TSA – 20% Effective

A new report concerning undercover checks of security at U.S. airports reveals that the screening methods used by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) failed to uncover threats up to 80% of the time.  This is actually a step up from checks run two years ago which revealed a 95% failure rate.  Even with this “improvement,” the end result is still concerning.

The House Committee on Homeland Security has called on David Pekoske, the Administrator of the TSA, to fix these problems, focusing on installing new scanning equipment in the country’s airports.

However, new equipment seems unlikely to fix the systemic issues with U.S. airport security.  While Americans seem fixated on preventing the tools for attacks from getting through security (this fixation flows into other areas of life, such as gun control), other countries focus more on people as potential threats.

The gold standard for airport security is generally considered to be Israel.  There they employ a “concentric security” methodology where checks begin as people enter airport property and continue until they’re on the plane.  As a person enters into a closer “ring” of the airport, the checks become more extensive.  These checks include scanning, but the focus is more on talking with people, interviewing them, and gauging their potential threat level.  Thus, situations which seem common in the U.S. (e.g. a 90-year-old grandmother being hassled about having a bottle of water in her luggage) are less likely to occur in Israel due to their focus on the human threat.

The Israeli method is used, at least in part, in other parts of the world, such as Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.  There, the interview method is used and can be quite extensive.  Passengers are separated from one another and asked questions such as their origin and destination of travel, purpose of their travel, why they chose to go to their destination, as well as additional questions as the security agent works to gauge the threat level posed by the passenger.

These Israeli-type security methods also help to guard against attacks outside the “secure area” of the airport.  Tempting targets for attackers are the security line itself and the departure and arrival areas as masses of people are confined in a relatively small space.  A suicide bomber blew himself up in such an area in Moscow’s domestic Domodedovo Airport in 2011, and another did the same in Istanbul’s Ataturk airport in 2016.

Present U.S. security checks and the planned addition of more and better scanners do little to prevent or deter such attacks and, apparently, do little to actually detect the types of physical threats which they are meant to detect.  What the TSA and Congress need is a paradigm shift in how airport security is handled in the U.S. and a focus on the human threat.

 

 

 

Trump Administration Says 21 States Were Targets of Election Hacking

 

 

On Friday, the Department of Homeland Security notified 21 states that they were targets of hacking during the 2016 election. DHS did not identify the states publicly, but several states did confirm that they had been informed of the hacking by the federal government.

The Associated Press contacted every state election office regarding the hacking. States that confirmed that they had been targeted included Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

The notifications were a rare confirmation from the Trump Administration that the Russian attempts to interfere with the election were real. The notifications came on Friday, the day of the week typically reserved for announcements the Administration prefers to have overlooked.

Some state election officials and congressmen were critical of the Administration for its slow pace in sharing information about the cyberattacks. “It is completely unacceptable that it has taken DHS over a year to inform our office of Russian scanning of our systems, despite our repeated requests for information,” California’s Democrat Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. “The practice of withholding critical information from elections officials is a detriment to the security of our elections and our democracy.”

“We have to do better in the future,” said Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), a member of the Senate committee investigating Russia’s actions.

The DHS report did not specify the source of the hacking attempts, saying in a statement, “We are working with them to refine our processes for sharing this information while protecting the integrity of investigations and the confidentiality of system owners.”

Several state election officials did specifically name Russia as the culprit, however. Alaska Elections Division Director Josie Bahnke said that computers in Russia had looked for vulnerabilities in the state’s networks. A statement by the Wisconsin Election Commission referred to “Russian government cyber actors.”

In most cases, the state computer systems were not breached, but Illinois was an exception. A previous report indicated that hackers gained access to the Illinois voter registration computers and tried to alter or delete data.

A secret NSA document leaked to The Intercept by Reality Winner last June showed that the Russians had also targeted private companies that contract with state governments to provide software for electronic voting machines. Voting machines are typically not tied to computer networks, but could be vulnerable through software updates. The document said the GRU, Russian military intelligence, was responsible for the attacks.

So far, there is no evidence that any attempts to alter software or data was successful. “There remains no evidence that the Russians altered one vote or changed one registration,” Judd Choate, president of the U.S. National Association of State Election Directors, told Reuters.

Russia has denied any involvement in the cyberattacks on the US voting infrastructure.

Also on Friday, President Trump referred to the Russian hacking as a “hoax” in a tweet. Since the election, the president has had little to say about the Russian cyberattacks even though there is widespread agreement among intelligence agencies that the Putin government was directly involved.

BREAKING: General John Kelly to be Chief of Staff. Priebus Out

The President has terminated Reince Priebus and replaced him with General John Kelly, who is currently serving as Secretary of Homeland Security. That will now open back up Homeland Security.

Priebus’s departure has been a long time coming. White House staffers were telling me months ago the President was trying to push him out. The latest feud with Scaramucci helped seal his fate.

Kelly is a Marine and, if the President will let him actually be Chief, should be competent at the core functions of the job.

Interestingly, the President tweeted out his appointment from Air Force One while on the ground at Andrews Air Force Base. Reince Priebus had just walked off the plane.

A Possible Sign of a Credible Threat of a Terrorist Attack

Suddenly and with little warning, the Department of Homeland Security has banned electronics from carry on baggage from over 12 airlines. Thirteen countries have been affected. They are all in Africa and the Middle East. The ban starts tomorrow and runs for 96 hours.

Cell phones will be allowed, but cameras, laptops, etc. will have to be in checked luggage.

Homeland Security will not comment, but given the sudden nature and insistence it seems they must have a credible threat.

Homeland Security Sees 40% Fewer Illegal Immigrants Crossing The US-Mexico Border

An interesting thing has happened at our southern border, and it’s worth watching to see if it turns into a trend: Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly announced this week that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency has seen a 40% drop in illegal immigrants entering the country between January and February – a time when illegal immigration usually increases.

Kelly stated that the number of “inadmissible persons” at the southern border dropped to 18,762 persons in February from 31,578 in January. He added, “Since the administration’s implementation of executive orders to enforce immigration laws, apprehensions and inadmissible activity is trending toward the lowest monthly total in at least the last five years.”

Kelly said the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency usually sees a 10 percent to 20 percent increase in apprehensions of illegal immigrants from January to February.

Kelly commented that the drop in illegal immigrants is a result of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. The two executive orders Trump issued in late January called for the building of a wall to secure the border along with a clearer set of guidelines for deportations.

According to the BBC, the Mexican government has referred to the Trump-era immigration policy as “hostile” and “unacceptable.”

Will the decrease become a trend? How well will Trump’s immigration policies work? It’ll be worth watching to see if these numbers drop even more or bottom out.

President Trump Preserves the Obama DACA Program

While some of his supporters will not be happy, I think it is the right thing to do. President Trump is proceeding with orders to have immigration officials deport illegal aliens, but he is keeping President Obama’s DACA program rules in place for illegal aliens who came here as children and only know the United States as home.

A Homeland Security official who briefed reporters Tuesday said that deportation protections President Obama granted in 2012 to undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children will continue to be honored so long as those immigrants abide by the rules of the program. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss details of the memos.

More than 750,000 undocumented immigrants are eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA).

A memo released by the Department of Homeland Security, which does not mention the National Guard, instructs immigration agents to, according to USA Today, “identify, capture and quickly deport every undocumented immigrant they encounter.”

The memos require undocumented immigrants caught entering the country to be placed in detention until their cases are resolved, increase the ability of local police to help in immigration enforcement, call for the hiring of 10,000 more immigration agents and allow planning to begin on an expansion of the border wall between the United States and Mexico.

Homeland Security says it will give priority to those illegal aliens who have criminal records.

Trump Delivers On Yet Another Promise

The promise to rigorously enforce US immigration laws was oft-repeated by President Trump while campaigning during both the primary and general election cycles. Now, ICE and Homeland Security have begun delivering on that promise.

Yesterday,  The Washington Post published an article sounding almost accusatory while attempting conventional journalism, although the facts are straightforward:

“U.S. immigration authorities arrested hundreds of undocumented immigrants in at least a half-dozen states this week in a series of raids that marked the first large-scale enforcement of President Trump’s Jan. 25 order to crack down on the estimated 11 million immigrants living here illegally.”

