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January 16 2016

January 18, 2016


 

 

16 January 2016

Newswire

Blog URL https://newswirefeed.wordpress.com/

 

 

9 DoD IT moves you missed over the holidays

Amber Corrin, Senior Staff Writer 3:14 p.m. EST January 8, 2016

http://www.c4isrnet.com/story/military-tech/it/2016/01/08/while-you-were-out-9-defense-technology-things-you-missed-over-holidays/78515378/

 

Between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, most people were checked out of the office – but not so at the Pentagon, where over the holidays new guidance, memos, reports and contract action all quietly emerged under the radar. Here are nine things that happened in the world of defense IT while you were out being merry, bright and waiting for the ball to drop.

1. The Defense Department updated data-breach reporting rules for contractors.

With a second version of Network Penetration Reporting and Contracting for Cloud Services, Pentagon officials on Dec. 30 relaxed some rules after industry said it needed more time. Previously, contractors were expected to report it immediately upon winning a contract if they weren’t up to par with certain National Institute of Standards and Technology security controls. Contractors also need measures like multistep login procedures for systems, which had to be in place by June 2016. While DoD wants all the security requirements met as soon as possible, the new deadline is the end of 2017.

2. DoD multi-year contracts got some extra scrutiny.

In a proposed rule published Dec. 30 in the Federal Register, Congress would set criteria for DoD agencies to meet before entering into, and terminating, multi-year contracts. Those requirements include not paying contractor before costs are incurred and giving Congress a 30-day heads-up before terminating any multi-year contract. The measures are part of broader cost-cutting efforts laid out in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.

3. The DoD CIO issued a new IT services memo.

On Dec. 24, DoD CIO Terry Halvorsen released a new DoD IT Services Management instruction to standardize IT services, set up ways to measure effectiveness and further develop and promote DoD enterprise IT capabilities. It also lays out responsibilities for DoD offices and outlines how they and the DoD CIO will execute on the DoD Enterprise Service Management Framework – basically the new(ish) blueprint for the Joint Information Environment.

4. The DoD CIO got dinged on cloud definitions.

In an audit released Dec. 28, DoD Inspector General found that a lack of specific definitions for cloud, as well as an integrated repository with detailed cloud contract data, make it tough to measure savings and standardize cloud services across the military. The DoD CIO office didn’t really agree but has to hand over more answers to the IG by Jan. 27 anyway.

5. DISA and Army clamped down on email inboxes.

Following through on promises made earlier this summer, officials at the Defense Information Systems Agency and the Army said Jan. 4 they’re enforcing limits on email inbox sizes. When users rack up too many messages, they’ll get a warning and eventually not be able to send email until they do a clean-up. The move is to streamline operations and costs, officials said.

6. The Navy released a second request for information for NGEN.

The current NGEN contract, which manages the service’s massive Navy-Marine Corps Intranet-slash-most of its major IT services, doesn’t expire until 2018, but the Navy wants to get ahead. The RFI, the second one to come for the follow-on contract, focuses on end-user hardware and asks industry for feedback on the best ways to buy it.

7. The Air Force asked for feedback on a tactical cloud.

The service wants airmen to be able to access data in the cloud regardless of connectivity. In their words, they’re looking for “experimental instantiations of the managed aerial layer network employing dynamic cloud capabilities that do not rely solely on satcom or ground entry points, but may operate for up to seven days without intervention.”

8. The General Services Administration is sinking big money into satcom.

GSA on Dec. 29 issued a new $2.5 billion issued a request for proposals for its Complex Commercial Satellite Communications Solutions, or CS3. The vehicle will provide contracts for buying complex, customized commercial SATCOM capabilities; DISA is handling the military side of things.

9. The Chief of Naval Operations envisions superiority.

He took over as Chief of Naval Operations in September, and on Jan. 5 Adm. John Richardson issued his “Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority,” outlining his priorities over the next four years. In the guidance Richardson describes the evolving strategic environment and targets expanding partnerships, the Navy of the future and strengthened naval power, including advancing information warfare.

