Tag Archives: security

Treason – Russian Forces to Provide “Security” At US Events

Russian Forces to Provide “Security” At US Events

FEMA signs deal with Russian Emergency Situations Ministry to “exchange experts”

Paul Joseph Watson

As part of a deal signed last week in Washington DC between the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry and FEMA, Russian officials will provide “security at mass events” in the United States, a scenario that won’t sit well with Americans wary of foreign assets operating on US soil.

Russian troops. Image: Wikimedia Commons

According to a press release by the Ministry of the Russian Federation for Civil Defense and Emergencies, US and Russian officials met on June 25 at the 17th Joint U.S.-Russia Cooperation Committee on Emergency Situations.

In addition to agreeing with FEMA to “exchange experts during joint rescue operations in major disasters,” the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry will also be providing “security at mass events” in the United States.

This suggests that events designated as “National Special Security Events” by the Department of Homeland Security, which include the Super Bowl, international summits such as the G8 and presidential inaugurations, will now rely partly on Russian authorities to provide security.

The meeting last week also agreed on the conclusion that US and Russian emergency authorities will increase their co-operation, “in order to respond efficiently to all kinds of disasters.”

The use of foreign troops or other officials in a law enforcement capacity providing “security” inside the United States is illegal under Posse Comitatus. Capt. William Geddes of the U.S. Army Reserve acknowledged last year that it is against federal law to use US troops to conduct police patrols, despite the fact that such occurrences are becoming increasingly common. The use of foreign troops is an even more clear cut violation of Posse Comitatus.

Last year we reported on how Russian troops were invited to the US as part of a Fort Carson, Colorado drill focused around anti-terror training. Aside from learning how to target terrorists in America, the Russian soldiers were also out in the local community attending a baseball game in Colorado Springs.

As Mac Slavo writes, “Rumors have circulated for years about the possibility of foreign troops being deployed on U.S. soil in the event of a widespread declaration of a national emergency. For quite some time there have been anecdotal reports to support the claim that the U.N., Russia and other nations would be used in a policing capacity should some critical event befall our nation.”

“The fear should such a scenario take place has been that these soldiers would act under the banner of their own flags, ignoring the fundamental protections afforded to our citizens, leaving Americans under the jurisdiction of people who don’t speak our language or respect our fundamental rights to self defense, to be secure in our homes, and to be presumed innocent in the eyes of the law.”

Concerns about foreign troops being used on US soil have lingered ever since the release of State Department Publication 7277, which is a blueprint for the harmonization of US and Russian forces under a framework of United Nations-led global government.

Back in 2008 it was also reported that US and Canadian authorities had signed an agreement that would pave the way to using each other’s militaries on both sides of the border “during an emergency”.

Alex Jones has documented foreign troops being trained on U.S. soil to deal with “insurgents” since the late 1990?s as part of “urban warfare drills”.

Back in July 2010, our reporters covered the Operation Vigilant Guard exercises in Chicago which involved Polish troops training alongside U.S. National Guard troops in drills focused around raiding terrorists and drug dealers.

According to SFC Mark Ballard of the Illinois National Guard, the Polish forces were “integrating into some of the civil military units that are participating in this exercise” as part of Illinois’ partnership with the Republic of Poland, a relationship based around “integrative training” and blending military and civilian forces in the event of a national emergency, as well as making this process of integration with foreign troops more “visible”.


Potential NATO Summit Violence Leaves Chicago on Edge

Concerns About NATO Summit Violence Leave Chicago Guessing About Security

War On

— As concerns about security grow in the run-up to the NATO summit, it’s becoming difficult to separate myth from reality.

Are there plans in place for a mass evacuation of downtown in the event of riots on May 20-21? A Red Cross memo out of Milwaukee indicates that there is.

Officials there have been asked to make plans to assist residents in the event of a mass exodus.

Chicago officials say the plan didn’t come from them. The U.S. Secret Service isn’t talking.

There also are reports that a heavily armed security team will start making a very public appearance around federal buildings in the Loop this week. Officials with the Chicago NATO host committee were completely in the dark. They had no reports of any such plans.

A source told CBS 2 that security forces in full battle gear would not be seen this week.

As for the Red Cross plan, CBS 2 News has obtained a copy of an e-mail sent to volunteers in the Milwaukee area.

It said the NATO summit “may create unrest or another national security incident. The American Red Cross in southeastern Wisconsin has been asked to place a number of shelters on standby in the event of evacuation of Chicago.”

According to a chapter spokesperson, the evacuation plan is not theirs alone.

“Our direction has come from the City of Chicago and the Secret Service,” she said.

Officials at Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communication said the directive did not come from them.

The U.S. Secret Service did not return calls for comment.

Some downtown residents told CBS 2’s Mike Parker that the news has them on edge.

Brad Klein said it is “very unnerving. I feel a little bit unsafe, just a bit more than a little bit. It doesn’t make me feel like I want to be in the city during the NATO conference.”

An executive with the Service Employees International Union, who trains members in preparation for the summit, thinks such a plan might be “over the top.”

SEIU Local 1 training director Tom Dobry said, “This could be a lot like Y2K – a lot of hype and buildup. People will say, ‘that was it?’ Not a big deal.”

Chicago residents certainly hope that to be true. But one cannot blame them for wondering exactly what’s going on.

One example happened last week, when protest groups revealed the plans for a security zone around the summit meeting site: McCormick Place.

One major expressway (I-55), Lake Shore Drive, and a large chunk of the lakefront will be closed. The security zone will extend several blocks to the west, south and north of McCormick place. That zone will be completely shut down, they say.

Those protesters came directly from a meeting with the Secret Service when those details were released. However, there was not a single confirmation from the feds.

One thing they have confirmed: Commuter trains will run under McCormick Place during the summit, but the Secret Service said in a statement to “expect delays.”

How bad will those delays get? They aren’t saying.

However, the South Shore will be asking riders to take a survey to determine how many people will even bother coming into the city.

Conductors on the train said the rail agency is trying to determine how many cars to run per train. Since each train car, they say, will take up to eight minutes to undergo a security sweep, they want to run a few cars as possible


What’s in Pepper Spray?

What’s in Pepper Spray?

Custom Search

In California, the toxin TCE

By Michael Collins

Pike aimed a large can of First Defense aerosolized Oleoresin Capsicum at two-dozen occupiers, including student David Buscho and his girlfriend.

“The police officer came up to us and said, ‘If you guys don’t move, we’re going to shoot you,’ so we turned around,” Buscho said to a crowd of several hundred occupiers three days later in the same quad where he was sprayed.

“Then it happened,” Buscho continued as the angry crowd listened transfixed. “At that point I entered a world of pain. It felt like hot glass was entering my eyes. I couldn’t see anything. I wanted to open my eyes, but every time I did the pain got worse.”

But in one way, Buscho got off easy. Police in California generally do not use pepper spray that contains as its main ingredients the mainstays of several popular pepper sprays sold in Los Angeles and California retail outlets — the dry cleaning solvent and toxin tetrachloroethylene, or PCE, and its distillate, the once-common degreaser and toxin trichloroethylene, or TCE.

California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, better known as Proposition 65, requires that the governor publish an annual list of chemicals known to the state to cause reproductive toxicity or cancer. Both PCE and TCE made the list in April 1988 as chemicals that cause cancer.

Yet no law is on the books in California to prevent PCE’s or TCE’s use in products meant to be sprayed directly into somebody’s face.

“California has banned other uses of TCE in consumer products, including spray paints and other aerosols,” says Sarah Janssen of the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco. “It’s not a stretch of the imagination to think that significant exposures are occurring in the vicinity of pepper spray fumes.”

TCE-based pepper spray is being sold in California through the Internet by Fox Labs International and Personal Safety Corporation, according to the companies’ websites. And two of Personal Safety Corporation’s Pepper Defense products with PCE but without Proposition 65 warnings were being sold at True Value and Do It Best stores that L.A. Weekly visited earlier this month in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Eagle Rock, Florence-Graham, Hollywood, Venice and North Hollywood.

Seven Fox Labs International pepper spray products are sold locally through Galls, a large police and public safety equipment and apparel company, with local stores in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Orange and Riverside. On the stores’ websites, No Proposition 65 warnings are indicated on these items.

“PCE and TCE are known carcinogens on California’s Proposition 65 list, which means products containing them should by law carry the Proposition 65 warning label,” says Ana Mascareñas, policy coordinator for Physicians for Social Responsibility–Los Angeles, a public health and environmental group.

“It is almost inconceivable that these pepper sprays are being sold in California without labels warning consumers of the cancer risks,” she adds.

Ed Ferguson, president of Michigan-based Fox Labs International, boasts: “First Defense has been described as ketchup to my Tabasco. You won’t find anyone hit with … Fox that wouldn’t rather be hit with a Taser.”

