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

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

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

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Transitional Housing in "The Other Kootenai County"

On May 17, 2006, Communities That Care and the Kootenai Alliance for Children & Families sponsored what they characterized as a "summit". It was really a community orientation to tell attendees about The Other Kootenai County, the one that the Chambers of Commerce and local governments don't particularly want prospective residents and businesses to think about too often.

Insufficient affordable housing is one critical factor facing The Other Kootenai County. Elected officials usually use the term "workforce housing", housing for people with jobs (albeit ones paying less than a living wage in Kootenai County). Workforce housing is needed here, but we also have an equally urgent need for a smaller housing subset called transitional housing. Transitional housing is needed for people who do not yet have jobs, and frankly may not be able to get jobs, that will enable them to afford workforce housing. Transitional housing is sometimes called "re-entry housing" when associated with formerly incarcerated prisoners being returned to the community.

My May 23, 2006, Whitecaps post entitled At Least No One Has Died ... Yet discusses two incidents involving Coeur d'Alene's problems with transitional housing.

Then in front page, above-the-fold stories on Friday, May 26, 2006, and Sunday, May 28, 2006, Coeur d'Alene Press staff writers Tom Greene and Lucy Dukes follow up on the operation of three local transitional homes collectively managed under the name the Lord's House.

These incidents emphasize the consequences of a city government's obsession with projecting the appearance of prosperity and wealth (e.g., a trophy library near downtown and expensive street artwork) while callously ignoring the basic needs (e.g., see Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs) of community members living precariously just above or below the poverty line.

So what are communities like Coeur d'Alene to do? Wouldn't it be nice if there was a step-by-step handbook for communities to follow to deal with re-entry and transition challenges like mobilizing the community, affordable housing, employment and workforce development, managing substance abuse, criminal justice, physical and mental health, continuity of care, and children and family issues.

It turns out, there are handbooks. Lots of them. They're published by the Council of State Governments (CSG). CSG is a non-partisan, public, non-profit organization that provides information, research, and training to state officials in all three branches of government in every state and US territory.

For example, in the CSG's Report of the Re-Entry Policy Council - Charting the Safe and Successful Return of Prisoners to the Community, housing issues are addressed throughout the 648-page report. Likewise, in its 432-page report of the Criminal Justice / Mental Health Consensus Project, CSG covers the development and enhancement of housing resources linked to appropriate levels of mental health supports and services.

Kootenai County and the City of Coeur d'Alene have a long way to go to avoid the damaging effects of gentrification. Both will go further if they seek to work with all members of the community on quality of life issues and not just with the affluent and politically influential on cosmetic issues. It is in the community's best interest to work cooperatively on the transitional and re-entry housing challenges.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"Falling in Love with Your Source"

Intelligence case officers are regularly reminded not to "fall in love with your source." In the trade jargon, that phrase refers to losing objectivity about the accuracy of information and the honesty and motivation of the source providing it. Rarely, however, does a case officer develop a trusting, intimate relationship with a source. Sometimes they do, and when that happens, the outcome is almost always disastrous.

A reasonably good account of how it can happen is found in A Review of the FBI's Handling and Oversight of FBI Asset Katrina Leung. This account is the May 2006 redacted declassified report of the US Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

At Least No One Has Died ... Yet

CDA police looking for man who killed kitten, assaulted roommate. With that headline and her May 22, 2006, website story, KXLY television news reporter Annie Roach brings to light an issue Coeur d'Alene Mayor Sandi Bloem and the City Council would rather have remain in the shadows: Did the City's failure to enforce its residential zoning ordinances facilitate the violence at the Lord's House last weekend?

For over two years Coeur d'Alene residents have periodically appeared before the Mayor and City Council requesting, pleading really, for enforcement of zoning ordinances. Specifically, residents have sought enforcement of ordinances to regulate the operation of commercial transient housing in residential zones. The ordinances have been in place, but the City has failed to keep them up to date and enforce them.

Officially, the expression of community concern began when several citizens appeared at the May 18, 2004, Coeur d'Alene City Council Meeting to discuss the operation of a transitional home in a residential zone on Belleville Drive. The Council's response was to refer the matter to the City's General Services Committee and to encourage residents to write letters to their elected state representatives.

A few weeks later, the City Attorney and General Services Committee informed residents that the City's zoning ordinance was unenforceable. The City directed the City Attorney to correct the ordinance defects. (NOTE: As a result of persuasive evidence discovered by neighborhood residents in June 2004, the Idaho Department of Correction chose to remove its clients from the transitional homes operated by the landlord of the Belleville Drive residence.)

After Belleville Drive was resolved, the Mayor and City Council slipped back into a blissful indifference that they could enjoy for only a few months.

In March 2005 residents on East Hastings Avenue noticed suspicious activity at 724 Hastings. The neighbors investigated and determined the house, one of three operating under the name the "Lord's House," was being used as a boarding house for transient residents, an illegal use in that residential zone without a special use permit. The neighbors also learned the Lord's House residences were managed by Jack Landreth.

Concerned by overwhelming evidence that the house at 724 Hastings was being used contrary to city ordinances and that the Coeur d'Alene Police Department seemed unaware of the activities surrounding the Lord's House, neighbors spoke up at the April 19, 2005, Coeur d'Alene City Council meeting. Once again, the Mayor and City Council directed the General Services Committee to look into the matter. The General Services Committee leaped into inaction.

Finally on November 1, 2005, the Coeur d'Alene City Council passed Ordinance Number 3238. That ordinance appeared to correct the deficiencies that residents had first complained about 18 months earlier in May 2004. Alas, appearances are deceiving.

Following passage of Ordinance 3238 on November 1, 2005, the City contacted the Lord's House manager Jack Landreth and offered to help him bring the three Lord's House operations into compliance. That was fine with the neighbors, or at least it would have been if the City had established and enforced a timeline for compliance. It didn't, and to all outward appearances the Lord's House continued to operate unchanged.

Becoming increasingly concerned about the City's neglect of its duty to enforce its codes, former City planning commissioner Susan Snedaker raised the issue again at the February 7, 2006, Coeur d'Alene City Council meeting. After Snedaker finished, Jack Landreth spoke. Significantly, he emphasized the agreement that all Lord's House residents must abide by. Two of the conditions he highlighted: Zero tolerance for use of alcohol and agreement to common courtesy and respect for fellow residents. (Readers will note the KXLY story reports the accused resident, Tracy Swing, had been drinking and has a history of violence on multiple occasions against other residents. Swing's conduct would appear to be at odds with the agreement touted by Landreth at the February 7 Council meeting, yet Swing was allowed to remain a resident of the Lord's House on 15th Street.)

Then on February 21, 2006, Jack Landreth again returned to address the City Council meeting. At that meeting, City Attorney Mike Gridley noted he had been working with Landreth, and they had reviewed existing codes.

Still, residents on Hastings saw no evidence of enforcement action on the City's part. So, on April 18, 2006, Susan Snedaker and Bill McCrory once again stood up at the Coeur d'Alene City Council meeting to ask when the City intended to start enforcing the supposedly corrected zoning ordinance to bring the Lord's House and other similar businesses into compliance. City Attorney Mike Gridley indicated the procedures Landreth would be required to follow to bring the Lord's House businesses into compliance, however he could not provide a precise timetable. (NOTE: Both Susan Snedaker and Bill McCrory dispute the characterization of their comments in the linked online minutes. Further, the comments of City Attorney Mike Gridley were significantly underreported in those minutes. Persons interested in hearing the comments verbatim and in context should contact City Clerk Susan Weathers and arrange to listen to the audio recording of that portion of the Council meeting.)

It is interesting that at many of the Council meetings and General Services Committee meetings, Councilmembers commented that passing and enforcing ordinances takes time.

Really? Let's look at a the enforcement timeline for an earlier incident.

In early April 2003 a bikini bar, the Torch Lounge, opened in Coeur d'Alene. On April 12, 2003, fewer than two weeks after the Torch Lounge opened, the Coeur d'Alene Police Department made a well-publicized visit to the Torch Lounge and threatened to cite the business if it didn't remove (yes, that's right...remove) dark window shades that made it difficult to see inside from the sidewalk. In the April 13, 2003, Coeur d'Alene Press, City Attorney Mike Gridley said, "It's a weird law, because it only applies to places that sell beer. It's opening a can of worms." The "weird law" was city code 5.08.120: CLEAR VIEW INTO PLACE OF BUSINESS, a law so old and outdated the City Attorney was unable to determine when it had been passed.

The contrast in the City's code enforcement policy is obvious: If the City wants to enforce an obscure ordinance quickly for political benefit, it can and will. If it doesn't want to enforce an ordinance to protect neighborhood citizens, it won't.

It's reasonable for Coeur d'Alene residents to wonder how much the City's failure to enforce its zoning ordinances, even after numerous complaints from its citizens, contributed to the incident at the Lord's House on May 21, 2006. The only good news for the Mayor and City Council is that at least no one has died . . . yet . . . as a result of their failure to enforce the city's zoning ordinances.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Federal Government Access to Telephone Records

Does the federal government have unrestricted, on-demand access to our telephone records? If it does, is that access lawful without a court order?

On May 17, 2006, the US Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service provided Congressional requestors with its report entitled Government Access to Phone Calling Activity and Related Records: Legal Authorities. The 19-page report summarizes "...statutory authorities regarding access by the Government, for either foreign intelligence or law enforcement purposes, to information related to telephone calling patterns or practices." The report also discusses statutory prohibitions against accessing or disclosing such information, along with relevant exceptions to those prohibitions.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

More Effective Local Emergency Notification

What if there were a major civil emergency or natural disaster in Coeur d'Alene? In Spokane? How would local authorities alert citizens to the incident? Once alerted, how would citizens get accurate, timely, and complete information and instructions?

The most obvious and familiar notification vehicle is the federal Emergency Alert System - EAS. The fundamentals of the EAS is described in the EAS Fact Sheet published by the Federal Communications Commission.

The weakness in the federal EAS plan is that the rules compel broadcasters to have systems in place to provide federally-initiated warnings. Local broadcasters are not required to provide this service to state and local governments. To correct this deficiency, the Local Emergency Communications Committee for the Inland Northwest EAS Region have prepared and disseminated its own Inland Northwest Region (EAS) Local Area Plan. Briefly, this plan establishes an authenticated notification procedure, and it authorizes local broadcasters to retransmit emergency communications from authorized notifiers.

The federal and local EAS plans provide for information from broadcasters; radio, television, and cable service providers. But what if you don't have a radio or TV turned on? Why isn't there something available that would send EAN-type information to cellular telephones and pagers, to personal digital assistants, and to networked computers? It turns out, there is.

Not surprisingly, it is the US military leading the way with "full-spectrum threat response installation warning systems." One system designed to meet the military's need for an emergency warning system for military installations is provided by AtHoc, Inc., of Burlingame, CA. The May 2006 issue of Signal magazine contains an article entitled Alert System Attracts Attention. The article describes how some military base commanders are reaching more on-base personnel with emergency information.

If the AtHoc systems are proven to work on military bases, it makes sense for cities and counties to see if it could work equally well in a civilian environment. A public provided with timely, accurate, complete information is less likely to panic and more likely to respond appropriately to an emergency.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Cop Stats

The US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, has published two sets of data under the Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics series.

Both releases cover topics such as personnel, budget and pay, operations, community policing, policies and procedures, equipment, and computers and information system. Departments are categorized by size of population served. Only the largest departments are identified.

To get some idea of criminal justice system expenditures generally, see the Bulletin entitled Justice Expenditure and Employment in the United States, 2003.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Strategic Planning: A Federal Model for Local Government

Might Kootenai County agencies and taxpayers benefit from a unified strategic planning process? There are 55 to 60 million good reasons suggesting we would.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) defines strategic planning as, "A systematic method used by an organization to anticipate and adapt to expected changes."

The FAQ prepared by the Alliance for Nonprofit Management gives a more detailed but easily readable answer to the question What is Strategic Planning?.

Federal agencies are required by law, the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, to prepare strategic plans, review them annually to determine which goals and objectives have and have not been met, and update the plans regularly. Section 2(a) of the law explains why Congress found it necessary to impose a strategic planning requirement on agencies. Section 2(b) explains what strict adherence to the law is intended to accomplish. Section 3 provides the structure the plans must follow. Section 4(b) describes how the annual performance plans must be prepared and submitted. Section 5 explains how managers will be held accountable.

To read a real-world strategic plan, see the Federal Bureau of Investigation Strategic Plan 2005-2009.

All right, strategic planning is a good idea for federal agencies, but how would it benefit local governments? Go back to the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 and read Section 2(b). Wherever you see the word "Federal," substitute "Kootenai County." That should answer the question.

Strategic planning gives government agencies a roadmap for moving forward systematically, cost-effectively, and efficiently. An absence of strategic planning results in unfocused shortsightedness, waste, and inefficiency.

Formalized strategic planning in Kootenai County would give our county's elected officials including the Board of County Commissioners and Sheriff an opportunity to demonstrate their competence as public administrators. Equally important, it would give voters one more tool to judge their performances objectively.

There are increasing demands for our tax dollars. We should expect our elected officials to use the tools at their disposal to spend those dollars wisely now and in the future.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Intelligence and Law Enforcement

The concept of intelligence-led law enforcement is not new, but it has become more widespread after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

In his May 8, 2006, article entitled Spies Among Us, U.S. News & World Report writer David E. Kaplan reports on the proliferation of law enforcement agencies participating in "intelligence" activities. He raises reasonable issues about how law enforcement agencies use the information they obtain.

In November 2004, Dr. David L. Carter, Michigan State University Department of Criminal Justice wrote a more scholarly and comprehensive work about law enforcement intelligence. His guide, Law Enforcement Intelligence: A Guide for State, Local, and Tribal Law Enforcement Agencies, produced by the US Department of Justices COPS program, was intended to educate and guide agencies considering formalizing their intelligence functions and to improve already-existing programs.

Both Kaplan's article and Carter's guide underemphasize the importance of analysis, the set of functions that turn raw information into finished intelligence ready for dissemination.

To get some idea of how complex and important analysis is to the intelligence production process, read Curing Analytic Pathologies: Pathways to Improved Intelligence Analysis by Jeffrey R. Cooper of the Central Intelligence Agency's Center for the Study of Intelligence. Then read Intelligence Analysis in Theater Joint Intelligence Centers: An Experiment in Applying Structured Methods, a paper presented by its author, US Air Force MSgt Robert D. Folker, Jr., to the Joint Military Intelligence College in November 2000. Analysis is not to be pooh-poohed.

Analysis of raw information is crucial if the final product is to be timely truth well-told. That is as true for law enforcement as it is for the US Intelligence Community. When law enforcement agencies use unverified raw information rather than taking the time to confirm and analyze to produce finished intelligence, they should not be surprised when articles like Mr. Kaplan's appear in national magazine.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Chain of Command

The Friday, May 5, 2006, Washington Post headline read Rep. Kennedy Crashes Into Security Barrier. The subheadline read "Officers Suspect Intoxication, Congressman Blames Prescription Drugs."

Shortly into the article by Washington Post staff writers Del Quentin Wilber, Allan Lengel and Bill Brubaker, we learn that the first-on-scene Capitol Police officers suspected Kennedy might have been driving impaired at the time of the accident. They notified supervisors who arrived at the scene and then took Kennedy home before the officers could administer field sobriety tests and perform other functions to determine if Kennedy had been driving impaired.(Or the supervisors ordered the officers to take him home without further testing. It depends on which news account one reads.)

It's noteworthy that Kennedy claims he has no memory of getting out of bed, getting dressed, driving to Capitol Hill, and striking the barrier, yet he purports to remember clearly that he had not been drinking prior to the incident.

In any event, to understand why Capitol Police supervisors might be inclined to cut a US Representative or Senator more slack than they would give the average citizen, it is important to know that the US Capitol Police is accountable to the US Congress through the Capitol Police Board. That three-person board is composed of the US Senate Sergeant at Arms, the US House of Representatives Sergeant at Arms, and the Architect of the Capitol. These three positions are political plum appointments. The Sergeants-at-Arms are hired by their respective Congressional bodies, but the Architect is a Presidential appointment who must be confirmed by the Senate. The Capitol Police budget is controlled by members of Congress through the Senate and House Appropriations Committees. Congressman Kennedy is serving his fifth year on the House Appropriations Committee.

Any questions?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Fallible Forensics?

We, the general public, have come to rely on forensic evidence in criminal trials, but has our reliance been misplaced? Do we accept faulty analysis by "experts" simply because we presume they are never wrong or never lie? "Experts" can be wrong or at least have differing opinions. Some are incompetent and should not be recognized by a court of law. And indeed, some "experts" do lie.

(Note: Free registration may be required for access to the Chicago Tribune articles.)

In its continuing series Forensics Under the Microscope, the Chicago Tribune raises many reasonable questions and some reasonable doubts about how much emphasis we should place on forensic evidence, particularly when "experts" contradict each other on its interpretation and importance.

Today's Chicago Tribune article headlined Report: Inmate wrongly executed - Arson experts say evidence in Texas case scientifically invalid by Tribune staff reporter Maurice Possley keeps the issue of fallible forensics in the public view.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Immigration Enforcement Within the United States

Much of today's news focuses on immigration and immigration reform.

To help members of Congress better understand the immigration issue, the Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service (CRS), published an 82-page report entitled Immigration Enforcement Within the United States. The report is dated April 6, 2006.

The report has several sections:
  • Introduction (Policy issues and report overview)
  • What is immigration enforcement (Legal authority, interior versus border enforcement)
  • Types of immigration enforcement (Removal or deportation, detention, alien smuggling and trafficking, immigration fraud, worksite enforcement, enforcement at ports of entry, and enforcement between ports of entry
  • Enforcement of immigration laws and local law enforcement
  • Resource allocation
  • Department of Homeland Security organizational structure

The report is well-documented with footnotes and figures.