Friday, December 30, 2016

Most Eyebrow-Raising Headline of the Week

"Winners of camel beauty contest at Al Dhafra Festival crowned" - The National, UAE

The event has earned a prestigious position, both regionally and globally, on the calendar of heritage festivals and contributes to the revival of Arab heritage, said Wam, the state news agency.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Obama Marks the Start of Hanukkah

Friday, December 23, 2016

Most Eyebrow-Raising Headline of the Week

"Mail worker busted for stealing Christmas gift cards to buy sex toys" - New York Post

Rise of the Bollards

Bollards as 'street furniture' in Washington DC

How can I send the Trump transition team at State a suggestion? Because I’d like to nominate the UK's Ruth Reed to be the next Director of Overseas Buildings Operations.

I learned of Ms. Reed in a recent UK Guardian article asking what can be done to prevent Berlin-style attacks in modern cities? For my money, she has exactly the right approach to the city planner's problem of securing public spaces against Berlin-style truck attacks.
The Berlin lorry attack on Monday that killed 12 people and injured 48 others raises a pressing question for security services across the world: what can be done to stop such attacks?

The attack on Berlin’s Christmas market came six months after a 19-tonne cargo truck was deliberately driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, killing 86 people and injuring 484.

This seemingly new – and brutally destructive – form of terrorist attack is quickly becoming one that security experts fear the most: it can cause untold carnage and seemingly come out of nowhere. And there are obvious limits on the effect of practical measures.

-- snip --

Ruth Reed, the head of the Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) planning group and its former president, said counter-terrorism officers [in the UK] would reassess the security of open spaces in the wake of the Berlin attack.

“There will be a degree of reassessment of public open space inevitably after Berlin. I think that will happen all over Europe, not just here,” she said. “The British approach has always been to put in a degree of protection. They may want to think about increasing it – but it can be done discreetly.”

Reed co-authored industry-leading guidance (here), published in 2010, on designing for counter-terrorism without turning the nation into an uninviting fortress.

The most obvious form of protection against a truck attack are large barriers, known in the architecture business as “anti-ramming landscape features”. The black barriers around the Palace of Westminster are designed to stop a lorry attack at high speed. Up the road in Whitehall, there are barriers but they are hidden from view.

All US military and governmental buildings have “crash- and attack-resistant bollards” outside. The US state department “anti-ram vehicle list” lists several types of bollards to protect the perimeter of its embassies abroad. Some bollards are capable of stopping vehicles travelling at up to 50mph (80km/h).

“It’s not just the point of obstruction,” said Reed, who pointed out that measures including tight bends and restricted-width streets had been designed to prevent a large vehicle building speed before reaching a bollard or barrier ... “The important thing for public sanity really is that we don’t let this kind of anti-terrorism provision cloud our thinking because, if we develop some kind of bunker mentality, we’ve actually let them win,” she said.

“We want people to be able to go about their normal working and leisure times blissfully unaware that there is a risk that has been considered and reduced or eliminated. That’s the really important thing to say."

Now, it's not for nothing that Washington DC is known as The City of Bollards, so we do know a thing or two about using them discreetly. Check this out, for instance.

Bollards come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. There are low ones and high ones, fixed in place and operable ones, free-standing and tied together, ugly and decorative, old timey and modernistic. They can be made of steel, concrete, or polycarbonate. They can be intrusive or subtle, round or cylindrical, straight or curved, architecturally enhancing or utilitarian, blended into the background or black-and-yellow striped. They can even be repurposed old cannons half-buried in the ground, a common practice in the 17th and 18th Centuries, examples of which can still be seen today in most old port cities.

If you spend any time in a city, you can see bollards all around you as you go about your daily life. Pay some attention to them, because they are on the rise, and they can save lives.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

House Oversight Cmte Scopes Out Embassy Construction Cost Overruns

What is up with this misguided love of night vision gear? 

Consumer Notice: This post is certified 100% free of Matters of Official Concern that are not referenced from publicly available sources of information.

I get it that House Oversight Committee Chairman Representative Jason Chaffetz won't have Overseas Buildings Operations Director Lydia Muniz to kick around much longer, what with her being a political appointee and therefore departing her position by January 20. But the majority staff report he released this week is "littered with unsubstantiated allegations, cherry-picked evidence, and conclusions that contradict the overwhelming evidence that we obtained," in the words of the Ranking Member from the minority side of his committee. Really, what was the big hurry that this report couldn't have waited for a review by the minority side and a vote by the whole committee?

The State Department's Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs asked the Committee to submit the report for an interagency classification and sensitivity review before releasing it to the public, since it "details security methods and vulnerabilities at specific embassy construction sites, provides information that could be used to identify and target classified areas and communications, describes methods used to secure classified areas, and provides information about the Department's foreign intelligence countermeasures." But did they? No.

Here's that letter from State to Chairman Chaffetz, courtesy of CBS News.

UPDATE on December 29: I see that the HOGR Committee has now, properly and responsibly, withdrawn its staff report from the public sphere. Accordingly, I've deleted the remainder of this post. In the event the Committee re-releases the report, I'll comment again at that time.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Last Diplomat, But Almost Certainly Not The Last Time

The Wall Street Journal has an article up tonight - and in front of the pay wall - about the 2014 arrest of Robin Raphel on suspicion of espionage, the FBI's failed struggle to understand her function as a veteran diplomat and senior advisor on Pakistan, and the subsequent dismissal of all charges against her. Read it here, The Last Diplomat.

Her problems with the FBI began with this:
"Two FBI agents approached her, their faces stony. “Do you know any foreigners?” they asked."
Two years and over $100,000 in legal fees later, her legal problems were over, but her experience with law enforcement left an adverse impact on national security that will continue.
“What happened to Raphel could happen to any of us,” said Ryan Crocker, one of the State Department’s most highly decorated career ambassadors. Given the empowerment of law enforcement after 9/11 and the U.S.’s growing reliance on signals intelligence in place of diplomatic reporting, he said, “we will know less and we will be less secure.”

“Look what happened to the one person who was out talking to people,” said Dan Feldman, Raphel’s former boss at State. “Does that not become a cautionary tale?”

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Most Eyebrow-Raising Headline of the Week

"Florida Man Claiming To be Satan Demands Free Toyota From Dealership" -

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he drove a Camry.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Can Two Such Different Men Share a Foreign Policy Without Driving Each Other Crazy?

Mitt Romney as Trump's SecState? Seems bizarre, but that oddest of political couples is going to meet tomorrow at Trump's New Jersey golf resort, so we shall see.

