Immigration Enforcement and Immigration Reform: An Interview with Dr. Kevin Fandl

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I am currently writing a textbook on homeland security (due out from Elsevier next spring 2015).  Unique to this text are interviews with renowned experts in the fields of homeland security and national security.  Dr. Kevin Fandl is one such expert.  A lawyer and scholar on international trade and immigration issues, Dr. Fandl is currently an Assistant  Professor of Legal Studies at the Fox School of Business at Temple University and the author of over several books on legal writing and related topics.  An excerpt of his interview appears below. Read the rest when it publishes spring 2015.

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Dr. Kevin Fandl is an Assistant Professor of Legal Studies and Global Business Strategy at the Fox School of Business at Temple University. He has a decade of federal service experience, most recently as a federal attorney and Counsel to the Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Previously, he worked as an attorney for the U.S. Trade and Development Agency and for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He has been an adjunct law professor at the American University Washington College of Law since 2004, teaching courses on international trade and development law, intellectual property and international trade law, and advanced legal writing. Dr. Fandl has written and published numerous articles on subjects such as economic development, international trade law, and the informal economy. His most recent work includes, The Role of Informal Legal Institutions in Economic Development (Fordham International Law Journal). He was also awarded a Fulbright grant in 2006 to travel to Bogota, Colombia, to conduct investigation of the Colombian informal economy while teaching classes in the Masters of Law program at la Universidad de los Andes. Dr. Fandl completed his Doctorate in Public Policy at George Mason University and received his Masters degree in International Relations at American University with a certificate in International Human Rights Law from Oxford University.

What advice would you give students who would like to work on immigration-related issues?
KF: Study languages and take the time to understand immigration law, both statutes and case law. Immigration is shaped both by domestic policy and foreign policy. To get a complete picture of the subject, therefore, it helps to work overseas. A good place to start is internship programs overseas and study abroad programs. On the other hand, if you are interested in learning more about customs, then having a solid understanding of how trade law and the import/export process works is crucial. A law degree is useful, but not necessary - a background in economics or mathematics may be more helpful. You can gain experience in this field by working as a broker or focusing on economic policy and obtaining training on economics and trade.

Could you discuss how you came to be affiliated with Customs and Border Protection and your work with the organization?

KF: In law school I applied to be a Presidential Management Fellow (PMF) because I wanted to work for the government rather than go work for a large law firm. CBP had just begun accepting PMF's and they offered me a position in their international trade office. While there, I learned the intricacies of trade issues and other subjects. I enjoyed the practical nature of my work since we worked with real trade goods, real cases etc. While at CBP I also spent some time at the Office of General Counsel's Intellectual Property Office where I handled decisions on trademark and copyright infringement cases brought by major companies. I had the opportunity to even go out to the port itself, examine the goods at the port and watch the inspections take place.

How did you then make your way from CBP to ICE?

KF: I left CBP at the conclusion of my fellowship and went to work for the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA). At that time I was more focused on economic development and had begun a Ph.D. program focused on economic development issues and trade. I had a wonderful mentor at the Trade and Development Agency and that is the key to career success especially when working at a small government agency. After a period with USTDA, I was offered a Fulbright to Colombia where I taught trade law for one year. Doing so also helped me develop the Spanish-language skills, which I believe are essential in a career like mine.

My time in Colombia also exposed me to teaching and I realized that teaching was my passion. Since I didn't yet have my Ph.D. I decided I needed to keep working before I could begin teaching and applied to an attorney position at the ICE General Counsel Office. My supervisor served as an outstanding mentor who helped me expand my skills into areas not traditionally employed by attorneys, such as management and operations.

When my mentor moved into the leadership of the agency, he called upon me time and time again and placed me in a variety of positions. He gave me an appointment to run the Executive Secretariat, which was the correspondence division of the agency. While there, I often wondered if I was developing any expertise - but soon realized that I was developing a much more important skill - versatility. That is what is needed for a fruitful career in the government. You need to be flexible and adaptable. Talking to the other practitioners at the General Counsel’s Office, all of them saw me as someone who moved very rapidly up into management. It wasn’t based on my legal skills alone, but also on my ability to take on new tasks, new challenges, and use my legal skills to address them. To succeed in government, you have to be open to opportunities and taking the initiative. Having a mentor who believed this as well, and seeing him move his way up through the ranks using the ideas of versatility and adaptability made me believe it was the right approach.

You’ve mentioned languages being important, specifically you focused on Spanish as a second language. Why do you believe it is important?

KF: I believe language skills are crucial. I learned Spanish in college but perfected it through immersion while I was in Colombia. Spanish is particularly helpful for immigration issues because many legal and undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are Spanish speakers - but students can focus on learning other languages, including Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Urdu etc. When you learn a language you learn another culture along with it. I think monolingual individuals tend to have a singular view of the world and, as such, have less upward mobility in a global economy.

