Archive for February 6, 2014

HOMELAND SECURITY: Sochi Security, DHS Chief, California Power Attack UPDATE

UPDATES WITH: Attempted airline hijacking to Sochi; Update on DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson speech; and new last item on probe of possible terrorism attack on California power station

Threats Real and Imagined

One day before the official opening of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games on Sochi, Russia, concerns continue to rise over security in and around the Black Sea resort town.

Sochi by Night  (Copyright 2014 XXII Winter Olympic Games)

Sochi by Night
(Copyright 2014 XXII Winter Olympic Games)

ABC, CNN and other news outlets have reported that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a bulletin to airlines – particularly those coming to Southern Russia from Europe and Asia – to be aware that terrorists might hide bomb-making ingredients inside common toothpaste tubes.

DHS would only say publicly that it “regularly shares relevant information with domestic and international partners.” At a speaking engagement in Washington Friday (February 7) DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said the agency “within the last 48 hours,” issued advisories “based on an abundance of caution.” He did not detail the nature of the advisories.

The advice was believed aimed at foreign carriers. Thousands of police and military are posted in and around the Olympic venue creating what President Vladimir Putin has promised will be a “Ring of Steel” to protect athletes, officials and spectators.

Meanwhile, a man who claimed he had a bomb and wanted an Istanbul-bound airliner diverted to Sochi was subdued and arrested by Turkish authorities when the flight crew instead landed in Istanbul. The Pegasus Airlines flight from the Ukrainian city of  Kharkov had 110  passengers. None were hurt, although the alleged hijacker — who did not have a bomb — may have been injured during his arrest, according to some reports. Here is how the Russian media played it.

Islamist militants in southern Russia’s turbulent Caucasus Region have threatened to attack the games and nerves were rattled by two suicide bombings in December at a train station and aboard a bus in nearby Volgograd that killed 34 people. Russia has battled Chechen separatists in the Caucasus since the days of the czars.

While Secretary of State John Kerry says his department isn’t telling Americans not to go to the 17-day (Feb. 7-23) event, but the State Department advises visitors to stay alert and be cautious. The U.S. Defense Department has sent two U.S. Navy ships to the Black Sea to assist with evacuation or communications in the event of a terrorist attack.

Black Sea region (Norman Einstein via Wikipedia)

Black Sea region
(Norman Einstein via Wikipedia)

Meanwhile, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Counterterrorism (START) is out with a new report, according to the Homeland Security News Wire, that assesses the risk of terrorism at Sochi based on the patterns of past terrorism attacks in Russia since 1992 as well as the history of terrorism and the Olympics going back to 1970. START is based at the University of Maryland.

The report indicates “that there is no consistent increase or decrease in the frequency of terrorist attacks during the Olympics,” the report’s author, Erin Miller, said in the introduction. And that suggests “efforts to reinforce security are generally effective at mitigating any potential threats that may exist,” added Miller, who is program manager for the Global Terrorism Database.

Click on the photo to enlarge image to see location of Sochi, Ukraine and Istanbul on the Black Sea

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Jeh Johnson, DHS UPDATE

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson (DHS photo)

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson
(DHS photo)

Speaking of Homeland Security, the new head of the department, Jeh Johnson, delivered his first major public address Friday (February 7) at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington think tank.

Johnson said the department has become “very focused” on foreign fighters from the U.S., Canada and Europe heading to Syria to fight in that battered country’s three-year-old civil war. DHS is concerned about  what these fighters will do when they return to their home countries, after being indoctrinated with a violent Islamist mission.

The DHS Secretary said this new threat was a constant topic of discussion at a recent meeting he attended with British, French, German, Italian and Polish security officials in Krakow, Poland. “Syria has become a matter of homeland security,” he added. For a more detailed post, click here.

Johnson, former General Counsel at the Defense Department, was sworn in on December 23, as the fourth Secretary of Homeland Security – the third largest Cabinet department. His address will be followed by a short question and answer session with Wilson Center President Jane Harman on Johnson’s priorities for the Department.

— — —

Terrorism or Vandalism?

Photo by Yummifruitbat via Wikipedia

Photo by Yummifruitbat via Wikipedia

There’s a bit of a controversy out in California where somebody shot out 17 giant power transformers that supply electricity to Silicon Valley last April. The event, which surfaced in articles by the Wall Street Journal and Foreign Policy magazine, lasted some 19 minutes starting at 1 a.m. April 16, 2013.

According to the Journal, power company officials had to divert power around the site to avoid a blackout and it took utility workers 27 days to make repairs and bring the station back on line. Foreign policy sais at least 100 rounds were fired from a high powered rifle.

At about the same time, someone also cut telephone cables at an AT&T underground unit.

The FBI doesn’t think it was terrorism, according to the Journal but FP quotes a former PG&E executive as saying that’s exactly what it was. Whatever, the motive, according to an NPR piece on the controversy, the attack got the attention of the public utility industry and some companies told the Journal they are reviewing their security measures.

February 6, 2014 at 9:15 pm 1 comment


February 2014


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