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Archive for the 'Homeland security' Category

Lawmakers seek update on power station attack

Silicon Valley’s House members want an update on the Department of Homeland Security’s investigation of the sniper attack on PG&E’s Metcalf power substation last April.

METCALF plant 020614Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Mike Honda, D-San Jose; wrote a letter Thursday to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

“Although the damage from the Metcalf incident was largely contained, the potential for a catastrophic attack impacting both our electric grid and communications infrastructure is evident,” the lawmakers wrote. “As we understand it, rolling blackouts throughout our region were narrowly averted. The Metcalf attack, while sophisticated, was relatively small. A larger attack is not difficult to imagine and the effects could be crippling.”

Somebody fired rifle rounds last April to take out 17 transformers and 6 circuit breakers, causing $15.4 million in damage at the facility near Coyote Ranch Road in South San Jose. Nobody was hurt and nobody lost power, but circumstances suggest it was a planned attack.

Given the Bay Area’s high concentration of Fortune 500 companies, patent generation and economic productivity, a successful attack on the area’s power grid “would impact not only our region but our country as a whole,” they wrote.

The lawmakers asked Johnson to respond by March 14 with a summary of his department’s work on the incident, including the initial emergency response; work since the incident on improving protection of critical infrastructure, emergency mitigation and coordination with other agencies; recommendations for more improvements; and guidance on whether any congressional action is needed.

Posted on Friday, February 21st, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Homeland security, Mike Honda, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »

Swalwell speaks at social media/disaster hearing

Rep. Eric Swalwell served as the top Democrat at a House Homeland Security subcommittee hearing Tuesday on how the government can use social media and new technologies in disaster relief and recovery.

“Just this past weekend we saw how critical and relevant social media can be in times of crisis following the SFO crash, and it’s our job to figure out how the government can best use technology in a disaster situation to respond effectively and efficiently,” Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, said in a news release. “We have challenges to overcome, such as verifying information as accurate and making more government data open source, and this hearing was a step to learning best practices so we can take advantage of the opportunities presented by social media when disaster strikes.”

Swalwell noted that after the Boston Marathon bombings, a quarter of Americans reportedly looked to Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites for information. He asked expert witnesses Tuesday how the government can accurately verify information gained from social media and integrate social media into disaster recovery plans with limited resources, while respecting individual privacy.

The Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications heard today from Shayne Adamski, senior manager of digital engagement at the Federal Emergency Management Agency; Suzanne DeFrancis, chief public affairs officer at the American Red Cross; Albert Ashwood, director of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management; and Sgt. Greg Kierce, director of the Jersey City Office of Emergency Management & Homeland Security. Swalwell filled in for ranking Democrat Donald Payne, D-N.J., who had joined his Congressional Black Caucus colleagues for a meeting with President Obama.

Read Swalwell’s remarks as prepared for delivery, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, July 9th, 2013
Under: Eric Swalwell, Homeland security, Technology in politics, U.S. House | No Comments »

TSA delays knife policy; Swalwell declares victory

U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell is declaring now that the Transportation Security Administration has decided to delay implementing its new policy allowing certain knives and sporting equipment on plans.

Swalwell, a freshman member of the Homeland Security Transportation Subcommittee, had taken a lead role in grilling TSA officials at hearings and organizing other House members to write in opposition to the policy, which they say was revised without adequate input from pilots and flight attendants.

“Today’s announcement by TSA is welcome news for airline passengers and crews,” Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, said in a news release. “I appreciate that TSA Administrator Pistole listened to the 133 Members of Congress who signed our letter asking for this reversal in policy, stakeholders like pilots and flight attendants, and the general public who oppose this disturbing decision. This delay in implementation is a positive step by the Administrator that will allow stakeholders to have their rightful input into a decision that directly affects their safety and that of the flying public.”

Posted on Monday, April 22nd, 2013
Under: Eric Swalwell, Homeland security, Terrorism, Transportation, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

ACLU demands cops’ data on cell-phone tracking

The American Civil Liberties Union’s California affiliates sent a letter to more than 50 law enforcement agencies across the state today demanding to know when, why and how police are using mobile phone location data and deploying other surveillance technology to track people.