Fox Lab’s pepper spray is, by weight, 98 percent “volatiles” — meaning a liquid that is easily vaporized. And that volatile is TCE.

Ferguson takes umbrage at California regulators calling TCE a carcinogen.

“California’s the only people that say it,” Ferguson says. “Why is that? California don’t have their shit together and yet they’re saying a lot of stuff for a lot of people that puts them into bankruptcy.”

At Personal Safety Corporation, the producer of pepper spray containing PCE, president and founder Dick Olson tells the Weekly, “California probably has some of the most stringent interpretations of what’s carcinogenic and at what levels.”

Olson says Pepper Enforcement is made with TCE but that the “amount of that chemical is so minute as to not cause harm to humans. It’s a very minute amount.”

But publicly available Material Safety Data Sheets reveal a different story.

Material Safety Data Sheets contain data regarding the official known properties of a specific substance. The figures on the sheets regarding Personal Safety Corporation pepper sprays sold at True Value stores in California show that two of them come in formulas with PCE (volatiles) levels at 95 percent by weight.

Do It Best was quick to defend its California handling of Personal Safety Corporation products.

Do It Best communications director Randy Rusk says in an email, “Do it Best Corp. takes safety and compliance issues seriously, and we are looking into the labeling situation to affirm the products we carry and that our vendors are in compliance with state law.”

“True Value is a cooperative,” says True Value spokeswoman Marsha Burton. “That means our members created us. We can’t tell a member what they can and can’t sell. A lot of members could have bought [the Personal Safety Corporation pepper spray] from Do It Best.”

Burton subsequently supplied the Weekly with Material Safety Data Sheets showing that True Value does sell Personal Safety Corporation pepper sprays with 95 percent PCE.

Mascareñas fumes upon hearing the retailers’ remarks.

“It’s a public-health outrage if this kind of pepper spray contains 95 percent PCE or 98 percent TCE by [weight],” Mascareñas says. “Consumers have a right to know what toxic chemicals are in pepper spray and decide if they want to take the everyday risk of being exposed to another known carcinogen.”

But trichloroethylene is up to 5,000 times cheaper than the safe 1,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane, or HFA, which is used as the base inert ingredient in TCE-free pepper sprays. HFA costs about $500 a pound, while the same amount of TCE can be had for a dime.

Lenny Siegel of the Mountain View–based Center for Public Environmental Oversight, who last year was named by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as its Superfund “Citizen of the Year,” says, “Leakage from spray cans may pose a continuing hazard to those who carry them.”

While you can get it on many retail store shelves, several police agencies the Weekly contacted do not use pepper spray containing PCE or TCE.

The Santa Monica and Simi Valley police departments said they carry Sabre Red brand 10 percent capsaicin pepper spray. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department also uses Sabre Red, while the Los Angeles Police Department’s website indicates that it uses First Defense.

But who will protect consumers who are urged to buy pepper spray available on store shelves for personal safety but may be getting something more dangerous than they ever imagined?

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says PCE is a potential human carcinogen and causes “depression of the central nervous system; damage to the liver and kidneys; impaired memory; confusion; dizziness; headache; drowsiness; and eye, nose and throat irritation.”

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research reported in a February 2010 study that PCE increases the risk of Parkinson’s by a multiple of nine. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Sept. 30, 2011, found TCE causes liver and kidney cancer, lymphoma and other illnesses.

“There is a perception that a cancer-causing substance doesn’t belong in such a product, even if its intent is to irritate and/or disable,” Siegel says of TCE in pepper spray.


This Looks Like A Fortified Sniper’s Nest At The Super Bowl

This Looks Like A Fortified Sniper’s Nest At The Super Bowl

By Barry Petchesky

Some photos with no backstory are making the rounds, showing what appears to be an Indianapolis police sniper checking out his post in the rafters of Lucas Oil Stadium in the hours or days before the Super Bowl, a post that would be manned when the game began. Yes, we know there’s nothing surprising about trained marksmen working the biggest sporting event of the year. We also know it’s pretty damn cool to see what the Super Bowl snipers are working with.

It’s standard operating procedure to have an invisible law enforcement presence at any high-profile event, let alone one with the attendance and attention the Super Bowl receives. And remember, there are all kinds of politicians and other assorted rich people around. You never know what could happen, though the imagination conjures up increasingly insane and horrifying scenarios, and also the criminally underrated Black Sunday. It’s just never a bad idea to have a sniper rifle around.

It’s no secret that the Super Bowl is staffed by sharpshooters. “We’ve got a lot of places for snipers in here,” Jerry Jones enthused to CNN about Cowboys Stadium before last year’s Super Bowl. In 2009, Ashton Kutcher noticed (and filmed) a pair of them across the street.

We’re actively trying to figure out where these photos came from and for what purpose they were taken. They’ve started to circulate on Facebook, and we found them posted on a 4chan board, though it’s impossible to tell where they originated. But the details are right: the IMPD patch, the end zone design, the giant Roman numerals on the glass of Lucas Oil Stadium. So we’re labeling them “plausible” and will update when we can trace them back a little further.


Gone but not forgotton. Well, not really gone either.

U.S. Planning Troop Buildup in Gulf After Exit From Iraq


MacDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — The Obama administration plans to bolster the American military presence in the Persian Gulf after it withdraws the remaining troops from Iraq this year, according to officials and diplomats. That repositioning could include new combat forces in Kuwait able to respond to a collapse of security in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran.

The plans, under discussion for months, gained new urgency after President Obama’s announcement this month that the last American soldiers would be brought home from Iraq by the end of December. Ending the eight-year war was a central pledge of his presidential campaign, but American military officers and diplomats, as well as officials of several countries in the region, worry that the withdrawal could leave instability or worse in its wake.

After unsuccessfully pressing both the Obama administration and the Iraqi government to permit as many as 20,000 American troops to remain in Iraq beyond 2011, the Pentagon is now drawing up an alternative.

In addition to negotiations over maintaining a ground combat presence in Kuwait, the United States is considering sending more naval warships through international waters in the region.

With an eye on the threat of a belligerent Iran, the administration is also seeking to expand military ties with the six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. While the United States has close bilateral military relationships with each, the administration and the military are trying to foster a new “security architecture” for the Persian Gulf that would integrate air and naval patrols and missile defense.

The size of the standby American combat force to be based in Kuwait remains the subject of negotiations, with an answer expected in coming days. Officers at the Central Command headquarters here declined to discuss specifics of the proposals, but it was clear that successful deployment plans from past decades could be incorporated into plans for a post-Iraq footprint in the region.

For example, in the time between the Persian Gulf war in 1991 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States Army kept at least a combat battalion — and sometimes a full combat brigade — in Kuwait year-round, along with an enormous arsenal ready to be unpacked should even more troops have been called to the region.

“Back to the future”
is how Maj. Gen. Karl R. Horst, Central Command’s chief of staff, described planning for a new posture in the Gulf. He said the command was focusing on smaller but highly capable deployments and training partnerships with regional militaries. “We are kind of thinking of going back to the way it was before we had a big ‘boots on the ground’ presence,” General Horst said. “I think it is healthy. I think it is efficient. I think it is practical.”

Mr. Obama and his senior national security advisers have sought to reassure allies and answer critics, including many Republicans, that the United States will not abandon its commitments in the Persian Gulf even as it winds down the war in Iraq and looks ahead to doing the same in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

“We will have a robust continuing presence throughout the region, which is proof of our ongoing commitment to Iraq and to the future of that region, which holds such promise and should be freed from outside interference to continue on a pathway to democracy,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in Tajikistan after the president’s announcement.

During town-hall-style meetings with military personnel in Asia last week, the secretary of defense, Leon E. Panetta, noted that the United States had 40,000 troops in the region, including 23,000 in Kuwait, though the bulk of those serve as logistical support for the forces in Iraq.

As they undertake this effort, the Pentagon and its Central Command, which oversees operations in the region, have begun a significant rearrangement of American forces, acutely aware of the political and budgetary constraints facing the United States, including at least $450 billion of cuts in military spending over the next decade as part of the agreement to reduce the budget deficit.

Officers at Central Command said that the post-Iraq era required them to seek more efficient ways to deploy forces and maximize cooperation with regional partners. One significant outcome of the coming cuts, officials said, could be a steep decrease in the number of intelligence analysts assigned to the region. At the same time, officers hope to expand security relationships in the region. General Horst said that training exercises were “a sign of commitment to presence, a sign of commitment of resources, and a sign of commitment in building partner capability and partner capacity.”

Col. John G. Worman, Central Command’s chief for exercises, noted a Persian Gulf milestone: For the first time, he said, the military of Iraq had been invited to participate in a regional exercise in Jordan next year, called Eager Lion 12, built around the threat of guerrilla warfare and terrorism.

Another part of the administration’s post-Iraq planning involves the Gulf Cooperation Council, dominated by Saudi Arabia. It has increasingly sought to exert its diplomatic and military influence in the region and beyond. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, for example, sent combat aircraft to the Mediterranean as part of the NATO-led intervention in Libya, while Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates each have forces in Afghanistan.

At the same time, however, the council sent a mostly Saudi ground force into Bahrain to support that government’s suppression of demonstrations this year, despite international criticism.

Despite such concerns, the administration has proposed establishing a stronger, multilateral security alliance with the six nations and the United States. Mr. Panetta and Mrs. Clinton outlined the proposal in an unusual joint meeting with the council on the sidelines of the United Nations in New York last month.

The proposal still requires the approval of the council, whose leaders will meet again in December in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and the kind of multilateral collaboration that the administration envisions must overcome rivalries among the six nations.

“It’s not going to be a NATO tomorrow,”
said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic negotiations still under way, “but the idea is to move to a more integrated effort.”

Iran, as it has been for more than three decades, remains the most worrisome threat to many of those nations, as well as to Iraq itself, where it has re-established political, cultural and economic ties, even as it provided covert support for Shiite insurgents who have battled American forces.

“They’re worried that the American withdrawal will leave a vacuum, that their being close by will always make anyone think twice before taking any action,”
Bahrain’s foreign minister, Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, said in an interview, referring to officials in the Persian Gulf region.

Sheik Khalid was in Washington last week for meetings with the administration and Congress. “There’s no doubt it will create a vacuum,” he said, “and it may invite regional powers to exert more overt action in Iraq.”

He added that the administration’s proposal to expand its security relationship with the Persian Gulf nations would not “replace what’s going on in Iraq” but was required in the wake of the withdrawal to demonstrate a unified defense in a dangerous region. “Now the game is different,” he said. “We’ll have to be partners in operations, in issues and in many ways that we should work together.”

At home, Iraq has long been a matter of intense dispute. Some foreign policy analysts and Democrats — and a few Republicans — say the United States has remained in Iraq for too long. Others, including many Republicans and military analysts, have criticized Mr. Obama’s announcement of a final withdrawal, expressing fear that Iraq remained too weak and unstable.

“The U.S. will have to come to terms with an Iraq that is unable to defend itself for at least a decade,
” Adam Mausner and Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote after the withdrawal announcement.

Twelve Senators demanded hearings on the administration’s ending of negotiations with the Iraqis — for now at least — on the continuation of American training and on counterterrorism efforts in Iraq.

“As you know, the complete withdrawal of our forces from Iraq is likely to be viewed as a strategic victory by our enemies in the Middle East, especially the Iranian regime,
” the senators wrote Wednesday in a letter to the chairman of the Senate’s Armed Services

Thom Shanker reported from MacDill Air Force Base, and Steven Lee Myers from Washington.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 31, 2011

An earlier version of this article incorrectly described twelve senators who requested hearings on the negotiations that led to the withdrawal. Eleven of them were Republicans, not twelve. (Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut is an independent.)


FBI to launch nationwide facial recognition service

FBI to launch nationwide facial recognition service

By Aliya Sternstein

The FBI by mid-January will activate a nationwide facial recognition service in select states that will allow local police to identify unknown subjects in photos, bureau officials told Nextgov.

The federal government is embarking on a multiyear, $1 billion dollar overhaul of the FBI’s existing fingerprint database to more quickly and accurately identify suspects, partly through applying other biometric markers, such as iris scans and voice recordings.

Often law enforcement authorities will “have a photo of a person and for whatever reason they just don’t know who it is [but they know] this is clearly the missing link to our case,” said Nick Megna, a unit chief at the FBI’s criminal justice information services division. The new facial recognition service can help provide that missing link by retrieving a list of mug shots ranked in order of similarity to the features of the subject in the photo.

Today, an agent would have to already know the name of an individual to pull up the suspect’s mug shot from among the 10 million shots stored in the bureau’s existing Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. Using the new Next-Generation Identification system that is under development, law enforcement analysts will be able to upload a photo of an unknown person; choose a desired number of results from two to 50 mug shots; and, within 15 minutes, receive identified mugs to inspect for potential matches. Users typically will request 20 candidates, Megna said. The service does not provide a direct match.

Michigan, Washington, Florida and North Carolina will participate in a test of the new search tool this winter before it is offered to criminal justice professionals across the country in 2014 as part of NGI. The project, which was awarded to Lockheed Martin Corp. in 2008, already has upgraded the FBI’s fingerprint matching service.

