Global Health Security Threats: Time to Act Now

ebola virusAccording to the new report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Commission on Strengthening America’s Health Security, “the United States remains woefully ill-prepared to respond to global health security threats.” The CSIS Commission urges the U.S. government to address the potential crisis by establishing a doctrine of continuous prevention, protection, and resilience. In particular, the authors underscore the “cycle of crisis and complacency” that defines the current state of the U.S. public health system.

The report highlights a number of critical actions necessary to further the change. Among those listed, the U.S. government must allocate resources on accomplishing the following:

Significantly, the primary goal of the new public health doctrine is to acknowledge the increasing threat of epidemics and to address the immediate health needs of vulnerable populations in fragile or failed states. In particular, health security crises fueled by geopolitics represent the new frontier of global threats to humanity. As the current health infrastructure depends on national governments, the lack of global cooperation limits the effectiveness of countermeasures. As such, biosafety and biosecurity are rapidly becoming the most time-sensitive initiative to be addressed internationally. Given this environment, the United States is uniquely positioned to provide leadership and technological expertise to further global resiliency and preparedness in combatting emerging health threats.

The HSDL offers many additional resources related to public health and biosecurity in our special featured topic Pandemics and Epidemics. Please note: you will need the HSDL login to view some of these resources.

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Author: Julia West

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Impeachment Inquiry Released, Proceedings Advance to Judiciary Committee

The anticipated Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report has been released by the Democratic Party.

The inquiry, led by Adam B. Schiff, Chairman, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, finds that President Trump not only violated the office of the President of the United States by seeking foreign intervention in an election in a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but also obstructed impeachment proceedings, including ordering witnesses to ignore subpoenas and failing to produce requested documents.

In the preface, Schiff remarks that

As this report details, the impeachment inquiry has found that President Trump, personally and acting through agents within and outside of the U.S. government, solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection. In furtherance of this scheme, President Trump conditioned official acts on a public announcement by the new Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, of politically-motivated investigations, including one into President Trump’s domestic political opponent. In pressuring President Zelensky to carry out his demand, President Trump withheld a White House meeting desperately sought by the Ukrainian President, and critical U.S. military assistance to fight Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine.

The President engaged in this course of conduct for the benefit of his own presidential reelection, to harm the election prospects of a political rival, and to influence our nation’s upcoming presidential election to his advantage. In doing so, the President placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security.

Man in a crowded city street at night holds sign with the top part of Trump's face with a red banner across his mouth that says impeach.

For more information, visit the HSDL Featured Topics or our In Focus topic on Impeachment.  Please note that an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Emily Bruza

Surveillance: A Threat to Human Rights

surveillance camerasAmnesty International issued a report warning about Facebook and Google’s surveillance practices. According to the new report, the surveillance-based business model poses “a systemic threat to human rights.” As such, Surveillance Giants provides a detailed overview of Facebook and Google’s practices that undermine the right to privacy and threaten freedoms of opinion and expression, freedom of thought, and the right to equality and non-discrimination. In turn, the report suggests that businesses have responsibility to conduct “human rights due diligence” to identify how their business models affect privacy and other freedoms.

While the digital market includes other Big Tech companies, such as Apple, Amazon and Microsoft, it is evident that Google and Facebook dominate the largest share of data processing platforms online. The ubiquity of these platforms “have become fundamental to how people engage and interact with each other.” Yet, given the extraction and analysis of people’s personal data as their primary business model, Facebook and Google monetize their customers by selling data to third-party advertisers.

In order to address the dangers of the surveillance-based business model, the authors of this report urge governments to take action by enforcing robust data protection laws and introducing regulatory measures of Big Tech. In particular, governments must pass legislation preventing these companies from requiring “consent” to data collection and processing as a condition of access to their services. Furthermore, Facebook and Google’s algorithmic systems require additional attention as they solely benefit companies’ interests, “including finely-tuned ad targeting and delivery.” Taking into account the size and reach of these platforms, Facebook and Google are endangering human rights “at a population scale.”

