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Entries in homeland security (5)

Friday
Oct072011

FBI Will Launch Nationwide Facial Recognition System

The FBI will begin using a nationwide facial recognition service in January to help officials identify suspects in photographs. Eventually, the agency will be able to use other biometrics, such as their iris and voice, to identify known criminals, according to NextGov.

The Next-Generation Identification software will help law enforcement officials narrow their search results from the bureau’s stash of 10 million mugshots down to only a few likely matches. Although NGI doesn’t provide a direct match, the system can provide as few as two possible matches, ranked in order of similarity to the original photo—which does away with the whole “needle in a haystack” frustration and time sink.

As it is, an FBI agent would have to know a suspect’s name in order to pull up his or her mugshot. Come January, commit a crime, get captured on camera and NGI will be able to (pretty much) match you to your previous mugshot—within 15 minutes.

The new facial rec software will start out in Michigan, Washington, Florida and North Carolina in 2012, but it will be rolled out nationwide in 2014.

Not surprisingly, such a powerful tool is raising privacy concerns all over the country. Many objections have to do with the fact that the Department of Homeland security and local authorities will be involved. Local authorities can already file mugshots with the FBI as part of the booking process. And DHS swaps digital mugshots with the FBI as part of its efforts to extradite criminal aliens.

As Sunita Patel, a staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, told NextGov: "Any database of personal identity information is bound to have mistakes. And with the most personal immutable traits like our facial features and fingerprints, the public can't afford a mistake."

Patel also said she’s worried about local police getting involved in information sharing for federal immigration enforcement purposes. "The federal government is using local cops to create a massive surveillance system," she said.

Tuesday
Feb152011

Secret Service Employs Gaming Technology and 3-D Modeling to Train for Threats

Chemical releases, suicide bombers, air and subsurface threats: the U.S. Secret Service needs to be prepared to handle these real-life incidents. Training to respond to such incidents, however, has been more theoretical than practical.

Now, with help from the Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate, the Secret Service is giving training scenarios a high-tech edge: moving from static tabletop models to virtual kiosks with gaming technology and 3D modeling.

For the past 40 years, a miniature model environment called "Tiny Town" has been one of the methods used to teach Secret Service agents and officers how to prepare a site security plan. The model includes different sites -- an airport, outdoor stadium, urban rally site and a hotel interior -- and uses scaled models of buildings, cars and security assets. The scenario-based training allows students to illustrate a dignitary's entire itinerary and accommodate unrelated, concurrent activities in a public venue. Various elements of a visit are covered, such as an arrival, rope line or public remarks. The class works as a whole and in small groups to develop and present their security plan.

Enter videogame technology. The Secret Service's James J. Rowley Training Center near Washington, D.C., sought to take these scenarios beyond a static environment to encompass the dynamic threat spectrum that exists today, while taking full advantage of the latest computer software technology.

The agency's Security and Incident Modeling Lab wanted to update Tiny Town and create a more relevant and flexible training tool. With funding from DHS S&T, the Secret Service developed the Site Security Planning Tool, a new training system dubbed "Virtual Tiny Town" by instructors, with high-tech features:

  • 3-D models and game-based virtual environments
  • Simulated chemical plume dispersion for making and assessing decisions
  • A touch interface to foster collaborative, interactive involvement by student teams
  • A means to devise, configure, and test a security plan that is simple, engaging, and flexible
  • Both third- and first-person viewing perspectives for overhead site evaluation and for a virtual "walk-through" of the site, reflecting how it would be performed in the field.

The new technology consists of three kiosks, each composed of a 55-inch Perceptive Pixel touch screen with an attached projector and camera, and a computer running Virtual Battle Space as the base simulation game. The kiosks can accommodate a team of up to four students, and each kiosk's synthetic environment, along with the team's crafted site security plan, can be displayed on a large wall-mounted LED 3-D TV monitor for conducting class briefings and demonstrating simulated security challenges.

