Tag Archives: Department of Homeland Security

DHS Secretary Johnson Announces 2-Year Delay of REAL ID Enforcement at Airports

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced on Friday that the Department of Homeland Security will delay enforcement of the REAL ID Act at airports until Jan. 22, 2018.

Bottom line up front: Effective January 22, 2018, air travelers with a driver’s license or identification card issued by a state that does not meet the requirements of the REAL ID Act (unless that state has been granted an extension to comply with the Act) must present an alternative form of identification acceptable to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in order to board a commercial domestic flight. Over the next two years, those states that are not REAL ID compliant are strongly encouraged to meet the requirements of the law for the benefit of their residents,” said Sec. Johnson in a statement.

Enforcement of the policy had previously been delayed until Jan. 10, 2016. However, this would have meant that airline passengers from as many as 11 states would have begun being turned away this year by Transportation Security Administration agents at airports unless they could provide an alternative form of ID, such as a passport.

[RELATED: NSA, NDAA, Real ID Act | Rep. Justin Amash says Congress must correct dangerous path]

Sec. Johnson said, “Right now, no individual needs to adjust travel plans, or rush out to get a new driver’s license or a passport for domestic air travel. Until January 22, 2018, residents of all states will still be able to use a state-issued driver’s license or identification card for domestic air travel.

Finally, we know that some states must change their laws to comply with the REAL ID Act,” added Johnson. “I urge state government leaders to take immediate action to comply with the REAL ID Act, to ensure the continued ability of their residents to fly unimpeded. It is time to move toward final compliance with this law.

[RELATED: Former Libertarian gubernatorial candidate argues against Real ID Act]

The 2005 REAL ID Act, parts of which have been delayed in their implementation many times, requires federal agencies to reject the use of state-issued ID cards that fail to meet minimum standards recommended by the 9/11 Commission as a form of identification.

Sec. Johnson says that Real ID Act enforcement has been activated at nuclear power plants, military bases, and most federal facilities. According to KOAT-TV, some visitors with non-compliant driver’s licenses were turned away at the museum and gift shop of New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range this week.

Some states have resisted REAL ID Act implementation on either cost-related grounds, with critics calling it an unfunded federal mandate, and on civil liberties grounds, with critics opposing national standards that they feel might be incremental steps towards a national ID card.

At present, 23 states are fully compliant with the REAL ID Act, and the Department has used its authority to grant states extensions when they demonstrate steps toward compliance. Thus, 27 states and territories have been granted extensions for a period of time to become compliant. Six states and territories – Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Washington, and American Samoa – are noncompliant and do not currently have extensions,” said Sec. Johnson.

In a 2005 speech before Congress stating his opposition to the Real ID Act, former Republican Congressman Ron Paul said according to Antiwar.com, “The REAL ID Act establishes a national ID card by mandating that states include certain minimum identification standards on driver’s licenses. It contains no limits on the government’s power to impose additional standards. Indeed, it gives authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security to unilaterally add requirements as he sees fit.

Dr. Paul continued, predicting the power struggle between the federal government and some states that is currently unfolding, “Supporters claim it is not a national ID because it is voluntary. However, any state that opts out will automatically make non-persons out of its citizens. The citizens of that state will be unable to have any dealings with the federal government because their ID will not be accepted. They will not be able to fly or to take a train. In essence, in the eyes of the federal government they will cease to exist. It is absurd to call this voluntary.

Congressman: At Least 72 Homeland Security Employees on Terrorist Watchlist

The United States terrorist watchlist includes the names of 72 employees at the Department of Homeland Security, according to one Democratic lawmaker.

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), who was one of 47 Democrats in the House of Representatives to support a GOP bill that would increase the screening of refugees from Iraq and Syria, claimed that DHS has major problems within its own system.

During an interview with Boston Public Radio, Lynch said an investigation was conducted in August by the Office of the Inspector General, which revealed that 72 of the individuals on the U.S. terrorist watchlist were DHS employees.

[pull_quote_center]Back in August, we did an investigation—the Inspector General did—of the Department of Homeland Security, and they had 72 individuals that were on the terrorist watch list that were actually working at the Department of Homeland Security. The director had to resign because of that.[/pull_quote_center]

Lynch also said an investigation was conducted into the practices of the Transportation Security Administration in eight airports, and it resulted in a 95 percent failure rate.