You’ve worked both at Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, so could you explain how customs and trade are connected to immigration?
KF: ICE focuses on people, including immigrants and people trading in goods; CBP focuses on the goods themselves. From a theoretical perspective, this distinction has less meaning - goods or people moving across the border are related. The movement of both people and goods affects the economy, and both are effectively regulated by similar laws and guidelines. Though we have two separate agencies, one focusing on people and the other on goods, it makes sense to eventually enforce the lawful movement of both goods and people under one unified government agency. ICE has been working in this direction by unifying training amongst customs and immigration officers.\

Immigration reform is an issue both political parties want to work on. What do you think Congress can do to reform our current system of immigration laws and immigration enforcement policies?
KF: The answer to this question relates to the connection between people and goods I spoke about earlier. If labor immigrants were treated (legally) as goods, and viewed in a commercial light, then you would see a desire to integrate them into the tax and tariff system, as goods already are. Our immigration enforcement system would examine individuals in their economic context rather than their impact on American society or American culture. Much like a job applicant should be evaluated based upon their skills and their potential contributions to the workplace, an immigrant should be evaluated based upon their skills and their potential contribution to the economy.

For example, imagine that an undocumented immigrant seeks to enter the U.S. but has considerable education and specialized skills, then a system like the one I envision would make it very easy for them to enter the United States. In fact, this kind of system would likely encourage more of these folks to emigrate by providing incentives to highly skilled, high-wage workers, since they would provide an economic benefit to the U.S. Let's look at another example. Let's imagine that there are plenty of folks willing to enter the United States illegally to pick vegetables or harvest nuts. If we already have enough of these individuals in the country, then we would impose a tariff or tax to limit their supply in the country. In this way you regulate the entry of immigrants based on the free market supply and demand, rather than through artificial regulation of immigrants based on spurious factors, which is what we are currently doing.\

Effective reform of our labor immigration policy requires us to look at the economic side of labor immigration and to regulate entry based upon the contributions the immigrants might make to our economy, their impact on the domestic job market, and of course, national security concerns. Tariffs would be set much like charges are levied for visas today. The funds generated from tariffs imposed upon immigrants wishing to come to the U.S. can then be used to offset any potential negative externalities, such as increased enrollment in schools or increased use of the public health system. More importantly, such a system should also provide these immigrants a pathway to citizenship, or at least residency while also educating the American public about the positive impact of immigrants.

All that being said, I think such a system is not likely to come to fruition in the current toxic political environment. Discrimination against immigrants is rampant, and the economic argument often gets lost among heated accusations about criminality, culture, and rhetoric. Historically, most immigration reform efforts are sidelined by laws that discriminate against certain immigrant populations. Ironically, these laws are passed in the immediate aftermath of efforts to meaningfully reform or encourage immigration. For instance, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was introduced only after pressure from states facing large immigrant populations despite a national effort to lower barriers to immigration. California politicians, and subsequently national politicians, quickly realized the political capital they could generate with discriminatory rheotric against individuals who, after all, could not vote. The Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers into the United States and was really one of the first time discriminatory efforts in immigration were introduced. Since then the idea that people should be blocked from entering based on their national origin has been engrained into American society. The target of that discrimination has evolved, shifting from Asian immigrants in the 19th century to Southern Europeans in the early 20th century to Latinos in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Could there be other reasons besides discrimination? What about high unemployment believed to be caused due to an influx of undocumented immigrants as a reason to limit immigration?

KF: High unemployment is often blamed on immigrants. There is a lot of misinformation out there about the impact of immigrants on the domestic economy. Most studies, whether from conservative think-tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute or more liberal ones such as Brookings and the Center for American Progress, conducted extensive studies showing that immigrants have a net positive impact on the American economy. This applies to both highly-skilled and less-skilled immigrants. These immigrants enter the country as consumers, tax-payers and contributors to so many aspects of American society. The misconception that immigrants harm the domestic economy is leading to significant discrimination and Congress is using this to justify keeping immigrants from entering the United States. But the economics are clear —immigrants are good for domestic jobs, wages, and economic growth.

One other reason for limiting immigration, legal or illegal, could be 9/11. Thoughts?
KF: This is the latest justification, recasting immigration into a national security issue. Immigrants are now increasingly seen as potential threats. I think that this is just another excuse for lack of Congressional action on effective immigration reform. Currently, Congress' idea of immigration reform is just a two-pronged approach: increased border security and a pathway to legalization or amnesty of some kind for the undocumented immigrants already present in the U.S. Neither of these ideas make much sense. For instance, complete border security is not possible from a practical perspective since it would significantly slow trade and lead exporters elsewhere. And legalization, while an important aspect of reform, only addresses the immigrants already here, not those that continue to come year after year. National security is a concern that is best addressed by investigating specific threats, not by further isolating ourselves from the global economy.
 

The Pale Blue Dot

I think about security both during my day job and as I teach and write.  

Sometimes it's even more important to think about the larger picture.  To step back and reflect upon the nature of conflict.  About why it happens.  About the reasons why we fight. Why some are even willing to give up their lives for ephemeral concepts.  Why we spend so much - time, money, lives - all to secure ourselves.

During these times, I find Carl Sagan's reflection on our solitary existence both humbling and moving.  His short, poignant speech, I think provides all that we need to reconsider so much of what we do on a daily basis.  I can think of no better intervention for would-be no-gooders than a gentle reminder from Carl Sagan.  Listen for yourself.

