Blogs from 2011

The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) today recommended the U.S. not publish research from two separate laboratories that shows how few steps it could take the bird flu virus (Influenza A H5N1) to mutate into a highly infectious and deadly form for humans. The NSABB is an independent expert committee that advises the Department of Health and Human Services regarding issues on biological security. In its decision, the NSABB suggested that the authors make changes to their manuscripts so as not to include the methods and other details that could enable replication of the experiments for fears that ...Read More
The Daily Record just released its 2012 list of "Influential Marylanders". CHHS Founder and Director Michael Greenberger, also a professor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, is one of the honorees. Those selected by the publication have shown leadership and made impacts in their field or industry. Here is the complete list. For more information about Michael Greenberger, visit his website  
The United States is one of the most developed and technologically advanced countries in the world. Yet here we are in the 21st Century suffering from the worst measles outbreak in decades. The tragedy is that measles is a preventable disease. There is a vaccine available today! The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates nearly 1 million people and $1.5 billion in treatments could be saved every year, if we are able to eradicate measles through immunizing our children. Every child in the U.S. should receive their first measles vaccine by 12-15 months of age, which is part of the ...Read More
By Tina Williams, CHHS Research Assistant Millions of Facebook and Twitter members know how easy it is to get insight into people’s private lives. And most of us can quickly spot a spam or scam e-mail. But most of us DON’T know how determined cyber attackers can be to get private and sensitive information. It’s not just individuals or companies targeted in cyberspace; the United States government is a prime target. The stakes have been raised. Cyber attacks aren’t just about the thrill or financial gain. Some adversaries are after military intelligence in order to gain a strategic advantage in war – ...Read More
The Bipartisan Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Terrorism Research Center just released its Bio-Response Report Card (view Report Card). The results were less than encouraging. In total, the U.S. received 0 “A’s,” 10 “D’s,” and an astounding 15 “F’s” out of a total of 40 possible grading categories. Preparedness for large-scale, drug resistant and global scale, contagious pathogens was viewed as particularly poor (11 combined F’s). These failing grades are in large part attributable to failing funding. While there is no shortage of well-intentioned, hard-working people at all levels of the public health preparedness spectrum, the future appears tepid at ...Read More
CHHS Founder and Director Michael Greenberger, professor at the UM Francis King Carey School of Law, has been appointed by the Honorable Governor Martin O’Malley to the newly-created Commission on Maryland Cybersecurity Innovation and Excellence. Greenberger is one of four commission members representing institutions of higher education located in the state. In all, the commission has 25 members who represent the Maryland legislative and executive branches, higher education, the private sector and various technology and cybersecurity boards or councils. The Governor may also invite various officials within federal agencies to serve on the commission. The purpose of the commission is to ...Read More
By Patrick Rose, PhD & Czarina Biton, MPH   The recent listeria outbreak originating in Colorado melons conjures up an important question: why isn’t the issue of food-borne illness a top priority of federal regulators and why are they not doing more? Every year food-related illnesses affect 48 million Americans. That translates to about 1 in 6 Americans who get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die each year from food-borne diseases. What is our government doing to protect us, and what can we do to protect ourselves?  This most recent outbreak has been acknowledged to be the third worst ...Read More
                Interoperability Compromised in our Nation’s Capital. Public safety officials in the Washington, D.C. area are concerned that the Metropolitan Police Department’s recent decision to encrypt its radios will hamper attempts to have seamless interoperability in the region. Encryption has long been used by militaries and governments to facilitate secret communication. Encryption is now commonly used in protecting information within many kinds of civilian systems. Police Chief Cathy Lanier has responded by indicating that it was an “officer safety issue” and that was the compelling reason for the encryption of radios. However, first responders in neighboring jurisdictions are now without seamless ...Read More
With the new movie “Contagion” in theatres, there has been some debate over whether its premise -- an infectious disease spreads uncontrollably worldwide and kills millions of people rapidly -- could really happen. Regardless of how well-versed you are in infectious diseases, reading different mainstream press articles leaves an uneasy feeling. What are the chances we will be faced with a doomsday scenario such as the one described in the movie “Contagion”? Before answering that, let’s get something straight: “Contagion” is just a movie and understanding the complexity of disease outbreaks cannot be summarized in a couple of hours. In ...Read More
On August 23rd, Libyan rebel groups seized the capital of Tripoli and stormed the compound of Muammar Gaddafi, effectively ending his decades of tyrannical rule in Libya. The success of the rebels is in no small measure attributable to the military assistance provided by the U.S. and its allies through NATO.  The assistance that was provided was devoid of any significant troop or “boots on the ground” presence. Rather, NATO provided technical guidance, intelligence and most importantly defensive and offensive air support.  The success in Libya presents a low cost and comparatively low risk alternative to the large scale campaigns ...Read More
Ten years ago on 9/11 /01, I was a Major with the Maryland State Police.  As I walked across the parking lot that morning, the S.W.A.T. Commander stopped me and informed me that a plane had just slammed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. Shortly after I entered my office, a second plane struck the remaining tower. My colleagues and I watched in horror as thousands of people were murdered during the worst attack on American soil. We all remember where we were and what we were doing on that horrific day, and like millions of ...Read More
On Friday, September 9th, CHHS gathered many of Maryland's top law enforcement and homeland security leaders and analysts, for a symposium on the 10 year anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. Panelists reflected upon the lessons the state learned and their plans to ensure the safety of citizens going forward. Gov. Martin O'Malley used the event to make a major address on how Maryland is continually building a prepared and resilient state for any potential catastrophe.  
