• DOD to remove Kaspersky software from Pentagon systems

    The Department of Defense is reviewing its computer systems to make sure that software from under-suspicion Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky does not touch any military systems. In September DHS issued a directive to all civilian government agencies to remove Kaspersky software from their systems. The directive, which gave agencies three months to complete the removal, referred to deepening concerns in the U.S. intelligence community about the close relationship between Kaspersky and the Russian intelligence agencies.

  • Tracing communism’s reach, 100 years after the Russian Revolution

    One hundred years ago Wednesday, 25 October, the Bolsheviks overthrew the Provisional Government in Petrograd (St. Petersburg), which came to power on 3 March 1917 after the abdication of Emperor Nicholas II. The Bolsheviks, or communists, under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin, were now in power in Russia, ending nearly two centuries of monarchic rule. A civil war followed, leading to the creation of the Soviet Union (USSR) in 1922. So great was the Soviet Union’s outsize impact over the course of its brief life, that its dissolution, on 25 December 1991, led to debate over what to expect in a world without it. In a 1989 essay titled “The End of History” – expanded in a 1992 book — political scientist Francis Fukuyama argued that the end of communism meant that the last challenge to Western liberal democracy had ended, and that humanity had reached an endpoint, with the “universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” NYU politics professor Joshua Tucker, the co-author of a new book, Communism’s Shadow, suggests that communist thought continues to have a real impact today, and that the legacy of the Soviet Union is very much alive.

  • Facebook’s evidence of Russian electoral meddling is only ‘the tip of the iceberg’

    “First of all, let’s step back and put the Russian involvement in 2016 in the overall context,” says Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “It was approved at the highest level. It was coordinated in ways that were unprecedented. It included the things that have been much reported on, like hacking into both political parties and releasing information harmful to one candidate, Clinton, and helpful to Trump.” Warner adds: “I think our government and the platform companies were more than a little bit caught off guard. I don’t think anyone had seen anything of this scale before.”

  • Are many hate crimes really examples of domestic terrorism?

    This growing domestic menace deserves more attention than it’s getting. I consider domestic terrorism a more significant threat than the foreign-masterminded variety in part because it is more common in terms of the number of attacks on U.S. soil. The number of violent attacks on U.S. soil inspired by far-right ideology has spiked since the beginning of this century, rising from a yearly average of 70 attacks in the 1990s to a yearly average of more than 300 since 2001. Despite an uptick in far-right violence and the Trump administration’s plan to increase the Department of Homeland Security budget by 6.7 percent to $44.1 billion in 2018, the White House wants to cut spending for programs that fight non-Muslim domestic terrorism. The federal government has also frozen $10 million in grants aimed at countering domestic violent extremism. This approach is bound to weaken the authorities’ power to monitor far-right groups, undercutting public safety.

  • Normalizing white nationalist hate

    A panel of experts met last week at Harvard University’s Kennedy School (HKS) to examine the U.S. white nationalist movement’s rise to prominence and discuss ways to counter it. One panelist was R. Derek Black, a former white nationalist activist whose father, Don Black, created Stormfront, the internet’s first and largest white nationalist site. When the moderator asked whether white nationalists tended to be seen as “people from Alabama,” Black replied that most of the stereotypes are inaccurate. “There’s a strange misconception that it’s a trailer park movement, or that it’s people who haven’t thought through their beliefs. But think about it. Who has the resources to travel across the country for rallies? It’s not a wealthy movement, but it’s bankers, lawyers, people with good jobs.”

  • New early-warning intelligence system alerts civilians to impending chemical attacks

    Since 2011, the Assad regime has killed hundreds of Syrian, and injured thousands, through the use of chemical weapons. Chemical agents are different from explosive chemicals, which cause localized destruction through force. Sarin gas, for example, a nerve agent which has been used in many attacks in Syria, can diffuse into the atmosphere and spread for hundreds of miles. Researchers are working to develop an intelligence system for chemical plume trajectory tracking, which is critical for national safety against impending chemical threats.

  • Three million Americans carry loaded handguns daily

    An estimated three million adult American handgun owners carry a firearm loaded and on their person on a daily basis, and nine million do so on a monthly basis, new research indicates. The vast majority cited protection as their primary reason for carrying a firearm.

