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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Safe Communities - Planning for the Future

On Thursday, September 8, 2005, from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) will be sponsoring a community meeting at the North Idaho College (NIC) Student Union Building, Lake Coeur d'Alene Room. The meeting's theme is "Safe Communities - Planning for the Future". The promotional flyer lists four topics for discussion:
  • Prison Population Growth. Can we reduce prison growth?
  • More Offenders in Communities. How can communities enhance safety as the state experiences growth in probation and parole?
  • Treatment. What works? Is more needed?
  • Sex Offender Supervision. How does idaho track sex offenders? Are there ways to enhance safety?

The flyer does not specifically identify panelists, however it lists the following names under the NIC logo: Tony Stewart, Rep. Mike Mitchell, Rep. John Rusche, Rep. George Eskridge, and Rep. George Saylor (sic). I presume they will be the panelists at NIC . If so, I'm very disappointed at the absence of any practicing social or behavioral scientists, public administrators, and members from the community at large. If the goal of the forum is to enhance community safety by planning for the future as the flyer states, then including only legislators on the panel would seem to leave the "community" out of community safety planning.

I understand that NIC will be formally announcing its Popcorn Forum schedule tomorrow, August 31, 2005. Why didn't NIC and IDOC publicize the September 8 event sooner? These are important community issues.

Addendum on 09-01-2005 at 10:45 a.m.: In response to my voicemail inquiry, Kerrin Tenneson, Sr. Administrative Asst.North Idaho CollegeSocial & Behavioral Sciences Division, sent an email identifying additional panelists. They are:

  • Tom Beauclair, Director, Idaho Department of Correction
  • Vince Rodriguez, District 1 Manager, Idaho Department of Correction
  • Thomas Hearn and Kathy Baird, Idaho Sex Offender Classification Board
  • Steve Nelsen and Tom Hadlow, Program Coordinators, Idaho Department of Correction

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Technology Tornado - Criminal Justice Meets the Wizard of Oz

That was the title for a series of three lectures I delivered to the CRIM 382 - Organization and Adminstration class at Eastern Washington University in November 2004. I chose that title because the process of applying technology to the criminal justice system resembles a tornado: Lots of stuff happening and flying around all over the place with a lot of criminal justice administrators hoping a house doesn't fall on them in the process! Except for the newspaper article cited below, this material came from my own career experiences as an end-user and supervisor.

The article headlined Post Falls police to try 'e-citations' in The Spokesman-Review on August 26, 2005, touches on the subject very well. The statement, "Technology-savvy employees – and receptive bosses – play a pivotal role in why Idaho's River City has been able to do what larger towns haven't," explains what it takes for agencies to intelligently apply technology. The article goes on to note how the judicious use of technology can save money over the long term.

When used in the context of criminal justice, "technology" can mean almost anything except people. As I've noted in an earlier post, most criminal justice technology evolves, trickles down, from US Department of Defense (DoD) contracts. A lot of DoD technology is advanced but can be scaled down to be affordable for criminal justice programs.

There is a process of applying technology to criminal justice. As in any process, there are steps. I'm going to briefly describe each of the steps, but it is very important to understand that these steps can occur simultaneously rather than sequentially, and they don't necessarily appear in the order listed either.

Step 1: Needs Identification

What technology does the agency need to perform its mission more efficiently and more effectively? Is the technology a need or a want?

Here's a warning: Some law enforcement administrators are easily "gee-whizzed". That means they or their grant-writers rely far too heavily on marketing literature and product vendors in the "needs identification" phase. They see a technology that causes them to say, "Gee whiz, this is really neat!", and then try to find a reason to buy the technology. It is critical that administrators identify the problem before seeking a solution. Avoid being gee-whizzed by technology, buying it, and then trying desperately to find a problem it will solve. Technology acquisition must nearly always be driven by a defined need, not simply by the availability of the technology.

Administrators must distinguish between applications technology and exploitation technology . Applications technology is something an agency acquires to use against a bad guy. Exploitation technology exploits something the bad guy is using and turns it against him. Here are two very simple examples. An audio transmitter worn by an undercover agent for safety and evidence gathering during a meeting with a bad guy is an example of an application technology. A nonconsensual wire or nonwire interception of a bad guy's emails is an example of exploitation technology, because the bad guy is using technology for communications and the agency is using technology to exploit those communications. Administrators must also be aware that a technologically astute bad guy can sometimes exploit criminal justice technology to his own benefit.

