• Amendment to CISA: U.S. courts could pursue foreigners for crimes abroad against other foreigners

    A controversial amendment to an already-controversial cybersecurity bill will allow U.S. courts to pursue, convict, and jail foreign nationals in cases in which these foreigners committed crimes against other foreigners on foreign soil. The amendment to the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) cleared a key Senate hurdle on Thursday. It aims to lower the barrier for prosecuting crimes committed abroad.

  • EFF leads privacy advocates in opposing CISA

    Privacy advocates have intensified their campaign against the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), which the Senate will vote on sometime next week. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) says it vehemently opposes the bill, as well as amendments which would expand the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. EFF says that CISA is fundamentally flawed. The bill’s broad immunity clauses, vague definitions, and what EFF describes as “aggressive spying powers” combine to “make the bill a surveillance bill in disguise.”

  • U.S. has no strategy to stop Americans from traveling overseas to join jihadists: House panel

    The U.S. government lacks a national strategy for combating terrorist travel and has not produced one in nearly a decade. Despite concerted efforts to stem the flow, the U.S. has largely failed to stop Americans from traveling overseas to join jihadists. Gaping security weaknesses overseas — especially in Europe — are putting the U.S. homeland in danger by making it easier for aspiring foreign fighters to migrate to terrorist hotspots and for jihadists to return to the West. These are the conclusions of a new report by the House Homeland Security Committee’s bipartisan Foreign Fighter Task Force.

  • GOP caucus infighting stymies House vote on Iran deal

    The Senate is not likely to bring the Iran nuclear deal to the floor of the Senate for an up-or-down vote because forty-two Democrats have now announced their support for the deal. It now appears that the House will not vote on the Iran deal, either, but for a different reason: Infighting among House Republicans who oppose the deal. The more conservative members of the House GOP caucus say the Obama administration had not provided all the required information about the deal. Opponents of the deal insist it includes “secret side deals” about nuclear inspections, side deals which have not been revealed either to the public or to lawmakers. The critics say that the review act, which gave Congress 60-day window to debate and vote on the deal, has not been triggered on 19 July, as the administration insists, since the act required all the information and documents pertaining to the deal to be given to Congress. Since, they argue, not all the documents have been given to Congress, not only has the review act has not been triggered on 19 July – and cannot close on 17 September – but there should be not vote of approval or disapproval.

  • Iran nuclear deal close to clearing last hurdle as more Senate Democrats announce support

    The nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran is about to clear the last political obstacle to its implementation after two more Senate Democrats announced they would support the deal. Their support means that the Obama administration is just one senator short of having the required 34 votes in the Senate to sustain a presidential veto, which will follow the rejection of the deal by the Republican majority in the chamber. The president may yet not need to use the veto at all. With the growing number of Democrats coming out to support the Iran deal, there is a possibility that the Republican majority in the Senate – at fifty-four Senators — may fall short of even passing a vote of disapproval: Sixty senators would be required bring debate to a close and pass the motion of disapproval, meaning that if forty-one Democrats come out in support of the deal, the president will not have to use the veto at all.

  • Einstein 3 Accelerated (E3A) deployment gets a push forward

    The two recent network breaches at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which allowed the pilfering of sensitive personal information of millions of federal employees, their families, clearance applicants, and contractors, has drawn attention to the Department of Homeland Security’s $3 billion network monitoring program called Einstein. The question now is whether that program is the capable of preventing another intrusion in the future.

  • Bill requiring Internet companies to report “terrorist activity” opposed by digital rights groups

    A coalition of digital rights groups and trade associations last week released a joint letter opposing a proposal in the Senate to require U.S. tech firms to police the speech of their users and to report any signs of apparent “terrorist activity” to law enforcement. The letter says that this sweeping mandate covers an undefined category of activities and communications and would likely lead to significant over-reporting by communication service providers. The letter urged senators to remove the “terrorist activity” reporting requirements from the Intelligence Authorization Act (S. 1705).

