Showing posts with label Border Security. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Border Security. Show all posts

Friday, January 25, 2013

INTERVIEW: The Coolest Mass Spectrometer At the Airport You Know Nothing About - The Griffin 824

Griffin 824 in operation (Photo FLIR)
Last week, I had the privilege and esteemed honor to interview Garth Patterson from FLIR about a product I’m dying to tell you about – the Griffin 824.  Before I begin, I’d like to remind you I was in military law enforcement/security for 10 years.  However, my knowledge of the science behind the Griffin 824 is cursory at best.  So, I called every person I knew who understood mass spectrometry to give me a brief tutorial.  As you can tell, Garth explained things perfectly.

Garth, can you tell me about your background and the product?  Let’s begin with you and then what it actually does?
Well, I’m the program manager for the Griffin 824.  I previously worked for Griffin before it became a part of FLIR.  The device is a mass spectrometry device which analyzes chemical compounds at the molecular level.  It is used in a variety of field applications ranging from corrections, law enforcement, border crossings, airports, etc. It looks for explosives and narcotic traces from a user-gathered sample.
Wow, that sounds pretty interesting.  How exactly does it do that? *At this point, I’m hoping Garth doesn’t go over my head.*
What happens is the user swipes a surface with a 1-inch paper-like sheet.  The sheet contains a surface area that picks up trace elements from the surface to be examined.  The user then inputs the sample in the Griffin 824 which then inserts the sheet between two stainless steel plates.  The plates are heated to vaporize the sheet and the elements.  The ions are then manipulated using electromagnetic fields and an analysis is conducted using software in the Griffin 824.  The device can differentiate between “junk” and actual compounds.  Something ion scanners previously weren’t so good with. 
How does a user know they have a “hit”?
The machine will display a green light at the initial startup and will then go to yellow when analyzing.  After the analysis is complete, the light will either go green again to signal a negative result or go red to annunciate a positive result.
How long does it take to start up the 824?
It takes approximately 20 minutes. Though, analysis takes about 10 seconds.
Why mass spectrometry?
It’s the standard for quality lab analysis for chemical compounds.  It’s also court-friendly.
So what separates this from the lab?
It can be taken into the field.  Mass spectrometry uses a lot of big expensive equipment in a lab, as is the case with Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry.  Because it’s transportable as a single unit and has many field user-friendly applications, it’s a natural fit for field analysis.
Going over some of the literature, it claims the 824 is equipped for both audio and visual alert cues. 
Yes.  We felt there was a need for operators not to have a loud, audible cue annunciate in front of a subject.
Are there any other applications that set the Griffin 824 apart from other technology?
It’s network addressable.  This means you can presumably plug the 824 into a network and have results shared over a network to a command and control center.  The 824 also has administrative and user profiles for individual operators in addition to a USB report for flash drives.  The screen is also a touch screen.  There is also no carrier gases needed which means no big helium tanks.  The unit is self-contained.  Given its ease of use, it takes a little under a day to train personnel on how to use the 824.
Garth, to say I’m impressed is an understatement.  How long from inception to production?
About 4 years.  We have another mass spectrometer, the Griffin 460 where we received feedback from operators wanting something for field use for narcotics and explosive detection analysis.  We saw the biggest need initially in airports for trace detection.
Garth, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me.  It was truly an honor.  

For more on the Griffin 824, please click on the links below.

FLIR Griffin 824 web page

FLIR Griffin 824 Datasheet 
To see the Griffin 824 in action check out the video below (no audio)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Force projection Mexican Style

Drug cartels in Mexico have a proven need for force projection in order to secure their territory. Learning from dictators and criminal enterprises before them, they use a variety of tools to accomplish this ranging from public execution to kidnappings. In the video below, a cartel is filmed using armored civilian vehicles with armed men to demonstrate the prowess of their strength akin to what one would expect to see in far away lands like Somalia not a city a few hundred miles from the world's most powerful democracy.