  • Jeff Sessions just confessed his negligence on Russia

    The headlines from Attorney General Jeff Session’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday focused on his refusal to answer questions about his conversations with President Donald Trump and his declaration that he had not yet been interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller. Lost in the back-and-forth, however, was a truly damning moment about Sessions’s tenure at the Justice Department thus far. The attorney general of the United States, though acknowledging and expressing confidence in the intelligence community’s assessment of foreign interference in the 2016 election and admitting that the government is not doing enough to guard against such activity in the future, could not identify a single step his department is taking or should take in that direction. This was a frank display of ignorant complacency in the face of a clear and demonstrated threat.

  • Former foreign minister testifies in Argentinian terror cover-up probe

    The former Argentinian foreign minister Hector Timerman testified in court on Tuesday under the allegations that Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s administration conspired with Iran to hide the Islamic Republic’s role in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. The judicial investigation is based on the complaint of the late Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman that Kirchner sought a secret deal with Iran in connection with the 1994 bombing.

  • Animal agriculture in U.S. increasingly threatened

    The increasing rate of emerging and reemerging animal diseases, along with threats and attempts by those with nefarious intent to attack food and agriculture, point to the need to reduce the biological risk to America’s food and agricultural sector. That is the finding of a new report released Tuesday by the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense.

  • For $1000, anyone can purchase mobile advertising to track your location, app use

    Privacy concerns have long swirled around how much information online advertising networks collect about people’s browsing, buying and social media habits — typically to sell you something. But could someone use mobile advertising to learn where you go for coffee? Could a burglar establish a sham company and send ads to your phone to learn when you leave the house? Could a suspicious employer see whether you’re using shopping apps on work time? The answer is yes, at least in theory.

  • Why are Russian media outlets hyping the Mueller investigation?

    Four major Russia investigations are underway in Washington, along with at least six related federal inquiries. Russia’s most popular media outlets compare the investigations to those of the McCarthy era, calling them “witch hunts” focused on a “phantom menace.” Amid all the emphasis of “Russophobia run wild,” however, Russian media coverage seems to have become more positive in regard to one issue: The Justice Department’s investigation led by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. While state-sponsored outlets continue to deny any possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, they’ve begun to applaud Mueller’s efforts to look into the past business deals of the U.S. president and his team. In affirming the U.S. investigation into Trump’s business practices, Kremlin strategists can co-opt the charges of Putin’s critics and direct them at Trump. They can argue that the U.S. is neither more virtuous than Russia nor more efficacious. And they can do so without having to acknowledge that a Mueller-style investigation into top-level government malfeasance would never be allowed in their own country today.

  • Russia used Pokemon Go "to sow division” in run-up to 2016 presidential election

    CNN broke the news yesterday that Russian government hackers did not only use Facebook, Twitter, and Google platforms for a broad, systematic, and sophisticated disinformation campaign in the run-up to the 2016 election – they also used the popular video game Pokemon Go. The game was used to promote a Black Lives Matter-like message about police brutality, aiming to discourage African American voters from going to the polls, while creating a White backlash against those criticizing the police.

  • U.S. bans Russian anti-virus software after Israel warns about hacking

    The U.S. government recently prohibited federal agencies from using the products of the Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab. Kaspersky’s anti-virus software is used by 400 million people globally – and the off-the-shelf software was installed on many U.S. government systems. Israeli intelligence officials warned their U.S. counterparts that Russian government hackers had morphed Kaspersky’s anti-virus software into a search engine for sensitive information. The classified data was then extracted back to Russian intelligence systems. Kaspersky’s denials notwithstanding, cyber experts say it is not technically possible that Kaspersky Lab’s officials were ignorant of the Russian government’s use of the company product.

  • Noncompliance hobbles comprehensive background check policy for private-party gun sales: Study

    Of the three states that recently expanded comprehensive background check (CBC) policies to include all gun transfers, including those among private parties, only Delaware showed an overall increase in firearm background checks. Washington and Colorado had no changes, which the study authors say suggests that compliance and enforcement were incomplete. “The overwhelming majority of all firearms used for criminal purposes, some 80 percent, are acquired through private party transactions,” said one researcher. “By expanding background checks to include private-party transfers, there is a higher chance that these policies will make it harder for felons and other prohibited persons to acquire firearms and commit violent crimes.”