Questioning the Role of Faith in Violence: An Interview with Dr. John Esposito

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I am currently writing a textbook on homeland security (due out from Elsevier next spring 2015).  Unique to this text are interviews with renowned experts in the fields of homeland security and national security.  Dr. John  Esposito is one such expert.  A scholar on Islam, Dr. Esposito's is the Director of the Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim–Christian Understanding at Georgetown University and the author of over 45 books on Islam and related topics.  An excerpt of his interview appears below. Read the rest when it publishes spring 2015.

 

Dr. John Esposito is a professor of Religion and International Affairs at Georgetown University and the founding director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin-Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. Dr. Esposito is also the Editor-in-Chief of Oxford Islamic Studies Online and the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. He has published more than 45 books, the most recent entitled Islamophobia and the Challenge of Pluralism in the 21st Century. Dr. Esposito obtained a B.A. in Philosophy from St. Antony College and his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from Temple University.

When asked if "violence is ever justified to espouse religious views," American Muslims, more than any other American religious group, answer in the negative, in other words by saying that violence is never justified to espouse religious views. Given the worldwide rise of Islamist terrorism, do you think their response is a by-product of some post 9/11 pressure on American Muslims to conform?

JE: No. It’s realistic. Empirically and historically, violence is part of the history of all religious traditions. Including the scriptures of religious traditions, even those traditions we usually say are not violent. For example, the tendency in the popular imagination has always been to say that those who practice Hinduism and Buddhism do not use violence under religious pretense. That is just not true, not even today if one looks at Hindu-Muslim and Hindu- Christian conflicts or the persecution of the Rohingya (Muslims) by Buddhists, including monks, in Burma.

Polls such as the one you cite above, also depend on the audience polled. If I look at the Palestinian and Israeli situation and the history of American Jews and their attitude towards Israel’s use of violence, is there an issue there? What if I look at the use of violence by the United States, which sees itself as a Christian country, and a country where a significant number of the population are conservative Christians. More recently under George W. Bush, Evangelicals and Baptists went against mainstream Christians who all condemned the invasion of Iraq as an unjust war. Where you get the disconnect is that generally all Christians, separate the idea that “my religious belief is not a religion that believes in violence,” from the reality that America, as a Christian nation, is a nation that often relies on military violence to achieve it's goals. The question is whether they believe in the legitimate or illegitimate use of force. In that case, when you jump to the Muslim situation, historically, many Muslims are honest to both the real history of their tradition and the Qur'an, which says legitimate violence is not abhorrent. The Qur'an does not say turn the other cheek. When the Christians answer these poll questions, they generally cite the New Testament and not the entirety of the Bible they embrace (both the Old and New Testament). Therefore, they look to Jesus and not at what many Christians came to believe in committing violence in the name of a just (e.g. legitimate) war. Therefore, the results of the poll also reflect the audience you interview, and how they have been conditioned and raised to think about the issue of religious violence.

I think there is conditioning, especially in American public discourse, that violence and Islam go hand in hand. And this conditioning, again, effects the results of these polls. For instance, when I first came to DC, there was an event on Capitol Hill about the Arab World, and one of the speakers stated, “Islamism or Islamist groups are fine as long as they are nonviolent.” This, of course, is unfair. Americans of all stripes believe in the legitimate use of violence. After the event, a number of the audience members questioned this statement: why do only Islamic groups have to be non-violent to be "ok"? Aren't there other religious groups that are equally as violent, yet we don't make these kinds of statements about them.

In summary, I think the Pew data is good, but you really have to say to yourself “who is the audience and how is the audience hearing this question?” Many Muslims only have the sense of the history of Islam, just as Jews and Christians have, for example, the sense of the conquest of Joshua and David. However, for many Muslims their modern experience is one of Muslim-majority countries dealing with invasion and violence. In the American context - these issues are glossed over - but they tend to affect Muslims differently, since many are on the receiving end of discrimination, hate speech and violence (Islamophobia) in America. On the other hand, not many Americans do enormous soul-searching about the nuclear bomb we dropped on Hiroshima near the end of World War II. In most instances, when this is brought up, Americans tend to just say that dropping the bomb ended the war early. In my opinion, not many would think deeply about what the cost of life was in ending the war. The poll is fine on it's surface, but dig deeper and I think it is troubling because Pew is just reading the data and not realizing you have to know who your audience is and how they are hearing this question.

I think this brings up the larger issue of how Islam is portrayed in the West, and particularly through the lens of popular media. Islam and Muslims are often negatively portrayed by the media or almost exclusively associated with terrorism. How does this affect Americans' perceptions of Muslims and American Muslims' own perceptions of themselves?

JE: Media Tenor, an organization based in Switzerland, monitors primarily European and American media. In a 2012 study examining 975,000 European and American media pieces that covered Islam and the Muslim world, the study found that in 2001, 2 percent of the coverage concerned Islamic extremism, and 0.1 percent provided any wider context about Muslim world. In 2011 the amount of coverage on Islamic extremism rose to 28 percent yet stories that shed light on the wider Muslim world and provided additional context remains at 0.1 percent. In a related study, Media Tenor concluded that for a variety of reasons 8 out of 10 stories about Muslims and Islam tend to include a discussion of extremism or include leads and introductions related to extremism.

The media is conditioned by the realities out there, so a number of stories begin with Islamic extremism as the lead, even though the wider story may be about some other topic related to the Muslim world. Since many folks only read the beginning of these stories, the image that comes across is one of the entire Muslim world as extremist. These stories do not provide the reader with a broader reasonable context within which to frame stories about Islam and the Muslim world.

I tried to delve into this issue further, by asking what do the majority of Muslims think about these issues? That is why we did this book with Gallup, to answer the question, "What A Billion Muslims Really Think?" In the book, we have tried to provide the right context for these kinds of questions - additional information that can help you find meaning in the data.

The research leading up to the book uncovered some interesting information: amazingly, Muslims are more optimistic than non-Muslims about their future because they are upwardly mobile. At the same time, more than 50 percent of Muslims polled say that within the last ten years, they or their friends have experienced negativity (on the basis of their religion). Obviously, if you are being discriminated against on the basis of your religion alone, you are unlikely to provide responses which are honest and truthful. Rather, you are more likely to stay quiet (out of fear) or more prone to speak out. This can distort responses to poll questions and these distortions can manifest in public discourse.

For example, let's take the common encounter of an American Muslim returning to the U.S. from abroad. Frequently, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents may stop this person at the airport and inappropriately ask this person why they were in a Muslim country, do they have any friends there, do they believe in jihad, have they ever handled a Kalashnikov? These kinds of questions are often followed by followup questions such as "Do you believe in violence or religious violence?" Given the context of the first question, the traveler's response to the second question may be very hesitant or defensive. Even assimilated establishment American Muslims may feel that they are "not American" since they are receiving treatment other Americans would not receive in the same situation. The CBP agent is then likely to interpret this defensive response as a form of deception, a potential threat and un-American. And all this context lies buried deep, it is unsaid in the interaction between the CBP agent and the American Muslim traveler.

A lot of what you are talking about focuses on the importance of language.

JE: Yes, language and contextualization.

Can you talk a little bit about that? For instance, one of the initiatives that the Department of Homeland Security works on is scrubbing intelligence products, such as intelligence reports, for inappropriate language. As an example, DHS avoids using the word "jihadist" or "jihadi" to describe violent terrorists who use Islam as an ideology. The rationale behind this is that use of these words legitimizes the terrorist actors who then use these words to recruit others. Another example is not using the word "radical" or "extremist" because it is perfectly acceptable to be a radical or extremist in the United States, but not to be a violent radical or violent extremist. Why do you think this nuanced and perhaps more accurate use of language has not caught on, especially with the general public?

JE: When popular culture and media accept certain terms, then they become commonly used. For example, let's take the term "fundamentalism". There was a big dispute when the term first came out. I was against using it and I would never use it in my writing. However, I ended up attending a panel entitled "Islamic Fundamentalism." When I was asked why the word "fundamentalism" was part of the title, I was told, it would draw in the audience - increase the number of people attending the conference. Once popular culture appropriates a term such as "fundamentalism," the term becomes legitimate.

There is a life cycle to this legitimacy as well. We have seen similar terms take on legitimacy through usage in the media, from "fundamentalism" through to the term "political Islam" and then "Islamist". The first person that used the term "Islamist", used it in a book I reviewed. In my review I suggested it not be published if the term "Islamist" was used in the book. They published it nonetheless. Eventually the term "Islamist" got so common it started to be used by the U.S. government.

Language is critical, but society often determines what it means and people change the meaning of words as time passes to suit their motivations. George Bush himself fell into this trap. After 9/11 he was very clear in noting that Muslim extremists and not the religion of Islam was behind 9/11 - but then started talking about "Islamofascism" when it became part of popular language. This should be corrected, but given the size of the government and political realities in Congress, it will not happen.

Language is modifiable if it is carefully contextualized and defined. You can use an imprecise word, but if you qualify it then it is fine. I used the word "militant" in a way that does not necessarily mean armed, but now most people understand it, so I will use it as a qualifier to indicate it meaning violent.

It is critical for DHS and other agencies to use language carefully. Jihad in mainstream Islam is a long established positive term when used in the Qu'ran and by Muslims to refer to the obligation of Muslims to strive or exert themselves in following God’s will, in leading a good and moral life. Terms like radical and jihad are capable of multiple meanings when they pass from mainstream usage to the language and discourse of militant extremists.

So let's take this a step further. Why do you think these words, such as "radical" and "militant" are applied overwhelmingly to describe the illicit acts of the Muslim minority in America and around the world? Especially when violent radicals and militants are from different backgrounds, etc.

JE: There are a couple of reasons. You start with the trauma of the Iranian Revolution. For most Americans, the initial discovery of Islam and Muslims looked like angry people protesting, destroying property, this massive outpouring of anger in Iran - people yelling, "Death to America!" For example, if I meet a new ethnic group I do not know, and one or two are heavy drinkers, then I am more likely to conclude that the entire ethnic group do it. Thus, many Americans "met" Muslims for the first time this way, as angry revolutionaries shouting anti-American slogans in Iran - and this helped to form their initial negative opinions of Muslims, or at least make them susceptible to seeing the religion of Islam and most Muslims through the lens of “militant Islam” and thus the negative stereotypes of Muslims. Again, you have to look at the context; there are so many different and diverse Muslim countries and a lot is happening.

To see what I mean about context, let's turn the question on it's head: Americans are largely seen throughout the world as the most militant of people, in terms of the number of wars we have engaged in the past and post 9/11, including the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan - yet many Americans don't see themselves in this context but rather believe that the U.S. has defended American interests as well as freedom and liberty abroad. When Americans see the "other," whether it be American Muslims or not, they absorb and are affected by the limited information on Islam and Muslims from the media (which focuses on headline events, on conflict for, as the saying goes, “If it bleeds, it leads,” by social media which is awash with anti-Muslim (Islamophobic) and anti-immigrant websites and some politicians like Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum or media commentators like O'Reilly or Sean Hannity). Consider the issues raised about whether President Obama is a Muslim, the extent to which Republican presidential candidates in 2008 and 2012, and Congressional candidates in 2010 often raised the issue of the religion of Islam or questioned the loyalty of Muslims, the 29 states that have attempted to pass anti-Shariah laws and major polls by Gallup and Pew that on the one hand demonstrate the significant negative attitudes of many Americans towards Islam and Muslims (not just militants) on the one hand and the educational, economic and political mainstreaming of majorities of American Muslims on the other.
 

Help choose my next book's cover

I am writing a textbook on homeland security, due out next year and my publisher has a poll to help choose the book's cover.  Check out the sample covers and vote on ones you like best - be sure to leave feedback as well - my publisher, cover designer and I will be reviewing your feedback in helping make a decision.  Here's more from my publisher:

Homeland security expert Ehsan Zaffar will be releasing a textbook on homeland security policy tentatively entitled Understanding Homeland Security: Foundations of Security Policy. This is an opportunity for you to weigh in on the look and feel of your textbook and provide critical feedback to Elsevier and the author. We look forward to your insights.

Check out the website ehsan.com for more information about the author. His unparalleled access to insiders in the homeland security community has produced revealing interviews with many of the leading players. His textbook discusses hot topics from border security, cybercrime, and terrorist financing to homeland security law and policy.

Follow Mr. Zaffar on Twitter @ezaffar.

From Catching Counterfeiters to Critical Infrastructure Protection: An Interview with Mark Camillo

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I am currently writing a textbook on homeland security (due out from Elsevier next spring 2015).  Unique to this text are interviews with renowned experts in the fields of homeland security and national security.  Mr. Mark Camillo is one such expert.  A former Deputy Assistant Director at the Secret Service, Mr. Camillo's work has seen him transition from teaching to securing the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics to now working to protect critical infrastructure throughout the country.  An excerpt of his interview appears below. Read the rest when it publishes spring 2015

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Mark Camillo is internationally recognized as a law enforcement and security professional, with exceptional expertise in the area of emergency preparedness operations. He currently serves as the Senior Vice President for Strategic Planning at Contemporary Services Corporation, and was recently named chair of the Public Assembly Facility Subsector Council. Camillo began his career as a Special Agent in the U.S. Secret Service, completing a distinguished 21-year career that included assignments at the White House, and advancing to the position of Deputy Assistant Director. Most notably he was appointed the Olympic Coordinator for the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics, directing the Secret Service to plan and implement the Federal operational security plan for the Games. Currently, Camillo is a member of several organizations including the American Society of Industrial Security's Global Terrorism/International Crime Council, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Academy for Venue Safety & Security. He also serves as a senior fellow at the George Mason University Center for Infrastructure Protection.

What advice would you give students who would like to work in the homeland security field, particularly those who would like to work for the Secret Service?
MC: I would advise students to pay attention to their behavior before they even apply for any position. Prudent lifestyle choices are important when working in this field. If your lifestyle, and this includes run-ins with law enforcement, drug abuse or other outrageous behavior, serves as a distraction - then it will be difficult for you to obtain and maintain employment in homeland security-related positions. These kinds of behavior can make you vulnerable to blackmail and extortion or jeopardize an important case in the future. Identify role models who hold jobs you would one day like, watch how they behave and try to emulate their good habits. Both before and after your employment in the homeland security field - when in doubt about whether you should engage in a certain kind of behavior, err on the side of caution. In today's social-media driven world, your actions can easily be taken out of context.

Speaking of social media, what effects has the rise of social media had in the homeland security field?
MC: As internet usage has continued to grow, discretion in communication has declined. People don't realize that emails, often written in haste and thought of as impermanent, can backfire - especially for defendants in criminal cases where email correspondence is increasingly used as evidence. Likewise, the instantaneous availability of information led to an explosion of information, but you have to be careful that the information out there is accurate.

Is the rise of the information economy and the internet helpful or a hindrance to someone in your position?
MC: It is tremendously helpful as long as you remain vigilant about vetting the information. In the intelligence community, you never know if the information you are considering in a case, for instance, has been deliberately released to mislead you. Social media and the internet provide great tools for law enforcement work, but also considerable risk.

