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An All-of-Government Approach to Increase Resilience for International Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE) Events

September 16, 2014 Comments off

An All-of-Government Approach to Increase Resilience for International Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE) Events
Source: National Research Council

Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and high-yield Explosive (CBRNE) events have the potential to destabilize governments, create conditions that exacerbate violence or promote terrorism. This can trigger global repercussions. These events can quickly overwhelm the infrastructure and capability of the responders, especially in countries that do not have the specialized resources for response like those available in the United States. When a CBRNE incident occurs in a partner nation or other foreign country, the U.S. is often called upon to provide assistance. Interoperability – the ability to work together – among U.S. agencies, foreign governments, and responders involved in the effort is key to an efficient response. The effectiveness of the U.S. response and approach to CBRNE events in partner nations depends on the capability of the U.S. government to provide timely and appropriate assistance and the resilience of the partner nation to a CBRNE event.

An All-of-Government Approach to Increase Resilience for International Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE) Events is the summary of a workshop convened in June 2013 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Research Council to discuss ways to strengthen the U.S. ability to prepare for and respond to CBRNE events that occur in U.S. partner nations. The workshop brought together diverse experts and stakeholders to identify capabilities that are necessary for responding to an international CBRNE event; discuss best practices and resources needed for improved interoperability of the U.S. and partner nation during response to a CBRNE event; and identify key questions that need to be addressed in follow up activities focused on improving U.S. CBRNE response in partner nations.

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CRS — Latin America: Terrorism Issues (August 15, 2014)

September 15, 2014 Comments off

Latin America: Terrorism Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

U.S. attention to terrorism in Latin America intensified in the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, with an increase in bilateral and regional cooperation. In its 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism (issued in April 2014), the State Department maintained that the majority of terrorist attacks in the Western Hemisphere were committed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The State Department asserted in that Latin American governments made modest improvements in their counterterrorism capabilities and border security, but that for some countries, corruption, weak government institutions, insufficient interagency cooperation, weak or nonexistent legislation, and a lack of resources impeded progress.

Over the past several years, policymakers have been concerned about Iran’s increasing activities in Latin America. Concerns center on Iran’s attempts to circumvent U.N. and U.S. sanctions, as well as on its ties to the radical Lebanon-based Islamic group Hezbollah. Both Iran and Hezbollah are reported to be linked to two bombings against Jewish targets in Argentina in the early 1990s. A June 2013 State Department report to Congress on Iran’s activities in Latin America asserted that Iran’s influence in the region is waning. Some critics maintain that the State Department is playing down the threat posed by Iran in the region, while others contend that while Iran’s involvement in the region is a concern, its level and significance are being exaggerated. As in past years, the State Department’s 2013 terrorism report maintained that “there were no known operational cells of either Al Qaeda or Hezbollah in the hemisphere,” but noted that “ideological sympathizers in South America and the Caribbean continued to provide financial and ideological support to those and other terrorist groups in the Middle East and South Asia.”

Cuba has remained on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1982 pursuant to Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act. Both Cuba and Venezuela are on the State Department’s annual list of countries determined to be not cooperating fully with U.S. antiterrorism efforts pursuant to Section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act. U.S. officials have expressed concerns over the past several years about Venezuela’s lack of cooperation on antiterrorism efforts, its relations with Iran, and the involvement of senior Venezuelan officials in supporting the drug and weapons trafficking activities of the FARC. In recent years, however, improved Venezuelan-Colombian relations have resulted in closer cooperation on antiterrorism and counternarcotics efforts and border security.

Domestic Terrorism Appears to Be Reemerging as a Priority at the Department of Justice, CRS Insights (August 15, 2014)

September 15, 2014 Comments off

Domestic Terrorism Appears to Be Reemerging as a Priority at the Department of Justice, CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

In June 2014, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the reestablishment of its Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee, which had been defunct for several years. The committee includes DOJ leaders and is “co-chaired by a member of the U.S. Attorney community, the [DOJ] National Security Division, and the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation].” It is designed to “coordinate closely with U.S. Attorneys and other key public safety officials across the country to promote information-sharing and ensure an effective, responsive, and organized joint effort.” The reestablishment suggests that officials are raising the profile of domestic terrorism as an issue within DOJ after more than a decade of heightened focus on both foreign terrorist organizations and homegrown individuals inspired by violent jihadist groups based abroad. The amplification of this issue by DOJ may be of interest to congressional policy makers.

New Remote Control Report: US Special Operations Command Contracting: Data-Mining the Public Record

September 12, 2014 Comments off

New Remote Control Report: US Special Operations Command Contracting: Data-Mining the Public Record
Source: Oxford Research Group

A new report that analyses a US procurement database to shed light on the activities of US military special operations contracting has found that private corporations are integrated into some of the most sensitive counter-terrorism activities.

US Special Operations Command Contracting: Data-Mining the Public Record, commissioned by the Remote Control project, examines federal spending by the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) through transaction records. The report, by Crofton Black, is the first to mine the Federal Procurement Data System, an open access database, to look into the financing of US counter-terrorism operations. The dataset has revealed that corporations are integrated into some of the most sensitive aspects of special operations activities: flying drones and overseeing target acquisition, facilitating communications between forward operating locations and central command hubs, interrogating prisoners and translating captured material, and managing the flow of information from regional populations to the US military presence and back again.

