TIME intelligence

FBI Accuses North Korea in Sony Hack

North Korean leader Kim inspects the Artillery Company under the KPA Unit 963, in this undated photo released by North Korea's KCNA in Pyongyang
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the Artillery Company under the Korean People's Army Unit 963 in Pyongyang on Dec. 2, 2014 KCNA/Reuters

Fallout led Sony to pull The Interview

The FBI on Friday accused the North Korean government of being behind the devastating hack on Sony Pictures Entertainment that eventually prompted it to cancel the release of The Interview, the first formal statement that the U.S. government has concluded the isolated nation is responsible for the cyberattack.

“The FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible,” the bureau said in a statement. “Though the FBI has seen a wide variety and increasing number of cyber intrusions, the destructive nature of this attack, coupled with its coercive nature, sets it apart.”

President Barack Obama, asked Friday about Sony’s decision to pull The Interview, said: “Yes, I think they made a mistake”

The FBI said it determined North Korea was responsible based on an analysis of the malware involved and its similarities to previous attacks the U.S. government has attribute to North Korean-allied hackers, including an assault on South Korean banks and media outlets in 2013. These include “similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks,” the FBI said in its statement. According to the FBI, the malware used in the attack communicated with known North Korean computers. The FBI didn’t furnish evidence to back its assertion that North Korea was involved. North Korea has denied being behind the hack.

Read more: The 7 most outrageous things we learned from the Sony hack

Bureau investigators have been working for weeks with Sony executives and private security experts to investigate the scale and origins of the attack. For Sony, the hack has been devastating: It crippled the studio’s infrastructure, leaked sensitive documents about tens of thousands of employees and contractors, embarrassed executives and resulted in the studio’s decision to pull, The Interview, a movie whose plot centers around the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The film incensed the North Korean government.

Read more: 4 things every single person can learn from the Sony hack

The FBI did not say whether the attack was coordinated from within North Korea or through allies outside the hermit kingdom. The FBI said it could only provide limited information to the public to protect its sources and methods.

President Barack Obama is expected to address the incident on Friday afternoon in a White House news conference. On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the administration was treating the incident as a “serious national security matter.”

White House officials have convened daily meetings to discuss the attack and to devise options for a “proportional response,” Earnest said, not ruling out an American counter-attack on North Korean systems.

“The FBI’s announcement that North Korea is responsible for the attack on Sony Pictures is confirmation of what we suspected to be the case: that cyber terrorists, bent on wreaking havoc, have violated a major company to steal personal information, company secrets and threaten the American public,” Chris Dodd, who heads the trade group Motion Picture Association of America, said in a statement. “It is a despicable, criminal act.”

See the full FBI statement:

Today, the FBI would like to provide an update on the status of our investigation into the cyber attack targeting Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE). In late November, SPE confirmed that it was the victim of a cyber attack that destroyed systems and stole large quantities of personal and commercial data. A group calling itself the “Guardians of Peace” claimed responsibility for the attack and subsequently issued threats against SPE, its employees, and theaters that distribute its movies.

The FBI has determined that the intrusion into SPE’s network consisted of the deployment of destructive malware and the theft of proprietary information as well as employees’ personally identifiable information and confidential communications. The attacks also rendered thousands of SPE’s computers inoperable, forced SPE to take its entire computer network offline, and significantly disrupted the company’s business operations.

After discovering the intrusion into its network, SPE requested the FBI’s assistance. Since then, the FBI has been working closely with the company throughout the investigation. Sony has been a great partner in the investigation, and continues to work closely with the FBI. Sony reported this incident within hours, which is what the FBI hopes all companies will do when facing a cyber attack. Sony’s quick reporting facilitated the investigators’ ability to do their jobs, and ultimately to identify the source of these attacks.

As a result of our investigation, and in close collaboration with other U.S. Government departments and agencies, the FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions. While the need to protect sensitive sources and methods precludes us from sharing all of this information, our conclusion is based, in part, on the following:

· Technical analysis of the data deletion malware used in this attack revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed. For example, there were similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks.

· The FBI also observed significant overlap between the infrastructure used in this attack and other malicious cyber activity the U.S. Government has previously linked directly to North Korea. For example, the FBI discovered that several Internet protocol (IP) addresses associated with known North Korean infrastructure communicated with IP addresses that were hardcoded into the data deletion malware used in this attack.

· Separately, the tools used in the SPE attack have similarities to a cyber attack in March of last year against South Korean banks and media outlets, which was carried out by North Korea.