Iran pours concrete into nuclear reactor, expects sanctions relief

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/iran-pours-concrete-into-nuclear-reactor-expects-sanctions-relief/2016/01/11/67011cda-b8a1-11e5-b682-4bb4dd403c7d_story.html

By Carol Morello January 11

 

Iran removed the core of its plutonium reactor and filled it with concrete Monday, paving the way for economic and financial sanctions to be lifted soon.

The work that effectively rendered the reactor at Arak harmless was the last major hurdle for Iran to fulfill its commitments under a landmark deal reached just shy of six months ago in Vienna. The International Atomic Energy Agency must verify that everything was done satisfactorily before U.S. and international sanctions can be lifted. But that is expected to take days, not weeks.

“In a few days, we will see the end of the cruel sanctions against Iran,” President Hassan Rouhani said in a speech in southern Iran. “When sanctions end, I will explain to people how great of an accomplishment this is.”

The lifting of sanctions will unlock Iran’s access to about $100 billion in its own assets that has been frozen in foreign banks. The United States and the United Nations have prepared the legal steps necessary for sanctions relief to take effect.

That should give Rouhani a significant political boost before parliamentary elections in late February. He won election in 2013 promising to end sanctions that have undercut the economy. He returned to that theme in his speech Monday, when he predicted the upcoming new year, which is marked in Iran in March, would be a one of “economic revival” despite oil prices slumping to an 11-year low.

 

 

ISIS Has Built A Secure Messaging App

January 12, 2016 By Patrick Tucker

http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2016/01/isis-now-has-new-secure-messaging-app/125062/

ISIS has a new Android app for exchanging secure messages, joining another app that distributes propaganda and recruiting material, according to a counterterrorism network called the Ghost Security Group.

Last month, Ghost Security and others, observed ISIS members using private messages on the Telegram app and direct messages on Twitter to send followers to a site (since vanished) to download the Amaq Agency app.

“The application’s primary purpose is for propaganda distribution. Using the app you are able to follow the most recent news and video clips.” Ghost Security representatives told Defense One. The Amaq Agency has known ties to Islamic State and issued statements in support of the attackers in the recent California shootings before all the details were publicly available. .

Shortly after, Ghost Security discovered a separate app called Alrawi.apk, or just “the Alrawi app,” Initially, they believed it to resemble the Amaq Agency app. But on Jan. 11, they discovered “encrypted communications features although rudimentary to Telegram or other more-company created ones,” a Ghost Security representative told Defense One in an email.

The app joins ISIS’ other known methods of communication to individuals and groups. Among their favorite is Telegram, the a messaging app created by Pavel Durov, a Russian entrepreneur residing in Germany. Telegram allows encrypted communication to individuals, similar to Facebook’s WhatsApp; as well as a public broadcasting capability.

Immediately after the Paris attacks in November, credited to ISIS-affiliated gunmen, Telegram suspended 78 public ISIS-related channels in 12 languages. But Durov has made no promises that private chats could be shut down.

Predictions of an imminent end to sanctions were echoed by European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who said Monday in Prague that the implementation day of the Iran agreement “could come rather soon.” Last week, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said it was just “days away.”

The desire to get the money, which Iran desperately needs to rebuild creaky infrastructure and pay off debts, has propelled Tehran to move speedily in fulfilling the promises it made in Geneva in July. Just two weeks ago, it shipped out most of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. It has dismantled thousands of uranium-enriching centrifuges and placed them into storage. Dismantling the Arak reactor, which would have produced enough plutonium to make two nuclear weapons a year, was the last major chore.

“In removing the core of the reactor, Iran has moved past the point of no return,” said Kelsey Davenport, director of nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association. “We’re on the brink of a historic accomplishment that limits Iran’s nuclear capabilities.”

The work has gone faster than U.S. officials predicted. When the agreement was reached last year, they estimated it would take Iran six to nine months and said sanctions would not be lifted before this spring. In part, they were making guesses on a process with limited precedent — the dismantling of a nuclear program. But they also underestimated Tehran’s determination to end sanctions.

“A key driver was the motivation of the Rouhani administration to get this done before the February elections,” said Robert Einhorn, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Clearly the administration wants to try to reap the electoral benefit of sanctions relief.”