Some people like the idea:
By contrast [with Trump's choices for National Security Advisor and Attorney General], choosing Mitt Romney as secretary of State would send a signal of reassurance and resolve to our allies abroad, and would be welcomed by many Republicans as well as Democrats in the Senate and House. Romney would be one of the most highly qualified candidates for any seat in the Cabinet of any president, and would be particularly valuable for America during the presidency of Donald Trump because of his knowledge of the world, experience and policy depth.

But Donald Trump and Mitt Romney?!

Weekends in New York With The Donald

New York Magazine frets that President Donald Trump might spend weekends in his NYC home, which would bring White House-levels of security to that stretch of Fifth Avenue. "If President Trump really uses Trump Tower as his regular getaway from the burdens of the Oval Office ... The man in the high castle will have turned a public thoroughfare into a glowering moat."

I think their language is overwrought - militarization?? - however, there is certainly a real adverse impact on public spaces when such a large security footprint is imposed on a congested city.

Trump Tower, Fifth Avenue, and the Militarization of Urban Public Space:
Fifth Avenue in the 50s is almost always clotted with pedestrians and cars, and this time of year it becomes even more congested as department stores turn their windows into Christmas Barneys-, Saks-, and Dior-amas. But Trump’s election has turned his stretch of Fifth into the urban equivalent of the security line at JFK: Aluminum barriers squeeze traffic into a pair of lanes, sidewalks are blocked off, and pedestrians shuffle past a gauntlet of armed officers.

-- snip --

We’ve seen it so often: Jersey barriers and modular fences, automatic weapons slung across Kevlar vests — the whole visible apparatus of control and intimidation in the name of safety.

-- snip --

Ever since 9/11, architects and planners have looked for more genial ways to minimize potential threats: cameras, of course, but also bollards that look like charming street furniture [TSB Note: They really do! Please click the link.] and public structures that are tougher than they appear. Even so, militarizing the streets has become the option of first resort, establishing a presence that’s as frail as it is aggressive. Paris has been bristling with security forces since the Charlie Hebdo attacks — which didn’t prevent the calamity of the Bataclan less than a year later. The 85,000 soldiers who kept Rio de Janeiro quiescent during the Olympics retreated after the crowds went home — and the military soon found itself in a shooting war with resurgent gangs. Blatant security works like a burglar alarm sticker on a front door: It announces to aspiring evildoers that they’ll do better down the block. And shooters tend to take that advice, attacking cafés, movie theaters, offices, elementary schools, and relatively unguarded streets rather than the fortified “targets” identified by consultants like, say, Rudolph Giuliani.

It's enough to make you appreciate Camp David. Maybe Trump will give Fifth Avenue shoppers a break and take up fly-fishing in the Catoctin Mountain streams, like Hoover and Eisenhower did. But, then, I really don't see him as the fly-fishing type.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Donald Trump (if that really is his name), Born in Pakistan?

Not that I think for one minute that President-Elect Trump was born in Pakistan, as this report from Neo News has it, but then, it might explain the burst of local pride in Peshawar this week.

Maybe Trump's real name was Dawood Ibrahim Khan, orphaned in Waziristan in 1954, taken to London by a kindly British Army officer, and then adopted by the Trump family a year later.

I mean, that could kind of happen, I suppose.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Brexit? This Was the Hexit

And so we say goodbye to Hillary Rodham Clinton. To Bill, too, I think, since the country seems to have reached Peak Clinton. Where will they go? Once, they might have retired to run the Clinton Foundation in their golden years, but now, the Trump administration may well appoint a Special Prosecutor who would spoil that fun.

I really hadn't expected a Trump administration, but we'll have one just 72 days from now. Which makes we wonder: who will he appoint as Secretary of State? Senator Bob Corker is absolutely begging for the job. I guess he'd be better than John Bolton or Newt Gingrich, but I dislike Senators and Congressmen as a rule. Surprise us, President Trump!

The Foreign Service might just be pleasantly surprised by Trump's Ambassadorial appointments. Since he lacks the usual big money donors and money bundlers, will he appoint mainly from the professional ranks? Let's hope so.  

Oh, and who will be Trump's Director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations? I assume he'll take a personal interest in that job. Believe me, our new POTUS is someone who knows how to build the biggest, classiest, and most totally secure embassies in the world, which by the way, is a very tricky thing to do, that I will tell you. Might OBO be run by some construction world crony of Trump's? Yes, please!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Fear and Trembling in DC

It could be just a coincidence, but this storm passed through Washington DC right after the FBI obtained a search warrant for Huma Abedin's home computer.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Further Adventures of Carlos Danger

From the New York Times, New Emails in Clinton Case Came From Devices Once Used by Anthony Weiner:
WASHINGTON — Federal law enforcement officials said Friday that the new emails uncovered in the closed investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server were discovered after the F.B.I. seized electronic devices belonging to Huma Abedin, a top aide to Mrs. Clinton, and her husband, Anthony Weiner.

The F.B.I. is investigating illicit text messages that Mr. Weiner sent to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina. The bureau told Congress on Friday that it had uncovered new emails related to the Clinton case — one federal official said they numbered in the thousands — potentially reigniting an issue that has weighed on the presidential campaign and offering a lifeline to Donald J. Trump less than two weeks before the election.
So there we are. It is pure Greek tragedy, all about fate and character. Two women fated to tragedy by two men who won’t keep their dicks in their pants.

Most Eyebrow-Raising Headline of the Week

Could be a record number of citations for one moving violation

"Woman accused of hitting patrol car while taking nude Snapchat for boyfriend" - NBC 12 Bryan, Texas

Bryan Police said Miranda Kay Rader, 19, was sending nude photos to her boyfriend through the social media app Snapchat on the 2500 block of E. Villa Maria. According to the officer whose car Rader hit, Rader was attempting to put on a black blouse when the officer approached her. The officer said Rader also had an open bottle of wine in her center console cup holder.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Family Business is the Family Business, Whether it's on Mott Street or Lexington Avenue

The WaPo finally took notice of the thousands of Podesta emails that have been pushed out by WikiLeaks and did a story today about the money-making machine that is Teneo Holdings, the "C-suite advisory firm and investment banking platform" created by his one-time White House aide, Douglas Band. Read it here, Inside Bill Clinton Inc:
Band, who grew close to Bill Clinton two decades ago as his personal aide in the White House and became the architect of his post-presidential activities, argued in the memo that he and his firm had benefited the former president and his foundation.