When it comes to technology needs identification, criminal justice administrators are faced with a quandry: How do I anticipate (read: budget for) needs five to ten years down the road when the technologies available change significantly more quickly? There's no easy answer to that.

Step 2: Research

Ongoing research by criminal justice administrators (or their technical support unit) is absolutely essential.

Research helps determine what technologies will best address current and future needs.

Research is essential to accurately assess how agency employees will accept or reject particular technologies. Will employees learn? Can they be taught to use the technology effectively and comfortably? Will employees embrace the technology or will they feel threatened by it?

Research is heavily dependent on feedback from current and prospective end-users.

Will technologies being considered be interoperable with other agencies' technologies? For example, it might be prudent for agencies to consider eXtensible Markup Language (XML) in data communications systems. Future radiocommunications equipment will need to meet the APCO Project 25 (P25) standard.

Research often raises prickly questions for administrators. Here's one: Once employees have accepted the technology and have found out how much it improves the quality, quantity, timeliness, and convenience of their job, is their demand for more going to exceed the administrator's ability to deliver? Yes, the heroin addict model does apply here, too.

Step 3: Law, Ethics, and Morality of Technology

  • Why is it even important to address the law, ethics, and morality of technology?
    Judges may refuse to accept the results of technology they question or don't understand. Administrators must ensure that employees offering technology evidence educate prosecutors and judges.
  • If technology is knowingly abused by criminal justice practioners, legislators may outlaw that particular technology even if it is scientifically valid.
  • Legislators must also be educated about technology so they do not write bad laws that impose unreasonable standards or unfunded mandates.
  • If the public questions the morality of a particular technology being used by criminal justice agencies, the public may begin to exert political influence on the agency to discontinue its use.
The development and availability of technology for criminal justice administration often occurs faster than the social or legal constraints that regulate it. For example, "spam" and "spyware" appeared on personal computers long before legislators even knew it existed.

Here's another example: Cloned cellular telephones were being produced for at least two years before remedial legislation was passed to make cellular telephone cloning illegal.

Criminal justice administrators contemplating using technology must consider the consequences if the public does not understand or misunderstands the technology. The OJ Simpson trial jury's failure to understand the statistical reliability of the DNA evidence presented in his trial is an example of such a consequence.

Agency personnel have an ethical obligation to ensure the technology is not misued or abused in a way that deceives the public.

Step 4: Policy Development and Compliance

Why do agencies need policies in place before implementing a technology?

  • Policy development ensures (or forces) agencies to focus on how technology's capabilities will or won't help the agency meet its objectives and requirements.
  • Policies define the agency's objectives in applying the technology.
  • Policies clearly articulate the lawful and ethical use of the technology and establishes remedial actions for violations.
  • Policies provide a basis for training on the application of the technology.
  • Policies guide future procurements.
With consistent, clear policies in place, there can be consistent policy review after every incident of reported misuse to determine if misuse occurred, and if it did, why?
Policy must be trained consistently and understood by both users and supervisors.
Policy formulation can stress out administrators and policy writers. How much understanding and acceptance of the technology is needed to formulate practical, understandable, lawful policy? For example, should some luddite who refuses to use computers, let alone the Internet, be writing policy on the use of data interception technology?

Step 5: Procurement Process

You must consider all costs including initial procurement, maintenance, and replacement.   Many companies provide lower initial procurement costs but may require a long-term maintenance and storage contract.  Make sure you understand all the costs over the useful life of the equipment.

Which is more appropriate: Custom-designed technology or commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology?

Generally, COTS should be used whenever possible. Custom design means higher research and development costs, longer development time, and higher manufacturing costs. Acquiring COTS technology should also enhance interoperability. Custom design may reduce flexibility, increase complexity, reduce end-user friendliness and thus increase training costs. COTS technology is usually easier and cheaper to modify, upgrade, and maintain. In short, use custom design only in those exceptionally rare instances when it is the most appropriate method.

What about sole-source versus competitive bidding? Sole-sourcing usually results in faster delivery and in getting exactly the product you want. Sole-sourcing may be valid when the technology is already being used successfully by other agencies with whom the technology's result must be shared or where joint technology training (e.g., POST) is mandated. For example, the US intelligence community members with technical surveillance countermeasures program all use pretty much the same equipment and are all trained at the same schools. But competitive bidding usually results in lower costs. It also encourages competition to improve their product lines to adapt to the criminal justice market. Ultimately, it is up to the criminal justice administrator to reconcile the differences between procurement practices and, of course, to comply with agency procurement policies.

