Homeland Security Today: The March Issue is Out!

Screen shot 2014-03-29 at 5.45.51 PMThe March issue of Homeland Security Today is available on the Web, but not to worry print subscribers it will be arriving at your doorstep in the coming days. In the interim, it is important to point out that there are a series of incredible feature articles that are well worth reading.

Below is a quick summary, but my effort to summarize will do little justice to encapsulate the substance of each feature. In turn, I suggest you read each story for yourself.

Deadly Patrol discusses the myriad of deadly threats US Border Patrol agents face along America’s southern border. The reality on the ground is alarming as what’s being hurled at the heads of Border Patrol agents are massive chunks of stone and concrete that can bring down a helicopter.

Maximizing IT Investments – Steps DHS Can Take focuses on the critical need for DHS to maximize IT program value and better manage related IT expenditures.

Lockdown – Securing the Scene of an Active Shooter presents some important insights on how to deal with such an awful event and examines the realities of when an active shooter is loose, rapid on-site management is essential for police and medical responders.

Things that Go Boom – Scanning for Aviation Threats argues that the once tried and true metal detectors have become as obsolete as a medieval suit of armor against bullets.

To read more articles at Homeland Security Today, please visit HERE.

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Parody Site for DC Metro Riders Launches

Metro station in Washington DC. Photo: Ben Schumin

Metro station in Washington DC. Photo: Ben Schumin

There’s a multitude of great websites out there that we all secretly have bookmarked and that we find ourselves drawn to for a quick laugh or to waste away some hours of unmitigated boredom.

Indeed, such sites can become the bane of our existence and an outlet for procrastination when there’s work to be done, but the humor engendered by a quick peek, a speedy view, or a riotous situation never ceases to attract.

From LamebookRichKidsOfInstagram, to PeopleofWalMart, if the ridiculous or unbelievable are seeking an outlet, there is a surely a website dedicated to recognizing their existence and highlighting (often forever memorializing) the beautiful power of the Internet and it’s propensity to make things viral.

Enter in a newly launched player in the game called: The People of the DC Metro. The creator of this new site choses to go by an online pseudonym, “Derek W” and steadfastly refuses to provide his true identity. Explaining the reason for this desired anonymity, “Derek W” tersely observed, “I don’t want to use my real name because I’m not a complete attention wh***.”

According to Derek, the “site [is] for the commuters of DC that witness the strange, the odd and sometimes, the epic that DC has to offer.” Adding, “This site is a place for people to share their pictures, stories and videos so that the world can share in our DC Metro experiences. We want the riders of the Metro to submit any and all of their pictures, stories and videos with us! We believe that sharing is caring.”

Despite the multitude of viral sites that aim to poke fun at everyday individuals already available on the Internet, there was an apparent gap for a hyper-localized viral Website of this specific nature. As Derek states, “I created this site out of sheer frustration. I’m a daily commuter and would see other commuters in various stages of ‘shenanigans,’ and I could not find a place to share my glorious findings, hence the birth of ‘People of the DC Metro.’ The normal people outside of DC deserve to see these DC commuters in their natural habitat, undisturbed and unafraid.”

Crowdsourcing humorous photos to create content for a Website is not an entirely new idea. Recognizing this fact, Derek, laying on the obvious irony, protests “we would like to pride ourselves on the thought that this was a totally original thought and certainly was not modeled after ‘People of Wal-Mart.’ Because in DC we don’t steal others’ ideas and claim them as our own! No, sir! We are as original as our current foreign policy! Hashtag staffers.”

The site claims to have some big aspirations, but recognizing its need to secure a loyal following, is aiming to secure a base locally and expand out in due time. As Derek observes, “We are starting in the DC area first and if we get enough Millennials to latch on to the teat of the idea, we will expand to other major metro areas.”

“Don’t forget to hashtag that,” Derek interjects unequivocally, as if that hashtag insert demand will somehow magically translate into print.

