U.S. bans use of Kaspersky software in federal agencies amid concerns of Russian espionage

The Washington Post reports: The U.S. government on Wednesday moved to ban the use of a Russian brand of security software by federal agencies amid concerns the company has ties to state-sponsored cyberespionage activities.

In a binding directive, acting homeland security secretary Elaine Duke ordered that federal civilian agencies identify Kaspersky Lab software on their networks. After 90 days, unless otherwise directed, they must remove the software, on the grounds that the company has connections to the Russian government and its software poses a security risk.

The Department of Homeland Security “is concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies, and requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to request or compel assistance from Kaspersky and to intercept communications transiting Russian networks,” the department said in a statement. “The risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates U.S. national security.” [Continue reading…]

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FBI and DHS warned of growing threat from white supremacists months ago

Foreign Policy reports: The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in May warned that white supremacist groups had already carried out more attacks than any other domestic extremist group over the past 16 years and were likely to carry out more attacks over the next year, according to an intelligence bulletin obtained by Foreign Policy.

Even as President Donald Trump continues to resist calling out white supremacists for violence, federal law enforcement has made clear that it sees these types of domestic extremists as a severe threat. The report, dated May 10, says the FBI and DHS believe that members of the white supremacist movement “likely will continue to pose a threat of lethal violence over the next year.”

The “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which attracted hundreds of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other members of the so-called alt-right, sparked violent clashes over the weekend. A woman, Heather Heyer, was killed by a car that drove into a crowd of people protesting the rally.

James Alex Fields Jr., the driver of the vehicle that struck Heyer, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

Since the outbreak of violence over the weekend, President Trump has been heavily criticized for not condemning racist groups. “We must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are ALL AMERICANS FIRST,” he tweeted.

The FBI, on the other hand, has already concluded that white supremacists, including neo-Nazi supporters and members of the Ku Klux Klan, are in fact responsible for the lion’s share of violent attacks among domestic extremist groups. White supremacists “were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016 … more than any other domestic extremist movement,” reads the joint intelligence bulletin. [Continue reading…]

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Guam Homeland Security releases fact sheet in light of North Korea threats

Pacific Daily News reports: Guam Homeland Security issued a new fact sheet Friday, which the agency says will help residents prepare for an imminent missile threat.

The information was released following this week’s threat by North Korea to launch a missile attack against Guam.

The advice includes tips such as: “Do not look at the flash or fireball – It can blind you” and “Take cover behind anything that might offer protection.”

“Lie flat on the ground and cover your head. If the explosion is some distance away, it could take 30 seconds or more for the blast wave to hit,” the sheet states.

During a press conference at Adelup late Friday afternoon, Gov. Eddie Calvo told reporters that the threat level remains the same and that the island is “safe and sound.”

“There are no changes,” Calvo said. “Everyone should continue to live their lives.”

While the governor said there’s no imminent threat to the island, he said families should still be prepared any situation, including inclement weather, and establish a family emergency plan.

Homeland Security says residents should prepare an emergency supply kit and a family emergency plan. During an imminent missile threat, authorities recommend taking cover as quickly as possible under a concrete structure or below ground after an attack warning is issued.

People should also avoid going outside for at least 24 hours to avoid any possible radioactive material, unless otherwise told by authorities. [Continue reading…]

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Coast Guard chief to transgender personnel: ‘I will not turn my back’

Politico reports: The head of the Coast Guard is pledging he “will not break faith” with transgender personnel, marking the strongest rebuttal yet by a leader of the armed forces to President Donald Trump’s declaration that he wants to ban all transgender troops.

Commandant Paul Zukunft, in remarks to a Washington think tank on Tuesday, cited the story of Coast Guard Lt. Taylor Miller, who was featured last week in The Washington Post, to express his support for transgender members of his service.

“I told Taylor I will not turn my back,” Zukunft told the Center for Strategic and International Studies forum. “We have made an investment in you and you have made an investment in the Coast Guard, and I will not break faith.” [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s handling of Comey firing led Kelly to consider resigning

CNN reports: New White House chief of staff John Kelly was so upset with how President Donald Trump handled the firing of FBI Director James Comey that Kelly called Comey afterward and said he was considering resigning, according to two sources familiar with a conversation between Kelly and Comey.

