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Eye Opener: Las Vegas shooting revives building security concerns

By Ed O'Keefe



Emergency vehicles outside the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse on Monday in Las Vegas. A suspect shot and killed a court security officer and wounded a deputy U.S. marshal before fleeing. He was later shot and killed nearby. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty)

Eye Opener

Happy Tuesday! The shooting at a federal courthouse in Las Vegas on Monday quickly revived concerns about security at federal facilities nationwide.

The apparently isolated incident in Las Vegas -- and reports of nine suspicious letters sent to Alabama federal offices -- immediately provided fodder for those concerned that the Federal Protective Service, the nation's primary protective agency for federal facilities, continues to rely too much on contract private security guards.

Though most federal facilities are protected by the FPS, security at the Lloyd D. George U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building is handled by U.S. Marshals. The Marshals handle security at federal courthouses or buildings where a federal court is the primary tenant.

Government auditors exposed major lapses in FPS security last summer, as investigators successfully smuggled bomb-making materials into 10 high-security federal buildings, constructed bombs and then walked around the buildings undetected. As The Eye has reported, GAO and Congress pinned most of the blame on the FPS, a small agency that has moved around the Department of Homeland Security org chart since the department was created in 2003.

FPS officers are assisting with the Marshals investigation, according to sources. There are only two full-time FPS officers assigned to Las Vegas, according to sources. One officer is an inspector, while the other is an area commander. The number of contract FPS guards in the Las Vegas region was not immediately known. There are no current plans to increase the number of full-time FPS officers in the Las Vegas region, a source said.

The General Services Administration owns and operates the courthouse, which was completed in 2002. The building includes 10 courtrooms, offices for at least 370 federal workers and district offices for Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.). Neither lawmaker was present at the time of the shooting. The facility's award-winning design accounted for stronger GSA security standards implemented after the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

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Cabinet and Staff News: Christine M. Griffin started Monday as deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management. Homeland Security Janet Napolitano postpones a trip to Israel. Counterterrorism adviser John Brennan plays a prominent role in a lengthy New York Times Magazine report on Obama's anti-terror efforts. A potential problem for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton: How and why did a foreign billionaire stained by Clinton-era scandals get a U.S. visa after being kept out for so long?

CENSUS BUREAU:
Census working overtime with advertising: The census for 2010 will be the subject of what is being called the most elaborate advertising and marketing effort to date from the Commerce Department.

CIA:
Jordanian informant lured CIA operatives into suicide attack: The informant had been working undercover in eastern Afghanistan for weeks, and had already provided U.S. spies with what one official described as "actionable intelligence" when he set the trap.

CIA is sharing data with climate scientists: The nation’s top scientists and spies are collaborating on an effort to use the federal government’s intelligence assets to assess the hidden complexities of environmental change.

COMMERCE DEPARTMENT:
Transgender Commerce aide starts: Amanda Simpson will serve as a senior technical adviser in the Bureau of Industry and Security.

ECONOMIC STIMULUS:
Stimulus projects delayed by review backlog: Construction projects funded by federal stimulus money aimed at jump-starting California’s economy are being delayed as much as two months because of a bureaucratic backlog.

FBI:
U.S. broadens criteria for investigating foreigners on terrorism watch lists: The move follows the announcement that passengers traveling from certain countries to the United States will be targeted for additional screening, including airport pat-downs.

FCC:
White House calls for regulators to increase wireless Internet access in U.S.: The Obama administration called Monday for federal regulators to provide more spectrum for wireless high-speed Internet services, saying mobile broadband would bring competition to DSL, cable and fiber broadband providers.

GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING:
Northrop Grumman plans to move headquarters to D.C. area by 2011: The company is looking for a site in Maryland, Virginia or the District. The move of its headquarters will involve about 300 of the company's 120,000 employees around the world.

GOVERNMENT WORK/LIFE:
OPM issues regulations expanding life insurance access: The agency has issued regulations that would make obtaining life insurance coverage easier for federal employees sent overseas to support military operations or recalled into active military service.

Office vacancies finally shrinking in D.C. area: While the uptick is being driven mainly by an expansion of federal agencies, researchers say they're also seeing positive activity in the private sector.

IRS:
IRS to regulate paid tax preparation: The agency wants to crack down on preparers who do shoddy or fraudulent work and create a way for consumers to make more informed choices.

NASA:
Kepler telescope has turned up five 'exoplanets': The lead scientist for a new NASA space telescope expressed optimism that his team is on a path to finding an Earth-sized planet in an Earth-like orbit in the near future.

SECRET SERVICE:
Third crasher at White House state dinner: The gift that keeps on giving: This newly revealed crasher got into the White House with the official Indian delegation.

STATE DEPARTMENT:
State Department bussed third party crasher to State dinner: The third crasher snuck into a group of Indian businessmen who had been given State Department logistical assistance at the request of the Indian Embassy.

TSA:
Sen. DeMint's argument against collective bargaining for TSA officers: An unsuccessful attempt by an inept terrorist with explosive underpants to blow up a passenger plane has reignited the debate over collective-bargaining rights for transportation security officers.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | January 5, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener, Workplace Issues  
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