Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Public Disclosure of Police Investigative Reports

An article headlined Access to records gets another look in the Monday, January 31, 2005, Des Moines Register explains why certain types of police investigative reports ought to be released for public examination.

According to Spokane's KREM-2 television news Sunday night, Kootenai County (Idaho) Prosecuting Attorney Bill Douglas is expected to announce today if there will be any criminal prosecutions resulting from the Grouse Meadows shootings. If he announces there will not be, there is no justifiable reason why the Idaho State Police (ISP) should not release its entire report on the shooting.

The Grouse Meadows investigative report documented a homicide investigation resulting from the wounding of a Coeur d'Alene police officer by an arrestee who was then shot and killed by Kootenai County deputy sheriffs. The investigation was conducted by the ISP. The results were turned over to the Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney for review to determine if any criminal charges would be filed.

Local newspaper reporting on the shooting story raised reasonable questions about the circumstances that led to the shootings. They are questions that the public and the agencies involved deserve to have answered. Several citizens have severely criticized the accuracy and propriety of the newspaper reporting. The public ought to be able to read, evaluate, and interpret the ISP's report for itself and then compare its own conclusions with the news media's reporting and the agencies' statements.

The public can best judge the performance of its elected and appointed public safety officers and its news media only if the ISP releases the entire report. Neither the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department nor the Coeur d'Alene Police Department should object to the ISP's releasing its report if no criminal prosecutions are planned. The public is entitled to know if the county and city law enforcement officers involved were properly trained and supervised and if their performance was consistent with their training. The public is also entitled to determine if the news media reporting of this incident has been fair and accurate. The ISP report will be the best available evidence for the public to reach its own conclusions.

Not Good Enough

According to the Friday, January 28, 2005, Coeur d'Alene Press article Railroad apologizes for leak, Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) representatives apologized to northern Idaho legislators in Boise for the Hauser fuel depot spill over the Spokane Valley - Rathdrum Prairie aquifer. The article also reported that the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality has prepared a consent decree which will correct the existing leak and punish the BNSF for the damage it has already done.

That is not enough.

As noted in the January 3, 2005, weblog post Upwardly Mobile on the Terrorist Target List, the BNSF's carelessness or negligence attracted national news attention to the aquifer's importance to the region and to its vulnerability.

The lead in the Saturday, January 29, 2005, Washington Post article Accidents Spur New Focus on Securing U.S. Rail System, reads, "Two deadly railroad accidents in the last month have sparked new debate about the government's efforts to secure the nation's rail system and ensure that such accidents do not provide new opportunities for terrorists who might seek to use railroad cars as weapons."

Finally. Someone is finally beginning to get it.

The minimal attention given to rail cars as terrorist devices has focused on surface damage caused by combustion and explosion of flammable materials and on dispersion of noxious chemicals into the air. Less, if any, attention has been paid to the disastrous long-term effects of regional aquifer contamination by toxic chemical seepage after the emergency containment methods have been damaged by ground-penetrating attacks.

Everyone served by the Spokane Valley - Rathdrum Prairie aquifer is entitled to know if the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners demanded and the BNSF employed suitable risk management assessment and mitigation techniques to protect the Hauser refueling facility and the aquifer under it from terrorist attack. The Idaho State Police, the agency responsible for managing Idaho's counterterrorism program, said it had not been consulted about the facility's placement.

On Tuesday, March 24, 2004, the United States General Accounting Office (GAO) released experts' statements entitled Rail Security - Some Actions to Enhance Passenger and Freight Rail Security, But Significant Challenges Remain. That 25-page document recommends a risk management approach that would be suitably applied to the BNSF's Hauser refueling facility.

It is likely that the BNSF's containment measures were designed to manage an event that leaves the emergency containment structures undamaged. Since the BNSF apparently failed to anticipate the type of leakage that has alread occurred, it is much less likely the BNSF designed those structures to mitigate the effects a destructive terrorist attack on its facility's infrastructure. It should have. The Kootenai County Board of Commissioners should have insisted on it.

Some people will say, "I can't imagine that terrorists would contaminate our aquifer by attacking rail cars carrying contaminants." Lack of imagination, the unwillingness to consider that someone could use hijacked commercial aircraft loaded with fuel and passengers to destroy public buildings, was identified as a troubling contributor to the 9/11 disasters. I refer the unimaginative to page 344 of the 9/11 Commission Report. Under the heading "Institutionalizing Imagination", with the subheading "The Case of Aircraft as Weapons", the Commission notes "Imagination is not a gift usually associated with bureaucracies." Our failure to imagine attack possibilities and address them increases their probability of success when tried.

Any remediation proposed as part of a consent decree must, not should, must contain suitable assessments and containments to protect the aquifer from intentional contamination by a catastrophic terrorist attack on the Hauser refueling facility. Anything less is eyewash.

Coeur d'Alene Casino Affected by New York Indictments

In his Friday, January 28, 2004, Huckleberries Online weblog, The Spokesman Review columnist Dave Oliveria linked readers to a January 28, 2004, article in Indian Country Today. That article, headlined "Racing scandal impacts Coeur d' Alene Casino" reported that the New York Racing Association would end its betting and broadcasting arrangement with ten rebate off-track betting companies, including the Coeur d'Alene. This action follows a federal money laundering and illegal gambling indictment of a New York gambling group with alleged ties to organized crime. Representatives of the Coeur d'Alene tribe deny any wrongdoing. According to the cited article, the Coeur d'Alene casino was not charged with wrongdoing. The tribe is discussing its security arrangements with the New York Racing Association in hopes of having its betting and broadcasting arrangement with the Association restored.

A brief explanation of rebate off-track betting and some additional information about the investigation leading to the 88-count indictment are available in an Indian Country Today article posted January 21, 2005, and headlined "Investigation targets off-track betting books."

A January 13, 2005, Thoroughbred Times article discussed the allegation that one 2003 race at Aqueduct had been fixed by giving one horse a performance-enhancing drug. The article also states that some clients received special accounts that allowed them to bet anonymously by phone or over the Internet.