In the greater Bay Area, the ACLU’s Public Records Act requests went to the police departments in Oakland, San Jose, Fremont, Richmond, San Francisco, Vallejo, San Rafael, Novato, Manteca and Stockton, as well as to the Marin and Solano sheriffs.

EnemyOfTheStateIt’s part of a national ACLU initiative based on revelations that Sprint received over 8 million demands in 13 months for location information; Michigan police sought information about every mobile phone near the site of a planned labor protest; researchers disclosed this spring that iPhones collect and store location data; and the National Security Agency’s general counsel last week suggested to members of Congress that the agency might have authority to collect location information on American citizens inside the U.S.

In addition to collection of mobile phone location data, the ACLU is asking the same questions about police use of information gathered from social networking sites, book providers, GPS tracking devices, automatic license plate readers, public video surveillance cameras and facial recognition technology.

“Unless we require transparency on the part of police agencies, powerful new methods of surveillance will become powerful new methods of invading our privacy,” Northern California ACLU staff attorney Linda Lye said in a news release.

The letter asks police agencies to cough up statistics on how agencies are obtaining, using, storing and sharing personal information; the stated purpose for gathering personal information, guidelines on how long the data is kept, when and how it is deleted, and whether privacy safeguards exist; training materials, policies or protocols provided to officers to guide them in the use of these tools; whether police demonstrate probable cause and get a warrant to access mobile phone location data and to collect other detailed personal information; and data on the effectiveness of the use of digital surveillance in identifying or arresting suspects.

Posted on Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011
Under: Civil liberties, Homeland security, Public safety | 1 Comment »

Christian charity gets bogus MLB gear seized in SF

No, that poor kid in Malawi isn’t necessarily a Giants fan: Counterfeit Major League Baseball clothing seized during last year’s playoffs and World Series will be donated to needy people overseas, the Department of Homeland Security announced.

DHS officials will hold a news conference tomorrow in San Francisco to show off some of the more than 2,000 items of counterfeit MLB clothing seized by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations directorate in and around AT&T Park last fall. The feds estimate that had the merchandise been genuine, it would have retailed domestically for more than $150,000.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which has the bogus gear now, will turn the seized items over to World Vision – a “Christian humanitarian organization” based in Washington State helping impoverished children and families around the globe. “Motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ, we serve alongside the poor and oppressed as a demonstration of God’s unconditional love for all people,” the group’s website says.

“The sale of counterfeit goods causes immeasurable harm to the U.S. economy, but through charitable efforts like this, at least some good can come from these crimes,” Shane Folden, special agent in charge for ICE Homeland Security Investigations in San Francisco, said in a news release today.

ICE HSI and CBP intellectual property rights enforcement efforts led to nearly 20,000 seizures in FY 2010, a 34 percent increase over the previous year. The seized goods had a total value of $1.4 billion, based upon the manufacturer’s suggested retail price had the products been legitimate.

Posted on Monday, June 27th, 2011
Under: Homeland security | No Comments »

More politicos react to Osama bin Laden’s demise

I’ve just filed a story based on conversations I had today with several Bay Area members of Congress regarding the slaying of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, but other politicos have a lot to say on the matter, too…

From U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano:

“The death of Osama bin Laden is an important success not only for the United States, but the entire world. Our efforts to combat terrorism, however, do not fixate on one individual, and we remain completely focused on protecting our nation against violent extremism of all kinds.

“We remain at a heightened state of vigilance, but the Department of Homeland Security does not intend to issue an NTAS alert at this time. I have been clear since announcing NTAS in January that we will only issue alerts when we have specific or credible information to convey to the American public. However, our security posture, which always includes a number of measures both seen and unseen, will continue to respond appropriately to protect the American people from an evolving threat picture both in the coming days and beyond.

“I commend the President and offer my gratitude to the men and women who defend and protect our nation at home and abroad, whether they wear a military or law enforcement uniform or serve as one of thousands of unsung heroes in the intelligence and homeland security community. It is true that we are stronger and safer than we were on 9/11 – not only because Osama bin Laden is dead, but because of the unflagging dedication and hard work of so many people throughout the world committed to freedom and security.”

