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, October 28, 2005


The numerous analyses of the attacks on the United States on 9-11-2001 have all concluded that one of the major handicaps public safety agencies/first responders faced was the inability to communicate quickly and effectively with each other via their two-way radio systems. That failure has spawned increased interest in a solution, commonly called "interoperability."

Not surprisingly, industry is trying to find some way to both fix the problem and profit from it. For example, in an October 24, 2004, article headlined A Cisco System to Make Radios Work Together, The New York Times reports that "Cisco Systems plans to announce on Monday a new method - based on a widely used Internet telephone standard - for marrying the frequently incompatible radio gear used by emergency services agencies and businesses." Cisco Systems' product should be available in about a year, maybe less.

But the concept of Internet-facilitated interoperability is not new. The amateur radio community, ham radio operators, have been trying this since 1997. The first efforts in 1997 were not successful, but more recent efforts have been. For a detailed (read: nerdy) discussion of ham radio's project, go to The Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP) webpage. The "How It Works" page, linked from the home page cited, gets into the details.

Once again, the amateur radio community has pointed the way toward solving a critical public safety communication problem. I hope that the Kootenai County Office of Emergency Management is encouraging the Kootenai Amateur Radio Society, a local ham radio club, to evaluate the IRLP for applicabilty in Kootenai County. It is a legitimate project for the Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES).



Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Kootenai County Jail Expansion

I urge every voter who intends to vote in the November 8 county election to submit a public records request to the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners for the "KMB Justice Facilities Group Jail and Sheriff's Office Expansion Study." My copy cost $2.25. (If the County Commissioners had really wanted voters to be better informed, they would have posted the Study on its website.) I note that when I picked up my copy, the "Request Granted" block had been checked, but there was a handwritten notation next to it which read, "KMB expansion study document with confidential pages removed." The County Commissioners' Deputy Clerk should read the public record laws. Removing "confidential" pages is a "partial denial", not a "request granted."

Don't we need more jail space? Yes, we definitely do. But...

The Study's Initial Project Recommendation includes:

  • Immediate expansion of the jail's capacity, with emphasis on medical beds and maximum security beds, which are necessary to promote effective jail management and maintain a secure facility.
  • Expansion of the core support operational elements which support the capacity.'
  • Measures which address the forecast increased demands on the jail's booking and intake components.
  • Consolidation of the housing unit control rooms into a single multi-station Central Control Room which can be manned on a flexible basis, reducing operational costs.
  • Site modifications to accommodate increased staff parking needs, and which allow the expansion to occur in an orderly manner that plans for future expansion needs.

The Study recommends that the additional property east of the Public Safety Building presently under management by the County Fair Board be designated for jail expansion and that it be annexed into the City of Coeur d'Alene as is the balance of the Public Safety Building.

But the KMB Study makes a definitive statement that causes me some concern about the adequacy of the present recommendations. The Study says:

"It should be clearly understood that completion of the work described in the Initial Project Recommendation, being dollar limited, will not meet all of the County's needs for jail capacity beyond the short term. While the Study provided a 15-year forecast this Initial Project Recommendation does not provide facilities that will meet those requirements, nor is it prudent to do so as unused beds are costly to finance and maintain. The forecasts for bed needs should be periodically updated, and planning for the funding and design of the next expansion should be undertaken at the appropriate time."

Does everyone read that the same way I do? The proposed jail expansion, which won't be completed for approximately 3 years, will be inadequate 12 years or fewer after completion? If that's correct, and if it takes 3 years to complete a project, then in 9 years or fewer, the County is going to be asking us to fund another jail expansion. And that doesn't address any additional funding to expand the sheriff's office facility, the work release center, and the courts holding facility. How long is the "short term" as used in the study? Clearly it's fewer than 15 years.

