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Early Warning: Countering Violent Extremism

Reuters reports that the Trump administration wants to revamp and rename a U.S. government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it focuses solely on Islamist extremism.

The existing program, Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), is part of the Department of Homeland Security and defines violent extremist threats as coming

"from a range of groups and individuals, including domestic terrorists and homegrown violent extremists in the United States, as well as international terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIL."

Sources quoted by Reuters say that CVE’s name would change to "Countering Islamic Extremism" or "Countering Radical Islamic Extremism" and it would no longer target groups such as white supremacists.

A list of Resources on the CVE website at DHS includes documents that include guiding principles such as

"Violent extremists have many motivations and are not limited to any single population, region, or ideology"

and documents that note the importance of the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties:

the mission of CRCL is an indispensable companion effort to help counter violent extremism.

Such documents could be withdrawn or altered if the policy changes described by Reuters are finalized.

Found and liberated: DHS Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report

On January 25, we blogged that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report has been summarily discontinued. This report provided a daily curated selection of articles/links/summaries to open source articles about various areas of U.S. critical infrastructure.

Effective January 18, 2017, the Office of Infrastructure Protection (IP) is discontinuing the DHS Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report. The discontinuation of this report is part of broader efforts to more efficiently focus resources towards the highest priority needs of the critical infrastructure security and resilience community. IP is committed to working closely with our public and private sector partners in identifying innovative approaches to exchanging information in a timely and actionable manner to further support risk mitigation activities.

One reader, Dr. Megan Squire, a CS professor at Elon University, took it upon herself to harvest the reports (2,151 PDF files!) and deposit them in the Internet Archive. These are now part of the Internet Archive’s growing Government Documents collection. Thanks Megan for this work! I hope our readers will take up the “rogue internet archivist” mantle and collect and preserve digital government information in all its guises and at all levels!!

On January 18, 2017 the US Department of Homeland Security discontinued its Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report service which it had run since October 2006. To enable researchers to study the content of these reports, I collected as many as I could find (2,151 PDF files) and released them to the Internet Archive. You can find them here: DHS Daily Open Source Infrastructure Reports 2006-2017

The PDF files came from the following URLs:


And when these yielded 404 errors (which they did for most pre-2013 files) I used the Internet Archive itself, with the following URL base:


via Found and liberated 2,151 missing DHS files – Megan’s Blog.

CIA and DHS want to delete almost all their emails

There are a couple of things that are troubling to me about this report:

  1. Agencies were asked to send proposals on management of email and CIA and DHS proposed to just delete them, regardless of their historical importance.
  2. The National Archives has already tentatively approved of the proposal
  3. The story goes on to note that 10 years ago, this proposal would have been applauded by privacy advocates!
  4. The letter sent to NARA from a group of senators interestingly notes that email is an essential search tool in “finding CIA records that may not exist in other so-called permanent records at the CIA.”

Usually, deleting emails is a no-fanfare, one-click affair — but not when you’re the Central Intelligence Agency or the Department of Homeland Security. Both agencies have recently submitted proposals to the National Archives and Records Administration that outline their plans to delete years’ worth of emails, which the Archives has already tentatively approved. The CIA apparently turned one in to comply with the administration’s directive, ordering federal agencies to conjure up viable plans to better manage government emails by 2016. If approved, all the correspondences of every person to ever be employed by the CIA will be flushed down the digital toilet three years after they leave. All messages older than seven years old will also be nuked, and only the digital missives of 22 top officials will be preserved — something which several senators do not want to happen.

Led by California Senator Dianne Fenstein, the group sent NARA a letter detailing why they want the Archives to reconsider its tentative approval of the CIA’s proposal. Based on what was written there, the senators seem concerned that the agency might use that opportunity to expunge any important correspondence or materials (say, any evidence of dubious activities) not filed as a permanent record.

via The CIA and Homeland Security want to delete almost all their emails.

DHS, White House, Privacy, Secrecy

Two stories in the news describe different approaches to government secrecy and citizen privacy:

  • White House Orders New Computer Security Rules, By ERIC SCHMITT, New York Times (October 6, 2011)

    “The White House plans to issue an executive order on Friday to replace a flawed patchwork of computer security safeguards exposed by the disclosure of hundreds of thousands of classified government documents to WikiLeaks last year.

    “…In addition to these immediate measures, Mr. Obama’s order creates a task force led by the attorney general and the director of national intelligence to combat leaks from government workers, or what the White House calls an “insider threat.”

    “The directive also establishes a special government committee that must submit a report to the president within 90 days, and then at least once a year after that, assessing federal successes and failures in protecting classified information on government computer networks.

    “…[Pentagon issued cyber identity] credentials allow supervisors to track what users are working on.”

  • Data Mining: DHS Needs to Improve Executive Oversight of Systems Supporting Counterterrorism, Government Accountability Office, GAO-11-742 (September 7, 2011). The report says that, until needed reforms are put in place the Department of Homeland Security and its component agencies “may not be able to ensure that critical data mining systems used in support of counterterrorism are both effective and that they protect personal privacy.”

    “By not consistently performing necessary evaluations and reviews of these systems, DHS and its component agencies risk developing and acquiring systems that do not effectively support their agencies’ missions and do not adequately ensure the protection of privacy-related information.”

See also: GAO Report: DHS Data Mining Needs Privacy Oversight, By Grant Gross, IDG News, PC World, (Oct 7, 2011). “One of the most disturbing findings by the GAO was that ICEPIC rolled out its law enforcement sharing component before it was approved by the DHS privacy office.”

Electronic System for Travel Authorization’s (ESTA) Approval Required for Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Travelers to Visit the U.S.

From today onwards, travelers from the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries must get approved via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before they fly to the United States. “ESTA is a web-based system, initially launched in August 2008, that determines the preliminary eligibility of visitors to travel under the VWP prior to boarding a carrier to the United States.”

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) declared that all nationals of the VWP countries must follow the new regulation when they travel to the U.S. Currently, the countries that are under the VWP program are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.