Saturday, July 11, 2009

News Transcript: Court date set on school issue

Candidly, what drew me to my first NOPE meeting in April 2008 was my admittedly selfish concern about the impact of the school issue as a Tinton Falls taxpayer and why my mayor and town council were surprisingly mum on an issue that could be devastating to our kids, but clearly the objections of the group that I now chair are much broader-reaching and do not take sides (i.e. town vs. town). To be sure, a few naysayers from my town suggested I was naive for joining what was taken by some in my town as strictly a pro-Colts Neck initiative, but history will reflect that NOPE's efforts have broken down steep barriers and facilitated a rational and respectful effort that has now drawn the attention of our U.S. and state Senators, Congressmen and local politicians and citizens alike. This would not have happened with the towns at loggerheads.

The progress that NOPE has made notwithstanding, the issue of where kids will attend school in the event that Laurelwood is occupied by civilians remains an overhang, but one that will play out in the courts and not distract NOPE's neutrality. NOPE comprises multitudinous supporters from both Colts Neck and Tinton Falls - the primary parties to the lawsuit over the school issue by Tinton Falls - and beyond our two towns, and as such will remain steadfastly opposed to any Monmouth County or New Jersey school having to take on prospective civilian children who may reside at Laurelwood. If the U.S. Navy so egregiously elects to compromise base security and not exercise its contractual right to void or buy out an outdated privatized housing contract, then it should construct its own educational facilities and remove that financial burden from its neighbors.

Anyway, to keep our supporters abreast of the school issue (which is separate from the Colts Neck lawsuit against the U.S. Navy or any other such litigation), this piece from the News Transcript reports that July 25 is the date where an administrative law judge will decide whether the 1988 law that enabled Tinton Falls to become the receiving district for Earle's military dependants (domiciled in Colts Neck) states that Tinton Falls needed to request the civilian children and, since they did not, then become Colt's Neck's responsibility. We will keep our supporters posted on this issue.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Text of Colts Neck Suit vs. the Navy and Laurelwood

For those interested in reading the full text (24 pages) of the Colts Neck Township suit vs. the Navy and Laurelwood Homes, LLC, we have posted it to our primary website as well.

In short, and as noted in area newspapers, the suit seeks to a) prevent the U.S. Navy from implementing the Record of Decision (ROD) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Laurelwood housing, b) prevent the construction of the proposed unimpeded access road, c) send what is considered a non-compliant (i.e., with NEPA guidelines) EIS back to the drawing board, d) prohibit the conversion of the Laurelwood homes to civilian housing, owing to violations of the townships ordinances, and e) declare the Navy's actions as "unlawful."

The lawsuit, while understandably more technical and nuanced than our lay grassroots position (and more authoritative on true "environmental" issues such as violation of the Clean Water Act), not only echoes NOPE's rallying cry since its formation in early 2008 (and our services are provided for free...), but fortifies NOPE's view that the Navy will have no other choice but to reverse course on its ROD once the "No Action Alternative" is given its proper due.

As our own Fulton Wilcox has shared with NOPE as well as elected officials for some time, this alternative (i.e. the option to not build the road) is the only one that avoids adverse impacts for the Navy itself and the surrounding base communities. The CN lawsuit verifies that the EIS clearly made short shrift of this "fifth option" (to not turn the homes "private" and instead pursue a void or buyout of the out-lease of the 52-year Laurelwood contract).

NOPE, considering some kind of action of its own and hopeful that Tinton Falls Borough and perhaps Monmouth County at large will pursue their own legal actions against the Navy plan, would encourage any of its supporters, particularly with legal backgrounds, to attend one of our upcoming meetings (July 20 at Colts Neck Library and August 3 in Tinton Falls, site TBD) and offer to volunteer their time to a potential legal challenge or other efforts. We need your help, particularly considering the cash constraints of grassroots organization.

Bill Holobowski, NOPE Chairman

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Better To Be Safe Than Sorry

South Korean intelligence officials believe pro-Pyongyang forces committed cyber attacks that paralyzed major U.S. government Web sites.• Cyber Attack Knocks Out Major U.S. Government SitesU.S. Government's Cyberdefense System Doesn't Work

Is allowing civilian renters unimpeded access to housing units in the middle of Naval Weapons Station Earle an improvement or a detriment to our national security? You be the judge.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Curious Case of Gary McKinnon

For those new to NOPE or who have never heard this story before, around the time of 9/11 a computer hacker in the U.K. named Gary McKinnon broke into Naval Weapons Station Earle's computer networks, allegedly in search of hidden files on UFOs. The amount of damage to these networks varies depending on the media source, but this piece (mostly favorable to McKinnon's plight) from The Daily Mail puts the pricetag at $700,000 and damage to 2,000 "Army computers." Interestingly, this 2002 press release from the U.S. Justice Department, and then-U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie (you know, the one running against Jon Corzine for New Jersey governor this November), whether trumped up or factual (we'll assume the latter) is much more harsh:

"The entire network of 300 computers at NWS Earle, located in Colts Neck, N.J., was effectively shut down for an entire week, according to military officials at NWS Earle. For another three weeks afterward, military personnel and government civilian employees at NWSE were only able to send and receive internal e-mail. It was only approximately a month after McKinnon’s last intrusion into the network that NWS Earle was able to automatically route Naval message traffic and access the Internet, according to military officials at NWS Earle. This was a grave intrusion into a vital military computer system at a time when we, as a nation, had to summon all of our defenses against further attack, Christie said."