It seems to me the voters of Kootenai County are entitled to a better explanation of what the present expansion will and will not provide, and we are also entitled to a cost timeline that spells out when the County will be asking for other expansions and how much they are likely to cost. There may be better, more imaginative solutions available.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The National Incident Management System (NIMS)

The National Incident Management System (NIMS) was mandated on February 28, 2003, by Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-5. It was intended to "...provide a consistent nationwide approach for federal, state, local, and tribal governments to work effectively and efficiently together to prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from domestic incidents, regardless of cause, size, or complexity."

The NIMS manual is available online and is intended to complement the National Response Plan.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Report: Prisoners in 2004

The US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics has released a bulletin entitled Prisoners in 2004. It was released in October 2005.

The 14-page bulletin provides state-by-state statistical information about prisoners incarcerated in federal and state prisons.

At 11.1% growth, Idaho ranked second (just below Minnesota at 11.4%) for the largest growth of state prison population during the period 12/31/03 to 12/31/04. This helps explain why Idaho is now lodging approximately 300 of its state prisoners in other states.

In addition to prison capacities, the bulletin discusses the ethnic distribution of prisoners and the crimes resulting in incarceration.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Improving Police Analytical Capability

The times are changing for law enforcement. No longer is the old style of street policing being accepted without question by the public. Inflated police budgets that were once never challenged seriously by governing bodies are now being reduced dramatically because a better informed public is able to insist on fiscal accountability. The result is that law enforcement agencies will be forced to deliver a better return on investment.

One of the most effective ways of improving police productivity is by engaging in problem oriented policing, environmental criminology, and situation crime prevention. The police crime analyst is playing an increasingly important role in this effort. Crime analysis as a discipline has evolved (at least in a few progressive departments) beyond just tabulating crimes and producing colorful pie charts for the chief to dazzle the council with at financial planning meetings. It has gone beyond producing pin maps (either using real pins or computer graphics) that show where crimes have occurred. It means providing meaningful, timely operational support to law enforcement field elements.

To assist career crime analysts in improving their skills, the US Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services has produced a manual entitled Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers in 60 Small Steps. Unfortunately, there are very few professionally qualified crime analysts working in the US. This 150-page manual is an effort to increase that number and improve the quality of their work.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Kootenai County Jail Expansion

On May 10, 2005, the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners awarded a professional services contract for $76,700 to KMB Design Groups, Inc., of Olympia, Washington, to study and make recommendations for the expanded Kootenai County jail design. A copy of the study can be requested under the Idaho Open Records Law from the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners. Whether to fund the proposed $50 million expansion of the present Kootenai County jail will be a local ballot issue on November 8.

Another jail design company, Justice Concepts, Inc., has posted on its website a series of articles that might be helpful to Kootenai County residents in deciding how to vote on the proposed jail expansion. At the very least, the articles will help us better understand some of the issues involved in jail expansion. Here's a list of articles from the website:

Jail Bloating: A Common But Unnecessary Cause of Jail Overcrowding

Avoiding the Expense of Constructing Unnecessary Jail Capacity

Misleading Jail Bed Costs

Two Approaches for Determining Jail Needs

Forecasting: Fiction and Utility in Jail Planning

Monday, October 17, 2005

Why Not a Regional Criminal Justice Center?

Why don't Idaho and Washington, Kootenai County and Spokane County, join in creating one regional criminal justice center near the Idaho-Washington border?

Here are the very basic facts as I see them:

1. Kootenai County needs more jail space soon. That need may level out, but it is unlikely to diminish.

2. Spokane County needs more jail space.

3. Kootenai County and surrounding Idaho counties have no regional law enforcement training facility.

4. The Spokane County Sheriff wants to build a Washington State regional law enforcement training facility between Fairchild AFB and Spokane International Airport (GEG).

5. Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) would like to put a community work center in northern Idaho.

6. In case of a major disaster, natural or manmade, a coordinated regional response incorporating mutual aid is likely to be necessary.

Why couldn’t Kootenai County, Spokane County, Washington and Idaho work together to build a regional (shared) jail and training facility somewhere near the WA-ID border? The campus could include an IDOC community work center. Because of noise and traffic, such a facility would necessarily have to be away from residential areas.

Instead of expanding the county jails at their present locations in Spokane and Coeur d'Alene or abandoning them altogether, use them as custodial intake and processing facilities. Use them for special needs prisoners. Convert some jail space to secured courtrooms.

It seems to me this would meet a lot of agencies’ objectives while avoiding unnecessary design and structural duplication. Given the Department of Homeland Security’s emphasis on interoperability with projects such as SAFECOM, it might even be possible to get the feds to fund part of this under various homeland security grants.

Clearly there are many social and political issues that would have to be addressed imaginatively. It just seems to me that by regionalizing these functions, the region would benefit far more than it would suffer. The agencies occupying and using the facility would develop closer regional emergency cooperation, and the economic savings and benefits would be significant.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Master's Thesis: Analysis of a Spy Case

"CWO John Walker led one of the most devastating spy rings ever unmasked in the US. Along with his brother, son, and friend, he compromised US Navy cryptographic systems and classified information from 1967 to 1985. This research focuses on just one of the systems compromised by John Walker himself: the Fleet Broadcasting System (FBS) during the period 1967-1975, which was used to transmit all US Navy operational orders to ships at sea. Why was the communications security (COMSEC) system so completely defenseless against one rogue sailor, acting alone? The evidence shows that FBS was designed in such a way that it was effectively impossible to detect or prevent rogue insiders from compromising the system. Personnel investigations were cursory, frequently delayed, and based more on hunches than hard scientific criteria. Far too many people had access to the keys and sensitive materials, and the auditing methods were incapable, even in theory, of detecting illicit copying of classified materials. Responsibility for the security of the system was distributed between many different organizations, allowing numerous security gaps to develop. This has immediate implications for the design of future classified communications systems."

The preceding paragraph was the abstract of a 101-page master's thesis by MAJ Laura J. Heath, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, June 2005. The title of the thesis is "An Analysis of the Systemic Security Weaknesses of the U.S. Navy Fleet Broadcasting System, 1967-1974, as Exploited by CWO John Walker".

This is an excellent primer for persons interested in better understanding the vulnerabilities of US cryptography and the countermeasures to prevent or correct those vulnerabilities.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Should Public Employee Whistleblowers Be Worried?

On Wednesday, October 12, 2005, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Garcetti et al. v. Ceballos, Docket No. 04-473.

This is a First Amendment free speech case that asks the question, "Should a public employee's purely job related speech, expressed strictly pursuant to the duties of employment, be blanketed with First Amendment protection simply because it touches on a matter of public concern, or should First Amendment protections also require the speech to be engaged in 'as a citizen' in accordance with the US Supreme Court's holdings in Pickering v. Board of Education, 391 US 563 (1968) and Connick v. Myers, 461 US 138 (1983)?"

In other words, if a public employee (a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney named Ceballos) performs his duties legally and ethically, can his employer (District Attorney Gil Garcetti) impose internal sanctions on that employee? Is the employee's conduct protected by the First Amendment free speech clause?

Ceballos' conduct involved reviewing an affidavit prepared by a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff and determining that the deputy had made factual misrepresentations in the affidavit. Ceballos recommended to his superiors that the charges should be dismissed based on the misrepresentations. Ceballos disclosed (as legally and ethically required) the misrepresentations to the accused's attorney. Subsequently, Ceballos was removed from that case and effectively demoted within the District Attorney's office.

A decent explanation of the facts and origin of the case can be found here at the Northwestern University, Medill School of Journalism website.

An interesting perspective on this case was offered in a New York Times op-ed piece on October 10 by Coleen Rowley and Dylan Blaylock. Rowley, you may recall, was one of the FBI agents who blew the whistle on the FBI Headquarters' failure to respond adequately to some critical pre-9/11 information. The op-ed piece contains this assertion, "When one of us (Ms. Rowley) spoke out about the F.B.I.'s pre-9/11 lapses, it was likely only the leaking of her memo to the press that saved her from professional retaliation."

Ceballos is alleging retaliation of the type that Rowley believes she would have experienced had she not gone public.

Public employees at all levels of government will be affected by the Court's ruling in Garcetti v. Ceballos.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

False Alarm? Oh, Send the Cops Anyway

Tuesday's The Spokesman-Review ran two page A1 articles that need to be read as companion pieces.

The first article was by staff writer Tom Clouse and was headlined Tax hike for police tough sell in Spokane. The article's lead was that a citizen named Rick Eckel personally observed his pickup being broken into, so he called 911 on his cell phone and was begging the police to respond while he confronted the thief. The Spokane Police Department never responded because according to the Department, it had no available officers to send. Not enough money to hire enough officers to send on all calls for service, you see.

Jump to the next article by staff writer Jonathan Brunt. It's headline was Deputies in doghouse after chase. In this story, Spokane Police Department officers investigating a "false (burglar) alarm" at an unoccupied restaurant joined into what was later determined to be a fictitious unlawful pursuit by some Spokane County Deputy Sheriffs who had too much time on their hands.

What is the obvious inconsistency in the Spokane Police Department's responses? In the first story, Spokane police officers were unavailable to respond to a citizen observing and intervening in a crime in progress where the potential for violence was real. In the second story, Spokane police officers were available to be dispatched to investigate a "false (burglar) alarm" at an unoccupied business, Anthony's Restaurant, a site favored by Spokane Mayor Jim West.

It's reasonable for taxpayers to ask whether police should be dispatched to investigate unverified intrusion alarms. Answering "yes" to that question is increasingly difficult to defend since it amounts to using tax dollars to provide a differential and preferential level of police service to persons or businesses with the money to invest in intrusion detection systems and monitoring contracts. This becomes a larger issue when citizens personally observing a crime in progress are unable to get the police to respond. The answer is "no", the police should not respond to unverified burglar alarm calls.

The Los Angeles Police Commission has adopted a reasonable definition of a verified burglar alarm. It is "...an alarm activation where an unauthorized entry or attempted unauthorized entry upon the premises, building, or structure protected by the system has been independently verified. Verification shall be accomplished by confirmation by the alarm system user or other person at or near the scene of the activation, a private guard responder, or alarm company operator. Verification shall be based on personal observation or inspection of the premises, or by remote visual inspection of the premises. NOTE: An open door, broken window, or other activity consistent with a burglary is considered a verified activation."

The Los Angeles Police Commission has backed Chief of Police Bill Bratton's request to take a tougher position on false alarms, a position strongly opposed by the Los Angeles burglar alarm industry and national counterparts. But Bratton's position was well-founded. As of January 2004, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) was dispatching nearly 136,000 burglar alarm calls per year. Those responses amounted to approximately 15 percent of the LAPD patrol's workload. More important, approximately 92 percent of the calls were false.

The US Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, has published a problem oriented guide for police entitled False Burglar Alarms by Rana Sampson. The guide was prepared to help police address the false alarm problem. It is scheduled to be updated in late 2005.

Though law enforcement agencies have acknowledged the costly problem of false burglar alarms, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the vendors of burglar alarm equipment and monitoring contracts are dragging their feet at correcting the problem. The electronic security industry very much wants police response, even unnecessary police response, to continue. The industry's reason has more to do with marketing than public safety: If the electronic security industry can make potential customers believe that they will get a faster police response than citizens who do not have alarms, the industry will sell more alarms and monitoring contracts. For an example of this type of marketing, see the handout entitled Q&A - False Alarms, by the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA).

Monday, October 10, 2005

We've Been Let Down

James Hagengruber's excellent article headlined Builders ignore rules at lakes in The Spokesman-Review pointed out the harm that resulted from Kootenai County's failure to aggressively enforce applicable laws.

Laws (including codes and ordinances) amount to a social contract between government and its citizens. The county's part of that contract is to consistently and impartially enforce the laws in a timely way to provide us with a reasonable level of protection from harm. It isn't enough to just pass the laws that say, "You can't" or "You must" and then penalize offenders after the damage has been done. The county has a duty to enforce laws quickly, fairly, and consistently to prevent irreparable harm whenever possible. Understanding their obligation to be proactive and not just reactive appears to have eluded some Kootenai County government officials.

In the Peterman - Design Services Northwest case highlighted in Hagengruber's article, Kootenai County reportedly gave repeated notices of violation to the landowner and contractor. Even though those notices were obviously being willfully ignored, it wasn't until after the land had been grievously damaged that the county decided to react assertively. What took so long?

According to Kootenai County planner George Evjen, halting the work of a noncompliant contractor or landowner is a "long, drawn-out process."

Really? How long does it take Kootenai County to get a temporary restraining order (TRO) and have it served and enforced by the sheriff's department?

After observing that violations producing irreparable damage were being committed, Kootenai County building and planning director Rand Whichman was obligated to seek a TRO or other available immediate remedy. If that didn't happen, why not? If it did and if the prosecutor's office declined to act, then why? Someone in county government owes the rest of us some honest answers so we can hold the right people accountable.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Avian Influenza A (H5N1)

It now appears President Bush has recognized the gravity of the public health threat posed by avian influeneza A.

A vast amount of information about avian influenza A (H5N1) is available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website.

Information about the development and availability of vaccine for avian influenza A (H5N1) is available at the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) website.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Domestic Violence By Law Enforcement Officers

Read Tom Clouse's article headlined Deputy suspended after domestic call in the Tuesday, October 4, 2005, The Spokesman Review. Pay particular attention to the paragraphs which note the deputy pushed his wife (among other things), but the assault charge was dismissed.

Note also the comment in the fourth paragraph by sheriff's flack Dave Reagan who expressed frustration that this crime was newsworthy only because it involved a police officer. Reagan is only partially right.

When a police officer is accused of a crime amounting to domestic violence, it is newsworthy. That's because some of Washington State's law enforcement agencies had a nasty habit of trying to cover up domestic violence committed by their sworn, firearms-carrying employees. That was well-documented in a special series entitled Badge of Dishonor published by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in July 2003. Pay particular attention to the first story headlined Cops who abuse their wives rarely pay the price in the series.

What you will learn from the P-I's series is that with concurrence from prosecutors, Washington State law enforcement agencies had been very careful to avoid charging their employees with any crime amounting to "domestic violence". Why? Because federal law prohibits anyone from owning or possessing a firearm if that person is convicted of a crime amounting to domestic violence. The federal law (the Lautenberg Amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968) includes language applying this prohibition explicitly to law enforcement officers convicted of domestic violence. In other words, law enforcement officers convicted of crimes amounting to domestic violence are forbidden by federal law from owning, possessing, carrying, or using firearms.

The P-I's series noted that Washington State legislators were working on legislation that would require the state's law enforcement agencies to deal more effectively and definitively with domestic abuse within their ranks. I wonder if the Spokane County Sheriff got the message.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Report: Hurricane Katrina and the Accountability Community

On September 28, 2005, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) released Hurricane Katrina - Providing Oversight of the Nation's Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Activities. This was the statement of Norman J. Rabkin, the GAO's Managing Director of Homeland Security and Justice Issues.

The issue of accountability (or blame) is looming large over several federal agencies. It should. It is important for the public to understand what agencies fulfilled their duties as expected and why they were able to be successful. It is at least equally important and maybe more important that we also understand what agencies did not perform at the level the public expected. Thus, the cited GAO report looks at what it calls the "accountability community", the range of agencies' inspectors general, to deliver the accountability needed to assure that fraud, waste, and abuse in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are minimized. The GAO also hopes this and subsequent reports will contribute to improved future preparedness and response.

Issues covered in this 25-page GAO report or in the accompanying links to preceding GAO reports include:
  • Health care
  • Energy
  • Environmental
  • Telecommunications
  • Flood control
  • Insurance
  • Military's role, including national guard and reserves
  • Preparedness
  • Response
  • Recovery
  • Public health