Napolitano Says Al-Qaeda-Style Terrorists Are in U.S.

Nothing like a little fear-mongering to whip us some good old fashioned paranoia. This whole article is so full of crap (well, they are quoting Napolitano, so what do you expect?).

From Bloomberg:

Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) — Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said law-enforcement authorities are tracking terrorists with al-Qaeda leanings in the U.S.

“It is fair to say there are individuals in the United States who ascribe to al-Qaeda-type beliefs,” Napolitano said in an interview with Bloomberg Television today. “And so it makes information-sharing, it makes effective law enforcement and it makes the shared responsibility of law enforcement ever so important.”

Information-sharing between federal, state and local law- enforcement agencies is “much improved” since the Sept. 11 attacks, she said.

In September, U.S. authorities indicted Najibullah Zazi, 24, an Afghan immigrant and former Denver airport shuttle-van driver, on federal terrorism conspiracy charges. They said bomb-making instructions were found on a laptop computer in his rental car.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the case had connections to al-Qaeda, the terrorist group that attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001.

The threat of attack “is always with us,” Napolitano said today. Benchmark stock indexes trimmed gains after her comments.

Napolitano, 51, made her remarks in an interview with Bloomberg reporters. She touched on a variety of areas she oversees.

Better Enforcement

Intelligence tips on terror suspects are more important than a system to track visitors leaving the country, she said. She also said better border enforcement will help make the case for immigration legislation.

The secretary said she met today with financial institutions on threats to computer systems. She said she also was in New York to appear on ABC’s “The View” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” on Viacom Inc.’s Comedy Central, seeking different venues from which to discuss homeland- security issues.

Successes against al-Qaeda have helped keep the main organization holed up in the tribal region of northwestern Pakistan, she said.

“Constant pressure on al-Qaeda through a variety of means, some of which have been through the Department of Defense, has really confined them geographically,” she said.

Tracing Finances

Al-Qaeda leaders have been caught or killed, and the group’s financing has been traced and blocked, Napolitano said. The leaders are adapting to the U.S. efforts by using affiliated groups in northern Africa and other regions to help plan attacks, she said.

“This is not a static target or a static threat environment,” she said. “We can’t simply say we can check this box and we can move on.”

In the U.S., the government has put money into gathering intelligence about the movements of terrorist suspects, Napolitano said. “The key thing is intelligence analysts,” she said.

This effort is more of a priority than developing a system that could keep track of visitors, she said. The government can’t track the more than 200,000 people who intentionally have overstayed their visas, the New York Times said today.

“Such a system would be very, very expensive and laborious to have, given the kinds of border we have,” she said. Scientists and engineers aren’t “even sure they have the technology to make it work.”

Border Patrol

In addition to improving intelligence, the U.S. is getting more control over its borders by adding Border Patrol agents and increasing enforcement, particularly in the Southwest, said Napolitano, who was governor of Arizona until President Barack Obama picked her for his Cabinet.

The stepped-up monitoring and rounding up of illegal border-crossers is quelling opposition to immigration legislation, she said.

“One of the things that has changed is that there has been a lot of enforcement at the Southwest border,” she said. “It’s just not the same border.”

Republican lawmakers in 2007 helped defeat a comprehensive immigration measure pushed by former President George W. Bush’s administration over concerns about lack of enforcement. The Bush-backed measure included a program that allowed foreigners to temporarily work in the U.S.

Napolitano declined to say when Congress would begin debate on another immigration measure. The Homeland Security department is working with Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, on the legislation, she said.

Cyber-Security

The secretary said she’s also focusing on increasing communication between the federal government and the private sector on boosting security of computer networks.

Leaders in financial security discussed with her today ways to protect the financial system from cyber-terrorism or other attacks, Napolitano said.

“The financial institutions of this country are part of our bedrock infrastructure,” she said. “They need to be protected. We need to be able to protect them.”

They discussed companies’ needs, barriers they are confronting and international threats, she said. Napolitano declined to name the people she met with, saying she didn’t have a list.