Both sources cautioned that it was unclear how serious Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security, was about resigning himself.

“John was angry and hurt by what he saw and the way (Comey) was treated,” one of the sources said.

Comey learned of his dismissal on May 9 from televisions tuned to the news as he was addressing the workforce at the FBI office in Los Angeles, law enforcement sources said at the time. Comey made a joke about it to lighten the mood and called his office to get confirmation.

Comey, who took Kelly’s call while traveling back from Los Angeles to Washington, responded to Kelly by telling him not to resign, one of the sources said. [Continue reading…]

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A veteran ICE agent, disillusioned with the Trump era, speaks out

Jonathan Blitzer writes: In March, two months after President Trump took office, I received a text message from a veteran agent at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). I had been trying to find field agents willing to describe what life was like at the agency in the Trump era. This agent agreed to talk. Over the past four months, we have texted often and spoken on the phone several times. Some of our discussions have been about the specifics of new federal policies aimed at dramatically increasing the number of deportations. At other times, we’ve talked more broadly about how the culture at ice has shifted. In April, the agent texted me a screen shot of a page from the minutes of a recent meeting, during which a superior had said that it was “the most exciting time to be part of ice” in the agency’s history. The photo was sent without commentary—the agent just wanted someone on the outside to see it.

The agent, who has worked in federal immigration enforcement since the Clinton Administration, has been unsettled by the new order at ice. During the campaign, many rank-and-file agents publicly cheered Trump’s pledge to deport more immigrants, and, since Inauguration Day, the Administration has explicitly encouraged them to pursue the undocumented as aggressively as possible. “We’re going to get sued,” the agent told me at one point. “You have guys who are doing whatever they want in the field, going after whoever they want.” At first, the agent spoke to me on the condition that I not publish anything about our conversations. But that has changed. Increasingly angry about the direction in which ICE is moving, the agent agreed last week to let me publish some of the details of our talks, as long as I didn’t include identifying information.

“We used to look at things through the totality of the circumstances when it came to a removal order—that’s out the window,” the agent told me the other day. “I don’t know that there’s that appreciation of the entire realm of what we’re doing. It’s not just the person we’re removing. It’s their entire family. People say, ‘Well, they put themselves in this position because they came illegally.’ I totally understand that. But you have to remember that our job is not to judge. The problem is that now there are lots of people who feel free to feel contempt.” [Continue reading…]

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How Trump is stealthily carrying out his Muslim ban

Farhana Khera and Johnathan J. Smith write: Lost amid the uproar over the Trump administration’s travel restrictions on citizens from Muslim-majority countries and the impending showdown at the Supreme Court are the insidious ways that the government has already begun to impose a Muslim ban.

It’s doing so through deceptively boring means: increasing administrative hurdles and cementing or even expanding the current travel restrictions that are not under review at the court. The collective impact of these changes will be that a permanent Muslim ban is enshrined into American immigration policy.

Last month, the Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases that challenge the legality of President Trump’s immigration and refugee executive order. And it buoyed the Trump administration’s xenophobia when it put the temporary ban back in place and denied entry to people who lack a “bona fide relationship” with an American citizen or entity. (Astonishingly, the government claims that grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and the affianced lack such a relationship, but a federal judge in Hawaii has disagreed.)

While these short-term travel restrictions will be at the heart of what the Supreme Court considers this fall, they have never been the president’s ultimate objective. Instead, his endgame, as he repeatedly made clear on the campaign trail, is the “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” And in a quiet, under-the-radar manner, his administration has been hard at work to make that happen. [Continue reading…]

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Trump blamed Loretta Lynch for letting a Russian lawyer into the U.S.. Here’s how she actually got in

BuzzFeed reports: In the days before her June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump, Jr. and other top Trump campaign aides, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was granted a visa by the US State Department to enter the country.

“In Sept. 2015, DHS paroled Natalia Veselnitskaya into the U.S. in concurrence with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York, allowing her to participate in a client’s legal proceedings,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement to BuzzFeed News Thursday night.

