Government

  • Cyber operationsThe CIA bolsters cyber operations

    The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is planning to join the growing list of U.S. intelligence and security agencies which have redefined their missions to include cyber operations — in the CIA’s case, cyber espionage. Current and former agency officials say the new effort will be part of the broad restructuring of an intelligence service long defined by its human spy work. The shift also reflects the increasing role cyber plays in intelligence gathering, with allies and adversaries relying on smartphones, social media, and other technologies to communicate.

  • Social mediaFrance asks social media companies to help in fighting radicalization, terrorism

    The French government has asked leading social media and tech firms, Google, Facebook, and Twitter to work directly with French law enforcement during investigations and to immediately remove terrorist propaganda when authorities alert them to it.The Islamic State (ISIS), along with other Islamist militant groups, are using social media to disseminate their violent messages, recruit new followers and fighters, and share videos of executed hostages. Roughly 20,000 foreign fighters, including 3,400 from Western nations, have joined ISIS and other extremist groups in Syria and Iraq.

  • African securityMuhammadu Buhari, challenger for Nigeria's presidency, vows to defeat Boko Haram

    Muhammadu Buhari, the leading challenger for the Nigerian presidency, has committed himself to defeating Boko Haram Islamist insurgents in northern Nigeria by providing the military and security forces with better equipment, more training, and more accurate intelligence. Buhari, a former military leader – and, for about twenty months in 1982-83, the country’s leader – asserted that if the government of President Goodluck Jonathan had deployed the same resources to fighting Boko Haram as it had to secure its own political survival, the Nigerian army would have by now rescued the more than 270 schoolgirls abducted by the extremist movement in Chibok last April. In recent weeks the Islamist insurgents have been pushed back in several places, but Buhari pointedly questioned claims by the Nigerian army chief that the war was almost over.

  • Chemical facilities safetySecurity at U.S. chemical plants, and monitoring that security, still fall short

    Security experts, citing a critical Senate report, are warning that the effort by industry and the government to secure U.S. chemical facilities against terrorist attacks has so far been lackluster at best. The Senate report, sponsored by former Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), found that after eight years and $595 million dollars spent on efforts to further chemical plant security, there had been only thirty-nine compliance inspections of the 4,011 national facilities at risk. In any event, the current chemical facility security policies apply only to a fraction of the facilities which produce, store, or transport toxic materials around the country. The experts hope that H. R. 4007, which reformed and renewed the 2007 Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), and which became Public Law No: 113-254 on 18 December 2014, will improve and accelerate the security work needed at U.S. chemical facilities.

  • ISISThree New Yorkers charged for attempting to join ISIS in Syria

    Three New Yorkers were arrested yesterday on terrorism charges after they attempted to join Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Syria, federal authorities said. Two of the men are Uzbek citizens, and one is a Kazakh. The three men also had domestic terror plans, which included plots to kill FBI agents, plant a bomb at Coney Island, and kill President Obama — “if ordered by ISIS.” Documents filed in court provide a detailed account of the logistics involved in recruitment into ISIS, showing the young men grappling with how to evade law enforcement, sneak across borders, and communicate from afar with members of the Islamic State.

  • ImmigrationSpouses of H-1B visa holders may apply for their own work permits

    As the White House works to lift an injunction placed by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen to prevent the issuing of temporary work permits and deferred deportation to some undocumented parents of American citizens and permanent residents, the Obama administration said on Tuesday that it will move forward with another immigration reform measure it announced last November. Beginning 26 May, spouses of foreign tech workers who hold H-1B visas will be able to apply for work permits of their own.Silicon Valley leaders applauded the measure.

  • BioweaponsU.K. military last fall evaluated possible Ebola use by terrorists

    In October 2014, during the peak of the Ebola epidemic which terrorized citizens in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, security and terrorism analysts considered the probability of the Islamic State (ISIS) or other terror groups weaponizing Ebola and unleashing the virus in New York, Paris, London, or another major city. Many bioweapon researchers played down Martinez’s claim, saying terrorists looking to use Ebola as a weapon would encounter problems. Still, last fall, a U.K. military research unit was tasked with evaluating whether terrorist organizations could use Ebola to attack Western targets.

  • CybersecurityObama’s cybersecurity initiative: a start but businesses – and individuals – need to do more

    By Frank J Cilluffo and Sharon L Cardash

    The linchpin of President Obama’s recently launched cybersecurity initiative is to encourage the private sector to share information to better defend against cyberattacks. Yet U.S. companies have historically been wary of openly talking about their cybersecurity efforts with competitors and with government — for good reason. Many businesses fear that sharing threat-related information could expose them to liability and litigation, undermine shareholder or consumer confidence, or introduce the potential for leaks of proprietary information. For some companies, Edward Snowden’s revelations of sweeping government surveillance programs have reinforced the impulse to hold corporate cards close to the vest. Yet on the heels of a deluge of high-profile cyberattacks and breaches against numerous U.S. companies, we may finally have reached a tipping point, where potential harm to reputation and revenue now outweighs the downside of disclosure from a corporate perspective. Obama’s executive order is thus a spur to get the ball rolling but, frankly, there is a limit to what government alone can (and should) do in this area. Changes in attitudes and behaviors are needed across the board, right down to families and individuals.

  • DHS budgetMcConnell’s DHS budget plan: “No” to 2014 exec. order, “Yes” to 2012 one

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has put forth a plan to avoid a DHS shutdown after Senate Democrats on Monday refused to approve a Republican-backed $40 billion DHS appropriation which would defund President Barack Obama’s 2014 immigration actions in order to fund DHS. McConnell’s plan would eliminate Obama’s 2014 immigration action to extend deportation deferment to some undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents via the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans(DAPA), but allow a similar 2012 planfor younger undocumented immigrants to continue.

  • TerrorismJudgment against Palestinian Authority for supporting terrorism unlikely to be collected

    On Monday, a jury in Manhattan found the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) liable for their role in knowingly supporting six terror attacks in Israel between 2002 and 2004, in which Americans were killed and injured. The case was brought under the Antiterrorism Act of 1991, which allows American citizens who are victims of international terrorism to sue in U.S. courts and collect triple the amount of damages awarded by the courts. The judgment on Monday granted $655.5 million to the plaintiffs. Legal analysts, however, question whether victims and families of victims will actually get any money from the ruling.

  • RadicalizationU.S. Muslim communities step-up efforts to fight radicalization of Muslim youths

    Before President Barack Obama last week hosted the White House’s three day summit on countering violent extremism, American Muslim leaders had already begun discussing how to stop young Muslims from being radicalized and recruited by Islamist extremists, specifically the Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Qaeda-backed al-Shabaab. The federal government and local law enforcement, have in many cases, offered to help Muslim communities fight extremism, but some Muslim leaders resist cooperating with the government, fearing that they would be contributing to religious profiling and anti-Muslim bigotry. Muslim communities themselves offer prevention programs and counseling for vulnerable youths who may have been contacted by recruiters.

  • RadicalizationThe new terrorists and the roots they share with gangs and drug lords

    By Mark Edberg and Hina Shaikh

    The recent attacks in Paris and Copenhagen are the latest incarnations of a new type of terrorism. Decentralized and homegrown, it is hard to understand. In many cases, these young perpetrators have been drawn to extremist ideologies without personal histories of religious commitment, militancy, or even social activism. How do they — in a relatively short period of time — get to the point where they are willing to commit such violent acts? The context in which these perpetrators live and develop contributes to these outsized acts of violence in at least two significant ways. The first has to do with the nature of excluded communities. Cut off by many boundaries, these communities become like islands disconnected from the society around them. These boundaries are socio-economic and cultural and are often made deeper by racism and discrimination. The second has to do with young persons’ search for identity and status. Such a search in an excluded community is vulnerable to the influence of people who use violence to demonstrate their importance. If that violence is connected with a sense of payback and revenge against those forces that exclude, then the situation is even more volatile.

  • Rare earth materialsOvercoming problems, risks associated with rare earth metals

    Numerous metallic elements – called rare earth materials — are regarded as critical: they play an ever more important role in future technologies, but there is a high risk of supply bottlenecks. Small and medium-sized companies are also affected by this, and they are often not sure which of these materials they are dependent on. A recent event at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA) aimed to demonstrate ways in which industry and the research community can counter supply risks and the consequence of the ever greater use of these raw materials.

  • SurveillanceSchool surveillance on the rise

    Invasive school surveillance practices are the norm in the United Kingdom and the United States, and according to an Australian criminologist, such practices are becoming increasingly popular in Australian schools. “An estimated 1.28 million students are fingerprinted in the United Kingdom, largely for daily registration purposes; there is an excess of 106,000 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed in English, Welsh and Scottish secondary schools; while students in a U.S. high school use pedometers to ensure that they meet their gym class’s physical activity requirement,” he says.

  • Domestic terrorismDHS intelligence assessment highlights threat posed by sovereign citizen groups

    U.S. security officials have long considered sovereign citizen groups as a growing threat to domestic security. In a 2014 surveyof state and local law enforcement agencies, leaders of these agencies listed members of sovereign citizen groups as the top domestic terror threat, ahead of foreign Islamist or domestic militia groups. The U.S. government has primarily focused its counterterrorism efforts on the threats posed by foreign extremist groups, including Islamic State and al-Qaeda, but the problem posed by domestic would-be terrorists has not been overlooked. A new DHS intelligence assessment, released earlier this month, focuses on the domestic terror threat from sovereign citizen extremists.