The U.S. is concerned about the use of computer systems to commit fraud or interfere with infrastructure, she said.

Computer Threats

She said financial leaders want to receive “actionable intelligence.” Larger banks and brokerages have “a pretty robust information-sharing system amongst them” about cyber- security, she said.

“We want to make sure that medium-, small-size local financial institutions are properly looped in and that they have a point of contact in the Department of Homeland Security either to report intrusions or prevent intrusions,” she said.

On another issue, Napolitano said she expected many U.S. residents to be vaccinated against the swine flu, also known as H1N1, once the vaccine becomes widely available.

The first doses of swine flu vaccine were given to health- care workers and children last week, and about 6.8 million doses are available to be shipped. This influenza strain and the seasonal flu require separate shots, which can be taken at the same time. The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the swine flu is widespread in 37 states.

The H1NI vaccine “is a very safe vaccine,” Napolitano said. “We can prevent a lot of illness and perhaps death, the more people we can vaccinate.”

Getting Shots

The secretary said she’s concerned about polls that show many Americans won’t be getting a swine flu shot.

“This is something where getting the vaccine is so much the better” than not, she said. “We need to keep pumping out that information.”

Three studies published today found that the swine flu caused respiratory problems in otherwise-healthy young patients, a pattern similar to the 1918 flu that killed millions of people.

Swine flu has killed about 4,500 people worldwide, including more than 600 in the U.S., the World Health Organization reported last week.

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Firefighters stood to lose grant to ACORN

From The Washington Times:

By Audrey Hudson

EDITORS’ NOTE: THIS STORY HAS BEEN CORRECTED.

Nearly $1 million in Homeland Security funding typically earmarked for fire departments has been awarded to ACORN before Congress signaled that it intended to cut off federal funding to the embattled group.

The grant to ACORN’s Louisiana office became public in September before the House and Senate voted to cut off ACORN funding after employees were caught on video advising a fake prostitute and pimp on scams.

It was one of only three such grants issued to the state and made up almost 80 percent of the firefighting money earmarked for Louisiana, prompting one of the U.S. senators from the state to demand that the funds be taken back.

“I request that you rescind this grant based on a history of abuse of federal dollars by ACORN and their clear lack of expertise in this area,” said Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican.

When asked how the money would be spent, ACORN spokesman Brian Kettenring issued a statement criticizing the senator, who confessed in the past to having used an escort service.

“Senator Vitter knows a lot more about prostitution rings than anyone here does, so we’ll defer to him on any matters pertaining to the videos attacking ACORN,” the statement read. It did not explain how the group plans to spend the Federal Emergency Management Agency grant.

Mr. Vitter, who was routinely notified of the grant before it became public, sent his letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Sept. 22, saying the money should be given “to a more deserving group of first responders.”

One such group might have been the St. Tammany Parish Fire District No. 3, which applied for a $120,000 grant to purchase smoke alarms for low-income families after a January fire killed four childrenin a home that had no working detectors.

“We wanted to buy smoke detectors to spread to homes all over the community to prevent that from happening again,” Chief Charles Flynn said in an interview Tuesday.

Read entire article

Homeland Security plans to scan air travelers’ bodily functions

From Raw Story (with video):

A Department of Homeland Security program that tries to detect air passengers who are “up to no good” is raising privacy concerns, says a CNN report which aired Tuesday.

CNN’s Jeanne Meserve described DHS’s Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST) as “marrying a lot of existing technology, some of it medical,” to measure breathing, heart rate, blinking, fidgeting, and other bodily functions of passengers at airports.

The idea is essentially to create a remote lie detector, where sensors placed at airport security screening areas would be able to monitor a passenger’s physical reaction to questions being asked by screeners.

Critics have likened the concept to the “Department of Pre-Crime” in the 2001 film Minority Report, which describes a future where persons are caught and convicted of crimes before they occur.

Originally entitled Project Hostile Intent, the program was revealed by the science magazine NewScientist in 2007. According to a report at the time in the UK’s Guardian, “the new devices are expected to be trialled at a handful of airports, borders and ports of entry by 2012.”