Recently Pakistani tribesmen filed a criminal complaint in Pakistan against John Rizzo, the former acting General Counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  The complaint is based on Mr. Rizzo’s authorization of the CIA’s use of armed unmanned aerial vehicle attacks, or drone strikes, in Pakistan’s tribal regions near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The ultimate disposition of the complaint is not terribly important because it is highly unlikely that the U.S. will extradite Mr. Rizzo to face any possible prosecution in Pakistan.  However, there are several fundamental legal and policy questions that are raised by this new means of warfare.  One important ...Read More
Many folks already view Hurricane Irene as an extraordinary exaggeration and a waste of a whole lot of worrying. While it certainly may not have left the devastation other historic storms have left in their wake, people underestimate the efforts made in their respective counties and states to ensure that things weren’t worse. As a CHHS staffer who often works with the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management, I was given the opportunity to observe these efforts first-hand while spending all of Saturday evening and the early Sunday morning hours in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). After several days of ...Read More
A workshop series designed to facilitate Continuity of Operations (COOP) plan writing. Thursday, October 6, 2011 Noon: Light lunch refreshments & snacks 12:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.: Workshop Laurel City Hall Computer Lab 8103 Sandy Spring Road, Laurel, Maryland 20707 Bring your completed digital worksheets to this interactive, computer-based workshop designed to guide participants step-by-step through the process of swiftly and effectively creating individual office COOP plan drafts. Registration is now closed. Contact: Jessica Hurst, Center for Health & Homeland Security
It is now the year 2011.  Ten years ago, on September 11, the U.S. encountered terrorism of historical proportions as al Qa’ida attacked several prominent sites in the United States, affecting everyone in our Nation in some way.  But these attacks did not shatter the American will and spirit.  Since then, homeland security infrastructures have been built, counterterrorism systems have been put into place, and America began the healing process through action and rebuilding.  This year, al Qa’ida’s top leader, Osama bin Laden was killed by a team of Navy Seals.  His death, however, does not mark the end of ...Read More
In a decade where the term ‘every penny counts’ could not be more appropriate, our governments, at local, state and federal levels, are faced with making tough decisions.  Legislators walk a fine line between balancing the budget and acting in the best interest of their constituents.  The difficult task for legislators is to make deep cuts and changes in the tax system without causing serious detriment to society.  When making the tough decisions in this current funding climate, it becomes difficult to look beyond immediate needs and continue supporting projects that do not have significant short-term impacts, but that provide ...Read More
Last week, Baltimore City launched a new text and email alert system that will provide important alerts for issues related to public safety and crime.  According to Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake, “[t]his new system is an important addition to our efforts to improve transparency and communication with the citizens of Baltimore using technology and social media.” Social Media and Text Messaging/SMS outreach programs are quickly becoming commonplace throughout the country in an effort to provide citizens with alerts, news and information that is timely and accurate.  Wireless carriers and federal agencies are coming together to deliver an SMS-based ...Read More
On June 22, President Barack Obama announced that 10,000 of the 33,000 surge troops that were deployed in 2009 to augment U.S. military operations in Afghanistan would be withdrawn by the end of this year.  This will be followed by the withdrawal of all surge troops by the end of the summer of 2012. This draw-down in troop levels comes shortly after a joint operation between the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the U.S. Military Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) led to the detection and killing of Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaida and mastermind of the September ...Read More
Jophan Porter, a 38-year old flight attendant for American Eagle Airlines, was recently arrested for carrying phony identification, including a fraudulent passport, and charged with six counts of identity theft, three counts of forgery, and three counts of possessing stolen driver’s licenses. Porter, who is a native of Guyana, was carrying multiple forms of false identification, including several driver’s licenses, a Department of Transportation identification card, and a passport.   Though it is unclear how long Porter was using false identification, officials know that he used a stolen ID to get hired by American Eagle Airlines in March, and had made ...Read More
In the famous words, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, our founding father Benjamin Franklin demonstrates his knowledge of principles that would develop the infrastructure of public health preparedness centuries later. During the beginning of the 20th century, infectious diseases such as smallpox, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, mumps, measles, rubella, and haemophilus influenzae were common and took a fatal toll on the world’s population. The development and administering of vaccines was critical to prevent and control the morbidity and mortality rates of nine preventable diseases and the complications of that time. Immunizations served as a critical ...Read More
