17 Years Since 9/11

Today is the 17th anniversary since that fateful day of 9/11 when the terrorists brought down both World Trade Centers and ploughed another plane into the Pentagon.


One of the greatest acts of terrorism in history. 


With almost 3,000 dead and the center of our financial and military strength hit in a flash attack, we as a nation stood naked. 


We’ve gone after the terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and more, but still, there is the endless drone of world-wide terrorism. 


Yes, we are lucky that nothing major has happened in the U.S. since 2001.


At the same time, we know that anything could happen at any time–from another terror attack to a catastrophic cyber attack that takes out our critical infrastructure, bioterrorism that wipes out hundreds of millions with genetically engineered viruses, or even nuclear warheads wiping out entire cities or regions of the world. 


Forget natural disasters for the moment, man-made disasters are always just around the corner when it comes to planning and execution.


The FBI and our other dedicated law enforcement personnel try to stop them all, but no one and nothing human is perfect. 


So while we try to maintain an elevated security posture to protect this country and even maybe someday build a wall that doesn’t leave us with porous borders for everyone and anyone to get in willy-nilly, many don’t or barely remember 9/11 and what it meant. 


We said it changed everything forever, but did we mean it?


17 years and we’ve been fortunate–very fortunate–but are we ready for the next fateful blow to land in the ongoing war on terror. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

At The Doorstep…WMD

Chem Attack.jpeg

With a new threat again of a chemical weapons attack in Syria…


The U.S. is sending clear warnings to the Assad regime–Don’t do it!


Generally, the threat of using weapons of mass destruction–chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear–have become all too blase!


Syria uses chemical weapons on its own people. 


– Iraq used chemical weapons on Iran and the Kurds


– Terrorists used chemical weapons in Japan and have threatened similar in UK


– Russia threatens use of nukes over Crimea or in a conflict with NATO.


North Korea threatens preemptive nuclear strike on the U.S. 


Iran has threatened attacks on Israel over nukes.


– Biological weapons such as Anthrax have been used against the U.S. and bioterror has been threatened in India


This list is far from comprehensive–and how very commonplace this is becoming is exactly the problem!


It is one thing (already scary bad) to have weapons that can do the unthinkable, and it is quite another to actually use or threaten to use them in such blase fashion like taking out the garbage or something!


If we don’t ensure that cooler and more stable heads prevail at the notorious red buttons around the world, then the risk of someone eventually doing something very stupid and dangerous to millions–or even billions–of lives is no longer just in the realm of science fiction anymore, but becomes so very ominous and real a disastrous possibility. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Losing All Political Perspective

warning-politics

So here we go again into our politicians pants to uncover every locker-room lewd remark they have made. 


Yes, it’s abhorrent and criminal for our politicians, religious leaders, coaches or anyone for that matter to rape or inappropriately sexually touch someone else against their will. 


The problem is that we are losing all common sense and perspective. 


When we are focusing almost exclusively at this point on getting that next verbal sexual gotcha on a hot mic from people running for office, instead of on what they’ve actually done (good and bad) in their lives, then we are being lead astray by powerful elites fighting for and to keep the power they most greedily worship.


Words do have meaning, don’t get me wrong, especially when we hurt someone with them or when they demonstrate true moral lapses in the person.


But when words are taken out of context, exaggerated, or dug up from decades ago just to sling dirt then we have a powerful political machine that is working to hurt and not help our political process. 


What’s even worse is that we are becoming the laughing stock in the world in the process of the mud fest. 


An article yesterday in China mocks the chaotic U.S. political system as a highly flawed “political show.”


If we and the media remain gripped in people’s political pants here, then the real and potentially catastrophic issues will continue to not be on the table or our lips. 


The effect is that rather than being able to effect positive change at home and in the world, we are heads down in the sand, as for example:


– Russia deploys nuclear-capable missiles on Poland’s (and NATO’s) doorstep


– ISIS continues it’s global reign of terror and remains strong and determined


– War crimes are being committed and “red lines” crossed daily in Syria


Iran and North Korea continue their nuclear hated-filled march on the U.S. and western allies


Bioterrorism is an increasingly dangerous threat as agents are “relatively inexpensive, easy to produce, conceal and transport” 


Cyberwarfare is now being considered an existential threat, even as our democratic elections themselves are under attack by the latests hacks from Guccifer 2.0 and DC Leaks. 


– Our national debt has increased $9 trillion (almost doubled) in the last 8 years and is threatening key pillars of our social entitlement system, including social security and medicare. 

– The global economy is on the rocks as the impact from easy credit sputters and future growth is stunted.


As these and other risks increase to the U.S., our leadership remains in a narcissistic fugue with their desire for power and sham legacies, and politics have become grotesquely about killing off the opposition by actual death or by a thousand cuts of verbal mutilation.  


Sex sells and has us mesmerized, but we are missing out on all the real world drama, danger, and any meaningful dialogue. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Biowarfare, A Means To Our End

Biowarfare, A Means To Our End

The Wall Street Journal (1 February 2013) has an interesting book review on “The Soviet Biological Weapons Program.”

Although 85 nations, including the Soviet Union, in 1975 signed the “Biological Weapons Convention” (BWC) pledging not to develop, produce, acquire or stockpile bioweapons or toxins for hostile purposes, the Soviet regime was “covertly expanding them.”

In the following years, the Soviets “built the most extensive facilities for the weaponization of bacteria and viruses in history” with “tens of thousands of scientists and support personnel and guarded by hundreds of Ministry of Interior troops.”

Both civilian and military laboratories were used under the guise of biotechnology, and factories that produce flu vaccines and pesticides for crops could relatively easily be converted to mass-produce deadly bioweapons to use against the West.

Apparently, motivating the Red Army were there own horrible experiences in the early 20th century when disease such as typhus and lice killed millions “mowing down our troops.”

“Fighting disease became a priority…and such efforts morphed easily into weapons research.”

While the Soviets could not financially keep pace with the U.S. and eventually lost the Cold War, they continued to funnel their military dollars into nuclear and bioweapons, where they could literally get the most bang for the buck!

Often I think that despite the safety we generally feel in this country surrounded on both sides by large expanses of Ocean and the freedoms that protect us within, we are really only a nuclear suitcase or bio epidemic away from great catastrophe and chaos.

In such an event, would we know who to retaliate against, would we have time, and even if we do, what good does it do us with mass casualties and disruptions?

Make no mistake; being able to retaliate against the perpetrators is critical to bring justice and respite to the nation, to prevent the potential for national annihilation, and to deter other maniacal acts.

However, it is vital as well to protect us from ever getting hit by weapons of mass destruction in the first place and depending on treaties alone cannot be enough.

Rather, excellent intelligence, early warning systems, antimissile defense, stockpiles of antidotes and countermeasures, premier medical facilities, superbly trained first responders, a high state military readiness, and refined continuity plans are all necessary to keep us from a premature and horrible end–and ultimately to preserve the peace. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Pere Ubu)

Biosecurity–Where Every Moment Counts

Bioterror

A biological attack on the United States is a most frightening prospect and one that could present an existential threat to us.

Just the very mention of bio-warfare agents such as anthrax, ebola, smallpox, bubonic plague, and others are enough to provoke sheer terror in most people.

BioWatch is a program managed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to monitor for a biological attack.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek (21 June 2012) bio-surveillance is currently conducted in 30 metropolitan areas around the country using 600 air filters to detect pathogens, where samples are collected daily and taken to labs for analysis in what amounts to a 36 hour turnaround to determine if there is a hazard.

A new technology made by Positive ID or Northrop Grumman collects samples four times a day and analyzes it on the spot for bateria, viruses, and toxins, and sends the results to officials by secure network in as little as two hours.

The shorter time to detection will give more time to save lives by getting drugs and vaccines to the field sooner and prevent the spread from person to person.

DHS wants to deploy 2,500 of these new sensors and the bio-attack alert system at a cost of approximately $5.7 billion, if Congress approves.

If this bio-sensing system proves out functionally, then the price tag seems well worth it.

Bioweapons like cyber-attacks can cause widespread panic as well as disruption to our everyday way of life, however a bio-attack has the added feature of making people symptomatic and infecting them with deadly and painful illnesses.

Cyber attacks can infiltrate and take out our critical infrastructure, but biological attacks can directly destroy our physical bodies and the population itself.

A bio-attack and a cyber-attack together could devastate us by attacking us while at the same time inhibiting our ability to deliver medication and quarantine those that are ill and so on.

In addition to grossly improving on our cyber defensive (and offensive) capabilities, we must do everything we can to enhance our biosecurity–this mean upgrading our preparedness for bio-terrorism and bio-warfare using the latest technologies available to sniff out and identify a bio attack and alert us so we can respond timely, while we still can.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to U.S. Department of Defense)

End Of The World, Almost

Recently, I have become addicted to a number of shows on the Discovery channel. 
I know it sounds sort of boring, right?–but they actually have some fairly macho and educational shows.
From survivalist shows like Dual Survival, Man Vs. Wild, Man Woman Wild, to shows about special forces training like Surviving the Cut and even One Man Army.
I also enjoy this new show called Curiosity that “asks and answers the most fundamental questions facing the world today” such as Is There a Parallel Universe? or How Will the World End?
In “How Will The World End”, Discovery explores 5-almost end of the world scenarios, as follows:
1) Arc Storm — Similar to the flood from the bible, where it rains incessantly for a month or so, but unlike the flood that destroys the world, this one hits a specific area like California.  Anticipated dead is 380,000 and injured 1,140,000. (10% chance in the next 50 years)
2) Asteroid Strike – Like a number of movies such as Deep Impact that forewarn of the dire consequences of a direct hit to our planet, a moderate collision would kill 60,000 and injure 200,000.  (5% chance of occurrence over the lives of our children)
3) Mega-Earthquake – Hitting approximately 5 states in the midwest and killing 600,000 and injuring 2,000,000.  (10% chance in 50 years)
4) Mile-High Tsunami – Traveling at 500 mph, wiping out the eastern seaboard and killing 4,000,000.  (Probability is one in a 1000)
5) Super Volcano – Major series of volcanic eruptions in Yellowstone National Park that spews ash virtually covering the entire planet and would kill 100,000,000 people.  (Scientists estimate this happens every 600,000 years)
While the last 2 end of life scenarios are quite remote, the first three taken together yield an almost 25% chance of a doomsday-like scenario over the next 50 years and this is just those scenarios–it doesn’t account for a maniac detonating a nuclear packed suitcase bomb or spreading an infectious biological disease across the globe.  
These foreboding predictions about what could happen can easily depress and make us feel that even trying is hopeless.
But this morning, I listened on TV to Joel Osteen, who gives a pretty darn good sermon, and he said regarding faith, “Do every day what you can and then let it go!”
While we have to do everything we can to protect our world and make it safe and sustainable, some things truly are beyond human control.  
And once we’ve done our part and our best, we’ve got to step back and just have some faith, as Joel Osteen says: “Don’t put a question mark where G-d puts a period”–that really resonates.
We can ask why this or that happens, but at the end of the day, what G-d decides for us is often beyond our mere human comprehension.  
Easier said than done for sure, especially, when facing down situations scarier than any shown or imagined in the survival shows mentioned.
So Dave and Cody–And Seal Team Six–even you guys are outgunned when the hand of G-d says it’s time for history to take a major turn of events.
But as Joel Osteen would say, I’ll just put that in the “I don’t understand it” file.
(Source Photo: here)

>Bioterror Sensors and Enterprise Architecture

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Since the events of 9/11, America has been widely and deeply broadening its homeland security capabilities. One area that this has been occurring in is in the ability to detect an attack and respond quickly to save lives.

MIT Technology Review, 18 March 2008, reports on a new sensor system that can “detect six potential airborne bioterror agents” within three minutes.

The “new detector uses living cells that light up in the presence of airborne bioterror agents such as anthrax and smallpox” as well as botulinum, ricin and two other bacteria.

“The company selling the sensor, Innovative Biosensors of Rockville, MD, is marketing it for use in airports and other buildings, including laboratories where research on dangerous pathogens is performed.”

“The company has a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense for building security in the Washington, DC area.” And one would imagine that similar precautions are being taken in other major metropolitan areas in the country.

This is serious business and Innovative Biosensors is taking no chances. “The system can run 16 tests simultaneously, one in each chamber of the disc…when at least two chambers are devoted to each pathogen, there are no false positives.”

Certainly, we will continue to mature our homeland defenses. To do this, all agencies involved in homeland security must grow and develop their enterprise architectures. As with the new sensor system, protecting this country cannot be done by human factors alone, but will require ever greater technological sophistication to monitor the “bad guys” and prevent, protect, respond to, and recover from any threats.

Our adversaries will not resist using technology to harm us—whether through improvised explosive devises or attacks on our networks—and we will need every technological advantage we can get to defeat them.

One way to maintain our technology edge is through the rigors of enterprise architecture. This discipline is critical in developing a well thought-out business and technology plan, making sound IT investments, and governing our IT with care and diligence.

While at times it may seem that this great country has limitless resources, the truth is that all resources are finite and we must put those to the best uses, so that the technology we develop and deploy truly enables the mission of protecting this honored country and its noble citizens.