• Border Communities Inundated with Surveillance Technologies

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) the other day published The Atlas of Surveillance: Southwestern Border Communities. The Atlas consists of profiles of six counties along the U.S.-Mexico border, outlining the types of surveillance technologies deployed by local law enforcement—including drones, body-worn cameras, automated license plate readers, and face recognition. The report also includes a set of 225 data points marking surveillance by local, state, and federal agencies in the border region.

  • California Wildfires Can Impact Water Availability

    In recent years, wildfires in the western United States have occurred with increasing frequency and scale. Climate change scenarios in California predict prolonged periods of drought with potential for conditions even more amenable to wildfires. The Sierra Nevada Mountains provide up to 70 percent of the state’s water resources, yet there is little known on how wildfires will impact water resources in the future.

  • How Long Will Unbreakable Commercial Encryption Last?

    Most people who follow the debate over unbreakable, end-to-end encryption think that it’s more or less over, and that unbreakable commercial encryption is here to stay. But. this complacent view is almost certainly wrong. Enthusiasm for controlling encryption is growing among governments all around the world and by no means only in authoritarian regimes. Even Western democracies — not only authoritarian regimes — are giving their security agencies authorities that nibble away at the inviolability of commercial encryption. “While the debate over encryption has stalled in the United States, it’s been growing fiercer abroad as other nations edge closer to direct regulation of commercial encryption,” Stewart Baker writes.

  • AI and the Coming of the Surveillance State

    Artificial Intelligence (AI) used to be the stuff of science fiction, but is now making its presence felt in both the private and the public domains. In an important new study — The Global Expansion of AI Surveillance – Steve Feldstein of the Carnegie Endowment writes: “Unsurprisingly, AI’s impact extends well beyond individual consumer choices. It is starting to transform basic patterns of governance, not only by providing governments with unprecedented capabilities to monitor their citizens and shape their choices but also by giving them new capacity to disrupt elections, elevate false information, and delegitimize democratic discourse across borders.”

  • I Researched Uighur Society in China for 8 Years and Watched How Technology Opened New Opportunities – Then Became a Trap

    The Uighurs, a Muslim minority ethnic group of around 12 million in northwest China, are required by the police to carry their smartphones and IDs listing their ethnicity. As they pass through one of the thousands of newly built digital media and face surveillance checkpoints located at jurisdictional boundaries, entrances to religious spaces and transportation hubs, the image on their ID is matched to their face. If they try to pass without these items, a digital device scanner alerts the police. The Chinese state authorities described the intrusive surveillance as a necessary tool against the “extremification” of the Uighur population. Through this surveillance process, around 1.5 million Uighurs and other Muslims were determined “untrustworthy” and have forcibly been sent to detention and reeducation in a massive internment camp system. Since more than 10 percent of the adult population has been removed to these camps, hundreds of thousands of children have been separated from their parents. Many children throughout the region are now held in boarding schools or orphanages which are run by non-Muslim state workers.

  • Lack of Evaluation in Countering Violent Extremism May Increase Terror Threat

    A lack of evaluation of the impact of countering violent extremism (CVE) and counter-terrorism (CT) efforts may actually be increasing the threat and risk of terrorism, a new study points out. Researchers say that national and international agencies’ efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism have lacked two key ingredients - a clear and coherent theory of how individuals change and consistent evaluation of evidence of their changing attitudes.

  • Constitution Day 2019: The Hidden Domestic Surveillance Crisis

    As we mark the 232nd anniversary of the signing of America’s governing charter in 1787, we have ample evidence that it continues to be violated by the federal officials charged with upholding it. The FBI’s 2018-2020 “Consolidated Strategy Guide,” for example, not only references the targeting of so-called “Black Identity Extremists” (BIE’s) but also those designated as engaged in “Anti-Government/Anti-Authority Extremism,” “Abortion Extremism,” or “Animal Rights/Environmental Extremism.” “That the FBI is using an ideological test of its own devising to determine whether a person seeking products or services on ‘the Dark Web’ is a threat raises a host of potential constitutional issues, including whether the monitoring of a person’s online activities based on their ideology runs afoul of the First Amendment or the Brandenburg v. Ohio decision,” Patrick Eddington writes, adding: “If we are on the cusp of a de facto COINTELPRO 2.0,  the infamous Cold War-era FBI program of domestic spying and organizational disruption, we need to end it. Now.”

