Public Safety

  • Defense in terror case challenges exclusion from court session on surveillance records

    The defense for Adel Daoud, a young Muslim man who was arrested outside a Chicago bar in an undercover FBI operation and charged with attempting to blow up the bar, has submitted a motion objecting to a private court session held to discuss the defense’s access to classified   records. “Not only do I not get to be there, but I didn’t even get to object,” defense attorney Thomas Durkin said. “I had to object over the fact that I couldn’t even make an objection.”

  • Laser weapon developed for Marine vehicles

    As the U.S. Navy prepares to deploy its first laser weapon on a ship later this summer, Office of Naval Research (ONR) officials announced that they have finished awarding contracts to develop a similar weapon to be used on ground vehicles. The Ground-Based Air Defense Directed Energy On-the-Move program, commonly referred to as GBAD, aims to provide an affordable alternative to traditional firepower to keep enemy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from tracking and targeting Marines on the ground.

  • A first: Armed robber convicted based on Chicago’s facial recognition technology

    Pierre Martin became the first person in Chicago to receive a prison sentence after being convicted based on evidence from the city’s facial recognition technology, NeoFace. Martin was sentenced Monday to twenty-two years for two armed robberies carried out on the Chicago Transit Authority(CTA) train system in January and February 2013. A few weeks after the incidents, Chicago Police Department officials announced that Marin was identified using facial recognition software.

  • NNSA says security at Y-12 National Security Complex has improved

    Retired Air Force lieutenant-general and now National Nuclear Security Administration(NNSA) chief Frank Klotz asserted last week that security at the Y-12 National Security Complexat Oak Ridge National Laboratory(ORNL) has improved significantly since a 28 July 2012 break-inat the plant when three aging peace activists, led by an 82-year old nun, managed to breach the facility’s supposedly impregnable perimeter security systems.

  • Feds, rail operators, Washington State embroiled in crude oil shipment disclosure dispute

    Last month the U.S. Department of Transportation(DOT) ordered rail carriers with trains carrying crude oil to notify state officials in the states through which the trains pass about the volume, schedule, and routes of these trains. The amount of crude oil transported by trains has grown dramatically – from 6,000 carloads in 2005 to more than 400,000 carloads in 2013. The increase in the volume of crude oil shipping has been accompanied by a sharp rise in the number of accidents and derailments. DOT’s order was meant to allow states’ first responders to be prepared, but the railways treat shipping information as “security sensitive” and refuse to share it with states’ officials unless the information is distributed to emergency response groups for planning purposes only. Washington State says that state laws require that such information be made public.

  • Improved performance of facial recognition software

    Who is that stranger in your social media photo? A click on the face reveals the name in seconds, almost as soon as you can identify your best friend. While that handy app is not quite ready for your smart phone, researchers are racing to develop reliable methods to match one person’s photo from millions of images for a variety of applications.

  • All-natural mixture offers promising fire retardant

    What sounds like fixings for a wizard’s potion — a dash of clay, a dab of fiber from crab shells, and a dollop of DNA— actually are the ingredients of promising green fire retardants invented by NIST researchers. Applied to polyurethane foam, the bio-based coatings greatly reduced the flammability of the common furniture padding after it was exposed to an open flame. Peak and average rates of heat release — two key indicators of the magnitude of a fire hazard — were reduced by 48 percent and 77 percent.

  • NSA, other agencies, collect millions of images for large facial recognition databases

    The NSA, through its global surveillance operations, has been accumulating millions of images from communication interceptions for use in high-level facial recognition programs, according to classified 2011 documents leaked by Edward Snowden. The documents do not reveal how many people have been targeted with facial recognition programs, but given the NSA’s foreign intelligence mission, a bulk of the imagery collected would involve foreign nationals.

  • House passes measure requiring review of intelligence sharing practices

    In the bill is the first legislation written in response to shortcomings revealed by the Boston marathon bombings,the House of Representatives last Friday approved a measure which requires the FBI, DHS, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to review their information sharing practices and report back to Congress within ninety days. Post-bombing investigation concluded that had intelligence agencies shared information on Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings, prior to the incident, local law enforcement authorities may have been able to monitor Tsarnaev’s actions.

  • Urgent need: Dirty bomb detection technology which does not rely on helium

    It has taken 4.7 billion years for Earth to accumulate our helium reserves, but these reserves are dwindling at an alarming rate, and will be exhausted by around 2025. The supplies we have originated in the very slow radioactive alpha decay that occurs in rocks, and there is no chemical way to manufacture helium. The Department of Defense and other agencies use Helium-3 (He-3) to detect neutrons emanating from Special Nuclear Material (SNM) in order to counter the threat of nuclear-fueled explosives such as dirty bombs. Since the supply of He-3 is rapidly drying up, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) awarded a $2.8 million contract to Alion Science and Technology to develop a replacement technology which will detect neutrons without relying on He-3.

  • The Pentagon integrates climate change into military planning

    With the release of the National Climate Assessment last month, a clearer picture has emerged of the official policy-related interpretation of climate change data. The debate may still go on amongst civilian branches of government, and between the administration and its critics, the Pentagon, for some time now, has already been integrating climate change-related policies into its daily operations across all branches of the military.

  • Rio builds a high tech integrated urban command center

    Rio de Janeiro is one of the most densely populated cities in South America. Much of the city is vulnerable to flooding, and about three-quarters of Rio’s districts have areas at risk of landslides. High temperatures can make living situations unbearable. In addition, a high crime rate and poor infrastructure make the city difficult to govern. In preparation for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics, authorities are looking to improve response times to disasters and establish a more efficient system to deal with the city’s many challenges. One of the solutions is a high tech integrated urban command center — Centro de Operações Preifetura do Rio de Janeiro (COR) – which unites Rio’s thirty departments and some private suppliers in a single monitoring room where operators can track real-time conditions of the city and coordinate a response to emergencies and disruptions.

  • Nature-inspired designs for drones of the future

    Based on the mechanisms adopted by birds, bats, insects, and snakes, fourteen research teams have developed solutions to some of the common problems that drones could be faced with when navigating through an urban environment and performing novel tasks for the benefit of society. Whether this is avoiding obstacles, picking up and delivering items, or improving the take-off and landing on tricky surfaces, it is hoped the solutions can lead to the deployment of drones in complex urban environments in a number of different ways, from military surveillance and search and rescue efforts to flying camera phones and reliable courier services.

  • Guard fired for Y-12 breach says he was made a scapegoat for contractor’s failings

    Kirk Garland, a security guard at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was fired from his job two weeks after three aging peace activists, led by an 82-year old nun, managed, on 28 July 2012, to breach the facility’s supposedly impregnable perimeter security systems, then loiter, unnoticed, on the grounds of the facility, where bomb grade uranium is stored. The activists had enough time to spray-paint peace messages and Bible verses on walls, slosh the walls with human blood, and wrap one of the buildings with crime-scene tape. In an arbitration hearing, Garland argued that he was made a scapegoat for the larger failings of the then-security contractor,Wackenhut Services.

  • New compound offers protection against chemical weapons

    Researchers have discovered that some compounds called polyoxoniobates can degrade and decontaminate nerve agents such as the deadly sarin gas, and have other characteristics that may make them ideal for protective suits, masks or other clothing. The use of polyoxoniobates for this purpose had never before been demonstrated, scientists said, and the discovery could have important implications for both military and civilian protection. A UN report last year concluded that sarin gas was used in the conflict in Syria.