News in Brief

Checking on Pre Check, FBI cyber and a real-life force field

Shutterstock image: cyber eye.

DHS IG reviews ups, downs of Pre Check

Homeland Security Department Inspector General John Roth told lawmakers March 25 that the Transportation Security Administration's Pre Check security clearance program is "a positive step toward risk-based security screening." But he cautioned that TSA needs to modify vetting and screening processes in the face of some critical reviews.

The IG issued a report in March that found a "notorious felon convicted of domestic terrorism crimes" was granted TSA Pre Check screening through TSA's Secure Flight risk assessment rules. Roth told the House Homeland Security Transportation Security Subcommittee that his office has also responded to whistleblower whistleblower reports about the use of a risk-based rule by the TSA Secure Flight program that could create a gap in aviation security. An inspection yielded sensitive security information that had to be delivered to the panel behind closed doors.

Secure Flight vets basic information, such as passenger name, date of birth, and gender before the flight against a federal watch list. It is done on a flight-by-flight basis.

Roth told the panel that said TSA did not grant the convicted felon TSA Pre Check screening through the TSA Pre Check Application Program, but rather through Secure Flight risk assessment rules, showing a possible gap in the security procedures, compounded by human error. The IG said Transportation Security Officer (TSO) scanned the traveler's boarding pass and got a TSA Pre Check eligibility notification. The TSO knew of the traveler's disqualifying criminal conviction, said the IG, and informed his supervisor. However, the supervisor directed the TSO to take no further action and allow the traveler through the Pre Check lane.

"As a result, we recommended TSA limit TSA Pre Check screening to known passengers that TSA determines to be members of trusted populations," said Roth. "We also determined the TSO followed standard operating procedures but did not feel empowered to redirect the traveler from TSA Pre Check screening to standard lane screening. We recommended TSA modify standard operating procedures to clarify TSO and supervisory TSO authority to refer passenger with TSA Pre Check boarding passes to standard screening."

FBI wants $20 million more for cyber, IT

The Federal Bureau of Investigation's fiscal 2016 budget request reflects the bureau's increasing focus on prosecuting cyber crime, Director James Comey told House appropriators March 25, and "cyber is a feature of every threat that the FBI is responsible for."

The budget request includes a $10.3 million increase in funding for cyber investigations from the amount enacted the previous fiscal year.

The money would go to the Next Generation Cyber Initiative, a program begun in 2012 that investigates computer network break-ins and has staffed cyber personnel at all 56 of the FBI's field offices. The added money for the program would help "improve cyber collection and analysis and extend centralized cyber capabilities to the field," according to the FBI's budget summary.

The FBI's fiscal 2016 budget request also includes $9.7 million more for IT infrastructure to help the FBI participate in the Intelligence Community IT Enterprise (ICITE), a set of IC programs that includes cloud computing and common desktop environments.

Boeing patents a real-life force field

Boeing could be bringing force fields to life, Defense Systems reports. The traditionally metaphysical concept of a protective force field, seen only in science fiction tales like Star Wars and Star Trek, could be realized for practical use, albeit in a limited sense.

Boeing filed a patent in 2012 for "shockwave attenuation via electromagnetic arc," which would use electromagnetic energy from a laser or microwave generator to heat up the air to intercept shockwaves and attenuate the energy density before it can reach its target.

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