Homeland Security

The opportunities offered by the Snowden case

As the initial furor over Edward Snowden’s disclosure of NSA’s surveillance programs dies down and as both Congress and the administration continue their reviews and assessments of the impacts and implications, the opportunity has emerged to examine a number of important issues beyond the pros and cons of the surveillance program itself.

First and foremost, this is an important opportunity to take a close look at the efficiency and effectiveness of the current security clearance process. Over the last decade, there have been numerous policy and legislative efforts to enhance the process. This is the right time to see if those enhancements have actually worked as designed. Does the system effectively use all of the available tools? Or is it still too dependent on traditional investigative modes, such as personal interviews, when various online resources might actually provide better and more accurate information? Are the periodic reviews to update individual clearances conducted in a timely manner? What are the ramifications of the recent announcement at the Defense Department that, due to budget constraints, they are ceasing such re-investigations for duration of the fiscal year? And how much progress have we made in aligning agency-unique clearance requirements so that, to the maximum extent practical, a top secret clearance at one agency is accepted at others?

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The National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force needs to look closer at the Air Force Reserve

As the Air Force deals with budget cuts and force structure battles, there is one structural issue within the Air Force that is long overdue for a hard look.  The Air Force Reserve, particularly the management of the individual reservist programs which impact thousands of reservists could benefit from a close look by the congressionally mandated National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force.

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Susan Rice: A national security adviser for the 21st century

President Barack Obama’s appointment of UN Ambassador Susan Rice to be his national security adviser sends a promising signal about the president’s vision for his second term. Unfairly caught in the politicized maelstrom surrounding the 2012 Benghazi attacks, Ambassador Rice now takes her rightful place as one of the leading voices guiding our country’s foreign policy. In my time serving in Congress and advising the administration, I have had the privilege to personally interact and work with Ambassador Rice. Her experience and values make her uniquely suited to confront the challenges faced by the White House in the coming months and years.

Rice’s long career, and particularly her distinguished tenure at the United Nations, indicates that she will be a national security adviser for the 21st century. She combines a keen understanding of how the world has changed in recent years while appreciating the fundamentals of international relations that have guided this country for centuries. She knows that issues of human rights, democracy, and development cannot be separated from today’s national security calculations.

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Time to fix our seriously misaligned nuclear strategy

In anticipation of the G8 summit next month, we can expect serious discussion to be held about how to address today’s nuclear threats, including proliferation, the risks posed by the Iranian nuclear program and North Korean provocations.

As we have seen over the past 12 years, should a military response be deemed necessary to meet these threats, the U.S. has demonstrated itself to be the most effective practitioner of symmetric warfare the world has ever seen — but addressing asymmetric challenges has proven significantly more difficult.

Our experiences have shown that the biggest threats to our warriors have not been other armies, but IEDs; the biggest threats to our ships have not been big navies, but small boats and missiles. And today, the biggest threats to our nuclear security are asymmetric as well.

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Leadership from Congress critical to ensuring global nuclear security

Security vulnerabilities in the nation’s nuclear weapons enterprise have made startling headlines in recent weeks. An 82-year-old nun and her two cohorts were found guilty of sabotage after breaking into Oak Ridge, Tenn.’s Y-12 nuclear complex, the nation’s main storage vault for weapons-usable highly enriched uranium. They breached a $150-million-a-year security system. In North Dakota, 17 officers charged with controlling nuclear missiles at Minot Air Force Base — home to 150 of the U.S. arsenal of 450 nuclear-tipped Minuteman 3 ICBMs — were stripped of their duties amid safety and security violations.
 
Congress has held hearings on these disturbing failures—and rightly so. Recalling the unintended 2007 flight of six nuclear-armed cruise missiles across several U.S. states, it’s clear that the United States needs to do more to uphold the solemn responsibility of making certain that our nuclear weapons and materials are effectively secured. 

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Continuing Daniel Inouye's fight to restore Memorial Day's meaning

Daniel Inouye, who passed away in December after a half-century representing Hawaii in the U.S. Senate, was one of America's most beloved public servants. Even before he arrived on Capitol Hill, Inouye had already distinguished himself in a different kind of national service. Enlisting in a Japanese-American volunteer regiment during World War II, he bravely led his platoon in a successful assault on an enemy-controlled ridge in Italy, personally neutralizing enemy machine gun emplacements. Inouye eventually was presented with the Medal of Honor for his heroism under fire, though the battle cost him his right arm.
 
Inouye, however, knew that other American service members have made even greater sacrifices in wartime. That is perhaps why, for the last quarter-century of his life, Inouye carried on a lonely fight to restore Memorial Day to its proper focus as a time for honoring Americans who have lost their lives in service to our country.


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Congress must move carefully in regulating corporate cybersecurity

The Federal Trade Commission's recent lawsuit against hotelier Wyndham neatly encapsulates the most vexing problem information security practitioners face — how to protect digital data residing inside corporate networks.

In its initial response to the FTC, Wyndham rightly brings to the fore the irrationality of being accused of improper consumer data custodianship while not receiving specific instructions on the methodology, tools or best practices it should have adhered to in order to protect the data.

It's absurd for the FTC, a federal agency, to accuse public and private firms of improperly handling consumer data while a recent report from the Pentagon claims that as far as cyberattacks from abroad are concerned, even our military is not prepared to defend against this threat.

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Should we give China 'eyes and ears' to U.S. communications?

The $20 billion proposed merger between U.S. cellular carrier Sprint/Nextel and Japan’s SoftBank seems like a good match. Sprint would partner with one of the most dynamic cellular companies in the world, whose latest claim to fame is the Advanced Extended Global Platform (AXGP), the fastest mobile broadband network serving Tokyo and other Japanese cities. But Sprint has another suitor, the TV satellite provider DiSH Network. DiSH would actually offer Sprint shareholders more money than SoftBank, and offer significant synergies that benefit consumers.

Yet there is more to this than innovative platforms, synergies and returns for shareholders. There is the potential for a SoftBank-acquired Sprint cellular network to serve as a convenient transmission path for malware and spyware, courtesy of SoftBank’s Chinese business partners or their government.

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The false debate

Even an act as terrifying and damaging as 9/11 is no excuse for engaging in torture.

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