From: Homeland Security News Wire
To: Scott Jenkins,
Subject: Week in Review
Date: Sat May 10 14:00:21 MDT 2014
Body:
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WEEK IN REVIEW
Friday 9 May 2014 vol. 8 no. 108

Week in Review

Biometrics
Forensic DNA technology could help identify abducted Nigerian girls

Forensic DNA technology developed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks could be used to identify and reunite more than 200 Nigerian girls who were kidnapped by Islamist militants, scientists said. The software, Mass Fatality Identification System (M-FISys), has been used worldwide -- in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Perú, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, among several other countries -- to identify and return more than 700 children who were abducted by criminals for child trafficking.

Espionage
U.S. officials told lawmakers Israel’s industrial espionage efforts in U.S. “crossed red lines”

Officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the State Department, the FBI, and the National Counterintelligence Directorate told lawmakers, in a series of behind-closed-doors briefings in late 2013 and January 2014 to discuss Israel joining the Visa Waver Program, that Israel has gone too far with its spying operations in the United States. The intelligence officials told lawmakers that other allies of the United States also engage in spying against U.S. private and government entities, but that Israel’s spying campaign goes far beyond the efforts of allies such as Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Japan. “No other country close to the United States continues to cross the line on espionage like the Israelis do,” U.S. intelligence officials are quoted to have said.

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Grid security
States lack expertise, staff to deal with cyberthreats to utilities

The vulnerability of national electric grids to cyberattacks has caught the attention of federal utility regulators and industry safety groups, but state commissions tasked with regulating local distribution utilities are slow to respond to emerging cybersecurity risks. The annual membership directory of state utility regulators lists hundreds of key staff members of state commissions throughout the country, but not a single staff position had “cybersecurity” in the title.

Biodefense
Debate intensifies over whether or not to destroy last stockpile of smallpox

The world’s health ministers are scheduled to meet later this month to discuss the fate of the last known stockpiles of smallpox, held under tight security in two labs-- one in the United States and the other in Russia. Smallpox has been eradicated for more than three decades, but some U.S. health officials say the remaining stockpiles should be kept for further studies. The smallpox virus is being used to develop drugs and safer vaccines in case the virus returns through terrorism or a lab accident. Member nations of the World Health Organization (WHO) once agreed that the last virus strains known to officials would eventually be destroyed, but a set date was never agreed upon.

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New biodefense centers offer modernized approach, face criticism

A new facility at Texas A&M University is one of three new biodefense centers created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to revolutionize the way fatal viruses are countered in the event of an emergency. The $286-million lab features mobile clean rooms that can be detached and moved to form different production or testing systems as the need arises. Not everyone agrees that the design and capabilities of the new center would offer the best response to biothreats.

Aviation
TSA expands PreCheck screening program to international airlines

The TSA is expanding its PreCheckscreening program to passengers on international airlines. Air Canada is the first international carrier to join the list of PreCheck carriers, which already includes several U.S. airlines.Some international airlines are reluctant to join the PreCheck carrier list because it entails upgrading their computer systems to print a PreCheck logo and embed PreCheck data in their boarding pass barcodes. With Air Canada joining the list, the TSA believes other foreign carriers with a large U.S. passenger base would benefit if they offered PreCheck status to their customers.

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DHS contracting
Doing business with DHS: Ranking DHS’s contracting officers

Firms bidding on federal contracts often have to deal with changing requirements and shifting deadlines. In order to provide more clarity to the process, a new app ranks the contracting officers at different federal agencies based on how frequently they award contracts, the length of the procurement process, the average dollar value of the contracts awarded, and the officers’ “annoyance factor,” which is based on how often the contracting officer modifies a solicitation after it has been posted and how often deadlines are changed.

Cybersecurity
U.S. military communication satellites vulnerable to cyberattacks

A new report warns that satellite communication terminals used by U.S. military aircrafts, ships, and land vehicles to share location data, are vulnerable to cyberattacks through digital backdoors. A forensic security review of codes embedded inside the circuit boards and chips of the most widely used SATCOM terminals identified multiple hacker entry points.

Terrorism insurance
Industry, Democrats reject GOP-sponsored TRIA-extension draft

House democrats and members of Property Casualty Insurers, a leading insurance trade group, have rejected a Republican-sponsored draft proposal which would alter some measures of the current Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA). The Property Casualty Insurers did not mince words, calling the GOP plan “unworkable for the marketplace.” The proposal would raise the amount of damage caused by a terrorist attack from the current $100 million to $500 million before government coverage is triggered (the higher threshold would apply to attacks which do not involve nuclear, biological, chemical, or radiological means).

Plutonium processing
Lawmakers want DOE to reduce run-away costs of S.C. plutonium processing plant

Lawmakers have given the Obama administration two weeks to submit a plan for reducing the cost of constructing the mixed-oxide fuel conversion (MOX) facility which would convert bomb-grade plutonium into nuclear fuel. The MOX facility at the Savannah River Site, South Carolina was launched to help the United States meet its nuclear arms reduction agreement with Russia, and agreement which called for the two countries to dispose of at least thirty-four metric tons each of weapons-grade plutonium.

South Carolina withdraws MOX lawsuit against DOE, NNSA

The state of South Carolina said Friday that it would not go ahead with its lawsuit against the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in support of the Savannah River Site’s Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility. The dismissal of the lawsuit follows an announcement last Tuesday by the DOE and NNSA that construction will continue on the MOX facility through the end of the fiscal year. The two agencies made it clear, though, that they still plan to mothball the plant.

Immigration
The influence of the Minutemen Project and similar groups has diminished

The Minuteman Project and like-minded groups tried to make their own contribution to stopping illegal immigration by positioning their members across the U.S.-Mexico border, equipped with binoculars, American flags, and sometimes guns. Dwindling financial resources and publicized personal troubles of some of the group’s leaders have diminished the group’s ability to maintain a presence along the Southwest border. Observers say that the project represents the past in the debate over illegal immigration.

Surveillance
Virginia lawmakers mull limiting police use of license plate readers

Some Virginia lawmakers are planning to propose legislation which will limit the police use of license plate readers (LPRs). The state currently has no laws restricting how police collect or store license plate data gathered by LPRs. Last year, then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said he believed Virginia State Police should be restricted from capturing and storing license plate data outside of a specific, ongoing criminal investigation, but for now, police departments across the state have adopted their own measures.

Infrastructure protection
Miami “Ground Zero” for risks associated with sea level rise

During a special Senate hearing last month in Miami Beach, Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) described Florida as “Ground Zero” for climate change and the threat it poses to coastal communities. Sea level rise is especially worrisome to Floridians because Miami has the most property assets at risk in the world, according to the World Resources Institute(WRI). Miami has $14.7 billion in beach front property. Also, fifteen million out of the state’s twenty million residents live in coastal communities vulnerable to sea level rise.

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Progress and Modernity in Arab Societies
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State, Political Community and Foreign Relations in Modern and Contemporary Syria
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