TSA Precheck signs 11 more airlines, and if you fly you should have it

“The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has signed up an additional 11 airlines for the TSA Precheck program, including prominent international airlines Emirates and Virgin Atlantic, as well as low-cost domestic carrier Spirit Airlines.

Precheck is a program created by the TSA to help frequent flyers speed through security checkpoints with shorter lines, and without removing shoes, laptops, liquids, belts, and light jackets. It’s available at more than 180 airports and now with 30 different airlines.

It’s a terrific program for anyone who flies even only a few times per year, as it makes obnoxious airport security checkpoints slightly more tolerable; the TSA has encouraged flyers to enroll in the program in order to reduce the size of lines at checkpoints. Earlier this year, long lines at TSA checkpoints caused dozens of delayed flights, and the authority in charge of airports around New York City threatened to dump the TSA and hire a private screening service instead. TSA screening times have improved significantly since then, however.”

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How New Tech Knows If a Fingerprint Is ‘Alive’

“It’s a classic, if gruesome, staple of Hollywood action movies. The villain, desperate to gain access to the secret government vault, tricks the biometric security system by opening the door with the severed finger — or dangling eyeball — of the security guard.

In the real world, fake fingerprints and other forms of biometric spoofing pose serious challenges to the security community. Just this week, a team of Japanese researchers proved how easy it is to copy someone’s fingerprints from a “peace” sign selfie. A few years back, a hacker scanned the fingerprints of the German defense minister using a publically available press photo. The same hacker once fashioned a fake thumb out of wood glue to fool Apple’s Touch ID sensor.

But before you toss your new iPhone out the window or put on gloves every time you take a selfie, you might want to hear about a new technology that can tell if a biometric image like a fingerprint or an iris scan is really “alive.”

Matthew Valenti is the West Virginia University site director for the Center for Identification Technology Research, a multi-institution collaboration that has developed and patented anti-spoofing technology based on something called liveness detection.

“There are subtle features that are only present in a living person,” Valenti told Seeker. “Your fingers, for example, have tiny pores in them, and the signal processing algorithms used to scan your fingerprint can look for the presence of sweat in your pores. A spoof wouldn’t have that.”

Valenti’s colleague Stephanie Schuckers at Clarkson University is a pioneering researcher in liveness detection. She has tested her perspiration algorithms against fake fingers made out of wax and Play-Doh, and also a few dozen cadaver fingers from the morgue. Schuckers’ algorithms are the core technology behind NexID Biometrics, a private company claiming that its software can spot a fake fingerprint with 94 percent to 98 percent accuracy.

Still, liveness detection is so new that you won’t even find it on the latest biometric gadgets like the new MacBook Pro. So should we be concerned that hackers and identity thieves are scouring Instagram looking for fingerprints to steal?”

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Give yourself a holiday gift: TSA PreCheck

“There are few things in life sweeter than alighting at the airport, scanning the grim-faced travelers in the regular TSA line — doffing shoes, belts and light jackets, yanking laptops out of suitcases — and then skipping past them to the expedited TSA PreCheck line. No elaborate undressing or unpacking rituals in PreCheck. A swift pass through a metal detector, and you’re at the gate in plenty of time for the flight.

Even so, millions of Americans haven’t applied for PreCheck. Why not? The usual lame excuses: Procrastination. No time to fill out the forms. Where’s the processing center again? And that $85 fee.

Now a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign study suggests a new way to coax more people to sign up for expedited security screening: Waive the $85 fee. Make it free for frequent fliers (an average of 12 screenings or six round-trips a year).

That would save the government $34 million a year, according to the study by U. of I. computer science professor Sheldon Jacobson, along with graduate students Arash Khatibi and Ge Yu.”

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Here are the airports expected to have the worst Thanksgiving travel delays

“With more Americans hitting the road — and the skies — for the Thanksgiving holiday, travelers stuck at airports can expect longer lines and bigger headaches.

The busiest airport is expected to be Chicago O’Hare International Airport, followed by Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport, according to an analysis by the travel site Orbitz.com.

Airport officials expect 2.3 million travelers to fly through LAX during the holiday week, an 8% increase from the record set in 2015.

But the busiest airports don’t always cause the worst headaches.”

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Passengers Stranded At O’Hare Airport Due To Long TSA Lines

“Security lines at airports in Chicago and across the country are longer than ever. Now airlines are fighting back.

About 450 American Airlines passengers trying to fly out of O’Hare International Airport Sunday night couldn’t get to the gate on time. Airport employees offered them cots to sleep on overnight.

“Got here two and a half hours before my flight and security took two to three (hours) to get through,” said Kevin Revis, a stranded traveler.

“I’d never seen this before. Completely unexpected,” said Adnan Ahmed, who was also stuck in Chicago.

Video shot at 5 a.m. Monday shows hundreds of passengers slowly making their way through an hours-long security line in Terminal 3 at O’Hare.

ABC7 Eyewitness News viewer Kim Adele Serritos shared video of lines at Midway International Airport Monday morning on the ABC7 Chicago Facebook page.

American Airlines spokesperson Leslie Scott said over the next week, the company is deploying its own employees to help TSA workers with non-security functions.

“(They will be) standing in line, telling people to take shoes off, take electronics out and bag of liquids out,” Scott said.

The chronically understaffed Transportation Security Administration promises to hire 800 new screeners next month and offer more overtime opportunities for existing employees.

Until the TSA can get more screeners hired and trained, travelers’ only relief is the paid pre-check program.

Otherwise, airlines are recommending passengers arrive two or three hours before their flights are scheduled to depart.

Revis said he’s taking no chances Monday. He got in line four hours early.

Airlines also asked passengers to tweet about how frustrated they are using the hashtag #ihatethewait to put pressure on the TSA to fix this problem.”

After 75 years, remains of 5 USS Oklahoma sailors are identified

Almost 75 years after they were killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, the remains of five U.S. sailors who perished when their battleship was sunk, have been identified, the Pentagon said Monday.

The five men, who were exhumed last year from their graves in Hawaii and examined in special military laboratories, were among 429 sailors and Marines killed when the USS Oklahoma was torpedoed and capsized.

They had been buried as “unknowns.”

The battleship’s loss of life at Pearl Harbor was second only to the 1,100 lost on the USS Arizona, whose wreck remains a hallowed Pearl Harbor historic site.

The men identified were Chief Petty Officer Albert E. Hayden, 44, of Mechanicsville, Md., in St. Mary’s County; Ensign Lewis. S Stockdale, 27, of Anaconda, Mont.; Seaman 2nd Class Dale F. Pearce, 21, of Labette County, Kan.; Petty Officer 1st Class Vernon T. Luke, 43, of Green Bay, Wisc.; and Chief Petty Officer Duff Gordon, 52, of Hudson, Wisc.

The Oklahoma had a complement of about 1,300, including 77 Marines.

The identifications are the first to come from a project that began last April when the Defense Department announced plans to exhume an estimated 388 of the Oklahoma’s unknowns.

The effort was sparked after researcher and Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Emory, in 2003, used National Archives files to get officials to dig up a casket believed to contain an Oklahoma sailor’s remains.

That sailor, Ensign Eldon Wyman, was duly identified, and in 2007 a second casket was unearthed and the remains within were also identified as an Oklahoma sailor.

The remains were returned to their families.

The latest identifications were made by comparing pre-war dental records with the teeth of the exhumed sailors, said Air Force Lt. Col. Holly Slaughter, spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s newly created Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), which is doing the work.

During the Dec. 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, which plunged the U.S. into World War II, many Oklahoma sailors jumped overboard as the battleship rolled over in about 50 feet of water.

But hundreds were trapped below decks.

Thirty-two were rescued by intrepid crews who heard them banging for help, cut into the hull and made their way through a maze of darkened, flooded compartments to reach them.

Others managed to escape by swimming underwater to find their way out. Some trapped sailors tried to stem the in-rushing water with rags and even the board from a board game. One distraught man tried to drown himself.

In the months, and years, after the attack, the handling of the crew’s remains was plagued by error, confusion and poor record keeping.

Most of the dead were found in the wreckage during the months-long salvage operation, especially after the Oklahoma was righted in 1943, according to a memo by DPAA historian Heather Harris.

By then, the bodies had been reduced to skeletons.

By 1944, the jumbled skeletons, saturated with fuel oil from the ship, had been buried as unknowns in two Hawaiian cemeteries, Harris’s report said.

Three years later, they were dug up and taken to a military laboratory near Pearl Harbor for attempted identification.

The chief tool then also was the comparison of the dental records with the teeth of the deceased. And 27 tentative identifications were made, but they were rejected as incomplete by the authorities.

Gordon, Hayden, Luke, and Stockdale were among those 27, Slaughter said in an email.

In 1949, all the remains were formally declared unidentifiable. And by 1950, they had been reburied in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, often called the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.

There they rested until last year.

The first exhumations took place June 8, and the last four caskets were dug up Nov. 9.

Sixty-one rusty caskets, still with their carrying handles, were retrieved from 45 graves. The caskets were heavily corroded and had to be forced open with mauls and crowbars.

After the remains were removed, they were cleaned and photographed, and most of them were flown to the DPAA lab in Nebraska for further analysis. Skulls were retained in a DPAA lab in Hawaii, where forensic dentists are based.

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Subway owner takes gun away from armed robber

A man suspected of robbing a sandwich shop at gunpoint is now in jail thanks to DNA evidence he left behind.

Whitehall Police arrested Timothy Rogan, 31, on Wednesday in connection to the robbery at a Subway restaurant on Nov. 11.

Police say video taken by surveillance cameras shows Rogan point a gun at a worker at the restaurant while demanding cash. The victim is then seen wrestling the gun away from the suspect before he runs off.

Police say DNA evidence on the weapon led to the arrest.

According to a police report, Rogan approached the counter of the Subway on Main Street at 9:55 a.m. and pointed a .22 caliber Glenfield Model 75 at the man behind the counter.

The cashier grabbed the gun barrel and began fighting with Rogan. He told police he was able to pull Rogan halfway across the counter, and another employee came and tried to hit Rogan with a baking tray.

Rogan fled westbound through the parking lot, police say.

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2015 Biometric Identification Award

Virginia Police Investigator Honored for Role in Identifying Violent Perpetrator

The 2015 recipient of the FBI’s Biometric Identification Award (formerly known as the Latent Hit of the Year Award) is a member of Virginia’s Norfolk Police Department (NPD) who played a key role in the identification of a dangerous serial offender. Congratulations to Melvin Grover III, an investigator with the forensic section of the NPD’s detective division.

This Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division award is traditionally given to a latent print examiner or law enforcement officer who solves a major violent crime using the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or IAFIS. But IAFIS—our longstanding fingerprint repository—was replaced last year by the Next Generation Identification (NGI) system, developed to expand the Bureau’s biometric identification capabilities and services, and future awards will involve the use of the NGI system.

The case Grover eventually became involved with started in August 2008, when the NPD received an emergency call from a private residence and responding officers found a female tied up in a locked bathroom. The victim, a U.S. Navy officer, said that she had been sleeping and was awakened by an unknown male brandishing a knife. The man raped her, bound her legs with the cord of an iron, and stole items from the home before fleeing.

Investigator Ward Stalker of the NPD processed evidence from the scene, including latent fingerprints from the iron and a door. Grover searched all the latent print evidence against Virginia’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System but got no results.

In September 2008, the victim and her daughter returned home one day and were confronted by the same attacker. He tied them both up with duct tape and raped the daughter before fleeing the scene. Once again, investigators collected evidence, including latent fingerprints and DNA. The prints were compared against Virginia’s system, which didn’t produce any known suspects but did confirm that the same individual committed both crimes. Investigators also searched the collected DNA evidence against the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, with no results. The case remained unsolved.

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Touch DNA Might Be Contaminating Crime Scene Evidence

DNA has undoubtedly been a breakthrough for modern criminal investigation. It has freed the innocent, solved decades-old cold cases, and given detectives a kind of molecular witness in many cases that may have otherwise remained unsolved.

Except better and more-sensitive technology means more potential problems, in some cases. Mixes of DNA, and the “1-in-X” probabilities are currently being evaluated by some crime labs.

But the latest reevaluation involves “touch DNA” – the invisible genetic markers we leave everywhere we go, and on virtually everything we come into contact with.

A two-minute handshake, then handling a knife led to the DNA profile of the person who never touched the weapon being identified on the swab of the weapon handle in 85 percent of the samples, according to a new study by University of Indianapolis researchers, entitled “Could Secondary DNA Transfer Falsely Place Someone at the Scene of a Crime?”

In one-fifth of those experiments, the person who had never directly touched the knife was identified as the main or only contributor of the DNA on the handle, according to the study, in the January issue of the Journal of Forensic Sciences.

“It’s scary,” said Cynthia Cale, a graduate student and author of the paper. “Analysts need to be aware that this can happen, and they need to be able to go into court and effectively present this evidence. They need to school the jury and the judge that there are other explanations for this DNA to be there.”

The concept of “touch DNA” needs to be rethought, in both a legal and scientific context, according to Madison Earll, the other graduate student who authored the study.

“This research highlights the need to eliminate ‘touch DNA’ from our vocabulary,” said Earll, now a microbiologist at Pace Analytical. “It’s clear that this term is misleading and does not adequately explain all of the possible ways that DNA can end up on an object.”

Read more: Widow Sues City after Husband, Linked to Cold-Case Murder, Commits Suicide

“We have found that it is relatively straightforward for an innocent person’s DNA to be inadvertently transferred to surfaces that he or she has never come into contact with,” Cale wrote in a piece for the journal Nature. “This could place people at crime scenes that they had never visited or link them to weapons they had never handled.”

Cale cited an example of a man in California in 2013 who was held for a homicide for four months after his DNA was pulled from underneath the fingernails of the victim. However, it was later proven that the suspect was hospitalized and several intoxicated at the time of the crime – but the paramedics who had responded to him medically responded to the murder shortly thereafter, she wrote.

“It’s a small world,” a deputy district attorney reportedly said upon the innocent man’s release.

Other suspects have claimed their DNA was transported to incriminating places through contamination. A criminalist in a San Diego lab maintained his innocence of the killing of a girl in 1984, saying he had only worked in the lab near where the samples were originally analyzed. The criminalist killed himself before charges were brought.

The scientists said they plan to continue experiments into 2016, systematically reducing the two-minute handshake down to smaller time frames, they said.

“I think this issue has been swept under the rug,” said Krista Latham, the director of the school’s Molecular Anthropology Lab, and who oversaw the study by Cale and others. “It’s going to change the way the medicolegal system looks at DNA evidence.”

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New FBI-DOD Biometric Center Will Help Combat Threat of Terrorism

This week, the FBI dedicated its new 360,000-square-foot Biometric Technology Center (BTC), located on the campus of our Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division in Clarksburg, West Virginia. The BTC, an enhancement of the ongoing collaboration between the FBI’s Biometric Center of Excellence and the Department of Defense’s Forensics and Biometrics Agency, will—once fully operational—encourage even more joint biometric investigations, along with additional research and development.

FBI Executive Assistant Director Amy Hess, Science and Technology Branch—with CJIS Assistant Director Stephen Morris—welcomed Bureau and Department of Defense (DOD) officials and employees, state and local dignitaries, business and community leaders, and others to the ceremony. “The BTC,” according to Hess, “will be a home for a joint biometric research and development efforts between the FBI, the Pentagon, and other agencies.”

Over the past few years, the FBI has been working with the DOD to use biometrics to identity terrorists and criminals who threaten our homeland and our citizens. The BTC facility will enable the Bureau’s CJIS Division, which has the largest centralized collection of biometric information in the world, and the DOD, with its military biometrics database systems, to make advances in a variety of identification technologies like DNA, iris recognition, voice patterns, facial patterns, and palm prints. It will also allow us to move these technologies and resulting biometric tools more quickly from the laboratory into the hands of those who work to combat terrorism and protect the public from dangerous criminal activity.

FBI and DOD biometrics experts working side-by-side in the facility will also focus on biometrics product certification, training, standards development, privacy rights, and research and development into emerging technologies.

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