• Cuban mysteryThe sound and the fury: Inside the mystery of the Havana embassy

    By Tim Golden and Sebastian Rotella

    More than a year after American diplomats began to suffer strange, concussion-like symptoms in Cuba, a U.S. investigation is no closer to determining how they were hurt or by whom, and the FBI and CIA are at odds over the case. A ProPublica investigation reveals the many layers to the mystery — and the political maneuvering that is reshaping U.S.-Cuba relations.

  • The Russia connectionTillerson urges Latin America to beware of Russia, China

    U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned countries of the Western Hemisphere to beware of “alarming” actions by Russia and China in their region, urging them to work with the United States instead. “Latin America doesn’t need new imperial powers that seek only to benefit their own people,” Tillerson said in speech in Texas on 1 February before arriving in Mexico to begin a tour of regional countries. Tillerson said that “strong institutions and governments that are accountable to their people also secure their sovereignty against potential predatory actors that are now showing up in our hemisphere.”

  • Safeguarding democracyThe big squeeze on American democracy

    The weakening and sometimes collapse of liberal democracies around the world has long been a focus of research for Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, but the Harvard professors of government only recently felt compelled to turn their analysis to this country. In their new book How Democracies Die (Crown), Levitsky and Ziblatt argue that democracy in the United States faces threats that parallel those that led to its diminishment and demise in other nations. Political polarization has risen dangerously high over race, religion, and culture. While the ascent of President Trump is a particular focus now, the authors argue that the nation’s drift toward authoritarianism, including the breakdown of political norms, predates his rise to power.

  • Truth decayDigital deceit: Tacking the technologies behind precision propaganda on the internet

    Over the past year, there has been rising pressure on Facebook, Google, and Twitter to account for how bad actors are exploiting their platforms. The catalyst of this so-called “tech-lash” was the revelation last summer that agents of the Russian government engaged in disinformation operations using these services to influence the 2016 presidential campaigns. The investigation into the Russian operation pulled back the curtain on a modern Internet marketplace that enables widespread disinformation over online channels. The authors of a new report say we have only begun to scratch the surface of a much larger ecosystem of digital advertising and marketing technologies.

  • Immigration & politicsEarly Trump support increased in areas with recent Latino population growth: Study

    Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy in June 2015 with a bold, double-edged promise: that he would build a “great wall” on the border separating the United States and Mexico, and that he would make Mexico pay for it. That polarizing statement, since repeated ad nauseam by commentators on both sides of the political spectrum, quickly went on to become one of the defining hallmarks of Trump’s presidential campaign. According to three political scientists from the University of California, Riverside, Trump’s remarks also galvanized his voter base in the initial stages of his campaign, particularly in areas that had experienced considerable Latino population growth in recent years.

  • Travel banTrump’s “Muslim ban” produced rare shift in public opinion: Study

    President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13769 on 27 January 2017, effectively barring individuals from seven predominately Muslim countries from entering the United States for ninety days. Within a day of his decree, thousands of protesters flooded airports around the country in opposition to what was quickly deemed a “Muslim ban,” and by 6 March, the order had been formally revoked. Researchers say that the profound response to the ban represents “one instance in which the priming of American identity shifted citizens’ opinions toward more inclusive, rather than restrictive, immigration-related policy stances.” Overall, the findings suggest that American identity can be “primed” to produce shifts in public opinion. It also demonstrates that public opinion may be more malleable than previously thought.

  • CongressHouse Homeland Security Committee: Year in review

    House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) the other day discussed the t Committee’s legislative accomplishments in the first session of the 115th Congress. He noted that with eighty Committee bills which have passed this year, Politico recently named the House Homeland Security Committee the “hardest working Committee in Congress.”

  • Food safetyGaps in FDA food recall process

    A new report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was lacking when it came to following food recall protocols. Timeliness, or lack thereof, was the theme of the HHS’s report.

  • Visa Waiver ProgramDHS details security enhancements to Visa Waiver Program

    Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen last Friday announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the Department of State and other federal agencies, is taking action to strengthen the “already robust national security and immigration enforcement elements” of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The VWP is a comprehensive security partnership with many of America’s allies. VWP permits citizens of 38 countries to travel to the United States for business or tourism for stays of up to 90 days without a visa.

  • WMDDHS establishes the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction office

    Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen last week announced the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office. DHS says that the CWMD Office will elevate and streamline DHS efforts to prevent terrorists and other national security threat actors from using harmful agents, such as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear material and devices to harm Americans and U.S. interests.

  • Border securityWith border arrests down, some question Trump administration's push for more agents

    By Julián Aguilar

    The Department of Homeland Security’s announced this week a near-record decline in the number of people caught trying to enter the country illegally. Yet the Trump administration still wants to hire thousands of more border agents.

  • Middle EastNew analytical tool shows two-state solution still viable

    On the 70th anniversary of the ratification of the United Nations Partition Plan, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy has launched a new website called “Settlements and Solutions” that seeks to use civilian satellite imagery to provide a better understanding of West Bank demography in unprecedented detail that shows that a two-state solution is still very much viable.

  • Election securityChallenges to U.S. election integrity

    Various concerns about the security of U.S. elections have arisen over the past two decades, some more significant than others. While many studies have shown that voter fraud, for instance, is vanishingly rare in the U.S., what about the state of electoral administration, lost votes, and cyberattacks? MIT experts offer insights on data, technology, and election security in an era of rising concern.

  • Crime fightingDHS funds national consortium to develop better methods for fighting criminal activity

    The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has been named a priority partner in a new DHS-funded national consortium. SHS S&T S&T) will award the consortium a $3.85 million grant for its first operating year in a 10-year grant period to create the Center of Excellence for Criminal Investigations and Network Analysis (CINA). The center’s research will focus on criminal network analysis, dynamic patterns of criminal activity, forensics, and criminal investigative processes.

  • The Russian connectionRussia’s broad cyber campaign to undermine Western democracies

    Russia was successful in its disinformation and hacking campaign to help Donald Trump win the November 2016 U.S. presidential election, but the Alliance for Securing Democracy notes that the Russian subversion of the U.S. electoral process was only one of many such attempts, and that it offers an example for the challenges global democracy faces. Russia has interfered in the affairs of at least twenty-seven European and North American countries since 2004, using cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns to subvert and undermine the political systems of these countries.