Entries in Pentagon (60)


Calif. Programmers Win $50K in Pentagon’s Un-Shredding Contest

UCSD/DARPA(SAN FRACISCO) -- After 33 days of painstaking puzzle-solving, a group of San Francisco-based computer programmers has un-shredded five pulverized documents to emerge as the winner of the Defense Department’s Shredder Challenge.

The Defense Department’s research and development branch, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, announced Friday that “All Your Shreds Belong to U.S.” had won the $50,000 challenge three days before the contest’s deadline.

Using custom-built computer software, the eight members of “All Your Shreds Belong to U.S.” reassembled seven pages of documents that had been shredded into more than 10,000 fragments in order to answer questions about the coded messages written on the pages.

“We are really stoked about it,” said Otavio Good, the winning team’s lead programmer. “From the start I said this isn’t about the money. It’s about getting exclusive, worldwide bragging rights.”

Close to 9,000 teams attempted the challenge, which was launched as a way for the Pentagon to find the fastest, most effective way to pull intelligence from shredded documents in war zones and also assess the possible security threats to America’s secret information.

“Lots of experts were skeptical that a solution could be produced at all let alone within the short time frame,” said Dan Kaufman, director, DARPA Information Innovation Office in a statement. “We are impressed by the ingenuity this type of competition elicits.”

Some teams, such as the one led by Manuel Cebrian at The University of California, San Diego, took a “crowd sourcing” approach to solving the puzzles, creating an online program where people from around the world could collectively work to solve what he called “one of the hardest puzzles ever proposed.”

Craig Landrum, co-founder of a document imaging group in Virginia, approached the problem solo, laboriously piecing each paper shred together as if solving a jigsaw puzzle.

But the winning strategy was all about the computer programming. Good, along with two other programmers, developed visual-recognition software that recommended possible matches when a user clicked on a particular paper fragment.

“Imagine if you’re playing a regular puzzle,” Good said, describing his custom-built program. “Pieces are scattered around. You click the place that you want to match a piece to and the computer recommends a number of pieces ordered by score and you chose which one you like the best.”

Good said it took about 600 hours to create the matching program and piece together the puzzles. About eight people were involved in the month-long effort.

“The major thing we did was program,” Good said. “Once we had the program, well, the puzzle pieces fell into place.”

But despite the “cool” new program’s success at solving the shredder challenge, Good said it would be much harder to reassemble cut-up documents in a real-world scenario. He said in most cases people should not be worried that their shredded secrets are going to get pieced back together because “it’s incredibly difficult.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pentagon Spending Down for the First Time in Over a Decade

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. budget deficit has remained relatively steady in the past three years, but spending continues to surpass the 40-year average, according to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office.

Government spending in 2011 continued to hover around 25 percent of gross domestic product, similar to previous years but higher than the 40-year average of 20.8 percent, according to the report released Monday.

The most noticeable change was in the Pentagon.

Army spending declined in 2011 for the first time since the mid-1990s, while defense spending increased by only one percent, considerably below the average of nine percent in the past decade.

The report comes as the Department of Defense struggles with finding new ways to trim the budget. Its new secretary, Leon Panetta, is looking at making cuts in areas that were once considered off-limits, as he said in an interview with the New York Times.

Spending on entitlement programs -- Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security -- rose three percent in 2011, less than the average of seven percent in the past five years. Social Security beneficiaries did not receive a cost-of-living adjustment this year.

The U.S. budget deficit stood at $1.3 trillion in 2011, the second-highest on record and the third-highest deficit as a share of the nation’s GDP since 1945. The deficit is five times higher than what it was five years ago.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


American Indicted in Remote-Controlled Plane Terror Plot

FBI(WASHINGTON) -- A federal grand jury has indicted a 26-year-old American on terror charges relating to an alleged plot to strike the nation's capital with several explosive-laden, remote-controlled airplanes.

