Public Safety

  • Surveillance blimps raise privacy concerns

    Some 10,000 feet in the air above the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, the Pentagon has been testing its Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS), meant to identify low-flying cruise missiles within a few hundred miles. Supporters of the program say that as cruise missiles become more widely available to U.S. enemies, the aerostats will become a preferred defense option, providing long-range radar much more consistently and cheaply than systems mounted on planes.Privacy advocates question whether privacy rights are being violated in the process.

  • Improved fire detection with new ultra-sensitive, ultraviolet light sensor

    Currently, photoelectric smoke sensors detect larger smoke particles found in dense smoke, but are not as sensitive to small particles of smoke from rapidly burning fires. Researchers have discovered that a material traditionally used in ceramics, glass and paint can be manipulated to produce an ultra-sensitive UV light sensor, paving the way for improved fire and gas detection.

  • U.S. curbing intelligence sharing with Israel as discord over Iran talks deepens

    As a result of the growing tensions between the United States and Israel, and what the United States views as an improper use by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of sensitive information regarding the nuclear negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran, the White House last week begun to limit the scope, quality, and depth of the information it shares with Israel regarding the talks with Iran about the Iranian nuclear program. A senior Israeli official said that U.S. representatives continue to meet with and update their Israeli counterparts, but are passing on information about the talks “at a lower resolution.”

  • Lone-wolf domestic terrorism on the rise

    As the White House prepares to host a major summit this week examining the threat of violent extremism, a new study of domestic terrorism released last week finds that the vast majority of this violence is coming from “lone wolves” or “leaderless resistance” groups composed of no more than two people. The report examines more than sixty domestic terror incidents. Almost three-quarters of the incidents were carried out, or planned, by a lone wolf, a single person acting without accomplices. Ninety percent of the incidents were the work of no more than two persons.

  • Earthquake early-warning system to be deployed in Washington, Oregon

    California has been testing ShakeAlert, an earthquake early-warning system. Emergency officials and first responders in Washington and Oregon have been working with their counterparts in California to design a similar system specifically for the Pacific Northwest. The project, estimated to cost roughly $16 million a year, has received $6 million from a private foundation, $5 million from Congress for the coming year, and the White House’s new budget calls for another $5 million.

  • Railway stations should adopt some of the security strategies deployed by airports: Experts

    A 2013 study by the U.K. Home Officerecorded crime rates across every postcode in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and found that four of the top ten U.K. crime hot spots are major railway stations. Railway stations experience large volume of crime due to their highly congested environments, which gives pickpockets and thieves opportunities to find a target. Large stations are also introducing more retail outlets, which increases the likelihood of more shoplifting offenses. Experts note that airports have many of those same characteristics, but they fare far better in crime rates. These experts argue that rail stations should adopt some of the strategies deployed by airports around the world.

  • Los Alamos leads collaborative effort of explosives detection innovation, education

    The Los Alamos National Laboratory is leading a collaboration of strategic public and private partners focused on the innovations in and education about explosives detection technologies. The Los Alamos Collaboration for Explosives Detection (LACED) site serves as a virtual gateway to world-class expertise and capabilities designed to counter all types of explosives threats, predominantly through enhanced detection capabilities. The site went public online in January and is beginning to attract attention among specialty audiences.

  • Understanding the ingredients, conditions that cause spot fire ignition

    Hot metal fragments can be created from power lines, overheated brakes, railway tracks, or any other manner of metal-on-metal action in our industrialized society. The particles can reach more than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, around the boiling point of most metals. Although these bits cool as they fall to the ground, they can ignite a flame that quickly spreads if they land on a prime fuel source like pine needles or dry grass. At least 28,000 fires occur each year in the United States due to hot metal hazards, according to a 2013 U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

  • Army Reserves, six universities establish cybersecurity training centers for cyber warriors

    The U.S. Army Reserves (USAR) Cyber Public Private Partnership Initiative (Cyber P3) sees the USAR partner with six universities to establish six centers of cybersecurity training for USAR. Each school in the Cyber P3 will be able to give reservists the training necessary to receive advanced foundational cyber skills and the potential equivalency for cyber Military Occupational Specialty Qualification, which would enable them to become specialists in the Army. They will also have the opportunity to enroll at the schools with scholarships provided through the program and the G.I. Bill. 

  • U.S. Navy: Investment in new ideas, scientific research needed to keep technological edge

    At the Naval Future Force Science and Technology (S&T) EXPO in Washington D.C., Department of Navy leaders on 5 February called for investment in new ideas and scientific research to keep the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps technologically superior in increasingly uncertain times. Tight budgets at home and technological advances by other nations must be met with a powerful response grounded in innovation from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps S&T community, said Sean J. Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition.

  • Mystery surrounding Argentinian prosecutor’s death deepens

    Iranian intelligence operatives, using Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad agents, plotted and carried out two massive bombings in Buenos Aires twenty years ago: In 1992 a bomb destroyed the Israeli embassy, killing twenty-nine and injuring 242. In 1994, a powerful car-bomb exploded outside a Jewish Federation building, killing eighty-five and injuring 150. Former president Carlos Menem is already facing charges of being bribed by Iran to help hide the involvement of Iranian officials and their local accomplices in the two attacks. Alberto Nisman, a federal prosecutor investigating the involvement of the current president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, in the cover-up, announced that a 320-page report he had prepared, and a large volume of supporting evidence, conclusively proved that Fernandez and her foreign minister,Héctor Timerman, negotiated a secret deal with Iran to keep Iran’s responsibility for the early 1990s’ attacks under wraps in exchange for a lucrative grain-for-oil deal. A day before Nisman was to present his findings to the Argentine parliament, he was found dead in his apartment.

  • Before-and-after aerial imagery of infrastructure to help first responders

    When disaster strikes, it is important for responders and emergency officials to know what critical infrastructure has been damaged so they can direct supplies and resources accordingly. Researchers are developing a program that uses before-and-after aerial imagery to reveal infrastructure damage in a matter of minutes.

  • A first: Engineering students design firefighting humanoid robot

    In fall 2014 in Mobile Bay, Alabama, Virginia Tech engineering students made history during a five-minute demo that placed an adult-sized humanoid robot with a hose in front of a live fire aboard a U.S. Navy ship. The robot located the fire and sprayed water from the hose. Water blasted the flames. The demo, four years in the making, is part of a new effort by the U.S. Navy better to assist sailors in fighting fires, controlling damage, and carrying out inspections aboard ships via user-controlled unmanned craft or humanoid robots.

  • U.S. Muslim leaders uneasy about counter-radicalization pilot program

    Later this month, the White House and the Justice Departmentwill hostthe Countering Violent Extremism summit and meet with leaders of America’s Muslim communities to launch a programaimed at curbing Islamist radicalization in the United States. The Twin Cities, Boston, and Los Angeles have been selected as pilot cities for the program, but some Muslim leaders are concerned that federal law enforcement agencies will use the program to gather intelligence. American Muslim leaders want to be reassured that the program will not be used for blanket surveillance of their communities.

  • NYPD launches counterterrorism unit

    In the coming months, the New York Police Department (NYPD) patrol officers will spend more time visiting community members to learn about their public safety concerns, but the department has also launched a new unit, consisting of officers equipped with high-powered weapons that could be used for both keeping protests from becoming unruly and guarding terrorist targets such as Times Square. The Strategic Response Group (SRG), announced last Thursday, will soon respond to terror threats throughout the city, said Police Commissioner William J. Bratton. Since Bratton’s announcement, the NYPD has clarified that the SRG will only work on counterterror initiatives.