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Boston shut down as bombing suspects chased down

Boston bombing
suspects

The greater Boston area is shut down with bus and subway service suspended and local businesses and universities closed, as federal and local authorities chase down two men believed to have carried out the Boston Marathon bombings.

One suspect, pictured in photos and video released by the FBI the evening of April 18, is dead, apparently after a shootout and car chase with police. The other suspect, who was also in the released pictures and video, remains at large prompting early morning warnings from police for residents in the Boston suburb of Watertown and adjacent suburban towns to remain indoors.

Reportedly, the men shot and killed a campus police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge (MIT), MA, and wounded a transit authority officer the night of April 18, about five hours after the FBI publicly released the suspects’ photos. The two men also reportedly carjacked a vehicle and lead police on a chase in which the suspects reportedly hurled explosives at their pursuers.

One suspect was pronounced dead at a local hospital after the shootout.

Police and federal authorities have called both suspects extremely dangerous and “terrorists,” with reports saying the remaining man could have explosives with him, or on him.

The Associated Press reported early on April 19, that the men are brothers from Chechnya and have lived in the U.S. for one year and also identified the living suspect as Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, of Cambridge, MA.

The unprecedented, dramatic events began to unfold just after 5 p.m. on April 18 after the FBI at a press conference unveiled video capture and photos of the two men captured by private security cameras at a downtown department store near the finish line of the April 15 marathon.

At around 10 p.m., reports of a shooting near the MIT campus at a 7-11 store in Middlesex County, MA, came in and a subsequent carjacking. A statement from the Middlesex County district attorney the evening of April 18 said an MIT campus police officer responding to a report of a disturbance in the area of Vasser and Main streets was reportedly shot.  According to authorities, the officer was found evidencing multiple gunshot wounds.  He was transported to the hospital and pronounced dead.

“During the exchange of the gunfire, we believe that one of the suspects was struck and ultimately taken into custody. A second suspect was able to flee from that car and there is an active search going on at this point in time," Colonel Timothy Alben, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, told a news conference later that night.

Law enforcement, homeland security, White House vow to find Boston bomber

Copley
Square
explosion

Federal, state and local investigators are in the initial stages of tracking down the person or persons responsible for two bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15 that killed three people and wounded over 100, but said no one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The latest details to emerge from the afternoon of chaos in the city included news that the bombs  -- which were stuffed in trashcans near the race route  -- contained ball bearings or BBs meant to cause even more substantial injuries to bystanders.

A third device, which didn’t detonate, was found near the race grandstand at the finish line. Federal authorities have also told news organizations that the explosive devices were small and didn’t contain high explosives like C-4.

The New York Times reported two additional explosive devices were found in downtown Boston. Security measures in other U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C. and New York City, have been stepped up in response to potential future attacks, as have security measures in cities across the world, including London, where another marathon event is scheduled in the coming weeks.

Three people, including an eight year old boy, were killed in the blasts that occurred within 100 yards of one another near Boston’s Copley Square. More than 140 were injured, some grievously, with shrapnel injuries that first responders likened to battlefield wounds.

Many of the wounded included children and a two-year-old child was being treated at Boston’s Children’s Hospital for critical head injuries.

A motive for the attacks has yet to be determined. No person or organization, foreign or domestic, has claimed responsibility.

The Pakistan Taliban, which has threatened to carry out domestic attacks on the U.S. denied responsibility for the attack the evening of April 15.

“The situation remains fluid, and it remains too early to establish the cause and motivation,” said an FBI statement issued at 9 p.m. on April 15.

Hours before, in a televised statement president Obama said it was unclear who was behind it, but whoever it was would “feel the full weight of justice.” White House officials have called the incident an act of terrorism.

Department of Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano, like other federal agency officials in Washington sent her condolences to the families of the dead and injured and added that her agency is providing “any support necessary” for the investigation. She also encouraged vigilance in the aftermath of the attack.

House Homeland Security Committee chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) and other members of the committee, including ranking member Bennie Thompson (D-MS) in an April 15 statement said much the same, offering thoughts and prayers for the victims and thanks to first responders and the public for their actions in the minutes after the bombs went off and as the investigation moved forward.