There are a couple questions that criminal justice administrators must consider when procuring technology.

First, must administrators streamline the procurement policies and practices to take advantage of newer proven technologies? Depending n the cost and the agency's procurement regulations and practices, procurment actions may take several months from inception to completion. In the case of long-term programs, the procurement action may take over a year.

Second, if an administrator expedites the procurement of technology, what message does that send to employees who manage behavioral programs? There is anecdotal evidence strongly suggesting that law enforcement administrators are usually quicker to accept and fund "gadgets and toys" than "people programs".

Step 6: Training

Training is essential for technology to be accepted and used cost-effectively.

Training on the supervision and use of technology should begin immediately after the technology has been received by the agency, the acceptance testing has been completed, and the technology has been department-certified for deployment. Training must occur before deployment of the technology.

Training in technology should not necessarily be completely designed and delivered by the technology's vendor who is already intimately familiar with the technology's capabilities, limitations, and operation. Too often the "experts" from the vendor already know how to use the technology, and so they incorrectly assume that the new users know more than they do. In general, technology providers should train recipient agency personnel to provide pre-service and in-service training on the technology. This will increase the comfort factor for the end-users.

Step 7: Deploying the Technology

Administrators need to consider when and how you will deliver the technology to the end users. Generally, deployment must occur just before the pre-service training is completed. Excessive lag time between completion of training and deployment of technology will result in degraded employee performance. Employees need to have the technology in place for them to begin to use as soon as they've completed their training.

Administrators must also consider how they will account for the technology once it has been deployed. This sounds absurdly easy, but it may not be. For example, if you don't know which computers have a particular applications software installed, how can you be sure all computers have the current version of software? Knowing what you have and being able to find it is crucial.

Step 8: Supervising Technology Users

Mr. or Ms. Administrator, how do you intend to prepare your supervisors to ensure
  • Compliance with applicable laws and policies governing the technology
  • Effecient and effective use of the technology
  • Reduction in careless handling, poor maintenance, and abuse of the technology
  • Objective measurement of the results of the technology's application
  • Meaningful feedback from end users
  • Correction of end users' use when necessary?
Step 9: Measurement of How Well or How Poorly Technology Meets Identified Needs

This is a formal step that is too often overlooked completely or done poorly. But how can an administrator justify asking for funding to continue or expand a technology's use, or how can an administrator explain why a technology is no longer valid, if the administrator has not objectively measured the technology's performance in fulfilling the department's needs and objectives?

Here is where the social scientists can help develop objective, meaningful, and statistically valid ways to measure the technology's effectiveness. They can also point to where changes are needed.
The measurers and measurement techniques must clearly elicit what the end users, the supervisors, and the administrators are really saying about the technology. For example, in a department reported unfavorable results with the technology, were the results due to a technology problem or a people problem? They must also determine if the boss has been "gee whizzed" by the end users who have fallen in love with the technology because it's neat, even though it doesn't meet the desired objectives or the agency's needs.

Step 10: User and Supervisor Feedback

Honest, complete, and valid user and line supervisor feedback is crucial. Administrators must emphasize that constructive but apparently unfavorable feedback will usually not kill a technology program but may cause it to be modified and the defects corrected.

Not matter how neat or sexy the technology is, no matter how it impresses the city council or the local news media, if it doesn't meet the needs and expectations of the end users and the line supervisors, it will not reach its full potential without modification.

Administrators must seek constructive feedback from end users and line supervisors after they have used the technology for a reasonable time. Very often, end users and supervisors who have enthusiastically applied the technology will report back additional uses they've discovered. After validation, these uses need to be incorporated into policy and training programs.

Step 11: Preventive and Remedial Maintenance

Administrators, do not overlook the cost of preventive and remedial maintenance when you are considering technology solutions. Here are four considerations:
  • Who will perform the maintenance? Will it be done in-house or will it be contracted out? Is the technology so specialized that maintenance can be performed only by a highly-skilled left-handed technician in Lithuania, and he only works on the second Tuesday of every other month? What if the left-handed Lithuanian dies?
  • How long will the maintenance take? How long can you live without the technology? Are you going to be so dependent on the technology that you must have redundant systems? How readily available are spares and replacements?
  • How much will preventive and remedial maintenance cost? If you're doing in-house maintenance, you must factor in costs for personnel, training, test and service equipment, documentation, parts, etc.
  • How long will the original manufacturer and the vendor continue to support the technology? What happens to your program when the support stops? What is the company's track record?
Step 12: Upgrades and Replacement

If you, Mr. or Ms. Administrator, are a personal computer owner, you are already familiar with this dilemma. Now multiply your periodic frustration by a factor of n for the number of similar technology units in your agency, and you've got the makings of another headache. Here's what you need to ask:
  • How often will upgrades occur? Must my agency have every upgrade?
  • How often will obsolescence occur and complete replacement become necessary?
  • How long will the technology supplier continue to support my current version of technology? What happens when support stops?
  • How will I as an administrator deal with the unexpected problem of immediate replacement if a technology is suddenly outlawed or becomes prematurely obsolete?
Step 13: Miscellaneous Headaches

Here are three additional issues for your consideration:
  • Is it reasonable to expect an agency administrator to be technically savvy, or does s/he need expert staffers? If experts are needed, in what fields are their expertises needed? Do you as an administrator replace operational people (e.g., uniformed patrol officers, investigators, correction officers, etc.) with staff experts when your personnel quota is limited?
  • How does a criminal justice agency do long-term planning for technology when technologies change so rapidly?
  • What is a reasonable balance between technological and human resources? How do you, as an administrator, determine that balance? How do you avoid creating conflict within your own organization between employee groups?
The use of technology in criminal justice is not going to decrease. The only real question is whether administrators will have the educational and professional skills necessary to use technology most effectively and appropriately.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The "Hobbyist" Citizen

On Tuesday, August 23, I attended the workshop on the Idaho Open Meetings Law and the Idaho Public Records Law sponsored by the Idahoans for Openness in Government and The Spokesman-Review. Thanks to their efforts, with individual thanks to Betsy Russell and Susan Drumheller of The Spokesman-Review, approximately 90 people attended the Coeur d'Alene session and came away much better informed about these two laws. Dean Miller, Managing Editor of The Post-Register in Idaho Falls gets a special and sincere pat on the back for moderating the event and for injecting encouragement and common sense into what could easily have become a legal lecture suitable only for the attorneys present.

And finally, thanks to Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Deputy Attorney General William von Tagen for making the trek northward to Coeur d'Alene and Sandpoint. Their presence, coupled with the information the AG makes available via his office's website, added personal emphasis to the importance of the open meetings and public records laws.

However, I and at least one other attendee were mildly irritated by Mr. von Tagen's twice referring to private citizens (contrasted with elected officials, appointed officials, journalists, and attorneys?) as "hobbyists" with too much time on our hands and too many grey cells when we exercise the laws. Perhaps Mr. von Tagen intended his characterization to apply only to those who file frivolous requests explicitly to aggravate offcials rather than to gain helpful information. That's not how it sounded, though.

My only real disappointment with this remarkable educational opportunity? The absence of several elected and appointed officials. Although Coeur d'Alene City Attorney Mike Gridley and Deputy City Attorney Wes Somerton were there, Coeur d'Alene's mayor, city council members, and city clerk were all conspicuously absent. Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas sat in the front row, but I did not see any other elected county officials.

I don't think it is possible to overstate the significance and value of the Idaho Open Meeting / Public Record Workshops. That Attorney General Wasden, Deputy Attorney General von Tagen, Managing Editor Miller, and the staff of The Spokesman Review were willing to assemble in Coeur d'Alene to meet and talk with us for over two hours is a testament to the significance and value they place in those laws. The least we "hobbyists" can do is read and study the literature they provided and then exercise our duties of citizenship responsibly and skillfully.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO)

You've never heard of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO), right?

You're not alone.

It's yet another new government compartment that was created by the White House without Congressional approval. The DNDO was created on April 15, 2005, by National Security Presidential Directive 43. According to the linked summary sheet, DNDO is part of the national effort to protect the nation from radiological and nuclear threats. It is being established as a national office staffed by representatives from several federal, state, and local government agencies. The office will reside within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the DNDO director will report to the Secretary of Homeland Security.

As explained in a letter from Senator Joseph Lieberman, Congress is not universally pleased with NSPD 43.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Trickle-Down Technology for Public Safety

Public safety agencies need all they help they can get with technology. It is important for people to understand that "cutting edge technology" for law enforcement is often decades old ideas that trickled down from the very expensive Department of Defense market to the pathetically cheap public safety market.

Charge-coupled device cameras, chip cameras, are a good example. They've begun to appear in patrol cars, at the end of bomb squad robots, and on the end of SWAT team telescoping poles. But CCD cameras weren't created for law enforcement. They were created for overhead imagery. Spy satellites. And they had their origins in the 1960's and early 70's.

Heres my prediction: The next wave of surveillance technology that will find its way into law enforcement hands will be unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Most people know them from the Iraq wars as unmanned aerial vehicles - UAVs. UASs are still way beyond the budgets of most non-federal agencies, but the price will be coming down on the earliest models, the Model A's of UAVs. And the skillset required to successfully operate law enforcement UAVs will drop dramatically to the level of the street cop. So, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea for law enforcement administrators to start looking at UASs as cost-effective alternatives to manned aerial vehicles such as helicopters. Get the grant writers cranked up, because someday soon, the UASs are going to hit the civilian market.

Here are some links to some excellent introductory material.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems Roadmap 2005-2030, Office of the Secretary of Defense, August 2005 (9 MB PDF file)

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Uninhabited Combat Aerial Vehicles, Defense Science Board, February 2004 (850 KB PDF file)

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Background and Issues for Congress, April 25, 2003

Monday, August 22, 2005

Recognizing Fake Photos

Digital imagery has created some justified concerns for editors and publishers as well as for judges and law enforcement officers. With well under $1,000 in equipment and moderate computer skills, almost anyone with normal patience can fake photographs that will pass visual inspection. Credibility is at stake.

OE Magazine, the official publication of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering, has published a readable and informative article entitled Photofakery.

In the article's introduction, the writers explain what a fake image is. They go on to discuss how fake images are easily created using digital imaging technology. The article also tells the reader just what to look for, the signs identifying fake images. And lest the reader become overconfident, the section headlined "The Difficulty of Detecting Fake Images" explains just that -- how it is difficult to detect fake images.

The most ominous statement comes near the end of the article: "Although image analysis tools can help detect many fake images, currently there is no way to stop somebody from spending the time and resources to make a fake image that is not detectible."

Friday, August 19, 2005

Reminder: It's Our Right to Know and Our Obligation to Learn

I first posted this notice on August 5, but it's worth one final reminder:

On Tuesday, August 23, 2005, from 1-3 p.m., Attorney General Lawrence Wasden will be participating in a Public Records and Open Meeting workshop at The Idaho Spokesman-Review Building, 608 Northwest Boulevard, Coeur d'alene. Please contact Susan Drumheller at 208-765-7129 or email her at susand@spokesman.com to pre-register. There is no cost to the public. Here's a Map with directions to The Spokesman-Review Building.

The Idaho public records and open meeting laws are powerful tools We, the People, need to fulfill our governmental responsibilities. Too often we say, "Let the government handle it; that's why we elect them," but then we complain when elected officials and their appointees do what we've given them free reign to do.

"Government" is not "them" in an "us versus them" conflict. Our obligation as citizens, the "us" side of the governmental equation, is to provide thoughtful, meaningful input to our elected representatives and their appointees. The Idaho public records and open meeting laws are tools available to us to gather the information we need to produce and provide that input to those whom we empower to represent us.

Sadly, a few elected and appointed officials think some of the public's business is best performed behind closed doors. Public and press not allowed. Often the cited reasons are to allow electees and appointees to speak more freely and without fear of their comments being misinterpreted. "What you heard might not be what what I meant," or, "So people can speak freely about the issues without having to worry about reading one of their quotes in the newspaper," are not valid reasons for hiding what they said. Why is what was said subject to misinterpretation by the public but not by the participants?

Whether or not you plan to attend either the meeting with AG Wasden, I urge you to go to the AG's website page entitled Attorney General Pamphlets and Legal Manuals. The two publications most relevant to the Tuesday meeting are The Idaho Open Meeting Law Manual and The Idaho Public Records Law Manual. These are very readable question-and-answer type booklets intended to educate us non-barristers.

And while you're at the AG's website and on that particular page, you'll see several other manuals and publications well worth the time to read. They include The Idaho Ethics in Goverment Manual and The Idaho Regulatory Takings Act Guidelines.

Some months ago I asked the Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney to investigate the Coeur d'Alene Mayor and City Council members for their evasion of the Idaho Open Meeting Law. After reading an article in the Coeur d'Alene Press reporting the Prosecutor's findings, a friend of mine who has lived for decades in Coeur d'Alene asked me what authority I had to even make my request of the Prosecutor. My friend wasn't upset with me. Rather, he was amazed that the Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney would act on such a request from an ordinary citizen who has no social, political, or economic influence in Coeur d'Alene. That the Kootenai County Prosecutor was responsive to my request is a clear demonstration of the law's power, not mine. That's why we all need to be as familiar as we can with the legal tools available to us. AG Wasden deserves a great deal of credit for making those tools available in language even I can understand.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

It's a Start...

Abductions and homicides associated with crimes of sexual violence attract widespread attention. Less sensational but equally disconcerting is having community residents uncover an unusually high number of registered sex offenders living in de facto rooming houses in Coeur d'Alene neighborhoods zoned only for single-family homes.

In response to reasonable public concern in May 2004 when convicted felons on probation or parole were living together in a Coeur d'Alene Place single-family residence, the Coeur d'Alene city council asked City Attorney Mike Gridley to determine if our city ordinances could be improved to be enforceable. That effort was expedited one year later after neighborhood residents near 8th and Hastings identified several single-family residences being used as rooming houses for registered sex offenders.

On August 8, 2005, the City Attorney presented his findings to the council's General Services Committee meeting attended by council members Goodlander and Hassell and by several involved citizens. The August 16, 2005, Coeur d'Alene Press article written by Tom Greene and headlined Sex-crime laws hard to fortify presented only part of what was discussed in the General Services meeting. The City Attorney wisely recommended that the city not pass additional city ordinances specifically restricting the locations where convicted and registered sex offenders could live in Coeur d'Alene. Such ordinances would very likely be unenforceable and unconstitutional. However, the City Attorney did recommend some zoning ordinance changes that would enhance the protections offered by those ordinances.

His recommendations should receive a prompt public hearing before the Coeur d'Alene Planning Commission. The recommendations are sensible and should make it much more difficult for Coeur d'Alene landlords to use single-family residences as transient rooming houses and criminal transitional facilities. Landlords seeking to offer transient rooming houses and criminal transition housing will still be able to do it, but they will have to locate the house in a commercial zone or seek a special use permit (public hearing required) from the City.

ADDENDUM at 11:45 a.m.: Well, the good start may be sputtering. I've just been told that our Mayor and some city council members are in no hurry to get this reasonable ordinance clarification in front of the Planning Commission. Why not? It is an opportunity for the City to demonstrate a measured yet progressive approach to solving a problem that was first identified over a year ago in Coeur d'Alene Place and has now reappeared in other sections of Coeur d'Alene. Perhaps the Mayor and Council are afraid this issue may awaken the general public to the clear and present need for more aggressive, consistent, full time code enforcement in Coeur d'Alene. The codes (zoning, land use, etc.) exist to protect all Coeur d'Alene citizens, not just to benefit elected officials' friends who are developers and builders.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Report: Data Mining - An Overview

Data mining includes the collection and analysis of information and the subsequent use of the product to predict some terrorist activities. That's a very oversimplified definition. In addition to its potentially beneficial uses for public safety, it also has potentially detrimental uses to deprive us of our privacy.

For a better understanding of data mining, see Data Mining - An Overview prepared by the Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, and updated on June 7, 2005.

The topics covered in the report include:

  • What is data mining
  • Limitations of data mining
  • Data mining issues (data quality, interoperability, mission creep, privacy)
  • Legislation in the 108th Congress
  • Legislation in the 109th Congress
  • Information for further reading

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Remember Crystal?

It's now been more than two years since Tacoma Police Chief David Brame mortally wounded his wife, Crystal, then killed himself. The Brame case focused public attention on police hiring practices and on domestic violence committed by law enforcement officers against their family members.

The Brame murder-suicide received very little news coverage in Spokane. Despite the lack of east side news coverage, then-Attorney General Christine Gregoire convened a statewide task force to make recommendations compelling law enforcement administrators to address the issue of domestic violence committed by their employees, sworn law enforcement officers.

