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.

Friday, July 29, 2005

What I Meant Was...

The title of my July 13, 2005, weblog post was It's Up to Us...Every One of Us. The title was intended to remind readers that when it comes to protecting ourselves, our family members, our friends, and our neighbors, it's up to us...every one of us. It is not exclusively law enforcement's job, though law enforcement has a critical role and obligation to participate. It is not exclusively the city and county governments' job, though they also have a critical role and obligation to enforce their respective zoning ordinances that help protect us.

In their July 23, 2005, article headlined Concerns raised about day care, The Spokesman Review staff writers Taryn Brodwater and Erica Curless reemphasized the point I was trying to make. In the article the writers noted that the Panhandle Health District (PHD) operates a child care resource center to provide information to care seekers. PHD knew the day care manager's husband was a convicted and registered sex offender, but the law prohibits PHD from directly disclosing that to inquiring parents. However, PHD did insert the publicly accessible Idaho State Police Registered Sex Offender information in the day care's file.

"Great," you say. "Good for PHD!" I agree completely, but here's the rub: According to Susan Cuff, PHD's spokesperson, very few parents searching for day care information check the files at PHD! Here was an example of a government agency acting very responsibly and very protectively, but it was parents or guardians, not the government, that failed any children who may have been victimized.

Now, parents and guardians may say, "Well, we didn't know about the PHD resource center." That's my point...it was their obligation to find out. Why in the world would any responsible parent or guardian entrust a child to anyone including not only private day care centers but also public institutions such as schools, churches, civic organizations, and public safety agencies without first thoroughly checking them out? You don't know how to check? Learn!

Folks, predators go where the prey can be found. Predators will try to find a way to associate themselves with apparently trustworthy organzations in order to gain access to their prey. See West tied to sex abuse in '70's, using office to lure young men, which notes that one of Spokane Mayor Jim West's accusors alleges Jim West molested him when West was a Spokane County sheriff's deputy and Boy Scout leader.

It's up to us...every one of us, to do everything in our power to identify the predators and limit their access to their prey.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Links for Convenience

On July 28, 2005, The Spokesman Review published my guest column which it headlined Society must mobilize against sex offenders. At my request, the paper indicated it had been condensed from my weblog.

Here is a link to my original July 13, 2005, weblog post entitled It's Up to Us...Every One of Us.

Report: Law Enforcement Technology - Are Small and Rural Agencies Equipped and Trained?

Those of us who live in Kootenai County may think the Coeur d'Alene Police Department and the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department are small rural agencies. They are not; at least, not by national standards.

In its June 2004 study Law Enforcement Technology - Are Small and Rural Agencies Equipped and Trained?, the US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice notes that 90 percent of all law enforcement agencies in the United States have fewer than 50 sworn officers; half of all agencies have 10 or fewer. Nationally, 90 percent of law enforcement agencies serve populations of 25,000 or fewer.

The reported research was conducted to find out whether small and rural agencies are adopting new technologies, how important the agencies perceive these systems or devices to be in the operations, and whether or not the agencies have the ability to use new technologies.

What the researchers concluded was that while small and rural departments may use and be well-trained in the use of communications technologies, including laptop computers, they may be underusing such technologies as global positioning systems, digital imaging for fingerprints, less-than-lethal weapons, and other technologies that could help them do their jobs better. The report contains the details supporting those conclusions.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

To Elect or Hire?

The Sunday, July 24, 2005, Coeur d'Alene Press editorial was headlined County government ripe for big change.

Not surprisingly, the always pro-business Press liked many of the recommendations that came from the business community, otherwise known as the "citizen's committee".

One of the Press editorial's three bullet items, though, made me wonder if the Press editor wasn't just moving his mouth in response to his strings being pulled. The item read: "Voters would continue to elect the sheriff and prosecuting attorney, but the county administrator should hire qualified individuals for county clerk, assessor, treasurer and coroner. Those are critical administrative positions that should be determined strictly by qualifications, not by political popularity contest."

The clear meaning of that statement is the sheriff and prosecuting attorney positions do not have any particularly essential qualifications and they are not critical administrative positions. While I can't address the qualifications for the prosecutor's position, I can with certainty tell the editor of the Press that he is badly misinformed about the qualifications required to be the chief executive officer of a law enforcement agency. To keep it brief, I'll suggest to the editor that he read Police Leadership in the 21st Century: Achieving and Sustaining Executive Success, a study released in May 1999 by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. In particular, the Press editor might want to start on page 5 with "The Contemporary Executive Role - A Consensus Model." And lest the Press editor think that a sheriff, even a rural north Idaho sheriff, is not appropriately included in this chapter, he can return to page 2 of the report and see that the first conference participant listed was Jacquelyn Barrett, at that time the Sheriff of Fulton County, Georgia.

Equally absurd was the Press editor's including the county coroner in the list of persons who should be hired rather than elected because the coroner's position is "critical" and should be based on professional qualifications. What professional qualifications? According to Idaho Code, Section 34-622 (2), "No person shall be elected to the office of coroner unless he hasattained the age of twenty-one (21) years at the time of his election, is acitizen of the United States and shall have resided within the county one (1) year next preceding his election." Though the position of coroner is statutorily required in Idaho, the statutes do not require the elected coroner to meet any particular professional standards or qualifications.

Perhaps the Press editor is laboring under the misimpression that Kootenai County's Coroner is a qualified forensic pathologist, a medical examiner or forensic medical examiner. He is not. If the Kootenai County Coroner requires a post mortem medicolegal examination, the examination is done by qualified forensic pathologists in the Spokane County Medical Examiner's Office. Until the State of Idaho decides to set much higher minimum standards and qualifications for the county coroner's position, that position can continue to be what it is in Kootenai County, a political popularity contest.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Homeland Defense? Homeland Security?

For those who just can't get enough FAs (federal acronyms), here's a Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service report entitled Homeland Security: Navy Operations -- Background and Issues for Congress.

This caught my eye, because the summary paragraph leading the six-page report notes that "The Department of Defense (DOD), which includes the Navy, has been designated the lead federal agency for homeland defense (HLD), while the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which includes the Coast Guard, has been designated the lead federal agency for homeland security (HLS). Several Navy activities contribute to HLS and HLD. The Navy's HLS and HLD operations raise several potential oversight issues for Congress, including Navy coordination with the Coast Guard in HLS and HLD operations."

The report goes on to use such intriguing FAs as MDA, GWOT, AT/FP, MHLS, MHLD, and CS. The ability to jam as many FAs as possible into as few pages as possible is the sign of a bureaucrat destined for rapid promotion.

I recall one of my Army assignments was coordinating the Latin American Exchange of Information Program, which the Army FA'd the LAX program. After concluding that assignment, I was given the "Ex-LAX Officer" award. That was appropriate, because the work product of the LAX program was the same as the product resulting from taking Ex-Lax.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Sexual Predators: Beta Testers for Homeland Security?

If we can't track the movements of identified predatory sexual offenders after they have been released from prison, how can we ever hope to track unknown terrorists inside our borders?

On Thursday, July 21, 2005, The Spokesman Review online ran a "breaking news" story headlined Warrant issued for girl's father.

The story reports that John Rollins Tuggle was released from a Colorado prison after serving time for rape. It does not report if Tuggle completed his prison term or was released on parole. Neither does the story indicate if Tuggle had registered as a sex offender.

The Spokesman Review story recounts how Tuggle came to Idaho and picked up his daughter, ostensibly to take her camping. The girl was later found in Shoshone County, Idaho, suffering from multiple stab wounds. She survived, was found by other campers, and has been hospitalized. A warrant has been issued for the arrest of her father, John Rollins Tuggle.

