April Podcast

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SOFT TARGETS, BIOTHREATS, CORPORATE CULTURE, AND MORE

In the April podcast, Cybersecurity Editor Megan Gates talks about the recently passed Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act. Is the government doing an effective job combatting deadly viruses like Zika? Homeland Security Editor Lilly Chapa fills us in. Senior Editor Mark Tarallo explains how to assess and improve your workplace culture. And finally, Jennifer Hesterman, retired U.S. Air Force colonel and author of the 2015 ASIS Book of the Year, sits down for a discussion on soft targets and how to harden them.

About Security Management Highlights: Join me each month as I interview industry thought-leaders, editors from the magazine, and ASIS members about the latest trends in security. The podcast is available on iTunes, SoundCloud, and www.securitymanagement.com

Gen. McChrystal Challenges Conventional Military Methods in GovSec Keynote Address

Threats to national security, chiefly cyberthreats, are evolving rapidly and must be met with an evolving strategy by our military and government. That’s according to General Stanley McChrystal, former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan. He spoke at the annual GovSec conference in Washington, D.C., today.

McChrystal related leading a coalition of military forces and government agencies against al Qaeda to fighting sophisticated cyber attacks. He recounted that when he was first tasked with leading the troops in Afghanistan, he relied too much on traditional military methods to fight an untraditional enemy. But because the terrorist network was spread out among many regions, with no clear hierarchy, he quickly learned the coalition needed to adjust its strategy.

“When we first faced al Qaeda, the first thing we tired to do was do what we already did well. We tried to do all the things that we were good at and better than the enemy. It [wasn’t] effective, because the enemy didn’t play in that sector,” McChrystal said. “The only way to deal with them was to take our structure, and we had to let go of it. We had to change, and our mantra became it takes a network to defeat a network,” he said.

In Afghanistan, McChrystal invited different government agencies and the military to work together under the same tent, which he called the “situational awareness room.” There, people could share ideas and information to better understand the terrorist network and how it operated. “It had an extraordinary effect on us being a better informed and effective team,” he said. “The way to success was sharing something called shared consciousness and purpose. We started to be more effective because everyone heard the same conversation.”

The general said combating cyberthreats must similarly be dealt with by evolving our strategy, thinking about the enemy in a way we never have before, and sharing information better. “If an informal group goes after one of the major banks in the United States [online], that is a strategic attack, but its not against a state entity by a state entity,” he explained. “The response of nation to nation physically connecting isn’t possible,” like in wartime, he said. Rather, he said, the United States government should work with both public and private partners to jointly combat the attacks.

He admitted that while there are risks involved with transparency, the benefit of collaboration outweighs those dangers. “Sharing of info between agencies [and the] public and private sector give people a much better ability to understand and deal with the problem – and the problem’s not going away,” he said. “If you want to be a bad actor it’s going to be easier to enter that than ever before. We’ve got to cope with evolving threats. Just building firewalls won’t be enough.”

Upcoming Elections Highlight Venezuela’s Uncertain Future

Since the death of long-time Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was announced on March 5, a harsh light has been cast on the economic and political future of the South American nation. The upcoming April 14 elections will be a referendum on whether the country will continue to operate as it did under the Chavez regime, or move in a new direction. These and other questions were the raised in a panel discussion titled “Latin America Post-Chavez” hosted by the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Arlington, Virginia.

Roger Noriega, a former assistant secretary of state and former U.S. ambassador for the Organization of American States (OAS), was a member of the panel. He said the upcoming elections between Chavez’ hand-picked successor Nicolás Maduro and Henrique Capriles, the opposition candidate, represent a choice between democracy and the perpetuation of a state that has become increasingly isolated from the region and world.

Valter Campanato - Agencia Brasil.
Photo by Valter Campanato – Agencia Brasil.

“There’s a pending socioeconomic meltdown, rampant street crime, a faltering oil sector, bitter in-fighting within the Chavista movement, complicity with drug trafficking and terrorism,” Noriega said. “You see inflation, food shortages, power outages; a crumbling infrastructure which is taking a terrible toll more and more on Venezuelans across the board.” He emphasized that, despite the failing state, Maduro continues to walk in the footsteps of Chavez. “There does not seem to be any subtle pivoting in the economic policies, or political trajectory, or rhetoric of the regime.”

Maduro is expected to capture the election over Capriles, who ran against Chavez in the October presidential election. Noriega credited this all-but-certain victory for Maduro to the “distinct institutional advantage” the Chavistas have over the opposition.

“They have of course some residual popularity,” he said. “Chavez was a popular figure to a considerable extent, particularly among the very poor, and they had this great institutional unfair advantage in access to the media, you know virtually most of the independent media was silenced…he could insist that every network in the country carry his speeches, which could go on for long periods of time,” while on the other hand, “the opposition has much less fewer resources to buy that kind of advertising and buy that access to the media that they would need to get their message out.”

Just last Wednesday, Maduro cut off informal talks with Washington, accusing the United States of playing a role in Chavez’ cancer diagnosis. An official with the U.S. State Department said such “bizarre” allegations call “into question whether we’re dealing with rational actors.”

Noriega similarly characterized the actions of Maduro, which haven’t stabilized the economy thus far, as illogical. “The Venezuelan economy…has been decimated over 14 years by gross mismanagement, staggering corruption, and policies that were really consciously meant to strangle the private sector,” he said. “I had thought maybe that [Maduro] would adopt a post-Chavez period, some sort of tactical moderation both politically and economically, but that does not seem to be the case.”

Surveillance Laws Need to Be Updated, Says FBI General Counsel

The rapid advancement of technology has had a positive impact on law enforcement, but it also poses enormous legal challenges because the U.S. has “old laws,” according to Andrew Weissman, general counsel to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). He spoke at the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law & National Security luncheon in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.

Weissman cited the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), passed in 1994, as a prime example of where the law has not kept up with technology. In this case, the issue is the current legal limitations placed on intelligence gathering. CALEA enabled law enforcement to conduct lawful surveillance on digital communication by requiring telecommunications companies to equip themselves for such monitoring. The The law was amended in 2004 to apply to broadband-based communications. But despite the proliferation of Web-based communication since then, the statute has not evolved to tackle the problem of Web-based surveillance.

“There’s been very little movement; it’s not evolved since 1994,” Weissman said. He cited file sharing programs like Gmail, DropBox, and Google Voice as just a few of the Internet technologies outside the realm of CALEA. Weissman explained that law enforcement’s not being able to lawfully monitor this type of communication leaves out a critical piece of the crime-fighting puzzle. “[We’re] making the ability to intercept communications with a court order increasingly obsolete. Those communications are being used for criminal conversations,” he said.” So this huge legal apparatus to prevent crimes [and] prevent terrorist acts is becoming increasingly hampered and increasingly marginalized the more we have technology that is not covered by CALEA.”

Weismann said the nature of preventing criminal activity does not lend itself to public discourse, but that’s exactly what is needed to improve current circumstances.

“It’s a very hard thing to talk about publicly,” he said. “If you’re in law enforcement or the intelligence community, you don’t like to tell bad actors what you know and what you don’t know. If you tell them what it is you’re capable or not capable of doing, it makes it that much easier for people to avoid being caught. So the mere public discourse about this is sort of a losing proposition.” Even so, he said, “there should be a public debate about it.

Weismann said the intelligence community must come up with a solution that is tailored to today’s technologies but doesn’t stifle growth in the industry. “You don’t want to have a system where you’re needlessly imposing burdens on thriving industries or even budding industries,” he warned.

There has been an effort to address the problem, Weismann noted. The FBI has been working with other members of the intelligence community, to try to draft possible language for how a new law might “tackle the problem of trying to modernize where we were in 1994, even given how the technology has advanced.” Language for a legislative proposal that would broaden wiretapping laws on the Internet has been in the works since 2011, including the monitoring of social networking sites, he said. However, Weismann did not indicate any sort of timeline as to when the proposal might be officially introduced.

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Fiscal Austerity for Military May Spur Innovation in Drones

Whether or not drastic budget cuts called for in sequestration take effect March 1, the military, like all of government, will find funds flowing less freely from a budget-conscious Congress. That austerity will have ramifications for the unmanned vehicle (drone) industry, since the military is the number-one developer of unmanned vehicle technologies, said Michael Toscano, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). He spoke with me at the first day of the AUVSI’s Unmanned System’s Program Review 2013 in Tysons Corner, Virginia.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), who serves on the Congressional Robotics Caucus and who was also at the conference, warned that the impact of sequestration would be far-reaching for national defense on multiple levels.

But austerity need not be viewed only in negative terms, Toscano said. Fiscal constraints will force the industry to be more inventive, he explained. And that’s likely to lead to new technology “that allows you to do things differently than you did before.”

He also discussed how drones can help be a force multiplier for a military that may have fewer boots on the ground. “You use unmanned systems that can be sometimes more effective and efficient or lower in cost, and they can still do the mission in a complimentary way. So instead of having 20 people, you only have 10 people. But it’s augmented with 5 unmanned systems that still allow those 10 people to be efficient and effective to do the same amount of mission.”

The AUVSI conference continues through Thursday.

FAA Close to Naming Six Drone Test Sites

Congress has set a deadline of September 13, 2015, by which unmanned aircraft systems (drones) must be integrated into the U.S. aviation system. The 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act also mandated that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) set up six test sites for safer research and development of the unmanned aircraft before introducing such craft into U.S. airspace. Concerns over privacy have delayed the test-site program. But now the head of the agency’s Unmanned Systems integration Office, Jim Williams, says the FAA is getting “very close” to naming those six test-sites.

“We’re getting closer every day. My office is diligently working to release the screening information requests, and we are committed to releasing it before the end of this month,” he revealed to attendees of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Program Review on Wednesday in Tysons Corner, Virginia.

“The protection of public privacy is a concern for all our stakeholders,” Williams emphasized. “The public is concerned. They fear [drone] data collected by state and government agencies could be used to violate their rights.”

Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA.), co-chair of the Congressional Unmanned systems Caucus, addressed attendees at the conference via a prerecorded video. He echoed Williams’ concerns about protecting the privacy of citizens while still allowing drone technology to reach its full potential.

“This year will be crucial with moving forward with implementation. Privacy will be a part of the debate in 2013,” Rep. McKeon said. But he promised that he and other committee members “will continue to work with the appropriate federal agencies to ensure an efficient and constitutional integration process.”

Muslim community embraces scouting

By Holly Gilbert, CNN

Sterling, Virginia (CNN)–Mohammad Azraf Ullah, 17 years old of Herndon, Virginia, has been observing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan since he was a young boy. Believed to purify the body and soul, the food and water fast from dusk until dawn for 30 days is part of the five tenants of Islam.

“Patience is one of the biggest things I’ve learned” said Ullah. “It reminds me how great God is, and you really have to be grateful to him for everything he gave you.”

Such patience and reverence should help Ullah meet the requirements for his Eagle Scout badge, which he’s set to earn in the coming months. The high school senior and Boy Scout participated in the annual Iftar dinner – or “breaking of the fast” meal – hosted by the All Dulles Area Muslim Society Scout program on Saturday night.
Based in Northern Virginia, ADAMs is one of the largest American Muslim organizations in the United States.

Their scout program provides an outlet for youth in the community to practice the basic beliefs of Islam while following the scout law.

Brian Kale presents an award at an Iftar dinner in Northern Virginia.

Like every future Eagle Scout, Ullah must complete a service project that benefits the community. He also has to appear before a board of review, made up of experienced scouts from the district that assess the character and integrity of the young man up for Eagle Scout status.

Brian Kale is a veteran of Boy Scouts of America and serves as the Goosecreek District Roundtable Commissioner. He testified to the seamless interweaving of possessing a higher faith and meeting the requirements to become an Eagle Scout.

“The Boy Scouts of America believes in a higher being. We’re not sectarian, we do not identify one higher being over the next. However for a boy to earn Eagle Scout he has to have a reverence toward a higher purpose and a higher being,” Kale said.

Whether the scouts are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or practice a different faith, Kale emphasizes well roundedness as the focus of Boy Scouts of America.

“The fact that their faith may be different than the boy next to them is immaterial. It’s about learning proper skills, character development and a good moral compass.”

Kale emphasized one of the 12 points of the Boy Scout Law that reflects a spirit of tolerance and spirituality – “A Scout is reverent. He is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties and respects the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion,” the law reads.

The credo encourages a kind of religiosity with scouts and troop leaders and mandates a spirit of loyalty, bravery, and self-discipline.

Abdul Rashid Abdullah, scoutmaster of Troop 786, said the Islamic faith and Boy Scouts of America are harmonious in philosophy and in practice.

“The Islamic ideals and the scouting ideals are the same. They’re compatible,” he said. “I can easily talk about the scout law and talk about Koranic verses that co-relate to those scout laws, so it makes it really easy.”

A young Muslim girl smiles during an Iftar dinner in Northern Virginia.

Abdullah has been involved with Boy Scouts of America since childhood. Raised a Roman Catholic, Abdullah converted to Islam while attending University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.

“I met a lot of students from Malaysia and they gave me the opportunity to ask questions. When I asked the questions I was like, ‘That’s spot on to what my beliefs already are.’ So I just embraced it,” he said.

Abdullah, who also serves as a regional chair of the National Islamic Council on Scouting, seizes the opportunity to interweave the fundamental beliefs of Islam with everyday scouting activities.

“I often tell parents, ‘You’re going to take your kids to Sunday school or whatever to learn the Koran and to learn Islam,” said Abdullah. “‘When I take them out camping, we’re going to put that into practice.”

McCain on campaign finance: ‘The system is broken’

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(CNN) – “Uninformed, arrogant, naive.” Sen. John McCain used those three words in an interview Sunday to slam the Citizens United decision, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that paved the way for political donations from corporations and special interest groups.

Pressed on the issue of campaign cash and whether it is unduly influencing this year’s presidential campaign, the Republican senator from Arizona maintained that allowing an “incredible amount of money” to enter political races opens the door for corruption.

“I think there will be scandals associated with the worst decision of the United States Supreme Court in the 21st century,” McCain said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The GOP senator suggested earlier Supreme Court benches would have ruled differently in the case.

“That’s why we miss people like William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor who had some experience with – with congressional and other races, with the political arena.”

Asked about Nevada billionaire and GOP financier Sheldon Adleson’s recent pledge, along with his wife Miriam, of $10 million to the super PAC supporting Mitt Romney, McCain iterated it’s the threat of not just one but many potential donors that hurts the electoral system.

“The whole system is broken and it’s a wash. I don’t pick out Mr. Adleson any more than I pick out Mr. Trumka,” McCain said, referring to the AFL-CIO leader who helped finance Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

“I’ve always been concerned about the labor unions who take money from their union members and without their permission contribute to causes they may not support,” McCain continued.

Casino owner Sheldon Adleson gained notoriety for backing former GOP candidate Newt Gingrich with more than $20 million in donations to the pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning our Future during the Republican primaries.

Doubts about whether Adleson would eventually back Romney evaporated when he and his wife gave $10 million to the pro-Romney super PAC in mid-June. Since then, Adleson has made comments he may contribute as much as $100 million to the GOP presidential candidate.

During the interview, McCain quickly shifted focus away from Romney’s donors and toward what he called Obama’s preoccupation with raising money for his re-election bid.

“I’m concerned that the president continues to go around to all of these fund-raisers when maybe he should be spending more time governing,” McCain said.

McCain took his criticism of the president back in time to the 2008 presidential campaign when then-Sen. Barack Obama opted out of $85 million in matching funds upon becoming the Democratic nominee. Obama vociferously rejected the public fund-raising money, claiming it would allow “special interests (to) drown out the voices of the American people.”

“And then (Obama) outraised me, obviously, by a great deal,” McCain said, referring to the half a billion dollars Obama raised through grassroots campaigning.

While he lamented current laws and their influence on the campaigns, McCain said he was hopeful current finance laws will eventually change.

“The fact is that the system is broken,” he said. “I predict to you there will be scandals, and I predict to you that there will be reform again.”

Women more optimistic than men about finances

See this article as it appears on CNN Money.com http://moremoney.blogs.money.cnn.com/2010/08/04/women-more-optimistic-than-men-about-finances/

by HOLLY GILBERT

Women appear to be more optimistic about the economy and their financial future than men are, according to a recent survey. But it helps to be young.

Asked whether business conditions where they live will improve over the next year, 56% of women polled by Citigroup said yes, compared to just 50% of men. (The telephone survey, conducted in June, is accurate within 2.2 percentage points, according to Citi.) The outlook was similar when it came to personal finance: 66% of women were hopeful that their own personal financial situations would improve, versus 62% of men.

While the difference may seem slight, other numbers indicate that the financial outlook of the sexes is diverging; men grew more pessimistic in the three months since Citibank conducted a prior edition of the survey, while women’s confidence financial matters held constant or worsened to a lesser degree than men’s.

Why the shift? Lisa Caputo, CEO of Citibank’s Women & Co. business, says, “When people are optimistic, it’s because they’ve taken the steps to make sure that their own personal financial situation feels good to them.”

Alternatively, women’s relative optimism could be due to current big-picture financial conditions. One of the noteworthy effects of the latest recession, in fact, has been that the unemployment rate for men has risen faster and higher than it has for women.

And the relative optimism doesn’t extend to all areas of personal finance: The survey also showed that 36% of women reported being uncomfortable with their level of debt, compared to 30% of men. That could be due to perception rather than anxiety: At least one study indicates that wives tend to estimate that their family’s debt level is higher than their husbands do.

A bigger difference in the survey concerned how women view their personal financial situations throughout their lives. Stunningly, 82 percent of women under 40 surveyed believe their personal fiscal situation is on the upswing. But just 59 percent of women over the age of 40 were as optimistic.

And why is that? Having lived longer and undergone more financial ups and downs, females over 40 might be more likely to envision their future based on past experiences rather than future possibilities. For older women, the financial demands of a secure retirement may feel more immediate; younger women might find it easier to put off such worries to a later date. The financial challenges faced by women are well known: They tend to earn less over their lifetime than men do, and they tend to outlive men, meaning that they have longer retirements to fund. Earlier this year, a survey of workers age 60 or over found that 76% of women didn’t feel confident they had enough money to retire, compared to 68% of men.

Do you have a guess as to why women right now might feel more confident about their financial prospects than men? Leave your comments below.

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