NEWS

Morning Security Brief: Afghan Pact Stalled, Security Clearances Questioned, Healthcare.gov Security, And More

By Holly Gilbert

► A security pact between Afghanistan and the United States, which would decide how many U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan after most foreign forces pull out at the end of next year, has still not been finalized. Reuters reports that there is deep frustration among a council of elders from provinces across Afghanistan, known as Loya Jirga, which was set to start debating the provisions of the U.S.-Afghan pact on Thursday. According to the news report, “Last-ditch efforts to finalize the pact stalled on Tuesday over differences over whether President Barack Obama had agreed to issue a letter acknowledging mistakes made during the 12-year Afghan war.” But U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice “insisted that such an offer–which would draw criticism from Republicans and anger American war veterans–was ‘not on the table’.” The security pact must be approved by the Loya Jirga to be accepted by the Afghan government; the elders will debate it over a five-day period.

► A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report titled Actions Needed to Help Ensure Correct Designations of National Security Positions will be released tomorrow at a U.S. Senate hearing. The document reportedly contains recommendations about the need for a more regular review of security clearances issued by the federal government. The Washington Post reports that while the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of Personnel Management require “agencies to conduct a one-time reassessment of position designation within 24 months of the final rule’s effective date, it does not require a periodic reassessment of positions’ need for access to classified information.” In 2012, there were 4.9 million federal employees and contractors qualified for security clearances, according to the Post. Lawmakers have expressed their concern over such a large number of people holding clearances, including John Tester (D-MT) who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce. “It only takes one individual to slip through the cracks,” he said.

► In a hearing before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee on Tuesday, experts warned lawmakers that the notorious Healthcare.gov site puts millions of users’ personal data at risk because it is riddled with security flaws. Those experts also recommended shutting down the site until it can be fixed. Witnesses included two academics and two technical researchers from the private sector. According to Reuters, “The experts said the site needed to be completely rebuilt to run more efficiently, making it easier to protect. They said HealthCare.gov runs on 500 million lines of code, or 25 times the size of Facebook, one of the world's busiest sites.”

► In other news, ⇒ The GAO releases a report outlining several recommendations to strengthen maritime security. ⇒ The Pentagon intensifies its rules for defense contractors, requiring that they report “cyber intrusions that resulted in the loss of controlled technical information.” ⇒ World leaders meet in Geneva today to try to strike a deal with Iran over its proposed nuclear program.

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