“Ms. Veselnitskaya was subsequently paroled into the U.S. several times between 2015 and 2016, ending in February 2016. In June 2016, she was issued a B1/B2 nonimmigrant visa by the U.S. Department of State,” it said.

The statement contradicts remarks made by President Donald Trump earlier Thursday, suggesting that the Russian lawyer had somehow been allowed into the US by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch. [Continue reading…]

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Knuckleheads in Trump administration don’t want to let foreign entrepreneurs start new businesses in U.S.

The New York Times reports: The Trump administration said it would delay, and probably eliminate down the line, a federal rule that would have let foreign entrepreneurs come to the United States to start companies.

The decision, announced by the federal government on Monday ahead of its official publication on Tuesday, was quickly slammed by business leaders and organizations, especially from the technology sector, which has benefited heavily from start-ups founded by immigrants.

“Today’s announcement is extremely disappointing and represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the critical role immigrant entrepreneurs play in growing the next generation of American companies,” Bobby Franklin, the president and chief executive of the National Venture Capital Association, a trade association for start-up investors, said in a statement.

He added that even as other countries are going all out to attract entrepreneurs, “the Trump administration is signaling its intent to do the exact opposite.”

The policy being delayed by the Department of Homeland Security, known as the International Entrepreneur Rule, was to go into effect next week, after being approved by President Obama in January during his final days in office.

The rule was enacted to give foreign entrepreneurs who received significant financial backing for new business ventures the ability to come temporarily to the United States to build their companies. Silicon Valley leaders had praised the rule as a kind of “start-up visa.” [Continue reading…]

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Trump administration targets parents in new immigration crackdown

The New York Times reports: The Trump administration has begun a new tactic to crack down on illegal immigration, this time arresting undocumented parents suspected of having paid to have their children ushered into the country by smugglers.

When unaccompanied children are apprehended at the border — often after having been taken there by smugglers — immigration officials initiate cases for their deportation, a process that can take months or years. In the meantime, many of those children are placed with parents or relatives who crossed earlier to establish a foothold in the United States and earn money to send back home.

Until recently, those adults have not been priorities for arrest, even if they are in the country illegally.

But in February, President Trump’s Homeland Security secretary, John F. Kelly, signed a memo promising to penalize people who pay smugglers to bring their children to the United States, saying that the agency had “an obligation to ensure that those who conspire to violate our immigration laws do not do so with impunity.” This past week, Jennifer D. Elzea, the deputy press secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, confirmed that arrests had begun. [Continue reading…]

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Revived U.S. travel ban sows confusion, anger in Middle East

Reuters reports: A U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing partial implementation of President Donald Trump’s travel ban has stirred anger and confusion in parts of the Middle East, with would-be visitors worried about their travel plans and their futures.

The blanket 90-day ban on visitors from six Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – and a 120-day ban on all refugees was completely blocked by lower courts after Trump issued it on March 6, saying it was needed to prevent terrorism attacks.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled the bans could proceed, though only for foreigners with no “bona fide relationship” with an American entity or person, and it did not specify what that meant. The ruling left some in the Middle East wondering if they would be able to enter the United States.

“It’s a big disappointment for me,” said a 52-year-old Sudanese man in the capital Khartoum, who believed he would now be rejected for a visa to visit relatives in the United States.

The man, who declined to be identified, said he wouldn’t know the outcome until at least Sunday, when the U.S. Embassy opens again after a string of national holidays.

“I’ve traveled to America before and I don’t know why I’m prevented from traveling (now). I didn’t violate American law during my previous visits,” he told Reuters. [Continue reading…]

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‘This is a very real threat’: Top intelligence officials lay out blunt case on Russian hacking as Trump again casts doubt

Business Insider reports: Current and former officials said in testimony before the congressional intelligence committees on Wednesday that Russian hackers infiltrated election systems in at least 21 states leading up to Election Day in a “well-planned, well-coordinated” campaign directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The overlapping House and Senate hearings were held amid questions about President Donald Trump’s stance on Russia’s election interference and whether he believes it occurred at all.

