13 Jul

BBC News – US airports still vulnerable to attacks, says lawmaker

More than 25,000 security breaches have occurred at US airports since November 2001, a congressional panel has heard.

Jason Chaffetz cited government figures showing the airports were still vulnerable to terror attacks, despite billions invested in security.

Some 6,000 passengers and pieces of luggage breached security screening.

But the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said the number of breaches represented a fraction of the 5.5bn people screened since 2001.

The TSA said the definition of a security breach was broad, and could represent a range of different situations.

Mr Chaffetz, chairman of a House of Representatives subcommittee, told the panel that more than 14,000 people were able to access sensitive areas of US airports since 2001.

Some 6,000 passengers and pieces of carry-on luggage were able to make it past government checkpoints without proper scrutiny.

via BBC News – US airports still vulnerable to attacks, says lawmaker. The TSA is so effective it’s ineffective.

21 Apr

BBC News – Jihadists use mobiles as propaganda tools

Islamic militants have developed sophisticated ways of spreading propaganda via mobile, a study suggests.

Researchers found jihadists were compiling packages of information designed to be received on smartphones.

They contained copies of videos, songs, speeches and images that followers are encouraged to pass on.

Some were using Bluetooth short-range radio technology to anonymously spread information to potential supporters.

The study was led by German researcher Nico Prucha who has spent seven years cataloguing the materials put online by Jihadists.

Mr Prucha said that without technologies such as the web and mobile phones, al-Qaeda may well have withered a long time ago.

"It’s the only way for them to remain part of the debate," he said. "Without it they would be isolated like they were in the 1980s."

Mr Prucha said that before the rise of the internet it was difficult for those interested in al-Qaeda or other militant groups to find information.

via BBC News – Jihadists use mobiles as propaganda tools. What a stupid article, if it was the 1980’s we would all be as isolated as if it was the 1980’s. Any technology can be just as equally used by terrorists or criminals, in the same manner as we use it.

31 Dec

The Washington Post – One tip enough to put name on watch list

The failure to put Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on the watch list last year renewed concerns that the government’s system to screen out potential terrorists was flawed. Even though Abdulmutallab’s father had told U.S. officials of his son’s radicalization in Yemen, government rules dictated that a single-source tip was insufficient to include a person’s name on the watch list.

Since then, senior counterterrorism officials say they have altered their criteria so that a single-source tip, as long as it is deemed credible, can lead to a name being placed on the watch list.

The government’s master watch list is one of roughly a dozen lists, or databases, used by counterterrorism officials. Officials have periodically adjusted the criteria used to maintain it.

But civil liberties groups argue that the government’s new criteria, which went into effect over the summer, have made it even more likely that individuals who pose no threat will be swept up in the nation’s security apparatus, leading to potential violations of their privacy and making it difficult for them to travel.

via The Washington Post – One tip enough to put name on watch list. Another in a long list of stupid over-reactions that does really nothing but close the door after the horse is out.

11 Dec

The Economist – Another WikiLeaks inkblot: American exceptionalism, American hypocrisy

The more plausible that line of thought sounds to you, the more WikiLeaks will strike you as something akin to a terrorist enterprise. But the more you see a hegemonic America as a problem and not a solution, the more WikiLeaks will strike you as a welcome check on a dangerous, out-of-control hyperpower drunk on its own good intentions. In that case, it may seem that the American political establishment and the collaborating media has grown blind to the hypocrisy so clearly apparent to others in its approach to WikiLeaks because it has forgotten that freedom and democracy have meaning apart from their role in justifying the operations of the far-flung secret-shrouded state.

via The Economist – Another WikiLeaks inkblot: American exceptionalism, American hypocrisy. This is probably the best explanation as to why the Wikileaks story is so polarizing.

01 Dec

CNET News – Congressman wants WikiLeaks listed as terrorist org

The incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee says WikiLeaks should be officially designated as a terrorist organization.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the panel’s next head, asked the Obama administration today to "determine whether WikiLeaks could be designated a foreign terrorist organization," putting the group in the same company as Al Qaeda and Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese cult that released deadly sarin gas on the Tokyo subway.

via CNET News – Congressman wants WikiLeaks listed as terrorist org. Perhaps more interesting is what Wikipedia’s Co-Founder had to say.

@wikileaks Speaking as Wikipedia’s co-founder, I consider you enemies of the U.S.–not just the government, but the people.

Sarah Palin of course also had to speak up, but proved she doesn’t have a clue about international law, copyright and secrecy laws.

Inexplicable: I recently won in court to stop my book “America by Heart” from being leaked,but US Govt can’t stop Wikileaks’ treasonous act?

In short everybody has a reaction, overall mine is Wikileaks is a valuable service, in no way is it a terrorist organization. It’s goal does not appear to be sheer destruction of governments or organizations or even chaos of those same instutions. It is an organization driven to do one thing publish information that otherwise might not be exposed to the public.

30 Nov

NYTimes.com – Color-Coded Terror Alerts to Be Dropped by Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security is planning to get rid of the color-coded terrorism alert system. Known officially as the Homeland Security Advisory System, the five-color scheme was introduced by the Bush administration in March 2002.

Red, the highest level, meant “severe risk of terrorist attacks.” The lowest level, green, meant “low risk of terrorist attacks.” Between those were blue (guarded risk), yellow (significant) and orange (high).

The nation has generally lived in the yellow and orange range. The threat level has never been green, or even blue.

In an interview on “The Daily Show” last year, the homeland security chief, Janet Napolitano, said the department was “revisiting the whole issue of color codes and schemes as to whether, you know, these things really communicate anything to the American people any more.”

The answer, apparently, is no.

The color-coded threat levels were doomed to fail because “they don’t tell people what they can do — they just make people afraid,” said Bruce Schneier, an author on security issues. He said the system was “a relic of our panic after 9/11” that “never served any security purpose.”

via NYTimes.com – Color-Coded Terror Alerts to Be Dropped by Homeland Security. It only took the Department of Homeland Security 8 years to realize what a stupid and useless metric this was. Mainly because it never went down to where it should generally remain (blue and green).

26 Dec

TSA May Increase Travel Restrictions

Due to a recent incident aboard a US bound flight, where a passenger ignited an explosive powder but which was quickly doused by both fellow passengers and crew members. The TSA is evidently considering disallowing passengers from moving around in the final hour of a plane ride. Quoting from the New York Times article:

According to a statement posted Saturday morning on Air Canada’s Web site, the Transportation Security Administration will severely limit the behavior of both passengers and crew during flights in United States airspace — restricting movement in the last hour of flight. Late Saturday morning, the T.S.A. had not yet included this new information on its own Web site.

As of now I’m also not seeing anything on the TSA site to confirm or deny this statement. But let’s assume that the TSA will in fact restrict travel in this manner. You are going to restrict travelers from moving in the last hour of a plane ride due to a single failed incident in which the person could have tried to light the explosive powder at any point during their flight. So you are really just moving the threat to a different time frame during the trip. That and you are now going to make those short legs really hard to deal with since you already can’t move about the cabin during the climb to cruising altitude. That and plus the crew and passengers defeated this pretty easily and the psychology of passengers aren’t going to let them be so easily taken down (Bruce Schneier talked about this but I am having trouble finding a citation).

My point here is that

  1. this is a pretty localized and small incident that was easily stopped
  2. responding to this single act with an overly broad and inefficient measure does nothing but annoy more people.

Or we could just have the shock collars and be herded like prisoners on and off planes.

Right after I finished this I found a nice article complementing my point from MG Seigler at Techcrunch. And Schneier responds to the rules here.