The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) vowed to “get to the bottom of this” and use the information gathered along the way to bolster future defenses.

GSN 2012 Awards announced: White House deputy of homeland security recognized for leadership at annual gala

GSN Awards 2012

Hundreds of the best of the homeland security community’s federal, state and municipal government officials, government contractors, systems integrators, IT vendors and physical security product and solutions providers all came together the night of November 29 in a ballroom of the Washington, D.C. convention center to receive accolades.

The GSN awards dinner, which has become a Washington tradition over the last four years, offered a chance for the excellence and civic-minded spirit of homeland security efforts nationwide to be recognized.

Not only were the best tools and technologies acknowledged , but the people and groups who use them, from local police departments in Florida and Washington state, to the White House, were honored at the event.

During the awards ceremonies, Richard Reed, Deputy Assistant to President Obama for Homeland Security, received the second annual Government Security News/Raytheon Award for Distinguished Leadership and Innovation in Public Safety and Security. Reed was chosen for tireless work in his key role in leading the development of national policy related to resilience, transborder security and community partnerships. He has been described as the president’s eyes and ears during disasters. In crises, such as the Gulf oil spill, H1N1 pandemic, and Haiti earthquake, Reed has sprung into action at the White House, coordinating information and gathering people to cope with these catastrophes.

Reed told Government Security News in an interview after the dinner that gatherings like GSN’s awards ceremony were invaluable in demonstrating that the hard work of creating a resilient, strong response to crises is performed by thousands of individuals, like those in attendance. Gatherings that bring the diverse emergency response and homeland security communities together can broaden perspectives and spur new ideas, he said.

Reed has been a determined, mostly behind-the-scenes, captain of federal emergency response efforts during the Bush and Obama administrations, helping prepare for, and respond to, some of the worst natural disasters the nation has known, from one of the deadliest tornado seasons in history in the Midwest, to historic wild fires in the west, and massive storms in the eastern U.S.

Reed said the key to capable response to such staggering events lies not only in federal hands, but in enabling state, local and even personal responses. Getting resources and training in place before disasters happen goes a long way in an effective response and recovery, he said. “The true first responders are friends, neighbors and co-workers” in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, said Reed. Local police, firefighters and other agencies arrive second, he said. Enabling people with information concerning what resources are available or where they can go for help or supplies empowers them, said Reed.

Government Security News managing partner Adrian Courtenay has made the GSN/Raytheon award an annual tradition. The prize is sponsored by the Raytheon Company, a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, homeland security and other government markets throughout the world, which is headquartered in Waltham, MA.

Notable 2012 government excellence award winners included the local police departments in Tampa and St. Petersburg, FL, for their ground-breaking work in preparing for the Republican National Convention in Tampa this past summer. The departments put together comprehensive plans to gently defuse potentially volatile political demonstrations at the event. Both departments were also praised for implementing an innovative interoperable communications network during the GOP convention.

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was recognized for its groundbreaking work on a small radiation detector. The Naval Air Systems Command won an award for its work on the Kestrel Wide Area Persistent Surveillance program, which developed an aerostat for long-term surveillance capabilities to protect ground soldiers in Afghanistan.

The complete list of GSN’s 2012 Award winners appears below: 

CATEGORY 1 – VENDORS OF IT SECURITY PRODUCTS AND SOLUTIONS

 

Best Anti-Malware Solution

 

Invincea

 

Best Identity Management Platform

 

Alert Enterprise

 

Best Certificate Management Solution

 

Entrust

 

Best Compliance /Vulnerability Assessment Solution

 

Agiliance

 

Best Data Security/Loss Management Solution

 

WAVE Systems

 

Best Endpoint Security Solution

 

StillSecure

 

Best Forensic Software

 

Silvertail

 

Best Intelligence Data Fusion and Collaborative Analysis Solution

 

Lookingglass Cyber Solutions

 

Best Intrusion Detection/Prevention Solution

 

Intellidyne

Vanguard Integrity Professionals

 

Best Network Security/Enterprise Firewall

 

Black Lotus

 

Best Privileged Access Management Solution

 

Kikusema

Xceedium

 

Best Real-Time Dynamic Network Analysis

 

Fidelis Security

 

Best Continuous Monitoring Solution

 

ForeScout

Redseal

 

Best Security Incident/Event Management Solution (SIEM)

 

NetIQ

 

CATEGORY 2 – VENDORS OF PHYSICAL SECURITY PRODUCTS & SOLUTIONS

 

PHYSICAL SECURITY ACCESS CONTROL & INDENTIFICATION

 

Best Biometric Identification Solution

 

Fulcrum Biometrics

 

Best Integrated System for HSPD 12/FIPS 201 Compliance

 

Brivo

 

Best Platform for Physical and Logical Access

 

Alert Enterprise

 

COMMUNICATIONS

 

Best Interoperable First Responder Communications

 

Covia Labs

 

Best Mass Notification Systems

 

AtHoc

 

Best Regional or National Public Safety Communications Deployment

 

Desktop Alert

 

DETECTION PRODUCTS

 

Best Explosives Detection Solution

 

AS&E

 

Best Long Range Detection Systems

 

Vidisco

 

Best Nuclear/Radiation Detection

 

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

 

VIDEO SURVEILLANCE

 

Best Intelligent Video Surveillance Solution

 

Panasonic

 

Best Thermal/Night Vision/Infrared Cameras

 

HGH Infrared Systems

Vumii

 

Best Network IP Cameras

 

Axis Communications

 

Best Video Storage/Digital Transmission Systems

 

Panasonic

 

OTHER PRODUCTS

 

Best Perimeter Protection Solution

 

Senstar

 

Best Crash Barriers

 

Nasatka

 

Best Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) Solution

 

NICE Systems

 

SERVICES

 

Best Disaster Preparedness or Disaster Recovery & Clean-up Service

 

High-Rise Escape Systems

 

Best Facility Security/Force Protection Service

 

Whitestone Group

 

Best Homeland Security Training/Higher Education Solutions

 

Bellevue University

 

Category 3: Government Security News 2012 Government Excellence Awards

 

Most Notable Airport Security Award

 

Defense Manpower Agency

 

Most Notable Maritime/Port Security Program

 

Ohio Department of Public Safety/Northern Border Initiative

 

Most Notable Railroad/Mass Transit Security Program

 

Denver Regional Transportation Authority

 

Most Notable Critical Infrastructure Program, Project or Initiative

 

U.S. Veterans Administration Hospital, Tucson, AZ

 

Most Notable Cyber Security Program, Project or Initiative

 

U.S. Department of Energy

 

Most Notable Emergency Response Implementation

 

U.S. National Guard

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

 

Most Notable Law Enforcement Interdiction, Arrest or Counter-Terrorism Program

 

Orange County Intelligence Assessment Fusion Center

 

Most Notable Municipal/County Programs, Projects or Initiatives

 

Seattle, Washington Police Department

Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida Police Departments

 

Federal Government

 

Naval Air Systems Command (Kestrel Wide Area Persistent Surveillance)

GSN 2012 Homeland Security Awards program open for entries

The Government Security News 2012 Homeland Security Awards Program officially opened for entries on May 1, once again featuring 45 Awards in three broad Categories:Best Vendors of IT Security Products and Solutions, Best Vendors of Physical Security Products and Solutions and the 2011 Government Excellence Awards.

Returning as corporate Sponsors of the 2012 Program are BRS Laboratories of Houston, TX -- a leading software development company for video behavioral recognition software that deploys easily and rapidly on large scale video networks and provides actionable information without inundating end users with false alarms -- and Entrust, Inc. , of Dallas, TX, which offers physical/logical access, mobile security, certificate management and other identity-based solutions to governments and large enterprises.  Additional sponsors will be announced, and profiles of all 2012 sponsors, will be published in coming weeks. Companies interested in joining the ranks of sponsors of the 2012 Awards Program should contact GSN Publisher and World Business Media President, Edward Tyler, at 212-344-0759, ext. 2001.

The cost to submit an entry in the 2012 program is $295 for vendors of IT security and physical security products and solutions. As in previous years, there is no cost for entries in the 10 categories of awards for federal, state and local government agencies. Vendors of IT and physical security products and solutions may nominate themselves or be nominated by colleagues or government clients, while government agencies or departments may similarly nominate themselves or be nominated by other agencies, colleagues or vendors.

According Adrian Courtenay, managing partner of World Business Media, several new categories created in 2011 to acknowledge successful initiatives of federal, state or local agencies in responding to emergencies, countering terrorism and preventing crime will again be included in 2012. These categories are “Most Notable Emergency Response Implementation – Federal, State or Local”; “Most Notable Law Enforcement Interdiction, Arrest or Counter Terrorism Program – Federal, State or Local”; and “Most Notable Counter Terrorism or Crime Prevention Program”.

In the 2011 contest, the Bastrop Country, TX, Unified Command (including county, state and federal government agencies) was awarded the trophy for “Most Notable Emergency Response Implementation” in battling 2011 Texas wildfires in Bastrop County. The United States Customs and Border Protection, Detroit Sector, was winner in the “Most Notable Law Enforcement Interdiction or Arrest” category for a dramatic arrest on St. Clair River in Detroit, and the Los Angeles Police Department was recognized for having the “Most Notable Law Enforcement Counter Terrorism or Crime Prevention Program.”

Another category that was new in 2011, “Most Notable Cyber Security Program or Technology – Government or Military”, will also be continued, in recognition of the emergence of Cyber Security as a vitally important component of overall security for any nation. The winner of this award in 2011 was the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The 2012 Awards Program will once again culminate with a gala awards dinner in the fall, at a venue to be announced shortly. In the 2011 program, the “GSN/Raytheon Award for Distinguished Leadership and Innovation” was introduced and presented to Admiral Thad Allen (US Coast Guard-ret.), who came out of retirement twice in recent years to serve his country, first in heading up the federal response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and later in managing the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

In remarks for the 2011 Awards Dinner audience, Admiral Allen said the continuing work of technology companies and first responders was key in any disaster. He urged everyone to become a “lifelong rapid learner” to better cope with disasters, both man-made and natural. He also said “reconciling opportunity and competency” when disaster strikes is essential to any effective recovery, and being on top of the latest, most effective technology is a product of being a lifelong rapid learner. He also said clear communications is also a key to effective response and amplified his call for a nationwide interoperable first responder radio network. 

Photos of the 2010 awards reception and dinner are available at www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/, and video interviews with Admiral Allen, as well as sponsors and winners in the 2011 Awards program, are available at the GSN Video Center at www.gsnmagazine.com/videocenter.

Entry forms and other information about the 2012 Awards Program are available at www.gsnmagazine.com/hsa2012/welcome.

Va Police Chiefs Assn signs up for online training at PoliceCommunity.Net

The Response Network, of Hanover, NH, a provider of online training programs for law enforcement and public safety professionals, has announced that it has entered into a strategic partnership with The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police (VACP) to develop customized in-service training courses that will be available to all Virginia law enforcement personnel on the company’s PoliceCommunity.net online training portal.

“We believe that the Response Network’s online training portal is the only solution that can meet the standard we have set for quality, creativity and cost-effectiveness,” said a statement released by Dana Schrad, Executive Director of the VACP. “The Response Network’s online in-service training courses are nothing less than compelling. They engage as they educate and that is not a small achievement. We look forward to developing a series of courses that will benefit the Virginia law enforcement profession.”

In an interview with Government Security News, Bradley Naples, President and CEO of the Response Network, said the first online in-service course developed exclusively for VACP will be titled, “The Virginia Commonwealth Law Enforcement Legal Updates and Changes in the Law,in conformance with Virginia law, which requires regular legal training for all Virginia sworn law enforcement officials.

Naples added that there are a number of Virginia law enforcement agencies that already use PoliceCommunity.net for online, in-service training, including the Virginia Beach Police Department, Newport News Police Department and the Hampton Police Division. The portal’s overall membership recently passed the 10,000 member milestone, said Naples, as police departments in Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio and South Dakota also signed on.