From an Internal Revenue Service publication:

Money laundering is usually defined as disguising the origin or ownership of money generated from illicit activity, or unreported income from a legitimate source. This "dirty money" is produced by two primary means: a. Illegal activities and b. Tax evasion.

Money is brought into the economy in three stages:

Placement - the physical movement of currency into a financial institution, the retail economy or a foreign country;

Layering - the conducting of multiple complex financial transactions to disguise or eliminate any audit trail; and

Integration - the placement of funds back into the economy to give the appearance of a legitimate source.

Like other cash-intensive businesses that handle large volumes of cash, casinos would be attractive as unwitting intermediaries in money laundering operations. Indian gaming casinos must comply with all the requirements outlined in the Internal Revenue Service publication.

A more comprehensive explanation of the effects of and concerns caused by money laundering is available in the U.S. government's publication 2003 National Money Laundering Strategy. That publication outlines the U.S. government's commitment to attack money laundering and terrorist financing on all fronts.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Missing in Action: Ethics

On September 18, 2003, The Spokesman Review writer Tom Clouse penned an article headlined "Chief may just play hooky." The article recounts how Spokane Police Chief Roger Bragdon had reneged on his agreement to obtain a four-year college degree (at city expense) as a condition of being appointed to his $110,000 a year position. Bragdon, in a January 2000 letter to City Manager Pete Fortin, expressed "...full support of the degree requirement" and stated it would take him approximately two years to obtain a BA degree.

On September 22, 2003, The Spokesman Review editorial board wrote an opinion piece headlined "City should toss criterion for chief." Although the editorial board acknowledged being disappointed that Bragdon had "...reneged on a promise made so publicly..." (as if promises made privately are less important), it focused on whether or not the college degree requirement is even necessary. The editorial board, parroting Chief Bragdon's ratonalization that he has about 2000 hours of criminal justice training that didn't contribute to a formal degree, failed to make the important distinction between education and training. But that's a collateral issue for another post.

The issue in question is Police Chief Roger Bragdon's ethical performance.

Fast forward now to Tom Clouse's article Complaint filed against chief in the January 29, 2005, The Spokesman Review. From this article we learned that Bragdon had dismissed a traffic citation given to the son-in-law of former Spokane County Prosecutor Don Brockett. The dismissal came after Brockett contacted Bragdon and disputed the validity of the ticket. (Never mind that a commoner whose friend is not the police chief is usually told those disputes will be resolved in court.)

Though ethically questionable even if allowed, dismissing a ticket at the request of a former prosecutor is not the only issue here. It is a subsequent action taken by Bragdon that once again raises an ethical question. Clouse's article captured it in two sentences deep in the story:

After looking into the matter, Bragdon told Brockett that patrol officers had been automatically issuing tickets for defective equipment to the drivers of cars that get rear-ended. According to Brockett, Bragdon told him the department would no longer follow that policy.

Until former prosecutor Don Brockett's son-in-law received a traffic citation and Brockett complained to Bragdon, it was the policy of Roger Bragdon's Spokane Police Department to automatically issue tickets to the victims of rear end collision. The operative and troubling word is "automatically." It means that the ticket was going to be issued to the victim even if the officer had not observed the equipment infraction and had no probable cause to believe the infraction had occurred.

It's important to keep in mind that a traffic citation is issued at the discretion of the police officer. The officer also has the discretion to arrest the alleged offender, to take him into custody, handcuff him, and take him to jail where he will be held until he posts bail or is released by an order of the court. Refusing to sign a traffic citation, even an illegally "automatic" one can land a person in jail.

We don't know if any victims who received "automatic" tickets for being an accident victim fought the ticket in court or just paid the fine to avoid the inconvenience of disputing a citation that should never have been issued. We also don't know if any victims were taken to jail. The Mayor's office needs to investigate this as well.

When the issue of Bragdon's backtracking on his promise to get a four-year college degree was first raised, I expressed concern to some law enforcement colleagues that this was more an issue of ethics than education. Now we see that this same police chief had a departmental policy of issuing traffic citations for assumed but not observed violations of law.

The Spokane Police Guild was right to file a complaint against Chief Roger Bragdon. The Spokesman Review was right to report the complaint. Now we'll see if Mayor Jim West will look closer to see if Roger Bragdon's ethical performance warrants his being retained as Chief of Police.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Light as a Terrorist Weapon?

In the past few months there have been several reports of ground-based lasers used to illuminate aircraft cockpits. The assumption is these were attacks intended to at least temporarily blind and disorient flight deck crew members. This type of attack, if it is that, is not new. Several years ago law enforcement helicopters in Los Angeles were subjected to ground-based laser attacks. Fortunately, no aircraft crashed.

Another theory is that these may be laser rangefinders being used to determine the ground-to-target distance for shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles. This theory has more credibility if the lasers are targeting aircraft immediately after takeoff when sudden loss of one engine or flight controls could cause a crash. Since precise range determination is not essential for shoulder-fired infrared-seeking missiles to be effective, the use of lasers to measure ground-to-air distance seems unnecessary.

Congress is concerned about lasers being used as a terrorist threat jeopardizing flight safety. On January 26, 2005, The Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, released a six-page report entitled Lasers Aimed at Aircraft Cockpits: Background and Possible Options to Address the Threat to Aviation Safety and Security. The report summarizes the flight safety hazards of lasers, discusses lasers as possible terrorist weapons, and considers possible options to mitigate flight crew exposure to lasers. It outlines the current regulation of laser devices, briefly summarizes relevant criminal statutes, and discusses possible mitigation efforts including laser eye protection for flight crews, enhancing and enforcing laser-free zones around airports, and public education.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Embracing the Challenges

At The Spokesman Review's weblogging forum on Wednesday, January 26, 2005, it was evident that the newspaper is making an admirable effort to understand and address the challenges weblogs create for traditional newspapers. Rather than dismissing as crude and unprofessional the webloggers' self-publishing, The Spokesman Review seems intent on finding ways to embrace weblogging's challenges and respond to them in a way that improves its own product. Managing editor for online Ken Sands and associate editor and columnist Dave Oliveria candidly explained how the paper is somewhat uncertain but eager to learn how weblogging fits with and in traditional print journalism. That The Spokesman Review is experimenting with weblogs, talking with webloggers, and encouraging rather than discouraging us suggests an open-mindedness that will likely lead to successful innovation.

