Whitecaps

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

Name:
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.


Thursday, March 31, 2005

Some Interesting Technologies for Public Safety

What local public safety agencies call "high-tech" equipment usually trickles down to civilians from the military. That does not mean the particular technology is obsolete. It often means that it has been replaced by an upgraded version more suitable to the military's needs. Being the recipient of hand-me-down technology can work to the advantage of local public safety agencies as well as defense contractors. Contractors need to find markets for useful equipment the military no longer buys. This results in cost savings to local governments.

The March 2005 issue of Signal, the monthly magazine of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, has some articles that may be of interest to local public safety folks.

Many local agencies (none in northern Idaho) have sent people to the Hazardous Devices Course at Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama. This is the only recognized certification course in the United States for civilian hazardous devices units, bomb squads. For many years now, local bomb squads have been using robots to safely assess and neutralize improvised explosive devices. An article entitled Robots Take The Heat describes some of the less sensitive uses of robots by US Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams. The robots used by bomb squads are also being deployed into hostage or hostage-barricade situations to provide audio and video information safely to assessment teams.

Hospital emergency departments, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians may get a glimpse into the future of in-the-field emergency medicine with these three articles:

After seeing these articles, readers may reasonably conclude that the medical tools Gene Roddenberry gave to his fictional Star Wars character, Dr. McCoy, may be not so fictional. And the future is now.






    Wednesday, March 30, 2005

    How About a .45-Caliber Grokster?

    On March 29, 2005, the US Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios v Grokster, LTD, Docket #04-480. The merit briefs are here.

    The issue to be decided is whether or not Grokster (and similar companies such as the defunct Napster, KaZaa, Gnutella, and others) who develop and distribute computer file sharing programs are vicariously liable when young-and-innocents like us use their programs to exchange copyrighted material (usually music) without paying royalties. Copyright infringement is stealing. MGM, representing the recording industry, says that Grokster is not only providing the tools for theft, it is also encouraging theft.

    Though not in so many words, Grokster's defense paraphrases the National Rifle Association's mantra, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." Grokster's position seems to be that peer-to-peer file sharing software doesn't infringe on copyright, people infringe on copyright.

    My gut feeling is that Willy and the Supremes, like the lower courts, are going to find for Grokster. The firearms manufacturers better hope that it does. If the Court rules that vicarious liability attaches to peer-to-peer file sharing software, the court may also find itself being called on to apply the same rules to firearms and the companies that manufacture them. Stare decisis.

    Tuesday, March 29, 2005

    News Coverage: Red Lake v. Columbine

    When similar-appearing incidents of school violence occur, people sometimes compare the news coverage of each incident. The comparisons can become microscopic. Why didn't President Bush call Red Lake as quickly as President Clinton called Columbine? Is there a racial-ethnic component in the perceived differences in news coverage? Is geographic proximity to major news media outlets a significant factor?

    On March 26, 2005, Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Eric Black penned an article headlined Measuring the media coverage against Columbine. His paper's article tries to explain some of the inevitable comparisons.

    One of the more enticing pieces of information in the Star Tribune's article was the statement, "Among Minnesota reporters, Red Lake is not known for welcoming media coverage... Two photographers this week were arrested and handcuffed by tribal police for taking pictures in a place that authorities had ruled off-limits." We'll see if the photographers' employers and attorneys raise any free press issues. Were the photographers inside a clearly marked crime scene when they took the pictures? If so, hook 'em and book 'em. But if they weren't, if they were in an area of the reservation that was usually accessible to the general public, the case against them is much shakier. The issue may prove to be if the tribe has the authority to declare the entire reservation off-limits to only journalists while allowing others access.

    Monday, March 28, 2005

    Report: The National Counterterrorism Center - Challenges and Issues for Congress

    On August 27, 2004, President Bush signed Executive Order (EO) 13354 which established the National Counterterrorism Center (NCC). EO 13354 also provided for the role of the NCC and its leaders and the reporting relationship between them and the NCC's member agencies as well as the White House.

    Then in December 2004, Congress passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, Public Law (PL) 108-458. PL 108-458 was Congress's effort to prescribe the duties and responsibilities for the NCC and its leadership.

    Not surprisingly, The White House (in EO 13354) and Congress (in PL 108-458) didn't always agree on the implementation details about the NCC.

    On March 24, 2005, the Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, published a 19-page report entitled The National Counterterrorism Center: Implementation Challenges and Issues for Congress. The purpose of this report is to outline the potential areas of agreement and difference between EO 13354 and PL 108-458.

    Why does this matter to us? Because it is the Congress that is responsible for initiating and passing legislation relating to intelligence reform and counterterrorism. This legislation relates not only to national security but to civil liberties, particularly when Congress is considering collocating operational elements of foreign and domestic intelligence.

    Friday, March 25, 2005

    The "Bomb Dog" Fallacy

    Finally it's happened to an agency with one of the best explosive detecting dog team programs in the world - the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). One of its dog teams (dog plus bomb technician/handler) is reported to have failed to alert on a test device that had been carelessly left behind after a training exercise at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

    Scandalous? No, not at all (in spite of what the anonymous federal counterterrorism official cited in the article said).

    Ask military and civilian law enforcement bomb squad commanders with explosive detecting dog programs, and they will be the first to say that "bomb dogs" sometimes fail to alert. They will also say that it is a serious mistake to rely exclusively on the reactions or non-reactions of an explosive detecting dog when searching for explosive devices. The handler and dog are a team. The handler must know the team member on the other end of the leash to know if s/he is working properly or not.

    There is a difference between "full alert" and "showing an interest" in a suspicious package. The failure of the dog to fully alert on the package does not mean the handler can't or won't investigate further if s/he is a Redstone-certified technician or ask a certified bomb technician or explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technician to make a safe evaluation of the item. A competent, experienced handler does not rely fully on the dog.

    Yet with increasing frequency, we are seeing private sector overreliance on bomb dogs.

    For example, a Spokesman-Review article by Rob McDonald published on November 14, 2002, headlined "Classes resume today after EWU bomb scare", contained this statement: "'They have not found anything,' Eastern President Stephen Jordan said Wednesday night, as officers with bomb-sniffing dogs finished exterior sweeps of buildings on campus."

    Why is the private sector relying more on "bomb dogs"? Because evacuations and exhaustive searches by trained, qualified searchers and equally well-trained and qualified explosive detecting dog teams take time. Time is money. Sadly, many decision-makers in industry and government opt for dog searches. They're faster and therefore cheaper...until there is a detonation after the dog fails to alert and a handler fails to inspect further.

    Selling dogs touted as "bomb detecting dogs" to private industry is a growth business, particularly after September 11, 2001. This Fortune Small Business article includes these statements: "A more concrete benefit that MSA touts is reducing unnecessary evacuations. Dogs can check out suspicious packages, avoiding the need to call in a bomb squad." As the LAPD-LAX incident cited above shows, dogs can miss.

    Overrelying on the dog to avoid calling a bomb squad is dangerous. If a package is suspicious, the absence of a dog's alert or showing an interest does not clear the package. Clearing the suspicious package is the job for military EOD technicians or fully and currently certified public safety bomb technicians.

    Explosive detecting dog teams can be one valuable component of an explosives countermeasures security program. But relying exclusively on explosive detecting dog teams to the exclusion of other more appropriate safety measures is reckless and dangerous.

    BioWatch: How Well Is the EPA Doing?

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funds and oversees the BioWatch program. BioWatch is an early warning system intended to detect the accidental or intentional (e.g., terrorist) release of biological agents into the air. An objective of BioWatch is to give response agencies from all levels of government time to react.

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) responsibilities in BioWatch include air sampling through monitor deployment, site security, oversight, and assessing monitor technology.

    The EPA's Office of Inspector General has released an evaluation report, EPA Needs to Fulfill Its Designated Responsibilities to Ensure Effective BioWatch Program.

    The 27-page report, released March 23, 2005, identifies areas where EPA has not fulfilled its responsibilities, and it offers recommendations intended to correct identified deficiencies as well as improve overall performance.

    Thursday, March 24, 2005

    BNSF Hauser Facility: Links to the Builder and the Fixer

    James Hagengruber's article Depot flaws uncovered in the March 19, 2005, Spokesman-Review reported that the original construction of the BNSF refueling facility at Hauser was done by Hanson-Wilson, Inc., an engineering company based in Kansas City, Missouri. Hanson-Wilson has focused its business on "serving the needs of the railroad industry" with a wide range of capabilities.

    Hanson-Wilson's website touts its contribution to the Hauser Mainline Fueling Facility in Hauser, Idaho. Its interesting to note that the Hauser facility was an award winner. It's also interesting that a website review of Hanson-Wilson's railroad projects suggests that BNSF has been a major long-term client.

    We would like to know if the Kootenai County Board of County Commissioners had negotiated a contractual right of inspection at various stages of the Hauser facility's construction. If so, who did the inspections on behalf of the County, and why was the poor plumbing not found during those inspections? If the Commissioners did not prescribe and execute basic plumbing inspections comparable to what every homebuilder must receive, why not?

    But Hagengruber's article also reports that the feverish repair work is not being done by Hanson-Wilson, Inc. The repairs are being coordinated by another company, TKDA, an engineering company based in St. Paul, Minnesota. TKDA does have some background with rail facilities, but its website information is sparse. The TKDA website does not disclose any long-term affiliation with BNSF.

    It will be interesting to see if TKDA's repairs hold up better than Hanson-Wilson's original, "award winning" construction. We hope so. We also hope that the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners is using competent, qualified, independent inspectors to check TKDA's repairs.

    Wednesday, March 23, 2005

    White Paper: Homefront Confidential

    On September 4, 2004, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) released a white paper entitled Homefront Confidential - Fifth Edition - How the War On Terrorism Affects Access to Information and the Public's Right to Know. The report link is a 2 MB PDF.

    In the white paper, the RCFP asserts that for the past three years, the Bush administration has taken actions to restrict information from reaching the public. Some of those actions RCFP alleges include:

    • A directive to agency heads from then Attorney General Ashcroft to interpret the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to allow agencies to deny access more often to public records if a claim of invasionof privacy or a claim of breach of national security can be alleged (emphasis mine).
    • New layers of security for government documents that make it virtually impossible to exercise oversight of government operations.
    • New federal laws and regulations that override state open records laws.

    With the conclusion of Sunshine Week last week and the North Idaho College's Popcorn Forum on the First Amendment this week, this seems like an appropriate paper to read and consider.

    Tuesday, March 22, 2005

    Homeland Security National Planning Scenarios

    On March 16, 2005, The New York Times ran an article headlined U.S. Report Lists Possibilities for Terrorist Attacks and Likely Toll by Eric Lipton. The article stated the Department of Homeland Security had developed several plausible terrorist strikes in the United States.

    The Times article stated, "The agency's objective is not to scare the public, officials said, and they have no credible intelligence that such attacks are planned. The department did not intend to release the document publicly, but a draft of it was inadvertently posted on a Hawaii state government Web site."

    Here is the 55-page Planing Scenario - Executive Summaries. This document contains the executive summaries for fifteen scenarios.

    Monday, March 21, 2005

    Popcorn

    I'll be refreshingly brief, much to the relief of all three people who read this blog.

    It should be an interesting week at the Popcorn Forum at North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. All the topics are timely and relevant.

    Friday, March 18, 2005

    Target Analysis - What a Terrorist Looks For

    Terrorists, whether members of an organized group or lone wolves, typically engage in target analysis (TA). TA involves gathering and analyzing information about prospective targets to enable the attack planner to make a risk versus benefit analysis. Assuming the attack planner has a specific motive or an objective for designing an attack, he (or she) will often look at six broad factors in making the final target selection(s). Those factors are Criticality, Accessibility, Recognizability, Vulnerability, Effect on populace, and Recoverability. They are easily remembered with the acronym CARVER.

    CRITICALITY

    Is the target worth the time, expense, trouble and risk to attack? Will hitting the target significantly and meaningfully interrupt normal activity and achieve the terrorist's objective?

    ACCESSIBILITY

    Can the person or team chosen to execute the attack reach the objective? Is it readily accessible? What can be done to improve accessibility for the attacker or team?

    RECOGNIZABILITY

    Can the person or team chosen to execute the attack recognize the objective once they have access to it? This is especially important if the attacker(s) is a surrogate who has never personally seen the target until the attack commences. The target must be recognizable from the attacker's perspective which may be different from the intelligence perspective. For example, a building looks different from the air than it does from the ground. If attack planning intelligence consisted of aerial photos of the target but the attack is to be launched on the ground, the difference in perspectives must be considered and compensated.

    VULNERABILITY

    Is the target vulnerable to attack or is it too well secured? Is it vulnerable to the type of attack desired or must the attack method be changed? All targets, without exception, have some vulnerabilities. The issue is whether the attack planners and executors can recognize and exploit the vulnerabilities.

    EFFECT ON POPULACE

    What physical, social, political, economic, and psychological or emotional effects will a successful attack have on the people near the target and then further away? To give this a local spin: Suppose the BNSF refueling depot at Hauser were to be damaged in a way that caused total containment failure and allowed the release of all on-site products into the Spokane Valley - Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer. What would be the effects on the nearby populace as well as the downstream populace?

    RECOVERABILITY

    How long will it take for the target to recover to an acceptable level after a successful attack? What will the social, political, economic, and emotional costs be? Incidentally, a "successful" attack on a target does not necessarily mean complete destruction of the target. Often a destructive attack on a critical component of the larger target can actually be more effective than destroying the entire target.

    Thursday, March 17, 2005

    Pssst! Hey, Al...Wanna Buy a Warehouse?

    Mike Prager's and Tom Clouse's article headlined Police say deal no conflict - Department wants to buy ex-officer's building in the Wednesday, March 16, 2005, Spokesman-Review explained that Deputy Chief Al Odenthal and the Spokane Police Department want to spend approximately $410,000 to purchase a warehouse in another city, Hillyard, to store evidence. The warehouse is owned by a retired Spokane police captain, and one of the real estate agents involved in the sale is a retired Spokane assistant police chief. The newspaper article suggests the deal may be a conflict of interest.

    Most government jurisdictions have specific rules that must be followed to procure real property. For example, the regulations controlling the federal government's acquisition of real property for its agencies is found in the US General Service Administration's Federal Management Regulations, Subchapter C - Real Property. Of course, the federal regulations don't apply to Spokane. It is likely, though, that even Spokane has procedures governing how it acquires real property.

    Real property acquisition rules generally require that the agency legally announce its solicitation for space and invite prospective property owners or their agents to examine the agency's requirements. Then, they can submit bids if they believe their property can meet the requirements. The objective of competitive bidding is to acquire the most suitable property at the least cost. Sole-sourcing, acquisition without competitive bidding, is sometimes necessary in an emergency.

    But there is no emergency, no exigent circumstances, that justify the Spokane Police Department's sole-sourcing this purchase. Evidence is currently stored in a building constructed in 1907. The Police Department knew, or should have known, for several years that its evidence storage needs were approaching that building's capacity. The old saying that "A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part" applies to Deputy Chief Odenthal and the Spokane Police Department, too.

    It seems odd that the City of Spokane is trying to buy property rather than lease it on a five- or ten-year lease. The City already has an option to buy property in Airway Heights on which it purportedly intends to build a permanent evidence storage warehouse. To purchase the Crabtree warehouse on Chief Odenthal's assurance that he would be able to sell it at a profit if and when the Airway Heights facility is built seems recklessly speculative. Odenthal might be correct, but he's almost certain to be retired and beyond the reach of personal accountability by the time that happens.

    The questions that need to be answered right away are:
    • Has the Spokane Police Department followed all applicable real property acquisition rules and regulations?
    • If those property acquisition rules were not followed, why not? What exigent circumstances or emergency existed to justify their violation?
    • Are the Spokane Police Department and the City of Spokane getting the most cost-effective and suitable space available if it purchases the Crabtree warehouse in Hillyard? Did the Police Department make an exhaustive effort to find comparable or better property in Spokane?

    While the Spokesman-Review article does not make a strong case for a conflict of interest, it does suggest the Crabtree warehouse acquisition is a sweetheart deal that financially benefits some Spokane Police Department retirees. Determining exactly how the Crabtree property was selected by the Spokane Police Department might reveal something more questionable than a vague conflict of interest. How extensive was the City's solicitation for warehouse space? Were other properties considered? Why were they rejected? It would also be interesting to learn if any command-level officers currently on the Spokane Police Department had received some present benefit or had been promised future benefit in return for purchasing the Crabtree warehouse. The Washington State Auditor's Office might be able to help.

    Wednesday, March 16, 2005

    Useful References for Webloggers

    As a blogger I do not consider myself to be a journalist of any kind, not a news journalist, not an opinion journalist. The term "raw information provider" probably comes closer to describing my objective for my weblog. (It did not escape my notice that the acronym for "raw information provider" is R.I.P.!)

    Still, journalism has its own organizations that produce educational material to enhance their members' skills. Here are some links to material produced by one organization, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP). The titles are self-explanatory, and some are clearly relevant to webloggers interested in blogging lawfully and ethically with timely, accurate, and fair information.

    Access to Electronic Records

    Access to Juvenile Courts

    Access to Places

    First Amendment Handbook

    How to Use the Federal FOI Act

    Medical Privacy vs. the Public Interest

    Photographers' Guide to Privacy

    The Privacy Paradox

    Of all these links, I found the First Amendment Handbook to be the most concise yet comprehensive. Its coverage includes chapters with these titles:
    • Libel
    • Invasion of Privacy
    • Surreptitious Recording
    • Confidential Sources and Information
    • Prior Restraints
    • Gag Orders
    • Access to Courts
    • Access to Places
    • Freedom of Information Acts
    • Copyright

    Tuesday, March 15, 2005

    Radon in Coeur d'Alene

    Considering buying a home in Coeur d'Alene or anywhere else in Kootenai County? Be sure to ask the real estate agent about radon testing and mitigation. Do not accept any representation or intimation that radon does not exist here; it does. At the same time, the presence of radon should not be a deal-breaker, because radon mitigation is available. Mitigation is reasonable but not cheap.

    Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium found in rocks and soil. Your risk of exposure to radon depends on the permeability of the soil under your house, the construction of the house, and the amount of radon in the soil. It is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, but it can be detected and measured with inexpensive and simple tests. Next to smoking, prolonged radon exposure is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer in the US.

    According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, radon levels in Kootenai, Shoshone, and Bonner counties routinely exceed 4 picoCuries per liter (abbreviated 4 pCi/L). According to a Panhandle Health District press release, the average indoor radon level in Kootenai County is 13.1 pCi/L. The average indoor radon level for Idaho is 6.1 pCi/L. The US Environmental Protection Agency recommends radon mitigation when levels exceed 4 pCi/L.

    If you are considering having a home built in Kootenai County or buying an existing home, take the time to thoroughly review the State of Idaho's brochure Dealing with RADON in Real Estate Transactions. Keep in mind that radon is a hazardous material, so the property seller must disclose to you the results of any radon testing that has been done and any mitigation that is in place. That does not mean, however, that the seller must have tested for radon; just that any test results must be disclosed.

    When we purchased our home in Coeur d'Alene in 2000, the laboratory test results showed radon levels in our unfinished basement to be considerably less than 4 pCi/L. In February 2005 I retested, and the laboratory determined that our basement radon level is now 8.15 pCi/L.

    The good news for us is that radon mitigation is reasonably priced and effective, so we will have it installed when we finish the basement in the next year or two. It would have been even less expensive if the original homeowner had installed it during initial construction.

    Monday, March 14, 2005

    Sunshine Week - March 13-19, 2005

    Sunshine Week is not a week of patriotic parades, paid holidays, and shopping mall sales. In fact, there are very likely some government officials who hope that Sunshine Week will not catch on. Well, they're already about three years too late.

    Sunshine Week began as Sunshine Sunday in 2002 with an effort by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors (FSNE) to educate their readers about the importance of public access to government. After three years of Sunshine Sundays, the FSNE concluded that its efforts led to the repeal of nearly 300 exemptions to Florida's open government laws. It wasn't news media pressure, it was the pressure generated by an awakened and media-educated Florida citizenry applying the heat to elected and appointed government officials that created change.

    Three years later, the American Society of Newspaper Editors has transformed Sunshine Sunday into a week-long nationwide educational effort known as Sunshine Week.

    It would be a mistake to think that Sunshine Week is about newspapers or the news media generally. Sunshine Week is their effort to remind "We, the People" of our right to access government information. The free press guaranteed by the First Amendment to our Constitution is one tool, a big one, but still only a tool. Even the best tool can't build a house if it isn't picked up and used.

    There are some indications that we may be allowing our tool, a free and aggressive press, to rust. In January 2005, the Knight Foundation released the results of the Future of the First Amendment research project. Among the project's many findings (excerpted from the study):

    1. High school students tend to express little appreciation for the First Amendment. Nearly three-fourths say either they don't know how they feel about it or they take it for granted.
    2. Students are less likely than adults to think that people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions or newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.
    3. Students lack knowledge and understanding about key aspects of the First Amendment. Seventy-five percent incorrectly think that flag burning is illegal. Nearly half erroneously believe the government can restrict indecent material on the Internet.
    4. Students who do not participate in any media-related activities are less likely to think that people should be allowed to burn or deface the American flag. Students who have taken more media and/or First Amendment classes are more likely to agree that people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions.

    How much do you know about the First Amendment relating to free speech and free press? Here's a test.

    The Sunday, March 13, 2005, Seattle Post-Intelligencer has an article entitled AP CEO Tom Curley, on Sunshine Week. The article is in a question-and-answer format explaining why Sunshine Week is for "We, the People" and not about "Them, the Press".

    Is there cause for concern about the future of first amendment guarantees? Yes. As the Sunday, March 13, 2005, New York Times points out in its article Under Bush, a New Age of Prepackaged TV News, more and more local and regional television news outlets are picking up government-supplied "news" articles, typically called video news releases, and pushing them as straight news without attribution. In some instances, television news edited the government's own attribution out of the pieces to make the result resemble even more closely locally produced news. This lengthy article is a must-read, because it reveals not only the efforts of government agencies to propagandize (the GAO's term) those who get their news from television, it also divulges the reasons why television stations in the US are going along with this program. Contrary to what the New York Times headline suggests, this effort did not begin with President Bush.

    It is a very short step from disseminating propaganda to disseminating disinformation. News media and citizens that cannot recognize propaganda will not be able to recognize disinformation. An excellent introduction to disinformation or peacetime deception operations can be found in the book "The Deception Game: Czechoslovak Intelligence in Soviet Political Warfare" by Ladislav Bittman, 1972, Syracuse University Research Corp. Bittman was a career disinformation officer with the Czech intelligence service from 1954 to 1968 when he defected to the US. The Czech intelligence service fronted disinformation operations for the former Soviet Union's intelligence services, the KGB and GRU. Bittman is considered to be the top authority on disinformation in the US.

    Sunshine Week is an opportunity for us to educate ourselves and reassert our right to have access to the accurate and complete information from our government. Those of us who live in Idaho might want to look more closely at the repugnant efforts of our primarily Republican legislators in Boise to close committee meetings. The Sunshine Week link cited earlier in this post contains links to tools we all can use.

    Friday, March 11, 2005

    When Events Don't Make Sense, Ask Questions

    The publicly-reported circumstances of Sam Grubbs' departure from the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department (KCSD) and his lickety-split rehiring to replace Juvenile Justice Services Director Allan Friesen when he retires in nine months simply don't add up.

    Newspaper accounts of Grubbs' departure from KCSD had Grubbs being placed on paid administrative leave while the Idaho State Police (ISP) conducted an investigation into what Sheriff Rocky Watson characterized as a "noncriminal personnel issue" and "philosophical differences, a difference in management style between Sam and I (sic)." Suddenly, Grubbs resigned to accept the top juvie job, and the ISP investigation was terminated.

    Then Thursday, March 10, 2005, the Coeur d'Alene Press reported that the County Commissioners didn't have the authority to do the aforementioned lickety-split hiring of Grubbs. That determination came from First District Judge Charles Hosack on Tuesday.

    All this raises questions.

    1. What was the noncriminal personnel issue that required the ISP investigation? Wouldn't a noncriminal personnel investigation have been done by the county's human resources department? C'mon, folks, the ISP does not investigate another agency's philosophical differences in management style. This was much deeper than that.
    2. At the time of his suspension on January 3, 2005, from KCSD, Grubbs was in charge of patrol and detective divisions. The timing of his suspension is noticeably coincident with the investigations into the December 28, 2004, shooting death of Michael Madonna by KCSD patrol deputies. Is there a connection between Grubbs' departure from KCSD and the notably deficient administrative review of the deputies' actions before the actual shooting started?
    3. Had Friesen officially submitted his retirement papers with a specific retirement date before Grubbs suddenly became available? Had Friesen formally declared his intention to retire?
    4. Since Grubbs was under investigation by the ISP, why would the County Commissioners even consider hiring him before knowing the results of the investigation? Without knowing what the investigation might reveal, the Commissioners could be hiring someone unsuitable for the job. Why wouldn't the Commissioners wait for the ISP investigation's results? What was the rush? Were they afraid what the investigation might reveal if it were completed?
    5. Grubbs was leaving KCSD under a cloud, yet the Commissioners couldn't wait to hire him at the same salary he received from KCSD to eliminate the need to advertise the director's position. Why wouldn't the county want to advertise for the position to get the best qualified applicants? It had nine months! It's not as if Friesen was walking out the door the next week.
    6. Was Grubbs' accelerated hiring into the new position an incentive to get him to leave KCSD quietly and quickly? If so, who is trying to hide what?
    7. Why is the county's insurance carrier paying Grubbs' salary? What was nine months' salary cheaper than, a lawsuit? This sounds like a risk aversion strategy to avoid the discovery that a very public lawsuit would have disclosed.
    8. Some overlap can be beneficial, but two directors receiving full pay for nine months seems a bit much for a position that, if we believe Commissioner Rick Currie, Grubbs was already prepared by knowledge and ability to occupy. In light of Judge Hosack's ruling, Grubbs' pay ought to stop immediately. If it doesn't, ask why.
    9. Who from the county attorney's office advised the Commissioners that hiring Grubbs did not require the court involvement prescribed in Idaho Code? Or did the Commissioners even ask?
    10. The Coeur d'Alene Press article cited earlier also said that based on Judge Hosack's ruling, Grubbs would now have to go through a formal hiring process that involves the state Administrator for the Courts and the Idaho Association of Counties Executive Director as well as county and court officials. Doesn't that mean the county must now advertise the director's position? Or is this committee being convened just to rubber stamp Grubbs' appointment?

    I'd sure like to have these questions answered. Hopefully, so will Judge Hosack, Idaho Administrator of the Courts Director Patty Tobias, and Idaho Association of Counties Executive Director Daniel Chadwick. The smell here in Kootenai County is not all coming from the Fightin' Creek landfill.


    Thursday, March 10, 2005

    Report: FY2006 Appropriations for State and Local Homeland Security

    On February 14, 2005, the Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, provided the Congress with a five-page report entitled FY 2006 Appropriations for State and Local Homeland Security.

    Following are excerpts from the linked report:

    The report is "...a preliminary overview of the Administration's FY2006 budget request for selected programs of homeland security assistance to state and local first responders: firefighters, emergency medical personnel, law enforcement, etc."

