Morning Brief: UPDATE: Russia Admits Snowden in Airport; GAO Gives TWIC Low Grade, and More
After Russia's foreign minister said NSA leaker Edward Snowden was not in that country, Putin now says he is in airport transit zone; the TWIC program is criticized by a GAO report, and German police attempt to thwart a plot involving explosive remote-controlled aircraft.
► The U.K. Guardian cites New York Times report that Russian President Putin admits Snowden is in airport . This after Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said at a news conference this morning that Snowden “hadn't crossed the Russian border and insisted that Russia has nothing to do with him, his relations with U.S. justice or his travel plans,” according to CBS News. The White House says it believes the former NSA contractor, who faces espionage charges, is in Russia, and according to the news report, the White House “has mounted huge pressure on the Russians to send him home before he can head into asylum in some other country.” Snowden had reportedly booked a flight from Moscow to Havana, Cuba on Monday but was not on the flight. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who says he is assisting Snowden in avoiding extradition, tells the media Snowden will eventually seek asylum in Ecuador.
► The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intiative to use biometric identification cards to better secure U.S. ports from terrorism, known as the TWIC program, has been critiqued by a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, which urges Congress to consider other alternative security measures. According to the GAO report, “Card Reader Pilot Results Are Unreliable; Security Benefits Should Be Reassessed,” and investigators ”found a multi-year pilot to test TWIC biometric cards in several locations was seriously flawed, often producing inaccurate data to congressional overseers about who was accessing sensitive maritime sites and when.” The Washington Guardian reports that DHS disagrees with the GAO report and is planning to continue with its implementation of the program.
► Law enforcement in Germany has attempted to stop an Islamist plot to fly remote-controlled model aircraft filled with explosives into targets by raiding dozens of homes. They conducted the raid after receiving a tip about an assassination plot “using the model planes as guided missiles.” German police raided addresses in three cities, Stuttgart, Munich, and Dachau, and have reportedly arrested two suspects. According to the Mail Online, “German media reported that some model aircraft, which are powerful and big enough to carry explosives capable of destroying a commerical building, were seized in the raids.” The report adds that, “Germany's Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which deals with internal terror threats, said only recently in its annual report that the country remains a 'top target' for Islamist fanatics for its support for NATO operations in Afghanistan.”
► In other news, the DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) says in a report that the fraud detection unit at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS) failed to “record nearly half of its findings of immigration fraud in a law enforcement database.” The fraud detection unit at UCIS is required to record fraudulent findings on forms for immigrants whose spouses or immediate relatives are applying for residency, the I-130 and 1-485 forms. The OIG looked at those forms from 2008 through 2011 and found that the UCIS only recorded 48 percent of its 1,144 findings of fraud. According to the report, this failure to follow standard UCIS procedure “may have increased the risk that aliens committing fraud were granted immigration benefits or given additional opportunities to apply for benefits."