The PoliceCommunity.net portal presently offers nine basic courses, representing more than 50 hours of in-service training, with three more courses scheduled to come online before the end of this calendar year. One of the great value propositions of the portal is that an annual subscription is available at the price of $74.95 per officer, which is substantially less expensive than locally-produced courses, which typically cost around $300 per officer.

The nine courses currently being offered are:

  • Emotional Intelligence for Law Officers
  • Community Policing/Customer Service
  • Use of Force
  • Domestic Violence
  • Active Shooter for Public Safety
  • Becoming an Exemplary Peace Officer/Applied Ethics
  • Blood-borne Pathogens
  • Avoiding Ethnic and Sexual Harassment
  • Mental Health for Law Enforcement

While the prices of online training are very competitive, Naples noted, there are some things you can’t teach online, such as defensive tactics or using your weapons. “But, the more you can tie troops together collegially,” he observed, “the better you’re going to do. There’s a phenomenal revolution going on in training.”

Naples went on to explain some of the obstacles that police officers have to deal with regularly. “Law enforcement officers have a job that is almost impossible,” Naples said. “They deal with life and death issues and see pain, suffering and death. If they don’t take care of themselves physically and emotionally, they can become angry, cynical, bitter and empty, with no pleasure in their lives. They have to be able to reduce mental error. If you use force -- taser or spray -- it’s going to require EMS, and if the persons who have been tased go into ‘excited delirium,’ they can die. Death and lawsuits are the two most significant reasons for training. Millisecond decisions are required, and people will judge if you used reasonable force, or was it excessive.”

“The better educated you are, the better you can handle yourself,” Naples said.

In addition to costing less than traditional officer training programs, Naples believes that online training can bring officers together and bring out creative work products from them, helping them to become exemplary peace officers, while realizing that, “it is not what you got, but what you gave. Not what you made, but what you built. It’s not only competence, but character. The legacy for officer and agency is what’s important.”

The two book-end courses for law enforcement, he said, are Mental Health and Ethics -- and these subjects are covered in depth in the initial series of law enforcement in-service, online training available from Response Network and PoliceCommunity.net.

Technology integration is another reason cited by Naples for online training, as law enforcement officers are being asked to handle more and more complex technology within their vehicles. He attributes the need for in-service training to three different trends:

  • Reduced budgets and the collapse of federal, state and local funding;
  • The entry of the Internet generation, raised on Facebook and smart phones, into law enforcement, and,
  • The fact that the Internet has evolved into an easy, reliable and trusted means for global media distribution.

In the opinion of Naples, the continued rise in adoption rates for high-quality online training is an inevitability in law enforcement, as it is has been in many other professions, as demonstrated by the proliferation of online universities in one field after another.

“Online training can be accessed 24/7, viewed as often as necessary, and it provides a consistent training message from officer to officer.”

GSN 2011 Awards Program opens for entries on April 26

Government Security News has announced that its 2011 Homeland Security Awards Program  will officially open for business and start accepting entries in the program’s 45 awards categories on Tuesday, April 26.

The 2011 program contains a number of exciting new categories, reflecting the dynamically changing threat environment, in all three of the overall awards groupings: Best Vendors of IT Security Products and Solutions, Best Vendors of Physical Security Products and Solutions, and the 2011 Government Excellence Awards.

The cost for each entry in the 2011 program is $295 for vendors of IT security and physical security products and solutions. As in previous years, there is no cost for entries in the 10 categories of awards for federal, state and local government agencies.

Vendors of IT and physical security products and solutions may nominate themselves or be nominated by colleagues or government clients, while government agencies or departments may similarly nominate themselves or be nominated by other agencies, colleagues or vendors.

Adrian Courtenay, Managing Partner of GSN’s parent company, World Business Media, LLC, cited two intriguing new categories in the government sector that have been selected to acknowledge solid “boots on the ground” achievements of federal, state or local agencies in responding to emergencies, countering terrorism and stopping crime. These categories are “Most Notable Emergency Response Implementation – Federal, State or Local” and “Most Notable Law Enforcement Interdiction, Arrest or Counter Terrorism Program – Federal, State or Local.”

Acknowledging the increasing importance of cyber security and the threat of cyber war among nation-states, Courtenay also pointed out that the government awards in 2010 have been expanded to include a category titled, “Most Notable Cyber Security Program or Technology – Government or Military.”

Returning for its third year as a sponsor of the GSN Awards Program is founding sponsor ArcSight, now a business unit of Hewlett Packard Software and Solutions, whose enterprise threat and risk platform is an integrated product for collecting, analyzing and assessing security and risk information. ArcSight is also a repeat winner in the GSN awards program for its Security Incident Event Management (SIEM) products for collecting, analyzing and assessing security incident event information.

Also returning as event sponsors are General Dynamics C4, located in Phoenix, AZ, a major developer and integrator of secure communications and information systems and technology; and  Mutualink, another GSN award winner, which creates networks of interoperable communities that can instantly share radio, voice, text, video and data files, and telephone communications in a secure environment.

The fourth and final sponsor to date in the 2011 Awards Program is Behavioral Recognition Systems, Inc., of Houston, TX, also known as BRS Labs, whose software uses the fascinating, scientifically developed cognitive reasoning and artificial intelligence of behavioral analytics to leverage a stream of intelligence from millions of surveillance cameras worldwide, in order to provide alerts regarding abnormal or suspicious behavior.

Profiles of each of the 2011 sponsors will be posted on the GSN Web site in the coming weeks.

Additional companies or organizations interested in joining the ranks of 2011 sponsors of the GSN 2011 Homeland Security Awards Program should contact GSN Publisher and World Business Media President, Edward Tyler, at 212-344-0759, ext. 2001.

According to Courtenay, the 2011 Awards Program will culminate with the annual awards dinner in early November at a venue to be announced shortly. “It’s going to be hard to top last year’s elegant dinner and spectacular after-dinner keynote presentation by four-star General Barry McCaffrey (USA-Ret.). But we’re going to try!”

In 2010, the GSN awards were presented to a sold-out ballroom at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington, DC, that included many distinguished government and military officials, academics, law enforcement and public safety professionals from across the country, along with the systems integrators, defense contractors and vendors of products and solutions used in homeland security.

Photos of the 2010 awards reception and dinner are available at:

www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/.

Further information and entry forms for the 2011 Awards Program are available at:

www.gsnmagazine.com/hsa2011/welcome.

Narus 2010 RSA Conference


Greg Oslan, President and CEO of Narus corporation, say Narus’s software provides real-time traffic intelligence that helps carriers, service providers and governments around the world protect and manage large, complex networks. Although the Internet is still in its infancy,  Internet crime is a global issue, and it is time to set up a global ecosystem and  police force. Global criminal behavior and cyber warfare may be death by a thousand papercuts, he states, but it is still death.

Lawmakers, Procurement Experts Call Puerto Rico Power Contract a 'Travesty'

 

The Trump administration is distancing itself from a controversial contract aimed at rebuilding the power grid in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, which procurement experts and lawmakers say has dubious origins and contains highly unusual provisions.

The contract in question was valued at $300 million and awarded to a small Montana firm, Whitefish Energy, by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. The unusually high labor costs and language that prohibits government agencies from auditing certain aspects of the deal, as revealed in the leaked contract, sparked concern from members of Congress and government watchdogs. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the contract “raises every red flag in the book.”

Both the White House and the Federal Emergency Management Administration have distanced themselves from the contract.

“Based on initial review and information from PREPA, FEMA has significant concerns with how PREPA procured this contract and has not confirmed whether the contract prices are reasonable,” FEMA said in a statement on Friday. “FEMA is presently engaged with PREPA and its legal counsel to obtain information about the contract and contracting process, including how the contract was procured and how PREPA determined the contract prices were reasonable.”

One provision of the document stated “FEMA has reviewed and approved of this contract” and is “an acceptable form to qualify for funding from FEMA and other U.S. governmental agencies,” but FEMA said that characterization is “inaccurate.”

Another section of the contract states “the federal government is not a party to this contract and is not subject to any obligations or liabilities to PREPA” or anyone else party to the document. FEMA said it has yet to provide any reimbursement to Whitefish, adding any applicant for its public assistance grants must abide by federal requirements or “risk not being reimbursed.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said at a briefing on Friday the contract was “not something the federal government played a role in” and declined to comment on its propriety until a proper audit is conducted.

Both the process for obtaining the contract and the subject of it are problematic, said Steven Schooner, a professor of government procurement law at The George Washington University and a former associate administrator for procurement law and legislation at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy in the Office of Management and Budget. Whitefish did not go through a competitive, open bidding process before receiving the contract. The attempt to limit transparency through restricting audits “jumps off the page” and is “highly irregular,” Schooner said.

The contract states that, “In no event shall PREPA, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the FEMA administrator, the comptroller general of the United States, or any of their authorized representatives have the right to audit or review the cost and profit elements of the labor rates specified herein."

Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, said an audit clause used to be standard practice until sometime during the Clinton administration. He added that many contracts today still go out the door without requiring firms to “provide adequate support for costs or prices.” Amey found problematic another clause in the contract, in which PREPA waived “any claims against” Whitefish for any delays in completing work.

The waiver “raises concerns about whether Whitefish or its subcontractor workforce is prolonging the work to reach, and possibly extend, the contract’s $300 million ceiling,” Amey said.

Amey echoed Schooner in noting the contract highlighted the difficulties in negotiating relief contracts after a disaster strikes. Many observers faulted Puerto Rico for reaching an agreement with Whitefish rather than relying on a previously established mutual-aid network of public utilities that typically handle power restoration.

Several aspects of the billing have also raised concerns. A journeyman lineman on the contract, Schooner noted, would make about $228 per hour. Subcontracted journeyman linemen, who will provide the vast majority of the work for the contract, will earn $319 per hour. That provides a significant take off the top for Whitefish, Schooner said, in which “you’d have to be an idiot” to send your own employees to do the work rather than hiring subcontractors. Those employees will also earn a $400 per diem, according to the contract, meaning a subcontractor lineman working eight hours would bill at nearly $3,000 per day.

“That’s a jaw-dropping rate,” Schooner said. “How could somebody have agreed to these kinds of rates?”

Whitefish is also billing the government at an hourly rate for equipment, which Schooner called “unthinkable.”

“It’s so unbelievably nonsensical I don’t even know where to begin,” he said.

The contract initially came under scrutiny after reports surfaced that Whitefish is headquartered in the small town where Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke lives, and that Zinke’s son interned at the company. Interior has denied Zinke had any involvement with the contract, something Sanders said Zinke reiterated to Trump at a previously scheduled White House meeting on Friday.

"Any attempts by the dishonest media or political operatives to tie me to awarding or influencing any contract involving Whitefish are completely baseless," Zinke said in a statement Friday. "I welcome any and all investigations into these allegations, and encourage the Interior Department's inspector general to investigate this matter fully." 

Two House committees, Energy and Commerce and well as Natural Resources, have launched probes into the contract. The Homeland Security Department’s inspector general is also investigating the contract. McCaskill and the chairman of her committee, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., wrote a letter to the IG requesting he determine whether the contract is eligible for reimbursement under FEMA’s Public Assistance Program. Their committee is holding a hearing on the federal government’s recent hurricane response efforts, and McCaskill said Trump administration officials “better be ready to answer tough questions on exactly what is happening with this contract.”

The no-audit clause in Whitefish’s contract, Amey noted, did not apply to the DHS IG or congressional committees.

Schooner praised the reviews underway, calling the contract a “travesty” and suggesting some major changes happen quickly.

“It would be an abomination if it isn’t very quickly terminated, modified or replaced,” he said.

 

Hikvision Launches Cybersecurity Hotline

 

Hikvision North America solidifies its commitment to cybersecurity with a dedicated cybersecurity hotline

CITY OF INDUSTRY, Calif.—October 23, 2017–Hikvision USA Inc., the North American leader in award-winning video surveillance products and solutions, today announced the launch of a cybersecurity hotline that Hikvision integrators, clients and technology partners can call for direct support related to cybersecurity concerns.

