of the Day
- February 9, 2010
some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood
activist across the country
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local
newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage
of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood
activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible
issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular
point of view ...
We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...
From LA Times
Marines focus on civilian safety in Afghanistan
Preparing for battle in a Taliban stronghold, the Marines are warning civilians to flee the area, and they plan restraint in their use of artillery and air power.
By Tony Perry and Laura King
February 9, 2010
Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan --
Heading into battle to seize a Taliban stronghold, U.S. Marines are keenly aware of one factor that could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory: Afghan civilian casualties.
Deaths of noncombatants in clashes involving Western troops and insurgents are one of the bitterest points of contention between President Hamid Karzai and his foreign allies. So in the weeks leading up to the imminent offensive to take the Helmand River Valley town of Marja in southern Afghanistan, the Marines' commander, Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, sat with dozens of Afghan tribal elders, drinking endless cups of sweet tea and offering reassurances that his top priority will be the safety of Afghan civilians.
"In counterinsurgency, the people are the prize," Nicholson said in an interview at Camp Leatherneck, the U.S. base in central Helmand province that is the main staging ground for the offensive.
The Marja operation has been publicized for months by the Marines. One reason Nicholson has taken that unusual step is to give civilians plenty of warning, decreasing the chances they will be caught in crossfire.
It is not clear whether the Taliban forces will fight in Marja or melt away, to regroup and fight elsewhere. But at a minimum, the Taliban has had months of warning to plant booby traps and roadside bombs. The Marines are equipped with 70-ton Assault Breacher Vehicles that fire line charges to detonate buried bombs in the path of advancing troops.
To minimize civilian casualties in the event of a battle, leaflets have been dropped in the Marja district, urging residents to get out of the area.
Many Afghans, however, are reluctant to leave homes and farms unattended. For cultural reasons, Pashtun tribesmen are also often unwilling to let women and children take shelter elsewhere without a male family member.
The Marja assault will be the largest joint effort by U.S., coalition and Afghan troops since the Taliban was chased from power in 2001, and the first major offensive since President Obama's decision to authorize sending 30,000 additional troops to the country.
It is also a test of whether a large-scale ground battle can be conducted in a densely populated setting without large numbers of civilian deaths and injuries. About 85,000 people live in Marja itself, and an estimated 45,000 more in outlying parts of the district.
When Marine battalions descended on Helmand province last summer, the commander of coalition troops in Afghanistan, Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, was formulating strict new rules of engagement meant to protect Afghan civilian lives.
McChrystal's focus on avoiding civilian casualties addresses repeated complaints from Karzai and other Afghan officials and reflects his view of the conflict as a counterinsurgency -- in which winning over civilians is crucial.
As they moved to seize a string of villages in the lower Helmand River Valley, Marine commanders were careful to limit the use of artillery and air power. Infantry troops were warned not to shoot at targets if there were civilians in the line of fire.
That restraint helped the Marines win a measure of acceptance from tribal elders. So did follow-up efforts to establish safety and governance: reopening bazaars, repairing irrigation canals, protecting local officials who were under Taliban threat.
"Until we can operate so the Afghan people believe that we are here to protect them in every way, we still have improvements to make," McChrystal told reporters in Kabul this week. "It is unlikely we will be perfect as long as the levels of insecurity are as difficult as they are, but to the degree that the people can help us, we'll stay completely focused on this."
To rally support in Marja, Nicholson has met repeatedly with the district's elders in tribal gatherings known as shura s.
Sitting recently with a dozen of what he described as the town's most important elders, Nicholson asked them to spread the word among their clansmen: Stay indoors when the fighting begins.
Any battle damage to homes, farms and business will be repaired, and compensation paid.
Hundreds of people have already fled the town, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross and provincial refugee officials. Some are taking shelter with relatives elsewhere in the province, or seeking safety in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.
But Nicholson and others expect the Taliban to push civilians into harm's way, in hopes that some will be killed and provide the insurgency with a propaganda victory.
"We are up against a cunning, immoral enemy who will try to exploit war among the people," said British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, commanding general of NATO's Regional Command South, which includes Helmand province. "We want to make sure all efforts are made to limit collateral damage."
At some meetings with elders, Nicholson has been accompanied by the commander of the Afghan forces, Brig. Gen. Mahayoodin Ghoori. His presence at Nicholson's side at the shuras is meant to convince elders that Afghan soldiers are full partners with the Marines in this operation.
The presence of Afghan troops is expected to be crucial to Marines' efforts to distinguish friend from foe in Marja -- determining, for example, whether a young fighting-age man is a farmer trying to watch over his lands or an insurgent trying to blend in with the populace.
But the Afghan forces are not infallible, either. Last week in neighboring Kandahar province, Afghan border police shot dead seven men they took to be Taliban fighters crossing over from Pakistan.
It turned out the slain men were unarmed villagers, probably gathering firewood, local officials said.
