War on Terrorism

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ike Survivors: Suspect Fraud And Abuse? Report It

Editor's Note:  Considering the all hazards model of disaster and counterterrorism planning, this article is good information for first responders as well as community members.
January 31, 2010 - From the start of a disaster recovery operation through the end, the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) take the issue of fraud and abuse very seriously and continue to urge Texans to report any suspicious activities.

“Fraud is a rare occurrence during disaster recovery,” said Hurricane Ike Recovery Manager Brad Harris. “However, if it does occur, it is important that we take steps to stop it.”

“At the beginning of recovery operations, we encourage survivors to be aware of phony contract workers, fake offers of help getting state or federal aid and bogus charitable solicitations,” said State Coordinating Officer Ben Patterson. “Sixteen months into the recovery some of these fraudulent activities may still exist.”

Texans should consider reporting suspected fraud and abuse if:

• Someone asks for a relief fund donation for an unknown charitable organization or the person soliciting the donation requests the check be made out to a private individual.

• Someone claiming to be from FEMA comes to their home, calls or emails them and asks for their social security number, bank account number, FEMA registration number or other sensitive information.

• Someone claiming to be a building contractor knocks on their door and offers to make repairs or clean up debris.

FEMA must ensure that taxpayer dollars go only to people who incurred legitimate losses. This may include prosecuting anyone who makes a fraudulent claim. Anyone with information about individuals – maybe a contractor, inspector, disaster survivor, or someone posing as any of these – who may have defrauded the government in connection with Hurricane Ike, should call the FEMA Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721. The call is completely confidential. Allegations of fraud can also be made to local law-enforcement agencies and to the Texas Attorney General Consumer Protection Hotline, 1-800-621-0508. FEMA’s Office of Inspector General routinely audits individuals, local governments and nonprofit organizations that receive FEMA disaster assistance funding. The audits are independent assessments to determine whether recipients spent the funds according to federal regulations and FEMA guidelines. Auditors look at expenditures on ineligible items or instances of duplicate payments from insurance companies and other sources.

NATO Commander Sees Pivotal 2010 for Afghanistan

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 31, 2010 - Just returned from an international conference on Afghanistan, NATO's top military commander expressed confidence that the critical pieces are being put into place to make 2010 a turning point for Afghanistan's future.

Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, who participated in the Jan. 28 International Conference on Afghanistan in London as part of the NATO delegation, said he's seeing the international community coming together in an unprecedented way to ensure the new strategy succeeds.

"For the first time, there is universal international focus on taking Afghanistan to the next step," he said, noting representation by 60 nations and 19 other international organizations at the conference and additional commitments of troops, trainers and political, economic and development aid.

These components are critical to the comprehensive approach needed for Afghanistan's long-term success, he said during a joint Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service interview to be aired tomorrow.

"It is necessary to do that, because in Afghanistan today, none of these problems are going to be solved by the barrel of a gun," Stavridis said. "We have got to bring together international, interagency, private-public efforts ... collectively synchronized in order to overcome this insurgency."

That's vital, he said, because the world recognizes the consequences of Afghanistan falling back into Taliban hands and once again becoming a base for al-Qaida to plan and launch its attacks.

"So there is a real political will that is coming together," Stavridis said, applauding recent initiatives reinforced at the London conference.

For example, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed veteran diplomat Staffan de Mistura last week as the new high representative for Afghanistan and head of the United Nations assistance mission there.

Also last week, the British ambassador to Afghanistan, Mark Sedwill, was appointed NATO's senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, to work as Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's counterpart and focus on the nonmilitary aspects of the Afghanistan strategy.

"Getting that civilian and military balance right, I think, is absolutely crucial," Stavridis said.

Although the London Conference wasn't planned to raise donations or troop commitments, Stavridis said, he's pleased by the contributions made or pledged there to support economic, governance and security requirements.

Particularly gratifying, he said, is seeing NATO and other International Security Assistance Force nations step up to provide 9,000 more troops – a number that he predicted could rise to 10,000 after the alliance's February conference.

This additional commitment will help to fill shortfalls in the NATO Training Mission Afghanistan, an organization activated in November under Army Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, to focus on growing the Afghan national security forces and build their capabilities.

Caldwell still needs between 1,300 and 2,000 trainers for the new mission, Stavridis said, noting that he feels "very confident" NATO will pledge against this shortfall at its conference.

Meanwhile, Stavridis said, he's optimistic about progress already being made in building the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police so they ultimately can take the security lead, and ultimately, full security responsibility, for Afghanistan.

They now number almost 200,000, he said, two-thirds of the goal of 287,000 by July 2011, when President Barack Obama expects to begin reducing the U.S. force commitment in Afghanistan, subject to conditions on the ground.

Beyond numbers, Stavridis said, he's impressed to see big advances in the Afghan security forces' capabilities. He noted a Jan. 4 mission in which Afghan Mi-17 helicopter pilots flew about 100 Afghan commandos on a complex special forces raid that the Afghans had planned and conducted, with minimal involvement by ISAF mentors. "This shows the kind of progress [they are making] in [being able to conduct] complex military operations," Stavridis said.

Similarly, Afghan security forces demonstrated how far they have advanced earlier this month as they responded to a series of coordinated attacks on Kabul, including some of its government buildings. The Afghan National Police ran the mission, backed up by the Afghan National Army, with the Afghan Interior Ministry providing command and control, Stavridis said.

"This complex attack in the capital was repelled entirely by Afghan security forces," he said. "That is a signal change. A year ago, it would have been coalition forces that responded to that attack. Even six months ago, you would have seen a significant coalition presence in responding. ... That is a big shift. So I think there is real progress."

Stavridis recognized the sacrifices Afghan forces continue to make in the fight against insurgent forces, taking about 75 percent of the casualties. "They are in the fight. They stand shoulder to shoulder with us," he said.

The Afghan forces will get an increasing opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities in the coming months, he said, as McChrystal increasingly focuses operations on the heart of the insurgency, in southern Afghanistan.

"You are going to see some significant operations there in the next few months as we continue with our strategy to build and hold," Stavridis said.

Meanwhile, he said the United States, ISAF and the Afghan government will continue to assess progress of the comprehensive strategy through a variety of indicators: from security, economic, political and quality-of-life improvements to polling data from the Afghan people themselves.

"[This] will show us whether the strategy on which we are embarked is going to be successful," Stravridis said.

Meanwhile, he shared his own personal sense about the year ahead. "2010 is the year. This is the time," he said. "And I am confident that we will have success in Afghanistan."

The Pentagon Channel will air the full interview tomorrow.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Study Shows Deployments' Impact on Army Wives

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 29, 2010 - Army wives whose husbands deploy seek mental health services at a higher rate than others, and the longer the deployment, the greater the impact, according to a new study. Researchers from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, RTI International and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted the study, which was published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Study investigators compared the rates of mental health diagnoses and use of mental health services between wives whose husbands had deployed with those whose husbands hadn't deployed, using a sampling of about 250,000 active-duty Army wives, ages 18 to 48.

"We found a distinct pattern," said Army Col. (Dr.) Charles Engel, a study co-investigator and associate chair of psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. "The wives of servicemembers who deployed ... used more services when they had a diagnosis and more frequently received mental health diagnoses than those wives whose husbands didn't deploy."

The wives also were categorized by the total length of their spouses' deployments. Investigators compared wives whose spouses hadn't deployed, those who had deployed for less than a year and those who had deployed for more than a year. "The longer the husband had been deployed, the more we saw an excess of disorders," Engel noted.

The mental health diagnoses that were elevated were, for the most part, those related to stress, Engel explained, such as depression, anxiety and adjustment disorders. Investigators also found an increase in alcohol use. They didn't, however, find an excess of post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The stress of deployment [for spouses] really isn't the same as the kind of stress that causes PTSD," Engel said. Rather than the types of traumatic events that trigger post-traumatic stress, wives encounter stressors such as overwhelming demands at home and the uncertainty of having a loved one deployed, he explained.

The study used anonymous data from a military health system database, which captures care from the military health system and through Tricare military health care program networks.

"It was a very important use of the health tracking systems at our disposal in the military," Engel said. "These systems increasingly put us in a position to be able to look, in ways the civilian sector really just can't, at the health impact of various things."

But use of the database limited the study to active-duty wives, Engel acknowledged. "One of the limitations of the findings is that we weren't able to include National Guard or Reserve wives; we can't be sure their health care is captured by the military system when their husband is demobilized," he said. "They may be getting care from other sources primarily."

The study also restricted its analysis to spouses whose husbands had been in active-duty service for a minimum of five years, Engel said, to ensure they captured a history of active health service use and mental health background.

The net effect of that, Engel pointed out, was an older sampling of wives who may be better equipped at coping with military life. Since younger wives may be more vulnerable to the stressors of military life in general, the findings may underestimate the impact of deployments, he added.

"We say at the end, the differences we see between these two groups, if you were to include all wives, would probably be greater," he said. "This is a conservative estimate of the ... impact of deployment on the mental health of these wives."

Limitations aside, the study reaped results that can be used as an impetus for change, Engel said. Experts know anecdotally that deployments have an impact on military families, but real findings help provide the thrust to change and improve support programs, he added.

"We assume [deployment] has an impact, but in some fashion we don't really know, until we have a chance to see it in terms of real findings from a scientific study," he said.

