Think Tank Cancels NATO Conference After U.S. Ambassador Objects to Keynote Speaker’s Participation

 

The Danish Atlantic Council released a statement announcing the cancellation of its international conference on NATO and transatlantic cooperation after the U.S. Ambassador to Denmark  Carla Sands “did not want” the keynote speaker’s participation. Sands is a political appointee, and one of Trump’s top donors. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate  by voice vote in November 2017 (see PN1012).
The invited speaker Stanley Sloan (@srs2_) is a Visiting Scholar in Political Science at Middlebury College and a Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Scowcroft Center of the Atlantic Council of the United States.
Mr. Sloan has now released a brief statement about this debacle and also provided a link to the draft of the address he would have delivered at the event:

The Danish Atlantic Council had invited Stanley R. Sloan to give a keynote address at their conference celebrating NATO’s 70th anniversary on 10 December. The conference was co-sponsored and heavily funded by the US Department of State. Just days before the conference, the US Ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands, ordered the Council to remove Sloan from the program. The form of censorship by the US government is a dramatic change from past practice, when the US Public Diplomacy program provided  a variety of American views to foreign audiences, in many ways demonstrating the strength of American democracy. For those who are interested in what Sloan would have said at the meeting, check out the draft as it stood before the Embassy’s veto: “Crisis in transatlantic relations: what future will we choose?” 

US Embassy Denmark has taken to Twitter to defend its role in the cancellation of the event:

In our planning for the Seminar as co-hosts and co-sponsors, the U.S. Embassy and had jointly agreed on a program of speakers with a wide range of views on the Alliance.

Mr. Stanley Sloan’s proposed last-minute inclusion in the program by did not follow the same deliberative process of joint decision-making and agreement that we followed when recruiting all other speakers.

The U.S. Embassy will continue to support future programs to strengthen security cooperation and people-to-people ties.

We laughed so hard we fell off our chair! We all know that “deliberative” and “process” have both been left to bleed all over the white carpet.  We can see the stains on the official burial; the embassy, unfortunately, thought we could not.

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Heritage Reportedly to Recommend Full Merge of State/USAID, New Cone, Elimination of “J”, and More

Posted: 2:08 pm  PT
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James M. Roberts is a research fellow for Economic Freedom and Growth in the Center for Free Markets and Regulatory Reform at The Heritage Foundation. His bio says that he previously served as a foreign service officer at the State Department for 25 years and worked closely with USAID. As a Foreign Service Officer, he completed tours of duty at U.S. embassies in Mexico, Portugal, France, Panama and Haiti.  In an op-ed published on TheHill today, he writes that The Heritage Foundation will soon publish “a detailed background report with extensive analysis of the current dysfunctional state of U.S. government foreign assistance programs and detailed recommendations on how to fix them.” The op-ed includes highlights from that forthcoming report.

Excerpt via TheHill:

13 recommendations to reform U.S. foreign aid:

1. Eliminate duplicative foreign aid programs, improve coordination of remaining programs, end congressional “earmarks,” and terminate programs that do not work.

2. Replace USAID with a new “United States Health and Humanitarian Assistance Agency” (USHHAA) to manage all health and humanitarian assistance programs.

3. Fully integrate USHHAA into the State Department, with the USHHAA administrator reporting to the secretary of state as the under secretary of state for foreign assistance.

4. Merge State and USAID administrative functions in Washington and in the field. Put USAID’s Foreign Service Officers into a new “Assistance Cone” at State and consider more far-reaching reforms of the Foreign Service to give the U.S. government more flexibility to respond to future challenges.

5. Move all development assistance to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an independent agency that stresses the primary importance of the rule of law, effective governance, and recipient country accountability.

6. Transfer USAID’s Development Assistance account to the MCC and add the under secretary of state for foreign assistance to the MCC Board of Directors to better coordinate all U.S. foreign assistance.

7. Eliminate the under secretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights, and eliminate or move its offices, bureaus, and responsibilities to other parts of the State Department or to USHHAA.

8. Eliminate the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) and transfer policy responsibilities to the regional bureaus and the refugee assistance responsibilities to USHHAA.

9. Ensure that all other U.S. foreign aid programs at agencies as diverse as Justice, Interior, or Agriculture are coordinate and consult with the under secretary of state for foreign assistance. Technical or specialized assistance, such as responding to pandemics, should be led by the experts but coordination is critical to ensuring effective broader application of U.S. government resources.

