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, June 29, 2007

Critical Incident Response - US Attorneys

When one thinks of a national-level critical incident such as the Ruby Ridge or Branch Dividian standoffs, the World Trade Center or Oklahoma City bombings, or the attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC on September 11, 2001, one does not think of United States Attorneys as being first responders.

They are. "Each of 93 United States Attorneys (U.S. Attorneys) is the chief federal law enforcement officer within his or her particular jurisdiction and serves as the principal litigator under the direction of the Attorney General."

Critical incidents include acts of terrorism, hostage situations, and natural disasters. Typically, these events involve one or more of the following factors (although the presence of one factor by itself does not automatically mean that an incident is critical):

  • Involves threats or acts of violence against government or social institutions.
  • Involves significant loss of life, significant injuries, or significant damage to property.
  • Demands use of substantial resources.
  • Attracts close public scrutiny through the media.
  • Requires coordination among federal law enforcement agencies (more so than usual), state or local law enforcement agencies, local or state prosecutors, emergency relief services, or emergency response services.
  • Requires ongoing communication with upper-level personnel at the Department.

In the event of a critical incident the U.S. Attorney is the on-scene legal decision maker and is responsible for managing the Department’s response by, among other things:

  • Facilitating coordination and communication with federal, state, and local officials and prosecutors;
  • Preparing and securing search warrants;
  • Assisting law enforcement personnel in interviewing witnesses;
  • Making legal decisions, such as granting immunity;
  • Appearing before grand juries; and
  • Advising law enforcement personnel when necessary on collecting and preserving evidence.

To meet their responsibilities for critical incident reponses, each of the 93 US Attorneys was required to develop a critical incident response plan. The plans were coordinated by the Crisis Management Coordinator program under the guidance of the Justice Department's Counterterrorism Section and the Executive Office for United States Attorneys.

The program's effectiveness is periodically evaluated by the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General. The most recent evaluation was the January 2007 Follow-up Review of the Critical Incident Response Plans of the United States Attorneys’ Offices - Evaluation and Inspections Report I-2007-001.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Police Executive Accountability

There's an interesting story building in Seattle. The ultimate question being asked is how much should the Seattle Police Department's chief executive officer, Gil Kerlikowske, have intervened in adjudicating the allegations of unlawful conduct by two patrol officers during a fairly routine drug arrest. The issue is relevant to Seattle's civilian review of police internal investigations of alleged officer misconduct.

The lead in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer (P-I) story headlined Seattle council president calls for chiefs to be subject to review reads:
In the face of a confidential report critical of the Seattle Police Department, City Council President Nick Licata has renewed his call to subject the police chief and the fire chief to periodic reconfirmation by the council.
The P-I article, written by reporter Neil Modie, provides little detailed information about the report prepared by the independent Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), the civilian review board that oversees the police department's internal affairs unit.

In contrast, the lead in today's Seattle Times (Times) article headlined Scathing report says chief interfered with cop probe reads:
Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske repeatedly interfered in an investigation into the actions of a pair of officers, damaging the credibility of the police force to the point that increased oversight is needed, according to a civilian-review board report.
The Times article contained far more detail. In addition it provided links to several documents including the OPA's report Chief Kerlikowske said he had not yet seen. The Times linked documents are linked below.

Criminal justice students may want to review the links to get a better understanding of how police conduct is examined by civilian review boards and by outside agencies. Journalists and bloggers can also compare and contrast the news coverage by the P-I versus the Times.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Organized Crime - Revisited

In April of this year Whitecaps posted three pieces about the changing faces and places of organized crime.

It was not surprising that some commenters were amused or annoyed that Whitecaps would even suggest northern Idaho has organized crime. The amused were those in denial. They refuse to believe regardless of overwhelming evidence. The annoyed were some who are profiting either directly or indirectly from it.

In May 2007 The Police Chief magazine published an article authored by William F. Bratton, Chief of Police, Los Angeles, California. In his article, titled The Mutation of the Illicit Trade Market, Chief Bratton notes that, "...organized-crime entities have morphed from the traditional fixed hierarchies with controlling leaders or families to more decentralized, loosely linked, multiple networks that come together and cooperate only on an opportunistic basis and then separate. "

These evolutionary changes have made it both possible and easier for organized crime networks to become active in arenas beyond their traditional dealings in drugs, prostitution, gambling, and money laundering. They're diversified. Now they're into real estate mortgage fraud and (again quoting Chief Bratton's article) "...the very profitable sale of untaxed cigarettes, human trafficking, and counterfeiting of virtually any product" such as baby formula, prescription pharmaceuticals, wearing apparel, and over-the-counter health products.

As organized crime group definitions have become less distinct, it has become even more difficult for law enforcement to recognize them and mount a counterattack. It requires strong state and federal laws and imaginative, aggressive, and honest prosecutors and investigators. It also requires local and state governments, particularly legislators, work harder to educate themselves about the changing faces and tactics of organized crime. Once educated, legislators must ensure their states' laws are up-to-date and provide the framework necessary for investigators and prosecutors to investigate and prosecute organized crime.

It should shock no one to hear that those involved in organized crime are well aware that the honest public officials and law enforcement officers represent a significant threat to the success of their illicit efforts. Thus, organized crime entities place the corruption of local and state public officials and law enforcement high on their list of priorities. If they "own" the lawmakers and other elected and appointed officials, regulators, and law enforcement officers, their lucrative criminal enterprises will prosper.

Addendum 06-19-2007: Whitecaps offers a big thank-you to Stebbijo at stebbijo.com and the INWBA for passing along the link to the indictment Stebbijo mentioned in her comment appended to this post.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The State of the Nation's Housing - 2007

The Tuesday, June 12, 2007, Seattle Post-Intelligencer (P-I) carries a story headlined Homes cited as too costly for too many by P-I reporter Aubrey Cohen. The story's lede reads:

The U.S. housing market will struggle with too much supply and falling prices for a while yet, but its biggest problem is that homes are too expensive for too many families, according to a report released Monday.

The study Cohen's article refers to is titled The State of the Nation's Housing 2007. It was published by Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies. This annual report looks at the current pressures facing the nation’s housing markets and beyond them to the underpinnings of long run housing supply and demand.

Why include the findings from a nationally respected annual housing study in a blog that focuses on crime and security in the inland Northwest? Because stable, affordable housing and jobs that pay liveable wages are two essentials to reducing predatory criminal behavior among people who have neither.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Presidential Directives

How much power does the President of the United States really have?

Can he just snap his fingers and create a directive that has the same force and effect as a law created by the legislature and signed by the President?

A report titled Presidential Directives: Background and Overview helps clarify how much authority the President really has. The report was prepared for Congress by the Congressional Research Service and updated for release on April 23, 2007.

It has a discussion of not only executive orders and proclamations but also of Homeland Security Presidential Directives, national security instruments, and others including verbal presidential announcements.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Kootenai County Property Taxes and Mortgage Fraud

Within the next few days most Kootenai County property owners will have received their notice of 2007 Property Assesments. It is quite likely most assessed valuations will increase significantly. If you appeal your assesment and ask why your assessment is so much higher, you'll be given the usual reasons: many brand new and more expensive houses near yours, many houses sold at very high sales prices. Appeal denied. Just pay your taxes.

But what if the prices of the new home construction and the existing home sales had been artificially inflated? What if your home and others had been initially appraised for far more than they are really worth? What if your development and the homes in it were not built in compliance with required codes? What if lenders had either innocently or complicitly given you and your neighbors mortgage and construction loans for more that your homes were really worth?

The answer is that your property and nearby ones would be assessed by the County above their "actual" value. They would be assessed at an inflated value. And you'd be screwed. Thrice over. You'd first be screwed because your home is worth less than what you've paid for it. You'd be screwed the second time because you're paying higher property taxes than you should to Kootenai County. And if your home's infrastructure does not comply with applicable codes (e.g., inspections were not done at all, they were done from the office, they were done by unqualified inspectors, or they were "drive-by" inspections), you may be living in a home falsely certified safe by fraudulent inspections.

Please look back at a few Whitecaps posts about mortgage fraud. Pay particular attention to the information about appraisal fraud. Do any of the conditions in any of the posts apply to you? If they do, talk with your attorney to see what civil recourse you may have to protect the value of what for most of us is our largest investment, your home. When you're talking with your attorney, discuss mortgage fraud in Kootenai County with him.

If you believe you have been criminally defrauded (mortgage fraud is an umbrella term that includes several federal crimes), talk with your attorney about making an appointment to talk with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I'd strongly discourage you from going to the local, county, or state police or the county prosecutor. If you decide to talk with the FBI, please ask your attorney to help you prepare by drawing up a list of specific allegations with a list of the facts you have to support each allegation. You may want to take your attorney with you to the appointment. You're not a suspect; you're a victim, but your attorney may help save time and keep the conversation focused on items meaningful to investigators.

As homeowners we all have to pay property taxes. That's a fact of life. However, the assessed valuation of our properties should be based on honest data. If the values of our homes and the homes that influence our property's value have been artificially inflated, we are all paying too much in property taxes. Worse, our investment's true value has been reduced. Protect yourself. Educate yourself about mortgage fraud. Hopefully you will find you have not been a victim. If you have been victimized by dishonest developers, builders, appraisers, government inspectors, and lenders, then act!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Terrorist Precursor Crimes

"Terrorist groups, regardless of ideological ilk, geographical location, or organizational structure, have certain basic needs in common: funding, security, operatives/support, propaganda, and means and/or appearance of force. In order to meet these needs, terrorists engage in a series of activities, some of which are legal, many of which are not." In other words, terrorists in place in the United States are likely to commit crimes to provide or acquire many of their needs.

The crimes they employ are likely to include the various frauds, petty crimes such as theft, identity counterfeiting and theft , counterfeiting of goods (knockoffs), illicit drug trade, and firearms thefts. These crimes are often precursors to the actual terrorist act(s), so they become potential indicators. For that reason, they need more careful analysis beyond their seemingly local nature.

Beyond the federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, various state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies are well-positioned to intervene in precursor crimes. The challenge for them is to look beyond the immediate arrests to see if there is more than meets the eye. It is the responsibility of the federal agencies to educate the state, local, and tribal authorities to better carry out their roles in recognizing and responding to terrorist precursor crimes.

To help Congress better understand the nature and expanse of terrorist precursor crimes, the Congressional Research Service prepared a 30-page report for Congress entitled Terrorist Precursor Crimes: Issues and Options for Congress. The report was released May 24, 2007.

Friday, June 01, 2007


Biological agents are viable terrorist weapons, however they are frequently lower on the list of risks because they are not as predictable, controllable, and reliable as explosives or chemical agents. We may need to elevate them on the perception of risk scale.

Follow the case and travels of Andrew Speaker. His travels throughout the world have caused international epidemiological red flags to be raised. He has shown no outwardly alarming symptoms, however he is receiving treatment for a difficult to treat strain of tuberculosis. Because of this, the international reaction has been monumental in response to a perception of potential threat.

That one man can cause such an international reaction makes people wonder how much greater the reaction would be if terrorists began using multiple human vectors in much the same way they use suicide bombers.

Inevitably, that consideration raises the prospect of quarantine. The authority of federal and state officials to issue quarantine orders and enforce them, forcibly if necessary, is discussed in the Congressional Research Service's January 23, 2007, report for Congress titled Federal and State Quarantine Isolation Authority. The report update includes a discussion of the Constitutional issues raised by quarantine, it identifies the federal quarantine authority, and it explains how the US military can be used to enforce health measures.