Claude Nolan
Geer Services, Inc.
Geer Services, Inc.
San Marco Properties
Geer Services, Inc.
Geer Services, Inc.
Charles Parish
Underwoods
Jun 162013
 

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The National Football League is banning all purses in its stadiums this coming season. The decision is meant to increase safety at the games, but many fans, particularly women and families with young children are crying foul.

NFL Chief Security Officer Jeffrey Miller says the decision was made with fans in mind. “By taking this minor step per person we create a major improvement,” Miller said. “It really does dramatically increase our security posture at our stadiums.”

“Football is such a national past-time in the US. If you are a terrorist bad guy that would be a great target,” said former FBI special agent and ABC News consultant Brad Garrett. “I think it’s a reasonable approach.”

The new policy limits the size and type of bags that may be brought into stadiums. Fans are now only allowed to bring in a hand-sized clutch and a clear, one-gallon Ziploc or freezer bag. Anything larger must be a clear tote. The NFL is selling acceptable totes online.

NFL officials said they’d make exceptions for people who had things like medical supplies that couldn’t fit into a small bag.

Seat cushions are also banned, due to fears that they could contain an explosive device, according to the news release from the NFL.

“I have no problem saying what a huge issue I have with that,” one female fan told ABC’s Susan Saulny. “That’s not appropriate.”

The fan said that she might have to root for her favorite team, the Steelers, from her couch instead of the stadium.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

May 272013
 

Medioimages/Photodisc(NEW YORK) — The National Park Service intends to change its security screening plan for the Statue of Liberty and several prominent New Yorkers are up in arms.

Currently, visitors to Liberty Island, where the Statue of Liberty is located, are screened before they get on to the boats that take them to the island. The same is true for visitors to Ellis Island. The National Park Service proposes changing it so that visitors would be screened when they arrive on the islands.

Many think that the change poses a safety risk.

 “The Statue of Liberty is a national symbol but unfortunately in this world of terrorism, it’s also a natural target,” said NYPD Chief Ray Kelly.

“I don’t think it’s wise to shift the screening from Manhattan to the potential target,” he said.

“It’s sort of saying we’re going to screen people at airports after they get off the plane rather than before they get on the plane,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who also opposes the change.
The pre-boarding screenings were first put in place after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In any case, there have been no tours to the Statue of Liberty recently. The island was damaged during Hurricane Sandy, but it is set to reopen July 4.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

May 242013
 

U.S. Government Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences via Getty Images(FORT HOOD, Texas) — More than three years since a deadly domestic assault on American troops — the 2009 Fort Hood massacre that claimed 13 lives, including that of a pregnant soldier — a top Army attorney maintains that incident was likely a “criminal act of a single individual.”

“…[T]he available evidence in this case does not, at this time, support a finding that the shooting at Fort Hood was an act of international terrorism,” Lt. Gen. Dana Chipman said this week in a letter to Rep. Thomas Rooney (R-Fla.) on behalf of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

The letter, obtained by ABC News, was apparently written in response to an inquiry from Rooney, Rep. Chaka Fatta (D-Penn.), and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Virg.) sent to Hagel on May 6, which questioned whether concerns of “political correctness” informed the Army’s decision to refer to the Fort Hood attack as an act of “workplace violence.” Victims of the shooting have long maintained that calling the attack “workplace violence” instead of “combat related” or an act of terrorism has had a massive impact on the benefits and treatment they’ve received.

In the Fort Hood attack, Maj. Nidal Hasan stands accused of gunning down 13 soldiers and injuring 32 others in November 2009. After the assault, investigators uncovered evidence that Hasan was in communication with al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki prior to the attack. Al-Awlaki was apparently such a threat that he has been the only American citizen ever targeted for a drone strike — though three others have been collateral damage, according to President Obama.

Witnesses reportedly said Hasan shouted “Allahu Akbar,” “God is Great” in Arabic, amid the chaos.

As reflected in Chipman’s letter, the Department of Defense has consistently said that in addition to a supposed lack of evidence, it would be irresponsible to call the Fort Hood attack “terrorism” because it “may have a negative impact on the ongoing judicial process” for Hasan.

The letter also denied that the Defense Department had made a decision to classify the attack as “workplace violence” and said, “[N]o benefit has been denied to any of the victims based on any such classification” — two claims to which the survivors object stringently.

Kimberly Munley, a police officer who was hailed as a hero for her role in stopping the alleged Fort Hood shooter, told ABC News Chipman’s letter is “disgraceful” and “another direct slap in the face.” Attorneys for Munley and most of the other Fort Hood victims called the letter’s claims “counterfactual” and an “insult.”

An attorney for several of the victims, Reed Rubinstein, said the Army’s new letter is “worse than word games.”

“The ‘workplace violence’ classification has been out there for years, and [the Army] has never walked it back,” he said.

In 2010, part of then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ response to the shooting was to “strengthen [the department's] policies, programs and procedures in… workplace violence.” In October 2011, the Defense Department said it was reviewing the attack “in the context of a broader threat of workplace violence.”

Rubinstein and his partner, Neil Sher, also said calling the attack “an alleged criminal act by a single individual” “rewrites history, consigning the government’s admissions of Hasan’s al-Qaeda ties… down a bureaucratic memory hole.”

Munley said, “It is clear that the Army and the government will continue to not take responsibility for allowing a known terrorist to slip through the ranks while having multiple associations with the now-deceased Anwar al-Awlaki and has complete disregard for those injured on that horrifying day.”

In Chipman’s letter, she said the Army is willing to reconsider their classification of the event should “new, relevant evidence” arise.

“The Army’s decision, in no way, diminishes the common goal of ensuring the victims are treated and cared for promptly and compassionately,” the letter says. “Although we cannot undo the outcome of that day, taking care of those affected by the Fort Hood shooting… remains one of the Army’s top priorities.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

May 082013
 

Hemera/Thinkstock(MINOT, N.D.) — An Air Force commander has temporarily stripped 17 officers of their authority to control and launch nuclear-armed Minuteman III missiles after he found their performance lacking during a recent inspection.  The unprecedented move highlights the Air Force’s continuing effort to make up for missteps involving its nuclear weapons arsenal that came to light in 2008.

In mid-April Lt. Col. Jay Folds, the deputy commander of the 91st Operations Group, based at Minot AFB in North Dakota, ordered that 17 of his officers be decertified from their responsibilities and undergo refresher training in the wake of their poor performance during a recent inspection.

One of the officers was investigated for potentially compromising nuclear launch codes; a decision on disciplinary action is pending.

The news comes five years after the Air Force refocused on attention to details for its nuclear mission following a series of missteps involving the handling of nuclear weapons under their care.   In one case a B-52 bomber crew flew a mission over several Midwestern states while unknowingly carrying nuclear-armed cruise missiles.

In response to those incidents Defense Secretary Robert Gates fired the Air Force’s top two senior officials, and the Air Force integrated control of its nuclear inventory under the newly created Global Strike Command.

The 17 officers sent to retraining work in underground launch control centers for Minuteman III missiles housed in silos dotting the North Dakota countryside.  The Air Force maintains 450 of the missiles that can each carry multiple nuclear warheads.

Folds’ unit had recently passed a comprehensive inspection with a “satisfactory” rating, the mid-range of five levels, with “unsatisfactory” being the lowest.

The unit received an excellent rating in 14 of 22 categories listed for inspection and a “satisfactory” in all but one of the others, which was listed as “marginal,” one step above an unsatisfactory rating.

This ”marginal” rating for “crew operations” prompted Folds to decertify 17 of his officers.   He announced his move in an unusually blunt internal email he sent to his airmen on April 12 entitled “Did You Know?” A copy of the e-mail was obtained by ABC News.

“Did you know that we, as an operations group, have fallen” asked Folds, “and it is time to stand ourselves back up?” 

”We are in fact in a crisis right now,” he added.

“We’re discovering such rot in the crew force that your behavior while on alert is accepting” of missteps in launch security protocols “all in the name of not inconveniencing yourselves.”

“We need to hit the reset button and restructure the crew force to take you out of your comfort zones (which are rotten comfort zones), and rebuild from the ground up,” wrote Folds.   He urged his airmen to  “get back to the basics and crush any rules violators.”

“You have yourselves to thank…if you’re a violator, you did this to us.  If you’re a hater, you did this to us.  If you actually follow the rules, but don’t challenge the violators and haters, you did this to us.  We are breaking you down, and we will build from the ground up.”

