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Audit Report — Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Biosafety Laboratories

August 26, 2014 Comments off

Audit Report — Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Biosafety Laboratories (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General

Background
In response to the increase in infectious diseases and the threat of bioterrorism, the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories perform research with biological agents. To conduct this biological research, the Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) operate multiple laboratory facilities in accordance with various biosafety levels (BSL) established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The BSLs classify the containment level and risk associated with biological agents depending on the threat the agents pose to personnel and the environment. For example, BSL-1 is for low-risk agents; BSL-2 is for medium-risk agents; and BSL-3 is for those agents that cause serious and potentially lethal infections. Department and NNSA sites primarily perform BSL-1 and BSL-2 research; however, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) operates a facility with three BSL-3 laboratories while Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is considering opening a facility with two BSL-3 laboratories. Extensive biological research is performed at LLNL and LANL for other Government agencies through the Department’s Work for Others (WFO) program.

In our report on Coordination of Biological Select Agent Activities at Department of Energy Facilities (DOE/IG-0695, July 2005), we reported that the Department had not developed a plan for construction and operation of its BSL-3 laboratories. Thus, it lacked assurance that capabilities were not being duplicated unnecessarily. As a result of our prior work and Presidential actions to streamline Government and reduce costs, we initiated this audit to determine whether NNSA managed its biosafety laboratories effectively. We limited our review to biosafety laboratories located at LLNL and LANL.

Results of Audit
We found that NNSA was considering a $9.5 million expansion of its BSL-3 and BSL-2 laboratory capabilities at LANL that may not be the most effective use of resources. Specifically, NNSA identified the development of a BSL-3 facility at LANL as its preferred alternative for meeting biosafety laboratory needs even though it had not fully considered the need for and cost effectiveness of additional capacity. Nor, had it developed a sound basis for measuring the utilization of existing facilities – a critical factor in determining the need for additional capacity. Despite the lack of information on the need for additional capacity and current laboratory utilization rates, LANL was also considering building a new BSL-2 facility.

In particular, NNSA proposed development of a facility with two BSL-3 laboratories at LANL. Additionally, LANL is in the early planning stage for constructing a new BSL-2 facility. The estimated cost to open LANL’s new BSL-3 and to construct/open BSL-2 capabilities was about $1.5 million and $8 million, respectively. Given current budget realities, plans to develop additional capabilities without fully demonstrating a need may not be prudent.

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CRS — The Military Commissions Act of 2009 (MCA 2009): Overview and Legal Issues (August 4, 2014)

August 26, 2014 Comments off

The Military Commissions Act of 2009 (MCA 2009): Overview and Legal Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

On November 13, 2001, President Bush issued a Military Order (M.O.) pertaining to the detention, treatment, and trial of certain non-citizens in the war against terrorism. Military commissions pursuant to the M.O. began in November 2004 against four persons declared eligible for trial, but the Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld invalidated the military commissions as improper under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). To permit military commissions to go forward, Congress approved the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA), conferring authority to promulgate rules that depart from the strictures of the UCMJ and possibly U.S. international obligations. Military commissions proceedings were reinstated and resulted in three convictions under the Bush Administration.

Upon taking office in 2009, President Obama temporarily halted military commissions to review their procedures as well as the detention program at Guantánamo Bay in general, pledging to close the prison facilities there by January 2010, a deadline that passed unmet. One case was moved to a federal district court.

Terrorism, homeland safety and event management

August 25, 2014 Comments off

Terrorism, homeland safety and event management (PDF)
Source: International Journal of Hospitality Management

As the last attacks on Boston showed terrorism is based not only on speculation but also on surprise. Terrorists do not want to destroy or to kill everybody, their goal is aimed to inflict and administrate fear to the witnesses. The fact is that tourism and mega-events represented a fertile source to perpetrate terrorist attacks, not only for the casualties but also by the psychological effects on citizenry. This paper explores the nature of terrorism in the context of leisure as well as proposing a valid model to understand the connection among tourism, event management and terrorism.

New From the GAO

August 22, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Report
Source: Government Accountability Office

World Trade Center Health Program: Approach Used to Add Cancers to List of Covered Conditions Was Reasonable, but Could Be Improved. GAO-14-606, July 23.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-606
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664962.pdf

Backgrounder — Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Updated August 8, 2014)

August 22, 2014 Comments off

Backgrounder — Islamic State in Iraq and Syria
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a predominantly Sunni jihadist group, seeks to sow civil unrest in Iraq and the Levant with the aim of establishing a caliphate—a single, transnational Islamic state based on sharia. The group emerged in the ashes of the U.S.-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and the insurgency that followed provided it with fertile ground to wage a guerrilla war against coalition forces and their domestic allies.

After a U.S. counterterrorism campaign and Sunni efforts to maintain local security in what was known as the Tribal Awakening, AQI violence diminished from its peak in 2006–2007. But since the withdrawal of U.S. forces in late 2011, the group has increased attacks on mainly Shiite targets in what is seen as an attempt to reignite conflict between Iraq’s Sunni minority and the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Burgeoning violence in 2013 left nearly eight thousand civilians dead, making it Iraq’s bloodiest year since 2008, according to the United Nations. Meanwhile, in 2012 the group adopted its new moniker, ISIS (sometimes translated as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL) as an expression of its broadened ambitions as its fighters have crossed into neighboring Syria to challenge both the Assad regime and secular and Islamist opposition groups there. By June 2014, the group’s fighters had routed the Iraqi military in the major cities of Fallujah and Mosul and established territorial control and administrative structures on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border.

Understanding Law Enforcement Intelligence Processes: Report to the Office of University Programs, Science and Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

August 21, 2014 Comments off

Understanding Law Enforcement Intelligence Processes: Report to the Office of University Programs, Science and Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (PDF)
Source: National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (A Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence Based at the University of Maryland)

The September 11th attacks impacted society generally, and law enforcement specifically, in dramatic ways. One of the major trends has been changing expectations regarding criminal intelligence practices among state, local, and tribal (SLT) law enforcement agencies, and the need to coordinate intelligence efforts and share information at all levels of government. Despite clear evidence of significant changes, very little research exists that examines issues related to the intelligence practices of SLT law enforcement agencies. Important questions on the nature of the issues that impact SLT intelligence practices remain.

While there is some uncertainty among SLT law enforcement about current terrorism threats, there is certainty that these threats evolve in a largely unpredictable pattern. As a result there is an ongoing need for consistent and effective information collection, analysis and sharing. Little information is known about perceptions of how information is being shared between agencies and whether technologies have improved or hurt information sharing, and little is known about whether agencies think they are currently prepared for a terrorist attack, and the key factors distinguishing those that think they are compared to those who do not. This study was designed to address these issues, and a better understanding of these issues could significantly enhance intelligence practices and enhance public safety.

AU — Access to and retention of internet ‘metadata’

August 21, 2014 Comments off

Access to and retention of internet ‘metadata’
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

On 5 August 2014, the Government announced its intention to update Australia’s telecommunication interception laws. This is part of broader efforts to enhance powers available to security agencies ‘to combat home-grown terrorism and Australians who participate in terrorist activities overseas’. This includes developing a mandatory ‘metadata’ retention system.

Whilst having a period of mandatory metadata retention would be new, the collection of metadata by telecommunications companies and government access to it is not new and is governed by the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (TIA). Whilst the need for such a scheme was linked to combating terrorism, it is worth noting that Australian and European experience suggests that the most common law enforcement use of metadata will be in non-terrorism criminal cases.

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