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White House Syria Chemical Weapons Warning Catches US Military Off Guard: Reports

The White House warned Syria about using chemical weapons late Monday after failing to coordinate it with U.S. national security agencies, according to a report. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer issued a statement[1] Monday that said the U.S. has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by Bashar al-Assad s regime. It warned that if Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price. After what was deemed to be a Sarin gas attack[2] by the Syrian Army that killed civilians in early April, President Donald Trump bombed[3] an airfield in retaliation.

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Five U.S. defense officials including one from U.S. Central Command told BuzzFeed News[5] that they do not know where the chemical attack will come from and they had no idea that the White House was planning a statement.

White House Syria Chemical Weapons Warning Catches US Military Off Guard: ReportsU.S. President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on June 23. The president’s planned tax cuts could add millions of dollars to the U.S. national debt. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Potential threats of U.S. military action are usually agreed and organized among National Security Council agencies and Departments, including the Department of Defense and State Department. Several defense officials also told the New York Times[6] that the statement caught them off guard. It isn t clear how closely guarded the intelligence about the potential attack was.

Read more: Tillerson lets slip he wants regime change in Iran[7]

The warning surprised Daryl G. Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association. He told The NYT that he couldn t recall a pre-emptive public warning about the use of banned weaponed like this in at least the last 20 years. Usually warnings are sent through diplomatic channels, he said. Soon after the White House statement America s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, tweeted[8] that any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people.

It is not the first time that the White House and President Donald Trump have eschewed the advice of cabinet members and military advisers to issue statements that could have sweeping national security implications. During a speech at the NATO alliance s new headquarters at the end of May, Trump hesitated[9] to affirm NATO s Article 5 which says an attack on one member is an attack on all despite advice from his generals. National security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had all worked to include a statement supporting Article 5 in Trump s speech, according to five sources that spoke with Politico[10]. Trump reportedly took it out at the last minute.

The afternoon of June 9 Trump and Secretary Tillerson gave speeches that appeared to contradict each other. Shortly before Trump spoke at a joint press conference with the leader of Romania, Tillerson told reporters[11] that Middle Eastern nations that have put sanctions on Qatar are hurting the U.S. coalition against the Islamic State terrorist group. Not only that, but they are “impairing U.S. and other international business activities in the region,” Tillerson said. Trump had asked Tillerson to help de-escalate the situation. Yet during his press conference Trump said that “the time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding” for terrorism and to take action against the nation, appearing to support the sanctions.

Defence secretary, James Mattis, then rushed[12] to assure Qatar of continuing American support as U.S. military aircraft fly outof al-Udeid base near Qatar s capital Doha on missions in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan.

The White House statement Monday did not lay out precise details of what shape a heavy price for Assad would take after another chemical attack.

References

  1. ^ Sean Spicer issued a statement (twitter.com)
  2. ^ Sarin gas attack (uk.reuters.com)
  3. ^ President Donald Trump bombed (www.newsweek.com)
  4. ^ Daily Emails and Alerts- Get the best of Newsweek delivered to your inbox (www.newsweek.com)
  5. ^ BuzzFeed News (www.buzzfeed.com)
  6. ^ told the New York Times (www.nytimes.com)
  7. ^ Read more: Tillerson lets slip he wants regime change in Iran (www.newsweek.com)
  8. ^ Nikki Haley, tweeted (twitter.com)
  9. ^ Trump hesitated (www.newsweek.com)
  10. ^ spoke with Politico (www.politico.com)
  11. ^ Tillerson told reporters (www.npr.org)
  12. ^ James Mattis, then rushed (www.theguardian.com)

Washington Joins Illinois and Texas in Enacting Biometric Data Law

As voice recognition and facial scan technology has improved, organizations are increasingly employing the use of biometric identifiers in the authentication processes for devices and online applications and accounts. Surprisingly, there is no comprehensive federal statute or regulation governing the collection, protection, use or disposal of biometric data. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has only issued recommended best practices for use of facial recognition, and not promulgated any rules. These best practices, however, are nonbinding and serve only as guidance. In addition, until recently, there have been only two states which have adopted laws regulating the use of biometric data Illinois and Texas. In May 2017, Washington become the third state to enact a law governing the collection, use and retention f biometric data.

