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Archive for July, 2009

Report: Too few officials knew of surveillance

Articles | Posted by (CS)d July 11th, 2009

By PAMELA HESS, Associated Press Writer Pamela Hess, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – Not enough relevant officials were aware of the size and depth of an unprecedented surveillance program started under President George W. Bush, let alone signed off on it, a team of federal inspectors general found.

The Bush White House pulled in a great quantity of information far beyond the warrantless wiretapping previously acknowledged, the IGs reported. They questioned the legal basis for the effort but shielded almost all details on grounds they’re still too secret to reveal.

George Bush

The report, mandated by Congress last year and delivered to lawmakers Friday, also says it’s unclear how much valuable intelligence the program has yielded.

On the subject of oversight, the report particularly criticizes John Yoo, a deputy assistant attorney general who wrote legal memos defending the policy. His boss, Attorney General John Ashcroft, was not aware until March 2004 of the exact nature of the intelligence operations beyond wiretapping that he had been approving for the previous two and a half years, the report says.

The report, compiled by five inspectors general, refers to “unprecedented collection activities” by U.S. intelligence agencies under an executive order signed by Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Just what those activities involved remains classified, but the IGs pointedly say that any continued use of the secret programs must be “carefully monitored.”

Most of the intelligence leads generated under what was known as the “President’s Surveillance Program” did not have any connection to terrorism, the report said. But FBI agents told the authors that the “mere possibility of the leads producing useful information made investigating the leads worthwhile.”

The inspectors general interviewed more than 200 people inside and outside the government, but five former Bush administration officials refused to be questioned. They were Ashcroft, Yoo, former CIA Director George Tenet, former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and David Addington, an aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

According to the report, Addington could personally decide who in the administration was “read into” — allowed access to — the classified program.

The only piece of the intelligence-gathering operation acknowledged by the Bush White House was the wiretapping-without-warrants effort. The administration acknowledged in 2005 that it had allowed the National Security Agency to intercept international communications that passed through U.S. cables without seeking court orders.

Although the report documents Bush administration policies, its fallout could be a problem for the Obama administration if it inherited any or all of the still-classified operations.

Bush brought the warrantless wiretapping program under the authority of a secret court in 2006, and Congress authorized most of the intercepts in a 2008 electronic surveillance law. The fate of the remaining and still classified aspects of the wider surveillance program is not clear from the report.

The report’s revelations came the same day that House Democrats said that CIA Director Leon Panetta had ordered one 8-year-old classified program shut down after learning lawmakers had never been apprised of its existence.

Dick Cheney

The IG report said that Bush signed off on both the warrantless wiretapping and other top-secret operations shortly after Sept. 11 in a single presidential authorization. All the programs were periodically reauthorized, but except for the acknowledged wiretapping, they “remain highly classified.”

Former Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made a terse reference to other classified programs in an August 2007 letter to Congress. But Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., said that when she had asked Gonzales two years earlier if the government was conducting any other undisclosed intelligence activities, he denied it.

Robert Bork Jr., Gonzales’ spokesman, said, “It has clearly been determined that he did not intend to mislead anyone.”

In the wake of the new report, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt, renewed his call Friday for a formal nonpartisan inquiry into the government’s information-gathering programs.

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden — the primary architect of the program — told the report’s authors that the surveillance was “extremely valuable” in preventing further al-Qaida attacks. Hayden said the operations amounted to an “early warning system” allowing top officials to make critical judgments and carefully allocate national security resources to counter threats.

Information gathered by the secret program played a limited role in the FBI’s overall counterterrorism efforts, according to the report. Very few CIA analysts even knew about the program and therefore were unable to fully exploit it in their counterterrorism work, the report said.

The report questioned the legal advice used by Bush to set up the program, pinpointing omissions and questionable legal memos written by Yoo, in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. The Justice Department withdrew the memos years ago.

The report says Yoo’s analysis approving the program ignored a law designed to restrict the government’s authority to conduct electronic surveillance during wartime, and did so without fully notifying Congress. And it said flaws in Yoo’s memos later presented “a serious impediment” to recertifying the program.

Yoo insisted that the president’s wiretapping program had only to comply with Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure — but the report said Yoo ignored the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which had previously overseen federal national security surveillance.

House Democrats are pressing for legislation that would expand congressional access to secret intelligence briefings, but the White House has threatened to veto it.

4 Steps Security Can Take to Prevent Kidnapping

Articles | Posted by (CS)d July 1st, 2009

By Joan Goodchild , CSO , 04/08/2009

As the economic crisis continues to heat up, Chris Falkenberg believes the potential for kidnapping will, too.

“The biggest risk for kidnapping of adults is among people in the financial services business,” said Falkenberg, president of Insite Security, a New York-based consultancy that offers security services and analysis. “Particularly those who have a great deal of publicity about their wealth and their business success.” (Learn tips for what to do if you are abducted in ‘How to Act if You’re Kidnapped’)


Kidnappers are motivated by money, and potential victims are the people who make the most, said Falkenberg, who noted that executive compensation is easier than ever find thanks to SEC disclosure rules (Read ‘Six Things You Need to Know About Executive Protection’).

Assessing an organization’s risk for a potential executive or staff abduction involves several factors. While executives may be more at risk in the United States, in many other countries, all employees face danger, especially if the country is impoverished (Read ‘Employee Safety in Global Hotspots’).

Falkenberg, a former Special Agent in the U.S. Secret Service, outlines preventative measures companies can consider to minimize kidnapping risk.

Establish a counter-surveillance program

Every kidnapping is preceded by a planning stage, according to Falkenberg. An organization with an effective counter-surveillance program has good shot at intervening or detecting a threat, increasing security and motivating potential kidnappers to go elsewhere.

Counter surveillance, according to Falkenberg, basically takes the regular security guard position and “turns it inside out.” In addition to having personnel manning the gate, a counter-surveillance program has personnel who are watching to see who is watching others.

A good program could include a team that conducts surveillance at a facility, residence, or any given location, and keeps tabs on who is watching the target. This means looking for people who might be walking back in forth frequently in front of a location, taking video or photographs, counting footsteps to determine the measurements of a given location.

“Anything someone is doing from a public area to gain information which could be used in a crime and detecting who is doing that,” said Falkenberg to describe the kind of intelligence that should be gathered.

A counter-surveillance program might also use CCTV infrastructure in a proactive way, he said.

“CCTV is primarily utilized in the forensic capacity, once a crime has occurred,” said Falkenberg. “But a counter-surveillance team can use all of the intelligent video in a proactive means, particularly if you have the ability to identify cars and license plates to keep an eye out for who seems to be in your perimeter, collecting information about scheduling, comings and goings, and transportation routes.”


Utilize GPS

Falkenberg recommends companies put in place technology to be able to receive GPS transmissions from cell phones or emergency GPS transmitters. While this technology may only go so far because the device will likely be taken from the victim, in some scenarios, it could still aid in rescue. And as technology advances, GPS will become even more useful.

“There is some technology coming out in which you can program a cell phone to send out a distress signal,” said Faulkner. “What we are using with some clients is a handheld GPS transmitter which you can essentially use as a portable panic button. It triangulates to where it transmits. That can be used for a security department to learn where a kidnapping has occurred.”

Train employees on how to behave

As Falkenberg pointed out before, kidnappings are planned events. Kidnappers don’t often consider what they will do if the victim takes some drastic action to thwart the abduction.

“It’s really infrequent, in the history of kidnapping, if victim runs away, or if they make a u-turn, that kidnappers will actually pursue a victim and kidnap in a static environment.”

When an event takes place, victims find themselves forced into vehicles with commands shouted at them like “Get in the car! We are going to kill you!” While this is terrifying, it is actually much easier to turn the situation to your advantage at that point than it is once you are incarcerated, said Falkenberg.

But this kind of reaction to threats is not second nature to people, said Falkenberg. It is something that has to be learned. He recommends talking with employees about what to do if threatened and rehearsing it. It is important, he said, for people to feel comfortable that if there is a kidnapping, they can react, have some muscle memory of how to react, and have some confidence that it is the correct step.

“It is a great challenge to train people to think effectively during emergencies,” said Falkenberg. “But it is very important because you have a real chance in the beginning to terminate the situation. If you can, you are much better off than getting in the car, or the van, where the realm of outcomes becomes worse.”

Falkenberg also recommends companies train employees about how to act as hostages in the event that they are abducted. Tips include touching everything in sight to leave lots of fingerprints and talking to the kidnappers so they see you as a human, not an object. Falkenberg recommends mentioning family, children, and other personal facts that may aid in getting them to see you as a person.

Consider families, too

“It’s one thing to kidnap the president of a company,” said Falkenberg. “Who knows what will happen? But if it involves the president’s kid? That situation has to be resolved immediately and the kidnappers know it. It is a far greater danger.”

Potential vulnerabilities don’t stop with the executive. Companies need to consider the family component of protection for executives, said Falkenberg. A crisis management and continuity plan for the family outside the office is key.

However, the family component can’t really be addressed with the same techniques used for employees because families are not going to tolerate the kind of protection that c-level executives tolerate at work. Also, it is just not cost effective. But Falkenberg believes there are several ways an organization can improve security for the executive and his/her family outside of work by leveraging existing resources. Training family about potential dangers and how to behave if someone attempts to abduct them is essential. But so is training of household staff members.

“Many executive have a household staff. They can be trained in the tools and skills of counter surveillance,” said Falkenberg. “They may have more information about the comings and goings than the family, particularly because some executives have multiple homes.”