 

Hikvision encourages its partners to update all equipment to the latest available firmware. “Updating firmware is an effective way to safeguard equipment from cyberattacks and eliminate known vulnerabilities. Firmware updates are available on the Hikvision website,” said Chuck Davis, Hikvision director of cybersecurity for North America.

 

Partners can reach the Hikvision cybersecurity hotline directly by calling 626-723-2100, or by dialing the general technical support line at 866-200-6690, and pressing “5.” Cybersecurity support can also be provided via email at [email protected]

 

Hikvision takes cybersecurity concerns with the utmost seriousness and takes diligent action to ensure that its products meet the standards of the security industry’s best practices.

 

“Cybersecurity is Hikvision’s top priority,” said Jeffrey He, president of Hikvision USA Inc. and Hikvision Canada Inc. “Innovation and R&D are integral parts of our technology development, and continuous improvements to our cybersecurity support with this hotline solidify our commitment to secure our products even further.”

 

About Hikvision

Hikvision is the world’s leading supplier of video surveillance solutions. Featuring the industry’s strongest R&D workforce, Hikvision designs, develops, and manufactures standard- and high-definition cameras, including a variety of IP cameras, analog cameras, and cameras featuring the latest in high-definition analog technology. Hikvision’s product suite also includes digital video servers, hybrid and standalone DVRs, NVRs, and other elements of sophisticated security systems for both indoor and outdoor use. Committed to the utmost quality and safety of its products, Hikvision encourages partners to take advantage of the many cybersecurity resources Hikvision offers, including the Hikvision Security Center.

 

###

 

Martha Entwistle

Senior Manager Strategic Communications, Hikvision USA Inc.

[email protected]

60 years innovating for the Latin American air transport industry

In November 1957, from a small facility in Buenos Aires, SITA began operations in Latin America. Since then, it has grown and transformed into the air transport industry’s communications and IT solution provider, with Aerolíneas Argentinas as one of its main customers.

During this period, the company has been a key contributor to airport infrastructure development in the region, through the implementation of new technologies. In 1988, Rio de Janeiro Airport was the first in the region move from manual check-in to SITA’s common-use system (CUTE – Common Use Terminal Equipment). Since 2005, passengers in Cancun can check themselves in using SITA’s self-service kiosks. Over the years, SITA has supported the air transport industry in Latin America with state-of-the-art technology, to make air travel easier at every step of the way, helping them to meet the expectations of passengers of the future.

The company’s portfolio covers all areas operations including passenger processing, airport operations, baggage, border management and aircraft communications, making the industry more efficient and effective.

Elbson Quadros, SITA Vice President, Latin America, said: “Our greatest delight is to celebrate our 60th anniversary with our customers, who have been trusting our services from the very beginning. SITA is unique because it is the global IT and communications provider to the air transport industry and is owned by the community. We have been part of the major aviation achievements in Latin American over the past 60 years and we will continue to contribute to an increasingly safe and efficient advanced industry. Through SITA Lab, our technology research team, we are exploring strategic and innovative solutions for our clients in biometrics, mixed reality and artificial intelligence. While our robot, Leo, which has already been in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Chile, will be showcased next month at a major industry event in Costa Rica."

Ricardo Lehmacher, Airports Manager for the Aerolíneas Group, added: “For Aerolíneas Argentinas, SITA's efforts to improve our service standards are fundamental. We believe it is vital to offer our passengers and employees the latest technology available, especially in a context of growth and expansion of our business. Together with SITA we want to continue working to always be at the forefront of technology.”

Nearly every airline and airport in the world does business with SITA and its border management solutions are used by more than 30 governments. With a presence at more than 1,000 airports around the world and a customer service team of 2,000+ staff, SITA delivers unmatched service to more than 2,800 customers in more than 200 countries. 

In 2016, SITA had consolidated revenues of US$1.5 billion. SITA’s subsidiaries and joint ventures include

SITAONAIR, CHAMP Cargosystems and Aviareto.

SITA has 320 employees serving the Latin American and Caribbean region, with offices in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, México, Paraguay, Perú, Surinam, Venezuela, Aruba, Bahamas, Grenada, Guayana, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Martin, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Jamaica, Curaçao and Trinidad.

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