- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Star Tribune, Sept. 28

A welcome but limited U.S.-China accord on cybertheft

The limited but still significant accord reached between the U.S. and China on economic cybertheft is a welcome step toward curbing crimes that exact a high economic and diplomatic cost. While there are still significant enforcement questions, as well as concerns that the agreement does not address cyberespionage, it is nonetheless an encouraging outcome of direct diplomacy between the Obama administration and the Chinese government led by President Xi Jinping.

The two economic superpowers reached a “common understanding” that neither side would use government cyber capabilities to steal intellectual property, President Obama said during a news conference coinciding with Xi’s state visit last week. Together, he added, they would try to set “international rules of the road for appropriate conduct in cyberspace.”

That will be easier said than done, despite advancements in tracing the source of hacking. Last year’s hack of Sony, for example, was relatively quickly attributed to North Korea. But even if a breach is detected, it may not be directly traceable to a government or military, and could instead be the work of shadowy quasi-governmental groups, criminal networks, organized terrorist groups or even rogue individuals.

Seemingly recognizing the challenges of enforcement and verification, Obama said that “the question now is, ‘Are words followed by actions?’?” For the United States’ part, Obama reportedly told Xi directly that tools such as sanctions and criminal indictments remain an option in order to enforce the agreement.

Other promising, albeit tepid, steps are a mutual acceptance of a United Nations accord that the White House describes as addressing “norms of behavior and other crucial issues for international security in cyberspace,” as well as establishing a hotline to contend with issues during investigations.

But the agreement is limited. “The United States and China agree that neither country’s government will conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information, with the intent of providing competitive advantages to companies and commercial sectors,” according to a White House fact sheet distributed during Xi’s visit. And, indeed, protecting U.S. business interests from cybercrime is imperative, especially given economic globalization and the importance of the tech sector to America.

Left unanswered are issues like the hack of the Office of Personnel Management, in which up to 22 million Americans had their security compromised. Chinese complicity is widely suspected.

The U.S. cannot allow its security to continue to be compromised by these insidious threats. The agreement between Obama and Xi is a promising beginning, but the president, and his successors, need to be vigilant with verification and punitive measures should Chinese cheating be detected.


Post-Bulletin, Sept. 28

Don’t let yourself get stranded at the airport

If you have travel plans for 2016, and your primary form of identification is your Minnesota driver’s license, there’s a chance you won’t be going anywhere.

The deadline is closing for Minnesota to meet the standards of the Real ID Act, a federal law adopted in 2005 in a response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The law requires a federally compliant ID card for air travel “no later than 2016.” If you don’t have such a card, a secondary form of ID, such as an enhanced driver’s license or a passport, will be needed to board flights.

Minnesota offers the option of an enhanced driver’s license that meets the Real ID requirement, but it costs an additional $15, and only 7,048 Minnesotans have one, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Meanwhile, just 37 percent of Americans have valid passports, according to the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

If we don’t meet the Real ID standards, we’ll have a lot of frustrated travelers at our airports next year.

We’re not alone. Minnesota is just one of four states - the others are Louisiana, New Hampshire and New York - not in compliance with Real ID. Some states, such as Wisconsin, offer residents a choice between an older-style license and a federally compliant license.

Minnesota has been especially assertive in balking at the Real ID requirement. In 2010, the Minnesota Legislature passed a law that was signed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty that banned the state from taking any action to adopt Real ID. At the time, lawmakers from both parties joined with the American Civil Liberties Union and privacy activists in opposing what they called an intrusive “de facto internal passport.”

Minnesota and the other three states are negotiating with the Department of Homeland Security ahead of the January deadline. While they’re counting on the Homeland Security relaxing the deadline, why should it? The Real ID Act passed 10 years ago. Moreover, if 46 other states have complied with the Real ID requirements, the remaining four outliers have little, if any, leverage to negotiate an extension.

Gov. Mark Dayton said he spoke with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson earlier this month, offering assurances that the state is working toward meeting the Real ID deadline. Dayton might call for a special session to overturn the 2010 state law because the Legislature isn’t scheduled to convene until March.

“To simply close our eyes and not take any action, not even consider having a discussion or debate around these issues, is playing a very interesting game of chicken with the federal government,” said Sen. Scott Dibble, chair of the Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee.

The game has gone on too long. While we would hope Minnesota legislators would face reality and repeal the 2010 law to put us in compliance with the Real ID Act, we’re jaded enough to know they’re likely to put off the decision even longer. Their privacy concerns are noted, but it’s a concession we have to make in a post-Sept. 11 world.

Meanwhile, we encourage you to take matters into your own hands and obtain an enhanced driver’s license or make sure you have a valid passport. The process takes several weeks, so start now.

Otherwise, you’ll be stranded at the airport.


Minnesota Daily, Sept. 29

Fee could harm, not help rescues

The Minneapolis City Council approved an ordinance Friday that allows the city to charge a fee for especially technical or demanding rescue services, partly to deter urban explorers from conducting expeditions into abandoned and often dangerous grain elevators.

The ordinance, proposed by Ward 4 City Councilwoman and Council President Barb Johnson, gives the city power to charge a $721 fee for the first two hours of a technical rescue and $300 per hour after that.

These rescues - like an hours-long June effort to save a University of Minnesota student who fell in the Bunge grain elevator in Southeast Como - cost the city a significant amount of money, Johnson told the Star Tribune. In the June event, the student died at a hospital. Another university student fell to her death in the Bunge elevator in 2006.

We understand council members’ concern over residents exploring these dangerous buildings, and we commend them for creating a disincentive to explore grain elevators.

However, we fear this measure could generate unintended harm.

Charging those in need of rescue seems similar to ticketing underage students who call for emergency services while drinking alcohol. The state Legislature passed a medical amnesty law two years ago to encourage young people to request an emergency response, even when underage consumption is involved. Why, then, would it discourage that same call for technical rescues - especially when the need is so dire?

We urge the City Council to consider a way to discourage dangerous exploration without making rescue services more difficult to access.

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