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.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Judges Alarmed - $12 Million Requested for Snake Oil

In the aftermath of the murders of a federal judge's family members in Chicago and the Atlanta courthouse attacks, the Judicial Conference of the United States has sent a letter to the President asking for increased security for federal judges and their families.

The request, announced in a press release, includes some reasonable items and one that indicates the judges have succumbed to the snake oil being peddled as "security" by the security products and services industry.

The reasonable requests include funding to improve the threat assessment and response capabilities of the US Marshal's Service, the agency charged with providing personal security for federal judges.

Then came the request for $12 million to install a home intrusion system for each judge. That's the snake oil.

In the absence of a well-conceived program of barrier and personnel security, home intrusion detection systems will not protect judges or anyone else. Home intrusion systems can warn, but they don't protect. By the time most home intrusion systems generate an alarm, the intruder is already inside the "protected" area and seconds from his intended target. You won't hear that from an alarm company sales representative unless you push for it.

Home intrusion detection systems must be used in conjunction with effective barriers and other measures that will deny an intruder access to the target long enough to permit protective forces to respond. Home intrusion detection systems need to detect an intruder and generate an alarm before the intruder gains entry to the protected area.

Watch the television advertisements for home intrusion systems. You will see a monitoring center employee promptly acknowledging the alarm and taking the appropriate action to notify emergency responders. Cut instantly to the police rolling up in front of the house, guns drawn, and then shortly leading the intruder away in handcuffs. If only it worked that way.

What the ads don't show, and what the hardware and monitoring contract pushers in the security products and service industry try very hard to hide from prospective customers, is the emergency responders' actual response time to home intrusion alarms. Typically, that will be several minutes. Indeed, in many cities the police are refusing to respond to intrusion alarms until after an intrusion has been confirmed by a resident, a business owner, a security guard, or some other responsible party.

Of course, the police (or other responders) are going to respond more quickly to an intrusion alarm generated at a federal judge's house. Yet even a minute or two response time is not quick enough if the intruder is already inside the protected area.

The solution is not to refuse to install alarm systems. Rather, it is to harden the judges' homes to make pre-access detection effective. Appropriate target hardening is costly. It involves landscaping, structural reinforcement, and esthetically acceptable delays such as laminated safety glass rather than conventional glazing. It may involve construction of a safe room. Once the home has been hardened to delay an intruder's access to his intended target for a reasonable time, then an intrusion detection system can be designed that will take full advantage of that delay time.

That the Judicial Conference of the United States so specifically requested $12 million to install a home intrusion detection system for each judge while referring vaguely to other off-site security enhancements says that the hardware/monitoring contract pushers in the security products and services lobby may have circumvented knowledgeable security professionals and spoken directly with the decision makers. Taxpayer funded purchase order to follow.


Anonymous tsykoduk said...

We live in a socitie that is based on fear. Our media pushes all of the bad things that happen, all of the murders around the nation, all of the atrocities commited down our throughts. People in fear often make poor choices. They make reactionary choices with out taking the time to actually find out the truth.

The Judges are a perfect example. There have been several events in a short time, and they have their shorts in a bunch. So, they go to the industry that most caters to fear, and get a quote.

An we are going to end up paying for their houses to get upgraded.

10:28 AM, April 07, 2005  

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