Engel noted that he found one aspect of the findings reassuring: Army spouses are taking advantage of available mental health services.

"We now have some fairly definitive scientific data to demonstrate that the wives of soldiers who deploy have some special needs," he said. "This is bound to lead to greater discussion of what those needs are and new programs to meet those needs. And that can only be a positive thing."

While this study was limited to the Army, future studies are sure to look at deployments' impacts on spouses from other services, Engel said.

"Our group and other groups will want to analyze these data in ways that bring in the other services, particularly ... the Marine Corps," he said. "There's every reason to think that the wives of Marines may be experiencing similar kinds of challenges."

Afghan Forces Contain Attack on Barracks

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 29, 2010 - Afghan security forces reacted quickly today to contain an insurgent attack on the Afghan National Army's Sharwali Barracks on the western edge of Lashkar Gah, the capital of southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, military officials reported.

According to initial reports, the small-arms attack came primarily from an unoccupied four-story building to the south of the barracks. Insurgents fired two rockets from the area to the west of the Helmand River known as the Bolan Desert at about 10 a.m., and the rockets are believed to have landed west of the barracks.

This coordinated attempt by insurgents to launch an attack continues, officials said, but is being contained by Afghan forces. The main group of attackers was pinned down in a vacant building south of Sharwali Barracks. Attack helicopters are over the city and have fired upon insurgents.

No casualties have been reported.

In other news from Afghanistan, an Afghan-international security patrol searched a house in Helmand's Garmsir district this morning and found about 90 pounds of opium. The homeowner was questioned and released, and the drugs were confiscated and brought to a military base for disposition.

Also in Helmand today, an Afghan-international force patrolling in the Yekken Baba Ziarat district found 500 pounds of homemade explosives. Three suspects were detained, and the explosives will be destroyed, officials said.

(Compiled from International Security Assistance Force news releases.)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Army Secretary Releases Wanat Investigation Statement

Secretary of the Army John McHugh today released the following statement after receiving the U.S. Central Command investigation results regarding the combat action involving U.S. Army forces at Wanat, Afghanistan, on July 13, 2008. Nine U.S. Army soldiers were killed and 27 were wounded during that battle.

"I have directed the commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, Gen. Charles Campbell, to review the recommendations and take action as he deems appropriate with regard to Army personnel identified in the report within 90 days.

"We remain in close contact with the families of our fallen from this battle, and they will be invited to a comprehensive briefing on the investigation following Gen. Campbell's actions.

"We must be an Army that is committed to continuous self-assessment and improvement. Analysis of this investigation's findings provides us the opportunity to better ensure we are doing everything possible to safeguard the lives and treasure entrusted to us while ensuring mission success."

The Army will defer public release of any further information on the matter until families have been briefed on findings and any action taken. Media may contact Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, 703-697-2564, or christopher.garver@us.army.mil.

Conference Boosts International Afghanistan Support

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 29, 2010 - Defense Department officials are hailing yesterday's International Conference on Afghanistan in London as a major step toward integrating the governance and developmental goals they say must go hand in hand with security efforts being advanced through the troop surge. Representatives of more than 60 nations and international institutions focused on the best way to work together toward a stable Afghanistan that's able to sustain its own security, exercise sovereignty over all its territory, provide governance and economic prosperity, and ultimately, play a constructive role in the region.

Although the conference wasn't scheduled to raise funds or solicit pledges of additional troops, a communiqué released at its conclusion offered assurances of international support to expand the Afghan national security forces. The participants committed to an October 2011 timeline for growing the Afghan National Army to 171,600 troops, and the Afghan National Police to 134,000 members.

The communiqué also endorsed transitioning security responsibility to the Afghans in some provinces by late this year or early 2011.

Another major focus of the session was Afghanistan's efforts to reintegrate low- and mid-level insurgent fighters and commanders who agree to cut ties with extremists, support the Afghan government and rejoin Afghan society through vocational training and jobs.

Participants pledged $140 million for a new Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund to finance the effort that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and others have recognized is critical to resolving conflict in Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who led the U.S. delegation at the conference, recognized the importance of getting former enemies to renounce their insurgent ties and take a positive role in Afghan society.

"You don't make peace with your friends. You make peace with your enemies," she said during an interview yesterday with CNN. "You have to be willing to engage with your enemies if you expect to create a situation that ends an insurgency."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Clinton noted, is trying to send clear messages to those associated with the Taliban only as a way to make a living, or through intimidation, to "come off the battlefield and reintegrate into society."

"If you are a mid-level leader of the Taliban, not ideologically committed to their view, then you, too, can rejoin society," she said. "However, there are very clear conditions: You must renounce violence. You must lay down your arms. You must renounce al-Qaida. And you must be willing to live by the laws and the constitution of Afghanistan."

Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, and his team who are working to reverse the Taliban's momentum, recognize lessons learned through the "Sunni Awakening" in Iraq about turning insurgents' allegiances to support the government, Clinton said.

"There is an opportunity to try to convince the insurgents to quit the fight and come back," she said. "And that's part of this peace effort."

Just as in Iraq, U.S. military members on the ground will have access to funds to support these battlefield decisions, within established rules and regulations, Clinton said.

"What our commanders tell us is that it is extremely useful when someone shows up and says to a young lieutenant or captain, 'I'd like to quit. I want to go home. I want to plant my fields,'... to be able to say, 'OK, and here's what you'll get if you meet our conditions and you go forward as a member of society,'" she said. "So, we want to equip our military."

Clinton said she has "the greatest confidence in General McChrystal and his team to know how to pull this off."

Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Sgt. Carlos E. Gill, 25, of Fayetteville, N.C., died Jan. 26 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center of an illness. He was evacuated from Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, Dec. 19, 2009, where he was supporting combat operations. Gill was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.

For more information media may contact the Fort Lewis public affairs office at 253-967-0152 or 253-967-0147.

Exercise Aims to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction

By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Molly A. Burgess
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 29, 2010 - International cooperation is key to interrupting the trafficking of materials used to make weapons of mass destruction and stopping the proliferation of nuclear arms, a Department of Homeland Security official said. Mike Perron, program manager of intelligence and operations coordination for the Department of Homeland Security, described the aim of a recent multinational exercise called Leading Edge 2010 during a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable yesterday.

Perron was one of many U.S. government interagency participants involved in the U.S. Central Command-hosted exercise, held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. More than 30 nations sent representatives to share ideas and gain knowledge on methods for combating weapons of mass destruction.

The exercise was important, Perron noted, because it takes an interagency approach -- including customs and law enforcement -- to be successful.

The three-day, table-top exercise included three phases. The first phase centered on visit, board, search and seizure interdiction missions, in which the U.S. Coast Guard Middle East Training Team provided training to boarding teams from other participating countries. An operational level phase was based at the port in Mina Zayed, and covered issues of customs, law enforcement and other security issues. This phase included static displays and live demonstrations. Next, was a strategic table top where questions about post interdiction issues were discussed with subject matter experts.

Leading Edge is one of more than 35 exercises that began with the introduction of the Proliferation Security Initiative, an international agreement created in 2003 under former President George W. Bush's administration.

This year's Leading Edge exercise, which concluded yesterday, elicited positive reactions from participants.

"I feel like this exercise demonstrated a lot of interagency and international cooperation," Navy Cmdr. Tony Crego, of the joint staff strategic plans and policy directorate in the Combating WMD Division, said during the roundtable. "It sends a message to the proliferators that there's a global network of nations, agencies and organizations that are committed to stopping proliferation around the globe," he added.

Peron said he has seen the Proliferation Security Initiative evolve. "I've seen a great deal of evolution both in terms of the numbers, now up to 95 PSI-partnered countries, as well as with the interagency participation."

Although this year's scenario concentrated on a maritime example, future exercises are slated to focus on aerial and ground transport systems.

(Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Molly A. Burgess works in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, January 29, 2010

Questions raised as to guilt of Bruce Ivins in 2001 anthrax attacks

“[...] Edward Epstein has claimed that Bruce Ivins, long thought to be the source of the 2001 American anthrax attacks, was not guilty. Epstein notes that the anthrax used in the attacks had silicon in it, which was used in the 1960s to weaponize anthrax. [...] Ivins, Epstein says, would not have had the skills or the means to siliconize anthrax spores, a process he says would have required highly specialized equipment that was not available in Ivins’ Fort Detrick lab or anywhere on the facility.” (Bio Prep Watch; 29Jan10; Tina Redlup, Source: Wall Street Journal) http://www.bioprepwatch.com/news/211800

Border drill prepares responders in case of disease outbreak at Olympics [WA]

“Emergency responders are gathering in the city of Blaine to prepare for the possibility of a disease outbreak at the winter Olympics that could cause a flood of people trying to cross the border from Canada back into the U.S. Thursday’s drill will happen in a parking lot at the Port of Blaine, where a large tent will be set up and volunteers will be provided with an infection detection handbook. [...] [Marcus] Deyerin [Whatcom County Health Department] said in such an event, officials would want to prevent people from stopping at restaurants as they traveled down Interstate 5, making people sick, and also avoid many people bombarding one hospital.” (News-Tribune, WA; 26Jan10) http://www.thenewstribune.com/updates/story/1037940.html

Sonic tweezers could be the future of bioterror analysis

“When a potential anthrax mix [sic] is placed inside the sonotweezers, an ultrasonic force field will be generated onto the sample by an array of piezoelectric transducers. Differences in compressibility and density would then allow security officials to detect anthrax. The researchers developing the sonotweezers received a $6.4 million grant from the U.K. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to complete research into the device by 2013.’The different compressibility of powder relative to the cell means the force is different so you are able to differentiate them,’ Bruce Drinkwater, professor of ultrasonics in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Bristol [...].” (Bio Prep Watch; 28Jan10; Nick Rees)


President speaks of new bioterror[ism] initiative in State of the Union

“In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama promised to take steps to ensure that a faster [response] is ensured against the threat of bio-terrorism. ‘We are launching a new initiative that will give us the capacity to respond faster and more effectively to bio-terrorism or an infectious disease – a plan that will counter threats at home, and strengthen public health abroad,’ Obama said. No further details of the initiative were offered during the speech, though the White House did issue a statement saying that medical contingency plans would be redesigned [...] The announcement comes on the heels of a bipartisan panel’s warning that sufficient action has not been taken by the government to respond to the threat of a biological attack. The White House has strongly disagreed with the assessment.” (Bio Prep Watch; 29Jan10; Rita Uplend)


Oregon land swap would preserve Rajneeshee land

“Thousands of acres of Central Oregon land once occupied by the infamous Rajneeshpuram commune would be protected under legislation introduced Thursday by Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley. The Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven Wilderness Act would preserve almost 16,500 acres of land as wilderness. About half of it would come from a proposed land swap between the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and a nondenominational Christian organization that runs a summer camp at the former ranch once controlled by followers of Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. [...] After taking over the Antelope City Council, some leaders of the commune plotted to take over the local county government in 1984, spiking a salad bar in The Dalles with salmonella in an effort to incapacitate non-Rajneeshee voters. The act of bioterrorism sickened 750 people but did not unseat the government. The cult collapsed the following year, and the land eventually became Young Life’s Washington Family Ranch, which attracts 700 teenage campers each week during the summer.” (Seattle Times; 28Jan10; Steven Dubois, AP) http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2010922144_landswap29.html

U.S. still unprepared for major biological terrorist attack, report says

“More than eight years after the deadly 2001 anthrax [spore laced envelope] attacks, the United States is still unprepared to respond to the threat of large-scale bioterrorism, a congressionally appointed commission said Tuesday in a report that gave the government mixed grades overall for how it has protected Americans from weapons of mass destruction. The report, which measured the government’s performance in 17 key areas, gave the White House and Congress ‘F’ grades for not building a rapid-response capability for dealing with disease outbreaks from bioterrorism, or providing adequate oversight of security and intelligence agencies. [...] The WMD panel cited the government’s faltering response to the swine flu epidemic as evidence of a lack of preparedness for a large-scale crisis, adding that the blame for the failures is shared by various administrations and branches of government.” (Washington Post; 26Jan10; Joby Warrick and Anne E. Kornblut) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/26/AR2010012601265.html

Alameda County, BART [Bay Area Rapid Transit] team up in simulation for health emergency [Oakland, CA]

“Commuters traveling through downtown Oakland on BART today will have a chance to receive a free H1N1 flu shot while also helping to test the county’s emergency readiness plan in case of a health crisis. The Alameda County Public Health Department and BART are teaming for what is thought to be a first of its kind real-time, mass vaccination on a regional transit system. The event will be held beginning at 3 p.m. at the City Center-12th Street station in Oakland. The mass vaccination serves two purposes. First, it will help health officials evaluate their ability to coordinate a scaled emergency response for a public health crisis that requires medical treatment of the general public, such as mass vaccination against pandemic. Second, it will serve as a means to dispense free swine flu shots to those who have yet to receive one through their medical provider or other means.” (Oakland Tribune; 26Jan10; Chris Metinko)


Officials fear toxic ingredient in Botox [Botulinum toxin] could become terrorist tool

“Last year, [Ken] Coleman and fellow researcher Raymond Zilinskas set out to test whether militant groups could easily exploit the counterfeit Botox network to obtain materials for a bioterrorism attack. In a project sponsored by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, [the] two scientists found that a biologist with a master’s degree and $2,000 worth of equipment could easily make a gram of pure toxin, an amount equal to the weight of a small paper clip but enough, in theory, to kill thousands of people. Obtaining the most lethal strain of the bacterium might have posed a significant hurdle for would-be terrorists in the recent past. But today, the prospect of tapping into the multibillion-dollar market for anti-wrinkle drugs has spawned an underground network of suppliers and distributors who do most of their transactions online, the researchers found.” (Washington Post; 26Jan10; Joby Warrick) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/24/AR2010012403013.html

New blister agent leak discovered at Umatilla [chemical] depot [OR]

“Minute amounts of mustard blister agent vapor were discovered yesterday within a storage structure at the Umatilla Chemical Depot in Oregon, the Tri-City, Wash., Herald reported [...] A passive filtration system prevented the vapor from escaping the igloo, which is now being enhanced with an active system. [...] Mustard storage containers are being thawed out to ready them for incineration. This can result in vapor leakage [...].” (Global Security Newswire; 27Jan10) http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20100128_7079.php

Last two U.S. chemical weapons disposal sites funded at $550M

“Funding for preparation of the last two U.S. installations set to begin destruction of their chemical weapon stockpiles received a significant boost in the fiscal 2010 budget -- roughly 30 percent over last year’s allowance [...] The major appropriations hike comes as Washington looks to demonstrate to the international community that it is maintaining a good faith effort to finish destroying its chemical arsenal soon as possible, even if there is no chance of meeting the Chemical Weapons Convention deadline of April 2012. The Defense Department’s Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives program received $550 million in fiscal 2010, which began on Oct. 1 of last year. Funding was fully set only last month.” (Global Security Newswire; 26Jan10; Rachel Oswald) http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20100126_6522.php

Umatilla chemical depot resumes disposal operations [OR]

“The burning of mustard agent was permitted to resume after more restrictive limits were established on the amount of organic salts allowed in bulk containers going through the incinerator. The cap was set in order to comply with air quality regulations and to prevent potentially unsafe emissions from the Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility; it is expected to prolong chemical disarmament work at the depot. The Oregon Environmental Quality Department on Friday gave its approval to an initial permit for a trial burn that limits the amount of salt permitted to 435 pounds, agency Chemical Demilitarization Program official Rich Duval said. [...] The mustard agent effort will be the last chemical weapons elimination campaign at Umatilla. It is set to be finished within one to two years [...].” (Global Security Newswire; 27Jan10) http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20100126_9090.php

Iraq’s ‘Chemical Ali’ [Ali Hassan al-Majid] hanged for 1988 gas attack

“Even in Saddam Hussein’s ruthless regime, ‘Chemical Ali’ stood apart, notable for his role in gassing 5,000 people in a Kurdish village -- the deadliest chemical weapons attack ever against civilians. Ali Hassan al-Majid was hanged Monday, leaving a notorious legacy that stamped Saddam’s regime as capable of unimaginable cruelty and brought unsettling questions about Iraq’s stockpiles of poison gas and whether it could unleash them again. [...] Al-Majid, 68, was executed about a week after he received his fourth death sentence since facing Iraqi courts after the fall of Saddam. He was one of the last high-profile members of the former Sunni-led regime still on trial in Iraq.” (National Public Radio; 25Jan10; Source: AP)


New chamber built to simulate battlefield for chemical agent sensor tests [MD]

“A first-of-its-kind chamber has been developed by Applied Physics Laboratory [at Johns Hopkins University] engineers to test, under realistic battlefield conditions, the viability of sensors designed to detect chemical warfare agents. The Defense Department’s Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense asked APL in 2006 to design and build the chamber, which will be used to evaluate technologies and systems to aid in the detection, protection against and decontamination of chemical warfare agents. [...] The chamber’s realistic testing conditions will allow APL to test how quickly its military detectors can pick up trace level amounts of chemical warfare agents.” (Bio Prep Watch; 26Jan10; Paul Tinder)


Britain finally waves farewell to radioactive waste from abroad

“A cargo of highly radioactive nuclear waste set sail for Japan last night, after a breakthrough agreement that will cut Britain’s stockpile of high-level waste by almost 40 per cent over the next decade. After years of planning, a programme to repatriate all 925 tonnes of foreign atomic waste from Britain to Japan and four other countries began yesterday. Under heavy security, 28 steel canisters of waste, each weighing half a tonne but sheathed in 100-tonne steel flasks, were moved by rail from the Sellafield plant in west Cumbria, where they have been held in temporary storage since the 1990s, to the port at Barrow-in-Furness. There they were loaded on to the Pacific Sandpiper, a custom-built, double-hulled ship that will be protected by armed guards throughout the six to eight-week sea journey to the Far East. [...] About 5,000 steel canisters of this material, direct exposure to which would kill a human being instantly, are held at Sellafield. Most are the product of Britain’s domestic civil nuclear power programme. The repatriation effort will cut Britain’s stockpile of high-level nuclear waste by about 37 per cent.” (Times Online; 21Jan10; Robin Pagnamenta) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6995925.ece

Kenya to host workshop on implementing Security Council Resolution 1540

“A regional workshop to be held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 2 to 4 February will aim to promote the building of national- and regional-level capacity to advance full implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004). [...] Invited to participate in the event will be officials from the Governments of Algeria, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Tunisia and Uganda. Representatives of international, regional and subregional organizations have also been invited. A representative of the Security Council’s 1540 Committee and its experts will also attend the workshop. The Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1540 on 28 April 2004, under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, obliging all States to refrain from providing any form of support to non-State actors attempting to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and the means for their delivery.” (United Nations; 15Jan10; Gabriele Kraatz-wadsack) http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2010/dc3207.doc.htm

Secret war on to stop dirty bomb terror[ist] attack on UK

“A secret war is underway to stop terrorists smuggling deadly ‘dirty bombs’ into Britain. Hi-tech machines have been installed at major ports to detect materials that could be used to build the devices, reports The Sun. Government security supremo Lord Alan West disclosed the covert operation to the tabloid. He also revealed there will be a big rise in the use of dogs to sniff out explosives. [...] ‘We have put in a whole range of measures to stop them but cannot be complacent. We have to be vigilant. We have looked much more closely at chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials which could be used to make dirty bombs and how we can stop them being brought in,’ he said.” (Daily India; 18Jan10) http://www.dailyindia.com/show/355207.php

Homeland security research initiatives to be discussed at DHS University Network Summit

“The Department of Homeland Security’s research arm, the Science & Technology Directorate (DHS S&T), invites you to the fourth annual DHS University Network Summit sponsored by S&T’s Office of University Programs, March 10-12 at the Renaissance Hotel, 999 Ninth Street NW, Washington, D.C. Registration is free but space is limited. [...] There will be over 30 discussion panels on specific focus areas, including disaster preparedness, infrastructure protection, emergency response, and natural hazards mitigation. These panels highlight the collaborative efforts among the thirteen DHS Centers of Excellence and their over 200 academic partners in support of the DHS S&T mission.” (News-medical; 29Jan10) http://www.news-medical.net/news/20100129/Homeland-security-research-initiatives-to-be-discussed-at-DHS-University-Network-Summit.aspx

Federalizing security contactors might make our country safer

“It should be a no-brainer to declare certain duties ‘inherently governmental’ work that is restricted to federal employees, rather than outside contractors. Guarding Uncle Sam’s nuclear goodies would seem to fall squarely in that category. But a draft Government Accountability Office report shows just how difficult converting contract workers to federal employees can be and provides a lesson for the Obama administration, which is considering plans to bring some outside jobs back into the government. The report examines the complex situation involving security at six Energy Department sites with ‘special nuclear material.’ The sites themselves are run by outside contractors [...] The potential for sabotage cannot be ignored.” (Washington Post; 29Jan10; Joe Davidson) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/28/AR2010012804005.html

Cooperative Threat Reduction program to expand mission

“Language in the fiscal 2010 defense authorization law enables the Nunn-Lugar program to take financial support from foreign governments and other international entities. In addition, the legislation permits the Defense Department to spend as much as one-tenth of the program’s budget on unanticipated nonproliferation operations. ‘Malefactors in the world want to use weapons of mass destruction to terrorize American citizens, harm our soldiers deployed around the world and attack our partner countries. Proliferation of WMD remains the No. 1 national security threat facing the United States and the international community,’ Lugar said in a statement. ‘In 2009, the Nunn-Lugar program continued to make us safer by achieving meaningful progress in the destruction and dismantlement of massive Soviet weapons systems and the facilities that developed them. There is much more work to do in combating biological, nuclear, and chemical threats through Nunn-Lugar cooperative threat reduction and the global expansion of the Nunn-Lugar program,’ he said in the release.” (Global Security Newswire; 28Jan10) http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20100128_7901.php

[Al] Qaida itching to use WMDs against US

“Al-Qaida has not abandoned its goal of attacking the United States with a chemical, biological or even nuclear weapon, according to a new report by a former senior CIA official. The report by Rolf Mowatt-Larssen released on Monday by Harvard University portrays al-Qaida’s leaders as determined and patient, willing to wait for years to acquire the kinds of weapons that could inflict widespread casualties. [...] ‘If Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants had been interested in... small-scale attacks, there is little doubt they could have done so now,’ he writes. Mowatt-Larssen, a 23-year CIA veteran, led the agency’s internal task force on al-Qaida and weapons of mass destruction after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and later was named director of intelligence and counter-intelligence for the energy department.” (Times Of India; 27Jan10) http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/Qaida-itching-to-use-WMDs-against-US/articleshow/5502813.cms

CNS ChemBio-WMD Terrorism News is prepared by the Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Program of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in order to bring timely and focused information to researchers and policymakers interested in the fields of chemical, biological, and radiological weapons nonproliferation and WMD terrorism.

Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Pfc. Scott G. Barnett, 24, of Concord, Calif., died Jan. 28 in Tallil, Iraq, of injuries sustained while supporting combat operations. He was assigned to the 412th Aviation Support Battalion, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, Katterbach, Germany.

For more information the media may contact the U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army public affairs office at 011-49-6221-57-8694, or via e-mail at ocpa.pi@eur.army.mil.

Veterans See Improvement in Iraqi Army

By Army Sgt. Ben Hutto
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 29, 2010 - Soldiers from the Iraqi Army's 3rd Brigade, 8th Division, listened intently here as they received instruction from U.S. soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team. Waiting for his interpreter to translate his instruction, Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Strauch, an infantryman assigned to "B" Company, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, patiently demonstrated the finer points of clearing a building.

When his Iraqi counterpart asked if his soldiers were doing anything wrong, Strauch quickly reassured him.

"No, you guys aren't doing anything wrong," he said. "You've just reached the point where we can move on to the next level. Your guys are ready for more advanced training."

With a satisfied nod from the Iraqi sergeant, the training continued.

Strauch said the situation was a far cry from what he experienced when he was trying to train the Iraqi army for the first time five years ago at Forward Operating Base Justice, where he said they would show up undisciplined and unprepared for training. "There was so much chatter," he said. "Every time we tried to show them anything, there was a conversation. Rounds were going off left and right. It was crazy."

Since B Company's arrival at their patrol base three months ago, Strauch and his fellow sergeants have held several of these training events. What he is seeing from the Iraqi army these days is unrecognizable from his experiences during his prior deployment, he said.

"Back then, a lot of us had a sense that a lot of Iraqi soldiers were just there for the paycheck," he said. "Now you can see that they have a lot more pride in the uniform they are wearing. In everything they do, it is obvious they want to do it well."

Army Staff Sgt. Mark Lowe, also with B Company and a Philadelphia, Tenn., native, agreed with Strauch.

"They are very eager to learn better tactics," he said. "They focus a lot more on safety now. It is encouraging when you see them looking at the cause-and-effect scenarios when they plan scenarios. That wasn't always there."

Lowe recounted his first experience with the Iraqi army during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

"We had heard so much about Iraq's million-man army," he said. "To be honest, it weighed on a lot on our minds. At the beginning stages of that war, I think both sides realized, very early on, just how ineffective a lot of their tactics were and how well ours work."

Lowe said he sees the Iraqi army improving at a rapid pace every time they train.

"Their doctrine has come a long way from Desert Storm," he said. "You can see it in the way they run checkpoints [and] in the way they conduct raids and plan operations. Everything runs smoother and more efficiently."

As far as the Iraqi army has come, Strauch and Lowe said, they see ways they could improve.

"First and foremost, every army unit has something they can improve on, but the Iraqi army has a ways to go as far as supplying their soldiers," Strauch said. "Their flow of supplies doesn't always trickle down effectively. They have good equipment; it is just a matter of them getting it to the people who need it."

As the United States winds down its military presence in Iraq, Strauch is concerned that this need will become more apparent.

"We help out as much as we can with providing supplies, but we won't be here forever," he said. "Without ammo or equipment, it's almost impossible for any army to be successful."

Strauch also said that the training he conducts with his counterparts will need to continue in his unit's absence.

"The United States Army has been working on and adjusting their tactics for 200 years now," he said. "The current incarnation of the [Iraqi army] started in 2004. They definitely have some catching up to do."

Still, Strauch said, he is heartened by the progress the Iraqi army has made.

"To see how far they have come in five short years is encouraging to me," he said.

(Army Sgt. Ben Hutto serves in the 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)

Homeland Security Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report for 29 January 2010

Top Stories

According to the Associated Press, Monrovia, California police say a man who barricaded himself in a bank entrance Wednesday and claimed to have a bomb has surrendered in the Los Angeles foothill suburb. Hundreds of people were evacuated from Citizens Business Bank and nearby buildings. (See item 18)

The Associated Press reports that federal officials are investigating an explosive device that was set off Thursday morning on train tracks near the James Madison University campus in Harrisonburg, Virginia. (See item 23)

Read On

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Department of Homeland Security Continues To Assist Recovery Efforts in Haiti

Deploys 49 Personnel to Oversee Pre-Departure Identity Verification

January 28, 2010 - The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues to support U.S. government efforts—led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department—by deploying more than 1,000 personnel to provide operational and humanitarian assistance in Haiti following the Jan. 12 earthquake. On Jan. 25, DHS stood up pre-departure identity verification teams in Haiti, comprised of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials, to streamline and expedite the evacuation process.

"The Department of Homeland Security is committed to supporting the people of Haiti during this time of crisis," said Secretary Napolitano. "We will continue to help coordinate response efforts here at home, deploy personnel and supplies to Haiti to support the disaster recovery efforts on the ground, and assist in the safe and secure evacuation of eligible individuals to the United States."