So I wonder, why isn't the criminal justice community here in northern Idaho trying the same experiment? Why isn't that community comprising law enforcement, the courts, prosecutors and public defenders, correction, and juvenile justice engaging the rest of us through weblogs? Yes, it's true that most of the local agencies have some representation on websites...that are stiff and uninformative. Why not use the conversational weblogs to interact more effectively, to personalize yourselves and your agencies?

This morning The Spokesman Review carried an article by Tom Clouse headlined, Community shows its support. Commenting on the community's outpouring of support for wounded Coeur d'Alene police officer Mike Kralicek and his family, former Coeur d'Alene Police Chief Tom Cronin said, "Police officers don't understand this. They see a small percentage of people over and over again. But every one of these cops' hearts are 10 times bigger today because they know the community cares about them. This is the community they protect and serve every day paying them back."

Chief Cronin, if the local criminal justice agencies would experiment with community interaction via weblog, the agencies might find more common ground than they realize with their community.

Yes, just as newspapers are facing some challenges from weblogging, so will criminal justice agencies. But you're going to face them anyway. Webloggers scrutinize and comment freely on things of interest to us. The administration of criminal justice is a valid topic. It is so not because the community wants to destroy the criminal justice system but because the community wants to better understand and improve it. Weblogs are one opportunity for the criminal justice agencies to experiment with being inclusive rather than exclusive and reclusive. Embrace the challenge.

Threat Assessment

Corporate executives, corporate security managers, university and school administrators, and law enforcement officers all need to be professionally prepared to assess threats, particularly threats of violence. It is erroneous to assume that because of their position, law enforcement officers are already prepared.

Too often, failing to prepare to assess threats leads to precipitous actions that endanger rather than safeguard people.

For example, on Wednesday, November 13, 2002, Eastern Washington University officials evacuated approximately 11,000 students, faculty, and staff from its facilities in response to two telephone bomb threats. The university's handling of this incident was well-intended but demonstrated just how poorly prepared the school was to properly assess and respond to communicated bomb threats. Lacking specific information about the composition and location of the alleged devices, the university's decision to needlessly evacuate potentially exposed evacuees to greater risk of harm.

The US Secret Service spends significant time, effort, and money to train its special agents and others to assess threats. In July 1995, the US Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice (NIJ), published a seven-page introduction to threat assessment. The document, entitled Threat Assessment: An Approach to Prevent Targeted Violence, discusses several relevant topics relating to threat assessment. One of the most relevant and important is learning to differentiate between a threat made and a threat posed. Failing to make that distinction contributes to poor decisions.

The NIJ paper is not a substitute for comprehensive training and individualized assessments. It is, however, a good starting point to better understand the assessment of threats that may lead to targeted violence. It may also help decision-makers to make better informed decisions that increase rather than diminish the safety of people in their charge.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces

There are 28 Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Task Forces in the United States. If the President issues a disaster declaration, the Department of Homeland Security can deploy one or more Task Forces to the affected area to help locate and extricate victims from collapsed buildings and structures. The US&R Task Force closest to Coeur d'Alene would come from Seattle by either ground or air. The Task Forces are fully self-sufficient for their first 72 hours on-site. Though the Task Forces are local government entities, they are part of the federal emergency response network as they receive funding, training, and accreditation from the federal government.

On January 10, 2005, The Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, released a six-page report entitled Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces: Facts and Issues. This report identifies some selected issues Congress may elect to consider when they consider the Administration's FY-2005 funding request and the Task Force's operations. Those issues include the creation of additional task forces, authorization, funding, and redundancy.

An even more comprehensive (and interesting) description of the US&R Task Force's functions, training, and activities is available through numerous links on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Update: Coeur d'Alene Classified?

Give the City of Coeur d'Alene's Water Department an "A-plus." Give the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) an "incomplete."

My January 18, 2005, post recounted E-mail correspondence with the regional EPA honcho. I asked if Coeur d'Alene had complied with the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (Bioterrorism Act). The law required the City to conduct security assessments and prepare plans for the safety of the City's water supply. When I expressed dissatisfaction with his nonresponsive answers, the EPA representative "helpfully" suggested that I file a Freedom of Information Act request with EPA headquarters. I did. So far, no reply.

I contacted Coeur d'Alene Water Department Superintendent Jim Markley by E-mail today and asked him the same questions. He promptly replied, "Yes, we have complied with the requirements of the Bioterrorism Act and we met both of the deadlines."

The safety of the nation's drinking water greatly concerns Congress. On January 5, 2005, The Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, updated its report entitled Terrorism and Security Issues Facing the Water Infrastructure Sector. This report update gives some valuable insight into the challenges posed and the issues Congress must address.

The Coroner's Role in Death Investigations

In Idaho the general duties of the coroner are described in Idaho Statutes,Title 31 -Counties and County Law, Chapter 28 .

The county coroner has some particular statutory responsibilities whenever someone in the county dies. In Idaho the county coroner must investigate a death resulting from:

  • Violence, whether homicidal, suicidal, or accidental

  • Suspicious or unknown circumstances

  • When not attended by a physician during his last illness and the cause of death cannot be certified by a physician.

  • In Idaho the county coroner is an elected official. S/he is not required to be a board certified forensic pathologist or even a medical doctor. Thus, if a medicolegal autopsy is required, it must be performed by a forensic pathologist. The medicolegal autopsy's purpose is to determine the cause, manner and mode of death.

    The cause of death is the pathological condition which was the immediate cause of death. The manner of death is the method by which death was caused. The mode of death addresses the intent or lack of it by the person using something to inflict death. Typically, the mode of death is described as natural, accidental, homicidal, or suicidal.

    For example, a victim's cause of death might be a severed aorta. The manner of death might be a knife wound that severed the aorta resulting from someone wielding a knife. In this example the mode of death could not be natural but would be accidental (if unintentionally inflicted such as in a hunting accident), homicidal (if intentionally though not necessarily criminally inflicted by another), or suicidal (if self-inflicted).

    The term "suicide by cop" is being used more frequently in the news media to describe a victim who has died at the hands of a law enforcement officer when it was the victim's apparent intent that the officer cause the victim's death. This type of death is more accurately categorized as a justifiable or excusable homicide, depending on the laws of the state in which the action occurred.

    If a coroner has reasonable grounds to believe that death occurred as a result of violence or under suspicious or unknown circumstances, the coroner can convene a coroner's inquest. The coroner's inquest or coroner's jury consists of six residents qualified by law to be summoned for jury duty. The inquest can examine all the physical and forensic evidence as well as question witnesses and investigators.

    Monday, January 24, 2005

    Got the Time?

    Time recording or sequential event recording are two of the most valuable and reliable tools available to investigators. Once an event has occurred, its position in time is forever unchanged. For this reason, a chronological listing of events or a timeline is nearly always helpful in any investigation. In the Watergate hearings, then-Senator Howard Baker concisely emphasized the importance of the timing of events when he asked, "What did he (then-President Nixon) know and when did he know it."

    In our information environment with internet protocol, wireless devices, and personal computers, the information gatherer has access to some "invisible" date-time stamps that establish when an event really occurred or didn't occur at all. These stamps are described as "invisible" because they are attached automatically and nearly transparently to the end user of the piece of equipment.

    Some examples:

  • Our cellular telephones date-time stamp such events as power-up, telephone transactions, and cell site and sector handoff. Some cell phone date-time stamps are generated even when calls are not in progress. The data available from a cellular carrier can establish with surprising accuracy where the phone's user was at a particular time.

  • Files created in personal computers are typically date-time stamped. Some apparent suicides were determined to be homicides when forensic analysis of the computer on which the suicide note was written determined the note was written post mortem. Similarly, some deaths at first believed to be accidental have been ruled suicides when an invisible time stamp revealed a suicide note had been deleted post mortem.

  • Global positioning system (GPS) navigation equipment is now installed in some rental cars. In some instances, these are used by the renter to help navigate in unfamiliar areas. In other instances, they are not accessible to the renter and are used by the rental company to know where its vehicles are and how they are being driven. In all instances, each data inquiry is date-time stamped. In most but not all instances, it is impossible for the witting or unwitting renter to successfully delete or change any of the information including the date-time stamp.

  • Some new cars may soon come with a "black box" installed. The box, the automotive equivalent of flight and cockpit voice data recorders present for years in aircraft, will record in time sequence a range of data used to help reconstruct accidents. Here is a relatively simple primer on automobile black boxes and their capabilities.

  • In our digital information age, there are a wide range of time-stamping devices available to the investigator. These devices can assist in reconstructing the sequence of events in a crime or an accident and in confirming or refuting a suspect's alibi. With all the information that someone can influence or change to support his own story or fabricate a plausible lie, time is the one he is least likely to be able to successfully manipulate.

    PS: Notice that according to the visible date-time stamp, this was posted at 06:00 AM on January 24, 2005. A forensic examination of my computer and the blogger.com server, however, would show that it was actually posted at approximately 04:55 PM on January 23, 2005.

    Friday, January 21, 2005

    A Better Understanding

    As I read Public Editor Don Wycliff's column headlined Relevance of a checkered past in the Thursday, January 20, 2005, Chicago Tribune, I was reminded of the numerous letters to the editors of both our local newspapers decrying the Spokesman Review's naming the Kootenai County deputy sheriffs involved in the Grouse Meadows shooting on December 28, 2004.

    In a recent incident reported by the Chicago Tribune, two employees of a local night club were shot and killed by a man who had been denied admission to the club. Neither employee had done anything wrong, however when the Chicago Tribune published its story about the shooting, it reported in detail the criminal records of both victims. Predictably, the Chicago Tribune was criticized for including this information. Critics generally felt that since both men were victims and not perpetrators, their criminal history was irrelevant.

    Mary Dillon, the Chicago Tribune's deputy metro editor who made the decision to include the information, explains in Wycliff's column the rationale she used for the decision. Agree or disagree with the call she made, but her explanation offers a better understanding of newspaper editors' decision-making processes.

    Thursday, January 20, 2005

    Magic Wand or Bludgeon?

    DNA evidence has been rightfully touted as a valuable investigative resource. However, a study completed by the University of Nebraska at Omaha has concluded that DNA sweeps don't work.

    The study defines a DNA sweep as "...a situation where (sic) the police ask individuals to give voluntary DNA samples in an effort to identify the perpetrator of a crime or series of crimes."

    Based on an analysis of the data gathered in a study published in September 2004, the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha has recommended that
    • Law enforcement agencies not conduct DNA sweeps based on general descriptions or profiles of criminals subjects, and
    • The law enforcement profession, in cooperation with community representatives and legal experts, develop model policies on the collection and handling of DNA evidence.
    Relying on its own research and on the University of Nebraska at Omaha study, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has called for an end to what it calls "DNA dragnet." In a letter to the Cape and Islands District Attorney and the Truro Chief of Police, the ACLU raised several concerns about the testing methodology, sample selection process, and ultimate uses of DNA material being gathered in connection with an ongoing homicide investigation in Truro, Massachusetts.

    The Nebraska study examined eighteen cases involving murder, rape, or both. Only one of the eighteen cases was resolved as a result of the DNA sweep.

    "But, if he (or she) doesn't have anything to hide..."

