Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXX, No. 616 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY Spring 2004

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In this issue:

Are we having funds yet?

Panel report warns against complacency.

Terrorist give US the finger.

“Thinking the unthinkable.”

Tactical training takes off in wingless jet.

Making cultural awareness count.

Practice pays off.

The NYPD extends global reach via Interpol.

Universities are doing their part.

Tipping encouraged.

FLETC does the Charleston.

Border shakeup.

The potential havoc of a “dirty bomb.”

Dreaming of an orange Christmas.

Virtual city with very real training value.

Heartland views of homeland security.

DHS info net spreads out.

CERT units get new impetus & focus.

Security trumps aesthetics in D.C.

Ricin’s poison-pen letters.

Under arrest.

Mistaken delivery.

Courts have their say on terror issues.

TV or not TV.

Should FBI tap Internet calls?

“Crystal ball” is no substitute for intel sharing.

FBI tears down an investigative wall.

 
Are we having funds yet?
Fed allocation formula wins few fans

     With the possible exception of those from Wyoming or the United States territories of American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands, there appear to be few if any law enforcement or municipal officials who would disagree that the government’s current formula for distributing homeland-security funds — which is based on population rather than threat level — needs to be eliminated.

     But experts caution that even if such a move were to occur — as President Bush’s 2005 budget has proposed — there remains no guarantee that major cities such as New York and Washington would get any bigger share of the pie than they do now. ...


Panel: Beware anti-terror complacency

     In its fifth and final report to President Bush and members of Congress, an advisory panel on terrorism warned against both complacency and the loss of civil liberties in the pursuit of security, as other critical issues vie for attention in the coming years.

     The 17-member Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction is known as the Gilmore Commission, for its chairman, James S. Gilmore III, a former Republican governor of Virginia. Created by Congress in 1998, the panel is scheduled to be disbanded this year. ...


Terrorists give U.S. the finger

     With the integration of separate fingerprint systems used by the FBI and the Border Patrol still at least four years away, the United States remains vulnerable to known criminals and terrorists, according to a critical report released in March by the Justice Department’s Inspector General.

     It will take until 2008 — two years behind schedule — before the bureau’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) system and the Border’s Patrol’s Ident system can be combined, said Inspector General Glenn A. Fine. In the meantime, thousands of aliens who should be detained will instead be released because Border Patrol agents could not find their criminal or deportation histories, he said. They will simply be returned to their home countries, free to try and re-enter the United States....


With biochem terror no longer “unthinkable,” NYPD gets ready

     Forced to think the unthinkable, as New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly put it, the N.Y.P.D. has put together over the past year a response, which experts contend is unrivaled in the nation, to a potential catastrophic attack using chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

     “We’re thinking about the unthinkable — what a few years ago was the unthinkable,” said Kelly in an interview with The New York Times. “It’s something we’re trying to take head-on, but the scope and magnitude of the problems are daunting.”...


Jet gets its wings clipped so Fla. sheriff’s tactical training can take off

     In addition to the rappelling tower, the structures used for mock disasters and the bomb disposal depot, you can now add one Boeing 727 to the facilities at the Hillsborough County, Fla., Sheriff’s Department training center in Lithia.

     The 135-foot-long jet was donated to the agency last year by an Orlando air freight company. It arrived in December, all 12-feet wide and 30,000 pounds of it, minus its wings and tail. Officials said the plane will be available to any local, state or federal law enforcement agency that wants to practice its anti-terrorism tactics and homeland security response. ...


Building bridges:
A little cultural awareness goes a long way

     Knowing not to step on a prayer rug with one’s shoes, or placing something on top of the Koran, can help law enforcement officers when seeking cooperation from an Arab American during the course of an investigation, according to Justice Department officials, who have launched a program whose goal is to help police and federal agents gain familiarity with Middle Eastern customs.

     The program, sponsored by the department’s Community Relations Service, has trained 2,000 municipal officers, immigration and FBI agents to date in various cities. But it is just one of a number of measures the Justice Department is taking to raise awareness about Muslims and Arabs. Federal officials have attended town hall-style meetings in states with large Middle-Eastern populations, including Michigan, Florida and Ohio. In other metropolitan areas, FBI officers have set up committees with Arab leaders to strengthen relations. Soon a police training video will be offered....


