Tagged: group

0

Homeland Security's tall order: A hacker-free election

jeanette-manfra-head-of-cybersecurity-department-of-homeland-security-7600

James Martin/CNET

As lawmakers and federal investigators continue to try to understand the chaos foreign actors were able to create during the 2016 election, the US Department of Homeland Security has taken a central role in helping secure the next election.

The agency declared the US election system, which is run by a fragmented group of officials in all 50 states as well as dozens of smaller local governments, to be a part of the nation’s “critical infrastructure” in January 2017. The agency doesn’t have any legal authority over election officials, but it offers programs to help them keep hackers out of voting machines, voter registration databases and public-facing election websites.

Homeland Security’s top cybersecurity official, Jeanette Manfra, sat down with CNET to talk about the balancing act of helping secure elections without overstepping the federal government’s authority. She serves as the National Protection and Programs Directorate  Assistant Secretary for the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications at Homeland Security. Manfra told us that, so far, 32 states and 31 local governments have taken part in at least the most basic cybersecurity help offered by Homeland Security, and the agency will have finished 14 deeper assessments by the end of April.

What’s more, Manfra said Homeland Security hasn’t seen a concerted hacking effort targeting the election system like it saw in 2016 — so far.

“The intelligence community has said we have every reason to expect that this foreign influence activity will continue, but we don’t see any specific credible threat or targeting of election infrastructure,” Manfra said.

Manfra also talked with us about why she thinks a return to paper ballots wouldn’t create a totally secure election, what Homeland Security has done to secure the federal government since the disastrous Office of Personnel Management data breach in 2015, and how she thinks the government can help make the internet of things safer. Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation.

Question: Tell us what Homeland Security is doing to help states and local governments secure the vote.
Manfra: When the government has information that would be useful to election officials, that we get that to them.

We issued a few public statements[1] over the past couple of days about a series of meetings[2] with industry, with state and local government officials. If there’s somebody targeting a network or a system in your state, who are the people that we need to notify.

To the extent that they would like to take advantage of the services we have, we offer those as well. There’s everything from scanning — they provide us with their IP ranges, we provide them with a weekly report on any vulnerabilities that we identify.

The other one that’s been written about a lot is the risk and vulnerability assessment. It takes about three weeks. They lay out for us what their networks, what their systems look like. We try a variety of different things and identify where we saw some potential issues, some recommended mitigations, and we often times will talk through with them if they have any questions.

Can you speak to the difference between securing voting machines and securing voter rolls and other election related networks?
The voting machines tend to make a lot of news when you’ve got people talking about being able to hack into them. While technically somebody may be able to demonstrate it, it’s nearly impossible to gain physical access to those machines.

Then you’ve got all these other pieces of the system, where if somebody wanted to [they could] create confusion. It’s got nothing to do with actually changing a vote, but you try to get into these different systems, because people don’t understand necessarily how all of these pieces are very disconnected.

We published voter registration database best practices in 2016[3]. We’ve been working with software vendors. We’ve been working with state officials. How can they best ensure that their public-facing websites are protected? How can they ensure that there’s no disruption of voter rolls? We’re working with the different organizations that would publish [early results], whether that’s through a state site, or the AP.

Not that we’re seeing targeting of any of this. We’re just wanting to take a really comprehensive approach to what we consider election infrastructure. Because it’s virtually impossible to actually affect the vote count itself, then an adversary may want to look at other means.

Security experts have been warning that voting machines are vulnerable to hacks for years, even if they would have to be hacked in person. What’s your approach with the vendors of these machines in ensuring that this improves?
My approach with the vendor community is more nascent. We had a meeting with them last Thursday, and have had some individual meetings, and we’ve got our own team of experts to look and do some penetration testing. I would say it’s a little bit early for me to judge them, and pretty much anything is going to have some vulnerability that somebody is going to try to exploit.

I also believe that once you have a product, you also have to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to lower the risk. It’s not always a cyberfix for a cybervulnerability; sometimes it’s reducing physical access, like they’ve done, and there’s other mechanisms in place such as the transparency of our election process. We’ve got observers that are looking at the vote counts and would be able to identify if there’s any anomalous changes.

I’ve talked to some advocates who say we should move back to paper ballots across the board. Would that make things more secure?
I vote in a community who’s gone to paper ballots. That introduces different complexity that those digital machines were trying to overcome. I couldn’t say that that will just unilaterally remove all risk. Particularly because if you have an adversary whose goal is to just create confusion, and undermine confidence, it wouldn’t necessarily matter.

I do believe that there should be audit capability and redundant means for checking if there is suspicion that something happened. And I know a lot of states and localities already have it, and if they didn’t, they’re working on it.

If there’s no current signs of foreign activity against US election systems, that’s different from what you’ve said was seen in the 2016 election when 21 states were targeted and a few were actually — is breached the right word?
That’s been the subject of endless debates.

But now you’re saying you’re not seeing a specific, concerted efforts along those lines…
…targeting election systems at this time. But again, what the intelligence officials laid out is, there is no reason to believe that the previous activity would go away.

There was an initial announcement that elections would be considered critical infrastructure because there was concerns over federal involvement in the state and local processes. Can you speak to where those concerns are coming from and how you deal with the challenge of offering assistance in elections that Homeland Security doesn’t have authority over?
In our non-federal cybersecurity role, we’ve tried to focus on what are those critical services and functions that we depend upon. Access to clean water, electricity and communications, and confidence in the financial systems. We have no kind of oversight or directive authority over any of those functions. Some of them may be regulated by other parts of the state government or the federal government, but not by us. And we think that [Homeland Security’s] voluntary approaches have been very useful.

Not every state is using every service offered by Homeland Security. What are some of the reasons a state might not opt into some of this?
We have a lot of great partnerships with organizations across the country that never take any of our services because they’re buying their own. If they’d like to take advantage [of ours], then that’s great. It benefits both of us. We learn about their systems, and they’re able to participate in our programs for free.

What has changed in the government’s approach to securing federal networks since the Office of Personnel Management breach in June of 2015[4]?
That was only three years ago, [but] it feels like a lifetime. At Homeland Security, Congress has given us a lot of authority. [We’ve been] implementing those authorities, many of them we got in 2014 and 2015. The binding operational directive[5] is one that we’ve been using successfully. You saw in the president’s executive order[6] [in May 2017] very clearly that cabinet secretaries, heads of agencies, you are accountable for your cybersecurity. This needs to be a priority for you.