The release then goes on to say...
"The Indictment charges that on April 7, 2001, McKinnon hacked into the NWS Earle computer network through the Port Services computer, the primary computer used by NWS Earle for monitoring the identity, location, physical condition, staffing, battle readiness and resupply of Navy ships in and near the NWS Earle Pier Complex."

Yes, that is correct...a possibly autistic and unemployed "computer geek" (as many media stories portray Mr. McKinnon - U.K. media is less "politically correct") crashed a mission-critical network at Earle. Although far different from the Laurelwood EIS perspective that the Navy can handle and/or enhance the physical security of the base with civilians traversing the new proposed unimpeded access road and living at Earle through 2040, the McKinnon case sheds light on different perspectives of "security" and enhances NOPE's leverage to fairly refute this contention.

Some 8 years later we can only guess that Earle's computer network is a lot more secure, but the McKinnon case is worth watching (simply do a Search Google News on "Gary McKinnon" and/or "extradition" for more, like this take from GQ Online). Politically speaking, we wonder whether Mr. Christie's involvement in the McKinnon case and current run for the governor's position will shed additional light on the Laurelwood housing case.

Unlike the "your security is cr*p!" message that Mr. McKinnon so brazenly left on Earle's network back in 2001, NOPE certainly hopes the opposite is true in terms of physical security, in the event that 300 families indeed end up living unimpededly on the base by September 2010.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Community Information Sessions

Neighbors Opposed to Privatization at Earle
Is sponsoring
Community Information Sessions
NWS Earle—Laurelwood Housing—Civilian Renters
Ø Hear about the legislative efforts of your Congressional & Senatorial Representatives
Ø Learn about local government initiatives

Answer the call to action by:
Neighbors Opposed to Privatization at Earle

When: Monday, July 20, 2009
Where: Colts Neck Library (lower level)
Town Hall Complex—Heritage Drive
Colts Neck, New Jersey
Time: 7:30pm

When: Monday, August 3, 2009
Where: Tinton Falls Borough Hall
556 Tinton Avenue
Tinton Falls, New Jersey
Time: 7:30pm

For information or directions please call: 732-946-3474 or 908-770-3673
Join us for one or both of the sessions WE NEED YOU.

ANOTHER APP Editorial..."Navy plan surrounded"

The APP editorial board's classification this morning of a "three-front war" overlooked an extremely important adversary to the Navy's plan to let civilians live at Earle - U.S. Senators Lautenberg and Menendez. Presumably they are lumped in with the first referenced contingent (i.e., Washington, D.C.), but it is especially important for NOPE to now have documented support from our U.S. Senators that validates at least a portion of our thesis - the financial impact - and the need for bipartisan political support.

The security impact, however, remains the root of NOPE's thesis that (post 9/11) building an unimpeded access road to Laurelwood housing is a ridiculously bad idea, and one that we would encourage our U.S. Senators and all other D.C. politicians not named Christopher Smith to address much more aggressively. As we have stressed for some time, at the same time that NWS Earle received more than $8 million to upgrade and fortify main gate security (i.e. spending money to keep intruders off the base, see middle column under "Earmark Declaration"), Navy policy makers suggest via its "Environmental Impact Statement - EIS" that building an unimpeded access route (i.e. welcoming ANYONE ONTO the base - no guards, no background checks) to the Laurelwood homes (and right behind the main gate) is brilliant. (P.S. The Navy will argue that, because of this new road, come Sept. 2010 the Laurelwood homes will no longer be "on" the base; this is comparable to you putting a fence from your curb, through your yard and to your shed in the back yard and saying the shed is not in your yard anymore.)

The drawback to the APP editorial board's otherwise fine argument today is that of turning the housing over to veterans. Some have tried to turn this Laurelwood issue into a veterans issue, which is it not. Clearly, it is urgent that our nation take care of veterans. However, doing so under the Navy's proposal of "unimpeded access" is just as flawed as putting John Q. Public into those homes. If the Navy from the start had said it was going to conduct background checks and require residents (whether civilians or veterans - retired or otherwise) to pass through the secure main gate, the Laurelwood out-lease probably would never have been a security issue for anyone (surely, the school issue would have been an overhang). However, the EIS never addresses such a scenario (i.e. limit housing to card-carrying veterans, age-restricted vets, etc.), and only pushes for the most expensive and probably most dangerous of the five options studied.

Instead, we reiterate our view that the Navy would have prevented a major headache and will incur far less expense (for us and itself) by revisiting the "No Build Option" and would encourage all NOPE supporters and other watchers to focus on this argument, rather than being distracted by suggestions for what to do with homes that, by law, must be demolished when the lease expires. This fight is about a horrendous contract and how the Navy is willing to compromise NWS Earle's mission and the security of its own base, surrounding communities and nation...and not about what the Navy should do with vacant housing that shouldn't have been constructed (atop wetlands, mind you) in the first place.