We have dedicated ourselves to helping the President secure and engage in for-profit activities,” Band wrote. He also said he had “sought to leverage my activities, including my partner role at Teneo, to support and to raise funds for the foundation.”

Band’s memo provided data showing how much money each of Teneo’s 20 clients at the time had given to the Clinton Foundation, how much they had paid Bill Clinton and, in some cases, how he or Kelly had personally forged the relationships that resulted in the payments.

Band wrote that Teneo partners had raised in excess of $8 million for the foundation and $3 million in paid speaking fees for Bill Clinton. He said he had secured contracts for the former president that would pay out $66 million over the subsequent nine years if the deals remained in place.

Teneo Holdings ... the name is a bit redundant, since teneo is the Latin verb for to hold. Band might as well have named it the Genco Olive Oil Company, since it seems to play the same role for Clinton Inc that Genco did for the Corelone family.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Give the Hackers a Hand

So John Podesta used a public wi-fi system on AMTRAK (see Re: My John.podesta account) to do his business with the world?

I'm starting to suspect it did not really take Russian super-hackers to get the podesta emails that Wikileaks is pushing out. His poor security practices alone can account for that.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

That's Fortress Embassy Number 133

Image from U.S. Embassy Paramaribo's flicker page

My good friends in the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations have opened another new U.S. embassy, this one in Paramaribo. It was designed by ZGF Architects and built by general construction contractor BL Harbert International, has 5,348 gross square meters of space, and cost $164 million.

From the press release, United States Dedicates New U.S. Embassy in Paramaribo, Suriname:
As a symbol of our enduring relationship with Suriname, Under Secretary for Management Patrick F. Kennedy, U.S. Ambassador Edwin R. Nolan, and the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) Principal Deputy Director William Moser, alongside local officials, dedicated the new U.S. Embassy in Paramaribo on October 5.

The multi-building complex, on an 8-acre site in the Morgenstond development, includes a chancery, support buildings, and facilities for the Embassy community. The new complex will provide embassy employees with a safe, secure, and sustainable workplace.

-- snip --

Since 1999, as part of the Department’s Capital Security Construction Program, OBO has completed 133 new diplomatic facilities and has an additional 53 projects in design or under construction.

Did I read that last part correctly? OBO has 53 more projects currently in design or under construction? Maybe they mean under planning, design, or construction. But no matter. By placing 133 U.S. diplomatic missions in "safe, secure, and sustainable" new office buildings, and to have even low double digits more in some phase of replacement, means that OBO has turned a very significant corner. When you include the 22 new embassies that were built in the Inman program era, it means that, for the first time ever, a majority of our missions are now in Fortress Embassies. The norm for U.S. diplomatic facilities is now a Fortress, for better or worse.

How many U.S. diplomatic missions are there? If you use the most expansive list available, there are 294 of them, but that includes missions to international organizations. It's more like 274 if you count just the bilateral missions. Whichever number you use, more than half of them are in Fortresses.

That is a big, big, change from the situation at the time of the East Africa embassies bombings, when nearly all of our missions were highly vulnerable to attack. Those bombings prompted Congress to provide a continuing program of capital funding for new embassy construction. Unlike in the Inman '80s, when the steam ran out of Congress's interest in embassy security after a few years, this time they were as good as their word. So, yea for Congress!

Image from

There's the old embassy in Paramaribo, all flimsy ticky-tack and too close to the street. Not safe, secure, or sustainable. Or even especially functional. Good riddance.

Here's a travel tip. The city of Paramaribo is way more enjoyable than I would have guessed. The Dutch colonial influence and a lot of history make up for the miserable climate. Should you visit, be sure to take a trip out of town to see Joden Savanne, a World Heritage site located in the jungle but only a moderate drive outside the city. Starting in the 1630s, Sephardi Jews from the Netherlands, Portugal, and Italy attempted to resettle in part of Dutch Guiana and create a plantation economy along the Suriname River. It was one of the earliest attempts at European settlement in South America, and one of the few by a group fleeing persecution. It was ultimately unsuccessful, but the ruins of Joden Savanne's synagogue and cemetery have been preserved. Highly recommended. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Perfect Casting for the Remake of Miss Bala

One of the more interesting and unlikely characters to emerge in the 2016 Presidential election is the one-time Miss Universe and now Hillary voter Alicia Machado. If Machado has an agent, and I'm sure she does, I hope he or she is pitching her for the Sony Pictures remake of Miss Bala.

Miss Bala was a terrific independent Mexican picture from 2011 which was inspired by the true story of a Mexican beauty queen who became hooked up with a drug cartel boss. Machado seems perfect for the role if you credit the details in this CBS commentary on the curious case of Alicia Machado:
[T]there is little mention of how a Venezuelan judge once alleged on live TV that Machado had threatened to kill him. Or how the Mexican attorney general’s office later said she was the girlfriend of a major narco trafficker, and that she he had a child with him, according to Univision and other outlets. Or how a government witness who reportedly testified about their affair was later shot to death.
That Univision story (here) is from 2010, so it predates the emergence of Machado as a figure in the gringo election. CNN Latino also named her around then in a story about celebrities running with drug bosses. In fairness, Machado has kinda-sorta denied that her child was fathered by this guy, whom the U.S. State Department described as "a key member of the [Arturo Beltran-Leyva] drug trafficking organization ... [who] coordinated the movement of illegal narcotics into the United States and oversees the repatriation of narcotics-related proceeds" when it offered a $2 million reward for his capture.

So, what's the truth? If you google it, you can find a Miami city document - which has not been validated so far as I know - establishing the child's domicile in Miami and listing a patronymic that agrees with the name of the drug boss. There was no DNA test conducted - so far as I know - when Alicia Machado filed for U.S. citizenship for herself and her daughter, despite the legal implications of the Kingpin Act which prohibits U.S. persons, such as the then legal permanent resident Alicia Machado, from “engaging in any transaction or dealing in property or interests in property of [specially designated narcotics trafficker]s and from engaging in any transaction that evades or avoids the prohibitions of the Kingpin Act." The purported baby daddy was listed as a Kingpin by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2008. If Machado had any financial transactions with him, and I'm not saying she did, should that have prevented her from receiving U.S. citizenship this year? I don't know.

But, back to Miss Bala. It was an innovative movie about the horrible situation in Mexico today, shown entirely from the point of view of a naif waif would-be beauty queen who is snatched up by narcos. If even half of what criminal justice officials in Venezuela and Mexico have alleged is true, then Alicia Machado can understand that character.

The real-life incident that inspired the movie was reported by the WaPo in 2008: Busted: Mexico's Miss Sinaloa and the 7 Narcos.

That's Miss Sinaloa, skinny jeans and all, along with some of the seven suspected narco traffickers, $53,000 in cash, two AR-15 rifles, three handguns, 633 rounds of ammo, and 16 cellphones which were in the truck with her when Mexican police arrested her in 2008.

And that's the movie poster for Miss Bala, in a scene depicting a narco boss using her to repatriate narcotics-related proceeds smuggle his cash back into Mexico.

Alicia Machado, you were made for that role.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Benghazi and HRC's Culpability, the SECCA Time Around

Consumer Notice: This post is certified 100% free of Matters of Official Concern that are not referenced from publicly available sources of information.

Gregory Hicks, the former DCM in Tripoli, now retired, has written an opinion piece for Fox News with the very election-year-sounding title of "What the Benghazi Attack Taught Me About Hillary Clinton."

Far be it from me to defend HRC, however, Mr. Hicks repeats a mistaken impression concerning security waivers that was debunked by the Benghazi Accountability Review Board report (here) but which has been flogged repeatedly by his legal counsel, the frequent Fox News contributor Victoria Toensing (bio here). It ought to be corrected, although of course it won't be so long as it has political utility.

Here are excerpts from Hicks' opinion piece:
Last month, I retired from the State Department after 25 years of public service as a Foreign Service officer. As the Deputy Chief of Mission for Libya, I was the last person in Tripoli to speak with Ambassador Chris Stevens before he was murdered in the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on our Benghazi post. On this, the fourth anniversary of the Benghazi tragedy, I would like to offer a different explanation for Benghazi’s relevance to the presidential election than is usually found in the press.

Just as the Constitution makes national security the President’s highest priority, U.S. law mandates the secretary of state to develop and implement policies and programs "to provide for the security … of all United States personnel on official duty abroad.”

-- Snip --

The Benghazi Committee’s report graphically illustrates the magnitude of her failure. It states that during August 2012, the State Department reduced the number of U.S. security personnel assigned to the Embassy in Tripoli from 34 (1.5 security officers per diplomat) to 6 (1 security officer per 4.5 diplomats), despite a rapidly deteriorating security situation in both Tripoli and Benghazi. Thus, according to the Report, “there were no surplus security agents” to travel to Benghazi with Amb. Stevens “without leaving the Embassy in Tripoli at severe risk.”

Had Ambassador Stevens’ July 2012 request for 13 additional American security personnel (either military or State Department) been approved rather than rejected by Clinton appointee Under Secretary of State for Management Pat Kennedy, they would have traveled to Benghazi with the ambassador, and the Sept. 11 attack might have been thwarted.

To digress a bit, that is not really what the former RSO in Tripoli, Eric Nordstrom, said in his testimony to the House Oversight Committee. You can read his prepared statement here courtesy of
Let me say a word about the evening of September 11th. The ferocity and intensity of the attack was nothing that we had seen in Libya, or that I had seen in my time in the Diplomatic Security Service. Having an extra foot of wall, or an extra-half dozen guards or agents would not have enabled us to respond to that kind of assault.

The minority side lead on the Oversight Committee came back to that statement during his question period. You can read it in the hearing transcript:
Mr. Cummings: I just want to go back to something that you wrote in your statement, Mr. Nordstrom, in reference to the question that the chairman just asked you. And I quote you. I am reading from page 2. You said, ``Having an extra foot of wall or extra half dozen guards or agents would not have enabled us to respond to that kind of assault.''

Did you write that?

Mr. Nordstrom. Yes, I did. And I still believe that.

Mr. Cummings. Thank you.

But back to that misleading impression of HRC's supposed illegality. It concerns whether SecState Clinton did or did not approve a waiver of public law. Hicks wrote:
U.S. law also requires the secretary of state to ensure that all U.S. government personnel assigned to a diplomatic post abroad be located at one site. If not, the secretary — and only the secretary — with the concurrence of the agency head whose personnel will be located at a different location, must issue a waiver. The law, which states specifically that the waiver decision cannot be delegated, was passed after the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa, when deficient security was blamed for that debacle under Bill Clinton's presidency.

The law in question is the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act (SECCA). As anyone can read for himself in the publicly available online 12 Foreign Affairs Manual 310 (right here), paragraph 313 b says:
For purposes of the application of SECCA, a U.S. diplomatic facility is any chancery, consulate, or other office notified to the host government as diplomatic or consular premises in accordance with the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations, or otherwise subject to a publicly available bilateral agreement with the host government (contained in the records of the United States Department of State) that recognizes the official status of U.S. Government personnel present at the facility.

So there it is. SECCA applies only to declared diplomatic premises, which neither of the two facilities in Benghazi were, according to the findings of the Benghazi Accountability Board, specifically in its second key finding (" ... the decision to treat Benghazi as a temporary, residential facility, not officially notified to the host government, even though it was also a full time office facility ... resulted in the Special Mission compound being excepted from office facility standards and accountability under the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act ...").

Mr. Hicks is repeating Victoria Toensing’s misguided deduction from testimony at a Benghazi Select Committee hearing, which I posted about before (here). Maybe she knows better, maybe she doesn't. Either way, this is a politically convenient line in an election year, so it won't go away soon, if ever.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Friday Night Document Dump (Hillary's FBI Interview)

Annnd it's a big one, Hillary Clinton's FBI interview records tipped out of the FBI records vault today.

Clinton could not give an example of how classification of a document was determined ... Clinton stated that she did not pay attention to the ‘level’ of classified information.” 

And did she and her staff really lose as many as 13 personal electronic devices, including a laptop and thumb drive that were used to back up her emails and were lost in the mail?? The U.S. Postal Service type of mail. Who mails a laptop?

It will take a big chuck out of the three-day weekend to read through these.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Dalai Lama Tactical Tip Tuesday

"Follow the three Rs: 1, Respect for self. 2, Respect for others. 3, Responsibility for all your actions." - 18 Rules of Living, from His Holiness the Dalai Lama

And this will be the Dalai Lama's last word of advice for practitioners of defensive gun use. You are always responsible for yourself, for others, and - most especially - for all your actions.

Carry that weapon accordingly.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dalai Lama Tactical Tip Tuesday

Another result of spiritual development, most useful in day-to-day life, is that it gives a calmness and presence of mind. Our lives are in constant flux, bringing many difficulties. When faced with a calm and clear mind, problems can be successfully resolved. - Tenzin Gyatso, The Fourteenth Dalai Lama (A Human Approach to World Peace)

Why not? Why not carry a classic Model 1911, or a modern variant such as the superb CZ-75, with a round in the chamber and the hammer cocked & locked? You know you want to. And yet, nearly everyone who carries a handgun will resort to the simple and problem-free double-action pistol or revolver, or the only slightly more touchy striker-fired pistol.

It's because a single-action pistol cocked n' locked is, well, just a little dangerous, and having one on you requires constant care and attention. Carrying a Glock is comparatively carefree, but carrying a fully loaded 1911 requires mental discipline.

Training the spirit is, as His Holiness knows, the surest way to be calm and clear-headed in our daily lives. Develop those resources, and you'll soon be carrying that 1911 in the manner John Moses Browning intended.  

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Nigerian Land Deal That Didn't Happen

Site of Eko Atlantic on reclaimed land in Lagos

Consumer Notice: This post is certified 100% free of Matters of Official Concern that are not referenced from publicly available sources of information.

Fox News had a story the other day that purported to catch my good friends in OBO doing underhanded real estate deals at the behest of The Clinton Foundation. Briefly, it was alleged that OBO is acquiring property for a future new construction project in Lagos, Nigeria, as payback to a big-bucks contributor to the Clintons.

State Department sought land deal with Nigerian firm tied to Clinton Foundation:

EXCLUSIVE: Shortly after Hillary Clinton left the Obama administration, the State Department quietly took steps to purchase real estate in Nigeria from a firm whose parent company is owned by a major donor to the Clinton Foundation, records obtained by Fox News show.

On March 20, 2013, William P. Franklin, an “international realty specialist” at the State Department, emailed Mary E. Davis, an American diplomat stationed in Africa, instructing her to “put on Post letterhead” an “expression of interest” by the department in purchasing property at Eko Atlantic, a massive real estate development off the coast of Lagos. Franklin further instructed that the signed letter was to be “delivered to Ronald Chagoury.”

The draft letter, also obtained by Fox News, was undated and addressed to Chagoury care of his firm South Energyx Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of the larger Chagoury Group that is spearheading the Eko Atlantic real estate venture. The State Department letter sought, among other things, to confirm that the department could proceed with “acquisition of the real property … [at] the asking price of $1,250 per square meter.”

Overtures to real estate developers from State Department officials scouting locations for embassies, consulates and other diplomatic facilities would ordinarily not arouse interest. But in this case, the budding transaction – never completed, the department now says – raised eyebrows because Ronald Chagoury is the brother and business partner, in the Chagoury Group, of Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese-born businessman whom federal records show has donated between $1 and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation.

-- Snip --

The State Department’s outreach to the Chagoury family, looking to buy property from the brothers, came less than a month after former President Clinton himself toured the Eko Atlantic project – for the second time. The first occasion was the ground breaking, in 2009, in which the former president participated. By all accounts, Eko Atlantic represents a staggeringly ambitious undertaking: the dredging of millions of tons of sand from the sea floor off Victoria Island and the creation of an estimated 3.5 square miles of new land, on which the Chagourys aim to establish what they call a “21st century city … for residential, commercial, financial and tourist development.”

-- Snip --

A month after Bill Clinton visits a Gilbert and Ronald Chagoury-run land project in Nigeria, the U.S. State Department wants to buy the same land,” said David N. Bossie, president of Citizens United, the conservative advocacy group whose litigation against the State Department pried loose the Franklin email and accompanying letter. “Who could be so lucky? A major donor to the Clinton Foundation, that’s who.”

A few things jump out as wrong with this expose. First, no property has been acquired, or even selected. Fox's smoking gun email said that OBO seeks to confirm the asking price, from which all we can conclude is that the Eko Atlantic site is under consideration for purchase.

Second, the property in question is only one of several possibilities that were identified by an outsourced professional real estate search and subsequently narrowed down to a short list by OBO’s site selection process.

Third, the search for property to build on in Lagos has been underway for over five years, as we learned when this matter was addressed during a State Department press briefing, and funds for property acquisition were requested in the FY2013 budget for Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance. See page 14 of this budget justification:
The FY 2013 funding will also support the acquisition of sites where NEC [New Embassy Complex] projects are planned in future years. Sites are being sought in Baku, Azerbaijan; Bangui, Central African Republic; Lagos, Nigeria; St. Petersburg, Russia; and Shanghai, China.

So, in fact, the Department did not decide to buy a Chagoury-run property, much less decide to build a new Consulate-General in Lagos, one month after Bill Clinton visited the site.

Now, I will concede that Press Relations Director Elizabeth Trudeau could have been given better media guidance when she discussed this matter at a press conference, but what she said was completely correct.

MS TRUDEAU: So a few points, okay, that I’d like to make of this. As of today, as of right now, we have not contracted or acquired property for a new consulate in Lagos. The site search for a new consulate in Lagos began in 2011, as prioritized by the Capital Security Construction Program. Many of the potential sites under consideration by the department, to include the Eko Atlantic development, were identified by an independent international real estate firm, as is typical in site searches around the world. The Eko Atlantic site was identified, as I said, by an independent international real estate firm in 2012.

The problem was the word "prioritized," which apparently lead the press to assume that OBO has been trying to buy the Eko Atlantic site ever since 2011, when what Ms. Trudeau actually said was that U.S. Consulate-General Lagos became a priority for a new construction project at that time.

Ms. Trudeau would have been better served if OBO had provided her with an explanation of what the Capital Security Construction Program is, exactly. Specifically, that it is a list of 80 posts all of which are prioritized for replacement with new buildings according to their degree of security vulnerability, and therefore Lagos has to wait its turn behind other, higher, priorities before it gets funding.

There is no mystery about the list of top 80 posts. Here is an impeccable short description of the Capital Security Construction Program by Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy - the man himself - in testimony to Congress:
Each year, [Diplomatic Security] ranks all posts worldwide according to their security vulnerability and OBO uses this list to develop its top 80 Posts for the Department’s Capital Security Construction Program. These posts span all regions of the world. Replacement of these most vulnerable facilities is an ongoing effort.

And here is a recent OIG Report saying the same thing:
DS publishes a Vulnerability List, which ranks facilities according to their vulnerability across a wide variety of security threats on an annual basis, as mandated by SECCA. This list is then used to establish the Top 80 list of posts in which [New Embassy Compounds] are needed to reduce security vulnerabilities. The Top 80 list shows which posts are scheduled to receive a NEC. (Footnote, page 32)

SECCA is the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act of 1999, which mandated that the Department annually rank-order the top 80 candidates for new embassy construction funding. You can read the relevant text here. It's public law. Like I said, there is nothing mysterious or sensitive about it, and explaining it to the press might have helped Ms. Trudeau get her message across.

Ms. Trudeau's other big talking point likewise seemed to go over the heads of the press. OBO has an extensive and highly structured site selection and due diligence process that does, indeed, take a few years to complete.
"Our site search process, speaking specifically about this but also generally on how we operate, is managed by career real estate professionals in the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations with input from independent real estate firms and other department stakeholders, to include Diplomatic Security and overseas post. Career professionals evaluate and score potential properties under consideration before any property is put under contract. This robust process was followed in Lagos, as it is around the world.

Again, her media guidance could have noted that OBO's very extensive site selection process is spelled out in 15 FAM 470, which is a public source of information the Department makes available online. Hey, Matt Lee, read it for yourself instead of scoffing about how replacing our decrepit building in Lagos "can’t be that much of a priority if it’s taken five years." Is that Foreign Affairs Manual not written in English?

Fox concluded its story with John Bolton, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Fox News contributor, finding this real estate transaction "very unusual."
The impression left is that there’s favoritism involved,” Bolton said. “And it’s just very unusual in State Department real estate and housing transactions overseas to have this kind of focus on someone with such clear financial connections to even the departed secretary of state. Normally, there’s much more competitive activity involved, [of] which we haven’t seen any evidence from the State Department.”

Well Ambassador Bolton, did Fox News ask for such evidence? Maybe it ought to. I think OBO could provide it.

Just as an aside, let me note that our government’s domestic real estate transactions can also give an impression of political favoritism sometimes. Consider the sweet deal that the U.S. Postal Service concluded with a real estate firm headed by the husband of Senator Diane Feinstein.

CB Richard Ellis (CBRE), of which Sen. Feinstein’s husband is the Chairman and largest individual owner, brokers the sale of thousands of unwanted Post office properties and, by the terms of its contract, gets to represent and profit from both sides of those transactions, the seller and the buyer. Last year the Postal Service's OIG found:
Management continues to allow CBRE to collect commissions from lessors for lease negotiations in addition to payments from the Postal Service based on performance targets for lease renewals. Management also allows dual agency transactions, enabling CBRE to represent and negotiate for both the Postal Service and buyers or lessors. These actions are inherently risky and create conflicts of interest whereby CBRE may not negotiate property sales and lease transactions in the Postal Service’s best interest or may capture opposing party fees from the Postal Service.

Oh, sure, Feinstein’s husband is not the sole owner of CBRE, and the Postal Service contract is a drop in bucket for them, and it was a competitive bid, and so on. You can find exculpatory material here. Nevertheless, if that deal had happened in any foreign country, I’d automatically assume it was corrupt. When it happens here, maybe a softer term for it is crony capitalism.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Dalai Lama Tactical Tip Tuesday

I want to make it clear, however, that although I am deeply opposed to war, I am not advocating appeasement. It is often necessary to take a strong stand to counter unjust aggression ... War is violence and violence is unpredictable. Therefore, it is better to avoid it if possible, and never to presume that we know beforehand whether the outcome of a particular war will be beneficial or not. - The Reality of War, Tenzin Gyatso, The Fourteenth Dalai Lama

This one might not be 100 percent original with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, but it is nevertheless absolutely in accord with his philosophy.

His Holiness knows that, like war, interpersonal violence is a reality. To slightly misquote Leon Trotsky, you may not be interested in violence, but violence is interested in you. Should it come to you, and if you are not a pacifist, your choices will quickly be reduced to appeasement or defensive violence. Even calling the police, should you have the opportunity to do so, is to employ defensive violence by proxy.

Taking a strong stand and employing violence in defense of yourself or others may be the better choice. There is no moral contradiction in that.


Monday, August 15, 2016

DS Female Attrition: "How Would You Know If You're Not Even Looking?"

Diplopundit discusses the recent - recent as of a couple weeks ago, as I recall - Sounding Board post by an employee who had attended the Safety Overseas Seminar and encountered what she believed to be incomplete instruction and demeaning behavior. See A Joke That Wasn’t, and a State Department Dialogue That Is Long Overdue.

Much of the Sounding Board post and its subsequent comments were directed towards Diplomatic Security, which has yet to respond in any way, so far as I can tell.

Diplopundit concludes with a question about female recruitment and retention in DS:
We asked the State Department about the gender composition of DSS agents in Diplomatic Security: 90.18% male and 9.82% female. We also asked about the attrition rate by gender at the bureau. Below is what we’re officially told:

DS reports that they do not have information related to special agent attrition rate by gender. They do not keep those statistics, but note that the overall Special Agent attrition rate for 2015 was 3.66%.

The State Department’s DGHR should be able to run these numbers. That’s a very low attrition rate but — don’t you want to know who and why these employees are leaving? If a bureau is overwhelmingly male, and if the entire attrition rate is, for instance, composed of all female employees, aren’t you going to wonder why?

But how would you know if you’re not even looking?

The InHerSight reviews [here] are pretty broad but are troubling nonetheless. The first step in fixing a problem is recognizing that there is a problem. Is there?

Who’s going to volunteer to look into this if we can’t even get S/OCR to respond to a public inquiry?

So less than ten percent of DS Special Agents are female? That seems to match my casual observation. (The percentage appears to be even lower among Security Engineering Officers, I think.) Consider the kinda-sorta comparable percentage of women in the U.S. military, which is 14.6 for the active military and 19.5 percent for the reserves.

Either few women are entering agent classes, or else they're leaving in very high numbers. Whichever it is, I agree that DS and DGHR ought to be interested in why.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Put a Little 'C' On It

Whenever I hear ex-President Bill Clinton speaking I see in my mind's eye Mister Haney, that lovable barnyard con man from the Golden Age of TV sitcoms. The same wheedling tone, and something about the way he tilts his head and glances sideways at his mark.

He was in full form yesterday, selling Mister Douglas a cow he didn't want accusing FBI Director Comey of selling "the biggest load of bull I ever heard" when he testified before Congress that Hillary Clinton had received emails on her private server that were marked as classified national security information.

But what's the big deal about that?
"The State Department typically puts a little 'C' on it, to discourage people from discussing it in public ... does that sound threatening to the national security to you?"

As Mister Haney might say, let me put that another way: it sounds to me like the State Department was following the rules for marking classified information, and the little "C" for CONFIDENTIAL is the particular marking that "shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security," as it says in this Executive Order from Barack Obama.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Dalai Lama Tactical Tip Tuesday

So, when a problem first arises, try to remain humble and maintain a sincere attitude and be concerned that the outcome is fair. Of course, others may try to take advantage of you, and if your remaining detached only encourages unjust aggression, adopt a strong stand, This, however, should be done with compassion, and if it is necessary to express your views and take strong countermeasures, do so without anger or ill-intent.

You should realize that even though your opponents appear to be harming you, in the end, their destructive activity will damage only themselves. In order to check your own selfish impulse to retaliate, you should recall your desire to practice compassion and assume responsibility for helping prevent the other person from suffering the consequences of his or her acts.

Thus, because the measures you employ have been calmly chosen, they will be more effective, more accurate and more forceful. Retaliation based on the blind energy of anger seldom hits the target. - Tenzin Gyatso; The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Compassion and the Individual

Now, this is trademark Dalai Lama wisdom. Does His Holiness know defensive gun use inside and out, or what?

Choose your measures calmly and they will be all the more effective, accurate, and forceful for it. Aim center mass. Consider. Then double tap if needed.

By following those steps, and acting only after due reflection upon your desire to practice compassion balanced with the responsibility you assume for protecting yourself and others, you will be well prepared to survive not just a violent encounter but also the legal consequences of using deadly force.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Scam Bomb Detectors Still Used in Pakistan

Diogenes can stopping looking, because we've found an honest man.

He's in Pakistan, and he can't speak freely, but we know he's honest because he just said the truest thing ever about the scam bomb detectors that are used at his country's airports and other sensitive sites.

The scam detectors are those magic wands known as the ADE-651, among other names. See this for more information about them. Despite being repeatedly exposed as frauds, the devices keep selling.

When foreign supplies were cut off after the ADE-651's British manufacturer was convicted, some of his former clients began making their own knock-off versions (can you counterfeit a fraud?) for sale in their own countries. One of those countries is Pakistan, which is now equipping its Airport Security Force with home-made worthless props with which to 'screen' vehicles for bombs.

AFP reports today, Pakistan's bogus bomb-detectors in business despite global scandal:
Islamabad (AFP) - With radio-like antennae meant to swivel and point at vehicles carrying bombs, "magic wand" explosive detectors proliferated throughout conflict zones in the 2000s until they were exposed as a global scam.

But in an astonishing security threat, more than 15,000 of a new variant of the handheld device have been made in Pakistan to guard high-value facilities such as airports and government installations, despite officials conceding they are effectively useless.

-- Snip --

Official silence over the matter may be linked to the enormous sums of money involved in the business, observers say, while many bureaucrats fear for their jobs if they speak out.

"Powerful people make money through these scams and you cannot offend powerful people, even if it means endangering lives," said one former official of the interior ministry."

Pakistan initially imported foreign detector devices such as the ADE-651 and the German made Sniffex, according to a government source, but in 2009 Pakistan's Airport Security Force (ASF) took over making and selling the wands.

More than 15,000 units have been sold within the country at a cost of 70,000 rupees ($700), according to an official, amounting to a total revenue of more than $10 million.

The ASF -- which declined multiple requests for comment -- is technically a civilian institution but is staffed by many serving senior officers deputed from the powerful military, which wields considerable influence over the country's defence and foreign policy.

Truth only goes so far, when the interests of powerful people are involved. But, from what I see while browsing Pakistan Army forums, I'm holding out hope that there are enough honorable soldiers there to bring this disgraceful scandal to an end.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Dalai Lama Tactical Tip Tuesday

"The practice of patience guards us against losing our presence of mind. It enables us to remain undisturbed, even when the situation is really difficult. It gives us a certain amount of inner peace, which allows us some self-control, so that we can choose to respond to situations in an appropriate and compassionate manner, rather than being driven by our disturbing emotions." - His Holiness the Dalai Lama

The ability to practice patience and presence of mind, and consequently to control ourselves in moments of great disturbance and emotions, is perhaps the greatest tactical tip His Holiness can impart. And practitioners of defensive gun have no greater need for calm responsiveness to dynamic situations then when executing room clearing drills.

To 'slice the pie' is a game of inches and nerves that challenges even the most experienced shooter. To slowly, cautiously, view an uncleared area ... turning the corners degree by degree ... silently edging forward while maintaining a margin of safety ... revealing as little as possible of your presence ... considering all angular obstructions where a perpetrator might be hiding in ambush. That is truly a situation where self-control is vital to achieving happiness and avoiding unhappiness.

Is it any surprise that HH would excel at that technique?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Most Honest Movie Trailer Ever

So I gather that in this latest sequel Bourne will meet the asset, who was warned to come alone, equipped only with a tactical monocular and a GoPro strapped to his turtleneck, have a cool car chase, crunch bones, bribe the crooked government guy who is a just a puppet for someone else, and walk through train stations looking worried, all the while being surveilled by a control room full of grumpy old men on computers with old-ass monitors. Plus, there will be lots of guns and weaponized office products.

And some people say Hollywood has exhausted the spy-triller genre.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Most Eyebrow-Raising Headline of the Week

A cop for 11 years and she didn't recognize a doughnut???

"Cops mistook Krispy Kreme doughnut glaze for meth" - Orlando Sentintel

That's when she spotted "a rock like substance on the floor board where his feet were," she wrote.

"I recognized through my eleven years of training and experience as a law enforcement officer the substance to be some sort of narcotic," she wrote.

"I kept telling them, 'That's … glaze from a doughnut. … They tried to say it was crack cocaine at first, then they said, 'No, it's meth, crystal meth.'"

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The "M" Stands For Machiavelli

Foreign Policy magazine has a profile of Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy: The Bureaucrat at the Center of Hillary’s Scandals.

A few snippets:

"The guy has nine lives" a former diplomat said of Kennedy, who has spent more than 40 years at the State Department. "Everything just bounces off him."

-- Snip --

He's also able to block initiatives he doesn't like through his mastery of the arcane rules and regulations that govern everyday life at the department - some of which he drafted himself.

“Like Stalin, his power comes from his understanding and control over the bureaucracy,” said a former State Department official.

“In dealing with him or his office, they are always presenting you with rules but you don’t know where they come from: some previous secretary, the president, the Congress and so you don’t know how to figure out what would need to be done to get exceptions,” added the official.

