Defense Security Is Overhauling the Entire Security Clearance Process

The Defense Security Service is preparing to take over all background investigations for civilian and defense agencies and doesn’t want to inherit stale and potentially broken processes, officials told Nextgov.

The Defense Department office is currently reviewing white papers obtained through an other transaction authority solicitation seeking innovative methods for conducting background checks of current and potential federal employees who need security clearances.

The project is not about the technology behind background investigations process but rather how to innovate the process itself—from when the SF-86 form is filled out to when the clearance decision is made by the agency—according to Tara Petersen, head of DSS Office of Acquisitions, and her deputy, Stephen Heath.

“We’re really looking broader at the process itself,” Petersen said. “We’re looking to prototype a process.”

“Don’t think of the prototype like a widget,” Heath said. “It’s looking at that whole process: Where can we improve on that, where can we potentially save costs, where can we save time and where can we bring technology advancements into the process that are already out there in the commercial marketplace?”

After the 2015 data breach of Office of Personnel Management that exposed the personal information on more than 20 million current and former federal employees, background investigation duties were transferred to a new agency, the National Background Investigation Bureau with technical support delegated to the Defense Department.

But the security clearance backlog grew to more than 700,000 and the Government Accountability Office added the investigations process to its High-Risk List this year. Congress also passed legislation last year requiring DSS to take over all defense clearances work currently done by NBIB. Now, the administration wants to shift responsibility for all government background checks—defense and civilian—over to the Defense Department. While the lawmakers work that out, DSS is getting ready.

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IL Senate moves bill to allow medical cannabis at schools

In a 9-1 vote Wednesday, the Illinois Senate Education committee approved a measure that would allow parents or guardians to medicate their children with cannabis while they’re at school. On Thursday, the full Senate is expected to vote on the bill, which sailed through the Illinois House last month.

The measure, dubbed “Ashley’s Law,” was named for 11-year-old Ashley Surin whose family filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Illinois and Schaumburg School District 54 for failing to include public schools among the places people can possess medical cannabis. Surin has been prescribed medical cannabis to treat seizures related to a leukemia diagnosis.

In January, a judge ruled in favor of Surin’s family, allowing the girl to bring her medication to school.

Sen. Cristina Castro (22nd) expects the bill to pass based on its bipartisan support in committee. Castro, who is co-sponsoring the measure, noted that Ashley and her family would be making the trip to Springfield for the vote.

“They will be my guests in the gallery,” Castro said. “They are very excited.”

Despite claims that cannabis legalization will create a windfall of tax revenue, a new report from Moody’s Investors Services shows that taxes from pot sales “provide only modest budget relief” in states that have legalized the drug for recreational use. According to the report, revenues generated by legalization “are a marginal credit positive” for the nine states, plus the District of Columbia, that have legal recreational cannabis laws.

Nevertheless, Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker is continuing to push his plan to make pot fully legal in Illinois. Asked about the Moody’s study, Pritzker’s campaign defended his proposed policy.

“Legalizing marijuana will not just bring tax revenue to the state, but it will help reform a broken criminal justice system that has disproportionately harmed communities of color for far too long,” said campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen. “JB knows we can legalize marijuana in a safe way that will benefit communities across Illinois and he is ready to do that as governor.”

The billionaire has said he believes legalization could bring in between $350 million and $700 million in revenue, a figure anti-marijuana groups have disputed.

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Violations of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), results in lawsuits

Chicago IL Jan 12 2018 A wave of class action lawsuits has been filed alleging violations of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), a statute aimed at regulating how companies use information based on “biometric identifiers” such as fingerprints and retina scans. Violating BIPA can be costly, so employers operating within Illinois should review their business practices to determine whether they are using “biometric information” and plan accordingly.

Although many of the early lawsuits filed under BIPA targeted technology companies for their use of facial recognition software, recent litigation has focused on employers that use fingerprint-scanning technology to allow employees to clock in and clock out. BIPA regulates a private entity’s ability to collect, store and disclose biometric information. The statute defines biometric information as that based on individual identifiers such as fingerprints, retina scans or voiceprints. As the statute explains, these cannot be changed, unlike other unique identifiers such as Social Security numbers.