At a budget hearing on Capitol Hill,  Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told senators there “was nothing good about the incident” at Minot but said he did not believe “we have a nuclear surety risk” there.  

“I believe we have commanders who are taking very aggressive action to ensure that never occurs. And in that respect, this is a good thing,” he said.  “The idea that we have people not performing to the standard we expect will never be good, and we won’t tolerate it.”

Though he liked the way Minot commanders responded to the rating, Welsh also wished “they’d used different language in the email they sent. The word ‘rot’ didn’t excite me, but it got my attention.”

Air Force Secretary Mike Donley said he was “confident in the Air Force’s ability to maintain a safe and secure nuclear deterrent.”  He noted the Minot incident reflects the “stronger inspection process that has been put in place” following the 2008 mishaps.

He said the Air Force supports commanders who follow up on inspections “with those actions that they think are necessary to maintain the highest professional standards for this work.”

Air Force officials say it is not uncommon for commanders to decertify airmen for anything ranging  from a disciplinary issue to underperformance, but that it is unusual to have so many officers decertified in one unit.

Lt. Col. Angie Blair, a spokesperson for Global Strike Command, said commanders working the nuclear mission “have a serious job that demands very high standards. There is a lot of pressure to maintain the highest proficiency,” said Blair.

Other crews in the 150-person unit have been working extra hours and officers from other units are being brought in to make up the personnel shortfall until the 17 are recertified.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

May 082013
 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHIGNTON) — A goal of the Senate in a new immigration bill is to make Social Security cards less venerable to fraud, but one of the most secure options for doing this faces some controversy.

The idea of creating a secure card using “biometric” data has been around for decades, but never really gathered much momentum.

The idea sounds more futuristic than it really is. “Biometric” authentication is basically identifying humans by their physical traits, so the card would have something along the lines of fingerprint or eye scan data.

The current Senate proposal says it would make Social Security cards “fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant, wear-resistant, and identity theft-resistant” within five years. But it doesn’t call for the use of biometrics specifically.

There are reasons for that.

In 1986, when the last large-scale legalization program took place, the legislators working on the bill were also considering a biometric ID as part of the package.

But the idea ran upon rocky shores for a few reasons. One was technology, according to Charles Kamasaki, the executive vice president of National Council of La Raza,or NCLR.

The federal government “would not have been able to come out with a counterfeit-proof official document that would both be available to all workers and could have prevented fraud,” said Kamasaki, who is currently writing a book about the 1986 immigration law. “The technology just didn’t exist.”

Today, producing a biometric card for all residents and citizens remains a hurdle, if only because of the cost. A 2012 study by an institute at the UC Berkeley School of Law found that a mandatory biometric ID card would cost $40 billion at the outset and $3 billion per year to maintain.

But even if the government found a way to justify that cost, it would still take a lot to get everyone to agree to the idea. That’s because, as far back as 1986, proposals for biometric IDs have been attacked from both the right and left, by libertarians and civil rights groups, respectively.

Libertarians oppose such cards for a variety of reasons, one of which is the impact on businesses, according to David Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank.

“The main objection from a business perspective is simply the risk of penalties and threats,” he said. “Employers could be put in a position where they have to verify the authenticity of an identification card, and could face fines if there’s a mistake.”

Bier also thinks heightened workplace enforcement will fail to address the issue of undocumented workers. “The only proven way to end illegal immigration is a robust legal immigration process, whether guest workers or otherwise,” he said.

Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union ACLU have different concerns.

“From the ACLU’s point of view, a biometric national ID card represents a massive privacy invasion,” said Christopher Calabrese, the ACLU’s legislative counsel for privacy-related issues. “It changes the relationship between the citizens and the state, so things that you used to be able to do as a citizen, like work or travel, suddenly you need this card to do that.”

The Senate immigration bill doesn’t include a biometric Social Security card, and that isn’t likely to change, even as the bill is tweaked in the legislative process. There’s an alternative that the group thinks will be a strong deterrent against hiring undocumented workers, however. Under the bill, an electronic employment verification system, called E-Verify, would be phased in for all businesses within four years.

The same forces — libertarians and civil rights groups — will likely push back against mandatory employment verification. But since the system is already in use and mandatory in some states, it’s an easier sell.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio