Jeff and Christine's Homeland Security Blog

Homeland Security and Terrorism

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Challenges for TSA

leave a comment »

Many of you may be considering careers at the Transportation Security Agency (TSA). The work there is vital: it’s the first line of defense against terrorists and criminals who plan to hijack or destroy aircraft.

The US government took a dramatic step in 2001 when it removed airport security screening from the hands of private-sector contractors and created a corps of federal employees to do the job. Training and pay are at a professional level, whereas under the old system airports hired private firms to do the screening work, and the firms varied greatly in training and other quality factors.

Now, there’s a trend in the opposite direction. Here’s an article on a growing trend by budget-cutters to privatize screening work (link to humanevents article).

Proponents of privatization argue that because there have been instances of bureaucratic bloat at TSA and of inattention and theft by TSA officers, it would be better to replace TSA screeners with cheaper private-sector employees.  However, in the private sector, contracts usually go to the lowest bidder, who keeps costs low by paying low wages and keeping training to a minimum.  That was the situation before 9/11.

For a more detailed look at Representative Mica’s comments on TSA, here’s a link to a newsmax article.

TSA has an especially tough job, since it must close off existing vulnerabilities and anticipate new ones, while maintaining the support of the traveling public.  There was a recent case here in Panama City in which an elderly lady was placed in an uncomfortable situation due to screening regulations (link), and it got quite a bit of negative publicity nationwide.

Here’s another article on a change in TSA procedure designed to build public support for travel screening procedures.  Note that random inspections will still take place, because otherwise terrorist groups may attempt to exploit the new policy:

As the memory of 9/11 dims for many Americans, the traveling public may be less tolerant of intrusive security measures. It will be a challenge for us, as Homeland Security professionals, to build a transportation security program which stays a step ahead of terrorists, while maintaining public support and confidence.

Dollars and “Sense” at the Mall of America

leave a comment »

We came upon an interesting computerworld article (Link ) which led us to three good NPR articles (Link 1 , Link 2, Link 3) on the Mall of America (MOA) and its counterterrorism efforts, which appear to have brought ordinary citizens under suspicion, sometimes on an ethnic basis.

Of course, MOA is the kind of target terrorists might find attractive, and its owners are correct to have a serious security program. While we believe these efforts have a good objective, we question whether this is the work of just a few untrained private security officers who are neither trained observers nor counterterrorism experts. The result is a number of “suspicious” reports filed by MOA security, which result in innocent individuals being the subjects of “Suspicious Activity Reports” (SAR), which then eventually involve other authorities including the FBI.

Given that FBI and other counterterrorism resources are finite, we doubt if this is a wise use of available manpower: chasing down dead ends while not being able to focus on serious suspicious individuals.

Another possible problem with this is the possible trend of reporting mostly minorities as suspicious. While Minnesota is a predomantly Caucasian state, most of the SARs were issued about nonwhites. According to the 2010 Census data, White persons make up 85.3% of the Minnesota population. However, according to the article, “Whites made up 34.6% (36) of the 125 reports. The other 65.4% or 89 non-white SARs were further broken down by ethnicity or race: 23 identified as Black, 1 Turkish, 2 Pakistani, 16 Middle Eastern, 1 Indian/Alaskan Native, 9 Hispanic, 8 East Indian, 6 Asian, and 2 Arab/Persian/Indian.” Forty-nine percent of the 125 SARs were sent on to the FBI, Joint Terrorism Task Force, Minnesota Joint Analysis Center or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

This just gives us pause to consider whether this program passes the giggle test and if law enforcement is getting a bang for the buck with the MOA program– or if it is wasting dollars and sense!

What is Homeland Security?

leave a comment »

According to the “National Strategy for Homeland Security,” the definition of homeland security is “a concerted national effort to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do occur.”[1]

Homeland security is a relatively new field of study which is constantly evolving and working to define itself. Prior to the Al Qaida sponsored terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001, “Homeland Security” as a profession did not exist. It came into existence because of the shocking horror of the 9/11 terrorist attack which altered peoples perception of their own security, the world, and the government’s ability to protect the nation from attacks on US soil.

After 9/11, the United States created a Department of Homeland Security. This grew out of the government’s frustration with trying to unite a number of agencies and government organizations into one capable, centralized organization.

While the terrorist attack of 9/11 called into being the Homeland Security enterprise, its long-term existence is not dependent only on defending the US from terrorist attacks. Significant steps have been taken to implement a series of strategies to secure our nation not just against terrorist attacks, but also natural emergencies and hostile countries.

Because one of the government’s principal missions is protecting its people and homeland from attacks, the Homeland Security mission will always remain. Plans and programs to protect our way of life– and the critical infrastructure which makes our way of life possible– must be crafted and strengthened, all the while respecting our constitutional rights and freedoms and enabling the economy to prosper.

Many human and financial resources were spent on Homeland Security in the years after 9/11. Some were well spent, while in other cases money was wasted during the learning curve on how best to organize and secure our nation. Ten years after the 9/11 attacks, budgets are slimmer, but there remains a national consensus on the importance of funding Homeland Security agencies and activities. Today, the homeland security field is a multibillion-dollar business.

There is an acute national and international need for professionals who can think and operate in the Homeland Security field. These will be people who can contribute their expertise in one or more of the disciplines that comprise the field as a whole.