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MS-13 gang members convicted

Organized threats to the security of the homeland are not necessarily all motivated by religious zealotry or extremist ideology.

Sometimes the threat is simply about money and turf, and the danger to citizens can involve something as innocent as the color of shirts they’re wearing.

Six members of a notorious gang, called La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, were convicted last week by a jury in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, N.C., of criminal charges that include racketeering, murder (in one case, because a man was wearing a red shirt), attempted murder, assault, cocaine trafficking and numerous related federal firearms offenses, the Department of Justice reports.

The gang, which originated in the slums of El Salvador before moving north to Los Angeles and spreading across the U.S. from there, is arguably more powerful and dangerous than the better-known Bloods and Crips.

The six gang members were charged with racketeering, murder, drug and firearms violations. They are Julio Cesar Rosales Lopez, 24, of Guilford County, NC; and, Juan Gilberto Villalobos, 42; Elvin Pastor Fernandez Gradis, 34; Carlos Roberto Figeroa-Pineda, 26; Johnny Elias Gonzalez, 21; and Santos Anibal Caballero Fernandez, 24, all of Charlotte.

All six were convicted of conspiring to engage in a racketeering enterprise in the Western District of North Carolina, El Salvador and elsewhere.

According to DoJ, evidence proved that MS-13 robbed and extorted, obstructed justice, tampered with witnesses, conspired to distribute cocaine and marijuana, and conspired to commit murder.

MS-13 racketeering activities included the murders of four people, attempted murder, assaults and threats of violence, according to DoJ, which calls the gang a “national and international criminal enterprise.”

The defendants face a variety of possible sentences based on their convictions, including for some, life in prison. In addition to the six defendants convicted last week, 19 other co-defendants have pleaded guilty to the racketeering charges in the indictment. One defendant remains in custody in El Salvador.

Altegrity launches ARI, which acquires CRI

William Bratton

Altegrity, Inc., the holding company formerly known as USIS, has launched Altegrity Risk International (ARI), a New York City-based new business that will focus on global risk mitigation and security solutions.


The same day this week that Altegrity announced the formation of ARI, ARI in turn announced the acquisition of Washington, DC-based Corporate Risk International (CRI), an established business intelligence and risk management firm. Terms of that transaction were not disclosed.

ARI will be headed by Bill Bratton, the former chief of both the Los Angeles and New York City police departments, who becomes chairman, and Michael Beber, who becomes president and CEO.

Altegrity says that ARI’s multidisciplinary team from the fields of investigations, forensics, data intelligence, financial technology, and security / policing will provide ARI clients with specialized solutions to identify, analyze, prevent, and remediate the entire range of financial, legal / regulatory, reputational and security risks.

ARI describes CRI as a specialist in U.S. and international due diligence and investigative projects, white collar crime investigations, business intelligence gathering, undercover investigative operations, and anti-money laundering analyses. The company also conducts security and risk assessment surveys and provides crisis management and executive protection services.

“Risk has always been a part of our professional and personal lives, but because of the interconnected, global environment in which we live today, risk and security concerns have taken an unfortunate, costly, and at times deadly center stage,” Mike Cherkasky, Altegrity CEO, said in a statement announcing the formation of ARI. “We created Altegrity Risk International to provide a quicker, more thorough and inclusive, as well as cost-effective way to provide businesses and organizations with the information and expertise they need to reduce risk and ensure more secure and successful organizations.”

Altegrity is the holding company for HireRight and Explore Information Services, as well as USIS and ARI.

Porta-King offers prefabricated security structures in response to CFATS and HR 2868

St. Louis, MO-based Porta-King has expanded its line of prefabricated structures to meet the enhanced security requirements for chemical and water facilities as mandated in House Bill HR 2868 and the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS).

House Bill HR 2868 calls for upgraded security to protect sensitive facilities against acts of terrorism.

The company, a specialist in custom-design prefabricated construction, offers structures such as fixed guard booths, mobile trailer security stations, turnstile shelters and guard towers.

The company notes that it also manufactures a line of ballistics-rated prefabricated structures that include walls, windows and doors constructed with bullet resistant materials that meet the Underwrites Laboratory (UL) 752 Level ballistic standard and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) IV ballistic standard.

