Posts tagged ‘Homeland Security’
Ranger In, Ranger Out.
Four star Army General Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), has taken over as commander of U.S. Central Command (CENCOM), which oversees U.S. operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
Both men are Army Rangers and both are former commanders of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) — a SOCOM component which oversees the hunt for terrorists among other tasks. Thomas has also served in the 1st Special Operations Forcers Operational Deteachment — Delta, the highly secretive Army commando unit known as Delta Force.
Both Thomas and Votel are also 1980 graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point New York.
At a brief press conference before the change of command ceremonies in Tampa, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said “accelerating the defeat” of the terrorist group that calls itself Islamic State is President Obama’s top priority. Carter added that the United States and its allies would be successful in Iraq and Syria in defeating Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL), but the group has spread around the world and the United States may be fighting the terror group on U.S. soil. “It’s going to require effort around the world, and yes, it’s going to require protection against the homeland,” Carter added.
Pancho Villa’s Raid.
A hundred years ago today the tiny border town of Columbus, New Mexico was reeling and the rest of the country was howling for revenge following a bloody cross border raid by hundreds of Mexican irregulars commanded by bandit-turned general and Mexican Revolution hero “Pancho” Villa.
In the early morning hours of March 9, 1916, about 500 mounted gunmen loyal to Villa attacked Columbus — three miles north of the border — and the adjoining U.S. Army base, Camp Furlong.
Part of the town was looted and burned and at least 17 Americans — both civilians and soldiers — were killed in the three-hour attack. More than 100 Villistas were also killed, wounded or captured on the streets of Columbus and on their retreat back to Mexico by pursuing U.S. cavalry troopers.
The Columbus raid prompted President Woodrow Wilson to send a punitive force of cavalry, infantry and artillery — eventually numbering more than 10,000 men — plus trucks and airplanes (deployed by the Army for the first time in a conflict zone) to catch and punish Villa’s irregular forces.
Crossing into Mexico on March 15, under the command of Brigadier General John J. Pershing, the U.S. troops — including the celebrated Buffalo Soldiers of the black 10th Cavalry regiment — pushed hundreds of miles over rugged terrain deep into the Mexican state of Chihuahua searching for Villa.
Within two months they killed or wounded scores of Villistas in several gun battles. But after two skirmishes with Mexican government troops nearly brought both nations to the brink of war, Pershing’s force returned to U.S. territory in February 1917. Just two months later the United States was at war with Germany.
We’ll be following the major events of this unusual U.S. military action over the next few months, and looking for parallels to the current border security crisis.
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.
Food for Thought: Walter Pincus.
In his latest — and perhaps last — column in newsprint, veteran Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus offers some opinions and concerns about the state of journalism and how the media covers national security, a beat Pincus has covered for decades.
Like a lot of journalists who started out in the business using typewriters and carbon paper instead of computers and mobile devices, Pincus is concerned that in the era of 24-hour cable news, the Internet and Twitter “we have been moved further into a PR society and, sadly public relations has become a key part of government in our politics.”
On national security, Pincus says “the reality of the threat from terrorism” and terror groups like the Islamic State and al Qaeda “needs to be put in some perspective.” He believes that even at the height of the Cold War, the United States did not “institute the security actions at home that have been taken and are being contemplated to meet what’s been described as a terrorist threat.”
He also believes, as many do, that when contemplating military involvement in the Middle East and Central Asia, one should remember the experience in Vietnam showed “that the American form of government is not easily transferred to other countries.”
It should be noted that Pincus spent a large part of his journalistic career writing about nuclear weapons, politics and arms control and is finishing a book about the U.S. nuclear weapons program. He’s won several awards but has also been controversial. In February, he says, he will be writing his column for the website, the Cipher Brief.
Six Month Warning.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unveiled a new terrorism alert system Wednesday (December 16) while advising concerns about “self-radicalized” actor(s) who could strike with little or no notice.
According to the Associated Press, DHS is adding a new “Bulletin” category to two existing alert categories: elevated and imminent. An elevated warns of a “credible terrorism threat” while imminent alerts advise the public of a “credible specific and impending terrorism threat.”
This is the first change to the National Terrorism Advisory System since it replaced the color-coded system in 2011.
The first bulletin informed Americans that while there is no new intelligence of a specific, credible threat, the public should remain vigilant, according to NBC News. The bulletin will remain in effect until June 16, 2016. That’s right, until the middle of next year.