What led you to your career in the Secret Service and beyond?
MC: Actually, my background is in teaching. I taught school for six years at an institute where I worked with hearing-impaired children. Learning American Sign Language helped me see the importance of breaking down perceived barriers in communication. Law enforcement organizations today cannot do their job effectively without maintaining an internal collaborative environment. There is more cross-communication than ever in law enforcement agencies today due to electronic mail and interdepartmental working groups.

The Secret Service has a statutory responsibility to investigate and suppress US counterfeit currency. My technical background in graphic arts and photography caught the attention of the Secret Service and I began my career working in the Philadelphia Field Office. I started as a an entry-level Special Agent advancing to the Senior Executive Service position of Olympic Coordinator, where I was responsible for overseeing the federal security operations at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Soon after, I was reassigned as the deputy special agent-in-charge of the Presidential Protective Division responsible for security operations at the White House complex where I remained until being reassigned to assist in the development and establishment of DHS. I finished my career as a Deputy Assistant Director, overseeing the Secret Service technology divisions. Though I am not an engineer, I understood the mission well enough to ensure that procuring technologies was done in and efficient and effective manner, and remained mission critical.

What are the challenges you faced securing different facilities and structures?
MC: Security and law enforcement are not synonymous. Law enforcement is responsive - when you have an incident or crisis, law enforcement personnel are first responders at the scene. On the other hand, security is mostly preventative. Good security operations are designed to detect, deny and disrupt threats before they occur. At particularly high profile events, such as the Olympics or important public buildings, such as the White House, the federal government often serves as the security lead. The Secret Service is responsible for designing, planning and implementing the security operation in these locations. But they aren't the only agency working on security. Other federal agencies, such as DHS' Federal Protective Service as well as state and local organizations work in concert to secure these locations, whether they are a building or an event. The process is collaborative. We have a name for these kinds of security operations when applied to an event of national significance: in 1998 the federal government began calling them National Special Security Events (NSSE). Usually, the Secretary of Homeland Security in conjunction with the Attorney General designates an event as an NSSE and when they do so, the Secret Service, FBI, and FEMA begin working immediately with the event hosts and local public safety organizations and other stakeholders on a plan to secure the event. There have been over forty NSSE's since 1998, the largest of these was the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Since Salt Lake, all other NSSE's have essentially utilized the same security model.

How does DHS determine whether an event will be classified as an NSSE?
MC: The Department of Justice employs a special event readiness level (SERL) test when considering how many resources to bring towards securing an event. Historically, the Boston Marathon or the Super Bowl, with the exception of the 2002 game, had not met the criteria to be classified as an NSSE. However, as an event satisfies more of the determining risk factors, it can be elevated all the way up to a SERL 1, which is classified as a NSSE. There are multiple elements that are weighed against an event to determine the degree of support it should receive from the federal government. Iconic events with a history of threats coupled with worldwide media attention will always be carefully considered for a NSSE designation. Strong local resources and capabilities may reduce the designation to a lower SERL rating.

DOJ classifies all events on a scale from 1 to 4. The classification level determines how many resources are provided by the federal government in order to secure the event and how many Federal government entities will be involved. It is important that any security plan emphasize both the prevention and crisis response aspects of security. Of course, the risk level determines the intensity of both the prevention and crisis response plans. And “risk” itself is determined by identifying in advance the vulnerabilities and threats present at each event.

What organization comes up with best practices for securing an event?
MC: For a sporting event, it is often the sporting league, such as the National Hockey League (NHL) or the National Basketball Association (NBA). In other cases it may be trade groups such as the International Association of Venue Managers and the Stadium Managers Association. DHS' Office of Infrastructure Protection shares best practices on securing critical infrastructure with these groups.

How does one go about encouraging implementation of best practices?
MC: First, venues should have facility managers that are skilled, open-minded and willing to implement security practices. Second, security and facility professionals need to constantly look for ways to increase their understanding of current threats. They have to be willing to argue with decision-makers about the need for updates and upgrades in the security infrastructure. Having an emergency management plan is a best practice in an of itself and such a plan should be part of every facility's toolkit. (One, venues should have facility managers that are skilled, open-minded and willing to implement security practices. Second, security and facility professionals need to constantly look for ways to increase their understanding of current threats. They have to be willing to argue with decisionmakers when there should be upgrades and advancements made. Today's threat is not necessarily tomorrow's threat. It is not a matter of if, but when. An emergency management plan should be part of every facility's toolkit, however the plan doesn't have much value if it isn't exercised.)

How did you make the transition from the Secret Service to critical infrastructure protection?
MC: I went from the public sector (Secret Service) to the private sector (security industry). There are a lot of similarities and differences between the two and a lot of overlap. Remember that government agencies such as DHS aren't the only ones responsible for securing critical infrastructure. The venue, whether it be a stadium or a convention center, has the authority to decide how they would like threats to their facility to be addressed. Speaking broadly about my work on critical infrastructure: we try to use an all-hazards approach. Since I can't tell my clients when an attack might occur, I have to rely on informing my clients about how they can reduce the risk of an attack occurring. For instance, severe weather events cause a lot more damage to critical infrastructure than any other kind of threat - and prevention practices borne from an all-hazards approach are a lot more useful in preventing damage from severe weather events.