This morning about 8:30 a.m. I checked the online sex offender registries for Colorado and Idaho along with the much-touted nationwide National Sex Offender Public Registry (NSOPR). Currently 22 states participate in NSOPR. John Rollins Tuggle was not listed in any of the registries.

Why not?

Tuggle was released from a Colorado prison after serving time for rape. Surely Colorado would have registered him before releasing him. Did Colorado notify the rape victim and Tuggle's family when he was about to be released? Were there no-contact orders in place to prevent Tuggle from having any contact with either the rape victim or certain family members? Was the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department notified that Tuggle was being released and might be enroute to see his daughter in Athol?

The National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS) facilitates the types of interagency alert communications that should have occurred prior to and after Tuggle's release. But as we learned from the 9-11 Commission report, information sometimes is not passed in the most timely manner, if it is even passed at all.

Why not use the resources of the Department of Homeland Security to track predatory sex offenders and communicate information about them? Why not use the elusive unpredictability of predatory sex offenders as beta testers to see if authorities have learned from their experiences of September 11, 2001?

Tracking a sex offender ought to be easier than tracking a terrorist, because unlike terrorists, the convicted sex offender is already known to local or state governments. If authorities can't keep track of known and identified predatory sex offenders, how can they expect to identify and keep track of terrorists inside our borders?

The government is committing extensive resources for homeland security. Why not use some of them to secure the homeland from predatory sex offenders?

ADDENDUM (posted at 7:55 p.m. on 07-21-2005): An updated version of The Spokesman Review online story linked above states that Tuggle, "...was recently released from Idaho State Prison after serving nine years for rape," and, "The victim was under 18, and reportedly was his sister-in-law."

I once again ran Tuggle in the Idaho State Police online sex offender registry using his last name and date of birth (obtained from the Coeur d'Alene Press online story today). The return showed : "SEARCH RESULTS FOR ( AGE CATAGORY : ADULT - LAST NAME : - TUGGLE DOB : 01/27/1968 )

Using the additional information from the updates Spokesman Review story, I calculated that at the time of the rape, Tuggle would have been approximately 26 years old. If the rape victim was 17 when the rape occurred, the age span would have been nine years. Of course if she was younger, the age differential would have been greater.

The Spokesman Review story also reported that Tuggle was a registered sex offender in Hayden, Colorado. Yet the Colorado Bureau of Investigation online sex offender registry does not list him. A caveat with the website explains why. "This website does not list all convicted sex offenders in Colorado, only certain high-risk registered sex offenders in the following categories: Sexually Violent Predator (SVP), Multiple Offenses, and Failed to Register."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Libraries and the USA PATRIOT Act

The USA PATRIOT Act's Section 215 is one of the more contentious sections. Before the USA PATRIOT Act was passed, federal authorities conducting foreign intelligence investigations could get an order authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)court for access to hotel, airline, storage locker, or car rental company records. Section 215 amended that authority to include access to any tangible item no matter who holds it. By implication, that includes access to library loan records and records of library computer use.

For a discussion of this issue, see Libraries and the USA PATRIOT Act, a report completed by The Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, and updated on July 6, 2005.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Coeur d'Alene Sex Offender Wakeup Call -- Again

Steve Badraun posted an insightful comment on The Spokesman-Review Associate Editor and Columnist Dave Oliveria's July 18, 2005,Huckleberries Online weblog. He recounted a personal observation of some behavior facilitated by the failure of the Coeur d'Alene city government to enforce its existing zoning ordinances.

Mr. Badraun was not the first to recognize that the city government appears to care little about using its city zoning ordinances for one of their intended purposes -- protection of residents.

