Whitecaps

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

Name:
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.


Monday, January 30, 2006

City Should Retrieve Criterion for Chief

On September 22, 2003, The Spokesman-Review's editorial board published an "Our View" column headlined "City should toss criterion for chief". The column summarized how then-Police Chief Roger Bragdon had reneged on a public promise to complete work on his four-year college degree in return for being appointed full time Chief of Police in Spokane. The newspaper's editorial board endorsed tossing the four-year degree requirement for Spokane's police chief.

Fast forward to the article headlined Alarming police statistic wrong on page A1 of the Saturday, January 28, 2006, The Spokesman-Review. The secondary headline read "Chief last fall cited 29 unanswered emergency calls in arguing to stave off more cuts – but real number is 4." In the fall of 2005, Police Chief Roger Bragdon used the inaccurate "29 unanswered emergency calls" to persuade November voters an increase in their property taxes would help avoid police department cuts. As bad as that is, it is even worse that the error was not detected until early January 2006 and only then because a curious Deputy Chief finally checked the basis for the figure.

A competent public administrator puts policies and practices in place so that abnormal operational conditions (such as 29 reportedly unanswered emergency calls in an unusually brief period) are recognized and resolved quickly. Upon first hearing such an outlandish figure, Bragdon should have immediately summoned subordinates (starting with the Deputy Chiefs in charge of the two patrol divisions) to his office and insisted they explain what had happened, how and why it happened, and what they had done to correct it. Had he done that, he would have learned the figure was wrong and presumably would not have used it.

In its September 22, 2003, column The Spokesman-Review editorial board characterized Bragdon as "...a high-caliber cop. A magnum (sic) cum laude in law enforcement."

That may be true, but it's also irrelevant. Being a high-caliber cop by mid-20th century standards is not the same as being an educationally prepared public administrator competent to oversee the development and welfare of dozens or hundreds of employees and to execute multimillion dollar financial plans.

This isn't only my opinion. It is also the position of The International Association of Chiefs of Police as articulated in its Police Leadership in the 21st Century - Achieving & Sustaining Executive Success - Recommendations From The President's First Leadership Conference released in May 1999. Regarding the education needed to be a Chief of Police, the participants in the Leadership Conference recommended this:

"Chief executives must bring a strong foundation of education to the job. Survey contributors overwhelmingly recommend a minimum of a bachelor's degree to lead an agency of under 100 employees. A third of the contributors believe a master's degree constitutes proper and adequate education preparation to lead an agency of 100-500 employees. A distinct majority, 74%, believe a master's degree constitutes proper and adequate preparation to lead the largest agencies in the country."

Spokane will soon choose a permanent replacement for Roger Bragdon. Hopefully the city government will set much higher standards in knowledge, skills, abilities, and education for recruiting and selecting Bragdon's replacement. Law enforcement administration has changed even more dramatically since the attacks on September 11, 2001. The public has higher and broader expectations for law enforcement administrators. They are expected to be highly qualified and skilled public administrators, not just formerly good cops. They are expected to be thoughtful, innovative, and imaginative. No longer will the public accept as their law enforcement agency's chief executive officer undereducated men and women who are politically connected but professionally inept and unprepared to deal with all the social, economic, managerial, and leadership challenges inherent in law enforcement administration in the 21st century.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Cracks?

The Friday, January 27, 2006, issue of the Coeur d'Alene Press ran a story headlined Court cases falling through the cracks - Sheriff's office cites lack of communication with Kootenai County prosecutors.

In his online weblog, Huckleberries Online, The Spokesman-Review associate editor and columnist Dave Oliveria asks the question, "How do you read the tea leaves to determine who's at fault here?"

That's a very good question to ask.

Though I think the entire criminal justice system in Kootenai County is in need of outside independent examination, this story smells like a plant with some ulterior motive. It appears that the Coeur d'Alene Press was spoon-fed some information structured to make the sheriff's department look better than it is and to make the prosecutor's office look worse than it is.

Who initiated this story in the Press and why? Who selected the "...23 cases that the sheriff's department turned over to the prosecutor's office" the Press asked about? Why were those 23 cases selected?

