04/01/13: The Miami Herald reports optimistic lawmakers on Sunday cautioned they had not finished work on an immigration overhaul that would provide a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants. The AFL-CIO and the pro-business US Chamber of Commerce reached a deal late Friday that would allow tens of thousands of low-skilled workers into the country to fill jobs in construction, restaurants, and hotels, but lawmakers from both parties conceded negotiations are not finished. The agreement hasn’t taken the form of a bill and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the “Gang of Eight” Senators searching for a compromise haven’t met about the potential breakthrough. “There are a few details yet. But conceptually, we have an agreement between business and labor, between ourselves that has to be drafted,” Graham said. Still, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a favorite of the Republican right-wing who functions the group’s emissary to hardcore conservatives, warned he was not ready to lend his name and political clout to a deal. Rubio called the agreement a starting point but pointed out ninety-two Senators from forty-three States haven’t yet been involved in the process.
03/31/13: The Miami Herald reports crews recovered about 4,500 barrels of oil and water Saturday after a crude oil pipeline ruptured in central Arkansas. An ExxonMobil pipeline ruptured Friday afternoon in Mayflower, a small city about twenty miles northwest of Little Rock. Authorities are still investigating the cause of the spill. The city said Saturday that it recommended that twenty-two area homes be evacuated. Crews have mobilized more than a dozen vacuum trucks to the site to clean up the oil. Professional hygienist authorities are also monitoring air quality, officials said. There are precautions in place to keep oil away from nearby Lake Conway.
03/22/13: The New York Times reports more than two years after Homeland Security officials told Congress that they would produce new, more accurate standards to assess security at the nation’s borders, senior officials from the department acknowledged this week that they had not completed the new measurements and were not likely to in coming months, as the debate proceeds about overhauling the immigration system. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers were taken aback at a hearing on Wednesday in the House of Representatives when Mark Borkowski, a senior Homeland Security official, said he had no progress to report on a broad measure of border conditions the department had been working on since 2010. The lawmakers warned that failure by the Obama administration to devise a reliable method of border evaluation could imperil passage of immigration legislation. Amid contentious discussions in Congress over immigration, one point of wide agreement is that an evaluation of border security will be a central piece of any comprehensive bill. A bipartisan group in the Senate is working to write legislation that includes a “trigger,” which would make the path to citizenship for more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the country contingent on measurable advances in security at the borders. Lawmakers have been pressing Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to devise a measure they can use to judge if the Obama administration’s claims of significant progress in border enforcement are justified. Republican senators in the bipartisan group have said a border standard is pivotal to their efforts.
03/18/13: CNN reports China warned Monday that the United States’ plans to beef up its missile defenses against North Korea are likely to inflame tensions already running high over Pyongyang’s nuclear program. “Bolstering missile defenses will only intensify antagonism, and it doesn’t help to solve the issue,” Hong Lei, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a news briefing in Beijing. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Friday that the United States will deploy additional ground-based missile interceptors on the West Coast as part of efforts to enhance the nation’s ability to defend itself from attack by North Korea. The announcement came after North Korea recently threatened a preemptive nuclear attack on South Korea and the United States in response to stepped-up UN sanctions over its latest nuclear test last month.
03/11/13: The Miami Herald reports a British judge ruled Saturday that radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada must remain in custody following his arrest for allegedly breaching his bail conditions. The cleric, who has been described as a key al-Qaeda operative in Europe, was arrested in London Friday following a series of raids by counterterrorism police. The arrest came three days before the government’s latest court bid to extradite him to Jordan. Judge Stephen Irwin refused on Saturday to grant the preacher bail and ordered him to return to prison, finding there was strong evidence that Abu Qatada had breached bail conditions. In November, a court sustained Qatada’s appeal from his deportation to Jordan and allowed him to stay in the UK; the British government will challenge that decision at the Court of Appeal on Monday.
03/10/13: The Miami Herald reports federal officials have rescued seventy-one Haitian migrants found stranded on the shores of a cluster of islands just west of Puerto Rico. US Customs and Border Protection and the Coast Guard first rescued two migrants found on one island and then the remainder of the group from the island of Desecheo off the western coastal town of Rincón. Customs spokesman Jeffrey Quinones said Saturday that a large number of the Haitians were dehydrated and had bruises and scratches. They were taken to hospitals for treatment. The rescue comes a week after sixty-seven migrants from Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic were found in the same cluster of islands. One Haitian woman was found dead.
03/03/13: The Hill reports the bipartisan Senate group working on immigration reform plans to set a timeline for unveiling legislation, as it feels subtle pressure from the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee to act. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), a lead negotiator of the ad hoc group on immigration reform, says the clock is ticking, and the group hopes to soon have a timeline for unveiling legislation. “We know time is of the essence. Sometime in the next few weeks we will have a definite timeline. We got a couple of very big issues to resolve,” McCain said. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), McCain’s negotiating partner, said he expected to have a bipartisan bill sometime in March. There are only three weeks left until Congress leaves for a two-week Easter recess on March 22.
02/11/13: Wired reports the US Government’s plan to install new advanced ground sensors at the Mexican border has been delayed due to bandwidth and frequency problems the. The delay isn’t the first, and it comes as thousands of aging sensors along the border trigger false alarms that have proved deadly to Border Patrol agents. The Department of Homeland Security and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) originally planned to blanket the border with a new generation of “unattended ground sensors” (UGS’s). According to CBP, the plan hasn’t been canceled outright, but it has been delayed for much, if not most, of 2013. The problem: the sensors can’t communicate with the rest of the tech along the border.
02/11/13: The Miami Herald reports soldiers, sailors and Homeland Security officials came to Guantánamo Bay this weekend to simulate a humanitarian-relief crisis inspired by the tens of thousands of Haitians and Cubans who overwhelmed the base in the 1990’s. The exact nature of the scenario is classified, and only Pentagon-approved photos of the exercise will be released. That’s because nobody wants news about it to touch off a real, live Caribbean exodus. The intent, say organizers, is not to encourage anyone in the Caribbean to get on rafts to reach this Navy base in southeast Cuba, but to be ready in case it happens. One thing they’ll rehearse is registering 1,000 migrants in a single day, and if history is any guide, the actors should cram inside the processing tent, desperate, undocumented and disorganized.
02/10/13: BBC News reports a French judge has opened criminal proceedings against four men suspected of links with Islamist militant networks in west Africa. The four, who were detained near Paris on Tuesday, are being investigated for possible “association with a terrorist enterprise.” Reports say three are French and one is from Mali. French officials have said they were arrested in connection with the case of a French national arrested in Niger while trying to join Jihadist groups in Mali last year. The man was extradited to France, where criminal proceedings were launched against him in August. France increased its domestic terror threat level after French forces entered Mali on January 11 to push back militants who had captured Timbuktu and other parts of northern Mali.
02/04/13: The Hill reports Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Sunday said that immigration reform was “certainly going to pass” the upper chamber. “It has to get done. We have to work hard to get it done,” Reid said. “It’s really easy to write principles. To write legislation is much harder. And once we write the legislation, then you have to get it passed. But I think things are looking really good.” Last week a bipartisan group of senators introduced a framework for reform, which includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and calls for tighter border security. But the plan faces obstacles from GOP lawmakers who are opposed to measures granting illegal immigrants citizenship and want border-security issues addressed first.
01/30/13: CNN reports two Iraqi men living in Kentucky received long prison sentences this week after being convicted of a series of charges involving a plot to help al-Qaeda. Mohanad Shareef Hammadi and Waad Ramadan Alwan were arrested last August in Bowling Green, Kentucky in a terror-related sting operation. After arriving in the United States, the men were monitored by federal authorities and told an FBI undercover agent they wanted to provide weapons and explosives to al-Qaeda in Iraq. Hammadi pleaded guilty in August to twelve counts, including four counts of aiding al-Qaeda in Iraq. Alwan pleaded guilty to twenty-three counts in December, including plotting to kill Americans overseas. Alwan, 31, was sentenced to forty years in federal prison. Hammadi, 25, got a life sentence.
01/28/13: NPR reports a bipartisan group of leading senators has reached agreement on the principles of sweeping legislation to retool the nation’s immigration laws. The deal covers border security, guest workers and employer verification, as well as a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in this country. Although thorny details remain to be negotiated and success is far from certain, the development heralds the start of what could be the most significant effort in years toward overhauling the nation's inefficient patchwork of immigration laws. The eight senators expected to endorse the new principles Monday are Democrats Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Robert Menendez (N.J.) and Michael Bennet (Colo.); and Republicans John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) Several of these lawmakers have worked for years on the issue. McCain collaborated with the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) on comprehensive immigration legislation pushed by then-President George W. Bush in 2007, only to see it collapse in the Senate when it couldn’t get enough GOP support. Comprehensive immigration reform has not been seriously attempted since.
01/28/13: The New York Times reports the Pentagon is moving toward a major expansion of its cybersecurity force to counter increasing attacks on the nation’s computer networks, as well as to expand offensive computer operations on foreign adversaries. The expansion announced by defense officials Sunday would increase DOD’s Cyber Command by more than 4,000 people, up from the current 900. As part of the expansion, officials said the Pentagon was planning three different forces under Cyber Command: “national mission forces” to protect computer systems that support the nation’s power grid and critical infrastructure; “combat mission forces” to plan and execute attacks on adversaries; and “cyber protection forces” to secure the Pentagon’s computer systems. In October outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned in dire terms that the United States was increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks.
01/27/13: The blog Space War reports hacker group Anonymous said it disabled the US Sentencing Commission’s website Saturday and vowed to release government data in revenge for the death of Internet freedom advocate Aaron Swartz. The Commission’s website was apparently hacked early Saturday. Anonymous threatened to make public the encryption keys to files that could potentially embarrass judges and other federal employees, saying it acted in protest at how the Justice Department handled Swartz’s case. Swartz was facing thirty-five years in prison and a $1 million fine for breaking into a closet at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to plug into the computer network. He downloaded millions of scholarly articles he allegedly planned to distribute for free.
01/26/13: The New York Times reports a federal judge in Dallas has ruled that a group of federal immigration agents can proceed with a lawsuit that seeks to halt an Obama administration program granting reprieves from deportation to young illegal immigrants. In a suit filed in August, several Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents argued that the administration had exceeded its constitutional authority in granting the reprieves, and said they were being forced to violate the law by obeying instructions to refrain from deporting the young immigrants. Judge Reed O’Connor rejected a Justice Department request to dismiss the case.
01/26/13: Wired's Threat Level reports a Virginia man who wrote an abbreviated version of the Fourth Amendment on his body and stripped to his shorts at an airport security screening area won a trial Friday in his lawsuit seeking $250,000 in damages for being detained on a disorderly conduct charge. Aaron Tobey claimed in a civil rights lawsuit (.pdf) that in 2010 he was handcuffed and held for about 90 minutes by the Transportation Security Administration at the Richmond International Airport after he began removing his clothing to display on his chest a magic-marker protest of airport security measures.
• Denis McDonough – White House Chief of Staff
• Rob Nabors – Assistant to the President and Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Policy
• Antony Blinken – Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor
• Danielle Gray – Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary
• Katy Kale – Assistant to the President for Management and Administration
• Lisa Monaco – Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and Deputy National Security Advisor
• Jennifer Palmieri – Assistant to the President and Communications Director
• Dan Pfeiffer – Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor
• Miguel Rodriguez –Assistant to the President and Director of Legislative Affairs
• David Simas – Assistant to the President and Deputy Senior Advisor for Communications and Strategy
11/26/12: Reuters reports a new Israeli air shield designed to intercept rockets more powerful than those blocked by Iron Dome recently passed its first field test last week after being rushed through development. Officers said Sunday that David’s Sling, billed as Israel’s answer to the longer-range missiles of Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas and Syria, shot down a target rocket in a secret desert test November 20. Worried about deteriorating security on the fronts with Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, and the international showdown over the disputed nuclear program of arch-foe Iran, Israel has been accelerating work on its multi-tier missile shield, with extensive help from the United States. David’s Sling uses technology similar to that of the Iron Dome system, which Israel says had a 90 percent success rate intercepting rockets from Gaza last week.
11/25/12: NPR reports the Department of Homeland Security is examining its policy on deadly force along the US-Mexico border. In less than two years, US Border Patrol agents have killed eighteen Mexican citizens there, including eight people who were throwing rocks. Last month, Border Patrol agents responded to a report of two drug smugglers jumping the fence between the twin cities of Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Mexico. As the agents approached, a group of people on the Mexican side began throwing rocks. The Border Patrol says the agents told the people to stop. When they didn’t, one agent opened fire and killed a teenager on Mexican soil who wasn’t one of the smugglers. Since 2010, six of the eight rock-throwers killed by Border Patrol agents were on the Mexican side of the border.
10/24/12: The Washington Times reports more than 8,500 US Customs and Border Protection officers and Immigration and Customs and Enforcement (ICE) personnel face termination in January under the automatic spending cuts scheduled to take effect next year in a bid to attack the spiraling fiscal deficit. The job losses, in the wake of massive efforts by the Border Patrol to significantly beef up security along the US-Mexico border, would be the result of a “sequestration” in the federal budget, automatic spending cuts of 9.4 percent in 2013 for discretionary defense appropriations and 8.2 percent in 2013 for discretionary nondefense spending. Representative Norman D. Dicks (D-Wash.) noted in a letter earlier this month that the scheduled cuts at the Department of Homeland Security would roll back “significant progress” in securing the nation’s borders.