It seems obvious that the creator of the site has big ambitions and it seems to be gaining early traction on Facebook even though the site has yet to post much content. Nevertheless, “The People of the DC Metro” does have a humorous mascot that it is calling ‘Scooter Man.’

When asked why ‘Scooter Man’ was selected, Derek dismisses and then chastises the substance of the very question itself, noting, “That’s a dumb question, isn’t it obvious? ‘Scooter Man’ has balls made of the finest steel this country can produce. Not only does he own a red scooter, this brave man drove it onto a metro car and went for double joy ride.”

“Your jealousy is obvious to us right now, good sir,” Derek coolly signs off.

People of the DC Metro is actively seeking submissions. In addition to the site’s main portal, it is pushing new users to check them out on Facebookand Twitter.

For more article from International Policy Digest, please visit HERE

Gaming For Clarity Recognizes Intelligence Biases

RTEmagicC_minds_lieA recent press report quoted unnamed US intelligence sources saying Russia had no intention of invading the Ukraine. The appraisal became the subject of considerable debate when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his nation’s military into Ukraine’s Crimea region. Follow-on media reports said strategic assessments had been made by US intelligence and defense authorities that indicated there was a very good chance that Putin would do just that in response to Ukraine’s internal uprising that threatened ties with Russia.

Whatever the case may be and whatever the actual facts were that were used to inform senior policymakers at the time, the failure of the initial media reports — which is generally always wrong — raises a valid question about the role of biases in analyzing, assessing and predicting likely geopolitical outcomes.

Unrecognized biases can wreak havoc and lead to a seemingly endless cycle of misinformed, ill advised and poorly structured assessments and conclusions. Whatever the reason for the failure of such recent analysis — be it misreporting, situational fluidity, geopolitical perception management or what have you — biases in critical thinking and decision-making abound.

To read the rest of the article, please visit Homeland Security TodayHERE.

EXCLUSIVE: Visualizing Maritime Domain Awareness

Screen shot 2014-02-26 at 4.25.34 PMWith large modernization requirements facing the US Coast Guard (USCG) and an austere political environment taking its toll, finding the necessary cost savings to fit the Coast Guard’s new budget and uphold operational efficiencies is paramount.

Achieving efficiencies while not reducing capabilities can be like a tightrope walk across the Grand Canyon. But the Coast Guard appears to be walking the line with some important efforts that are effective in enhancing maritime domain awareness while not breaching the budgetary dam.

One tool the Coast Guard has enlisted for achieving this balance is a technology developed by Hiperwall Inc., a University of California at Irvine spinoff established to commercialize a high-performance, low-cost video wall software solution.

Screen shot 2014-02-26 at 1.50.08 PMHiperwall affords public sector customers the ability to display large amounts of information at a single glance, resulting in more informed decision-making and improved image analysis. The firm provides a unique software-based video wall system that is hardware agnostic.

The value-add is Hiperwall’s commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solution that operates at tremendous speeds and includes integrated flexibility and versatile functionality to provide a visualization wall that connects multiple video feeds at an extremely high resolution into a one-stop visualization shop.

To read the full article in Homeland Security Today, please visit HERE.

Coming Soon: Homeland Security Today – February Edition

Screen shot 2014-02-26 at 1.50.08 PMThe February edition of Homeland Security Today Magazine is about to be posted online. And not to worry, print subscribers – the magazine is already on its way to your doorstep!

The February edition is jam packed with tremendous features of significant interest to readers.

On the cover is an article titled, “Cyber Superstorms – Will we be able to weather them?” It’s a great piece on the realities of the existing cyber threat and it outlines an ominous prognosis for the road ahead. Are the good guys winning or are the malintent actors advancing at a more rapid clip? Read the piece to learn more.

This months edition also includes other thought provoking pieces well worth reading including, “Going Wireless – Linking security and data systems” and “Border News: Sensors on a Leash – Detecting threats from 10,000 feet,” among other substantive reads.

Lastly, the February edition includes a piece I wrote titled, “The Maritime Domain – Visual Awareness on the Big Screen.” It’s an exclusive to HST so when it’s live, I will be sure to post a link.

Stay tuned for more!

No Nanny Needed: California brings ‘Kill Switch’ bill to crime fight

smartphone.siMembers of the California Assembly have introduced Senate bill 962, which would mandate that “advanced mobile communications devices” — smartphones, tablets and similar personal devices — must “include a technological solution, which may consist of software, hardware, or both software and hardware, that can render (it) inoperable” in the event that it is stolen.

To implement these regulatory requirements, the bill would “prohibit the sale of an advanced mobile communications device in California without the technological solution being enabled.” The move, if successful, would require all mobile devices sold in California to have embedded in them a government-sponsored kill-switch.

California’s nanny state proclivities are no surprise to residents of the state or to outside observers looking in, but the overreach of the state’s Democratic legislature in this bill comes is surprising nonetheless.

The arguments for this tech kill-switch are veiled under the guise of public safety. The Senate bill is seemingly in response to an increase in the number of robberies and thefts that directly involve mobile devices. In fact, according to police statistics in Oakland, 75 percent of robberies there involve a mobile device.

These figures are jarring, but some mobile device makers and service providers already provide solutions that effectively deal with the issue. Apple provides a “Find My Mac” feature that allows you to remotely lock or erase a stolen or misplaced iPhone, iPad, or MacBook. This feature is already available to Apple consumers, and it’s free.

Apple is not the only company with security safeguards in place for their products. Google provides a native-application known as the Android Device Manager, which allows consumers to locate lost devices, reset device locks, and is capable of erasing all data on a phone.

That one’s free, too.

Aside from established mobile device manufacturers who offer anti-theft measures, the app stores for major mobile service providers contain an abundance of anti-theft products, which are offered to consumers by third-parties at low cost. Many of those applications are free to download, install, and use too.

Anti-theft applications, whether natively available for a mobile device or added on as a third-party application, all serve as supplemental features that consumers may use, install, or ignore. The firms that create them compete in a free-market that provides ample information to help consumers distinguish one product from competing product offerings. These differences include cost, capabilities, services, design, interface and so on.

These product differentiators help to define the operating landscape for the mobile device industry and give competing firms the possibility of finding advantages in the industry. These features are, by their very nature, definable, and measurable; they allow consumers to make educated decisions as to how to prioritize their preferences given their own needs and budget.

California legislators are proposing to regulate and mandate the inclusion of product features into consumer electronics when these features already exist in abundance and are readily available to the vast majority of mobile device users. The intrusiveness of this bill into a market where it is so absolutely unnecessary is astonishing, even in California.

The political convenience of ignoring crime

State Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who introduced Senate Bill 962, justifies this impending regulatory grab via the public safety narrative. He claims that the measure will help eliminate the temptation to steal these devices and will thus reduce robbery rates on its own.

“This is a crime of convenience,” Sen. Leno explained during a recent press conference. “We end the convenience, we end the crimes; it’s that simple.”

It is that simple minded, but not that simple. The Senator’s assertion involves a logical fallacy that ignores the availability of preexisting solutions and the more complex problem at hand.

In 2013, the Oakland Tribune labeled the city of Oakland “The Robbery Capital of America,” based on an analysis of FBI crime statistics. Not only did Oakland take the top prize for most robberies, it led the runner up, Cleveland, by a staggering 36 percent.

Leno and his legislative supporters will continue to frame the debate as a direct approach to reducing the surge in local crime rates, particularly robberies. However, Leno and others who support this bill should ask whether the rise in robberies of mobile devices really does represent crimes of convenience, or whether state lawmakers are conveniently ignoring the central issues of endemic crime.

Oakland is not a singularity, where the security services offered by mobile device makers are uniquely ineffective compared to the rest of the country. If crime in the Bay area is unusually high, it isn’t because the state has failed in its duty to regulate technology. To blame technology for the failures of crime prevention in California is the real criminal behavior.

To view more opinion pieces from the Communities Digital News, please go HERE

Last Man Standing: Medal of Honor recipient Walter Ehlers

Moh2Walter D. Ehlers, the last living Medal of Honor recipient from the Allied invasion of Normandy during ‘Operation Overlord’ in 1944, passed away in Buena Park, California on Thursday of natural causes at the age of 92.

Ehlers was born in 1921, during the post-World War I recession era that soon became known as the ‘Roaring Twenties,’ and in 1940, both he and his brother, Roland enlisted in the U.S. Army.

On June 6, 1944, Staff Sgt. Ehlers was one of more than 160,000 Allied troops who took part in ‘Operation Neptune,’ the code name commonly referred to as D-Day. During the Battle of Normandy, he led a 12-man reconnaissance patrol across Omaha Beach, in Nazi-controlled France, without sustaining a single loss or casualty to his team.

Staff Sgt. Ehlers was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest and oldest military decoration that may be awarded by the United States government. On December 12, 1944 Staff Sgt. Ehlers received the Medal of Honor, “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 9-10 June 1944, near Goville, France.”

While sustaining significant injuries and after learning that his brother Roland was killed in action during the Normandy invasion, Staff Sgt. Ehlers refused to be evacuated and instead continued to lead his squad.

By the war’s end, Staff Sgt. Walter Ehlers had fought in eight campaigns. In addition to the Congressional Medal of Honor, he received the Silver Star, three Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars, the Presidential Unit Citation with Two Clusters, and the Combat Infantry Badge. Additionally, he received the King George Military Medal from the United Kingdom, France’s Croix de Guerre, Belgium’s King Leopold Medal and was knighted by King Albert II, according to a release by the City of Buena Park, California.

Staff Sgt. Ehlers received the following citation, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, for his personal bravery and self-sacrifice:

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 9-10 June 1944, near Goville, France. S/Sgt. Ehlers, always acting as the spearhead of the attack, repeatedly led his men against heavily defended enemy strong points exposing himself to deadly hostile fire whenever the situation required heroic and courageous leadership. Without waiting for an order, S/Sgt. Ehlers, far ahead of his men, led his squad against a strongly defended enemy strong point, personally killing 4 of an enemy patrol who attacked him en route. Then crawling forward under withering machinegun fire, he pounced upon the guncrew and put it out of action. Turning his attention to 2 mortars protected by the crossfire of 2 machineguns, S/Sgt. Ehlers led his men through this hail of bullets to kill or put to flight the enemy of the mortar section, killing 3 men himself. After mopping up the mortar positions, he again advanced on a machinegun, his progress effectively covered by his squad. When he was almost on top of the gun he leaped to his feet and, although greatly outnumbered, he knocked out the position single-handed. The next day, having advanced deep into enemy territory, the platoon of which S/Sgt. Ehlers was a member, finding itself in an untenable position as the enemy brought increased mortar, machinegun, and small arms fire to bear on it, was ordered to withdraw. S/Sgt. Ehlers, after his squad had covered the withdrawal of the remainder of the platoon, stood up and by continuous fire at the semicircle of enemy placements, diverted the bulk of the heavy hostile fire on himself, thus permitting the members of his own squad to withdraw. At this point, though wounded himself, he carried his wounded automatic rifleman to safety and then returned fearlessly over the shell-swept field to retrieve the automatic rifle which he was unable to carry previously. After having his wound treated, he refused to be evacuated, and returned to lead his squad. The intrepid leadership, indomitable courage, and fearless aggressiveness displayed by S/Sgt. Ehlers in the face of overwhelming enemy forces serve as an inspiration to others.”

The Congressional Medal of Honor, was established by General George Washington on August 7, 1782, and is “awarded in the name of Congress to a person who, while a member of the Army, distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States.”

On behalf of a grateful nation and for your honorable and faithful service, Lt. Walter D. Ehlers – America thanks you. 

For more articles in Communities Daily News, please visit HERE.

***UPDATE***

I’ve been amazed at the reception of this article. The tremendous outpouring of support for Lt Ehler is a powerful testament to a grateful nation.

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