On May 23rd, 2019, CHHS will help facilitate a Full Scale Exercise on behalf of the Region V Hospital Coalition. We are currently seeking volunteers to serve as mock patients. Please sign up to volunteer below:
By CHHS Extern Felicia Langel
What began as scientific fraud became an emerging global health crisis just twenty years later. In 1998, Dr. Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues published an article in the British medical journal, The Lancet, claiming a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (“MMR”) vaccine and autism. Wakefield’s work was immediately challenged by the scientific community for its lack of scientific rigor, and, within a few years, most of Wakefield’s team retracted their findings. Then, a journalistic investigation by Brian Deer in 2004 found that Wakefield and his team committed deliberate fraud for financial gain, and The Lancet fully retracted the article in 2010.
Long after Wakefield’s article was debunked, the scientific fraud persisted due to Wakefield’s attacks on vaccine science, the release of a celebrity-endorsed anti-vaccine movie in 2016, and the rise of anti-vaccine groups on social media. In the United States, measles cases soared. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) declared measles eliminated in the United States in 2000. However, since 2010, CDC documented 2,085 measles cases in eight outbreaks among primarily unvaccinated communities. In 2018–2019, CDC is tracking three outbreaks in New York, one outbreak in Texas, and one outbreak in Washington for a current total of 499 measles cases. CDC warns parents that measles can cause serious health complications in children under five years old, and that the best protection against measles is the MMR vaccine.
All fifty states have school vaccination laws that include vaccine exemptions for medical reasons. Further, the majority of states permit vaccine exemptions based on religious beliefs. Moreover, seventeen states allow philosophical exemptions based on personal beliefs. The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics advocate for the elimination of these nonmedical exemption (“NME”) laws for “individual, public health, and ethical reasons.” This is because ninety-five percent of the population must be vaccinated against measles to provide community (also known as “herd”) protection to the part of the population that cannot be vaccinated, such as immunocompromised people and children under one year old. Currently, it is in those states with NME laws, particularly Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Washington, where the community measles hotspots are centered.
In response to the recent rise in U.S. measles cases, lawmakers in New Jersey, New York, Iowa, Maine, Vermont, and Washington proposed either eliminating or tightening their NME (to include religious exemption) laws. These states would follow California which eliminated both its NME and religious exemption laws after a measles outbreak at Disneyland in 2015. However, the Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb is considering using the Federal health agencies to proactively reign in the States’ lax NME laws to prevent measles “outbreaks on a scale that is going to have national implications.” Possible intervention by the Federal government is causing pushback from several States because school entry requirements is a traditional State police power under the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
In Henning Jacobson v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of a Massachusetts statute that mandated smallpox vaccination for public health and admission to public school. During the New Deal (1933-1945), the Court interpreted the Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8) as allowing Congress to regulate such non-enumerated economic activities as labor, agriculture, and manufacturing. From the Court’s reasoning in the Commerce Clause case, United States v. Darby, the reserved police powers granted to the States by the Tenth Amendment were “but a truism,” and there was no textual basis in the Constitution that limited Federal authority over the States. Soon thereafter, the Federal government began regulating activities, such as public health, that had once been regulated solely by the States. Hence, it is apparent that, should the U.S. measles outbreak worsen, the battle between the States and the Federal government over Federally-mandated measles vaccination will play out in the courts, and possibly impact public health policy well into the future.
The National Security Agency, in 2017, awarded a series of grants to universities to build academic courses on critical cybersecurity topics. The goal of the project was to establish a free, open-source repository of courses and modules so that the public would have access to content developed by the the country’s foremost cybersecurity experts. CHHS was proud to be among 54 grantees.
