Nov 23

As many as 4 million people are expected to attend Obama’s inauguration at the Mall.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Law enforcement officials bracing for the largest crowds in inaugural history are preparing far-reaching security – thousands of video cameras, sharpshooters, air patrols – to safeguard President-elect Barack Obama’s swearing-in.

People attending the ceremony and parade on Jan. 20 can expect to be searched by machines, security personnel or both. Precautions will range from the routine – magnetometers like those used at airports – to countersnipers trained to hit a target the size of a teacup saucer from 1,000 yards away. Plus undercover officers, bomb sniffing dogs and air patrols.

The Secret Service – the agency coordinating the security – also has assigned trained officials to identify and prevent cyber security risks. And, as it does at every inauguration, the service has mapped out escape routes for the 44th president.

In addition Washington’s 5,265 surveillance cameras, spread around the city, are expected to be fed into a multi-agency command center.

Continue reading »

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May 30

Chertoff has recently cleared the way for the completion of nearly 500 miles of a planned barrier fence in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

JERUSALEM, May 29 (Reuters) – U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on Thursday he will seek to adopt novel Israeli methods, like behaviour-detection technologies, to better secure America’s airports.

“That’s a scenario where Israel has a lot of experience,” Chertoff said in an interview with Reuters. “I think that it is of interest to us to see if there is any adaptation there.”

Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport, known for its strict security measures, relies heavily on techniques that detect suspicious behaviour among travellers.

Chertoff said such methods, as well as Israeli technologies that detect explosives, are some of the things that may help protect U.S. airports and other public places against attacks.

Chertoff, at a conference in Jerusalem for public and homeland security ministers from around the world, signed an agreement with Israel to share technology and information on methods to improve homeland security.

One of the new systems presented at the conference, developed by the Israeli technology company WeCU, uses behavioural science, together with biometric sensors, to detect sinister intentions among travellers.

The U.S. homeland security chief said that not all methods developed and used in Israel, such as questioning every passenger, are practical in larger U.S. airports.

Israel’s Ben Gurion handles about 9 million travellers a year while major U.S. hubs, like Chicago O’Hare, see some 76 million passengers.

“Not every technological approach here (in Israel) is necessarily applicable, but we are always open to look for technology from whatever source,” Chertoff said.

Chertoff also said that the U.S. could not adopt border security methods used in Israel, which prevent Palestinian militants from entering its territory, for U.S. efforts to stop illegal immigrants from crossing its frontier with Mexico.

“(It’s) a vastly longer border. It’s not an area where there is much useful experience,” he said.

Chertoff has recently cleared the way for the completion of nearly 500 miles of a planned barrier fence in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

“The challenge will be to keep moving forward. We need to continue to implement the measures we have in place and continue to look for additional things to match what the enemies are doing because they are constantly retooling themselves,” he said.

Chertoff is expected to leave his post when President George W. Bush finishes his term in January 2009. (Editing by Jon Boyle)

Thu May 29, 2008 4:03pm EDT

Source: Reuters

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May 10

Thousands of foreigners are being allowed to work in high security parts of Britain’s airports without passing proper criminal record checks, it was disclosed last night.

Despite warnings that terrorists would try to recruit people working “airside” in terminals – with direct access to aircraft and baggage – no attempt has been made to check whether foreign workers have committed any offences abroad.

The vetting process checks only for crimes committed in Britain. Foreign workers – arriving from inside or outside the European Union – are not checked in their country of origin.

This means that someone with a conviction for firearms or explosives offences committed abroad could, for example, take a job loading bags on to aircraft at Heathrow, Gatwick or any other airport, provided they had committed no crimes here.

The security lapse was called “absolutely astonishing” by David Davis, the shadow home secretary, who demanded “full and immediate checks”. Continue reading »

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May 04

The State Department has lost track of as many as 400 laptop computers, an internal audit ordered by the Inspector General has found.