As of Jan. 25, 24 CBP, 22 ICE and three TSA personnel have begun conducting pre-departure identity verification in Haiti and the Dominican Republic to streamline and expedite the evacuation process; ensure smooth processing when passengers arrive at a U.S. port of entry; and identify individuals who are not eligible to enter the United States and prevent them from boarding a flight.

On Jan. 19, Secretary Napolitano authorized the temporary activation of up to 900 reserve Coast Guard service members to assist U.S. aid efforts in Haiti—many of whom have already arrived in Haiti and are working to strengthen port security in Port Au Prince.

Six Coast Guard cutters and a variety of additional Coast Guard assets are currently operating in Haiti to support military air traffic control, conduct damage assessments, rescue people in need of assistance, provide medical and security support, and help open Haiti’s ports. There are currently 757 Coast Guard personnel assisting with Haiti relief efforts.

The Coast Guard has evacuated 1,164 American citizens, conducted 240 medical evacuations and has delivered 696 first responders to Port Au Prince.

As of Jan. 28, CBP has processed 982 total evacuation flights carrying 18,331 civilian passengers, 506 military passengers, 197 patients, 675 parolees and 483 orphans into the United States. CBP has also processed 270 flights in support of relief workers. TSA officers have assisted with and provided added layers of security to 91 arriving flights that served 7,774 Haitian Evacuees.

In support of the State Department and USAID, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is partnering with the Department of Defense to transport approximately 320 shipping containers of commodities to Haiti.

In addition to deploying critical personnel and supplies to assist the international relief effort, Secretary Napolitano granted Temporary Protected Status to Haitian nationals who were in the United States as of Jan. 12, 2010, and implemented a humanitarian parole policy allowing orphaned children from Haiti with prospective adoptive families in the United States to enter the country temporarily on an individual basis. As of Jan. 28, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in Port Au Prince had processed more than 480 orphan cases.

ISAF Officials Express Regret Over Civilian Casualty

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 28, 2010 - International Security Assistance Force officials in Afghanistan expressed regret today for the death of a religious leader who was killed when an ISAF convoy fired on what appeared to be a threatening vehicle. "Despite all the measures that we put in place to ensure the safety of the Afghan people, regrettable incidents such as this one can occur," ISAF spokesman Brig Gen. Eric Tremblay of the Canadian army said. "On behalf of ISAF, I express my sincere regrets for this loss of life and convey my deepest condolences to his family."

A thorough investigation is being conducted, command officials said in a written statement, and appropriate action will be taken to ensure that the personnel involved complied with policies designed to protect the civilian population. "We constantly review these policies to provide the greatest possible protection to civilians," the statement said.

The family will be compensated in accordance with local customs.

In other news from Afghanistan, international and Afghan forces killed or captured numerous insurgents and seized enemy weapons in various incidents and operations in recent days:

-- An Afghan-international security force detained several insurgents today in Kandahar province's Ghorak district.

-- An Afghan-international security force came under fire yesterday from a large number of insurgents while conducting a patrol in Baghlan province. The insurgents were firing rocket-propelled grenades across a river. The patrol called for air support. ISAF air assets bombed and strafed the insurgents in a tree line. Afghan forces estimate 12 to 20 insurgents were killed.

-- An Afghan-international security force discovered a weapons cache in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province, Jan. 26. The cache consisted of a rocket-propelled grenade, an antipersonnel mine, a pressure plate, a mortar bipod, radios and an assault rifle with a full magazine. An explosive ordnance disposal team destroyed the munitions.

(Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news releases.)

Officials in Iraq Confirm Death of Key Terrorist

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 28, 2010 - Officials in Iraq have positively identified a terrorist killed Jan. 22 after he attacked a security-team member acting on a warrant against him.

Multiple tests, including fingerprint matches, confirmed the identity of Saad Uwayyd Ubayd Mujil al-Shammari, also known as Abu Khalaf. Shammari was name in a court-issued warrant as a key al-Qaida in Iraq member wanted for facilitating the entry of hundreds of foreign terrorists from Syria into Iraq since 2006.

For the past four years, Shammari was considered by U.S. and Iraqi intelligence officials to be a foremost senior al-Qaida foreign terrorist facilitator who assisted in the movement of hundreds of terrorists from Syria into Iraq.

The foreign terrorists conducted numerous high-profile attacks throughout Iraq and killed many people, including security forces in Iraq, Iraqi government workers and civilians, officials said.

Based on information collected from other members of the terrorist network previously arrested and questioned, Shammari prepared many of the foreign terrorists in Syria prior to their entry into Iraq to conduct suicide attacks. He also was key in obtaining and distributing money and weapons to terrorist group members operating throughout Iraq.

As a result of Shammari's death, it is likely that al-Qaida in Iraq's ability to obtain foreign fighters, finance operations and conduct suicide attacks against the Iraqi populace has been significantly disrupted, officials said.

In other news from Iraq, Iraqi security forces arrested two wanted al-Qaida in Iraq criminal accomplices in Baghdad today.

In southwestern Baghdad, Iraqi forces and U.S. advisors searched several homes for a suspected explosives-cell leader who coordinates and approves attacks. Preliminary questioning and evidence collected at the scene led Iraqi forces to identify and arrest the wanted person and two accomplices.

During a separate operation in northwestern Baghdad, Iraqi forces and U.S. advisors searched two homes for an explosives-cell member who transports explosives and coordinates entry of foreign terrorists into the capital city to conduct attacks. Evidence collected at the scene resulted in the identification and arrest of the wanted person and three suspected associates.

In northeastern Baghdad today, Iraqi forces working with U.S. advisors arrested a suspected terrorist today while searching for a suspected Promised Day Brigade terrorist group leader who coordinates logistics. Preliminary questioning and evidence collected at the scene resulted in the arrest of a suspected associate of the wanted man.

In Ninevah province yesterday, Iraqi police shot and killed a would-be suicide bomber disguised as a policeman as he tried to attack a police compound.

The attacker's explosives-packed vest detonated and injured three police officers and a U.S. soldier. Immediate medical attention was administered to the injured, who were all evacuated to nearby medical facilities.

The U.S. soldier was listed in stable condition by doctors at a military base in Mosul.

In other recent operations:

-- An Iraqi emergency response unit in Duluiyah, north of Baghdad, arrested a suspected terrorist yesterday while searching for a suspect believed to have direct association with al-Qaida in Iraq leadership.

-- Iraqi police with U.S. advisors acting on a tip seized 107 57 mm Russian anti-aircraft rocket rounds Jan. 26 at a truck-repair garage south of the Beiji oil refinery.

(Compiled from U.S. Forces Iraq news releases.)

New York Man Sentenced for Impersonation of a Federal Air Marshal and Interference with Flight Crew

January 28, 2010 - PAUL HENRY BORITZER, a/k/a John I. Michaels, age 46, a resident of New York, New York, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier to ten (10) months' incarceration, with five of those months being served in a halfway house, for interfering with a flight crew and impersonating a Federal Air Marshal while he was travelling from New York to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, announced U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. Additionally, Judge Barbier ordered the defendant to pay a $20,000 fine and serve three (3) years' supervised release, during which time he will be under federal supervision and risks additional imprisonment should he violate the terms of the supervision.

Court documents show that BORITZER was convicted by a federal jury after a two-day trial. The jury unanimously found that on February 20, 2009, BORITZER, while onboard JetBlue flight 119, created a disturbance by refusing to obey the lawful instructions of the flight attendants and the Captain. BORITZER intimidated and threatened a flight attendant after he was denied alcoholic beverages during the flight and falsely claimed he was a Federal Air Marshal to the flight crew.

Speaking to this sentence U. S. Attorney Jim Letten stated:

“An abusive air traveller who intentionally disregarded and threatened the security of passengers and crew is now headed to federal prison. This conviction and prison sentence of an intoxicated air traveller for federal violations including interfering with a flight crew and impersonating a U.S. Air Marshal will serve as a clear and unambiguous signal that we in federal enforcement have absolutely no tolerance for disruptive conduct which threatens to diminish the efficiency of flight crews and thereby threatens the safety of passengers. Any such conduct will be met by swift and decisive enforcement action by the FBI, U.S. Air Marshals, and the U.S. Department of Justice.”

Special Agent in Charge David W. Welker commented:

“As stated at the time of conviction, crimes aboard an aircraft are taken very seriously by the FBI and our partners the Federal Air Marshals. These crimes place passengers and flight crews in harm’s way, and will therefore be aggressively investigated and prosecution pursued by the FBI.”

According to Federal Air Marshal’s Service, Houston Field Office Special Agent in Charge Joanne Oxford:

“I applaud the competent efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office to prosecute and secure a strict sentence for these serious crimes. Federal Air Marshals are law enforcement officers dedicated to ensuring the safety and security of the traveling public. Let this sentence serve as a deterrent and reminder that the federal law enforcement community partners to aggressively investigate and prosecute these serious crimes to ensure the safety and security of the traveling public.”

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys W. Scott Laragy and Gregory Kennedy.

Marines Help Afghans Gather in Protest Aftermath

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dwight Henderson
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 28, 2010 - Ironically, when protestors in the Garmsir district here set fire to a school Jan. 12 in a fervor over allegations that a Quran had been desecrated, about 300 copies of the Muslim holy book burned with the school. On Jan. 19, the school's white walls were stained black from the fire and smoke that had billowed out of its broken windows just a week before. With Marines from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, providing security, about 800 Garmsir residents sat on the grounds of that school for a community meeting called a "shura."

Helmand Gov. Mangal; British Maj. Gen. Nick P. Carter, International Security Assistance Force Regional Command South commander; and Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, Marine Expeditionary Brigade Afghanistan commander, spoke during the shura.

"We are here to help each other and to talk about the horrible incident that happened here and why it happened," Mangal said.

After an opening prayer, tribal elders, village elders and Abdullah Jan, the Garmsir district governor, spoke to the people about the demonstrations. "During the demonstration, the district governor, the police chief, and the colonel came together and solved the problem," one tribal elder said.

Mangal delivered a passionate speech about the protests and the district's future. "The demonstration that happened here is not like the people of Garmsir," he said. "It was terrorists, and the Taliban, that used the people of Garmsir."

Mangal added that he would start his own investigation into the accusations of a desecrated Quran, saying he believes the allegation that sparked the demonstration was planned outside the country by foreign members of the Taliban.

"There was no way for the Taliban to fight with us," Mangal said. "The only way for them to fight with us was to use the civilian people. Our enemy doesn't like us to progress. They don't like us to be successful in our lives."

Mangal noted the restraint shown by U.S. Marines during the riots as the crowd damaged their vehicles with gunfire and stones. He promised to rebuild the school, and he spoke about the future of Helmand province pledging that in a short amount of time, "we are going to take over all districts from the Taliban."

"We'll make Helmand a peaceful place and make it a great place to live," the governor said.

Carter noted that out of Helmand's 60 districts, Garmsir is one of the greatest examples of progress. He also commented on the restraint shown by the Marines.

"The restraint shown here is evident to how much they respect you," he told the local residents. "General Nicholson's forces are here to help you and protect you."

Nicholson said it was appropriate to have the shura in the school that had been damaged in the riots.

"The No. 1 target of this entire protest was to destroy this school, and that's because this school represents the future," he said. "This is where the future doctors, lawyers, engineers, and generals come from in Garmsir."

Nicholson told the local residents of the hours of cultural training Marines receive in preparation for deployment and promised that any Marine who showed disrespect or misconduct would be sent home.

The shura's message was of hope for the future of Garmsir and all of Helmand province through continued partnership between ISAF and Afghan forces and the local populace.

"If we work together, we can ensure something like this doesn't happen again and Garmsir can become one of the great cities of this country," Nicholson said.

(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dwight Henderson serves with the 1st Marine Division's Regimental Combat Team 7 public affairs office.)

Poultry Plant Reopens Near Baghdad

By Army Spc. Daniel Schneider
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 28, 2010 - U.S. soldiers joined U.S. Agriculture Department representatives to witness the reopening of a poultry processing plant southwest of here Jan. 10. The Al Kanz poultry processing plant in Yusifiyah, near Contingency Operating Station Falcon, closed in 2004 due to the poor condition of its facilities and the lack of poultry producers.

But joint efforts between the Army and the Agriculture Department provide hopes of the reopened plant providing jobs for 150 people and sparking industry in the area, said Army Capt. Bobby Lumsden, an operations officer with the 1st Cavalry Division's 120th Combined Arms Battalion, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team.

"The plant is the only functioning processing plant that can take live chickens direct from the farmers, completely prepare them, freeze them, and deliver them to the market," Lumsden said.

"In the early 1970s, this region, which used to be nicknamed 'the triangle of death,' exported poultry and agriculture," said Juan Alsace, team leader of the Agriculture Department's embedded provincial reconstruction team. "The infrastructure was here; we just had to refurbish what was already in place."

Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division began refurbishing the plant in March 2008, and the 1st Armored Division's 2nd Brigade, along with 30th Brigade soldiers, continued the project, said Michael Clayton, senior advisor for the provincial reconstruction team.

The plant provides fresh halal chicken, Clayton said.

Soldiers from 120th Combined Arms Battalion provided security for the project and facilitated the Army effort in funding the project.

Teaching Iraqis methods to flourish on their own gives them the ability to provide their own stability without needing Americans, Clayton said. Alsace agreed. "The key to this project is sustained capacity building for when the Army is gone," he explained.

"We've taught the farmers husbandry methods that allow them to produce a market-weight chicken in 35 days, a process that used to take them 55 to 60 days to accomplish," Clayton said.

In addition to the 150 potential jobs at the plant itself, the project provides for hundreds of other jobs at chicken farms, hatcheries, breeders and feed mills.

The Mahmudiyah Poultry Association is an Iraq-run organization that spearheaded this project, asking the United States for help in re-establishing the poultry value chain. The chain involves breeder houses, hatcheries, producers, and the processing plants to cut out middlemen.

Shaykh Najim Fadel Hussein al-Ameri, president of the association, said that assistance includes security and economic development. "Security and economic development are two different sides of the same coin."

(Army Spc. Daniel Schneider of the 366th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment serves with U.S. Division Center.)

Homeland Security Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report for 28 January 2010

According to the Examiner, Toyota announced Tuesday that it is suspending sales of eight models that are involved in the recall for having accelerator pedals that stick. In addition to the sales freeze, production at certain Toyota facilities will pause beginning the week of February 1. (See item 10)

The Associated Press reports that Chattanooga, Tennessee officials fixed a Tuesday morning power failure at the Moccasin Bend wastewater plant that released 137 million gallons of sewage and stormwater into the Tennessee River. (See item 31)

Read On

Soldiers Train Iraqis in Fuel Tanker Operations

By Army Capt. Jeffrey Witherspoon
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2010 - Soldiers of the 121st Brigade Support Battalion are training the Iraqi army's 10th Motorized Transport Regiment to operate the Iraqi unit's new fuel tankers. Prior to receiving 15 new tankers, officials of the Iraqi unit requested training from the U.S. Army battalion's logistics training and advisory team. The team serves as a bridge between Iraqi and U.S. forces and synchronizes training in an effort to increase the Iraqi army's ability to sustain itself.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason Tellez, the team's lead noncommissioned officer, along with petroleum experts from the battalion's distribution company, contacted the CEO of the tankers' manufacturer, International Trucks, and collected manuals and schematics to assist in conducting the training.

The tankers arrived with all the basic issue items, Tellez said, but the technical manuals were in English. The training team had the manuals translated into Arabic and, together with the battalion's fuel specialists, focused on establishing a permanent fuel handler's course in conjunction with the new equipment training.

Before beginning the instruction, the U.S. soldiers helped the Iraqis learn to park the vehicles properly. This allowed the team to teach safety considerations when staging fuel tankers in a consolidated area.

Because no baseline Iraqi field manual existed for fuel operations, the team referred to the U.S. Army standards. They covered optimal and minimum distances between parked vehicles, grounding, parking vehicles away from electrical lines and sources, ways of capturing and avoiding spills to prevent fires, and leaving clear lanes to each tanker for fire control personnel and equipment.

Once the vehicles were parked correctly and all safety considerations had been addressed, instructors focused on the functional parts of the fuel tankers.

Tellez, a former instructor from the Army's Quartermaster Center and School, demonstrated the proper preventive maintenance checks and service procedures for the vehicles while honing in on identifying specific types of leaks. Even a small fuel leak on a tanker could lead to a catastrophic fire, Tellez noted.

The tankers have dual hoses, allowing for fueling from either side. The hoses were unrolled, and the operators were taught how to check for cracks, cuts and dry rot. The instructors highlighted that, with the pressure of fuel pumping through the hose, a hole or cut could result in large amounts of fuel spillage and a hazardous-materials nightmare.

The instructors also covered "refuel on the move" procedures, which extend the time forces can spend on an objective.

(Army Capt. Jeffrey Witherspoon serves with the 121st Brigade Support Battalion.)

Kickback in Kabul Leads to Guilty Plea

January 28, 2010 - An Oklahoma man pleaded guilty today for his role in a scheme to solicit a kickback in connection with the award of a private security services subcontract to protect U.S. government personnel and contractors in Afghanistan, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney of the Antitrust Division and U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Ryan Scott McMonigle, 38, of Ponca City, Okla., pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III, in the Eastern District of Virginia to one count of aiding and abetting the solicitation of a kickback.

According to court documents, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is the principal federal U.S. agency that extends assistance to countries recovering from disaster, trying to escape poverty and engaging in democratic reforms. The agency works to support long-term and equitable economic growth and to advance U.S. foreign policy objectives.

In August 2006, USAID awarded a $1.4 billion contract known as the Afghanistan Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project (the AIRP contract). The AIRP contract required the award of numerous subcontracts, including for the provision of security services to protect AIRP workers. According to court documents, from approximately February 2009 through May 2009, McMonigle was employed in Kabul, Afghanistan, by Civilian Police International, a Virginia-based company that provides law enforcement training internationally. McMonigle admitted that he assisted others in the solicitation of a kickback from a private security vendor in return for favorable treatment for this potential bidder in connection with the award of one or more subcontracts. According to court documents, the subcontracts provided for private security services to protect USAID personnel and contractors in Afghanistan operating under the AIRP contract.

The charge of aiding and abetting the solicitation of a kickback carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum. McMonigle is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 5, 2010.

Bryan Lee Borrows, who was also employed in Kabul by Civilian Police International, pleaded guilty on Sept. 2, 2009, to conspiring with others to solicit kickbacks from private security vendors in return for favorable treatment for those potential bidders in connection with the award of one or more subcontracts. Burrows was sentenced on Dec. 19, 2009, to 12 months and one day in prison for his role in the scheme.

In addition, Scott Anthony Walker, of Australia, pleaded guilty on Nov. 16, 2009, to one count of conspiracy to solicit a kickback, related to his role in the scheme. Walker was arrested in the United States on Nov. 11, 2009, and is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 5, 2010.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Bradford Geyer of the Criminal Division's Fraud Section, Trial Attorneys Kimberly A. Justice and Joseph Muoio of the Antitrust Division's Philadelphia Field Office and Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy D. Belevetz of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. The investigation is being conducted by USAID's Office of Inspector General as well as members of the National Procurement Fraud Task Force and the International Contract Corruption Task Force (ICCTF).

The National Procurement Fraud Task Force, created in October 2006 by the Department of Justice, was designed to promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in government contracting activity for national security and other government programs. The ICCTF is a joint law enforcement agency task force that seeks to detect, investigate and dismantle corruption and contract fraud resulting from U.S. Overseas Contingency Operations, including in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Guardsmen Hunt Roadside Bombs in Afghanistan

By Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2010 - Joined by fellow National Guardsmen from Georgia, Kansas, South Dakota and Washington, Missouri's "Houn' Dawgs" are sniffing out improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan and rendering them harmless. Sustained by support from back home, members of the Missouri National Guard's 203rd Engineer Battalion are prevailing in this dangerous mission.

"We're all very proud to be here representing our state and our nation," Army Lt. Col. Tony Adrian, the battalion commander, said yesterday during a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable.

Considered one of the most dangerous and important missions assigned to the U.S. military, route clearance ensures safety for those traveling Afghanistan's roads – a mission felt across the region.

The 203rd's area of responsibility is about the size of West Virginia, Adrian said.

"It's a constant cat-and-mouse game with the enemy," he said. "They change their tactics. We change ours. And the cycle goes on."

In addition to the route-clearance mission, Adrian said, troops are preparing for a surge of more American and NATO forces and are training Afghan forces to take over when coalition forces leave.

The Houn' Dawgs deployed last fall and expect to leave Afghanistan later this year. The deployment is the battalion's second in five years. The 203rd served in Iraq in 2003 and 2004.

The 203rd's lineage dates back to 1876. In 1916, the unit became known as the "Houn' Dawg Outfit" after it was associated with a song titled "You Gotta Quick Kickin' My Dog Around."

"One of our biggest [strengths] is the soldiers themselves," said the unit's top enlisted soldier, Army Command Sgt. Maj. Steven Stuenkel, also by phone from Afghanistan. Soldiers scan for signs of IEDs and monitor the demeanor of the local populace, often a clue to trouble ahead, he explained.

"It does boil down to instinct and the quality of leaders that we have over here," Adrian said, noting the caliber of the young lieutenants who serve as platoon leaders for the Houn' Dawgs. "They're able to think on their feet," he said. "They're very ingenious. They've got very good instincts."

The 203rd is equipped with mine-resistant, ambush-protected military vehicles, rocket-propelled grenade cages and detection devices that include ground-penetrating radar, infrared and thermal optics and electrical jamming devices, Stuenkel said.

"Technology is one of our strengths here in this fight," Adrian said. "The technology we have ... is shared with our coalition partners."

And the 203rd's citizen-soldiers are well-trained, he said, noting that more people volunteered for the mission than the Houn' Dawgs could use. "We didn't have any trouble filling the ranks and getting our forces up to strength," he said.

Adrian said the ratio of IEDs found and cleared is one measure of effectiveness – a figure that currently stands at about 75 percent.

"We do very well on that," he said. "Right now, during the winter, it is a slow season for IEDs in most areas. That is all going to change come the warmer weather."

The 203rd commands, controls and supports three Guard sapper companies in Afghanistan: its own 1141st Engineer Company out of Kansas City, Mo., the 211st Engineer Company out of South Dakota and the 810th Engineer Company out of Georgia.

(Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill serves at the National Guard Bureau.)

Indian Police Service Officials Briefed by the FBI New York’s JTTF

January 28, 2010 - Today, members of the FBI New York’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) provided a briefing to delegates from the Indian Police Service (IPS). The IPS, which replaced the Imperial Police (IP) in 1948, is an entity composed of senior police officers from all agencies. Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs New Delhi and IPS delegation leader Bhamathi Balasurbramaniam was present for the briefing in addition to other members of the IPS. The purpose of this meeting was to provide IPS members with an overview of the JTTF. Last year, Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram also visited the FBI’s New York Office. In light of the Mumbai attacks, one of his Ministry’s main objectives was to develop a JTTF infrastructure similar to the FBI’s. Today’s meeting included discussions on related topics.

For more than six decades, the FBI has stationed agents and other personnel overseas to help protect Americans back home by building relationships with principal law enforcement and intelligence services around the globe and facilitating a prompt and continuous exchange of information. Today, we have legal attaché offices—commonly known as legats—and smaller sub-offices in 75 key cities around the globe, providing coverage for more than 200 countries, territories, and islands. In 2000, the FBI opened a legat in New Delhi covering the following territories: India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. The legat in New Dehli works closely with law enforcement officials abroad to ensure the safety of its territories. Our legal attaché program is managed by the International Operations Division at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. This office keeps in close contact with other federal agencies, Interpol, foreign police, and security officers in Washington, and national and international law enforcement associations. International liaison and information sharing are conducted in accordance with Executive Orders, laws, treaties, Attorney General Guidelines, FBI policies, and interagency agreements.

Joint Secretary of The Ministry of Home Affairs Bhamathi Balasurbramaniam said, “It was a pleasure to meet with various members of the FBI’s New York Division. We share a similar mission to protect our citizens and our infrastructure from acts of terrorism and enjoy the cooperation that we share with the FBI.”

Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Aristedes Maharias added, “Our relationship with the IPS is one which we continue to expand as we work toward common goals and objectives. We were happy to host members of the IPS for today’s briefing to discuss critical topics shared by both the FBI and our partners abroad.”

Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) of the New York Office’s Counterterrorism Division Rich Frankel added, “Discussions with our partners from the IPS improves cooperation between our organizations on a wide variety of issues. Many of our investigations focused on terrorism have an international nexus, and the best way to deter such activity is to work together with our partners from foreign nations to neutralize threats to our societies. These visits will help to fortify our relationships with international law enforcement and intelligence agencies who share our common goal of protecting both of our nation’s most valuable resources.”

Homeland Security Daily Open Source InfrastructureReport for 27 January 2010

According to the Christian Science Monitor, at least three U.S. oil companies were the target of a series of previously undisclosed cyberattacks, which occurred in 2008. The breaches were focused on valuable “bid data” detailing the quantity, value, and location of oil discoveries worldwide. (See item 3

The Associated Press reports that authorities in Branchburg, New Jersey on Monday seized a cache of weapons and ammunition from the motel room of a Navy veteran from Reston, Virginia, who also had maps of a U.S. military facility and a town in another state. (See item 28)

Read On

A Boomer's Perspective: From Cold War to War on Terror

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2010 - Born a 1950s baby boomer, I grew up during the Cold War with the threat of nuclear holocaust looming on the horizon. As a little girl, I had dreams in which Russian troops swarmed over the hill in our back yard. Maybe that's what propelled me to serve in the Army for nine years and work as a Defense Department civilian for another 17 years.

No complaints, though. I've had an incredibly fortunate career with the military. I've enjoyed the fun, travel and adventure those old recruiting ads always offered.

I've also seen the world change in a way I never would have imagined possible. I've witnessed the end of the Cold War and visited Soviet-bloc nations as they emerged from behind the Iron Curtain. I've walked in Moscow's Red Square and toured the Kremlin. I've also witnessed the emergence and felt the impact of terrorism.

When I began traveling the world with the U.S. defense secretary as an American Forces Press Service reporter in 1995, terrorists existed only in the shadowy, foreign world of spy novels. No one hurt Americans. We were the white-hatted good guys whom everybody loved.

Granted, there was the 1983 bombing of the U.S. barracks in Beirut. But the attack occurred during Lebanon's civil war, and it happened in the Middle East. Trouble always was brewing there.

Less than 10 years later, in 1993, terrorists bombed New York's World Trade Center. The attack on American soil had to be an anomaly, or so we thought.

In 1995, Timothy McVeigh detonated a Ryder truck full of explosives in front of the government building in Oklahoma City. This wasn't really "terrorism." How could it be? McVeigh and his accomplice, Terry Nichols, were homegrown Americans -- disgruntled wackos, perhaps, but still Americans.

But then in 1996, terrorists detonated a truck bomb near a complex in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, that housed U.S. servicemembers. Apparently, the idea of using "nontraditional" means to strike U.S. targets was catching on.

In 1998, terrorists bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Osama Bin Laden, head of a terrorist group, was the main suspect behind the bombings. Suddenly, terrorism had a face.

The tall, thin, bearded Saudi Arabian religious extremist would henceforth haunt our dreams. We began to hear of terrorist training camps in places like Libya and Afghanistan, and we learned of "jihad" and vows to kill all Americans.

In 2000, in the port of Aden, Yemen, a small group of suicide bombers used a skiff to pull alongside the USS Cole destroyer and detonate a bomb. It now was clear that our nation faced a new enemy that had emerged from the shadows.

This enemy couldn't take on the strength of our armed forces, but it could inflict harm in its own way, in its own time. The terrorists were organized and determined. The name "al-Qaida" gradually wormed its way into our lives.

On Sept. 11, 2001, the reach and horror of this new reality overwhelmed our nation when two hijacked planes crashed into New York's Twin Towers and another slammed into the Pentagon. A fourth hijacked plane en route to the White House crashed in Pennsylvania thanks to the heroic passengers aboard.

The 9/11 attack traumatized, and united, the American people. Then-President George W. Bush launched the global war on terror, and U.S. forces went into Afghanistan to wipe out al-Qaida training camps. A year later, Bush gave the order to invade Iraq.

The die was cast, but not just in America. Terrorist groups struck the Philippines, Tokyo, London, and Madrid. Security heightened at airports around the world. Travelers on planes, trains, subways and cruise ships now faced the threat of terrorism, as did everyday citizens in everyday places.

Throughout these years, AFPS has covered the spread of terrorism and its impact on the U.S. military. I somehow rose through the ranks to become the director of the press service and the Defense Department's home page. I foolishly traded globe-trotting for management.

This week, however, we were stretched pretty thin when word came down that the deputy defense secretary wanted an AFPS reporter on his next trip. Since we already had reporters covering the Pentagon, relief operations in Haiti, aboard the USNS Comfort, and on the road with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, I volunteered to take my first official trip in several years.

I accompanied Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III's official party to London, where he met with top government leaders and addressed two European security groups. He said his overall goal for the trip was to encourage defense cooperation.

Lynn's message to members of Parliament, European military officers and the media was simple and direct: new threats require new capabilities. Developing these capabilities requires cooperation and collaboration by the militaries and defense industries of the United States and its allies. It boils down to an effort to save time and money in putting the right tools and equipment into warfighters' hands.

The old days when two opposing armies faced each other on the front lines are long gone. A need still exists for conventional forces and weapons -- troops, tanks, ships, artillery and air power -- but as we've all seen, the nation's new enemy fights in new ways.

Terrorist groups employ car, truck and shoe bombs. The latest thwarted attack involved powdered explosives in a man's underwear. Kidnappings and beheadings are another means of causing fear and mayhem. Homemade bombs and biological weapons such as anthrax and Sarin gas cause death and destruction.

In Iraq, U.S. and NATO troops first had to deal with homemade bombs known as IEDs -- improvised explosive devices. As we worked to deploy better armor to protect our troops, the enemy developed armor-piercing bombs.

Suicide bombings have been the rage among terrorist groups for years now. It's not easy to detect and deter walking bombs. Everyone becomes a possible threat.

Defense officials dub these methods "unconventional, nontraditional and asymmetric." For the life of me, I've never been able to get a handle on "asymmetric." But I think I've got the general idea -- terrorists will use any means to strike their target.

That's what makes it so hard. This enemy wears no uniform and has no allegiance to a particular nation. Troops never know who they're fighting, or how, when or what the enemy will attack. Consequently, U.S. defense officials are working to change how they train, equip and structure the nation's armed forces.

They're institutionalizing the military's ability to counter terrorism by upgrading special operations forces and strengthening the battlefield "enablers" for "irregular" operations -- helicopter lift, mine-resistant vehicles and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms. They're expanding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. Like the grim reaper, no one knows when an MQ-9 will strike.

The U.S. military is changing rapidly to meet the world's emerging security threats of today and tomorrow. Let's hope Lynn's message is heard far and wide among our allies, and that they'll work together to protect our troops, our people and our homelands.

As for me -- I'm thinking about retiring to a little farm in the country, to sit back with my cats and quietly watch the next couple of decades go by.

Detainee Operations in Afghanistan Focus on Law, Dignity

Christen N. McCluney
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2010 - A joint task force in Afghanistan is working hard to make sure detention operations are in order, the officer in charge of that effort said today. "We maintain the legitimacy of detention as a warfighting tool, and this requires that we demonstrate our commitment to transparency, the rule of law, and to individual human dignity," Navy Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, commander of Joint Task Force 435, said during a ""DoDLive" bloggers roundtable.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates established the task force in September to oversee detainee review processes, programs for the peaceful reintegration of detainees into society, and coordination with other agencies and partners for the promotion of the rule of law in Afghanistan.

The task force has initiated a one-year plan to transition U.S. detention operations through the Afghan defense ministry of defense to the Afghan government, Harward said. This, he explained, will leave the door open for further transition to the Afghan justice ministry in the future.

Meanwhile, the admiral said, proper treatment of detainees remains a top priority.

"We provide each detainee with humane care, custody, medical and dental facilities, on-site family visitation, vocational and educational training," he said.

In addition, he said, the task force intends to provide detainees with skills that will give them viable options other than returning to the insurgency once they return to society.

detention facility that can hold up to 1,050 people has opened in Parwan province, and Afghan government officials signed a memorandum of understanding Jan. 9 that will guide the process for the defense ministry to take the lead on assuming responsibility for the newly completed facility.

Rumors of secret prisons are unfounded, the admiral said.

"There are no 'black jail' secret prisons," he said. "When an individual is first detained, they're taken to a field detention site. At those sites, they're held for a very short period to determine who they are, their classification, and [whether they have] immediately actionable intelligence."

From that point, he said, they're moved to the detention facility in Parwan or released.

"Once an individual is detained," he added, "not only are we notified, but the government of Afghanistan is as well, so that there is a partnership and there is equal responsibility," he said.

Harward also discussed reintegration programs that provide detainees with training, literacy skills and some trades. The task force involves its Afghan partners in that process to create a sense of accountability, he said, not only from the partners who will run the detention facility but also from local leaders who agree to accept these individuals back into their tribes and villages.

Task force officials recognize the role of the informal information exchange with local Afghans, and are trying to develop a formal process under the laws of war in which the Afghans can interact, leading to a timely, well-understood and just system for all, the admiral said.

The Afghans are anxious to take over their role, he added, and the Afghan government is enthusiastic and active.

"We now really are working to align perceptions with reality in what detention operations in Afghanistan are," he said.

(Christen N. McCluney works in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

President Vows to Confront Terrorists, Succeed in Afghanistan

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2010 - President Barack Obama stressed during his State of the Union address tonight the importance of confronting terrorists who threaten the United States and of succeeding in Afghanistan while continuing a responsible military drawdown in Iraq.

Speaking to a joint session of Congress during an address that focused primarily on the economy, the president urged closer cooperation in doing "what it takes to defend our nation and forge a more hopeful future -- for America and the world."

The United States has increased security to disrupt terror plots at home, while continuing to take the fight to the enemy, he said, noting that hundreds of al-Qaida members or affiliates have been captured or killed during the last year alone.

The United States has increased its troop commitment to Afghanistan and is training Afghan security forces so they can begin taking the lead in July 2011, the president said. At that point, he added, "our troops can begin to come home."

Joined by allies and partners who have increased their own commitments in Afghanistan, Obama said, the United States will strive to help Afghanistan build good governance, reduce corruption and support the rights of all its citizens.

The president acknowledged the challenges to be overcome. "There will be difficult days ahead," he told Congress. "But I am absolutely confident we will succeed."

While taking the fight to the terrorists, the United States "is responsibly leaving Iraq to its people," Obama said. He emphasized that although combat troops will leave Iraq by Aug. 31, the U.S. commitment there will continue.

"We will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and prosperity," he said. "But make no mistake: This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home."

In addition to terrorism, Obama recognized what he called "perhaps the greatest danger to the American people" – the threat of nuclear weapons. He emphasized the importance of international cooperation to keep them from falling into terrorists' hands, and the need for continued pressure on North Korea and Iran to get them to abandon their nuclear weapons programs.

The president paid tribute to the men and women in uniform who have stood on the front lines around the world protecting U.S. security.

"They have to know that they have our respect, our gratitude and our full support," he said. "Just as they must have the resources they need in war, we all have a responsibility to support them when they come home."

Obama noted resources dedicated to this continued commitment, including increased funding and program improvements at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and a national commitment to support military families, forged by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden.

In addition to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen and the service chiefs, the invitation for this year's State of the Union address included several military or former military members.

Among those invited to sit with the first lady during the address were:

-- Sgts. Kimberly Munley and Mark Todd, civilian police officers at Fort Hood, Texas, whose quick actions are credited with saving soldiers' lives during the Nov. 5 shooting rampage;

-- Army Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Rubin, a twice-wounded soldier from Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., who just returned from his fourth deployment to Iraq and also has served two tours to Afghanistan;

-- Army Spc. Scott Vycital, who suffered facial paralysis, deafness and serious post-traumatic stress during combat operations in Iraq, but forged a new career with the Federal Highway Administration after attending a disabled veterans jobs program;

-- Janell Kellett, an active volunteer for the Wisconsin Army National Guard, who organized the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team's family readiness group when her husband, Army Maj. Michael Hanson, deployed to Iraq; and

-- Julia Frost, wife of Sgt. Ryan Frost, a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and a former Marine Corps band member herself.