"It is natural that townspeople are afraid -- afraid of losing their lives in this fighting," said Abdul Hahad Hemandwal, an elder in Nad Ali district, which encompasses Marja. "But we have had lots of meetings with U.S. commanders, and we think they are trying very hard to avoid that."
Good morning, Afghanistan: Four-legged Marines (video)
Social Security numbers of nearly 50,000 Californians disclosed
February 8, 2010
California health officials have accidentally disclosed the Social Security numbers of nearly 50,000 of the state's most vulnerable residents.
The numbers were printed on the outside of envelopes sent to elderly patients of the Adult Day Health Care program, many of whom are blind or have Alzheimer's disease or other cognitive disabilities. The Department of Health Care Services sent the envelopes, which contained change-of-benefit notices, Feb. 1.
Officials have since sent follow-up letters advising recipients to destroy the envelopes and are advising patients to contact credit agencies to put a freeze on new accounts.
“Why isn't the state doing it for them?” asked Lydia Missaelides , executive director of the California Assn. for Adult Day services, who noted that the disclosure exposed the patients to identity theft.
State employees mistakenly included the Social Security numbers in a list of patient addresses, said Karen Johnson, chief deputy director of the Department of Health Care Services. The department sent the list to an outside contractor, who printed and mailed the envelopes.
Michael Jackson's personal physician pleads not guilty to involuntary manslaughter
February 8, 2010
Michael Jackson's personal physician entered a plea of not guilty Monday afternoon at a standing-room-only arraignment attended by Jackson's parents and several siblings.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Keith L. Schwartz set bail for Conrad Murray at $75,000 – three times the standard for involuntary manslaughter cases. The judge also forbade Murray from prescribing heavy sedatives, including propofol, to his patients.
“I don't want you sedating people,” the judge told Murray.
Murray, dressed in a light gray suit, remained silent throughout the hearing, other than to answer "yes" in a soft voice several times when the judge asked if he understood the terms of his bail and the rights he waived. At the conclusion of the hearing, Murray was taken into custody by sheriff's deputies and escorted from the courtroom.
Earlier Monday, prosecutors charged Murray with involuntary manslaughter in connection with administering a combination of surgical anesthetic and sedatives blamed in the music legend's death last summer.
In the last hours of his life, Jackson was given a powerful anesthetic -- propofol -- at a level equivalent to what would be used in “major surgery” and in a manner that did not live up to medical standards, according to the singer's autopsy report released by the L.A County coroner's office today.
The complaint filed by the county district attorney's office alleges that Murray “did unlawfully and without malice kill Michael Joseph Jackson, a human being, in the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to a felony; and in the commission of a lawful act which might have produced death, in an unlawful manner, and without due caution and circumspection.”
Jackson's parents, Kathryn and Joe, as well as some of his brothers arrived at the courthouse shortly after the charge was filed.
In a news release, the district attorney's office said Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren, a prosecutor in the major crimes division, would try the case. Walgren is also handling the attempt to extradite movie director Roman Polanski to face sentencing in a 3-decade-old child-sex case.
The release credited the LAPD and the county coroner's office for building the case against Murray. "Both agencies worked diligently and exhaustively to collect the evidence leading to the filing of the case,” the statement said.
Murray walked into the courthouse at 12:55 p.m. to shouts of “murderer” from a handful of Jackson fans whose presence was dwarfed by an international contingent of media that began camping out at the courthouse last week.
Brian Oxman, Joe Jackson's attorney, said some family members were disappointed that the physician was charged only with involuntary manslaughter.
The criminal case comes after a seven-month investigation that stretched from the master bedroom of Jackson's rented Holmby Hills mansion to the heart clinic that Murray ran in a poor neighborhood of Houston. The focus, however, rarely left Murray.
Within weeks of Jackson's death, detectives described the doctor as a manslaughter suspect in court papers that said he admitted leaving the singer alone and under the influence of propofol -- used to render surgical patients unconscious -- in a bedroom of the sprawling home.
The coroner's office ruled Jackson's death a homicide and said the cause was “acute propofol intoxication” in conjunction with the effect of other sedatives Murray acknowledged providing.
Despite the almost immediate focus on Murray -- authorities first questioned him in the hospital where doctors were working in vain to revive Jackson -- the multiagency probe that included federal and local investigators progressed slowly, and the doctor was not formally accused of wrongdoing until the district attorney's office filed its complaint.
Involuntary manslaughter is the least serious homicide charge available to prosecutors, its maximum punishment of four years in prison far less than the life sentence for murder or the 11 years for voluntary manslaughter. The charge, which applies to an unlawful killing committed without malice or intent to kill, turns on Murray's possible negligence in allegedly giving Jackson propofol for an unapproved purpose -- the treatment of insomnia -- and outside of the normal operating-room setting.
The drug, one of the most widely used general anesthetics in the nation, is so dangerous that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says only those trained in anesthesia should administer it.
Murray told police that he had been giving Jackson nightly intravenous doses of propofol for six weeks, about the time he began working for the performer, according to police affidavits filed in court. Murray, who was in debt and behind on child support payments, earned $150,000 a month treating Jackson and closed practices he operated in Las Vegas, where he lived, and Houston to join the performer in Los Angeles for rehearsals.
According to the affidavits, Jackson told the physician that for years other doctors had treated his chronic insomnia with doses of propofol, a white liquid the singer called “milk.”
Murray eventually became concerned that the singer was addicted and tried to wean him off the anesthetic, according to the affidavits. The day Jackson died, Murray had tried to get the performer to sleep using Valium and, later, two other sedatives, according to the affidavits. But Jackson remained awake for 10 hours, demanding propofol.
According to the affidavits, Murray said he relented and sat next to Jackson's bed as the propofol took effect. He told police he left for two minutes to use the restroom, and cellphone records indicate he also talked on the phone for 45 minutes, according to the affidavits. When he returned, Jackson was not breathing.
Through his attorney, Murray has maintained his innocence and said he did nothing that should have caused Jackson's death. In his only public comment -- a one-minute video released in August through his lawyer -- a somber-looking Murray expressed confidence that he would be exonerated.
“I told the truth, and I have faith the truth will prevail,” he said.
California is No. 1 in laws protecting animals, Humane Society reports
February 8, 2010
California has the strongest animal-protection laws in the country, with detailed regulations shielding animals from harm whether in homes, on farms, at racetracks or in the wild, the Humane Society of the United States reported Monday.
In a comprehensive analysis of the laws in each of the 50 states, the animal-welfare advocates ranked the Golden State No. 1 for the legal protections it has enacted across the animal kingdom. New Jersey, Colorado, Maine and Massachusetts also scored high in protecting pets and livestock. Idaho and South Dakota earned the lowest scores, in part for their failure to make egregious animal abuse a felony or to outlaw cockfighting.
California scored 45 on a 65-point checklist for laws governing conditions on farms, in shelters and in laboratories and for those dealing with breeders and commercial ventures. It is one of the few states that outlaws the use of animals in product testing when an alternative exists and gives students the right to choose an alternative to animal dissection in schools.
The state prohibits all forms of animal fighting and the keeping of primates, venomous snakes, bears, wolves and big cats as pets. It also outlaws force-feeding of geese for the production of foie gras, battery cages for egg-laying hens and tail-docking of dairy cows.
Bear hunting is allowed in the state, but trade in bear parts is prohibited. In equine protection, California is one of only four states to prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption.
"The trends are positive, but there are major gaps in the law throughout the nation," said Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society president. "Anemic animal protection laws in many states will allow cruelty and abuse to continue, and that must change."
The report said the Humane Society helped pass 121 new laws last year to strengthen animal protection.
The term 'Negro'? Color it obsolete
When a website pointed out that 'Negro' was going to appear once more on the 2010 census, many blacks reacted with shock and distaste. They see it as a relic of the bad old days of segregation.
By Erin Aubry Kaplan
February 8, 2010
America's Negro problem just won't quit. The Census Bureau has been using the term "Negro" as a racial identifier on its decennial forms since 1950, later joined -- though not supplanted -- by "black" and "African Am." But when the website thegrio.com recently pointed out that "Negro" was going to appear once more on the 2010 census, many black folks reacted with shock and pointed distaste. Bloggers and pundits condemned the term as a relic of the bad old days of segregation and Jim Crow that has no business in official records anymore.
The Census Bureau says it simply wants to ensure that everybody of color is counted, and that its meticulously vetted decision is based on the fact that more than 50,000 older blacks wrote in "Negro" on the last census, in 2000. But that purely scientific stance hasn't quelled the protests.
I get why. Though it was the accepted term until the late '60s, for those born after that, "Negro" is something they never answered to, a word that sounds only slightly less incendiary than "nigger." Even older blacks tend to use it ironically or sarcastically when they use it at all, as in: "Those Negroes just can't get it together." Its taint goes back to slavery, when Southerners paternalistically referred to even free blacks as "our Negroes." Contrast this unpleasantness with Barack Obama, who has established a 21st century standard of racial consideration that's figuring into just about every discussion of color these days. To blacks of all ages, "Negro" and President Obama sharing the same era just feels wrong -- maybe he isn't post-racial, but isn't he at least post-Negro?
This controversy may be new, but the angst about what to call ourselves is ancient. Over the last 40 years, we have self-identified as "black," "Afro-American" and "African American" in an attempt get out from under the subjugation represented by "Negro" and, before that, "colored." But the history of all this is hardly a straight line. "Black" is associated with '60s pride and power, but it was once considered derogatory and far less appropriate than "Negro," which evolved after emancipation into a relatively respectable term. "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," the stirring James Weldon Johnson song that will be performed regularly during African American History Month -- or is it Black History Month? -- started out as the "Negro National Anthem."