    Ah, but when it comes to DNA, we all may have something to hide without even knowing it. No, we may not be a murderer or a rapist, but who can assure that ultimately our DNA sample will be used only for the purpose for which it was gathered today? Once your DNA or mine is in the state's possession, how can we be sure that it won't be used for some inappropriate purpose? How can you or I be sure that the sample gathered to exclude you or me as a murderer won't someday be used to disqualify one of us from employment or from getting medical or life insurance because of some illegal disclosure made to an interested party willing to pay under the table for that information? Dishonest motor vehicle department employees and law enforcement officers have illegally sold DMV and criminal history information obtained during the course of their legitimate employment. To assume that the high-value, statistically conclusive results of genome mapping and DNA testing will not be criminally misused by a few authorized to possess it is absurdly naive.

    DNA testing is a valuable investigative tool when appropriately and ethically used. But the potential for as yet unforeseeable abuse must be addressed and mitigated if DNA testing will continue to be used as a magic wand rather than become a bludgeon.

    Wednesday, January 19, 2005

    Evaluating Crime Statistics

    Usually in January and February, local law enforcement agencies begin to present the preceding year's crime report to the governing bodies and the public. It is helpful to better understand the data in these reports, because often the reports are used to suggest a need for increased budgets and personnel. Elected officials like to cite the statistics when the figures appear to show how safe their community is. Much of the data reported is inadequate for drawing reliable conclusions leading to budgetary or personnel changes, and in the absence of additional information, the figures do not correlate with community safety.

    The closest thing to a national standard for crime reporting is the Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR) including the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). NIBRS takes advantage of better police reporting system and offers richer and more meaningful data than the UCR. Both are administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The purpose of these systems is to standarize the reporting. To best depict total crime and to provide the most meaningful data to police administrators, it was determined that the UCR Program would specifically collect data on known offenses and persons arrested by police departments. Findings of a court, coroner, jury, or the decision of a prosecutor are not recorded since the intent of the data collection is specifically to assist in identifying the law enforcement problem. The guidelines for preparing and submitting this data come from theUniform Crime Reporting Handbook.

    The Coeur d'Alene Police Department's 2003 Crime Report, presumably prepared and reported according to UCR/NIBRS standards, is available on the Idaho State Police website.

    But that is not the only report prepared by the Coeur d'Alene Police Department. It also prepared a report for more public consumption, presented at a city council meeting. That version of the Coeur d'Alene Police Dept. 2003 Annual Report is on the city's website. The format and data included in this report was determined by the Police Chief and the City Council. The department and city produce this report voluntarily.

    It is important to understand that the value of the data in either report is only as good as the accuracy, completeness, consistency, and timeliness of reporting by the agency. Unfortunately, not all police and sheriff's departments report data according to the handbook standards. In some instances, this incorrect reporting has been intentional. For example, on January 15, 2005, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in an article headlined When is a crime not really a crime? by Jeremy Kohler that the St. Louis Police Department was caught intentionally underreporting certain crimes. Why? Well, one paragraph from the articles states:
    While the use of memos (ed.: instead of formal crime reports) does not appear to be illegal, it clearly violates FBI standards for reporting crimes in a national compilation widely used for comparisons among cities. The effect makes St. Louis appear safer than it is - both to its own residents and to outsiders.
    Interpreting the data in the UCR/NIBRS report can be challenging and requires understanding some of the terminology used and the rules which must be followed when data is submitted.

    Crimes can properly be cleared by arrest or cleared exceptionally.

    The term "cleared by arrest" or solved for crime reporting purposes when at least one person is (1) arrested, or (2) charged with the commission of the offense and turned over to the court for prosecution (whether following arrest, court summons, or police notice). Although no physical arrest is made, a clearance by arrest can be claimed when the offender is a person under 18 years of age and is cited to appear in juvenile court or before other juvenile authorities.

    The term "exceptional clearance" means that in certain situations, law enforcement was not able to follow the steps outlined under "clearance by arrest" to clear offenses known to them, even though all leads have been exhausted, and everything possible has been done in order to obtain a clearance. For crime reporting purposes, if the following questions can all be answered "yes," the offense can then be cleared "exceptionally."

    1. Has the investigation definitely established the identity of the offender?
    2. Is there enough information to support an arrest, charge, and turning over to the court for prosecution?
    3. Is the exact location of the offender known so that the subject could be taken into custody now?
    4. Is there some reason outside law enforcement control that precludes arresting, charging, and prosecuting the offender?

    If we look at burglary in the Coeur d'Alene Police Department's 2003 Crime Report, we see that there were 348 burglaries reported. Of those, 76 were cleared. In the next column we can see that there were 28 adult burglary arrests made, so by subtracting the number of adult and juvenile burglary arrests made (34) from the number reported (76), we can conclude there were 76-34 or 42 burglaries cleared by exceptional means. Astute observers often ask police chiefs to more fully explain high numbers of cases cleared exceptionally.

    Occasionally, persons who do not understand the limitations of crime data will try to use it to make qualitative assessments about their law enforcement agencies. Simply put, the UCR/NIBRS reported data do not indicate how well or how poorly the reporting agency is doing its job. The are many other variables not reflected in the data that will significantly affect performance assessment.

    ADDENDUM (added 01/20/2005 09:35 PST)

    The January 19, 2005, edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch carried an article headlined Police memos weren't meant as deception, panel finds. This article is a follow-on to the one cited earlier in this post. Its lead paragraph reads, "A panel that studied St. Louis police crime reporting concluded Wednesday that the department had made mistakes but had not tried to fool the public about the city's safety." Based on the newspaper's investigation and reporting of the police department's use of "memo reports" instead of "incident reports", the police chief ordered the department to stop using the "memo reports" and convert last year's "memo reports" to "incident reports." As a result of the mandated conversion, detectives now, "...have applied for criminal charges against suspects in at least two sexual crimes that originally were described in memos and filed away, officials said."

    One of the panel members recalculated the city's reported crime rate after the "memo reports" were converted to "incident reports." His finding was that the city's crime rate would have increased by one-third of 1 percent had the correct reporting been done initially.

    The panel's composition with members' names and titles was reported in a January 19 Post-Dispatch sidebar article headlined Panel insisted it was not a public agency.

    Tuesday, January 18, 2005

    Coeur d'Alene Classified?

    On Friday, January 14, 2005, I E-mailed two questions to:

    Gene Taylor, PhD,
    US EPA Region 10, Drinking Water Unit
    1200 6th Ave
    Seattle, WA 98101
    Phone: 206-553-1389
    Fax: 206-553-0165
    Email: taylor.gene@epa.gov
    The questions were:
    "Under the provisions of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (Bioterrorism Act), the city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (population between 35,000 and 37,000), was required to certify and submit the vulnerability assessment of the city’s community drinking water system to the EPA Administrator by June 30, 2004. The city was then required to prepare or revise an emergency response plan based on the results of the vulnerability assessment and certify to the EPA Administrator, within 6 months of completing the assessment, that an emergency response plan has been completed or updated.

    Has the city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, complied with those provisions of the Bioterrorism Act? If not, with which provisions has the city failed to comply?"
    On January 18, 2004, Dr. Taylor responded via E-mail with this answer:
    "The Bioterrorism act modified the Safe Drinking Water Act by adding the requirements you describe.

    The City of Coeur d'Alene will be required, if not in compliance with this requirement, or any other requirement of the Safe Drinking Water Act, to provide a statement to that effect in their next Consumer Confidence Report.

    I hope that this will meet the needs of your inquiry."
    Well, no, as a matter of fact, Dr. Taylor's answer did not meet the needs of my inquiry. His answer was nonresponsive to the questions asked. So, I replied to his reply:

    "Thank you for your reply; however it did not answer my question.

    My question was: Has the city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, complied with those provisions of the Bioterrorism Act? If not, with which provisions has the city failed to comply?

    To make my question clearer: Is the City of Coeur d'Alene presently, today, in compliance with the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (Bioterrorism Act)? If not, with which provision is the city presently, today, not in compliance?

    The law prescribed compliance by specific dates, and I am trying to determine if the city has complied with the law. Your answer suggests that the EPA is depending on self-reporting of noncompliance by cities rather than identifying cities who did not comply with the law by the prescribed dates.

    If your office is unable to provide the requested information, please direct me to someone who can. Thank you."
    Mr. Taylor replied promptly and instructed me to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Environmental Protection Agency Headquarters. I have.

    Yes, I might have called the City of Coeur d'Alene and received an honest answer, but I am interested in seeing if the federal government is doing its job. It seems odd that a citizen needs to file an FOIA request to learn if our city is complying with federal law, a law intended to keep our drinking water safe. Dr. Taylor's answer suggests the EPA expects noncompliant jurisdictions to report their own noncompliance. I am not reassured.

    Monday, January 17, 2005

    Ukranian Deaths Averted by Intelligence Services

    The January 17, 2005, New York Times has an article headlined, How Top Spies in Ukraine Changed the Nation's Path by C.J. Chivers.

    The article recounts how the Ukranian Interior Ministry mobilized the country's security service on November 28, 2004, intending to use Soviet-style force to suppress the Ukraine citizens' peaceful demonstration against the just-concluded rigged election. However, the Ukraine intelligence services notified the demonstrators of the planned suppression. They simultaneously told the Interior Ministry to back off, that if the Interior Ministry tried to forcibly suppress the otherwise peaceful demonstration, the Ukraine military would support the demonstrators.

    The article is fascinating reading for students of intelligence, security, and political science.

    Access to articles in The New York Times online may require free registration. The cited link will likely expire fairly quickly.

    Friday, January 14, 2005

    Anonymous or Unidentified Sources

    In his January 5, 2005, article headlined "Cuffed man shot officer," Idaho Spokesman Review staff writer Thomas Clouse used "an anonymous law enforcement source" for some of the information in his story. Predictably, letters to the editors of both the Idaho Spokesman Review and its local competitor, The Coeur d'Alene Press, have expressed a range of emotions about the writer's use of an anonymous source. Few have supported using an anonymous source.

    Having spoken with several broadcast and print journalists over the years, I've found none that wanted or encouraged anonymous or unnamed sources. It was interesting for me (in law enforcement at the time) to note the similarities between how journalists and law enforcement agents assess information sources.

    Fundamentally, both journalists and investigators seek accurate information. Inaccurate information is worthless. Sometimes it was very challenging to differentiate between fact and the source's judgment or interpretation.

    Both journalists and investigators evaluate the motives of the source for even being willing to speak. One must ask, "Why is this person willing to talk with me?" Journalists and investigators are equally concerned about being intentionally misled by sources with axes and grinding wheels behind door number one.

    Journalists quite rightly want to know why a source insists on anonymity. Is there some way the journalist can explain why the unnamed or anonymous source can be believed without identifying the source? There can be retaliation against a journalist's source just as readily as against a law enforcement officer's source.

    Journalists and investigators will often try to determine from a source if there are other sources who can corroborate the information the anonymous source is willing to supply. If there are corroborating sources who are willing to go on the record, then there is no need to even mention the anonymous source except to supervisors or editors who may want to know how the reporter or investigator got to the spinoff sources.

    We all want to know if our source was really in a position to observe, recall, and recount the information based on first-hand observation. Assuring anonymity to a source reporting hearsay and rumor is foolish since the journalist or investigator is in no position to assess the credibility of the real originator.

    I also learned from contacts with journalists that editors essentially need to be convinced that there is absolutely, positively no other source; that the story itself is sufficiently important to warrant the use of an unnamed source; that the source's information is essential to the story; that the source is not trying to manipulate the news medium; and that every effort has been made to get the source on the record. In other words, reliance on an anonymous source even one with verifiably accurate information, is a last rather than first choice.

    But there are times when news source anonymity is warranted. Without "Deep Throat" it is very possible that the Watergate break-in would have been remembered as the third-rate burglary Richard Nixon represented it to be.

    Journalists, like criminal investigators, cannot foresee the future. Neither knows with certainty how the story will end, so both must proceed and try to gather as much accurate and complete information as quickly as possible using their best professional judgment and skills.

    Both journalists and criminal investigators operate under time constraints. News that is not timely is no longer news; it is history. Crime scenes must eventually be released and investigators move on to the next step of the investigation. In most instances, neither journalists nor investigators are happy with the pressures imposed by deadlines. But deadlines are a fact of life for both.

