Posts Tagged ‘DHS’

So, after taking a little time off to move mi familia to our dream home in the mountains, I decided not to make any commentary on the latest government scandal and alleged violation of our collective civil rights until I was back at my little hovel and I could spend a little time gauging the sentiment on the matter.  It seem that Ed Snowden is doing what he can to keep his name in the media spotlight and all the back room Constitutional scholars are helping him right along.

So, just a little summary of events before I go on.  Ed Snowden, a CONTRACTOR of dubious distinction decides one day that he allegedly cannot live with what he believes to be a violation of our collective civil rights due to a government program called Prism that sucks in everything electronic floating out in the ether and the American government can see it and use it against you.  Snowden was labeled a “whistle blower” as he high-tailed it out to good old Hong Kong and begins to spill secrets to the press.  Along the way he praises traitorous Army Private Bradley Manning for his Wiki Leaks actions and seems to have some trouble verifying his own personal bona fides.

Along the way we have been inundated with the usual rallying behind the Constitution and 250 year old quotes from people for whom terms such as Internet Protocol, cellular device, Verizon, AT&T, NSA, CIA, DIA, DHS and a thousand other terms were in no way part of their lexicon.  These gladiators of Constitutional defense are quick to quote the many white guys in power who wrote the document that serves as the core of our Republic all the while espousing the fall of our Democracy when they are too stupid to realize we do not, and we have never lived in one.  We live in a Constitutional Republic which uses the Democratic process to choose our leaders.

Snowden, praised as a “whistle blower” is no where near close to the dignity that term deserves.  He is a cowardly traitor pure and simple.  A whistle blower is one who stands their ground to right a wrong, an institutional deficiency.  They stay where they are and bring to light the wrongs and help others to face the wrongs that have been perpetrated against them.  They, despite the obstacles in front of them and the harm it may cause them, do not run to the land of one of our international rivals and begin to share the secrets they swore to protect.  Hong Kong, by the way, is a semi-autonomous free trade zone in China, a country that has been proven over and over again in the last five years to be behind numerous state sanctioned cyber attacks in our borders over the last five years.  Snowden is not so noble to be a whistle blower, he is a traitor pure and simple.

Why is he a traitor and not a spy?  If he were a spy then at least he would be doing his damage on behalf of a country.  This would be disappointing and hurtful, but at least there is some sort of ideology behind that.  He is a traitor because he worked himself into a position in which he was entrusted with a certain amount of secrets and the responsibility that encompasses.  He willfully violated that trust and ran because as he alleges he was too scared of going to jail for what he believed to be wrong.  It is cowardly, weak, and undermines the good works that are done by others in similar positions who have more integrity and legitimately do so with the best interests of the country in mind.

So, after all the yapping this shit bird has done over the last week and a half, I am still not sure what this uber-program does that the loudmouths are complaining is violating my privacy and yours.  What I do know is that the majority of us have willfully given up our privacy on many fronts and have been doing so for quite a few years now.  Don’t believe me then let me list the ways that we fail to add personal protection to our electronic media on a daily basis:

1. Social Media – take a look at your privacy settings on your favorite social media application.  Dig a little deeper on to your news feed and look at all the pertinent information that can be mined from your friends based on their posting: location information, time, family members and friends tagged in photos, their friends, your opinions, likes, hobbies, possibly phone numbers.  All sorts of information that can be gleaned and used to “social engineer” a friendship with you that can be used for nefarious purposes.

2. Cell/Smartphones – everyone loves their Android or I phone, yet they never question all the information that is being sent back to the manufacturers and service providers that you know absolutely nothing about.  GPS information, contacts, numbers called/received, do you back-up to the cloud or save your information on your own computer? Try to use your phone internationally and see how many spam texts you get carrying malicious code in them.  Register on a foreign carriers network and complain to them when they turn over to their law enforcement the fact that a US phone has registered on the network and where it is located.  Try and argue privacy in some European countries, I dare you.

3. Digital Images – down load one of the many free exif viewers out there on the web, drop a photo from your phone or digital camera and take a gander at the amount of information contained in that photo that has nothing to do with the selfie of your jiggly bits in the bathroom mirror.  That is what your spouse’s divorce attorney is going to have done when you try to tell them that photo was for them and you were not meeting your little piece on the side.

4.  Social Media (again) – pull up your favorite search engine and do a search for some products that you would never look for normally.  Go back to your Facebook page take a look at the right side of your feed and tell me what kind of advertisements you see.  In just a very short while, you will see ads for some of those very same goods and services you were just Googling.  Magic?  I think not, do a little search on Smart DNS and see what you find.

So why all this publicly searchable information?  Because there is nothing noble or good about running away to a country that will most likely be an enemy of our in some way, shape or form in the future; at a minimum they will be an adversary to be wary of, actually, they already are.  Because we willfully and gladly give up our privacy each and every day to keep our tweets tweeting and our “selfies” stored in the public domain for all eternity.  At worst the big GOV is doing nothing more than anyone of us can do with a bunch of freeware and time.  The difference being we as individuals are innately more prone to do so with nefarious intent and I would like to think that if the GOV is doing it they are doing so with the intent of keeping us safe.  Do I like the fact that Uncle can take a peak at what my porn watching habits are? No.  But it is a little more palatable for me knowing that I am one of many people who puts their information out in the public domain, willingly so even though I try and take a little more precaution that the average user.  When it comes to Uncle, it is damned if you do, damned if you don’t.  If the possibility is there and they do not do it and there is another horrific attack like 9/11 then there will be public crucifixions on a biblical scale.  If there is never another attack like that again they will get crucified for violating a privacy that we willingly violate on our own anyway.

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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.