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On the Government’s Growing Obsession With Hollywood-Style Command Centers

Posted on Aug 16, 2010
North American Aerospace Defense Command

By G.W. Schulz, CIR

This article was produced by the Center for Investigative Reporting.

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It’s one of the most powerful addictions formed by government since the Sept. 11 hijackings. Blooming in every corner of the country are high-tech command facilities for fighting terrorism, battling crime linked to national security, coordinating disaster responses, enhancing infrastructure protection and more. The desire for them is insatiable, and Congress seems ever the enabler.

Some existed prior to the attacks and received an injection of cash when new, massive spending on homeland security by Washington exploded. Others were created following 9/11 to address every hazard imaginable.

Many of these coordination and intelligence centers are not unlike how action-film directors portray them. There are banks of monitors with analysts working behind three or four panels each, large screens on the wall tuned to cable news networks or weather feeds, lights bleeping from server racks and, of course, lots of maps. Always lots of maps. The only thing missing is a chain-smoking character actor determinedly leading the response to total pandemonium as it rages outside.

Keeping track of the centers turns out to be extraordinarily difficult. It’s never clear where one overlaps with or replaces another. There’s the National Response Coordination Center, the National Operations Center, the Terrorist Screening Center, the National Counterterrorism Center, the Transportation Security Operations Center (aka the “Freedom Center”), the Transportation Security Information Sharing and Analysis Center, the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center, the Coast Guard Intelligence Coordination Center, the National Maritime Intelligence Center, the National Vessel Movement Center, the National Hazardous Materials Fusion Center, the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center, the Bulk Cash Smuggling Center, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, the International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center and the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. That’s a partial list.


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A sample array of intelligence and coordination centers located in or around the nation’s capital. Click on the tabs to learn more.

The Department of Homeland Security also spent more than $250 million over a three-year period helping to build 70 local police fusion centers where authorities trade information about terrorists, natural disasters, threats to public health and everyday crime (it used to be just terrorists, but the expense proved difficult to justify).

Last year’s homeland security appropriations bill contained over 80 earmarks totaling almost $52 million for so-called emergency operations centers located in dozens of communities across the country, from the city of Green Cove Springs in Florida to the city of White Fish in Montana (estimated combined population – about 15,000). Officials say EOCs are necessary for coordinating disaster response and recovery.

Then there’s the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center, not to be confused with the National Biosurveillance Integration Center. The first determines what dangers we face if biological agents fall into the hands of terrorists.

The second center’s annual budget is about $8 million. Officials who work on preparedness issues elsewhere in government told congressional investigators last year they weren’t sure if it “contributed anything to the federal biosurveillance community that other agencies were not already accomplishing,” according to a December 2009 report.

Passage of a law in 2007 that implemented leftover recommendations from the 9/11 Commission led to the establishment of the biosurveillance integration center. Its job is to analyze biothreat data flowing in from “partner” agencies and to send out an alert if disturbing trends or events are detected. At least that’s its job on paper.

The center’s “partners,” interviewed by the Government Accountability Office, expressed “widespread uncertainty and skepticism” about its purpose and responsibilities. Its partners include the Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Others complained that during the response to H1N1, the center “was not able to demonstrate that it had unique value to add.” Some said they’d rather deal with another of the many centers available, namely the Department of Homeland Security’s National Operations Center.

There were even worries that the biosurveillance center would fail to accurately interpret data and end up mass distributing ill-informed reports. Interviewees said they were concerned “that [the center’s] lack of contextual sophistication could lead to confusion, a greater volume of unnecessary communication in the biosurveillance environment, or even panic.” In other words, an overabundance of centers could lead to the very shockwaves from non-existent impending doom that we fear.

To be certain, the risks involved shouldn’t be dismissed as science fiction. Experts say the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the U.K. during 2001 led to billions of dollars in losses suffered by the food and agricultural industries. If perpetrators actually figured out a way to spread deadly biological agents over, say, a large vacation resort, it would cause unbelievable tragedy and no doubt send tremors through the economy. The Obama administration is training postal workers to distribute treatments if something like anthrax is loosed into the air.

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By prosefights, August 20, 2010 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment

Kudlow Friday August 20, 2010.

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By prosefights, August 18, 2010 at 5:59 pm Link to this comment

Iran may face electric shortages in the near future.

Death from cold, starvation, and crime may face Iranians if Iran does not have nuclear generation of electricty.

Israel is reported to have 71% coal generation of electricity.

And may have no nuclear generation of electricity facilities?

Here may be the really scary news.

“According to the Times, China’s “civilian nuclear power industry” (and rest assured there’s
a Chinese military nuclear power industry as well) has 11 operating reactors, with as many
as 10 new reactors per year planned for the next 15 years. That’s 150 new reactors just in China.