Even as the deal’s implementation races forward, members of Congress have been urging President Obama to impose new sanctions on Iran related to ballistics missile tests it conducted in October and November. Iran has said that would violate and nullify the deal, and such legislation would probably be vetoed by Obama.

“I don’t think at this stage there’s anything Congress could do to derail ‘Implementation Day,’ ” Einhorn said.

 

Why Amazon’s Data Centers Are Hidden in US Spy Country

January 8, 2016

By Ingrid Burrington

The Atlantic

Once in a while—not quite often enough to be a crisis, but just often enough to be a trope—people in the United States will freak out because a huge number of highly popular websites and services have suddenly gone down. For an interminable period of torture (usually about 1-3 hours, tops) there is no Instagram to browse, no Tinder to swipe, no Github to push to, no Netflix to And Chill.

 

When this happens, it usually means that Amazon Web Services is having a technical problem, most likely in their US-East region. What that actually means is that something is broken in northern Virginia. Of all the places where Amazon operates data centers, northern Virginia is one of the most significant, in part because it’s where AWS first set up shop in 2006. It seemed appropriate that this vision quest to see The Cloud across America which began at the ostensible birthplace of the Internet should end at the place that’s often to blame when large parts of the U.S. Internet dies.

Northern Virginia is a pretty convenient place to start a cloud-services business: for reasons we’ll get into later, it’s a central region for Internet backbone. For the notoriously economical and utilitarian Amazon, this meant that it could quickly set up shop with minimal overhead in the area, leasing or buying older data centers rather than building new ones from scratch.

The ease with which AWS was able to get off the ground by leasing colocation space in northern Virginia in 2006 is the same reason that US-East is the most fragile molecule of the AWS cloud: it’s old, and it’s running on old equipment in old buildings.

Or, that’s what one might conclude from spending a day driving around looking for and at these data centers. When I contacted AWS to ask specific questions about the data-center region, how they ended up there, and the process of deciding between building data centers from scratch versus leasing existing ones, they declined to comment.

Unlike Google and Facebook, AWS doesn’t aggressively brand or call attention to their data centers. They absolutely don’t give tours, and their website offers only rough approximations of the locations of their data centers, which are divided into “regions.” Within a region lies at minimum two “availability zones” and within the availability zones there are a handful of data centers.

I knew I wasn’t going to be able to find the entirety of AWS’ northern Virginia footprint, but I could probably find bits and pieces of it. My itinerary was a slightly haphazard one, based on looking for anything tied to Vadata, Inc., Amazon’s subsidiary company for all things data-center-oriented.

Google’s web crawlers don’t particularly care about AWS’ preference of staying below the radar, and searching for Vadata, Inc. sometimes pulls up addresses that probably first appeared on some deeply buried municipal paperwork and were added to Google Maps by a robot. It’s also not too hard to go straight to those original municipal documents with addresses and other cool information, like fines from utility companies and documentation of tax arrangements made specifically for AWS. (Pro tip for the rookie data-center mapper: if you’re looking for the data centers of other major companies, Foursquare check-ins are also a surprisingly rich resource). My weird hack research methods returned a handful of Vadata addresses scattered throughout the area: Ashburn, Sterling, Haymarket, Manassas, Chantilly.

Before I knew northern Virginia as the heart of the Internet, I knew it as spook country—that is, home to a constellation of intelligence agencies and defense contractors. While I didn’t plan my itinerary around the military-industrial complex, its many outposts remained in the back of my mind and frequently on the horizon—and, at least once during the drive, I just stumbled upon them. After missing an exit in McLean, I made a U-turn in a generically designed but improbably well-guarded office-park entrance that I later found out was the headquarters of the Office of the Directorate for National Intelligence.

The fact that northern Virginia is home to major intelligence operations and to major nodes of network infrastructure isn’t exactly a sign of government conspiracy so much as a confluence of histories (best documented by Paul Ceruzzi in his criminally under-read history Internet Alley: High Technology In Tysons Corner, 1945-2005). To explain why a region surrounded mostly by farmland and a scattering of American Civil War monuments is a central point of Internet infrastructure, we have to go back to where a lot of significant moments in Internet history take place: the Cold War.

 

Postwar suburbanization and the expansion of transportation networks are occasionally overlooked, but weirdly crucial facets of the military-industrial complex. While suburbs were largely marketed to the public via barely concealed racism and the appeal of manicured “natural” landscapes, suburban sprawl’s dispersal of populations also meant increased likelihood of survival in the case of nuclear attack. Highways both facilitated suburbs and supported the movement of ground troops across the continental United States, should they need to defend it (lest we forget that the legislation that funded much of the U.S. highway system was called the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956).

Both of these factors were at play in the unincorporated area of northern Virginia known as Tysons Corner, an area just far away enough from Washington to be relatively safe from nuclear attack but close enough to remain accessible. One of the region’s earliest military outposts was actually a piece of communications infrastructure: a microwave tower built in 1952 that was the first among several relays connecting Washington to the “Federal Relocation Arc” of secret underground bunkers created in case of nuclear attack.

The particular alignments of highways that eventually connected Dulles International Airport in Virginia to the Capitol Beltway basically made this pocket of northern Virginia the first and last place for any commercial activities between the airport and D.C. This led to an outcropping of office parks that housed not only defense contractors, but also government IT and time-sharing services and, later, companies like MCI, AOL, and UUNet. Thanks to that concentration of network companies and a whole lot of support from the National Science Foundation, Tysons Corner became home to MAE-East, one of the earliest Internet exchanges and home to the foundation of what would become that Internet backbone. Networks build atop networks, and the presence of this backbone in Tysons Corner led to more backbone, more tech companies, and more data centers. Today, up to 70 percent of Internet traffic worldwide travels through this region, as the Loudon county economic-development board cheerfully notes in its marketing materials.

An unfathomable amount of that traffic is from AWS. Amazon doesn’t release exact numbers at to just how much of the global Internet currently sits atop its infrastructure. In 2012, a now-lost blog post by network-intelligence startup DeepField estimated that on average, one-third of all daily Internet usage accesses a site running on AWS. Over the last three years, that percentage has most likely only increased. Finding more recent numbers is tricky, although it seems agreed upon that Amazon is the largest hosting company operating today, projected to exceed $8 billion this year alone. While this exact calculation of how much of the Internet sits within Amazon’s cloud is uncertain, the calculation of how much revenue Amazon generates from that cloud is crystal clear—and massive.

According to Amazon lore, few within the company really anticipated the scale and impact of the service when it launched—they were mostly trying to solve an internal company problem, namely speeding up deployment of new applications and services. The solution was to make that build-up of the basic development infrastructure something that could be rapidly deployed and scaled as needed. AWS emerged out of the recognition that the services Amazon needed also met a growing industry need for web-scale application infrastructure.

Reporting on AWS history rarely spends much time on the data centers themselves. The actual infrastructure at the heart of AWS’ infrastructure-as-a-service isn’t the thing that makes it important to developers; it’s the services and APIs built on top of that infrastructure. So it made sense that when I stood outside some of the Vadata buildings from my hackish itinerary that I mostly gazed upon warehouses and vacuous-looking colocation buildings.

I had a soft spot for one of the data centers on my itinerary: a building in Sterling, Virginia, that I’d visited two years ago on a similar vision quest. The data center is next door to a pet resort (which always fills me with a weird glee imagining the secretly very stressful life of pets implied in the need for a resort) and down the road from a strip mall. The sheer unremarkability of the building—despite its conspicuous water tanks, its generators, its high fences, and surveillance cameras—serve as a reminder of why it’s easy to overlook how important AWS is to the public experience and perception of The Cloud.

Amazon didn’t invent the principles behind cloud computing, but they made the infrastructure of cloud computing into a dirt-cheap commodity. In Brad Stone’s The Everything Store, Jeff Bezos is quoted comparing AWS to power utilities: “You go back in time a hundred years, if you wanted to have electricity, you had to build your own little electric power plant, and a lot of factories did this. As soon as the electric-power grid came online, they dumped their electric-power generator, and they started buying power off the grid. It just makes more sense. And that’s what is starting to happen with infrastructure computing.”

