BIG SIS: Set aside cultural differences for air security…

Set aside cultural differences for air security: US
Apr 11 08:02 PM US/Eastern
Cultural, political and legal differences must be set aside to heighten global aviation security, a senior US official urged African ministers ahead of a regional air security conference opening Monday.Despite privacy concerns and cultural sensitivities to introducing full body scanning technology, “we shouldn’t allow these differences to keep us from working towards a common goal” of tighter air security, said US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Nigeria hosts from Monday a three-day meeting of African ministers on aviation security in response to the failed terror attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it approached Detroit from Amsterdam on Christmas Day.

A young Nigerian man was charged with attempting to blow up the plane with plastic explosives strapped to his underwear.

In the wake of the botched attack, airports around the world, including in Nigeria, from where the suspected bomber took off, are installing 3-D full body scanners for passengers.

The new technology has raised cultural sensitivities and may violate privacy laws in some countries as it produces explicit images of passengers.

“Transparency and respect for privacy are fundamental values of all democracies” Napolitano told ministers from 37 African countries and other international experts on the eve of the African regional aviation security conference.

“All countries have unique legal traditions, cultural differences and political realities,” she said.

“But I believe we shouldn’t allow these differences to keep us from working towards a common goal and even stronger partnership with respect to security and privacy.”

Napolitano recommended a wide range of security measures, including information sharing on suspected terrorists and development of screening technology to protect passengers.

“This new bomb could not be detected by all technology, therefore let us respond by ushering in the next generation of aviation security technology by coordinating our training and technical assistant efforts,” she said.

The conference in one of a series being organised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) across five global regions.

She said the United States has in recent months worked closely with ICAO and the International Air Transport Association to forge stronger international security standards.

“We must have the full engagement not just of government agencies in this effort, but our industry partners around the world,” she said.

ICAO secretary general Raymond Benjamin vowed “we will step up efforts to find global solutions to these global threats.”

Copyright AFP 2008, AFP stories and photos shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium

 

Big Sis drops air security targeting of Muslim nations…

U.S. changing the way air travelers are screened

By Anne E. Kornblut and Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, April 2, 2010; 10:25 PM

The Obama administration is abandoning its policy of using nationality alone to determine which U.S.-bound international air travelers should be subject to additional screening and will instead select passengers based on possible matches to intelligence information, including physical descriptions or a particular travel pattern, senior officials said Thursday.

After the attempted bombing of an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight on Christmas Day, U.S. officials hastily decided that passengers from or traveling through 14 specified countries would be subjected to secondary searches. Critics have since called the measures discriminatory and overly burdensome, and the administration has faced pressure to refine its approach.

Under the new system, screeners will stop passengers for additional security if they match certain pieces of known intelligence. The system will be “much more intel-based,” a senior administration official said, “as opposed to blunt force.”

“It’s much more tailored to what the intelligence is telling us, what the threat is telling us, as opposed to stopping all individuals of a particular nationality or all individuals using a particular passport,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

On Christmas Day, Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to ignite explosives sewn into his underwear as Northwest Airlines Flight 253 prepared to land, but the device failed and he was subdued by fellow passengers. Abdulmutallab has allegedly said he was trained by an al-Qeada affiliate in Yemen.The case exposed gaps in the government’s ability to identify people who might pose a threat.

Days later, the administration ordered a significant increase in secondary searches, requiring all passengers from or traveling through Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen to undergo extra security at the airport. Travelers from countries considered state sponsors of terrorism — Cuba, Syria, Iran and Sudan — were subjected to the same screening, including pat-downs and additional bag checks.

Airlines had warned that the measures instituted after the Christmas Day incident would need to be eased before the busy summer travel season. And critics objected that the added scrutiny amounted to a pretext for racial profiling that could potentially affect 675 million people, including American Muslims and religious pilgrims.

Administration officials briefed reporters about the revised policy Thursday. But they did so on the condition that reporters not publicize it or seek reaction to it until after midnight, saying they were still working to notify foreign partners and members of Congress.

The underlying airline security policy of checking passenger names against watch lists will continue, and certain passengers will still be banned from flying or required to submit to additional security based on names in intelligence databases. About 24,000 people around the world are currently on those “no-fly” and “selectee” lists.

Administration officials said the new system will “significantly” reduce the number of passengers chosen for mandatory extra screening, eliminating entire swaths of travelers who had been chosen based on their nationalities.

But it will also broaden the universe of potential targets for secondary searches, expanding the focus from the 14 named countries to dubious passengers from anywhere in the world, a move also designed to outsmart terrorist plotters who knew which countries were affected.

The rules will take effect within the month, the senior administration official said, acknowledging that the system instituted in January presented a severe inconvenience to travelers from the listed countries.

The official offered a hypothetical case to illustrate how the new system will work. If U.S. intelligence authorities learned about a terrorism suspect from Asia who had recently traveled to the Middle East, and they knew the suspect’s approximate age but not name or passport number, those fragments would be entered into a database and shared with commercial airline screeners abroad.

The screeners would be instructed to look for people with those traits and to pull them aside for extra searches, the official said, acknowledging that that in some cases, screeners will have to rely on their judgment as they consider the listed traits.

While intelligence officials had fragments of information about Abdulmutallab — including warnings from his father that he was becoming radicalized, and warnings about a Nigerian plot against U.S. interests — those pieces of information were not connected in time to keep him from flying.

Administration officials have said that, in hindsight, the central failure involved inadequate sharing of information. It is not clear whether the new screening measures would have been sufficient to block

Max Baucus on Obamacare’s hidden agenda – redistribution of wealth

Thursday, March 25, 2010
Posted by: Hugh Hewitt at 5:08 PM

Max Baucus is the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and the Democrat most responsible fo Obamacare’s final shape other than Nancy Pelosi.

In an unusual speech on the Senate floor moments ago, Max Baucus declares that the “healthcare bill” to be  “an income shift, it is a shift, a leveling to help lower income middle income Americans.”  Baucus continued, “[t]oo often, much of late, the last couple three years the mal-distribution of income in America is gone up way too much, the wealthy are getting way, way too wealthy, and the middle income class is left behind.  Wages have not kept up with increased income of the highest income in America.  This legislation will have the effect of addressing that mal-distribution of income in America.”

Max Baucus on Obamacare’s hidden agenda – redistribution of wealth
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rY4Qbv7gPbo&feature=player_embedded

Baucus’ candor is appreciated, though the fact that he waited until the bill passed to announce the real agenda behind the massive tax hikes isn’t a profile in courage.  And the seniors on fixed income who are about to lose Medicare Advantage would laugh at Baucus’ pseudo-populism.

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Mexico gunmen kill American consulate staff

Mexico gunmen kill American consulate staff

By Julian Cardona Julian Cardona Sun Mar 14, 5:24 pm ET

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (Reuters) – Gunmen in the drug war-plagued Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez killed two Americans and a Mexican linked to the local U.S. consulate, an attack U.S. President Barack Obama said “outraged” him.

An American woman working at the consulate in Ciudad Juarez, just over the border from El Paso, Texas, and her U.S. husband were fatally shot by suspected drug gang hitmen in broad daylight on Saturday as they left a consulate social event, U.S. and Mexican officials told Reuters.

A Mexican man married to another consulate employee was killed around the same time in another part of the city after he and his wife left the same event, a U.S. official said.

The U.S. official, who asked not to be identified, said it was not clear if the victims had been specifically targeted, and the motive for the attacks was unknown.

Bloodshed has exploded in recent months in Ciudad Juarez as the head of the Juarez cartel, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, fights off a bloody offensive by Mexico’s No. 1 fugitive drug lord, Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, at the worst hotspot of Mexico’s three-year-old drug war.

“The president is deeply saddened and outraged by the news,” said White House National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer. He said Obama “shares in the outrage of the Mexican people at the murders of thousands in Ciudad Juarez and elsewhere in Mexico.”

The U.S. State Department updated its warning on travel to Mexico to say it had authorized the departure of dependents of U.S. government personnel from consulates in Ciudad Juarez and five other northern border cities.

Nearly 19,000 people have been killed since President Felipe Calderon came to power in Mexico in late 2006 and launched a military assault on the country’s powerful drug cartels, sparking a surge in violence that has alarmed Washington, foreign investors and tourists.

Most victims are rival traffickers and police, and to a lesser extent soldiers, local officials and bystanders. It is rare for drug gang hitmen to target foreigners.

“The Mexican authorities are determined to clarify what happened and bring those responsible to justice,” the Mexican Foreign Ministry said of Saturday’s attacks.

CHILDREN SURVIVE SHOOTING

The attack on the U.S. couple began with a car chase and ended in front of the main border crossing into El Paso, an area heavily patrolled by soldiers, local newspaper El Diario reported. The couple’s baby girl survived the attack.

The Mexican spouse was murdered in an upscale neighborhood of the city when gunmen boxed in his car with other vehicles and shot him, according to a local newspaper photographer who soon arrived at the scene. His wife, who was following in a second car, was unhurt, but their two children were wounded.

Calderon was already scheduled to visit Ciudad Juarez on Tuesday, his third trip there in a month, as he scrambles to find a way to deal with a surge in killings that 8,000 troops and federal police on the ground have failed to curb.

The drug war has killed more than 4,600 people in the key manufacturing city in two years, and constant scenes of bullet-ridden vehicles and bodies lying in pools of blood have prompted many middle-class residents to flee.

