• Competing rights: Florida shooting highlights tension between two rights

    Many Americans accept the current gun trade-off: Much easier access to guns relative to other advanced societies – with a far larger number of gun fatalities relative to these advanced societies. Unless this general acceptance of the current trade-off changes – and this would amount to a cultural change — we are not going to see any meaningful legislative changes to the issue of access to guns. But the question that events such as the Florida school shooting raises should still be considered: It has to do with the clash between two constitutionally protected rights: The right to bear arms and the right for life and liberty. Americans have the right to bear arms, but they also have a fundamental right to life, that is, the right to live, which also means the right not to be killed by another human being. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln’s words (in his “All the laws but one” response to Chief Justice Taney): Should we be so adamant and so narrowly restrictive in our refusal to read the Second Amendment more broadly, even if the result of this absolutism is that other rights – fundamental rights, like the right to life —are being eroded?

  • Securing U.S. election: Congressional panel release report, recommendations

    The Congressional Task Force on Election Security released its Final Report, including ten specific recommendations on what the federal government and states can and should be doing to secure U.S. elections. “Russia’s unprecedented assault on the country’s elections in 2016 – including targeting twenty-one states’ voting systems – exposed serious national security vulnerabilities to our election infrastructure – which includes voting machines and voter registration databases,” the Task Force said. The members of the Task Force also introduced legislation, the Election Security Act, to implement the recommendations of the report.

  • Khamenei military adviser: West uses lizards to spy on Iran’s nuclear program

    Saying that their skins absorb “atomic waves,” a top military adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei charged that Western countries use “lizards, chameleons” to spy on Iran’s nuclear program. Hassan Firuzabadi, a former chief-of-staff for Iran’s army, said that the spy lizards were released in various places in Iran to find out where inside the Islamic republic of Iran we have uranium mines and where we are engaged in atomic activities.”

  • U.S. intel chiefs warn Russia intending to meddle in midterm elections

    Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, in a Tuesday testimony before the Senate Intelligence committee, said that one of the major security challenges the United States faces is the continuing cyber activity by Russia, North Korea, China, and Iran, emphasizing “the potential for surprise in the cyber realm”: “Frankly, the United States is under attack,” Coats said. “Under attack by entities that are using cyber to penetrate virtually every major action that takes place in the United States.” Coats said that Russia views its interference in the 2016 election as a success. “There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations,” he said.

  • What’s important is not that Russia changed the 2016 election outcome, “but that it attempted to do so”: Report

    In an important new report on the challenges that Russia’s aggressive posture poses for U.S. interests in the world, and to U.S. democratic institutions and social cohesion at home, Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellows Robert D. Blackwill and Philip H. Gordon warn that the United States has so far failed to elevate Russia’s intervention in U.S. elections to the national priority that it is. They add that the United States has neglected to respond to Russia’s intervention in a way sufficient to deter future attacks. They argue, “A wide range of additional measures is therefore needed in order to better protect U.S. society and political and electoral systems from further intervention.”

  • Most states’ election systems remain vulnerable to hacking or systemic failure

    Less than nine months before midterm elections, a new study shows that most state election systems remain vulnerable to hacking and other interference by foreign governments bent on disrupting the election process. Researchers have conducted research and interviewed election officials to determine their election security preparedness after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia tried to influence the 2016 election by targeting state voting systems.

  • Studying patterns of domestic terrorism

    University of Arkansas researchers recently received a $716,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice to study where terrorists prepare their acts as opposed to where they commit domestic acts of terrorism. The goals of the three-year study are to better understand spatial connections between a terrorism incident and the steps leading to it, and to create a model that could help assess terrorism risks for specific geographic areas or locations.

  • Vanessa Trump, Obama's D.C. office receive envelopes with suspicious white powder

    The suspicious letter which was sent to Vanessa Trump, the wife of Donald Trump Jr., was postmarked from Boston and contained corn starch, law enforcement officials told CNN. Vanessa Trump and two other people were taken to New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center as a precautionary measure.

  • Experts: Drone incursion shows that Israeli-Iranian status quo is unsustainable

    The incursion on an Iranian drone into Israeli airspace and the subsequent Israeli response on Saturday shows that Israel considers Iran’s efforts “to consolidate their strategic position” in Syria and Lebanon to threaten the Jewish state “unsustainable,” two experts say. They characterized the downing of the drone after it entered Israeli airspace and the subsequent attacks by the Israeli Air Force against targets in Syria as “the most significant clash to date between Israel and the so-called Axis of Resistance—Iran, Syria’s Assad regime and Hezbollah—since Iran began deploying soldiers and proxies to Syria six years ago.”

  • Six months after Charlottesville: America’s white supremacists face challenges, opportunities

    The 11 August 2017 Unite the Right event in Charlottesville, Virginia, brought white supremacists of all stripes together for a weekend of protest that turned to deadly violence. Six months later, what has happened to the far-flung and disparate groups that make up America’s white supremacist movement? Analysts say that for America’s white supremacist movement, the period since Charlottesville has been a time marked by seismic structural shifts and more than a few power struggles. Divisions have deepened, and the spirit of solidarity that animated the racist crowds in Charlottesville has long since dissipated. And yet, by some measures, evidence of white supremacist activism and engagement is more conspicuous than ever before.

  • Distinct regional differences drive hate groups in the U.S.

    In a new study, University of Utah geographers sought to understand the factors fueling hate across space. The researchers found that in all U.S. regions, less education, population change, and ethnic diversity correlated with more hate groups, as did areas with higher poverty rates and more conservative political affiliation. The Utah geographers assert that organized hate is motivated by the desire to protect a place from the perceived threats that “outsiders” pose to identity and socioeconomic security. The contemporary expression, “hate,” is shaped by the intermingling histories and present-day conditions of a place. A hate group is defined as an organized group or ideology with beliefs or practices that malign an entire class of people due to their immutable characteristics.

  • Students to help DHS S&T tackle air travel security issues

    Students from James Madison University (JMU) will be tackling air travel security issues for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) as part of their spring semester of the Hacking 4 Defense (H4D) class. The H4D team will look for innovative approaches that will enable the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to be able to associate passengers with their personal belongings.

  • Houston-area officials approved a plan for handling a natural disaster — then ignored it

    Seven months before Hurricane Harvey inundated the Houston area with a trillion gallons of water and led to widespread criticism of the Red Cross, Harris County adopted a disaster-preparation plan whose key assumption was that the Red Cross would be slow to act. “In a major disaster where there is widespread damage, the local resources of the Red Cross may be overwhelmed and not available immediately,” stated the plan. “It may be upwards of seven days before the Red Cross can assume a primary care and shelter role.” But in the seven months between the plan’s passage and the landfall of Harvey, the county took few steps to implement its strategy. Indeed, when dire flooding forced thousands of people from their homes, 3,036 emails obtained in a public records request suggest, officials didn’t even seem aware that a plan existed.

  • Israel destroys Iranian drone, hits targets in Syria after losing F-16

    For the first time, Iran sent a military drone from one of its bases in Syria, in response to which Israel, for the first time, bombed Iranian targets in Syria, killing several Iranian soldiers. An Israeli jet was shot down by an Iranian anti-aircraft missile, and in response Israel bombed and destroyed nearly half of Syria’s air defense systems, in addition to attacking other Syrian and Iranian targets.


  • Fmr. IDF intelligence chief: Shootdown of Iranian drone could be prelude to Israel-Shia war

    The interception of an Iranian drone that targeted Israel suggests that the chances for a war between Israel and Iran-led forces, the first Israel-Shia war, have increased, General (ret.) Amos Yadlin, the former head of Israel’s military intelligence, said. “There is a determination by Iran to build a military force in Syria and Lebanon, and there is determination by Israel not to let it happen. And the two vectors are colliding,” Yadlin said. “Maybe instead of the first northern war, we should call it first Shia war, Israel-Shia war. Because it will be the Shia axis, led by Iran, with Hezbollah and the Syrian regime and Shia militia from all over the Middle East.”