Public Safety

  • Number of lone-wolf terrorist attacks in U.S. not rising, but police are targeted more often

    Lone wolf terrorist attacks in the United States are not on the rise as popular culture might lead one to believe — but the attacks are changing for the worse, according to new research. The targets, weapons, and motives have changed in recent years. Before 9/11, these terrorists used bombs, but now high-velocity firearms are the weapon of choice, he said. The change might be a result of legislation enacted after the Oklahoma City bombing limiting the public’s access to bomb-making ingredients. Police and military personnel are now the preferred targets of modern lone wolf terrorists. Domestically, attacks on the power grid are the next big threat, the researchers say. Lone wolf terrorist Jason Woodring successfully downed the electric transmission system of rural Arkansas in 2013. His vandalism affected 10,000 people and cost $3 million in repairs.

  • U.S. nuclear arsenal must be upgraded to maintain effective deterrence: Experts

    Former military officers, academic strategists, scientists, and congressional leaders have recently been calling for the development of new nuclear weapons to replace the nation’s older, outdated stockpiles. Twenty-five years since the cold war ended, the U.S. nuclear arsenal has been significantly reduced to its current level of 4,804 nuclear weapons — from a peak of 31,000 weapons in 1967.As cooperation with Russia deepened in the 1990s, U.S. weapons complexes deteriorated. A recent “60 Minutes” story on the U.S. nuclear forces found that missileers charged with watching over and controlling Minuteman III ICBMs in Wyoming were still using floppy disks to store critical information. One expert arguing for shoring up and upgrading the U.S. nuclear deterrence says that “one of the reasons deterrence is so valuable is that it provides incentives for self-discipline in the behavior of states that otherwise cannot be trusted to behave peaceably.”

  • New York wants its own weather detection service

    In the face of recent devastating snowfall in some regions, Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that the state government will remain committed to its plans for the New York Advanced Weather Detective System, a state-run and focused weather service and alert system. Officials said that FEMA funding from the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy would pay for the new weather system, and that $15 million was approved in the state budget for 2014-15.

  • USGS awards $2 million grant to Center for Earthquake Research and Information

    The U.S. Geological Survey has awarded the Center for Earthquake Research and Information (CERI) at the University of Memphis $2 million over the next three years to continue monitoring earthquakes in the central and southeastern United States. The CERI seismic network includes 140 seismographs in nine states. It integrates data in real-time from an additional 160 stations to process about forty gigabytes of data each day and processes information from about 500 earthquakes each year.

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  • Mobile biometric device expedites identity matching

    The Stockton (California) Police Department (SPD) has been quietly testing a state-of-the-art Mobile Biometric Device (MBD) technology for the past four years. Designed quickly to scan fingerprints, irises, and other biological information while officers and evidence technicians are on the field, MBDs can communicate with remote fingerprint databases and confirm matches in as little as three minutes.

  • Washington State police overwhelmed by public requests for dash- and body-cam footage

    Police departments in Washington State are reviewing their dash- and body-cam programs as they see significant increase in public requests for video footage under the state’s Public Records Act, which puts no limit on the number of records which may be requested nor requires that the person requesting records have any connection to the information being requested.

  • California’s early-warning ShakeAlert system to be rolled out next year

    Officials in California expect the state’s ShakeAlertsystem to be available to some schools, fire stations, and more private companies early next year. Until now, only earthquake researchers, some government agencies, and a few private firms have received alerts from the statewide earthquake early warning system. The 2015 expansion will occur as long as Congress approves a $5 million funding request that has passed committees in both the Senate and House. A full vote on the budget was delayed until after the midterm elections.

  • U.S. Army creates a Cyber branch

    Soldiers who want to defend the nation in cyberspace, as part of the U.S. Army’s newest and most technologically advanced career field, now have an Army branch to join that will take its place alongside infantry, artillery, and the other Army combat arms branches. Army Secretary John McHugh and Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno approved the creation of the Cyber branch in September. “The establishment of a Cyber Branch shows how important and critical the cyber mission is to our Army, and allows us to focus innovative recruiting, retention, leader development, and talent management needed to produce world-class cyberspace professionals,” said Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, the commanding general of Army Cyber Command.

  • Scientist develops uncrackable security code for nuclear weapons

    Nuclear weapons exist, so control of nuclear weapons is essential. Intrinsic Use Control (IUC) is a concept which is capable of providing improved quantifiable safety and use control within a nuclear weapon. As a basic concept, use control is best accomplished in the weapon itself rather than depending on administrative controls, fences, and guards. Using established technology, IUC uses passive use control to resist any attacks or unauthorized use of a weapon at either the component or the fully assembled levels.

  • Dogs trained on pseudo-explosives could not reliably identify genuine explosives

    When it comes to teaching dogs how to sniff out explosives, there is nothing quite like the real thing to make sure they are trained right. This is the message from researchers after finding that dogs which are trained with so-called “pseudo-explosives” could not reliably sniff out real explosives (and vice versa).

  • Navy considering allowing sailors temporary leave before returning to active duty

    The U.S. Navy is considering allowing sailors to take temporary leave and return to active duty after earning degrees or working in the private sector. The plan would save the Navy money spent on training new sailors, while retaining experienced personnel for the long term.

  • New deportation approach targets convicted criminals, threats to national security

    Last Thursday, President Barack Obama announced the end of Secure Communitiesas part of his immigration reform strategy. The program was designed to identify deportable undocumented immigrants who had committed crimes, by allowing federal immigration agents to access fingerprint records collected at local jails. In many cases, agents requested local law enforcement officials to hold inmates beyond their jail terms until they could be transferred to federal custody. Obama has announced a new initiative — the Priority Enforcement Program— to target only undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of certain serious crimes or who pose danger to national security.

  • Pentagon mulls “byte for a byte” cyber retaliatory operations

    Much has been made of the phrase “an eye for an eye” throughout history, and it is beginning to appear that the oft-used motto will extend to the new fields of cyber warfare as well.This “approach is something our adversaries will readily understand,” one analyst writes. “If they escalate, we escalate. They know they will lose because we have far more cyber resources to draw on than they have, and we can cause real harm if they mess with us.”

  • RAND study assesses threat posed by Americans joining jihadist fronts abroad

    Although it is difficult to pin down the exact numbers of Western fighters slipping off to join the jihadist fronts in Syria and Iraq – the number is estimated to be around 100 — U.S. counterterrorism officials believe that those fighters pose a clear and present danger to American security. Some of these fighters will be killed in the fighting, some will choose to remain in the Middle East, but some will return, more radicalized than before and determined to continue their violent campaigns back in the United States.

  • GOP senators block NSA surveillance reform bill

    The USA Freedom Act, a bill introduced last year aiming to curtail some of the NSA’s data collection programs, especially those focusing on U.S. phone data, failed last night to reach the 60-vote threshold required to cut off debate and move to a vote. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), the Republican leader, and other leading GOP senators worked hard to defeat the bill. Nearly a year-and-a-half after the Edward Snowden’s revelations, the act was considered the most politically viable effort in four decades to place curbs on NSA activities. Civil libertarians and technology companies supported the bill, as did the White House and the intelligence community – although the latter two did so more out of fear that a failure of the bill would jeopardize the extension of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which expires next June.