Public Safety

  • Canada considering expanding powers of its security agencies

    The Harper government is considering legislation which would expand the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to investigate, apprehend, and detain homegrown terrorists. CSIS wants the power to take advantage of the so-called “Five Eyes” spy network to which Canada, the United Kingdom, America, Australia, and New Zealand all belong. CSIS is also asking for more power to track Canadians believed to have been radicalized, and to take more advantage of anonymous sources. Ottawa officials are talking about whether to give CSIS explicit legislative permission to engage in “threat-diminishment” — a power which the intelligence agency’s watchdog recently pointed out that CSIS already uses, but the law does not explicitly permit.

  • Bullet-tracing technology helps nab criminals

    Firing a gun leaves a unique carving on each bullet, what some police officers refer to as the gun’s DNA. The Minneapolis Police Department(MPD) has upgraded its bullet-tracing technology, or integrated ballistic identification solution (IBIS), quickly to match bullets to different crimes around the city, and soon around the country. The National Integrated Ballistic Information Network(NIBIN) is a national database of bullets and shell castings that shares information on the markings left on a bullet after it passes through a gun’s chamber.

  • Digital database, tablets to provide Houston firefighters with fire scene-relevant information

    Firefighters in the greater Houston region will soon rely on tablets to provide information about certain buildings before they arrive at the scene of a fire. An anti-terrorism grant awarded by DHS has paid for the development of a digital database of high-risk structures, including buildings which are critical to the state and city daily operations. The tablets will replace binders full of papers stored in the back of fire engines and command vehicles, which were rarely used because they were difficult to reach while en route to a scene.

  • California earthquake early warning system set to go online in 2016

    Disaster management officials in California are reporting that a new earthquake early-warning system will be online in the state within the next two years. A bill mandating the system was passed in January under Senate Bill 135, requiring the state’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) to develop a statewide system that can alert Californians before dangerous shaking with a ten second window. The funding for the project is $80 million for the first five years.

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  • FBI wants Congress to mandate backdoors in tech devices to facilitate surveillance

    In response to announcements by Appleand Googlethat they would make the data customers store on their smartphones and computers more secure and safer from hacking by law enforcement, spies, and identity thieves, FBI director James Comey is asking Congress to order tech companies to build their devices with “backdoors,” making them more accessible to law enforcement agencies.Privacy advocates predict that few in Congress will support Comey’s quest for greater surveillance powers.

  • Growing scrutiny of police use of Stingray surveillance technology

    IMSI-catcher (International Mobile Subscriber Identity), aka Stingray, is a surveillance technology which simulates cell phone towers in order to intercept mobile phone calls and text messages. Privacy advocates have scrutinized the use of Stingrays in U.S. cities because, when the device tracks a suspect’s cell phone, it also gathers information about the phones of bystanders within the target range. Additionally, police use Stingrays without properly identifying the technology when requesting search warrants has raised concerns.

  • Egypt’s military involvement in the anti-Islamist campaign in Libya deepens

    Two days ago, on Wednesday, Egypt has escalated its involvement in the battle against Libyan Islamists, as Egyptian warplanes conducted a series of attacks on Islamist militias’ positions in the eastern city of Benghazi. In late August, Egyptian and UAE warplanes attacked Islamist positions in and around Tripoli. Egypt’s growing direct military involvement in Libya has turned that country into yet another theater of a proxy war for broader regional battles, with Qatar and Turkey supporting the extremist Islamist militias while Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates backing the militias’ opponents. The growing Egyptian involvement is an indication that after two years of introspection and confusion, the moderate forces in the Arab world have begun to assert themselves in an effort to gain a measure of control over post-Arab Spring developments in the region.

  • Public safety network failed to involve important constituencies in development phase

    On 22 February 2012, Congress passed the legislation to create the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), an agency tasked with creating a nationwide wireless broadband network for public safety and emergency response officials. Currently, the nation’s 5.4 million first responders rely on commercial carriers to communicate and share critical information during emergencies. Analysts say that a failure to incorporate the public safety sector into the development phase of FirstNet set the new agency on a wrong path in its early days.

  • Animals have built-in seismic early-warning mechanism: Scientists

    Unusual animal behaviors (UABs) have been observed before large natural disasters including earthquakes, but these animals’ “early warning” mechanisms have not been scientifically identified. A recent study in Japan investigated the behaviors of cats and dogs, and changes in dairy milk production, before the magnitude-9.0 earthquake that struck the island nation on 11 March 2011.

  • Minnesota law enforcement helps Somali community fight radicalization, terror recruiting

    For years, Minnesota’s Somali community has been battling the recruitment of young men and women into militant groups like al-Shabaab and the Islamic State (ISIS). Several community and religious leaders have helped form youth groups and held public discussions about the radicalization of Somalis in America. Law enforcement agencies are also playing their part. Andy Luger, U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, is working with members of the local Somali community to better understand its concerns and how to help the community fight extremism.

  • U.S. military must be ready for climate change: Hagel

    Climate change is a threat multiplier, and the U.S. Defense Department is taking steps to incorporate this issue into all planning, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in Peru Monday. Climate change has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges the world already confronts, from the spread of infectious diseases to spurring armed conflicts, Hagel said at the Conference of the Defense Ministers of the Americas. Hagel announced a Defense Department Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap during his speech. The roadmap is based on science, he said, and describes the effects of climate change on DoD’s missions and responsibilities.

  • Building a better lie detector

    The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), announced the other day the winner of its first public challenge contest, Investigating Novel Statistical Techniques to Identify Neurophysiological Correlates of Trustworthiness (INSTINCT). The winning solution, JEDI MIND — Joint Estimation of Deception Intent via Multisource Integration of Neuropsychological Discriminators — uses a combination of innovative statistical techniques to improve predictions approximately 15 percent over the baseline analysis.

  • Los Angeles County to cooperate with ICE on detaining undocumented immigrants

    The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisorsvoted Tuesday to extend 287(g), a program which allows federal immigration agents to train county jail employees to investigate whether certain inmates convicted of serious crimes are in the country illegally. Inmates confirmed as undocumented immigrants are then transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement(ICE) detention centers after serving their sentence.Aroud the country, at least 225 law enforcement agencies have decided to refuse hold requests from ICE.

  • California needs $54 million to deploy ShakeAlert earthquake warning system

    Officials in California need $54 million fully to implement the ShakeAlert earthquake warning system, according to a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).ShakeAlert detects earthquakes using the California Integrated Seismic Network of roughly 400 ground motion sensors which identify primary waves (P-waves) as they move through the Earth at almost twice the speed of the earthquakes’ destructive S-waves, which shake the ground.When an earthquake is detected, ShakeAlert informs emergency management officials of the quake’s epicenter, and a computer-generated voice counts the remaining time before shaking occurs.

  • A crime-fighting “magic” marker pen picks up hidden fingerprints

    A crime-fighting “magic” marker pen that can identify the hidden properties of receipts containing fingerprint deposits within a matter of seconds will be demonstrated at the Knowledge Transfer Network’s (KTN) Applications of Forensic Science Research and Development Technology Showcase 2014 event today (8 October) in London.