“In response to CFATS and HR 2868, we are seeing a new need for security structures at facilities around the country such as waste water treatment facilities, public water systems and within the liquid petroleum industry” Gregg Pearlstone, Porta-King vice president, said in a statement.

Personnel issues for armed contractors protecting weapons-grade nuclear material, says GAO

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has examined the Department of Energy’s (DoE) efforts protect sites with weapons grade nuclear materials, called “special nuclear material (SNM), partly by “transforming” the sites' contractor-provided protective forces into a tactical response force (TRF), with capabilities akin to the U.S. military.

How well is DoE doing?

The answer varies from SNM site to SNM site, according to GAO.

Contractors provide “armed security” at six sites that “store and process Category I SNM,” GAO notes. “DOE protective forces at each of these sites are covered under separate contracts and collective bargaining agreements between contractors and protective force unions. As a result, the management and compensation -- in terms of pay and benefits -- of protective forces vary.”

That variability means that some sites have already implemented such TRF requirements as increasing “move, shoot, and communicate” skills of protective units, others “do not plan to complete TRF implementation until the end of fiscal year 2011,” according to GAO.

In addition, says GAO, there are issues involving DoE efforts to “manage postretirement and pension liabilities for its contractors.” Those issues mean that some TRF members might not be able to continue their work until retirement age, GAO says.

One answer, which DoE rejects, according to GAO, is to “federalize” the TRF.

GAO’s bottom line, regardless of whether the forces are federalized or the current contractor system is kept in place, is that DoE should “address protective forces’ personnel system issues.”

FCC eyes first-ever test for the nationwide Emergency Alert System

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is planning to perform for the first time a nationwide test of the country’s Emergency Alert System, which is designed to enable the President to communicate with the American public during a national crisis.

Under the existing warning system, FEMA, on behalf of the President, would initiate an alert message that would deliver a specially encoded message to a broadcast station-based transmission network that would, in turn, deliver the message to individual broadcasters, cable operators and other participants, who in turn, would deliver it to broadcast listeners, as well as subscribers to cable and other services.

Neither the nation’s original warning system, known as Control of Electromagnetic Radiation, or CONELRAD, which was established in 1951, nor its follow-on warning system, known as the Emergency Broadcast System, or EBS, which was established in 1963, were ever subjected to comprehensive nationwide testing.

“The EAS is intended to provide a reliable mechanism for the President to communicate with the country during emergencies,” explained a notice of proposed rulemaking published by the FCC in the Federal Register on January 29. “Yet the EAS has never been tested nationally in a systematic way, i.e., by use of a national test methodology that can identify system flaws and failures comprehensively and on a nationwide basis.”

The national EAS is commonly referred to as a “daisy chain,” because a message that originated with the President would be passed to FEMA-designated radio stations, known as “Primary Entry Point” (PEP) stations, which would pass the message to “State Primary” stations, which in turn, would pass the message to “Local Primary” stations. Currently, the U.S. is divided into approximately 550 EAS local areas, each of which contains at least two Primary Local stations, said the FCC notice.

“Because of its daisy chain structure, the EAS is potentially vulnerable to ‘single point of failure’ problems, i.e., where failure of a participating station results in system-wide failure for all points below that station on the daisy chain,” said the FCC, in citing potential EAS vulnerabilities.

The FCC’s planned nationwide testing program would involve more than 3.5 million respondents, it estimated, at an annual cost that would exceed $3 million.

The public is invited to comment on the proposed testing methodology by visiting and citing docket number FCC 10-11, or by contacting Lisa Fowlkes, deputy bureau chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, at [email protected] or at 202-418-7452. The comment period ends on March 1 and the reply comment period ends on March 30.

Secret Service wants to ‘light up’ its adversaries at night

ATPIAL illuminator

The U.S. Secret Service, which protects the President, Vice President, various dignitaries and VIPs, is planning to purchase an additional 24 laser pointer / illuminators, designed to be used with (or without) night vision devices, to engage adversaries at night.

The Secret Service will purchase two dozen Advanced Target Pointer/Illuminator/Aiming Lights, or ATPIALs, which are manufactured by Insight Technology, of Londonderry, NH.

The ATPIAL device is currently being offered on eBay for $5,995 each.

“As the next generation of the AN/PEQ-2A, the ATPIAL offers more functionality at almost ½ the size and weight,” says a product description posted on the Web site of a night vision equipment supplier, “Insight’s successful fielding at ATPIALs into multiple branches of the military, as well as federal law enforcement agencies, establishes a rock-solid foundation to now make ATPIAL available to qualified state, municipal and local law enforcement agencies.”

The Secret Service is also planning to procure 24 M3X tactical lights, also from Insight Technology, and assorted accessories. “The M3X is a powerful handheld or weapon mounted white light illuminator used for target identification and area illumination,” explains the Insight Technology’s Web site.

The solicitation was posted online by the Secret Service on January 27, and quotations are due from prospective suppliers by February 3.

Further information is available from Kimberly Spangler, a contract specialist, at [email protected] or 202-406-6820.

MetaCarta releases version 4.5 of geographic search software

Cambridge, MA-based MetaCarta, Inc., a provider of geographic search solutions, has announced the launch of MetaCarta Geographic Search and Referencing Platform (GSRP) version 4.5.  

This software upgrade includes Geographic Data Module (GDM) upgrades, tagging enhancements, connector enhancements, custom gazetteer enhancements, Javascript software-development-kit enhancements and OpenSearch support, MetaCarta says.
GeoTagging enhancements include improvements in recognizing university and higher education institution names, superior natural language processing to disambiguate human names from place names, support for additional coordinate variations, and improved neighborhood and partial street address tagging, the company adds.  
“MetaCarta has been helping its public sector, oil and gas, and digital publishing clients build enterprise local search solutions for more than ten years,” Don Zereski, MetaCarta CEO, said in a statement. “With the rapid growth of location-aware devices, MetaCarta’s products and expertise are in more demand than ever, and we continue to enhance our product through valued customer feedback.”

Tamil arms smugglers sentenced in Brooklyn

Two more would-be terrorist arms smugglers, looking to buy SAMs and AK-47s, have paid the price for falling afoul of an FBI sting.

Sathajhan Sarachandran, 30, and Nadarasa Yogarasa, 55, were sentenced last week in a Brooklyn federal courthouse to 26 and 14 years in prison, respectively, in connection with their efforts to purchase $1 million worth of high-powered weaponry for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The Sri Lankan rebel group, widely regarded as the innovators of suicide bombing, is designated as a foreign terrorist organization.

They were first arrested in 2006, after negotiating with an undercover FBI agent to purchase and export 20 SA-18 heat-seeking missiles, ten missile launchers, 500 AK-47s, and other military equipment for the LTTE. The defendants were acting at the direction of senior LTTE leadership in Sri Lanka, and the LTTE intended to use the SA-18 missiles to shoot down Kfir aircraft used by the Sri Lankan military.

Both men had previously pleaded guilty to various charges stemming from those arrests.

Andrew Acquarulo Jr. named ComNet president and COO

Danbury, CT-based Communication Networks, dba ComNet, has named Andrew Acquarulo Jr. its  new president and chief operating officer.

He will be responsible for ComNet’s worldwide strategic vision, operations and sales for the ComNet fiber optic and Ethernet product lines, and will report to George Lichtblau, the company’s chairman and CEO.

Acquarulo joins ComNet after 20 years at GE Security and a tour as president and COO at what was International Fiber Systems (IFS).

“Andy is well known and respected within the security industry and his leadership and industry knowledge largely contributed to IFS becoming the acknowledged leader in fiber optic transmission. This success made him the perfect choice to lead ComNet as we move into our next growth phase,“ Lichtblau said in a statement.

Summit Partners takes minority stake in NetWitness Corp.

Herndon, VA-based NetWitness Corp., the threat intelligence and network forensics specialist, reports that it has received an investment from Summit Partners, the Boston, MA-based equity firm.

The investment, says NetWitness, will be used to “fund additional technology acquisitions and other strategic initiatives related to the company’s industry-leading network security technology.”
NetWitness characterizes its offerings as providing an alternative to legacy network monitoring tools that cannot address the current threat environment.

“Raising capital from Summit is a strategic move for NetWitness that will help us to acquire and develop additional innovative technologies and widen our competitive edge in defining the next generation of network security, Nick Lantuh, president of the company, said in a statement.
Summit’s other investments in the security market include McAfee, Postini (acquired by Google), SafeBoot (acquired by McAfee), and Sybari Software (acquired by Microsoft), according to a NetWitness statement.



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