"Afro-American" has a similar reputation of '60s radicalism, but its use dates to the turn of the 20th century, a time when blacks were fighting for social inclusion against frightful odds; the magazine Advance described as part of its mission "obtaining for the Afro-American an equal chance." The term "African American," popularized in the '80s by Jesse Jackson, is an amalgam of all the terms before it that sought to bring a measure of peace to the conflicted notion of being a black American, a notion that demanded acknowledgment of citizenship and common history as well as a racial experience and identity that's separate and unique. But even the bold word "African" was not new, having had its turn in colonial times, when the First African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded. It had also been used by whites to describe slaves and blacks in general, and by the 19th century had fallen out of favor.
Like the president, I am part of that black generation whose lifetime spans pretty much all of the above. I was born a Negro in 1962 -- it's on my birth certificate -- and in short order became black, Afro-American and African American. Although I appreciate the impulse for self-definition and self-determination that attended each of these name changes, I can't say that any of them has impacted my life in any measurable way. I will say that I've never liked "African American" -- too cumbersome and self-conscious. Nor does it cover the African diaspora in America as neatly as the word "black," which most people of color I know use most commonly to describe themselves.
"African American" also gave too many blacks the sense that simply changing a name to something more dignified or ethnically accurate counts as racial progress. What it has mostly done is let us say that 30% of African Americans live in poverty, and that more than half of African American men of working age are unemployed in some cities. Do we value African Americans now more than we valued blacks or Negroes in the past? I submit that we don't. The real problem is not names at all, but the imperiled status of black people that persists from one age to the next, from one "acceptable" term to another.
That's acknowledged in the fact that, controversy notwithstanding, nobody today quibbles with the names of advocacy groups such as the National Council of Negro Women. In his civil rights rhetoric, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. repeatedly infused "the Negro" with urgency and even poetry, turning the isolation and alienation of the phrase into a powerful part of his argument for racial inclusion. Black leaders before him did the same thing with the often pejorative "the colored man." But that was then, and this is now: "Negro" is officially the last of the oppressor appellations, and for many people it's past time to retire it for good.
And so here we are in 2010. May I suggest that we count black folks any way that makes sense and turn our national attention to the big racial issues that really matter? Though it's interesting to note that when the 2000 census allowed people to check more than one racial category -- in a nod to mixed-race folks who objected to being identified as black only -- it fueled concerns among blacks/African Americans/Negroes that our numbers would diminish as our lines of demarcation blurred. Whatever you think about "Negro," whom it refers to is abundantly clear.
Haiti is a reminder of how we can help other quake-prone areas
The time to act is before disaster strikes, by preparing hospitals and other specialized teams to plan for the inevitable.
By Susan E. Hough
February 8, 2010
In the aftermath of the devastating Haiti earthquake, there are pressing scientific questions to be addressed. In particular, how far did the earthquake break extend, and what is the potential for subsequent large quakes on adjacent segments of the fault?
No seismologist can forget how, in April 1992, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake near Joshua Tree, Calif., turned out to be a forerunner of the much more massive magnitude 7.3 Landers earthquake two months later. Based on the statistics of the Haiti aftershocks so far, we can estimate a small but finite chance -- about 5% -- that another quake as large as 7.0 will strike Haiti in the next two years.
But although there are certainly things for seismologists to study and learn, most of the important lessons from the Haiti earthquake are old news. We have known for decades where the world's active earthquake zones are located. Infrequent big quakes in inactive areas will surprise us once in a while, but scientists can, and have, identified cities that are in the seismic cross-hairs: Tehran; Tokyo; Los Angeles; New Delhi; Lima, Peru; Istanbul, Turkey; and Chongqing, China. Sophisticated computer programs allow us to make predictions of the impact that future big quakes will have on big cities in terms of dollars and lives.
As far as damage goes, magnitude matters. Beyond that, it's location, location, location. The strongest shaking during an earthquake is, overwhelmingly, concentrated in immediate proximity to the fault that breaks. Thus the punch of a magnitude 6.5 quake is significantly diminished if it takes place 30 miles offshore.
It's the direct hits that we worry about. Darts miss the bull's-eye more often than they hit, but, where we have active faults near major cities, bull's-eyes are, eventually, inevitable. We can't predict the timing of earthquakes, but their devastation is all too foreseeable.
The potential for catastrophe in Haiti was well understood. Although not widely known among the public as an active earthquake zone, the Caribbean is known to scientists as a miniature Ring of Fire. Scientists have sounded alarm bells about the faults below Haiti for years, describing the potential for precisely the sort of earthquake that struck. They couldn't say exactly when it would happen, but they stated with near certainty that it would eventually happen.
Improving resilience in a city such as Port-au-Prince is no small feat. Earthquake scientists who push for improved hazard assessment and risk mitigation in developing countries know that progress is measured, at best, in baby steps. There is no magic wand we can wave to make the world safe. In some parts of the world, resource limitations can't be overcome. But even small steps add up, and can make a difference.
Imagine for a second that action had been taken to improve earthquake resilience for Haiti's hospitals. It would not have taken huge resources to accomplish this much.
Many researchers conclude that our one best hope lies in training and supporting local earthquake professionals in places with high potential for risk. These individuals would then be in a position to work with local officials and decision-makers on planning for the inevitable.
The degree of earthquake resilience that we have today in California is the result of a process that began a century ago, nudged along by pioneering geologists and seismologists who first began to understand the nature of our earthquake problem. Yet even today, vulnerabilities remain in California. As in Haiti before Jan. 12, the southernmost section of the San Andreas has not produced a massive earthquake in more than two centuries. Earthquake professionals remain concerned about the likelihood of a quake much bigger in size and impact than the one in Northridge in 1994.
But the biggest potential for widespread death and injury in earthquakes is in the developing world. We watch the disasters play out on our living-room televisions, and we want to help. We want to do something.
The time to most effectively help, though, is in advance. While the horrific images from Haiti are fresh in our minds, let's look at what can be done in other developing countries at risk for future seismic disasters.
Susan E. Hough is a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena.
From the Washington Times
Ayatollah: Iran's military will 'punch' West
by Eli Lake
The Iranian government on Monday stepped up military threats in advance of an anniversary celebration as major powers continued talks on a new round of sanctions.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in Tehran that his country would stun the Western world on Thursday, the 31st anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution. Iran's defense minister announced on Monday that its forces had conducted successful tests on new armed unmanned aircraft and advanced air defenses.
"The Iranian nation, with its unity and God's grace, will punch the arrogance [Western powers] on the 22nd of Bahman [Feb. 11] in a way that will leave them stunned," Ayatollah Khamenei was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse.
The anniversary is expected to produce a new round of anti-government demonstrations as Iranian opposition groups continue to protest the June 12 presidential election that resulted in acts of civil disobedience. Former prime minister and opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi has called for anti-government demonstrations timed to coincide with the nationwide commemoration of the revolution on Thursday.
Also on Monday, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, notified the agency in a letter that Tehran will begin the enrichment of uranium to 20 percent levels for use in medical equipment, and that it would add 10 nuclear sites in the coming year, raising new fears about its covert nuclear program.
According to the IAEA report from November, Iran possesses 1.8 tons of low-enriched uranium that has been enriched to 3.5 percent. An atomic bomb requires uranium to be enriched to 90 percent.
Ahmad Vahidi, the Iranian defense minister who is also wanted by Interpol for his role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Argentina, announced that Iran had successfully tested a drone attack craft that cannot be detected by sensors.
On Monday, senior officials from the United States, France and Russia suggested that tougher sanctions against Iran are forthcoming.
"The only thing we can do, alas, is apply sanctions given that negotiations are impossible," Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, said Monday in Paris.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, also in Paris, suggested that Iran would face new sanctions.
Last week, Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair told Congress that the United States did not know whether Iran's leader had ordered the construction of a nuclear weapon to proceed.
A U.S. intelligence official urged caution on reports of Iran's new weapons development. The official said Monday, "While the Iranians are up to more than their share of mischief, they're good storytellers, too, especially when it comes to talk of their military and nuclear capabilities."
The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said: "They've certainly been known to exaggerate for effect, and that appears to apply to their claims of massive production plans in the atomic field and supposedly undetectable attack drones, too."
David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said Iran's technical achievement does not always match its boasts. However, he said the announcement of Iran's plans to enrich uranium to nearly 20 percent was provocative.
"From a technical point of view, it may not mean much depending on how much they enrich," he said.
But he added that it was a provocative political gesture.
"From a political point of view, you can't know how much they will enrich and it calls for increased sanctions and application of more measures to contain and isolate Iran," he said.
Michael Adler, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, said, "Iran's increasing uranium enrichment to just under 20 percent would be a significant expansion of its nuclear work, since it would bring it much closer to being able to make weapons-grade uranium."
"Iran says it is doing this for the most peaceful of purposes, to make isotopes for medical diagnosis, but it will only feed U.S. concerns that Tehran seeks nuclear weapons," Mr. Adler said.
"The frustration for Washington is that it is hard to see how the current U.S. push for new sanctions will slow Iran down at this point, unless [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is just blustering or trying to make a deal."
Army warned about jihadist threat in '08
by Bill Gertz
Almost two years before the deadly Fort Hood shooting by a radicalized Muslim officer, the U.S. Army was explicitly warned that jihadism — Islamic holy war — was a serious problem and threat to personnel in the U.S., according to participants at a major Army-sponsored conference.
The annual Army anti-terrorism conference in Florida in February 2008 included presentations on the threat by counterterrorism specialists Patrick Poole, Army Lt. Col. Joseph Myers and Terri Wonder.
The meeting was organized by the Army's provost marshal general and included more than 350 force protection and anti-terrorism professionals who came from major Army installations and commands from around the world, according to participants.
