News in Brief

Terrorist tweets, spectrum modeling, gun tracking and video conferencing

Shutterstock image: social media conversation.

U.S. intel to ISIS: Don't stop tweeting

The radical Islamic State in Iraq (called variously ISIS and ISIL) has an active social media presence, posting bloody images of executions and mass slaughter on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and other sites. According to a Mashable report, the intelligence community doesn't want the companies that host the accounts of the Islamist fighters to take them down – despite frequent complaints that the gory content violates the companies' terms of service.

An employee of an unnamed social media company told Mashable, "U.S. intelligence prefers for these accounts to stay up, rather than come down." The reason is simple -- the behavior of the individuals who post and interact with ISIS is providing intelligence analysts with information about the networks, relationships, locations and tactics used by the group and its allies.

"Right now I could get online and I could watch ISIL on social media and tell you where they are operating, which countries they're from and who they're working with," said Clint Watts, senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

NTIA seeks "model city" to test spectrum-sharing technology

The Obama administration has big plans to create a spectrum superhighway that offers commercial users access to as much as 1000 megahertz of federal bandwidth on a shared basis. Key to this is a plan, still in development, to develop dynamic spectrum-sharing technology that can prioritize users, eliminate interference, and adjust to changes in demand. It's a tall order, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration -- both Commerce Department components -- are working on technological and policy solutions to the sharing challenge.

To move from the drawing board and into the real world, the Federal Communications Commission's Office of Engineering and Technology and NTIA are seeking comments on a plan to establish a "Model City" to act as a home for testing spectrum sharing technology.

According to a notice in the Federal Register, "the host community for a Model City could play a crucial and collaborative role by expediting access to rights-of-way and other facilities (e.g., fiber, conduits, poles, towers, buildings, rooftops, park spaces, tunnels, etc.) for short- and long-term wireless infrastructure and monitoring deployments."

The plan would have to be drawn up in such a way that it does not disrupt existing users like radio and TV broadcasters, or mobile communications and public safety networks. NTIA and FCC are also interested in ideas on how government, researchers, commercial network providers and others could collaborate in testing advanced spectrum sharing-techniques.

There is also the question of who pays. The government is seeking to minimize federal and local expenditures and the notice suggests that there are mechanisms that could be tapped to "expand opportunities for private stakeholder funding."

GAO: ATF database has trouble tracking delayed denials

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives can't adequately track the outcomes of thousands of "delayed denial" investigations that involve questionable firearms purchases because its database can't keep track of them, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

ATF has moved to replace legacy database systems across its operations, including the system cited by the report.

Delayed denial cases are investigations of people who bought guns after background checks could not initially determine that they were prohibited from making the purchase. Typically denials are issued when the buyer's record turns up felony convictions, mental illness or other disqualifying information.

ATF's N-Force investigations database, said the report, doesn't have information readily available to systematically track the timeliness and outcomes in delayed denial investigations.

GAO recommended a mechanism to readily obtain data on the timeliness of such investigations and allow managers to easily query and analyze trends on the outcomes of such investigations, to help ensure that ATF is retrieving firearms from those deemed ineligible to own them.

ATF moved in April to replace all of its legacy case management systems with a unified tool that gives investigators and attorneys access to case files, supports their updated business management system, works across mobile phones and tablets, and can support data from the retired system, according to a request for information posted on FBO.gov.

State eyes cloud-based conferencing

The State Department has contracted to deploy a cloud-based videoconferencing and collaboration system to cover its expanding requirements for remote meetings on a global basis, GCN reports.

The department signed a multi-year contract with Watchitoo Inc., which offers a secure video service combining collaboration tools and broadcast-level streaming on one platform. Sessions are scalable, interactive and can be branded for each customer group.

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