So where will the world nuclear industry obtain the uranium fuel for all these new reactors?
That’s a darn good question. Just in the US, annual uranium use for the nuclear power industry is about 55 million pounds. The US produces less than 4 million pounds of this fuel - about 7% - and imports the rest.”

reports Byron King.

Bombing Iran’s Bushehr nuclear generation of electricity facility by Saturday August 21, 2010 may be a worse idea than the US inciting Saddam Hussein to initiate the Iraq/Iran war?

We suggest and lobby for peaceful settlement of these unfortunate matters.


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By prosefights, August 18, 2010 at 4:47 pm Link to this comment

Kulow Wednesday August 18, 2010 interview with Michael Oren, Israel ambassador to US, on possible attack on Iran’s nuclear generation of electricity facilities.

Archived here

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By prosefights, August 18, 2010 at 7:18 am Link to this comment

“A war with Iraq would heighten security concerns and probably trigger more spending on protection on home. That would be additional money for guards, security devices and procedures that might otherwise be invested in production-boosting technology and workers who generate salable goods and services.” `

“It’s a dead-weight loss as far as the economy is concerned,” said Vernon Smith, a George Mason University professor who won the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics.

The liberal arts educated may be causing these problems, we speculate.

Tuesday August 17, 20120 08:19
Kudlow and Eagleburger were mp3 recorded discussing bombing Iran’s nuclear electric generation facilities Monday August 16, 2010.

Former U.S. envoy to the United Nations, John Bolton, asserted that Israel has until Aug. 21 to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. He said from that point on Bushehr would become an operating nuclear reactor and effectively immune to any air strike.

You will not hear the word ‘electricity’ in their discussion.

Bolton was a member of the Yale Political Union, and he ultimately earned a B.A. summa cum laude in 1970 and a J.D. in 1974.

Kudlow graduated from University of Rochester in Rochester, New York with a degree in history in 1969.

Lawrence Sidney Eagleburger (born August 1, 1930) is an American statesman and former career diplomat, who served briefly as the United States Secretary of State under President George H. W. Bush. Previously, he had served in lesser capacities under Presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin.

[liberal arts major?] - LAWRENCE S. EAGLEBURGER (1930- ) Served 1992-1993 Appointed by President ... his BS degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1952 with a major in history. [E]agleburger recieved a M.S. in political science from the University of Wisconsin in 1957.

In addition, the BNL loans were crucial to the Reagan and Bush administration’s efforts to assist Saddam Hussein. While at the State Department, Eagleburger was fully aware of the link between BNL and the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) program for Iraq and the importance of the BNL scandal.

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BR549's avatar

By BR549, August 18, 2010 at 4:43 am Link to this comment

Maybe the citizenry should take those “command centers” over and use them to
keep a watchful eye on the antics of sleazy politicians who keep trying to use our
tax dollars against us.

Or maybe when all those pompous blowhards are flushed down the sewer, we can
convert those buildings to community centers.

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By empirePie, August 17, 2010 at 12:23 pm Link to this comment

La La Land   empirePie   August 16th, 2010

encase my brain in soothing la la las
tweet LOL s to my pals in la la land
digitize my hand
send it to my band

logo land
la la land

mark me to be free
free me to be the marked
park that freedom in jelly ju jubes
let them vacuum up your tubes

the vibes from father Sam
the uncle on the lam
dreaming of the next new neo scam con
with new fiethdoms to spawn
as Yon and Yonson down by the wall
with graffiti complaining of dreams
dry la la dreams…inlist
for logo land
home of the knaves
whose bunkers are looking for the mother’s of all
to procreate two headed warrior sons
to prop up la la land
just listen
listen to the awe
from shocking rockin la la land

la la land
la la land
encase my brain in la las

in logo land
la la land

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By Bernd Buerklin, August 17, 2010 at 11:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Everybody relax! This is only about money and business! The fascist state is only a little byproduct.

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By gerard, August 17, 2010 at 10:26 am Link to this comment

As long as they are falling all over each other, replicating, duplicating, maximizing and mitigating, we have less to fear and can hope they get stuck in their own spiderweb. Efficiency is the bane of disordered priorities.

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By felicity, August 17, 2010 at 8:08 am Link to this comment

Somehow this all fits with what war has become, at
least in America - a business, a mega-business (eats
up 60% of our discretionary budget big.)

It’s got to be sold, hyped (you don’t launch a new
product in August which is why we launched the Iraq
invasion in March.) Surgical strikes from the air are
boring.  Heroic jet-jockeys replaced with drones,
who can get off on drones? 

And then there are the names we tag our invasions,
surges, whatever with. Fore instance, the 1983 attack
on poor little Grenada,  “Operation Urgent Fury.” 
I’m not making it up.  (As I think about it, make a
great title for a Hollywood movie.)

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