Can you speak further on weather and its impact on critical infrastructure?
MC: Studies have concluded that most fatalities at sporting events occurs as a result of weather related events or other non-terrorist acts, such as structural collapse or fires. Though we are seeing a recent rise in active shooters and targeted violence in the country, weather-related events still cause by far the most damage. Casualties from single assailants in public places are not new - but as humans we tend to focus on them rather than on natural hazards such as hurricanes.

Where do you think security is headed in the future? Where do you think it should be headed?
MC: Security is headed to a kind of convergence - a blend of proven technologies, trained personnel and proven best practices all coming together to secure a space - including cyberspace. Another upcoming trend is to protect associated venues that provide critical resources. For example, if someone can't enter your venue then maybe they can get to the venue's power source, water source or transportation infrastructure. With cyber-driven attacks, securing a venue is becoming increasingly complicated and planners have to think outside the box.
 

Speaking at: Bridging Global Religious Divides

I'll be speaking on a small panel about my work with diverse communities in the homeland security space, specifically from a dispute resolution perspective, on April 7th, 2014 at the Slomoff Symposium at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.  The Symposium is part of the Annual Sylvia and Benjamin Slomoff Lectureship in Conflict Resolution. The event is free and other fantastic speakers (especially the great keynote speakers) will also be in attendance, so if you are in the area and have an interest in the subject matter I encourage you to register and attend.

Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: An interview with Dr. Rebecca Katz

Draft cover.

Draft cover.

I am currently writing a textbook on homeland security (due out from Elsevier next spring 2015).  Unique to this text are interviews with renowned experts in the fields of homeland security and national security.  Dr. Rebecca Katz is one such expert.  Her work focuses on public health preparedness, particularly the intersection of public health preparedness and national security.  She is the author of the Essentials of Public Health Preparedness (a great book that I have used in my consulting work) and several other volumes.  A short excerpt of her interview - where she talks about her career, thoughts on her field and the gender disparity in her profession - appears below. Read the rest when it publishes spring '15

Dr. Rebecca Katz is an Associate Professor at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services in the Department of Health Policy. Currently her primary research concerns the domestic and global implementation of the International Health Regulations. Generally, Dr. Katz’s research focuses on public health preparedness, the intersection of infectious diseases and national security, and health diplomacy. Dr. Katz continues to be a consultant to the State Department on issues related to the Biological Weapons Convention, Avian and Pandemic Influenza, and disease surveillance. Previously, she worked on Biological Warfare counterproliferation at the Defense Intelligence Agency, was an Intelligence Research Fellow at the Center for Strategic Intelligence Research in the Joint Military Intelligence College, and spent several years as a public health consultant for The Lewin Group. She also authored a textbook on Public Health Preparedness. Dr. Katz obtained her undergraduate degree in Political Science and Economics, an MPH in International Health, and a PhD in Public Affairs.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to your current position.
RK: I’m an associate professor of Health Policy and Emergency Medicine. My background is in social science--demography, public policy, and epidemiology, all focused on public health policy. I think, there are many different avenues for working public health preparedness. Some have hard science backgrounds, but it is not a requirement.

Is a background in national security law or policy helpful for the work you do?
RK: Absolutely, some background in these subjects helps.

What would you advise a student, in terms of their academic career, if they chose to do the work you do on a regular basis?
RK: One thing that is consistent amongst all of us on our team, even those not formally trained in public health, is that we all take a public health perspective.

Is it a detriment to your success in the field if you don’t have that perspective?
RK: No. But then you won’t be the public health person in the room.

What do you believe is the most valuable experience you’ve had in shaping your career?
RK: My answer for when I was in my twenties is different for my answer for my thirties, which will be different for my answer for when I’m in my forties. I come from a public health background, many members of my family are public health professionals. I always knew I’d end up in that field. After I graduated from college I was volunteering in maternal and child health clinics in southern India and got very sick. The bug that I was sick with, Brucella melitensis, turned out to be a Class B biological weapons agent. It’s the first agent the United States ever weaponized, as part of the US offensive biological weapons program in the early 1950s.

So, I’m assuming you got better once they figured out what you had?
RK: It took four years. And I still have it. It’s endemic in some parts of the world. If you get it through lab exposure you know right away. Otherwise it becomes intracellular and really hard to treat. I spent much of my masters programs hooked up to I.V. medication. I would go in the morning to the medical center to get my I.V. drip then go to class. What was really interesting was, you come back to the States and you have this disease nobody knows about and you have to become, as any patient does, your own expert in your disease. And the best literature on my disease in the US was related to bioweapons. So the interest in my own condition helped me to develop an interest in public health and bioterrorism issues. I thought, "Hey I have this social science, political science, international relations, and economics background, and I’m studying epidemiology in international health – and here is this thing, bioterrorism, that brings all of these interests together. So I became really interested in bioterrorism issues and biodefense, and I started going to meetings on these issues after graduate work.