Illinois

In 2008, Illinois passed the Biometric Information Privacy Act, which set forth a comprehensive set of rules for the collection and use of biometric data. Organizations must provide written notice prior to the collection of any biometric identifier. The notice must include the purpose of the collection and the duration that the organization will use or retain the data. Only after obtaining the written consent can organizations begin their collection activities. Once they have collected biometric data, the BIPA requires organizations to protect that data in the same manner it would protect other sensitive and confidential information using the reasonable standard of care in its industry. In addition, the BIPA requires organizations to have a publicly available written policy stating how long the organization will retain the data and rules governing the destruction of that data. The BIPA prohibits organizations from selling or otherwise profiting from the biometric data they collect. It further prohibits organizations from disclosing biometric data unless (1) they obtain consent; (2) the disclosure completes a financial transaction requested by the individual; (3) the disclosure is required by federal, state or municipal law; or (5) the disclosure is required by a valid warrant or subpoena. The BIPA provides a private right of action for violations of the statute and entitles a prevailing party to statutory damages for each violation equal to the greater of $1,000 or actual damages for negligent violations, and the greater of $5,000 or actual damages for intentional or reckless violations. The existence of the private right of action has led to the considerable litigation with Facebook, Google, Shutterfly and Snapchat over their use of facial scanning and/or recognition technology.

Texas

Texas enacted its own biometric data law shortly after the passage of the BIPA. Similar to the BIPA in many regards, the Texas law required informed consent by individuals before organizations could begin collecting biometric identifiers. However, the consent did not need to be written. The Texas biometric law also imposed limitations on the sale of biometric information and set forth security and retention requirements. Only the Texas Attorney General can enforce the state s biometric law as the law does not provide for a private cause of action.

Washington

On May 16, 2017, Washington became the latest state to pass a law regulating biometric data effective as of July 23, 2017. The Washington statute defines biometric identifiers as data generated by automatic measurements of an individual s biological characteristics, such as a fingerprint, voiceprint, eye retinas, irises, or other unique biological patterns or characteristics that is used to identify a specific individual. Significantly, perhaps in response to the litigation generated by the BIPA, Washington s definition of biometric identifiers expressly excludes physical or digital photograph, video or audio recording or data generated therefrom. It also excludes information collected, used, or stored for health care treatment, payment or operations subject to HIPAA. The statute also possesses a security exception, exempting those parties that collect, enroll or store biometric identifiers in furtherance of a security purpose. Washington s biometric data law applies only to biometric identifiers that are enrolled in a commercial database, which is defined as captur[ing] a biometric identifier of an individual, convert[ing] it into a reference template that cannot be reconstructed into the original output image and stor[ing] it in a database that matches the biometric identifier to a specific individual. Organizations may not enroll a biometric identifier unless they provide notice and obtain consent. The statute does not require a specific type of notice. Instead, it states that notice is context-dependent and only needs to be given through a procedure reasonably designed to be readily available to affected individuals. The statue, however, specifically notes that [n]otice is not affirmative consent. Absent consent, an organization may not sell, lease or disclose biometric data to a third party for commercial purposes, except where a statutory exception applies. These exceptions include where necessary to provide a product or service requested by the individual and where disclosure is made to a third party who contractually promises that the biometric identifier will not be further disclosed and will not be enrolled in a database for a commercial purpose that is inconsistent with the law. Even with consent, organizations may not use the biometric data they collect for any purpose that is materially inconsistent with the original purpose of the collection.

The Washington biometric statute imposes security and retention requirements. Organizations must exercise reasonable care to guard against unauthorized access to and acquisition of biometric identifiers. They must also retain biometric identifiers for no longer than necessary to comply with the law, protect against fraud, criminal activity or other security threats, or provide the service for which the biometric identifier was collected.

Like the Texas biometric data law, the Washington biometric data law does not provide a private right of action. Only the Washington Attorney General can bring an action to enforce the statute under the Washington Consumer Protection Act.

Outlook

In the absence of federal legislation, state laws regulating the collection, use and retention of biometric data appear to be imminent. Pending bills governing biometric data are currently pending in the Alaska, Connecticut, Montana and New Hampshire legislatures. Given the proliferation of biometric information as a means of identification and authentication, it is only a matter of time before more states adopt similar laws.

Apollo’s Shield: Clean Energy Is the ‘Ultimate Weapon’ Against Russian Security Threats

In January, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis called Russia the principal threat[1] to America today. But despite Russia’s might, there’s a glaring chink in its otherwise impenetrable armor: an extraordinary dependence on its sale of fossil fuels. Over the past decade, the U.S. has developed the ultimate weapon — clean energy — to protect us from and neutralize the multi-tentacled Russian threat. The U.S. clean energy industry, in partnership with the U.S. government, has the opportunity over the coming decades to earn billions while strengthening our national security. Together they can assist Europe in overhauling energy infrastructure and starving Moscow s budget of its essential fossil fuel revenue, rendering Putin powerless.

Moscow s dominance of the regional energy market serves as the cornerstone of Europe’s vulnerability to the Russian threat. According to RAND, 11 European countries, from Finland to Bulgaria, buy over 90 percent[2] of their vital natural gas from Russia. Germany, our most important ally on the continent, relies on Russia for over 40 percent of all the natural gas it consumes, more than from any other country. However, this interdependency flows bilaterally. Russia earns over 40 percent[3] of all export revenue from fossil fuel sales to Europe and North America. Moreover, 36 percent of every ruble in the Kremlin s published budget (USD $85.5 billion) comes directly from these fossil fuel sales. Putin s carbon cash-flow addiction constitutes his critical vulnerability, essential to feed over 30 percent[4] of the Kremlin s budget consumed by Russia s army, security agency FSB, and other security services. Therefore, establishing an Allied Energy Defense Fund investing in American-made clean energy in Europe, would accelerate our allies drive for energy self-sufficiency, and drain Russia s financial resources, undercutting its ability to wreak havoc beyond its borders.

Today, to defend America and our allies from the growing Russian threat, the U.S. delivers billions of dollars in security assistance to Europe annually in weapons sales, plus nearly $4 billion[5] in subsidies, direct funding, and expenditures on the continent. Moreover, our NATO allies collectively spend[6] an additional $299 billion on defense. This money builds bases, trains troops, and buys everything from rifles, tanks and jet fighters to computers and cyberdefense research. We need this defense spending to counter Russian aggression, but to some degree, it merely treats the symptoms rather than delivers the cure. The U.S. spends over $622 billion worldwide on our own military annually. What if U.S. clean energy partnered with the Pentagon to add 0.5 percent ($3.11 billion), and worked with our NATO allies to do the same ($1.5 billion)?

Together they could subsidize a buy-American/buy-NATO, private-sector-driven upgrade of Europe s energy infrastructure and build a clean-energy smart grid. This Allied Energy Defense Fund would re-catalyze the U.S. clean-energy manufacturing sector to the tune of tens of billions of dollars, with private-sector investment matching government spending at a rate of at least 5 to 1. But is the prospect of revolutionizing Europe s energy system logistically, economically or politically realistic? No doubt it will be more difficult for some countries than others. However, accelerating the integration of Europe s infrastructure will ease the displacement of Russian energy.

For example, according to data from BP[7] and the European Commission[8], 44 percent of Latvia s gas (all of which Latvia imports from Russia) produces 40 percent of Latvia s total electricity. A recent report from the British energy consulting firm BVG Associates shows that Latvian wind[9] and solar could produce over double this amount. Or with a new, advanced clean energy grid, Latvia even could just buy Polish wind or German solar electricity (which combined in 2015 produced 10 times more than Latvia consumed[10]). Moreover, GTM Research shows[11] that electricity from utility-scale solar installations are routinely priced at a few pennies per kilowatt-hour. Average prices for electricity from wind are also just a few cents. This compares to the Department of Energy s reported 10.34-cent U.S. carbon-fueled average[12] — rendering renewables the obvious economic choice to displace Russian dirty energy.

Even amid today s bitterly partisan political environment, this plan can be achieved. America s clean energy revolution has reached critical mass, and our national security leadership would likely endorse such a concept. This fund would bring tens of billions in additional private-sector revenue to U.S. clean energy manufacturers, thus creating tens of thousands of new manufacturing jobs in both red and blue districts across the country. Additionally, since federal dollars only would be used to prime the pump for massive private investment, this initiative could even generate more tax revenue than it expends.

Implementation of such a program will drain the funds Putin needs to threaten or manipulate us and our allies. This fund will make the U.S. and Europe immeasurably safer, without manufacturing a single bullet.

The U.S. clean energy industry stands on the verge of an enormous opportunity worth billions by working with the U.S. government in defense of American security and our allies.

***

Jonathan Morgenstein is founder and CEO of Empowerment Solar, a solar development company in the Middle East, and served two tours in Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps.

References

  1. ^ principal threat (www.aol.com)
  2. ^ buy over 90 percent (www.rand.org)
  3. ^ earns over 40 percent (tradingeconomics.com)
  4. ^ 30 percent (www.intellinews.com)
  5. ^ nearly $4 billion (newsline.com)
  6. ^ collectively spend (money.cnn.com)
  7. ^ data from BP (www.bp.com)
  8. ^ European Commission (ec.europa.eu)
  9. ^ Latvian wind (windeurope.org)
  10. ^ produced 10 times more than Latvia consumed (www.bp.com)
  11. ^ shows (www.greentechmedia.com)
  12. ^ 10.34-cent U.S. carbon-fueled average (www.eia.gov)