We are deeply concerned about the destructive nature of this attack on a private sector entity and the ordinary citizens who worked there. Further, North Korea’s attack on SPE reaffirms that cyber threats pose one of the gravest national security dangers to the United States. Though the FBI has seen a wide variety and increasing number of cyber intrusions, the destructive nature of this attack, coupled with its coercive nature, sets it apart. North Korea’s actions were intended to inflict significant harm on a U.S. business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves. Such acts of intimidation fall outside the bounds of acceptable state behavior. The FBI takes seriously any attempt – whether through cyber-enabled means, threats of violence, or otherwise – to undermine the economic and social prosperity of our citizens.

The FBI stands ready to assist any U.S. company that is the victim of a destructive cyber attack or breach of confidential business information. Further, the FBI will continue to work closely with multiple departments and agencies as well as with domestic, foreign, and private sector partners who have played a critical role in our ability to trace this and other cyber threats to their source. Working together, the FBI will identify, pursue, and impose costs and consequences on individuals, groups, or nation states who use cyber means to threaten the United States or U.S. interests.

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: U.S. and Cuba Reevaluate Relationship

Watch #KnowRightNow to catch up on today's trending story

This week, prisoners were exchanged between the United States and Cuba as part of a joint effort to ease decades of tension between the two countries. Alan Gross was released from Cuba on humanitarian grounds. In exchange, three prisoners who were part of the famed Cuban Five were released by the United States.

That exchange came amid a historic thawing in relations between the U.S. and Cuba, as the President announced plans to ease the decades-long embargo on the island. Certain American exports will be allowed to go to Cuba, and the caps on remittances will be raised as well. However, President Obama cannot single-handedly lift the embargo, as only Congress has that power.

Watch today’s #KnowRightNow to find out more.

TIME Military

Why the U.S.-Cuba Thaw Doesn’t Mean Guantanamo Bay Is Closing

Guantanamo Bay Cuba
Camp X-Ray was the first detention facility to hold 'enemy combatants' at Guantanamo. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

The U.S. Navy’s historic base—and new terror prison—is unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon

Like Sherlock Holmes’ dog that didn’t bark, the absence of debate over the fate of the U.S. base at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay since President Barack Obama announced resumed ties between the two nations on Wednesday is striking.

For several reasons, nothing is likely to change, at least not in the near future, even as the U.S. restores its embassy in Havana and Obama nominates an ambassador to occupy it (although some lawmakers plan to oppose the envoy’s confirmation). Obama Administration officials have said reopening of relations between the two nations doesn’t affect the base.

For more than a decade, the 111-year old base—and the more than 130 detainees kept there for their suspected roles in the 9/11 and other terror attacks—have been a white-hot issue among human-rights advocates. Six years ago, Obama signed an order shortly after he was sworn in as President requiring the prison be shut down within a year.

That obviously didn’t happen, for legal, political and diplomatic reasons. There have been calls to shutter the prison and conduct trials of the accused on U.S. soil, something Congress has forbidden. It also has been challenging for the U.S. to find other nations willing to take the detainees.

But even if the prison and the detainees it now holds vanished overnight, it’s doubtful the U.S. would relinquish the base, U.S. military officials say. Cuba has wanted it back since Fidel Castro came to power more than 50 years ago. The U.S. signed a deal in 1903 with the Cuban government—after ousting the Spanish from Cuba in the Spanish-American War—allowing the U.S. to construct a base at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for an annual payment, in gold, now worth about $4,000 (the Cuban government refuses the payment).

Some defense experts, like former Pentagon official Lawrence Korb, think it’s time for the U.S. to abandon Guantanamo and the bad memories it holds. “We should turn Guantanamo back to Cuba in a reasonable period of time,” says Korb, now at the Center for American Progress. “That base is not that critical now, given what’s happening in the world, and Gitmo has caused real difficulties for our global reputation.”

But the U.S. military disagrees, and is unlikely to want to surrender such real estate, perched near the southeast corner of the island. It is seen as especially valuable since the U.S. gave up its Navy base at the Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, a decade ago.

The prior chief of U.S. Southern Command, which overseas Latin America and the Caribbean, made that clear. “Absent a detention facility and even following the eventual demise of the Castro regime,” Air Force General Douglas Fraser told Congress in March 2012, “the strategic capability provided by U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo remains essential for executing national priorities throughout the Caribbean, Latin America and South America.”

With language like that, it’s a safe bet that the U.S. military won’t be lowering its flag over Guantanamo any time soon.

