NEWS

Morning Security Brief: Visa Program Problems, Biker Gang Hacking, Facial Recognition Woes, and More

By Carlton Purvis

► At a Senate homeland security hearing, a Department of Homeland Security official discussed the visa vetting program. Among the details revealed was the fact that 2.2 million of 9 million foreign applicants applying for visas last year were rejected, reports Walter Pincus of the Washington Post. But in a press release, Senator Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, which held the hearing, also noted problems with the system. “Implementation of the program at overseas consular offices that requires all visa applicants to be investigated is seriously lagging," the release states. "The Department of Homeland Security and the State Department have identified 57 high-risk posts abroad, but of the 20 highest risk posts only nine have criminal investigators to provide an added layer of security to the visa issuing process." Further, Lieberman states in the release, "Only half of the countries whose citizens need no visa to enter the U.S. have signed electronic biometric information-sharing agreements required to participate in the Visa Waiver Program, and none of these agreements has actually been implemented." Additionally, “Only half of the countries whose citizens need no visa to enter the U.S. have signed electronic biometric information-sharing agreements required to participate in the Visa Waiver Program, and none of these agreements has actually been implemented." 

► Detailed files from ongoing police investigations of organized crime in Victoria and New South Wales were leaked to biker gangs compromising several investigations and botching planned raids. Australian police are investigating what information was leaked and have their eye on “a small number of police officers in both states,” The Age reports. They know leaked information included a list of police targets and information that tipped off a gang about an upcoming police raid. Australian authorities have also found police documents at biker gang hideouts that they have raided. The investigation into the leaks has been going on since 2010, but no arrests have been made.

► A Boston man is suing the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles after a $1.5 million antiterrorism facial recognition system incorrectly flagged his photo as being on a counterfeited license, leading to his license being suspended. “He found out after talking to the Registry that his photo was not being used [for making fake licenses], but did look enough like another driver's photo that the software flagged it by mistake. It took Gass three phone calls and a hearing at the Department of Transportation -- where produced a birth certificate, Social Security card and confirmation of his home address -- to get the license reinstated,” IT World reports. Boston.com reports state police as saying that "Last year, the facial recognition system picked out more than 1,000 cases that resulted in State Police investigations," but surprisingly, according to the same article, "Neither the Registry nor State Police keep tabs on the number of people wrongly tagged by the system." Gass is suing for damages and an injunction on the use of the registry.

► In other news, more states are taking steps to prevent and address wrongful convictions. ⇒ Google bans Anonymous from Google+. ⇒ And the Bureau of Investigative Journalism disputes U.S. claims of no civilian deaths in recent Pakistan drone strikes.  

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