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Archive for the ‘Homeland Security’ Category

WMD Civil Support Team for Wyoming Completes Training

Posted by K.E. White on March 16, 2007


Did you know that the Department of Defense trains WMD Civil Support Teams?

Currently America has 48 of these teams, with Wyoming’s team certified just two days ago. provides some of the history behind these teams:

In a commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy in May 1998, President Bill Clinton announced that the nation would do more to protect its citizens against the growing threat of chemical and biological terrorism. As part of this effort, he said, the Department of Defense would form 10 teams to support state and local authorities in the event of an incident involving weapons of mass destruction.

The WMD Civil Support Teams were established to deploy rapidly to assist a local incident commander in determining the nature and extent of an attack or incident; provide expert technical advice on WMD response operations; and help identify and support the arrival of follow-on state and federal military response assets. They are joint units and, as such, can consists (sic) of both Army National Guard and Air National Guard personnel, with some of these units commanded by Air National Guard lieutenant colonels.

The mission of Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams (WMD-CST) is to support local and state authorities at domestic WMD/NBC incident sites by identifying agents and substances, assessing current and projected consequences, advising on response measures, and assisting with requests for additional military support.

This program has come to be under the duties of U.S. National Guard:

Mission: To assess a suspected Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) attack, advise civilian responders on appropriate actions through on-site testing and expert consultation, and facilitate the arrival of additional state and federal military forces.

Overview: The CST is composed of 22 people, 7 Officer and 15 Enlisted, from both the Army and Air National Guard, with a variety of specialties. Assigned vehicles include a command vehicle, operations van, a communications vehicle called the Unified Command Suite (provides a broad range of communications capabilities including satellite communications), an Analytical Laboratory System van (contains a full suite of analysis equipment to support the medical team, and other general purpose vehicles). The CST normally deploys using its assigned vehicles, but can be airlifted if required. A deployment distance of up to 250 miles can usually be covered faster by surface travel, given the time required to recall an aircrew and stage an aircraft.

Posted in Counter proliferation, Homeland Security, WMD, WMD Civil Support Team, Wyoming | Leave a Comment »

So Over “Overblown”: J.P. Crowley Reponds to John Mueller’s Latest Book

Posted by K.E. White on January 26, 2007

I recently sat down with Philip J. Crowley, Director of National Defense and Homeland Security at the Center for American Progress, and chatted about John Mueller’s recent book Overblown.P.J. Crowley

Crowley, President Bill Clinton’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, was not bowled over by Overblown, as his responses to my questions make clear.

While finding value in Mueller’s contention that America may have already overreacted to the threat of terrorism, Crowley finds Mueller’s policy prescriptions lacking substance, evidence questionable, worldview dangerously isolationist, and perception of American foreign policy after WWII “idealistic and naive.”

Among his many critiques, Crowley highlights the danger of using past state-on-state diplomacy to understand the threat posed today by international terrorism. This leads him to consider Mueller guilty of the same fallacy—albeit in the opposite direction—of the Bush administration: forcing a statist paradigm onto terrorism.

Question: What do you make of Mueller’s view of America caught in a terror iron-triangle: with an irrationally concerned public egging on elected representative to feed funds to an insatiable terrorism industry?


Philip J. Crowley: It’s a clever formulation, but it’s a secondary consideration. The fundamental consideration is, is there a residual threat of terrorism to the United States? There is.

Certainly Mr. Mueller is likely right in thinking that we have overestimated its severity and have portrayed terrorists as an omniscient threat. And certain actions that the United States has taken since 9-11, most specifically the diversion into Iraq, have actually been counterproductive.

Much of his analysis is fair, but the board theme in terms of what the country should do in response is to basically to ignore the threat.

In the construct in the current threat of terrorism, he may be partially right that to some extent our overreaction actually makes terrorists more emboldened than they may otherwise be.

But his historical analysis of the manner in which the United States has handled what it perceived to be major threats in the past, is deeply, deeply, deeply flawed.

To suggest that on Dec. 8, 1941, in the face of the most significant military attack [Pearl Harbor] against the United States in our history, the proper course of action for President Roosevelt was to ignore and contain it is naive.

Certainly his portray of the McCarthy psyche that gripped the country in the 1950s is fair. On the over hand, many of the steps that we did take militarily, economically and diplomatically throughout the Cold War were directly responsible for the eventual demise of the Soviet Union.

What I found disappointing in the book was Mueller’s attempt to use history to justify an under reaction to the current situation. The ultimate right answer is probably somewhere in the middle.

While we are at risk of overreacting to the threat of terrorism because of 9-11, we are at risk of under reacting by not taking the proper steps to mitigate the residual risk that does exist, and is going to exist for some time.


Is Mueller’s provocative example of Pearl Harbor useful in adding depth to how America responded to security threat in the past and how we should respond to the threat of international terrorism today?


[Mueller’s view of Pearl Harbor] is historically inaccurate.

Mueller bases his analysis on almost purely on mathematical formulas.

He sees our response to Japan as such: The United States lost 2,500 citizens at Pearl Harbor, and in response the United States lost 100,000 or more troops in the Pacific theater.

So, in his mind, [since America’s response lead to greater human losses] the cost of the war did not justify a declaration of the war.

He ignores the fact that through World War II the role of the United States changed. He ignores the positive impact that the United States gained in terms of its impact on the world as a consequence of the war.

There is a just war theory, and it’s very controversial. But I find very few people who believe, as Mr. Muller seems to believe, that World War II was not a just war.


What is the goal of Muller’s book? What is the book’s view of America’s role in the world?

Mueller espouses an isolationist view. In his mind, we should never react to a provocation. You know, I keep using the word naive, and I think it is.

While there is a gain of truth and a seductive logic behind that view, there are simply times you have to respond.

The intervention in Bosnia, for example, was expressly not because the United States was threatened. In fact while the intervention cost American treasure, it cost not a single American life. In that intervention the United States was making a broader statement to Europe and to the world that it would not tolerate ethnic cleansing that threatened our significant national interests.

Now one could argue not that America should not do less, but more. Most people who look at the places the United States has interceded and the places the United States has failed to intercede, say America has not done enough—Darfur being the latest example, and rightfully so.

Mueller is trying to shift history in the opposite direction. And to suggest that it is not worth the United States making, what in my mind, the very important moral and political statement that the United States would hold leaders like Milosevic to account for policies that kill or displace hundreds of thousands of people, is wrong.

And because of the Serbian intervention—it was not perfect, it was not pretty at times—we now have European continent that is more united and is highly unlikely to experience any kind of major conflict in the foreseeable future.

Given where the world was in 1914, where a world war started owing to a series of overlapping alliances, to be at the point today where you’d probably think major war in Europe is no longer possible is an enormous achievement. And that would arguably not happen in the logic that John Mueller applies to the world.


The book’s theoretical perspective relies on lumping together America’s foreign policies towards other nation-states in the past, such as Germany and Japan during World War II or the Soviet Union, with America’s policy towards international terrorism today. Is this a useful approach to understanding American security policy after 9-11?

Mueller ends up, to some extent, contradicting his own argument, conflating the threat [of international terrorism] in ways the Bush administration has.

The Bush administration came into office in 2001, and then came 9-11. The Bush administration could not envision that Al Qaeda could do what it did without formal state sponsorship. And it was that logic that ultimately moved us from Afghanistan to Iraq.

Notwithstanding the existence of a safe heaven in Afghanistan and the shelter the Taliban, as the ruling government in Afghanistan, provided to Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda primarily pulled off 9-11 without meaningful state support.

And the Bush administration could not bring itself to accept that fact. So it started to look around for rogue states that are involved in terrorism and had been in the past. The shift then happened from Afghanistan to Iraq.

Mr. Mueller seems to tread that same path in reverse. In order to try to buttress his argument that we have overreacted to the threat of Al Qaeda, which by itself may be true, he then goes back and to use as justification the United States and how it has dealt with various state-related challenges in the second half of the twentieth century. I think he ends up mixing up apples and oranges.

There is logic to what he says about the risk of overreacting to what is not an existential threat. But you cannot confuse how the United States deals with a transnational non-state actor with how the United States deals with state-to-state relations—whether it be Japan after Pearle Harbor, or the Soviet Union during the Cold War, or a European state like Serbia that was responsible for the worst ethnic cleansing of modern time.

