Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Importance of Effective First-Line Supervision in Law Enforcement Agencies

The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, has just released a publication entitled "Supervision and Intervention Within Early Intervention Systems - A Guide for Law Enforcement Chief Executives." Early Intervention Systems (EIS) are a means for chief law enforcement officers to prepare first-line supervisors to identify subordinate's problem behavior and correct it, sometimes even before the behavior manifests itself. The publication is available in two parts here and here.

How important can EIS be? Maybe if the King County Sheriff's Office had placed more emphasis on it, the department wouldn't be faced with Conduct Unbecoming.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Update

It appears that some new component of warfare technology evolves from every war. Then after the war is over, the contractors try to "civilianize" the extremely high-cost technology to make it useable and affordable by the nonmilitary market. Much of that technology eventually trickles down to law enforcement. I've noted this in my August 23, 2005, post entitled Trickle-Down Technology for Public Safety.

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) seem to offer the most likely transition to the civilian environment. UAS can carry an array of sensors and telemetry devices that gather and relay information back to a pilot/operator on the ground. They can operate quieter, less visibly, and with more maneuverability than a manned helicopter. If they go down, smaller unmanned aerial vehicles present less of a threat to people on the ground since there is a smaller mass and the fuel is non-combustible.

An update on UAS use in the military is available in an article entitled Unmanned Aircraft Systems Grow Up in the December 2005 issue of Signal.

For the Department of Defense's discussion of the planning needed to make UAS effective, see the website of the Office of Secretary of Defense UAS Planning Task Force.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

How Did They Vote?

I sometimes like to know how a particular member of Congress voted on a matter, but it can be a little tricky to come up with that information. It's sometimes useful (or entertaining) to know which Congresscritters miss votes. That, too, can be difficult to learn. Until now.

The U.S. Congress Votes Database provides one-stop shopping for that and much more information. According to The Washington Post's website, "This site, washingtonpost.com's U.S. Congress Votes Database, is a deep database of every vote in the United States Congress since the 102nd Congress (1991). It lets you browse votes in a variety of ways -- both in aggregate and for individual members of Congress."

For people needing or wanting to track the votes of federal legislators, this site is worth bookmarking or RSS feeding.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Local Talents

Okay, this is a real departure from my usual content about security, law enforcement, counteintelligence and intelligence.


Please look at Mister Standman's website. If you appreciate masterful artistry in woodworking, Mike Norris's wooden music stands are beyond unique. The neatest thing is that this craftsman lives and creates his music stands right here in Kootenai County on French Gulch Road.

As you read his webpages, understand that Mister Standman's wife, Leslie Stratton Norris, edits his website in her limited spare time. Leslie is the Principal Harpist with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra in Dayton, Ohio. When she's at home and not correcting Mike's website, she's tutoring student harpists from Coeur d'Alene and its surroundings. We attended a concert performance by some of Leslie's students at the Lake City Senior Citizens Center on Sunday, December 18, 2005. If they keep it up, these young and gifted artists-in-training will put Coeur d'Alene on the map for its musical artistry.

Want to hear some harp music for Christmas? Leslie is playing for:
  • Northwest Sacred Chorale Concerts, Wednesday, December 21st at 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the 1st Presbyterian Church, 521 Lakeside, Coeur d'Alene. There is a ticket charge for the choral concert.
  • St. John's Cathedral, Christmas eve, 3:30 p.m. prelude to the 4 p.m. mass, Grand Avenue on Spokane's South Hill.
  • Millwood Presbyterian Church, Christmas eve, 11 p.m. service, Argonne Road exit in Spokane.
  • First Baptist Church, Christmas Day church service, 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. meditation, 10:45 a.m. service, 5th and Wallace in Coeur d'Alene.

Friday, December 16, 2005

More Than Just Another Third-Rate Burglary?

Today's New York Times has an article headlined Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts by James Risen and Eric Lightblau. The article reports in 2002, President Bush authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct warrantless, nonconsensual electronic surveillance of "Americans and others inside the United States." The purpose of the surveillances was reportedly to search for evidence of terrorist activity. Later in the article, the Times writers revealed the newspaper had voluntarily withheld publishing the story for a year at the request of the White House.

For a better understanding of the NSA's responsibilities and capabilities, see The National Security Agency Declassified, a web page of the George Washington University, National Security Archive.

To better see how national security nonconsensual electronic surveillances are administered within the US justice system, see the Department of Justice's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review webpage.

It seems to me there are two serious questions that need to be answered to ensure the preservation of our Constitution's 4th, 6th, and 1st Amendments:

  • Was the NSA used illegally by the President to conduct nonconsensual electronic surveillances on US citizens in the US? If the answer is "yes", then it must also be asked what lawful use the government could make of the information obtained from the illegal searches. Certainly the government could not use illegally obtained evidence in any criminal prosecution of US citizens. That leaves taking extrajudicial action against US citizens the government believed was violating the law. I would hate to think our government would even consider extrajudicial action against US citizens.
  • What was the New York Times told that convinced it to withhold this story for a year at the request of the White House? Why did the Times choose to run the story now? What has changed? The Times needs to fully and honestly explain how its decision to withhold the original story should be viewed as anything other than a failure of its 1st Amendment responsibilities to US citizens. The explanation offered by Times Executive Editor Bill Keller and reported in today's Editor & Publisher online is weak at best.
Can we take comfort that the President of the United States has an army of legal advisors telling him his actions were legal? Should we be reassured that current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was Counsel to the President when President Bush authorized the NSA interceptions?

Here's a relevant excerpt from Volume 61, Number 11, December 2004 issue of Bench & Bar of Minnesota: "As the Watergate scandal erupted, Senator Walter Mondale said in July of 1973, 'I am shocked by the number of lawyers involved in the Watergate scandal … . The sad truth is that the legal profession performed miserably in the entire Watergate affair.' John Dean asked: 'How in God’s name could so many lawyers get involved in something like this?' "

How indeed?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Digital Forensics to Authenticate Digital Photos

My post entitled The Electronic Crime Scene on June 27, 2005, discussed some of the challenges digital electronics generally pose to investigators. Then in my post entitled Recognizing Fake Photos, on August 22, 2005, I reported how digital imagery had created some serious concerns for photojournalists and their editors, judges, and investigators.

Now the Tuesday, December 6, 2005, issue of MIT's Technology Review discusses how "digital forensics can detect misleading cut-and-paste jobs and match a photograph to an individual camera's 'fingerprint.' " The article is entitled Photo Chop Shop.

The article briefly mentions digital watermarking as one means to transparently mark an image to detect tampering. Digital watermarking is not new, but it is somewhat costly.

More fascinating to investigators, though, is the newly developed technique to associate a particular digital camera to a particular image. The simple explanation is that each digital electronic camera has a unique electronic signature that is incorporated into each image that camera produces. Any disturbance to the digital signature suggests image alteration. This, by the way, is one example of measurements and signatures intelligence.

This new technology reported by MIT needs to be evaluated by the criminal justice community as one possible way of overcoming the mistrust of digital imagery by the courts.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Conference Report: USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005

In its December 13, 2005, editorial, the Idaho Spokesman Review commented that, "While negotiators from the House and Senate worked out a compromise that would allow renewal of the USA Patriot Act, a bipartisan handful of Senate skeptics, including Craig, held out."

The compromise mentioned in the editorial is reported in the CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 3199, USA PATRIOT IMPROVEMENT AND REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2005.

Since some members of Congress have objected to the compromise bill, it is unlikely to pass in its reported form.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Gang Activity in Kootenai County - It's Here Now

Back on January 10, 2005, Whitecaps commended Kootenai County Sheriff Rocky Watson for his proactive decision to reassign two deputies from the drug task force so they could learn more about recognizing and suppressing illegal gang activity in Kootenai County. The Sheriff's action has proven necessary.

The December 9, 2005, Coeur d'Alene Press (print edition only - not posted on Press website) carried a story headlined "Gang activity increasing in Kootenai County" by staff writer Linda Ball. The story begins on page C1 and concludes on page C7. The story lead should cause civic leaders and citizens alike some real concern. It reads, "Gang activity is alive and well in Kootenai County." These are not just local groups of kids with too much time on their hands. We have many of the gang alliances from across the nation represented here according to the article. Make no mistake about it: Gangs are criminal enterprises, frequently violent, and not social clubs. A December 12, 2005, Los Angeles Times headlined Deputies Not Keeping Pace With L.A. Gangs emphasizes their propensity towards violence. Yes, we should be very concerned.

In an effort to make more information available to those who read this blog, I am linking to some previous posts about gangs and gang violence. Those posts include links to valuable and timely information that will help educate readers to better recognize and report gang activity. Here are the links:

May 5, 2005 - COPS Gang Toolkit

November 15, 2005 - Criminal Gangs - What We Need to Know

November 18, 2005 - Criminal Gangs Update

It is a serious mistake to think that law enforcement agencies alone can effectively suppress and control gang activity. They can't. Their effectiveness can be dramatically increased, however, if the community educates itself and then reports indicative activity. Timely, accurate information is one of the strongest weapons available to law enforcement wanting to suppress criminal gang activity. The community's role is to provide the raw information that law enforcement analysts can collate and evaluate and then disseminate as finished intelligence.

One final note. Several years ago Kootenai County had to deal with Richard Butler and the Aryan Nations. The Aryan Nations was a gang, but in terms of ruthlessness, criminal skills and sophistication, and propensity for violence, the Aryan Nations members were neanderthals in comparison to many of the members of today's criminal gang alliances. The Aryan Nations members were easily recognizable. That's also true of some but by no means all of the criminal gangs today. The stereotype gangsters that throw signs, wear colors and distinctive clothing, and tag buildings may be here, but so are those who can easily and comfortably afford to stay at the Coeur d'Alene Resort, wear designer clothes, drive Hummers and tricked-out dualie pickups, use computer technology to further their criminal enterprise, and buy public officials and public offices. To underestimate the potential threat to our area and residents posed by some of the gang alliances mentioned in today's Press will, not may, will prove to be a grievous mistake.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Good Ideas, Not Toys

Too often law enforcement administrators are overwhelmed by technology ("toys" in copspeak). Consequently, they spend grant money and taxpayer dollars on inappropriate toys. When imaginative, innovative public administrators put their minds to it, they can appropriately use our dollars to do their jobs more effectively.

A good example of an appropriate use of money is the New York Police Department's Real Time Crime Center. As the name suggests, the objective of the Center is to get critical information about a crime and its immediate environment to street investigators and officers in real time, within minutes and not hours or days or weeks of its occurring.

According to the linked article from the November 4, 2005, Government Technology article by Jim McKay and headlined "Gaining Ground", in many instances soon after the first NYPD officer arrives at the scene of a major crime, she will receive:
  • 911/311 data review: analyzing any previous 911 and 311 information that relates to the current call.
  • Location analysis: reviewing data to garner intelligence on any previous crimes or events at the location.
  • Victim analysis: developing intelligence on the victim, such as the victim's known associates, enemies, previous addresses or involvement in crimes.
  • Pattern analysis: reading the data, including GIS maps, to look for trends in crimes that might relate to the current call.
  • Suspect analysis: using the data to find ties to the suspect -- relatives, tattoos, previous addresses, etc. -- to possibly tie the suspect to other crimes.

This article is a must-read for law enforcement adminstrators whose technology vision extends beyond bigger flashlights, faster cars, and Tasers. The article discusses how the NYPD's Real Time Crime Center is scalable to departments of various sizes.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Reverse All Engines! Alert Citizens Ahead!

If one read only the stories in today's Idaho Spokesman Review and Coeur d'Alene Press, one might conclude that the Coeur d'Alene School District #271 Board of Trustees made a benevolent, civic-minded decision to preserve a city park in our community when it decided to not pursue acquiring the City of Coeur d'Alene's part of Persons Field.

There was no benevolence in the Board of Trustees' decision.

What the papers did not report was that the School District had failed to seek input from the community members who live around Persons Field when the idea of acquiring the park was first raised over two years ago.

What the papers did not report was that on April 19, 2005, the Coeur d'Alene City Council, on a motion by Dixie Reid and seconded by Ben Wolfinger, voted unanimously (Council members Woody McEvers, Deanna Goodlander, Al Hassell, Ben Wolfinger, Dixie Reid, and Ron Edinger voting "aye") to approve Resolution 05-031. That resolution included a Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Coeur d'Alene and School District #271 to pursue an equitable agreement whereby the east portion of Persons Field (3.235 acres), which is owned by the City, will ultimately be conveyed to SD 271. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Mayor Sandi Bloem with her signature notarized on April 19, 2005. It was also signed by Wanda Quinn, President, Board of Trustees, with her signature notarized on August 1, 2005. In other words, nearly eight months ago, the Coeur d'Alene Mayor and City Council had agreed the City was going to convey Persons Field to the School District.

What the papers did not report was that at its meeting on May 2, 2005, the Coeur d'Alene School District Board of Trustees voted to approve for signature the Memorandum of Understanding re: City of Coeur d'Alene/Lakes Middle School. The motion was offered by Sid Frederickson and seconded by Christie Wood. The motion passed 5-0-0 with Chair Quinn and Trustees Wood, Frederickson, Zipperer, and Newby voting in favor.

What the papers did not report was that at its regularly scheduled meeting on November 8, 2005, the Coeur d'Alene City Planning Commission held a public hearing to consider items SP-11-05 and V-1-05. These agenda items comprised a request by Patano Architects, on behalf of School District 271, for the Commission to approve "...a Community Education Special Use Permit to allow the construction of the new Lakes Middle School which will replace the existing middle school at 15th and Hastings and a 6 1/4 foot height variance from the allowed height of 43 1/4 feet for a non-rsidential use in the R-12 (Residential at 12 units/acre) zoning district." After hearing considerable testimony from School Superintendent Harry Amend and architect Mike Patano and Jon Mueller, the neighbors who use Persons Field as their city park and live near it lined up to speak in opposition. Though it was a city park at stake, Parks Director Doug Eastwood was not present at the hearing to answer Commissioners' questions.

There were some significant revelations during sworn testimony before the Planning Commission on November 8, 2005. In this exchange between Planning Commissioner Mary Souza and Superintendent Amend:
Souza: "Has there not been any public hearings or opportunities for the neighborhood to give their input?"
Amend: "This is, um, of course, our Long Range Planning Committee meetings are open to the public, but usually people don't come to those that aren't part of the Committee. What we consider the planning process where the community would be involved is starting now. We did announce, though, in the spring, it was covered in both papers, that the plan was to build the new Lakes at Persons Field."
Souza: "But the plans for this particular project have not been shared with the public until tonight?"
Amend: "That is correct. Yup."

So with the April 19, 2005, Memorandum of Understanding the deal was done between the City and the School District. Persons Field was going to be the site of the new Lakes Middle School, but the School Superintendent would avoid getting surrounding community members involved until November 8, 2005!

Another exchange between Commissioner Bowlby and Superintendent Amend revealed that the School District had not yet made a decision about how the old Lakes Middle School property would be used if Persons Field was conveyed to the District. Commissioner Bowlby asked if the School District retained ownership of the old Lakes Middle School property, would the District be committed enough to create some open space (to replace the space lost with the District's acquisition of the City's portion of Persons Field) in the Lakes Middle School existing area.
Amend: "No, but yeah, and I think that would, um, if that would, and that part of the question would be, if the District sold the building, would they keep some of the site available? Yeah. I have not had that conversation with the Board. "

In the two years of planning for the remodeling or relocation of Lakes Middle School, why hadn't the Superintendent had a conversation with the Board of Trustees about the use of the old Lakes Middle School property if the District relocated the school to the Persons Field site? And how could the Superintendent and Board of Trustees reasonably expect voters to approve a $40-$50 million school plant facility levy without knowing how the District intended to use or dispose of the old Lakes property?

During the Planning Commission hearing, City Associate Planner John Stamsos chimed in with this revelation:

Stamsos: "Keep in mind that as one of the owners of the property, the City did sign this application, which essentially means that they're, well, they're invested in it and they're okay with the application going forward." In other words, the Planning Commission whose members had not seen the April 19, 2005, resolution and MOU before the November 8, 2005, meeting was being asked to rule on an application to which the City itself was an interested party. Furthermore, if the Planning Commission recommended against approving the application for the Community Education Special Use Permit (as it ultimately did), the applicants (Patano Architects representing SD 271) could appeal that decision to the Coeur d'Alene City Council, the same City Council that on April 19, 2005, had already approved the MOU agreeing to give up Persons Field.

And without knowing the Mayor and City Council had already made the City an interested party to the Special Use Permit application, what did the Planning Commission members do? They listened to sworn witnesses, they asked excellent questions, and they voted to recommend rejecting the application based on the following findings:

  • Finding B8A: "That this proposal is not in conformance with the Comprehensive Plan policies." Specifically, the Commission found it deficient on policy 18B1, that parks, open space, and recretational facilities should be provided for neighborhoods as well as for the community; on policy 51A, that it did not sufficiently protect and preserve neighborhoods both old and new; and on policy 51A5, that residential neighborhood residential land uses should be protected from intrusion of incompatible land uses and their effects.
  • Finding B8B: "The design and planning of the site is not compatible with the location, setting, and existing uses on adjacent properties."
  • Finding B8C: "The location, design, and size of the proposal are such that the development will not be adequately served by existing streets, public facilities, and services."

At the hearing's conclusion, the Planning Commission voted 3 in favor and 2 opposed (Commissioner Jordan was absent) on a motion by Commissioner Rasor, seconded by Commissioner Messina, to deny without prejudice the Community Education Special Use Permit.

Following what was probably an unexpected defeat before the City Planning Commission, the School District held a public meeting for the community at Lakes Middle School on November 28, 2005. The newspapers reported that approximately 50 community members attended. The meeting was moderated by Superintendent Harry Amend. Lakes Principal Chris Hammons and Patano Architects Mike Patano heard questions and comments from the community. One would have thought that in the intervening 20 days between the Planning Commission defeat and this meeting, the School District would have got its stories straight and its act together and have been fully prepared to answer any and all reasonable questions and concerns raised by the community. But that's not what happened.

Even with the School District's Chief Financial Officer, Steve Briggs, present, Superintendent Amend was unable to explain the expected costs of the project or its alternatives without being led through it by one of the community opponents!

The School District's transportation officer was notably absent, so questions and concerns about traffic changes in the neighborhood around the proposed new Lakes Middle School went unanswered and unaddressed.

One audience member asked if community members would be able to freely access the new Lakes Middle School playfields as easily and openly as they could access Persons Field now. The audience member explained that at another school in the District, he and some friends had been playing football on the school field and were asked to leave by the local police. He wanted to know if the police would also run them off the fields at the new Lakes Middle School. It happens that Principal Hammons was at the podium when this question was asked. Principal Hammons' answer was evasive; that the School District would strive to be good neighbors with the neighborhood. It would have been appropriate, even expected, that Superintendent Amend would interject at this point and explain the School District's policy regarding public use of District school playfields, but he sat silent and allowed Principal Hammons to twist slowly, slowly in the wind.

The appeal to the City Council was filed by Patano Architects on November 9, 2005, and the appeal was ultimately scheduled to be heard by the City Council at the regularly scheduled Council meeting on December 6, 2005. But at the School District trustee meeting on Monday, December 5, 2005, the District elected to withdraw the appeal.