The first directive we issued was about patching critical vulnerabilities within 30 days. We were not there when that started. And we’re now largely in that [range].

How developed is the information sharing system authorized under the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act in 2015[7], and what has Homeland Security been able to do with it so far?
For the automated indicator sharing — remembering that it’s all about volume and velocity, and not about human validation for every single indicator — we’ve shared 1.8 million unique indicators through that program. We’ve got a little over 200 organizations that are signed up for it.

Are those private and public sector organizations?
Yes. And the 200 doesn’t necessarily mean a company or an agency. We’ve got a lot of information sharing organizations that have thousands of customers.

In 2016 we saw internet of things devices being used in unprecedented DDOS attacks[8]. Now we’re seeing botnets, including IoT botnets, caught up in cryptojacking schemes[9]. What do you see Homeland Security’s role in setting security standards for the growing network of sensors in our homes, workplaces and industrial settings?
In traditional consumer products, you can look at your microwave and see the UL seal there and you know that it’s passed some level of standards and certification. I think that is probably what we need for the so-called internet of things.

What we’ve looked at is Underwriter Laboratories, Energy Star and different things that have now become an industry standard — how did they develop? I think that there’s a government role in nurturing that process, but not dictating what the standards are. I think at one point the government said we’re only going to buy Energy Star products[10], and that was a very clear indicator for the market. I’m not suggesting that we have any plans along those lines, but I think it’s worthwhile looking back at how some of these different certification programs came about. I want to keep seeing the innovation, but I also want to see some standards.

When it comes to critical infrastructure like power plants and water systems, we’ve only seen small attacks in the US, such as the breach of a control system for a small dam in Rye Brook, NY[11]. But places like Ukraine have seen problems like power outages[12]. What’s your assessment of the threat to the US electrical grid and other physical infrastructure?
I think the advantage that the US has in a lot of its critical infrastructure is it’s not very connected yet. A lot of it is very legacy systems. When you’re talking about water systems, you have some large water systems in our country, but it’s still very local. The electric grid has a long history of resilience.

What we’re working with with all the different industries is to recognize what we’ve done to build resilient systems for natural hazards or terrorist attacks, and all these different things that people have been working on now for quite a long time, [and asking,] how can we use those processes to manage a cyber incident, and where is there potentially a difference?

0

Homeland Security's tall order: A hacker-free election

jeanette-manfra-head-of-cybersecurity-department-of-homeland-security-7600

James Martin/CNET

As lawmakers and federal investigators continue to try to understand the chaos foreign actors were able to create during the 2016 election, the US Department of Homeland Security has taken a central role in helping secure the next election.

The agency declared the US election system, which is run by a fragmented group of officials in all 50 states as well as dozens of smaller local governments, to be a part of the nation’s “critical infrastructure” in January 2017. The agency doesn’t have any legal authority over election officials, but it offers programs to help them keep hackers out of voting machines, voter registration databases and public-facing election websites.

Homeland Security’s top cybersecurity official, Jeanette Manfra, sat down with CNET to talk about the balancing act of helping secure elections without overstepping the federal government’s authority. She serves as the National Protection and Programs Directorate  Assistant Secretary for the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications at Homeland Security. Manfra told us that, so far, 32 states and 31 local governments have taken part in at least the most basic cybersecurity help offered by Homeland Security, and the agency will have finished 14 deeper assessments by the end of April.

What’s more, Manfra said Homeland Security hasn’t seen a concerted hacking effort targeting the election system like it saw in 2016 — so far.

“The intelligence community has said we have every reason to expect that this foreign influence activity will continue, but we don’t see any specific credible threat or targeting of election infrastructure,” Manfra said.

Manfra also talked with us about why she thinks a return to paper ballots wouldn’t create a totally secure election, what Homeland Security has done to secure the federal government since the disastrous Office of Personnel Management data breach in 2015, and how she thinks the government can help make the internet of things safer. Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation.

Question: Tell us what Homeland Security is doing to help states and local governments secure the vote.
Manfra: When the government has information that would be useful to election officials, that we get that to them.

We issued a few public statements[1] over the past couple of days about a series of meetings[2] with industry, with state and local government officials. If there’s somebody targeting a network or a system in your state, who are the people that we need to notify.

To the extent that they would like to take advantage of the services we have, we offer those as well. There’s everything from scanning — they provide us with their IP ranges, we provide them with a weekly report on any vulnerabilities that we identify.

The other one that’s been written about a lot is the risk and vulnerability assessment. It takes about three weeks. They lay out for us what their networks, what their systems look like. We try a variety of different things and identify where we saw some potential issues, some recommended mitigations, and we often times will talk through with them if they have any questions.

Can you speak to the difference between securing voting machines and securing voter rolls and other election related networks?
The voting machines tend to make a lot of news when you’ve got people talking about being able to hack into them. While technically somebody may be able to demonstrate it, it’s nearly impossible to gain physical access to those machines.

Then you’ve got all these other pieces of the system, where if somebody wanted to [they could] create confusion. It’s got nothing to do with actually changing a vote, but you try to get into these different systems, because people don’t understand necessarily how all of these pieces are very disconnected.

We published voter registration database best practices in 2016[3]. We’ve been working with software vendors. We’ve been working with state officials. How can they best ensure that their public-facing websites are protected? How can they ensure that there’s no disruption of voter rolls? We’re working with the different organizations that would publish [early results], whether that’s through a state site, or the AP.

Not that we’re seeing targeting of any of this. We’re just wanting to take a really comprehensive approach to what we consider election infrastructure. Because it’s virtually impossible to actually affect the vote count itself, then an adversary may want to look at other means.

Security experts have been warning that voting machines are vulnerable to hacks for years, even if they would have to be hacked in person. What’s your approach with the vendors of these machines in ensuring that this improves?
My approach with the vendor community is more nascent. We had a meeting with them last Thursday, and have had some individual meetings, and we’ve got our own team of experts to look and do some penetration testing. I would say it’s a little bit early for me to judge them, and pretty much anything is going to have some vulnerability that somebody is going to try to exploit.

