• IranSenators supporting Iran nuclear deal urging greater transparency in reporting on Iran’s nuclear program

    Senator Gary Peters ((D-Michigan) on Friday led fourteen of his colleagues in sending a letter to President Barack Obama urging the administration to work with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to encourage additional transparency when reporting on Iran’s nuclear program.

  • EncryptionHouse committee releases encryption report, laying foundation for a national dialogue

    Terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have sparked a public debate on the use of encryption in the United States because the attackers used encrypted communications to evade detection, a phenomenon known as “going dark.” Earlier this week, the Majority Staff of the House Homeland Security Committee released a new report, titled Going Dark, Going Forward: A Primer on the Encryption Debate. The summarizes the committee’s findings, based on more than 100 meetings and briefings committee staff and members have held with key stakeholders over the past year.

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  • BiodefenseBiodefense Panel welcomes key provision in defense authorization bill

    In October 2015, the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense found that insufficient federal coordination on strategy, budgeting, and policy; inadequate collaboration with other levels of government and the private sector; and lagging innovation in areas like biosurveillance and medical countermeasure development make the United States vulnerable to biological attacks and infectious disease outbreaks. The Panel welcomed the passing by the House of the National Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 4909, which includes a provision addressing one of the Panel’s most important recommendations.

  • 9/11Senate approves bill allowing 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia

    The Senate has approved a bill which would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi officials for damages. A 1976 law granting states sovereign immunity form such law suits has thwarted efforts by the families of 9/11 victims to use the courts, but the bill just approved by the Senate would circumvent the 1976 law by allowing lawsuits against governments of  countries found to be involved in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. President Barack Obama has said he will veto the legislation.

  • European securityLatest European Terror Threat Snapshot released

    Representative Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has the other day released the latest European Terror Threat Snapshot. The product is a periodic Committee assessment of the Islamist terror threat environment across Europe. It supplements the Committee’s monthly Terror Threat Snapshot which examines the broader Islamist terror threat the United States, the West, and the world.

  • EncryptionSen. Wyden said he would filibuster efforts to mandate back doors

    Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), a critic of the NSA domestic spying programs, said he would filibuster any attempt by fellow lawmakers to require U.S. technology companies to weaken the encryption systems with which they equip their devices. Referring to Apple fight against a court order requiring the company to relax the encryption of iPhone used by the two San Bernardino terrorists, Wyden said that consumers were asking: “Are these for the privacy rights of the dead terrorist?”

  • VisasTravel association to DHS: Tell Congress about visa overstays before tourism is restricted

    The U.S. Travel Association is urging DHS to address people who stay overstay the length of their approved visas before placing new restrictions on visa waiver programs that are designed to boost U.S. tourism. “We should not even begin to discuss further improvements to visa security without much-needed data from the Department of Homeland Security on visa overstays,” the association says.

  • TerrorismRyan examining congressional authorization of war against ISIS

    House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) has instructed the House majority leader and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to begin discussions with House members about whether a measure which would authorize war against ISIS would be likely to be supported by a majority of House members. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), and many other Republicans in Congress, question the need for such a measure.

  • SurveillanceNSA kept Benjamin Netanyahu under surveillance during Iran negotiations

    As part of the effort by the Obama administration earlier this year to make sure that the negotiations between the P5+1 powers and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program would not be derailed or obstructed, the National Security Agency (NSA) kept a close watch on Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The agency collected intelligence on Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders in an attempt to learn what moves the Israeli leader was planning as part of his campaign to have Congress reject the agreement the United States was negotiating.

  • GunsWH finalizing executive order tightening background checks of gun buyers

    Sources say that the White House is about to announce a new executive order to expand background checks of individuals wishing to purchase guns. One proposal being considered would designate more sellers as high-volume dealers, closing a legal loophole which allows many sales conducted online or at gun shows to escape existing background check provisions. Two other developments on the gun front: On Thursday, Connecticut governor Dan Malloy said he would sign an executive order which would bar people on the government’s terrorism watch lists from buying guns in Connecticut; in the House, Democrats demand that a 17-year ban on government-funded research into violence involving firearms be ended.

  • SurveillanceCivil liberties coalition condemns cybersecurity bill

    Civil libertarians in the United States have a new ally in the fight against the new surveillance bill now being considered in Congress: librarians. The critics of the bill call it both “unhelpful” and “dangerous to Americans’ civil liberties.” House speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) has been actively pushing for reconciliation of two bills, the Protecting Cyber Networks Act (PCNA) and the National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement with the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (CISA), which passed a Senate vote in October.

  • CybersecurityNew cybersecurity legislation would shield companies from public records laws

    A legislation which passed both houses of Congress, but has not yet signed into law by the president, aims to encourage companies and organizations to share with the U.S. government information about cyberattacks and cyberthreats they experience –but critics say there is a catch: the legislation would severely restrict what the public can learn about the program.

  • Visa WaiverU.S. modifies Visa-Waiver program to make it more secure

    The United States announced Monday that it would make changes to the Visa Waiver program in an effort to prevent terrorists who are citizens of Visa Waiver countries from easily entering the United States. The New York Times reports that the White House has admitted that the changes — which would impose higher fines for airlines which fail to verify passengers’ identities and increased information-sharing among countries — are limited, and that more sweeping changes would require Congressional action. Law enforcement and security experts say that the Visa Waiver program — which allows more than twenty million foreigners form the thirty-eight Visa Waiver countries to travel to the United States each year without being interviewed at American consulates and embassies — dwarfs the administration’s Syrian refugee plan, and poses a far greater threat to national security.

  • Guns & terrorismNYPD commissioner to Congress: Do not allow people on terror watch list to buy guns

    NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton the other day called on Congress today to “start getting serious” about fixing the loophole which allows individuals on the U.S. terror watch list legally to purchase firearms in the United States. Bratton said: “If Congress really wants to do something instead of just talking about something, help us out with that terrorist watch list, those thousands of people that can purchase firearms in this country. I’m more worried about them than I am about Syrian refugees.”

  • U.S. & Syrian refugeesFBI director, DHS secretary criticize House Syrian refugee bill

    FBI director James Comey said he is deeply concerned about a bill which passed the house last week which would require him and other top national security officials personally to certify that each refugee from Syria and Iraq whose application for asylum in the United States is accepted, is not a security threat. DHS secretary Jeh Johnson echoed Comey’s criticism.