Talk a little bit more about the gender disparity in your profession.
RK: Since I’ve been interested in these issues, the world has changed a lot. Up until 9/11 the people who looked at biological weapons were part of a very small community. Mostly, they were members of the military or intelligence communities. It wasn’t a question about gender disparity- there just weren’t many people interested- male or female. I had completed my masters and I was working in the public health field and I decided I really wanted to become an expert in this area of disease and security, so I applied for my doctoral degree in 1999. I wanted to do my PH.D. in epidemiology and the schools of public health almost uniformly told me that they liked me as a candidate but we’re not sure about this "thing" (biological weapons, bioterrorism) you’re interested in. I had a hard time finding faculty who were willing to work with me. I ended up in a policy school for my doctoral work, which was more amenable to multidisciplinary approaches, and I found a mentor who was willing to take me on.

Still the case?
RK: I wrote a paper on biological weapons as a public health problem and handed it in on Sept. 10, 2001 to my faculty advisor. One day later, 9/11 happened, and there was suddenly a lot of interest in the things I had been studying. The 90s were a time that people were admitting emerging infectious diseases were a problem again. In the 1970s there had been a shift of focus from infectious diseases and onto non-communicable diseases. Cancer was the new thing in public health in the 1970's, and it wasn’t until the emergence of HIV, Ebola, and other emerging infectious diseases in the late 80s and early 90s that people in the public health community started talking about infectious diseases again as a problem and starting to focus on the connection between disease and security. For instance, the term “emerging infectious diseases" wasn’t even coined until the early 1990s. Really the shift in thinking to infectious diseases as weapons or weaponized agents - didn’t start until late in the Clinton Administration.

Where do you see the field headed?
RK: The Global Health Security Agenda was launched in February 2013. So hopefully that is the future: what actions the global community should take to protect population's health and make populations more secure against bio-threats. So the 2000s, was about making the intellectual jump that public health and security are connected and now we’re looking at what the public health community is going to do about it.

What challenges do you see coming up in the next 5-10 years in the field?
RK: One of the things that we are thinking about a lot is metrics: asking how do you measure success? Is your population safe? Yes or No? Do you have disease surveillance? Yes or no? Have you been able to detect outbreaks? It’s not as easy as some of the other questions in terrorism-related disciplines. To me, metrics is the next major intellectual challenge. Measuring success is what holds people accountable.

If you could ask Congress for one thing what would it be?
RK: Money spent wisely. I think investing in building good disease surveillance systems, which means systems and policies which can help detect outbreaks of infectious diseases quickly, is a valuable use of resources. Good disease surveillance means you can also respond quickly to disease outbreaks and save more lives. We don’t have these kinds of detection systems in many parts of the world. You can’t separate the domestic from the global, so spending the money across the world is in many ways just as useful as spending it at home.

Let’s say somebody graduates from college and is about to embark on a career like yours. They don’t really know what you do day to day, but they are passionate about the subject. So what career advice, in terms of courses that are important, internships to take etc., would you give to such a student?
RK: First, if you want to work overseas, you actually have to get some global experience. The easiest time to do that is right after you graduate college. Life gets much more complicated as you get older. If you have even some idea that you want to do global work, you should try to go abroad. If you want to work in emergency preparedness go spend some time in a local health department. All public health is local, so figure out what that "local" is, whether that is here or abroad, and then go work there.

So practical, on the ground experience is important?
RK: If you have practical experience it makes you somebody worth listening to. It’s important to have policy skills. Some of these skills can be taught. Some can’t be taught and they have to be learned from experience.
 

Litigate. Write. Elect. Advocacy isn’t just about speaking out

But also about writing it in, and convincing others to work on your behalf.  Throughout a lot of my work, I find that the best advocates do more than bring attention to matters they care about.  Often, the most effective advocates for social change or civil liberties also:

  • Litigate.  Filing lawsuits encourages precedent.  Which makes it easier to achieve your goals in the long term since you don’t have to fight the same fight repeatedly.
  • Write. Not just reports that bring facts to light, but persuasive op-eds in major publications and newspapers read by the right people that generate interest and galvanize policy change.
  • Elect. This means raising funds for candidates sympathetic to their cause, encouraging such individuals to run for office and then appealing to them while they are in office to represent their interests.

Litigate. Write. Elect.  I think it’s one recipe for success.

Booking a flight? Know your rights

Pre-flight: booking and reservations

Like most businesses, airlines have considerable discretion in how they respond to problems. This doesn’t mean travelers don’t have certain rights as passengers. Rather, demands for compensation from delays and other inconveniences are likely to be the subject of negotiation. For this reason, the consumer should start by seeking remedies from the airline itself.

If that fails, administrative remedies can be obtained through the Department of Transportation (DOT):

Depending on the claim, the DOT may undertake an independent investigation or administrative action, or counsel the traveler to seek litigation or settlement. In certain cases where disputes commonly arise, such as cancellations of reservations, the rights of travelers are more clear-cut.

Read the rest of my article at Elsevier Connect

Sharing strategies: Strengthen institutions, US policy aide tells Pakistanis

"A policy adviser to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Ehsan Zaffar, has said that Pakistanis need to seriously consider the state of civil society in their country.

'All of the internal mechanisms are only going to work so long in the face of deteriorating social and economic conditions,' Zaffar told The Express Tribune.

He is in Pakistan on a trip to share strategies for engaging government leaders on civil rights issues as well as learning from Pakistani people …

More from my recent interview in The Express Tribune »