Mr. Poole, a counterterrorism specialist and adviser to government and law-enforcement agencies, said his presentation and that of the other two counterterrorism experts "attempted to instruct these anti-terrorism and force protection professionals not just in the indicators of Islamic jihadism, but also the strategic deficiencies in the military comprehension of the overall jihadist threat."
The shooting at a recruiting center in Little Rock, Ark., in June and the November shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, that killed 13 people have exposed the problem of the Army's deficiencies in understanding the nature of the domestic Islamic terrorist threat, Mr. Poole said.
The incidents have raised questions about whether the Army made any effort to "operationalize" the threat warnings from the 2008 conference and develop policies to counter the threats. "The answer quite clearly is no," Mr. Poole said.
Col. Myers said in an interview that he was a key speaker at the annual conference and spoke there based on his role as a force protection instructor-trainer.
He also had conducted an organizational review of the Pentagon's Anti-Terrorism Operations Intelligence Cell, a group that provides strategic threat warnings to the Army.
"I noted that because of our lack of understanding of Islamic doctrines, Islamic Jihad and my view that our counterintelligence function is broken, outdated and being usurped in some cases by public affairs and equal opportunity officials, we were going to get soldiers killed in America, on our own bases for that professional ignorance," he said, adding that his comments were his personal views and not those of the service.
Col. Myers said he told the conference that senior military and defense officials were involved in outreach programs to "organizations affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and snapping pictures with its foundational leaders in our country."
"The Muslim Brotherhood, also known as the Ikhwan al Muslimeen, is a global jihad organization that fundamentally shares the same objectives as the 'combat jihad' groups like al Qaeda, but orients on 'cultural jihad' — subversion, infiltration and proselytization," he said. "By its own long-standing strategic documents, … they say they exist in America to destroy our civilization and replace it with an Islamic one."
Army spokesman Lt. Col. Nathan Banks declined to comment on the specifics of the Army conference.
However, "in light of the Fort Hood tragedy, we are currently reviewing potential vulnerabilities and methods of combating external and internal threats," Col. Banks said.
The Pentagon-wide review led by former Army Secretary Togo West and retired Adm. Vern Clark, former chief of naval operations, as well as an Army review "have been focused on identifying those vulnerabilities and developing ways to mitigate those threats," Col. Banks said.
Mr. Poole said the Pentagon's outreach program to some Muslim groups, including photographs of senior defense officials associating with questionable domestic Muslim leaders and groups, gave "legitimacy" to some of the organizations promoting the ideology embraced by Maj. Nidal Hasan, the suspect in the shooting rampage at Fort Hood that killed 13 people.
"These embarrassing photo-ops occur because the military is not well-schooled on the jihadist threat in America, and because fundamentally the national security establishment does not have a fully elaborated threat model for the global and domestic jihad," Mr. Poole said. "In many instances, relationships and events with terror-tied Islamic groups and leaders are organized by public affairs flacks and never vetted by counterintelligence agencies."
Mr. Poole said an example was a lecture on Islam that was given to U.S. troops at Fort Hood by Louay Safi as the troops were preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. Mr. Poole said Mr. Safi had been captured on FBI communications intercepts talking to a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader in the U.S. Additionally, Mr. Safi's office had been raided by the FBI in 2002 as part of a terrorism finance probe.
"Amazingly, a Fort Hood spokesman later claimed that Safi had been fully vetted," Mr. Poole said. "If thats true, who was doing the vetting and what standards were they using?"
Ms. Wonder, a third speaker at the conference, also presented several case studies showing indicators and warnings of mosques in the U.S. that were taken over by Islamic radicals, many linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. The mosques are being used as "hubs" and support systems for active terrorist cells, she told the conference.
Col. Myers said his presentation in 2008 represents a failure to strategically understand the full nature of the threat facing the United States in the war on terrorism. "Unfortunately, such strategic failings at senior leader levels cannot help but result in tactical failings, such as the Fort Hood terrorist attack," he said. "It demonstrates that we don't get it."
Mr. Poole noted the case of Army Sgt. Hasan Karim Akbar, who killed two fellow soldiers in Kuwait in 2003. Akbar was sentenced to death for the killing.
"Our conclusion was that ignorance and inaction keeps our troops vulnerable," Mr. Poole said. "But our warnings were ignored and no policies were changed. And in 2009, 13 soldiers and one civilian employee paid with their lives."
Col. Myers said the Army's recent report on the Fort Hood shooting, like much of current military doctrine, focused on capabilities and deficiencies, process and procedures but failed to address the threat.
"We continue to act and talk as though we don't understand it and that there is a level of 'uncertainty' — a word overused today in military parlance — as to who our enemy is and at this point, that can no longer be tolerated," he said.
"All federal and commissioned officers take an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, and that mandates a duty to be clear on who the enemies of our Constitution are, and a failure to know is a failure of duty."
