Tag Archive: homeland security

Freshman Bonnie Watson Coleman passes first bill in House (video)

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman has a lot of support here. I thought you might like to see this video clip from the House floor, of debate and passage of her first bill, H.R. 1646 – the Homeland Security Drone Assessment and Analysis Act. On her Facebook page, she notes she’s the third Freshman Democrat to pass a bipartisan bill in this Republican-led 114th Congress.

Yesterday, my team and I hit a huge milestone, passing my first bill through the House. I've learned, and accomplished, quite a bit over the past five months, and I remain dedicated to serving New Jersey's 12th District. Check out this clip of debate on the bill, and the moment it gets approval on the House floor.

Posted by Bonnie Watson Coleman on Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bridgegate probe to check Christie copter rides

Update: willlivingston wrote about this, too – and raises an excellent question about a leak and whether this may be Wildstein’s “evidence exists”. Read him.

In a few minutes, at 2pm, the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation (NJ SCI) will meet in Trenton. Today, the NY Post is reporting that the SCI plans to look at the records of that state police chopper Gov. Christie likes to use, to see if he flew near Fort Lee during the time local lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge were closed.

If that’s true, it’s an amazing coda to an issue that absorbed us two years ago, the way Christie commandeered the state’s  $12.5 million state police helicopter – a 55-foot Homeland Security resource designed for emergencies and to transport critically injured people – for political and family reasons.

So, did Christie take a joy ride to check on his Port Authority minions’ work snarling traffic for the people of North Jersey? Did David Wildstein ride along? After all, right after Christie claimed to barely know who Wildstein is, a photo surfaced (via WSJ) of the two of them yukking it up on September 11th, 2013. During the 5-day lane closures, and on a day when more sensible people realize the busiest bridge in the world might be at a terrorism risk on the 9/11 anniversary. Requiring, you know, more care and safety, and less impeding of first responders, just in case somebody wants to do harm.

Whoever got the idea to check the chopper records for this is absolutely effing brilliant. And it tells me, if the story’s true, that good and intelligent due diligence is going on down there.

David Samson and the ‘Master of Disaster’

David Samson’s name now turns up in unfolding scandals in the Christie administration on two fronts. He is the Port Authority Chairman who subpoenaed emails show blasted PA Ed Patrick Foye for outing the threats to public safety that Christie’s political operation engineered. Samson also turns up in allegations made by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer this weekend, who claims Sandy aid controlled by the governor was held hostage unless she approved a lucrative development project in the north end of the city. The private developer, Rockefeller Group, is represented by Samson’s law firm Wolff Samson.

Samson, a mystery figure of enormous power in the workings of the Port Authority, has now been subpoenaed. And Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle confirmed on TV this morning that Samson has retained Michael Chertoff.

When Chertoff was Director of Homeland Security for President George W. Bush, they called Chertoff the ‘Master of Disaster’.

Given all that’s going on, that sounds about right.  

Christie flights triple since Coptergate

helicopterUPDATE: Ledger now featuring this story along with a fresh quote from Christie: “We’ve only used it for business purposes. When I have to use it for political purposes, we make sure we pay it back.”

(Huh? Why does he ever have to use state resources to further his own political position? And why is he allowed to borrow against state resources for political purposes?)

Bloomberg/Business Week put some numbers to Chris Christie’s routine commandeering of the $12.5 million state police helicopter this morning. Ordinarily, we might trust a governor to make his own decisions about how to motor around. But this is New Jersey. We’ve had a governor who nearly killed himself speeding without a seat belt. Now we have one who squires around in a chopper, frequently using that 55-foot Homeland Security resource – designed for emergencies and to transport critically injured people – for political or family events. And that’s something the public should nose into, particularly when the governor in question styles himself fiscally responsible, and tells other public workers to tighten their belts and seems to think his constituents laze around waiting for government cheese (which offends us and Tom Moran, too.

Over at Bloomberg, they requested documents, and pulled out the calculators. Whole Christie Airborne for WrestleMania as Helicopter Flights Triple, is worth reading. But I’ll summarize:

Christie choppers to announce WrestleMania (Feb. 16):

  • 36 minutes

  • Cost: about $1,500

  • Time saved: about 36 minutes

  • Other Christie copter trips same week: to NYC for speech to pro-Israel group, Super Bowl rally for NY Giants, Caldwell “Town Hall” where he urged towns to cut costs.

    “Christie, 49, a first-term Republican who has slashed lawmakers’ spending requests and criticized officials who abuse taxpayer-funded perks, has more than tripled his use of state helicopters since June, when Democrats chided him for using the aircraft to get to political and personal events.”                  –Bloomberg

    Christie use of state chopper over 9 months:

  • 64 trips total (reported) = about 1 every 4 days

  • 5 stops to Mendham home or vacation house (each, 50 mi from State House)

  • Crew has to fly anyway. But chopper operating cost = $2,500/hr

  • Half the flights: bill signings, announcements, swearing-in events, speeches, “Jersey Comeback” events. Trips for Hurricane Irene = 3. NYC trips for interviews, receptions, meetings = 9. Trips to comfort family of soldier killed in Afghanistan = 2 (same soldier, arrival of body, then funeral)

    Total cost of Christie state helicopter use since taking office: $217,000.

    Christie actions taken during this time:

  • Asked public workers to cede negotiated benefits to trim government

  • cut out $1B added by Dems in $29.7B budget for schools, police & tax credits for working poor

    What Christie did that makes people pay attention to the chopper

  • Flew it to his kid’s high school ballgame (riding 300 yards in a SUV (taxpayers) instead of the deluxe golf cart made available (free), then Princeton for Iowa GOP bigwigs.