Former FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month that Trump asked about the Russia investigation only with regard to how it affected him personally rather than how it affected US national security. And The New York Times reported that Trump — who has called the investigation a “fake” attempt by Democrats to justify their defeat — was questioning whether Russia was behind the hacks as late as March in conversations with intelligence chiefs.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not provide a definitive answer Tuesday when asked whether Trump believed Russia interfered in the election, telling reporters that he had not “sat down” with Trump and asked him about it since he took office five months ago.

There were many questions the witnesses — including former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and one of the FBI’s top counterintelligence officials, Bill Priestap — could not answer because of restrictions on disclosing classified information in an open setting. But they were unequivocal on one point: Americans should have no doubt that Russia meddled in the election. [Continue reading…]

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Democrats begin to turn on DHS chief

Politico reports: John Kelly’s sterling reputation as a Marine general with an appreciation for nuance led many Democrats to back his nomination as Homeland Security secretary in the hope that he would rein in President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration and security policies.

Instead, Kelly has moved to impose those policies with military rigor. He has pursued an aggressive deportation campaign; defended Trump’s effort to ban visitors from several Muslim-majority countries; and hinted that he might separate migrant parents from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Kelly has joked with Trump about using violence against reporters and defended Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, amid allegations that he tried to set up a secret back channel to the Russian government. [Continue reading…]

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Undocumented in Trump’s America

 

 

 

 

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Trump’s ‘Muslim laptop ban’ makes little sense

Ishaan Tharoor writes: There are quite a few reasons to be both perplexed and skeptical about the new rules. Security experts interviewed by a number of outlets were bemused by the decision. Some doubted that placing laptops in cargo holds would be any safer than carrying them aboard. Journalists and researchers also feared that the measures would risk compromising sensitive information and sources once their laptops are no longer in their immediate possession.


“It’s weird, because it doesn’t match a conventional threat model,” said Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, in an interview with the Guardian. “If you assume the attacker is interested in turning a laptop into a bomb, it would work just as well in the cargo hold. If you’re worried about hacking, a cellphone is a computer.”

Saj Ahmad, the chief analyst at aviation consultancy firm StrategicAero Research in London, told Al Jazeera that the move seems to contradict the U.S. federal aviation authority’s own stated concerns over the presence of lithium batteries (which are found in laptops and other such devices) in a plane’s cargo hold. He also noted that the new edicts wouldn’t deter a terror attack launched from an airport in Paris or Brussels — European capitals where jihadist cells have already carried out deadly and spectacular attacks.

“It does nothing to prevent security [threats] from places like France that have suffered a lot of terrorism in recent years,” said Ahmad. “How would Homeland Security mitigate against a passenger from France with a device in the cabin in that situation?”

The answer, critics suggest, is that the electronics ban is not about security.

“Three of the airlines that have been targeted for these measures — Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways — have long been accused by their U.S. competitors of receiving massive effective subsidies from their governments,” wrote political scientists Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman. “These airlines have been quietly worried for months that President Trump was going to retaliate. This may be the retaliation.”

Farrell and Newman suggested Tuesday’s order is an example of the Trump administration “weaponizing interdependence” — using its leverage in a world where American airports are key “nodes” in global air travel to weaken competitors. My colleague Max Bearak detailed how this could be a part of Trump’s wider protectionist agenda. In February, President Trump met with executives of U.S. airlines and pledged that he would help them compete against foreign carriers that receive subsidies from their home governments. [Continue reading…]

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Trump administration considers major cuts to border security and disaster relief in order to fund border wall

The Washington Post reports: The Trump administration, searching for money to build the president’s planned multibillion-dollar border wall and crack down on illegal immigration, is weighing significant cuts to the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration and other agencies focused on national security threats, according to a draft plan.

The proposal, drawn up by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), also would slash the budget of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides disaster relief after hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters. The Coast Guard’s $9.1 billion budget in 2017 would be cut 14 percent to about $7.8 billion, while the TSA and FEMA budgets would be reduced about 11 percent each to $4.5 billion and $3.6 billion, respectively.

The cuts are proposed even as the planned budget for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees all of them, grows 6.4 percent to $43.8 billion, according to the plan, which was obtained by The Washington Post. Some $2.9 billion of that would go to building the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, with $1.9 billion funding “immigration detention beds” and other Immigration and Customs Enforcement expenses and $285 million set aside to hire 500 more Border Patrol agents and 1,000 more ICE agents and support staffers.

The plan puts the administration in the unusual position of trading spending on security programs for other security priorities at the southern border, raising questions among Republican lawmakers and homeland-security experts. [Continue reading…]

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Department of Homeland Security will need to hire clairvoyants to carry out ‘extreme vetting’ of immigrants

Greg Sargent reports: We keep hearing that President Trump will roll out the new version of his travel ban any day now. The White House delayed it earlier this week, because Trump advisers reportedly thought it could step on the good press he’d earned from his speech, thus inadvertently undercutting their own claims that enacting the ban is an urgent national security matter.

Here’s the real reason for the delay: The Trump administration can’t solve the problem that has always bedeviled this policy, which is that there isn’t any credible national security rationale for it. Unlike on the campaign trail, when you’re governing, you actually have to have justification for what you’re proposing, or you often run into trouble.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow had an important scoop on Thursday night that further undercuts the substantive case for Trump’s ban, which would restrict entry into the country by refugees and migrants from select Muslim-majority countries. Maddow obtained a new internal Department of Homeland Security document that reached this key judgment:

We assess that most foreign-born, US-based violent extremists likely radicalized several years after their entry to the United States, limiting the ability of screening and vetting officials to prevent their entry because of national security concerns.

This new document is separate from another DHS document that was leaked to the press last week. That one also undercut the case for the ban, concluding that “country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity.”[Continue reading…]

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Dreamer arrested after speaking to media will be deported without hearing, attorney says

Huffington Post reports: A 22-year-old undocumented immigrant arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Jackson, Mississippi, on Wednesday after speaking to the media about her family’s detention is set to be deported without a court hearing, her attorney said on Thursday.

Daniela Vargas, who came to the U.S. from Argentina when she was 7 years old, previously had a work permit and deportation reprieve under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Her DACA status expired last November, and because she was saving money for the renewal — which costs $495 — her new application wasn’t received until Feb. 10.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for ICE said Vargas would go through court proceedings to determine whether she is eligible for some type of relief, adding that the agency would take no further action until those proceedings were completed.

But Abby Peterson, Vargas’ attorney, said ICE agents told her on Thursday that they would instead pursue immediate deportation without a court hearing or bond because Vargas entered the country through the visa waiver program, which allows certain foreign nationals to enter the U.S. for under 90 days without a visa. (Argentina was previously part of the program, although it no longer is.) Individuals who use the visa waiver program have no right to a hearing or to contest their removal unless they are seeking asylum. [Continue reading…]

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He’s a local pillar in a Trump town. Now he could be deported

The New York Times reports: Ask residents of this coal-mining crossroads about President Trump’s decision to crack down on undocumented immigrants and most offer no protest. Mr. Trump, who easily won this mostly white southern Illinois county, is doing what he promised, they say. As Terry Chambers, a barber on Main Street, put it, the president simply wants “to get rid of the bad eggs.”

But then they took Carlos.

Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco — just Carlos to the people of West Frankfort — has been the manager of La Fiesta, a Mexican restaurant in this city of 8,000, for a decade. Yes, he always greeted people warmly at the cheerfully decorated restaurant, known for its beef and chicken fajitas. And, yes, he knew their children by name. But people here tick off more things they know Carlos for.

How one night last fall, when the Fire Department was battling a two-alarm blaze, Mr. Hernandez suddenly appeared with meals for the firefighters. How he hosted a Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at the restaurant last summer as police officers were facing criticism around the country. How he took part in just about every community committee or charity effort — the Rotary Club, cancer fund-raisers, cleanup days, even scholarships for the Redbirds, the high school sports teams, which are the pride of this city.

“I think people need to do things the right way, follow the rules and obey the laws, and I firmly believe in that,” said Lori Barron, the owner of Lori’s Hair A’Fairs, a beauty salon. “But in the case of Carlos, I think he may have done more for the people here than this place has ever given him. I think it’s absolutely terrible that he could be taken away.” [Continue reading…]

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