DHS Secy Johnson: We Will Not Compromise Aviation Security in Face of Heightened Wait Times

Per Matt Dean, Fox News producer

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger today rolled out a 10 point plan aimed at addressing increased wait times at security screening lines at airports around the country. 

As part of that plan, the agency is expediting the hiring of additional TSA officers - 576 are expected to enter the TSA training academy in Georgia by mid June.

TSA also plans to maximize the use of overtime for its existing officers.

A reduction in size and number of carry on bags will also result in this new plan, something Secretary Johnson said DHS has been in touch with airlines about recently.

Johnson said repeatedly that TSA will not compromise aviation security in the face of heightened passenger volume and longer wait times. He added that recent events around the world confirm the need for continued vigilance.

Johnson did note that there are no specific, credible threats to the homeland at this time. 

Asked about airport security concerns post-Brussels and the potential target non-sterile zones paint given those long screening lines, Johnson said that airport security is being stepped up and reevaluated around the country. He added airport security is a shared responsibility with TSA and local law enforcement. 

In his remarks Johnson warned there will be wait times and that passengers should set "appropriate expectations." 

Johnson said that he would not characterize the current issue of heightened airport wait times as a national crisis, instead he noted that it is an aviation security imperative. Johnson added that DHS and TSA are going to work to bring more resources to face this problem. 

As to his thoughts about airports threatening to privatize security screening, he noted that this is already in place in certain airports in the U.S. - notably San Francisco - and that he is not entirely opposed to the use of private screeners.

Speaking to yesterday's incident at Phoenix's airport, Administrator Neffenger said that the problem occurred as a network switch at the airport failed. He added that airport officials called in the manufacturer of the baggage screening mechanism who worked throughout the night to remedy the problem. Neffenger added that TSA is analyzing the issue and that they believe the problem was isolated. 

DC Metro: Gridlock in Miniature

By Joe Fiocco, College Associate: Special Report

From all walks of life, denizens of the nation’s capital step onto the city’s subway platforms, uncertain if they’ll be late for work. Although it’s in vogue to joke about the city’s ailing Metro network, the underlying decay is no laughing matter. The politicized inner workings of the Metro raise a mirror to the inaction many Americans see in Congress.

In recent years, Metro has suffered a decline in efficiency and safety. Their on-time percentage has fallen to 84% from 90% last year. Recent safety trends are worrisome as well.  Employee injuries have risen 30% since last year. Metro’s mechanical failures of recent memory expose a lagging safety culture. Exposed electrical cables have started fires, closing numerous stations. Also, automated train piloting has had deadly consequences. In 1996, the automated system ignored an ongoing blizzard, and accelerated the train on slippery tracks. The resulting brake failure and crash at the Shady Grove station killed the train operator. For the first time, doubts arose about Metro’s automated guidance system since its inception in 1976. Another crash at the Fort Totten station killed 6 people in 2009, pressuring Metro executives to switch to manual piloting. However, these instances reveal a failure of Metro management to learn from previous mistakes.

Conflicts between Metro workers and management contributed to the lack of a safety culture. Former Metro executive John B. Catoe remembers calling safety training meetings, with only one third of workers showing up. He recalls station managers pulling workers out of those meetings to keep trains on schedule. The Metro culture put safety and efficiency at odds. Metro workers also feared being labelled troublemakers for pointing out mechanical flaws. Critics claim their union benefits stall necessary investments in maintenance. Fringe benefits come in at $431 million for FY 2016, out of a total operating budget of $1.81 billion. However, the unions did not mandate this amount; it came after negotiations with management, with the unions as the only party contributing to the fund. The conflict here underscores greater financial woes for Metro.

As it stands, Metro does not have a designated source of funding, such as a sales tax. The agency has to request funds from local governments in Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Congress. Politicians in those districts wouldn’t risk their seats over a new tax. Although local jurisdictions have been willing to match federal contributions to Metro’s budget, they only do so if it means the Metro will expand. The political implications are clear. The potential economic boom of the Silver Line to Dulles International Airport gave Virginia officials tunnel vision. In 2006, Virginia members of Metro’s Board of Directors ousted Dan Tangherlini, the interim general manager, for trying to institute cost cutting measures. The board believed replacing short escalators with stairs and recycling old car designs would stall expansion of the Silver Line into their districts.

The Metro is not yet doomed, though. Metro board member Jack Evans believes introducing a dedicated sales tax wouldn’t hurt the public. He claims a 1% tax would net $700 million a year in the surrounding Maryland and Virginia counties. With relatively low debt outstanding, issuing 30 year bonds would reduce Metro’s dependency on federal funding sustainably. In addition, to end the cycle of political patronage on Metro’s board, Rep. John Delaney of Maryland introduced a bill requiring board appointees to be certified in the management, transportation, or financial fields. There have also been proposals to introduce a Governance Commission to the agency. This would require the DC mayor, along with the governors of Virginia and Maryland to meet once a year to coordinate their budget contributions, preventing distractions from other local issues.

Metro’s situation bears a likeness to what many perceive as deadlock in Congress. Conflicting political ties halt legislative progress; a strict attachment to the status quo prevents new ideas and people from entering the discussion, and past mistakes seem to repeat themselves.  All the while, rising costs grow more difficult to cover. Yet, voices calling for consensus and common sense still ring out. All it requires for such measures to succeed is a willingness to bear the political and financial costs and remain patient with the leadership. From there, the halls of Congress and the tunnels of the Metro can begin to regain the public’s trust.

Unlikely That FBI Will Share Hacking Tool Used to Unlock San Bernardino iPhone with Apple

Matt Dean, Fox News

It is unlikely that the government will disclose to Apple the third party method used to unlock the iPhone 5C that belonged to San Bernardino gunman Syed Farook, according to law enforcement sources close to the matter. 

These sources tell Fox that the FBI is drafting a letter to the White House recommending that it not pursue an interagency review of whether or not to share this method with Apple due to the fact that the agency knows little about the intricacies behind the tool or the actual vulnerability that was exploited.

What FBI purchased from the undisclosed third party, according to these sources, was essentially a tailored tool that successfully exploited a vulnerability in the iOS 9 operating system running on an iPhone 5C. Fox is told that the agency does not know the source code behind that hacking tool or the specific vulnerability that was exploited, therefore making it unnecessary to share that tool with Apple. 

Fox is told that the technical details behind this tool remain with the third party. 

Fox News reported back on April 7, citing intelligence sources, that to unlock the device that belonged to Farook, FBI essentially purchased a "zero day" from the undisclosed third party. A "Zero Day" is a previously unknown vulnerability to a specific piece of computer software that cyber actors exploit to gain access to a system or override certain functionalities. 

Zero Days serve as the preeminent method of entry for hackers given that their targets can't protect against flaws they don't know exist, according to cybersecurity exerts.

Speaking at Georgetown University this morning, FBI Director James Comey said his agency was in the midst of determining whether it would disclose details of the third party method to Apple. 

Comey said last week in London that FBI paid a non-governmental third party over $1 million dollars for the hacking tool.

 

Fewer foreign fighters joining ISIS, sr. military officer says

By Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News

There are now 200 foreign fighters per month joining the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, down from 1,500-2,000 a year ago, a senior military officer from Baghdad told reporters during a press briefing at the Pentagon when asked by Fox News.

US Air Force Maj. Gen. Peter Gersten, the US-led coalition’s deputy commander for operations and intelligence said that recent airstrikes against ISIS cash storage facilities have "fractured" ISIS.   Gersten estimates strikes against ISIS cash sites have been in the "tens" and have destroyed between $300 and 800 million dollars away from ISIS. 

In the strike which killed ISIS' finance emir last month, believed to be the second in command of ISIS, MG Gersten said $150 million was destroyed at his house.  Using a tactic from the Israelis, Gersten said air bursts were deployed to scare the civilians to flee the house.  The "knock operation" as this tactic is called has been used to minimalize civilians casualties, Gersten said.

When asked how many ISIS fighters have been killed on the battlefield, Maj. Gen. Gersten replied, “not enough.”  He did not provide an estimate on the overall size of ISIS.

Following President Obama's announcement Monday that 250 more US troops would be going to Syria, 450 more troops ordered to the region over the past two weeks, MG Gersten said the US military would deploy an advanced rocket system to Turkey which uses GPS guidance to destroy targets up to 180 miles away, in another sign of incremental escalation in the war against ISIS.  

Gersten would not say where the HIMARS system, the name for the rocket system, will be deployed in Turkey citing operational security. 

Russia ignores Obama plea to maintain Syria ceasefire, shifts forces north for Aleppo offensive, officials

By Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News

Despite a call from President Obama to Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday urging him to maintain a fragile cease-fire in Syria, Russia has shown no signs of complying.  Russia continues to ignore repeated requests from the administration to stop backing the Syrian regime after five-years of civil war that have killed a quarter of a million people.

