Thursday, March 17, 2005

News for March 17th: Green Edition

Ah yes, St. Patrick’s Day, the one day where everyone thinks they’re Irish-American. As a fourth-generation Irish-American, I suppose I don’t see the harm in it. It’s nice that people pay attention to them once a year, but it’s better than nothing, I suppose.

Anyway, let’s dive right into it. That “anthrax alarm”? Turns out it revealed a few flaws in the response system. Of course, it doesn’t mean they’ll be fixed (believe me, I worked with government agencies, I know of which I speak).

Anthrax Alarm Uncovers Response Flaws
Pentagon Procedures Baffled Other Agencies, Delaying Health Officials

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 17, 2005; Page A01

The anthrax scare at the Pentagon this week exposed gaps between the military's procedures in handling biohazards and those of the rest of the federal government, which could increase the threat to public health in the event of an actual contamination, health experts and federal and Virginia officials said yesterday.

Health officials inside government and out said the Pentagon's reliance on detection and response systems that are isolated from those at other federal agencies delayed Virginia health officials, the U.S. Postal Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in moving to protect the public from a possible biohazard in the mail.

"The takeaway for me is, the government hasn't learned too many lessons from the last few years," said Scott J. Becker, executive director of the Association of Public Health Laboratories. "The Department of Defense appears to be developing their own detection systems. . . . The linkages to public health just didn't seem to be there. Clearly, things broke down."

In the muddle, local hazardous materials teams were confused by sensor equipment that differed from equipment used by the Postal Service and Department of Homeland Security, said Robert B. Stroube, Virginia's health commissioner.

State and federal officials responsible for deciding public health actions said scientists had trouble interpreting the findings from a Pentagon contract lab, which is not part of the CDC's national network of labs that respond to bioterror.

More at the Washington Post

But that’s okay because we have Mr. Chertoff on the job! Never mind that he’s going to restructure an organization that’s already gone through a minimum of two restructurings already. Pay no attention the man behind the curtain!

Chertoff Orders Agency Review
Changes Possible, DHS Chief Says

By John Mintz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 17, 2005; Page A23

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said yesterday that he has launched a top-to-bottom review of the 180,000-employee department and will consider revamping entire agencies and programs that are part of it.

"Old categories, old jurisdictions and old turf will not define our objectives," Chertoff said in a speech at George Washington University, 13 days after he took over the department. "Bureaucratic structures and categories exist to serve our mission, and not to drive it."

Chertoff described his 60- to 90-day examination as "a comprehensive review of our entire organization, the way it's structured . . . and its policies."

In an interview with reporters, Chertoff declined to elaborate on possible changes, but officials said one option is merging two of its agencies. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which investigates crimes, and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which monitors foreigners arriving at U.S. airports, are separate parts of the former U.S. Customs Service and the old Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Proponents say the reunited agency would function more effectively.

In his speech, Chertoff said his study to identify the department's top priorities will focus on three factors: the specific kinds of threats terrorists pose, American society's vulnerabilities to attack and which kinds of attacks would be most devastating.

More at the Washington Post

Of course, there are always rewards to be had in incompetence…

Home Team Advantage
By Bob Williams, The Center for Public Integrity. Posted March 17, 2005.

The Department of Homeland Security deems tiny Mercyhurst College – located in ex-DHS secretary Tom Ridge's hometown – the sole source to provide training for intelligence analysts. Story Tools

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2005 – A tiny college located in the hometown of ex-Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge is negotiating a no-bid contract to train intelligence analysts for the sprawling agency. In doing so, the agency is short-circuiting a selection process that would normally include a host of bigger and better known institutions already working in that field such as George Washington University and Georgetown University.

Late last month, the Department of Homeland Security filed notice it was entering into negotiations on a sole source basis with Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa., to develop and run an intelligence analyst certificate program for the department. Mercyhurst is a liberal arts, private, Catholic school located on the eastern shore of Lake Erie. The school has an enrollment of about 3,100.

(A new academic building scheduled to open this fall on a satellite campus of the college will be named the Tom and Michele Ridge Health and Safety Building. School officials say the decision to name the building in honor of the Ridges was made several years ago when the Erie native, who was then governor of Pennsylvania, helped secure $2 million in financing for the project. )

The total cost of the contract could not be determined from the few details released by DHS about the deal.

The contracting officer handling the Mercyhurst deal for DHS said she was not at liberty to discuss any details, but said that "a number of other vendors" had expressed an interest in bidding on the project after the sole source notification became public on Feb. 25.

"There are some issues," said DHS contracting officer Brenda Musgrove when contacted by telephone. "I can't really say anything more about it."

DHS spokesman Tom Burke said he would not talk about the contract on the record. Earlier, Burke did talk to Homeland Security Daily, a newsletter published by Congressional Quarterly, which first reported the school's pursuit of the contract. He told the newsletter that the department's decision to negotiate exclusively with Mercyhurst for the training program was based on speed, cost and flexibility.

More at Alternet

Now, more about bad appointments: #1 Paul Wolfowitz. I had to laugh when I saw that Bush cited Wolfowitz’s experience helping to manage the Pentagon as a sign of his capability. Yeah, because he did that so well.

Wolfowitz Picked for World Bank
Bush Nominee for Chief Faces Opposition Overseas

By Paul Blustein and Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 17, 2005; Page A01

President Bush said yesterday that he has chosen Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, a key architect of the Iraq war, as the U.S. nominee to head the World Bank.

The announcement was an aggressive move to put the administration's stamp on the World Bank, the largest source of aid to developing countries, by installing at the bank's helm a leading advocate of the U.S. campaign to spur democracy in the Middle East. But it risked a new rift with countries critical of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, especially since it came so soon after Bush's nomination of John R. Bolton, another prominent hawk, as ambassador to the United Nations.

The nomination shocked many among the bank's 10,000-member staff and in many capitals abroad, especially in Europe. When Wolfowitz's name surfaced a couple of weeks ago as a possible nominee, many diplomats and bank insiders dismissed his prospects as remote. Although the United States traditionally gets to choose the World Bank chief, there was speculation that a Wolfowitz candidacy could be torpedoed by the board of the bank, a 184-nation institution that has always operated by consensus.

Bush said at a news conference that he chose Wolfowitz, 61, because he is "committed to development" and is "a compassionate, decent man."

The president also said that as No. 2 at the Pentagon, Wolfowitz had demonstrated skill for managing a large institution.

More at the Washington Post

I called this awhile ago. Another social conservative takes office. Why??

FCC's New Standards-Bearer
Bush Picks Vocal Indecency Opponent Kevin J. Martin to Head Commission

By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 17, 2005; Page E01

President Bush has chosen Kevin J. Martin, one of the Federal Communication Commission's leaders in the crackdown on indecency, to succeed the agency's outgoing chairman, Michael K. Powell, the White House said yesterday.

Martin, 38, is one of the FCC's three Republican commissioners and has been considered the front-runner to head the agency, which is the government's chief regulator of the media and telecommunications industries. He does not require Senate confirmation because he already is a commission member.

Powell, the son of former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, leaves the FCC's top job this week after four years.

Martin and Powell sometimes clashed on issues of policy and style, with Martin most notably splitting with the agency's two other Republicans during a 2003 vote on local telephone competition because he wanted to preserve a strong role for state regulators.

"I look forward to working with the administration, Congress, my colleagues and the FCC's talented staff to ensure that American consumers continue to enjoy the benefits of the best communications system in the world," Martin said in a statement. He declined to comment further.

Martin's appointment and his generally deregulatory agenda were greeted positively by industry groups, including the cable and broadcast lobbies.

More at the Washington Post

The next one is a real no-duh. You think they might not be trustworthy??

CIA's Assurances On Transferred Suspects Doubted
Prisoners Say Countries Break No-Torture Pledges

By Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 17, 2005; Page A01

The system the CIA relies on to ensure that the suspected terrorists it transfers to other countries will not be tortured has been ineffective and virtually impossible to monitor, according to current and former intelligence officers and lawyers, as well as counterterrorism officials who have participated in or reviewed the practice.

To comply with anti-torture laws that bar sending people to countries where they are likely to be tortured, the CIA's office of general counsel requires a verbal assurance from each nation that detainees will be treated humanely, according to several recently retired CIA officials familiar with such transfers, known as renditions.

But the effectiveness of the assurances and the legality of the rendition practice are increasingly being questioned by rights groups and others, as freed detainees have alleged that they were mistreated by interrogators after the CIA secretly delivered them to countries with well-documented records of abuse.

President Bush weighed in on the matter for the first time yesterday, defending renditions as vital to the nation's defense.

In "the post-9/11 world, the United States must make sure we protect our people and our friends from attack," he said at a news conference. "And one way to do so is to arrest people and send them back to their country of origin with the promise that they won't be tortured. That's the promise we receive. This country does not believe in torture. We do believe in protecting ourselves." One CIA officer involved with renditions, however, called the assurances from other countries "a farce."

Another U.S. government official who visited several foreign prisons where suspects were rendered by the CIA after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, said: "It's beyond that. It's widely understood that interrogation practices that would be illegal in the U.S. are being used."

More at the Washington Post

Posted by crimnos @ 10:25 AM