Laws and regulations

  • Israel withdraws from U.S. terror case to placate China

    The Israeli government has prohibited a former security official from testifying in an anti-terrorism case in the United States. The case involves families of victims of Palestinian suicide bombers who claim the Bank of China facilitated transfers of funds used to carry out the suicide attacks, and other attacks which are not part of the case. The Israeli government initially pushed for the official’s testimony because it would have shed light on the services the Bank of China offered Hamas and Islamic Jihad – but now says it would not allow him to testify for fear the testimony would reveal methods and sources.Critics of Netanyahu’s U-turn on the issue of fighting terrorism, an issue which has been central to his political career, say that preventing the official from testifying has nothing to do with intelligence information. Rather, it has to do with Israel’s growing economic and security relations with China.

  • Security agencies concerned about plastic guns

    The Undetectable firearms Act of 1988, which makes it illegal to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, process, transfer, or receive a firearm which is not detectable by walk-through metal detection, is set to expire on 9 December 2013. If Congress fails to reauthorize the law, plastic guns will no longer require metal components which are detectable by metal detectors. “When these 3D firearms are manufactured, some of the weapons can defeat normal detection such as metal detectors, wands, and it could present a problem to public safety in a venue such as an airport, an arena, a courthouse,” says ATF assistant director Richard Marianos.

  • Ohio lawmakers want to limit use of drones by law enforcement

    State lawmakers in Ohio want to limit the use of drones by law enforcement agencies in the state.A proposed bill would require law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before using drones. It would prohibit law enforcement from using drones to search for missing persons, locate illegal marijuana operations, or perform several actions officers currently handle with helicopter surveillance.

  • Advanced police surveillance technologies pose significant privacy concerns

    Much of the attention on surveillance in the media focuses on the National Security Agency (NSA), but there is not a lot of scrutiny on local domestic surveillance. In 1997, about 20 percent of police departments in the United States used some type of technological surveillance. By 2007, that number had risen to more than 70 percent of departments. Experts in criminal law and information privacy warn that the widespread use of advanced surveillance technologies such as automatic license plate readers, surveillance cameras, red light cameras, and facial recognition software by state and local police departments, combined with a lack of oversight and regulation, have the potential to develop into a form of widespread community surveillance, which ought to pose significant privacy concerns to law-abiding citizens.

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  • DHS: conspiracy theories about DHS purchases unequivocally false

    Conspiracy theorists have pointed to several DHS solicitations for gear and ammunition as “proof” that the department is in the process of creating, training, and equipping a secret force, the purpose of which would be to suppress public dissent – or worse: one blogger wrote that “Another possible conclusion [regarding DHS’s ammo purchases] is that the bullets are intended to coerce and, if need be, kill us.” DHS flatly rejects these conspiratorial assertions as unequivocally false, saying that each and every purchase is in line with past purchases and in support of on-going, legitimate, and transparent departmental operations.

  • Weakening cybersecurity to facilitate NSA surveillance is dangerous: experts

    In the wake of revelations about the NSA surveillance programs, an expert on surveillance and cybersecurity recommended a re-evaluation of those surveillance practices that weaken commercial products and services. These practices include weakening standards and placing “back doors” into products that are accessible to U.S. government agencies. The expert – Jon Peha, former chief technology officer of the FCC and assistant director of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology — said deliberately weakening commercial products and services may make it easier for U.S. intelligence agencies to conduct surveillance, but “this strategy also inevitably makes it easier for criminals, terrorists and foreign powers to infiltrate these systems for their own purposes.”

  • Lawmakers want better security clearance process

    The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee(HSGAC) held a hearing last week to review security clearance procedures in light of Edward Snowden’s leaks and the Washington Navy Yard assault in which contractor Aaron Alexis shot and killed twelve people. Members of various federal agencies involved in issuing security clearances testified about their initiatives to improve the security clearance process, but legislators pushed for concrete plans and changes to the current system.

  • Senate panel’s NSA curbs not enough: critics

    Yesterday, the Senate’s intelligence committee approved by an 11-4, and released the text of, a bill which would scale back the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records, increase congressional and judicial oversight of intelligence activities, and create 10-year prison sentences for people who access the classified material without authorization. Critics of U.S. surveillance programs and privacy rights advocates said the bill does little, if anything, to end the daily collection of millions of records that has spurred widespread demands for reform.

  • Court: a warrant is required for GPS tracking of suspects’ vehicles

    A federal appeals court in Philadelphia has ruled that law enforcement officials must obtain a warrant before attaching a GPS device to a suspect’s car.The appeals judges said that “A GPS search extends the police intrusion well past the time it would normally take officers to enter a target vehicle and locate, extract, or examine the then-existing evidence.” They also pointedly noted that “Generally speaking, a warrant-less search is not rendered reasonable merely because probable cause existed that would have justified the issuance of a warrant.”

  • DHS, FDA: Decorative contact lenses for Halloween costumes are risky

    Many will celebrate Halloween today, and federal officials are warning the public about the dangers associated with counterfeit decorative contact lenses. Decorative and colored lenses are becoming increasingly popular, especially around this time of year. Several federal agencies have teamed up to launch Operation Double Vision – already underway — to seize illegal, harmful products from store shelves.

  • U.S. tech companies increase lobbying efforts related to surveillance, NSA

    Technology firms Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, among other tech powerhouses, are quietly increasing lobbying efforts directed at government surveillance laws as they seek to have a say in what Congress does regarding surveillance reforms and National Security Agency (NSA) programs. Traditionally, tech firms have not pushed for restrictions on the ability of the U.S. intelligence community to collect data, and it is not clear what position these industry leaders will take, whether they plan to take a position at all, or whether they will present lawmakers with a united industry front.

  • Strike Two: The CBP’s failure to polygraph its future employees

    Two recent reports – one by the DHS OIG, the other by the GAO — raise an alarm not just about CBP’s failure to monitor and ameliorate the use of excessive force by its agents and officers, but also call into question the quality and character of CBP’s current work force. Rather than reassure the public that the CBP is transitioning into a modern, professional law enforcement agency, these two reports highlight the need for increased congressional oversight and study of an agency which is so vital to our national security.

  • U.S. worries about proliferation of drone technology

    A new Amnesty International report about U.S. drone use in the war on terror says that the drone campaign is killing so many civilians, that it does not only violate international law, but may be a war crime. The report also says that the growing use of drones by the United States in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia encourages their use by other states and groups. The United States rejects the figures of civilian casualties cited in the Amnesty report as unreliable, and says that the research methodology the report’s authors used is deeply flawed. The United States does agree, however, that there is a reason to worry about the proliferation of drone technology. “Going forward this is a technology that we know more people will probably get access to,” a State Department spokeswoman said.

  • Police departments adopt sophisticated, cheap-to-operate surveillance technology

    Advancements in surveillance technology have been adopted not only by the National Security Agency (N.S.A) or other federal intelligence agencies. Local police departments have also incorporated the latest surveillance technologies into their work, allowing them to track individuals for different purposes.

  • Backlash: growing interest in counter-surveillance tools

    The revelations about the NSA surveillance programs has prompted what some see as high-tech civil disobedience: a growing number of products and applications aiming to limit the NSA’s ability to access encrypted e-mails, obtain phone records, and listen to phone conversations.