Practice, practice, practice. . .
Despite problems, terror drill viewed as a success

     Despite widespread communication problems and confusion among emergency personnel, a major-disaster drill conducted in Seattle and Chicago last May has been deemed a success by a summary report from the Department of Homeland Security.

     Called TopOff 2, the two-pronged exercise was the nation’s largest terrorism drill. In Seattle, police, firefighters and other first-responders dealt with the simulated explosion of a “dirty bomb” and a plume of radioactive materials. The readiness drill then shifted to Chicago, where the terrorists responsible for the explosion unleashed a deadly plague. A plane crash and the capture of the terrorists was also part of the script. ...


A U.S. first, NYPD gains global reach through Interpol database

     The New York City Police Department will be the first law enforcement agency in the nation to have direct access to Interpol’s I-24/7 network, a high-tech tool for fighting crime and terrorism that contains the international crime-fighting organization’s databases.

     With access to the encrypted network, officers can instantly obtain fingerprints, photographs and other details about persons they have detained. These may include whether the suspect has a stolen passport, or is wanted for criminal activity anywhere in the world, said Interpol’s General Secretary, Ronald K. Noble....


Special education:
Universities do their part in anti-terror effort

     The nation’s first anti-terrorism research center opened in January at the University of Southern California, one of 70 schools that competed for a grant of $12 million from the Department of Homeland Security to develop the facility.

     Around the country, money is being awarded to universities and community colleges for curriculums and programs that teach homeland security studies. ...


Fla. officials urge public to send in terror tips

     The public should not be shy about phoning in tips when they witness suspicious or unusual activities they believe could be connected to terrorism, say Florida law-enforcement officials.

     “It’s a good thing that people take the time to call,” said Mark Dubina, an agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement who works with a regional anti-terror task force. ...


FLETC does the Charleston, with plan for new S.C. training facility

     A Federal Law Enforcement Training Center is being created on a site at the former Charleston Naval Base that currently houses a U.S. Border Patrol training academy.

     The 250-acre enclave at the base’s southern end will include new dormitories, firing ranges, physical training facilities, classrooms and office spaces, said Gene Coon, its newly appointed director. When completed, the FLETC will provide training for 1,000 students and increase federal spending there by $26 million. ...


What’s old is new again:
Shaking things up at borders & entry ports

     As one anti-terrorism measure ended in December, another began in January.

     Beginning in January, foreigners required to have visas to enter the country were digitally fingerprinted and photographed at 115 airports and 14 shipping terminals under a new program ordered by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks. ...


It’s not a nuke, but. . .
“Dirty bomb” seen creating mass havoc

     While a “dirty bomb” might not cause the type of mass casualties that a nuclear, chemical or biological weapon would if unleashed in a U.S. city, such a weapon, formally known as a radiological dispersion device, could result in dozens if not hundreds of fatalities and cause massive financial losses, according to a year-long study funded by the Pentagon.

     “The threat of a radiological attack on the United States is real, and terrorists have a broad palette of [radiological] isotopes to choose from,” said the report by the Center for Technology and National Security Policy at the National Defense University. “It could cause tens to hundreds of fatalities under the right circumstances, and is essentially certain to cause great panic and enormous economic losses.”...


Dreaming of an orange Christmas
What prompted the heightened alert over the holidays

     The nationwide Code Orange alert that began on Dec. 21 and ended on Jan. 9 was prompted primarily by a new intelligence source that officials say provided the government with specific information on the possible targets of an Al Qaeda plot during the holiday season.

     In a report by USA Today in January, four top government officials told the newspaper that the new source had revealed Las Vegas to be one of the potential targets on New Year’s Eve, as well as two Air France flights from Paris to Los Angeles on Christmas Day, an Aero Mexico flight from Mexico City to Los Angeles, and another Air France flight to Newark, N.J. Other sources identified possible threats to oil pipelines, refineries and nuclear power plants in or near Valdez, Alaska.; Belgium; Saudi Arabia; and Tappahanock, Va....


The city may not exist, but its value as training “site” is very real

     The city of San Luis Rey sounds marvelous, almost too good to be true. With fewer than 1 million residents, it boasts first-class transportation facilities, a nightlife along its canal district, and a history that goes back nearly 300 years. There’s only one hitch — it is too good to be true. It does not exist outside of a computer program.

