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Archive for April, 2017

Border Patrol Seeks Drones with Facial-Recognition Technology

An example of a consumer-grade drone.

An example of a consumer-grade drone.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Border Patrol is soliciting proposals for drones that have the ability to recognize and analyze faces.

The small unmanned aerial systems would be easy enough for an agent to launch the drone in less than five minutes, the Verge reports.

Th drones would be outfitted with sophisticated censors with facility-recognition capabilities. 

The consumer-grade drones would weigh under 55 pounds and could be carried in a truck.

Verge wrote:

One technical document included with the solicitation imagined a drone that could “distinguish between natural and artificial features, and between animals, humans, and vehicles at long range.” The drone would also include “facial recognition capabilities that allow it cross-reference any persons identified with relevant law enforcement databases.” The scenario meant as a hypothetical, illustrating the type of capability CBP is looking for rather than indicating a specific requirement. Still, those facial-recognition capabilities would work well with Homeland Security’s IDENT database, which currently contains more than 170 million fingerprints and facial images collected from non-citizens as they enter the United States. The FBI’s facial-recognition checks reach even further, scanning across 411 million photos in state and federal databases.

CBP officials said that kind of in-the-field identification could be immensely valuable to agents in the future, particularly crossed referenced with criminal records. “When a Border Patrol agent is out in the field, they may be very far from backup, they may not have great comms coverage,” said Ari Schuler, co-lead of CBP’s Silicon Valley office, which is managing the project. “If they encounter an armed group of human traffickers, for instance, they need to know whether those traffickers have a criminal record or are known to have assaulted an officer.”

Other Stories of Interest

Weekend Series on Crime History: JFK’s Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence

Secret Service Agent Protecting VP Pence Suspended After Meeting with Prostitute

hooker1By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A Secret Service agent assigned to protect Vice President Pence was suspended after an alleged meet-up with a prostitute in a Maryland hotel.

The Secret Service told the Washington Post it “is aware of an alleged incident involving an off-duty Secret Service employee.” 

The agency required the agent, who was placed on administrative leave, to surrender all equipment.

“We are exploring the full range of disciplinary actions,” the spokesman said.

After police responded to a call about suspicious activity in a hotel room in Maryland, the agent was arrested and charged with solicitation.

“The Secret Service takes allegations of criminal activity very seriously,” the spokesman said in the statement.

“The Secret Service is committed to ensuring that all employees are held to the highest level of professional and ethical standards of conduct.”

Twitter Sues Homeland Security to Protect Anonymity of Trump Critic

twitter-birdBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Twitter is suing Homeland Security after it threatened court action if the social media giant didn’t reveal the identity of a Twitter account – “@ALT_uscis” or “Alt Immigration” – that has been critical of the Trump administration.

The lawsuit alleges Homeland Security received a summons demanding the name, login information, phone number, mailing address and IP address of the Twitter user, NPR reports.

Twitter ignored Homeland Security’s request to not reveal the summons and instead wants a federal court to declare the summons “unlawful and enforceable.”

The account is one of several “rogue” accounts believed to be created by anonymous employees of the federal government, though that has not been confirmed. The Associated Press reports that they were told the account was run by “employees and former employees of the agency.”

Lawyers for Twitter said the summons violates the First Amendment rights of @ALT_uscis and is therefore unenforceable.

Ex-FBI Director Mueller III Appointed to Oversee Takata air bag claim fund

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT — Former FBI Director Robert Mueller III has been appointed by a federal judge to oversee the disbursement of nearly $1 billion in restitution to victims of the deadly Takata air bag case, USA Today reports. 

U.S. District Judge George Steeh issued an order Thursday afternoon to appoint Mueller, who also played a role as settlement master in the Volkswagen diesel emissions case.

“In the end, the court determines that Mr. Mueller is the best candidate for the position, based in part on the parties’ support of his appointment, as well as the court’s comfort and trust in his impeccable credentials, his relevant experience in settlement negotiations, his familiarity with the automotive industry in general, and based upon his well-known reputation for integrity,” Steeh said in his order.

Mueller’s job includes recommending who receives restitution and how much they receive.

The Takata pleaded guilty to fraud in federal court, resulting in a $1-billion settlement with the U.S.

Air bag defects have killed at least 16 people worldwide and injured many more.

Secret Service Faces Serious Challenges to Meet Demands of Trump Family

secret serviceBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Secret Service has been forced to make cost-cutting concessions because of the increasing demands and rising costs of protecting the new first family.

The strain of the demands has resulted in the Secret Service pulling dozens of agents from criminal investigations to serve two-week stints to protect members of the Trump family, the New York Times reports. 

One of the extra burdens is protecting the first lady and youngest son in Manhattan’s Trump Tower. The family’s travel habits also have required agents to work more overtime hours and spend more time away from home. In addition, the Secret Service is protecting Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

“They are flat-out worn out,” said Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

“It’s like being on a bike that you never get off of,” said the committee’s top-ranking Democratic member, Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland.

FBI Considers Special University to Train Cyber Security Agents

Cyber crime expert, via FBI.

Cyber crime expert, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

As cyber crime continues to rise, the FBI is caught in a pickle: It can’t recruit enough agents who can hack a computer.

Now FBI Director James Comey is considering loosening some training requirements on physical fitness or marksmanship, the Associated Press reports. 

Comey has floated the idea of creating a special university for training cyber security agents who won’t need a firearm. The university would focus on the technical skills needed on the job.

“Our minds are open to all of these things because we are seeking a talent – talent in a pool that is increasingly small,” Comey said.

Another idea is ditching the requirement that agents who have left the service for more than two years most re-enroll in the difficult training academy in Quantico, Va.

“Our people leave, go to the private sector, discover it’s a soulless, empty way to live – and then they realize, ‘My life is empty, I need moral content in my work,'” Comey said to laughter during a recent speech at the University of Texas at Austin.

Americn in Custody Again After Threatening to Join ISIS, Kill an American

ISIS flag

ISIS flag

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An 18-year-old South Carolina man who was accused of hatching a plan to kill soldiers as revenge for American military action in the Middle East was granted early release last May.

Now Zakaryia Abdin is back in custody after a grand jury indicted him Tuesday on a charge of providing material support to a terrorist organization, the Associated Press reports. 

This time he is accused of telling an undercover agent, whom he thought was an Islamic State recruiter, that he wanted to join the terrorist organization and torture an American on video.

Authorities arrested Abdin as he tried to board a plane to Jordan last week.

He’s accused of telling an undercover FBI agent that he wanted to be show on video torturing an American hostage because “I want to be the one to send the message because they know who I am.”