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Entries in National Security (10)

Sunday
Jun162013

National Football League to Ban Purses in Stadiums Next Season

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The National Football League is banning all purses in its stadiums this coming season. The decision is meant to increase safety at the games, but many fans, particularly women and families with young children are crying foul.

NFL Chief Security Officer Jeffrey Miller says the decision was made with fans in mind. “By taking this minor step per person we create a major improvement,” Miller said. “It really does dramatically increase our security posture at our stadiums.”

“Football is such a national past-time in the US. If you are a terrorist bad guy that would be a great target,” said former FBI special agent and ABC News consultant Brad Garrett. “I think it's a reasonable approach.”

The new policy limits the size and type of bags that may be brought into stadiums. Fans are now only allowed to bring in a hand-sized clutch and a clear, one-gallon Ziploc or freezer bag. Anything larger must be a clear tote. The NFL is selling acceptable totes online.

NFL officials said they'd make exceptions for people who had things like medical supplies that couldn't fit into a small bag.

Seat cushions are also banned, due to fears that they could contain an explosive device, according to the news release from the NFL.

“I have no problem saying what a huge issue I have with that,” one female fan told ABC’s Susan Saulny. “That's not appropriate.”

The fan said that she might have to root for her favorite team, the Steelers, from her couch instead of the stadium.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul032012

July 4th: Despite No Specific Threats, Officials Stepping Up Security

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you're headed to a major Fourth of July celebration on Wednesday, you can expect to see more police and security officials milling around.

While officials say no specific threats or terror plots have been discovered, they are stepping up security over concerns about so-called "lone wolves" and ongoing concern about al Qaeda -- specifically al Qaeda in Yemen.  There's concern that the group has been focused on recruiting people of different ethnic backgrounds.  

ABC News confirmed a report out of Europe last week that a man of Norwegian descent was recruited, and is thought to be operating out of Yemen.  ABC News also learned last week that the U.S. government had charged a man of Vietnamese descent with planning and plotting with al Qaeda in Yemen.

As a result, Americans can expect to see a lot of law enforcement officials in major cities on Independence Day.  There will be undercover cops, radiation detectors will be out, and authorities will also have eyes in the sky.

[WATCH VIDEO]

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Sep112011

National Security Concerns Continue after 9/11 Anniversary

Chip Somodevill​a/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- ABC News has learned that the FBI will continue its expanded security effort at least on Monday and perhaps into the coming week until more can be learned about a terrorist plot.

The measures include pressing informants for additional information, reexamining current cases and pursuing suspects who travelled to the U.S. from South Asia in August. The bureau is focused on a relatively narrow pool of men.

The FBI's current list was developed by running names through all terror watchlists and intelligence files available to the U.S. government. The names were narrowed down by age, dates of travel, and travel routes.

The Department of Homeland Security also plans to continue the stepped up security that it began last week. The measures have included placing additional air marshals on flights, increasing the number of heavily armed teams at airports, subways and other mass transit locations. Bomb sniffing dog units and units with radiation detectors will also be out in full force. There will also be more security at federal buildings, with officials extending the perimeters around sensitive areas including water treatment facilities and nuclear power plants. The department continues to urge citizens to report anything suspicious. The mantra: if you see something, say something.

Prior to 2009, many federal officials openly said they did not believe that al-Qaeda necessarily planned for specific dates, but executed attacks when they were ready. Then in late summer in 2009 U.S. government discovered an al-Qaeda plot that was clearly set to be launched just after the 9/11 anniversary.  The plot has been forgotten by many, but sources say it was perhaps al-Qaeda’s most sophisticated attempt since 9/11 to attack the U.S. The plan called for a terror cell to detonate backpacks full of homemade explosives on New York subways in the heart of midtown Manhattan. The dates: likely between September 11-14th.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep092011

Poll: Sense of Security Rebounds at 10th Anniversary of 9/11

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Confidence in the country’s safety from terrorism has rebounded sharply in the past year to near its highs, with most Americans expressing satisfaction with the steps the country’s taken in response to 9/11.  But there are two major exceptions: The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Overall, support for the country’s response is broad, albeit not deep.  Sixty-seven percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll are satisfied with the way the United States has responded to the attacks, and 64 percent think the country is safer now than it was before 9/11, up sharply from its low -- 48 percent -- a year ago.

Still, likely reflecting the continued sense of risk, far fewer think the country is “much” safer -- 26 percent -- or are “very” satisfied with the U.S. response -- 18 percent.

The two boldest and costliest actions taken by the United States, moreover, are controversial.  This poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, finds that just 52 percent of Americans say the war in Afghanistan has been effective at reducing the risk of terrorism, and fewer than half -- 46 percent -- say the war in Iraq made the U.S. safer from terrorist attacks.

Larger majorities, however, say a variety of other actions -- from enhanced airport security to increased wiretap and surveillance efforts to the killing of Osama bin Laden this spring -- have been effective at reducing the threat of future terrorism.

It is worth noting that the results of this latest poll come as a new possible terror threat against major U.S. cities has been uncovered.  According to intelligence officials, the CIA has developed information indicating that at least three individuals entered the county in August by air with the intent to launch a vehicle-borne attack against Washington, D.C. or New York around the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Officials say the alleged terror plot was initiated by new al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's successor, who had pledged to avenge bin Laden's death earlier this year in a U.S. raid.

In light of the threat, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said on Thursday that security measures would be ramped up across the city as it prepares for the anniversary of the attacks this Sunday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug312011

Sept. 11 Anniversary Report Card: Not a Lot of A's, and Some Explosive F's

James Hardy/PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Ten years after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, the 9/11 Commission report card on making this country safer from terrorist attacks revealed that U.S. security scored very few A's, lots of C's and incompletes, and at least two significant F's.

Despite billions of dollars spent on aviation security, the report found the U.S. still cannot reliably detect explosives that could bring down a plane.

"We are still highly vulnerable to aviation security threats," said the report, released Wednesday by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

The failure to detect explosives is one of nine unfinished recommendations the 9/11 Commission cited in the report card.

"We really have not gotten it right yet," said Gov. Tom Kean, the co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission which was organized to recommend ways to prevent another terror attack. "Some of these recommendations, no question you get an F."

The Transportation Security Administration acknowledged there is no silver bullet or perfect technology.  The agency's former administrator, Kip Hawley, said that by inspecting passengers' shoes and restricting the amount of liquid brought on board, the size of any potential bomb would not be big enough to bring down a plane.

"Yes, you don't want a bomb going off and injuring people on a plane, but you do not want to let them bring on a bomb that will catastrophically destroy the plane," Hawley said.

In response to the report, the TSA said that explosives detection technology was a "key part of a layered approach to aviation security" that has made American travelers safer since the deadly attacks.

"As we approach the tenth anniversary of 9/11, there is no question that America's transportation systems are stronger and more secure than they were a decade ago," TSA spokesperson Greg Soule told ABC News.

Also cited in the commission report card is the failure to remedy the communications breakdown that occurred on Sept. 11 when emergency police and fire units in New York were on different radio frequencies and could not talk to each other.

"People died because of that," said Kean, who now co-chairs the Bipartisan Policy Center's National Security Preparedness Group.

Kean said that Congress was to blame for that shortcoming for failing to allocate new broadcast frequencies for common use by all first responders.

"That should have been done yesterday, and everyday it's not done the American people are less safe," he said.

The report card does praise the work of the FBI and the CIA for finally working together, which it says led to the disruption of many plots and the capture or killing of terrorist operatives.

While security experts said a terror plot precisely similar to the Sept. 11 hijacking plot is highly unlikely, the threat has evolved and there still remain huge vulnerabilities ten years later.

Soule said the TSA stands ready "to confront evolving threats."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun172011

National Guard to Remain at Southwest Border until September

Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The 1,200 National Guard troops serving in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas will stay through Sept. 30; the deployment was to end at the end of June.
 
Department of Homeland Security press secretary Matthew Chandler Friday issued a statement about the extension saying that the National Guardsmen will continue to be responsible for providing law enforcement support in countering the illegal smuggling of people, drugs and weapons.

In addition to the extension, DHS will implement new technologies and hire more personnel to beef up the current border security.  

The National Guard, at the border since last summer, have already assisted the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in seizing more than 14,000 pounds of drugs and the discovery and apprehension of over 7,000 illegal border-crossers, according to Chandler's statement Friday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May312011

US Can't Handle Cyber Attack on Electric Grid, Say Lawmakers 

Comstock/Chad Baker/Ryan McVay(WASHINGTON) -- The United States is ill-prepared to deal with a cyber attack on the nation’s electric grid, one of the biggest national security threats facing the country today, lawmakers warned.

“The sobering reality is this vulnerability, if left unaddressed, could have grave, societal-altering consequences,” Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Tuesday. “We face a menace that may represent the gravest short-term threat to the peace and security of the human family in the world today.”

Experiments by federal agencies in recent years have shown that cyber spies have intruded the U.S. electric system, and that it's increasingly susceptible to attacks by hackers and foreign governments.

