Security researcher Evan Booth has gotten some notoriety recently for figuring out how to build an assortment of guns, bombs, and other weapons from items freely available from airport shops – even from those located in the terminal area past TSA checkpoints. He has published 11 of his designs on his site Terminial Cornucopia, many of which show some true ingenuity on his part. Booth claims he shared these designs with appropriate authorities prior to publishing them online for the entire world to see, but received no guidance on whether steps would be taken to eliminate their availability at the airport or mitigate the risk of them actually being assembled into functioning weapons. According to Booth:
What if Terrorists See This?!
That’s a great question. An even better question is: What if they already know all this? All of these findings have been reported to the Department of Homeland Security (TSA) to help them better detect these types of threats. Furthermore, the next time you fly, you’ll be flying as a more informed consumer (and taxpayer, possibly) — one who is more equipped to demand better, more appropriate airport security.
This Thanksgiving weekend, on November 26, former FBI and DEA agent Robert Levinson may have become the longest held American hostage in history. He went missing on March 8, 2007, while investigating cigarette smuggling for a client on Iran’s Kish Island. The Levinson family considers him to be the longest-held hostage in American history, noting that his time in captivity surpasses the 2,454 days that journalist Terry Anderson was held in Beirut, although statements released by the White House and FBI simply note him as being “one of the longest-held Americans in history.” His family received anonymous photographs in 2010 and 2011 proving Levinson was alive, showing Levinson shackled, in an orange jumpsuit, and holding signs with messages that read: “Why you can not help me” and “This is the result of 30 years serving for USA” and “I am here in Guantanamo do you know where it is?” The FBI has offered $1 million for information leading to his location and safe return.
For real. For just $4.99, you can download an app via Apple’s App Catalog that can turn your iPhone into a bona fide Geiger counter. Designed by Connecticut-based developer Image Insight, GammaPix uses your iPhone camera to scan an area for the presence gamma radiation. Specifically, it measures the frequency with which these rays hit the camera’s sensor to calculate radiation levels before warning the user if they are being exposed to harmful rays. The app was designed with support from the U.S Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and has been successfully tested in military exercises.
An article in the Washington Post about how a new product, pork-laced ammunition, is advertised to send Muslims straight to hell. Manufactured by South Fork Industries of Idaho, the company says its ammunition, called Jihawg Ammo, is a “defensive deterrent to those who violently act in the name of Islam.”
The bullets are coated in pork-infused paint, which the company states makes the ammo “haram,” or unclean, and therefore will keep a Muslim who’s shot with one of the bullets from entering paradise.
“With Jihawg Ammo, you don’t just kill an Islamist terrorist, you also send him to hell. That should give would-be martyrs something to think about before they launch an attack.Â If it ever becomes necessary to defend yourself and those around you our ammo works on two levels,” the company said in a press release earlier this month.
Pork-laced bullets designed to send Muslims straight ‘to hell’ [via The Washington Post]
The suspects into the Boston Marathon bombing were quickly identified as their faces were captured by surveillance cameras from the incident, which were then quickly publicized to the rest of the world. But in major critical incidents like these, law enforcement authorities may receive video footage from potentially hundreds of different sources to include street and department store surveillance cameras to the cell phone video cameras of bystanders. As a result, who or what has the capability to help process all these varied video sources?
Meet the Digital Multimedia Evidence Processing Lab at the University of Indianapolis, managed by the Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Video Association (LEVA). According to the lab’s website, it does not process evidence from individual cases but can be mobilized into service during a wide-scale investigation or national emergency. The lab houses state-of-the-art software and hardware and has the capacity to process and manage significant quantities of video data. Opened in 2007, it is also the world’s first permanent facility for training criminal investigators from around the world, and the only one with such a large capacity.
Processing video from so many sources starts out as an “incredible manual process,” according to Grant Fredericks, who teaches video forensics at the lab. Investigators analyze each video frame by frame, looking for people who show unusual or suspicious behavior. These people are then tagged based on factors as varied as their clothing and description, to the direction of their travel, to even their gait (how they walk). Computer programs then look for these characteristics in an attempt to find the same suspect in videos recorded by other cameras.
As an example of how this technique could be useful, it was reported that the Boston bombers did not react with shock or surprise after the first bomb exploded unlike virtually everyone else in the crowd, which was one of many indicators of their involvement.
In light of the Boston bombings incident, the argument could be made that what law enforcement needs is a standard way for the public to submit video footage and photographs taken after a major critical incident. Fredericks has said there is as of now no such standard in law enforcement to acquire video from the public after such a tragedy. Up to now, the best example of such large-scale video collection by law enforcement was in June 2011, when riots occurred after the Stanley Cup finals when the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins. The city of Vancouver established a system in which members of the public could anonymously submit photos and videos of rioters taken from their cell phones. As a result, Vancouver police received 5,000 hours of video from the public.
Vancouver police requested LEVA and the Forensic Video Analysis Response Team to review all of this video. Through painstaking work, reportedly 52 analysts spent 14 days, working three shifts continuously, to process that footage – and as a result identified 15,000 criminal acts committed by 300 rioters.
Given the size of the Boston Marathon and the even greater popularity of smartphones with video camera capability, the potential amount of footage taken of the bombings could have been far higher.
Check out the Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System (ARGUS-IS). Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA wiki), this 1.8 Gigapixel camera system is the highest resolution camera ever developed. Even more badass, when mounted on a drone, it can take an overall image or video of a mid-sized city and zoom in with enough detail to make out pedestrians walking on the street – and even objects as small as six inches in diameter. However, whether or not ARGUS is currently being used by the military as a drone camera to collection information is classified. ARGUS-IS reportedly took 30 months and $18.5 million to develop. The included video clip is from a new PBS documentary called “Rise of the Drones,” which can be seen in full off the PBS website. The clip provides a fascinating look at what kind of photos and video these drones can take.
On January 22, 1998, Theodore Kaczynski, referred to by the media as the “Unabomber,” pleaded guilty to killing three people and injuring another 23 as a result of a 17-year bombing campaign of terror and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Kaczynski had been designing explosives in a one-room cabin deep in the Montana wilderness, and when the FBI came to search his home after he wa arrested, they found a live bomb underneath his bed, apparently ready to be mailed. The easiest solution would have been to call in a bomb disposal team and explode the bomb in a secure location, but the FBI needed the bomb for evidence as Kaczynski had built his bombs in such a way that made it difficult to trace back to him. As a result, they called in three people to help: Chris Cherry, a researcher at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque; Sandia assistant Rod Owenby; and Vic Poisson, an associate of the Riverside, CA police department. It took the team three days to neutralize the bomb, the exact details of which still cannot be told.
The National Security Archive, a nonprofit founded by journalists and scholars in 1985 “to check rising government secrecy,” has published all of the available official government documents about the mission to kill the leader of al-Qaeda.