    "The report does not cover general assistance grant programs such as the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant, the Byrne Grant, the Byrne Memorial Formula Grant, and Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS)."

    "The report covers only programs intended to help state and local recipients enhance their preparedness for terrorist attacks and that are administered by the Office for Domestic Preparedness, within the Office for State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness."

    Wednesday, March 09, 2005

    Foul!

    The Wednesday, March 09, 2005, New York Times had an editorial entitled Terror Suspects’ Right to Bear Arms. The editorial was based on the Government Accountability Office’s report “Gun Control and Terrorism” released on March 8. What troubled me about today’s Times editorial was its figures did not match the GAO report’s figures.

    The Times editorial said, “...that 58 potential gun buyers were flagged in a nine-month period last year as positive matches on a federal watch list of terrorism suspects. The bad news is that 47 of them were cleared to go ahead anyway and buy assault rifles, ammunition or whatever else was on their firearms shopping list.” The GAO report said that there were 44 valid matches (not the Times’ 58) and that 35 (not the Times’ 47) were allowed to proceed. So I read the report again to resolve the difference. Where did the Times get its figures? The answer is from footnote 2 on page 3 of the GAO report.

    The footnote says, “In December 2004, FBI officials told us (GAO) that – during the period July 1 through October 31, 2004 – the FBI handled an additional 14 NICS transactions with valid matches to terrorist watch list records, of which 12 were allowed to proceed and 2 were denied. It was beyond the scope of our (GAO) work to assess the reliability or accuracy of the additional data.”

    In my view, the New York Times was wrong to inflate the GAO’s published figures by adding data that GAO had not included because GAO could not assess the data’s reliability or accuracy. That the New York Times did this in an editorial rather than a news article makes little difference. I believe the Times’ using questionable data without identifying the data’s uncertainty is wrong.

    Report: Gun Control and Terrorism

    On Tuesday, March 8, 2005, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled Gun Control and Terrorism.

    During the period February 3 - June 30, 2004, a total of 44 firearms-related background checks handled by the FBI and applicable state agencies resulted in valid matches with terrorist watch list records. Out of the 44 checks, 35 transactions were allowed to proceed because the background checks found no prohibiting information such as felony convictions, illegal immigrant status, and other disqualifiers.

    In other words, our existing gun control and regulation laws allow persons on terrorist watch lists to buy guns in the United States unless they have one or more of the same disqualifiers that makes it illegal for any citizen to buy a weapon. Being on a terrorist watchlist is not a disqualifier by itself.

    Tuesday, March 08, 2005

    Report: Espionage Against the United States by American Citizens 1947-2001

    In 1986 the Defense Security Personnel Research Center (PERSEREC)was established to provide US government policymakers with research on espionage and on personnel security. In July 2002 PERSEREC published a 135 page unclassified report of its research entitled Espionage Against the United States by American Citizens - 1947-2001.

    The report was based entirely on unclassified open-source material and studied the personnel and job characteristics of 150 individuals and the characteristics of the acts of espionage or attempted espionage they committed. The report's first section begins with the personal characteristics of the Americans who spied, including employment and security clearance status, how and when the espionage was carried out, and the consequences the individuals suffered. The second section compares the durations of their espionage. Subsequent sections compare military offenders with civilians, volunteers with recruits, and if the individual was successfully recruited, if the recruitment was carried out by officers of a foreign intelligence service or by family or friends. The fifth section compares motivations for espionage in various eras. Additional sections compare lone spies with those who had partners, and also the characteristics of American female spies.

    Mention espionage and most people assume you're talking about a crime against the state, against our government. They're using the criminal legal definition of espionage. But it's important to understand that espionage is a series of actions as well, not just a violation of law. Understanding the human behavior that leads to those actions can be tremendously valuable in private security in America where the act of espionage can result in economic damage to a company. Corporate security and security consultants need to understand the human side of espionage, not just the legal side, to successfully defend against it.

    Monday, March 07, 2005

    Department of Homeland Security Critical Infrastructure Reporting Guide

    The Department of Homeland Security's Terrorist Threats to the U.S. Homeland - Reporting Guide for Critical Infrastructure and Key Resource Owners and Operators is available, at least for a little while, online.

    From the introduction to this uncopyrighted federal government publication:

    "This Terrorist Threats to the U.S. Homeland Reporting Guide for Critical Infrastructure and Key Resource Owners and Operators (TTRG) was jointly produced by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The purpose of this document is to leverage the vast information resources of our critical infrastructure partners, in recognizing activities or conditions that may be indicative of terrorist activity. State and local organizations and the owners and operators of our nation’s critical infrastructure are on the front line in the war against terror and therefore have a critical role as primary sources of threat-related information. Timely and relevant information from the 'front lines' is critical to the development of insights into terrorist plans and intentions, and subsequent disruption of their operations."

    The document is unclassified.

    Friday, March 04, 2005

    Public Corruption - Who Investigates It

    Public corruption is defined as crimes involving abuses of public trust by government officials at any level: federal, state, or local.

    All states have laws that permit or require their state's attorney general and local prosecutors to investigate allegations of public corruption. However, not all states have recusal requirements, requirements that compel a local prosecutor to recuse himself or herself from a public corruption case simply because he or she has extensive social or political contact with the persons who may or have become subject of the investigation. Indeed, local prosecutors may not even be required to notify the state's attorney general that a public corruption allegation has been made. That is typically because local prosecutors are locally elected and are autonomous. State bar association ethical standards for prosecutors may compel disclosure of certain allegations.

    At the federal level, public corruption investigations are the responsibility of the United States Attorney for the particular district in which the violation occurred. However, Section 9-85.000 PROTECTION OF GOVERNMENT INTEGRITY of the United States Attorney's Manual recognizes that US Attorneys do interact politically and socially in their districts. Consequently, the US Department of Justice (USDOJ) requires that nearly all public integrity or pubic corruption allegations made to US attorneys be brought to the attention of the USDOJ's Public Integrity Section.

    To better understand the how's and why's of the USDOJ's Public Integrity Section, read pages 1-10 of Report to Congress on the Activities and Operations of the Public Integrity Section for 2002. That Report to Congress is an annual report required of the USDOJ by the Ethics in Goverment Act of 1978.

    To get some idea of how citizens initiate complaints to and request investigations by the USDOJ's Public Integrity Section, see the Public Citizen letter of June 17, 2003. Notice that the letter of complaint included far more than just general allegations and emotional arguments. The letter identified the laws Public Citizen believed were being violated, it identified specific persons allegedly involved in the violations, and it provided enough factual and verifiable information to establish probable cause that the cited law may have been violated.

    The Public Citizen complaint letter could easily serve as a model for citizens requesting local prosecutors or a state attorney general to investigate allegations of public corruption. While a local prosecutor or attorney general may be disinclined to pursue a credible investigation, let alone a prosecution, because of social or political connections locally, he or she knows that failure to dutifully investigate the complaint could easily cause the complainant to take the information to progressively higher prosecutorial authorities including the USDOJ Public Integrity Section.

    Allegations of public corruption should never be made without enough supporting information to cause a reasonable person to conclude that the allegation(s)have a factual basis. That is not to say that the complainant must always be able to hand over an airtight case. It means that there must be credible evidence beyond mere suspicion of wrongdoing. Again, read the Public Citizen complaint letter. Note the lack of emotional argument and the emphasis on the law and the elements of proof that exist to support the allegations. A well-prepared complaint letter with substance is much more difficult to dismiss than one based on emotion but short on facts.

    Thursday, March 03, 2005

    Should Journalists Withhold Information From the Public?

    The March 3, 2005, edition of the Los Angeles Times has an article headlined Media's Role in BTK Case Scrutinized, by P.J. Huffstutter and Stephanie Simon.

    With the arrest of Dennis L. Rader in the BTK homicides in Wichita, KS, journalists have begun to acknowledge they passed communications from the suspect to authorities. They have also acknowledged that they sometimes acceded to police requests to withhold information. Some are wondering if their decisions to honor the investigators' suppression requests were the right ones. Consequently, employees from the Wichita Eagle newspaper and KAKE-TV have begun to disclose all that had previously withheld.

    The Los Angeles Times article reveals the journalists'conflicts.

    Wednesday, March 02, 2005

    Worthy of Trust and Confidence?

    In 1973 when I began my career with the US Secret Service, I was given a commission book that included my name and photograph. Immediately below my full name was a paragraph that included the agency's statutory authority, my permissions, and the assurance, "...is commended as being worthy of trust and confidence."

    Several years later, the Secret Service decided to modify its badge and commission books. In the new commission books, the wording, "...is commended as being worthy of trust and confidence" was to be dropped. The outcry from the employees was so intense that Headquarters relented and reinserted it. We, the protestors, recognized that while hardly anyone ever read the wording on our commission books, it was important that phrase remain for those who did. We considered it to be our personal pledge, a promise, a commitment to the people we served that we would work to continue to be worthy of their trust and confidence.

    "Worthy of trust and confidence" is a good standard to judge law enforcement officers by, because it must be earned and can only be conferred by those whom the officer serves. It is those served who decide if the officer is worthy of trust and confidence. That applies to all levels from the highest supervisor down to the new hire.

    But trust and confidence can be lost. A law enforcement officer can betray the trust and confidence that the public has conferred. Once lost, it is difficult to regain.

    As a member of the public, I no longer consider Kootenai County Sheriff's Lieutenants Neal Robertson and Nile Shirley , Sergeant Al March, Deputy Kevin Mumford, and Idaho State Police Lieutenant Curtis Exley to be worthy of my trust and confidence. I relied on them collectively in their capacity as a Review Board to fairly and impartially examine the legally justifiable homicide of Michael Madonna to determine if his death and the wounding of Coeur d'Alene Police Officer Michael Kralicek could have been avoided. I relied on them to evaluate the conduct of Deputies Bangs and Smart and their supervisors and trainers to see if their overall conduct was appropriate. I relied on the Review Board to ask the questions I could not, to be the public's, my, advocate for professional, disciplined law enforcement. They failed me. They did not fail Sheriff Watson. They gave him the decision he wanted.

    Neither do I consider Kootenai County Sheriff Rocky Watson, Captain Ben Wolfinger, and Lieutenant Kim Edmondson to be worthy of my trust and confidence. It is clear from their comments made to the press before and after the Review Board announced its results that they had little desire to provide the public with a complete picture of what happened on December 28, 2004, in the Grouse Meadows subdivision of Hayden. Why not? Simply put, they do not trust us. Fortunately, the Idaho State Police Region 1 Investigations Division report of the incident does what the KCSD command staff and the Review Board were unwilling to do: Reveal what happened. I have the utmost trust and confidence in the ISP investigators who prepared their report.

    Perhaps the Sheriff, his command staff, and the Review Board were trying to protect Deputy Bangs from further emotional distress. He is certainly the third victim of this incident. He could have been held accountable without being punished, for I suspect he has inflicted more severe punishment on himself than any Review Board ever could. I have trust and confidence in Deputy Bangs. The mistakes he made on December 28 were mistakes he very likely had made before, but his supervisors and trainers either didn't recognize them or failed to correct them. They deserve to share whatever burden he bears.

    Deputy Bangs' failure to properly control his prisoner Michael Madonna was the underlying factor of the shooting incident. When he handcuffed Madonna, Bangs accepted custodial responsibility for Madonna to protect Madonna from harming himself and prevent him from harming others. The obligation to control a handcuffed prisoner is a fundamental duty that takes precedence over the desire to confidentially exchange investigative information with another deputy. Yet, according to The Spokesman Review, "'It's not in their summary so I guess it wasn't an issue for them (the Review Board),' Wolfinger said." Wolfinger's flippancy says it all.

    Perhaps the Review Board and the KCSD commanders named were trying to deflect attention from KCSD's failure to provide timely information to its field deputies. Bangs knew of Madonna's escape attempt while in Coeur d'Alene Police custody on December 17, but Bangs had been given incorrect information about Madonna's escape technique. Other deputies interviewed by the ISP, including one acting as a field training officer, were unaware of Madonna. The December 17 incident should have prompted the KCSD training officer and every supervisor to immediately ensure that every deputy had complete and accurate information about Michael Madonna and his escape attempt technique on December 17. That didn't happen, and that's an institutional failure of supervision and training.

    The ISP report supports the conclusion that Bangs had handcuffed Madonna with his hands behind his back but with his palms together rather than palms outward. Palms together handcuffing facilitates the type of maneuvering that enabled Madonna to get his hands in front of his body. With his palms together in front of his body, Madonna could easily and quickly pick up and fire his revolver. His hands, although cuffed, were in their "natural" position in relation to his body. Had he been correctly handcuffed with his palms outward and behind his back, he would have been less able to maneuver his hands to the front of his body. And with his palms handcuffed facing outward, even if he had maneuvered them to the front, his thumbs would have been pointed downward, an unnatural position to grasp anything. Picking up a large-frame revolver and firing it as the ISP report described would have been difficult, maybe made even moreso by Madonna's blood-alcohol content of 0.16. The revolver would literally have been upside down! It was Bangs supervisors' responsibility to ensure he followed his POST Academy training handcuffing prisoners. It was the department training officer's responsibility to ensure that deputies trained and retrained on correct handcuffing technique. Applying the cuffs quickly, smoothly, and correctly is a function of training, training, and more training. They failed Deputy Bangs.

    Perhaps the Review Board didn't want to address the question of why Madonna was allowed to remain seated in his garage close to the connecting door into his house. Lieutenant Edmondson evaded that question in a newspaper interview: She "...can't second-guess the reasons for that." Yes, Lieutenant Edmondson, you can and you should. As a supervisor you have a responsibility to supervise, and that includes asking subordinates why they took a particular action. That's not second-guessing or sharpshooting; that's doing your job as a supervisor. You have a duty to correct inappropriate or dangerous behavior in your subordinates. If you don't understand that and do it, you should not be a supervisor.

    Maybe the Review Board didn't want to consider the unusual treatment accorded the woman who was with Madonna at the time of the incident. According to the woman's statement to the ISP investigator, after Deputy Bangs handcuffed Madonna, Deputy Smart escorted the woman to the back seat of his patrol car where he seated her, unhandcuffed, with the door opened and with the cage window down. When the shooting started, Smart ran back to the garage leaving the woman unconfined and unrestrained. From the ISP report: "(The woman) remained in the police car during the shooting. After the shooting stopped, an officer closed the rear door and put the window up in the cage." Then, "(The woman) saw officers adminster first aid on a male in the garage. Two (2) ambulances came and then left after a while. After the ambulances left, an officer came to her, handcuffed her, and placed her back in the locked police car." This sequence of events came from the ISP's interview of the woman.

    It is interesting that the woman's sequence of events varies from Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas's described on page four of his seven page summary. On page four, Douglas's summary states that when the garage door opened to reveal Madonna and the woman inside the vehicle in the garage, "Officers commanded her to exit her car and she was handcuffed and seated in a patrol car." Douglas's wording implies she was handcuffed and seated in a patrol car before the shooting started. That varies from her statement. Neither Bangs' nor Smart's statements refute her statement. In fact, Deputy Smart's statement in the ISP report refutes Douglas's: "The female indicated she was cold and Deputy Smart offered his patrol car for the female to sit in. Deputy Smart put her in the rear of his patrol car with the door open. The female was not under arrest nor handcuffed." Smart went on to say that it was he who closed the door with her in the back seat after the shooting had stopped, but he makes no mention of being the one who handcuffed her.

    Do Sheriff Watson, Captain Wolfinger, Lieutenant Edmondson, and the officers on the Review Board care that they are not worthy of my trust and confidence? Probably not. The community's cheerleaders and politicians will continue to pat them on the back and tell them how well they're doing. Sadly, the cheerleaders and politicians who are patting them on the back are reinforcing poor leadership and supervision. That does not bode well for the deputies on the road.

    Tuesday, March 01, 2005

    Understanding DNA Evidence

    Due in part to the "CSI effect" but also because of increased real-world law enforcement use of forensic DNA evidence, the general public has taken a greater interest in it.

    There is a good introduction to DNA Forensics at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory website. This link has additional links that help readers understand genetics and the Human Genome Project.

    The public's interest has been fueled significantly by the cases of people who were wrongly convicted, some waiting execution on death row, who were freed because DNA evidence exonerated them. The Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University works "...to exonerate the wrongfully convicted through postconviction DNA testing; and develop and implement reforms to prevent wrongful convictions."