Rezwan Ferdaus, a U.S. citizen from Ashland, Mass., and Northeastern University physics graduate, was nabbed in an elaborate FBI sting after he told undercover officers exactly how he planned to arm "small drone airplanes" with explosives in order to hit the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol building before opening fire on the survivors, federal officials said in a statement.

Ferdaus was indicted on six counts, including "attempting to damage and destroy a federal building by means of an explosive" and "attempting to provide material support to terrorists."

An attorney for Ferdaus has not returned requests for comments on the charges against him.

According to the indictment, Ferdaus believed his attack could "decapitate" the U.S. "military center".

"Individuals, self-radicalized, they're not looking to cause big mass casualties like 9/11," said former FBI agent and ABC News consultant Brad Garrett, "because they're trying to inflict fear."

Federal officials said Ferdaus appeared to have been radicalized online by Islamist videos and writings.  By 2010, Ferdaus believed he was working for al Qaeda when he began modifying cellphones to serve as electrical switches for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to be passed on to fighters in the Middle East.

"During a June 2011 meeting, he appeared gratified when he was told that his first phone detonation device had killed three U.S. soldiers and injured four or five others in Iraq.  Ferdaus responded, 'That was exactly what I wanted,'" the Department of Justice said in a statement after Ferdaus' arrest Wednesday.

The cellphones, however, never got anywhere near the Middle East as Ferdaus was actually handing them over to undercover officers for the FBI.  Still, Ferdaus appeared to want to do more, investigators said.

"Ferdaus envisioned causing a large 'psychological' impact by killing Americans, including women and children, who he referred to as 'enemies of Allah,'" the DOJ's statement said.  "According to the affidavit, Ferdaus' desire to attack the United States is so strong that he confided, 'I just can't stop; there is no other choice for me.'"

Ferdaus allegedly wanted to command a team of six operatives that would use up to three remote-controlled aircraft filled with explosives in the "aerial" part of the attack before firing on any survivors in a follow-up "ground" attack.

Federal investigators said Ferdaus traveled to Washington, D.C., to "conduct surveillance" and take photographs of his targets before acquiring his weapons, including six AK-47 assault rifles, grenades and what he believed to be C-4 explosives.

"Although Ferdaus was presented with multiple opportunities to back out of his plan, including being told that his attack would likely kill women and children, the affidavit alleges that Ferdaus never wavered in his desire to carry out the attacks," the DOJ said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Is Officially Over

Bill Clark/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With virtually no fanfare, the Pentagon's policy of forcing members of the military to keep quiet about their sexual orientation or else face discharge ended on Tuesday, meaning that all branches of the armed forces can now act on applications from openly gay and lesbian people.

"Don't ask, don't tell" -- first instituted after long debate in 1993 -- was repealed by Congress last December and signed by President Obama.  Since then, the Pentagon has reviewed its policies and had all 2.25 million current military members undergo training to ensure an orderly transition.

Before the repeal, the Pentagon conducted a survey and found that most soliders said that having homosexuals among them would not be disruptive.  The Marine Corps was the least receptive to the idea.

Over the past 17 years, 14,000 service members were kicked out of the military for being gay or lesbian.  Many said they were "outed" by others.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


9/11 Remembered: 'Nothing Can Break Will of USA'

David Handschuh-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama closed a day of tributes and memorials with a paean to the resilience of the American people in the decade following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, saying that "nothing can break the will of a truly United States of America."

Obama spoke of the men and women who have chosen to sign up for military service in the last decade, saying that too many of them "will never come home" from tours abroad.

"Our strength is not measured in our ability to stay in these places; it comes from our commitment to leave those lands to free people and sovereign states, and our desire to move from a decade of war to a future of peace," he said in his speech at the Concert for Hope in Washington D.C. Sunday evening.

Obama made it clear that the character of the United States has not changed since 9/11.

"These past 10 years underscore the bonds between all Americans.  We have not succumbed to suspicion and mistrust.  After 9/11, President Bush made clear what we reaffirm today: the United States will never wage war against Islam or any religion," he said, reaffirming the phrase on the Seal of the United States: e pluribus unum -- out of many, we are one.