“We had staffers go into eight different airports to test the department of homeland security screening process at major airports,” Lynch said. “They had a 95 percent failure rate. We had folks—this was a testing exercise—we had folks going in there with guns on their ankles, and other weapons on their persons, and there was a 95 percent failure rate.”

[RELATED: TSA Fails DHS Security Test, Allows Weapons, Bombs to Breach Security 67 of 70 Times]

Lynch used previous DHS failures as an example for why he supported the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act when it passed in the House 289 to 137 on Nov. 19. The bill, which President Obama has promised to veto, would require the DHS secretary, the FBI director and the director of national intelligence to clear each refugee before that individual is admitted to the United States.

“It’s a very simple bill, I know that it’s got subsumed within a larger discussion about immigration policy, but basically, the bill we voted on was a very short bill—four pages in length,” Lynch said. “It said that the director of national security shall review the vetting process as being conducted by both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.”

Report: U.S. Bio-Threat Program May Not Be Capable of Detecting Threats

The U.S. federal government’s BioWatch system was launched shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001 in an attempt to detect potential biological terrorist attacks. The system’s effectiveness has been criticized by the media in the past, and a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office does not encourage renewed faith in the BioWatch program.

The GAO report says there is a lack of reliable information about the current system to determine if it would actually detect a biological attack. Generation-2 is a flawed system that makes it impossible for the GAO to suggest improvements, the report states.

The Washington Post reported that “DHS officials defended BioWatch program, which consists of aerosol collectors deployed in more than 30 cities nationwide that draw in air through filters. The filters are collected and taken to laboratories for analysis to check for the presence of anthrax and other pathogens. The system was first deployed in 2003, in response to Sept. 11 and the anthrax attacks that followed.”

The GAO report stated:

[pull_quote_center]DHS lacks reliable information about BioWatch Gen-2’s technical capabilities to detect a biological attack and therefore lacks the basis for informed cost-benefit decisions about possible upgrades or enhancements to the system.[/pull_quote_center]

“The nation’s ability to detect threats against its security requires judicious use of resources directed toward systems whose capabilities can be demonstrated,” the report also stated.

The report recommends the Department of Homeland Security not be allowed to upgrade or enhance BioWatch until they can establish “technical performance requirements” to help improve the system. The recommendations echo a 2010 report by the Institute of Medicine which said “the BioWatch system requires better testing to establish its effectiveness and better collaboration with public health systems to improve its usefulness.”

The GAO also said any autonomous detection system must minimize false positive readings, meet sensitivity requirements and secure information technology networks. BioWatch currently operates in 31 cities including Washington D.C., New York City, Houston, and Los Angeles.

S.Y. Lee, a DHS spokesman, said the program “remains a critical part of our nation’s defense against biological threats.” Despite continuing to defend BioWatch, the DHS did support the GAO’s recommendations.

In 2014, the DHS also cancelled plans to upgrade the BioWatch system because of concerns of high cost and low effectiveness. The upgrade from Generation 2 to Generation 3 technology was expected to cost $3.1 billion during its first five years of operation.

California Mayor Detained by DHS Without Warrant

SAN FRANCISCO, October 5, 2015–  Stockton, California Mayor Anthony R. Silva, who was elected in November 2012, said in a statement that he was recently detained by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at the San Francisco International airport on his way home from a trip to China.

Silva’s two laptops and mobile phone were reportedly confiscated, and he said he was not allowed to leave until he relinquished his personal passwords to the devices. According to Silva, officers provided no warrant or court documents at the scene.

“DHS agents confiscated all my electronic devices including my personal cell phone. Unfortunately, they were not willing or able to produce a search warrant or any court documents suggesting they had a legal right to take my property,” said Silva. “In addition, they were persistent about requiring my passwords for all devices.”

Silva’s attorney, Mark Reichel, claimed the confiscation of personal property and passwords was illegal.

Silva noted in a statement that “They indicated that this action to confiscate personal property at the airport was in fact routine and not unusual.” Silva said that he was also told he had “no right for a lawyer to be present” and that being a U.S. citizen did not “entitle me to rights that I probably thought.”

United States Customs and Immigration Enforcement spokesman James Schwab would not comment on why Silva was detained.

“We can’t control what the mayor or his representatives say … but that won’t dictate what we do or don’t release to the media,” Schwab said. “Our priority is assuring the integrity of the investigative process and generally speaking we don’t acknowledge that an investigation is underway … unless or until charges are filed, arrests are made, or documents are publicly filed with the court that confirm a probe is taking place.”

