Republicans must keep up the heat on homeland security

The Obama administration has been fiercely on the defense since the Christmas Day bomber's botched attempt to blow up an airplane with his explosives-covered thighs. The administration is operating in campaign mode - issuing statements, messaging through press releases and reactively hitting the airwaves while the President birdies and bogeys his way to the bottom of things. The administration has also been trying to deflect and shift blame - a notorious campaign move - by hammering the GOP for playing politics in the hopes that it will scare off discord. But blaming former President George W. Bush will only make the Obama administration appear devoid of answers. As Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) went after President Obama for his silence in the days that followed the attack, Democrats were pointing out that  Bush had waited as long, if not longer, after the 2001 shoe bombing. As though that's supposed to comfort anyone now. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was busy warning Washington against politicizing the attack. "This should not be a tug of war between the two political parties," he said. Translation: We screwed up. Stop pointing it out. Please. Amazingly, in the breath right after they pleaded for Republicans to stop politicizing, Hill Democrats extended their fingers toward Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) for blocking Obama's nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration. If politicization is good for the donkey, it's good for the elephant. And are congressional Democrats really arguing that one bureaucrat in Washington would have stopped this potential tragedy? But the bigger problem here is the feeble complaint about "politicization." What is wrong with making something a political issue when it demands and deserves the attention of the American people? If by "politicize" Democrats mean they take issue with the GOP demanding answers and investigations and criticizing the administration's ignorant response ("the system Continue Reading

New York metro area to get $200 million in homeland security funds

WASHINGTON - The feds handed New York City a nice, fat pot of homeland security cash Tuesday.But they also upped future competition for that money by putting three more cities alongside New York atop the terror-risk list. Of $2.7 billion in security funds being spread around the country, the New York metro area will get some $200 million - including $152 million from a pool of money dedicated to the handful of cities deemed most likely to be targeted by terrorists. The state is getting another $130 million, a lot of which will also go to the city. "New York will never get enough, but these are good numbers," said Long Island GOP Rep. Pete King, praising the Obama administration. But King, ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, raised a red flag over boosting the number of so-called Tier 1 high-threat cities from seven to 10. With more locales included in the high-threat Urban Area Security Initiative grant program, that could mean more competition for federal bucks down the road. "The question mark is, by expanding the list of Tier 1 cities, we will probably have to fight harder in the future," King said. "We'll have to be on our guard. "New York, by far, is still the No. 1 target" of terrorists, he added. The high-risk program had been focused on New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco and Houston to ensure the cash didn't get spread around the country as pork. Added to the list going forward are the metro areas around Dallas, Philadelphia, Newark and Boston - while Seattle will be dropped. Brooklyn Rep. Yvette Clarke, the only city member on the Homeland Security Committee, took heart that federal officials would expand the pot of money along with adding cities. "Total funds available to Tier I cities have increased proportionally," Clarke said, noting that 63% of the high-threat cash goes to the 10cities. "I will continue to work with [the Homeland Security Department] to ensure that New York City has all the Continue Reading

City spending $24M Homeland Security windfall on wide-ranging security update

The "Ring of Steel" security plan is coming to midtown. The Empire State Building, Grand Central Terminal and the United Nations will be surrounded with cameras, license-plate readers and chemical-weapons detectors under the new plan to go in effect by 2011. The eye-in-the-sky security gadgets that police now use to scan lower Manhattan will also be used in midtown, thanks to $24 million in federal Homeland Security funds. "We will spend as much as necessary in either federal or city funds to complete this project and protect New York," Mayor Bloomberg said as he announced the program yesterday. "This is our No. 1 priority, and it comes before all fiscal concerns." The city launched its lower Manhattan program, modeled on London's "Ring of Steel," in 2006. It set up a command center in the Financial District last year, where police and other security officials review a constant flow of images and information from the streets. The command center will also review the data supplied by the new midtown system, which will blanket the area from 30th to 60th Sts., from river to river. "We started in lower Manhattan for obvious reasons," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. "We're concerned as well about [midtown] ... where there are major infrastructure and, of course, large crowds of people." He noted that there have been two foiled terrorist plots targeting midtown, at the Herald Square subway station and the Citigroup Center. Privacy advocates question the value of cameras that mostly capture mundane street life and don't necessarily prevent crime. "There's no information with regard to who has access to the information, exactly what's being collected, how long it's being kept and whether it's been digitized into a massive database on the innocent and lawful comings and goings of millions of New Yorkers and visitors," said New York Civil Liberties Union Director Donna Lieberman. Some of the people who depend on midtown's security and Continue Reading

Homeland Security forecasts 5-year threat picture

WASHINGTON - The terrorism threat to the United States over the next five years will be driven by instability in the Middle East and Africa, persistent challenges to border security and increasing Internet savvy, says a new intelligence assessment obtained by The Associated Press. Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks are considered the most dangerous threats that could be carried out against the U.S. But those threats are also the most unlikely because it is so difficult for al-Qaida and similar groups to acquire the materials needed to carry out such plots, according to the internal Homeland Security Threat Assessment for the years 2008-2013. The al-Qaida terrorist network continues to focus on U.S. attack targets vulnerable to massive economic losses, casualties and political "turmoil," the assessment said. Earlier this month, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction remains "the highest priority at the federal level." Speaking to reporters on Dec. 3, Chertoff explained that more people, such as terrorists, will learn how to make dirty bombs, biological and chemical weapons. "The other side is going to continue to learn more about doing things," he said. Marked "for official use only," the report does not specify its audience, but the assessments typically go to law enforcement, intelligence officials and the private sector. When determining threats, intelligence officials consider loss of life, economic and psychological consequences. Intelligence officials also predict that in the next five years, terrorists will try to conduct a destructive biological attack. Officials are concerned about the possibility of infections to thousands of U.S. citizens, overwhelming regional health care systems. There could also be dire economic impacts caused by workers' illnesses and deaths. Officials are most concerned about biological agents stolen from labs or other storage facilities, such Continue Reading

MTA set for big Homeland Security funding boost

WASHINGTON - New York City-area transit systems are expected to see a big increase in security dollars from the Department of Homeland Security, while the area's port security grants will increase slightly. Congressional aides told The Associated Press on Thursday that transit systems in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey will receive $151.2 million in new grant money, a more than 50 percent increase from last year's figure of $98 million. In port grants, the area will receive $43 million, up a bit from the $42 million it received the previous year. The aides briefed on the funding spoke on condition of anonymity because Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is not expected to make a formal announcement until Friday. A DHS spokesman declined to comment. Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the amount of federal dollars for the security of New York and its surrounding suburbs has been a sensitive issue, sparking occasional fights between the Bush administration and area lawmakers. Rep. Peter King, R-Long Island, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, said the funding to New York for port and transit has increased significantly in recent years - an indication the government is listening to lawmakers' concerns. "Last year was the best year by far we ever had for funding, and now we're going higher," King said. "This is a real recognition by the Department that New York is clearly the best when it comes to providing homeland security protection at the local, state and city level." Last year, homeland security officials changed the way they distribute money to the New York City area, adding in parts of New Jersey and Connecticut for certain grant programs, in recognition of the interlocking transportation systems. New York Sen. Charles Schumer, who has in the past been so upset with the federal agency that he called for it to be dismantled, said Thursday he was glad to hear his state would be getting a much larger amount Continue Reading

Bush’s proposed Homeland Security cut does favor for Osama bin Laden

The only word for it is betrayal. And betrayal in time of war is treason. Admittedly, treason is an extreme accusation. Even a liberal puke of a newspaper columnist such as myself is not ready to call President Bush a traitor. But to propose cutting Homeland Security in half at the present moment is to prove an avowed and earnest patriot can commit an act that amounts to treason in its effect. Bush seeks the cut as we are still recovering human remains at Ground Zero, six more on Thursday, a total of more than 1,700 this past year. The prime perpetrator of the attack is still at liberty, releasing his latest threatening tape last week and no doubt hatching new plots with the long-stated goal of obtaining nuclear material. The availability of such material was made clear at midweek, when three men were arrested in Eastern Europe for trying to sell a pound of weapons-grade uranium 235. If anything, primary targets such as New York need MORE money. Bush could do that and still slash overall funding by ending the unconscionable squandering of Homeland Security funds on projects that make the homeland no more secure. A report by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) rightly terms these mis-appropriations "the very worst kind of pork-barrel programs." My personal favorite is a $36,000 Homeland Security grant to the Kentucky Office of Charitable Gaming "to prevent terrorists from trying to raise money for their plots at the state's bingo halls." "The potential there, to me, is huge," John Holiday of the Office of Charitable Gaming was quoted as saying. Another personal favorite is a $3,000 Homeland Security grant to Converse, Tex., to purchase a "secure trailer" to ferry riding lawn mowers to lawn mower races. The races accompany the local volunteer fire department's annual barbecue fund-raiser. "Souped-up lawn mowers topping speeds of 70 mph on a 150-foot track," an Internet tour guide reports. "This community Continue Reading

