August 23, 2012 |
WASHINGTON - Scientists who helped pioneer BioWatch, the government's system for detecting a biological attack on the U.S., knew from the start that it was prone to false alarms, records show. Between 2003, when the nationwide network of air samplers was first deployed, and 2006, officials at the federally funded Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory filed five patent applications aimed at improving BioWatch's reliability. "The existing methods for detecting" a release of disease-causing organisms into the environment were "inadequate," according to a patent application filed on behalf of Livermore scientists in December 2006.
August 5, 2012 |
WASHINGTON - On a chaparral-covered hillside 40 miles north of Los Angeles in June 2010, researchers from the Department of Homeland Security hid a device the size of a pack of cigarettes that emitted a safe pulse of low-grade radiation. It was a stand-in for a dirty bomb, or fallout from a nuclear meltdown. Nearby, a pilot toggled a joystick, and a gray drone with the wingspan of a California condor banked through the sky. As the plane's sensor sniffed for radioactive isotopes, law enforcement officers and firefighters watched a portable controller that looked like an oversized Game Boy. In minutes, a warning signal glowed on the screen.
August 2, 2012 |
WASHINGTON -- Despite warnings from intelligence officials that the U.S. is ill-prepared to stop a growing wave of cyber attacks against its crucial national infrastructure, the Senate on Thursday failed to pass a watered-down bill that would have set voluntary standards to harden the network defenses of electric utilities, chemical plants and other privately owned facilities. Most Republicans and a few Democrats voted to block the measure even after its sponsors agreed to scale back its regulatory mandates.
July 20, 2012 |
Theater owners nationwide were stunned by Friday's shooting at a Colorado cinema and said they were stepping up security for weekend screenings of "The Dark Knight Rises. " “People are shocked and appalled by what's happened," said Patrick Corcoran, spokesman for the National Assn. of Theatre Owners. “We haven't had any other incident like this.” The theater trade group said it had circulated to members various security guidelines provided by the Department of Homeland Security, such as ensuring that emergency plans are up to date and staff are trained to report suspicious activity.
July 19, 2012 |
WASHINGTON - Congressional leaders from both parties are pressing Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to address newly raised questions about BioWatch, the nation's system for detecting deadly biological attacks. In letters issued Thursday and last week, the leaders said their questions were prompted by a July 8 Los Angeles Times article that identified repeated shortcomings in BioWatch's performance, including dozens of false alarms that signaled apparent terrorist attacks when none had occurred.
July 8, 2012 |
DENVER - As Chris Lindley drove to work that morning in August 2008, a call set his heart pounding. The Democratic National Convention was being held in Denver, and Barack Obama was to accept his party's presidential nomination before a crowd of 80,000 people that night. The phone call was from one of Lindley's colleagues at Colorado's emergency preparedness agency. The deadly bacterium that causes tularemia - long feared as a possible biological weapon - had been detected at the convention site.
July 6, 2012 |
WASHINGTON - A computer specialist is suing the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security after a controversial fingerprint-sharing program incorrectly identified him as an illegal immigrant and authorities ordered him detained in a maximum-security prison. The lawsuit is the first legal challenge by a U.S. citizen to the Secure Communities program, which the Obama administration has expanded nationwide over the objections of immigration advocacy groups and Democratic governors in Illinois, New York and Massachusetts.
July 5, 2012 |
It's not often that the Department of Homeland Security makes it into a science blog, but this is an unusual week. The department announced this week that it has developed the first vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease that can be manufactured and licensed in the United States and that could be used in the event of an outbreak of the disease in this country. "This is the biggest news in [foot-and-mouth disease] research in the last 50 years," said veterinarian Lawrence Barrett, director of the department's high-containment Plum Island Animal Disease Center on the tip of Long Island, N.Y. The licensed vaccine is effective against only one strain of the virus, but vaccines against the other strains are already in development.
June 11, 2012 |
WASHINGTON -- Refusing to back away from its controversial plan to purge voter rolls before the presidential election, the Florida Department of State on Monday filed a lawsuit against theU.S. Department of Homeland Securityfor failing to assist the state in its efforts to identify noncitizens who are registered to vote. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said the department “has failed to meet its legal obligation” to provide access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program, a database known as SAVE, which contains citizenship information.
May 27, 2012 |
The federal government says it has plans to use advanced technology to dramatically reduce the number of pat-down searches performed at the nation's airports. The Department of Homeland Security recently put out a request for technology companies to come up with a hand-held scanning device that can be used instead of pat-down searches on passengers who set off alarms on full-body scanners. The department oversees the Transportation Security Administration, which operates about 700 full-body scanners at 180 airports across the country.