Government

  • Social media grappling with problems posed by terrorists-supporting contents

    Terrorist organizations have adopted social media as a tool for spreading propaganda and recruiting new members. Social media allow terrorist groups to interact with an audience and spread their message to a broader base. Legal scholars warn that as social media networks become the modern space for public discourse, they must be careful about publishing certain content because they could come under legal scrutiny for materially supporting terrorist organizations.

  • James Foley murder: inside the mind of Britain’s jihadists

    As the murder of James Foley appears to have shown, foreign fighters are involved at the heart of the violence abroad — and understanding how they got there and what they might do on their return is an important task to which all carefully researched findings can contribute. There is a long history of people heading off to fight in foreign countries, and recent research has shown that, on balance, foreign fighters are more likely to be involved in high-risk conflicts. An important aspect of successfully recruiting foreign fighters is the creation of a wider communal identity and the sense of a threat to it — so Serbs versus Bosnians becomes Christians versus Muslims, and Assad versus protesters becomes false Muslims (or Alawites, or Shi’as) versus true (in this case, Sunni) Muslims. This process of highlighting the threat to the community and generating a sense of fear is especially effective in people who have a stronger identity to that community than they do to their state identity. So people who might be marginalized within their home countries might be more likely to leave those countries as the ties of state identity are weaker than the sense of duty to their transnational community.

  • Maryland creates fund to support cybersecurity startups

    The Maryland Technology Development Corporation, (TEDCO) an independent public organization founded by the Maryland General Assemblyand funded by the state, has created a $1 million fund to invest in startups developing new cybersecurity technologies.

  • Credibility of informer at the center of California terrorism trial

    The trial of Sohiel Omar Kabir, 36, and Ralph Kenneth Deleon, 25, both accused of planning to travel to Afghanistan to join al-Qaeda, continued this week as prosecutors hope to convict the men on five counts of conspiracy. Kabir is accused of persuading Deleon, Miguel Alejandro Santana, and Arifeen David Gojali to go to Afghanistan to join al Qaeda. Much of the evidence against the defendants comes from an informant named Mohammad Hammad, who was used by the government as an informant in other cases. Civil rights advocates question Hammad’s credibility, saying he is more of an agent-provocateur than an informant.

  • Israel, again, tries to kill Muhammad Deif, Hamas military leader

    Israel last night [Middle East time] tried, for the fifth time in fifteen years, to kill Mohammed Deif, the head of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing. It is not yet clear whether he was killed in the attack, but the dead bodies of his wife and his small child were pulled. It appears that Israel became aware that Deif, believing that there would be a few days of calm while Israeli and Palestinian delegations were in Cairo to work out the details of a truce, was planning to emerge from his bunker to meet with the commander of Hamas’s rocket force at the home of that commander. Deif’s wife and child were to meet him there as well. Israeli missiles struck to house when it appeared that Deif had arrived, destroying the building. Three bodies were pulled from the rubble — a woman, a small child, and a man in his late 40s or early 50s (Deif was born in 1965).

  • New Jersey launches distributed energy initiative

    More than two million households lost power in New Jersey during Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and water and wastewater treatment plants lacked electricity, forcing millions of gallons of raw sewage to be released into the state’s waterways. State officials concluded that relying exclusively on centralized grids for electrical power distribution would continue to be a risk during disasters such as hurricanes. The state recently announced the launch of the nation’s first Energy Resilience Bank(ERB), which will support the development of distributed energy resources at critical facilities throughout New Jersey.

  • Coast Guard, National Guard units in N.J. still dealing with Sandy’s damage

    The USCGC Sailfish, an 87-foot patrol boat, is temporarily based out of Bayonne, New York, unable to return to its berth at Sandy Hook, where the storm caused $50 million in damage to Coast Guard facilities. National Guard facilities around New Jersey sustained more than $35 million in storm damage, and further along the Jersey shore, the National Guard is dealing with over $40 million in damage to Army and Air Force facilities.

  • What goes on in the mind of a militant extremist?