Over a year ago, several residents of Greenstone's Coeur d'Alene Place learned that four convicted felons, all still on state supervised probation or parole, were living in a rental house in Coeur d'Alene Place. When the community objected to the housing arrangement, we were told that the city's definition of family as used in its zoning ordinances was probably unenforceable. Apparently the Coeur d'Alene city government believed that "four convicted felons on probation or parole and not related by blood, marriage, or adoption" living together without onsite supervision fits the traditional definition of a family. More accurately, the city was scared stiff that if it tried to enforce the existing zoning ordinance, it would be sued by convicted felons. But, the Coeur d'Alene Place residents were assured, the ordinances would be fixed quickly.

The ordinances were not fixed quickly. The ordinances were not fixed at all. Those same deficient ordinances are now supporting the quiet housing of registered sex offenders in Coeur d'Alene. It's quite clear the city is in no hurry to fix its ordinances. After all, law-abiding citizens represent little or no political threat to the city. Landlords and developers with a financial stake in residential housing, on the other hand, would be in court at the drop of a subpoena if the city even looked like it might try and protect the less influential law-abiding families of Coeur d'Alene.

But there is some action every concerned citizen can take.

First, go to the Idaho Sex Offender Registry and look up the registered sex offenders in your zip code. Make a note of the residence addresses of each offender that you believe is too close to you, your child's school, or their playground.

Then go to the Kootenai County Parcel Information Search website. Under "Search By", search by "Street Name", using the name of the street on which the offender lives. The search may return several entries, but the street number is on the return. Click on the "Serial Number" for the street address of interest. That should take you to a page entitled "Parcel Information Search Results", and the public information about the property of interest should be there. That information includes the name and mailing address of the property owner. If you feel so inclined, send a polite, non-threatening letter to the property owner objecting to the use of his property to house registered sex offenders.

The law-abiding residents of Coeur d'Alene should also apply some serious pressure to the Coeur d'Alene City Council and Mayor to fix the ordinances and enforce them aggressively.

What would zoning ordinance repair and enforcement do? It would not harm builders, developers, and landlords. It would simply require them to apply for a special use permit when they want to house "unorthodox" families such as convicted felons on probation and parole or registered sex offenders together, unsupervised, among the more traditional families in Coeur d'Alene.

So, why would some builders, developers, and landlords object to needing a special use permit? Because obtaining the permit would require a public hearing, and that public hearing would expose them and prospective tenants to public scrutiny. The last thing someone seeking a special use permit wants to attend is a public hearing where an outraged public speaks out assertively against the proposed use of the property.

The public hearing process is currently our best opportunity to force into the sunlight some of the interpretations being applied to the term "single family housing" by the developer-friendly City of Coeur d'Alene.

Monday, July 18, 2005

US - EU Counterterrorism Cooperation Report

"The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks gave new momentum to the European Union (EU) initiative to improve law enforcement cooperation against terrorism both among its 25 member states and with the United States. Washington has largely welcomed these efforts, recognizing that they may help root out terrorist cells and prevent future attacks. However, the United States and the EU face several challenges as they seek to promote closer cooperation in the police, judicial, and border control fields."

On July 12, 2005, The Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, released an updated report entitled U.S. - EU Cooperation Against Terrorism. This updated report provides background information on EU efforts against terrorism, it describes the progress to date on US-EU counterterrorism cooperation, it discusses ongoing challenges facing both the US and the EU, and it identifies US issues and perspectives for our Congress.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

OPSEC Manual

One of the misconceptions about national-security intelligence is that the more highly classified the information, the greater its value. If information wasn't collected clandestinely at great risk to agents and case officers, well, it just can't be particularly valuable. At least, that's what the espionage writers would have us believe. Reality is considerably different.

What the United States finally came to realize in Viet Nam was that observables, things anyone could see without resorting to espionage, could often reveal military strategies and tactics as effectively but at much less risk than an agent-in-place.

For a fascinating insight into the not-so-shadowy world of operations security (OPSEC), defending observables from an adversary's observational acquisition of them, see Intelligence Threat Handbook published by the Interagency OPSEC Support Staff.

Chapter headings include:

Title, Overview, the changing nature of the intelligence environment

Foreign Espionage, the "classical" method of targeting the United States: Russian intelligence organizations; A different approach to targeting the United States, Chinese intelligence collection

Economic Intelligence

Computers and the Internet

Intelligence Collection Disciplines

Selected Supplemental Intelligence Service Information including Russian Federation, People's Republic of China, Cuba, North Korea

The Economic Intelligence Act of 1996

Finding Information and Assistance

Selected Readings


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

It's Up to Us...Every One of Us

In the wake of the Wolf Lodge murders, kidnappings, and sexual attacks on two minor children, state and federal legislators will be rushing to be first in line, or to at least be publicly recognizable in the line, to write or endorse legislation making violent crimes with a sexual component even more illegal than they already are.

The problem is that the laws do not persuade or convince violent offenders not to offend. They are criminals. They offend. That's what they do. Jacob's Law, Megan's Law, and Carissa's Law did not dissuade Joseph Duncan from committing his crimes. Had Dru's Law been in effect, it wouldn't have caused Duncan or other any active, dormant, or latent child molester to say, "Gee, I'd better not do this."

Which is not to say legislation cannot be effective in helping to prevent these crimes. It can. Legislation that makes the non-deviant rest of us more alert, more aware, and more proactive in prevention will make it harder for the likes of Gary Ridgeway, Robert Yates, Dennis Rader, and Joseph Duncan to operate undetected. Simply put, we need to be educated to be more alert for pre-incident behaviors that arouse our suspicion. We also need to be taught how to document and promptly report those behaviors we observe. And intervention agencies, usually law enforcement agencies, need to be required to take these reports seriously and to respond promptly and appropriately.

Joseph Duncan's case will be a useful educational tool. It should educate legislators to recognize what many in the criminal justice system have known for years: One cannot rely on statistical analysis of past behaviors to reliably predict any particular individual's future behavior.

Duncan's case should convince legislators who may be a bit uncomfortable talking about "sex" that while sexual gratification may be an important element for the offender, it is nothing less than a violent crime for the victim. The “sexual” component of the offender’s behavior must not obscure, minimize, or rationalize the violence inflicted on the victim. It’s only about “sex” for the offender.

Duncan's case should educate legislators to understand that self-reporting (e.g., registration) by offenders will be effective only if the offender is already committed to compliance.

Duncan's case should educate legislators to recognize that sexual predation is a national problem that requires national cooperation with, not domination over, state and local involvement. It is a national public health problem as well as a criminal justice problem that must be addressed nationally in cooperation with state and local governments. NIH and CDC need to be involved federally.

Duncan's case should educate all of us that sexual predators are individuals with very individual behaviors, including “normal” behaviors. They do not consistently fit meaningful profiles. Each case of predation must be assessed individually, not lumped together in one-size-fits-all. Trying to shortcut criminal investigations with behavioral profiling is effectively putting on blinders. Behavioral profiling may help investigators structure suspect interviews, searches, and surveillances, but it is less successful in helping initially identify suspects.

Legislators must recognize that legislatively imposed offender classifications cannot tell the whole story about what is in the makeup of the offender. For example, a “young and stupid” man of 20 who engages in voluntary, cooperative sexual intercourse with a girl of 17 may not belong in the same category as an equally “young and stupid” man who forces himself involuntarily on a girl of 17.

Still, if classification and assessment are essential in trying to control predatory sexual offenders, then the standards and categories for classification and assessment need to be consistent between states. There needs to be federal funding for research into better assessment and classification methods.

Periodic reassessment of offenders to upgrade or downgrade the offender’s classification is essential. Downgrading includes complete removal from system when warranted. Why should anyone be removed? To ensure public resources are focused where the greatest need is – on those likely to reoffend and those too dangerous to ever be out of custody. Decisions to upgrade or downgrade an offender should be influenced but not controlled by interaction and feedback from criminal justice system.