As of last year, the program was “running at about 78 percent accuracy on mal-intent detection, and 80 percent on deception,” according to DHS science spokesman John Verrico.

The Guardian reported in 2007:

The plans describe how systems based on video cameras, laserlight, infra-red, audio recordings and eye tracking technology are expected to scour crowds looking for unusual behaviour, with the aim of identifying people who should be approached and quizzed by security staff, New Scientist magazine reports.

The project hopes to advance a security system already employed by the US transportation security administration that monitors people for unintentional facial twitches, called “micro-expressions”, that can suggest someone is lying or trying to conceal information.

“Questions remain, however, as to how secure the system is. The machines could reveal health conditions like heart murmurs and breathing problems as well as stress levels – which would be an invasion of privacy,” NewScientist reported last year.

“It is an invasion of privacy,” Jay Stanley, director of public education for the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Program, told CNN. “Nobody has the right to look at my intimate bodily functions, my heart rate, my breathing, from afar.”

And, as Meserve noted, “some experts are doubtful the system can distinguish between potential terrorists and people stressed for other reasons, like a late flight.”

“There’s not much science here,” said Stephen Fienberg, professor of statistics and social science at Carnegie Mellon University. “In fact, there may be no science here. And I’m really worried that we’re going to carried away by the hype, and there’s just nothing here. The emperor may have no clothes.”

Homeland Security to hire 1,000 cybersecurity experts

From ComputerWorld.com:

Network World – The Department of Homeland Security wants to hire 1,000 cybersecurity professionals in the next three years, according to agency Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The department has the authority to recruit and hire cybersecurity professionals across DHS over the next three years in order to help fulfill its mission to protect the nation’s cyber infrastructure, systems and networks, she said.

“This new hiring authority will enable DHS to recruit the best cyber analysts, developers and engineers in the world to serve their country by leading the nation’s defenses against cyber threats,” Napolitano stated.

DHS is the focal point for the security of cyberspace — including analysis, warning, information sharing, vulnerability reduction, mitigation, and recovery efforts for public and private critical infrastructure information systems.

The hiring authority, which results from a collaborative effort between DHS, the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget, lets DHS staff up to 1,000 positions over three years across all DHS agencies to fulfill critical cybersecurity roles, including cyber risk and strategic analysis, cyber incident response, vulnerability detection and assessment, intelligence and investigation, and network and systems engineering.

The need for DHS to bolster its security realm is a hot topic. A Government Accountability Office report this year said that while DHS established the National Cyber Security Division to be responsible for leading national day-to-day cybersecurity efforts that has not enabled DHS to become the national focal point for security as envisioned.

The GAO said the Defense Department and other organizations within the intelligence community that have significant resources and capabilities have come to dominate federal efforts. The group told the GAO there also needs to be an independent cybersecurity organization that integrates the capabilities of the private sector, civilian government, law enforcement, military, intelligence community, and the nation’s international allies to address incidents against the nation’s critical cyber systems and functions.

The cybersecurity jobs announcement comes on the same day that the FBI said fraudsters are targeting social networking sites with increased frequency. Users need to take precautions, the FBI warned.

The FBI said fraudsters continue to hijack accounts on social networking sites and spread malicious software using various techniques. One technique involves the use of spam to promote phishing sites, claiming there has been a violation of the terms of agreement or some other type of issue which needs to be resolved. Other spam entices users to download an application or view a video. Some spam appears to be sent from users’ “friends”, giving the perception of being legitimate. Once the user responds to the phishing site, downloads the application, or clicks on the video link, their computer, telephone or other digital device becomes infected, the FBI stated.

Meanwhile legislators are trying to encourage cooperation among universities and businesses to develop technology needed to carry out a strategic government effort to fight cyber attacks.

A U.S. House subcommittee is recommending a bill that calls for a university-industry task force to coordinate joint cybersecurity research and development projects between business and academia. The Cybersecurity Research and Development Amendments Act of 2009 was approved recently by the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Research and Science Education Subcommittee.

The legislation would set up a scholarship program that pays college bills for students who study in fields related to cybersecurity. They would also get summer internships in the federal government. In return, the students would agree to work as cybersecurity professionals within the federal government for a period equal to the number of years they received scholarships. If there aren’t any jobs there, they would work for state or local governments in the same capacity or teach cybersecurity courses.

Middleville woman threatened with fines for watching neighbors’ kids

From WZZM13.com (with video):

MIDDLEVILLE, Mich. (WZZM) – A West Michigan woman says the state is threatening her with fines and possibly jail time for babysitting her neighbors’ children.

Lisa Snyder of Middleville says her neighborhood school bus stop is right in front of her home. It arrives after her neighbors need to be at work, so she watches three of their children for 15-40 minutes until the bus comes.

The Department of Human Services received a complaint that Snyder was operating an illegal child care home. DHS contacted Snyder and told her to get licensed, stop watching her neighbors’ kids, or face the consequences.

“It’s ridiculous.” says Snyder. “We are friends helping friends!” She added that she accepts no money for babysitting.

Mindy Rose, who leaves her 5-year-old with Snyder, agrees. “She’s a friend… I trust her.”

State Representative Brian Calley is drafting legislation that would exempt people who agree to care for non-dependent children from daycare rules as long as they’re not engaged in a business.

“We have babysitting police running around this state violating people, threatening to put them in jail or fine them $1,000 for helping their neighbor (that) is truly outrageous” says Rep. Calley.

A DHS spokesperson would not comment on the specifics of the case but says they have no choice but to comply with state law, which is designed to protect Michigan children.

DHS to review report on vulnerability in West Coast power grid

From ComputerWorld:

September 14, 2009 (Computerworld) The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is looking at a report by a research scientist in China that shows how a well-placed attack against a small power subnetwork could trigger a cascading failure of the entire West Coast power grid.

Jian-Wei Wang, a network analyst at China’s Dalian University of Technology, used publicly available information to model how the West Coast power grid and its component subnetworks are connected. Wang and another colleague then investigated how a major outage in one subnetwork would affect adjacent subnetworks, according to an article in New Scientist.

The aim of the research was to study potential weak spots on the West Coast grid, where an outage on one subnetwork would result in a cascading failure across the entire network. A cascading failure occurs when an outage on one network results in an adjacent network becoming overloaded, triggering a similar set of failures across the entire network. The massive blackouts in the Northeast in August 2003, which affected about 50 million people, were the result of such a cascading failure.

Wang’s research was expected to show that an outage in a heavily loaded network would result in smaller surrounding networks becoming overwhelmed and causing cascading blackouts. Instead, what the research showed was that under certain conditions, an attacker targeting a lightly loaded subnetwork would be able to cause far more of the grid to trip and fail, New Scientist reported, quoting Wang. The article does not describe Wang’s research (paid subscription required) or any further details of the attack.

Wang did not reply to an e-mailed request for comment seeking details on the report.

Wang’s report, which appears to have been largely overlooked until the publication of the New Scientist article last week, was completed last November and has been available online since March.

John Verrico, a spokesman for the DHS’s science and technology directorate, said the DHS has not reviewed the research but is “very interested in the findings.” In an e-mailed comment, Verrico said the DHS is working on a “self-limiting, high-temperature superconductor” technology that is designed to prevent power surges in one network from affecting surrounding networks.

The so-called inherently fault current limiting (IFCL) superconductor technology is part of the DHS’s Resilient Electric Grid project. According to a DHS description, the technology is capable of carrying 10 times as much power as current copper wires of the same size, while also being able to automatically adapt to massive power surges and outages. A single such IFCL cable will be capable of replacing 12 copper cable bundles.

The effort, which is funded by the DHS’s science and technology directorate, involves teams from American Superconductor Corp., Southwire Co. and Consolidated Edison Co. The technology was successfully tested at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee earlier this year. Pilot tests of the IFCL cable in New York are expected to start in 2010, Verrico said.

News about Wang’s research comes at a time when there are considerable concerns about the security of the U.S. power grid. In April, The Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous national security officials, reported that cyberspies from China, Russia and elsewhere had gained access to the U.S. electrical grid and had installed malware tools that could be used to shut down service. Though the access hasn’t been used to disrupt service, the concern is that the malicious hackers could do so with relatively short notice during a time of crisis or war.

In a letter sent to industry stakeholders in April, Michael Assante, chief security officer at the North American Electric Reliability Corp., drew attention to the need for operators, suppliers and distributors in the power sector to properly identify and protect critical assets and associated critical cyberassets. The letter lamented the apparent lack of awareness within the power sector of the cyberassets and noted how the horizontal nature of networked technology could allow attackers to take down multiple power sector assets at once, and from a distance.

Ground broken on $3.4 billion Homeland Security complex

This article contains a few downright scary quotes from such notables as Janet Napolitano (“It will help us build that culture of ‘One DHS.'”) and Joe Lieberman (“I feel like we’ve finally given a home to this child we’ve created, which is finally reaching maturity.”). And why didn’t they wait till tomorrow (Sept 11) to break ground like they did with the Pentagon? On the “bright” side, just think of all the jobs this will create.

From CNN:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Washington notables broke ground on the future home of the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday, symbolically starting construction on the biggest federal building project in the Washington area since the Pentagon 68 years ago.

The project will bring together more than 15,000 employees now scattered in 35 offices in the region, placing them on a 176-acre campus strewn with historic buildings in a long-neglected corner of Washington, five miles from the Capitol building.

Department leaders hope the $3.4 billion consolidation will help the department fulfill its core mission — protecting the homeland — in ways big and small.

“It will help us hold meetings,” Secretary Janet Napolitano said. “It will help us build that culture of ‘One DHS.'”

At the groundbreaking, political leaders shoveled dirt with care, but pitched historical references and metaphors with abandon.

“I do have a kind of paternalistic feeling towards DHS,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, an early advocate for creating the department. “I feel like we’ve finally given a home to this child we’ve created, which is finally reaching maturity.”

Lieberman likened the creation of the department’s headquarters to the creation of the Pentagon. Ground was broken on the Pentagon on September 11, 1941, exactly 60 years before the 2001 terrorist attacks, he noted.

President Franklin Roosevelt planned the defense consolidation, Lieberman said, because he knew war was imminent and felt it could be coordinated more efficiently from one location. The Department of Homeland Security also will benefit by consolidation, Lieberman said.

The site today has the appearance of a sprawling college campus — although one stuck in time. Established by Congress in 1855 as the Government Hospital for the Insane and later renamed St. Elizabeths, the campus has 62 buildings built between the 1850s and 1940.

The federal government plans to preserve 52 of the historic buildings, which are in varying stages of decay. Of the 10 buildings to be destroyed, eight are greenhouses that have major structural damage.

Some $650 million in Department of Homeland Security and General Services Administration federal stimulus money is expediting some of the rehabilitation, the latter agency said.

The project also includes large amounts of new construction. The first building, a 1.8 million-square-foot U.S. Coast Guard headquarters, will cost about $435 million and is scheduled for completion in 2013. The building will include “green roofs” and landscaped courtyards to capture and reuse surface water.

Former Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend said the department is right to consolidate its facilities but cautioned it won’t make the huge differences some people claim it will.

“For one thing, what we know is St. Elizabeths is not big enough to hold all of their headquarters components,” she said. And while the department needs to be far enough away from downtown Washington to survive an attack, it “suffers from not having a presence on the National Mall just like all the other major agencies,” she said.

City officials were ebullient Wednesday about the prospect of a blighted area being transformed. The gated campus borders some of Washington’s most violent streets.

“They’re going to try us, and they’re going to like us,” said Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s delegate to Congress.

Councilman Marion Barry, who has long complained the area is ignored by the federal government, tweaked visitors at the groundbreaking.

“I hope most of you had your GPS’s working,” he said.