I also believe that once you have a product, you also have to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to lower the risk. It’s not always a cyberfix for a cybervulnerability; sometimes it’s reducing physical access, like they’ve done, and there’s other mechanisms in place such as the transparency of our election process. We’ve got observers that are looking at the vote counts and would be able to identify if there’s any anomalous changes.

I’ve talked to some advocates who say we should move back to paper ballots across the board. Would that make things more secure?
I vote in a community who’s gone to paper ballots. That introduces different complexity that those digital machines were trying to overcome. I couldn’t say that that will just unilaterally remove all risk. Particularly because if you have an adversary whose goal is to just create confusion, and undermine confidence, it wouldn’t necessarily matter.

I do believe that there should be audit capability and redundant means for checking if there is suspicion that something happened. And I know a lot of states and localities already have it, and if they didn’t, they’re working on it.

If there’s no current signs of foreign activity against US election systems, that’s different from what you’ve said was seen in the 2016 election when 21 states were targeted and a few were actually — is breached the right word?
That’s been the subject of endless debates.

But now you’re saying you’re not seeing a specific, concerted efforts along those lines…
…targeting election systems at this time. But again, what the intelligence officials laid out is, there is no reason to believe that the previous activity would go away.

There was an initial announcement that elections would be considered critical infrastructure because there was concerns over federal involvement in the state and local processes. Can you speak to where those concerns are coming from and how you deal with the challenge of offering assistance in elections that Homeland Security doesn’t have authority over?
In our non-federal cybersecurity role, we’ve tried to focus on what are those critical services and functions that we depend upon. Access to clean water, electricity and communications, and confidence in the financial systems. We have no kind of oversight or directive authority over any of those functions. Some of them may be regulated by other parts of the state government or the federal government, but not by us. And we think that [Homeland Security’s] voluntary approaches have been very useful.

Not every state is using every service offered by Homeland Security. What are some of the reasons a state might not opt into some of this?
We have a lot of great partnerships with organizations across the country that never take any of our services because they’re buying their own. If they’d like to take advantage [of ours], then that’s great. It benefits both of us. We learn about their systems, and they’re able to participate in our programs for free.

What has changed in the government’s approach to securing federal networks since the Office of Personnel Management breach in June of 2015[4]?
That was only three years ago, [but] it feels like a lifetime. At Homeland Security, Congress has given us a lot of authority. [We’ve been] implementing those authorities, many of them we got in 2014 and 2015. The binding operational directive[5] is one that we’ve been using successfully. You saw in the president’s executive order[6] [in May 2017] very clearly that cabinet secretaries, heads of agencies, you are accountable for your cybersecurity. This needs to be a priority for you.

The first directive we issued was about patching critical vulnerabilities within 30 days. We were not there when that started. And we’re now largely in that [range].

How developed is the information sharing system authorized under the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act in 2015[7], and what has Homeland Security been able to do with it so far?
For the automated indicator sharing — remembering that it’s all about volume and velocity, and not about human validation for every single indicator — we’ve shared 1.8 million unique indicators through that program. We’ve got a little over 200 organizations that are signed up for it.

Are those private and public sector organizations?
Yes. And the 200 doesn’t necessarily mean a company or an agency. We’ve got a lot of information sharing organizations that have thousands of customers.

In 2016 we saw internet of things devices being used in unprecedented DDOS attacks[8]. Now we’re seeing botnets, including IoT botnets, caught up in cryptojacking schemes[9]. What do you see Homeland Security’s role in setting security standards for the growing network of sensors in our homes, workplaces and industrial settings?
In traditional consumer products, you can look at your microwave and see the UL seal there and you know that it’s passed some level of standards and certification. I think that is probably what we need for the so-called internet of things.

What we’ve looked at is Underwriter Laboratories, Energy Star and different things that have now become an industry standard — how did they develop? I think that there’s a government role in nurturing that process, but not dictating what the standards are. I think at one point the government said we’re only going to buy Energy Star products[10], and that was a very clear indicator for the market. I’m not suggesting that we have any plans along those lines, but I think it’s worthwhile looking back at how some of these different certification programs came about. I want to keep seeing the innovation, but I also want to see some standards.

When it comes to critical infrastructure like power plants and water systems, we’ve only seen small attacks in the US, such as the breach of a control system for a small dam in Rye Brook, NY[11]. But places like Ukraine have seen problems like power outages[12]. What’s your assessment of the threat to the US electrical grid and other physical infrastructure?
I think the advantage that the US has in a lot of its critical infrastructure is it’s not very connected yet. A lot of it is very legacy systems. When you’re talking about water systems, you have some large water systems in our country, but it’s still very local. The electric grid has a long history of resilience.

What we’re working with with all the different industries is to recognize what we’ve done to build resilient systems for natural hazards or terrorist attacks, and all these different things that people have been working on now for quite a long time, [and asking,] how can we use those processes to manage a cyber incident, and where is there potentially a difference?

0

Homeland Security's tall order: A hacker-free election

jeanette-manfra-head-of-cybersecurity-department-of-homeland-security-7600

James Martin/CNET

As lawmakers and federal investigators continue to try to understand the chaos foreign actors were able to create during the 2016 election, the US Department of Homeland Security has taken a central role in helping secure the next election.

The agency declared the US election system, which is run by a fragmented group of officials in all 50 states as well as dozens of smaller local governments, to be a part of the nation’s “critical infrastructure” in January 2017. The agency doesn’t have any legal authority over election officials, but it offers programs to help them keep hackers out of voting machines, voter registration databases and public-facing election websites.

Homeland Security’s top cybersecurity official, Jeanette Manfra, sat down with CNET to talk about the balancing act of helping secure elections without overstepping the federal government’s authority. She serves as the National Protection and Programs Directorate  Assistant Secretary for the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications at Homeland Security. Manfra told us that, so far, 32 states and 31 local governments have taken part in at least the most basic cybersecurity help offered by Homeland Security, and the agency will have finished 14 deeper assessments by the end of April.

What’s more, Manfra said Homeland Security hasn’t seen a concerted hacking effort targeting the election system like it saw in 2016 — so far.

“The intelligence community has said we have every reason to expect that this foreign influence activity will continue, but we don’t see any specific credible threat or targeting of election infrastructure,” Manfra said.

Manfra also talked with us about why she thinks a return to paper ballots wouldn’t create a totally secure election, what Homeland Security has done to secure the federal government since the disastrous Office of Personnel Management data breach in 2015, and how she thinks the government can help make the internet of things safer. Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation.

Question: Tell us what Homeland Security is doing to help states and local governments secure the vote.
Manfra: When the government has information that would be useful to election officials, that we get that to them.

We issued a few public statements[1] over the past couple of days about a series of meetings[2] with industry, with state and local government officials. If there’s somebody targeting a network or a system in your state, who are the people that we need to notify.

To the extent that they would like to take advantage of the services we have, we offer those as well. There’s everything from scanning — they provide us with their IP ranges, we provide them with a weekly report on any vulnerabilities that we identify.

The other one that’s been written about a lot is the risk and vulnerability assessment. It takes about three weeks. They lay out for us what their networks, what their systems look like. We try a variety of different things and identify where we saw some potential issues, some recommended mitigations, and we often times will talk through with them if they have any questions.

Can you speak to the difference between securing voting machines and securing voter rolls and other election related networks?
The voting machines tend to make a lot of news when you’ve got people talking about being able to hack into them. While technically somebody may be able to demonstrate it, it’s nearly impossible to gain physical access to those machines.

Then you’ve got all these other pieces of the system, where if somebody wanted to [they could] create confusion. It’s got nothing to do with actually changing a vote, but you try to get into these different systems, because people don’t understand necessarily how all of these pieces are very disconnected.

We published voter registration database best practices in 2016[3]. We’ve been working with software vendors. We’ve been working with state officials. How can they best ensure that their public-facing websites are protected? How can they ensure that there’s no disruption of voter rolls? We’re working with the different organizations that would publish [early results], whether that’s through a state site, or the AP.

Not that we’re seeing targeting of any of this. We’re just wanting to take a really comprehensive approach to what we consider election infrastructure. Because it’s virtually impossible to actually affect the vote count itself, then an adversary may want to look at other means.

Security experts have been warning that voting machines are vulnerable to hacks for years, even if they would have to be hacked in person. What’s your approach with the vendors of these machines in ensuring that this improves?
My approach with the vendor community is more nascent. We had a meeting with them last Thursday, and have had some individual meetings, and we’ve got our own team of experts to look and do some penetration testing. I would say it’s a little bit early for me to judge them, and pretty much anything is going to have some vulnerability that somebody is going to try to exploit.

I also believe that once you have a product, you also have to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to lower the risk. It’s not always a cyberfix for a cybervulnerability; sometimes it’s reducing physical access, like they’ve done, and there’s other mechanisms in place such as the transparency of our election process. We’ve got observers that are looking at the vote counts and would be able to identify if there’s any anomalous changes.

I’ve talked to some advocates who say we should move back to paper ballots across the board. Would that make things more secure?
I vote in a community who’s gone to paper ballots. That introduces different complexity that those digital machines were trying to overcome. I couldn’t say that that will just unilaterally remove all risk. Particularly because if you have an adversary whose goal is to just create confusion, and undermine confidence, it wouldn’t necessarily matter.

I do believe that there should be audit capability and redundant means for checking if there is suspicion that something happened. And I know a lot of states and localities already have it, and if they didn’t, they’re working on it.

If there’s no current signs of foreign activity against US election systems, that’s different from what you’ve said was seen in the 2016 election when 21 states were targeted and a few were actually — is breached the right word?
That’s been the subject of endless debates.

But now you’re saying you’re not seeing a specific, concerted efforts along those lines…
…targeting election systems at this time. But again, what the intelligence officials laid out is, there is no reason to believe that the previous activity would go away.

There was an initial announcement that elections would be considered critical infrastructure because there was concerns over federal involvement in the state and local processes. Can you speak to where those concerns are coming from and how you deal with the challenge of offering assistance in elections that Homeland Security doesn’t have authority over?
In our non-federal cybersecurity role, we’ve tried to focus on what are those critical services and functions that we depend upon. Access to clean water, electricity and communications, and confidence in the financial systems. We have no kind of oversight or directive authority over any of those functions. Some of them may be regulated by other parts of the state government or the federal government, but not by us. And we think that [Homeland Security’s] voluntary approaches have been very useful.

Not every state is using every service offered by Homeland Security. What are some of the reasons a state might not opt into some of this?
We have a lot of great partnerships with organizations across the country that never take any of our services because they’re buying their own. If they’d like to take advantage [of ours], then that’s great. It benefits both of us. We learn about their systems, and they’re able to participate in our programs for free.

What has changed in the government’s approach to securing federal networks since the Office of Personnel Management breach in June of 2015[4]?
That was only three years ago, [but] it feels like a lifetime. At Homeland Security, Congress has given us a lot of authority. [We’ve been] implementing those authorities, many of them we got in 2014 and 2015. The binding operational directive[5] is one that we’ve been using successfully. You saw in the president’s executive order[6] [in May 2017] very clearly that cabinet secretaries, heads of agencies, you are accountable for your cybersecurity. This needs to be a priority for you.

The first directive we issued was about patching critical vulnerabilities within 30 days. We were not there when that started. And we’re now largely in that [range].

How developed is the information sharing system authorized under the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act in 2015[7], and what has Homeland Security been able to do with it so far?
For the automated indicator sharing — remembering that it’s all about volume and velocity, and not about human validation for every single indicator — we’ve shared 1.8 million unique indicators through that program. We’ve got a little over 200 organizations that are signed up for it.

Are those private and public sector organizations?
Yes. And the 200 doesn’t necessarily mean a company or an agency. We’ve got a lot of information sharing organizations that have thousands of customers.

In 2016 we saw internet of things devices being used in unprecedented DDOS attacks[8]. Now we’re seeing botnets, including IoT botnets, caught up in cryptojacking schemes[9]. What do you see Homeland Security’s role in setting security standards for the growing network of sensors in our homes, workplaces and industrial settings?
In traditional consumer products, you can look at your microwave and see the UL seal there and you know that it’s passed some level of standards and certification. I think that is probably what we need for the so-called internet of things.