    Journalists, no less than criminal investigators, must sometimes consider using anonymous or unnamed sources. We, the People, must remember that in most cases, both journalists and investigators have a similar motive in deciding to use an anonymous or unnamed source. Their motive is to report factually and completely to their respective audiences.

    Thursday, January 13, 2005

    Report: National Standards for Drivers' Licenses, Social Security Numbers, and Birth Certificaties

    The Library of Congress's Congressional Research Service has released a report dated January 6, 2005, entitled Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004: National Standards for Drivers' Licenses, Social Security Numbers, and Birth Certificates.

    This report is an outgrowth of the 9/11 Commission recommendation that national standards be developed for drivers' licenses, social security numbers, and birth certificates. "The Commission noted that identification fraud is no longer simply a matter of theft, but now complicates the government's ability to adequately ensure public safety at vulnerable facilities including airport terminals, train stations, bus stations, and other entry points."

    Readers are encouraged to visit S.2845 - Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (Enrolled as Agreed to or Passed by Both House and Senate) to read the legislation behind this current report.

    Typically, efforts to adopt some national standards for personal identification raise privacy concerns. The legislation tries to address those concerns.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2005

    Report: Data Mining: An Overview

    Data mining.

    The term almost certainly causes many to think of the now-discontinued Terrorism Informatin Awareness project and the Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System II (CAPPS II).

    Data mining is still be examined as a viable homeland security weapon. It can unearth terrorist activities through financial analyses, link analysis, and transnational travel tracing. However, data mining only reveals facts; it does not inherently disclose the significance of the facts.

    The Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, has published Data Mining: An Overview, updated December 16, 2004.

    This report explains what data mining is. It reports the limitations and uses of data mining. Most importantly, it discusses critical data mining issues including data quality, interoperability, mission creep, and privacy.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2005

    Report: Chemical, Biological, and Toxin Weapons

    An updated Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service report entitled Terrorism: Background on Chemical, Biological, and Toxin Weapons and Options for Lessening Their Impact, dated December 1, 2004, is an informative 18-page introduction to some of the potentially horrific weapons terrorists could acquire and use.

    The report introduces readers to the effects of these weapons, then moves on to a realistic assessment of the challenges faced by terrorists who would use them. The report continues with a brief discussion of the treatments available after exposure and then considers the potential impacts of chemical, biological, and toxin weapons. The report also discusses governmental and non-governmental approaches for preventing terrorists from having access to and using these weapons.

    Finally, the report concludes with the potential policy options for the 109th Congress to consider which may reduce the impact of a terrorist attack using chemical, biological, or toxin weapons. One of these options involves considering how the media coverage of an event involving such a weapon can affect the event's outcome. A discussion of the competing aspects of media coverage of teror related events is The Brookings Institution forum transcript The Role of the Press in the Anti-Terrorism Campaign: The Anthrax Scare and Bioterrorism: Is the coverage informative or needlessly frightening?. The Radio and Television News Directors foundation has developed a media guide for bioterrorism reporting. It is available in hard copy for purchase or can be downloaded at no cost. This 51-page guide is entitled A Journalist's Guide to Covering Bioterrorism -- Second Edition.

    Monday, January 10, 2005

    Going for the Roots

    Give Kootenai County Sheriff Rocky Watson credit for both foresight and political courage. According to the Saturday, January 8, 2005, Coeur d'Alene Press (print edition only, not on-line), the sheriff is removing two deputies from the Kootenai County Joint Drug Task Force to prepare them to address the gang problem in Kootenai County. Since there are only two deputies on the task force, he may take some heat for his decision. However, stopping gang activity before it gets established should make the local fight against drugs even more effective. Gang-controlled drug distribution is frighteningly dangerous to the community. Gangs are predatory, frequently violent, criminal enterprises.

    As the sheriff acknowledged in the article, gang members have appeared in Kootenai County. With gang members present, we have a gang problem. It may be in its infancy with gangsters temporarily here scouting out their prospective turf and doing their market and risk analyses. That's why the sheriff's decision to prevent the roots of major gang activity from taking hold here is the right one.

    Some people in the community may be upset by his detailing two deputies to Spokane County for on-the-job training in Gangs 101. Why? Spokane is a good place to start since gang presence in Kootenai County is almost certainly runoff from Spokane County.

    Hopefully the sheriff is still having lunch occasionally with Tom Cronin at the High Mountain Steakhouse and Deli. Chief Cronin's old stomping grounds, the Chicago Police Department, would be an excellent source of instruction on gang activity. So would the California Bureau of Investigation in Attorney General Bill Lockyer's office. His office's Organized Crime - Annual Report to the Legislature 2003 is a primer on organized crime and gang activity.

    Communities, particularly elected officials and chambers of commerce concerned about the area's image, often deny having a gang problem. We haven't seen graffiti, we haven't seen folks with prison tats, no one's throwing signs or wearing colors. Nope, no gang problem here. Maybe if we deny it exists, it won't appear. They wish.

    Community denial is the fertilizer that helps gang activity grow. The sheriff seems to be trying to develop deputies who can intelligently, factually, and articulately educate the community as well as directly combat emerging gangs. An informed, alert community that knows what to look for and how to report it quickly and accurately is the gang's worst enemy.

    The residents of Kootenai County need to be squarely behind Sheriff Watson on this. Today's gangs want our money. They will steal, sell drugs and people, corrupt elected and appointed government officials, and when necessary, kill people to get and keep our money. Some gang members will kill indiscriminately to protect their economic base. Inevitably, when gangs move in, the innocent people in the community are as likely as rival gang members to be the victims of lethal violence.

    Gangs can take on many forms. The Compton, California, drug gang members showing up in Spokane are but one. Groups like the Russian Mafia are more subtle but no less insidious or dangerous. No tats, no signs, no colors. They wear suits, have stylish but not flashy cars and homes, and business skills that would qualify them to be executives at General Motors. They tend to avoid overt attributable violence (though they're not above it when necessary) and engage in crimes such as financial cybercrime, complex frauds, and money laundering. Outwardly, they work very hard to appear reputable but not particularly noticeable. Behind the scenes, they're pillaging the community.

