Review Category : Poltics

Failures Lead Secret Service to Consider Raising White House Fence

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The security failures that recently let a man with a small knife in his pocket jump the perimeter fence and make it “practically unencumbered” deep into the White House were “devastating,” and now the U.S. Secret Service may make the fence taller, the new head of the agency said Wednesday in his first appearance before lawmakers at the helm.

“Without question, the agency has been severely damaged in recent years by failures,” dating back to the Cartagena, Colombia, prostitution scandal in 2012, Acting Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy told a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee.

“The range of shortcomings” is “what hits the hardest,” he said.

The chairman of the committee, Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said a recently completed internal Department of Homeland Security review of the September intrusion “uncovered a laundry list of errors,” from communications systems that didn’t work to a canine officer who was on a personal cellphone call — without his radio earpiece in his ear or his tactical radio — and realized too late what was happening in front of him.

Outside of the hearing room, the man who led that internal review of the breach, Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, called recent scrutiny of the Secret Service “much-warranted.”

Asked by lawmakers about the possibility of increasing the height of the White House fence, which currently stands at 7.5 feet, Clancy said that change is currently “being discussed” with “partners” such as the National Park Service, Capital Region Planning Commission and others.

“We have already started those discussions…to see if there’s something amenable to all the groups so that we keep the historic nature of the White House but also increase security,” he said.

Within the next few months, Clancy said he expects to review renderings and drawings of proposed physical changes to the White House perimeter.

Still, both Clancy, who took over the Secret Service early last month, and Goodlatte defended the agency as a whole.

“I firmly believe the Secret Service is better than this incident,” Clancy testified.

And Mayorkas, in an op-ed published in The Hill newspaper Wednesday, similarly praised and defended the broader Secret Service: “The much-warranted attention the…September 19 fence-jumping incident at the White House is receiving should not overshadow the great work the men and women of the Secret Service perform every day.”

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Failures Lead Secret Service to Consider Raising White House Fence

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The security failures that recently let a man with a small knife in his pocket jump the perimeter fence and make it “practically unencumbered” deep into the White House were “devastating,” and now the U.S. Secret Service may make the fence taller, the new head of the agency said Wednesday in his first appearance before lawmakers at the helm.

“Without question, the agency has been severely damaged in recent years by failures,” dating back to the Cartagena, Colombia, prostitution scandal in 2012, Acting Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy told a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee.

“The range of shortcomings” is “what hits the hardest,” he said.

The chairman of the committee, Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said a recently completed internal Department of Homeland Security review of the September intrusion “uncovered a laundry list of errors,” from communications systems that didn’t work to a canine officer who was on a personal cellphone call — without his radio earpiece in his ear or his tactical radio — and realized too late what was happening in front of him.

Outside of the hearing room, the man who led that internal review of the breach, Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, called recent scrutiny of the Secret Service “much-warranted.”

Asked by lawmakers about the possibility of increasing the height of the White House fence, which currently stands at 7.5 feet, Clancy said that change is currently “being discussed” with “partners” such as the National Park Service, Capital Region Planning Commission and others.

“We have already started those discussions…to see if there’s something amenable to all the groups so that we keep the historic nature of the White House but also increase security,” he said.

Within the next few months, Clancy said he expects to review renderings and drawings of proposed physical changes to the White House perimeter.

Still, both Clancy, who took over the Secret Service early last month, and Goodlatte defended the agency as a whole.

“I firmly believe the Secret Service is better than this incident,” Clancy testified.

And Mayorkas, in an op-ed published in The Hill newspaper Wednesday, similarly praised and defended the broader Secret Service: “The much-warranted attention the…September 19 fence-jumping incident at the White House is receiving should not overshadow the great work the men and women of the Secret Service perform every day.”

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Failures Lead Secret Service to Consider Raising White House Fence

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The security failures that recently let a man with a small knife in his pocket jump the perimeter fence and make it “practically unencumbered” deep into the White House were “devastating,” and now the U.S. Secret Service may make the fence taller, the new head of the agency said Wednesday in his first appearance before lawmakers at the helm.

“Without question, the agency has been severely damaged in recent years by failures,” dating back to the Cartagena, Colombia, prostitution scandal in 2012, Acting Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy told a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee.

“The range of shortcomings” is “what hits the hardest,” he said.

The chairman of the committee, Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said a recently completed internal Department of Homeland Security review of the September intrusion “uncovered a laundry list of errors,” from communications systems that didn’t work to a canine officer who was on a personal cellphone call — without his radio earpiece in his ear or his tactical radio — and realized too late what was happening in front of him.

Outside of the hearing room, the man who led that internal review of the breach, Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, called recent scrutiny of the Secret Service “much-warranted.”

Asked by lawmakers about the possibility of increasing the height of the White House fence, which currently stands at 7.5 feet, Clancy said that change is currently “being discussed” with “partners” such as the National Park Service, Capital Region Planning Commission and others.

“We have already started those discussions…to see if there’s something amenable to all the groups so that we keep the historic nature of the White House but also increase security,” he said.

Within the next few months, Clancy said he expects to review renderings and drawings of proposed physical changes to the White House perimeter.

Still, both Clancy, who took over the Secret Service early last month, and Goodlatte defended the agency as a whole.

“I firmly believe the Secret Service is better than this incident,” Clancy testified.

And Mayorkas, in an op-ed published in The Hill newspaper Wednesday, similarly praised and defended the broader Secret Service: “The much-warranted attention the…September 19 fence-jumping incident at the White House is receiving should not overshadow the great work the men and women of the Secret Service perform every day.”

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Congress Presses for More Timely Notification After USPS Data Breach

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — For nearly two months, after suspicious activity was detected on postal service networks, employees and customers remained in the dark about the potential that their data had been compromised.

The delay drew criticism from Congress at a House oversight hearing on Wednesday.

“I am very disappointed in the way you handled this…you have to be more forthcoming,” Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) scolded U.S. Postal Service officials testifying at the hearing.

Investigators say, however, they needed the time to determine exactly what data had been compromised, if the data had been taken and how to stop the incursion.

The data breach, which compromised the personal information of more than 800,000 employees, was first detected by U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) on Sept. 11.

However, it took until Oct. 16 to learn that data had indeed been compromised and until Nov. 4 to confirm data had been taken, according to testimony by top U.S. Postal Service cyber-security official Randy Meskanic. Employees were first informed that their data was stolen on Nov. 10.

The employee data included names, dates of birth, social security numbers, addresses, dates of employment and other information. Credit monitoring services are being provided to impacted employees out of an abundance of caution.

Upon being notified of a potential breach by US-CERT on Sept. 11, investigators worked in secret at the urging of the FBI to keep what they believed was a “sophisticated” adversary from learning they had been detected, Meskanic said.

The FBI warned that making the breach public, “could result in the threat being further embedded into the Postal Service network,” Meskanic testified.

Lynch bristled at the secrecy, saying that potentially impacted employees and customers had a right to know sooner. “The secret squirrel stuff…that doesn’t fly,” Lynch said.

Though the initial breach is believed to have involved four servers, Meskanic told the committee that “approximately 100 servers and their workstations were compromised.”

The U.S. Postal Service also believes that some basic customer information was compromised. That data includes 2.9 million customer complaints stored on a compromised server which held name, address, phone and email information for those customers.

While complaint information appears to have been pilfered, investigators do not believe customer credit information was lost.

“At this time, we do not believe that Postal Service transactional revenue systems in Post Offices, as well as on usps.com where customers pay for services with credit and debit cards, were affected by this incident. There is no evidence that any customer credit card information from retail or online purchases, change of address or other services was compromised,” Miskanic said in his testimony.

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Obama to Announce Major Immigration Executive Action Thursday

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama will announce a major executive action on immigration reform in prime time on Thursday, sources told ABC News.

The president will then travel to Las Vegas on Friday.

The most controversial aspect of Obama’s planned action is likely to be an order to, on a temporary basis, exempt from deportation and grant work permits to as many as five million undocumented immigrants.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough is being dispatched to Capitol Hill on Thursday for lunch with Senate Democrats, a move that presaged the announcement.

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Undocumented Immigrant Population Stagnated in Recent Years

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., estimated at 11.2 million, remained stagnant from 2009 to 2012 with some states seeing a rise in this population while others declined.

According to the Pew Research Center, the peak of 12.2 million undocumented immigrants occurred in 2007 just as the Great Recession took hold.

Pew estimates that undocumented immigrants made up 3.5 percent of the total U.S. population of 316 million in 2012 while representing just over a quarter of the 42.5 million residents who were born outside this country.

Meanwhile, seven states, including Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia, experienced a rise in undocumented immigrants between 2009 and 2012 The increases were predominantly due to an influx of Central Americans rather than Mexican immigrants.

As for falling populations of undocumented immigrants, this phenomenon occurred in 14 states with 13 of them experiencing a drop in people from Mexico. Western states seeing declines were Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Oregon.

Mexicans account for 52 percent of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., a figure that remained steady from 2009 to 2012.

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Senate Fails to Advance NSA Reform Bill

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Senate failed to advance a National Security Agency reform bill that would effectively end the bulk collection of metadata, a program that came to light as part of the Edward Snowden leaks.

The Senate voted 58 to 42 on a procedural vote to advance the USA Freedom Act. Sixty votes were needed to clear the first procedural hurdle.

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, the lead author of the bill, said support for the measure is “gaining ground” despite failing to secure 60 votes needed to advance the bill.

“I will continue to fight and whatever years I have left in this body, I will continue to fight to preserve our Constitution and our rights as Americans,” Leahy said after the vote.

Opponents of the measure argue that the current metadata collection program does not violate the privacy of Americans and the reforms included in the USA Freedom Act could take away the intelligence community’s ability to prevent terrorist attacks against the U.S.

“It is a mistake, it would make us less safe and we have expert testimony telling us that,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said.

“This program has been criticized an awful lot simply because of the leaks that Mr. Snowden made because of his theft of government property. But the fact is there cannot be one single case pointed to by anybody who can show that as a result of collection of metadata under 215 any American has had their privacy rights breached,” Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who is one of the most vocal supporters of the metadata collection program, announced her support for the program just before the vote.

“I’m prepared to support the bill. I do so for very practical reasons because without it, I believe we will not have a program,” Feinstein said.

The bill also pitted potential 2016 challengers against one another with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, being a co-sponsor of the measure, while Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., opposed it.

“This is bipartisan legislation that enjoys the support of the intelligence community but also the tech community. The bill is not perfect but in my view we should take it up and consider reasonable amendments on the floor,” Cruz said.

“I promise you if God forbid any horrifying event like [9/11] were to happen, the first question we will be asked is why didn’t we know about it and why didn’t we prevent it and if this program is gutted, we will not be able to potentially know about it and we will not be able to prevent it,” Rubio said.

“In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Americans were eager to catch and punish the terrorists who attacked us. I, like most Americans, demanded justice. But one common misconception is that the Patriot Act applies only to foreigners — when in reality, the Patriot Act was instituted precisely to widen the surveillance laws to include U.S. citizens,” Paul said in a statement after the vote. “As Benjamin Franklin put it, ‘those who trade their liberty for security may wind up with neither.’ Today’s vote to oppose further consideration of the Patriot Act extension proves that we are one step closer to restoring civil liberties in America.”

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Judge Refuses to Throw Out Case Against Rick Perry

Stewart F. House/Getty Images(AUSTIN, Texas) — On Tuesday a judge in Texas refused to throw out two felony indictments against Gov. Rick Perry.

Perry is accused of illegally threatening to pull funding from an office supervised by a district attorney caught driving drunk.

Defense lawyer Tony Buzbee argued that the special prosecutor in Perry’s case wasn’t properly sworn in.

Perry, a Republican, is the longest-serving governor in Texas history and a potential presidential candidate in 2016. He and his supporters have blasted the indictments as politically motivated.

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Federal Safety Agency Calls on Takata to Expand Airbag Recall

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced Tuesday that it has called on airbag maker Takata to expand its recall of driver-side airbags nationwide.

The acting director of NHTSA, David Friedman, said on a conference call with reporters that his department now has a report of a defective bag beyond the earlier identified geographical area, which was formerly confined to humid areas.

Several carmakers use Takata airbags, including Ford, Honda, Chrysler, Mazda, and BMW. An expanded recall could involve millions of vehicles, officials said.

The incident in question took place in North Carolina in August in a Ford Mustang, and the complaint was received two weeks ago, officials said.

Takata must now respond. If the company doesn’t expand the recall voluntarily, NHTSA officials said they will force the company to do so.

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Keystone Pipeline Fails to Get Through Senate

ABC NEWS(WASHINGTON) — The controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline failed to win approval in a Senate vote Tuesday night by one vote, a blow to Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu who hoped to be able to push it through.

Landrieu, who is in a tight December run-off to keep her Senate seat, had sponsored the bill and had expressed confidence earlier in the day that she and other supporters had rounded up the 60 votes necessary to move the long stalled project forward.

The final vote was 59-41.

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