Morning Security Brief: Airport Security, Border Hearing, NSA Surveillance, and Saudi Troops

By Mark Tarallo

►The Transportation Security Administration issued a statement Sunday saying that as part of its routine screening at the overseas airports with direct flights, checkpoint officers may ask owners to turn on devices including cellphones. Devices that can't be turned on won't be permitted on flights, TSA said. Travelers may also undergo additional screening such as pat-downs. The statement comes after Jeh Johnson, secretary of homeland security, issued a statement last week saying that security would tighten at airports where flights head directly to the USA but without providing much detail about how the scrutiny would change, USA Today reported. In an interview on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday, Johnson addressed the new policy. "We felt that it was important to crank it up some at the last point-of-departure airports," Johnson said . "And we'll continually evaluate the situation." Johnson said the latest change is an attempt to anticipate the next attack rather than simply react to the last one. "We know that there remains a terrorist threat to the United States," Johnson said. "And aviation security is a large part of that."

►The heads of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency are scheduled to testify at a Senate hearing on border security on July 9. FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate and CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske will appear at the hearing, “Challenges at the Border: Examining the Causes, Consequences, and Responses to the Rise in Apprehensions at the Southern Border,” to be held by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs. On Sunday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in an interview that he thinks the U.S. can turn back the recent influx of illegal immigrants, particularly unaccompanied children, crossing the southern border. “I believe we will stem this tide,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” But he also acknowledged the number of illegal immigrants is rising and it will be difficult to turn the situation around, particularly as violence and poverty roils central America. “Honduras is in a really bad place right now,” Johnson said.

►Ordinary Internet users far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post. Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else. Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files contained names, e-mail addresses, or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or “minimized,” more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be linked to U.S. citizens or residents. Among the most valuable contents—which The Post did not describe in close detail, to avoid interfering with ongoing operations —are fresh revelations about a secret overseas nuclear project, double-dealing by an ostensible ally, a military calamity that befell an unfriendly power, and the identities of aggressive intruders into U.S. computer networks, according to the newspaper.

►Saudi Arabia has sent 30,000 soldiers to its border with Iraq after Iraqi soldiers withdrew from the area, according to reports from two news outlets in the Middle East. The state-owned Saudi television network Al Arabiya reported that the country aims to guard its 800-kilometer border with Iraq, where Islamic State fighters and other Sunni Muslim rebel groups seized towns and cities in a lightning advance last month. The Dubai-based Al Arabiya said that Saudi troops fanned into the border region after Iraqi government forces abandoned positions, leaving the Saudi frontier unprotected, NBC News reports. Saudi’s King Abdullah has ordered all necessary measures, including the deployment of border troops, to protect the kingdom against potential "terrorist threats,” according to a report by another Saudi state news agency, SPA.


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