Homeland security windfall will beef up NYC subway security

In what officials describe as a first for a U.S. mass transit system, teams of police officers armed with high-powered rifles and bomb-sniffing dogs will soon begin daily patrols of the busiest sections of New York City subways. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Friday that a major boost in funding from the Department of Homeland Security made the extra protection possible for the city's vast subway system, long considered a potential target for terrorists. "Whether conventional crime or terrorist threat, we will not let our guard down," Kelly said at a news conference at Grand Central Terminal, where officials announced the increase in security dollars. Teams comprised of a sergeant, five officers and a bomb-sniffing dog will circulate each day on subway platforms and trains, focusing on stations below Grand Central, Penn Station, Herald Square and other high-traffic spots, officials said. In recent years, similar, so-called Hercules units - distinguished by their special black uniforms, helmets and body armor - have patrolled above ground around Wall Street and landmarks like the Empire State building as part of the NYPD's response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Kelly said the new measure makes sense since "the subway system has been the target of several terrorist plots." Among the threats cited by the NYPD: A reported plot by al-Qaida terrorists to kill thousands of New Yorkers by spreading cyanide gas in the subway; a thwarted scheme to blow up the Herald Square station in 2004; and the discovery by investigators in the 2004 Madrid train bombing of a crude diagram of Grand Central Terminal on a computer disk seized from one of the suspect's homes. Kelly was joined at the news conference by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who announced that transit systems in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey will receive $151.2 million in new grant money - an increase of more than 50 percent from last year's figure of Continue Reading

Homeland Security now acknowledges deported DREAMer had protective status

The Department of Homeland Security reversed itself Wednesday saying that a young man, identified by USA TODAY as the first DREAMer to be deported by the Trump administration, had valid protective status despite its earlier claim.On Tuesday, the department said its records showed the protective status of Juan Manuel Montes, 23, expired in 2015. On Wednesday, the department said that status was in fact valid until 2018.Montes, who was deported from Southern California to his native Mexico in February, had been protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created by President Barack Obama for so-called DREAMers, undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.On Wednesday, the department said he lost that status because he left the United States without permission and was caught trying to re-enter the country. DACA enrollees must be approved to travel outside the U.S.However, attorneys for Montes said the only reason he tried to re-enter the country is because he had been deported by Customs and Border Protection two days earlier."Juan Manuel has been unequivocal in his assertion that he never voluntarily left the country while he had DACA," said Nora Preciado, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, which is helping in Montes' lawsuit against the Trump administration. "Rather than continue to provide half-truths and varying assertions, the Department of Homeland Security should respond to our request for documentation. We will see them in court."Montes' case has received international attention because President Trump had pledged to exempt people enrolled in the DACA program from being deported under his tougher enforcement policies toward undocumented immigrants.Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., wrote on Twitter the federal government had made a promise to DACA enrollees and that the Trump administration's "decision to break that Continue Reading


THE NEW HOMELAND security center to be built in Bethpage could position Long Island as a global leader in security research, said the state lawmakers who secured a $21.1 million grant for the project. Construction of the New York State Center for Innovation and Excellence in Homeland Security will cover 5 acres near the Northrop Grumman campus. Officials said they hope to break ground on the 65,000-square-foot building by the end of this year. The center, which will let New York companies and researchers develop, test, evaluate and deploy new security technologies, is expected to create 9,800 jobs across the state, with thousands of those on Long Island, officials said. "The benefits of this project are twofold," said state Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick). "It will provide extraordinary opportunities to create hundreds of millions of dollars in new economic revenues and thousand of new jobs. "[And] it will . . . develop new homeland security technology that will protect our communities," he added. Senators and business officials said the facility, which will be operated by the Long Island Forum for Technology, will be the first of its kind in the state. "It's an investment in our future that will have an immediate and far-reaching impact on the region's economy," said state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre). Northrop Grumman will be the facility's anchor tenant, but there will be space for 20 companies in the building. "Just as Northrop Grumman was able to capitalize on the federal defense program in the last century, today's announcement will further the region's stature in homeland security technology," said state Sen. John Flanagan (R-Northport). [email protected] Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

EXCLUSIVE: State’s former homeland security chief now works safeguarding marijuana shipments

ALBANY - The state's former chief of homeland security has a new job safeguarding marijuana shipments, the Daily News has learned. Michael Balboni, who served as the top homeland security official of former governors Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson, has been hired as a security consultant for pot grower Empire State Compassionate Care. The company is one of several looking to obtain a license to grow and distribute medical marijuana in New York. “What we are doing is putting all the gates, guards, guns and gadgets in place to ensure that there is seed to sale and no diversion of product,” Balboni told the News. Balboni, who was a Republican state senator from Long Island before being named Spitzer’s deputy secretary for public safety and homeland security in 2007, declined to say how much he was being paid. He insisted his job would not involve any lobbying of state officials. In addition to Balboni, Empire State has also hired former DEA and Interpol official Paul Higdon in a bid to bolster its security credentials before state Health Officials begin awarding licenses in July. Security and “the ability to maintain effective control against diversion of marijuana and medical marijuana products” is one of the key criteria for applicants, according to Health Department regulations. "Michael and Paul together bring decades of security and law enforcement experience to the table,” said Dr. Jordan Josephson, Empire State’s medical director. Empire State is owned by the father and son team of Michael and David Weisser. They also operate pot dispensaries in New Jersey and Colorado. Under New York’s 2014 medical marijuana law, the state Health Department will select up to five entities to grow and sell medical marijuana. Each entity will be allowed to operate a maximum of four dispensaries. The program is expected to begin operations in January. Continue Reading