CHHS Cybersecurity Program Director Markus Rauschecker and CHHS Senior Law & Policy Analyst Ben Yelin designed three course modules that are now published on the National Cybersecurity Curriculum Program website “CLARK.” The courses are:
- Cybersecurity Law and Policy (Link forthcoming)
- Law and Policy of Cyber Crime
- National Security, Electronic Surveillance and the Fourth Amendment
CHHS was proud to partner with the National Security Agency for this important initiative. For more, see: http://cis1.towson.edu/~cyber4all/index.php/nccp-page/
By CHHS Extern Adam McCormick
On February 5, President Donald J. Trump delivered his second State of the Union Address, all but ignoring cybersecurity. The lengthy 82-minute speech touched on immigration, the economy, bipartisanship, and the military. The lone mention of a tech related issue was a brief jab at China for “years of targeting our industries and stealing our intellectual property.”
In the past several years, cybersecurity has become one of the fastest growing industries and topics in the country. Election meddling, attacks on the power grid, and cyber assaults on the country’s largest corporations have all become reality.
In a speech reportedly designed to foster bipartisanship, a mention of bolstering military cyber capabilities, creating information technology job programs, or hardening the infrastructure against cyber attacks could have garnered a rare standing ovation from both sides of the aisle. Cybersecurity is one of the few topics in which both Republicans and Democrats agree on the fundamental principles. Multiple bipartisan bills have been introduced in the past year relating to the topic.
Outside of the State of the Union Addresses, the Trump administration has not been silent on the issue, this past year releasing a National Cyber Strategy and signing a bill creating the first cybersecurity defense agency. In a year defined by political gridlock and decisive midterm wins for Democrats, both topics could have easily been presented as wins for the President. Instead, he mostly focused on divisive issues that might further poison the well.
The topic of cybersecurity is not without controversy for President Trump. The Russian meddling in the 2016 election remains a topic he either refuses to discuss or outright denies. The related 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment determined that Russia ordered an influence campaign during the presidential election designed to assist then candidate Trump. Further, the President has demonstrated limited knowledge on the topic, referring to it as “the cyber.” Similarly, his cybersecurity advisor, Rudy Giuliani, faced widespread ridicule recently after mistakenly accusing Twitter of “allow[ing] someone to invade” his account.
Downplaying cybersecurity during the State of the Union is not unusual. During his 2018 State of the Union, President Trump failed to reference cybersecurity and other tech issues. Similarly, in his 2014 address, President Barack Obama only made passing reference to “information security” after devoting a small portion of his 2013 speech on the topic. President Obama’s final 2016 address devoted more time on the issue, mentioning “data management” and “cyber threats.”
Cybersecurity is no longer a fringe topic and should not be treated as such by the President during the year’s biggest speech. The state of cybersecurity in the U.S. may not necessarily be weak, but it certainly seems ignored by those in power. To the nation’s cyber adversaries, the President’s silence signifies that continued attacks will be downplayed, if not tolerated. Even a brief rally for increased focus or spending on cybersecurity would have served as a unifying moment for the country in the face of mounting threats.
By CHHS Extern Kyla Kaplan The 35-day government shutdown may be over for now, but its impact will continue for those who were deeply affected by it. One of the big effects of the shutdown was the large amount of federal workers that work paycheck to paycheck and could no longer …
By Maggie Davis As the federal government enters its fifth week of a partial government shutdown, affected agencies are searching for any measure to maintain continuity of core services despite the current lapse in funding. Federal courts are uniquely strained at the moment, with roughly 33,000 employees needed for regular operations and a …
By CHHS Extern Kaitlyn Holzer On November 16th, The President signed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act of 2018 into law. The House of Representatives had passed the bill on November 12th and the Senate passed it in October 2018. Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX), Chairman of the House Committee on …
By CHHS Extern Alison Venable “Marines Rush Towards Burning Building to Save Residents.” Versions of this heartwarming headline were plastered all over local news sources throughout the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore region on the week of September 21st. A senior center apartment building caught fire on Thursday, September 20th, requiring the …
By CHHS Extern Kaitlyn Holzer Two years ago, Russia interfered with the United States presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee’s server and engaging in a series of online campaigns through false social media accounts. Today, voters wonder if the midterm election faces similar challenges. Federal and state officials are …
On October 9th, 2018, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report to the Senate that details the cybersecurity vulnerabilities of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) weapon systems. The DOD published the report in support of its plan to spend $1.66 trillion to further develop their major weapon systems.