Does the Border Fence work? by thewalldoc

Is the Border fence "working"? Is it stopping illegal immigrants and drug smugglers? Go to to watch more. The Wall is available on DVD on!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pretty cool app from the folks at Homeland Security

Found a pretty nifty tool from the folks at the Department of Homeland Security.  It's a service called SelfCheck.  It's similar to the E-Verify service US employers use to verify your employment eligibility.  It pulls data from US credit agencies and your Passport file to ask identity related questions.  From there, it verifies your eligibility against what I presume other databases (aka "watchlists") and makes it determination.  According to it, I'm "good-to-go".  Note to any companies or agencies I've applied to: That means you CAN hire me.
Self Check is a voluntary, fast, free and simple service that allows you to check your employment eligibility in the United States. If any mismatches are found between the information you provide and your Department of Homeland Security or Social Security Administration records, Self Check will inform you of how to correct those mismatches.
As a side note, you need to be in a location that participates in the service.  Here's some more info on that:
USCIS is releasing the Self Check service in phases. At this point the service is offered only to users that maintain an address in Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Colombia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, or Washington. The availability of Self Check will be limited for the initial launch as the service is tested and improved upon based on the outcomes of the initial implementation. 

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Border Security via RoboCop

Below is a video of Guardium, an autonomous observation and target intercept system, developed by IAI/Lahav is based on the M-Guard unmanned security vehicle (USV) which can be operated from a command center, carry out routine patrols and quickly respond to evolving emergencies. According to the Defense Update, which is an online international defense magazine,
They can suppress suspicious elements close to the perimeter, and hold them back until manned security forces arrive, or use various forceful means to eliminate the threat, if applicable.

The M-Guard autonomous vehicle uses the TomCar chassis. The vehicle is equipped with an automated tactical positioning system and can operate autonomously on and off road, at speeds up to 80 km/h. The vehicle can carry a payload of up to 300 kg, including light armor shield to protect vital systems. The USV can carry a wide variety of sensors, including video and thermal cameras, with auto-target acquisition and capture, sensitive microphone, powerful loudspeakers and two way radio.

The vehicle can also be equipped with lethal or less than lethal weapons which can be directed and operated from the Main Control Center (MCC). A fleet of USV sentries is controlled from the MCC, from where they are launched on routine patrols, ambushes or operating in response to events received from an early warning or perimeter defense system.

The MCC is also provided with automatic tactical area definition, by terrain, doctrine and intelligence, which assist in preparation of the operational planning and programming for USVs. Each USV can also be manually controlled by remote control.

Virtual Fence Prototype...going...going..gone

According to Security Management, DHS is dismantling its prototype virtual fence. If you remember, the GAO told Congress the $20 million project was not completely functional or effective. According to the report, sensors gave false positives on wildlife and debris and the system was slow at catching some illegal crossers.

The virtual fence project is an $8 billion Secure Border Initiative, called SBInet, which aims to harden the nation's border by networking traditional barriers, vehicles, sensors and agents.

Although controversial, DHS is still proclaiming this was just a prototype and heralded its assistance in over 3,000 captures.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Chertoff's Self -Evaluation

DHS Secretary Chertoff gave his evaluation of Homeland Security's progress over 5 years to Congress on March 5th, 2008. He summarized the Department's progress in 5 areas:
  1. Strengthening border security through greater deployment of infrastructure, manpower, and technology
  2. Enhancing interior enforcement at worksites, providing new tools to employers, and identifying and arresting fugitives, criminals, and illegal alien gang members
  3. Making temporary worker programs more effective
  4. Improving the current immigration system
  5. Assimilating new immigrants into our civic culture and society.
On strengthening border security, he discussed the "installation of tactical infrastructure, including pedestrian and vehicle fencing; hiring and training new Border Patrol agents; and deploying a range of technology to the border, including cameras, sensors, unmanned aerial systems, and ground-based radar."

We made a commitment to build 670 miles of pedestrian and vehicle fencing on the Southern border by the end of this calendar year to prevent the entry of illegal immigrants, drugs, and vehicles. We are on pace to meet that commitment. We have built 302.4 miles of fence, including 167.7 miles of pedestrian fence and 134.7 miles of vehicle fence....For example, in February of this year, I traveled to Hidalgo County, Texas, to meet with county leaders who were planning to build a levee along the Rio Grande River for purposes of flood control. Although we still need help from Congress, we were able to negotiate an agreement to design our fence plans in coordination with their levee construction, allowing us to effectively satisfy two goals at the same time.