As opined earlier, withdrawing the appeal and leaving (for now) Persons Field as a city park was not an act of community charity by the School District. It seems much more likely that the School District, remembering the defeat of the $50 million Kootenai County jail expansion issue in the November 2005 general election, probably came to realize that if it pushed too hard for Persons Field, the voters in the School District might vote down the entire school plant facility levy. So the District decided to cut its losses and withdraw the appeal. The newspaper quotes in today's papers from School District trustees were, well, self-serving spin.

I suspect that over the years the Coeur d'Alene School District, like the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department, has come to take for granted voter support for more funding . Maybe funding was a done deal in the past, but the times they are a-changing. The Mayor and Council of the City of Coeur d'Alene and the Kootenai County Commissioners have got their wish: More and more people are moving here from other places. The result? We who have not lived here all our lives (and many, including some of the folks around Persons Field who have) are unwilling to any longer accept the word of elected and appointed officials without question. We don't owe them political allegiance, we aren't impressed by their family lineage or political connections, and we sure as hell aren't going to be intimidated by them.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Report: The Department of Justice's Terrorism Task Forces

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) refocused on terrorism. DoJ directed that several terrorism task forces and councils be formed to coordinate and integrate intelligence and law enforcement functions to meet the DoJ counterterrorism goal. Appropriately, the DoJ Office of Inspector General (OIG) assessed the role and operations of the terrorism task forces to determine if they were meeting their objectives; if gaps, duplication, and overlap existed in counterterrorism coverage; and how the performance of those task forces and councils is measured.

The OIG reviewed the following task forces and councils:

  • Deputy Attorney General's Natonal Security Coordination Council (NSCC)
  • U.S. Attorneys' Antiterrorism Advisory Councils (ATAC)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation's Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Joint Terrorism Task Forces (NJTTF)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation's Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force (FTTF)

The entire 353-page report is entitled The Department of Justice's Terrorism Task Forces - June 2005.

In brief, the OIG determined that the task forces and council contribute to the DoJ's counterterrorism efforts. However the OIG identified areas in which the task forces and councils efforts need improve. Specifically:

  • The NSCC's role is unclear for long-term counterterrorism planning, centralizing and coordinating counterterrorism policy and operations, and monitoring policy implementation by the components.
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Counterterrorism Section (CTS), and the Executive Office for the U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA) have no national training plans for the task forces and councils, notification of available training is ad hoc, and non-FBI task force members believe that FBI members get preferential treatment for training.
  • The FBI has no structured, systemwide orientation program for new task force members and has not defined the roles and responsibilities of its task force members in writing.
  • The JTTFs and ATACs have not coordinated their efforts to fully interact and share information with law enforcement agencies and first responders in remote areas.
  • The FBI has not fully developed outcome-oriented performance measures for all task forces or for the individual members. CTS and DOUSA have no performance measures for the ATAC program.
  • Oversight and management of the ATAC program has been fragmented and coordinators do not have adequate guidance on their roles or on structuring and managing ATACs.
  • The FBI has not provided the FTTTF stable leadership or adequate resourcs and has assigned the FTTTF responsibilities outside its mission. As a result, the FTTTF's database and risk assessement work is behind schedule.
  • Although the FBI has reallocated considerable resources to counterterrorism, the JTTFs have certain staffing shortages and turnover in leadership, and some JTTFs experience problems with space and informatino technology connectivity.
  • Despite the critical link between drug trafficking and terrorism, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has minimal membershp on the task forces.
  • The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has not provided the JTTF members needed direction, has not cross-trained supervisors in their new areas of responsibilty, and has not provided enough staff to perform task force work.

The report goes on to offer in detail the OIG conclusions and recommendations.

One word of caution: Like most federally-produced reports, this one abounds with acronyms. At the beginning of the report, there is a two-page list of the acronyms used in the report. If the reader is going to read the report, take the time to print the list of acronyms and keep it handy.