• Proposed Bills Would Help Combat Domestic Terrorism

    “Left of boom” is a phrase frequently used by FBI agents to describe the FBI’s post-9/11 strategy to detect, disrupt and dismantle terrorist threats before acts of violence occur. Imagine a timeline where “boom” represents the moment the bomb goes off or an attack occurs: “Left of boom” means sometime before that moment. In the international terrorism arena, the U.S. has federal statutes that permit intervention left of boom, such as terrorism transcending national boundaries, providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization and attempt and conspiracy provisions for each. These statutes permit investigators to identify criminal behavior earlier in the timeline, and intercept subjects before their plans reach completion. No such laws exist for domestic terrorism.

  • Russian Nuclear-Monitoring Stations’ Silence Fuel Fears over Extent of Deadly Blast

    Officials at the Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) say that two nuclear monitoring stations in Russia have resumed operations after mysteriously halting the transmission of data. The CTBTO did not comment on August 20 on the other two stations which it previously said had gone silent in the aftermath of an explosion at a Russian naval test site that killed at least five people and caused a temporary spike in radiation levels.

  • Peer Influence, Social Networks May Aid in Gun Violence Reduction Efforts

    A new study found that a program aimed at reducing gun violence in Chicago, the Violence Reduction Strategy (VRS), deterred about 100 victimizations over a two-year period. VRS is a program that seeks to lower rates of gun violence in typically high-crime areas. The program seeks to do so by inviting participants with heightened risk of victimization to participate in a meeting known as a “call-in.”

  • New Model Agrees with Old: Nuclear War Between U.S. and Russia Would Result in Nuclear Winter

    Most people who lived through the nuclear age have heard of nuclear winter, in which global cooling would result from a major nuclear war. Early fears of such an outcome have been bolstered by sophisticated computer models that showed what would happen if a large number of nuclear bombs were detonated in large urban areas. The planet would grow colder due to the huge amount of smoke generated by fires ignited by the atomic blasts—the smoke would cover the entire planet for years, blocking the sun.

  • Data Leviathan: China’s Burgeoning Surveillance State

    Classical totalitarianism, in which the state controls all institutions and most aspects of public life, largely died with the Soviet Union, apart from a few holdouts such as North Korea. The Chinese Communist Party retained a state monopoly in the political realm but allowed a significant private economy to flourish. Yet today, in Xinjiang, a region in China’s northwest, a new totalitarianism is emerging—one built not on state ownership of enterprises or property but on the state’s intrusive collection and analysis of information about the people there. Xinjiang shows us what a surveillance state looks like under a government that brooks no dissent and seeks to preclude the ability to fight back. And it demonstrates the power of personal information as a tool of social control.

  • America Needs a “Dead Hand”

    America’s nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3) system comprises many component systems that were designed and fielded during the Cold War — a period when nuclear missiles were set to launch from deep within Soviet territory, giving the United States sufficient time to react. That era is over. Today, Russian and Chinese nuclear modernization is rapidly compressing the time U.S. leaders will have to detect a nuclear launch, decide on a course of action, and direct a response. To maintain the deterrent value of America’s strategic forces, the United States may need to develop something that might seem unfathomable — an automated strategic response system based on artificial intelligence.

  • How to Fight the New Domestic Terrorism

    Pittsburgh, Tallahassee, Poway, Jeffersontown and now El Paso—these American communities have been the scene since 2018 of the most lethal mass shootings connected to white supremacist ideology, but there have been many other lesser attacks and foiled plots. In the U.S., such terrorism has now eclipsed international jihadist terrorism in both frequency and severity. Clint Watts writes in the Wall Street Journal that the formula for responding to America’s white supremacist terrorism emergency is quite clear—in part because of the U.S. hard-won experience fighting jihadists from al Qaeda and its spawn, Islamic State. “We must swiftly and carefully apply the best practices of the two decades since Sept. 11, 2001, to counter this decade’s domestic terrorist threat—by passing new laws, increasing resources and enhancing investigative capabilities,” he writes.