From former Congressman and possible 2012 Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich:

“The killing of Osama bin Laden is a significant victory in the long struggle between radical Islamists and modern civilization.

“This victory is a tribute to the patient endurance of American justice. I commend both President George W. Bush who led the campaign against our enemies through seven long years and President Obama who continued and intensified the campaign in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We should remember to thank those who made this possible. Without the courage and professionalism of our men and women in uniform and in the intelligence services, this victory would not have been achieved.

“This victory is only a milestone in a long war. We must also recognize the long struggle ahead. Radical Islamism did not start with bin Laden and it will not end with his death. This is the 32nd year since the Iranian dictatorship seized our diplomats illegally and held them hostage for 444 days. It has been 28 years since Iranian-supported terrorists killed 241 servicemen in Beirut in 1983.

“As long as there are schools teaching children to hate; as long as there are state-supported terrorist systems; as long as several countries actively recruit children to be suicide bombers; this war will continue.

“The world is a better place without Osama bin Laden, but his just demise cannot erase the loss and suffering of the families and friends of those who died on September 11 or died fighting in the war since September 11. So while we are celebrating this victory, we should take time to remember all who suffered and sacrificed and pray for them.”

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“Tonight, Americans can be grateful that President Obama brought bin Laden to justice. Our friends as well as our adversaries throughout the world can be assured of America’s resolve in combating terrorism and protecting the values of democracy and freedom.”

From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom:

“On this night of remarkable accomplishment, Californians and Americans everywhere honor our Commander-in-Chief and our brave men and women wearing our nation’s uniform and serving our country around the world. We will never forget the despicable legacy of terror that ended today nor the thousands of innocent lives it destroyed. But, now, thanks to the heroism of U.S. intelligence and military personnel, our national family has a true measure of justice and the world is surely a safer place.”

From Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber:

“The death of Osama bin Laden is testimony to the relentless pursuit of justice by the United States since 9/11 through both the Bush and Obama administrations. Our United States military have again demonstrated their professionalism and excellence. Terrorists from bin Laden to the lowest operative know there are consequences for their heinous deeds.

“This, of course, does not diminish the sorrow of all who have lost loved ones in those cowardly attacks on our homeland. Hopefully, the death of this terrorist will bring some finality and sense of justice to them. We must not now let up, but rather redouble our resolve to seek and find others who would continue to do us harm. The War on Terror must continue.”

Posted on Monday, May 2nd, 2011
Under: Assembly, Gavin Newsom, Homeland security, Jerry Brown, War on Terror | 12 Comments »

Local Dems weigh in domestic terror hearing

Bay Area members of Congress are speaking out against what they see as bias in today’s House Homeland Community Committee hearing on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.”

Reps. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, and John Dingell, D-Mich., led 55 of their colleagues in sending a letter to committee chairman Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., to refocus the upcoming hearings on Muslim Americans and homegrown terrorism in order to examine all forms of violence motivated by any sort of extremism.

Congress and the government do have a duty to protect America from foreign or domestic terrorism, they agreed, but they’re concerned that King’s hearing’s “narrow scope and underlying premises” will unfairly stigmatize and alienate Muslim Americans.

“We believe that the tone and focus of these hearings runs contrary to our nation’s values,” the lawmakers wrote. “Muslim Americans contribute to our nation’s wellbeing in many professions including as doctors, engineers, lawyers, firefighters, business entrepreneurs, teachers, police officers and Members of Congress. Their hard work helps to make our country exceptional.”

“Furthermore, casting a negative light on an entire community— rather than focusing on actual dangerous fringes will only strain community relationships and trust that local, state and federal law enforcement agencies have worked hard to develop,” they continued. “Muslim Americans are an integral part of our larger American society and should be treated as such, not viewed with suspicion.”

“The choice between our values of inclusiveness and pluralism and our security is a false one.”

Among those signing the letter were Reps. George Miller, D-Martinez; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, posted a similar sentiment to her Facebook page this morning.

“Today’s Homeland Security Committee hearing, which will profile and demonize an entire community of people based on their faith, undermines the values we stand for as Americans,” Speier wrote. “Radicalization and homegrown terrorism are serious and legitimate concerns that deserve thoughtful examination, not an ideologically motivated charade.”

Posted on Thursday, March 10th, 2011
Under: Barbara Lee, George Miller, Homeland security, Jackie Speier, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, U.S. House, War on Terror, Zoe Lofgren | 18 Comments »

Stimulus $$$ for Oakland airport security

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says $7,721,355 will be split between six California airports – in Oakland, Bakersfield, Redding, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and San Diego — to update explosive detection systems and X-Ray units.

The money comes from the first $50 million spent by the Transportation Security Administration out of the total $1 billion included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus package. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said she’s pleased as can be.

“The economic recovery package continues to help fund priorities in California and across our country,” she said. “In this case, I am so pleased that TSA is investing in equipment upgrades to make sure our airports have the most effective technology to keep us safe.”

Posted on Friday, May 8th, 2009
Under: Barbara Boxer, Homeland security, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Ceremony for new Americans is emotional

I had the great privilege this morning to deliver the keynote speech to a group of nearly 1,000 people from more than 100 countries in the moments after they took their oath of U.S. citizenship. The ceremony was held at the grant old Paramount Theater in Oakland.

It was a very moving experience and I started my remarks more than a little teary-eyed. After all, I had never chosen to be a U.S. citizen. My ancestors did that for me when they boarded the Mayflower in 1620.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, naturalizes about 2,000 people a month in the Bay Area and roughly 1 million a year nationwide.

As a political writer, I urged our newest citizens to register to vote, help a candidate get elected or even better yet, run for office. Governing this great country takes hard work and the more of its citizens that shoulder the load, the easier the lift.

What I didn’t know when I wrote the speech was that political parties routinely station themselves with registration forms outside the venues where the new citizens take their oath! It wasn’t a conspiracy, I swear. But I hope they at least took home the forms and will spend the necessary time researching the party that best fits their politics even if it’s “decline to state.”

As a sidenote, I did gain a little glimpse into the nitty-gritty details required of federal agencies when a new administration takes office.

As we know, President Barack Obama has been very busy in his first 100 days of office, too busy in fact, to film that standard welcome video for new citizens. So, our newest citizens heard from former President George W. Bush instead. But the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office did finally receive photos of the new president to hang in their lobbies. Details, details.

Posted on Wednesday, April 15th, 2009
Under: Homeland security, Obama presidency | No Comments »

This week in Bay Area ruckuses

PLENTY of opportunities to vent this week.

chertoff.jpgU.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will speak on cyber security to the 2008 RSA Conference, a big gathering of information security professionals, at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, April 8, at the Moscone Center, 747 Howard St. in San Francisco. Ordinarily I’d say this would be the Bay Area’s “event most likely to be protested” for the week, particularly given Chertoff’s recent decision to issue waivers bypassing the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and other environmental protections for construction of the U.S.-Mexico border fence — thereby angering environmental activists AND immigration activists in one fell swoop.

olympic-torch-protest-in-paris.jpgBut this is a special week, of course: The Olympic torch will be carried through San Francisco this Wednesday, April 9, starting at McCovey Cove at 1 p.m. and following a six-mile route mostly along the Embarcadero, looping through North Beach and returning to finish at Justin Herman Plaza at about 3:30 p.m. The big protest against China’s human-rights abuses in Tibet will coalesce at about 10 a.m. in Ferry Park, between Washington and Clay streets off Drumm.

lightbrownapplemoth.jpgStill have something to get off your chest? East Bay Pesticide Alert is sponsoring a meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 10, in the Ecology Center at 2530 San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley to discuss the California Department of Food and Agriculture‘s plan to do aerial pesticide spraying of the East Bay from Crockett down to the Oakland/San Leandro border, as well as San Francisco and southeastern Marin county, starting Aug. 1 to eradicate the light brown apple moth.

Posted on Monday, April 7th, 2008
Under: Berkeley, Homeland security, Immigration | No Comments »