The security week that was: 08/21/09

Politics plus color-coded threat levels?

I am not sure if Tom Ridge is just trying to sell copies of his forthcoming book "The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege ... and How We Can Be Safe Again", but the claim that he was pressured by the Bush administration in 2004 to raise the terror alert level in advance of the presidential election is a mesmerizing story. The book is due out on Sept. 1, and Ridge isn't doing interviews until then, so this bit of information comes from a news release issued by his publisher, which said in the news release that: " Ridge also reveals ... how Ridge effectively thwarted a plan to raise the national security alert just before the 2004 Election".

There's a sly dig in that statement that seems to link the terror alert level to the politics of a president seeking reelection. Whether that's just publicist puffery or a real component of the book is unknown at this point, though it's clear that Bush advisors don't agree with the statement. In the Associated Press article on our site about this story, Frances Townsend, the former homeland security adviser for President George W. Bush, said Ridge was certainly not pressured. "Never were politics ever discussed in this context in my presence," said Townsend. "And, by the way, he didn't object when it was raised and he certainly didn't object when it wasn't raised."

One thing is clear, these are murky political waters if our nation's leaders ever do start playing with national security threat levels. With the light always burning at yellow (the "elevated" threat level) and at orange ("high" threat level), there's already been an effect of the boy-who-cried-wolf. Just last month, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced a 60-day review of the homeland security advisory system (HSAS), one component of which is the color-coded threat advisory model.

Ridge's new book is due out on Sept. 1, 2009, from Macmillan so get your copy and send us your thoughts once you've read it. All I'll say for now is that I hope, for the greatness of our nation, politics of fear don't impact the Department of Homeland Security's ability to do its job. Let's hope this is just a publicist in action trying to sell out the first run of a new book, and not the reality of our nation.

Blackwater was gunning for al-Qaida
NYTimes reports secret program that hired Blackwater to target al-Qaida's operatives

Had enough perplexing thoughts about politics and the DHS, but still want more dirt on interesting dealings related to national security and the war on terrorism? How about this one: The CIA is said to have hired Blackwater, the for-hire security corporation based out of North Carolina (now known as Xe after being denied work in Iraq by that nation's government) to hunt down, capture or kill al-Qaida operatives. The program was said to have been a bust and didn't result in the capture or killing of operatives. It was eventually canceled by CIA Director Leon Panetta, after reputedly being an on-and-off program for quite a few years (Tenet had tried to end the program years ago). The story just broke this week from The New York Times newspaper.

In other news...
UTC buys Chinese fire alarm company; Big brother goes big; 3VR gains more funding

3VR, a company which touts "searchable surveillance" and video analytics through its beefed up video surveillance devices, landed $12 million of funding this week. The company is perhaps best known for its solutions being used in banks. ... There's been no question that video surveillance is a top growth area for security technologies, but a recent report from ABI Research estimates global sales of video surveillance are going to climb from $19.4 billion today to $41 billion by the year 2014. ... UTC Fire & Security has purchased over 95% of Chinese fire alarm system producer GST Holdings. UTC first started purchasing GST shares in 2006 and has now voluntarily taken over the firm, and will be merging it into the UTC operations globally.