Current offender registration system in states is ineffective given the mobility available to offenders. The gaps that allow offenders to drop out of sight must be closed. There must be mandatory check-out and check-in times when an offender leaves one jurisdiction and travels to another. The objective is to achieve real-time “handoff” tracking between states. “Timely” means now, not in an hour, a day, or a month.

The failure of an offender to check out or check in on time should be a federal offense and result in a federal arrest warrant sought by US Marshal’s Service and entered into NCIC. An "absent" offender must be presumed to be intentionally absent with the intent to commit a violent act.

There must be continuing supervision for offenders in any level if state’s assessor/evaluators deem it necessary for the public safety. Supervision continues after offender leaves one state and enters another until gaining state can personally reassess and reevaluate offender. This includes spontaneous, unannounced warrantless searches.

There must be federal funding and training for criminal justice agencies to establish and maintain networks that will “talk to each other” to register and track sexual offenders in real time and to enter any "change of status" immediately into a national database.

I would like to see federally funded mandatory and recurring education and training for certain public officials to prepare them to recognize sexual violence and predation and respond appropriately when they see it. Officials would include

  • Public safety and criminal justice system professionals including judges, prosecutors, public defenders, probation and parole agents, correction officers, law enforcement, fire service, emergency medical service
  • Public health professionals
  • City, county, and state elected officials and the department supervisors who support them
  • School boards

I would also like to see federally funded mandatory and recurring education and training for certain state licensees to prepare them to recognize sexual violence and predation and respond appropriately when they see it. Included in this group would be

  • Realtors (I would require that realtors provide prospective property buyers or renters with direction to and, if necessary, access to Dru’s Law database when it is finally established.
  • Lawyers
  • Private investigators
  • Locksmiths
  • School administrators and teachers, and certain others (e.g., bus drivers,
    counselors, etc.) who come into professional contact with students
  • Mental health professionals
  • Medical professionals (doctors, nurses, pharmacists)
  • Foster care and elder care residence managers and staff

    In Idaho, the Governor should elevate the importance of sexual offender registration and supervision to be at least equal status with methamphetamine, gangs, and prison population on the Governor’s Criminal Justice Commission.

    And finally, when indicated and after appropriate review, give states the authority to confine sexual predators in mental health custody facilities after state criminal justice constraints (jail, prison, probation, parole) have expired. This is primarily a mental health decision, not a criminal justice decision.

    As communities, we need to recognize that there are things we can do to make ourselves and our children less attractive to a predator looking for prey. We can be alert for and report behavior we find intuitively suspicious. We can keep garage doors closed and locked; the same with ground floor doors and windows. We can refuse to open our doors to people whom we do not recognize and trust.

    We can refuse to be victims, and we can refuse to allow those whom we love and care about to become victims.

  • Monday, July 11, 2005

    Defense Department Role in Homeland Security

    What is the role of the US Department of Defense (DoD) in homeland security? Logically, one would assume that DoD would have a prominent role to play, and it does. In its June 2005 study Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support, the DoD lays out its vision for fulfilling its homeland security responsibilities.

    However, increasing DoD's involvement in homeland security may require additional authorizing legislation. DoD's involvement is closely regulated by the Posse Comitatus Act which outlaws willful use of any part of the Army or Air Force to execute law except when specifically authorized by Congress or the Constitution. To get a better understanding of The Posse Comitatus Act, read The Posse Comitatus Act & Related Matters: The Use of the Military to Execute Civilian Law. An abbreviated explanation can also be found in The Posse Comitatus Act and Related Matters: A Sketch.

    Friday, July 08, 2005

    Let Them Live So Others May Be Spared

    In a Thursday, July 7, 2005, Huckleberries Online weblog post sponsored by The Spokesman-Review, associate editor and columnist Dave Oliveria asked:

    Question: Can anyone argue against the death penalty for the BTK killer and whoever -- wink -- is responsible for the Groene murders?

    Yes, I can.

    No, I do not believe for a nanosecond that either Dennis Rader or Joseph Duncan can be rehabilitated. Watching both of them on television and knowing their histories, I believe that both represent a grave danger to humans and must be confined for the rest of their lives. But that is not to say that neither of them can make a beneficial contribution from inside prison walls. They both can, if they will.

    Both of these sexual offenders need to be carefully studied by practicing behavioral scientists. Just as medical scientists and researchers study those afflicted with lethal diseases to learn how to better diagnose and treat, so must the behavioral scientists and researchers study Rader and Duncan in hopes of learning how to better recognize, assess, and classify others who may be like them and those who may be dramatically different from them. Assessors and evaluators must learn how to differentiate between those who are not correctable, those who may be correctable, and those who have been successfully corrected. And if we ever hope to be able to prevent the kinds of acts inflicted by Rader and Duncan, we must learn as much as we can about what precipitated them.

    Executing Rader and Duncan will neither resurrect their victims nor heal survivors' wounds. Any satisfaction we might experience by seeing Duncan and Rader take his last breath will be short-lived. Studying them in inescapable confinement may contribute knowledge enabling prosecutors and judges to better recognize virulent, violent offenders and to rule they must forever be isolated from society. Better assessment and classification criteria and practices will help assure that more criminal justice system resources are devoted to those who pose the greatest threat to offend or reoffend.

    So yes, I believe that Duncan's and Rader's lives should be spared. If by learning from their perversions now we can prevent future Duncans and Raders from inflicting their pain on others, sparing their lives now will be worth it.

    Thursday, July 07, 2005

    No Crystal Ball Needed

    On July 7, 2005, Fargo, ND, KVLY-TV11 television reporter Donn Robertson's story titled Prosecutor Discussing Duncan’s Prison Sentence attributed comments to attorney Dennis Fisher. Fisher, currently in private practice in Fargo, is a former federal prosecutor who represented Joseph Duncan in his April bail hearing in Detroit Lakes, MN. Defending Becker County District Judge Thomas Schroeder's decision to set Duncan's bail at $15,000 on charges he had molested a 6-year-old boy at a playground, Fisher commented that judges don't have a crystal ball and they have to follow the facts in front of them at the time.

    In another television interview, Schroeder used the same excuse, that judges don't have a crystal ball.

    No, you pathetic excuse for a judge, you had access to something far more reliable than a crystal ball. You had access to Joseph Duncan's criminal history, and you were simply too lazy to obtain, read, and understand it. You relied on the representations of both the Becker County prosecuting attorney Joseph Evans and Duncan's attorney.

    In its July 4, 2005, article headlined Idaho suspect aired his demons by staff writer Chao Xiong, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis-St. Paul reported that Evans, the prosecutor, wasn't surprised at the low bail because Duncan had registered as a sex offender in Fargo, ND, he was employed, he was a student, and "indications were he had made a satisfactory adjustment."

    Satisfactory adjustment? Really? What was that determination based on? Certainly not on anything in Duncan's record of sexual crimes and convictions.

    No, Schroeder (I refuse to dignify this clown with the title "Judge"), you didn't need a crystal ball. You knew he was a sex offender, because you were told he had already registered in Fargo. You only needed to ask for the records and then take the time to read and understand them. You had the authority to hold Duncan in jail until you could obtain and review the records. You didn't do it, and three (probably four) people died unnecessarily because of your laziness.

    Wednesday, July 06, 2005

    The Science of the World Trade Center Collapses

    Responding to the World Trade Center (WTC 1, 2, and 7) collapses on September 11, 2001, the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) undertook an investigation to determine what factors contributed to the buildings' structural collapse. Equally important, NIST was trying to identify what could be done to make buildings safer, less likely to structurally fail, in a catastrophic attack or a natural disaster.