While Silva said he was willing to comply if the confiscation of his property was legal, he still had concerns.

“I think the American people should be extremely concerned about their personal rights and privacy,” he said. “As I was being searched at the airport, there was a Latino couple to my left, and an Asian couple to my right also being aggressively searched. I briefly had to remind myself that this was not North Korea or Nazi Germany. This is the land of the Free.”

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NH Library Suspends Tor Support Following Email From DHS

A small public library in New Hampshire has recently become the backdrop of a conflict brewing between internet privacy advocates and law enforcement, as city officials and police have taken aim at a project providing privacy-protecting measures to public libraries.

The Kilton Public Library, located in Lebanon, New Hampshire, became the first library in the United States to offer a relay node for Tor, an anonymous internet browsing service.

“The library allowed Tor users around the world to bounce their Internet traffic through the library, thus masking users’ locations,” according to ProPublica.

The Concord Monitor reported that Kilton Library did not offer the Tor browser, but it was “was using a portion of its infrastructure to handle traffic for Tor.”

The introduction of the Tor relay node at Kilton Library, which was announced in late July, was part of a larger initiative launched by the Library Freedom Project (LFP). LFP, based in Boston, advocates for a “privacy-centric paradigm shift in libraries” by working with librarians across the United States and providing them with information about “surveillance threats, privacy rights and responsibilities, and digital tools to stop surveillance.”

One of these digital tools is the relay node, which allows Tor users to preserve their anonymity. LFP is striving to provide relays to libraries nationwide. Currently, there are about 1,000 Tor relay nodes around the world.

LFP’s Alison Macrina visited Kilton Library in the spring and offered a privacy training session. After receiving approval from the library board, she also assisted the library in establishing a Tor relay node.

A little more than a month passed before a special agent within a Department of Homeland Security office in Boston caught wind of LFP’s progress and relayed it to New Hampshire law enforcement. The information was then given to a sergeant at the Lebanon Police Department.

According to ProPublica, DHS spokesman Shawn Neudauer said the DHS agent was offering “visibility/situational awareness” to the proper authorities.

A meeting occured soon after the DHS alert, and police and city officials discussed the possibility that Tor could be abused by criminals.

Lebanon Police Lt. Matthew Isham, expressing worry over Kilton’s new Tor service, said that “for all the good that a Tor may allow as far as speech, there is also the criminal side that would take advantage of that as well,” and “we felt we needed to make the city aware of it.”

Lebanon Deputy City Manager Paula Maville echoed Isham’s concerns and said that Tor’s potential association with criminal operations resulted in “concern from a public relations perspective and we wanted to get those concerns on the table.”

Following the meeting, the library agreed to put Kilton’s the project on hold. “We really weren’t anticipating that there would be any controversy at all,” said Lebanon Public Libraries director Sean Fleming.

“Tor’s hidden services let users publish web sites and other services without needing to reveal the location of the site. Individuals also use Tor for socially sensitive communication: chat rooms and web forums for rape and abuse survivors, or people with illnesses. Journalists use Tor to communicate more safely with whistleblowers and dissidents. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) use Tor to allow their workers to connect to their home website while they’re in a foreign country, without notifying everybody nearby that they’re working with that organization,” explains Tor Project’s overview of the service.

The decision to pause the relay node precedes a scheduled Sept. 15 meeting, where the library board of trustees will vote on whether or not to continue the service. Local activists have organized a rally, scheduled before the meeting, to show support for Kilton Library’s staff and to call attention to the issue of internet privacy and preserving free speech online.

Supreme Court May Review U.S. Government’s Cellphone ‘Kill Switch’

On August 11, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a petition with the  U.S. Supreme Court in their latest effort to force the U.S. government to reveal information about a cellphone shutdown policy, also known as a “kill switch”.

EPIC has fought for records related to the program since July 2011, when it was revealed that Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officials in San Franscico shut down cellular networks during a protest of a murdered homeless man. BART denies blocking cell networks. In July 2012, EPIC submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Homeland Security to find out more about the procedures governing such actions.

The DHS initially claimed that they were “unable to locate or identify any responsive records.” However, on November 12, 2013, a District Court ruled that the DHS improperly withheld information, specifically information regarding something known as Standard Operating Procedure 303 or SOP 303. The DHS appealed this decision and was once again allowed to withhold records. Now EPIC is taking the fight to the Supreme Court.