Citing the public’s concern with the use of biometrics for business transactions and the “heightened risk of identity theft” biometric information entails, the Illinois legislature sought to protect individual privacy and encourage private entities to bolster information security by passing BIPA in 2008. The statute flew under the radar until the first surge of class action lawsuits in 2015. These private actions picked up steam in the latter half of 2017, with dozens of new class action suits filed since July. And it’s easy to see why the plaintiffs’ bar has taken notice: The penalties associated with BIPA range from $1,000 to $5,000 per violation and include attorneys’ fees.

Fortunately for employers, compliance with BIPA is fairly straightforward. At minimum, entities that use biometric information must:

Adopt a written policy with a retention schedule and guidelines for permanently destroying the information, and make this policy available to the public.

Obtain informed, written consent from any employee whose biometric information is obtained.

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Florida may require businesses to verify employees through

A panel of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission unanimously backed a proposal (P 29) that would require all employers in Florida to use the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Employment Authorization Program, known as E-Verify, to determine the eligibility of new employees.

Commissioner Rich Newsome, an attorney from Orlando who sponsored the proposal, said the measure has widespread support from the public. However, he said the issue has failed to garner legislative support in past years because powerful special interests tied to agriculture and construction make it “impossible” to advance.

“Everybody knows why it can’t pass the Legislature despite the fact that if you polled the Republican base of the folks that are in power, it’s off the chart,” Newsome said.

Adam Blalock, representing the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, told the commission’s General Provisions Committee that if E-Verify is put in place, the agriculture industry would suffer a short-term labor shortage that would result in lost and unharvested crops.

“There must be a replacement labor for agriculture before E-Verify is established,” Blalock said.

“The federal government this year is working on legislation to better the H-2A guest worker program to try to remove some of the problems that agriculture faces to allow a more legal work force to be in the United States,” Blalock continued. “But domestic supply of agriculture workers, it’s not there to replace those who would inevitably be not able to work if E-Verify was put into place. There is just not that population of people that is willing to do the hard work to get the food on your table. And that’s not a popular opinion, but it is reality.”

Newsome said he offered a carve-out for agriculture interests that use guest-worker visas, but a number of mid-sized farmers are concerned about covering housing, transportation and health-care costs.

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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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Chalice Zeitner Sentenced to More than 25 Years in Prison

Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced today a judge sentenced Chalice Zeitner to more than 25 years in prison after Zeitner faked cancer to qualify for a taxpayer funded abortion and scammed veterans charities out of more than $15,000. Zeitner was convicted of 17 felonies at two separate trials. The Attorney General’s Office prosecuted this case after an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Phoenix Field Office and AHCCCS.

“Zeitner is a con-artist who brazenly stole money from veterans and the taxpayers of Arizona,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “Our office has built a strong partnership with the FBI to investigate and prosecute complex fraud cases like Zeitner’s and seek justice for the victims.”

“The crimes for which Ms. Zeitner has been convicted are particularly offensive, from defrauding veterans’ charities to faking cancer in order to receive a government-funded, late-term abortion. The FBI is committed to protecting the public from frauds and is well-situated to investigate frauds occurring in multiple states and jurisdictions,” said Special Agent in Charge Michael DeLeon. “I would like to thank Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich for dedicating the resources necessary to prosecute Ms. Zeitner.”

In April 2016, a jury convicted Zeitner of fraud and other charges for faking a cancer diagnosis to get the state to pay for a late-term abortion. In August 2016 after a separate trial, a jury convicted Zeitner of Fraudulent Schemes and Artifices and Theft for scamming veterans charities out of $15,000 and charging more than $25,000 to a fraudulently obtained credit card associated with a family member of an owner of a veterans charity.”

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Marijuana Smokes the Competition, Pulls in Key Victories on Election Night

“Marijuana was on the ballot in nine states Tuesday, gaining sometimes-sweeping approval in all but one.