  • Proposed bill would formalize DHS role in securing government networks

    The hacking of the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which resulted in the theft of records of twenty-two million federal employees and their families, has prompted a Senate response. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has introduced a bill on the heels of that event, updating the original Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and formalizing the role of DHS in securing government networks and Web sites.

  • House Appropriations Committee approves DHS spending measure

    The House Appropriations Committee approved its FY 2016 spending bill funding homeland security programs. The bill provides DHS with $39.3 billion in discretionary funding, which is $337 million below the amount enacted for FY 2015 and $2 billion less than the president’s request. The committee’s consideration of the measure was dominated by acrimonious debate over sanctuary cities, and House appropriators adopted three Republican-sponsored amendments related to the killing of a San Francisco woman by an immigrant who was in the United States illegally after being deported to Mexico several times.

  • Lawmakers demand answers on labs’ handling of deadly pathogens

    The leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee from both parties yesterday sent a letter to the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services demanding answers regarding the Federal Select Agent Program (FSAP). “Select agents” is the term used by the government for viruses, bacteria, and toxins that could be used by terrorists. The committee members directed ten questions to the HHS IG in an effort to learn details about labs that have been fined or faced other enforcement actions, including suspension or revocation of their federal authorizations to work with select agents. “So far we’ve been lucky, but that luck may run out if we don’t get the system fixed,” said Representative Frank Pallone Jr. (D-New Jersey).

  • 2014 uncertainty over renewal of Terrorism Risk Insurance Act changed consumer behavior

    Terrorism insurance take-up rates dropped off toward the end of 2014, due to the anxiety stemming from the unexpected expiration of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (TRIPRA). Through much of 2014, there was uncertainty whether Congress would renew the program, which initially passed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This uncertainty led customers, and potential customers, to change their insurance buying plans.

  • U.S. assumptions about key elements of Iran deal unrealistically “rosy”: Critics

    Critics of the emerging nuclear deal with Iran say that there ae two major risks which are not adequately addressed in the discussions over the agreement. The first is that Iranians will cheat, and continue to move toward the bomb covertly. The second, more subtle, problem is the combination of the State Department’s habit of tardy reporting, and the nuclear infrastructure and materials Iran will be allowed to keep, which will make its “breakout” time — that is, the time it will need to build a bomb from the point of making a decision to do so — exceedingly short.

  • House Homeland Security Committee to release monthly Terror Threat Snapshot

    House Homeland Security Committee chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) on Friday released a new Committee product called the Terror Threat Snapshot. McCall said the snapshot is a new, regular monthly feature which tracks “the escalating and grave threat environment” facing the United States. The Terror Threat Snapshot will be kept up to date on the Committee’s Web site. Additionally, monthly summaries will be available.

  • Administration asks court for six more months of NSA bulk metadata collection

    Just four hours after President Barack Obama vowed to sign the USA Freedom Actwhich limits the NSA’s domestic bulk data collection program, his administration asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) court to ignore a ruling by the second circuit court of appeals declaring the bulk surveillance program unauthorized, and instead grant the NSA power to continue bulk collection for six months. In its request, the administration pointed to a six months transition period provided in the USA Freedom Act as a reason to permit an “orderly transition” of the NSA’s domestic bulk collection program.

  • Senate passes surveillance reform

    The U.S. Senate yesterday voted 67-32 to pass the House’s USA Freedom Act which would end the NSA collection of bulk metadata of Americans’ phone records. The bill will now head to the White House for the president to sign. The USA Freedom Act shifts the responsibility for keeping the phone records from the government to hundreds of separate phone carriers – but important questions remain. Thus it is not entirely clear how many records the carriers will keep, and for how long, and under what circumstances will they allow law enforcement to view these records. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), the Senate majority leader, who supported the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, said that the USA Freedom Act is “a resounding victory for those who currently plotted against our homeland. It does not enhance the privacy protections of American citizens, and it surely undermines American security by taking one more tool from our war fighters, in my view, at exactly the wrong time.”