10. End the role of the Department of Agriculture in food assistance by terminating the P.L. 480 program, with its inefficient shipping and purchase requirements. Give USHHAA full authority over all U.S. food assistance.

11. Eliminate outdated agencies such as the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the United States Trade and Development Agency, and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. These agencies were established in a world where private investment in developing countries was scarce. This is no longer the case. The focus should be to encourage developing countries to access these resources based on their policies, not send the message that government subsidies are necessary for development.

12. Re-designate the State Department’s Economic Support Fund account as the “Policy Goal Implementation Fund” with the express purpose of generating goodwill and support for U.S. foreign policy and security objectives, including promoting resilient, democratic, prosperous and secure societies around the world.

13. Better coordinate military and security assistance under the joint authority of the Departments of Defense and State.

Read the full piece here.

Other commentaries by Roberts include Why Trump’s Budget Proposal for the State Department Makes SenseTrump Wants to Shut Down OPIC. Will His Nominee Do It?Congress Should Support the Trump Administration’s Proposal to Close Down OPIC, and more here.

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Snapshot: U.S. State Department Core Staffing (1995-2015)

Updated: 3:33 am ET
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Via heritage.org:

Screen Shot 2016-04-21

 

Related post:

Heritage: How to Make the State Department More Effective at Implementing U.S. Foreign Policy

 

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Heritage: How to Make the State Department More Effective at Implementing U.S. Foreign Policy

Posted: 1:52 am ET
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Via heritage.org:

In January 2017, the next President of the United States will enter office facing as daunting and diverse a set of challenges as any President in recent times. In order to address these challenges and threats, the next President will need more than new polices; he or she will need an effective and capable Department of State to implement his or her vision, including carrying out presidential instructions. The State Department, however, is not nearly as effective as it should be, to the detriment of American standing and effectiveness in the world. The Heritage Foundation’s Brett Schaefer details the steps that would better equip the State Department to focus on its traditional mission, and be of true value to future U.S. foreign policy.

Below is a quick excerpt:

When the President relies too often or too heavily on individual “czars” or “envoys” to address discrete issues, however, he risks undermining clarity and consistency of policy, distorting the importance of issues in the overall spectrum of U.S. foreign policy interests, and confusing both U.S. and foreign officials about the chain of command through the multiple lines of communication to the President.

Historically, the most prudent and effective approach is to allow the Secretary of State to be the chief foreign policy adviser and diplomat with appropriate input from other advisers and, when their equities are involved, other departments and agencies. To address this issue, the next Administration should:

  • Appoint the appropriate Secretary of State for the President.
  • Reduce the operational role of the NSC and place those responsibilities chiefly on Under and Assistant Secretaries of State. 
  • Return the Policy Planning Staff to its original purpose, or eliminate it. 
  • Refuse to accord cabinet rank to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
  • Curtail the use of special envoys and special representatives.
  • Ensure that all candidates for ambassadorial appointments are qualified.
  • Reinforce the authority of U.S. Ambassadors. 
  • Increase Foreign Service assignments from three to five years. 
  • Conduct an in-depth evaluation of standards, training, and qualifications for both the Foreign Service and Civil Service.

Under Strengthening the State Department’s Traditional Bilateral and Multilateral Diplomacy, the author proposes  the following:

  • Establish an Under Secretary for Multilateral Affairs. 
  • Shift the responsibilities of most functional bureaus to the Under Secretary for Bilateral Affairs and the Under Secretary for Multilateral Affairs.
  • Rename the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs as the Bureau for Economic Development. The new bureau should encompass USAID; many of the current responsibilities of the current Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs; and primary responsibility (currently led by the Department of the Treasury) for U.S. policy at the World Bank and the regional development banks.
  • Eliminate the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.
  • Eliminate the position of Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources.
  • Merge complementary offices and bureaus and emphasize their overarching purpose.
  • Reconsider lines of authority for non-U.N. multilateral organizations. 
  • Treat former U.S. territories as the independent nations they have become.

 

There’s a lot more!  The full report is available to read online here. Also available to read below or to download as PDF:

 

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Stratfor Email Leak aka: The Global Intelligence Files — What’s interesting to read?

On February 27, WikiLeaks began publishing “The Global Intelligence Files” – more than five million purported emails from the Texas-headquartered “global intelligence” company Stratfor. The emails date from between July 2004 and late December 2011.  In a statement cited by CNN, Stratfor says it is outraged over the breach of its privacy:

“This is a deplorable, unfortunate – and illegal – breach of privacy” […] The company refused, however, to answer any questions about the information contained within them, saying: “Some of the emails may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies; some may be authentic. We will not validate either. Nor will we explain the thinking that went into them. Having had our property stolen, we will not be victimized twice by submitting to questioning about them.”

We’ve read through some of the emails on State Department-related topics and though they appear like trivial exchange, there are some interesting ones.

About Jared Cohen, formerly with the State Department and now Director of Google Ideas at Google

Stratfor Insight into USG public diplomacy and the genesis of movements.org

Some back and forth on the CIA’s chief of station in Athens, Richard Welch who was gunned down on 23 December 1975 outside his residence in front of his wife and driver in a 17N’s attack.

Decades old rumor that Welch was set up by an Embassy FSN.

An email exchange on the US Embassy Athens RPG hit in 2007

[DSonlineforum] Alledged Leak of 260,000 Classified and Sensitive State Department Cables – shows a state.gov email addy.

About Wikileaks and the State Department Documents

Thought–Re: wikileaks cablegate – disappearing cables  — and old cronies @ State

Re: wikileaks cablegate – disappearing cables or how “The Foggy-Bottom Bow-Ties have their panties in a knot over a specific Iraq cable outed”

Yep, the purported email really did say “panties in a knot.”

An email titled, FBI SAIC comment on WikiLeaks (internal use only pls) says “nobody knew better than us how those State Department people write….”

One purported email from a Senior Eurasia Analyst dated September 2011 had awful things to say about Ambassador McFaul:

“On McFaul: everyone in CE hates dealing with him. He is deluded. He believes that Russia can actually be pulled into being an ally with the US. McFaul wants to use Regan’s gameplan. He constantly quotes Regan. On a sidenote, in McFaul’s office there is a large (really large, like4x3) photo blown up above his desk of McFaul, Obama, Medvedev and Putin all sitting around the lunchtable smiling. However, the way I heard it was that McFaul was scared to death of Putin and stuttered the entire time.”

Then there’s a source in Mexico dubbed MX1 with concerns about Wikileaks and afraid to “get fired when those cables are leaked.”  The 2010 email exchange citing the same MX1 source also includes the following:

“MX1 says that this is a bad thing because it is already difficult to get Mexicans to be frank about how much GOM sucks. First you have the nationalism issue, then the fact that many just don’t like Americans, and now the ones that want to be frank are afraid they’ll lose their job when GOM finds out they said Calderon has his head up his ass and that the Consul General is taking money from the Zetas.”

Among the purported Stratfor emails released by Wikileaks are speculations about UBL’s non-burial at sea. Asked about that during a Daily Press Briefing, the State Department’s Mike Hammer had this to say:

“All right, as far as I understand, as far as my colleagues at the State Department go, excuse me, the Department of Defense, they have already clearly stated that the report is false and quite ridiculous.”

Elsewhere online, firstpost.com notes that “The latest leaked emails, spinning fanciful theories about bin Laden’s body disposal, are almost certain to feed the liveliest imagination of conspiracy theorists, of whom there is no dearth.”

No doubt.

And before you say “oh, dear!” — here is Trevor Timm, an activist at Electronic Frontier Foundation about rumors with no second source:


Sounds like an excellent question…

By the way, Stratfor’s VP of Intelligence  is Fred Burton, a former deputy chief of the counterterrorism division of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service.

Domani Spero

AAD Report: Under-investment in diplomacy has left Foreign Service overstretched, under prepared

The American Academy of Diplomacy has released a new report on the U.S. Foreign Service that points to the “urgent need to prepare and sustain a corps of American diplomatic professionals that is intellectually and operationally ready to lead in the new environment.”  The report also says that “there is little question that under-investment in diplomacy over the last decade or so has left our Foreign Service overstretched and under prepared.”

Among its recommendations are 1) fully funding of the staffing initiative under Diplomacy 3.0, 2) creation of a 15% training float, 3) long-term commitment to investing in the professional education and training needed “to build a 21st-century diplomatic service of the United States able to meet the complex challenges and competition we face in the coming decades”; 4) strengthening and expansion of the Department of State’s professional development process ; 5) establishment of a temporary corps of roving counselors to address mentoring problems caused by the mid-level gap; 6) a study that will examine best practices in the field to determine how on-the-job training can be most effectively conducted for FSOs; 7) completion of a year of advanced study related to FSO’s career track as a requirement for promotion to the Senior Foreign Service; and 8) appropriately targeted consultations before a new Chief of Mission (COM) even begins pre-assignment consultations.
 
You can read the whole thing below. Or you can download the abridged and full version of the report here. Do not skip the appendices.  The US Foreign Service Primer in Appendix A includes the most current employment numbers as well as a quick look on promotion and the ‘up or out’ system. Appendix D includes an interesting item on the professional development in other diplomatic services. You probably already know that Chinese officers must take a leadership and management training course, along with courses on international relations, economics and finance, international history, Chinese history, protocol, and consular affairs for promotion to 2nd Secretary. But do you know that these courses apparently are taken in officers’ spare time, in addition to their normal duties? Do you know which diplomatic service requires its officers to sit for exams following a one-month course that focuses on economics, law, civil society, and politics before promotion to 1st Secretary?  Or which one requires a PhD-level dissertation for promotion to Counselor?  Read more below.

Forging a 21st Century Diplomatic Service for the United States through Professional Education and Training http://d1.scribdassets.com/ScribdViewer.swf?document_id=50321106&access_key=key-1fdjsa2cc63b38eyb56v&page=1&viewMode=list

Copyright © 2011 American Academy of Diplomacy, the Henry L. Stimson Center and the American Foreign Service Association // Republished with permission from AAD.


Related items:


Quickie: The Threat of Civil Unrest in Pakistan and the Davis Case

On Feb. 13, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) issued a statement demanding that the government of Pakistan execute U.S. government contractor Raymond Davis or turn him over to the TTP for judgment. Davis, a contract security officer for the CIA, has been in Pakistani custody since a Jan. 27 incident in which he shot two men who reportedly pointed a pistol at him in an apparent robbery attempt.

Pakistani officials have corroborated Davis’ version of events and, according to their preliminary report, Davis appears to have acted in self-defense. From a tactical perspective, the incident appears to have been (in tactical security parlance) a “good shoot,” but the matter has been taken out of the tactical realm and has become mired in transnational politics and Pakistani public sentiment. Whether the shooting was justified or not, Davis has now become a pawn in a larger game being played out between the United States and Pakistan.


When one considers the way similar periods of tension between the Pakistanis and Americans have unfolded in the past, it is not unreasonable to conclude that as this current period plays out, it could have larger consequences for Davis and for American diplomatic facilities and commercial interests in Pakistan. Unless the Pakistani government is willing and able to defuse the situation, the case could indeed provoke violent protests against the United States, and U.S. citizens and businesses in Pakistan should be prepared for this backlash.

[…]

Forecast

Based on this history, the current tension between the United States and Pakistan, public sentiment in Pakistan regarding U.S. security contractors and the possibility of groups like JuD and JeI attempting to take advantage of the situation, there is a very real possibility that Davis’ release could spark mob violence in Pakistan (and specifically Lahore). Even if the Pakistani government does try to defuse the situation, there are other parties who will attempt to stir up violence.



Due to the widespread discontent over the issue of U.S. security contractors in Pakistan, if protests do follow the release of Davis, they can be expected to be similar to the protests that followed the Mohammed cartoon case, i.e., they will cut across ethnic and sectarian lines and present a widespread threat.

Physical security measures such as concrete barriers, standoff distances and security cameras can add to a facility’s defenses against a terrorist attack, but they really do not pose much of an obstacle to an angry mob intent on overrunning a property — especially if local and indigenous security forces are unwilling or unable to intervene in a timely fashion and the mob has the time and latitude to assault the facility for a prolonged period. The protesters can scale barriers and their overwhelming numbers can render most security measures useless. Barriers such as hard-line doors can provide some delay, but they can be breached by assailants who possess tools and time.


Additionally, if protesters are able to set fire to the building, as happened at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad in 1979, a safe-haven can become a death trap, especially if the mob can take control of the secondary escape hatch as it did in that incident, trapping the Americans inside the safe-haven.


