• History: Libya and the Un Human Rights Council

    In May 2010, in a secret ballot, Libya received a shocking 155 votes (out of 192 countries who are UN members) and was elected to the UN Human Rights Council; UN members were aware of Libya’s human rights practices, such as extrajudicial and summary executions, systematic use of torture, and the imposition of the death penalty for political and economic offences; UN members were also aware that Libyan agents in 1988 blew up a passenger airplane over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people, exploded a French airliner over the Sahara desert, killing 170; Gaddafi also financed and helped train dozens of terrorist organizations, supported Charles Taylor in the Liberian civil war that was responsible for more than 200,000 deaths, supported the insurgency by Fodeh Sanko in Sierra Leon — Sanko’s followers chopped off the arms and legs of more than 82,000 men, women and children in villages loyal to the government, but left them alive so the government would go bankrupt trying to take care of them — and backed Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who brought hunger and devastation to that once relatively prosperous country; but then again, this is the UN

  • Battle lines in Libya harden

    The divisions in Libya harden; the Gaddafi government reinforces its hold on the Tripoli region by transferring to the area thousands of soldiers from southern tribes loyal to Gaddafi, augmented by hundreds of mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa; in the break-away eastern part of the country, former justice minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who defected from the Gaddafi regime, announced Saturday he was setting up a provisional government; the UN Security Council imposed a series of sanctions on the Gaddafi regime and its loyalists; the UN General Assembly will debate tomorrow (Tuesday) whether to kick Libya off the UN Human Rights Council (the 47-member Council debated the Libyan situation Friday, but member states could not bring itself to criticize Gaddafi); British and German military planes landed in Libya’s desert over the weekend to rescue hundreds of oil workers and civilians stranded at remote sites; the secret military rescue missions signal the readiness of Western nations to disregard Libya’s territorial integrity when it comes to the safety of their citizens

  • Acoustic gunfire detection devices heading to the field

    Technological developments may one day create artificial soldiers, but until they come along, the United States and other countries will continue to rely on human soldiers; the militaries thus want to preserve as many of their soldier’s lives as possible; to that end, Shoulder-Worn Acoustic Targeting System (SWATS), which helps Marines zero in on enemy sniper fire, is a godsend to the United States; asymmetric warfare favors the forces that can strike and runaway unharmed, but with plentiful acoustic sensors in the field it will be that much harder for snipers to ambush U.S. soldiers and live to escape

  • In a setback, Iran unloads nuclear fuel from Busheher reactor

    Iran announced Saturday it was unloading nuclear fuel from the Bushehr reactor, signaling more problems for the Russian-built plant after decades of delay; a source close to the project said the fuel was being unloaded on the suspicion that metal particles from nearly 30-year old equipment used in the construction of reactor core had contaminated the fuel; a senior Iranian official said earlier this month that suggestions should be investigated that the Stuxnet computer worm, believed to have been an attempt by Iran’s enemies to sabotage the nuclear program, had caused harm to the 1,000 megawatt Bushehr reactor

  • Android apps send private data in the clear

    Cell phones running the Android operating system fail to encrypt data sent to and from Facebook and Google Calendar, shortcomings that could jeopardize hundreds of millions of users’ privacy; Facebook’s recently unveiled always-on SSL encryption setting to prevent snooping over insecure networks — but the encryption is no good, meaning that all private messages, photo uploads, and other transactions are visible to eavesdroppers

  • On kabuki, farces, subpoenas, and theocracy

    The United States is trying to persuade the UN Human Rights Council to kick Libya out (yes, Libya is a member of the council) and to order an investigation of the atrocities committed by the Gaddafi regime against anti-government protesters; trouble is, members of the council include such towering paragons of human rights as Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Burundi — and the council is controlled by a bloc of Islamic and African states, backed by China and Russia; to hope this UN body will be moved by the plight of the Libyan people is to expect too much; closer to home, Darrell Issa (R-California) promised that when he assumed the chairmanship of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he would launch a subpoena campaign against the Obama administration; the campaign has now been launched; in Kentucky, the state’s homeland security department requires the department’s executive director to publicize a “dependence on Almighty God” in agency training and educational materials; atheists argue in court that this would turn Kentucky into a theocracy

  • Insider threat problem topic of a GovSec panel

    A recent batch of leaked cables from the State Department reveals concerted efforts by terrorist organizations to obtain WMDs and the danger that “insider threats” pose at facilities that house radioactive materials; in September 2009 two employees at the Rossing Uranium Mine in Namibia smuggled nearly half a ton of yellowcake out of the facility; the pair was eventually caught, but 550 pounds were not intercepted and have gone missing; another cable expressed fears that an employee working in one of Pakistan’s nuclear facilities could “gradually smuggle enough material out to eventually make a weapon”; these incidents are but two examples of the growing danger insiders, motivated by money or ideology, pose

  • DHS information officers discuss the future of technology at AFCEA

    The senior technology officials of several DHS agencies gathered for a roundtable discussion at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C. to outline their priorities, challenges, and plans for procuring technology and implementing capabilities at their respective departments; information officers from TSA, the U.S Coast Guard, the National Protection and Programs Directorate, and Citizen and Immigration Services were present; each official expressed similar plans to increase mobile access to data, digitize records, establish national databases, and streamline the flow of information; officials believe these remotely accessible databases can also help reduce costs and enhance customer service; the officials also noted the difficulty in hiring qualified personnel with cyber security skills

  • Pity Libya: Gaddafi is not a quitter

    There is much for which Tunisia’s Zain el-Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak should be criticized, but at least, at the end, they did not plunge their countries into a blood bath in order to keep their hold on power; Gaddafi is not a quitter, and it is not likely that his departure from the scene will be as peaceful

  • House Republicans slash funds for border security, immigration enforcement

    House Republicans voted to slash spending for border security and immigration enforcement for the remainder of this fiscal year by an estimated $600 million; the House budget allocates $350 million less for border security fencing, infrastructure, and technology than Congress approved last year, and $124 million below what DHS requested; the bill also cuts an estimated $159 million over last year for Customs and Border Protection modernization and construction programs, and is $40 million less than the agency sought to get the job done

  • U.S. appealing warrantless wiretapping court defeat

    In the first and likely only lawsuit resulting in a ruling against the secret National Security Agency warrantless surveillance program adopted in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, a San Francisco federal judge in December awarded $20,400 each to two American lawyers illegally wiretapped by the George W. Bush administration, and granted their counsel $2.5 million for the costs litigating the case for more than four years; the Obama administration is appealing the judge’s ruling

  • Anti-rocket system may become operational soon

    Terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas are too weak to fight the Israeli military, but what they can do is shower Israeli towns and cities with home-made Kassam rockets and Syria- and Iran-made Katyusha rockets; these rockets are not accurate and they carry a small warhead, but if you fire thousands of them (as Hezbollah did in the summer of 2006) or even a few hundreds (as Hamas has done since Israel left the Gaza Strip in 2005), it is enough to terrorize the population; the solution Israel has been working on for a while now is Iron Dome

  • Chipotle fired 450 workers in Minnesota for lack of legal documents

    Chipotle, in a filing last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission, disclosed that it had let go of 450 people in its Minnesota restaurants after the employees failed to prove they were eligible to work in the United States; the Denver-based chain has been subject to DHS audit for employees’ documents

  • Bill would allow police to turn illegal immigrants over to members of Congress

    A new proposal from Texas state Rep. Lois Kolkhorst would allow law enforcement officials to drop off illegal immigrants at the offices of any U.S. senator or representative; the proposed bill only applies to illegal immigrants about to be released on bail or discharged after completing a sentence and does not detail what the U.S. senator or representative is supposed to do with them.

  • SC fire departments awarded $5.5 million DHS grant

    Thirty-six South Carolina fire departments had been awarded DHS grants totaling $5.5 million to pay for new programs and equipment; the funds will be spent on 200 vehicle radios, 200 walkie-talkies, and 700 pagers for 36 fire departments in Spartanburg County