News

Identity Dominance: The U.S. Military’s Biometric War in Afghanistan

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For years the U.S. military has been waging a biometric war in Afghanistan, working to unravel the insurgent networks operating throughout the country by collecting the personal identifiers of large portions of the population. A restricted U.S. Army guide on the use of biometrics in Afghanistan obtained by Public Intelligence provides an inside look at this ongoing battle to identify the Afghan people.

FBI Law Enforcement National Data Exchange Contains 223 Million Records

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The Law Enforcement National Data Exchange (N-DEx) run by the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division now contains approximately 223 million records on nearly two billion entities. A FBI CJIS presentation from February 2014 posted on the website of the Integrated Justice Information Systems Institute includes detailed information on state and local data contributors including a tally of the total number of records contributed by state.

Feds Tell Law Enforcement to Look Out for Dead Body Bombs

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In the first weeks of 2013, police officers were combing through a bloody scene in the Indian state of Jharkhand where a dozen security personnel had died in a shootout with local rebels. The Naxalite fighters, who promote a Maoist ideology through their ongoing guerrilla conflict with the Indian government, had killed the men, including five Central Reserve Police Force members, in a gun battle days before. When local villagers and police tried to remove the bodies, a bomb went off killing four more people. After the incident, a group of doctors in nearby Ranchi were performing an autopsy on one of the bodies when they encountered something metal lodged inside the body. A bomb squad was called in and an explosive device triggered by shifts in pressure that had been sewn into the police officer’s body was successfully defused.

The U.S. Government’s Diminishing Expectations Plan for Afghanistan

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with U.S. Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham listens, in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 26, 2013.

Public Intelligence has obtained the most recent version of the U.S. Civil-Military Strategic Framework for Afghanistan, the second revision of the document dated August 2013, detailing the U.S. government’s goals and priorities for rebuilding Afghan society. Issued by the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham and signed by the commander of U.S. forces Joseph Dunford, the framework covers U.S. priorities related to governance, the rule of law, socioeconomic development as well as the gradual transfer of authority to the Afghan government. When compared with a previous version of the framework from March 2012, also obtained by Public Intelligence, the document solidifies the prospect of long-term U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, removing optimistic statements about turnover dates and self-sustaining funding estimates and replacing them with measured assessments reinforcing the notion that U.S. and international forces will be present in Afghanistan far into the next decade.

The Nationwide Network Working to Bring Mobile Biometrics to Your Community

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A federal law passed in February 2012 to help middle class families by creating jobs and cutting payroll taxes included a section mandating the creation of a nationwide interoperable broadband communications system for law enforcement and first responders. The system, which is being created under the direction of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), seeks to create a nationwide broadband network capable of being used for a variety of law enforcement purposes including remote surveillance, mobile biometric applications like field fingerprint scanning and facial recognition, as well as automated license plate reading. The system is currently in a pilot phase with less than a dozen locations around the country participating in the initial rollout of the FirstNet network. However, comments from FirstNet board members indicate that the future goals of the system include an interoperable network operating in all 56 states and territories of the U.S. that is capable of integration at the state, local and federal level.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction Modifies Language on Collateral Damage Estimates for Drone Strikes

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An updated instruction issued by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in October 2012 incorporates significantly modified language in numerous sections of the document that describe the process for estimating collateral damage prior to conducting drone strikes and other military actions. These subtle, but important changes in wording provide insight into the military’s attempts to limit expectations in regards to minimizing collateral damage and predicting the lethal effects of military operations.

Trying to Understand School Shootings

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A statistical analysis of school shootings released in August by the Los Angeles Joint Regional Intelligence Center (LAJRIC) studied school shootings throughout the U.S. from January 2008 to August 2013. In that five-year span, there were 85 school shootings that took place in 29 states, a majority of the country, with most states experiencing between one and three incidents over the last five years. California ranked highest with 18 incidents, followed by Michigan and Tennessee. The majority of school shootings, about 52%, took place at high schools, with the rest equally distributed between colleges/universities and elementary/middle schools.

Fusion Center Study Finds 79% of Recent Mass Shootings Attributable to History of Mental Illness

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Analysis conducted by the Central Florida Intelligence Exchange (CFIX) has found that 79% of mass shootings since 2011 have been perpetrated by individuals with “demonstrated signs of continuous behavioral health issues and mental illness.” In a July case study titled “Acts of Violence Attributed by Behavioral and Mental Health Issues”, CFIX analyzed 14 mass shooting incidents that occurred between 2011 and 2013 finding that only three of the shooters had no history of mental illness.

FBI Warns of Cyber Espionage Targeting the Aviation Industry

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Since June, advanced persistent threat (APT) actors have been targeting the aviation industry and attempting to extract confidential information by sending “spear-phishing” emails designed to trick recipients into opening malicious attachments or follow links to infected websites. According to an FBI Cyber Division bulletin from July 8, “individuals associated with the air travel industry” have received an increased number of spear-phishing emails often using spoofed senders “in an attempt to make the e-mail appear more legitimate.”

Monitoring America’s Heroin Problem

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In a restricted report issued in May, the DEA detailed the most recent findings from its heroin monitoring program, assessing the period from 2006 -2011. The report finds that heroin in the U.S. generally comes from two different places: South America and Mexico. If you live east of the Mississippi River, chances are that the heroin you’re buying is from South America. Heroin purchased on the West Coast is almost certainly trafficked from Mexico. Some heroin from Southwest Asia does make it to the U.S. However, the amount is minimal compared to other sources and the quality is relatively poor.

DHS Says Aging Infrastructure Poses Significant Risk to U.S.

A recent version of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Risk Profile found that old and deteriorating infrastructure in the U.S. could pose significant risks to the nation and its economy. According to the report, insufficient funding of inspection and maintenance of critical infrastructure throughout the U.S. could create wide-ranging problems as the nation’s infrastructure continues to age. Along with pandemics and nuclear terrorism, a draft version of the DHS National Risk Profile for 2011 lists “aging infrastructure” as having a “potentially significant impact” on the nation’s critical infrastructure. The assessment states that “unusable, ineffectual, and deteriorating critical infrastructure, as well as the potential for exploitation of these vulnerabilities, increase risk . . . due to the inadvertent introduction of flaws, reduced inspection and maintenance workforce, and insufficient investment.” Moreover, this is not a limited threat, as the assessment states that the “entire United States is at risk from aging infrastructure that will eventually “affect all critical infrastructure sectors and ultimately reduce or erode their capacity and lifetimes in unexpected and unpredicted ways.”

DoD Issues Instructions on Military Support of Civilian Law Enforcement

The Department of Defense has issued an instruction clarifying the rules for the involvement of military forces in civilian law enforcement. The instruction establishes “DoD policy, assigns responsibilities, and provides procedures for DoD support to Federal, State, tribal, and local civilian law enforcement agencies, including responses to civil disturbances within the United States.” The new instruction titled “Defense Support of Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies” was released at the end of February, replacing several older directives on military assistance to civilian law enforcement and civil disturbances. The instruction requires that senior DoD officials develop “procedures and issue appropriate direction as necessary for defense support of civilian law enforcement agencies in coordination with the General Counsel of the Department of Defense, and in consultation with the Attorney General of the United States”, including “tasking the DoD Components to plan for and to commit DoD resources in response to requests from civil authorities for [civil disturbance operations].” Military officials are to coordinate with “civilian law enforcement agencies on policies to further DoD cooperation with civilian law enforcement agencies” and the heads of the combatant commands are instructed to issue procedures for “establishing local contact points in subordinate commands for purposes of coordination with Federal, State, tribal, and local civilian law enforcement officials.”

Air Force Office of Special Investigations Publishes Report on Military Sextortion Scams

The U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) is warning military personnel to avoid becoming victims of online sextortion scams using “sexual images (obtained either through enticement or malicious code)” to extort money from unsuspecting victims. “Cyber sextortion” is described as a growing problem among the military services with incidents being reported by “all Military Criminal Investigative Organizations” involving service members located at bases all over the world. The AFOSI report, released in February on a restricted basis, was recently posted online on the document-sharing website Scribd.