He also spoke about Border Patrol:

Over the past year, we have accelerated recruitment, hiring, and training of Border Patrol agents. 15,439 Border Patrol agents are currently on board and we will have over 18,000 agents by the end of this year – more than twice as many as when President Bush took office. This represents the largest expansion of the Border Patrol in its history, and we have grown the force without sacrificing the quality of training the Border Patrol Academy prides itself on delivering.

As an additional force multiplier, we continue to benefit from the support of the National Guard under Operation Jump Start. This has been an extremely fruitful partnership. We are grateful to the Department of Defense as well as governors across the United States for allowing us to leverage the National Guard in support of our border security mission.

On P-28 (which we covered in previous articles), Chertoff had the follwoing to say:

P-28 was designed to be a demonstration of critical technologies and system integration under the broader SBInet initiative. Specifically, its purpose was to demonstrate the feasibility of the SBInet technical approach developed by the contractor, Boeing, and to show that this type of technology could be deployed to help secure the Southwest border. After successful field testing, we formally accepted P-28 from Boeing on February 21st of this year. We have a system that is operational and has already assisted in identifying and apprehending more than 2,000 illegal aliens trying to cross the border since December....A P-28-like system would be neither cost-effective nor necessary everywhere on the border. Accordingly, we are building upon lessons learned to develop a new border-wide architecture that will incorporate upgraded software, mobile surveillance systems, unattended ground sensors, unmanned and manned aviation assets, and an improved communication system to enable better connectivity and system performance.

The department is looking at implementing more UAV's to include one for the entire northern border. He plans to increase the number of ground-based mobile surveillance systems from six to forty. And we will acquire 2,500 additional unattended ground sensors this fiscal year, with 1,500 of those planned for deployment on the northern border and 1,000 on the southwest border. These will supplement the more than 7,500 ground sensors currently in operation.

How much does this cost? Not much really considering what we spend money on already. Could we do better? I'll let you decide. Just remember the old addage: You get what you pay for.

To continue to support these kinds of technology investments, we have requested $775 million in funding as part of the President’s Fiscal Year 2009 budget.

How are things going? That depends on who you ask. Secretary Chertoff says

For Fiscal Year 2007, CBP reported a 20 percent decline in apprehensions across the Southern border, suggesting fewer illegal immigrants are attempting to enter our country. This trend has continued. During the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2008, Southwest border apprehensions were down 16 percent, and nationwide they were down 18 percent over the same period the previous year.

Port security received a lot of help in the form of biometrics and citizenship checks. Current travelers into the US were checked for proof of citizenship and against various criminal/terrorist databases. Chertoff testified:
In January of this year, we also ended the routine practice of accepting oral declarations of citizenship and identity at our land and sea ports of entry. People entering our country, including U.S. citizens, are now asked to present documentary evidence of their citizenship and identity. Not only will this help to reduce the number of false claims of U.S. citizenship, but it reduces the more than 8,000 different documents our CBP officers must currently assess. By requiring a narrower set of documents, we are able to improve security and efficiency at the ports of entry, and create an effective transition period for implementation of the land and sea portion of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative in June 2009.
You ever get those stories on the news where it seem like we never arrest illegal immigrants. I know in most places ICE won't come out for less than a large froup of illegals. According to Chertoff, ICE removed over 280, 000 illegal aliens. He lists some of their operations:

Universal Industrial Sales, Inc: On February 7, 2008, fifty-seven illegal aliens were arrested during a worksite enforcement operation conducted at Universal Industrial Sales Inc. (UIS) in Lindon, Utah. ICE forwarded roughly 30 cases to the Utah County Attorney's Office for possible criminal prosecution for offenses such as identity theft, forgery, and document fraud. On the federal side, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah unsealed two indictments charging the company and its human resource director with harboring illegal aliens and encouraging or inducing workers to stay in the United States illegally.

George’s Processing: In January of 2008, a federal jury convicted a former human resources employee at George’s Processing – a poultry plant in Butterfield, Missouri – of harboring an illegal alien and inducing an illegal alien to enter or reside in the United States. Under federal statutes, this individual is facing up to 10 years in federal prison without parole. Another former employee recently pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft. A total of 136 illegal aliens were arrested as part of this investigation into identity theft, Social Security fraud, and immigration-related violations at the plant.

RCI Incorporated: In October of 2007, the former President of RCI Incorporated – a nationwide cleaning service – pled guilty to harboring illegal aliens and conspiring to defraud the United States. He will pay restitution to the United States in an amount expected to exceed $16 million. He also agreed to forfeit bank accounts, life insurance policies, and currency totaling more than $1.1 million for knowingly hiring illegal aliens.

Stucco Design Inc.: On March 7, 2007, the owner of an Indiana business that performed stucco-related services at construction sites in seven Midwest states pled guilty to violations related to the harboring of illegal aliens. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison and forfeited $1.4 million in ill-gotten gains.

Michael Bianco, Inc.: On March 6, 2007, in New Bedford, Massachusetts, a textile product company owner and three other managers were arrested and charged with conspiring to encourage or induce illegal aliens to reside in the United States and conspiring to hire illegal aliens. Another person was charged in a separate complaint with the knowing transfer of fraudulent identification documents. Approximately 360 illegal workers were arrested on administrative charges as part of the operation, representing more than half of the company's workforce.

Fines have in creased for employers who allow illegal immigrants to work for them by 26 percent. What tools did Chertoff give employers to help them weed out illegal immigrants? Well, he's given them E-Verify, an on-line system administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that allows employers to check, in most cases within seconds, whether an employee is authorized to work in the United States. Some states have begun to require employers to enroll in E-Verify, most notably Arizona, where the system is adding about 1,000 new users per week.

Nationally, we are adding 1,800 new E-verify users per week. More than 54,000 employers are currently enrolled, compared to 24,463 at the end of Fiscal Year 2007, and nearly 2 million new hires have been queried this fiscal year. We are expanding outreach to Georgia and will be working in other states to increase participation. To support this work, we have requested $100 million in the Fiscal Year 2009 budget.

Have your calls to ICE gone unanswered? Not anymore. Chertoff has told Congress

ICE Agreements of Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security (ICE ACCESS) program, which includes training under the 287(g) program, participation in Border Enforcement Security Task Forces (BEST) and Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces (DBFTF)....Through the 287(g) program, ICE delegates enforcement powers to state and local agencies who serve as force multipliers in their communities. As of September 30, 2007, ICE has signed 38 memoranda of agreement (MOAs) with state and local law enforcement agencies to participate in the program. Last year, ICE trained 426 state and local officers. In the program’s last two years, it has identified more than 26,000 illegal aliens for potential deportation.

ICE also has continued to expand its BEST teams to work cooperatively with domestic and foreign law enforcement counterparts to dismantle criminal organizations operating near the border. In Fiscal Year 2007, ICE launched new BEST teams in El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley, and in San Diego, bringing the total number of teams to five. These task forces have been responsible for 519 criminal arrests and 1,145 administrative arrests of illegal aliens, the seizure of 52,518 pounds of marijuana and 2,066 pounds of cocaine, 178 vehicles, 12 improvised explosive devices, and more than $2.9 million in U.S. currency.

ICE DBFTFs are a strong law enforcement presence that combats fraud utilizing existing manpower and authorities. Through comprehensive criminal investigations, successful prosecutions, aggressive asset forfeiture and positive media, the DBFTFs detect, deter and dismantle organizations that facilitate fraud. The task forces promote the sharing of information, ensure the integrity of our laws, and uphold public safety. In April 2007, ICE formed six new task forces, bringing the total number of DBFTFs to 17. These task forces have been responsible for 804 criminal convictions and 1,917 seizures worth more than $8 million in value.

In Fiscal Year 2007, ICE Fugitive Operations Teams arrested 30,407 individuals, nearly double the number of arrests in Fiscal Year 2006. The teams, which quintupled in number from 15 to 75 between 2005 and 2007, identify, locate, arrest and remove aliens who have failed to depart the United States pursuant to a final order of removal, deportation, or exclusion; or who have failed to report to a Detention and Removal Officer after receiving notice to do so. In Fiscal Year 2008, Congress authorized an additional 29 teams. Fugitive Operations Teams have arrested more than 10,000 individuals this year.

ICE also expanded its Criminal Alien Program (CAP) in Fiscal Year 2007, initiating formal removal proceedings on 164,000 illegal aliens serving prison terms for crimes they committed in the United States. ICE has already initiated more than 55,000 formal removal proceedings against additional criminal aliens in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2008. ICE is developing a comprehensive strategic plan to better address CAP.

In addition, in Fiscal Year 2007 ICE arrested 3,302 gang members and their associates as part of Operation Community Shield. This total includes 1,442 criminal arrests. For Fiscal Year 2008, ICE has arrested 723 gang members and their associates, which is a 34 percent increase over the same period last year.

All this enforcement has not been without consequences. Secretary Chertoff recognizes the impact their operations have had on certain "economic sectors" like agriculture. He stated, "Of the 1.2 million agricultural workers in the United States, an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 are here illegally. This is not an argument for lax enforcement. Rather, we need to make sure our temporary worker programs are effective. To this end, we have joined the Department of Labor in proposing changes to modernize the H-2A seasonal agricultural worker program to remove unnecessarily burdensome restrictions on participation by employers and foreigners, while protecting the rights of laborers."

Customs has created the Office of Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) to enhance the integrity of the legal immigration system by identifying threats to national security and public safety, detecting and combating benefit fraud, and removing other vulnerabilities. During Fiscal Year 2007, FDNS submitted approximately 8,700 fraud or criminal alien referrals to ICE. While USCIS works through the backlog of cases, it remains committed to ensuring the preservation of high quality standards and anti-fraud counter-measures.

The nation's new naturalized citizenship test will be implemented some time this fall. It will emphasizes fundamental concepts of American democracy and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Update on DHS Fencing Project from DHS

Well ladies and gents, it appears the Department of Homeland Security got a bit upset at the Wall Street Journal for its article I mentioned earlier. This is the DHS's reply:

The Wall Street Journal Inaccurately Asserts That First 28 Miles of the Virtual Fence Will Be the Last: "But The Problems That have plagued the high-tech barrier mean that the fence's first 28 miles will also likely be its last. The Department of Homeland Security now says it doesn't plan to replicate the Boeing Co. initiative anywhere else." ("US Curbs Big Plans for Border Tech Fence," The Wall Street Journal, February 23, 2008)

But, P28 was a proof of concept and a building block. It was never intended to be replicated across the entire border: “Let me remind everybody, of course, the border is not just a uniform place. It is a very complicated mix of different kinds of environments -- ranging from urban areas, where the distance between the border and a major transportation hub is measured in maybe less than a mile, to very remote and desolate rural areas or wilderness areas, where there's really, frankly, quite a bit more distance to be covered and therefore a lot more flexibility in how and when you interdict those crossing the border. That's why SBI Net, as a critical element, has been designed to be a flexible tool. It is not a cookie cutter approach. What applies in one stretch of the border is not going to be what applies in another stretch. What will be common, however, is that all of the stretches and all of the tools will be integrated and bound together.” (Transcript of Press Briefing by Secretary Chertoff on the Awarding of the SBInet Contract, 9/21/06)

It's an out-of-the box concept: "I would say it is a partial model for the future. I think that it was a concept. We wanted to make sure that, A, there's the basic concept functionality work and, B, the thought was to give the contractor an opportunity to present something that essentially thought out of the box, that wasn't just a follow-on to the traditional way of doing business." (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Hearing on the Fiscal 2009 Budget for the Department of Homeland Security, 2/14/08)

