The Impact of Sandy on the Elections?

Sandy has introduced so many new contingencies and variables in the presidential race, and all the other equally important races towards the bottom of the ballot, that it is impossible to guess its impact on elections this Tuesday.

Or the outcome of the elections.

As of today it appears as if the presidency, according to all the tracking polls, is really too close to call.

My only personal hope is that it is American voters who determine our next president and not, as in 2000, the Supreme Court.

Posted in The ELECTION

Because of Sandy, Is Global Warming the “October Surprise”?

Even though it is still much too soon to quantify the extent of the damage caused by this unusual storm, Sandy is obviously a monstrous disaster.

I do not wish to belabor the obvious, but with the election a week from today it seems very strange that global warming has been such a neglected topic throughout this long presidential campaign.  Even as both parties strive to outdo the other in relief to those affected by this storm, shouldn’t we be examining much larger issues?

The unusual and historic nature of this disastrous storm should prod both the democrats and the republicans to reconsider the importance of what the vast majority of our world’s scientists are telling us about global warming, sea level rise, and the vulnerability of our coastal populations not only in New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico, but all along our western and eastern coastlines.

If any good can emerge from the devastation caused by this one storm, perhaps it should be the growing awareness that we must reconsider our national policies regarding global warming.  And that we begin in every way possible to funnel our resources, as the impact of Sandy would suggest, into avoiding Katrina-like scenarios along our other two coasts.

Posted in The ELECTION

Shooting From a Helicopter?

Last Thursday a Texas state trooper fired at what he believed to be a truck smuggling illegal drugs across the border near La Joya, Texas.  The Texas state trooper fired at the truck’s tires in order to stop it as the truck was being chased through the brush and scrub which surround La Joya.  He shot at the truck tires from a helicopter (AP, New York Times, p. 22, 10/28/12.)

Eight suspects were arrested in the truck. Not including two illegal Guatemalan immigrants who were killed, apparently from the crash when the driver lost control of his vehicle.  The Texas state trooper who fired from the helicopter was put on administrative leave, which is the usual procedure.  No drugs were found in the truck.

This event is a travesty of American justice.  Professional law enforcers like the Border Patrol would never ever attempt to shoot from a helicopter at a speeding truck carrying drugs: this whole scenario is beyond belief.

The interdiction policies of the Texas state police immediately must be carefully reviewed and those responsible punished to the full extent of the law.  If indeed shooting at the tires of a suspected truck carrying drugs is permissible under the existing policy of the Texas state police at this time, then all those who put in place and permitted such a ridiculous and unprofessional policy bear full responsibility for this tragedy.

Posted in Border Security

DHS Finally Investigates the Border Patrol or Does It?

The Associated Press reported last week that the Department of Homeland Security’s own Office of the Inspector General was investigating charges of excessive force by Border Patrol guards at the Mexican border.  According to the article that appeared in the Washington Post, the investigation “… involves a review of accusations of brutality and excessive force as it works to determine whether reforms have been implemented.”

Foremost among the cases presumably to be examined by DHS’ Inspector General is Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas who died at the border near San Diego.  A video recently emerged which depicts what looks like blatant brutality against Mr. Hernandez as he is repeated tasered while lying on the ground surrounded by Border Patrol agents.  And last week at the border in Nogales, Arizona, a Border Patrol agent shot a young boy, aged 16, who allegedly was throwing rocks.  There are, as well, a number of other cases since 2010 in which Border Patrol agents have used deadly force.

But what is not being investigated by DHS’ Office of the Inspector General is the risky and dangerous work of being a border guard, on the one hand, and the marked decline in professional training recruits receive at their national training academy in New Mexico.

So the good news is that fewer illegal immigrants are successfully entering our country as reflected in Border Patrol statistics.  The bad news is that violence against agents is increasing along with the number of illegal border-crossers who are dying at the hands of border agents.

There are at least two major reality checks ignored only at the peril of our agents on the line.  The first is that Border Patrol agents since their rapid recruitment to meet the numbers of new agents mandated by Congress have consistently received less and less professional academy training.  Standards have been lowered so that a higher percentage of agents successfully graduate.  Actual training at the national academy shrank from more than five months to slightly more than fifty days.  So the end result of adding an additional 21,000 agents, on top of those needed to replace a high annual turnover rate, is men and women who must make lightening quick decisions in dangerous situations.  These agents require more training, not less.  The on-the-job mentorship that many Border Patrol managers tout is unfortunately a poor remedy for months lost at the academy under the watchful eye of trained and experienced law enforcement professionals.

The second reality check that no one discusses is the implications and consequences of explosive organization growth: the Border Patrol has grown too fast and too furious.  The current culture among the majority of Border Patrol agents in this largest federal law enforcement agency in our country frequently validates and tacitly supports excessive force.  Indeed, this is the history of the Border Patrol as repeatedly documented since its inception in 1924.  While changing, Border Patrol institutional culture still allows with impunity for agents to harass, abuse, and harm those they have interdicted.

The Border Patrol badly needs reform to protect its agents and those they interdict, but not just on the limited issue of excessive force.

Posted in Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas, Customs and Border Protection

Mexican Bad Guys Go to B-School

The testimony in Brownsville, Texas, of former Gulf cartel tsar Rafael Cardenas Vela outlined the business practices and plans of a very successful regional Mexican drug operation.  Mr. Vela’s testimony a few weeks ago at his trial on a variety of heinous charges referred to his cutthroat organization, Mr. Vela bemoaning the pitfalls of his job because, “I can’t do everything myself”.

Mr. Vela seemingly confronted, as does every CEO, the business reality of too many details requiring too many hasty decisions.  One example Mr. Vela gave in his sworn testimony was the need to pay bribes of $1 million a month in order to sustain his bloodthirsty operations.

While jurors in Brownsville and the media in general were apparently impressed by the B-School practices of this ruthless drug organization, one individual, Will Glaspy who heads the Drug Enforcement Administration in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of south Texas, reached a wildly spurious conclusion from Mr. Vela’s testimony in Brownsville.

Will  Glaspy, quoted in the Huffington Post, said, “You have to keep attacking the command and control elements again and again.”  In other words, the lesson learned from Mr. Vela is that the DEA and other law enforcers should continue to capture and/or eliminate those at the top of the drug monster, a daily endeavor we would neglect at our own peril.

But since this so-called “Drug War” initiated under President Reagan has been going on for more than 30 years, does not Mr. Vela’s testimony elicit a more precise lesson than that gleaned by Mr. Glaspy?  Clearly we have long since lost this Drug War.  And clearly it is getting much worse based upon the number of bodies piling up within Mexico and our inner cities; Chicago’s body count tied to drugs this year is a disaster.  Instead of continuing to spend billions each year following Mr. Glaspy’s philosophy, it would seem that by now we would have learned that treating drug users less as criminals and more as a public health issue will get us much further than yet another year of the Drug War.

Rather than waste time admiring the infrastructure of Mexico’s drug operations, including their use of hundreds of American local gangs within our border, why don’t we finally begin as a nation to redefine our national problem with illegal drugs?

Posted in Drug Cartels

Friendly Fire

Now we learn that friendly fire is the likely cause of the death of one Border Patrol agent and the wounding of another near Naco, Arizona.  Kind of makes Senator Chuck Grassley’s rush to resurrect the ghosts of the AFT’s Fast and Furious scandal look plain foolish.

And Grassley’s attempt to blame this tragedy on the Obama administration appears opportunistic and mean-spirited. Doesn’t it?

Posted in ATF Scandal

Tragedy at Naco

The news that one Border Patrol agent has been killed and another wounded near Naco, Arizona, is both tragic and alarming.  It is being reported that agents were on horseback and were ambushed by three to four gunmen.  If these early accounts turn out to be accurate, then not only should the death of one agent and the wounding of another remind the public of the risks CBP agents run each shift of every day and night, but also emphasize the mounting violence aimed at CBP agents along the Mexican border.

The blatant attempt by Senator Charles E. Grassley to reap political advantage as the national elections draw near speaks for itself.  Senator Grassley’s concerns have already been addressed by a federal report on Operation Fast and Furious.

So contrary to Senator Grassley’s written response to the tragic events near Naco, this is not the time to seek more votes for your favorite candidate or party. Rather it is the exact time to provide support and care to the families of both CBP agents who were shot and, at the same time, track down and bring to justice all who are responsible for this hideous crime.

Posted in Customs and Border Protection

Lecciones de Y-12

(A favor, comparte con amigos este blog sobre temas de la frontera, la immigracion, y eventos corrientes.  Translated by Jessie Hollingsworth originally posted 9/18/12.)

Originalmente, yo estaba preocupado que el error de operador fue rampante en la planta nuclear de Y-12, pero ahora me parece que yo subestimé el incapaz del gerente federal y privado.  La violación de la seguridad en Y-12 es muchísimo más peor que Cheech y Chong pudieron imaginado en sus monologas humorísticos o películas piradas llenos de sátiro y ironía sobre la condición humana.  Por otra mano, el publico sabe que el edifico de Y-12 Security en Oak Ridge, Tennessee, tiene “ un mecanismo de seguridad extenso que cuenta en una buena entrenado y extenso fuerza protectivo, tecnología avanzado, y una variedad de fortificaciones físicas” que este año tiene una cuesta de $150 millón.  El precio anualmente es de saber que va a la protección y para asegurar el seguro de una planta nuclear.

A la otra mano, cuando en la madrugada de Julio 28 una monja de 82 anos y sus amigos ancianos forzaron la entrada a Y-12, que procese y almanaque uranio, ellos pegaron con la encarnación de Cheech y Chong en todos los niveles de este sistema de seguro complejo.  Detentaron solo después de los dos cómplices Michael Walli y Greg Boertie-Obed literalmente llamaron a un guarda como la gente de Nueva York llaman una taxista reluctante, un guarda de Y-12 falló a apuntar con un arma y les permitió a los tres recuperar  sus cosas antes de llamar para apoyo.

Ahora hay un reporte en lo que Gregory H. Friedman, Inspector General del Departamento de Energía, investigó la incidente en “Un reporte especial: investigación en la violación de la seguridad en el complejo nacional de Y-12 de la Nacional Administración de la Seguridad Nuclear.”

El reporte sumariase que “…nosotros identificábamos exposiciones preocupadas de ineptitud en responder a alarmas, fallares a mantener equipo de seguridad critica, confianza bastante en cosas compensatorias, malentiendo de protocolas de la seguridad, pobre comunicación, y debilidad de gestación de recursos.  El gobierno de contratos y supervisión federal falló a identificar y corregir indicaciones tempranos de unos colapsos del sistema”.

Lo que tenemos en este reporte desinfectado y investigado por si mismo- después de la jerga y racionalizaciones y justificaciones son barridos- es mas o menos la próxima lista de circunstancias problemáticas: 1. Las cameras de vigilancia no funcionaron porque hacían estaban rotos por unas semanas o meses y no estaba una política impuesto para mantenerlas cuando inoperables; 2. Los tres sospechosos les entregaron porque después de tres horas, ni una guarda de Y-12 sabían que han forzada la entrada de tres cercas de seguridad, cameras, y otras cosas de seguridad; 3. Además del equipo de seguridad identificada, también había equipo clasificada que también no había mantenido o no funcionaba; 4. La contratista de la seguridad, que es subsidiario de la empresa que construyó el sistema de seguridad, es acusada de un gran numero de fallos de seguridad y “medidas” contra la han empezadas; 5. Supervisión federal, el “modelo del gobierno” falló en muchas niveles incluyendo reportes de si mismo caracterizado el sistema de seguridad como satisfecho a pesar de habían problemas serios de “la comunicaciones” en el “modelo del gobierno” y entre “ el modelo del gobierno” y gerente de los contratos; 6. Un tipo de carera de vigilancia usado no fue apropiada a este tema, pero el problema ya continuo.

La lista sigue y sigue.  El reporte en realidad tiene un resultado marcada como han aprendido.  Y esta clase? No contrate Cheech y Chong sobre los jefes de una fabrica, supervisores, la guarda, y empleadas federales que tiene que supervisión de la seguridad de este o alguna planta nuclear.  Me parece como Buena empieza.

Posted in En Espanol (Spanish Translations), Y-12

Fast and Furious: Too Political and Too Sloppy

Was the report last week by the inspector general of the Department of Justice, Michael E. Horowitz, the last of the A.T.F.’s Fast and Furious scandal?    When all is and done, does the 471 page report by Horowitz finally put an end to a botched law enforcement operation that saw hundreds of guns purchased by crooks intent on smuggling them into Mexico and throughout the US?

I hope not.  I hope that Fast and Furious becomes a case study in a legitimate miscarriage of justice within a federal law enforcement agency that was legitimately brought to the public’s attention by a dedicated group of A.T.F. agents

Unfortunately this same case smells of political opportunism in an election year. We have blatant political attempts to turn this botched law enforcement operation in Arizona into a political embarrassment for the Obama administration, but these attempts were a disaster from the very beginning: too political and too sloppy.  While Congressional Republicans threw out on the table all kinds of theories about what officials in the Justice Department knew or did not know and about the possible role of the White House in the scandal, these charges all turn out to be so much hot air.

According to Hororwitz’s report, federal prosecutors went unsupervised as did ATF supervisors, and agents were poorly led in spite of their feedback to the higher-ups.  The end result was a bureaucratic mess that should not have happened and guns, hundreds of guns, fell into the wrong hands.

It is a mess for which the Department of Justice holds some responsibility and blame.  Some heads have rolled and there have been a few resignations, retirements, and reassignments. But all in all there seems to be no conspiracy in sight,  no massive cover-up, or any attempts to discredit gun control laws as depicted both by politicians with their election agendas and media pundits checking their brains at the door before the microphones go on.

If the Horowitz report is wildly off the mark, then it falls back on the original whistleblowers to demonstrate what really happened and how those at the national level are responsible.  That is, of course, why we have courts of law.

What now should be foremost in the public’s concern is that these federal whistleblowers are protected to the fullest extent of the law and that they be allowed to continue their careers to the best of their abilities.  These agents are and should be treated as heroes.

Posted in ATF Scandal

Lessons Learned at Y-12?

I was initially very concerned that operator error was rampant at Y-12, but it now seems that I vastly underestimated the incompetency of federal and private management. The Y-12 Security Breech is much worse than Cheech and Chong could have ever imagined in their wildest stand-up comedy routines or loopy films filled with satire and irony about the human condition.  On the one hand, the public is informed that the Y-12 Security Complex at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, has “an extensive security mechanism that relies on well-trained and extensively equipped protective force, advanced technology, and a variety of physical fortifications” at a cost this year alone of $150 million.  This annual price tag presumably goes to protect and insure the security of this vital nuclear facility.

On the other, when in the early morning hours of July 28thth an 82 year old nun and her two senior citizen buddies broke into Y-12, which processes and stores uranium, they directly ran into the embodiments of Cheech and Chong at all “layers” of this elaborate security system.   Arrested only after Sister Megan Rice and her two accomplices Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed literally hailed a passing guard like most New Yorkers a reluctant cabbie, a Y-12 guard failed to draw his weapon and even allowed the three suspects to retrieve their packs before finally calling for back-up.

Now there is a new report in which Gregory H. Friedman, Inspector General of the Department of Energy, investigates this incident in “A Special Report: Inquiry into the Security Breach at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s y-12 National Security Complex”.

This report summarizes that, “… we identified troubling displays of ineptitude in responding to alarms, failures, to maintain critical security equipment, over reliance on compensatory measures, misunderstanding of security protocols, poor communications, and weaknesses in contract and resource management.  Contract governance and Federal oversight failed to identify and correct early indicators of these multiple system breakdowns.”

What we have in this heavily sanitized and vetted self-report- after the jargon and post-facto rationalizations and justifications are swept away-is more or less the following set of problematic circumstances: 1. The surveillance cameras did not work because they had been broken for weeks or months and there was no enforced policy in place to maintain them when inoperable; 2.The three suspects had to turn themselves in because, after three hours, not a single guard at Y-12 knew they had broken through three security fences, cameras, and other security devices; 3. In addition to the security equipment identified, there was other classified equipment that also did not work or was not properly maintained or operated; 4. The security contractor, which is a subsidiary of the corporation that built the security system, stands accused of a large number of security lapses and “proceedings” against them have been initiated; 5. Federal oversight, the so-called “governance model”, failed at multiple levels including self-reports characterizing the security system as satisfactory even though there was a serious “communications” problem inherent in the “governance model” and between the “governance model” and contract management; 6. One type of surveillance camera utilized was not suited for this particular security task, but the on-going problem was never rectified.

The list goes on and on.  The report actually has an outcome labeled lessons learned!  How about this lesson? Don’t hire Cheech and Chong as your plant managers, guard supervisors, guards, and federal employees tasked with oversight of the security at this or any nuclear facility.  That would be a good start.

Posted in Y-12