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

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

CSI: Elder Abuse

Elder abuse in all its various forms is finally being recognized as a significant social problem.

The US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice (NIJ) recently closed the application process for research and evaluation of the criminal justice system's response to elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation of elderly individuals, older women, and residents of elder care facilities. The research is intended to provide objective, independent, evidence-based knowledge and tools to meet these challenges primarily at the state and local level. The first priority of this research is "identify and explore forensic markers of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect among the elderly living in any setting."

The NIJ solicitation was likely in response to legislation introduced in the US House of Representatives on March 16, 2006. That legislation, H.R. 4993, short titled the "Elder Justice Act," would "...amend the Social Security Act to enhance the Social Security of the Nation by ensuring adequate public-private infrastructure and to resolve to prevent, detect, treat, intervene in, and prosecute elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation, and for other purposes." The legislation was introduced by Representative Peter T. King of New York (NY-3). This legislation is related to S. 2010 introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. The Senate Report, 109-337, Elder Justice Act describes the establishment, support, and support of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation forensic centers.

Today's New York Times article headlined Forensic Skills Seek to Uncover Elder Abuse puts the elder abuse issue and the forensic investigations involving them into clearer perspective.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Residential Construction Site Theft

Like many other areas of the country, our region (Spokane-Kootenai County) has experienced construction site theft. It's not surprising. Building materials, tools and equipment, and appliances are easily sold to those willing to buy stolen property. In many instances, construction site thieves are members of well organized theft rings. The illegal buyers are well aware of deficient state laws that use high dollar loss amounts to differentiate between felonies and misdemeanors. These buyers are exceptionally skilled at accurately appraising the dollar value of the goods they are going to buy. They're equally adept at identifying prosecuting attorneys who don't aggressively prosecute property crimes.

So what can be done to reduce construction site theft?

Cities and counties can take a greater interest in understanding its economic impact on the community. The city of Tempe, Arizona, has recognized the problem and has published a builder's guide entitled Construction Site Theft.

In 2003 the US Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS), created Reducing Theft at Construction Sites: Lessons from a Problem-Oriented Project. This study revealed some practices the construction industry could follow at very little cost.

Then in August 2006 the COPS published a guide, Burglary at Single-Family House Construction Sites. "This guide begins by describing the problem of burglary at single-family house construction sites and reviewing the factors that increase risks. It then identifies a series of questions that can help analyze your local burglary problem. Finally, it reviews responses to the problem of burglary at single-family house construction sites as identified through research and police practice."

The 2006 COPS guide acknowledges but does not address some closely related areas requiring separate analysis. These areas are:
  • Burglary and theft at commercial, apartment, and condominium construction sites
  • Burglary of single-family houses
  • Theft of heavy construction equipment
  • Theft of scrap metal
  • Stolen goods markets
  • Vandalism at construction sites
  • Insurance fraud

Friday, September 22, 2006

Idaho - No Longer a State?

Apparently the Time Warner Cable company (TWC) has decided Idaho is not a state.

Yesterday I received the long-dreaded "We've decided to improve our profitability by forcing you to change your email address" letter from TWC. TWC bought out Adelphia Cable, no doubt to help the Rigas Gang's attorneys get paid for their unsuccessful attempts to keep their clients out of jail.

The Road Runner Activation Wizard was fairly easy to use, but there was a small glitch that would probably have been answered in the Road Runner Help section. I say "probably", because that rather small glitch became insurmountably large when I tried to enter the Help section.

To get Help, I first had to tell TWC that I am using TWC. Apparently TWC's software can't discern that, so I selected Time Warner from the available choices. So far, so good.

Then it said for me to select the state where I live. That's where the organic fertilizer hit the spinning impeller.

The list of available states did not include Idaho. That's right. TWC doesn't include Idaho as one of the states. And since my state doesn't exist, I can't get Help from TWC.

I have little doubt that by the next billing cycle, TWC will have recognized Idaho as one of the United States.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

From Plated Pot Metal to 22-Karat Gold

Law enforcement badges are often made from a cheap metal base with a shiny plating that conceals the defects beneath the surface. With the September 11 swearing-in of new Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and the September 19 primary election landslide victory of Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, the badges of their respective agencies have been transformed symbolically if not metallurgically from plated pot metal to 22-karat gold. It will take some time to see if these 21st-century law enforcement executives can complete the transformation to be worthy of a 24-karat appraisal.

There are likely to be some personnel changes at all levels in both departments.

Because both agencies now have proven leaders, they should experience an upswing in exceptionally well-qualified applicants. Why? Well, if you want a progressive career with increasing responsibility and not just a dead-end job in law enforcement, you will want to work for and learn from leaders like Chief Kirkpatrick and Sheriff Knezovich. Chief Kirkpatrick and Sheriff Knezovich will set high standards of ethical conduct and professional performance for line officers and deputies. They will set even higher standards for line and staff supervisors in their departments. Good entry-level officers and deputies need good training and supervision. Good training and supervision attract exceptionally good applicants and scare away sluggards. Setting high standards of conduct and performance for line and staff officers and deputies inspires public trust and confidence. The public in Spokane wants to trust its law enforcement officers again.

Some people may be concerned that to advance in their careers, exceptionally well-qualified Spokane officers and sheriff's deputies will move to other agencies. That will happen. That should happen, and the persons encouraging those exceptional officers and deputies to advance should be Chief Kirkpatrick and Sheriff Knezovich. I suspect that rather than trying to subjugate their employees, the Chief and Sheriff will be working hard to elevate the professional and supervisory skills of all their employees so that when one leaves for career advancement with another agency, there will be another employee ready to fill the vacancy. Leaders like Chief Kirkpatrick and Sheriff Knezovich know that a continuum of experience in all levels of their departments is essential and not just desirable. Mobility between departments is much less harmful to agencies than stagnation from within. Spokane law enforcement has experienced enough stagnation.

I'm quite sure that both Chief Kirkpatrick and Sheriff Knezovich will make some changes in their staff officers and deputies. Neither is likely to make the changes whimsically or retributively. They both know they need good staff officers and deputies. They are likely to retain the competent, reassign the marginal, and wish the deadwood a nice retirement. That's as it should be.

Spokane city and county residents should step out on their porches and take a look toward the city-county public safety building. Even with the clouds and fog and rain in today's skies, the shine you see is from real gold. The plated pot metal is on its way out of Spokane.

Friday, September 15, 2006


Suppose severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) had rapidly spread worldwide in 2003.

Suppose avian influenza (bird flu) or avian influenza A (H5N1) hits the United States and spreads uncontrolled.

Preparation for pandemics is the responsibility of government at all levels. One of the tools available is quarantine. We all think we know what quarantine is, don't we? We're just told to stay at home until we're better, right?

No, there's much more to it than that. On August 16, 2006, the Library of Congress's Congressional Research Service (CRS) sent an updated 24-page report to its Congressional subscribers. The report, entitled Federal and State Quarantine and Isolation Authority, discusses federal quarantine authority to include military enforcement of health measures. There's much more to quarantine than just staying home and eating chicken soup.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


The national business news has been breathlessly reporting on the departure of Hewlett-Packard board chairwoman Patricia Dunn. Her offense? She admitted authorizing the hiring of private investigators to obtain private telephone records of H-P directors and journalists.

The technique apparently used by the investigators was pretexting. Pretexting is essentially misrepresenting one's identity to gain access to information otherwise not lawfully or ethically obtainable.

What's amusing is that the national press acts as if they've discovered some new tool in the criminal's toolbox.

Pretexting is not new. It is probably a subset of a larger group of deceptions known as social engineering.

By whatever name it's called, pretexting or social engineering amounts to obtaining personal information by deception.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Declassified Senate Intelligence Committee Report - Iraq

Pursuant to Senate Resolution 400 of the 94th Congress (1976), the Senate Intelligence Committee is charged with "...the duty to oversee and make continuing studies of the intelligence activities and programs of the United States Government, and to report to the Senate concerning those activities and programs."

According to President Bush, our invasion of Iraq after the September 11, 2001, attacks was based on intelligence. After the attacks and our subsequent invasion, the accuracy and completeness of the intelligence has been challenged. It thus fell to the Senate Intelligence Committee to study the predicate intelligence and report its findings to the US Senate.

The Senate Intelligence Committee's report was ordered printed on September 8, 2006. The report was summarized (or cherry-picked) by various news services. For example, the Cox News Service headlined its September 9, 2006, story Report disputes Bush's terror claims. The Washington Times headline read Report finds no Saddam, Zarqawi ties. The Washington Post article was captioned Iraq's Alleged Al-Qaeda Ties Were Disputed Before War, followed by a titillating subhed reading "Links Were Cited to Justify U.S. Invasion, Report Said."

Rather that relying on news service stories, it's probably better to read the Report and come to your own conclusions. It is available at the Senate Select Committee On Intelligence website. The Report's complete title is: Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence On Postwar Findings About Iraq's WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism and How They Compare With Prewar Assessments together with Additional Views. The blacked-out portions at the top and bottom of each page are the security classifications that no longer apply after the classified information in the report body was redacted (also blacked out).

One of the most informative and insightful statements in the Report didn't make it into most news accounts. It reads, "...intelligence is not a perfect science and we should not expect perfection from Intelligence Community analysts. It is entirely possible for an analyst to perform meticulous and skillful analysis and be completely wrong. Likewise, it is also possible to perform careless analysis and turn out to be right, purely by chance."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Starting a New Police Department?

New police departments are started every year. Sometimes it's because a previously unincorporated county area incorporated as a municipality. In other instances it's simply because a municipality was dissatisfied with the level of performance or lack of value it was receiving from contracting with a county sheriff. Whatever reasons a municipality has for considering starting its own department, the decision-making process has to be painstakingly thorough and diligent.

The US Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), has prepared a 64-page guide to help communities wade through the decision-making process. The guide is entitled Guidelines for Starting and Operating a New Police Department.

Though the guide is clearly intended to help in the startup process, a little "reverse engineering reading" will help those communities who already have police departments learn how to better evaluate their existing departments.

Here are some other COPS guidelines useful for starting new departments or upgrading existing ones:

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Secrecy Report Card

By many accounts, President G.W. Bush's administration has become the most secretive in US history.

How secretive?

Read Secrecy Report Card 2006 - Indicators of Secrecy in the Federal Government, a report by OpenTheGovernment.org. The fifteen page report is very readable. It has citations.

There is a valid case to be made for keeping legitimate secrets secret. But cheapening the value of secrecy by expanding it to include more and more information is likely to result in more uncontrolled disclosure, not less. As the blanket of secrecy is stretched to cover more area, the blanket's fabric gets uniformly thinner. The administration of classified national security information is fairly well-established, but the administration of "sensitive but unclassified (SBU)" information is as incomplete as the definition of SBU itself. If one can't clearly define what is to be protected, it is impossible to devise effective protection. The more secrets that must be controlled, the more likely it becomes that some legitimately secret information is going to be divulged.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Update: EAS and All-Hazard Warnings

My May 17, 2006, post entitled More Effective Local Emergency Notification provided readers with information about the national Emergency Alert System (EAS) and the Inland Northwest Region (EAS) Local Area Plan. It was intended to encourage readers to better understand the principal ways critical emergency information about natural and manmade threats to life would be communicated to us by our federal and local governments. The links in that original post are still active.

On July 17, 2006, the Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service (CRS), provided its Congressional subscribers with an updated report entitled Emergency Communications: The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and All-Hazard Warnings. The current report summarizes the technology and administration of EAS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service's all-hazard network. It discusses related programs being developed by the Department of Homeland Security, and it reports current changes being discussed in the US Congress.

One of the more interesting sections of the updated report suggests ways that rural or smaller communities (e.g., Coeur d'Alene Reservation, Kootenai County, etc.) could use technology such as the Internet to immediately provide EAS and all-hazard warnings messages to their residents and visitors. Since the Coeur d'Alene Tribe has recently begun to provide high-speed Internet to persons living on tribal property, this report might be of some interest to the Tribe's chief information officer.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Healing Hooves

We own a house on Cave Bay near Worley, Idaho. Controlling the wildland fire fuels that surround our house is an ongoing undertaking beginning in the early spring, continuing through summer, and concluding in late fall. I've developed a close personal relationship with my John Deere line trimmer and brushcutter. It only betrayed me once when it apparently mistook an underground yellowjacket nest for a weed.

Two or three weeks ago we were driving in on Cave Bay Road when we noticed a slightly different appearance to a nearby hillside. It had been enclosed with a temporary fence, and inside the fence were at least two dozen goats. They were chomping merrily away at everything ground-growing except the ferns. We watched as they cleared away the ground fuel in short order. There was a sign on a nearby post that read Healing Hooves.

We did a little research and learned that the goats were an experiment in fire fuel control being coordinated by the Coeur d'Alene Tribe's silviculturist, Eric Geisler. Eric is also a Cave Bay resident.

Try as I might, I couldn't think of a downside to the experiment. The ground fuels are cleared quickly, relatively quietly (compared to the sound of my John Deere), and without herbicides; natural by-products are returned to the earth; and the entire process is entertaining to watch.

Please go to the Healing Hooves website, read about this imaginative and environmentally enriching way of removing ground fuels, and look at the photo albums.