    Below the fold Fun facts! GOP ponies up (not much, only after public outcry).

    Just another dad at a school baseball game…

  • Gov. Kean should call for the 9/11 Commission to return

    The 9/11 Commission served an important role in understanding how the attacks occurred, and New Jersey Governor Tom Kean can rightly take credit for its success. I see (via Andrew Sullivan), Spencer Ackerman’s excellent suggestion to reconvene the 9/11 Commission:

    …after the actionable intelligence is drained from the bin Laden documents, it would be useful to reconvene the 9/11 Commission and have them review the ten-year hunt for bin Laden. It’s not helpful for something that looked like a failure on May 1 to be retconned into an inevitable, inexorable success on May 2. The tale of the bin Laden hunt — and the lessons to learn from it — is the logical final chapter of the commission’s  2004 report. And the gravitas of the 9/11 Commission, delivered through a public report, would create the closest thing possible to a narrative that can stand proudly before history.

    There is a lot at stake because we need to know what really works as well as understanding bin Laden’s role for the sake of history. Marcy Wheeler says it better than I ever could:

    In addition to assessing whether torture, skilled interrogation by al Qaeda experts, or something else worked, the Commission could also review whether dragnet illegal wiretapping or targeted, legal wiretapping worked better; whether human missions or drones did; whether ground wars or smaller responses worked better (particularly when the ground war had nothing to do with terrorism). The Commission could develop a sense of where our counterterrorist investments paid off, and what served primarily to enrich contractors.

    I hope Tom Kean will step forward one more time for his country and offer to reconvene the 9/11 Commission to assess what worked (and what didn’t) now that we have experienced a decade of the “War on Terror.”

    Politics is all in Dick’s Head

    Dick Codey is outraged.  He’s afraid that our national government is overly politicized.  Specifically, he’s concerned that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is mishandling her position:

    While I recognize that you are a dedicated and well-meaning public servant, I believe that you simply do not have the proper law enforcement qualifications and counterterrorism background to head the nation’s very delicate homeland security operations. It’s time that the United States move away from political appointees and former governors, and put the Office of Homeland Security in the hands of individuals with real law-enforcement and counterterrorism experience.

    Chertoff uses Katrina as baseline to evaluate FEMA

    I wish I was making this up.  New Jersey’s own Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff came to Kean University yesterday:

    Speaking from the Wilkins Theater at the university in Union, the Elizabeth native discussed the potency of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security.

    “Far from stifling FEMA, it has actually been an enabler for them that has permitted them to do things they could never do as a stand-alone agency,” said Chertoff.

    Do things they’ve never done, you mean like not effectively handle emergencies?  Chertoff went on to clarify that the benchmark for judgment is apparently the pathetic Katrina response:

    As an example, Chertoff compared the relatively minimal loss of life during Hurricanes Ike and Gustav this summer to the devastating deaths during Hurricane Katrina three years ago, attributing the difference to the department’s new direction under his leadership.

    Does he mean that they didn’t put people up in hazardous trailers or let 170 million pounds of ice just melt?  That’s like me trying to tell someone that if you compare me to a little person, I’m a giant at only 5’6″.  You can’t just arbitrarily pick a low point to say you’ve exceeded those already minimal expectations.  Let’s see just how good that Ike Response has been, since he thinks it’s going so well:

    Over 3 months after Hurricane Ike hit, 30 miles of trash still lines the Texas coastline. The Associated Press’ Michael Graczyk reported, “alligators and snakes crawl over vast piles of shattered building materials, lawn furniture, trees, boats, tanks of butane and other hazardous substances, thousands of animal carcasses, perhaps even the corpses of people killed by the storm.”

    Here’s video of Rachel Maddow talking about the remaining Ike devastation:

    Do things they’ve never done you say? Like in a good or bad way?  

    NJ leads the way with $237 million in Homeland Security funding

    Senators Lautenberg and Menendez announced today that NJ and the surrounding areas will receive $237 million in Homeland Security funding for various needs – including the transit system, the ports, Amtrak and around power plants or other high risk facilities.

    This is the highest amount in the nation, and is certainly much needed.

    Back in 2006, the Department of Homeland Security released a list of high-risk areas in the US and both the NYC and Jersey City/Newark areas were on the list.  The NY/NJ Ports set a record in 2004 with respect to cargo shipments, which was broken in 2006 and again in 2007.

    Since only a small number of containers are properly screened, the additional $62 million in funds for the NY/NJ and the Delaware River areas is much needed, although not nearly enough to properly screen an adequate number of containers.

    Most of the remaining $170 million will be used for the transit systems (mainly NY/NJ/CT but also the S. Jersey/Philly area), and this doesn’t even include the millions that Senator Lautenberg was recently able to get for Amtrak.  Because, even though it is usually brainiacs like the Fort Dix Six, the ones who tried to “blow up the pipeline” to the airport and the countless times that the Lincoln or Holland Tunnels are closed during rush hour due to a “suspicious package”, the funds are needed here – since those popcorn factories in Indiana haven’t even gotten bogus terror threats.

    Between this and the millions for transportation infrastructure, our two fine Senators are doing a great job of getting funding for things that will help the state and region not just in the short term but also in the future.  Which, considering that NJ has the highest state/local tax burden in the country and that NJ has consistently at the bottom of the list when it comes to getting money back from the Federal government relative to what it sends to the Federal government – is more than long overdue.