The security week that was: 01/30/09

What does Blackwater’s removal from Iraq mean?

With Blackwater being barred from working in Iraq – the Iraqi government has decided to not renew Blackwater’s license to operate in the nation – a massive security hole is left open. Blackwater’s services were extensively used by the U.S. State Department for escorting convoys and officials, and while there are other companies which provide similar services, it’s difficult to find one with the manpower and experience that Blackwater provides, although likely competitors (and current State Department contract companies like Triple Canopy, Aegis and DynCorp International, which are some of Blackwater’s biggest competitors) are undoubtedly eager to pick up the slack.

At home, Blackwater was the company that Senators and representatives loved to hate. Often paid much more than the military personnel they fought and worked alongside, they were an easy target for questions of whether we should be using private military services. And they became a much easier target after an attack in Baghdad that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead and over a dozen injured. At the time, Blackwater was escorting a convoy and came under gunfire. Just three months ago, they were fined for illegally shipping weapons into Iraq.

What’s interesting is that while Blackwater loses its license, it doesn’t mean that the people hired for military-type security services will change at all. The same employees working in Iraq for Blackwater can still work in Iraq, and I’ll bet you that the HR fax machine and email inboxes at DynCorp and Triple Canopy are already overflowing with resumes from Blackwater contractors.

But don’t think this story ends here. DynCorp and Triple Canopy both face similar incidents of firing on civilians (though the death numbers were in the high teens). The fact is that when the military or civilian security contractors are faced with threats, triggers get itchy…even for the best. What’s clear is that Iraq and the U.S. can’t do without such operatives, and with the non-renewal of Blackwater’s license, the problems aren’t removed; they will simply be burdened onto another company. Even more confusing is the fact that Erik Prince, CEO/founder of Blackwater, also operates Greystone, a security contractor operating in Iraq that is sort of a subsidiary to Blackwater, but actually an independent company in its own right – and not even headquartered in the United States. So, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Greystone pick up the slack, and then we don’t see much of a change at all, except for the business to which the checks are written.

The removal of Blackwater from operations in Iraq is being discussed in our forums (see forums thread on Blackwater). Share your thoughts with other industry professionals.

Cameras in bathrooms
Even in the UK, people aren’t OK with this…but it still happens

If your client asked you to install cameras inside the bathrooms, would you politely turn down the request and maybe suggest they video the outside of the bathroom entrance instead? Well, apparently one UK firm did not, and now a school in Wales has cameras in the bathrooms. The outcry has already resulted in one student withdrawing from school in protest, and it makes you wonder: Could this happen in the U.S., where we generally have a bit stronger attitude toward personal privacy? Also, is there a difference between putting a camera in the wash area of a bathroom and actually putting one in a toilet stall? Undoubtedly, something very wrong must have been happening in these facilities to warrant even considering the installation of bathroom cameras. Chime in with your thoughts on bathroom surveillance in the related thread within our discussion forums.

Forgot to turn on the cameras and alarm system
Philly area schools rack up thousands and thousands in break-in costs while systems turned off

What’s the value of a security and camera system if you don’t turn it on? Not much, apparently. Systems in Philadelphia area schools didn’t deter criminals simply by their presence, and they didn’t alert authorities because the security alarm systems often weren’t turned on at night as buildings were locked up and shuttered for the night. Not only were the alarm systems often not being turned on, but the legacy VCR-based surveillance system didn’t have tapes on some occasions. Dealers and integrators: Get your sales guys out there and sell these schools some DVRs so they don’t have to worry about tapes. Losses of around $100,000 would have easily bought a good rack of DVRs! Talk about ROI!

In other news
Reducing nuisance alarms, ioimage's new CEO, NBFAA awards

System Sensor has launched web pages to help reduce nuisance alarms. … The NFPA is pushing for fire sprinklers in single-family homes and in duplexes. … The NBFAA has announced its 2009 Leadership Award winners; the TBFAA won chapter of the year. Congrats to the volunteer state. … Ioimage CEO Roni Kass has stepped down and new CEO Zeev Farkash has taken the lead role at the video-analytics-in-the-device company. … Money is still out there for entrepreneurial video surveillance companies; VideoCells landed $3.2 million in funding.

Finally, we take a look at the most read stories of the week: