Government

  • No technological replacement exists for bulk data collection: Report

    No software-based technique can fully replace the bulk collection of signals intelligence, but methods can be developed more effectively to conduct targeted collection and to control the usage of collected data, says a new report from the National Research Council. Automated systems for isolating collected data, restricting queries that can be made against those data, and auditing usage of the data can help to enforce privacy protections and allay some civil liberty concerns, the unclassified report says.

  • Keeping citizens safe while respecting their right to privacy

    Surveillance is an increasingly common – and sometimes controversial – activity, designed fundamentally to protect public and property. The rapid increase in information gathered by surveillance cameras however has led to spiraling costs in terms of storage filtering and data checking, and has also led to concerns that innocent citizens are routinely being tracked. Using innovative new technology, EU-funded researchers have reconciled the need for robust surveillance with the right to privacy.

  • Understanding Muhammad: we need a more informed approach

    In any terrorist attack by Muslim extremists perpetrated in the name of Islam — such as the recent Charlie Hebdo atrocity — discussions about the Prophet Muhammad, his life, and his teachings come to the fore in Western societies. From the “prophet of peace” to a kind of terrorist antichrist, ideas about who Muhammad was and what he means vary among both Muslims and non-Muslims. There is no similarity between al-Qaeda’s interpretation of Muhammad and the Muhammad of a Sufi Muslim. But how much of this discussion is relevant to understanding the motivations behind Islamic extremism? How can the West understand Muhammad impartially, and what is Muslims’ relationship with Muhammad?

  • What drives killers like the Ottawa or Paris attackers?

    Zehaf-Bibeau, the Islamist convert who recently killed a Canadian military reservist on duty in Ottawa, Canada, represents a type of attacker rarely discussed — a person so obsessed with an overvalued idea that it defines their identity and leads them to commit violence without regard for the consequences. Although it appears that the assailants in Paris had more ties with terrorist organizations, the individuals still fit the description of people acting on overvalued ideas.

  • U.S. fight against extremism, terrorism hobbled by Obama’s qualms about using the term “Islamist”: Critics

    On 18 February the White House will host a global summit on “Countering Violent Extremism.” Critics say that the title of the summit captures a disturbing aspect of the administration’s efforts to counter terrorism: The preference for using anodyne language about the nature of the challenge rather than calling it for what it is – terrorism carried out by Islamic extremists, or, even more sweepingly, Islamist-fueled terrorism.The administration’s reluctance is not merely a problem of nomenclature, a refusal to employ terminology which may be overly broad or which might be offensive to some, says one critic. Rather, it evinces a lack of strategic focus, weakening the U.S. hand in the fight and undermining efforts to counter Islamist extremists and their supporters.

  • Delicate balance: Fighting extremist Islamists while guarding against anti-Muslim backlash

    The terror attack on Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris has shed more light on the problem France is facing dealing with extremist elements in its Muslim population. As is the case with many young Muslims who have recently joined militant groups, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, the two brothers involved in the Charlie Hebdo attack, were French-born, leaving many in France to wonder how fellow Europeans could have become violent extremists. Many Muslim immigrants to France live in the grimy banlieues, the ugly and impersonal “suburbs” consisting of exposed-concrete housing projects on the outskirts of large French cities, and these shantytowns are also where the most radical elements of the Muslim population effectively market their ideology to young, vulnerable, and largely under-educated and unemployed Muslim men.

  • U.K. anti-radicalization strategy is not working: Critics

    The surge in young Britons flocking to Syria and the Middle East to join radical Islamist groups is a result of failed policies and inadequate funding for anti-radicalization efforts, according to counterterrorism experts. In 2007 the Labor government established Prevent, a counterterrorism strategy aiming to deter individuals from becoming radicalized. Critics say that Prevent, especially as it is being carried out under the current government, is failing to tackle radicalism at its roots.The current strategy is “focusing only on people who have already been radicalized,” but she warns, “prevention is better than cure,” says Labor MP Hazel Blears who introduced the Prevent program when she was a member of the cabinet.

  • Washington State to offer 2-tier driver’s license system to comply with Real ID Act

    State officials in Washington are looking to redesign the state’s driver’s licenses and ID cards to comply with the federal 2005 REAL IDact which requires proof of legal U.S. residency for access to federal government buildings and soon domestic air travel. At least twenty-four states and territories have yet fully to comply with the REAL ID act, but Washington is one of only nine states that have not received a compliance extension from the federal government.

  • Businesses welcome TRIA extension, but small insurers worry about reimbursements

    Last week, the property insurance, real estate, and financial services industries applauded Congress for passing the recent version of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), which President Barack Obama is expected to sign into law. TRIA has already been extended twice and the most recent version of the bill will, beginning in 2016, raise the federal coverage backstop from $100 million to $200 million by 2020 with an increase of $20 million per year. S&P welcomed the passing of TRIA through both houses of Congress, but cautioned that the bill could hurt small insurers. The company is concerned that small insurers may not see any TRIA reimbursements with the doubling of the federal coverage backstop to $200 million.

  • Controversial French comedian Dieudonné investigated over “Charlie Coulibaly” post

    The anti-Semitic French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala is in hot water again. The Paris prosecutor’s office has said it has opened an investigation into the comedian’s Facebook post, in which he mocked Sunday’s mass rallies against Jihadist terrorism in France. “Know that tonight, for me, I feel CharlieCoulibaly,” Dieudonné wrote in his post, merging the names of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical newspaper where two gunmen massacred twelve people, with that of Amedy Coulibaly, who killed four Jewish hostages at a kosher supermarket.

  • When the camera lies: our surveillance society needs a dose of integrity to be reliable

    Being watched is part of life today. Our governments and industry leaders hide their cameras inside domes of wine-dark opacity so we can’t see which way the camera is looking, or even if there is a camera in the dome at all. They’re shrouded in secrecy. But who is watching them and ensuring the data they collect as evidence against us is reliable? Surveillance evidence is increasingly being used in legal proceedings, but the surveillants – law enforcement, shop-keepers with a camera in their shops, people with smartphones, etc. — have control over their recordings, and if these are the only ones, the one-sided curation of the evidence undermines their integrity. There is thus a need to resolve the lack of integrity in our surveillance society. There are many paths to doing this, all of which lead to other options and issues that need to be considered. But unless we start establishing principles on these matters, we will be perpetuating a lack of integrity regarding surveillance technologies and their uses.

  • Paris attacks complicate efforts to freeze DHS funding over Obama’s immigration executive orders

    Last week’s terror attacks in Paris have increased concerns of DHS officials that terrorists may be looking to attack U.S. targets. For many members of Congress, the Paris events are proof that DHS operations should continue to be funded, but opponents of the president’s immigration executive order appear ready to freeze funding for DHS altogether unless such funding does not include funds for the implementation of the president’s executive orders. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) warned fellow Republicans to be cautious: “Defunding that part of the bill that deals with enforcing the executive order makes sense but we can’t go too far here because look what happened in Paris. The Department of Homeland Security needs to be up and running,” he said.

  • Not enough senators would vote to override presidential veto of DHS defunding

    A late 2014 Republican strategy to fund DHS only through February in hopes of using further funding as a lever to change immigration policies once Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, may meet a dead end as Republican amendments to President Barack Obama’s DHS funding request will need sixty votes to clear the Senate. Senate Republicans will need at least six democrats or Democratic-leaning independents to vote yes to the Republican-led DHS funding bill.

  • Tomsheck’s “July Amnesty”: CBP IA loses hundreds of cases alleging criminal activity by CBP Employees -- Pt.3

    An unprecedented scandal continues to unfold within Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Fueling this scandal are allegations by James F. Tomsheck about the U.S. largest federal law enforcement agency. Further investigation suggests that the “July Amnesty,” initiated in Tomsheck’s CBP IA’s Integrity Programs Division (IPD) headed by Director Janine Corrado and Assistant Director Jeffrey Matta, casts doubt on Tomsheck’s allegations against his CBP superiors. Along with the July Amnesty in 2011 and the alleged discrimination and firing of Navy Lieutenant Commander (Ret.) J. Gregory Richardson in March 2014, there appear to be a number of other events calling Tomsheck’s leadership at CBP IA into question.

  • Sisi calls for “revolutionizing” Islam

    In an important speech delivered to Islamic scholars at Al Azhar University, Egyptian president Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi calls for revolutionizing Islam. “It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma [Islamic world] to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing, and destruction for the rest of the world. Impossible!” he said. “That thinking — I am not saying “religion” but “thinking” — that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the centuries, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world. It’s antagonizing the entire world!” adding: “I say and repeat again that we are in need of a religious revolution.”