And, we'll use more technologies at the border: "…by the end of this calendar year, we will be a 670 miles of barriers. Plus, we will have deployed 40 what we call mobile surveillance systems. That is ground-based radar. We will have our P-28 system, and begin to employ other camera-based and sensor-based systems…we will have substantially put either real or virtual fencing or barriers across the entire border." (Secretary Chertoff at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on the Fiscal 2009 Budget for the Department of Homeland Security, 2/13/08)

The Wall Street Journal Claims That DHS Will Be Mothballing the Concept Behind the Virtual Fence: "The effective mothballing of the concept is a setback for the government's border-protection efforts, an embarrassment for politicians backing the idea of an electronic fence and a blow to Boeing, the project's designer." ("US Curbs Big Plans for Border Tech Fence," The Wall Street Journal, February 23, 2008)

But, that's wrong: Technology used for P28 will continue to be deployed along the border. In fact, the FY09 budget requests $775 million for SBI to continue the development and deployment of technology and tactical infrastructure on the border.

The Wall Street Journal Erroneously Reports That DHS Issued Boeing a New Contract to Fix the P28 Common Operating System: "In early December, the government said it was closing in on taking delivery. But that same month, the government gave Boeing another $64 million contract to fix the "common operating picture," which lets agents in vehicles see imagery from the towers' surveillance systems." ("US Curbs Big Plans for Border Tech Fence," The Wall Street Journal, February 23, 2008)

But, this contract was to develop the new Common Operational Picture and to enhance systems capabilities for future deployments as initially planned. ("DHS Moves Forward on Border Fencing and Technology Improvements", December 7, 2007)

All I have to say is, "Wow!" I understand this was supposed to be just a "proof-of-concept" to see if this would work across the board. And I don't think this was supposed to be our only lines of "defense". But I do think DHS has to step-up the deployment a notch. If it's working like Secretary Chertoff says, then let's get this thing rolling.

According to most immigration watchdogs and other concerned parties, every day wasted testing or delaying is another day wasted keeping bad guys out. If I live in a really bad neighborhood and all I have is a big mean guard dog and pistol to protect my home, this may work to some extent. It does not keep intruders from gaining in the first place and may not achieve the results I had intended as well as welcoming me up to substantial liabilities.

As I welcome the idea of a "virtual fence", I believe we have to have other means to secure our borders. In addition to new technologies, we need new tactics and methodologies when dealing with our current immigration debacle. That's the end of me being political but I hope you get the picture.

Friday, February 29, 2008

And you thought you had fencing issues...

Ladies and gents, it appears the United States' "virtual fence" has run into some snags, according to Security Management. I won't even go into how a CCTV system is as only good as its operators and software/hardware platforms. Nor will I mention the same goes for IDS as well. I won't even go into how with all CCTV and IDS systems your biggest weakness lies in the money you're willing to spend to fix your problem (porous borders). I will, however, talk a bit about the virtual fence and what it means for us as a citizenry and as professionals in this field.

The Washington Post broke the story with its report that despite the Bush Administration's approval of the fence this past Friday, the construction and implementation of the fence will have to be delayed by at least three years.

It appears there we were technical problems from a prototype system as well as a test system located along a stretch of the border in Arizona. According to the report, the problems included:

1. According to the Washington Post, "Boeing's use of inappropriate commercial software, designed for use by police dispatchers, to integrate data related to illicit border-crossings. Boeing has already been paid $20.6 million for the pilot project, and in December, the DHS gave the firm another $65 million to replace the software with military-style, battle management software."

2. According to the Washington Post, "Technology originally central to the project, such as mobile radar/sensor towers, has been dropped, the article reports, in favor of "[m]ore traditional ground-based radar and airborne surveillance drones," according to Business Week."

This past Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff asserted in his blog, "I’ve seen this system work with my own eyes, and I’ve talked with the Border Patrol Agents who are using it. They assure me that it adds value. That’s what matters to me, and it’s a fact that cannot be denied."

While the virtual fence is better than what we currently have, I'm having trepidations about a system that has so many setback and issues which are core to its very success. For more information click here for the Post's article on the virtual fence or here for the full article from Security Management.

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