Friday, October 31, 2014

"No Specific Credible Threats" Means No Specific Credible Security Measures

The Department of Homeland Security announced this week that it has heightened security around federal buildings in response to last week's attack by a lone nut on the Canadian parliament in Ottawa, and other global events. Needless to say, this heightened security - whatever it may consist of - is "not based on any specific, credible information at this time indicating any active plot against government officials and law enforcement in the United States."

Doesn't pretty much every public warning or security advisory ever put out by DHS say that it is not based on any specific credible threat information? Yes, they do. In fact, let me Google that for you.

Threats aside, what does this "heightened security" mean for my fellow Feds in the many government office buildings in and around Washington DC? Realistically speaking, it means nothing. The government agency responsible for security of the federal government's 9,500 workplaces, the Federal Protective Service, is just as under-resourced this week as it has been for many years now, and it is simply not equal to the task of heightening security at all those places.

In particular, it lacks the personnel to provide more than a token presence at most government buildings. According to DHS's written testimony before a House subcommittee in May of this year, “FPS directly employs more than 1,000 law enforcement officers, inspectors, and special agents who are trained physical security experts and sworn Federal law enforcement officers. Approximately 13,000 FPS-contracted [Protective Security Officers] staff guard posts at FPS-protected Federal facilities.” That's 13,000 guards for 9,500 office buildings, minus the few belonging to agencies that provide their own building security. You do the math.

And that's putting the best spin on the situation. The head of the employees union that represents FPS put it more bluntly in an interview with Federal News Radio:
David Wright, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 918, told the panel buildings security reviews have also suffered because of understaffing at the agency. Wright, who works as an FPS inspector, said the organization is top-heavy and more employees need to be deployed to the field.

All told, more than 21 percent of staff is assigned to headquarters staff, "which robs federal buildings of necessary security," Wright testified.

Meanwhile, he said, employees in the field struggle to perform all their duties. Most inspectors are assigned to oversee an average of nearly two dozen buildings and are responsible for conducting security assessments, overseeing contractors and a host of other duties.

"How do inspectors accomplish all their tasks? They don't, because there are simply not enough of them," Wright said.

A bit too blunt, perhaps. However, the General Accountability Office agrees that FPS is a troubled agency.

This week's announcement by DHS is obviously more security theater than anything else. When DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson calls on Congress and the Administration to give FPS the funding it needs to truly heighten security around federal buildings, then I'll get interested.

Until then, keep calm and carry on, you Feds, and don't expect to see any more security presence than usual.

The Ultimate Horror of Our Times

Friday, October 17, 2014

Most Eyebrow-Raising Headline of the Week (This Week, It's a Tie)

Can caffeine withdrawal make a camel homicidal?

"Camel kills American owner at wildlife park in Mexico resort" - The Guardian World

While it was unclear why the animal attacked, a Tulum civil defense official said some versions suggest the camel was upset at not getting a soft drink.

“One version is that he would always give him a Coca-Cola to drink, and apparently, that day he didn’t give him the Coca-Cola,” 

Do those two look fastidious about not exchanging body fluids?

"Two male strippers in quarantine after flying with Ebola-stricken nurse" - New York Post

Friday, October 10, 2014

Poetry Under Oath

This Document Dump Friday seems a good time to look back at the best literary treatment of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which was a volume of 'found poetry' (this sort of thing) taken from Clinton's and Lewinsky's sworn testimony and called Poetry Under Oath.

A sample:

'In the Context of Her Desire'

She raised the issue with me
In the context of her desire
To avoid testifying

Which I certainly understood

Not only because there were
Some embarrassing facts
About our relationship

That were inappropriate

But also because a whole lot
Of innocent people were
Being traumatized
And dragged
Through the mud
By these Jones
With their

Now, that is emotionally evocative literature.

More Previously Restricted Clinton Documents Coming Out Today

It's a drizzly Friday afternoon in Washington before a three-day weekend, and that means one thing - document dump!

According to the AP:
The 10,000 pages of records from the Clinton administration were expected to be released Friday. They touch on the Whitewater investigation into the Bill and Hillary Clinton's land dealings in Arkansas; Bill Clinton's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky; the 1993 death of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster; and the pardons Bill Clinton granted in his final hours as president.

Watch this site - Clinton Library, previously restricted documents.

This will be the sixth dump of previously restricted Clinton documents. The best tidbits from the last dump were reported on by the WaPo here, back in June.

This new dump looks like it could be more embarrassing for Hillary than previous ones.

Most Eyebrow-Raising Headline of the Week

"Dwarf given children's colouring book by waitress as he ate dinner with his fiancée"

It was only when the waitress heard James's deep voice that she realised her embarrassing blunder - Evening Standard, 10/10/14