“The importance of safeguarding official laptops and office equipment containing sensitive information is not a new concern,” said State Department overseer Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-NY) through a spokesperson to CQ Politics. “I intend to review the facts about this situation.”

The computers belong to the Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program, run by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which protects diplomats during stateside visits and trains and equips foreign police, intelligence and security forces. Anonymous sources say that officials are “urgently” scouring offices in the Washington, D.C. area to account for the equipment.

The State Department is not keeping good records of its inventory, official John Streufert told a panel at a February 6 meeting on the security of “personal identification information,” citing a “significant deficiency.” Mark Duda, the Inspector General’s representative, also warned of scandal like the one that erupted in May of 2006, after the home of a Veterans Administration employee was burglarized and a laptop he was using for a work project, containing names, Social Security numbers and birthdates of more than 26 million people, was taken.

“It’s the worst flaw you can have in management control,” said a “close observer.”

Published: Saturday May 3, 2008

Source: The Raw Story

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Apr 26

Photo: Vincent Laforet

At the southernmost end of Brooklyn, just off Dead Horse Bay, there’s a weather-beaten helipad where the New York Police Department keeps a gray unmarked twin-engine Bell 412 helicopter. Detective Brendan Galligan ushers me aboard. “We don’t really let people see this,” he says.

We climb in behind the pilot and find ourselves facing a console with three screens: One shows a map of the city; another, an interface for checking license plates and addresses; and the third, the view from a gyro-stabilized L-3 Wescam camera attached to the chopper’s nose. The camera can see clear across the city, in both the visible and the infrared slices of the spectrum; then it can broadcast the images to police headquarters using an onboard microwave transmitter.

The helicopter, part of New York City’s antiterror arsenal, takes off and climbs to 1,000 feet in the afternoon sunshine. Passing the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Galligan scans for suspicious trucks lingering on approach ramps. Over the Staten Island Ferry, he explains how police routinely use the chopper to look for boats that might be trailing too closely. Then, as we swing past the gaping World Trade Center site, the 22-year veteran adjusts the joystick to turn the camera eastward, filling the third screen with the towers of lower Manhattan: the center of the center of the bull’s-eye.

The New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, the Federal Reserve Bank, City Hall, four major bridges and tunnels — a bomb at any of these places could kill hundreds, cost the city billions, and rattle the world financial system. Al Qaeda has hit lower Manhattan twice, in 1993 and 2001, and officials say that several other plots have been broken up since.

City agencies have done their best to harden the financial district in the years since 2001. Today, explosives-sniffing dogs and two truckloads of cops wearing military-style body armor and waving M-4 machine guns surround the flag-draped stock exchange. Black metallic barriers rise out of the asphalt, blocking traffic on Wall Street, while concrete planters and strategically parked trucks keep vehicles off Broad Street. Some of the other streets surrounding the exchange have been cut off to pedestrians, and only invited guests are allowed inside. “Closed since 9/11,” the guard tells visitors.

But you can’t block off every street or have a guard by every door. There’s no budget for that, and no one would want to live or work in that kind of armed camp anyway. “You can make a justification for putting bollards in front of every building,” says a former high-ranking NYPD counterterrorism official. “But pretty soon you can’t walk anywhere. People leave.”

So New York has an audacious blueprint to wrap a high tech cloak around lower Manhattan. It will provide the most sophisticated armor of any major urban area in the world — one that relies on brains as much as brawn, on barely visible technology as much as brute stopping power. And the chopper I’m in will be just a small piece of it. Continue reading »

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Apr 19

Airports in New York and Los Angeles have become the latest equipped with body scanners that allow security screeners to peer beneath a passenger’s clothing to detect concealed weapons.

The machines, which are about the size of a revolving door, use low-energy electromagnetic waves to produce a computerized image of a traveler’s entire body.

Passengers step in and lift their arms. The scans only take a minute, and Transportation Security Administration officials say the procedure is less invasive than a physical frisk for knives, bombs or guns.

Someday, the “millimeter wave” scans might replace metal detectors, but for now they are being used selectively.

Los Angeles International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York saw their first scanners installed Thursday, each at a single checkpoint. Phoenix Sky-Harbor International Airport got one of the machines in October.

Modest travelers may have concerns about the images.

The black and white, three-dimensional scans aren’t as vivid as a photograph, but they do reveal some of the more intimate curves of the human form, maybe with as much clarity as an impressionist sculpture by Auguste Rodin. Continue reading »

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Apr 14

Imagine a world of streets lined with video cameras that alert authorities to any suspicious activity. A world where police officers can read the minds of potential criminals and arrest them before they commit any crimes. A world in which a suspect who lies under questioning gets nabbed immediately because his brain has given him away.

Though that may sound a lot like the plot of the 2002 movie “Minority Report,” starring Tom Cruise and based on a Philip K. Dick novel, I’m not talking about science fiction here; it turns out we’re not so far away from that world. But does it sound like a very safe place, or a very scary one?

It’s a question I think we should be asking as the federal government invests millions of dollars in emerging technology aimed at detecting and decoding brain activity. And though government funding focuses on military uses for these new gizmos, they can and do end up in the hands of civilian law enforcement and in commercial applications. As spending continues and neurotechnology advances, that imagined world is no longer the stuff of science fiction or futuristic movies, and we postpone at our peril confronting the ethical and legal dilemmas it poses for a society that values not just personal safety but civil liberty as well.

Consider Cernium Corp.’s “Perceptrak” video surveillance and monitoring system, recently installed by Johns Hopkins University, among others. This technology grew out of a project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — the central research and development organization for the Department of Defense — to develop intelligent video analytics systems. Unlike simple video cameras monitored by security guards, Perceptrak integrates video cameras with an intelligent computer video. It uses algorithms to analyze streaming video and detect suspicious activities, such as people loitering in a secure area, a group converging or someone leaving a package unattended. Since installing Perceptrak, Johns Hopkins has reported a 25 percent reduction in crime.

But that’s only the beginning. Police may soon be able to monitor suspicious brain activity from a distance as well. New neurotechnology soon may be able to detect a person who is particularly nervous, in possession of guilty knowledge or, in the more distant future, to detect a person thinking, “Only one hour until the bomb explodes.” Today, the science of detecting and decoding brain activity is in its infancy. But various government agencies are funding the development of technology to detect brain activity remotely and are hoping to eventually decode what someone is thinking. Scientists, however, wildly disagree about the accuracy of brain imaging technology, what brain activity may mean and especially whether brain activity can be detected from afar.

Yet as the experts argue about the scientific limitations of remote brain detection, this chilling science fiction may already be a reality. In 2002, the Electronic Privacy Information Center reported that NASA was developing brain monitoring devices for airports and was seeking to use noninvasive sensors in passenger gates to collect the electronic signals emitted by passengers’ brains. Scientists scoffed at the reports, arguing that to do what NASA was proposing required that an electroencephalogram (EEG) be physically attached to the scalp. Continue reading »

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Apr 14

ROME (Reuters) – Food riots in developing countries will spread unless world leaders take major steps to reduce prices for the poor, the head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Friday.

Despite a forecast 2.6 percent hike (This is disinformation.) in global cereal output this year, record prices are unlikely to fall, forcing poorer countries’ food import bills up 56 percent and hungry people on to the streets, FAO Director General Jacques Diouf said.

“The reality is that people are dying already in the riots,” Diouf told a news conference.

“They are dying because of their reaction to the situation and if we don’t take the necessary action there is certainly the possibility that they might die of starvation. Naturally people won’t be sitting dying of starvation, they will react.”

The FAO said food riots had broken out in several African countries, Indonesia, the Philippines and Haiti. Thirty-seven countries face food crises, it said in its latest World Food Situation report. Continue reading »

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