Government

  • Mental illness & terrorismAbout 40 percent of lone-wolf terrorists are driven by mental illness, not ideology: Researchers

    Researchers have long studied the relationship between mental illness and terrorism, particularly lone-wolf terrorists. One study examined ninety-eight lone wolf attackers in the United States, and found that 40 percent of them had identifiable mental health problems, compared with 1.5 percent of the general population.Another study reviewed 119 lone wolf attackers and a similar number of members of violent extremist groups in the United States and Europe, and found that nearly 32 percent of lone wolves had been diagnosed with a mental illness, while only 3.4 percent of terrorist group members were mentally ill.The researchers say that there is a significant link between mental problems and the making of a lone-wolf terrorist, leading to cautious hope that future attacks may be avoided. “It’s never an either-or in terms of ideology versus mental illness,” one researcher said. “It’s a dangerous cocktail.”

  • Mental illness & terrorismCould the Sydney siege have been predicted and prevented?

    By Carolyn Semmler

    It’s the question everyone is asking — could the Sydney siege have been predicted and therefore prevented based on the past behavior of gunman Man Haron Monis. Monis’s troubled history was well known to media and the police, but can we predict if and when such a person is likely to commit any further crimes? Further, we need to be very careful about stereotyping the mentally ill as potentially “dangerous.” It is simply not the case that all people with serious mental illnesses are prone to violence. There are very specific factors that govern the complex relationship between mental illness and violence. We need to understand and prevent people from experiencing them.

  • African securityWho killed Dag Hammarskjold? Sweden calls for new inquiry into 1961 death of UN chief

    One of the most intriguing, and unresolved, questions in contemporary African history – and in the history of the cold war – is: How and why did UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjold die on 18 September 1961? More often than not, people more directly ask: Who killed Hammarskjold? On 18 September 1961, Hammarskjold boarded a DC-6 airplane to fly to Ndola, a mining town in Zambia, which at the time was called Northern Rhodesia, for a meeting with Mois Tshombe, the leader of mineral-rich Congolese province of Katanga. A year earlier, Tshombe announced that Katanga was seceding from the newly independent Congo. Hammarskjold was flying to meet Tshombe in an effort to negotiate a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Congo and Katanga – but he never made it. The plane crashed in a heavily forested terrain a few miles from the Ndola airport. Different inquiries conducted in the following fifty years into the reasons for and circumstances of the crash were inconclusive. Last year a United Nations panel concluded that there was “persuasive evidence that the aircraft was subjected to some form of attack or threat as it circled to land at Ndola.” Last Monday, Sweden – Hammarskjold was a Swede — formally asked the UN General Assembly to reopen the investigation into his death.

  • ISISU.S. air strikes kill three top ISIS leaders

    U.S. officials said yesterday that a U.S.-led air strikes in Iraq have killed three of the top leaders of Islamic State (ISIS), but not the group’s senior commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Among those killed was Abd al Basit, who was described by officials as the group’s military “emir,” and Haji Mutazz, a deputy to Baghdadi. The strikes took place between 3 December and 9 December, the officials said.

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  • Disaster recoveryComplaints grow about New Mexico’s handling of emergencies, disaster relief

    New Mexico’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM)wasformed in 2007 by consolidating the state’s Office of Homeland Security and the Emergency Management Division. It is responsible for coordinating emergency and disaster relief efforts with all levels of government, providing training to emergency managers, and analyzing security threats. DHSEM, however, has a history of failing to respond swiftly to disaster related requests, according to internal reports, e-mails, audits, and interviews with current and former employees.

  • RadicalizationRadicalization and the lone wolf: what we do and don’t know

    By Anne Aly

    Even with the growing body of empirical research contributing to understanding radicalization, cases such as that of Man Haron Monis raise questions about whether individual actors, known as “lone wolves,” are terrorists, violent extremists, radicals, or simply lone gun men. Contrary to popular belief, ideology and religion play a less important role in radicalization. Current research indicates that the emotional appeal to personal identity and group solidarity are far more significant factors in radicalization. What recent lone-wolf cases — Man Haron Monis in Sydney, Canadian Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, Anders Breivik in Norway, and Mohammed Merah in France — tell us is that, unlike the strategic model of terrorism as a rational choice to carry out acts of violence in the name of a cause, these modern-day lone-wolf terrorists may be more like lone gunmen than terrorists.

  • TorturePublic support for torture declines as people learn the explicit details of torture techniques

    Does the American public condone torture when the goal is to prevent terrorist attacks? News headlines reporting the results of a Pew Research Center poll released on 9 December indicate more than half of Americans do. That finding, however, is not necessarily valid, says Tufts University’s Richard Eichenberg, who argues that the poll is flawed because it is based on a faulty premise. A more accurate picture of the nation’s attitude can be found in responses to polls conducted by Pew, Gallup, and other news organizations and analyzed in a 2010 report. These surveys explained in graphic detail what interrogation techniques were being judged. So while response to more general questions on the use of torture may continue to produce mixed reactions, Eichenberg says public support for torture will decline as more people become aware of the explicit details of torture techniques contained in the Senate report.

  • Urban security grantsCalifornia Hasidic group must refund misused DHS security grant money

    The California branch of the Hasidic Jewish group Chabad-Lubavitchhas been ordered to pay $844,985 for misappropriating federal funds.In 2008, Chabad applied for a DHS grant as part of the Urban Areas Security Initiative: Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides funding for security upgrades to nonprofits that are at high risk of terrorist attacks.Chabad spent $272,495 of grant money on payroll, utility, and other expenses, but now has to pay penalties and damages triple the grant amount under a mandatory provision of the False Claims Act.

  • CybersecurityFBI moves cyberthreats to top of law-enforcement agenda

    FBI director James Comey said combatting cybercrime and other cyber threats are now top FBI priority. “It (the Internet) is transforming human relationships in ways we’ve never seen in human history before,” Comey said. “I see a whole lot of hacktivists, I see a whole lot of international criminal gangs, very sophisticated thieves,” he added. “I see people hurting kids, tons of pedophiles, an explosion of child pornography.” In October Comey urged Congress to require tech companies to put “backdoors” in apps and operating systems. Such a move would allow law enforcement officials to better to monitor suspected criminals who often escape the law using encryption and anti-surveillance computer software.

  • Terrorism insuranceSenate expects to extend terrorism insurance after House passes bill

    After the House passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2014 (TRIPRA) last week, supporters of the bill expect the Senate to approve it, although they are unsure when that will occur. The current version of the program is expected to expire by 31 December unless Congress renews the legislation or places a temporary extension.The House version would extend TRIPRA for six years, increase the threshold for government reimbursement from $100 million to $200 million, and increase companies’ co-payments to 20 percent from 15 percent.

  • Earthquake early warningCongressional funding allows partial roll-out of Calif. seismic early warning system

    California officials applauded the U.S. Senate approval of the $1.1-trillion spending package, which allocated $5 million to fund expansion of the state’s earthquake early-warning system dubbed ShakeAlert.In 2015, a select number of schools will receive earthquake alerts to warn students and teachers to drop and cover before shaking begins, fire stations will be alerted to open their garage doors before electricity goes out and prevents doors from opening, and some hospitals will receive notice to suspend surgeries.

  • Sony hackingCyber whodunnit: North Korea prime suspect but there are many potential culprits

    By Alan Woodward

    Many suspect North Korea to be behind the attack on Sony Pictures. North Korea quite possibly has motive, means, and opportunity to carry out this attack on Sony, but as with any successful prosecution, that isn’t enough. We need evidence. We will have to wait for the detailed forensic work to complete before we stand a realistic chance of knowing for certain. That may or may not be forthcoming, but in the meantime we should consider what this event tells us about the balance of power in cyberspace. In a world in which major disruption can be caused with scant resources and little skill, all enemies are a threat. North Korea might be the rogue state that everyone loves to hate but there are plenty of others who could have done it. There is no longer a tiered approach of superpowers fighting proxy wars in smaller, developing nations. Now those developing nations can fight back, and you might not even know it was them.

  • TerrorismAnalyzing how emotions ripple following terrorist events

    The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing motivated mass expressions of fear, solidarity, and sympathy toward Bostonians on social media networks around the world. In a recently released study, researchers analyzed emotional reactions on Twitter in the hours and weeks following the attack. The study is the first large-scale analysis of fear and social-support reactions from geographically distant communities following a terrorist attack. The full results of the study may provide insight to governmental agencies exploring how best to handle public fear following a disruptive event.

  • Coastal infrastructurePower grids in coastal U.S. cities increasingly vulnerable as a result of climate change

    Cities such as Miami are all too familiar with hurricane-related power outages. A new analysis finds, however, that climate change will give other major metropolitan areas a lot to worry about in the future. Johns Hopkins University engineers created a computer model to predict the increasing vulnerability of power grids in major coastal cities during hurricanes. By factoring historic hurricane information with plausible scenarios for future storm behavior, the team determined which of twenty-seven cities, from Texas to Maine, will become more susceptible to blackouts from future hurricanes. The team’s analysis could help metropolitan areas better plan for climate change.

  • Chemical facility safetyHouse approves 4-year extension of chemical facility safety legislation

    On 11 December the House approved a 4-year reauthorization of DHS’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standardsprogram (CFATS), meant to protect U.S. chemical facilities from terrorist attacks. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill(H.R. 4007). Implementing the CFATS program will cost roughly $349 million over fiscal years 2015 to 2019. The CFATS, authorized in Section 550 of the 2007 DHS Appropriations Act, requires industrial facilities with certain levels of use or storage of chemicals to submit information about their chemical holdings to DHS, assess their vulnerabilities, and submit plans to address those vulnerabilities and secure their chemical holdings.