10/15/12: The Hill reports the US Chamber of Commerce and other business groups want Congress to overhaul a rule that all cargo shipped to the United States from foreign ports be scanned for security. The groups argue the requirement, a key element of the 2007 law implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, will raise costs for businesses by slowing international trade and could harm the US economy. They also argue security measures already in place make the scanning unnecessary. Supporters of the mandate say it is the best safeguard against the nightmare scenario of a ship sailing into the Globe Marine Terminal in Jersey City or another busy port with a dirty bomb or other devastating weapon. It passed Congress overwhelmingly five years ago, 85-8 in the Senate and 371-40 in the House.
10/10/12: CNN reports the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General (IG) announced Tuesday that a number of incidents took place in 2010 in which Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials placed notices in checked luggage indicating that it had been inspected without actually performing an inspection. The incidents led to the firing of thirty-six screeners at Honolulu International Airport. The IG’s report said a whistle-blower triggered investigations when he came forward with video showing some TSA officers skirting procedures. Thousands of bags went on commercial jets unscreened, risking the safety of the traveling public. The IG concluded that while the screeners in Honolulu were ultimately responsible for the failures, the situation “might not have occurred” if TSA leaders had more thoroughly evaluated protocols before changing them and provided better oversight, adequate staff, and screening equipment.
10/07/12: The Miami Herald reports Israel scrambled fighter jets Saturday to intercept a drone that crossed deep into Israeli airspace from the Mediterranean Sea, shooting the aircraft down over the country’s southern desert. Nobody was hurt in the incident, which marked the first time in at least six years that a hostile aircraft has penetrated Israel's airspace, and Israeli officials said they were taking the incident seriously. It was not immediately clear who launched the drone, but suspicion quickly fell on the Lebanese Islamic militant group Hezbollah. The Iranian-backed group is known to have sent drones into Israeli airspace on several previous occasions. Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich said Israeli ground systems detected the drone, which flew over the Gaza Strip but did not originate there, Saturday morning.
10/03/12: The LA Times reports a two-year Senate investigation has found that a federal domestic security effort to help state and local law enforcement catch terrorists by setting up more than seventy information-sharing centers around the country has threatened civil liberties while doing little to combat terrorism. The so-called fusion centers were created in 2003 after the September 11 Commission concluded that federal, state, and local law enforcement should collaborate more in counterterrorism efforts. Homeland Security Department officials have credited the centers for helping uncover terrorist plans, including a 2009 plot to bomb the New York subway. But the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, reviewing intelligence reports for thirteen months in 2009 and 2010, “could identify nothing that uncovered a terrorist threat [or] a contribution any fusion center made to disrupt an active terrorist plot.”
10/01/12: The Miami Herald reports the US Supreme Court won’t hear a Michigan man’s attempt to challenge the use of full-body scanners at airports. The Court on Monday denied the petition of Jonathan Corbett, which had sought to review a judgment of the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit dismissing his challenge to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)’s use of full-body scanners or enhanced pat-downs at airport security lines. A federal District Court in Florida dismissed the suit, holding it could only be filed with the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The 11th Circuit affirmed, and the Supreme Court denied the petition for certiorari. The TSA started allowing the use of the advanced imaging technology in October 2010.
10/01/12: The Miami Herald reports a lawyer for a cameraman who was accompanying Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the United Nations General Assembly in New York says his client has defected to the United States. Hassan Gol Khanban’s lawyer confirmed Sunday that his client is seeking asylum in the US. He provided no other details; it wasn’t immediately clear when Khanban defected or his current whereabouts. The Iranian mission to the UN has not yet commented.
09/26/12: The Miami Herald reports a federal appeals court on Tuesday denied an Arizona sheriff’s request to reverse a lower-court decision barring his deputies from detaining people solely on the suspicion that they’re illegal immigrants. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s ruling focused only on the limit the US District Court for the District of Arizona placed on sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immigration powers and doesn’t confront the case’s ultimate question of whether deputies in Arizona’s most populous county have racially profiled Latinos on their patrols. The Court held that District Jude Murray Snow didn’t abuse his discretion in granting the order and said the ruling didn’t impair the sheriff’s ability to enforce state and federal criminal laws.
09/25/12: Wired reports the Government Accountability Office is warning Congress that its push for drones to become commonplace in U.S. airspace fails to take into account concerns surrounding privacy, security and even GPS jamming and spoofing. The GAO, Congress’ research arm, was responding to the FAA Moderniazation and Reform Act of 2012, which among other things requires the Federal Aviation Administration to accelerate drone flights in U.S. airspace.