TIME Treasury

U.S. Sells Off Last Major TARP Investment, 6 Years On

U.S. taxpayers made around $2.4 billion in the Ally investment

The U.S. has finally sold off its remaining major investment in the Troubled Asset Relief Program, six years after beginning to bail out auto companies, banks and financial institutions in the depths of the Great Recession.

The Treasury Department announced Friday that it will sell its remaining stake in Ally, the former financing division of General Motors, capping the end of its last major TARP investment and the auto rescue program.

Treasury touted that selling the nearly 55 million shares netted $1.3 billion for taxpayers, and $19.6 billion overall after spending $17.2 billion on Ally. However, the government’s overall losses on the $85 billion auto industry bailout were about $10 billion, the Detroit News reports.

After former President George W. Bush signed TARP into law in October 2008, the U.S. poured hundreds of billions of dollars to stabilize banking institutions, AIG, the auto industry and families facing foreclosure.

“The Auto Industry Financing Program helped save the auto industry, more than one million jobs, and prevent a second Great Depression,” said Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew.

“Thanks to President Obama’s leadership, our economy has rebounded from the depths of the financial crisis and is now creating jobs at the fastest pace since the 1990s. There is more work to do, but as we exit the last major financial investment, it’s important to take stock of the progress we have made, and the critical role TARP and the Auto Industry Financing Program played in getting us to this point.”

TIME Military

Taking the Crisis Out of ISIS

George H.W. Bush is supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
An F-18 leaves it carrier for a bombing run against ISIS targets. Navy photo / Robert Burck

Pentagon reports some good news from the front

After four months of stalemate in the U.S.-led air war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria, the U.S. military finally expressed measured optimism Thursday over the course of the campaign.

“We’re seeing initial successes in this fight,” Army Lieut. General James Terry told reporters at the Pentagon. “My assessment is that Daesh has been halted in transitioning to the defense and is attempting to hold what they currently have.”

The Pentagon has begun referring to ISIS—which is also know as ISIL, for the Islamic State in the Levant—as Daesh, after prodding from its allies.

In Arabic, Daesh and ISIL sound alike, although “daesh” literally means “to crush underneath the foot,” Terry said. “Our partners, at least the ones that I work with, ask us to use that, because they feel that if you use ISIL, that you legitimize a self-declared caliphate, and they feel pretty strongly that we should not be doing that.”

ISIS forces still control roughly a third of Iraq and Syria. Regaining major territory in both nations won’t be possible until local ground forces can be assembled and trained to take the fight to the Islamic militants in the major cities they now hold. The launch of any such single counter-offensive is months away, and will take years to drive ISIS from all the cities, Pentagon officials believe.

Later Thursday, the Pentagon’s top spokesman said air strikes over the last month have killed senior ISIS officials. “Since mid-November, targeted coalition airstrikes successfully killed multiple [ISIS] senior and mid-level leaders,” Rear Admiral John Kirby said. The Wall Street Journal reported that three senior leaders had been killed.

“We believe that the loss of these key leaders degrades [ISIS’s] ability to command and control current operations against Iraqi Security Forces, including Kurdish and other local forces in Iraq,” Kirby added in a statement. The U.S. and its allies have conducted 1,361 air strikes since August, with 86% of those carried out by U.S. warplanes (the U.S. has carried out 97% of the strikes in Syria this month, Reuters reports).

The Pentagon statements didn’t occur in a vacuum. Last week, lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee expressed ire at the slow pace of the war against ISIS. “Does the United States have some other strategic plan other than arming these [Syrian] folks that aren’t going to show up till 2016, dropping bombs, that are marginal whether they’ve been successful, and helping with military aid to some of these coalition countries?” Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, asked Brett McGurk, the Obama Administration’s anti-ISIS envoy.

“It was designed,” McGurk said, “to be a long-term program.”

Read next: U.S. Kills 3 ISIS Leaders in Iraq Strikes, Officials Say

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: December 19

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Exclusive: Ted Cruz on Why Cuba’s Leaders Can’t Be Trusted

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, writing for TIME, shares his family’s experience with the Castro regime, and argues that Congress should reject President Obama’s new Cuba policy. “[The Castros] are evil, and we cannot make a deal with an evil regime,” he writes

8 Children Found Dead in North Australia

Eight children, ranging in age from 18 months to 15 years, were found dead inside a home in the northern Australian city of Cairns on Friday

White House Doesn’t Rule Out Cybercounterattack in Sony Hack

The White House said it is currently devising a “proportional response” to the massive hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment

Watch Stephen Colbert Bid Farewell to The Colbert Report

Stephen Colbert brought an end Thursday to one of the greatest sustained performances in pop culture, TV or otherwise, when he hosted the final episode of his satirical Colbert Report, featuring cameos from everyone from Christiane Amanpour to Bill Clinton

Obama Praises LeBron for Wearing ‘I Can’t Breathe’ Shirt

President Barack Obama applauded LeBron James in a new interview for wearing a shirt dedicated to Eric Garner during a recent game and said more sports stars should use their influence to address social issues

U.S. Kills 3 ISIS Leaders in Iraq Strikes, Officials Say

Defense officials said Thursday that American air strikes had killed three of the group’s mid- to high-level leaders in the past month and a half. One official called the deaths a “serious blow to ISIS command and control”

Fincher and Ellroy to Make HBO Series

Gone Girl Director David Fincher has signed up for an HBO noir detective series together with L.A. Confidential writer James Ellroy. Shakedown is set in the underworld of 1950s Los Angeles and is inspired by the life of Hollywood vice cop-turned-private eye Fred Otash

Uber Takes a Break in Portland

Facing ruinous fines of $1,500 against the company, and up to $2,250 for the driver, each time a fare was picked up, Uber has agreed to stop its services until Portland legalizes ride-sharing

NASA’s Kepler Telescope Discovers Another Planet

NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft has found another new planet. Dubbed HIP 116454b, the new body is bigger than Earth, smaller than Neptune and probably too hot to sustain life as we know it

Chinese President Xi Jinping to Visit Macau

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Macau on Friday for the tiny Chinese enclave’s 15th anniversary of its transfer back to China’s hands. Xi will try ensure Macau does not go the way of Hong Kong, which has recently become a hotbed of political dissent

Investigators Say Arsonists Responsible for Massive L.A. Fire

Federal investigators believe a fire that took down an entire apartment complex in downtown L.A. last week was set on purpose. It took 250 firefighters an hour and a half to put out the blaze at the Da Vinci apartment complex on Dec. 10

FCC Rejects Claim That the Word ‘Redskins’ Is Obscene

The FCC denied a law professor’s attempt to strip a radio station of its license because of repeated use of the word. The FCC said the word isn’t obscene, citing a Supreme Court ruling defining obscene material as something sexual in nature

We will hold an #AskTIME subscriber Q&A today, Friday, December 19, at 1 p.m., with TIME managing editor, Nancy Gibbs, who recently selected The Ebola Fighters as TIME’s choice for Person of the Year 2014.

You can submit your questions beforehand on Twitter using the #AskTIME hashtag or in the comments of this post. We depend on smart, interesting questions from readers.

You will need to be a TIME subscriber to read the Q & A. ($30 a year or 8 cents a day for the magazine and all digital content.) Once you’re signed up, you can log in to the site with a username and password.

TIME

Wall Street Money Can Predict How Democrats Vote. Here’s How

Follow the money in the latest budget vote which rolled back regulations on banks and divided House Democrats

A week after the gargantuan spending deal squeezed through Congress, many Democrats are still smarting over a provision in the bill that rolls back regulation on how banks can take risks with taxpayer money.

While the financial sector’s boon was too big a pill for many on the left to swallow, 57 Democrats in the House ultimately voted for the legislation, pushing the bill over the goal line. (The final vote for the bill, which picked up the nickname “Cromnibus” along the way, was 219-206).

As the Washington Post noticed last week, those 57 Democrats received considerably more money in campaign donations from the financial sector than their colleagues who voted against the bill. While this may not be terribly surprising, it is an usually clear example of the correlation between money and votes. (As always, the causation–whether the money directly influenced a lawmaker’s vote–does not come along for the ride in this analysis.)

To put a finer point on it, TIME collected data from the Center for Responsive Politics on how much money financial companies gave to each House Democrat in the past two years. When you line up the members in the order of how much they got and how they voted, the pattern is pretty clear. (A handful of newer members are missing due to incomplete data.)

The controversial provision was originally a standalone bill, parts of which was reportedly drafted by Citibank lobbyists. That bill passed the House in 2013 with the support of 70 Democrats but never became law. The divide in the party among those who receive significant contributions from the financial sector was even more apparent then.

Finance, Insurance and Real Estate companies gave a total of $304 Million to members of congress in the last election cycle, more than any other industry identified by the Centre for Responsive Politics. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and John Boehner (R-OH) are top recipients from this industry each receiving over $3 Million. The same companies also gave Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), the congressman who introduced the controversial amendment into the spending bill, $206,700 in the same cycle. These figures don’t include the money that groups like Citibank spent on lobbying efforts.

Members of Congress make voting decisions based on an extraordinary number of considerations, and any given representative can argue quite persuasively that he or she is not motivated by the wants and desires of major donors. When you zoom out, however, you see a correlation between donations and voting behavior that is very unlikely to be a random occurrence, regardless of the root causes.

Methodology

These figures represent political action committees (PACs) representing financial companies made to candidates, not employees who work for those companies, and do not include contributions made to members’ leadership PACs. The Center for Responsive Politics defines financial companies as commercial banks, credit unions, real estate companies, and a variety of other related industries. The correlation coefficient between the binary outcome of the vote and the dollar amount of contributions was 0.34 for HR 83 and 0.42 for HR 992.

 

TIME justice

Obama’s Judicial Legacy May Have Been Settled This Week

Bossy Sotomayor
Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor makes on opening statement during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, July 13, 2009. Tom Williams--CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

A historically diverse group of judges

The 113th Congress may have passed the least number of bills in recorded history, but it did push through a heck of a lot of judges, helping secure a major part of President Obama’s judicial legacy.

After a whirlwind series of late and even midnight sessions these past few weeks, the Senate confirmed a total of 132 district and circuit judges, the most by any Congress in 35 years. Overall, they helped make the 305 Obama-nominated judges the most diverse group ever.

“What Obama has done within terms of his judicial legacy is what no other president has ever done before and it’s doubtful that any future president is going to match it,” says Sheldon Goldman, a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “Obama has diversified the bench in terms of gender, ethnicity, nationality to an extent never, ever, ever done before.”

In fact, as a recent political science study notes, Obama is “on track to be the first president in U.S. history to have a majority of his judicial nominees be either women or persons of color,” which is especially significant in comparison to the Reagan era, when 85% of appointed judges were white men.

Outside of the diversity, Obama’s judicial legacy is much harder to parse. According to Houston University political scientist Robert A. Carp, who co-wrote the aforementioned study, Obama’s district court judges are deciding cases in a “moderately liberal” or mainstream Democrat way, with the possible exception of labor and economic regulation cases. By comparison, his study says that President George W. Bush’s judges were among the most conservative appointed since 1932. And while having more Democratic-appointed judges helps the chances of liberal causes in the courts, it’s not a slam dunk, court watchers warn.

“It’s a bit of a crapshoot to try to say for sure what the makeup of any panel is going to be,” says Russell Wheeler, a Brookings Institute judicial expert, of the D.C. Circuit Court. “Just getting a Democratic appointee is not a for-sure indicator of how the judge is going to rule. It’s about the best predictor we have but it’s not very good.”

The way in which Obama got some of his judges could also backfire on Democrats down the road. Last year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his colleagues chose to change the rules, lowering the required number of votes from 60 to 51 to push through all judicial nominations with the exception of those for the Supreme Court. If the new Senate Republican majority holds and a Republican is elected in 2016, Goldman expects the GOP to change those rules for the high court too.

“That will mean that there will be no filibustering and they’ll need a simple majority and they’ll be able to get all the Robert Borks in the world that they want to put on the bench,” says Goldman, referring to the contentious Reagan nomination that was rejected by 58 senators in 1987.

“They could say ‘well here’s payback for what you did back in 2013, Democrats,’” adds Wheeler, who thinks a “nuclear option” for Supreme Court nominees is a possibility.

And in the remaining two years of Obama’s rule, Senate Republicans look to enjoy increased leverage to get the judges they want and slowing down anything Obama does. Typically home-state senators have significant input into which judges get appointed; Jennifer Prescod May-Parker, who Obama picked in June 2013 to fill a federal court seat in North Carolina—the country’s longest-running judicial vacancy in the federal district courts at the time, according to a local newspaper—has been blocked by the state’s Republican senator, Richard Burr. But Obama will have to find some way to compromise with the new Senate Republican majority: the past three two-term presidents—Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush—confirmed around a fifth of their appellate nominees in their final two years, according to Wheeler.

“To the degree that history is a guide, the confirmation process surely shouldn’t stop, but I suspect it’s going to slow down,” says Wheeler. “You’re not going to see the same pace of confirmations as 2014—I can assure you of that.”

TIME Sports

Obama Says LeBron ‘Did the Right Thing’ for Wearing ‘I Can’t Breathe’ Shirt

Cleveland Cavaliers at Brooklyn Nets
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James in Brooklyn, New York on Dec. 8, 2014. Jason Szenes—EPA

The President tells 'PEOPLE' that more athletes should use their influence to address social issues

President Barack Obama applauded LeBron James in a new interview for wearing a shirt dedicated to Eric Garner during a recent game and said more sports stars should use their influence to address social issues.

James sported a shirt with the phrase “I Can’t Breathe” instead of his jersey on Dec. 8 in a show of support for Garner, the Staten Island man who was killed in an altercation with police in July, during which the officer used an apparent chokehold.

“You know, I think LeBron did the right thing,” Obama told PEOPLE. “We forget the role that Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe and Bill Russell played in raising consciousness.”

James’ decision to wear the shirt came as athletes on a number of other teams did similarly in the wake of the grand jury announcement that the officer involved in the fatal incident would not be indicted, setting off a string of protests against police brutality.

“We went through a long stretch there where [with] well-paid athletes the notion was: just be quiet and get your endorsements and don’t make waves,” Obama said. “LeBron is an example of a young man who has, in his own way and in a respectful way, tried to say, ‘I’m part of this society, too’ and focus attention.”

The President added that he would “like to see” more athletes do that, “not just around this issue, but around a range of issues.”

Read more at PEOPLE

TIME White House

White House Fence Must Be Raised ‘Immediately,’ Report Says

White House Security Secret Service
The White House is seen behind a fence on Oct. 3, 2014 in Washington. Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images

An independent review into the practices of the U.S. Secret Service following several high-profile security breaches this year faults the agency for failing to maintain high training and accountability standards.

The executive summary of the classified report details recommendations for the beleaguered agency, which allowed a mentally disturbed man armed with a knife to enter the Executive Mansion, but also notes broad shortcomings to its readiness and training capabilities. On a practical level, it called for raising the fence surrounding the White House immediately following the security breach.

“We recognize all of the competing considerations that may go into questions regarding the fence, but believe that protection of the President and the White House must be the higher priority,” the report states. “As the Executive Branch, Congress, and the Service itself have all recognized, the fence must be addressed immediately.”

The report suggests that raising the fence at least “four or five feet would be materially helpful,” adding that it should be redesigned to eliminate horizontal bars and to potentially curve outward at the top to deter would-be fence-climbers and to give officers more time to respond to a would-be threat. The fence should be replaced around the entire 18-acre complex, not just along Pennsylvania Avenue, where most of the incidents have occurred, the report states.

Prepared by two former Justice Department officials and two former White House aides at the request of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, the report faults the department for failing to maintain adequate training standards. The Presidential Protective Division’s so-called “fourth shift,” which is supposed to allow the specialized agents charged with protecting the president to spend two weeks of every eight in training, has “diminished far below acceptable levels,” along with training for the agency’s Uniformed Division, which protects the White House complex. According to the report, apart from basic firearms and career training, the average agent received just 42 hours of training in fiscal year 2013, while the average uniformed division officer received under 25 minutes of training in the entire year.

“The panel’s recommendations are astute, thorough and fair,” Johnson said in a statement, saying Acting Director Joe Clancy has already implemented some of the recommendations.

The report details staffing shortfalls at the White House, where agents and officers have been assigned long duty tours and extended overtime shifts. “Rather than invest in systems to manage the organization more effectively and accurately predict its needs, the Service simply adds more overtime for existing personnel,” the report states, saying the two divisions are “stretched beyond their limits.” “Rather than sending its agents and officers to training, it keeps them at their posts.”

The panel calls on Congress and the Executive Branch to free up money to immediately hire 85 special agents and 200 Uniformed Division officers to allow for more time to be devoted to training, with a further review to determine whether any more are needed.

The report calls on the next director to come from outside the Secret Service, a shift that it says is needed to inject new leadership to address a culture of unaccountability. “The next director of the Secret Service should be a strong leader from outside the agency who has a protective, law enforcement, or military background and who can drive cultural change in the organization and move the Secret Service forward into a new era: The need to change, reinvigorate, and question long-held assumptions-from within the agency itself-is too critical now for the next director to be an insider,” the report states.

The new director must “must build a new budget from the ground up by defining its mission, determining what it will take to achieve it, and asking for that,” rather than working off what it believes it can get through the budget process. The panel says new steps must be taken to ensure that agency leadership and managers are open to suggestions and criticism of department practices by agents and officers in the field, and to ensure that the Secret Services’ disciplinary processes are followed and enforced in a fair and consistent fashion.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser