Saturday, January 17, 2009

Inauguration Security Sets a Record by Itself!

The inauguration of the forty-fourth president, Barack Obama, will have a security force larger than what is currently deployed in Afghanistan to ensure it is a safe and sane event. The human resources securing the event will include Secret Service personnel, almost 30,000 National Guard troops, close to 1,000 FBI personnel, 8,000 police officers, TSA screeners and other more obscure assets.

The security assets deployed for this event are so numerous, I had to read several mainstream news articles and press releases just to try to determine how many agencies were involved. Even after doing this, I would guess there are some that are not being publicly disclosed for good reasons.

Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security Secretary, will be on-hand himself and operating from a multi-agency command center. The command center will have representatives from 58 federal and local agencies. These representatives, who will all be in the same room, will give those involved in the event the ability to instantly communicate with each other.

The command center is live as of this writing and will remain in operation until 4:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time) on Wednesday. This is, of course, unless something happens and it needs to remain in operation longer.

Chertoff believes this will be the most complex security event ever mounted, but also mentioned to CNN that he is worried about the cold weather and the impact it might have on unprepared visitors. We need to remember that a lot of unfortunate things can occur when a mass of human beings gather. Unlike most of Bush's administration, Chertoff will remain on duty until after the inauguration is over.

An official press release from Secretary Chertoff, District of Columbia Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine on the inauguration can be seen on the DHS site.

I found more information about inauguration security on the Secret Service site, which states that the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) will be stepping up security on the air corridors around DC and the Coast Guard will patrol on the Potomac. It also mentions that the police involved will be from the Washington Metropolitan, Park and Capitol departments. If you are attending the event, or live in the area, it has a list of road closures that will be in effect during the inauguration.

The FBI is deploying lot of high-tech security devices including mobile command centers, mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, bomb containment vessels and bomb technician vehicles, which resemble a mobile-home.

Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected Hummer

In addition to the high-tech specialty equipment being deployed by the FBI — they will have a SWAT Team, Hazardous Materials Response Team, Bomb Technicians, an Underwater Search and Response Team and Crisis Negotiators — at the ready to handle a crisis scenario.

Mobile Bomb Containment Vessel

The military personnel — who will be mostly National Guard troops because of a law that prohibits active duty personnel from engaging in domestic law enforcement duties — will have assignments in the events, also. These include providing bomb sniffing dogs, NBC (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical) teams, transportation and communications units.

According to all of the officials involved, there is no specific threat they are worried about. Although some of the pundits are complaining that the security for this event is too intense, the proof in the pudding will be allowing them to claim they were right after it is all over. If that is the case, nothing will have happened and these measures will have accomplished their goal!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

How Foreign Crime Gangs Establish Their Identities

A Washington Post story about a Korean organized crime ring -- operating within driving distance of our nation’s capital -- reveals how these groups are involved in a wide-variety of criminal enterprises designed to create illegal revenue flows. It also shows how foreign criminals establish themselves and operate within our society.

The problem isn’t people trying to make a better life for themselves, the problem is that criminals are able to easily manipulate the security of our borders. There is even a good example in the story of how illegal immigrants are routinely victimized. In order to pay back their debt for being brought in illegally -- they were working in a sweatshop located in a middle-class residential neighborhood — producing counterfeits of designer labels.

On a side note, according to the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, counterfeit merchandise is a $600 billion a year problem in itself.

The story, written by Tom Jackman, of the Washington Post details an undercover investigation that starts with manipulating cigarette taxes and progresses into identity theft, mortgage fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting and even murder-for-hire.
The initial scheme with the cigarettes involved buying cigarettes in Virginia — which has a 30 cent per pack tax -- and transporting them to New York where the tax runs $4.25 a pack. Like the designer clothing being knocked-off (counterfeited), the tax stamps were counterfeited. According to an ATF agent quoted in the story, this equates to billions of dollars that have “gone missing” in tax revenue.

The identity theft and resulting crimes, such as mortgage and credit card fraud, were discovered when undercover agents were introduced to an individual selling social-security numbers and passport information obtained from Chinese nationals working in the Marianas Islands. This information was then used to establish credit and obtain identification to make the members of the gang appear to be legitimate members of our society.

The investigation also uncovered a dishonest DMV employee in Illinois, who was providing identification to members of the group. These documents were then traded in for identification from other States. In this case, the State was often Virginia. This sent shivers up my spine as I remembered that Mohammed Atta and crew used Virginia, Florida, New Jersey and California driver’s licenses' — which were obtained after they entered the country with counterfeit documents – to board the planes in what became 9-11.

In the past, I’ve written about and spoken to Suad Leija and her husband, who have been working with the government to expose a cartel that operates throughout the country providing counterfeit identification documents. They have dubbed these documents, “Paper Weapons” because they can be used to commit crimes or even achieve radical political objectives. Suad’s story has been covered in the mainstream media on a fairly regular basis. According to the conversations I've had with Suad and her husband, most of the people illegally entering the country use what are known as "feeder documents" to establish themselves. Their eventual goal is to establish an identity that appears to be as legitimate as yours or mine. Once they accomplish this, the identities can be used to establish credit and even get a mortgage.

In the Washington Post story, no mention of direct fraud involving a financial loss is mentioned. The intent seems to be to use the identities to establish a "seemingly" legal status and then commit other crimes. The story mentions that the group offered to help launder the illegal revenue being made from selling the cigarettes. This was done with personal and cashier’s checks, which suggests the identities were also used to open bank accounts.

These fraudulently established identities were also being used to buy real estate. Although no direct financial fraud is mentioned in the article, it wouldn’t be very hard for people doing this to get some home-equity loans, cash them out and disappear. They could do this if they were leaving the country, or simply move on to another identity and do it all over again. Given that we are in a pretty severe recession, sparked by a mortgage crisis, it again made me wonder how much of it might have been caused by fraud that we aren’t even aware of?

When the sweat shops were raided, crack pipes were found. This was probably to keep the people working in them in a state of addiction, which would assist in keeping them under the control of their keepers. Abuse of illegal immigrants is well-documented and this is probably only one of many examples going on throughout the country at this very moment. It isn’t unknown for illegal immigrants to be forced into smuggling drugs, committing financial crimes or even becoming prostitutes.

This is just one example, but a good one, of how insecure our borders really are. It also shows the more severe consequences of allowing identity theft to run rampant in our society. Now that the election is over, perhaps it’s time for our politicians to stop ignoring the problem. We are a nation of immigrants, and in the end, very few of us are against hard-working people trying to better themselves. The problem is that the way we currently approach the problem enables criminals (and potentially terrorists) to operate and profit at the expense of society.