Local authorities have the choice to file mug shots with the FBI as part of the booking process. The bureau expects its collection of shots to rival its repository of 70 million fingerprints once more officers are aware of the facial search’s capabilities.

Thomas E. Bush III, who helped develop NGI’s system requirements when he served as assistant director of the CJIS division between 2005 and 2009, said, “The idea was to be able to plug and play with these identifiers and biometrics.” Law enforcement personnel saw value in facial recognition and the technology was maturing, said the 33-year FBI veteran who now serves as a private consultant.

NGI’s incremental construction seems to align with the White House’s push to deploy new information technology in phases so features can be scrapped if they don’t meet expectations or run over budget.

But immigrant rights groups have raised concerns that the Homeland Security Department, which exchanges digital prints with the FBI, will abuse the new facial recognition component. Currently, a controversial DHS immigrant fingerprinting program called Secure Communities runs FBI prints from booked offenders against the department’s IDENT biometric database to check whether they are in the country illegally. Homeland Security officials say they extradite only the most dangerous aliens, including convicted murderers and rapists. But critics say the FBI-DHS print swapping ensnares as many foreigners as possible, including those whose charges are minor or are ultimately dismissed.

Megna said Homeland Security is not part of the facial recognition pilot. But, Bush said in the future NGI’s data, including the photos, will be accessible by Homeland Security’s IDENT.

The planned addition of facial searches worries Sunita Patel, a staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, who said, “Any database of personal identity information is bound to have mistakes. And with the most personal immutable traits like our facial features and fingerprints, the public can’t afford a mistake.”

In addition, Patel said she is concerned about the involvement of local police in information sharing for federal immigration enforcement purposes. “The federal government is using local cops to create a massive surveillance system,” she said.

Bush said, “We do have the capability to search against each other’s systems,” but added, “if you don’t come to the attention of law enforcement you don’t have anything to fear from these systems.”

Other civil liberties advocates questioned whether the facial recognition application would retrieve mug shots of those who have simply been arrested. “It might be appropriate to have nonconvicted people out of that system,” said Jim Harper, director of information policy at the libertarian Cato Institute. FBI officials declined to comment on the recommendation.

Harper also noted large-scale searches may generate a lot of false positives, or incorrect matches. Facial recognition “is more accurate with a Google or a Facebook, because they will have anywhere from a half-dozen to a dozen pictures of an individual, whereas I imagine the FBI has one or two mug shots,” he said.

FBI officials would not disclose the name of the search product or the vendor, but said they gained insights on the technique’s accuracy by studying research from the National Institutes for Standards and Technology.

In responding to concerns about the creation of a Big Brother database for tracking innocent Americans, Megna said the system will not alter the FBI’s authorities or the way it conducts business. “This doesn’t change or create any new exchanges of data,” he said. “It only provides [law enforcement] with a new service to determine what photos are of interest to them.”

In 2008, the FBI released a privacy impact assessment summarizing its appraisal of controls in place to ensure compliance with federal privacy regulations. Megna said that, during meetings with the CJIS Advisory Policy Board and the National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact Council, “we haven’t gotten a whole lot of pushback on the photo capability.”

The FBI has an elaborate system of checks and balances to guard fingerprints, palm prints, mug shots and all manner of criminal history data, he said.

“This is not something where we want to collect a bunch of surveillance film” and enter it in the system, Megna said. “That would be useless to us. It would be useless to our users.”
Stay up-to-date with federal technology news alerts and analysis – sign up for Nextgov’s email newsletters.

By using this service you agree not to post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable. Although Nextgov does not monitor comments posted to this site (and has no obligation to), it reserves the right to delete, edit, or move any material that it deems to be in violation of this rule.


TSA Creator Says Dismantle, Privatize the Agency

TSA Creator Says Dismantle, Privatize the Agency

by Audrey Hudson

They’ve been accused of rampant thievery, spending billions of dollars like drunken sailors, groping children and little old ladies, and making everyone take off their shoes.

But the real job of the tens of thousands of screeners at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is to protect Americans from a terrorist attack.

Yet a decade after the TSA was created following the September 11 attacks, the author of the legislation that established the massive agency grades its performance at “D-.”

“The whole program has been hijacked by bureaucrats,” said Rep. John Mica (R. -Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

It mushroomed into an army,” Mica said. “It’s gone from a couple-billion-dollar enterprise to close to $9 billion.”

As for keeping the American public safe, Mica says, “They’ve failed to actually detect any threat in 10 years.”

“Everything they have done has been reactive. They take shoes off because of [shoe-bomber] Richard Reid, passengers are patted down because of the diaper bomber, and you can’t pack liquids because the British uncovered a plot using liquids,” Mica said.

“It’s an agency that is always one step out of step,” Mica said.

It cost $1 billion just to train workers, which now number more than 62,000, and “they actually trained more workers than they have on the job,” Mica said.

“The whole thing is a complete fiasco,” Mica said.

In a wide-ranging interview with HUMAN EVENTS just days before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Mica said screeners should be privatized and the agency dismantled.

Instead, the agency should number no more than 5,000, and carry out his original intent, which was to monitor terrorist threats and collect intelligence.

The fledgling agency was quickly engulfed in its first scandal in 2002 as it rushed to hire 30,000 screeners, and the $104 million awarded to the company to contract workers quickly escalated to more than $740 million.

Federal investigators tracked those cost overruns to recruiting sessions held at swank hotels and resorts in St. Croix, the Virgin Islands, Florida and the Wyndham Peaks Resort and Golden Door Spa in Telluride, Colo.

Charges in the hundreds of thousands of dollars were made for cash withdrawals, valet parking and beverages, plus a $5.4 million salary for one executive for nine months of work.

Other over-the-top expenditures included nearly $2,000 for 20 gallons of Starbucks Coffee, $8,000 for elevator operators at a Manhattan hotel, and $1,500 to rent more than a dozen extension cords for the Colorado recruiting fair.

The agency inadvertently caused security gaps by failing for years to keep track of lost uniforms and passes that lead to restricted areas of airports.

Screeners have also been accused of committing crimes, from smuggling drugs to stealing valuables from passengers’ luggage. In 2004, several screeners were arrested and charged with stealing jewelry, computers and cameras, cash, credit cards and other valuables. One of their more notable victims was actress Shirley McClain, who was robbed of jewelry and crystals.

One of the screeners confessed that he was trying to steal enough to sell the items and buy a big-screen television.

In 2006, screeners at Los Angeles and Chicago O’Hare airports failed to find more than 60% of fake explosives during checkpoint security tests.

The sometimes rudder-less agency has gone through five administrators in the past decade, and it took longer than a year for President Obama to put his one man in place. Mica’s bill also blocked collective bargaining rights for screeners, but the Obama administration managed to reverse that provision.

Asked whether the agency should be privatized, Mica answered with a qualified yes.

“They need to get out of the screening business and back into security. Most of the screening they do should be abandoned,” Mica said. “I just don’t have a lot of faith at this point,” Mica said.

Allowing airports to privatize screening was a key element of Mica’s legislation and a report released by the committee in June determined that privatizing those efforts would result in a 40% savings for taxpayers.

“We have thousands of workers trying to do their job. My concern is the bureaucracy we built,”
Mica said.

“We are one of the only countries still using this model of security,”
Mica said, “other than Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, and I think, Libya.”


Schools are an integral part of the formation of the control grid

When the high school in Tewksbury, Mass., decided it was going to take a proactive stance on security, they installed one of the most sophisticated integrated security systems.

The idea was precipitated by Police Chief John Mackey in terms of his concern for the welfare and well being of the children.

In conjunction with the Tewksbury Police Department and the Tewksbury Memorial High School(TMHS), Vanguard Managed Solutions, Mansfield, Mass., formerly Motorola Multiservice Networks Division, issued its SafeWatch security approach to alleviate security concerns at the high school. Motorola is helping the local law enforcement respond to emergencies by providing real-time or archived access to information in potentially dangerous situations.

Anthony Romano, principal of TMHS said that Chief Mackey drafted a proposal and met with school officials and Dr. Christine McGrath, Superintendent of Schools, to discuss it. The proposal was to add a security system at TMHS and expand that eventually to other public schools in the town.

“The cameras are not installed to monitor activities of everyone on a daily basis, but only if there is a threat to the well-being of students or personnel,” Romano says. “It is a tool that’s in place to enhance our ability for communications should an incident occur.”

SafeWatch is a complete real-time video monitoring system, allowing public safety officials, in the event of an emergency, to remotely activate cameras located in the public areas of a school. The images can be viewed and the cameras can be controlled from a public safety facility or vehicle. This provides public safety officials with a real-time view of the affected area and allows them to make informed decisions on how to address an emergency situation. In the event of an emergency, SafeWatch immediately notifies the police for instant viewing. The school, however, monitors activity on a continuous basis.

“During emergency situations, tactical visibility can be very low. The current communications systems can be disabled pretty quickly. Because the schools are older, their capabilities are limited. What we try to do is go in and use the existing network in place and extend those communications capabilities,” says Ray Patalano, public safety offering manager at Vanguard.

The SafeWatch system allows the police to respond to emergencies by providing real-time or archived access to dangerous situations.

A Safer Watch

The system was designed so that the cameras remain dormant at the high school until activated by the police. If an emergency happens, the phones are networked under the 911 system and will automatically connect to the police station. At this point, the police can use the video to assess the situation. In addition, the video link can extend through a wireless link to a computer in a police vehicle. The system operates over computer networks currently in schools, which eliminates the investment in new wiring.

SafeWatch is the first integrated package that allows users to securely access, monitor and control digital video-whether in real-time or archived, onsite or remote, from single or multiple locations-using the Internet Explorer Web browser. By combining the RemoteVU Guardian IP Video Transmitter, VOIP capabilities, telephones and wireless networking hardware over a managed IP network, SafeWatch will help security professionals enhance the service they provide their clients and communities.

“Because we have a long history of networking expertise, we can integrate the pieces in a managed package that is unlike anything else available today,” says Patalano.

It’s effectiveness is measured based on the concentration on the main areas; the hallways, the gymnasium, the library, the cafeteria, large areas where you’ll see a lot of students and teachers congregating.

“The networking approach includes digital video, voice over IP and wireless technology. The synergies between Eastern Video security, Billerica, Mass., and Vanguard networking are a perfect fit. SafeWatch can be customized to include any other technologies whether it is access control or alarms,” says Patalano.

The Package

The components of the SafeWatch system are: RemoteView Guardian-an IP digital transmitter that takes all the analog cameras and puts them over a network and it digitizes them and stores them. It brings them back to the police station.

o Vanguard IP voice gateway: allows for a back-up phone system in the schools. If the phone lines are taken down, you still have verbal contact that runs down the network directly back to the police station. Secondly, it allows us to connect to the intercom system. Back at the 911 control center, they can actually connect to the intercom system as if they were standing right next to it or standing in the principal’s office. The value of that is for the police to give instructions back and forth; if they need a kid to go out a certain door, if they need to go and talk to somebody via the intercom system.

o Wireless transmitter and receiver: put inside the school to send video wirelessly to a police cruiser. The police will be able to drive into the parking lot and in strategic locations. These strategic locations will be able to actually connect inside the school and see a real-time view of what is happening.

“By October, that system will be a mobile command center instead of a cruiser. If anything should happen, the mobile command center would respond from the police station. It has everything it possibly could need to be able to take command of the situation from the school. We are in the process of making the command center. Within our department we will be able to respond and when we get to the school we will be able to monitor it from outside the building as well as from the station.” says Mackey.

Spreading the Word

Police Chief John Mackey is also highly visible and vocal in his approach to part of a consortium called NEMLEC (North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council) which is made up of 35 – 40 communities in the area. Dealing with Rick Stanley, North Andover Police Chief and NEMLEC, they thought that it might be a good idea to eventually move in a direction where they could put this in all the schools in the NEMLEC region, which would be substantial. “Again, the sole reason being is to help us make a good, logical decision as to how to move and how to move quickly at a school location under the worst possible scenario that you can imagine,” says Mackey.

“Schools are safe, but we all have come to understand the fact that tragedies do occur in schools. Based upon some of the ones that have occurred, such as Columbine, it puts police in a position of looking at how they would respond to those kind of catastrophic situations,” says Mackey. “I look at it like an insurance policy. It is something that you hope you actually never have to put into use, but it is good to know that it is there if you do.”

SIDEBAR: The components of SafeWatch

Component RemoteVU Guardian

Crisp, clear, real-time
video as data
Remote access capabilities
Multiple camera control selection

Vanguard IP Voice Gateway

Instantaneous connectivity between school and police station
Virtually eliminates long distance telephone charges
Streamlines operations
Integrates voice, data and video over one network

Networked Telephones/Intercom

Designated phone lines networked directly to 911 and the police station

Wireless Connectivity

Wireless broadband connections to mobile vehicles

Bundled Services

Site survey to assess needs
Chain wide installation and maintenance
Network monitoring & management
Network security
Grant writing