Commercial facilities are, by their very nature, far more accessible — and far more vulnerable — to mob violence than diplomatic facilities. A commercial facility can present a tempting soft target to those who wish to attack a symbol of America without tackling a hard target like a U.S. diplomatic facility, which is designed and built to comply with stringent security standards. If a mob storms a hotel, the local staff will be unable to protect the guests, and conceivably could leave the guests to fend for themselves in the confusion and chaos of a riot. Even worse, they could even facilitate attacks against Americans by pointing them out or providing their room numbers.


Any person identified as an American by such an angry mob could quickly find himself or herself in dire danger. While Americans working for the U.S. government can expect to have some security assistance in getting back to the embassy or to another secure location, non-officials may be left to fend for themselves, especially if they are not registered with the embassy. Non-officials are also not required to abide by the same security rules as officials. While many non-officials consider the U.S. State Department’s security rules to be onerous at times, during troubled periods these conservative security rules often serve to keep diplomats out of harm’s way.


Once a mob attacks, there often is little that can be done — especially if the host government either cannot or will not take action to protect the facility being attacked. At that point, the focus should be on preventing injuries and saving lives — without regard to the physical property. In most cases, when a mob attacks a multinational corporation, it is attacking a symbolic target. KFC restaurants, for example, have been frequent targets of attacks in Pakistan because of the company’s association with the United States. In many cases, multinational franchises such as KFC and even some hotels are owned by locals and not Americans, but that does not matter to the mobs, which see nothing but a U.S. symbol.


When an issue such as the Mohammed cartoons, the Bhutto assassination or the release of Raymond Davis spirals into violent protests, the only real precaution that many companies can take is to escape the area and avoid loss of life. The best defense is to use good intelligence in order to learn about the protests in advance, to track them when they occur and then to evacuate personnel before they can be affected by the violence.


U.S. diplomatic facilities and business interests in Pakistan are almost certainly reviewing their contingency plans right now and planning for the worst-case scenario. During such times, vigilance and preparation are vital, as is a constant flow of updated intelligence pertaining to potential demonstrations. Such intelligence can provide time for an evacuation or allow other proactive security measures to be taken. With the current tension between Pakistan and the United States, there might not be much help coming when the next wave of unrest erupts, so keeping ahead of potential protests is critically important.

Active links added above. Read the whole thing here — The Threat of Civil Unrest in Pakistan and the Davis Case (republished with permission of STRATFOR).


Quickie: Americans Less Anxious About U.S. Foreign Policy Now Than In Past Four Years

But Republicans Have Grown Much More Anxious; Democrats And Independents Much Less So

This one from Public Agenda:

The American public is less anxious about foreign policy than it’s been for four years, partly because they believe our global image has improved, and partly because the troubled economy and other domestic concerns are pushing foreign worries aside, according to Public Agenda’s Confidence in U.S. Foreign Policy Index.

The Foreign Policy Anxiety Indicator stands at 122, a 10-point drop since 2008 and the lowest level since Public Agenda introduced this measure in 2006. The Confidence in Foreign Policy Index, produced by Public Agenda in collaboration with Foreign Affairs, uses a set of tracking questions to measure Americans’ comfort level with the nation’s foreign policy, much the same way the Consumer Confidence Index measures the public’s satisfaction with the economy.

The Anxiety Indicator is measured on a 200-point scale, with 100 serving as a neutral midpoint, neither anxious nor confident. A score of 50 or below would indicate a period of complacency. Above the “redline” of 150 would be anxiety shading into real fear and a withdrawal of public confidence in U.S. policy.

“Two years ago, Iraq was seen as the ‘number one’ problem facing the nation in its dealings with the rest of the world,” said Daniel Yankelovich, the noted social scientist and Public Agenda’s chairman. “Now, neither Iraq nor Afghanistan is cited as one of the five most important foreign policy problems we face. But most Americans still see the world as a treacherous, often hostile place, and that concern certainly hasn’t gone away.”

Republican Anxiety Grows, While Worries Subside for Democrats, Independents

There are striking differences by party, however, with anxiety about foreign affairs skyrocketing among Republicans, even as Democrats and independents report their worries are declining. When the Anxiety Indicator is calculated by party, Republican worries have soared from a relatively low level of 108 in 2008 to 134 today. By contrast, Democratic anxiety — which was 142 in 2008 — has now fallen to relatively calm 104. Independents were at 140 in 2008 and are still fairly anxious at 128, but that’s a notable decline.