What we’ve looked at is Underwriter Laboratories, Energy Star and different things that have now become an industry standard — how did they develop? I think that there’s a government role in nurturing that process, but not dictating what the standards are. I think at one point the government said we’re only going to buy Energy Star products[10], and that was a very clear indicator for the market. I’m not suggesting that we have any plans along those lines, but I think it’s worthwhile looking back at how some of these different certification programs came about. I want to keep seeing the innovation, but I also want to see some standards.

When it comes to critical infrastructure like power plants and water systems, we’ve only seen small attacks in the US, such as the breach of a control system for a small dam in Rye Brook, NY[11]. But places like Ukraine have seen problems like power outages[12]. What’s your assessment of the threat to the US electrical grid and other physical infrastructure?
I think the advantage that the US has in a lot of its critical infrastructure is it’s not very connected yet. A lot of it is very legacy systems. When you’re talking about water systems, you have some large water systems in our country, but it’s still very local. The electric grid has a long history of resilience.

What we’re working with with all the different industries is to recognize what we’ve done to build resilient systems for natural hazards or terrorist attacks, and all these different things that people have been working on now for quite a long time, [and asking,] how can we use those processes to manage a cyber incident, and where is there potentially a difference?

0

EU to double funding for military force in West Africa's Sahel

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – International donors have raised half a billion dollars for a multi-national military operation in West Africa’s Sahel region, the EU’s top diplomat said on Friday, as Europe seeks to stop migrants and militants reaching its shores.

At a conference of about 50 countries including the United States, Japan and Norway, countries pledged 414 million euros ($509 million) for the G5 Sahel force, made up of troops from Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

The European Union, which believes training local forces will avoid risking the lives of its own combat troops, was one of the biggest donors, doubling its contribution to 116 million euros. It paves the way to make the force fully operational later this year.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stressed that promises had to be followed through on quickly to reach troops, while African leaders said the money so far would only cover the first year of operations.

France, the region’s former colonial power with more than 4,000 soldiers in the region, welcomed the donations after several years of struggling to raise sufficient financing.

The change in sentiment reflected concern that the Sahel could be a springboard for attacks on the West, diplomats said.

“We will continue our offensive alongside the G5 Sahel force to eradicate jihadi terrorist violence across the region,” France’s President Emmanuel Macron said, standing with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

Militants took over northern Mali in 2012 before French forces pushed them back in 2013 in an intervention that alerted Washington and others to the growing threat in the region.

The United States has some 800 troops in Niger, where four U.S. soldiers died in October, but global awareness of the security importance of the vast, desert region remains low.

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy struggled to name the five countries of Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania as he arrived at the conference.

(First row L-R) Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades take part in a group photo during a High Level Conference on the Sahel in Brussels, Belgium February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Olivier Hoslet/Pool

But Germany’s Merkel said the pledges showed the European Union’s commitment to stabilize the arid region: “We cannot only start to fight illegal migration in Libya. We have to start in Mali, Niger, Chad. All of Europe is involved,” she said.

The G5 Sahel operation, whose command base is in central Mali, is to swell to 5,000 personnel from seven battalions and will also engage in humanitarian and development work.

About 350,000 people traveled through Niger alone in 2017, mostly hoping to reach Europe but some trying to return home, according to the Red Cross.

Slideshow (13 Images)

TWO OPTIONS: MIGRATE OR DIE

Evoking the desperation young people feel in the impoverished Sahel, Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou said many had just two options in life: to die in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe or to die at the hands of militants.

“We have to act resolutely to change the face of the Sahel region or risk seeing this region of the world fall irreversibly into chaos and violence,” Issoufou told the conference after asking leaders and ministers to stand for a moment of silence for two French soldiers killed this week in Mali.

But Issoufou said the force would still need future financing on an annual basis of around 115 million euros and urged the West to take the fight against militants as seriously as it has taken the threat in Iraq and Syria.

As well as the European Union, pledges have come from the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, among others.

France is set to spend 1.2 billion euros to fund development in the region over the next five years, a 40 percent increase over current levels, while other countries are expected to provide more aid for farmers, schools and water projects.

The European Union is investing 8 billion euros in development aid in the region, according to EU data.

($1 = 0.8132 euros)

Additional reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; and Jean-Baptiste Vey

References

  1. ^ The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. (thomsonreuters.com)
0

EU to double funding for military force in West Africa's Sahel

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – International donors have raised half a billion dollars for a multi-national military operation in West Africa’s Sahel region, the EU’s top diplomat said on Friday, as Europe seeks to stop migrants and militants reaching its shores.

At a conference of about 50 countries including the United States, Japan and Norway, countries pledged 414 million euros ($509 million) for the G5 Sahel force, made up of troops from Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

The European Union, which believes training local forces will avoid risking the lives of its own combat troops, was one of the biggest donors, doubling its contribution to 116 million euros. It paves the way to make the force fully operational later this year.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stressed that promises had to be followed through on quickly to reach troops, while African leaders said the money so far would only cover the first year of operations.

France, the region’s former colonial power with more than 4,000 soldiers in the region, welcomed the donations after several years of struggling to raise sufficient financing.

The change in sentiment reflected concern that the Sahel could be a springboard for attacks on the West, diplomats said.

“We will continue our offensive alongside the G5 Sahel force to eradicate jihadi terrorist violence across the region,” France’s President Emmanuel Macron said, standing with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

Militants took over northern Mali in 2012 before French forces pushed them back in 2013 in an intervention that alerted Washington and others to the growing threat in the region.

The United States has some 800 troops in Niger, where four U.S. soldiers died in October, but global awareness of the security importance of the vast, desert region remains low.

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy struggled to name the five countries of Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania as he arrived at the conference.

(First row L-R) Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades take part in a group photo during a High Level Conference on the Sahel in Brussels, Belgium February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Olivier Hoslet/Pool

But Germany’s Merkel said the pledges showed the European Union’s commitment to stabilize the arid region: “We cannot only start to fight illegal migration in Libya. We have to start in Mali, Niger, Chad. All of Europe is involved,” she said.

The G5 Sahel operation, whose command base is in central Mali, is to swell to 5,000 personnel from seven battalions and will also engage in humanitarian and development work.

About 350,000 people traveled through Niger alone in 2017, mostly hoping to reach Europe but some trying to return home, according to the Red Cross.