In practice, this meant that pricing for services was entirely contingent on actual use, an approach that allowed developers to rapidly scale small startups into massive companies by paying for infrastructure support on an as-needed basis and scaffolding as needs grew. Thanks to AWS, the initial overhead for starting a service like Airbnb or Slack (both AWS customers) is so low that those companies can afford to expand quickly. A fenced-off data center next to a pet resort doesn’t exactly scream “one of the chief enablers of the current tech bubble,” but at the end of the day, that’s what AWS is.

We found one AWS data center surprisingly easily, through a news story rather than an obscure government document. Earlier this year, an under construction AWS data center in Ashburn caught fire. Conveniently, the exact address was included in the story.

This apparently not-yet-operational AWS data center is across the street from Ashby Ponds, a retirement community, and adjoins an area dominated by office parks, other data centers, and construction sites. It shared some familiar tropes of the region’s defense-contractor office parks: topography and landscaping that obscured just enough of the building to be inconvenient, high black gates, carefully curated suggestions of “nature.” An outcropping of conduit ducts poured out from the sidewalk alongside Ashby Ponds, like seaweed abandoned on a beach or a lesser descendant of Cthulu reaching up from the suburban depths.

The site may have been a project of real-estate investment trust, Corporate Office Properties Trust, a company that’s been a personal pet interest of mine for a while. Due to SEC regulations COPT hasn’t publicly disclosed the actual tenant or their particular role in building new AWS data centers in northern Virginia, but reports of COPT building an AWS data center in 2013 surfaced a few months before the CIA announced they’d awarded a $600 million contract to Amazon to build cloud services for the U.S. intelligence community. COPT only got into the data-center business a few years ago after focusing most of their efforts on building and managing office parks for defense contractors next to military outposts.

While the CIA contract and the COPT deal are probably unrelated, given COPT’s history in facilitating the construction of facilities secured to DoD specs, the data center might be part of an expansion of AWS’ GovCloud, a cloud-services platform specifically designed for use by government agencies.

In contrast to the manicured landscapes of Ashburn and the pet resorts of Sterling, I was quite pleased to see that one of the data centers I found was adjacent to what looked like an abandoned freight-rail line. Its neighbors included a wholesale brick supplier, a gutter-supply company, and a Virginia Department of Transportation vehicle-maintenance outpost. The data center’s presence among sites of far more tangible, industrial exchange were a resonant reminder of the fact that Amazon has always been more logistics company than retail company. This is why in its early years Bezos aggressively poached new hires from America’s original logistics-disguised-as-retail business, Walmart (I’ve heard rumors that AWS frequently recruits hires from the FBI, but beyond anecdata and a scattering of LinkedIn profiles nothing to confirm it). In part, the success of Amazon Web Services—arguably the success of The Cloud itself at this point—lies in its ability to abstract infrastructural problems into logistics problems. And for a long time, Amazon has been able to abstract away a lot of the more discomforting or difficult facets of its infrastructure.

In the case of Amazon’s retail divisions, the realities obscured might be the labor conditions for employees in their distribution centers. In the case of AWS, it might be the energy use of its data centers. When Bezos compares cloud infrastructure to the power grid, he obscures the fact that data centers aren’t exactly analogous to electricity so much as they’re dependent on it, to the point where Amazon has to build new power substations for its cloud infrastructure. Although the company pledged earlier this year to move to entirely renewable energy, Greenpeace has previously referred to AWS as the least transparent of all major tech companies on carbon footprint and energy use.

In some ways this is why, despite the fact I know that I’ll probably only see a building or some cable markings if I’m lucky, I keep going on these pilgrimages to the physical remnants of the network, and I’ll probably be doing them for a long time. At this point, it is easier to use the data points that slip through the cracks to find an Amazon data center in the heart of spook country than it is to actually understand in any sort of granular detail how much of the internet currently lives on Amazon Web Services or how serious of an environmental impact Amazon Web Services has.

The incoherent banality of northern Virginia also felt like a fitting aesthetic conclusion to this journey to see the cloud. If driving across America in search of the Internet has taught me anything, it’s that the suburban sprawl of northern Virginia (and Silicon Valley, north Utah, eastern Kansas, and central Iowa) looks exactly like the Internet as we live with it today: it looks like a landscape in equal measure blandly sinister and weirdly poetic, a place whose significance is not really born of grand ambitions but of conniving and coincidence, of political machinations hitting against material reality, of easily discarded histories that only achieve coherence after sifting through sediment.

And maybe my desire to submerge myself in that sediment, to weave The Cloud into the timelines of railroad robber-barons and military R&D, emerges from the same anxiety that makes me go try to find these buildings in the first place: that maybe we have mistaken The Cloud’s fiction of infinite storage capacity for history itself. It is a misunderstanding that hinges on a weird, sad, very human hope that history might actually end, or at least reach some kind of perfect equipoise in which nothing terrible could ever happen again. As though if we could only collate and collect and process and store enough data points, the world’s infinite vaporware of real-time data dashboards would align into some kind of ultimate sand mandala of total world knowledge, a proprietary data nirvana without terror or heartbreak or bankruptcy or death, heretofore only gestured towards in terrifying wall-to-wall Accenture and IBM advertisements at airports.

But databases alone are not archives any more than data centers are libraries, and the rhetorical promise of The Cloud is as fragile as the strands of fiber-optic cable upon which its physical infrastructure rests. The Internet is a beautiful, terrible, fraught project of human civilization. While I make light of language like “pilgrim” to describe this cross-country journey, at the end of the day it has been an affirmation of a kind of faith: faith in the humanity of that beautiful, terrible, fraught project, and in the possibility of being able to see ourselves in all that beautiful, terrible, fraught truth.

 

Military bases no longer accepting driver’s licenses from 5 states

By Kevin Lilley, Army Times 2:53 p.m. EST January 14, 2016

Driver’s licenses issued by five states no longer serve as accepted identification for those attempting to access federal facilities, including military bases.(Photo: Heather Graham-Ashley/Army)

Federal facilities no longer accept driver’s licenses from five states as valid identification for individuals seeking entry without an escort, but some military bases are offering workarounds, granting grace periods, or continuing with current access rules that require more than an ID.

Those with licenses from Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico and Washington state can no longer use those IDs to enter an installation, according to regulations included in the Real ID Act, which requires states to meet security and data-collection guidelines for the identification cards they issue.

Pentagon officials estimate about 20 installations forcewide are affected.

While only 22 states and the District of Columbia are listed as compliant with the legislation on the Department of Homeland Security’s website, 23 states and Puerto Rico have received waivers that keep their IDs valid until October (June for New Hampshire).

“Enhanced IDs” offered by Minnesota and Washington meet the Real ID standard and will allow users access. IDs issued by U.S. territories are also covered by the legislation; American Samoa is the only territory not in compliance that has not received an extension.

The new rule took effect Sunday, said Nate Allen, spokesman for Army Installation Management Command. Some bases took to Facebook to inform communities of the change or sent out news releases; Allen said DHS “communicates the requirements of the law in the public domain,” so no Defense Department or Army-wide announcement was anticipated.

Those without compliant IDs “will continue to be vetted through the National Crime Information Center prior to being issued a locally produced ID or pass,” Allen said in an emailed response to questions, adding that supplemental identification would be required to complete the process. Those who don’t provide alternate ID “must be escorted at all times,” he said.

While the law applies to all bases, rules appear to vary when it comes to what happens when an individual with an invalid ID card reaches the gate:

  • Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, will issue a one-time-only pass that allows unchaperoned access without additional identification, according to a news release. That policy will end Jan. 27.
  • White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, will require additional ID for unchaperoned access: either a military or draft record, a Social Security card, a State Department-issued Certification of Birth Abroad, a U.S. Citizen ID card or a Resident Citizen ID, according to a Facebook post.
  • Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, is “reviewing the requirements and determining what actions we need to take to implement appropriate changes,” a spokesman said Wednesday. No changes have been made to existing access rules, which include NCIC checks and verification of an individual’s reason for visit, and generally require an on-base escort.
  • Fort Bliss, Texas, will allow those with noncompliant IDs to receive a one-day pass (with escort), but those who used such ID to get a 30-day pass will have to reapply with alternate identification, the El Paso Times reported
  • Fort Bragg, North Carolina, no longer will accept noncompliant IDs for those seeking a visitor’s pass without an escort, The Associated Press reported
  • The U.S. Military Academy and other installations announced the change on Facebook, directing readers to online DHS materials for further guidance.

The Real ID Act also applies to airline travel, but deadlines for ID acceptance by the Transportation Security Administration have been pushed back until 2018.

 

Rasmussen Reports

What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Bottom of Form

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Now it’s the Democrats’ turn. Look for the exchanges between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to get sharper in Sunday night’s debate as some polls show the race for the Democratic presidential nomination tightening.

Republicans and other Clinton foes keep hoping the U.S. Justice Department will make that race even more interesting. A former federal prosecutor recently made headlines with his prediction that Clinton will be indicted soon for trafficking in classified information on a private e-mail server while working as secretary of State. But just over half of Democrats don’t believe Clinton should put her campaign on hold even if she is indicted.

Last summer, 59% of voters said it’s likely Clinton broke the law by sending and receiving e-mails containing classified information through a private e-mail server. Forty-six percent (46%) of all voters – and 24% of Democrats – said at that time that Clinton should suspend her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination until all of the legal questions about her use of the private e-mail server are resolved.

President Obama inserted himself into the Democratic race with a recent op-ed saying he will not endorse a candidate who doesn’t support his efforts for stricter gun control. Clinton has been criticizing Sanders for not being tough enough on guns and is sure to keep that up Sunday night.

Voters aren’t happy with Obama’s executive orders on gun control and think the government should only do what Congress and the president agree on in that area.

Of course, Obama, Clinton and others aren’t helped by the fact that just 28% of Americans trust the federal government to fairly enforce gun control laws. The majority of voters don’t think laws regarding the ownership of guns should be the responsibility of the federal government anyway.

The president’s daily job approval ratings remain in the negative teens.

Most Democrats consider an Obama endorsement important to how they vote this fall. But voters regardless of partisan affiliation agree that the upcoming election will have little to do with the president’s record and will be more about the future agendas of the two major parties.

The president acknowledged in his final State of the Union speech Tuesday night that “the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better” during his presidency, while at the same time speaking proudly of what he considers his greatest accomplishments. But for many voters, Obama’s accomplishments are exactly what have divided us.

Sixty-nine percent (69%) said they were likely to watch or follow news reports about the president’s State of the Union address, with 43% who were Very Likely to do so.

All seven candidates on stage at Thursday night’s Republican debate were especially critical of the president’s State of the Union speech, with Obama’s downplaying of the terrorist threat a particular concern. Voters are increasingly critical of the president’s handling of national security issues and think he should focus on terrorism for the remainder of his time in the White House.

In his speech, the president cautioned Americans against “echoing the lie that [the radical Islamic State group ISIS] is somehow representative of one of the world’s largest religions.” That religion went unnamed in his speech. But 60% of voters disagree with the president and say the United States is at war with radical Islamic terrorism. Voters also continue to feel the federal government is not devoting enough attention to the terrorist threat of radical Islam here at home.

Republican front-runner Donald Trump at Thursday’s debate did not back away from his call for a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants to this country until the federal government improves its ability to screen out potential terrorists from coming here. A sizable majority of Republicans – and a plurality of all voters – think Trump has a good idea.

Going into the debate, expectations remained high among Republican voters that Trump is likely to be the GOP’s presidential nominee, according to our latest Trump Change survey.

Despite the threats of terrorism and mass shootings, 49% of voters think life in the United States is safer than in most other countries in the world. Just 15% believe it’s more dangerous here.

But only 28% think the country is headed in the right direction.

In other surveys last week:

Do Americans want automatic voter registration?

North Korea claims to have made its first hydrogen bomb, and Americans are more concerned that the rogue Communist nation will use a nuclear weapon to attack the United States.

— Half of Americans intended to get in on this week’s unprecedented $1.6 billion Powerball jackpot even though very few know someone who has ever won a big lottery.

— Ground Control to Major Tom: Most Americans have a favorable opinion of musician and actor David Bowie who died last Sunday.

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