• Considered opinionJeff Sessions just confessed his negligence on Russia

    By Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes

    The headlines from Attorney General Jeff Session’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday focused on his refusal to answer questions about his conversations with President Donald Trump and his declaration that he had not yet been interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller. Lost in the back-and-forth, however, was a truly damning moment about Sessions’s tenure at the Justice Department thus far. The attorney general of the United States, though acknowledging and expressing confidence in the intelligence community’s assessment of foreign interference in the 2016 election and admitting that the government is not doing enough to guard against such activity in the future, could not identify a single step his department is taking or should take in that direction. This was a frank display of ignorant complacency in the face of a clear and demonstrated threat.

  • Flood insuranceAfter hurricanes, Congress ponders future of flood insurance program

    By Abby Livingston

    The devastating hit Houston took from Hurricane Harvey has exacerbated — and highlighted — the enormous financial jam facing the National Flood Insurance Program. Thanks to the recent onslaught of hurricanes hitting Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, there has never been a greater need for the program. But that need has also set off a new round of calls to dramatically overhaul a program that hasn’t been able to sustain itself without major subsidies from the U.S. Treasury.

  • Considered opinionWhy a congressional ban on bump stocks is unlikely

    By Russell Berman

    Even in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, it appeared that nothing could shake the immovable stalemate over gun rights in Congress – but a strange thing happened: Republicans started talking about tightening regulations on firearms. But until Congress can prove otherwise, and Republicans in particular move from rhetoric to legislation, it’s reasonable to expect this latest bipartisan opening to meet a similar fate to the bipartisan move, in the wake of Sandy Hook, to expand background checks: That attempt, led by Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), could not overcome a Senate filibuster.

  • The Russian connectionLawmaker questions voting machine manufacturers on security measures

    Following interference by Russian government operatives in the 2016 election, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) has asked the top six U.A. manufactures of voting machines how they are protecting Americans’ votes from hacking. Wyden sent similar letters to two voting system test laboratories accredited by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

  • CybersecuritySenate panel passes bipartisan “Hack DHS” bill

    On Wednesday, 4 October, the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the bipartisan Hack Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Act, whichwould establish a bug bounty pilot program – modeled off of similar programs at the Department of Defense and major tech companies – in order to strengthen cyber defenses at DHS by utilizing “white-hat” or ethical hackers to help identify unique and undiscovered vulnerabilities in the DHS networks and information technology.

  • Grid protectionBipartisan bill to help secure the electric grid

    Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introducing H.R. 3855, the Securing The Electric Grid to Protect Military Readiness Act of 2017. H.R. 3855, if enacted, would require the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence, and the Secretaries of Energy and Homeland Security, to submit to Congress a report detailing significant security risks to defense critical electric infrastructure posed by malicious cyber-enabled activities.

  • BiodefenseCongressional amendments restore Maryland BioLab4 funding

    Members of the Maryland congressional delegation attached amendments to the Homeland Security and Defense Department authorization bills to prevent the closure of the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) at Fort Detrick, Maryland. President Trump’s budget for 2018 had eliminated funding for NBACC as part of cutting the budget of DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) by 28 percent. At the end of May 2017, the research center received a letter from DHS stating that the facility’s closing procedures should start on 1October, with anticipated decommissioning by 30 September 2018.

  • Border securityBorder funding bill passes U.S. House; Texans vote along party lines

    By Julián Aguilar and Abby Livingston

    The U.S. House on Thursday passed about $800 billion in federal spending, including $1.6 billion worth of funding that will go toward constructing a border wall. While there is almost no chance this legislation will become law, Republican lawmakers can head back to their home districts pointing to the wall funding as a legislative step toward a tenet of the Trump presidential campaign.

  • Helium supplyUpdating a nearly 100-year-old law could shore up U.S. helium supply

    Helium is essential for MRIs, the fiber optics that deliver images to our TVs, scientific research, and of course, party balloons. In the past decade, helium prices have sky-rocketed due to supply shortages. But if small updates are made to an old law, the United States could boost its domestic helium output and help keep critical medical tests and electronics running.

  • Climate & securityHouse panel: DOD to regard climate change as a direct threat to U.S. national security

    During Wednesday’s markup of the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee passed by voice vote an amendment which acknowledges that “climate change is a direct threat to the national security of the United States.” The amendment instructs the Department of Defense to “ensure that it is prepared to conduct operations both today and in the future and that it is prepared to address the effects of a changing climate on threat assessments, resources, and readiness.”

  • SurveillanceTech firms urge Congress to enact surveillance reforms

    More than thirty leading internet companies have sent a letter to the chair of the House Judiciary Committee asking for reforms to the law used for carrying out mass surveillance. The letter concerns Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The act must be renewed by Congress before the end of the year. Over the years, the U.S. security agencies have creatively interpreted the law to allow them to store information on potentially millions of U.S. citizens – even though the law specifically requires the opposite.

  • TerrorismApril 2017 terrorism: The numbers

    The House Homeland Security Committee has released its April 2017 Terror Threat Snapshot, which details terrorism events and trends in April 2017. The snapshot is a monthly committee assessment of the threat America, the West, and the world face from ISIS and other Islamist terrorists. The document is produced by the Majority Staff of the committee. It is based on information culled from open source materials, including media reports, publicly available government statements, and nongovernmental assessments.

  • AgroterrorismHouse, Senate committees approve agroterrorism bill

    The U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee and U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the Securing our Agriculture and Food Act, clearing a key hurdle for the bill’s consideration by the full House and Senate. The Securing our Agriculture and Food Act requires the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS), through the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs, to lead the government’s efforts to secure the U.S. food, agriculture, and veterinary systems against terrorism and high-risk events.

  • The Russian connectionRussia, Trump and the 2016 election: What’s the best way for Congress to investigate?

    By Jordan Tama

    Exactly how will the U.S. conduct a fair and accurate investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and links with President Donald Trump’s campaign? U.S. congressional leaders are discussing options. At a time when Congress is sharply polarized along partisan lines, congressional investigations tend to become microcosms of that polarization. This is all the more true when an investigation involves an issue about which the president is vulnerable to political embarrassment or attack. If the intelligence committee proves unable to conduct a thorough and bipartisan investigation of Russian meddling and Trump’s campaign, pressure will build on America’s leaders to establish a more independent probe. Hanging in the balance could be whether the United States can forge consensus about what happened and how to prevent it from happening again.

  • TerrorismJanuary 2017 terrorism: The numbers

    The House Homeland Security Committee has released its February 2017 Terror Threat Snapshot, which details terrorism events and trends in January 2017. The snapshot is a monthly committee assessment of the threat America, the West, and the world face from ISIS and other Islamist terrorists. The document is produced by the Majority Staff of the committee. It is based on information culled from open source materials, including media reports, publicly available government statements, and nongovernmental assessments.