In yet another example of MSM journalism comparing the current administration to the recently departed former President Obama,  The Post notes ICE is not following Mr. Obama’s enforcement policy:

“Officials said the raids targeted known criminals, but they also netted some immigrants without criminal records, an apparent departure from similar enforcement waves during the Obama administration. Last month, Trump substantially broadened the scope of who the Department of Homeland Security can target to include those with minor offenses or no convictions at all. A DHS official confirmed that while immigration agents were targeting criminals, given the broader range defined by Trump’s executive order, they also were sweeping up noncriminals in the vicinity who were found to be lacking documentation. It was unclear how many of the people detained would have been excluded under Obama’s policy.”

Noting the actions were nothing new or unusual, a Homeland Security spokeswoman explained:

“Gillian Christensen, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said they were part of “routine” immigration enforcement actions.We’re talking about people who are threats to public safety or a threat to the integrity of the immigration system,” she said, noting that the majority of those detained were serious criminals, including some who were convicted of murder and domestic violence.”

Concern for the undocumented illegal is reaching frantic heights for both activist and Democratic politicians:

“Immigrant rights groups said that they were planning protests in response to the raids, including one Friday evening in Federal Plaza in New York City and a vigil in Los Angeles. “This is clearly the first wave of attacks under the Trump administration, and we know this isn’t going to be the only one,” Cristina Jimenez, executive director of United We Dream, an immigrant youth organization, said Friday during a conference call with immigration advocates.” “We cannot understate the level of panic and terror that is running through many immigrant communities,” said Walter Barrientos of Make the Road New York in New York City, who spoke on a conference call with immigration advocates.”

Democrats are not even being coy that this illicit group is as equally important as their US citizen voters:

“I’m getting lots of reports from my constituents about seeing ICE on the streets. Teachers in my district have contacted me — certain students didn’t come to school today because they’re afraid,” said Greg Casar, an Austin City Council member.”

Stating the obvious, the Post further reported the effect of President Trump’s commitment to keeping this promise:

“Hiba Ghalib, an immigration lawyer in Atlanta, said the ICE detentions were causing “mass confusion” in the immigrant community. She said she had heard reports of ICE agents going door-to-door in one largely Hispanic neighborhood, asking people to present their papers. People are panicking,” Ghalib said. “People are really, really scared.”

Without explaining exactly how a person in the US illegally can be lawful, a House Democrat nonetheless tried:

“Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) said he confirmed with ICE’s San Antonio office that the agency “has launched a targeted operation in South and Central Texas as part of Operation Cross Check.””I am asking ICE to clarify whether these individuals are in fact dangerous, violent threats to our communities, and not people who are here peacefully raising families and contributing to our state,” Castro said in a statement Friday night” (Emphasis mine)

It is indeed amusing to see liberals panic each time the President keeps a promise. Whether it’s the pro-abortion faction, the teachers union, or today’s selection, the open borders group, President Trump seems to push them over the edge. Promises made-promise kept.

Sean Spicer Tears Into Reporter: “You Are Part of the Confusion”

If the Trump administration has done anything significant, they have certainly changed the way the White House interacts with the media. Tuesday’s press briefing looks like a harbinger of the next few years in Washington.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer had some choice words for and NBC News reporter over their claim that Trump administration officials failed to brief everyone involved involved in enforcing the controversial executive order putting a moratorium on immigration from certain countries known for harboring terrorists.

Spicer’s somewhat testy exchange with Kristin Welker came after NBC News cited a New York Times story which was later denied by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

“With all due respect, I think you have been part of the confusion,” Spicer told Welker.

Spicer blasted the reporter for NBC and MSNBC’s reporting — which was based on the Times’ report — that Kelly and others within the administration were “left out of the loop” until Trump had already signed the order.

“Your network was one of the people that just hours ago told people that Kelly was unaware of what was going on, and then hours later he gets on air saying, ‘Here’s how many times I was briefed,’” Spicer charged.

When Welker pointed out that NBC’s story was relying on the Times’ report, Spicer replied, “So I apologize that NBC News’s reporting is based on the Times’ false reporting.”

Here’s a clip of the exchange:

I still remain cautiously optimistic about the Trump presidency – and I know I’m not alone – but it’s refreshing and entertaining to see his administration giving back some of what the media has dished out for years. Good for Sean Spicer.