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December 25, 2010

3.6 Million People a Year

The Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security estimates that 3.6 million people yearly pass through U.S. Customs check points without proper identification. On the "flip-side" of this problem, the same report indicates that 96% of the people crossing into the United States from Mexico or Canada at one of the 39 border crossings do so with a valid passport, border crossing card or birth certificates.

This is not "just" a lapse in the use of border documents, it is a serious security risk. The problem is bigger. Part of the problem lies in the fact that many if not all of our border crossings and check points are undermanned.

...the auditors found that hundreds of thousands of people were still being waved through by customs officers without being referred for a secondary inspection. They also warned that if all the people who flouted the rules were sent for an extended second interview, it would overload customs officers.

Part of the problem also lies in the availability of secure border documents to begin with, along with recent questions of policy about border security. As recently as this Summer, questions were being raised about the possibility that the State Department issued card might be vulnerable to counterfeiting [see U.S. Immigration and Customs alert about counterfeit DSP-150 cards]

Further concern about our border security was raised this month when it was revealed that Mexican travelers woud soon be eligible to apply for a "trusted traveler" status . The concern here is specifically that the cartels might find ways to find and then exploit loopholes in the program. Another, pre-existing program, the Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) was recently breached when two SENTRI trusted travelers were caught trying to bring contraband across the border into the U.S. through the SENTRI-only express border passage.

While we have a difficult time preventing illegal immigration, it seems we also have a continuing problem with border security policy and documents. Nearly a decade following the worst attack on our country, this is by far, "not over."

December 11, 2010

Guantanamo - On Both Sides of the Fence

Oh, how righteous the defenders of rights for prisoners of war are ("ok, detainees at Guantanamo") as we approach 10 years since the horrendous attacks of September 11th. Yes, people can choose to forget that morning and the ensuing concerns over threats against our country. Yes, some people are now distracted by the outcries over increased security at our Nation's airports (see backscatter imaging and the roar of 4th Amendment activists - wonder how many Google searches there have been by people to "brush up" on the 4th Amendment in the last month or so).

And yes, because of the banishment in some circles of the term, "War on Terrorism," the issues of how we deal with the enemy have become blurred. While the question of the definition of the word "war" itself is a subject of interest and debate that is not the topic for this morning (although one of my associates recently observed that the redefinition of the term "war" needed to account for non-state actors that aren't conventionally violent, but still damaging").

On the one hand we have the Attorney General of the United States (and many parts of the media) have shown outrage that Congress, specifically the Senate of the United States, tagged a provision on to a spending bill prohibiting the use of federal funds to transport "detainees" to the U.S. from Guantanamo for any purpose - including trials... Of course, this leads to the debate over whether the "detainees" (read that as individuals who directly or indirectly participated in or planned the attacks of September 11th, or who were captured either in the act of, or planning of acts of terrorism against the United States and its citizens).

The recurring debate over whether terrorism defendants should be prosecuted in civilian courts or military commissions flared last month after a jury convicted the first Guantánamo detainee to receive a civilian trial on just one of 285 charges related to the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa. While the defendant is still facing up to life in prison, critics said it showed that civilian trials risked acquittals.

Noting that this same article in the NY Times refers to WikiLeaks and the fact that contained in the illicit release of this material is a set of nearly 800 detainee "threat assessment" files, now, please, consider the word recidivism. Pronounce it once, \ri-ˈsi-də-ˌvi-zəm\. Essentially the word means "return to criminal behavior."

According to a report from the Director of National Intelligence, 25% of the "detainees" transferred from Guantanamo to other countries, have been confirm or suspected of returning to the battlefields (and wanting to kill Americans). Of the 150 recidivists, 13 have already been killed (and gone to meet their virgins) and 54 have been captured.

"The Intelligence Community assesses that the number of former detainees identified as reengaged in terrorist or insurgent activity will increase," the report says, adding, "if additional detainees are transferred from GTMO, some of them will reengage in terrorist or insurgent activities."

AND

"It is not unusual for former GTMO detainees to communicate with persons in terrorist organizations. The reasons for communication span from the mundane (reminiscing about shared experiences) to the nefarious (planning future terrorist operations)," the report says.

Even more distressing (if that is possible) is that more than half of the released detainees end up in Yemen where our State Department believes they are held for a few weeks before they are given their final release and treated by their jihadist friends as "rock stars" who wear their time in the detention center at Guantanamo as a "badge of honor."

OPINION: Political correctness is going to get Americans killed. Treating enemy combatants as criminals is going to result someday in having one of them released by a "jury of their peers."

Remember that Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was cleared of all but one of the 286 charges for his participation in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa. It's only a matter of time before one of these "detainees" falls through the cracks of American justice and comes back to participate in another attack.

December 5, 2010

Lost and Found

There is reason to be concerned, actually, very concerned about a few aspects of this situation. It seems that a shipment of radioactive rods was misplaced by Federal Express. Even though "officials" say there was "little threat," one of three containers of radioactive rods sent from Fargo, ND to Knoxville Tn. were misplaced when a shipping label went missing from the outer box.

The situation came to light when the company on the receiving end contacted Federal Express that they had not gotten the full shipment. While these were low yield rods used to calibrate CT scan machines, these types of materials could become the fuel needed by terrorists to pack a "dirty bomb" that could spread serious amounts of radioactivity if detonated.

So the question is if it is time to tightly control shipments of any radioactive materials, even those used in medical applications? Shipments of hazardous materials are strictly controlled - - Regardless of existing provisions, radioactive materials for medical applications should be placed under tighter and more strict controls. Frankly, the shippers like Fed Ex need to be held accountable and ensure greater vigilance over any shipments like the one in question here.

December 2, 2010

Mexican Wiki-truth

With everything being revealed by the WikiLeaks revelations, it seems that Felipe Calderon made a point to then U.S. Ambassador Dennis Blair that the increased U.S. presence in Latin America was needed to counter the influence of "our friend" Hugo Chavez in the region.

The point of this is not that Wiki leaked, but that Calderon is making it clear that Mexico see Venezulean influence as a contributor to regional imbalance. They are concerned about losing parts of Mexico to the cartels. The implication is that Chavez has a hand in what is happening in Mexico..."Dontcha think" that has to include arms (that do not come from the U.S. side of the border).

This is unfolding.

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