Morning Security Brief: Government Surveillance, Counterfeiting, Border Security, and More

By Carlton Purvis


►The government has refused to provide specifics regarding how many calls or e-mails have been monitored under federal surveillance laws, according to a letter from the office of James Clapper, director of national intelligence. The letter was in response to a request by two senators who are concerned that law-abiding citizens are being monitored with no justification, the AP reports. The senators requested information about how the Obama Administration interprets 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The response said it was "not reasonably possible to identify the number" of monitored calls and e-mails. Ars Technica, commenting on the exchange, writes, "These responses are remarkable because the Senators were not seeking operational details of the government's surveillance activities. For example, on the subject of geolocation data, they simply asked whether the government believed it had the authority to collect such information, and if so what the basis of that authority was. It's hard to see what justification there could be for keeping secret not just how the government was using its surveillance powers but whether it believed it had such powers at all." Even if the number wasn't initially sought, AP reports that One of the senators, Ron Wyden (D-OR), said it was unacceptable that the administration couldn’t at least give “a ballpark estimate.”

►The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) operation to crack down on illegal counterfeiters is making progress. Operation In Our Sites targets online counterfeiting and piracy. DHS announced on Thursday that it seized 16 domain names of Web sites selling counterfeit products on the Internet. Law enforcement agents made undercover purchases of clothing, hats, and sunglasses said to be from retailers like The North Face, Oakley, PUMA, and Ralph Lauren. When the items were received and confirmed to be counterfeit, agents obtained orders from federal judges to seize the Web sites. “The 16 websites have been shut down, and now show a banner stating that the domain name of that website has been seized by federal authorities,” a release from DHS states. A 31-year-old man was also arrested for selling unauthorized “Sons of Anarchy” t-shirts online as part of the operation.

►A federal judge said on Thursday that there was no legal basis for a request that the Obama administration do more to protect the Arizona border from an ongoing “invasion” of illegal immigrants. The state of Arizona requested that Judge Susan Bolton rule that the federal government wasn’t doing enough to protect the border, saying the federal government was required to protect its citizens from invasions, the Yuma Sun reports. Bolton said the requirement of the federal government to protect its citizens from invasion refers only to actions by a foreign power. The state also argued that Congress was breaking its own law by not fully reimbursing states for the cost of incarcerating illegal immigrants who have violated state laws. While the judge acknowledged that “Everyone is getting pennies on the dollar,” and that Congress has never appropriated enough money to cover all of the costs of all of the states, the Sun reports, she added, “I don’t have the authority to tell Congress to give the Department of Justice more money.”

►In other news, a DHS official says cloud security fears may be exaggerated and that over the next few years many cloud-based concerns will be addressed. ♦ Twenty-three out of 24 federal agencies are using Facebook, but only a third have taken measures to make sure their social media sites can’t get hacked. ♦ And the U.S. government addresses the risk of Stuxnet happening here next.



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