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Archive for February 12th, 2021

Weekend Series on Crime History: FBI’s Mark Felt, Who Was ‘Deep Throat’

CBP to End Surveillance Blimp Program Over High Costs

CBP’s surveillance climbs. Photo via CBP.

By Steve Neavling

CBP is discontinuing a seven-year-old program that funds the use of surveillance blimps in the Rio Grand Valley. 

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar said the Tactical Aerostats and Re-Locatable Towers (TAS) program has become too costly, GovernmentTechnology.com reports

“It’s a self-inflicted wound because you all went ahead and got into contracts with vendors and you are paying too much, and I’ve been telling you for years to slow down and lower the price,” Cuellar said about Border Patrol leadership. 

The aerostats, equipped with radars and high-resolution and infrared cameras, can fly up to 5,000 feet. 

Cuellar said private contracts were paid too much. 

“The balloon is already paid for and all you are doing is paying millions of bucks to bring it up and down,” Cuellar said of the TAS contract.

CBP’s budget for the program has been $29 million a year since 2013. 

Cuellar is hoping to eventually revive the program by ending the use of private contracts to reduce the costs. 

“So what are they going to do with these aerostats now? So there’s a lot of questions once they get fully staffed at Homeland. I want to go into this,” Cuellar said.

Biden’s Homeland Security to Combat Domestic Violence Extremism with New Funds

Alex Gakos/Shutterstock.com

By Steve Neavling

The Biden administration plans to boost funding from the Department of Homeland Security to help study and prevent the rise of domestic violence extremism. 

“We have successfully advocated for additional funds. We intend to keep building on preventing domestic terrorism departmentwide,” a DHS official told NBC News.

The DHS’s Office of Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention provides funding for projects aimed at combating domestic extremism. The Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol underscores the threats from rising extremism. 

Under the Trump adminstatoin, the office provided $500,000 to allow American University to study the “growing threat of violent white supremacist extremist disinformation.” But the Trump administration also canceled a grant aimed at studying neo-Nazis. 

The Trump administration has been accused of ignoring the threats of domestic terrorism, a term that DHS didn’t use under Trump, according to Elizabeth Neumann, the former DHS’ assistant secretary for counterterrorism and threat prevention.

“We did expand domestic terrorism prevention under Trump, but when it came to questions of how we could change the domestic terrorism statute to charge people more easily, there were no adults at the White House who were willing to go there, nor was anyone willing to define the threat,” Neumann said.

Biden’s DHS isn’t shying away domestic violent extremism. 

“Domestic violent extremism poses one of the gravest threats to our homeland, and Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas has made clear that combatting it is a top priority. Our primary responsibility is to protect the safety and security of the American people, which means taking actions to prevent violence before it occurs,” a DHS spokesperson said.