“We are in a new phase in the global threat environment, which has implications on the homeland. Particularly with the rise in use by terrorist groups of the Internet to inspire and recruit, we are concerned about the “self-radicalized” actor(s) who could strike with little or no notice,” the bulletin stated, adding that recent attacks in Paris as well as San Bernardino, California “warrant increased security, as well as increased public vigilance and awareness.”
House Defies Veto Threat.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Republican-backed legislation Thursday (November 19) to block plans to admit thousands of Syrian refugees into the United States.
By an overwhelming 289-to-137 vote, the House voted to suspend President Obama’s program to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year. The measure, which 47 of the 188 Democrats voted for, would also intensify the process for screening refugees, according to Reuters.
The measure was quickly drafted this week following the Islamic State attacks that killed 129 people. It would require that high-level officials – the FBI director, the director of national intelligence and the secretary of Homeland Security – verify that each Syrian refugee poses no security risk. After the House vote, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch called such screening both impractical and impossible.
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said the bill would pause the program the White House announced in September. Ryan said it was important to act quickly “when our national security is at stake.” Some Republicans have said some refugees could be militants bent on attacking the United States, noting reports that at least one Paris attacker may have slipped into Europe among migrants registered in Greece.
The White House has threatened a presidential veto if the bill is passed by the Senate — which remains an uncertainty at this time. Republican leaders in Congress are threatening to include the restrictions in a must-pass spending bill to keep the federal government running past December 11, raising the specter of another government shutdown, the Los Angeles Times reported.
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Deja Vue All Over Again?
Calls by some Republican presidential candidates and the governors — mostly Republican — of more than 30 states to block the admission of 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States, harks back to a similar sentiment in America just months before the beginning of World War II.
The Washington Post and other media sites have reminded readers about opinion polls taken in 1939 that showed Americans overwhelmingly opposed settling refugees from Hitler’s Europe in the United States. Upon hearing about this opposition, your 4GWAR editor was reminded of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about the Franklin Roosevelt White House during the war years “No Ordinary Time.” In it she noted that some U.S. State Department officials opposed allowing European refugees into the country for fear that some might be Nazi double agents merely pretending to flee Hitler.
An article in the New York Times Thursday (November 19) asked: How apt is the comparison between Syrians today and German Jews before World War II and what can and cannot be learned from it?
Some historians say that, while the two groups are not completely symmetrical, there are lessons to be drawn. Republican leaders and some Democrats have sought to halt the Syrian refugee program, fearing fighters from the Islamic State could be among the 10,000 migrants allowed to enter the country. “We cannot allow terrorists to take advantage of our compassion,” Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin said. “This is a moment where it is better to be safe than to be sorry.”
In 1938, Jews sought to escape Nazi Germany at a time when the United States was struggling through the Great Depression, and Americans expressed similar concern over accepting refugees, the piece noted. “I don’t think it would meet the part of wisdom,” said Senator Gerald P. Nye of North Dakota, according to the Nov. 5, 1938 edition of The New York Times. “Our conditions here at home prohibit accepting an influx of population.”
The words of the poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus on the plaque above:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The shimmering aurora borealis seems to ride over the U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker Healy in the Arctic Ocean, October 4, 2015.
Click on the photo to enlarge the image. To learn more about the Northern Lights, click here.
July in the Arctic.
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy breaks through ice in the Arctic circle on July 14, 2015. We’d be the first to admit this blog doesn’t run enough photos of Coast Guard operations. So here’s one we thought was both pretty and arresting.
This image was taken — not from an airplane or helicopter — but from an Aerostat, an unmanned, airship that is tethered to the ground — or in this case, a ship. In fact in this photo you can see the cable tethering the aerostat to the Healy’s deck.
Aerostats, which have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan to enhance perimeter security around the larger U.S. bases and in the Caribbean to monitor illegal drug trafficking by airplane, provide — in the words of this photo’s official caption– a “self-contained, compact platform that can deploy multiple sensor payloads [radar and video cameras] and other devices into the air.”
The recently released annual report on the world’s climate by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the American Meteorological Society finds that temperatures on the ocean surface reached their highest levels in 135 years of record keeping. For several years, experts have been worried about the rising rate of sea ice melt in the Arctic and its implications for climate, sea levels and maritime commerce. In March, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, this year’s maximum extent of sea ice was the lowest on record since satellites began monitoring the Arctic.