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DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: INTERVIEW WITH OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL'S CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, CARLTON I. MANN

Posted by All About the Money
All About the Money
All About the Money airs from 9 am to 10 pm on alternate Fridays and is hosted by John Sakowicz.
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on Tuesday, 29 October 2013 in Uncategorized

DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: INTERVIEW WITH OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL'S CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, CARLTON I. MANN

 

In what seems like the never-ending war against terrorism -- and in what civil libertarians have argued is also a war against its own citizens -- the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has just released a report that things have changed. 

 DHS says it has a new plan for its 240,000 employees and $60 billion budget.

 In case you missed it, DHS Office of Inspector General's Carlton I. Mann, Chiief Operating Officer, interviewed with Federal News Radio's In Depth regarding their Fiscal Year 2014 Annual Performance Plan, available on the DHS website.

The interview was made public today, 29 October 2013.

 A friend at the ACLU just forwarded the link to me. Here it is.

 Link to Interview:

http://www.federalnewsradio.com/86/3493000/In-Depth-Show-Blog---October-28-2013

 My friends at the ACLU  also forwarded me this scary link of Laura K. Donohue at the Commonwealth Club of California discussing a little known extension of executive power under the U.S. Patriot Act. Ms. Donohue is a Professor of Law at Georgetown Law and the Director of Georgetown's Center for National Security and the Law.

Link to Interview:

http://fora.tv/2008/09/11/Laura_Donohue_The_Consequences_of_Counterterrorism#VYM6jkeYzxKuPtm5.99

 This new extension of executive power gives the DHS power to freeze financial accounts of any suspected terrorist or anyone associated with a suspected terrorist before they have been proven guilty.

Very scary stuff.

And in clear violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Back to Carlton I. Mann's interview -- Mann's interview follows a new, highly implausible report by the Department of Homeland Security Efficiency Review. The report claims the DHS is now more transparent and accountable. The report goes on to say DHS is also now leaner, smarter, and more responsive and better equipped to protect the nation.

 See report:

https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/MGMT/FY%202014%20BIB%20-%20FINAL%20-508%20Formatted%20%284%29.pdf

 DHS more transparent and accountable? 

 Leaner? Smarter? More responsive? Better equipped to protect the nation?

 Hmm. We'll see.

 Past is often prologue. Let's look at DHS's history.

 Regarding excess, waste, and ineffectiveness, the Department of Homeland Security has been dogged by persistent criticism ever since its inception following 9/11.

 Excessive bureaucracy at DHS?

 You bet!

 A House of Representatives subcommittee estimated that as of September 2008 the Department wasted roughly $15 billion in failed contracts. In 2003, the Department came under fire after the media revealed that Laura Callahan, Deputy chief information officer at DHS with responsibilities for sensitive national security databases, had obtained her advanced computer science degrees through a diploma mill in a small town in Wyoming. 

 A diploma mill! 

 The Department was further blamed for up to $2 billion of waste and fraud after audits by the Government Accountability Office revealed widespread misuse of government credit cards by DHS employees, with purchases including beer brewing kits, $70,000 of plastic dog booties that were later deemed unusable, boats purchased at double the retail price (many of which later could not be found), and iPods ostensibly for use in "data storage" but which ended up in the sweaty little hands of DHS employees for personal use.

 Regarding reports that the Department of Homeland Security was illegally engaging in data mining (ADVISE), the Associated Press reported on September 5, 2007, that DHS had scrapped an anti-terrorism data mining tool called ADVISE (Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight and Semantic Enhancement) after the agency's Privacy Office and Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that pilot testing of the system had been performed using data on real people without having done a Privacy Impact Assessment, a required privacy safeguard for the various uses of real personally identifiable information required by section 208 of the e-Government Act of 2002. 

The OIG report noted that ADVISE was poorly planned, time-consuming for analysts to use, and lacked adequate justifications. The system, in development at Lawrence Livermore and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory since 2003, had cost the agency $42 million to date. Controversy over the program preceded the Privacy Office and OIG reports; in March 2007, the Government Accountability Office stated that "the ADVISE tool could misidentify or erroneously associate an individual with undesirable activity such as fraud, crime, or terrorism.

Fusion Centers were another fiasco at the Department of Homeland Security. 

Fusion Centers are supposed to be terrorism prevention and response centers, many of which were created under a joint project between the Department of Homeland Security and the US Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs between 2003 and 2007. The Fusion Centers gather information not only from government sources, but also from their partners in the private sector.

Fusion Centers are supposed to be designed to promote information sharing at the federal level between agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Justice, US Military and state and local level government. As of July 2009, the Department of Homeland Security recognized at least seventy-two Fusion Centers. Fusion Centers may also be affiliated with an Emergency Operations Center that responds in the event of a disaster.

But hold on.

There are a large number of documented criticisms of Fusion Centers, including relative ineffectiveness at counterterrorism activities, the potential to be used for secondary purposes unrelated to counterterrorism, and their links to violations of civil liberties of American citizens and others.

David Rittgers of the Cato Institute has noted: "A long line of fusion center and DHS reports labeling broad swaths of the public as a threat to national security. The North Texas Fusion System labeled Muslim lobbyists as a potential threat; a DHS analyst in Wisconsin thought both pro- and anti-abortion activists were worrisome; a Pennsylvania homeland security contractor watched environmental activists, Tea Party groups, and a Second Amendment rally; the Maryland State Police put anti-death penalty and anti-war activists in a federal terrorism database; a fusion center in Missouri thought that all third-party voters and Ron Paul supporters were a threat. The list of false labeling of innocent people who are presumed to be terrorist threats goes on and on."

The Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC) made news in 2009 for targeting supporters of third party candidates, pro-life activists, and conspiracy theorists as potential militia members. Anti-war activists and Islamic lobby groups were targeted in Texas, drawing criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Privacy Office has identified seven areas of risk to privacy presented by the Fusion Center program: 1) justification for Fusion Centers, 2) ambiguous lines of authority, rules, and oversight, 3) participation of the military and the private sector, 4) data mining, 5) excessive secrecy, 6) inaccurate or incomplete information, and 7) mission creep.

"Mission creep"...yes, it's as creepy as it sounds.

In early April 2009, the Virginia Fusion Center came under criticism for publishing a terrorism threat assessment which stated that certain universities are potential hubs for terror related activity. The report targeted historically black colleges and identified "hacktivism" as a form of terrorism.

Regarding DHS's mail interception program, in 2006, MSNBC reported that Grant Goodman, "an 81-year-old retired University of Kansas history professor, received a letter from his friend in the Philippines that had been opened and resealed with a strip of dark green tape bearing the words “by Border Protection” and carrying the official Homeland Security seal." The letter was sent by a devout Catholic Filipino woman with no history of supporting Islamic terrorism.

A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection "acknowledged that the agency can, will, and does open mail coming to U.S. citizens that originates from a foreign country whenever it's deemed necessary."

“All mail originating outside the United States Customs territory that is to be delivered inside the U.S. Customs territory is subject to Customs examination,” says the CBP Web site. That includes personal correspondence. “All mail means all mail,’” said John Mohan, a CBP spokesman, emphasizing the point.

The Department of Homeland Security declined to outline what criteria are used to determine when a piece of personal correspondence should be opened or to say how often or in what volume U.S. Customs might be opening mail.

Goodman's story provoked outrage in the blogosphere, as well as in the mainstream media. Reacting to the incident, Mother Jones remarked that "unlike other prying government agencies, Homeland Security wants you to know it is watching you". CNN observed that "on the heels of the NSA wiretapping controversy, Goodman's letter raises more concern over the balance between privacy and security."

Finally, a word about DHS morale.

In July 2006, the Office of Personnel Management conducted a survey of federal employees in all 36 federal agencies on job satisfaction and how they felt their respective agency was headed. DHS was last or near to last in every category including:

33rd on the talent management index

35th on the leadership and knowledge management index

36th on the job satisfaction index

36th on the results-oriented performance culture index

The low scores were attributed to major concerns about basic supervision, management and leadership within the agency. Examples from the survey reveal most concerns are about promotion and pay increase based on merit, dealing with poor performance, rewarding creativity and innovation, leadership generating high levels of motivation in the workforce, recognition for doing a good job, lack of satisfaction with various component policies and procedures and lack of information about what is going on with the organization.

A 2007 AP poll ranked DHS at the bottom of an index of consumer satisfaction among cabinet departments, and two of its agencies, FEMA and TSA, at the bottom, below the IRS.

Below the IRS! 

-----------------------------  

Let's go back to DHS Office of Inspector General Carlton I. Mann, Chief Operating Officer, and his interview today with Federal News Radio's In Depth regarding their Fiscal Year 2014 Annual Performance Plan, which is described in the link at the top of this post.

In the interview, Mann says the Annual Performance Plan is the DHS “roadmap” for the projects planned to evaluate DHS programs and operations in the future. In devising this plan, DHS endeavors to assess DHS’s progress in meeting the most critical issues it faces. This plan may describe more projects than may be completed in FY 2014, and it tries to take into account future developments and requests from DHS management and Congress that may occur as the year progresses.

As you'll hear in Mann's interview, the Department of Homeland Security has planned just over 90 new projects for FY 2014. The plan also includes over 100 projects carried forward from the prior fiscal year that are referred to as in progress projects. DHS has provided web links to give details on the background and objectives. Also, some projects initiated this year may carry over into FY 2015. 

 It's a lot to take in. 

DHS says it has a new plan for its 240,000 employees and $60 billion budget, but when all is said and done, DHS may resemble more of a federal jobs program than an agency that truly protects our nation. 

Is DHS yet another example of federal corporate welfare? Does DHS really contribute anything significant to "homeland security".

We'll ask that question in a future show at "All About Money" on KZYX.

Finally, is DHS just another example of federal waste, fraud, and corruption like the waste, fraud, and corruption at the Department of Defense (DOD) over at the Pentagon?

You decide, but let's never forget Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's press conference the day before 9/11 at which Rumsfeld declared war not on terrorism, but on waste, fraud, and corruption at the DOD. Rumsfeld said $2.3 trillion was missing.

Then, the Twin Towers came down.

After 9/11, Rumsfeld couldn't even remember the press conference. No one ever mentioned waste, fraud, and corruption at DOD again.

But the record of the press conference exists. It aired on CBS, but few people remember either the press conference or its curious timing the day before 9/11.

Link to the Press Conference:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQpp81uQXqY

Thank you.

John Sakowicz

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All About the Money airs from 9 am to 10 pm on alternate Fridays and is hosted by John Sakowicz.

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