In addition to training new recruits, SSPT can also provide in-service protective details with advanced training on a range of scenarios, including preparation against chemical, biological or radiological attacks, armed assaults, suicide bombers and other threats.

Future enhancements to SSPT will include modeling the resulting health effects and crowd behaviors of a chemical, radiological or biological attack, to better prepare personnel for a more comprehensive array of scenarios and the necessary life-saving actions required to protect dignitaries and the public alike.

The Site Security Planning Tool development is expected to be completed and activated by spring 2011.

Wednesday
Dec082010

DHS Teams With Walmart to Highlight Public Awareness

More than 230 Walmart stores will play the above video at select checkout lanes to remind shoppers to contact local law enforcement to report suspicious activity.

In addition, DHS’ national “If You See Something, Say Something” public awareness campaign will be played in approximately 9,000 federal buildings throughout the United States.

“Homeland security begins with hometown security and every citizen—including government employees—plays a critical role in ensuring America’s safety and security,” said Secretary Napolitano. “Our partnership with FPS and GSA to expand the ‘If You See Something, Say Something’ campaign to our nation’s federal buildings is a crucial step in helping the millions of people who work in or visit our federal buildings every day identify and report suspicious activity indicators of terrorism, crime and other threats.”

“GSA is pleased to partner with DHS to bring the ‘If You See Something, Say Something’ campaign to the over 9,000 properties we own or lease on behalf of the Federal Government,” said GSA Administrator Martha Johnson. “The campaign is yet another important example of the work GSA and DHS do to ensure that our federal buildings are safe and welcoming to over one million federal employees and visitors alike.”

The “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign—originally implemented by New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority and funded, in part, by $13 million from DHS' Transit Security Grant Program—is a simple and effective program to engage the public and key frontline employees to identify and report indicators of terrorism, crime and other threats to the proper transportation and law enforcement authorities.

“The men and women of the Federal Protective Service work tirelessly every day to protect the safety of Americans who work in and visit federal facilities,” said FPS Director Eric Patterson. “This collaborative security effort will enable our law enforcement and protective security officers to join forces with the public to secure federal facilities from threats.”

In the coming months, the Department will continue to expand the "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign nationally with public education materials and outreach tools designed to help America's businesses, communities and citizens remain vigilant and play an active role in keeping the country safe.

Wednesday
Dec012010

DHS Monitors Your Blog Posts, Tweets and Status Updates

This website -- and its loyal readers -- is being watched. That's because the Department of Homeland Security has started to monitor social media websites to maintain their "situational awareness" of the public's opinion of DHS procedures and even of potential national security threats. If you're on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Hulu or even YouTube, your posts are being monitored.
The Publicly Available Social Media Monitoring and Situational Awareness Initiative was founded in June to help "ensure that critical disaster-related information reaches government decision makers." How? By keeping tabs on publicly available online forums, blogs, websites, message boards and more. 
What is DHS looking for, exactly? Here's a random sampling of the several hundred words and phrases that are used to monitor social media websites:
  • Shooting
  • Threat
  • Deaths
  • Emergency Management
  • Gangs
  • Security
  • Flu
  • Symptoms
  • Sick
  • Airport/Airplane
  • Bacteria
  • Mexico
  • Social media
Obviously, In Hard Focus must be near the top of DHS' monitor list. And you probably are too!
For a full list of websites monitored by DHS -- and the words they're looking for -- see the report here
Wednesday
May192010

Homeland Security Gets Back to Nature

This week, trainees from the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program collaborated with the San Francisco Police Department to better protect California's shorelines from terrorist threats. But these aren't your usual specially-trained members of the armed forces. Instead, they're dolphins and sea lions. Seriously.

Chosen for their amazing intelligence, memory, detection capability and lightning-quick mobility, dolphins and sea lions are a great fit for underwater homeland security initiatives. Members of the program are trained to identify mines, improvised explosive devices and enemy divers.

See a photo slideshow of the exercise here.