For more information, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Cyber PolicyCyber Infrastructure Protection, and Electronic Surveillance. Please note that an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Julia West

Measuring the Global Impact of Terrorism in 2019

The Institute for Economics and Peace has released the “Global Terrorism Index 2019: Measuring the Impact of Terrorism,” as well as a briefing, that provides updated statistics and global trends in terrorism. Key findings in these reports, spanning from early 1970 to late 2018, indicate that while terrorist activities are still widely spread, their impact has significantly fallen. According to the reports, “deaths from terrorism fell for the fourth consecutive year” and economic impacts saw “a substantial decrease of 38% from the previous year.” While the impacts of terrorism seem to be less severe globally, with 98 countries seeing improvements, 40 countries still experienced worsening conditions. Of these 40 countries, Afghanistan faced the greatest deterioration with “an increase of 59 percent from the prior year.”

The majority of all deaths attributed to terrorism, 57.8 percent, were perpetrated by the Taliban, ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), the Khorasan Chapter of the Islamic State, and Boko Haram. In addition to this, far-right terrorism, which makes up a small percentage of global terrorism, has increased and become more problematic, especially in western countries.

For more information, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Domestic (U.S.) TerrorismGlobal TerrorismSuicide Bombers, and Lone Wolf Terrorism, Please note that an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Victoria Vanderzielfultz

HSDL: Focusing on Pressing Issues and Beyond

The Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) hosted the 12th Annual Homeland Defense & Security Education Summit in Monterey, California on October 30th to November 1st. The theme for this year’s event was “Public Interest Security: Leveraging Education to Connect Policy and Operations with American Perspectives of Homeland Security.”

The 12th Annual Summit, supported by the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA National Preparedness Directorate, featured research presentations on two key areas: (1) Border Issues and (2) Technology and Influence Operations. The summit brought together subject matter experts from academic, practitioner, government, and private sectors.

The members of Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL) team found this to be a great opportunity to find out what those “in the field” are giving focus to and consequently, where we can focus on collecting materials to meet those needs.  We fielded two survey questions which resulted in the following responses:

  1. What (Homeland Security related) issue scares you most?
  • Civic/Political Attitude, Behavior, and Civic Disconnect
  • Civil/Human Rights
  • Climate/Disasters and Climate Change
  • Communication and Disinformation
  • Cyberspace and Digital/Cyber Security
  • Crumbling Infrastructure
  • Homeland Security Management, Training and Multi-Domain Operations
  • Public Health, Diseases and Health Security
  • Threats of Domestic Extremism, EMP, and Weapons of Mass Effect
  1. What needs more focus in Homeland Security Today and Beyond?
  • Competencies & Roles of Non-Traditional Professions in Homeland Security
  • Displaced Populations (cause & effect)
  • Domestic Hate Groups / Anti-government Groups
  • Election Security
  • Human Rights
  • Information Sharing Across Sectors
  • Infrastructure Security
  • Leadership, Morals, and Morale
  • Systems/Intersection (Technology and Society)
  • Training

We welcome our users to continue this conversation by going to Ask a Librarian and give us your views.

The HSDL offers many resources related to the issues raised during the survey, including Active Shooters, Border Security, Climate Change, Cyber Crime, Cyber Infrastructure Protection, Energy Security, Pandemics & Epidemics, Nuclear Weapons, and many others.

Visit the Featured Topics for more information. Please note: HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Julia West

2019 Report on Stress in America

The American Psychological Association released “Stress in America 2019,” an annual survey detailing the prevalence and causes of stress across the country. This survey indicates three main issues of concern for the majority of Americans: the upcoming 2020 presidential election, health care, and mass shootings. Of these issues, mass A Women sits on the edge of a dock starring into the water.shootings were the most common stress source with 62 % of adults citing it as a stressor.

Also cited more frequently as stressors this year than the previous year are the issues of climate change/global warming, discrimination, terrorism, and sexual harassment. Although overall stress levels have remained relatively the same over the past year, 56% of Americans agree “this is the lowest point in the nation’s history that they remember.”

For more information on Active Shooters, Climate Change, Elections, and Health Care please visit the HSDL, as well as our Featured Topics. Please note that an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Victoria Vanderzielfultz

FBI Reports on Lone Offender Terrorism

extended arm with a gunThe Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Behavioral Threat Assessment Center released the Lone Offender Terrorism Report reviewing 52 lone offender terrorist attacks committed in the United States between 1972 and 2015. The study focuses on the backgrounds, behavioral characteristics, and circumstances surrounding the attacks. Additionally, the report provides an insight into pre-attack clues that some bystanders witness but rarely act upon.

Significantly, the study analyzed attacks by individuals who acted independently from any terrorist group or organization. By providing a holistic approach to identifying high-risk individuals, the study aims to inform communities, law enforcement, and policy makers on how to act on potential threats. In particular, the researchers highlight the importance of recognizing “when and how to report potential threats.” As such, early red flags are likely to be identified by friends and family, who have the ability to put unusual behaviors into context of prior history.

The report provides the following key data points:

  • 83 percent of offenders had history of hostile or aggressive behavior;
  • 96 percent of offenders produced statements in writing or videos;
  • In 25 percent of the cases, at least one other individual was aware of the offender’s intent to attack;
  • In all cases, bystanders expressed concern over unusual behaviors prior to an attack.

Reflecting upon these key findings, FBI Director Christopher Wray argues that “[b]ystanders need guidance to recognize concerning behaviors and overcome natural resistance to reporting.” Furthermore, well-trained, skilled, and competent receivers of such reporting are equally essential in managing threats. Consequently, the report underscores the importance of relationships and communication between families, law enforcement, and community authorities.

The HSDL offers many additional resources related to the issue of Lone Wolf Terrorism, Active ShootersLaw Enforcement and Statistics. Visit the Featured Topics for more on information. Please note: HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Julia West

Closer Look: Federal Government’s Role in Hate Crime Response

Side view of several female and male protesters holding colorful signs up and marching at a rallyThe United States Commission on Civil Rights has released “In the Name of Hate: Examining the Federal Government’s Role in Responding to Hate Crimes“. Director of the Commission, Catherine E. Lhamon, notes that violent incidents, such as the recent mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, demonstrate the imperative need for information and prevention regarding bias-based attacks. Director Lhamon points out that, “The highest percent of reported post-2016 election hate incidents were in K-12 schools, and the majority of these incidents involved racial discrimination.” Specifically, the Commission examined the three following areas of the U.S. federal government’s response to hate crimes:

  1. Federal law enforcement’s hate crimes reporting practices and local policies being developed to encourage greater reporting;
  2. Federal prosecution and enforcement of laws regarding hate crimes and bias-motivated incidents;
  3. Prevention of federal crimes based on race, national origin, ethnicity, disability, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Ultimately, the findings of the Commission’s investigation reveal several trends. 46 states and the District of Columbia have a formalized hate crime statute in place. Yet, according to the data, not only are hate crimes increasing in the United States, but there is also a severe underreporting of hate crimes. Even though bullying is not considered a hate crime, the report notes that bullying incidents are significant and should be addressed by educators, parents, and students in order to work towards active prevention. Overall, enhanced training of law enforcement officers and increased availability of resources are a clear path towards improved response to hate crimes. Based on these findings, the Commission makes the following specific recommendations:

  • Congress can improve law enforcement’s ability to report hate crimes to the FBI through both legislation and funding, which will assist in building accountability and community trust.
  • Congress can ensure hate crime data is reported to the FBI from states and federal agencies through legislative measures.
  • The Trump Administration can reactivate Department of Homeland Security (DHS) groups that specifically analyze domestic terrorism threats, and can reinstate grants to groups which counter white supremacist terror.
  • Law enforcement agencies should be more diligent in investigating “hate incidents”, even if they do not meet the escalated legal definition of a “hate crime”.
  • At the state level, legislation should be passed that clearly defines hate crimes and hate incidents.

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Author: Kendall Scherr

Trump Administration Ignored Humanitarian Protections

Immigrant children at a private detention facility, photo provided by ICEThe U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Democratic staff released a report revealing how the Trump Administration used foreign policy to further President’s political aims. Titled “Playing Politics with Humanitarian Protections,” the minority report provides details on the role of the Administration in the abrupt end of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) extended to nearly 400,000 individuals from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti. Significantly, the report highlights how the Administration “intentionally ignored warnings about risks to U.S. national security and the safety” of the affected recipients.

The report, commissioned by U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), contains over 80 pages of evidence including documents with the Trump Administration political appointees in the State Department “explicitly referencing the 2020 presidential elections in their recommendations to the Secretary of State.” Additionally, the report identifies specific instances where senior State Department officials warn the Trump Administration that terminating TPS would endanger thousands of recipients’ American citizen children if forced to follow their parents back to El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti.

The report highlights the following principle findings:

  • 2020 election considerations influenced the decision to end TPS;
  • The Administration intentionally ignored risks to U.S. national security priorities and jeopardized U.S. counternarcotics cooperation;
  • The Administration knew that ending TPS would put the personal safety of TPS recipients at risk and expose thousands of American children to crime and violence;
  • Terminating TPS for the three countries would lead to an unprecedented wave of de facto forced family separation and accelerate irregular migration to the United States; and
  • Ending TPS would lead to an unprecedented deportation campaign.

In conclusion, the report provides a set of recommendations, including the extension or re-designation of TPS, reforming the existing TPS statute, investigating the decision to end TPS and its politicization, as well as restoring foreign assistance for Central America. Furthermore, the report urges the Congress to pass comprehensive legislation on foreign policy and migration system in Latin America and the Caribbean.

For more information, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Border Security and Immigration. Please note that an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Julia West

U.S. Secret Service Report on School Violence

back of school busThe United States Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) issued a report analyzing targeted school violence. This report expands upon twenty years of NTAC research in threat assessment and violence prevention. In line with this effort, NTAC conducted a study of 41 incidents of targeted school violence from 2008 to 2017. This study did not include attacks where “a perpetrator could not be identified, or incidents related to gang violence, drug violence, or other incidents with a strong suggestion of a separate criminal nexus.”

The report includes the following key findings:

  • It is impossible to identify a specific attacker profile or the types of schools where attacks occur;
  • Usually motivations to attack involve multiple social stressors, including grievances related to school staff, classmates, personal relationships, or home environment;
  • Most attacks involve the use of firearms, which attackers often acquire from their homes;
  • Most attackers have histories of observable mental and behavioral health symptoms, including instances of disciplinary actions or contact with law enforcement;
  • Half of the attackers expressed interest in violent topics prior to the attack;
  • Most attackers experienced bullying at some point; and
  • All attackers exhibited “objectively concerning or prohibited” behaviors and most communicated their intent to attack.

Taking these observations into consideration, the report underscores the role of prevention when addressing potentially high-risk situations. Significantly, the best practice of prevention must include a multidisciplinary threat assessment team along with adequate policies, tools, as well as regular training. In particular, the report emphasizes that “punitive measures are not preventative,” especially when addressing high-risk disciplinary situations. Furthermore, as timely communications are essential in preventing attacks, schools, students, and parents should be encouraged to report concerning behavioral patterns for appropriate interventions to take place.

The HSDL offers many additional resources related to this issue of mass shootings. Visit the Featured Topics for more on Active Shooters. Please note that an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Julia West