The most critical breach of security that airlines are faced with today is not the passengers who might smuggle weapons or explosives onto planes,  but rather, the passengers who have cleared the Nation’s document screening process with a fraudulently obtained passport or other international identity document.  Interpol‘s Secretary General, Ronald Noble, made this admission while speaking at the summit of the International Air Transport Association in Singapore this month.  “The number one risk confronting airlines and countries around the world is the risk that terrorists or other dangerous persons will carry a fraudulent identity document and move from one country ...Read More
 As of June 3, 2011, more than 10 European nations were simultaneously experiencing outbreaks of enterohemorrhagic E. coli, EHEC, causing significant numbers of illnesses and major economic impacts to the affected nations. Although work is ongoing to characterize the particularly virulent strain of E. coli O104 causing the outbreak and its source, it is currently clear that this strain is causing a truly significant number of infections. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 500 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a form of kidney failure, have been reported and have caused more than a dozen fatalities to ...Read More
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 marked the beginning of the Nation’s declared “War on Terror,” and as the mastermind of those attacks, Osama bin Laden became the world’s most wanted terrorist. Following the 9/11 attacks, federal, state, and local government agencies emphasized the improvement and revision of current efforts in emergency planning, public safety, and counterterrorism strategies. Just as the date of September 11, 2001 is an historic date in our lives, May 1, 2011 will also be a date that is embedded in the minds of all Americans, because that is the day Bin Laden was finally ...Read More
The rescue of an 80-year-old grandmother and her teenage grandson from the kitchen of their apartment is a bright spot in otherwise bleak accounts of the Tohoku earthquake and resulting tsunami aftermath. The average age of the more than 9,000 dead is 68-years-old, and providing adequate care for surviving elderly special needs victims will remain at the forefront of the recovery effort. This should come as little surprise – Japan is considered the world’s oldest country and is aging faster than any other country. The areas hit by the earthquake and tsunami encompassed many smaller port and fishing towns and ...Read More
The unprecedented scale of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, frankly speaking, were among many things that happened that had not been anticipated under our disaster management contingency plans. In hindsight, we could have moved a little quicker in assessing the situation and coordinating all that information and provided it faster. - Yukio Edano, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary (March 18, 2011) By all accounts, it was a week of worsts for Japan: The worst (strongest) earthquake recorded in Japan since modern instrumental recordings began 130 years ago. The worst national crisis since the end of World War II. The ...Read More
  by Oleg Pelekhaty In the wake of Japan’s largest recorded earthquake and subsequent tsunami, Japanese nuclear energy officials continue to grapple with the increasingly serious situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant. The situation highlights the importance of multiple redundancies and the utility of adopting an all-hazards approach to planning and preparedness activities. Immediately after the 9.0 earthquake, engineers performed an emergency shutdown of the reactors, known as a SCRAM. A SCRAM halts the nuclear chain reaction and attempts to absorb energy, while coolant pumps remove the heat the fuel rods continue to produce. If the heat is ...Read More
Within 2.5 hours of the massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Japan on Mar. 11, Google had its Person Finder application actively running. As we watched the site over the course of an hour, the number of people tracked went from 5,000 to 7,200. Google provides its Person Finder as part of its Crisis Response site, which seeks to increase access to critical information during and after natural disasters and crises. The site includes maps, news feeds, and other resources. Google created a similar database following the Feb. 22 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. Tweet
“The headline you won’t be reading: ‘Millions saved in Japan by good engineering and government building codes’. But it’s the truth.” This was written by Twitter user Dave Ewing in response to the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that shook Japan on Friday.  While the aftermath is devastating, and the final death toll uncertain, there is an element of truth to that statement.  Japan's stringent building regulations are an excellent example of effective hazard mitigation. Japan is not a stranger to tsunamis or earthquakes.  Japan lies on the "Ring of Fire", an area of earthquake and volcanic zones stretching ...Read More
If you've ever 'Google Street-Viewed' your home and felt weird that people could see the car in your driveway, you're not alone. Monday, Israel announced despite reservations it would work with Google Inc. to find a way to safely implement the service Google Street View. Israeli officials are reluctant to allow the service to photograph Israeli cities, because they worry Street View could be used by terrorists to plot attacks on sensitive targets. Israeli caution is justified, considering Palestinian militants have already used satellite image-based Google Earth to identify rocket targets. Google Street View is already available in 27 countries, ...Read More
  We shouldn't just give our people a government that's more affordable. We should give them a government that's more competent and more efficient. We can't win the future with a government of the past. Those lines from President Barack Obama's State of the Union in the evening of January 25, 2011 raise an interesting idea: How can what President Obama said about government efficiency be applied to national security? Earlier that day, The Project on National Security Reform (PNSR) presented The Power of People: Building an Integrated National Security Professional System for the 21st Century, a congressionally-mandated study that ...Read More
In his blog post about the 2011 MARCE Conference on Legal, Ethical, and Policy Challenges of Vaccination, Earl Stoddard outlined recent milestones and controversies in the vaccination field. Michael Willrich’s editorial “Why Parents Fear the Needle” addresses one of facet of this controversy—the public’s century-long resistance to mandatory vaccination—and why the resistance continues. Willrich concludes that when it comes to addressing public resistance to vaccination efforts, “education can be more effective than brute force,” and recommends a frank, on-going discussion with the public about the benefits and risks of vaccines. Those attending the 2011 MARCE conference will have an opportunity ...Read More
On January 13, 2011, CHHS Director Michael Greenberger and CHHS staffers Robin Clark, Emily Cornette, Dave McDonough, Eric Oddo, and Lori Stone took part in Governor Martin O'Malley's Public Safety and Security Forum at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. The forum brought together an enthusiastic collection of local, state, federal, non-profit, and private actors and stakeholders from all sectors of public service throughout Maryland. Governor O'Malley led off the day by introducing the main objectives of his Administration's "Maryland Forward" initiative, the four major pillars of which are Skills, Sustainability, Health, and Security. He explained that setting goals, exhibiting ...Read More
"In effect, our nation was entirely unprepared for an inevitable disaster," said William K. Reilly, co-chair of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. While a great deal of the Commission's report, released January 11, focuses on the safety measures needed to overcome science and engineering of the elements that contributed to the Macondo well blowout, the human and management errors of BP, Transocean, Halliburton, and government regulators, and complexities of drilling in deepwater, the Commission focused a great deal of attention on the importance of preparedness and response planning measures moving forward. The ...Read More
On January 6, 2011, two suspicious packages were sent through the U.S. Mail to Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and Maryland Secretary of Transportation Beverley K. Swaim-Staley. Upon opening, both packages produced odors, flames, and smoke. Unfortunately, automatic opening devices were not utilized, and the postal workers who opened the packages sustained minor injuries. While neither of these incendiary devices is considered a mail bomb nor contained anything explosive, incendiary devices bring the issue of mail screening to the fore. Frank Schissler, a postal inspector, said that since 2005, U.S. postal workers have delivered a trillion pieces of mail, and 13 ...Read More
The environment and social acceptance of vaccination is constantly shifting. Recently, however, a number of high profile events have made the landscape even more tumultuous. Events including the Whooping Cough outbreaks in California, the challenges in both logistics and acceptance in delivery of the H1N1 vaccine last year, the recent court deliberations in New York, the Supreme Court and elsewhere that impact public perception about vaccine safety and efficacy, recent headlines associated with the studies that initially linked vaccines and autism, and the ethics of vaccine distribution including decisions to respect international commitments over national self interest and selecting "priority" ...Read More
I spent the past three years pursuing the professional certification “CEM” from the International Association of Emergency Managers. The CEM is a certified emergency manager and is the highest and most distinguished certification available to emergency managers. So why did my pursuit take three years, you ask? Well, even to be considered for the certification a candidate must spend the equivalent of three years of full-time employment in the field of emergency management, which doesn’t include time as a first responder (like a firefighter). I also was required to complete 200 hours of training, above and beyond formal education. A ...Read More
In the wake of the shooting that occurred on January 8 at an Arizona Safeway, legislators across the country are left questioning their current security measures when holding public town hall meetings. The alleged shooter in custody targeted United States Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed a federal Judge who was among the six people killed and 13 injured. “Every member of Congress gets threats,” said Sean Brown, a spokesman for Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tx.) “The question is: ‘Is it credible?’ Now, all will be taken more seriously.” That same tone has resonated here in Maryland, where State legislators convened in ...Read More
In December, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) began a program of randomly inspecting rider bags. The program has stirred up much debate, as opponents question the constitutionality of the program, raise concerns that the program may lead to racial profiling, and argue that it is simply ineffective in protecting against terrorism.  Pursuant to the program, riders wishing to take Metro may have to submit to an inspection of their carry-on items before they are allowed to proceed to their train. As a rider enters a Metro station, Metro Transit Police, in conjunction with TSA officials, may ask to ...Read More