I've never been a fan, but this kind of profile is making me warm up to the U/S for M.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Dalai Lama Tactical Tip Tuesday

“I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of inner peace and contentment, which in turn must be achieved through the cultivation of altruism, of love and compassion and elimination of ignorance, selfishness and greed.” ― Dalai Lama XIV 

"Attachment to what appears real is what keeps us from clear-mindedness." - Dalai Lama XIV

By all means, let us eliminate ignorance and keep to clear-mindedness on the subject of stopping power, the fabled unicorn that leads so many handgun users into self delusion.

Science, experience, and human reason all tell us that there is no particular stopping power in any cartridge that can be fired from a handgun. Unless struck in the head or spine, an assailant can continue to act and threaten others after being hit with multiple rounds.

We know this. And yet, how much marketing, questionable statistics, ballistic gelatin, internet arguments, and cash have been expended to make us believe that which only seems real? All that is ignorance, selfishness, and greed.

His Holiness would have us reject that which is not real, and instead modestly cultivate the fundamental skills of defensive gun use. Mastering those basics is a surer route to inner peace and contentment. 

FBI = Folks Barging In

I posted something about stopping truck attacks just yesterday and, what do you know, today someone ran a dump truck through the front gate of the FBI field office in Pittsburgh. See this local TV news report for what sketchy details are available now.

From the photo above we can see that the FBI facility had a proper perimeter fence, swinging gates, and operable vehicle barriers consisting of rising metal plates. I assume the FBI complied with all the applicable Interagency Security Standards for a federal facility of its type. So, what went wrong? Because, as you can see from the photo below, the dump truck crashed right through that vehicle barrier and ended up inside the FBI's protected perimeter.

What happened, simply, was physics. The FBI's vehicle barrier appears to be of an intermediate-grade type, too low (only around 20 inches high) to engage the truck at its center of gravity, and merely bolted to the surface of the roadway rather than installed in a deep pit. That barrier was overmatched by a medium-size dump truck moving at - I would guess - 30 to 40 miles per hour. The truck brought more kinetic energy than the barrier was capable of withstanding, and ripped it right out of the road surface.     

Eyewitnesses told the local news media that the truck launched into the air momentarily when it ran over the barrier, so I'm sure the driver must have been banged about and possibly he was stunned. However, the truck looks intact. If the driver had been better prepared, he might have been able to keep driving all the way up to the FBI's front door.

Apparently there was no terrorist motive, and the driver seems to be a random nut. Nevertheless, this is a bad day for the FBI, and for any other USG agency that is using similar vehicle barriers. It's always a bad day when security vulnerabilities are exposed. Oh, the Congressional oversight ... the OIG reports ... the security surveys.

My heart goes out to them, so here are a couple free tips. First, reassess the sizes of truck your perimeter anti-ram designs are based on. Today's driver just invalidated any design basis threat less than a medium dump truck. Second, before you overreact and replace all of your intermediate-level barriers, consider using chicane approaches to slow traffic down to speeds that can be handled by the barriers you have now.

Monday, July 25, 2016

After the Nice Attack, Will Cities Place Vehicle Barriers in Public Spaces?

The Bastille Day truck attack in Nice was the latest in a rather long list of vehicle assaults as a tactic for terrorism. One consequence of the attack, we may be sure, will be a new wave of streetscaping to introduce anti-ram barriers into the built environments of cities.

Some news media have been asking the question "can a lorry attack ever be stopped?" Of course it can be stopped. There is nothing new about anti-ram vehicle barriers, even ones that are effective against large trucks. The only question is whether governments will resort to large and obvious barriers of the sort that we have at our Fortress Embassies, or whether they take the trouble to go discreet and subtle with some more architectural options.

Here's an example of large and obvious:

Subtle is better, especially in cities. One commentator is using the term "crisis architecture," which is a new one on me, but I like the idea.

As a matter of fact, my good friends in the Office of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) a few years ago published a whole handbook full of EPIC ideas for architectural designs that protect against vehicle ramming attacks but hide in plain sight. Please browse it to get a glimpse of what I think we'll be seeing a lot of in our public spaces pretty soon.

There's more where that came from. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has its own handbook of barrier designs, some of them quite innovative. Check out, for instance, the TigerTrap:
A collapsible sidewalk and planting system designed to reduce the impact of force protection on public space while maintaining a high level of security. The TigerTrap employs a sub-grade collapsible material, installed below at-grade paving or planting. The installation is designed to withstand pedestrian traffic but fail under the weight of a loaded vehicle.

Like something out of a Road Runner cartoon, only it's real.

You've probably already seen examples of anti-terrorism architecture that blended into the landscape so well that you didn't realize what they were. Like this excellent one, for example.

And, there are also rapidly deployed and temporary barriers, like this one. The French Army could have placed that system around the Nice promenade in an hour or two, and picked it up again after the Bastille Day crowd had gone home.

Coming to a city near you.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Le Gîte Maux?

Will there be a Guantanamo-a-la-Franaise? Could be, if MP George Fenech gets his way. It would not be the first time France had a prison island, after all.
But as France struggles to adapt to the increased threat from jihadists, the French MP who led a parliamentary inquiry into the November terror attacks in Paris believes Ile de Ré should also welcome the country’s most dangerous jihadists.

George Fenech, MP for centre-right Les Republicains party, believes a Guantanamo à la Francaise could be set up on the island to house all those jihadists who are expected to return from fighting in Iraq and Syria.

"A French Guantanamo would be the simplest solution," said Fenech. "An institution dedicated to radicalised individuals would be a solution," he told right-wing magazine Valeurs Actuelles.

And Fenech believes the ideal place for an offshore prison would be Ile-de-Ré, where there is already a jail that needs renovating in the town of Saint-Martin de Ré.

Fenech says the prison could be adapted to house the “tidal wave” of radicalized fighters returning from the Middle East although the local tourist board and residents might have something to say about his plan.

The MP says he is concerned by the government’s lack of preparation for the impending return of hundreds of French jihadists if and when Isis are toppled.

-- Snip --

Fenech’s idea is not the only radical suggestion put forward by MPs since the deadly rampage in Nice.

Right wing MP Alain Marsaud wants a law passed to allow the French to carry arms in certain conditions and also suggests the creation of armed civilian defence patrols.

Other MPs have talked of arming police with rocket launchers in certain sensitive spots so rampaging lorries can be stopped, while some have talked about bringing back the death penalty.

I like the Gîte Maux idea far better than the one about rocket launchers.