Surveillance

  • A civilian may be appointed to head the NSA

    The Obama administration is considering appointing a civilian to lead the National Security Agency (NSA). If carried out, the move would install a civilian to lead the agency for the first time since its founding in 1952. Keith Alexander, the current director of the NSA, is a four-star Army general. He plans to retire next spring.

  • 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.

  • U.S. intelligence community seeking better face recognition biometrics

    Intelligence analysts often rely on facial images to assist in establishing the identity of an individual, but too often, just examining the sheer volume of possibly relevant images and videos can be daunting. While biometric tools like automated face recognition could assist analysts in this task, current tools perform best on the well-posed, frontal facial photos taken for identification purposes. The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), the research arm of the U.S. intelligence community, is seeking significantly to improve the current performance of face recognition tools by fusing the rich spatial, temporal, and contextual information available from the multiple views captured by today’s media.

  • 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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  • Navy blimp returns to Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. skies today

    The U.S. Navy’s only manned airship, a modified American Blimp Corporation A-170 series commercial blimp, will return to the skies of Maryland today, 12 November, to conduct week-long testing of experimental avionics systems.Results of this research may ultimately help protect forward deployed U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps troops around the globe.

  • DoD ends ambitious blimp program

    The Department of Defensehas decided to end its Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) project.The blimp was supposed to fly for as long as three weeks at a time, gather intelligence using 2,500 pounds worth of the most advanced cameras, sensors, and other intelligence technology. Operating at an altitude of 20,000 feet, the airship was designed to withstand enemy fire with its blend of fabrics, including kevlar. The Pentagon spent $297 million on the airship, but last month sold it back to one of the contractors which built it for $301,000.

  • Kenya, Somalia to create joint anti-terrorism task force

    Al-Shabaab’s attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi last month has prompted security officials in Kenya and Somalia to consider the creation of a joint task force which will share intelligence, monitor activity, and track finances relating to terrorist groups operating in East Africa. Also under discussion is the establishment of a joint East African paramilitary force with jurisdiction throughout the region.

  • 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.”

  • U.S. tech companies could go “dark” to regain trust

    With each new revelation of the scope of the American National Security Agency’s spying, perceptions of the importance of privacy are hardening around the world. There is thus a motivation for major technology companies to provide a verifiably secure means of allowing users to communicate securely without an ability for the companies to provide access to security agencies, even if requested to. Two companies, Silent Circle and Lavabit, have come together to form the Dark Mail alliance in an attempt to do exactly this.

  • FBI mulling use of video recognition technology

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    The Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI) is considering the use of video recognition technology to identify suspects in videos and still images based on facial and behavioral recognition. The proposed smart-video technology would scan crime scene footage against records of people, places, and objects to highlight possible suspects and their whereabouts.

  • ShotSpotter helps Washington, D.C. police track gunshots

    Law enforcement officers in Washington, D.C are better equipped to track and monitor gunshots in the city’s most violent neighborhoods by using ShotSpotter, a system of rooftop sensors which recognizes sounds from gunfire. Law enforcement officials can track shooting incidents and also predict locations and time of future shooting incidents by analyzing records provided by ShotSpotter.

  • UAV developer CyPhy Works raises $7 million to build flying robots

    Danvers, Massachusetts-based CyPhy Works, a developer of advanced UAVs, the other day announced the close of a $7 million financing round led by Lux Capital, with participation from General Catalyst Partners, Felicis Ventures, and several undisclosed angel investors. As part of the financing, Lux Capital Partner Bilal Zuberi will join the CyPhy Works board of directors. The company says it targets 24/7 “persistent” operations.

  • 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.”