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22/07/2005 | Security at Rand's new headquarters questioned - Private security review reveals weaknesses

Martin Edwin Andersen

The brand new headquarters of the Rand Corporation, the storied government think tank that advises governments around the world on intelligence, counter-terrorism and law enforcement issues, has itself been the subject of at least one highly critical review of its physical security measures since the beginning of the year, GSN has learned.

 

The critical assessment came, several well-placed sources said, from a private security firm with a number of high profile foreign government clients, which weighed in with an urgent call for reform of security at the Santa Monica, CA., facility, which is directly across the street from the Los Angeles County Court building, and the Santa Monica police and fire departments, as well as City Hall.

Concern was heightened even further in June, when an elderly man driving past Rand thought he was putting his foot on his vehicle’s brakes, but hit the accelerator instead, crossing the think tank’s property and ending up just feet from the unprotected building itself, according to Rand sources and a copy of a surveillance video of the incident provided to GSN.

“The vehicle gained access to the lawn in front of the building and could have entered it by one more sharp turn ,” said one security specialist familiar with the incident. If the car had been packed with explosives and driven by a suicide bomber, significant damage would have been done to the facility, he said. 


Virtually all of the federal government’s top national security agencies -- including the four armed services, the CIA and the FBI -- as well as NASA and the Department of Energy have personnel detailed at Rand and store classified information there, sources say, as do intelligence agencies of foreign governments.


Department of Defense and Rand sources confirm that the physical security review conducted by the Orem, Utah-based security firm, Holding It Together, Inc., whose other clients include the Saudi royal family and U.S. Special Operations, recommended a number of urgently-needed upgrades be made to the Santa Monica facility which began receiving occupants last November. The improvements suggested by the firm’s lengthy report and videotape presentation were estimated to cost between $2 million to $7 million. Personnel from Holding It Together spent at least five days on-site at the Rand headquarters studying the physical and operational aspects of the think tank’s security.

Warren Robak, a Rand press spokesman, denied that Holding It Together, Inc., had ever performed a “security review,” saying the company was only “asked to provide a bid for a building enhancement.”

“Rand has met or exceeded the requirements of all security assessments conducted at our new headquarters,” Robak said. He also denied that the think tank’s security procedures were deficient, but said Rand would not comment directly on the criticisms made.

“As a matter of policy, the Rand Corporation does not publicly discuss its security practices,” Robak added. “Allegations that our security program is somehow in trouble are false.” 


Still, in an e-mail to GSN, a knowledgeable Rand official who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, claimed that the Rand headquarters was seriously deficient in its security preparedness. “Although Rand instructs federal, state and local law enforcement in this and other measures to defeat terrorism, to date, Rand has no bomb threat evacuation procedure, no clear chain of command in security to deal with this type of threat,” the official said.

“The (Rand) guard force is unarmed, untrained and non-certified at any level except for possessing federal (security) clearances -- its job is to observe and report,” this source added. “There is no policy and procedure manual to guide the officers in the use of force (which Rand will not authorize).”

According to one source familiar with the Holding It Together study, it showed that the Santa Monica facility was “absolutely vulnerable” to terrorist attack and was a “perfect example how not to build a building -- you don’t put underground parking lots 27 feet from the roadside, or in a place where you have all sorts of visiting dignitaries, city parking meters 28 feet from the building. You don’t have a loading dock that is left open most of the time, where anybody can drive around the back of the building and get inside it. The building is beautiful, but, because of the glass that was used, if a bomb goes off, everybody is going to be ripped to shreds.” 


(After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the federal Interagency Security Committee set forth revised procedures to respond to potential vehicle-laden bomb attacks by recommending that new federal buildings be constructed at a minimum of 20 to 50 feet from the nearest perimeter barrier, depending on the facility’s security level. Rand headquarters is not a federal building.)

According to an unclassified portion of the Holding It Together report obtained by GSN, Rand’s “pre- and post-Sept. 11, 2001, physical security response capability, to any threat, remains unchanged.

“Rand is faced with choices,” the report concluded. “Pursuing excellence and providing leadership in establishing the standards others will follow, or, leave things as they are.”

According to three sources familiar with the report, the Holding It Together study recommended measures ranging from anti-bomb blast technology that would extend Rand’s external perimeter and the creation of a specially-trained force to protect visiting dignitaries and U.S. military personnel working on-site, to better surveillance cameras and IT security and the establishment of a protective service similar to that of Stanford University/Hoover Institute or the University of Southern California. 


The ability of Rand’s unarmed guard force to protect visiting dignitaries was also questioned in the Holding It Together report. In recent months, visitors to the facility have included, among others, senior officials from Israel, China and North Korea.

Contacted by GSN, Nick Ashton, president of Holding It Together, would neither confirm nor deny his company had conducted the Rand security audit, saying that it was company practice not to publicly discuss client names.

A Defense Department security specialist expressed concern about the potential vulnerability to terrorist attack of the five-story, nearly all-glass-fronted Rand facility, which also contains a three-level underground parking garage, calling it “the proverbial glass house.” He said the incident involving the elderly man showed that bollard systems were desperately needed on the perimeter outside the building as well as in the parking areas.

Government Security News (Estados Unidos)

 



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