Special Vehicle ID
|FEMA ‘Cloned’ Vehicle Alert Cites HSToday Investigation|
|by Anthony L. Kimery|
|Tuesday, 26 August 2008|
|‘The potential exists for the use of cloned vehicles for terrorist activities‘The “Infogram” issued last Thursday by FEMA’s Emergency Management and Response-Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EMR-ISAC) warning about “the potential …for the use of cloned vehicles for terrorist activities ranging from surveillance and preplanning to an actual … attack,” singled out HSToday’s exclusive May cover story investigation into the use of fake, official-looking vehicles for criminal purposes.Written by veteran Emmy and Peabody award-winning investigative journalist W. Scott Malone, with additional reporting by HSToday’s own award-winning Online Editor and Senior Reporter Anthony Kimery, the report, “Beware the Clones,” exclusively highlighted mounting concerns on the part of law enforcement and intelligence officials over the use of “cloned” vehicles – vehicles that are disguised to look like both commercial and federal vehicles, including US Border Patrol, National Security Agency, and FEMA vehicles – to conceal criminal activity, the most common of which is the transportation of drugs and illegal aliens across the Mexican border into the US.A year earlier, EMR-ISAC had warned in an “Infogram” that “the use of stolen, cloned, or auctioned vehicles to facilitate criminal activity is a genuine vulnerability to the safety of personnel and security of critical infrastructures.” Under the heading, “Cloned Vehicle Threat Increases,” the August 21, 2008 EMR-ISAC “Infogram” states “research by the Emergency Management and Response—Information Sharing and Analysis Center substantiates that the term ‘cloned vehicle’ pertains to cosmetically altered vehicles made to look like legitimate emergency or commercial vehicles, but also applies to vehicles with fictitious titles and vehicle identification numbers.”Continuing, the EMR-ISAC alert notes that the “investigation by Homeland Security Today disclosed that ‘cloned vehicles’ have been reported from Oregon to Georgia. Completely cloned 18-wheelers disguised as Wal-Mart trucks have been impounded in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, and Missouri, according to law enforcement officials.”
Continuing, the EMR-ISAC “Infogram” states that “within the United States, the potential exists for the use of cloned vehicles for terrorist activities ranging from surveillance and preplanning to an actual terrorist attack as has occurred in other nations.
“Because of this viable threat, the EMR-ISAC recommends that Emergency Services Sector (ESS) personnel develop the ability to detect ‘cloned vehicles’ and distinguish them from genuine emergency and commercial vehicles.”
To assist ESS departments and agencies, the EMR-ISAC offered the following additional suggestions to prepare emergency responders for this increased threat:
According to an August 22 statement by the FEMA Region VIII Joint Information Center in Denver, Colorado, an Associated Press report which cited the EMR-ISAC alert “unfortunately … suggest[ed that there was] “a connection to the Democratic and Republican National Conventions that does not exist.”
An AP report stated “security officials around the cities hosting this year’s political conventions are being told to watch out for phony emergency vehicles,” which the EMR-ISAC alert did not say.
But in it’s statement, the FEMA Region VIII Joint Information Center stressed, “to be clear, there is no evidence at any level of the federal government that this type of activity is a current and viable threat to either convention.”
The statement explained that “these bulletins are periodic refresher notices designed to inform and educate emergency responders about potential threats and emergency management issues. Similar advisories were issued prior to the 2004 political conventions.
The statement reiterated, however, that “emergency managers are encouraged during all national-level events to maintain a heightened awareness for any contingency. Consistent training, education and information on all potential threats, including the ability to detect ‘cloned vehicles’ and distinguish them from genuine emergency and commercial vehicles, demonstrates sound emergency management practice.”
Indeed, there are continuing problems with cloned vehicles being used in the commission of criminal enterprises, as HSToday.us reported on August 16.
The problem of cloned vehicles was brought to the forefront of attention to law enforcement and counterterror authorities with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) report, “The Road Map to Cloned Vehicles.”
This report stated that “the use of government vehicles with official markings, especially those associated with friendly military, government and public safety entities, could be a means of delivering a vehicle-borne explosive device to a target site. This method could allow terrorists to bypass established security protocols and strike hardened, high-value targets.”
The National Insurance Crime Bureau also recently issued a brochure explaining the danger of the cloned vehicle problem.
Unlike in many other law enforcement agencies in the United States, the Border Patrol operates several thousand SUVs and pickup trucks, which are known for their capabilities to move around in any sort of terrain. This vehicles may have individual revolving lights (strobes or LEDs) and/or light bars and sirens. An extensive modernization drive has ensured that these vehicles are equipped with wireless sets in communication with a central control room. Border Patrol vehicles may also have equipment such as speed radar, breathalyzers, and emergency first aid kits. Some sectors make use of sedans like the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor or the Dodge Charger as patrol cars or high speed “interceptors” on highways. The Border Patrol also operates ATVs, motorcycles, snowmobiles, small boats, helicopters, and light aircraft.
Color schemes of Border Patrol vehicles are either a long green stripe running the length of the vehicle or a broad green diagonal stripe on the door. Most Border Patrol vehicles are painted predominantly white.
The Border Patrol also extensively uses horses for remote area patrols. The U.S. Border Patrol has 205 horses As of 2005[update]. Most are employed along the Mexico–United States border. In Arizona, these animals are fed special processed feed pellets so that their wastes do not spread non-native plants in the national parks and wildlife areas they patrol.
A Border Patrol Special Response Team searches room-by-room a hotel in New Orleans in response to Hurricane Katrina.
Border Patrol Dune Buggy
Border Patrol Pick-Up
Border Patrol Humvee and Astar Helicopter
The nine FCVs are C-130 aircraft transportable. Each unit is built on a Ford F-350 four-door, 4×4 chassis, with seating for four and a high approach and departure angle to handle adverse ground conditions.
The FCVs’ communications equipment includes a KVH digital satellite system, BGAN satellite communications, M-Sat G-2 satellite radio, JPS ACU-T interoperability system, Motorola radio systems in HF, UHF, VHF and 700/800 MHz frequencies, according to a Frontline statement.