Friday, November 21, 2014

Homeland Security and Immigration

I've been asked several times to comment on my thoughts via President Obama's recent media blitz regarding immigration. Listen, I have no answers other then this is not a black and white issue. Like anything, there are several layers and a "one size fits all" solution will only create, in my opinion, further issues down the road.

This said, from a Homeland Security standpoint- something has to be done that will ensure we are protecting our country from allowing terrorists (who fly into Mexico or Canada) from entering our country with great ease. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson sent an open letter to the President on the issue. In it, Johnson says "I support and recommended to the President each of the reforms to the immigration system that he will announce today. These recommendations were in turn the result of candid and extended consultations between me and the leadership of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), as well as outside stakeholders. Along the way, I listened to members of the workforce who implement and enforce the law to hear their views. In my own view, any significant change in policy requires the insight of those who administer the system. I believe we have done that here. The executive actions the President will announce will reform and improve the system in a number of respects. These executive actions are well within our legal authority to direct and implement."

I don't think that the immigration orders will open us up to any more terrorism. It could, but I doubt it. Why? We have problems in other areas. I believe a lack of funding and program sustainability will cause further issues- which in turn will be blamed on any executive order that the President implements. I agree with Jeh Johnson but I know what will look like a lack of ability from the DHS will result not because of immigration and border issues (although that is always a concern) but because we are not handling money issues and program issues properly now! Immigration amnesty or not, the DHS is running out of resources as this country is running out of money. Something has to change- but like I said, not all issues are black and white or cut and dry.

"So, Twyla... what is your point?"

As we head into the weekend, take time to consider your own business. Think about the issues you have at hand and growth vs. income. Can you blame all of your problems on one source? Or is it easy to blame challenges on one area because addressing the few roots that lay underneath may be harder because their are no obvious solutions?

Until Monday,

Twyla N. Garrett

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Homeland Security and Holiday Travel

Next week the Thanksgiving holiday falls upon us and many of you will be traveling. In honor of the busy travel week, I have decided to put together a few basic tips to stay safe and secure.
First, if you are flying- show up early and expect delays. If you plan your flight to close to a deadline for a party or check-in, you will be stressed out. If you allow yourself plenty of time to arrive to your destination, without the pressure of a deadline, you will be more focused and travel safer. This is a proven fact.

Second, have a backup plan should something happen- and extra cash to! I tell everyone to travel with their emergency fund divided into cash and a debit account. In the event that a terrorist attack or security issue should occur, banks could be down or frozen. People don’t like to travel with a lot of cash, but you should have at least a thousand dollars (if not two) on you in the event of an emergency. Keep the same amount in the bank as an ER fund too.

As far as that backup plan, know what you would do if you couldn’t reach your destination and were to get diverted or stuck somewhere. Explain the plan to your fellow travelers and those you are going to visit. Your friends and family should know where you are going to be at all times- even if an emergency were to happen.

The holiday season is a stressful and wonderful time wrapped up into a matter of weeks. Keep an eye out for potential issues and report them if you do catch wind of anything suspect and keep cash on hand along with a viable plan. If you follow these steps, you will have a better and more secure holiday travel season.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Vet-Gate & My Thoughts

Here's some Homeland Security news for you- Mark Paffrath- a Navy Vet- said he lost his job at Drury Hotel Plaza in Chesterfield, Mo., and was called a terrorist after uploading images of dozens of Homeland Security vehicles in the hotel garage. When did it become illegal to take photos of cars and trucks in a garage? Well, that is the question when you ask the media about his arrest.

Now, let me give you some background on Mr. Paffrath. He works at the Drury Hotel Plaza. During his duties, he spotted over a dozen of Homeland Security vehicles in the parking garage and was alarmed, claiming he had never spotted the vehicles there before- at least during his employment with the company. Given today's social media culture, he took photos of the vehicles and posted them to Facebook. Then the vet wrote his caption, which was "I wonder if it has anything to do with Ferguson? #Ferguson, #No justice, no peace." Paffrath took down the photos and video the next day after Drury General Manager Jeff Baker asked him to.

Paffrath was soon after fired by the director of security for Drury Hotels Company, LLC, because his posts almost cost the company a $150,000 contract with Homeland Security. Now, relook at the post he posted and the caption. He never did say where the photo was taken. He never gave a location. Yet, he was fired..... Paffrath, who was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy after three years of service, took to Facebook to protest his firing and then went to the media- now alerting to where the photos were taken.

Here's the thing- Mr. Paffrath probably didn't mean any harm when he posted the photos and the caption. But he could have very well compromised a Homeland Security strategy to keep the city of Ferguson safe and - being that he IS a vet- the should have known better. So, what is the lesson to be learned here? If you see the DHS in your neighborhood- let them do their job. They are there for a reason. Sure, if could be nothing- maybe just a planning meeting- but they are working regardless.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Reporting Facebook Posts to the FBI- Why You Should!

Heather Coffman of Virginia was pushing ISIS propaganda via multiple Facebook accounts. The FBI obtained a warrant to search her account after reports of pro-ISIS comments on the social media platform. This information led the FBI to numerous falsified Facebook accounts supporting her ISIS views- which included marketing the terrorist group to her sister.

After meeting with FBI agents and an informant, Coffman was arrested earlier this week and is scheduled to appear in court this up and coming Monday. CNN’s reporter offers the play-by-play of the Coffman case (thus far) online. You can read it here:

So, why am I covering this? Well, people like Coffman are the reason I wrote my Homeland Security book. It is hard enough for this country to fight and deal with international terrorism, but now- we are seeing men and women use social media to become domestic terrorists. After reading the CNN article, I’m not so sure that Ms. Coffman was directly related to ISIS or simply wanted to promote the group for shock value- maybe a little of both. Either way, her actions are deplorable!

This brings me to my next point – report controversial statements to Facebook or the FBI if you see them. The “see something, say something” rule banks on tips to help get people like Coffman- regardless of motive- away from inciting terrorist activity! We all spend so much time online sharing our opinions that we may fail to realize when someone is serious with their potentially harmful comments and posts. It is better to report something and be wrong then to not report it and be right.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Monday, November 17, 2014

Governor Jay Nixon Has No Choice....

Here's some breaking news, Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri has declared a state of emergency. An hour ago he told the press, "People need to feel safe and to achieve those goals, we need to be prepared." But is this the real reason behind his actions?

From a Homeland Security perspective, Mr. Nixon has no choice but to do this and the people's safety is just ONE of the many reasons why. You see, if Mr. Nixon doesn't act quick enough when it comes to preparation for the highly publicized verdict (should the grand jury decide not to criminally charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown), then he can be criticized for NOT handling things smoothly and with safety as a priority. The state can be civilly liable too.

ABC News reported that an FBI bulletin sent to police forces across the United States warned that the grand jury's decision "will likely" lead to some violence. An FBI spokesman declined to comment on the report. Schools are also on alert. The state of emergency status is to free up resources and funds to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. While I am sitting here writing this, the news commentators are stating that violence is going to happen either way, which is almost feeding on the energy of what is happening in Missouri right now. Some people are even stating the added resources via Nixon's decision to call a state of emergency are wasteful.

Again, from a Homeland Security perspective- the Governor has no choice but to be prepared and to help protect everyone within the city. People's emotions can get heated and that blocks their decision making. I know that regardless of what the verdict is, people are going to be upset and given the incidents over the summer- violence is a very real possibility. So no, I don't agree with people stating this is over-zealous or a waste of resources. I believe it is better to be over prepared and not have to take action vs. not being prepared and having civilians take a bad situation and make it worse- causing the loss of life.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Friday, November 14, 2014

Leadership and Twitter....

Tonight's blog is a bit off of the Homeland Security topic. I want to talk about the recent Twitter disaster and Dr. Oz. Now, I know what you're thinking -"Twyla, have you lost it?" No, I haven't. We all stand to learn something from Dr. Oz's Twitter disaster, which is knowing how to time your message. In fact, knowing how to time your message is everything when it comes to issues of Homeland Security and public affairs.

First, so you know, Dr. Oz opened up his Twitter account and encouraged people to use the public hashtag #DrOzsInbox. Yes, so everyone could see the questions being submitted to the doctor. Here's what happened;

As I said, we all have something to learn from Dr. Oz. First, don't open yourself to answer questions you don't want to deal with during a scandal. Second, if you have something to communicate - make sure you know how to do it and why you are doing it. Third, a big brand doesn't mean its a flawless brand. Big empires fall hard.

To tie-in yesterday's blog, the big retailers need to take a lesson from Dr. Oz's Twitter account as we head into the holiday shopping season. Security plans should be enforced and a crisis communication for ill-prepared and/or accident incidents at stores also needs to be planned and in place, otherwise- your store may be the next Dr. Oz on Twitter.

Until Monday,

Twyla N. Garrett

Thursday, November 13, 2014

'Masque Attack' Becomes A Homeland Security Issue

The U.S. government’s computer security team is warning iPhone and iPad owners to be extra careful when updating their apps thanks to a vulnerability in iOS 7 and iOS 8 that allows hackers to send updates that impersonate the apps on their phones. Sounds scary right? It is! But it isn't that the DHS is concerned about your individual phone and identify theft- not to minimize it. The reason this is a DHS issue is because of the capabilities associated with what is being dubbed as the 'Masque Attack'.

Apple has known about the vulnerability since July 26. Apple has not responded to previous requests for comment except to reiterate that users should only download and install apps from trusted sources. The DHS is also concerned about that because not saying something means the virus could have spread and fallen into more sinister hands. This said, US-CERT, which acts as the operational arm of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cyber Security Division, said Apple users can protect themselves by only installing apps directly from Apple’s official store or from their own organizations.

Here's my point - we now live in a world where cyber security seems to be a huge issue for both individuals and our country's security on a daily basis. It also seems that major companies, like Apple, truly don't understand how a small case of identity theft (again, not that it can every be considered "small") can also lead to big problems on a national level if the wrong app or big technology hacks are used for bad things. Our banking systems can go down, airport traffic control could go down, systems can show beheadings on children television stations- a lot can go wrong. So, this is far more of a concern because of the bigger concerns associated with the 'Masque Attack'. Oh, did I mention the President uses an iPhone?

I'm not trying to scare anyone today, but I am offering a warning. Be awareof what you download online and report anything suspicious to US-CERT.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett of IME

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