Archive for the ‘Homeland Security’ Category

After watching the coverage of the events which unfolded this week in Boston I wanted to take a little while and write something critical yet poignant and relevant about what we, as Americans, seem willing to accept from the fourth estate these days.  Last evening as the manhunt was coming to a close I was flipping back and forth between the major news networks and was incensed at the inability of all the talking heads from sensationalizing, speculating, and just outright using their platform as a means to spread their filth.  To me, and many of the people I was sharing with it was outright disgusting.

In some sense just writing this blog and entertaining my 10s of followers, loyal as they are, I am part of today’s media.  I in no way, claim to be a reporter or to have any information of relative value beyond my own opinion and my personal experiences.  I am not afraid of a controversial subject, yet I do my best to make sure that what I say is understood to be my opinion and not a representation of the organization that I work for.  That is something that I take pretty seriously and it is one reason why I try not to be overly critical of anything military related, I temper my opinions on my Commander in Chief, and have spoken out about those who have gotten themselves in trouble because they did not take the same care in their own statements.  I want to make this clarification because I think along with my freedom of speech, guaranteed by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, there is a responsibility to do so with a sense of, responsibility.

This may be a novel idea, but I think it is something that the media today does not have as an institution.  This is regardless of the network they work for.  There are few if any reporters that present the goings on, on a day to day basis, with anything in mind but the entertainment value of the story in front of them.  I think some of the local networks do a better job of it, they are accountable to the people they are showing themselves to.  The nationals, television and print media, are in it for the sensationalism.

Somewhere along the way this week the events in Boston morphed from the destructive events at the Boston marathon and all those affected by it, to the sexiness of SWAT teams, intelligence, shelter in place requests, and two dumbass brothers who committed numerous heinous acts for what reason no one knows at this point.  One brother, most likely the leader was mortally wounded somewhere between lead poisoning and his prostrate body being run over by his younger brother as he made his escape.  The other is laid up in a hospital with the Feds eagerly awaiting to question him and salivating at the fact that he may be declared an enemy combatant.

In between the bombings and the capture of “suspect 2” the John Kings, Anderson Coopers, Geraldo Riveras, Shepard Smiths, Chris Hayes, and all the little minions that work for their respective networks just stirring up the pot of shit like they always do.  Latching on to any little detail that is put out and making something from absolutely nothing.  John King and his really not very accurate law enforcement “sources” got more wrong than they did right, often leading to dissension in the ranks of the CNN crew as they pointed fingers at each other.  Fox was absolutely no better in their coverage as they took it upon themselves to both tie the brothers to an Al Qaeda off shot group in Russia and repeatedly mistake the sounds of flashbangs going off for a gun battle.  Hell, one of the FOX reporters even had the balls to describe in vivid detail “My gunfight” from the night the older brother was killed; what a piece of shit.  The only time I saw anything of the victims being reported on was when it could be tied to continue the fervor against the brothers.

On top of all this shitty reporting we have the conspiracy theorists just adding their own special blend of crap to the equation.  Alex Jones, Glenn Beck, Infowars and all the other tin-foil hat wearing crowd are just full of conspiracy as a result of the events of this week.  Between the two ends of this equation the American public is just eating it up like Honey Boo Boo’s family at a Golden Corral buffet.

The best of all this is yet to come.  We now eagerly await the interrogation and the results of all the evidence that was gathered which is just now getting the attention it deserves.  A significant portion of Boston and it’s suburbs are now a crime scene.  There will be more rumor and speculation and for sure more conspiracy theory floating out there in the ether.  It is a sad state of affairs this 24 hour news cycle.  I hope somewhere along the line this gets back to the victims, both the sadness and the strength.  It is their amazing stories that will allow the country to move on, which will force the country to move on.  In the end whatever happens to this shithead is simply justice, the lessons are in those who will overcome their injuries, their fears and their losses.  The lessons are in those who will not be able to overcome what they have been through and the long term effects on their families and loved ones.

If law enforcement and government were smart they would stop holding press conferences.  They would type up a press release that says in no uncertain terms what they want it to say.  Then they would use social media as a means of distributing that information and take absolutely no questions from the press.  It may be a Constitutional right, this freedom of the press thing, but that does not mean that anyone actually has to speak to them.

We the people deserve better from those whose careers are made by us watching them.  We should demand better than what we receive.  Instead of receiving a product, and a piss-poor one at that, we should receive information.  We do not currently get that from the networks, we get a ready made template just waiting to be filled in and delivered with whatever is the flavor of the day.  What we need is a National Media Blackout Day.  Just one full day in which no one watches the news.  A day in which everyone uses social media as a means to tell the media outlets over and over again that no one is watching them.

I have a new respect for the city of Boston after all they have been through this week.  My condolences for those who lost loved ones in this senseless tragedy and best wishes and speedy recoveries to those who were injured.  I hope those who need it seek the help they may need from the wounds they cannot yet see.  The greatest of respect to all the law enforcement and emergency responders for all they did during the week.  Most of all a nod of respect to the volunteers and bystanders who overcame their fear and shock in the aftermath of the explosions to render aid and comfort to those who so desperately needed it.  You have done the city where the American Revolution began proud.

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This is a perfect time for my second installment in my Homeland Security series.  It seems we have a completely irrational storm heading towards the eastern edge of the US sometime after the end of the weekend.  Somewhere around my home state of New Jersey is the projected ground zero, with those of us through the southeast and as far west as the Appalachian mountains of Pennsylvania and West Virginia prepared to face the onslaught as well.  New England is not safe either as they face the potential effects of a giant N’oreaster that is looking to making Sandy one royal bitch as it places a blocking position in her northerly progress.  While Sandy is predicted to make landfall somewhere in the tri-state area, the Delaware River area is far from safe as a point impact.  So as far as situation reports go, this is a pretty bleak outlook for the start of next workweek with the effects being felt through the weekend up and down the coast.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA is going to have its hands full for a while as the east coast, especially the northeast is still not 100% recovered from last years October storms.  So what does this have to do with Homeland Security you may ask?  I will tell you.  As part of the “all-hazards approach” that was adopted in disaster reform after 9/11 FEMA was originally moved from being a separate agency with a director all its own to an agency within the DHS with the DHS director as the overall head of the agency.  Hurricane Katrina in 2005 proved how ill-advised this move actually was.  FEMA, originally chartered in the late 1970’s as an agency who would respond to the effects of a nuclear attack, had transitioned under Ronald Reagan’s cabinet to one that would provide aid in response to natural disasters.  From this time period to Katrina, regardless of where FEMA was located or run by, it had limited success at best as a disaster response agency.  In the days post Katrina, changes were made that kept FEMA under the DHS, but re-instated a director who would in time of crisis report directly to the president, but on a day to day basis be under the leadership of the DHS director.

So in all this time and in an attempt to combat the fallout from the post-Katrina reviews, FEMA has done a pretty good job of establishing programs to help the public, prior to, during and after a disaster.  This is especially true natural disasters which have at least some means of predictability to them like hurricanes.  What they have done a really poor job at overall is actually getting this information out to the public, so that is what I would like to do now.

I have included numerous links so far to the FEMA website, so here is one more for you.  They have a pretty good program called Ready.gov.  Their hurricane link will take you to some tips specifically related to hurricane preparedness and survival.  The Hurricane link is located on their Natural Disaster page which has links to various types of natural disasters and what to do before, during and after one happens.  If you are interested in the latest information on Sandy or any other storms, head over to the National Hurricane Center and you can plot it like the Santa Tracker on Christmas Eve.

One of the main reasons I provide this information is because it is your responsibility to survive a natural disaster.  FEMA, is simply a method of rendering aid and assistance in times of crisis.  Contrary to popular belief, the police and emergency official that arrive in response are not the first responders.  The first responders in almost every case are those who are affected by the incident.  Everything that happens after an incident has happened, can be directly affected by you the individual and how well you are prepared to deal with it.  After all, the government in all its infinite wisdom and constant attempts to try cannot regulate common sense.  Common sense is applicable to the piece of ground that you, the individual or group, are standing on when an incident happens.  How well you, your loved ones, or any other potential victims you may be in a position to render aid to survive an incident could very well depend upon how well prepared you are to deal with the situation.  Crisis does not create heroes, it simply offers them an opportunity present themselves.

I sincerely hope that FrankenSandy and her Nor’easter frenemy decide to keep their battle out in the Atlantic rather than roll their rampage of the 1000 or so miles of coastline between NC and Maine.  In the real world, that hope is just that, hope.  Anyone who does not prepare for the worst possible scenario given the current information is inviting disaster at a personnel level.  If you have family and do not prepare, all you are doing is inviting disaster to effect them and setting a pretty poor example of personal responsibility.  There is time, prepare for the worst and talk smack about it in the aftermath, but survival is a personal responsibility.

Best of luck to the potentially affected during and in the days after the storm.  I hope you fare well.

This is going to be the first in a series of posts related to the Department of Homeland Security and other measures which came into being post-9/11.  The intent is to be informative as to the reason why some of the organization was done, the role of some of the organizations, and an explanation as to the differences and similarities between Homeland Security and National Security.  I will also try to address the “All hazards approach” to Homeland Security, the role of government in it at all levels as well as the responsibilities of the individual citizens of our country.  There will be no specified timeline or number/topics for this series.

When I first started this blog several months ago I had recently completed my degree.  In August of 2011 I completed a Bachelors of Art in Homeland Security.  This degree plan dovetailed very nicely with my chosen career in the military and I felt that it would give me some academic credentials to go along with the practical, and very real-world experience I have gained throughout my career.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much I did not know about Homeland Security and National Security despite the fact that I had been a serving member of the military for so many years. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS from here on out) has only been in existence since the 21st century.  In fact it was signed into existence post-9/11 in a series of Executive orders and Homeland Security Presidential Directives (HSPD) by the President George W. Bush.  This was the first restructuring of government organizations since the Central Intelligence Act and National Security Acts of 1947.

On 8 October, 2001, President Bush signed Executive Order 13228, Establishing the Office of Homeland Security and the Homeland Security Council.  Starting on the 29th of October, 2001, Bush began a series of Homeland Security Presidential Directives (HSPDs)  which layout the framework for our Homeland Security initiatives.  As of today there are a total of 25 HSPDs with the most recent one being signed in 2009.

HSPD-1 is the original document which laid out the organization for the Homeland Security Council, which at that time was a separate organization under the President, which reported directly to him on matters that they felt dealt within the realm of Homeland Security as the developed them.  Certain portions of HSPD-1 have been superseded since 2001 as the Homeland Security Council and the Director of Homeland Security are now positions on the National Security Council.  The Director of Homeland Security can still report directly to the president in matter of Homeland Security, by-passing the NSC, allowing the Director to advise without the added layers of bureaucracy that would come with the NSC.

Among the most significant changes to the federal bureaucracy was the significant reorganizing of existing departments to include the combination of many agencies, the movement of several from their original Table of Organizations and the redefining of the responsibilities of many of them.  Significant to note is that originally the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was moved directly under DHS, losing its appointed Secretary position (this was a restructure again in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast region).  One move that initially sparked some controversy was the assigning of authority for the US Coast Guard (USCG) from the Department of Defense (DoD) to DHS.  Technically, the USCG is still part of the DoD, but due to the unique mission they are assigned, their coastal patrol and defense of our shores is a function that falls directly under the DHS.

Among the key failings in government that allowed the 9/11 attacks to happen was the inability for our intelligence agencies to collect, gather, analyze and disseminate the information which could, possibly, have prevented the attacks.  One of the major missions of DHS which has been lost to the public view in the decade since it was created is as the clearing house for all intelligence which affects Homeland Security.  DHS has become the fusion center for information generated at all levels of government.  Each state and US territory has created, and is required, to have some office of homeland security matter, which then helps the flow of information that is generated at the local level up to the federal, as well as a means of information making its way downward to local authorities.  There are currently over 50 major and smaller centers which consist of all levels of law enforcement, emergency management and intelligence personnel with varying levels of security classification.  This method allows for the protection of the source while ensuring the information generated makes it to where it belongs.

Now that there is some context to the creation and role of DHS it should be a little easier to understand the differences between Homeland Security and National Security.  The two are neither exclusive nor inclusive of each other and they in no way reflect what Hollywood has habitually portrayed the two as being.

Lets start with the oft touted term of National Security.  Simply put, National Security is protecting that which affects our global reach and interests throughout the globe.  It includes our strategic goals militarily such as insuring democracy has a role and people are not threatened by their state (i.e., genocide as happened in the Balkans).  It also includes the assurance that global shipping shall remain free and unencumbered (this is just one example where NS and HS coincide in effort and definition).  National Security is a broad and not easily defined term, but in its most base examples it deals with protecting the global reach of America and that what reaches our shores is what we want to reach them (goods and services vice terrorism).

Homeland Security is a bit easier to define and give examples for, but it does blend with National Security on many levels.  Homeland Security has its roots at many levels of the government, but is center around Planning, Preparation, Recovery, and Mitigation.  Homeland Security uses the “all hazards approach” as a means of achieving these four goals.  All Hazards allows for a cross purpose to combating disasters within our borders.  Whether the disaster be man-made as in a terrorist incident, natural as in extreme weather or earthquake, an attempt to derail any of the Critical National Infrastructure or any of the smaller yet no less devastating emergencies that can happen, “all-hazards” is an attempt at giving the tools necessary at all levels of response.  Through grants, training, certifications and disaster exercises, first responders of various disciplines need to work together in order to move a disaster into the Recovery phase and begin Planning with Mitigation steps to avoid, defeat or adequately respond to the next potential disaster.  The four phases are a constantly evolving series of steps that begin with the implementation of the Plan prior to or in response to an event.  There will be further explanation of this in a future posting

In considering the definition of Homeland Security further, the blur between it and National Security falls most greatly into the reception of global goods into our Ports of Entry, immigrations and customs issues and protection of our critical national infrastructures such as: ports; power grid; agriculture; roadways; railways; airports; and, our skies.  That is not the extent of the list, but it is the most commonly identified infrastructures.  One that is included but rates a mention of its own is our cyber-security.  As the 21st century has been moving on, our critical infrastructure, to include the internet itself, have grown increasingly reliant upon the movement of data across the Global Information Grid.  Our efforts to secure and mandate security have not grown in proportion to the threats and several agencies and organization have claimed the role as their sole responsibility.  At the heart of the matter it is a DHS issue, but it will probably require some sort of cyber disaster before the role of lead on the issue(s) is assigned to one authority.  DHS will more than likely face the fallout from the all-hazards response.

Hollywood does not do the differences between National Security and Homeland Security any justice.  repeatedly in movies and on television they destroy the meaning behind the terms and the roles they play in our security as a nation.  Sometimes this is done as a political statement by the producers or writers, other times it is done in simple ignorance because national issues make for good film.  The so-called fair and balanced media does no better as acts they report on are skewed to their agendas and ideologies rather than educating the masses they reach so easily.  To be fair, our government and DHS especially do not do much to get the information out to the public.  It is there, provided you know where to look or are in the community of responders, but it is not collaborative, nor is it easy to find unless you know where to look.  That is one of the things I hope to change in this series of postings.