Slideshow (13 Images)

TWO OPTIONS: MIGRATE OR DIE

Evoking the desperation young people feel in the impoverished Sahel, Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou said many had just two options in life: to die in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe or to die at the hands of militants.

“We have to act resolutely to change the face of the Sahel region or risk seeing this region of the world fall irreversibly into chaos and violence,” Issoufou told the conference after asking leaders and ministers to stand for a moment of silence for two French soldiers killed this week in Mali.

But Issoufou said the force would still need future financing on an annual basis of around 115 million euros and urged the West to take the fight against militants as seriously as it has taken the threat in Iraq and Syria.

As well as the European Union, pledges have come from the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, among others.

France is set to spend 1.2 billion euros to fund development in the region over the next five years, a 40 percent increase over current levels, while other countries are expected to provide more aid for farmers, schools and water projects.

The European Union is investing 8 billion euros in development aid in the region, according to EU data.

($1 = 0.8132 euros)

Additional reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; and Jean-Baptiste Vey

References

  1. ^ The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. (thomsonreuters.com)
0

EU to double funding for military force in West Africa's Sahel region

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – International donors have raised half a billion dollars for a multi-national military operation in West Africa’s Sahel region, the EU’s top diplomat said on Friday, as Europe seeks to stop migrants and militants reaching its shores.

At a conference of about 50 countries including the United States, Japan and Norway, countries pledged 414 million euros ($509 million) for the G5 Sahel force, made up of troops from Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

The European Union, which believes training local forces will avoid risking the lives of its own combat troops, was one of the biggest donors, doubling its contribution to 116 million euros. It paves the way to make the force fully operational later this year.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stressed that promises had to be followed through on quickly to reach troops, while African leaders said the money so far would only cover the first year of operations.

France, the region’s former colonial power with more than 4,000 soldiers in the region, welcomed the donations after several years of struggling to raise sufficient financing.

The change in sentiment reflected concern that the Sahel could be a springboard for attacks on the West, diplomats said.

“We will continue our offensive alongside the G5 Sahel force to eradicate jihadi terrorist violence across the region,” France’s President Emmanuel Macron said, standing with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

Militants took over northern Mali in 2012 before French forces pushed them back in 2013 in an intervention that alerted Washington and others to the growing threat in the region.

The United States has some 800 troops in Niger, where four U.S. soldiers died in October, but global awareness of the security importance of the vast, desert region remains low.

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy struggled to name the five countries of Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania as he arrived at the conference.

(First row L-R) Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades take part in a group photo during a High Level Conference on the Sahel in Brussels, Belgium February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Olivier Hoslet/Pool

But Germany’s Merkel said the pledges showed the European Union’s commitment to stabilize the arid region: “We cannot only start to fight illegal migration in Libya. We have to start in Mali, Niger, Chad. All of Europe is involved,” she said.

The G5 Sahel operation, whose command base is in central Mali, is to swell to 5,000 personnel from seven battalions and will also engage in humanitarian and development work.

About 350,000 people traveled through Niger alone in 2017, mostly hoping to reach Europe but some trying to return home, according to the Red Cross.

Slideshow (13 Images)

TWO OPTIONS: MIGRATE OR DIE

Evoking the desperation young people feel in the impoverished Sahel, Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou said many had just two options in life: to die in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe or to die at the hands of militants.

“We have to act resolutely to change the face of the Sahel region or risk seeing this region of the world fall irreversibly into chaos and violence,” Issoufou told the conference after asking leaders and ministers to stand for a moment of silence for two French soldiers killed this week in Mali.

But Issoufou said the force would still need future financing on an annual basis of around 115 million euros and urged the West to take the fight against militants as seriously as it has taken the threat in Iraq and Syria.

As well as the European Union, pledges have come from the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, among others.

France is set to spend 1.2 billion euros to fund development in the region over the next five years, a 40 percent increase over current levels, while other countries are expected to provide more aid for farmers, schools and water projects.

The European Union is investing 8 billion euros in development aid in the region, according to EU data.

($1 = 0.8132 euros)

Additional reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; and Jean-Baptiste Vey

References

  1. ^ The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. (thomsonreuters.com)
0

EU to double funding for military force in West Africa's Sahel region

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union will double its funding for a multi-national military operation in West Africa’s Sahel region to counter Islamist insurgencies, the EU’s top diplomat said on Friday, part of a broader effort to stop migrants and militants.

At a donor conference of about 50 countries including the United States, Japan and Norway, former colonial power France looked set to win enough backing to allow the new regional force to be fully operational later this year.

“This is not about charity, this is a partnership,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters, promising a doubling of EU funding to 100 million euros for the G5 Sahel force, made up of troops from Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

The G5 Sahel force needs more than 400 million euros ($494 million) to be able to meet the demands of its Western backers, up from the 250 million euros it has now.

Evoking the desperation young people feel in the impoverished Sahel, Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou said many had just two options in life: to die in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe or to die at the hands of militants.

“We have to act resolutely to change the face of the Sahel region or risk seeing this region of the world fall irreversibly into chaos and violence,” Issoufou told the conference after asking leaders and ministers to stand for a moment of silence for two French soldiers killed this week in Mali.

Fears that violence in the arid zone could fuel already high levels of migration toward Europe and become a springboard for attacks on the West have made military and development aid there a priority for European nations and Washington.

While the deaths of four U.S. soldiers in October in Niger have highlighted the security threat, public awareness is low. Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy struggled to name the five countries of Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania as he arrived at the conference.

(First row L-R) Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades take part in a group photo during a High Level Conference on the Sahel in Brussels, Belgium February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Olivier Hoslet/Pool

France, which has more than 4,000 troops in the region, hopes to reach at least 300 million euros in military aid on Friday to overcome financing problems for the force that was first proposed in 2014, while militants have scored military victories in West Africa.

So far, the United States has pledged 60 million euros to support it. Another 100 million euros has been pledged by Saudi Arabia, 30 million from the United Arab Emirates and 40 million on a bilateral basis by EU member states, separate from the EU.

The G5 Sahel operation, whose command base is in central Mali, is to swell to 5,000 personnel from seven battalions and will also engage in humanitarian and development work.

Slideshow (13 Images)

“PRICE OF PEACE”

France is also set to pledge 1.2 billion euros to fund development in the region over the next five years, a 40 percent increase over current levels, while other countries are expected to provide more aid for farmers, schools and water projects.

Mogherini said the European Union was spending 8 billion euros in development aid in the region over eight years.

“Peace has no price, peace is made with financial support” Mogherini said.

French President Emmanuel Macron will call for more to be done to support a separate EU train-and-advise mission in Mali, an EU diplomat said, and is seeking 50 more EU troops after Belgian soldiers ended their tour in the mission.

France has been frustrated that it is the only EU member with combat troops on the ground, although others have contributed trainers. By training African forces, Paris sees an eventual exit strategy for what is its biggest foreign deployment, diplomats said.

Tuaregs and jihadists took over northern Mali in 2012 before French forces pushed them back in 2013 in an intervention that alerted Washington to the growing threat in the region.

Additional reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Janet Lawrence

References

  1. ^ The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. (thomsonreuters.com)
0

“We should act”: former top military officials tweet support for gun reform – Vox

Two of America’s most respected former military leaders tweeted out their support for gun reform on Wednesday. Their voices added to a growing chorus of current and former military service members who want gun laws changed after a shooter killed 17 people[1] at a Florida high school last week.

Retired Gen. Martin Dempsey, the former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired Adm. William McRaven — formerly the nation’s top special operations officer — backed the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Twitter.

“Our next generation of young Americans are calling for inclusion in finding solutions to keep our children safe,” Dempsey, former President Barack Obama’s top military adviser, tweeted[2] on Wednesday. “I’m proud of them. They are right, they should be heard, we should listen, and we should act.”

About four hours later, McRaven put out his own statement on Twitter: “This is exactly what we need the youth of America to do: to stand strong, to stand together, to challenges the laws that have not served them well.”

Those messages are a big deal. These former military officers, especially McRaven, know what it’s like to carry around an assault rifle and kill someone with it. They understand the awesome power and responsibility that comes with wielding a weapon of war. For them to speak out an amplify the message of Parkland’s students could lend more legitimacy to their activism.

And they’re not alone — other military veterans are also increasingly speaking up in favor of gun reform. “We believe in the Second Amendment and the individual right to bear arms,” Joe Plenzler, a retired 20-year Marine combat veteran who forms part of the online #VetsForGunReform movement, told me, “but we also believe that the Second Amendment is not an unlimited right.”

In other words, Plenzer said, civilians shouldn’t necessarily be entitled to own and operate military-grade weaponry. “We don’t allow people to hunt rabbits with rocket-propelled grenades,” added Plenzler, who also served as an aide to current Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Joseph Dunford and current Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

If seeing former military officials campaign for gun law reform feels new, it’s not. It’s happened again and again after mass shootings — and it appears the current iteration is only heating up.

Some of the nation’s most prominent veterans have openly called for changes to gun laws for years.

Here are a few examples: In 2013, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal — who commanded America’s elite troops worldwide as well as troops in Afghanistan — came out in support of gun control. “I think serious action is necessary,” he told[3] MSNBC’s Morning Joe in 2013.

”Sometimes we talk about very limited actions on the edges and I just don’t think that’s enough,” he continued. “The number of people in America killed by firearms is extraordinary compared to other nations. And I don’t think we’re a bloodthirsty culture, and so I think we need to look at everything we can do to safeguard our people.”

Retired Gen. David Petraeus, who commanded troops in Iraq and served as Obama’s CIA director, co-created the gun control advocacy group Veterans Coalition for Common Sense[4] in 2016.

“As service members, each of us swore an oath to protect our Constitution and the homeland,” Petraeus and his co-founder, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, wrote[5] in a statement. “Now we’re asking our leaders to do more to protect our rights and save lives.”

And last November, Dr. Dean Winslow, a former Air Force colonel whom President Donald Trump nominated as the Pentagon’s top health affairs official, openly derided the idea of civilians owning assault rifles.

“I’d also like to, and I may get in trouble with other members of the committee, just say how insane it is that in the United States of America a civilian can go out and buy a semiautomatic assault rifle like an AR-15,” Winslow said[6] during his own confirmation hearing.

I asked Plenzler why politicians, especially Republicans, who usually support positions of current and former military officials seem to ignore their advice on gun issues. “It’s all about money,” he said, adding that he believes the National Rifle Association’s influence on politicians has blinded American leaders to the risks of civilian ownership of military-grade weapons.

As of now, it seems like the Parkland students have found an audience for their activism. Many who served in uniform want to stand alongside them.

References

  1. ^ 17 people (www.vox.com)
  2. ^ tweeted (twitter.com)
  3. ^ told (www.washingtonpost.com)
  4. ^ Veterans Coalition for Common Sense (giffords.org)
  5. ^ wrote (www.cnn.com)
  6. ^ said (www.vox.com)
0

“We should act”: former top military officials tweet support for gun reform – Vox

Two of America’s most respected former military leaders tweeted out their support for gun reform on Wednesday. Their voices added to a growing chorus of current and former military service members who want gun laws changed after a shooter killed 17 people[1] at a Florida high school last week.

Retired Gen. Martin Dempsey, the former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired Adm. William McRaven — formerly the nation’s top special operations officer — backed the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Twitter.

“Our next generation of young Americans are calling for inclusion in finding solutions to keep our children safe,” Dempsey, former President Barack Obama’s top military adviser, tweeted[2] on Wednesday. “I’m proud of them. They are right, they should be heard, we should listen, and we should act.”

About four hours later, McRaven put out his own statement on Twitter: “This is exactly what we need the youth of America to do: to stand strong, to stand together, to challenges the laws that have not served them well.”

Those messages are a big deal. These former military officers, especially McRaven, know what it’s like to carry around an assault rifle and kill someone with it. They understand the awesome power and responsibility that comes with wielding a weapon of war. For them to speak out an amplify the message of Parkland’s students could lend more legitimacy to their activism.

And they’re not alone — other military veterans are also increasingly speaking up in favor of gun reform. “We believe in the Second Amendment and the individual right to bear arms,” Joe Plenzler, a retired 20-year Marine combat veteran who forms part of the online #VetsForGunReform movement, told me, “but we also believe that the Second Amendment is not an unlimited right.”

In other words, Plenzer said, civilians shouldn’t necessarily be entitled to own and operate military-grade weaponry. “We don’t allow people to hunt rabbits with rocket-propelled grenades,” added Plenzler, who also served as an aide to current Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Joseph Dunford and current Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

If seeing former military officials campaign for gun law reform feels new, it’s not. It’s happened again and again after mass shootings — and it appears the current iteration is only heating up.

Some of the nation’s most prominent veterans have openly called for changes to gun laws for years.

Here are a few examples: In 2013, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal — who commanded America’s elite troops worldwide as well as troops in Afghanistan — came out in support of gun control. “I think serious action is necessary,” he told[3] MSNBC’s Morning Joe in 2013.

”Sometimes we talk about very limited actions on the edges and I just don’t think that’s enough,” he continued. “The number of people in America killed by firearms is extraordinary compared to other nations. And I don’t think we’re a bloodthirsty culture, and so I think we need to look at everything we can do to safeguard our people.”

Retired Gen. David Petraeus, who commanded troops in Iraq and served as Obama’s CIA director, co-created the gun control advocacy group Veterans Coalition for Common Sense[4] in 2016.

“As service members, each of us swore an oath to protect our Constitution and the homeland,” Petraeus and his co-founder, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, wrote[5] in a statement. “Now we’re asking our leaders to do more to protect our rights and save lives.”

And last November, Dr. Dean Winslow, a former Air Force colonel whom President Donald Trump nominated as the Pentagon’s top health affairs official, openly derided the idea of civilians owning assault rifles.

“I’d also like to, and I may get in trouble with other members of the committee, just say how insane it is that in the United States of America a civilian can go out and buy a semiautomatic assault rifle like an AR-15,” Winslow said[6] during his own confirmation hearing.

I asked Plenzler why politicians, especially Republicans, who usually support positions of current and former military officials seem to ignore their advice on gun issues. “It’s all about money,” he said, adding that he believes the National Rifle Association’s influence on politicians has blinded American leaders to the risks of civilian ownership of military-grade weapons.

As of now, it seems like the Parkland students have found an audience for their activism. Many who served in uniform want to stand alongside them.

References

  1. ^ 17 people (www.vox.com)
  2. ^ tweeted (twitter.com)
  3. ^ told (www.washingtonpost.com)
  4. ^ Veterans Coalition for Common Sense (giffords.org)
  5. ^ wrote (www.cnn.com)
  6. ^ said (www.vox.com)
0

“We should act”: former top military officials tweet support for gun reform – Vox

Two of America’s most respected former military leaders tweeted out their support for gun reform on Wednesday. Their voices added to a growing chorus of current and former military service members who want gun laws changed after a shooter killed 17 people[1] at a Florida high school last week.

Retired Gen. Martin Dempsey, the former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired Adm. William McRaven — formerly the nation’s top special operations officer — backed the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Twitter.

“Our next generation of young Americans are calling for inclusion in finding solutions to keep our children safe,” Dempsey, former President Barack Obama’s top military adviser, tweeted[2] on Wednesday. “I’m proud of them. They are right, they should be heard, we should listen, and we should act.”

About four hours later, McRaven put out his own statement on Twitter: “This is exactly what we need the youth of America to do: to stand strong, to stand together, to challenges the laws that have not served them well.”

Those messages are a big deal. These former military officers, especially McRaven, know what it’s like to carry around an assault rifle and kill someone with it. They understand the awesome power and responsibility that comes with wielding a weapon of war. For them to speak out an amplify the message of Parkland’s students could lend more legitimacy to their activism.

And they’re not alone — other military veterans are also increasingly speaking up in favor of gun reform. “We believe in the Second Amendment and the individual right to bear arms,” Joe Plenzler, a retired 20-year Marine combat veteran who forms part of the online #VetsForGunReform movement, told me, “but we also believe that the Second Amendment is not an unlimited right.”

In other words, Plenzer said, civilians shouldn’t necessarily be entitled to own and operate military-grade weaponry. “We don’t allow people to hunt rabbits with rocket-propelled grenades,” added Plenzler, who also served as an aide to current Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Joseph Dunford and current Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

If seeing former military officials campaign for gun law reform feels new, it’s not. It’s happened again and again after mass shootings — and it appears the current iteration is only heating up.

Some of the nation’s most prominent veterans have openly called for changes to gun laws for years.

Here are a few examples: In 2013, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal — who commanded America’s elite troops worldwide as well as troops in Afghanistan — came out in support of gun control. “I think serious action is necessary,” he told[3] MSNBC’s Morning Joe in 2013.

”Sometimes we talk about very limited actions on the edges and I just don’t think that’s enough,” he continued. “The number of people in America killed by firearms is extraordinary compared to other nations. And I don’t think we’re a bloodthirsty culture, and so I think we need to look at everything we can do to safeguard our people.”

Retired Gen. David Petraeus, who commanded troops in Iraq and served as Obama’s CIA director, co-created the gun control advocacy group Veterans Coalition for Common Sense[4] in 2016.

“As service members, each of us swore an oath to protect our Constitution and the homeland,” Petraeus and his co-founder, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, wrote[5] in a statement. “Now we’re asking our leaders to do more to protect our rights and save lives.”

And last November, Dr. Dean Winslow, a former Air Force colonel whom President Donald Trump nominated as the Pentagon’s top health affairs official, openly derided the idea of civilians owning assault rifles.

“I’d also like to, and I may get in trouble with other members of the committee, just say how insane it is that in the United States of America a civilian can go out and buy a semiautomatic assault rifle like an AR-15,” Winslow said[6] during his own confirmation hearing.

I asked Plenzler why politicians, especially Republicans, who usually support positions of current and former military officials seem to ignore their advice on gun issues. “It’s all about money,” he said, adding that he believes the National Rifle Association’s influence on politicians has blinded American leaders to the risks of civilian ownership of military-grade weapons.

As of now, it seems like the Parkland students have found an audience for their activism. Many who served in uniform want to stand alongside them.

References

  1. ^ 17 people (www.vox.com)
  2. ^ tweeted (twitter.com)
  3. ^ told (www.washingtonpost.com)
  4. ^ Veterans Coalition for Common Sense (giffords.org)
  5. ^ wrote (www.cnn.com)
  6. ^ said (www.vox.com)