Among the report’s focal points are a group of transactions in the dataset referencing “ISR” (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services). Over two thirds of these were with US corporation Boeing, with performance divided between Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines and the US. By looking at key references in the dataset, the report reveals how contractors are involved with drone operations in Afghanistan and a US counterinsurgency campaign in the Philippines.

The report also uncovers the role in interrogation operations of Shee Atika, a company whose provision of translation services accounts for one of the largest single transactions in the dataset ($77 million), raising concerns over the mechanisms for ensuring effective accountability and oversight in these operations.

Complacency: a threat to homeland security?

September 7, 2014 Comments off

Complacency: a threat to homeland security?
Source: Naval Postgraduate School

This thesis presents an unconventional approach to addressing a threat to homeland security by focusing on complacency through the lens of human factors and complexity. This approach requires a paradigm shift. In addition to focusing on external threats from enemies who wish to do this nation harm, and building capabilities to prepare for disasters, it is also necessary to look internally to the behaviors, attitudes, and states of mind of people within homeland security organizations to optimize the success of this country’s efforts. This thesis draws from human factors science, folk science and folk psychology, complexity theory, homeland security doctrine, psychology and biology reference works, and applied research to develop a concept of complacency for the homeland security discipline. The hypothesis is that a clear definition may lead to actionable, observable measures to mitigate it. The research concludes that complacency is more commonly used as a proverbial threat than an actionable threat, but reveals a plethora of future research opportunities for a human-factors approach to addressing threats of this nature.

Audit Report — Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Biosafety Laboratories

August 26, 2014 Comments off

Audit Report — Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Biosafety Laboratories (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General

Background
In response to the increase in infectious diseases and the threat of bioterrorism, the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories perform research with biological agents. To conduct this biological research, the Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) operate multiple laboratory facilities in accordance with various biosafety levels (BSL) established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The BSLs classify the containment level and risk associated with biological agents depending on the threat the agents pose to personnel and the environment. For example, BSL-1 is for low-risk agents; BSL-2 is for medium-risk agents; and BSL-3 is for those agents that cause serious and potentially lethal infections. Department and NNSA sites primarily perform BSL-1 and BSL-2 research; however, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) operates a facility with three BSL-3 laboratories while Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is considering opening a facility with two BSL-3 laboratories. Extensive biological research is performed at LLNL and LANL for other Government agencies through the Department’s Work for Others (WFO) program.

In our report on Coordination of Biological Select Agent Activities at Department of Energy Facilities (DOE/IG-0695, July 2005), we reported that the Department had not developed a plan for construction and operation of its BSL-3 laboratories. Thus, it lacked assurance that capabilities were not being duplicated unnecessarily. As a result of our prior work and Presidential actions to streamline Government and reduce costs, we initiated this audit to determine whether NNSA managed its biosafety laboratories effectively. We limited our review to biosafety laboratories located at LLNL and LANL.

Results of Audit
We found that NNSA was considering a $9.5 million expansion of its BSL-3 and BSL-2 laboratory capabilities at LANL that may not be the most effective use of resources. Specifically, NNSA identified the development of a BSL-3 facility at LANL as its preferred alternative for meeting biosafety laboratory needs even though it had not fully considered the need for and cost effectiveness of additional capacity. Nor, had it developed a sound basis for measuring the utilization of existing facilities – a critical factor in determining the need for additional capacity. Despite the lack of information on the need for additional capacity and current laboratory utilization rates, LANL was also considering building a new BSL-2 facility.

In particular, NNSA proposed development of a facility with two BSL-3 laboratories at LANL. Additionally, LANL is in the early planning stage for constructing a new BSL-2 facility. The estimated cost to open LANL’s new BSL-3 and to construct/open BSL-2 capabilities was about $1.5 million and $8 million, respectively. Given current budget realities, plans to develop additional capabilities without fully demonstrating a need may not be prudent.

CRS — The Military Commissions Act of 2009 (MCA 2009): Overview and Legal Issues (August 4, 2014)

August 26, 2014 Comments off

The Military Commissions Act of 2009 (MCA 2009): Overview and Legal Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

On November 13, 2001, President Bush issued a Military Order (M.O.) pertaining to the detention, treatment, and trial of certain non-citizens in the war against terrorism. Military commissions pursuant to the M.O. began in November 2004 against four persons declared eligible for trial, but the Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld invalidated the military commissions as improper under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). To permit military commissions to go forward, Congress approved the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA), conferring authority to promulgate rules that depart from the strictures of the UCMJ and possibly U.S. international obligations. Military commissions proceedings were reinstated and resulted in three convictions under the Bush Administration.

Upon taking office in 2009, President Obama temporarily halted military commissions to review their procedures as well as the detention program at Guantánamo Bay in general, pledging to close the prison facilities there by January 2010, a deadline that passed unmet. One case was moved to a federal district court.

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