     San Luis Rey is a fiction created down to its last square mile by Teleologic Learning Co., an Atlanta, Ill., software firm, as an online learning lab for students earning their master’s degrees in homeland security studies from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. The course was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security....


Heartland views of homeland security
Fargo: Some problems transcend state lines

     Our first and foremost issue as it relates to both homeland security and our ability to respond to emergencies or disasters, whether natural or man-made, always seems to come back to personnel. That continues to be a frustration in terms of the role of the federal government because we’re impacted in two ways. One, we continue to lose a significant number of our personnel to military call-ups. We have six officers right now who are deployed for indeterminate lengths of time who we really relied on to help us meet our patrol staffing levels. That’s very frustrating because there’s typically not a real clear-cut sense of how long these people will be gone, or even if there is a date when we expect them to be back. They’re often back just long enough to be redeployed again. At one point we were down as many as 19 officers and that was really a hardship. We got a lot of them back, and noticed a gradual drift again of people being sort of picked off here and there, often with almost no notice for either them or us, and as I said, really indeterminate lengths of time that make staffing a real challenge, depending on what their assignment might be within the department. So that’s hard.

     The other issue in terms of personnel is the loss of COPS program when it comes to funding new officers. I think we have really been a model community in terms of utilizing COPS funding in the way it was meant to be used, in bringing new officers on board and then keeping them. Out of all the officers hired through COPS funding over the past 10 years, none of the positions were ever eliminated or cut back. The city really put a lot of thought and effort into how we would make those long-term positions and help with the growth of the community....


St. Louis: Can we afford elevated security levels?

     In St. Louis the biggest issue we’re trying to get funded is interoperability with the fire department in St. Louis and with other police agencies in surrounding jurisdictions. Where that is heading is still being discussed. A lot of the infrastructure issues are resolved; we think we know what targets are most vulnerable. There are always ongoing conversations about what role the local law enforcement will play in immigration issues.

     But funding is really the paramount issue that everyone is relying on getting resolved. We’re still waiting for certain levels of equipment for our emergency response to be delivered since Sept. 11. Obviously, a lot of inventory’s been depleted, and there’s a lot of catching up to do. We’ve made some significant investments already. We’ve acquired what was available, and it’s a day-to-day thing to find out what’s been delivered and what hasn’t. We acquired a number of emergency response suits for radioactive issues, but we still had a number of those on delay....


DHS info net spreads to St. Louis

     The St. Louis metropolitan area received three new laptops in February in the first phase of an expansion of a Department of Homeland Security’s counterterrorism network.

     Called the Joint Regional Information Exchange System (JRIES), the $11-million computer-based communications system was designed to provide a secure method for real-time sharing of information on terrorist threats among emergency responders, law enforcement and ranking government officials. Wireless computers transmit photos, maps, streaming video and even data directly from crime scenes....


Volunteer CERT units get new impetus, focus from 9/11

     Created in the 1980s by the Los Angeles Fire Department to assist first-responders in the event of natural disasters, the Community Emergency Response Team has grown in both concept and application in the years after 9/11.

     According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which took notice of the program and began adapting it for national use in 1993, the response teams have expanded to more than 340 communities in 45 states. FEMA’s stated goal is to double the number of volunteers to 400,000 over the next two years. Some $19 million was budgeted for the training in FY2004. ...


Anti-terror concerns trump aesthetics as D.C. is wrapped in ring of security

     City planners in Washington, D.C., say they are fighting a losing battle with federal agencies who argue that the need for enhanced security measures in the form of barriers, metal detectors and electrified fences around buildings and monuments trumps aesthetic concerns.

     Hundreds of millions of dollars are expected to be spent in the next five to six years on fortifications. With barely 20 percent of the measures planned for designed or built, construction will continue into the foreseeable future....


Poison-pen letters:
Links sought — but not found — in ricin cases

     Assumptions and suppositions abound, but no formal connection has yet been established between the small amount of the deadly toxin ricin found in the office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in February, and packages containing the substance that were found some months earlier at a South Carolina postal facility and at a White House mail-processing center.

