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

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

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

Friday, July 28, 2006


The US military relies heavily on technology to complete its missions successfully. A significant amount of our offensive technology was developed in response to an increasing technological capability among real and potential adversaries.

For example, today's news is carrying a story about an apparently new Hezbollah missile, the Khaibar-1, that has penetrated deeper into Israel than other knows missiles. Though the Khaibar-1 is certainly of immediate interest to the Israeli Defense Force, it is also of great interest to the US and its allies. Learning more about adversaries' new technologies of all kinds, not just weapons, is the function of technical intelligence (TECHINT).

TECHINT includes the identification, assessment, collection, exploitation, and evacuation of captured enemy materiel (CEM) in support of national and immediate technical intelligence requirements. Generally TECHINT operations are conducted by the Captured Materiel Exploitation Center (CMEC) against enemy air, sea, and ground forces in combat and contingency operations.

TECHINT may not be the sexy stuff of spy novels that focus on human intelligence (HUMINT) operations, spy-versus-spy stuff, but in terms of force protection, the information gleaned from TECHINT operations does every bit as much to keep soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guardsmen alive.

Interested readers can get a more complete understanding of what TECHINT is and what it does by reading the June 2006 TECHINT field manual.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Understanding Fire Danger

It's that time of year again in eastern Washington and northern Idaho. Campers are out in the timber, farmers are going to start burning grass and stubble, and fire departments are getting the calls. It's fire season.

The US Department of the Interior, National Park Service, has prepared several webpages to educate newcomers and longtime residents about fire and fire danger. Understanding Fire Danger explains the various factors that influence fire danger and help establish the threat levels.

Current conditions in any particular locale are available on from the US Forest Service's Wildland Fire Assessment System website.

Many people might be surprised to learn that the nation's support for wildland firefighting is based in Boise, ID, at the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC). The NIFC website has fascinating information including a "clickable tour of NIFC."

Go to the websites and learn more about fire danger. Then when you're watching the fires on the nightly news, you'll have a better understanding of what the firefighters are doing and the challenges they face fighting the wildfires throughout the nation.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Only the U.S. Government ...

Only the US government would publish a manual telling people how to lie. It's the 79-page publication entitled Military Deception. It was released July 13, 2006.

Friday, July 21, 2006

French's Return to Yesteryear

An article in the Friday, July 21, 2006, The Spokesman-Review reports that Spokane City Councilman Al French opposed the selection of Anne E. Kirkpatrick to be Spokane's new police chief. French's reasoning? Chief Kirkpatrick apparently didn't swear a blood oath to remain in Spokane the rest of her life.

Staff writer Jody Lawrence-Turner's article headlined Mayor picks Kirkpatrick for Spokane Police Chief includes these two paragraphs:

But questions still remain. Councilman Al French took issue with the mayor's selection, saying Kirkpatrick appears to be more interested in building her career than in making Spokane her home.

"It's just a matter of time until there's a better job," he said, adding he preferred Linda Pierce of the Seattle Police Department, another finalist, because she indicated she wanted to make Spokane her home.

Effective law enforcement chief executives are in great demand. Often after about three years of demonstrated leadership successes, the exceptional ones start receiving offers from headhunters representing cities desperate for ethical, innovative, skilled leadership. The best chiefs are sought because they've succeeded, not because they've failed. They leave because they're competent and because other cities offer them more opportunities for professional advancement.

Councilman French seems to prefer a chief who will “retire in place.” That’s what Spokane had, not what Spokane needs.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Golden Opportunity

I envy Spokane. Today Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession announced the appointment of Anne E. Kirkpatrick to be the city's new police chief. She's a proven leader with a varied professional background, diverse experiences, and a stellar education.

Earlier in the week Mayor Hession also announced he would seek an outside independent review of the Spokane Police Department. I hope he will select an experienced professional like Dr. Samuel E. Walker of the University of Nebraska - Omaha to lead the review team. Dr. Walker is one of the nation's foremost authorities on police accountability.

Spokane has a golden opportunity. I hope Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich will meet with Mayor Hession to discuss having the same independent review team conduct a similar review of the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff's Office and the Spokane Police Department work very closely together. A joint outside review coupled with new leadership in both agencies would give them a real opportunity to dramatically improve their levels of service and to restore the public's trust and confidence.

Yes, I really do envy Spokane. It is very rare for a city and county to have an opportunity to dramatically professionalize and upgrade their law enforcement agencies at the same time. It is even more remarkable when the new city police chief and new sheriff are such capable chief executive officers. I sincerely hope Mayor Hession and the Spokane County Commissioners back Chief Kirkpatrick and Sheriff Knezovich both backstage and onstage.

Once we in Kootenai County and Coeur d'Alene see what two 21st century county and city chief executive law enforcement officers can do in Spokane, we're going to expect the same quality of performance on this side of the border. Maybe someday we'll get it.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Q & A About Terrorist Financing

The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times created an uproar in June 2006 when they published details of the US Treasury Department's monitoring terrorist financial information held by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). It's a complex program that raises quite a few questions.
  • What is Treasury's authority for access to SWIFT information?
  • What privacy protections apply to records of financial transactions?
  • What other federal laws apply to tracking terrorist finances?
  • Is publication of classified information a criminal act?
  • What international law may be implicated by the program?
  • Has Congress responded (to the uproar)?

These questions are asked and answered or at least discussed in the Congressional Research Service's July 7, 2006, Report for Congress entitled Treasury's Terrorist Finance Program's Access to Information Held by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What Can the President Do ... And Not Do

How much authority does the President of the United States have to deviate from the law without Congressional approval? How much discretion does he have to apparently violate the law during emergencies? What constitutes an emergency authorizing Presidential deviation from the law?

These are good questions that citizens and elected representatives alike should ask. To make the answers a little clearer for members of Congress, the Library of Congress's Congressional Research Service (CRS) has prepared National Emergency Powers, a 25-page update issued on June 20, 2006.

The update's Summary states, "The President of the United States has available certain powers that may be exercised in the event that the nation is threatened by crisis, exigency, or emergency circumstances (other than natural disasters, war, or near-war situations. ... There are, however, limits and restraints upon the President in his exercise of emergency powers. With the exception of the habeas corpus clause, the Constitution makes no allowance for the suspension of any of its provisions during a national emergency."

The update goes on to discuss the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601-1651) and subsequent declarations of national emergency.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Homeland Security: Defending US Air Space

North Korea's testing of its own intercontinental ballistic missile last week reminded us that threats posed from the air are not limited to hijacked airliners. More importantly, it has reminded Congress that it needs to be equally aware of the threat posed by guided missiles in the hands of an emotionally unstable head of state .

In its June 6, 2006, Report for Congress entitled Homeland Security: Defending U.S. Air Space, the Library of Congress's Congressional Research Service (CRS) discusses the issues and options available to Congress for detecting and intercepting missiles from across the sea.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Publishing Classified Information

People believe there is a blanket statute prohibiting anyone, including news media, from publishing classified information. There is not.

To help its Congressional clients better understand the laws regulating the disclosure and publication of lawfully classified national security information, the Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service (CRS), has published a 26-page report entitled Protection of National Security Information.

The Summary of the June 30, 2006, CRS report notes, "This report provides background with respect to previous legislative efforts to criminalize the unauthorized disclosure of classified information; describes the current state of the laws that potentially apply, including criminal and civil penalties that can be imposed on violators; and some of the disciplinary actions and procedures available to the agencies of the federal government that have been addressed by the Federal courts. Finally, the report considers the possible First Amendment implications of applying the Espionage Act to prosecute newspapers for publishing classified national defense information."

Friday, July 07, 2006

Spokane's Firehouse Sex Investigation: Bungled By Ineptness or By Design?

Question: When is sexual exploitation of a 16-year-old girl by a 35-year-old married man not prosecuted in Washington State?

Answer: When the man is a firefighter employed by the Spokane, Washington, Fire Department.

Question: When is it acceptable for a Spokane Police Department detective and detective sergeant to encourage the 35-year-old married firefighter to destroy the digital images that proved his felonious exploitation of the underage girl, images it was illegal for him to make and possess?

Answer: Whenever Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney Steve Tucker, Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession, Acting Spokane Police Chief Jim Nicks, and Deputy Police Chief Bruce Roberts say it is.

According to The Spokesman-Review staff writer Karen Dorn Steele's July 4, 2006, article headlined Police officers suspended, Spokane Police Detective Neil Gallion was suspended for two days and Detective Sergeant Joe Peterson was suspended for three days for instructing Spokane City firefighter Daniel Ross to destroy sexually explicit digital images he made of an underage girl. Those images were prima facie evidence of felonies. Deputy Police Chief Bruce Roberts claims these experienced detectives encouraged the suspect to erase them, "... to protect the victim ..." That's absurd. Police detectives do not protect crime victims by conspiring with the suspect to destroy the evidence of his crime and help him avoid criminal prosecution.

The suspensions meted out by Deputy Chief Bruce Roberts were not imposed to punish the detective and detective sergeant or to correct the detectives' mistakes. They were imposed to placate the public and blunt calls by The Spokesman-Review for formal citizens review of police actions. The Spokane mayor and police department do not want independent, diligent public scrutiny of the police department.

Recall the events in February that led to this mess. A uniformed patrol officer was dispatched to a city firehouse in response to a rape allegation phoned in by the victim's boyfriend. When the officer arrived, he determined there was sufficient information to warrant further investigation. The officer no doubt notified his dispatcher or field supervisor who, in turn, started the up-the-chain-of-command notifications that soon involved the Acting Chief of Police and the City Fire Chief.

One would have to be extremely naive to think Acting Police Chief Nicks and Fire Chief Williams didn't quickly contact the Deputy Mayor or the Mayor. The incident, an allegation that a 16-year-old girl had been raped by an on-duty city firefighter inside a city fire station while other firefighters were also in the station, was politically explosive. Spokane had only a few months earlier recalled former Mayor Jim West and elevated Dennis Hession to fill the vacancy. The city didn't need another scandal, particularly a sex scandal involving an underage girl having a sex-and-photos session inside a city fire station with an on-duty city firefighter.

Most trusting Spokane citizens would assume Mayor Hession or one of his deputies would tell the Acting Police Chief to make sure the criminal investigation of the firefighter's alleged misconduct would withstand even the closest scrutiny in the courts and the community. Put your best detectives on this. Do this by the book. Let there be no mistakes. Acting Chief Nicks would certainly communicate the message clearly to Detective Gallion and Detective Sergeant Peterson: Don't screw this one up. Yet what did they do? They screwed it up. "Bungled" was the word Mayor Hession publicly used to characterize their investigation.

Inexplicably, when the firefighter handed his camera and its memory chip to Gallion and Peterson and showed them the evidentiary images he believed proved the sex was consensual, they handed it back to the suspect and said he should delete the images. Then they watched him manipulate the camera's controls. Gallion and Peterson can only assume he actually deleted the images, because when they returned much later to the fire station to recover the camera, its evidentiary memory chip had been replaced with a different chip. The original evidence chip was nowhere to be found. Not that they looked. The Spokane Police Department says that memory chip is just so darn small, they wouldn't know where to begin looking. They didn't even bother getting a search warrant to try and find it. Consequently, the Spokane Police Department cannot be completely certain the sexually explicit images of the underage girl won't end up in cyberspace. So much for the Department's feeble excuse its detectives were protecting the victim by encouraging the suspect to destroy the evidence of his crimes.

The question is, was their investigation bungled by ineptness or by design? Did the detective and the detective sergeant, both with "exemplary records, many commendations, and no previous disciplinary incidents in their files," suddenly both go blank on what they had learned about basic evidence recognition and preservation?

It is absolutely implausible that an experienced and trained sex-crimes detective and a detective sergeant could so carelessly and badly mishandle evidence of a felony sex crime with an underage victim. Gallion and Peterson were sufficiently trained in the law to know that a 16-year-old girl could legally consent to sexual intercourse. They were shown the illegal photos by the firefighter to corroborate his assertion the victim had given consent for sexual intercourse. Even if at that point the detective and detective sergeant believed there was no probable cause to arrest for the rape allegation, they knew or should have known that the sexually explicit photos of the underage girl were evidence of a felony other than the alleged rape. Even ordinary citizens understand the concept of "child pornography." This case may have been politically complicated for the city, but it should have been investigatively straightforward for the experienced detectives.

In light of what occurred, it must be considered that Peterson's and Gallion's actions were responsive to a suggestion from superiors: Try hard to make this incident go away as quickly and quietly as possible. Gallion and Peterson tried hard.

Why would city officials want to hush up this incident or at least to control the timing and content of information reaching the public? Because the evidence clearly implicated a city firefighter, not some invisible low-level city employee who could be thrown to the wolves without much controversy. Remember, too, that at the time no one knew if any other firefighters at that station and others might also be implicated. Thus, the city would want to tightly manipulate information releases to minimize the adverse publicity. It was damage control. (If you doubt the city's inclination to control news coverage, note the Police Department's news release about the detectives' suspensions was issued on Monday, July 3, in the middle of a long July 4th weekend when local news coverage focuses on parades and fireworks.)

Police officers and firefighters are highly visible and generally respected and admired by the community. Campaign endorsements by police and fire guilds and unions are coveted by candidates for many elected offices including county prosecuting attorneys. Operating just inside the fuzzy lines of "prosecutorial discretion," incumbent prosecutors will sometimes cobble together the most unlikely interpretations of evidence to justify their not prosecuting police officers and firefighters. Controversial prosecutions of "our heroic police officers and firefighters" may cost incumbent elected officials image-enhancing endorsements and votes in the next election.

There are two indicators that would help decide if the investigation was bungled by ineptness or by design.

First, will Gallion and Peterson appeal their suspensions? After all, why would either detective accept any suspension or other punishment if they did nothing wrong? That's exactly the point: They did do something wrong, and accepting two and three days suspension without pay in exchange for not losing your job and not being criminally prosecuted is not a bad deal. In fact, given the overtime money detectives earn, the income lost from these suspensions will hardly be missed. The suspensions, additional training, and policy changes were city administration window dressing to placate the public and the newspaper.

If Gallion and Peterson had been acting on their own initiative, contrary to policy, and disobedient to lawful directions from superiors in the department, they would have been fired and possibly prosecuted. By all accounts they negligently mishandled evidence of at least one felony. They entered into an agreement with the suspect to allow him to erase that evidence and then handed the evidence over to him to allow its erasure. Those actions form the probable cause to allege a criminal conspiracy.

On the other hand, if Gallion and Peterson were acting to comply with the wishes of their superiors when they bungled the investigation, any and all police supervisors and elected officials who knew of and agreed to the erasure of the evidentiary images of the underage victim and failed to try and stop it became potentially indictable as co-conspirators.

If Gallion and Peterson were to fight their suspensions, there would be a lot of squirming when their lawyers began taking sworn depositions from departmental superiors, the Mayor, and his staff. If Gallion and Peterson were to take a serious fall, some departmental and city higher-ups would go down with them. But that's not going to happen. The two- and three-day suspensions were acceptable to Gallion and Peterson, because the alternatives were not.

Second, will the Spokane Police Guild protest the suspensions publicly and aggressively? One would expect it to unless Gallion and Peterson have told the Guild not to rock the boat. In a March 10, 2006, letter to the editor published in The Spokesman-Review, Guild vice president Dave McCabe said, "... in the strongest terms that the guild stands behind the detective and sergeant involved in the investigation of the incident involving the firefighter." If that's true, then the Guild should be leading the fight to overturn the suspensions. After all, the department shouldn't be allowed to suspend "...experienced and professional law enforcement officers" who did nothing wrong, right Mr. McCabe?

If Gallion and Peterson don't appeal and the Guild does little more than express token support for them, it can be assumed that Gallion's two-day suspension and Peterson's three-day suspension was considered a win-win solution by everyone involved. Well, maybe not everyone. We would have to know if the victim, the underage girl whom the firefighter sexually exploited, believes she came out a winner as well.

From the first reporting of this story by The Spokesman-Review, Spokane's mayor, its police department, and its fire department have been trying to compartmentalize information and control the damage. Spokane will soon have a new police chief. Spokane residents should be thankful the new chief will not be Acting Chief Jim Nicks, and they should be hopeful it will not be Deputy Chief Bruce Roberts. There needs to be a serious makeover of the Spokane Police Department starting from the top down. A new, ethical, smart, and committed chief from outside teamed with a civilian auditing authority (ombudsman, inspector general) with power to compel testimony would be a good start. The citizens of Spokane deserve it, and so does the Spokane Police Department.