In their petition to the Supreme Court, EPIC argues that, “[a]bsent Supreme Court review, the decision of the court of appeals could transform the FOIA from a disclosure to a withholding statute.”

Little is known about these programs, but EPIC writes that “a 2011 Report from the White House asserted that the National Security Council and the Office of Science and Technology Policy have the legal authority to control private communications systems in the United States during times of war or other national emergencies.

Also, on July 6, 2012, the White House approved an Executive Order seeking to ensure the continuity of government communications during a national crisis. As part of the Executive Order, DHS was granted the authority to seize private facilities, when necessary, effectively shutting down or limiting civilian communications.”

EPIC has asked the court for three specific pieces of information regarding the kill switch program. They want to see the full text of SOP 303; the full text of the pre-determined “series of questions” that determines if a shutdown is necessary; and any executing protocols related to the implementation of SOP 303, distributed to DHS, other federal agencies, or private companies, including protocols related to oversight of shutdown determinations.

SOP 303 is invaluable in helping the public understanding the true nature and depth of this program. Without understanding how basic procedure around the kill switch works the public is operating in the dark, never knowing when the government might decide conditions permit a shutdown of cellular networks. EPIC also argues that Freedom of Information Act requests, specifically Exemption 7(F) which allows for withholding documents if they are expected to endanger the safety of any individual, are being abused.

What will be the outcome? Will the U.S. Supreme Court take the case and finally give the American public a glimpse into yet another program operated by the State? Or will Americans continue to operate in ignorance? Leave your comments below.

TSA Back Under Fire After Failing to Identify 73 Airport Workers with Terror Ties

Earlier this month, Truth in Media reported on the fact that the Transportation Security Administration abysmally failed a Department of Homeland Security performance test in which 67 of 70 undercover DHS agents were able to slip through security at dozens of US airports with potential weapons and explosives. In response, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson benched TSA Acting Administrator Melvin Carraway and reassigned him to the DHS Office of State and Local Law Enforcement. Secretary Johnson then promoted TSA Acting Deputy Director Mark Hatfield to replace Carraway as head of the TSA.

Meanwhile, a new Department of Homeland Security inspector general report, released last Thursday, identified the fact that the TSA’s airport employee screening procedures failed to identify 73 workers “linked to terrorism.” Fox News notes that the 73 workers were employed by airlines, vendors, and other airport employers.

The TSA did not identify these individuals through its vetting operations because it is not authorized to receive all terrorism-related categories under current interagency watch-listing policy,” read the report. The DHS inspector general called the TSA’s airport worker security checks “generally effective,” but noted that some employees slipped through the cracks because the TSA “relied on airport operators to perform criminal history and work authorization checks, but had limited oversight over these commercial entities.

The report said of the 73 workers with alleged terror ties, “TSA acknowledged that these individuals were cleared for access to secure airport areas despite representing a potential transportation security threat.

TSA had less effective controls in place for ensuring that aviation workers 1) had not committed crimes that would disqualify them from having unescorted access to secure airport areas, and 2) had lawful status and were authorized to work in the United States,” read the report.

The report also determined that “thousands of records used for vetting workers contained potentially incomplete or inaccurate data, such as an initial for a first name and missing social security numbers” and that the “TSA did not have appropriate edit checks in place to reject such records from vetting.

Without complete and accurate information, TSA risks credentialing and providing unescorted access to secure airport areas for workers with potential to harm the nation’s air transportation system,” the inspector general concluded.

Former TSA official Chad Wolf said in the above-embedded video by CNN, “These are airport workers, so this really speaks to the issue of the insider threat. TSA’s primary way to guard against that is to make sure that these background checks are complete and they’re exhaustive, and what this report says is they’re not complete, nor are they exhaustive.

DHS Chief Reassigns TSA Administrator Over Security Test Failures

Yesterday, Truth in Media brought news of a Department of Homeland Security report, first published by ABC News, which identified the fact that the Transportation Security Administration utterly failed a DHS security test in which undercover “red team” agents posed as passengers and attempted to slip through checkpoints at US airports carrying potential weapons or explosives. Over the course of the test, TSA agents allowed 67 out of 70 armed undercover agents to slip through checkpoints at dozens of American airports, raising questions about the bureau’s ability to protect airline passengers.

