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September 2021


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Tag: Congress

Congress Mulls Plan to Create Separate Unit to Investigate Terrorism

homeland2department-of-homeland-security-logo-300x300By Steve Neavling

Fearing that Homeland Security is not equipped to combat violent extremism, key lawmakers in Washington passed legislation Wednesday that would create a single office dedicated to focusing solely on terrorism.

The Washington Times reports that members of the House Committee on Homeland Security butted heads over how best to handle the shortcomings.

The overhaul could be a hard sell because it hasn’t been endorsed or even introduced as an alternative by Homeland Security.

“There is no DHS strategic plan to provide clarity about how the $40 million in dedicated funding and expanded authorities would be utilized,” hRep, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the top Democrat on the panel,e said. “There is no testimony from DHS, in an open setting, in response to concerns about transparency and the concerns that many Americans have about how current CVE (countering violent extremism) programs are being carried out.”

Bill Would Help Justice Department Combat ‘Violent Extremism’

Rep. Michael McCaul

Rep. Michael McCaul

By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department is moving forward on its promise to combat “violent extremism.” reports that Rep. Michael McCaul has introduced a bill, Countering Violent Extremism Act, that would create a federal Office of Coordination for Countering Violent Extremism.

The office would be house at Homeland Security.

The bill covers a range of responsibilities, including “identifying risk factors that contribute to violent extremism in communities in the United States,” “assessing the methods used by violent extremists to disseminate propaganda and messaging to communities at risk for radicalization and recruitment,” and “establishing a counter-messaging program” to head off extremist ideas.

The bill calls for $10 million a year for the next five years and a new leader, assistant secretary for countering violent extremism.”

FBI Assures Congress That Planes Aren’t Used for Mass Surveillance

By Steve Neavling

The FBI assured Congress that its plane surveillance program is not intended to perform mass surveillance or bulk intelligence collection, the Associated Press reports. 

The FBI, however, declined to answer some questions about its planes, including how often they are used and how much they cost.

The briefing comes two weeks after the Associated Press revealed that the AP used fake company names to acquire at least 50 planes.

Most of the planes, the FBI said, don’t have high-definition cameras and rely on binoculars.

The planes were used only five times to track cellphones from the sky, according to the FBI.

Another Secret Service Lapse: New Hires Haven’t Completed Security Clearance Process

By Steve Neavling

In its rush to hire new Secret Service officers to handle serious security lapses, the agency placed several dozen new people in sensitive positions, even though they had not completed the required national security clearance process, the Washington Post reports, citing two unnamed government sources.

Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy told at least one Congressman about the problem and pledged to fix the issue.

Part of the problem is an “administrative backlog” in issuing security clearances, the Post wrote.

“The director has taken immediate steps to accelerate the top-secret adjudication process and has allocated additional resources to ensure that this is completed as quickly as possible,” Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said Tuesday.

Other Stories of Interest

FBI: Apple And Google Are Assisting Terrorists with Privacy Tecnhology

By Steve Neavling

Are Apple and Google the bad guys?

A senior FBI official told a Congressional committee that the technology giants are aiding terrorists by offering users encrypted communications, a senior FBI officials told the House Homeland Security Committee, The Register reports.

Michael Steinbach, assistant director in the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, said the federal government should bar the companies from offering encrypted communication, a move that IT experts and even some members of Congress said would make the technology vulnerable to hackers.

Steinbach said terrorists are eluding detection using the encryption technology.

“Privacy above all other things, including safety and freedom from terrorism, is not where we want to go,” Steinbach said. “We’re not looking at going through a back door or being nefarious.”

 Other Stories of Interest

Congressmen: FBI Plan Would Make American Phones Vulnerable to Hackers

By Steve Neavling

Two Congressmen with computer science degrees said the FBI is making Americans vulnerable to hackers, and any suggestion otherwise is ignorant, CNN reports.

U.S. Reps. Will Hurd of Texas and Ted Lieu of California are criticizing FBI Director James Comey’s insistence that cell phone companies allow a “backdoor” for the bureau to see what’s on the phones of Americans during investigations.

The elected officials said such a move would allow hackers the same access as the FBI and that terrorists are using software tools to conceal their communication anyway.

“We strongly, but respectfully, disagree with the FBI’s proposal to force privacy sector companies to weaken the security of their products and services,” Hurd and Lieu wrote. “As computer science majors… we strongly urge the FBI to find alternative ways of addressing the challenges posed by new technologies.”

The FBI declined to comment.

Bloomberg: Time to Put ATF Out of Its Misery, Consider Folding into FBI

By Bloomberg 
Editorial Board

Many members of Congress seem to view the U.S.’s most deadly criminals — those who carry guns — as a protected class. For decades, they’ve tried everything imaginable to cripple the agency charged with enforcing federal laws against illegal gun buying, trafficking and possession. Meanwhile, advocates of stricter gun-law enforcement have fought a losing battle to strengthen the agency’s hand. Now, it may be time to admit defeat and change the strategy.

The ATF, as it’s known, is charged with overseeing federally licensed firearms dealers, most of which are responsible and law-abiding — but not all. Criminals know the difference, but even when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has figured it out, it has lacked the resources and leadership to crack down.

A new report by the Center for American Progress recommends that the ATF be merged into the FBI. It’s worth considering. It would be hard to do worse than the status quo.

The ATF has long been a political punching bag, maligned by gun-rights advocates as an unnecessary intrusion on the Second Amendment. Just last week, the House Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would stop the ATF from requiring licensed gun dealers in four border states — where Mexican gun-running is a problem — to report when someone buys multiple semi-automatic rifles. Merging the ATF into the FBI wouldn’t stop this sort of meddling, but the FBI director would be in a stronger position to rebuff it.

The ATF has been a target for Republicans — and many Democrats, too — ever since 1980, when presidential candidate Ronald Reagan promised to abolish it. They’ve had plenty to shoot at: The agency has a record of poor management, although Congress is partly to blame for making the agency go years without an executive director. During President Barack Obama’s first term, when the ATF badly botched an investigation into gun trafficking across the Mexican border, criticism reached a fever pitch, and has barely abated since.

Merging into the FBI might push the ATF out of the congressional crosshairs. The FBI, for all its troubles, is generally well-regarded by both parties, and its reputation could give the enforcement of gun laws greater credibility.

True, a merger would carry risks. Layering a poorly run organization onto one that works reasonably well could lower morale and harm performance. It could also distract the FBI from its most important work, including counterterrorism. There’s no doubt it would be a mammoth management challenge, but the two agencies have missions that are largely compatible, and a merger would streamline their overlapping responsibilities. The FBI and ATF both target violent street gangs. They both oversee forensic training programs for explosives, and operate forensic labs to process evidence from violent crimes. They both have response teams trained to handle hostage and explosives-related investigations. And while the FBI operates the National Instant Criminal Background Check System used for guns sales by dealers, the ATF licenses the dealers.

Secret Service Continues to Pay Ousted Deputy Director After Leadership Changes

By Steve Neavling

Members of Congress are finding little reason to begin trusting the Secret Service again after a series of blunders and employee problems.

The House Oversight and Government Reform committee discovered this week that Alvin “A.T.” Smith, who was ousted as deputy director of the agency, is still paid by the Secret Service, The Washington Post reports.  

Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy testified that Smith, a 29-year veteran of the agency, is still being paid by Secret Service, even though he has been detailed within the Homeland Security to work with CBP.

“You have done, Mr. Clancy, a very good job of building trust and confidence, and it’s flushed down the toilet when I read and hear about these things. You said to us … that we’re implementing fundamental changes,” committee chairman Jason Chaffetz said. “Don’t ever come back here to Congress and tell me that you have a financial problem when you’ve got A.T. Smith on your payroll and you say you don’t have enough money. You shouldn’t have to pay for that out of your budget.”

The committee discovered another high-level agent who was forced out also is still on the payroll, working for ICE.