From the Department of Homeland Security
Secretary Napolitano Launches Public Engagement Website
Web tool will increase transparency, collaboration as part of Open Government Initiative
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today announced the launch of a new online public engagement tool designed to solicit input from the public on ways to enhance transparency, participation, collaboration and innovation at the Department—part of President Obama's Open Government Directive.
"Creating an open, transparent, more efficient and effective government is one of our top priorities at the Department of Homeland Security," said Secretary Napolitano. "This new online tool allows the public to play a major part in our Department-wide efforts to enhance openness and accessibility."
The new online tool—available from Feb.6-March 19 at www.dhs.gov/open allows members of the public and interested stakeholders to submit ideas and suggestions on ways DHS can enhance transparency, participation, collaboration and innovation—while saving taxpayer money.
The ideas submitted will help guide the development of an official DHS Open Government plan.
On Dec. 8, 2009, President Obama issued the Open Government Directive to begin breaking down long-standing barriers between the federal government and the people it serves, and instructed agencies to take immediate, specific steps to open their doors and data to the American people. Agencies across the federal government will begin engaging the public through similar online tools this week.
For more information, visit www.dhs.gov/open
FEMA Releases Draft National Disaster Recovery Framework
WASHINGTON - The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with the interagency Long Term Disaster Recovery Working Group, today issued a draft of the National Disaster Recovery Framework —focused onengaging state, local and tribal governments, nonprofit partners, the private sector, and the public to enhance the nation's ability to recovery from disasters.
The report is now available for review by visiting DisasterRecoveryWorkingGroup.gov. The comment period will begin next week when the report is also posted to the Federal Register, and the comment period will run from that time through Feb. 26, 2010. This comment period continues the extensive stakeholder outreach efforts undertaken by the interagency Long Term Disaster Recovery Working Group, established in October 2009 by President Obama and co-chaired by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan.
The National Disaster Recovery Framework provides a model to collectively identify and address challenges that arise during the disaster recovery process—designed to help the broad emergency management community work better together to support individuals, households and communities as they rebuild and restore their ways of life following a disaster.
Prior to today's release, the Recovery Framework was developed based on input from all levels of government, the private sector, academic and emergency management communities, voluntary and non-profit organizations, and a wide array of associations and organizations—collected through meetings and briefings across the country; online engagement; and a series of video teleconferences and stakeholder forums in five key cities.
The Recovery Framework document will be available next week at www.regulations.gov in Docket FEMA-2010-0004. Individuals and other stakeholders who wish to submit comments can do so at www.regulations.gov using the Docket identification number as a search term.
The Long Term Disaster Recovery Working Group—comprised of more than 20 federal departments, agencies and offices—will provide President Obama with recommendations on ways to improve the capabilities of individuals, communities and the nation's economy to withstand and rapidly recover from disasters.
For more information about the Recovery Framework , visit http://www.fema.gov/recoveryframework . Information about the Long Term Disaster Recovery Working Group is available at http://disasterrecoveryworkinggroup.gov . FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.
From the Department of Justice
New Jersey Man Indicted for Threatening Employees of Latino Civil Rights Organizations
WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury in Trenton, N.J., has charged Vincent Johnson of Brick, N.J., with threatening employees of five civil rights organizations that work to improve opportunities for and challenge discrimination against Latinos in the United States, announced Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, and Paul J. Fishman, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.
The 14-count indictment, returned by the grand jury on Feb. 4, 2010, alleges that between November 2006 and February 2009, Johnson, using the internet username "Devilfish579", repeatedly sent threatening e-mail communications to employees of the LatinoJustice Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund; the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund; the National Council of La Raza; the League of United Latin American Citizens; and the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders. The indictment further alleges that Johnson intended to place the victims in fear of bodily injury and that Johnson acted because the victims were aiding and encouraging persons of Latino descent to participate without discrimination in activities provided by the federal and state governments.
According to the indictment, among multiple e-mails Johnson sent, in November 2006, he wrote "[d]o you have a last will and testament? If not, better get one real soon." Additionally, in January 2007, Johnson sent two e-mails to the victims, stating "[o]ur guns are loaded and we will take you out as well whether by the courts or by true fire power" and "[i]f the idiots in the organizations which this e-mail is being copied to can't fathom the serious nature of their actions, then they will be on the hit list just like any illegal alien...actually, they are already on the list." In February 2007, he wrote "I am giving you fair warning that your presence and position is being tracked...you are dead meat...along with anyone else in your organization." In September 2007, he sent two e-mails, in which he wrote "my preference would be to buy more ammunition to deal with the growing chaos created by the pro-illegal alien groups. RIP [names] who are not the friends of our democracy" and "[a]fter reading the article below can you give me simply one good reason why someone should not put a bullet between your eyes for your actions that are promoting lawlessness in this country?"
The indictment charges Johnson with five counts of transmitting threatening communications in interstate commerce and four counts of using a computer service to place a person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury, commonly known as cyberstalking, each of which carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Johnson is also charged with five counts of interfering with the exercise of civil rights, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
An indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
The case was investigated by the Washington Field Office of the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Benjamin J. Hawk of the Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney in Charge Thomas Eicher of the District of New Jersey.
From the ATF
ATF Form 4473 — Who Handles Your Paperwork?
Each year, across this great nation, responsible federally licensed firearm dealers perform millions of firearm transactions. Whether it is selling a firearm to a first-time buyer, hunter or sportsperson, a collector, someone concerned about personal or home defense, or just a customer who wants to enjoy the great outdoors, your primary responsibility remains the same — the correct completion of ATF Form 4473.
During the last decade, this form has evolved into an important “gatekeeper” role to ensure proper transfer of firearms to a qualified individual. The form includes non-licensee and licensee information, probing questions, background approvals or denials, consideration of state law logistics and detailed firearm information pertaining to the manufacturer, importer, model and serial number of the firearm. It also wields three and one-half pages of instructions, and is backed by the 1968 Gun Control Act, the Brady Bill and a 483-page State Law book that makes good reading for most insomniacs.
Lastly, and most important, the form calls for the name and position of the person actually transferring the firearm. As responsible Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs), dealers know better than anyone that selling and transferring a firearm is much different than selling a “widget.” Although each of us seeks to maximize sales and profits, we understand fully our special responsibility to our friends, neighbors and communities to do everything in our power to ensure the lawful transfer of a firearm to a qualified purchaser.
Whether you are a big-box retailer employing 200 or more employees, or a small gun shop in the middle of the north woods with two employees, the scenario is the same. We place this critically important transfer process in the hands of our employees. Every retail dealer has or should have some type of training program for their employees on the correct procedures in completing ATF Form 4473.
This can be simple and basic training, or more elaborate programs, which may involve computer-based training and perhaps weeks of shadowing experience by trained employees.
What policies does your store or company have regarding the correct completion of ATF Form 4473? How do you handle mistakes made by your employees? Your customers? As important as these forms are to the livelihood of a store owner, not to mention ensuring public safety in the neighborhood, where do you draw the line on who handles this paperwork?
Train, Coach And Evaluate
I'm not going to tell you how to handle serious or minor infractions on ATF Form 4473; however, I will advise you to take ATF in your confidence when you do find mistakes. They actually do care, and do not want a dealer to wind up being a headline in the newspaper or a breaking story on CNN .
What I will share with you are some common points to ponder in the way you train and coach your employees to ensure they complete the task of a proper and correct firearm transfer.
- Train your employees well. Spend time coaching your employees and answering their questions — remember, repetition builds confidence and skill.
- Let your employees know how important following applicable gun-control laws are, both from a business and public-responsibility standpoint. Be firm, but not threatening.
- Give your employees reasons why it is important: public safety. It is their friends and family who live in the neighborhood, as well. And your Federal Firearms License — you can lose it if they do not follow the law.
- When they make mistakes, make sure your employees understand, in detail, the nature of their error, and involve them in the correction process. This usually prevents the same mistakes from happening again.
- Use second and third checks to ensure proper completion of Form 4473. This will lower stress on the employee, knowing another set of eyes will assist in accuracy.
- When errors occur, hold your employees accountable, and be consistent with retraining and counseling.
- Do not use intimidation or “zero tolerance” policies. This may cause some employees to make mistakes and hide them in fear of losing their job, causing problems for you down the road during an ATF Inspection when the investigator catches it. Evaluate and respond to each situation based on the circumstances.
Decision Is Yours
Now, here is some practical advice for an owner, manager or supervisor. You have to realize that not everyone is detail oriented enough to be a good firearms employee. They may have all of the firearm knowledge in the world, but if they cannot ensure “The Form” is completed properly, you may need to make a change. So, again I ask, where do you draw the line on who handles this paperwork?
Coach your employees in becoming fluent in completing ATF Form 4473.
I cannot tell you where to draw the line at your firearm counter. I will say, if you have given your employees good training, coaching and an opportunity to own part of the process, rather than just be a tool in the transaction, you have given them the basic ingredients to be successful firearm salespersons. If they make mistakes, and coaching, retraining and counseling does not deter them from making further mistakes, then you truly have a decision to make on their future employment in firearm sales.
So the decision is yours. My advice is be a part of the solution, not the problem. If you are the owner, manager or supervisor of a firearm department or store, be involved. Know how your employees conduct firearm transactions. Understand their level of knowledge and attention to detail. Use this to coach your employees in becoming fluent in completing ATF Form 4473. Trust your employees, but verify they are getting it right by auditing their work early and often.
Lastly, help them to become Compliance Champions and not Compliance Catastrophes. Our industry does not win if we, as responsible firearm dealers, do not do our part in transferring firearms legally, to the best of our abilities, while using good judgment.
About the author: Kevin McKown is the director of Regulatory & Firearm Compliance for GanderMountain, with responsibility for 117 stores. I love the shooting sports, and want to do my part to try and make it a little better, he said.