  • U.S. Military Still Buying Chinese-Made Drones Despite Spying Concerns

    The Air Force and the Navy bought Chinese-manufactured drones for elite forces months after the Pentagon prohibited their use due to cybersecurity concerns, according to government documents. In each case, the services used special exemptions granted by the Pentagon’s acquisition and sustainment office “on a case by case basis, to support urgent needs,” a Pentagon spokesman said.

  • What’s the New Terror Financing Executive Order All About?

    Prior to September 25, 2001, the United States used two primary tools to designate terrorists. In 1995, President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order 12947 in an effort to provide the State and Treasury Departments the legal authority to designate terrorist groups who were disrupting the “Middle East Process.” E.O. 12947 was narrowly scoped and did not provide the United States the ability to sanction groups or individuals disconnected from violence in the Middle East. Two years later, Congress passed legislation providing the State Department the ability to designate Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act. “Simply put, terrorism designations, much like the threat posed by al-Qaeda, were an afterthought before 9/11,” Jason Blazakis writes. That changed last week when President Donald Trump updated E.O. 13224 to expand both State and Treasury’s ability to wield sanctions against terrorists.

  • Fearing “Spy Trains,” Congress May Ban a Chinese Maker of Subway Cars

    A Chinese state-owned company called CRRC Corporation, the world’s largest train maker, completed the $100 million facility this year in the hopes of winning contracts to build subway cars and other passenger trains for American cities like Chicago and Washington. But growing fears about China’s economic ambitions and its potential to track and spy on Americans are about to quash those plans. Lawmakers — along with CRRC’s competitors — say they are concerned that subway cars made by a Chinese company might make it easier for Beijing to spy on Americans and could pose a sabotage threat to American infrastructure. Critics of the deal speculate that the Chinese firm could incorporate technology into the cars that would allow CRRC — and the Chinese government — to track the faces, movement, conversations or phone calls of passengers through the train’s cameras or Wi-Fi.

  • Huawei's Dominance of Africa's Mobile Networks Mean More Spying on African Citizens

    Chinese tech firm Huawei has been increasing its footprint across Africa, providing countries with new technology and telecommunications equipment, including most notably 4G and 5G mobile networks. Some of this expansion has involved Huawei technicians helping governments in Africa to spy on their political opponents.

  • North Korean Hacking Groups Hit with Treasury Sanctions

    The Department of the Treasury hit three North Korean groups with new sanctions Sept. 13 for conducting cyberattacks against critical infrastructure, including the infamous WannaCry ransomware attacks. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control announced that Lazarus Group, an advanced persistent threat believed to be working at the behest of the North Korean government and two of its subgroups, dubbed Bluenoroff and Andariel, was responsible for unleashing WannaCry, which wrought havoc across hospital and health care organizations in as well as other sectors in the United Kingdom and other industrial sectors in 2017, as well as the 2014 Sony hack.

  • How to Act against Domestic Terrorists — and Their Foreign Supporters

    The United States faces a surging domestic terrorism threat in the homeland. In the aftermath of the El Paso and Dayton shootings in the first weekend of August, more than 40 people were   arrested for threats to commit mass attacks by the end of that month. GW Program on Extremism suggests two ways to achieve a more effective and coordinated multisector response to the domestic terrorism threat. First, specific criminal statutes for domestic terrorism offenses need to be enacted that penalize the commission of specific violent crimes. Acknowledging concerns that new criminal statutes related to property damage may stifle legitimate protest, new criminal statutes could be limited to violence against persons and providing material support to terrorists. Second, the list of proscribed foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) should include far-right actors outside of the United States.

  • WPB Judge Tosses Suits Accusing Chiquita of Helping Terrorists Kill Colombians

    About 220,000 Colombians were killed in the civil war which raged in Colombia between 1964 and 2016. Most of the victims were killed by two Marxist insurgency groups, the FARC and the ELN. Many, however, were killed by various right-wing paramilitary groups which often coordinated their activities with government forces. A number of Colombians whose relatives were killed by paramilitary violence sued Chiquita Brands International in a Florida court for providing financial assistance to the paramilitary groups. Their hopes for success faded this month when U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra threw out their claims.

  • Major Impact Expected from Supreme Court Asylum Decision

    While legal challenges continue to make their way through the nation’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals — which includes the southern border states of California and Arizona —  the Supreme Court ruled that, in the interim, the Trump administration could begin denying asylum claims to migrants at the country’s southern border who did not first seek protection in another country along their route. The policy would affect asylum-seekers at the border, who are largely from Central America, as well as an increasing number of migrants from outside the Western Hemisphere.