Across Mexico, drug war violence is at its worst level ever, and many U.S. students have heeded warnings not to cross the border this year for their annual “spring break” vacation.

A burst of drug gang clashes killed at least 27 people — including four who were beheaded — this weekend in or near the Pacific resort of Acapulco, one of many popular with spring breakers.

At least 13 were killed on Saturday and at least 14 on Sunday, police said, including nine men who were killed in a shootout and a young woman shot as she drove by in a taxi.

Obama voiced his support for Calderon’s drug war during a visit to Mexico last year, but the rising violence along the border with Mexico has become a big concern for Washington.

(Additional reporting by Caren Bohan; writing by Noel Randewich; editing by Catherine Bremer and Mohammad Zargham)

Border Control

Big Sister Calls You And I Her Top Concern

Big Sister Calls You And I Her Top Concern

February 22nd, 2010 Posted By Erik Wong.

janet-napolitano-frump

WASHINGTON (AP) – Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says terrorists who are U.S. citizens or live in the country legally and plot against the U.S. are just as big of a concern as international terrorists.

She says that when she started as secretary a year ago, the focus was largely on international terrorists who want to harm U.S. interests. But in the past year, more of the violent extremism that has been seen overseas is showing up in the U.S.

She says officials need to drill down and analyze the factors that make a young person, raised in the U.S., migrate to extremist beliefs and actions.

Napolitano was speaking to governors who are in Washington for their annual conference.

BIG SIS: TSA makes disabled boy, 4, take off leg braces…

Daniel Rubin: Another case of TSA overkill

By Daniel Rubin

Inquirer Columnist

Just when I thought I was out of the Transportation Security Administration business for a few columns, they pull me back in.

Did you hear about the Camden cop whose disabled son wasn’t allowed to pass through airport security unless he took off his leg braces?

Unfortunately, it’s no joke. This happened to Bob Thomas, a 53-year-old officer in Camden’s emergency crime suppression team, who was flying to Orlando in March with his wife, Leona, and their son, Ryan.

Ryan was taking his first flight, to Walt Disney World, for his fourth birthday.

The boy is developmentally delayed, one of the effects of being born 16 weeks prematurely. His ankles are malformed and his legs have low muscle tone. In March he was just starting to walk.

Mid-morning on March 19, his parents wheeled his stroller to the TSA security point, a couple of hours before their Southwest Airlines flight was to depart.

The boy’s father broke down the stroller and put it on the conveyor belt as Leona Thomas walked Ryan through the metal detector.

The alarm went off.

The screener told them to take off the boy’s braces.

The Thomases were dumbfounded. “I told them he can’t walk without them on his own,” Bob Thomas said.

“He said, ‘He’ll need to take them off.’ ”

Ryan’s mother offered to walk him through the detector after they removed the braces, which are custom-made of metal and hardened plastic.

No, the screener replied. The boy had to walk on his own.

Leona Thomas said she was calm. Bob Thomas said he was starting to burn.

They complied, and Leona went first, followed by Ryan, followed by Bob, so the boy wouldn’t be hurt if he fell. Ryan made it through.

By then, Bob Thomas was furious. He demanded to see a supervisor. The supervisor asked what was wrong.

“I told him, ‘This is overkill. He’s 4 years old. I don’t think he’s a terrorist.’ ”

The supervisor replied, “You know why we’re doing this,” Thomas said.

Thomas said he told the supervisor he was going to file a report, and at that point the man turned and walked away.

A Philadelphia police officer approached and asked what the problem was. Thomas said he identified himself and said he was a Camden officer. The Philadelphia officer suggested he calm down and enjoy his vacation.

Back home in Glassboro a week later, Bob Thomas called the airport manager and left her what he calls a terse message.

He was still angry enough last week to call me after I’d written a couple of columns about travelers’ complaints of mistreatment by screeners at the airport.

“This was just stupid,” he told me.

At the very least, it was not standard procedure.

On Friday, TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis said the boy never should have been told to remove his braces.

TSA policy should have allowed the parents to help the boy to a private screening area where he could have been swabbed for traces of explosive materials.

She said she wished Thomas had reported the matter to TSA immediately. “If screening is not properly done, we need to go back to that officer and offer retraining so it’s corrected.”

Davis also said TSA’s security director at the airport, Bob Ellis, called Thomas last week to apologize. He gave Thomas the name of the agency’s customer service representative, in case he has a problem at the airport in the future.

Afterward, Thomas said he appreciated Ellis’ call. He said he had no interest in pursuing the matter further or in filing a lawsuit.

“I’m just looking for things to be done right,” he said. “And I just want to make sure this isn’t done to anyone else. Just abide by your standard operating procedures.”


Contact Daniel Rubin at 215-854-5917 or drubin@phillynews.com.