Friday, November 27, 2009

FBI: Mounting Threat of Cyber Attacks

Federal law enforcement authorities are investigating suspected al Qaaeda sympathizers who might be planning an attack on America's computer networks, possibly targetting the financial, transportation, or energy sectors:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking at people with suspected links to al Qaeda who have shown an interest in mounting an attack on computer systems that control critical U.S. infrastructure, a senior official told Congress Tuesday.
While there is no evidence that terrorist groups have developed sophisticated cyber-attack capabilities, a lack of security protections in U.S. computer software increases the likelihood that terrorists could execute attacks in the future, the official warned.
If terrorists were to amass such capabilities, they would be wielded with "destructive and deadly intent," Steven Chabinsky, deputy assistant director of the FBI's Cyber Division, told the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday.

DHS: Make "EZ Pass" Permanent

The Homeland Security Department wants to make permanent a biometric-based international trusted traveler program:
The U.S. Homeland Security Department today proposed to make permanent its ongoing Global Entry pilot program, which expedites and automates the customs process for prescreened travelers entering the United States.
The pilot program, initially launched in June 2008 at three airports, has since expanded to include 20 major U.S. entry points, including airports in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Washington, D.C. Releasing the program from pilot mode would enable DHS to further expand the program. The proposal now undergoes a public comment period, ending Jan. 19, 2010.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the agency that operates the program, said Global Entry is available to travelers who pay a non-refundable $100 enrollment fee and undergo a background check to demonstrate clean criminal, customs and immigration records.
When arriving in the United States, Global Entry members can bypass lines for customs agents and scan their passport through an automated kiosk, where a photo is taken, declaration questions are fielded and the traveler is asked to submit fingerprints to be matched against those on file. CBP said the kiosk then prints a receipt, which the traveler must present to a CBP officer upon leaving the customs area.

Court Documents: Recruits Lured to Somalia

From the Los Angeles Times, Minneapolis-area men trained to fight in Somali militias:
Federal authorities unsealed criminal charges Monday against eight suspects alleged to be part of a U.S. recruiting network that sent young men to fight in Somalia -- one of the largest militant operations uncovered in this country since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The court documents disclosed how some older members of the Somali American community in Minneapolis are believed to have lured younger ones to fight in Somalia -- some as suicide bombers -- with an Al Qaeda-affiliated group known as Al Shabab, or "The Youth."
The charges include providing financial support to fighters who traveled to Somalia, attending Al Shabab training camps and fighting with the group against the U.S.-backed transitional government there, as well as against Ethiopian government forces and African Union troops.
The recruitment of young people from Minneapolis and other U.S. communities "has been the focus of intense investigation for many months," said David Kris, the assistant attorney general for national security.

Gang Counterinsurgency in Salinas

Military counterinsurgency tactics are being deployed in gang-ridden Salinas, California:
Since February, combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have been advising Salinas police on counterinsurgency strategy, bringing lessons from the battlefield to the meanest streets in an American city.
"This is our surge," said [Mayor Dennis] Donohue, who solicited the assistance from the elite Naval Postgraduate School, 20 miles and a world away in Monterey. "When the public heard about this, they thought we were going to send the Navy SEALs into Salinas."
In fact, the cavalry arrived in civvies, carrying laptops rather than M-16s and software instead of mortars. In this case, the most valuable military asset turned out to be an idea: Change the dynamic in the community and victory can follow.
"It's a little laboratory," said retired Col. Hy Rothstein, the former Army career officer in Special Forces who heads the team of 15 faculty members and students, mostly naval officers taking time between deployments to pick up a master's degree. Their effort in Salinas counts as extracurricular and is necessarily voluntary, given the constitutional bar on the military operating within U.S. borders.