    Sheriff Watson has said he will evaluate his decision in a few months. He deserves at least that long to develop a preventive strategy for dealing with gang activity in Kootenai County. His investment of two deputies in a proactive law enforcement intelligence effort has the real potential to pay far better dividends than leaving the two deputies on the local drug task force.

    Friday, January 07, 2005

    Report: Special Operations Forces (SOF) and CIA Paramilitary Operations: Issues for Congress

    On January 4, 2005, the Library of Congress' Congressional Research Service produced its report entitled, "Special Operations Forces (SOF) and CIA Paramilitary Operations: Issues for Congress".

    According to the report's summary, it is in response to a recommendation in the 9/11 Commission report. It recommended shifting the responsiblity for directing and executing paramilitary operations from the CIA to the US Special Operations Command. The report goes on to briefly describe special operations conducted by DoD and paramilitary operations conducted by the CIA and discuss the implications of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations.

    The report comprises six pages and includes footnotes. Its major headings include:
    - What Are Special Operations and Paramilitary Operations?
    - Roles and Mission of CIA and SOF
    - Brief History of CIA and SOF Paramilitary Operations
    - 9/11 Commission Report Recommendations
    - Potential Impacts
    - Issues for Congress

    Thursday, January 06, 2005

    School Imagery Systems

    The January 6, 2005, Baltimore Sun has an article by Sun staff reporter Liz F. Kay headlined, "Digital cameras to help schools focus on security."

    The article reports several Baltimore-area school systems are paying as much as $80,000 to buy 32 cameras for one school to get, "...an additional layer of security," according to Richard Berzinski, acting supervisor of security in Anne Arundel. But Berzinski goes on to say the cameras are not used to constantly monitor the students. "We're not sitting there watching the monitors," he said. Rather, the stored images are used in the after-the-fact investigation of incidents on campus.

    The Baltimore-area school systems are buying glorified "nanny-cams." They are not buying enhanced security for the children in those school systems.

    The difference between security and investigations is significant though often overlooked by prospective clients identifying their expectations for imaging equipment.

    Real security is preventive, proactive. The imaging systems described in the Sun's article are preventive only to the extent their presence may deter some action. For these very costly systems to truly perform a valid security function, they must be designed to permit timely intervention, usually by human security officers. It is the security responders, not the imaging systems, that truly prevent the actions, provide security, and protect the children.

    Investigations are corrective, reactive, but not protective. Imaging systems used as Mr. Berzinski will use them are not security systems, they are surveillance systems. Their image interpretation will be used after the incident has occurred to identify offenders and document their actions for future disciplinary, civil, or criminal action.

    The caution I've given to parents considering "nanny-cams" is appropriate for school systems: If you have an imaging system that records the action but does not generate timely intervention, you may end up with a hauntingly graphic image of your child being injured, abducted, or killed. Are you prepared to live with that?

    Wednesday, January 05, 2005

    "By Violating the Laws of Other Countries, We Are Protecting Our Own"

    On Monday, December 20, 2004, Moscow Vremya Novostey, a small-circulation paper focusing on business and political news in Moscow, Russia, published an interview with Lt-Gen Vadim Kirpichenko, former Consultant to the Director of Russia's foreign intelligence service, the Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki (SVR). The translation of the interview was done by the US Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), and is available here. The interview was headlined "By Violating the Laws of Other Countries, We Are Protecting Our Own."

    The techniques used by the SVA and its predecessor, the KGB, are still in use today against US targets including US businesses.

    Tuesday, January 04, 2005

    Wisdom From Former MI5 Head

    In the Monday, January 3, 2005, OpinionJournal piece entitled 'Humint' Begins at Home', former British MI5 head Stella Riminigton provided some wisdom and insight about effective counter-terrorism.

    Effective counter-terrorism may begin closer to home rather than in distant lands. This is hardly news to security professionals. Organized terrorist groups always conduct on-site target assessment prior to an attack. Skillful countersurveillance can detect target surveillance and assessment by an adversary's target intelligence gatherers. As Ms. Rimington so concisely put it, "...individual operations are planned and prepared much closer to where they are carried out."

    She also wisely noted that if the public sees something suspicious, something that just does not look quite right, "...the public needs to know how to report its concerns and to be made to feel welcome when it does." I emphasized the last portion, because too often, law enforcement officials fail to listen carefully and patiently to a citizen. Or, as we learned from the post-9-11 reporting, perceptive FBI agents in field offices did listen to local sources, did report unusual patterns and behaviors of students seeking flight training, and were ignored by their superiors at headquarters. (Federal agencies ignore each other based on an informal but highly rigid principle known as "Not Invented Here". Agency headquarters ignore its own subordinate field elements based on the equally time-honored principle of "Not Invented At Headquarters.")

    Law enforcement and security agencies in the United States must learn to communicate effectively with citizens. The absence of a badge does not equate with the absence of useful, credible information and insight. And the agencies need to provide citizens with feedback, constructive feedback, instructive feedback, feedback that does not demean the citizens and discourage future reporting but encourages the citizen to observe and report more effectively.

    Monday, January 03, 2005

    Upwardly Mobile On the Terrorist Target List

    Thanks to The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company's (BNSF) failure to provide containment on the Hauser refueling station's wastewater pipes, the terrorists of the world may now know how an oily sheen on our drinking water could cast a net of terror in the Inland Northwest. Sitting over the Spokane Valley - Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer that provides drinking water to 400,000 people, the BNSF refueling station with its 500,000 gallons of petroleum product in Hauser is a target of increased stature. If it wasn't on a terrorist target list, it is now. And if it was on the list, it's no doubt been moved up.

    "We apologize for this incident, and reaffirm our commitment to protection of the aquifer," BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said in a press release.

    Apparently the terms "critical infrastructure" and "commitment to protection of the aquifer" are equally foreign to the BNSF.