    So far, the ongoing discussions about radicalization of extremists both at home and abroad have tended to emphasize its sociological aspects. These discussions have focused on concepts such as the religion and social environments of individuals. Psychological accounts of extremist activity are infrequent, and it is often forgotten that only a few of those who hold strong ideological, political, and religious views get involved in violent acts. Personal dispositions, feelings and beliefs may play a decisive role in explaining why people become radicalized. Psychological research into radicalization may thus complement political science and religious studies in countering terrorism in Western society. Monitoring the strength of militant extremist mindset endorsements in different communities could be helpful. It may be useful to establish regular polling practices that would gauge the extent of radicalization over time and in reaction to terrorist-related political acts at home and globally.

  • CIA used Anwar al-Awlaki’s desire for a third wife to track and kill him

    Anwar al-Awlaki, a New Mexico-born jihadist preacher and one of the leaders of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQIP), grew impatient with his two wives, and wanted to a marry a third one. A Danish Islamist who was close to Awlaki – but who was, in fact, a CIA agent – agreed to help Awlaki find a third wife, and found a Croatian woman who converted to Islam, and who was attracted to Awlaki from pictures she saw. The woman, and the expensive gifts the Danish agent bought the couple, helped the CIA track the elusive terrorist, and he was killed on 30 September 2011 with Hellfire missiles launched at his convoy from two CIA Predator drones operating in Yemen.

  • Jihadist’s wife guilty of financially supporting terrorism

    Nawal Msaad, a student at London Metropolitan Universitywho was accused of trying to smuggle 20,000 Euros in her underwear to support Aine Davis, a British Jihadist in Syria, has been cleared of conspiring to fund terrorism. Her friend, Amal El-Wahabi, who is Davis’s wife, has become the first Briton to be found guilty of financially supporting terrorism in Syria under the Terrorism Act. El-Wahabi will face sentencing on 12 September 2014, with a maximum of fourteen years in prison.

  • New tool reveals which online personal data is being used by advertisers

    The Web can be an opaque black box: it leverages our personal information without our knowledge or control. When, for instance, a user sees an ad about depression online, she may not realize that she is seeing it because she recently sent an e-mail about being sad. A new tool reveals which data in a Web account, such as e-mails, searches, or viewed products, are being used to target which outputs, such as ads, recommended products, or prices.

  • Texas Medical Center considering “reverse quarantine” to prevent Ebola infections

    The Texas Medical Center(TMC), home to more than fifty health care institutions (it is considered the world’s largest medical district), is considering using a preventive measure, known as reverse quarantine, to keep potentially at-risk employees and students from spreading Ebola to other medical staff or patients. Concerned that the Ebola outbreak could reach Texas, hospital executives are reviewing their emergency management plans, usually reserved to guide more than 100,000 employees at TMC during hurricanes and tropical storms.

  • Program aiming to facilitate cyberthreat information sharing is slow to take off

    President Barack Obama’s 2013 executive orderto improve critical infrastructure cybersecurity allows DHS to expand an information-sharing program, once restricted to Pentagoncontractors, to sixteencritical infrastructure industries. The Enhanced Cybersecurity Servicesprogram transmits cyber threat indicators to selected companies so they may prepare their network protection systems to scan for those indicators. A DHS inspector general (IG) reportreleased on Monday has found that just about forty companies from three of the sixteen industries — energy, communications services, and defense — are part of the program. Moreover, only two ISPs are authorized to receive the indicators.

  • Immigration judge says changes needed in “fast-tracking” immigration cases

    While the Obama administration cites evidence that the surge of migrant children from Central America is declining, a leading immigration judge is arguing that the Department of Justice (DOJ) process of “fast-tracking” the cases — often without any legal representation for the defendant — is padding the numbers and also creating other problems of its own.

  • Congress mulls declaring wildfires as natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes

    Climate change has contributed to the increasing number of wildfires in the American West as temperatures get hotter and forests get drier. Congress is now considering treating wildfires like earthquakes and hurricanes, declaring the occurrences as natural disasters. That move would provide additional emergency funding to fight wildfires as they occur, so federal and state agencies would no longer have to transfer funds from fire-prevention programs.