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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Finding accurate, authoritative articles about the wiretap (technically referred to as "nonconsensual wireline interceptions") equipment and practices used by law enforcement is unusual. It's even more unusual to find articles about countermeasures the bad guys (or corporate security) might use to thwart taps. Here are two articles that are excellent introductions to law enforcement wiretaps.

Signaling Vulnerabilities in Wiretapping Systems

Security, Wiretapping, and the Internet

Both articles are from the November/December 2005 issue of IEEE Security & Privacy. Neither article reveals any vulnerabilities previously unknown to technical surveillance specialists in federal law enforcement.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Measuring Who's Winning and Who's Losing

According to President Bush, we're in a war against terror, and we're winning. How do we know if we're winning or losing? What's the metric that distinguishes between victory and defeat?

"Terror" is a tactic or an ideology, not a killable enemy. Can we really vanquish a tactic or ideology? In this instance, is the distinction between victory and defeat even possible? How do we measure our success or failure in the war on terror?

This is not just some discussion point for an academic debate. The social, political, economic, and military complexities of this issue are raised by The Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, in its November 23, 2005, 15-page report entitled Combating Terrorism: The Challenge of Measuring Effectiveness.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Understanding and Fixing Low Voter Turnout in Local Elections

On November 8, 2005, Kootenai County, Idaho, held a special election. According to the county's voter turnout figures, 13,543 people voted. That represents 21.42 percent of the county's registered voters. This low turnout was disappointing but not particularly surprising. Local elections, even when there are truly important issues and interesting candidates, typically have lower turnouts than national elections.

Low voter turnout in local elections is attributable partly to the upside-down way government is taught in primary and secondary schools.

Primary and secondary education classes teach government almost exclusively from a federal perspective. Students are taught Jefferson's, "The first principle of a good government is certainly a distribution of its powers into executive, judiciary, and legislative, and a subdivision of the latter into two or three branches." They are taught that the US Constitution is the foundation for all our laws and that the US Supreme Court is the supreme adjudicator of differences of law. Rarely do the classes spend much if any time on the structure and function of their local governments and on the importance and formulation of local codes and ordinances. Primary and secondary students are not exposed to the local financial planning process where they could learn the intricacies and realities of how their city and county are funded. The federal system is not a bad example, just one too distant and large for primary and secondary students to apply practically in their daily living.

Students need to learn government from a local perspective. For example, do Coeur d'Alene students learn why someone can't build a commercial auto repair facility in that vacant lot right next to their house in an R-8 zone? Do they know how to research and obey the ordinances that regulate the business they wish to start in Coeur d'Alene after they graduate? Are Coeur d'Alene students required to learn how to follow the progress of a proposed city ordinance from inception to enactment? Are they encouraged to attend city commission and council meetings and to speak out when appropriate? Are Coeur d'Alene students required to understand how to read and understand the city's annual financial plan so they understand how their or their parents' tax dollars are spent?

Using the federal system as a teaching example is a contributor to low voter turnout in local elections. This "focus on the top" subtly suggests to students that federal government is more relevant than local government. Federal laws are important, local ordinances are unimportant. Federal elections are important, local elections are unimportant. Though the effects of national elections and federal court decisions may be more widespread and affect more people across the nation, I'd argue that our day to day lives are influenced more directly and frequently not by national issues but by local ones. Yet how comprehensively are students in Kootenai County primary and secondary schools taught about their specific county and city governments? Students may know the name of the US Attorney General, but do they know the names of their city and county attorneys? They may know the names of their US Senators and Representatives, but do they know the names of their city council members and county commissioners?

It is at the local level that students and their parents can exert the greatest influence on government affecting their daily lives. At the local level, every citizen has a proportionally stronger and potentially more influential voice. We can research the facts behind local issues, attend legislative and quasi-judicial meetings and hearings, and present our position directly to the decision-makers. Citizens who understand and have been involved in their local government processes are much more likely to vote in local elections rather than ignore them.

I would simply suggest that the Kootenai County school systems be encouraged to teach students the in's and out's of city and Kootenai County government. Teach the students about local government at a functional, practical, user-friendly level, not exclusively at a theoretical, national level couched in federalism. Teach the students how to understand and participate in their local governments first, and then encourage them to get involved with them. Teach students advocacy skills. The National Crime Prevention Council has two helpful advocacy webpages. The first is Seven Steps to Effective Advocacy. The second is Contacting Legislators: Do's and Don'ts.

When schools start teaching local government as participation courses, I suspect the voter turnout in both local and national elections will increase. The students who learn, understand, and become involved in the processes of local government today will be better informed and more consistent voters tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2005

"For parents, school staff, and policymakers to address school crime effectively, they must possess an accurate understanding of the extent and nature of the problem. However, it is difficult to gauge the scope of crime and violence in schools without collecting data, given the large amount of attention devoted to isolated incidents of extreme school violence. Ensuring safer schools requires establishing good indicators of the current state of school crime and safety across the nation and periodically monitoring and updating these indicators."

This is the aim of Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2005.

This report was produced cooperatively by the US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, and the US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Construction Site Thefts

The building boom that hit the Spokane - Coeur d'Alene region predictably generated more equipment and materials being left at construction sites. Inevitably, some of that equipment and material disappeared in the hands of thieves.

The US Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, published Reducing Theft at Construction Sites: Lessons From a Problem-Oriented Project. This 56-page study was an effort to apply the principles of problem-oriented policing to one police district in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC, area.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Criminal Gangs Update

On Tuesday, November 15, 2005, I posted Criminal Gangs - What We Need to Know. My intent was to enhance readers' awareness about the proliferation and sophistication of gangs.

Today, Friday, November 18, 2005, the Seattle Times ran an article headlined Elaborate Drug Ring Smashed. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer also reported this same story in an article headlined 21 arrested as raids target cocaine-trafficking suspects.

Both of today's newspaper stories about the drug ring being run by a gang illustrate the complexity of gang activity and the skills and resources needed to combat it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Farmers: The New Organized Crime Families?

Thinking of the American farmer, one usually envisions a weather-worn, hard-working altruistic soul doing an honest days work to provide food for the rest of the world.

Think again.

In September 2005, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) provided a report entitled Crop Insurance - Actions Needed to Reduce Program's Vulnerability to Fraud, Waste, and Abuse. The report was provided to the Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the US Senate. Among other details, the report describes how "In 2004 the crop insurance program provided $47 billion in coverage, at a cost of $3.6 billion, including an estimated $160 million in losses from fraud and abuse" by producers. Producers are farmers.

On November 14, 15, and 16, 2005, National Public Radio aired three stories, all under the topic "Fraud on the Farm". The transcripts of the stories are available at the NPR website and are much more readable (and interesting!) than the GAO report.

Here are links to the three NPR stories, each authored by John Burnett:

November 14 - Tomato Farmers Caught Out in Insurance Scam

November 15 - Crop Insurance Program Ripe for Fraud

November 16 - High-Tech Methods Crack Farm Insurance Cheats

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Criminal Gangs - What We Need to Know

We who live in Kootenai County may think we are isolated and immune from the problems associated with criminal gangs. If we think that, we're wrong.

For a good introduction to gang activity, read the 2005 National Gang Threat Assessment prepared by the National Alliance of Gang Investigators Associations under a grant from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice.

The assessment covers several relevant topics including:
  • Regional trends in the northeast, south, midwest, and west
  • Gangs and drugs
  • Gangs and organized crime
  • Gangs and technology (cellphones, computers, the Internet)
  • Gangs and terrorist organizations including domestic terrorist groups, international terrorist groups, and terrorist recruitment in US prisons
  • Prison gangs
  • Hispanic gangs
  • Female gangs
  • Gangs and Indian country
  • Outlaw motorcycle gangs
  • Community response to gangs

Some slightly different and equally useful information is also available at the National Alliance of Gang Investigators Associations website.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Dr. James Fyfe

On November 12, 2005, Dr. James Fyfe, one of the nation's most recognized authorities on police use of deadly force, died of cancer according to the New York Daily News.

Dr. Fyfe was best known for his research involving "...the conduct of field police officers and methods for holding police officers and organizations accountable for behaving in manners that are both humane and efficient." He was heavily involved in civil rights litigation either as a witness or as a consultant including:

  • Tennesse v. Garner in which the Supreme Court forbade officers from shooting to arrest non-violent fleeing suspects
  • Thurman v. Torrington in which abused wives won the right to sue police in federal court for failing to arrest their abusers
  • Cases stemming from the Rodney King incident in Los Angeles
  • The serial murders committed by Jeffrey Dahmer
  • The Philadelphia police bombing of the residence of the radical group, MOVE.

Information about his case involvement was taken from his biography at the Temple University, Department of Criminal Justice website.

National Hate Crime Reports - 2004

On April 23, 1990, Congress enacted the Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990. It requires the US Attorney General to establish guidelines and collect data as part of the federal Uniform Crime Reporting Program. Specifically, it requires data "about crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.

To improve the collection of the data, the US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, has published the Hate Crime Data Collection Guidelines. It has also published the Training Guide for Hate Crime Data Collection to better prepare law enforcement agencies to deal with and report hate crime consistently and uniformly.

The Hate Crime Statistics 2004 are available at this link.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Kootenai County Jail Expansion - Why I Voted "No"

On November 8, 2005, voters in Kootenai County, Idaho, voted "no" on an ordinance which would have allocated up to $50 million to expand the Kootenai County jail. I voted "no" not because of the high cost but because of the poor value the high cost represents.

Let me use an analogy to explain my "no" vote.

Suppose I have an operable brain tumor that is giving me headaches. However, I don't want to acknowledge that I have the tumor, so I take an aspirin for the headache. Voila! The headache goes away. I feel fine for a while, but then the headache comes back, more painful than before. So I take not just one but two aspirin. Once again, the headache goes away, but then it comes back with increased pain. Many bottles of aspirin later, I finally decide to have the operation. By that time, the tumor has grown, the operation will be more costly, and the surgeons might not be able to fully remove the tumor. The first aspirin gave symptomatic relief from the headache, but it only masked the pain associated with the growing problem of the tumor. On top of that, all the aspirin I took has now caused internal bleeding.

In my analogy, the headache represents an overloaded Kootenai County jail. Jail overcrowding is only symptomatic of the underlying shortcomings in Kootenai County's criminal justice system. The first aspirin represents the $50 million it could have cost to expand the jail. And the tumor? The tumor represents Kootenai County's entire criminal justice system with all its associated deficiencies. I can mask the tumor's pain (jail overcrowding) with symptomatic relief (expanding the existing jail), but that only allows the tumor (underlying shortcomings of the criminal justice system) to grow until it becomes too painful and too large to address with symptomatic relief.

The basis for my analogy is in the "Jail and Sheriff's Office Expansion Study" prepared for the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners under a $76,700 professional services contract awarded to KMB Justice Facilities Group.

The Expansion Study made it crystal clear that the $50 million jail expansion now ("now" meaning in three years when the expansion would have been completed and the new facilities opened) would have to be redone in another 9-12 years at an as yet undetermined cost. The Expansion Study did nothing to address the underlying social causes of jail overcrowding. Up to $50 million in aspirin, and we're still stuck with the tumor.

The Expansion Study did point out something very important that was not mentioned during any of the public meetings I saw or in any newspaper columns: The existing sheriff's office space is inadequate for its present staffing, and that staffing will have to increase if the jail capacity increases. The same was represented as true for the courts holding facility. In other words, the present $50 million request was almost certain to be followed with a separate request to fund an improved sheriff's office facility and courts holding facility.

After examining the Expansion Study, I was left with a nagging question: Why did Kootenai County hire KMB Justice Facilities Group and pay it $76,700 for that study? An appropriate study that addressed the underlying criminal justice issues in the county (not just jail expansion) should have been done by the Kootenai County Sheriff in cooperation with other administrators in the county criminal justice system. Indeed, that type of data gathering and analysis needs to be done continually, not just when a crisis surfaces.

Kootenai County citizens need to understand that the elected sheriff of Kootenai County is no longer just a cop. He is supposed to be a public administrator with the knowledge, skills, abilities, and education that prepares him to skillfully manage multimillion dollar budgets. He needs other skills in planning, organizing, staffing, directing, coordinating, and reporting. Maybe the failure of the jail expansion measure will be a wake-up call to the county to insist that our sheriff and his command staff perform their duties professionally rather than politically.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Idaho Jail Standards - Minimum Standards for Detention Facilities

In December 2003 the Idaho Sheriff's Association revised and republished its Idaho Sheriff's Association - Minimum Jail Standards publication.

This publication discusses minimum standards for detention facilities in Idaho. Those standards include: administration, organization, and management; fiscal management; personnel; training and staff development; facility information systems; fire safety and emergency procedures; security and control; special management inmates; food service; sanitation and hygiene; health care services; inmate rights; inmate rules and discipline; communication, mail, and visiting; admission and release; classification; inmate services and programs; physical plant; and work release.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Jail Design Review Handbook

In July 2003, the US Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections, released the Jail Design Review Handbook.

The Jail Design Review Handbook assists sheriffs, jailers, county administrators, and other decision-makers in reviewing and critiquing jail design documents to make sure that their new facilities work for them and their communities, are safe and secure, and will fully support intended operations and inmate populations. To aid project team members with design reviews during planning to schematic design, the book provides checklists with suggested questions on virtually every space within a jail.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Draft National Infrastructure Protection Plan

On November 3, 2005, the Department of Homeland Security announced in the Federal Register the availability for public comment of the Draft National Infrastructure Preparedness Plan (NIPP) dated November 2, 2005.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for developing this comprehensive, integrated national plan for the protection of the nation's critical infrastructure and key resources under the authority of Homeland Security Presidential Directive-7 (HSPD-7), Critical Infrastructure Identification, Prioritization, and Protection.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A Military Guide to Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century

On August 15, 2005, the US Army Training and Doctrine Command, the US Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, and the Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence - Threats released Version 3.0 of its handbook A Military Guide to Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century.

"The handbook is a high level terrorism primer that includes an overview of the history of terrorism, descriptions of terrorist behaviors and motivations, a review of terrorist group organizations, and the threat posed to our forces, both in the United States and overseas. Additionally, it provides information on the various terrorist groups, the terrorist planning cycle, operations and tactics, firearms used by terrorists, improvised explosive devices, conventional munitions used by terrorists, and a discussion on weapons of mass destruction. The manual is designed to be used to help train and educate personnel on terrorism and assist units in recognizing the treat they face in planning for operations, both in the Continental United States and overseas."