Late Monday afternoon, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson ordered a series of changes aimed at fixing the security vulnerabilities. Fox News notes that Secretary Johnson has reassigned TSA Acting Administrator Melvin Carraway to work in the DHS Office of State and Local Law Enforcement and has promoted Acting Deputy Director Mark Hatfield to Carraway’s former position as TSA Acting Administrator.

We take these findings very seriously. The numbers in these reports never look good out of context, but they are a critical element in the continual evolution of our aviation security,” read a statement by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Additionally, Secretary Johnson ordered a review of the agency’s screening equipment and that TSA officers undergo extra training. He also plans to continue the undercover testing program.

Former White House counter-terrorism official Frank Cilluffo told CBS This Morning in the above-embedded video that, when it comes to security, “We’ve got to be right 100% of the time. The adversary only has to be right once.

According to The New York Times, President Obama nominated Coast Guard Vice Admiral Peter Neffenger to serve as TSA Administrator back in April, but Neffenger has yet to be confirmed by the Senate. Secretary Johnson called on senators to confirm Neffenger in the wake of the failed tests.

An aide to Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) told Fox News that the test’s findings that have been published so far in news reports “raise valid concerns in light of earlier inspector general findings and ‘red team’ tests of TSA’s vulnerabilities.” Said Senator Johnson’s aide, “Taxpayers have spent billions of dollars to secure our air travel system. It’s important for that goal to be met.

TSA Fails DHS Security Test, Allows Weapons, Bombs to Breach Security 67 of 70 Times

The Transportation Security Administration abysmally failed an internal investigation into its ability to stop undercover Department of Homeland Security agents’ attempts to breach security with potential weapons or bombs, according to an explosive new report revealed by ABC News. The report notes that the test exposed the fact that TSA officers at “dozens” of US airports failed to catch DHS “red team” members armed with potential weapons or bombs in 95% of 70 attempts.

One such agent made it through security with a fake bomb strapped to his back despite setting off a magnetometer and enduring a subsequent pat-down.

“We know that the adversary innovates and we have to push ourselves to capacity in order to remain one step ahead. [O]ur testers often make these covert tests as difficult as possible,” read a 2013 TSA blog cited by ABC News describing the methods used by covert DHS red team agents, who attempt to blend in with passengers and sneak weapons through security to test the TSA’s capabilities.

At a 2013 congressional hearing, former TSA administrator John Pistole described the red team testers as “super terrorists” and said, “[Testers] know exactly what our protocols are. They can create and devise and conceal items that … not even the best terrorists would be able to do.” That same year, the TSA came under fire after a red team tester strapped with fake explosives was able to sneak through security measures, including a pat down and a metal detector, at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty Airport.

A September 2014 TSA report also found security vulnerabilities in the bureau’s baggage screening system. That report noted the fact that, even with $540 million in spending on new screening equipment and $11 million spent for training, the TSA did not noticeably improve its performance following a prior 2009 review in which it also had performed poorly.

A DHS official told ABC News, “Upon learning the initial findings of the Office of Inspector General’s report, Secretary Johnson immediately directed TSA to implement a series of actions, several of which are now in place, to address the issues raised in the report.”

Homeland Security Admits: No Credible Terrorist Plot Against Mall of America

Following threats from Islamist militants in Somalia against the Mall of America, and the chief of the Department of Homeland Security’s warning that visitors to the mall should be “particularly vigilant,” the department later admitted that it was not aware of any credible plot from the militants.

On Sunday, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson appeared on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. Johnson said that the American public needed to be “particularly vigilant” in response to the militant’s threats.

We’re in a new phase in global terrorist threat right now which involves core al-Qaeda, but now other groups, the ISIL group being the most prominent example of that,” Johnson said.

This terror threat comes at a time when Homeland Security is waiting for Congress to pass legislation to continue funding the department. The upcoming deadline is Feb. 27.

Regarding a possible shutdown, Johnson said, “It’s bizarre and absurd that we’re even having this discussion in these challenging times, given the global terrorist threat we’ve just been talking about, given the harsh winter we’re in the midst of, and all the other things that we do.”

The Mall of America, located in Bloomington, Minnesota, released a statement regarding the threat:

Mall of America is aware of the threatening video that was released, which included mention and images of the mall. We take any potential threat seriously and respond appropriately. We have implemented extra security precautions, some may be noticeable to guests and others won’t.”

Reuters reported that while security officials are “worried about the risk of an attack on U.S. soil by a solitary militant,” the group al Shabaab “has not appeared to gain much traction with most Somalis in the West, including in Minneapolis.”

Following Johnson’s comments, DHS spokeswoman Marsha Catron released a statement on Sunday saying that the department has worked with both the FBI and “private sector partners,” and has found no evidence of a credible threat to the mall.

“We are not aware of any specific, credible plot against the Mall of America or any other domestic commercial shopping center,” Catron said.

DHS Urges Lenovo to Remove Israeli Software, Fearing Cyberattacks

by Jason Ditz, February 22, 2015

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has advised Chinese laptop maker Lenovo Group to stop installing the Superfish adware on its computers, saying it makes those computers vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Superfish, developed by Israel-based Komodia, has been installed on all computers by Lenovo, the world’s largest PC maker, since 2010. The software introduces vulnerabilities in the way it collects data to serve up ads, and security experts warn it could easily be co-opted to steal user data outright.

Lenovo has denied that Superfish monitors user behavior or records any data, though it is clear that the vulnerabilities it introduces, including a self-signed certificate, could be used to do so.

Lenovo has offered a removal tool on its website as well as instructions to manually remove Superfish from a computer, which users are urged to do. Superfish is Windows exclusive, so consumers who have bought Lenovo laptops but are not running Windows on them are not impacted.

Dept. of Homeland Security Tells Companies to Spy on Their Customers

Thirteen years to the day after the tragic 9/11 attacks, authorities continue to project suspicions on law-abiding citizens who have not been accused of crimes, rather than known terrorists. According to The Washington Times, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said that DHS will be issuing new instructions to retailers this week that encourage them to spy on their customers’ transactions in an effort to catch individuals who might be planning a terrorist attack. Johnson characterized the effort as a continuation of the controversial “if you see something, say something” campaign that pushes citizens to snoop on one another.

Secretary Johnson specified that retailers should be trained on how to identify a “long list” of products that could be used to make a bomb. However, he has yet to clarify how retail employees, who are rarely trained in advanced chemistry, would be able to spot bomb-making materials in a check-out line. If the plan were to count on companies to analyze their sales records to find individuals who bought combinations of explosive precursors, costly point-of-sale software upgrades would have to be made, and that strategy would only catch potential terrorists that identify themselves during the transaction by, for example, paying for items using a credit card in their own name, rather than cash.

During a question-and-answer session that followed a speech by Secretary Johnson at Wednesday’s Council on Foreign Relations meeting, reporter Lucy Komisar asked, “Taking up what you said about concern about homegrown terrorism… How do you deal with the fact that some budding terrorists can very easily go to some state where there are very few restrictions, none really enforced, get assault weapons, get handguns, walk around in the street with them, walk around even in an airport with them? Isn’t this a huge hole in your protection of people in this country when terrorists in this country can get lethal weapons right here and turn them on us?”

Secretary Johnson replied, “Without directly commenting on various gun control ideas out there… I am concerned, and, put handguns aside for a moment, put assault weapons aside for a moment, I am concerned about how easy it is for somebody to buy, in an open fashion, materials, explosives, precursors to explosives, pressure cookers that can be used to cause mass destruction, mass violence. We saw an example of that in Boston last year… We can’t and we shouldn’t prohibit the sale of a pressure cooker. We can sensitize retail businesses to be on guard for suspicious behavior by those who buy this kind of stuff, and, so one of the reasons I am concerned about domestic-based acts of mass violence is the ease with which somebody can assemble things that in and of themselves are not dangerous but you put them all together… and then you combine that with some of the learning on the internet that various groups put out… it combines for a serious concern and a serious homeland security concern, and so I… have decided that we need to make, as a large part of the homeland security mission, countering violent extremism at home.” Aside from the example of the pressure cooker, Johnson did not yet specify which products are considered explosive precursors. DHS will issue the new guidelines this week, which are expected to include tips on how to identify potential terrorists among retail customers.

Civil liberties advocates often worry that comments like these by authorities could drive citizens to a state of paranoia, leading fear-stricken people to report benign activities to law enforcement. As an example, an African-American man was recently fatally shot by police in a Walmart while holding a toy BB gun that he intended to purchase from the store after a panicked couple reported him to police in a way that led officers to believe that he was an active shooter about to begin a rampage.

Video of DHS Secretary Johnson’s entire speech at Wednesday’s Council on Foreign Relations meeting can be seen in the above-embedded video. The question-and-answer portion from which the above quote was taken begins at around the 38:05 mark.

U.S. Officials Claim Islamic State Does Not Pose a Direct Threat of Attack on the United States

On Wednesday, senior United States Officials said that while there is the danger of the Islamic State spreading through the Middle East, and into Europe, the group does not pose an urgent threat of an attack in the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis, Francis Taylor, said that the DHS is “unaware of any specific credible threat to the U.S. homeland” from the Islamic State.

Taylor added that while the Islamic State was not a direct threat to U.S. soil, the group still has capabilities most terrorist organizations don’t possess, and it “constitutes an active and serious threat within the region and could attempt attacks on U.S. targets overseas with little or no warning.”

According to the Washington Post, the FBI has arrested “more than a half dozen people trying to travel to Syria to support the Islamic State,” and about a dozen people from the United States “are believed to have joined the Islamic State.”

Deputy Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Nicholas Rasmussen, acknowledged that the Islamic State’s “ability to carry out complex large-scale attacks in the West is currently limited.”

The Associated Press reported that, “More than 100 Americans have traveled to Syria to fight for various militant groups or tried to make the journey.”

The Washington Post noted that after the group’s leader threatened a “direct confrontation” with the United States in January, Islamic militants have struck out at the U.S. recently by beheading two American journalists after the United States began bombing Islamic State forces in Iraq.

The Director for the National Counterterrorism Center, Matthew Olsen, acknowledged that the United States is concerned that an Islamic State sympathizer, who is  “perhaps motivated by online propaganda,” is capable of conducting a “limited, self-directed attack here at home with no warning.”

While the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11 has sparked rumors that members of the Islamic State will lash out directly at the United States, Olsen said, “In our view, any threat to the U.S. homeland from these types of extremists is likely to be limited in scope and scale.”

These statements from senior U.S. officials follow a recent video from former Texas Congressman, Ron Paul, in which he quoted the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, who said that there is “no evidence there is anything imminent or planned” by ISIS for the United States, and that we shouldn’t “expect them to do anything here in the United States.

During his address to the nation Wednesday night, President Obama insisted that he has the authority to carry out strikes against ISIS and yet, the fact that there is no direct threat to the United States actually disqualifies the President from that authority.

Under the Constitution, the Commander in Chief must obtain a declaration of war from the U.S. Congress in order to carry out strikes against any nation or group unless the United States is under immediate threat.


Homeland Security Pours Billions into Militarizing Police with “Little Oversight”

The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was formed under the Bush Administration in 2002, as a response to 9/11. In 2014, the DHS has 240,000 employees, and among other things, it is responsible for giving police departments grants for military equipment.

Grants given to local police departments from the DHS have received a great deal of scrutiny recently, after protests in Ferguson, Missouri were met with militarized local law enforcement.

The Executive Director for the Freedom of the Press Foundation, and a columnist for The Guardian, Trevor Timm, referred to the DHS as the “primary arms dealer for out-of-control local cops in Ferguson and beyond,” and criticized the fact that the DHS was “handing out tens of billions of dollars in grants for military equipment in the last decade with little to no oversight and even less training on how use it.”

From an oversight perspective, DHS grant programs are pretty much a mess,” an anonymous congressional aide told The Guardian. “They don’t know what’s been bought with the money, how that equipment has been used, or whether it’s made anyone measurably any safer.”

An audit from 2012 found that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is in charge of overseeing the grant program, “exists with little oversight.”

FEMA did not have a system in place to determine the extent that Homeland Security Grant Program funds enhanced the states’ capabilities to prevent, deter, respond to and recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters and other emergencies before awarding more funds to the states,” the audit said.

Timm pointed out that although the DHS doesn’t have missiles like the ones used in Pakistan and Yemen, it does have its own “fleet of Predator drones roaming the US border and far beyond, which it has loaned out to police over 500 times for myriad unknown reasons.”

Homeland Security is also handing out millions of dollars to local police to ‘accelerate and facilitate the adoption’ of smaller drones that police can fly themselves,” wrote Timm. “Cops claim they want these ‘middleman’ drones for ’emergencies,’ but in places like California’s Alameda county, documents show they’ll end up using them for ‘crowd control’ and ‘intelligence gathering.'”