Download and read report — Confidence In U.S. Foreign Policy Index: Volume 7, Spring 2010

Nine Themes of Outstanding Leaders Plus One

The British non-profit organization, The Work Foundation has released a paper on Exceeding Expectation: the principles of outstanding leadership (Authors:  Penny Tamkin, Gemma Pearson, Wendy Hirsh and Susannah Constable). It lists nine themes which characterize outstanding leaders.

1. Think systemically and act long-term
Outstanding leaders achieve through a combination of systemic thinking and acting for the long-term benefit of their organisation. They recognise the interconnected nature of the organisation and therefore act carefully.
2. Bring meaning to life
Outstanding leadership enables a strong and shared sense of purpose across the organisation. They emphasise emotional connection for people with a focus on passion and on ethical purpose.
3. Apply the spirit not the letter of the law
Outstanding leadership focuses on the few key systems and processes which help provide clarity, give structure, enable feedback, allow time for discussion and enable the development of vision. They use them to achieve outcomes rather than focus on the process, and put flexibility and humanity first.
4. Self-aware and authentic to leadership first, their own needs second
Outstanding leaders unite a deep understanding of others, high levels of self-awareness and a systemic appreciation of their symbolic position to become a role model for others.
5. Understand that talk is work
Outstanding leadership depends on trusting and positive relationships that are built over time for the long-term benefit of the people and their organisation. They spend a significant amount of time talking with people to understand what motivates and how they can support and boost enthusiasm in others.
6. Give time and space to others
Outstanding leaders both give significantly more time to people than non-outstanding leaders and allow their people considerably more freedom and influence over the work they do and how they do it.
7. Grow people through performance
Outstanding leaders passionately and constantly invest in their people and use the challenges presented every single day to encourage growth, learning and engagement.
8. Put ‘we’ before ‘me’
Outstanding leaders work hard on issues such as team spirit, shared decision making, collaborative working and a strong bond within and between teams. Sustainable performance comes from collective wisdom and intent, encouraging people to get involved, and giving them voice and autonomy.
9. Take deeper breaths and hold them longer
Outstanding leaders actively build trust by delivering on promises and acting with consistency, which in turn, leads to a sense of security and greater freedom of expression. They understand the power of trust to speed up interactions, enable people to take risks, diminish arguments or disputes and underpin innovation.
The report says that becoming an outstanding leader is likely to depend a great deal on maturity, self-awareness and self-development within the job. And points out that some of the outstanding leaders featured in the research did not originally have a people-focused approach, but realised the impact they were having on people and therefore adjusted their style accordingly.
The Work Foundation says it aims to improve the quality of working life and the effectiveness of organisations by equipping leaders, policymakers and opinion-formers with evidence, advice, new thinking and networks.
Read the whole thing here.
Perhaps this list of themes is missing a 10th item
Do no harm, especially when it comes to the office coffee pot. Outstanding leaders understand that people at work know how to use the office coffee pot properly.  They issue 3-page memos sparingly; in fact, only when people start using gin instead of water in their coffee.    
     


Why can’t we have T-Hackers stay ahead of potential breaches?

Metal detectors at an airport

Clark Kent Ervin, the former inspector general of the State Department (2001-2003) and of the Department of Homeland Security (2003 to 2004) who is currently the director of the Aspen Institute’s homeland security program recently wrote an op-ed for NYT excerpted below:


“Perhaps the biggest lesson for airline security from the recent incident is that we must overcome our tendency to be reactive. We always seem to be at least one step behind the terrorists. They find one security gap — carrying explosives onto a plane in their shoes, for instance — and we close that one, and then wait for them to exploit another. Why not identify all the vulnerabilities and then address each one before terrorists strike again?

Since the authorities have to succeed 100 percent of the time, and terrorists only once, the odds are overwhelmingly against the authorities. But they’ll be more likely to defy fate if they go beyond reflexive defense and play offense for a change.”

It’s hard to argue with his point, for we clearly are reactive.  It’s as if our enemies have found our magic buttons, and they know exactly which button would get the desired reaction.
On December 2001, shoe-bomber Richard Reid made an unsuccessful attempt to blow up American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami with PETN as explosive.   According to Wikipedia, pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) is one of the most powerful high explosives known, with a relative effectiveness factor (R.E. factor) of 1.66. It is also used as a medical drug to treat heart conditions.
Soon after that, we all had to take off our shoes, get wand screenings and pat downs at security points in our airports and at airports overseas. Shoes have become weaponized; they might as well join those box cutters and a whole lot of items now enshrined in the list of prohibited items when we fly.  Some funnies and some not so funny stories here
In 2006, the transatlantic aircraft terrorist plot to detonate liquid explosives carried on board at least 10 airliners travelling from the United Kingdom was discovered which resulted in chaos on how much liquids one can carry onto commercial aircrafts.

Imagine if you were breastfeeding or pumping milk the day those restrictions took effect? TSA says air travelers may now carry liquids, gels and aerosols in their carry-on bag when going through security checkpoints but “all liquids, gels and aerosols must be in 3.4 ounce (100ml) or smaller containers. Larger containers that are half-full or toothpaste tubes rolled up are not allowed. Each container must be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or smaller.” Somewhere, some not so nice folks are laughing.   

What are they going to think of next?
According to this report from Stratfor, when suicide-bomber Abdullah Hassan al Asiri attempted to assassinate the Saudi Arabian Deputy Minister of Interior Prince Muhammad bin Nayef  this past August, al Asiri who was described as a human Trojan horse activated a small improvised explosive device (IED) he was carrying inside his anal cavity. (Eww!)  PETN was reportedly the explosives used. The minister survived, the bomber did not.
Then on 25 December 2009, PETN was also found in the possession of Underpants Bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who attempted to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 while approaching Detroit from Amsterdam. Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to detonate PETN sewn into his underwear, by adding liquid from a syringe.
In the aftermath of these recent failed attempts, especially the latter, it looks like we are now faced with the distinct possibility of 1) a full body security scan which uses high frequency radio waves to produce an image of the human body to determine if passengers are smuggling items (such as drugs, cash or diamonds) in or underneath their clothing or 2) a full body scan which uses X-rays that pass through the body to trace swallowed items. Here is a good article on what Spiegel Online calls “strip search scanners.”
What are they going to think of next?  What if they succeed in putting explosives in ….. um, never mind. 
Banks hire the best hackers money can buy to steal from them—and then show them the holes in their defenses; by compromising their systems, they are able to protect their systems.  Have we done that?  According to this September 2009 GAO report on aviation security, TSA has implemented activities to assess risks to airport perimeters and access controls but has not conducted vulnerability assessments for 87 percent of the nation’s approximately 450 commercial airports or any consequence assessments.  We’re talking just aviation here, what about the rest?

Why can’t we do the equivalent of hackers when it comes to terrorism and stay one step ahead of potential breaches? The thing is we can’t pretend to seal the holes in the boat when we don’t know where we are leaking.  Until we know which parts of “us” are vulnerable, we will always play catch up.  And while we are stuck with protecting ourselves for the next shoe-bombing or underpants assault, the enemy may have already imagined other more creative ways to do us harm. The attack may not even have to blow anything up — just throw us into chaos; at significant costs to our peace of mind and sense of security, and to the taxpayers’ pockets.

You’re going to start thinking Domani Spero has gone bat crazy …

Well, okay, maybe – but hiring T-hackers, for lack of a better word, would be no more expensive than what was already spent on security screenings since 2002, or the inevitable body scanners.  For all that expense and inconvenience, we only get the perception of security.  The shoe bomber was the reason we now take off our shoes at security checkpoints in airports but PETN is a plastic explosive that is not picked up by metal detectors. So… why are we  taking off our shoes, again?
According to another GAO report, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have invested over $795 million in technologies to screen passengers at airport checkpoints since fiscal year 2002. News reports indicate that the cost of body scan machines range from 175,000-250,000 each. 
How many airports are there?  According to the Airports Council International, the United States has over 19,847 airports based on the Department of Transportation’s 2007-2011 National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS). More than 3,364 of those airports are recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as being open to the public.  382 are Primary Airports, defined as having more than 10,000 annual passengers.

I don’t even want to do the math. My head already hurts.

See what I like about those T-hackers? A squad of dark rangers, brainiacs who can imagine the most dastardly attacks, the most unimaginable chaos and destruction, the dark days we do not want to see in the future – they could poke holes at our security portals and blankets now before a lone wolf or some real bad guys get lucky with poking around. 

  

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