One strong possibility is that two members of the sheriff's command staff need a little more positive public exposure to improve their own chances for political advancement in Kootenai County. But this story doesn't automatically improve the image of those sheriff's department supervisors. To objectively evaluate the validity of the sheriff's department complaints about the prosecutor's office, it would be very important to also evaluate the quality of the cases sent by the sheriff's office to the prosecutor. If the cases are well-prepared and with few loose ends, then they should be handled promptly. After all, the prosecutor's office has no reason to sit on "slam-dunk" cases, particularly ones so well-prepared that a guilty plea is likely. On the other hand, if the sheriff's department supervisors are allowing poorly investigated or incomplete cases to be sent out, cases that may "needs work" as the Press story said, then those supervisors should expect delays while the prosecutors do the work the sheriff's supervisors failed to do.

The story includes vague comments attributed to unnamed persons at both the Coeur d'Alene and Post Falls Police Departments. Notably absent were any comments from the Idaho State Police (ISP) about cases it has submitted to the prosecutor. Why? Perhaps the ISP is effectively communicating with the prosecutor's office and resolving filing issues before they become problems. Another possibility is that the ISP troopers and investigators prepare their cases more thoroughly and effectively than Kootenai County's deputies and investigators and that ISP supervisors do not allow sloppy investigations to waste the prosecutor's time. In other words, maybe the ISP is doing its job better than the sheriff's office. I suspect that if the ISP were dissatisfied with the prosecutor's office handling of its cases, the problem would be resolved quickly, professionally, and quietly.

Along the same lines, the Press failed to enumerate the number of felony cases that were plea bargained down to a lesser charge and the reasons why plea bargaining was done by the Prosecutor. Why does that matter? If a case has been poorly prepared by investigators, if it's a wobbler, the prosecutors may try to salvage it by accepting a plea bargain. Sometimes half a loaf is better than no loaf.

The article quoted Douglas as saying, "Felonies are up 50 percent in the last four years." In the next paragraph, the Press says, "However, documents provided to The Press by Douglas show a 17 percent decrease in total cases last year. In 2004, his department received 6,229 cases. In 2005, that fell to 5,336." The "however" apparently intended by the Press to dispute or discredit Douglas's earlier figure, might have been more effective if the Press had differentiated between felonies and misdemeanors in the cases it cited.

The Press story's last paragraph reinforces my own opinion that the fault lies at least as much in the sheriff's office as in the prosecutor's office. A competent law enforcement administrator does not need a local newspaper to tell him to keep records about prosecutorial declinations or expirations of statute of limitations. The sheriff should have been keeping these records long before now.

Finally, if the sheriff's office is so outraged because, "...the Prosecuting Attorney's Office has failed to respond to repeated queeries about the status of cases for years, often leaving law enforcement officers and victims in the dark," as Captain Ben Wolfinger huffed, why was this information not revealed long before the last re-election of Prosecuting Attorney Bill Douglas?

No, this story is not about dereliction in the prosecutor's office as much as it is about political ambition and positioning in Kootenai County.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Real Investigators: The National Transportation Safety Board

For many years I've marvelled at the calm, thorough, and diligent professionalism of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accident investigators. Unlike investigators for some law enforcement agencies, NTSB investigators and their administrators do not allow themselves to be hurried into making politically expendient findings and premature public comments.

"The NTSB is an independent Federal agency charged by Congress with investigating every civil aviation accident in the United States and significant accidents in the other modes of transportation -- railroad, highway, marine and pipeline -- and issuing safety recommendations aimed at preventing future accidents. The Safety Board determines the probable cause of:

  • all U.S. civil aviation accidents and certain public-use aircraft accidents;
    selected highway accidents;
  • railroad accidents involving passenger trains or any train accident that results in at least one fatality or major property damage;
  • major marine accidents and any marine accident involving a public and a nonpublic vessel;
  • pipeline accidents involving a fatality or substantial property damage;
  • releases of hazardous materials in all forms of transportation; and
  • selected transportation accidents that involve problems of a recurring nature.
Since its inception in 1967, the NTSB has investigated more than 124,000 aviation accidents and over 10,000 surface transportation accidents. In so doing, it has become one of the world's premier accident investigation agencies. On call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, NTSB investigators travel throughout the country and to every corner of the world to investigate significant accidents and develop factual records and safety recommendations. "

"When the NTSB is notified of a major accident, it launches a “Go Team,” which varies in size depending on the severity of the accident and the complexity of the issues involved. The team may consist of experts in as many as 14 different specialties, coordinated by the investigator-in-charge. Each expert manages a group of other specialists from government agencies and industry in collecting the facts and determining the conditions and circumstances surrounding the accident. The investigative groups formed vary, depending on the nature of the accident, and may look into areas such as structures, systems, powerplants, human performance, fire and explosion, meteorology, radar data, event recorders, and witness statements, among others. After an investigation is completed, a detailed narrative report is prepared that analyzes the investigative record and identifies the probable cause of the accident."

To better understand the NTSB'S role and responsibilities as investigators, see The Investigative Process on the NTSB's website. Readers interested in aviation incident investigations can also review the NTSB's Major Investigations Manual, its Appendices, and interesting information about cockpit voice recorders (CVR) and flight data recorders (FDR) at the web page entitled Investigation Guides and Procedures.

Recognizing that a major transportation accident investigated by the NTSB will very likely generate news media interest, the NTSB website has a page entitled Resources for Journalists designed to assist journalists covering the initial phases of an NTSB investigation.

Often local public safety first responders are first on the scene of a major transportation incident that will be investigated by the NTSB. To assist first responders in preparing to interact as smoothly as possible with an NTSB Go Team at an aircraft incident, the NTSB has published a brochure entitled Responding to an Aircraft Accident - How to Support the NTSB - A Guide for Police and Public Safety Personnel.

**NOTE: Material enclosed in quotation marks is copied directly from the NTSB website.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Digital Imaging for Safe Schools (And Other Buildings)

The Wednesday, January 25, 2006, issue of the Coeur d'Alene Press has an article headlined Recent incidents prompt area schools to re-evaluate programs by staff writers Linda Ball and Brian Walker. The story's lead is that local school administrators have issued renewed warnings against students bringing weapons, even replicas or pellet guns, to school.

The presence of a weapon and especially a firearm in school, even if it is replica or a pellet gun, can result in law enforcement being summoned to resolve the incident safely. The success of law enforcement's resolution will depend heavily on the responder's knowledge of the facility.

To improve law enforcement's ability to prepare for incidents of threatened or actual violence at schools, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) published "...a how-to resource guide for public safety practitioners and school administrators to use in developing their own response plans." The 28-page guide is available at the IACP's website and is entitled Digital Imaging for Safe Schools: A Public Safety Response to Critical Incidents. A four-page quick reference version of the study is also available as Quick Reference Guide for Digital Imaging.

Though the resource guides were developed for schools, the principles and practices apply equally well for businesses that are at higher risk of on-scene violence and which may need to request a public safety response to deal with weapons-related problems, hostage take-overs, suspicious packages, and other incidents involving tactical deployment of responders.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Congressional Oversight

Speaking on Monday, January 23, 2006, at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, President Bush commented, "It's amazing that people say to me, 'Well, he's just breaking the law.' If I wanted to break the law, why was I briefing Congress?"

His remark implies he was briefing every member of Congress about his order that the National Security Agency (NSA) intercept certain telecommunications involving US citizens without their consent and without a warrant issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or a Federal district judge. He was not. His comment was misleading.

But neither is he required by law to brief every member of Congress. He is required by law to brief specified members of Congress, however, so they can exercise their obligations for Congressional oversight.

"Congressional oversight refers to the review, monitoring, and supervision of federal agencies, programs, and policy implementation." Congress's oversight authority is derived from its "implied powers" in the Constitution (Article I, Section 8, and Article II, Sections 2 and 4), public laws, and House and Senate rules. It dates back to the earliest days of our Republic and is a crucial part of the system of checks and balances.

For a better understanding of what "Congressional oversight" really is and how it works, read the Library of Congress, Congressional Research Services's Report dated January 3, 2006, entitled Congressional Oversight. It is six pages long.

Monday, January 23, 2006

News You Can Use From the National Security Agency (NSA)

If you, your company, or your agency composes documents in Microsoft's MS Word, makes redactions in MS Word to sanitize them, converts the supposedly sanitized documents to PDF and then releases them, you will want to read the National Security Agency's report entitled Redacting With Confidence: How to Safely Publish Sanitized Reports Converted from MS Word to PDF before you do that again.

What the NSA found is that the redaction techniques available in MS Word only visually obscure the redacted material, they do not erase or remove it. Because the original redacted information is still present though visually hidden when the document is converted from MS Word to PDF, it is relatively easy for someone knowledgeable who receives a PDF file to reverse the redaction done in MS Word before conversion to PDF and expose the original data. The NSA paper gives a step-by-step method to ensure the data redacted in MS Word remains hidden in the PDF file.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Public Documents Relating to National Security Agency Nonconsensual Electronic Surveillances Involving US Citizens

The issue about the President's ordering the National Security Agency (NSA) to engage in nonconsensual electronic interceptions of telecommunications which may involve US citizens in the US has begun to generate a significant number of newspaper articles and documents. Some support and some criticize the President's and his Attorney General's interpretation of laws concerning Presidential authority and electronic surveillance.

Today's New York Times contains an article headlined Legal Rationale by Justice Dept. on Spying Effort. The article is based principally on a 42-page legal analysis by the Justice Department defending the President's authority to order the NSA's actions. That document is the first link in the list below of some documents relevant to the issue.

Legal Authorities Supporting the Activities of the National Security Agency Described by the President, dated January 19, 2006

Letter from U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist transmitting preceding Department of Justice white paper, dated January 19, 2006

Statutory Procedures Under Which Congress Is To Be Informed of U.S. Intelligence Activities, Including Covert Actions, Congressional Research Service report dated January 18, 2006

Complaint of the American Civil Liberties Union filed in the lawsuit American Civil Liberties Union et al v. National Security Agency et al, dated January 18, 2006

Complaint of the Center for Constitutional Rights filed in the lawsuit Center for Constitutional rights et al v. George W. Bush et al, dated January 17, 2006

The Congressional Research Service and Constitutional Law Scholars Weigh in on President Bush's Authorization of Warrantless Surveillance: Why This Controversy Bridges the Partisan Divide, At Least Among Experts, article in online website FindLaw.com, dated January 12, 2006.

Letter to Congress by constitutional law scholars, dated January 9, 2006

Presidential Authority to Conduct Warrantless Electronic Surveillance to Gather Foreign Intelligence Information, Congressional Research Service report dated January 5, 2006

George W. Bush as the New Richard M. Nixon: Both Wiretapped Illegally, and Impeachably; Both Claimed That a President May Violate Congress' Laws to Protect National Security, article by former Nixon counsel John W. Dean in online website FindLaw.com, dated December 30, 2005

Letter from William Moschella, Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs to Chairs and Ranking Members of Senate and House Intelligence Committees, dated December 22, 2005

Press briefing by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and General Michael Hayden, Principal Deputy Director for National Intelligence, dated December 19, 2005

President's radio address discussing the authorization to NSA to intercept international communications of people with links to al Qaeda, dated December 17, 2005

Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts, New York Times article published December 16, 2005

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

We're At War. . .Or Something

For as long as I can remember, we've been in some Presidentially-declared war. My first recollection of war was the War on Poverty. Then it was the War on Crime, then the War on Illiteracy, then the War on Crime, then the War on Drugs, then the War on Crime, then the War on Illegal Immigration, then the War on Crime, and now the War on Terrorism. Of course, we've won all those wars ... except for the ones on poverty, crime, illiteracy, crime, drugs, crime, illegal immigration, crime, and terrorism.

I suppose during the War on Poverty we bombed anyone whose income was below the poverty line (How did Idaho survive?). During the War on Illiteracy, we bombed back into the stone age those who couldn't read (How did Idaho survive?). The War on Illegal Immigration must have been a little trickier, because our bomber pilots had to discriminate between Mexico and East Los Angeles or Sierra Madre. One wrong smart bomb a little off course and the Rose Bowl could have been toast. And now we're in the War on Terrorism. (Yes, I know I excluded the Wars on Crime and Drugs attacks. We still haven't figured out who to bomb in those. Dropping five-hundred pounders on Miami; Washington, DC; Los Angeles; Chicago; Detroit; and Athol seems a little harsh.)

Given the political rhetoric that has come from the mouths of the various Political Hacks in Chief of the United States (PHICUS - pronounced "ficus", like the tree) at the White House over time, it's hard to believe none of those were really wars. But the PHICUS can't get people excited enough to go after a social problem unless he magnifies it with the phrase "War on (fill in favorite social malady)". We'll all become obedient lemmings if the PHICUS mutters the word "war". Anyone who doesn't lemming up is just downright unpatriotic. It's unAmerican not to lemming up when he turns a steely eye to the television camera and proclaims "war".

The fact is, we're not at war. The current PHICUS likes to throw that word around very casually, perhaps because it's easier for him to pronounce than "nuclear". He trivializes war and its consequences when he says we are. The War on Terrorism is not a war.

But didn't Congress support the PHICUS "War on Terrorism?"

Yes, but Congress did not declare war, and only Congress can. The PHICUS can request a war declaration, but without Congressional approval, he cannot declare war. He can use the word, he can try and make us believe we're at war, he can belittle those who criticize his imperiousness, he can even undertake mission impossible to make us believe the War on Terrorism can actually be won, but Congress is a key player in a formal declaration of war -- at least until the current PHICUS decides to yet again simply issue a signing statement.

For the record, the last formal declaration of war by the United States was enacted on June 5, 1942, against Rumania during World War II.

So, if only Congress can declare war after approving the request from the PHICUS and if Congress hasn't done that since 1942, what has authorized the PHICUSs since then to deploy troops, drop bombs, shoot guns, and kill people in the name of ... whatever it was done in the name of at that time? The answer is that short of declaring real war, Congress can authorize the PHICUS to use military force. Not surprisingly, Congress's go-ahead is called an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF).

The distinctions between a Presidentially-requested, Congressionally approved war and an AUMF are very consequential. On January 4, 2003, the Library of Congress's Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a 112-page Report for Congress entitled Declarations of War and Authorizations for the Use of Military Force: Historical Background and Legal Implications.

The CRS report is worth reading if for no other reason than to correct the next person who refers to the War on Terrorism. Having read the report, you will be able to say with authority, "We're not at war; we're at AUMF."

Hmmm. Doesn't quite have the same ring, does it? Never mind. Lemming up! We're at AUMF!

Friday, January 13, 2006

BPL: Consumer Boon or Threat to Security and Privacy?

BPL stands for "bandwidth over power line". In the simplest terms, it refers to providing high-speed Internet access over power lines in the same way access is now provided via DSL or cable. According to the map provided by the United Power Line Council, BPL is being tested by Avista in eastern Washington and by Idaho Power in southern Idaho.

A reasonably good and detailed explanation of how BPL works is provided here. The intent of BPL's promoters is to compete with companies providing DSL and cable internet access. Their theory is that competition should drive down the cost of consumer's internet access.

To date the most notable objections to BPL have been raised by the amateur radio community, ham radio operators. The American Radio Relay League, an amateur radio membership organization, has summarized the amateur radio community's objections here.

But lurking beneath the noise level of unwanted radio interference is the more insidious threat to security and privacy that BPL facilitates. BPL, when approved for consumer use, will make it easier for homes, businesses, and government agencies to be targeted for both lawful and unlawful electronic surveillance.

In October 1994, Congress took action to protect public safety and ensure national security by enacting the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (CALEA), Pub. L. No. 103-414, 108 Stat. 4279. The law further defines the existing statutory obligation of telecommunications carriers to assist law enforcement in executing electronic surveillance pursuant to court order or other lawful authorization.

The objective of CALEA implementation is to preserve law enforcement's ability to conduct lawfully-authorized electronic surveillance while preserving public safety, the public's right to privacy, and the telecommunications industry's competitiveness.

In March 2004 the US Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Drug Enforcement Administration filed a request to the Federal Communications Commission to declare that broadband Internet services and VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) services are covered by CALEA (the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act). That request included BPL. The FCC issued "First Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, FCC 05-153." This Order is the first critical step to apply CALEA obligations to new technologies and services that are increasingly relied upon by the American public to meet their communications needs.

While most of us understand the government may be able to monitor our Internet communications with a properly issued court order, we need to also understand that the BPL technology will facilitate unlawful interceptions as well. Here's how:

Keep in mind that BPL turns every outlet in your house or business into an Internet access point. Plug a BPL modem into that outlet, connect a device with a unique IP address to the modem, and voila! Access to the Internet. No problem, right? Right. As long as you know that connection has been made and you have complete control over the device.

But suppose "someone" wants to bug one or every room in your house or business with audio, video, or both. What if the BPL modem, a microphone with associated processing circuitry, and a small video camera with associated processing circuitry could be built into a functional duplex outlet housing. Then, during a covert entry, the technician replaces existing duplex outlets with modified outlets that appear (from the front) to be identical. The beauty of this is that each specially constructed audio/video capable outlet has its own unique IP address, so outlets can be accessed independently or collectively. So, if you have a two room office with four duplex outlets in each wall, technicians can install eight audio/video devices, each with its own unique IP address. From where would they monitor your office's audio and video? Anywhere in the world with Internet access.

In the preceding example BPL facilitates command and control over the devices, and it enables the monitoring station to be in a nearby van, in the house next door, or in a government facility half way around the world.

BPL is potentially useful, but its potential impact on individual privacy as well as on business and government security must also be seriously considered.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Remote Sensing Tutorial From NASA

Okay, I'll admit this probably sounds a little geeky, but "remote sensing" is already influencing each of our lives in some way. For that reason, it might be helpful to better understand its scope and use.

In the simplest terms, "remote sensing" refers to instrument-based data collection directed at a target area. The detection platform can be a low earth orbit satellite looking for enemy troop movements, the Hubble telescope searching for galaxies thousands of light-years away, or a Department of Energy van sitting in front of a mosque using remote sensors looking for gamma radiation inside the mosque. It can be a pigeon carrying a film camera (really!). It can be an Idaho State Police car with a trooper running RADAR or LIDAR to catch speeders.

The sensor elements are just what their name states - sensors. They "sense" something such as light, electromagetic emanations, smells, tastes, vibrations. In fact, just about any human sensory experience and some that cannot be sensed with human senses can be captured with an artificial or non-human sensor. The data from the non-human sensor can be quantified, digitized, transmitted, and reconstructed as a reasonably accurate facsimile of the original experience. In other very oversimplified words, if a human can feel, taste, smell, hear, see or otherwise perceive a physical event, so can a non-human sensor. In some instances the sensor can do it better because it can do it from a more distant location than an unaided human. And again, the non-human sensor can sense things beyond the thresholds of human sensory capabilities.

To better educate its own employees as well as us, the general public, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) asked Dr. Nick Short to prepare an interactive Remote Sensing Tutorial. Those of you who are accessing the Tutorial online using modems that operate at 56 kbps or slower should be aware that the Tutorial is designed primarily for CD and broadband (DSL, etc.) users (see What's New); therefore, those with limited download capability may find the very size of the Tutorial daunting. The tutorial is both fun and educational.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Report: Defining Law Enforcement's Role in Protecting American Agriculture from Agroterrorism

Though one might not guess it from looking at the Rathdrum Prairie, we live in an agricultural area. Most terrorist experts believe metropolitan areas, big cities like New York or Chicago or Los Angeles, are likely targets for terrorists. But the nation's food supply still depends on agriculture, so that makes agricultural areas attractive targets as well.

The question then is, what is law enforcement's role in protecting against agroterrorism? That is not to suggest law enforcement is the only entity with a protective role.

In its December 2005 report Defining Law Enforcement's Role in Protecting American Agriculture from Agroterrorism, the National Institute of Justice determined that law enforcement's most important role is in prevention. However, it also found that law enforcement has inadequate resources to respond to foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) which it characterizes as the greatest single threat to our agricultural economy. The 225-page report concludes with eight recommendations to strengthen our defense against agroterrorism.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Case for Civilian Review Boards

The King County (Washington) Sheriff's Office (KCSO) is an example of what happens when a law enforcement agency is not subjected to close and compulsory outside scrutiny. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer series entitled Conduct Unbecoming reveals the consequences of the failure or unwillingness of former Sheriff Dave Reichert, current Sheriff Sue Rahr, and their respective command staffs to consistently and effectively discipline or dismiss employees who engage in repeated intentional misconduct.

An often heard objection from sworn law enforcement officers to what they consider to be unnecessary oversight from "civilians" is that the civilians won't be objective. My experience is that these officers don't want objectivity; they want empathy. They prefer to be judged by someone who has shared the same experiences they have. If that's a valid concern, then none of us should complain about bad lawyers who are judged by lawyers on state bar associations and about doctors judged by doctors on state medical boards, right? Self-policing in any occupation should work, but it will work better if it includes objective input from those outside the occupation.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Memorandum: Congressional Research Service on Warrantless Surveillance

On January 5, 2006, the Library of Congress's Congressional Research Service (CRS) submitted a 44-page memorandum to its Congressional clients. The subject of the memorandum was Presidential Authority to Conduct Warrantless Surveillance to Gather Foreign Intelligence Information. The memorandum was prepared by legislative attorneys Elizabeth B. Bazan and Jennifer K. Elsea of the CRS's American Law Division.

The underlying issue is whether the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed immediately after the attacks of September 11, 2001, gave President Bush the authority to direct the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct selective warrantless nonconsensual interceptions of US citizens' communications.

The CRS memorandum states the crux of the matter in the paragraph which reads:

"The Administration's views have been the subject of this debate. Critics challenge the notions that federal statutes regarding government eavesdropping may be bypassed by executive order, or that such laws were implicitly superseded by Congress's authorization to use military force. Others, however, have expressed the view that established wiretape provisions are too cumbersome and slow to be effective in the war against terrorism, and that the threat of terrorism justifies extraordinary measures the President deems appropriate, and some agree that Congress authorized the measures when it authorized the use of military force."

The linked memorandum lays out a general framework for analyzing the constitutional and statutory issues raised by NSA's electronic surveillances. It also outlines the legal statutes regulating government electronic surveillance, examines the ambiguities in the statutes that could provide justification for the NSA's actions, and addresses the question of whether the President has the inherent authority he claims or whether Congress has already provided that authority to the President.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Critical Infrastructure? Here? In North Idaho? Really?

We who live in isolated (or so we like to think) north Idaho may not think too much about our national critical infrastructure. "Critical infrastructure consists of systems and assets so valuable to the United States that their incapacity would harm the nation's physical security, economic security, or public health." We don't have anything like that up this-a-way in the Idaho Panhandle, do we?

Sure we do. It's called the Spokane Valley - Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer.

Okay, but would the Aquifer's incapacity harm the nation's physical security, economic security, or public health. Not the entire nation's, but enough of it in this area so that a significant level of national resources would need to be mobilized to fill the void created by the contamination or other incapacity of the aquifer. As an example, look at the national resources in time, money, manpower, and materials dedicated to the Hurricane Katrina rescue and rehabilitation effort. Diverting the resources needed to our area to make up for the loss of the Aquifer's capacity would certainly affect the nation's physical and economic security and our area's public health.

The vulnerability of critical infrastructure elements is so important the Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service has prepared a report for Congress so the elected representatives and their staffers can be better informed. The report is entitled Vulnerability of Concentrated Critical Infrastructure: Background and Policy Options, dated December 21, 2005.

Monday, January 02, 2006

"Burton" That Case

Current practice requires forensic scientists to return all physical evidence to the agency that provided it for testing. This practice, while reasonable and understandable, has one flaw: law enforcement agencies often destroy physical evidence after a case has been resolved and all legal appeals have been exhausted. Usually the destruction is practical: Old evidence from long-resolved cases requires storage space. Thankfully for three men wrongly imprisoned in Virginia for crimes they did not commit, a career serologist named Mary Jane Burton did not return all the evidence she had tested in their cases. Instead, she meticulously filed it away in her personal files where it stayed until after she died in 1999 in Florida.

In a November 13, 2004, article entitled She saved the evidence; the evidence saved them, The Virginian Pilot newspaper reporter Michelle Washington describes how Mary Jane Burton's dedication to science and met serendipity head-on to free the three men who had each been wrongly convicted and imprisoned for over 15 years.

Mary Jane Burton's legacy of scientific dedication has now led to two more wrongly convicted men being freed, bringing the total to five. The search for more innocents is not over according to an editorial entitled A Light on Justice Denied in the December 31, 2005, The New York Times.

The Times concludes its editorial with these words: "To 'Burton' a case is already a fresh term of art in Richmond, one that deserves to spread through the criminal justice system."

It certainly does.