  • Shoppers Targeted by Face‑Recognition Cameras in “Epidemic” of Surveillance

    There is an “epidemic” of facial recognition surveillance technology at privately owned sites in Britain, campaigners say. Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties group, found shopping centers, museums, conference centers and casinos had all used the software that compares faces captured by CCTV to those of people on watch lists, such as suspected terrorists or shoplifters. Privacy campaigners have criticized trials of the technology by police in London and Wales, questioning their legal basis.

  • A Cyberattack Could Wreak Destruction Comparable to a Nuclear Weapon

    People around the world may be worried about nuclear tensions rising, but I think they’re missing the fact that a major cyberattack could be just as damaging – and hackers are already laying the groundwork. The threat of a new nuclear arms race is serious – but the threat of a cyberattack could be as serious, and is less visible to the public. So far, most of the well-known hacking incidents, even those with foreign government backing, have done little more than steal data. Unfortunately, there are signs that hackers have placed malicious software inside U.S. power and water systems, where it’s lying in wait, ready to be triggered.

  • Evaluate AI capabilities in Helping Paramedics

    Paramedics must make numerous life-saving decisions, often in the back of an ambulance with limited time. While they at times call doctors for additional medical directives, precious seconds tick away for the patient during these back-and-forth conversations. DHS S&T partnered with its Canadian counterpart to examine whether artificial intelligence could be used to improve that information overload.

  • Predicting the Strength of Earthquakes

    Scientists will be able to predict earthquake magnitudes earlier than ever before thanks to new research. “Our research, which is technically rather simple, provides answers relevant not only to earthquake dynamics, but to prediction of earthquake behavior before the earthquake ends,” said one of the researchers.

  • Russia's Nclear Propulsion Experiment a Cause for Worry

    An explosion last Tuesday at a Russian military test site caused a spike in radiation levels, forcing the evacuation of a small town. Experts say the incident occurred during the test of a new nuclear-powered cruise missile. Both superpowers experimented with nuclear propulsion of rockets during the cold war, but without success. Experts worry if a nuclear-powered cruise missile carries a conventional warhead to its target, an accident occurring with this missiles may turn what was meant to be a non-nuclear attack into a nuclear one, even if the explosion and radiation dispersion would be smaller relative to a “real” nuclear attack.

  • Want to Stop Mass Shootings?

    “There are a whole range of things that could play a role in prevention [of gun violence], including better parenting, less racism, better education, more job opportunities,” says Harvard’s David Hemenway. “All of these things might have some effect on reducing shootings in the U.S. We should improve all those things. But the most cost-effective interventions involve doing something about guns. For example, as far as we can tell, virtually all developed countries have violent video games and people with mental health issues. There’s no evidence that I know of that shows that people in the U.S. have more mental health issues, especially violent mental health issues. Compared to other high-income countries we are just average in terms of non-gun crime and non-gun violence. The elephant in the room, the thing that makes us stand out among the 29 other high-income countries, is our guns and our weak gun laws. As a result, we have many more gun-related problems than any other high-income country.”

  • Mass Shootings Aren’t Growing More Common – and Evidence Contradicts Common Stereotypes about the Killers

    Responses to the El Paso and Dayton tragedies included many of the same myths and stereotypes Americans have grown used to hearing in the wake of a mass shooting. As part of my work as a psychology researcher, I study mass homicides, as well as society’s reaction to them. A lot of bad information can follow in the wake of such emotional events; clear, data-based discussions of mass homicides can get lost among political narratives. One example: Mass shooters in the United States are not all white supremacists. Overall, the ethnic composition of the group of all mass shooters in the U.S. is roughly equivalent to the American population, and most mass homicide perpetrators don’t proclaim any allegiance to a particular ideology at all.

  • The Promise and Pitfalls of Universal Background Checks

    Now is as good a time as any to talk about measures that could affect the killings where that is not the case. And as far as gun-control proposals go, universal background checks are among the better ones: They are politically feasible, might actually reduce gun violence on the margins, and would not unduly burden law-abiding gun owners. There are countless reasons to be less trigger-happy about them than their most ardent supporters are, but if political pressure forces Republicans to give ground on something big, this might be the best way to go.