With Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev buried in a Virginia cemetery, the question of what to do with his body is answered. Yet, for more than a week, it was the subject of heated public debate. The case of Tsarnaev raises intriguing questions. What should be done with the bodies of mass murderers? Why are they such a point of contentious debate? Would there have been a similar outcry if Tsarnaev self-identified as Sovereign Citizen or Neo-Nazi?
May 21st, 2013 - by Justin Hienz
May 17th, 2013 -
There are 166 detainees at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, and more than half are on a hunger strike to protest their imprisonment. The Joint Detention Group at Guantanamo is in an impossible situation. On the one hand, they are obligated to look after the detainees and keep them alive. On the other hand, their efforts to do so are criticized, with some seeming to suggest forced feeding rivals the water-boarding controversy of years past.
May 10th, 2013 - by David Olive
Yesterday, the House Homeland Security Committee held the first in what will likely be a series of hearings on the Boston Marathon bombing. Other congressional committees will want to hold separate (and probably duplicative) hearings on the tragic event as well. As I (and others) have written before, in an era when all federal agencies are being forced to cut programs and spending, it would behoove Congress to lead by example and consolidate its oversight, per the 9/11 Commission’s advice offered nearly a decade ago.
May 10th, 2013 - by Jeffrey Sural
This week, the House Homeland Security Committee held its hearing examining the Boston Marathon bombing. Parts of the testimony at the hearing focused on the motives of the bombers and the current belief that the brothers Tsarnaev were radicalized Islamists. Congressman Peter King has focus on this issue, for which he has been regularly criticized. Has he been vindicated?
May 2nd, 2013 - by L. Vance Taylor
In an era of diminished budgets and vanishing security grants, a recent break in at the Carters Lake Water Treatment Plant in Georgia highlights how the federal government is leaving small water systems, and the communities they serve, hanging in the wind. I’m not suggesting DHS throw obscene amounts of money at rural water systems, but I would argue that these systems can make major strides with small amounts of money.
The Center for International Policy recently released a report entitled “Drones Over the Homeland,” which provides an excellent analysis of CBP’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle program from inception to the present. It adds significantly to the debate Congress should be having about the wisdom of using UAVs for surveillance. I hope congressional appropriators will take note.
April 26th, 2013 - by David Olive
The Office of the Chief Procurement at DHS sent a “heads-up” notice that ought to get more than passing interest from the private sector. Yesterday, DHS posted a Request for Information on FedBizOpps seeking comments and suggestions on the data fields in the DHS Acquisition Planning Forecast System (APFS). DHS officials have repeatedly promised to update the APFS and make it more user-friendly, and this RFI is evidence they are sticking to their promise.
April 24th, 2013 - by Rich Cooper
As the Boston area recovers from the tragic and unprecedented events of the past week, the lessons learned will be far reaching. Emergency management professionals, like their counterparts in law enforcement, are pretty good culturally at pulling together “after-action” reports that chronicle what they did right and what they can do better next time. Those lessons learned will offer new chapters to study and consider in terms of planning and preparations for any future incidents of this magnitude but in terms of the private sector, there are a number of lessons learned that need to be studied as well.
April 23rd, 2013 - by Ronald Marks
Americans love speed. It is buried deep in their psyche. The good news is we move information fast. The bad news is we sometimes move it too fast. The news of the recent Boston Bombings spread as quickly but far more broadly through social media. The dizzying volume and speed of information was breathtaking. So was the misinformation, rumor and desire to be the first – right or wrong. Thus the challenge of the Internet Age begins – can news be speedy and accurate?
April 22nd, 2013 - by Justin Hienz
In a democratic society, the government’s job is to serve the people. The same can be said of the press. Of late, however, both pillars in the American experiment have fallen short of their raison d’etre. At the recent National Association of Government Communicators Communications School, I met some government public affairs officers and journalists having a frank and friendly conversation about how we can do better.
April 12th, 2013 - by Rich Cooper
If you want to have a successful relationship in anything, communications are critical. I have to wonder if DHS really cares about its relationships with anyone. The department’s communications with just about everyone are lacking of late, and this is seen most clearly in the way DHS recently rolled out its newest budget submission. It seems like DHS has little-to-no interest in telling the public how they want to spend taxpayer dollars.
April 1st, 2013 -
In Security Debrief’s fourth annual April Fools coverage, we’ve collected some stories the rest of the media somehow missed.
When I attend various meetings around DC on cyber issues, I often see confusion and challenge – good people trying to resolve confusing issues, wrestling with individual – as well as the country’s – social and political demons. Cyber is a new kind of land. It has no physical dimension. There are no borders or boundaries, and everyone seems to be a part of something that no one can control. People in DC are bit lost right now, and there are some distinct cultural reasons why.
March 18th, 2013 - by Jeffrey Sural
The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) most recent decision regarding the prohibited items list has drawn the ire of some in the Congress, as well as the flying public. Critics argue any vulnerability is unacceptable, but from TSA’s risk-based perspective, there are other aviation stakeholders who shoulder the safety responsibility. Recognizing that most people, even those with knives, do not run around stabbing others, from whom does non-explosive threat largely stem? In short, drunks on planes.
March 7th, 2013 - by David Olive
This past Monday, Politico hosted a Playbook breakfast conversation with the three individuals who have served as DHS Secretary since its inception – Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano. Former Governor Ridge who addressed why America needs a cabinet-level agency to address homeland security issues. While I am a firm believer that America needs a Department of Homeland Security, I am also a believer in continuous improvement, and in that respect, congressional oversight should rightfully be focused on asking questions about DHS as it starts its second decade.
The Jainists of India have a parable. It is the story about the blind men feeling the elephant – each one feels something different. Watching the Federal government roll out a cyber “strategy” over the past couple of week has felt just that way. The cyber-elephant is a vast and ever-expanding body, and Washington is mucking around this way because of two basic problems. In its simplistic form, the first challenge is definitional and the second challenge is doctrinal.
March 1st, 2013 - by Justin Hienz
The sequester has nearly arrived with little sign officials in Washington will reach an agreement to amend the billions in spending cuts. While both sides of the aisle have speculated on how these cuts will impact the U.S. economy, TSA Administrator John Pistole recently testified about how the sequester will impact airport security, echoing a warning from DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano that security lines at airports will grow longer post-sequester. Yet, the length of airport security lines are a result of TSA’s screening methodology, not its budget and staff.
February 20th, 2013 - by L. Vance Taylor
National security leaders like Leon Panetta, Janet Napolitano and even President Obama have been telling members of Congress and the country that unless immediate action is taken, the United States will suffer cyber attacks guaranteed to shut down our power, communication, financial and water infrastructure sectors. Well, I’m not buying it. The politics of fear is a D.C. classic.
Almost as soon as the 2012 presidential election wrapped up, pundits and reporters began speculating about likely candidates for the White House in 2016. Among the names tossed around inside and outside the Beltway is Janet Napolitano, the current DHS Secretary. Sec. Napolitano may at first glance seem an unlikely choice for the presidency, but in fact, her past work makes her a strong candidate for the highest office in the land.
In the old adage, “the only constant is change,” the word “change” could very easily be substituted with: “Congressional excoriation of TSA.” As the 112th Congress drew to a close, I imagine some at the Transportation Security Administration – those who have been there since the beginning – anticipated an end. Not of the Mayan variety, but of the Mica variety. Congressman John Mica may have finished his term as Chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, but sorry TSA, this may only be the beginning again.