California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine all approved measures legalizing the recreational use of the Schedule I drug, while Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota voted to allow cannabis for medical purposes only. Arizona was the lone holdout, with 52 percent of voters rejecting the recreational use legalization measure. Additionally, while Montana already had a medical marijuana law, voters decided to roll back restrictions on that law.

The recreational use of cannabis is now legal in eight states, which are home to almost a quarter of the nation’s overall population. Cannabis for medical use is now legal in 25 states and the District.

Activists are pointing to marijuana’s triumph in this election as a turning point for the drug, which is federally classified as Schedule I, indicative of the “most dangerous” label, alongside heroin and LSD. For one, California is the most populous state in the country; and Massachusetts puts the east coast on the board.

The Associated Press said, collectively, it was the closest the U.S. has ever come to a national referendum on marijuana. Under President Barack Obama, individual states have been afforded the opportunity to go forward with their own legalization measures, despite the ban on cannabis at the federal level. However, that could all change when President-Elect Donald Trump enters the office in January 2017. This could all quickly go south for marijuana activists depending who Trump appoints to his cabinet, as well as his own personal feelings on the drug. He has flip-flopped in the past, saying he supports state’s rights to choose, but also calling Colorado’s legal marijuana industry a problem.”

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Plastic banknotes: new fingerprint technique means criminals can’t avoid capture

“The UK has just introduced plastic banknotes, almost 30 years after they were used for the first time in Australia. The polymer notes are designed to last longer and be harder to forge. But the new notes, which will replace the old cotton paper ones entirely by 2020, come with a challenge for police detectives and forensic scientists.

The existing techniques for obtaining fingerprints from paper notes won’t necessarily work for the new plastic money. However, our team at the chemistry department of Loughborough University has developed a potential solution.

The use of fingerprints in forensic science may date back to the 19th century, but in the UK alone it still plays a key role in bringing charges in some 27,000 crimes a year, according to Home Office data we obtained. But new materials can pose significant challenges for fingerprinting. We’re forever trying to make things biodegradable, or handling devices that simply didn’t exist a decade or two ago.

The issue is that the new notes have been fashioned from “biaxially oriented” polypropylene, a type of plastic that has been strengthened by stretching it in two directions. They are also, as with all notes, deliberately fiddly in design. Illustrations and security features such as foil and transparent sections make it harder to develop a perfect print.

The key is to try to find a method that will make the design of the note invisible and just highlight the print. Conventional techniques, such as exposing the fingerprint to cyanoacrylate (“superglue”) fumes that stick to the moisture in the ridges of the print and turn them white, can struggle in such circumstances. The developed print simply appears white and so is harder to see against the background, and it leaves an indelible mark or stain that means the note can’t be returned to circulation.”

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Airlines say TSA fixes shrink O’Hare wait times to 15 minutes

Security lines at O’Hare International Airport have become dramatically shorter — at least for the time being — in the wake of TSA staff increases locally and this week’s ouster of the agency’s head of security.

One airline official said Tuesday that waits were down to 15 minutes at O’Hare after the Transportation Security Administration faced heavy criticism last week for long lines at the nation’s airports. Waits of more than two hours May 14 at O’Hare caused 450 people to miss their flights and dozens to sleep overnight at the airport.

TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger came Friday to Chicago to meet with local officials and expressed regret for the problem, which the agency has blamed on a staffing shortage combined with higher passenger numbers. TSA moved 100 part-time officers at Chicago airports to full-time status last week and brought in a new management team and four new canine units, which TSA officials say helped speed lines by sniffing passengers for explosives.

Another 58 TSA officers are expected to come to Chicago airports in the coming month.

This week, the TSA replaced its former head of security, Kelly Hoggan, who according to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform received more than $90,000 in bonuses from 2013 to late 2014.

A memo obtained by the Chicago Tribune sent by Neffenger on Monday does not name Hoggan, but does name his temporary replacement, Darby LaJoye. Neffenger called LaJoye an experienced federal security director with successful stints at two of the nation’s largest airports, Los Angeles International Airport in California and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

“His strong leadership and proven operational expertise have driven a renewed agency-wide focus on security effectiveness,” Neffenger said.

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