The August 2005 issue of Law Reporter, the journal of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, has an article headlined Spotlight: Family violence center results from suit over police chief’s domestic abuse. (Note: This link is likely to expire within 30 days.) The article succinctly outlines the Brame incident and the plaintiff's assertions.

The case citation of the civil suit is Ahrens v. City of Tacoma, Wash., King County Super. Ct., No. 04-2-00712-7 KNT, Apr. 6, 2005.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Report: Chemical Facility Security

Prior to 9-11-01, no one gave much thought about the vulnerability of the United States' chemical facilities. Now, in-country exploitable facilities are being examined very closely. The thought of one of our own chemical manufacturers being targetted to release 1-methyl, 2-ethyl, icky-gooey-badstuff into the air (or Coeur d'Alene Lake) has finally gotten Congressional attention.

On July 29, 2005, The Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, sent an updated report about Chemical Facility Security to Congress.

The 47-page report covers such topics as

  • Risks of terrorism at chemical facilities
  • Federal requirements established prior to September 11, 2001, to reduce risks at chemical facilities
  • After September 11, 2001
  • Policy options
  • Key issues
  • Legislation in the 109th Congress
  • Conclusions

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Sex Offender Uses Public Key Cryptography

The Spokesman Review is running a story headlined Duncan encrypted data on computer. The article was attributed to Dave Forster of the Fargo (N.D.) Forum. Forster reports that accused killer Joseph Duncan encrypted some tell-all entries in his computer, bragging that it would take decades to "break" the messages.

Duncan may very well be telling the truth. The technology to encrypt and decipher text material is readily available...for free...to anyone who wants it. It is generically referred to as "public key cryptography."

Some years ago, the National Security Agency (NSA) tried unsuccessfully to stop Phil Zimmermann from making Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) available to the public. The NSA, our government agency charged with all things cryptographic, was reasonably concerned that PGP would make counterintelligence and law enforcement much more difficult. The NSA was right.

Yet in today's world of electronically stored and communicated information, the need for public key cryptography to help people protect and verify the authenticity of their identities and information is legitimate.

For access to a very good tutorial about obtaining and using PGP, go to the Working to Halt Online Abuse website. It has useful links to the PGP website.

There are several other encryption and verification programs available. I happen to like and use PGP. I don't know what encryption program Duncan used, but most of the better ones are similarly difficult to break.

The passphrase is a string of characters Duncan would have to remember and accurately enter to decipher what he had encrypted. The key to breaking Duncan's passphrase (pun very much intended) may very well already be in investigators' hands as writings or other documents. The private key, the passphrase, could be any string of characters.

Duncan would have to remember or have access to his passhrase to retrieve his own encrypted data only if he had any interest in retrieving it. If he had no interest in ever retrieving what he had encrypted, he would simply use an extremely long random-character passphrase to encrypt his file. Then he would simply forget the passphrase. That would make it impossible for Duncan to ever retrieve his own data, and it would be almost but not quite impossible for properly resourced cryptographers to retrieve it.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Report: Conduct Unbecoming

The recently completed Seattle Post-Intelligencer series Conduct Unbecoming - How a Disgraced Sheriff's Deputy Beat the System is both interesting and instructional.

It raises questions about how a deputy sheriff could sink so deeply into corruption without his immediate supervisors and coworkers intervening. The report shows the consequences of supervisory inattention, or worse, supervisory tolerance. The report strongly suggests but doesn't conclusively prove that former sheriff Dave Reichert, now a US representative, was more interested in his political career than weeding out a corrupt deputy. The report goes on to show that while honest and county and federal investigators outraged by the deputy's egregious misconduct clearly believed they had the evidence necessary to successfully prosecute the deputy, that prosecution was actively suppressed by King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng and present King County Sheriff Sue Rahr over the very strong objections of subordinates.

The reality is that some elected law enforcement officers and prosecutors allow political expediency to prevail over verifiable and admissible facts in deciding which cases will and won't be prosecuted.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Workshops on Idaho’s Open Meeting and Public Records Laws

On August 23 and 24, 2005, the Idaho Attorney General's office, the Idaho Press Club, and Idahoans for Open Government will be sponsoring public workshops on Idaho's Open Meeting Law and Public Records Law.

The August 23, 2005, workshop will be from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. in Coeur d'Alene at the Spokesman-Review building, 608 Northwest Boulevard. MAP

The August 24, 2005, workshop will be from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. in Sandpoint at the East Bonner County Library District, 1407 Cedar Street. MAP

Here's a link to the Attorney General's press release with all the details.

"So what?" you say. "This is only a big deal for the press, isn't it?"

Yes and no.

Yes, it is a big deal for the press, such a big deal in fact that the Idaho Press Club has appealed a lower court decision which permits Idaho's legislature to close its committee meetings. Here's a link to a story entitled Press Club files appeal over closed committee meetings.

But no, it's not a big deal only for the press. We can't all travel to Boise to monitor the legislature's conduct of public business. We depend on our news media to do that for us. If the news media are forbidden to observe and report the legislature's conduct of the public's business, the public is denied a valuable tool it needs to judge the integrity, honesty, and competence of elected officials. We are also denied access to the legislative history of any particular law.

But the Open Meeting Law and Open Records Law don't apply only to what goes on in and comes out of Boise. Those are the laws that give us access to our local elected governments' conduct of the public business as well.

Consider this: If elected and appointed government officials at any level could be trusted to act honestly, objectively, and impartially in the public interest, it would not be necessary to have open records and open meetings laws.

If you're able, please attend one of the workshops. And while you're there, look around and see how many elected and appointed officials are there. Make note of those who aren't...they're the ones who bear close watching!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Wireless AMBER Alerts Available

Thanks to a cooperative effort among The Wireless Foundation,the membership of CTIA-The Wireless Association™, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children it is now possible for wireless subscribers who opt in to receive the AMBER Alerts as text messages on their wireless devices. The participating carriers are Alltel, Cingular, Dobson Communications, Nextel, Sprint, T-Mobile, Unicell, US Cellular, and Verizon Wireless.

The user needs a wireless device capable of receiving text messages. The wireless AMBER Alerts are provided at no additional cost to the user who already has text messaging capability from his carrier. When signing up, the user must specify up to five ZIP codes from which he wants to receive any AMBER Alerts.

The Wireless Foundation has provided an FAQ that should answer most questions. It also provides a site explaining how to opt in to receive wireless AMBER Alerts.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Article: Care of the Adolescent Sexual Assault Victim

Yesterday's post linked the reader to an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report entitled The Evaluation of Sexual Abuse in Children. That report was published August 2, 2005.

Today's post links the reader to an earlier article in AAP's publication, Pediatrics. That article was published in June 2001 and deals specifically with Care of the Adolescent Sexual Assault Victim.

Both yesterday's and today's linked articles are very clinical. They do not focus on the laws, however they point out some of the challenges the laws pertaining to sexual abuse, assault, and predation create for health care providers. It is helpful to better understand the different perspectives when trying to find solutions.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Report: The Evaluation of Sexual Abuse in Children

How well-prepared are doctors to diagnose and evaluate sexual abuse in children?

On August 1, 2005, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published an online press release which noted, "More than 88,000 children in the United States were confirmed victims of sexual abuse in 2002. Studies have suggested that each year approximately one percent of children experience some form of sexual abuse, resulting in the sexual victimization of 12 to 25 percent of girls and 8 to 10 percent of boys by 18 years of age.

Because many, if not most pediatricians will encounter sexually abused children in their practices, they must be informed about the best means for evaluating sexual abuse in children. A revised clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, "The Evaluation of Sexual Abuse in Children," updates information that clinicians need in order to make that evaluation, including knowledge of normal and abnormal sexual behaviors, physical signs of sexual abuse, appropriate diagnostic tests for sexually transmitted infections, and medical conditions confused with sexual abuse."

Here's a link to the AAP report entitled The Evaluation of Sexual Abuse in Children by Nancy Kellogg MD and the Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect.

Though the report is intended primarily for the pediatric medicine community, it has valuable information for parents, concerned friends, emergency first responders, the media, and the criminal justice community.

Monday, August 01, 2005

What Don't You Know About AMBER Alert?

Most people have some level of knowledge about the AMBER Alert system.

"The concept for AMBER Alert is simple and effective: Law enforcement and the media working together to alert the public and effect the quick, safe recovery of abducted children."

For a better understanding of the AMBER Alert, read AMBER Alert - Best Practices Guide for Broadcasters and Other Media Outlets.

Though this best practices was published primarily for the news media, it is a helpful reference for the rest of us to ensure that we understand what the AMBER Alert can and cannot do.