    Many of the documents, reports, and other material prepared and published by the NIST are available at its NIST and the World Trade Center website. Some of the documents are highly technical and not light reading.

    Monday, July 04, 2005

    The Sanctity of the Seal

    On July 2, 2005, The Spokesman-Review published an article headlined E-mails open records, judge says. Staff writer James Hagengruber reported that Idaho District Judge John Stegner had ruled the 889 e-mail messages exchanged between Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Douglas and Maria Kalani, a former Juvenile Education and Training (JET) Court coordinator, were open records and not protected by privacy laws.

    Judge Stegner's ruling will be appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, but the ruling was both logical and reasonable under current case law. As the judge observed and Hagengruber reported concisely, the e-mails were written on county property and contained information about the conduct of public business. He determined that the Douglas - Kalani e-mails were not personnel information but information about the conduct of public business. Without ruling that an inappropriate relationship existed between Douglas and Kalani, Stegner astutely noted that if such a relationship existed, its very existence would rightly be public business because the supervisor (Douglas) evaluates the subordinate (Kalani), and "...the public is entitled to know if there is something more than an employer/employee relationship which could cloud the supervisor's judgment."

    In explaining why he felt the e-mail message should be kept from the public, Hagengruber quoted Prosecutor Bill Douglas saying, "It's about privacy rights in cyberspace and the definitions of what is public records with regard to the Internet." Douglas raised a fair point about privacy rights in cyberspace but not about the Internet having some bearing on whether information on the Internet is public record or not. It is its origin and content, not the medium chosen to exchange it, that determines whether or not information is public record.

    As to privacy rights, I wonder if Douglas and Kalani might make a defensible and reasonable comparison between e-mail messages and first-class letters sent through the US Postal Service.

    Employees of the US Postal Service are required by law to protect the "sanctity of the seal" on a first-class letter. A postal patron mailing a first class letter is entitled to expect that except when authorized by a court order or search warrant, his letter will not be opened and read or its content disclosed by anyone in the US Postal Service. That the services, facilities, and equipment of the Postal Service are used to facilitate the first-class letter's exchange does not automatically entitle Postal Service handlers to open and read the letter's content. Indeed, the US Postal Inspection Service was created to provide assurance to postal customers of the "sanctity of the seal" in transmitting correspondence and messages. That wording, taken from the US Postal Inspection Service's own website, is important, because even now the US Postal Service is blurring the distinction between US mail and e-mail by marketing the use of e-mail to enhance traditional mailings.

    Maybe someday, no doubt long after the US Postal Service has gone bankrupt and first-class mail has been replaced by e-mail, Congress will accord e-mail the same protection that resulted when the Second Continental Congress created the Postmaster General position in 1775. That event showed Congress's recognition of the importance of the government facilitating and securing interpersonal non-verbal communications. Its intent has been affirmed to this date and evidenced by continued Congressional funding of the Postal Inspection Service without any change in its mission to protect "the sanctity of the seal."

    Friday, July 01, 2005

    Insider Spying - It's a Big Deal for Industry, Not Just Government

    In May 2005, the Defense Personnel Security Research Center (PERSEREC) released its Technical Report 05-10 entitled Technological, Social, and Economic Trends That Are Increasing U.S. Vulnerability to Insider Espionage.

    According to the study's abstract, "The study explores ten technological, social, and economic trends in the United States and globally that are serving to increase opportunity and motivation for espionage."

    Though the study obviously is focused on "espionage" by US government insiders with access to classified, sensitive but unclassified, and proprietary information, the data can reasonably be extrapolated to cover insiders working in industries completely uninvolved with US government projects and contracts. Human behavior is human behavior regardless of who employs the human.

    This is a report that should be read and understood by all executives and supervisors in businesses that have competitors. It should form the basis for entry level and advanced employee training to acquaint employees with the ways and means their company's life can be stolen or manipulated by competitors. It should also be read by human resource directors to better formulate questions and methods for pre-employment screening.