National Counterterrorism Center Says Urban Exploration Could “Aid Terrorists”

The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) is warning law enforcement and first responders that urban exploration, an activity that involves trying to gain access to restricted or abandoned man-made structures, can provide useful information for terrorists conducting surveillance of a potential target. Also known as “building hacking”, urban exploration has been around in its modern form for decades, tracing some its more recent history to post-war exploration of the Parisian catacombs and members of MIT’s Tech Model Railroad Club Signals and Power Subcommittee, who organized explorations of steam tunnels and rooftops around campus in the late 1950s.

Here are Homeland Security’s Top 5 Priorities for Suspicious Activity Reporting This Season

A document issued last month by the Department of Homeland Security identifies priorities for the collection of suspicious activity reports from local communities around the U.S. The document describes”topics of interest” identified by DHS Intelligence and Analysis (DHS/I&A) analysts as priorities for the Winter 2013 period that should be utilized by “law enforcement, first responders, and other homeland security professionals” to improve their reporting of suspicious activity.

Tactical Chat: How the U.S. Military Uses IRC to Wage War

Despite the U.S. military’s massive spending each year on advanced communications technology, the use of simple text chat or tactical chat has outpaced other systems to become one of the most popular paths for communicating practical information on the battlefield. Though the use of text chat by the U.S. military first began in the early 1990s, in recent years tactical chat has evolved into a “primary ‘comms’ path, having supplanted voice communications as the primary means of common operational picture (COP) updating in support of situational awareness.” An article from January 2012 in the Air Land Sea Bulletin describes the value of tactical chat as an effective and immediate communications method that is highly effective in distributed, intermittent, low bandwidth environments which is particularly important with “large numbers of distributed warfighters” who must “frequently jump onto and off of a network” and coordinate with other coalition partners. Text chat also provides “persistency in situational understanding between those leaving and those assuming command watch duties” enabling a persistent record of tactical decision making.

FBI Analysis Finds That Only 4% of Active Shooter Incidents Since 2002 Were Perpetrated by Women

An FBI analysis of active shooter incidents since 2002 found that 96% of the attacks were perpetrated by males, most of which acted alone. The statistic is found in a joint intelligence bulletin released at the end of December by the Department of Homeland Security and FBI. The bulletin provides brief advice on crisis response and long-term protective measures as well as statistics related to past active shooter incidents, which are defined as situations where one or more individuals participates in a “random or systematic killing spree demonstrating their intent to harm others with a firearm.” Active shooters are distinguished from other “traditional criminal acts, such as robbery or hostage-taking” by their intention to commit “mass murder”. The FBI analyzed 154 active shooter events in the United States between 2002 and 2012 that included three or more individuals being shot.

DHS, Fusion Centers Struggle to Respond to Mass Shootings

Four days after the mass shooting last July in Aurora, Colorado, a project of the Houston Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security called Ready Houston released a training video to help educate members the public about how to survive a mass shooting. The six-minute video, which was produced with $200,000 from the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Area Security Initiative, includes a dramatic recreation of a man dressed entirely in black walking into an office building and beginning to shoot people at random with a shotgun that he pulls from a small satchel. Variously described as “outlandish”, “surreal” and “over-the-top”, the video has met with mixed responses since it was re-released by several fusion centers and local agencies, including most recently the Alabama Department of Homeland Security.

Washington Fusion Center Newsletters Detail Local Examples of Suspicious Activity Reporting

What kind of “suspicious” behaviors might put you in the sights of your local fusion center? A collection of Fusion Liaison Officer (FLO) reports from the Washington State Fusion Center (WSFC) obtained by police accountability activist Andrew Charles Hendricks via a Washington Public Records Act request provide insight into the mechanics of suspicious activity reporting at the local level. More than a dozen reports, which are minimally redacted, detail monthly reporting by the WSFC to its “statewide network of agency-selected law enforcement, fire-fighting and critical infrastructure agency representatives” that ensure “vital disciplines are incorporated into the fusion process by serving as the conduit through which homeland security and crime related information flows to the WSFC for assessment and analysis through the state homeland security Regional Intelligence Groups.” According to the State of Washington, the “end state” of the FLO program “is to have FLOs throughout the state in all aspects of law enforcement, fire service and critical infrastructure” to facilitate the flow of information both to and from the state fusion center.