     The first ricin incident occurred on Oct. 15 at a postal facility serving the international airport in Greenville, S.C. A watertight metal container clearly marked poison held the substance, and a letter inside the package complained about new trucking regulations that require drivers to rest after 10 hours on the road. The author threatened to dump large amounts of the substance into drinking reservoirs if rest hours were not kept at their current level. The author is identified in the note as a “fleet owner of a tanker company,” and signs the letter “Fallen Angel.”...


Aiding & abetting terrorism — & falsely accusing others of same

     A student in Minneapolis arrested as a material witness was indicted on Jan. 21 on charges of providing material support and resources to the Al Qaeda terrorist group.

     Mohammed Abdullah Warsame, 30, a Canadian citizen of Somali descent, admitted that he attended a training camp in Afghanistan at the same time as Osama bin Laden, according to unsealed court documents. ...


Going postal:
Mistaken delivery bags domestic terrorists

     What began in 2002 with a package containing a trove of false documents mistakenly delivered to a Staten Island, N.Y., residence is expected to end with prison sentences for two Texans and a New Jersey man who pleaded guilty to domestic terrorism-related charges.

     The sentencing of William J. Krar, 62, his common-law wife Judith Bruey, 54, and Edward Feltus, 56, will cap the most extensive investigation of home-grown terrorism since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. ...


Judges have their say:
Terror issues make their way through courts

     Without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court in January let stand a federal appellate ruling that accepted an argument by the Bush administration against releasing the names of hundreds of mostly Muslim men who had been detained following Sept. 11, on the grounds that disclosing such information would jeopardize national security.

     Providing a complete list would “give terrorist organizations a composite picture of the government investigation,” a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had ruled last in June. “The judiciary owes some measure of deference to the executive in cases implicating national security,” said the majority....


TV or not TV, that is the question. . .
Misuse of security funds under scrutiny

     The use of anti-terrorism funds by a top former Massachusetts public safety official to buy a $17,000 plasma-screen television set may be just the tip of an iceberg, experts say, as other cities and states discover that money dispersed after Sept. 11 has found its way into projects which seem to have only a tenuous connection to homeland security.

     “We’re talking billions and billions, and this money ought to be spent according to national, minimum standards,” said Warren B. Rudman, a former U.S. senator from New Hampshire who now chairs the homeland security task force of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Unless we get these standards in place, we’re going to have money wasted.”...


FBI wants to tap Internet phone calls

     The ability of federal, state and local governments to protect public safety and national security would be jeopardized if online telephone calls were to be exempted from federal wiretapping provisions, according to a memo submitted to the Federal Communications Commission by representatives of the FBI and the Department of Justice

     At issue is regulation of the fast-growing technology of Internet phone service. Although it currently makes up just 1 percent of overall telecommunications revenue, calls made online are expected to transform the telecommunications industry in the next decade. Equipment revenue at companies providing the service totaled $3.3 billion in 2003, but could grow to $15.1 billion by 2007, according to Thomas Valovic, a program director at the technology research firm IDC in Boston. ...


“Crystal ball” is no substitute for proper intelligence sharing

     The FBI’s practice of denying local and state police access to sensitive federal information in “real time” is tantamount to asking that they rely on a “crystal ball method” to ensure that terrorists do not elude their grasp, according to a former bureau official.

     James Kallstrom, who retired as assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York office, and later headed the New York State Office of Public Security, testified in December before the New York State Legislature’s Temporary Joint Legislative Committee on Disaster Preparedness and Response. Kallstrom and former State Police Superintendent James McMahon, his successor as head of the public security office, told legislators that the state’s 70,000 officers need immediate access to federal data about security risks....


A-tumbling down:
FBI dismantles an investigative wall

     Like the Berlin Wall that once separated East and West Germany, the legal wall that previously existed between the FBI’s investigation of criminal and intelligence cases has come crumbling down.

     Under new guidelines, implemented throughout the course of 2003 and finalized last fall, agents working on either type of case will be allowed to share information. The policy change has already helped the bureau to disrupt plans for four terrorist attacks overseas and uncover a sleeper cell in the United States, according to senior FBI officials. The new guidelines have also prompted a surge in counterterrorism investigations. While the exact number is classified, officials said the figure currently stands at 1,000 cases....