A U.S. defense official tells Fox News Russian-backed Syrian forces have shifted the bulk of their fire power, including rocket propelled artillery north to areas outside Aleppo, where a new offensive to recapture Syria’s largest city is poised to take place in the near future.

“They have shifted everything from Palmyra up north,” the official told Fox News.

Russian-backed Syrian forces recently recaptured the historic city of Palmyra from ISIS in central Syria.  Russian and Syrian jets have also been striking rebel held towns around Damascus and Homs, despite a cease-fire agreement agreed to in late November.   The cease-fire does not apply to ISIS and an al-Qaeda affiliated group in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra.

Earlier this week, the main Syrian opposition group walked out of peace talks held in Geneva, brokered by the United States and Russia.  UN envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters Monday that the humanitarian situation around Aleppo had deteriorated, where fighting has resumed in the past few days.

The State Department said Monday the cease-fire in Syria had been largely successful, despite reports of resumed Russian and Syrian bombing of rebel held areas.

“More Syrian people are living better lives as a result of the cessation than they were before,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said Monday

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that President Obama did not raise the issue of Russia’s provocative dangerous close range ‘flybys’ of a US Navy destroyer in the Baltic Sea and later conduced an “unsafe” barrel roll over a US Air Force spy plane also in the Baltic. 

The incidents “while provocative and concerning, are not particularly unusual,” said Earnest

Wall Street Journal first to report movement of artillery to northern Syria. 

The Politics of Big Data

Joe Fiocco-College Associate: Special Report

It’s conventional wisdom now for businesses and political campaigns to have a social media presence. And, pressure is mounting for projects to be “data-driven”. This election cycle will witness some of the most highly targeted advertising campaigns in American politics. Candidates are investing vast resources in collecting voter data to accomplish this, and the implications are startling.

Most notably, Ted Cruz exploited his grassroots network to target voters door-to-door in the Iowa caucus. The Cruz campaign’s mobile app learned the political beliefs of its subscribers through Facebook content. With access to subscribers’ political beliefs as well as their demographic data, Cruz staffers pinpointed the Iowans most receptive to the campaign’s messaging. From there, volunteers started knocking on doors. The app added competition to getting out the vote, rewarding staffers with points for sharing content, recruiting volunteers, or soliciting donations. With this enthusiastic ground game, Ted Cruz defied political logic and carried Iowa. This is especially striking, since Cruz opposed ethanol subsidies, Iowa’s golden calf.

The precision of campaign ad targeting is growing sharper.  Academic studies from the University of Toronto and the University of Minnesota found correlations between personality traits and political beliefs. Voters who valued “openness” leaned liberal, while “conscientious” voters leaned conservative. Analytics firms such as Cambridge Analytica claim to predict how voters will swing based on personality traits.

 In 2014, Cambridge Analytica devised five criteria for assessing voter personality, known as OCEAN: Open, Conscientious, Extrovert, Agreeable, and Neurotic. Over a million participants filled out questionnaires to see where they fell. The firm looked for matches in public commercial data between participants and the general population. Matches provided the basis to predict the personality types of potential voters. Cambridge Analytica found they could tailor emotional messages to individual voters. For example, a neurotic voter will likely engage with an ad highlighting a candidate’s strong stance on national security. Or, a conscientious voter might relate to an ad calling for cutting the national debt. Companies like Cambridge Analytica seem poised to overhaul traditional campaigning, for they served 44 different federal and state GOP campaigns in 2014. The firm is one of 13 such companies designing ads for the RNC and individual GOP candidates this year.

The 2016 election so far has surprised pundits and wonks at every turn. The ability to gain insights from Big Data has made an upset possible in Iowa. Concerns abound as to how politicians will use their newfound knowledge. In the future, political campaigns may be more attentive to specific issues voters care about. Yet, it may be unsettling for candidates to know your fears and desires before you do. And, as always, there will be worries about privacy. Either way, the idea that politicians are out of touch is straying further from the truth. 

North Korea readying new intermediate-range missile launch, defense officials

By Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News

For the first time, North Korea is prepared to launch a new intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of hitting Guam and the Philippines as soon as tonight to celebrate the 104th birthday of the late North Korean founder and leader Kim Il-sun, two US defense officials tell Fox News.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is currently visiting the Philippines to finalize plans to station U.S. troops there for the first time since 1992, when the Subic Bay naval base closed down.  The U.S. military has moved thousands of troops in Guam recently.

North Korea is 12 and half hours ahead of eastern time in the United States.  April 15 is a national holiday in North Korea, known as “Day of Sun."  A morning launch is expected locally.

The Musudan has a range of nearly 2,500 miles, but it has never been tested by North Korea.  Officials say this particular Musudan ballistic missile has been seen on a road launcher, which is a concern to the Pentagon because of its mobility and potential concealment in the future.

For the past few years, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has paid respects to his father and grandfather, founder of the communist country at Kumsusan Place of the Sun on April 15.

Last month, despite claims by North Korea that it fired two ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, two US officials tell Fox News that one blew up shortly after lift-off in an embarrassing new development for the North Korean military.

Both missiles were Nodong medium-range ballistic missiles, based on the Soviet-era Scud-C missile.  North Korea has also launched a series of short range rockets recently that landed in the Sea of Japan.

In February, North Korea launched a satellite into space on Super Bowl Sunday in the United States. The concern among Pentagon officials is that the same components used to launch the long-range rocket into space are the same components used for an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The US Air Force’s top officer, Gen. Mark Welsh told reporters in March that North Korea did not possess the capability to put a nuclear warhead atop one of its long-range ballistic missiles. North Korean leaders a day later said they did.

The recent launches of North Korean missiles coincide with annual military exercises between the United States and South Korea involving more than 10,000 troops.

Three nuclear-capable B-2 bombers were sent to the region as part of the exercise in a show of force to the North Koreans.

2016: Trump campaign hires political strategist Rick Wiley

Today, Donald J. Trump announced that he has hired veteran political strategist Rick Wiley as National Political Director to head the campaign’s statewide field operations.

Mr. Trump stated, “Rick is a seasoned political expert with a very successful career in winning elections. He brings decades of experience, and his deep ties to political leaders and activists across the country will be a tremendous asset as we enter the final phase of securing the nomination.”

Mr. Wiley said, “Voters are frustrated with the political status quo in our country and are hungry for an outsider to shake up Washington. Donald Trump has energized millions of hard working people across the country with his no-nonsense straight talk and will bring his record of success to tackle the real problems that face our nation.”

Previously, Mr. Wiley has held several roles with the RNC including National Political Director, and has managed multiple election campaigns. 

The Shermanesque Pledge

 

By Chad Pergram, Fox News 

Many commentators today will declare that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) uttered a “Shermanesque” pledge to rebuke those who would court him for the Republican presidential nomination.

In his remarks, Ryan said “let me be clear: I do not want, nor will I accept the nomination for our party.”

The term “Shermanesque” is derived from American politics in the late 19th Century.

There was an effort to draft Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman to run for President in 1884. Sherman didn’t, famously snubbing his suitors by saying “I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected.”

There is also some contention about the precise verbiage Sherman deployed. Sherman’s quote is sometimes cited as “I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected.”

Hence the origin of a “Shermanesque pledge.”

Shortly after the Civil War, Sherman also indicated he had no interest in running for president. At that point, Sherman said “I hereby state, and mean all that I say, that I never have been and never will be a candidate for President; that if nominated by either party, I should peremptorily decline; and even if unanimously elected I should decline to to serve.”

President Lyndon Johnson bowed out of re-election in 1968, saying “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.”

Richard Nixon also had something of a “Shermanesque” statement in November, 1962. He lost the California gubernatorial contest to Gov. Pat Brown (D). Nixon famously said to the press “you don't have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”

But Nixon came back and won the GOP Presidential nomination and won the presidency in 1968.

 

 

 

Fox News Reporting - Donald Trump – The Disrupter

Disrupt – “Interrupt (an event, activity, or process) by causing a disturbance or problem.”

When Donald Trump announced his candidacy last summer, the experts rolled their eyes. They’d heard it before and few took him seriously. But his blunt talk, and promise to “Make America Great Again,” struck a nerve.  He became the GOP frontrunner, with a base of voters whose belief in the man borders on fanaticism.

In Donald Trump – The Disrupter, we give you access inside this improbable presidential campaign – warts and all -- speaking to his family, friends and supporters, and going on the road with the candidate himself.  Trump has disrupted the pundits, the GOP, the presidential race and business-as-usual.  This assault on the political world has naturally created pushback, and the hour also investigates the resistance Trump has gotten from both right and left – and the damage he has done to himself.

Donald Trump – The Disrupter offers a fresh take on one of the most unlikely presidential campaigns ever.  America may never be the same.

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