Archive for May, 2008
Homeland Security gets an earful in Congress over a potentially risky move
Source: By Jennifer Landes ~ East Hampton Star
Concern in Congress over the transfer of research on live foot-and-mouth virus from the Plum Island Animal Disease Center to one of five mainland sites competing for a new agro-terrorism research facility might work in the East End’s favor, according to Representative Tim Bishop.
“The ideal outcome for the East End of Long Island is that Plum Island remain a [Biosafety Level 3] facility, conducting its current research,” he said. “I believe we should keep that kind of research on an island as mandated under current law.”
Last Thursday, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on the potential move. Representatives of the Government Accountability Office were critical of the research that the Department of Homeland Security used to determine that moving such research to the mainland would not increase the risk of an outbreak. They read from their report on the research, which was released at the hearing.
In a statement, Senator Charles Schumer said the report was “a troubling window into D.H.S.’s flawed decision-making process and shows that D.H.S. should have left Plum Island a Biosafety Level 3 research center studying animal and plant diseases. Instead, for suspect reasons, they created the false choice of closing it down or pursuing an unwanted and unwarranted Biosafety Level 4 facility, which the delegation and the community will continue to oppose.”
Nancy Kingsbury, a research director for the accountability office, said at the hearing that the Department of Homeland Security “had not conducted or commissioned any study to determine whether foot-and-mouth disease could be studied safely on the mainland.”
Instead, it used a study from 2002 that looked only at the feasibility of relocating the facility. “That’s a different question than if it can be done safely . . . there was no risk assessment,” and no study of the history of virus releases and the difficulties involved in the containment of large animals, she said.
Although Ms. Kingsbury acknowledged that “location in general has no particular advantage” in whether a virus is released, “it can help in the control in the spread of pathogens.”
Imagine being detained or arrested at the airport because of your body language? Well it could happen if Chertoff has anything to do with it. While attending a conference in Jerusalem for public and homeland security ministers, he signed an agreement with Israel to share behavior detection technology. He stated that he will seek to adopt “novel Israeli methods”, to better secure America’s airports. The interview discloses that he really thinks it is a good idea, ”it will improve Homeland Security”. I believe at this juncture the Homeland should be protected from him, but that’s just me.
Chertoff said such methods, as well as Israeli technologies that detect explosives, are some of the things that may help protect U.S. airports and other public places against attacks.
Chertoff, at a conference in Jerusalem for public and homeland security ministers from around the world, signed an agreement with Israel to share technology and information on methods to improve homeland security.
One of the new systems presented at the conference, developed by the Israeli technology company WeCU, uses behavioural science, together with biometric sensors, to detect sinister intentions among travellers.
The U.S. homeland security chief said that not all methods developed and used in Israel, such as questioning every passenger, are practical in larger U.S. airports.
The company he is relying on for this technology is WeCU Technologies Ltd. One look at the company’s website and one can see what they are about “Fight the Bomber, Not the Bomb”. The technology is relatively new but they claim;
The system is based on a unique probing method invented by the company and employing knowledge from the behavioral sciences in combination with advanced biometric sensors.
Privacy protection – The system is non-invasive and does not require human questioning; it does not use, collect or store any history of personal details. No discrimination, no violation of human rights.
There was some good news.
Chertoff is expected to leave his post when President George W. Bush finishes his term in January 2009.
Ahh, 1/20/09 The end of an Error
Former high-ranking Bush officials enjoy war profits
Richard L. Armitage, who served from 2001 to 2005 as Deputy Secretary of State, was a rarity in the Bush administration: an official who delighted in talking to the press. Reporters loved him for his withering criticism of the neoconservative zealots around President George W. Bush and in part because he fed them tidbits about the White House they could obtain nowhere else. His accidental disclosure to conservative columnist Robert Novak that Valerie Plame, the wife of Iraq war critic Joseph Wilson, was working undercover for the Central Intelligence Agency remains one of the most notorious leaks of the Bush era.But perhaps because of his cozy ties to the Washington press corps and the media’s obsession with Plamegate, very little has been written about Armitage’s extensive business dealings. In fact, Armitage is one of the most successful capitalists in Washington. He has successfully parlayed his experience in covert operations and secret diplomacy into a thriving career as a consultant and adviser to some of the biggest players in America’s Intelligence Industrial Complex — corporations that are working at the heart of U.S. national security and profiting handsomely from it.Armitage, currently an adviser to presidential candidate John McCain, had once been Colin Powell’s closest ally during the bitter disputes inside the Bush administration over the invasion and occupation of Iraq. According to the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, Armitage advised Powell on more than one occasion to tell the neocons to “go fuck themselves,” and, at one point, even refused to deliver a speech about Iraq drafted for him by Vice President Dick Cheney’s office.Yet, three years after those epic battles, Armitage is enjoying life as a stakeholder in a dozen private companies that are making money directly from the war started by his former nemeses.
Over the past decade, contracting for America’s spy agencies has grown into a $50 billion industry that eats up seven of every 10 dollars spent by the U.S. government on its intelligence services. Today, unbeknownst to most Americans, agencies once renowned for their prowess in analysis, covert operations, electronic surveillance and overhead reconnaissance outsource many of their core tasks to the private sector. The bulk of this market is serviced by about 100 companies, ranging in size from multibillion dollar defense behemoths to small technology shops funded by venture capitalists.
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Rep. Winkie Wilkins seems to be unaware of a little code of ethics thing called “conflict of interest”. This video is decated to him.
Indy Weeky’s Lisa Sorg provides more information on the proposed legislation.
Durham rep requests $25 million for NBAF
Source: Lisa Sorg – Independent Weekly
Call it a family favor.
State Rep. W.A. “Winkie” Wilkins, a Democrat representing Durham and Person counties, has introduced a bill that would appropriate $25 million to Granville County for infrastructure related to the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility—should it be sited in Butner.
Wilkins’ brother, Mike Wilkins, is the vice president of statewide operations and economic development for the N.C. Biotechnology Center, one of the groups lobbying the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to place NBAF in Butner. Four other cities are also competing for the facility: Flora, Miss.; San Antonio, Texas; Athens, Ga.; and Manhattan, Kan.
A former legislator, Mike Wilkins told the Indy earlier this month that he had approached Democratic state Rep. Jim Crawford, who represents Granville and Vance counties, to sponsor the bill.
At the time, Crawford said he was undecided.
Rep. Wilkins could not be reached Wednesday afternoon for comment.
If the bill passes, the money reportedly would go to upgrading roads, sewer and other utilities that would serve the plant.
Durham resident Kathryn Spann, who opposes NBAF, met with Wilkins Wednesday morning to discuss the legislation, House Bill 2635.
“Representative Wilkins has a strong background of principled voting,” Spann said. “He may not have received full information on this.”
Last week, members of the Government Accountability Office testified before Congress that Homeland Security had withheld documents pertaining to environmental impact studies for the proposed sites. Moreover, DHS relied on a flawed and inaccurate Agriculture Department study to justify recommending the relocation of the research center from Plum Island to mainland United States. (See “NBAF lambasted in Congress.”)
NBAF researchers would study some of the world’s most contagious diseases, including those that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Foot-and-mouth disease, a devastating and highly infectious disease that affects cattle, pigs and sheep, is currently studied at Plum Island, but that research would move to NBAF. An outbreak would likely disable the livestock industry, resulting in the ban of exports.
At the congressional hearing, it was revealed that there have been more than 100 accidents over the past four years at high-level disease research labs—the majority as a result of human error.
“Fundamental safety problems remain,” Spann said. “Agriculture is one-fifth of our economy. Foot-and-mouth disease will devastate this state. And over the 50-year lifespan of the facility, we must expect at least one disease would be released. We don’t have an ocean perimeter.”
As a friend of mine said the other day “someone should eat Bush’s lunch”. I’m still not sure what that means but I believe Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan’s new book may do just that. The book titled, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception is due out next week. According to Politico the book is filled with shocking revelations, . Oh really?
• McClellan charges that Bush relied on “propaganda” to sell the war.
• He says the White House press corps was too easy on the administration during the run-up to the war.
• He admits that some of his own assertions from the briefing room podium turned out to be “badly misguided.”
• The longtime Bush loyalist also suggests that two top aides held a secret West Wing meeting to get their story straight about the CIA leak case at a time when federal prosecutors were after them — and McClellan was continuing to defend them despite mounting evidence they had not given him all the facts.
• McClellan asserts that the aides — Karl Rove, the president’s senior adviser, and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice president’s chief of staff — “had at best misled” him about their role in the disclosure of former CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity.
It sounds like just another day in the Bush Administration to me. Does lunch include dessert?
Substitute McCain for Bush and abracadabra you have the reason, their camera-shy base. Bush describes his audience so elegantly as ”Impressive crowd, the haves and the have mores”.
His policies definitely haven’t let his base down at the economic expense of all else. McSame is off to a similar start.
Since when is an IRS protest concerning unfair labor practices a matter of national security? See for yourself. (Video opens to a new window) We are living in some crazy times folks.
Not ten minutes after IRS employees of the Austin Accounts Management center near I-35 and Ben White began protesting their office policies Tuesday afternoon, Homeland Security police began ordering them to leave.
The workers, represented under the National Treasury Employees Union, are upset about what they see as a double-standard in how managers are handling vacation days and late penalties when family is sick or when an employee is stuck in traffic.
”You can’t take leave to be with your dying father. You’re not taking care of him, therefore we have no obligation to let you go. They charged him AWOL,” Dorothy Pistole said, explaining a situation which she said happened to a colleague. KLBJ asked Pistole if the employees group has any fears of retaliation.
“We can use this as a marker to say, at this point, management didn’t have any problem with what the employee has done. But all the sudden now management is treating the employees differently? Then we have a point when we can start looking at a retaliation grievance.”
“It’s very important. The holiday is all about service to America. A lot of them, they were in the military. A lot of them have military families now,” Union President Ed Walker says. “They denied all of this leave before the Economic Stimulus Program came out, so if they began using that as an excuse, they would not be telling the truth.”
“We have filed grievances on behalf of hundreds of people here. Some people were able to get off [work] as the result of this and the embarrassment.”
The IRS has refused to comment on the Tuesday protest.