The weakness in the system, some lawmakers argue, can also be exploited by terrorist groups like al Qaeda, which are advancing their technological capabilities.

Administration officials Tuesday admitted that nuclear reactors specifically are less secure than in the past, and smart grids -- new digital electricity networks that are being promoted around the country -- are more exposed than traditional systems. Because the new Internet-protocol-based systems utilize commercial software over the Internet, they make the system more vulnerable. Coordination between agencies is also lacking, some say.

Several bills have been introduced in Congress to tackle the issue, but none has made it to the president’s desk.

The GRID Act, introduced a year ago, aims to give FERC the authority to issue rules and procedures to protect the nation’s grid without prior notice or hearings. It would also expand the Energy secretary’s powers over such matters and require the Defense secretary to prepare a plan identifying emergency measures and procedures that would need to be taken in the case of a cyber attack. The president would have the authority to order and authorize immediate emergency measures without congressional approval.

The “pay-as-you-go” legislation wouldn’t cost taxpayers any money over the next ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Another related bill, the SHIELD Act, would make it a crime for a person to knowingly disseminate classified information related to U.S. intelligence activities.

Earlier this month, the White House released a more comprehensive cybersecurity plan calling for industries vulnerable to cyber attacks, like electricity, to create plans that would make their computer systems more secure.

The renewed warning by lawmakers came on the day The Wall Street Journal reported that the Pentagon would declare computer sabotage from another country an act of war. The story cited the Pentagon’s cyber strategy report, which is due to be released in a few weeks.

When asked about the story Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said, “A response to a cyber incident or attack on the U.S. would not necessarily be a cyber response...All appropriate actions would be on the table if we are attacked in cyber.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb102011

CIA Director Warns of Possible Cyber Threats

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) - Top U.S. intelligence officials have raised their concerns about the growing vulnerability of the United States to cyber-warfare threats and malicious computer activity that CIA Director Leon Panetta said “represents the battleground for the future."

Panetta, along with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “This threat is increasing in scope and scale, and its impact is difficult to overstate," Clapper told the committee.

Clapper said that according to industry estimates there are now roughly 60,000 new malicious computer programs that are identified each day. “Some of these are what we define as advanced persistent threats, which are difficult to detect and counter,” Clapper said.

“This is a real national security threat that we have to pay attention to. I know there are a lot of aspects to it," Director Panetta told the committee. "The Internet, the cyber-arena, is -- this is a vastly growing area of information that can be used and abused in a number of ways.”

Over the past several years, U.S. officials and computer security experts have faced a wide array of diverse and growing computer threats ranging from attempted infiltrations of Department of Defense Computers and high-profile companies being hacked, to the massive data breach and related cyber-attacks involving WikiLeaks.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec202010

Counterterror Chiefs: London Terror Suspects Were No Threat to US

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On a day of frayed nerves and false alarms in the U.S. counterterrorism community, ABC's Diane Sawyer sat down with President Obama's national security team in Washington D.C.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Chief Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan spoke with Sawyer about the threat of terror around the globe, particularly in the wake of Monday's arrest of 12 men in England said to be in the final stages of a major bomb plot.

"As far as I know, we have not yet found any connection between those arrests and any threats to the United States," said Napolitano.

The trio declined to speak about the particulars of the British threat but sought to assure the American public ahead of a busy week of holiday travel. Just Monday, travelers at Newark Airport in New Jersey were held up after authorities closed a terminal to investigate a suspicious package that turned out to be a computer monitor.

"What I say to the American people is that... thousands of people are working 24/7, 364 [sic] days a year to keep the American people safe."

Sawyer asked about recent comments from Michael Leiter at the National Counterterrorism Agency, asserting that not all attacks can be stopped and some innocent lives will be lost.

"I think Mike Leiter was correct," Napolitano said. "You cannot hermetically seal the United States."

"We're not going to bat 1,000 necessarily. We can't guarantee that," said Clapper. "But we're certainly doing everything we can to ensure that we do thwart any kind of an attack."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 

Friday
Oct222010

McDonough Named Deputy National Security Adviser

Photo Courtesy - The White House | Pete Souza(Washington) -- President Barack Obama has named Denis McDonough as the Deputy National Security Adviser according to a White House press release. The president made the announcement Friday after he praised McDonough’s work on issues of national security.

“I know that Denis will be indispensable to our entire national security team as we continue to protect the American people, and advance American interests and values around the world,” Obama said. 

Prior to his appointment, McDonough served as Chief of Staff of the National Security Staff. He has also served as Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications and as a senior adviser on foreign policy issues on the Presidential Transition Team and on President Obama’s 2008 campaign.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio