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Archive for December, 2009

The White House Incident Needs to Be Kept in Perspective

James G. Huse is a retired assistant director of the U.S. Secret Service and a retired Inspector General for Social Security.

By James G. Huse Jr.

In the wake of the kabuki surrounding the media focus on the bizarre escapades of White House crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi, one fact stands completely indisputable: there is no such thing as perfect security.

The Secret Service knows this from its long history, and from that, has built its protective operations accordingly. All Secret Service protective operations are woven from inter-locking internal controls (some highly classified) that not only reinforce each other, but provide parallel assurance as well.

In the context of this incident, as the Director of the Secret Service Mark Sullivan testified before the Congress, neither the President’s safety or well-being or that of the Prime Minister of India were jeopardized by the attendance of the non-invited Salahis to the state dinner.

Any security system for public dignitaries that depends on the discretionary judgments of humans, has to accept the risk of human error as a variable.

Indeed, in this incident the failure of these controls at a critical checkpoint allowed the Salahis their uninvited access. How that failure transpired is under intense investigation by the Secret Service, and appropriate adjustments and actions will follow as a result.

Nevertheless, what is not clearly reported, is that other concurrent security operations were successfully performed at the state dinner, that assured the safety of the President and his distinguished Head of Government guest.

The strident critics of the Secret Service do not understand this concurrent security dynamic, or do not care to comprehend this reality because it deflates their various theses that this incident is the result of mismanagement or budget stinginess.

The clear understanding that human error can occur drives the development of Secret Service protective operations plans and execution.

In my own personal experience as a special agent, I remember the state arrival ceremonies on the South Grounds of the White House, in 1979 for the Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping, that were disrupted by an unruly individual in the press pool who screamed out unflattering epithets at the visiting dignitary during his speech.

Subsequent investigation revealed that the individual had garnered press credentials with a claimed affiliation to a non-existent publication. While the arrival ceremony was marred by this breech of etiquette, neither President Carter or Leader Deng Xiaoping were endangered in any way.

In later years as an Assistant Director, I was the Chief Investigator for the White House Security Review that followed the September 1994 small plane crash on the South Grounds of the White House, and the semi-automatic weapons firing by Francisco Duran at individuals on the North Grounds of the White House in October 1994.

This investigation and the subsequent publication of the White House Security Review in 1995 resulted in substantive recommendations to improve the security of the White House complex, and yet, in neither incident was the security of President Clinton harmed in any way because of existing concurrent security operations and planning.

The Secret Service has a difficult mission and does not seek to avoid or compromise its responsibilities for the safety of its designated protected individuals.

It understands that constant improvement is the guarantor for operational success. The Secret Service accepts that its vital trust to protect the President is not an impossible mission but knows it is a most complex and dynamic one, where the public access to its leaders in a representative democracy is a constant dynamic.

Column: Ex-Secret Service Official Says White House Incident Must be Put in Perspective

James G. Huse is a retired assistant director of the U.S. Secret Service and a retired Inspector General for Social Security.

James Huse

James Huse

By James G. Huse Jr.
ticklethewire.com columnist

In the wake of the kabuki surrounding the media focus on the bizarre escapades of White House crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi, one fact stands completely indisputable: there is no such thing as perfect security.

The Secret Service knows this from its long history, and from that, has built its protective operations accordingly. All Secret Service protective operations are woven from inter-locking internal controls (some highly classified) that not only reinforce each other, but provide parallel assurance as well.

In the context of this incident, as the Director of the Secret Service Mark Sullivan testified before the Congress, neither the President’s safety or well-being or that of the Prime Minister of India were jeopardized by the attendance of the non-invited Salahis to the state dinner.

Any security system for public dignitaries that depends on the discretionary judgments of humans, has to accept the risk of human error as a variable.

Indeed, in this incident the failure of these controls at a critical checkpoint allowed the Salahis their uninvited access. How that failure transpired is under intense investigation by the Secret Service, and appropriate adjustments and actions will follow as a result.

Nevertheless, what is not clearly reported, is that other concurrent security operations were successfully performed at the state dinner, that assured the safety of the President and his distinguished Head of Government guest.

The strident critics of the Secret Service do not understand this concurrent security dynamic, or do not care to comprehend this reality because it deflates their various theses that this incident is the result of mismanagement or budget stinginess.

Read more »

Ex-NJ U.S. Attorney Chris Christie Off the Hook as Defense Witness

Christopher Christie/campaign photo

Christopher Christie/campaign photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Ex-U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie who is now Gov-elect of New Jersey, is off the hook.

Turns out he won’t have to testify as a defense witness in the trial of a white supremacist shock jock Hal Turner, who is accused of threatening the lives of three Illinois federal judges.

The defense had subpeonaed Christie in the trial, which is being held in Brooklyn. The Associated Press reported that the defense decided not to call any witnesses.

Closing arguments are scheduled for Friday. The case had been moved from Chicago to Brooklyn after a request was made for a change of venue. During trial, evidence showed that Turner worked as an FBI informant.

Suspect in Chandra Levy Murder Charged With Threatening Witness

Chandra Levy

Chandra Levy

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The man accused of killing intern Chandra Levy in 2001, has been charged with threatening a witness, a fellow inmate, from testifying against him, the Washington Post reported.

The U.S. Attorneys Office in Washington this week filed a superseding indictment against suspect Ingmar Guandique, 28, adding an obstruction of justice charge in connection with the threat.

The Post reported that authorities moved the the inmate who was threatened. In all, the prosecutor’s office added three new charges in the superseding indictment.

As a result, the trial will now begin in October instead of next month. Guandique is currently serving a 10 year sentence for attacking two female joggers in Rock Creek Park in Washington, not far from where Levy’s remains were found in 2002.

Govt Report Says U.S. Has Spent a Fraction of Money Pledged to Fight Mexican Drug Cartels

The war against the Mexican Cartels is a critical one for not only Mexico but the U.S. as well. The cartels have killed hordes of people in Mexico and the U.S. and successfully bribed Mexican and U.S. officials. This U.S. should be ashamed of the findings in this report. Talk is cheap.

mexico-map-istock

By William Booth
Washington Post Foreign Service

MEXICO CITY — The United States has spent a fraction of the money pledged — just $24 million of $1.3 billion appropriated — to help Mexico in its bloody three-year-old battle against the drug cartels that have turned parts of country into a war zone and left 15,000 dead, according to a U.S. government report issued Thursday.

This Story

The Merida Initiative, signed by President George W. Bush and Mexican leader Felipe Calderón in 2007, promises Black Hawk helicopters, night-vision goggles and drug-sniffing dogs, as well as a more robust crime-fighting partnership between the United States and Mexico. So far the United States has delivered 2 percent of the equipment and support promised, according to the report by the Government Accountability Office.

For Full Report

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Now That Wasn’t Very Long: Deputy Atty. Gen. David Ogden Stepping Down

People inside the department complained of low morale and too much politics. Interestingly, it’s not a very long time to stick around. Then again, better to go now if it’s not working out instead of dragging it out and creating more problems.

David Ogden/law firm photo

David Ogden/law firm photo

By Joe Palazzolo
Main Justice

WASHINGTON — After less than a year as the Justice Department’s No. 2 official, David Ogden is returning to private practice, the department announced Thursday. His resignation will take effect on Feb. 5, allowing the Obama administration time to nominate his successor.

Ogden, 56, co-chaired President Barack Obama’s Justice Department transition team and was confirmed as Deputy Attorney General in March. He is expected to return to Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, where he was co-chair of the government and regulatory litigation practice group.

Rumors had circulated for weeks that Ogden was on his way out amid reports of bad morale at the Justice Department and displeasure with his management style.

For Full Story

Secret Service Dir. Mark Sullivan Tells Congress Procedures Were Not Followed At White House Party; 3 Uniformed Officers Placed on Leave

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secret Service Mark Sullivan arrived at a Congressional hearing on Thursday to not only deliver a mea culpa for the lapse in security at the White House during a state dinner, but to announce that three uniformed U.S. Secret Service officers have been put on leave.

“Established protocols and procedures were not followed,” Sullivan said, adding  “In our line of work we cannot afford even one mistake.”

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyLTtqPUXQg

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Authorities Find Mexico-U.S. Tunnel with Lighting, Ventilation and Elevator

tijuana mapBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Mexican authorities, acting on info from U.S. federal investigators, shut down a yet to be completed underground tunnel on Wednesday that originated in Tijuana, Mexico and extended 860 feet into San Diego.

The tunnel, measuring just under 1000 feet in length and 90 to 100 feet in depth, had lighting, ventilation and an elevator system, the Drug Enforcement Administration said. The tunnel did not yet have an entry point in the U.S.

“The discovery of this unfinished tunnel bears witness to the extraordinary cooperation between all agencies involved in the task force and the Government of Mexico,” Ralph W. Partridge, DEA special agent in charge of the San Diego office  said in a statement. “It is extremely important to the San Diego area and the entire United States that his cooperative effort stopped the completion of this drug smuggling corridor before even an ounce of drugs could be transported through it.”

Authorities said the Mexican government arrested more than a dozen people inside the tunnel, which may have been under construction for about two years.

The Mexican government acted on information provided by the San Diego Tunnel Task Force comprised of multiple agencies.