"The determination to move forward as one people" will be the legacy of 9/11.  "It will be said of us that we kept that faith; that we took a painful blow, and emerged stronger," Obama said.

The president's speech came at the end of a day when families, rescue workers and politicians gathered amid a mix of tears, applause and patriotic cheers of "U-S-A" at 9/11 memorials in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks brought special ceremonies at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the planes crashed.

Obama laid a wreath of white flowers outside the Pentagon as a brass quintet played "Amazing Grace" Sunday afternoon, before he and first lady Michelle Obama spoke with family members of victims.

Earlier, Obama read a Psalm at the morning ceremony at the World Trade Center, and then arrived to applause and chants of "U-S-A, U-S-A" at a wreath-laying ceremony in Shanksville at noon, where he and the first lady shook hands and spoke with many members of the crowd gathered there.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President and First Lady Visit Pentagon on Day of Remembrance

Joshua Roberts-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama made a stop at the Pentagon Sunday afternoon to remember those who died there during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The visit completes their stops at every location where the United States was attacked by terrorists 10 years ago Sunday. The day of remembrance ends with a concert at the Kennedy Center, where the president will deliver remarks.

The couple spent most of their Pentagon visit meeting with families of the victims. One hundred twenty five people inside the Pentagon and 59 passengers aboard American Airlines Flight 77 were killed at the Pentagon on 9/11.

The president laid a wreath and observed a moment of silence in remembrance of the victims. After laying the wreath, Obama crossed over a dateline on the ground there that reads “September 11, 2001 9:37 AM,” the exact moment the Pentagon was struck.

The president and first lady also made stops in New York and Pennsylvania to mark the sober anniversary.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Biden, Panetta Honor Pentagon Victims on 9/11 Anniversary

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(ARLINGTON, Va.) -- Under a warm morning sky, about 1,000 invited guests gathered in a parking lot by the Pentagon Memorial on Sunday for an observance ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

The guests were mostly family members of victims and survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon, as well as some first responders.  Sitting among them was Speaker of the House John Boehner and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who left his office that day to assist with the relief and rescue efforts.   

In front of them was the Pentagon Memorial and the rebuilt section of the Pentagon that was a smoldering crater 10 years ago.   A large flag draped the building on the same spot where first responders had unfurled a large flag on the day after the attack.

The Pentagon Memorial consists of 184 benches aligned by ascending age to honor those who perished aboard American Airlines Flight 77 and inside the building when it was struck by the airplane.  The small pools of running water that lie underneath each bench were turned off Sunday as part of the morning’s moment of silence, timed to coincide with the exact time that the plane struck the building.   Alongside each bench stood a member of one of the military services holding a wreath of white flowers.  

Scheduled to take place at 9:37 a.m., the moment of silence actually occurred a few minutes earlier than planned.  The remarks that followed it evoked the painful memories of that day and America’s resolve in the face of such tragedy.

Vice President Joe Biden praised the inspiration the families gathered at Sunday’s event had provided to the nation that “hope can grow from tragedy, there can be a second life."

Biden said that what took place after the plane struck the Pentagon “was far more remarkable than the damage inflicted in the building behind me,” as Pentagon employees and  first responders risked their lives to help those trapped by the plane’s impact.

To applause he declared, “I can say without fear of contradiction or being accused of exaggeration, the 9/11 generation ranks among the greatest our nation has ever produced.  And it was born, it was born, it was born right here on 9/11.'

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, praised the families as being “the greatest monument, the most enduring memorial…You, the families, have shown the rest of us the way, quietly honoring the memory of your loved ones by how you live and what you do.”

He continued, “These are the things the terrorists could not eradicate. They could bring down walls, but they could not bring down America.  They could kill our citizens, but they could not kill our citizenship.  And in that spirit and with that pride, a whole new generation has been inspired to serve -- many of them in uniform.” 

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also spoke of how since 9/11, a generation of Americans had “stepped forward to serve in uniform, determined to confront our enemies and respond to them swiftly and justly.” 

He said that in the last decade “they have taken on the burden of protecting America, relentlessly pursuing those who would do us harm and threaten our homeland,” ultimately bringing Osama bin Laden to “a fitting end."

The ceremony concluded with the servicemembers placing the wreaths one by one on the bench they had been standing next to.  As the last of the servicemembers exited the memorial grounds, a lone Army bugler remained to sound taps, bringing the ceremony to a close.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Events Planned in NYC, DC, Pennsylvania for 9/11 Anniversary

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- There will be numerous events around the nation Sunday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the crash of United Flight 93 in a field in western Pennsylvania.

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will attend the tributes to honor the dead in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., though -- for security reasons -- the exact times of their appearances have not been made public.

In New York City, the observances at the World Trade Center site will begin with a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. -- the time the first plane hit the north tower.  There will be three other moments of silence to commemorate the time the second plane hit the south tower and the times each tower fell.

With families of the WTC victims invited to the event, the National 9/11 Memorial will also be dedicated on Sunday and opened to the public the following day.  The signature features of the 9/11 Memorial are the 2,983 names of the dead etched into bronze panels and two waterfalls cascading down into twin reflecting pools within the footprints of the towers.

At sunset, the skies will be lit up with the “Tribute in Light” -- 44 7,000-watt xenon light bulbs that will form two 48-foot squares to resemble the shape and orientation of the towers.  The “Tribute in Light” will be visible from 30 miles away.

President Obama plans to visit Shanksville on Sunday for the ceremony to honor the passengers of United Flight 93, who died while preventing the hijackers from flying the plane into either the Capitol or the White House.  The day before, Vice President Joe Biden will help dedicate a memorial for the victims at the site of the crash.

The president, who will also attend a ceremony at the Pentagon, will conclude the day’s events by attending an interfaith prayer service and delivering remarks at the Washington National Cathedral.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pentagon Raises Threat Level At Bases In Advance of 9/11

US Dept of Defense(WASHINGTON) -- In advance of the Sept. 11 ten-year anniversary the Pentagon is raising the force protection levels at military bases in the U.S. 

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little says that in recent days, Defense Secretary Panetta approved a request to raise the security level made by USNORTHCOM commander Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr.  Little said the action was being taken out as a precaution and was not in response to a specific or credible terror threat.  He also pointed to al Qaeda’s past focus on anniversaries and milestones.  

Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Capt. John Kirby said the increase was in keeping with DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s comments last week for increased vigilance as Sept. 11 approaches.

As a matter of policy the Pentagon doesn’t discuss force protection levels, leaving it up to local bases, US military bases are typically at Force Protection Level Bravo, this means they’d be raised to Charlie. 

Force protection levels aren’t really a secret as some bases  even post their force protection levels on signs at base entrances.

Kirby added that the increase would lead to some visible indicators of increased security and others that aren’t so visible.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Naval Commander Convicted of 9/11 Fraud -- A decorated retired naval officer who was honored for his heroic actions during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the Pentagon was found guilty Monday of defrauding a 9/11 victims’ compensation fund.

Cmdr. Charles Coughlin of Severna Park, Maryland was found guilty of making a false claim in order to collect more than $300,000 from the fund.  Coughlin claimed he was injured by falling debris when he raced back into the Pentagon to help others.  He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Meritorious Service Medal for his actions and the injuries he suffered that day.

Soon after, the 52-year-old Coughlin claimed he suffered constant pain in his neck, along with headaches, weakness and numbness in his left hand.  He also claimed he could no longer play basketball, work on homeowner projects or run long distance races.

Prosecutors say Coughlin ran in the New York City Marathon two months after the terrorist attack.  They also presented photographs of Coughlin playing lacrosse.

The verdict carries a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in prison, but prosecutors are expected to seek a sentence of three to four years when Coughlin is sentenced on Nov. 21.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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