Now if one accepts there is a danger of politically overreacting to the threat of terrorism, he does give some rhetorical support to things we have to do—but little substance. I think that is what is missing in the book.


What does Mueller accomplish in this book? And what substance is missing in particular?

He sets up a straw man effectively: There is a fundamental risk that America can and perhaps has overreacted to a threat. But, by the same token, he does not go into any depth of where the right balance is.

He mentions in many parts in the book that while it is hard to envision that Al Qaeda could successfully build or explode a nuclear weapon, he nonetheless accepts the idea that we should do everything possible to keep fissionable material off the market. Okay, how do you do that?

He believes that we should primarily attack terrorism through law enforcement means. Okay, how do you do that?

To the extent that we have a residual threat of terrorism, and there are systems that are valuable to us that could be attacked, whether transit systems or port system, to what extent do you protect them?

His solution is largely just to tell the American people, “Don’t worry be happy.”

He misses the opportunity to find the pragmatic middle ground that would help those who want to know how to effectively govern.


Let’s say someone plans to read this book, or already has. What book would you tell them to read next that would fill in the deficits you have pointed out in Mueller’s work?


It hasn’t been written yet—which is exactly a problem. We’ll get there eventually. I think that is a very good point at which to critique here.

Mueller offers a useful admonition that there is a serious risk that America will overreact if it hasn’t already. The next piece is—if we are able to maintain perspective that his is a serious issue but not an existential threat, and that the adversary is capable but not omniscient—what should we do? Where is the right balance?

That is missing from Mueller’s book and really is the logical next step in the development of our concept of homeland security. What are the enduring things we can do so that we can protect what is important to us, without stoking fears in the population?

Posted in Bush administration, Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, Homeland Security, Iraq, J.P. Crowley, John Mueller, Proliferation News, Terrorism | Leave a Comment »

Book Guide–John Mueller’s “Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats and Why We Believe Them.”

Posted by K.E. White on January 8, 2007

Professor Mueller has penned a eye-opening and troubling account of not only America’s post 9/11 approach to homeland security, but to our nation’s overall approach to international security.

Mueller highlighting the waste of our government’s current anti-terror spending; charts our nation’s history of overreaction in foreign policy; and, pointedly asks, how large is the terrorist threat–and how should we fight it?

Read Proliferation’s Book Guide here.

Posted in Afghanistan, Bush administration, Homeland Security, Iran, Iraq, James Gilmore, John Mueller, WMD | Leave a Comment »

Book Fact Sheet–John Mueller’s “Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats and Why We Believe Them.”

Posted by K.E. White on January 8, 2007

Professor Mueller has penned a eye-opening and troubling account of not only America’s post 9/11 approach to homeland security, but to our nation’s overall approach to international security.

Mueller highlighting the waste of our government’s current anti-terror spending; charts our nation’s history of overreaction in foreign policy; and, pointedly asks, how large is the terrorist threat–and how should we fight it?

Posted in Afghanistan, Bush administration, Homeland Security, Iran, Iraq, James Gilmore, John Mueller, WMD | 1 Comment »

What Is Congress’s Wartime Role? Viewing 2002 Iraq Resolution

Posted by K.E. White on January 6, 2007

Did the United States Congress, in authorizing President George W. Bush to decide when to use force in Iraq, forfeit its wartime constitutional responsibity?
Who wins in war?

Many in today’s anti-war movement would heartily agree: bemoaning the complete lack of oversight by Congressional Democrats in the run-up to the Iraq War. If Congress is a co-equal branch, where was their voice?

But isn’t the President the “decider” in matters of war as our nation’s commander-in-chief?

Proliferation Press offers this report that explores wartime separation of powers looking to the works of three scholars–finding both sides in need of tweaking.

Congress’s pathetic role in checking a rushed war backed by a popular President was foreordained, White argues. While holding out hope for a future reversal, 2002 was not it and it seems 2007 won’t be either.

Read the full article

Posted in Bush administration, Congress, Constitutional History, Homeland Security, Iraq, Julian Zeilzer, Keith Whittington, Louis Fisher, Wartime Powers | Leave a Comment »

Blog on Blog: Negroponte’s Move

Posted by K.E. White on January 5, 2007

Soon-to-be Deputy NegroponteHeather Hurlburt, over at Democracy Arsenal, lays out some intriguing and entertaining thoughts on now-Intel Chief Negroponte’s move to the State Department.

Hurlburt 1) stresses the failure of the Intel Chief to coordinate our nation’s intelligence gathering, 2) sees it as more proof that–big shock–we’re staying the course in Iraq, 3) and offers some good conspiracy theories.

To me, her first point bares repeating: Negroponte, while seen as doing a credible job as Intel Chief, could not overcome the structural limitations of the position.

I find the Bush administration’s “game of musical chairs” (borrowed from WaPo’s Walter Pincus) shocking. Rice has operated without a deputy, just as Negroponte has operated throughout his tenure.

Shouldn’t there be a bi-partisan push to smooth this bureaucratic terrain, since this detail work– a) assembling and linking small data points,  b) building databases, and c) coordinating our nation’s 16 intelligence agencies–is critical to America’s homeland security?

Pinus told NPR that the position has not “gelled quite as quickly” as Congress would like with a undesired bureaucratic size (approx. 15,000 employees).

Clearly we won’t know the answer to the Negroponte puzzle for years—i.e. when the administration is relegated to the cottage industry of memoir-writing.

But this remains true: Politicians of both parties must pay more attention to the infrastructure of our nation’s intelligence gathering—and keep political posturing to a minimum.

Let’s hope that day isn’t scheduled with flying pigs.

Posted in Bush administration, Homeland Security, Intelligence, Security Studies, Terrorism | Leave a Comment »

What You Don’t Know Can’t Hurt You…

Posted by K.E. White on December 20, 2006

by kwhite, cross-listed at Campus Progress 

Last week, I heard former governor homeland security expert James Gilmore speak to Cato on improving our nation’s homeland security spending. He gave glowing comments to John Mueller’s recently published Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate the National Security Threats, and Why We Believe Them. The Cato event centered around the book’s charge that domestic anti-terrorism spending is counter-productive to American security.

What did Gilmore–Chairman of USA Secure—-offer as a solution?

This dual-pronged approach: 1) greater emphasis on the citizen to learn how government is spending his or her money, and 2) more transparency from DHS on where funds are going.

As you might guess he was heavy on rhetoric, light on substance.

This led me to wonder, ‘Well, how transparent is DHS spending–or DHS in general?’

Finding this out proved more difficult than I first thought, but below is my first go-around answer.

First, a brief review:

The term classified information refers to materials the government keeps away from public view that may compromise national security. While it has its critics, it’s an established process that has been hammered out by the court system and our nation’s bureaucracy.

But did you know the government can keep unclassified out of the public eye?

There is exactly an umbrella of bureaucratic acronyms that each represent a certain perspective on what are known as “sensitive materials.”

This new batch of “sensitive” concealment-apparently 56 in all–has led some to complain of secrecy abuse, particularly by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Some allege DHS uses this nebulously defined category SSI (or “Sensitive Security Information”) to cloak embarrassing information.

While the most recent DHS appropriations bill (passed this October) did include a section clarifying what SSI meant, DHS still has a sweeping ability to keep information away from the public eye or even other government agencies.

Secrecy is clearly needed for aspects of our nation’s homeland security policies and spending. But this worry must be addressed: Is information that many would consider useful for the public to know about being concealed?

It appears the answer, at least as of September, is yes.

While I applaud Gilmore for pushing the administration–one he has ties to as former Chair of the Republican National Committee–to bring needed transparency to homeland security spending, I hope he offers more details on how to do this at his next public speaking event.

I hope by that time to understand our government’s “sensitive materials” mishmash.

Posted in Homeland Security, Think Tank, WMD | Leave a Comment »

The Sky Isn’t Falling! Mueller Goes “Overblown” at Cato: Why Terrorism Isn’t Our Greatest Danger—We Are

Posted by K.E. White on December 13, 2006

John Mueller tells us all—politicians and citizens alike—to stop acting dumb when it comes to terrorism. Proliferation Press covers John Mueller’s book-party at Cato, documenting his witty and engaging plug for Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats and Why We Believe Them. Will we heed his warning to stop expecting the sky to fall? Former Governor James Gilmore is also thrown in for kicks.


Read the full article

Posted in Diplomacy, Homeland Security, James Gilmore, John Mueller, Terrorism, WMD | 1 Comment »