting on the submerged part of the stern create a lever-like action bringing Healy’s 16,000 tons down onto the ice — breaking it, according to Lt. Commander Kristen Serumgard of the Coast Guard’s Office of Cutter Forces.
After a 5,000-mile journey, the Renda made it — almost — into port at Nome on Jan. 14. Because of the tremendous amount of ice that was as hard as concrete, the Renda pumped out its cargo through hoses that stretched over 500 yards to the distribution facility. See photo below. The Renda completed pumping out its cargo on Jan. 19.
To see a slideshow of the two vessels’ mercy mission through 500 miles of ice-packed Bering Sea, click here.
For more information on the Healy’s mission breaking up the ice for the Renda, click here.
To see a short (27 second) video on You Tube of the two ships in the frozen north, click here.