Public Safety

  • Israeli jets attack Syrian weapons convoys in Hezbollah-held area in Lebanon

    For the second time this year. Israeli jets attacked targets on the border between Lebanon and Syria on Monday night as part of an ongoing campaign to prevent the transfer of advanced weapon systems from the Syrian military to Hezbollah. In 2013, the Israel Air Force (IAF) attacked military bases and arms depots inside Syria on six occasions — 30 January, 3 May, 5 May, 5 July, 18 October, and 30 October. The first attack in 2014 took place on 26 January. The previous seven air strikes were on targets inside Syria, but last Sunday attack was on Syrian military convoys just inside Lebanon, in Hezbollah-controlled areas near the Lebanon-Syria border.

  • Cost of plutonium disposal facility skyrockets

    The Mixed Oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel factory at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, being built to help dispose of cold war-era weapon-grade plutonium, would cost up to $30 billion in addition to the $4 billion spent on construction so far. The staggering cost overruns have led many to call for a new, less expensive solution. Matthew Bunn, a former Clinton White House official who helped develop the plutonium disposal program, agrees that the cost of the MOX factory is excessive. “The things we’re trying to accomplish aren’t worth that amount of money,” he said.

  • After failing 5 February deadline, Syria wants 100-day extension to remove chemicals

    After missing the 5 February deadline to have all its chemical weapons removed from its territory, Syria has submitted a new 100-day plan for their removal. The international group monitoring the operation says the completion of the removal can be accomplished in less time than that. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) executive committee met on Friday in The Hague to discuss the joint OPCW and UN mission at a time when there is a growing international frustration with Syria over its failure to live up to its commitments.

  • Aircraft used in Vietnam source of postwar Agent Orange contamination in U.S.

    During the Vietnam War, in an operation called Operation Ranch Hand, approximately twenty million gallons of herbicides, including around 10.5 million gallons of dioxin-contaminated Agent Orange, were sprayed by about thirty-four C-123 aircraft. These aircraft were subsequently returned to the United States and were used by Air Force reserve units between 1971 and 1982 for transport operations. Air Force reservists who flew these planes were exposed greater levels of dioxin than previously acknowledged.

  • IAEA: Iran's stockpile of 20% enriched uranium shrunk under interim nuclear agreement

    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports in its quarterly inspections assessment that the quantity of 20 percent enriched uranium in Iran’s hands has been reduced since last November, when the world’s six powers (P5+1) and Iran have reached an interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear activities. Iran now has 354 pounds of the material — or about one-fifth less than what it had in November. With the right type of centrifuges, it is quicker to enrich uranium from 20 percent to weapon-grade 90 percent than it is to enrich uranium from 1 or 2 percent to 20 percent, so that the smaller the amount of 20 percent uranium a country has, the longer the “breakout” time — the time it would take a country to assemble a nuclear bomb once a decision to do so has been made.

  • Secure Communities triggers deportation of undocumented immigrants with no criminal records

    The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Secure Communitiesprogram sends fingerprint data from local law enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigationto immigration officers to identify and deport illegal immigrants who commit major crimes. The program has expanded from fourteen jurisdictions in 2008 to more than 3,000 today. Immigration advocates say that the program’s emphasis on identifying and deporting undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes in the United States notwithstanding, it has also triggered the deportation of 5,964 undocumented immigrants with no criminal records.

  • Building a lie detector for social media

    In our digital age, rumors — both true and false — spread fast, often with far-reaching consequences. The ability quickly to verify information spread on the Internet and track its provenance would enable governments, emergency services, health agencies, and the private sector to respond more effectively.

  • Operations at a New Mexico nuclear waste repository suspended because of leaks

    Operations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, a New Mexico burial site for military nuclear waste, were suspended for the fourth day, the Department of Energy said, after sensors picked up radiation leaks inside salt tunnels where the radioactive material is entombed.Officials said no radiation escaped to the surface.This is the second time this month the facility had to suspend operations. Earlier this month operations were halted after a truck caught fire in an underground tunnel.

  • Sandia Lab leading multidisciplinary effort to counter WMD

    Threats of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction do not seem as imminent today as they did after the 9/11 attacks, but Jill Hruby, vice president of International, Homeland, and Nuclear Security at Sandia Labs, says that scientists, industry, and universities working on technological solutions to national security challenges must anticipate what could come next. Speaking at AAAS annual meeting, Hruby said that in an environment of lower public interest — due, in part, to the success of early efforts to combat terrorism that resulted in fewer major incidents in recent years — continued collaboration between national security laboratories, academia, and industry is needed.

  • Identifying, thwarting insider threats before they do damage

    Researchers argue that one way to identify and predict potential insider threats even before these individuals begin to do damage like stealing and leaking sensitive information, is by using Big Data to monitor changes in behavior patterns. Researchers at PARC, for example, found that individuals who exhibit sudden decrease in participation in group activity, whether in a game like World of Warcraft or corporate e-mail communications, are likely to withdraw from the organization. A withdrawal represents dissatisfaction with the organization, a common trait of individuals who are likely to engage in insider security breaches.

  • Israeli defense company launches cybersecurity solutions section

    In recent months the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has increased its cyberdefense-related activities. Esti Peshin, director of the company’s cyber section and a veteran of the IDF’s hush-hush sigint Unit 8200, says IAI is now developing solutions for clients in Israel and abroad. “We’re a start-up, but with the backing of a company that earns $3.5 billion a year,” she said. Ultimately, she implied, these defensive measures can be turned into offensive capabilities. “Intelligence is a subset of attack,” Peshin said. “This is, first of all, a national mission.”

  • New cyber-attack model helps hackers time the next Stuxnet

    Taking the enemy by surprise is usually a good idea. Surprise can only be achieved if you get the timing right — timing which, researchers argue, can be calculated using a mathematical model, at least in the case of cyber-wars. The researchers say that based on the stakes of the outcome, a cyberweapon must be used soon (if stakes are constant) or later (if the stakes are uneven). In other words, when the gain from a cyberattack is fixed and ramifications are low, it is best to attack as quickly as possible. When the gain is high or low and ramifications are high, it is best to be patient before attacking.

  • New technologies make police work more effective

    Law enforcement officers across the country are adapting to new technologies which aim to improve efficiency and accuracy on the job. The average police car is now equipped with a laptop which provides access to national criminal databases, portable fingerprint scanners, Breathalyzer units, automatic license-plate-readers, and even printers that can print out a citation ticket. Experts stress that while technology has equipped law enforcement officers with sophisticated resources, officers must not abandon old-fashioned practices like maintaining a personal connection with the communities they serve.

  • Torrential rain, hurricane-force winds, floods continue to batter U.K.

    Torrential rains, floods, and winds with speeds reaching 108 mph continue to batter south and west U.K., causing massive disruptions to power supply and road and rail transportation. Britain is enjoying a short respite today (Thursday), but meteorologists warned people to brace themselves for more chaos as another storm brings heavy rain, strong winds, and more risk of flooding on Friday and into the weekend. Severe flood warnings, indicating danger to life, remain in place in Berkshire, Surrey, and Somerset, where hundreds of homes have been evacuated.

  • Unmanned aerial logistics system to bypass ground-based threats, challenges

    Rugged terrain and threats such as ambushes and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) can make ground-based transportation to and from the front lines a dangerous challenge. Combat outposts require on average 100,000 pounds of material a week, and high elevation and impassable mountain roads often restrict access. Unmanned aerial logistics system would bypass ground-based threats and enable faster, more effective delivery of cargo and other essential services in hard-to-reach areas.