The criticism of Homeland Security’s actions was so great, that according to the New York Times, the White House announced that they would conduct a review regarding “whether the government should continue providing such equipment and, if so, whether local authorities have sufficient training to use it appropriately.”

FEDS Raid Home for $60K Land Rover SUV for EPA Violation



A North Carolina woman is lawyering up after the Department of Homeland Security came to her house and seized her 1985 Land Rover Defender SUV.

“I haven’t done anything wrong,” she told WBTV.

Brinkley bought the Land Rover Defender last year via the internet. She had invested more than $60,000 into the car.

“They popped up the hood and looked at the Vehicle Identification Number and compared it with a piece of paper and then took the car with them,” she said.

According to WBTV, in recent years some importers have been changing VIN numbers in order to comply with import regulations. All vehicles imported into the United States have to meet strict safety and emissions standards, which Land Rover Defenders do not. The only way around these standards is by importing vehicles  25-years-old or older, which is why in recent years importers have changed VINs to make a vehicle appear older.

Defenders, which are considered rare in the U.S., sell at a premium — even 25-year-old ones.

Brinkley said she has been trying to reach the seller with no success.

She told Fox News that she had a title for the vehicle and did enough work on it that it would have passed inspection. Brinkley said the warrant presented to her had the name of a previous owner on it.

“There were 40 seized that day all over the United States,” Brinkley said, adding that she’s in “disbelief” that her property could just be taken.

“I want my car back,” she said.

She has 35 days to appeal the seizure, but has no idea where her SUV is.

WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Breaking Exclusive: Radio Host Tony Stiles Arrested And Detained In Texas

El Paso, TX- Tony Stiles, a radio personality and popular figure in the liberty movement, has spoken exclusively with Benswann.com about his encounter with the Department Of Homeland Security in Texas. Stiles and two members of his tour team were arrested and detained for over seven hours on Thursday after he was stopped by DHS. Stiles was able to capture a portion of the incident on video. tony-stiles

Stiles is currently on a national “Truth, Liberty, & Solutions” speaking tour. On Thursday, he was in California preparing for his next speaking arrangement in Tampa, Florida. Stiles and his accompanying team members, Eric Goodrich and Nathan Styles, had checked out of their hotel. Goodrich and Styles headed to Tampa in Stile’s vehicle, a GMC Yukon, while Stiles stayed behind.

Stiles soon learned that Goodrich and Styles had been pulled over by police in El Paso, Texas. According to Goodrich and Styles, the police told them that Stiles’ vehicle had been reported stolen. Stiles had not reported his car stolen, but the vehicle was impounded anyway and Goodrich and Styles were detained. Stiles immediately left California and drove a rental car to meet Goodrich and Styles in El Paso to straighten out the situation. Stiles’ vehicle was eventually released and the three resumed their trip to Florida.

Outside of El Paso, Stiles, Goodrich and Styles were pulled over again, this time by DHS. The men were told by the agents that it was a “routine stop” but their K-9 unit smelled  something, even though Stiles stated the dog was nowhere near his car. Between 6 and 10 agents surrounded the vehicle with their hands on their sidearms and ordered Stiles, Goodrich and Styles to get out. They all refused. Stiles told Benswann.com that the agents informed him that if they did not get out of the vehicle they would be removed. Stiles, Goodrich and Styles got out of the car after the agents opened the doors.

One of the agents attempted to take Stiles’ phone from him. The agent claimed that he was unsure if it was a weapon, but Stiles refused to surrender it. Stiles was able to take video of their forced exit from the vehicle and the following search.

After exiting the vehicle, the three men watched as the DHS agents began searching the vehicle without consent. Stiles said the video shows one of the agents taking his hand out of his pocket suspiciously while a red bag was being searched. After the search, the agents told the men that marijuana had been found in the vehicle. Stiles affirmed to Benswann.com that neither he, Goodrich or Styles had any marijuana in their possession. The three were arrested and brought to the Sierra Blanca holding facility, where they were held in separate cells for over seven hours.

The men were released after Goodrich eventually took the marijuana possession charge. While the men maintain their innocence, Stiles told Benswann.com that if none of them took the charge they would have all been held for days while waiting for a judge. The decision was made after gathering legal advice from multiple sources.

The men were taken aback by Thursday’s events and Stiles is puzzled as to why his team was stopped twice. He is concerned that there’s an underlying motive behind what looks to him to be a concentrated effort to put him in jail. He’s unconvinced that another incident similar to this one will not occur again.

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