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Bridget Johnson

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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Senator to Clapper: Contractors with Unpaid Taxes and Security Clearances Pose Risk

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A Democratic senator has asked the director of national intelligence to investigate the high number of  defense employees who have failed to pay their taxes, arguing that giving them security clearances poses a national security risk.

Financial health is supposed to be assessed in the security clearance process to determine, for example, whether someone with access to classified information can be bought by a hostile party. Federal law, though, doesn’t prohibit someone with unpaid taxes from holding a security clearance.

The Government Accountability Office issued a report recently finding that, as of June 2012, out of 83,000 Defense Department employees and contractors owing $730 million in unpaid taxes to the IRS, about a quarter of those were still deemed eligible for a TS/SCI clearance — top secret/sensitive compartmented information.

Together, those with unpaid taxes who received the high clearance owed $83 million, according to the GAO. Forty-seven percent of those debt holders were contractors, who accounted for about $25 million of the delinquent taxes.

The median debt amount owed was about $3,700, according to the report, and “tax debts ranged from a minimum of about $100 to millions of dollars.”

About 40 percent of the total number of DoD employees with tax troubles had a repayment plan in place with the IRS.

“This data indicates that there are tens of thousands of federal employees and contractors with the highest levels of clearance who, because of extreme financial overextension, may no longer be relied upon to put our country’s interests before his or her own,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) wrote to DNI James Clapper.

“This unacceptable situation raises national security concerns and sends the message to taxpayers that some folks don’t have to play by the rules, but can still be trusted with access to our nation’s most sensitive information,” the senator said. “Given the scope of this problem and the amount of debt involved, I urge you to address this matter comprehensively and promptly.”

Tester heads the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee that oversees the federal workforce and has been critical of security clearance oversight. Clapper has been working with the Office of Personnel Management to improve the standards for background investigations and clearances.

Tester said in a statement that “some of these individuals with delinquent tax debt are jeopardizing our national security because of poor judgment and decision-making.”

“Potentially harmful financial behaviors should not be ignored after an individual is granted or deemed eligible to have a security clearance,” he said.

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Peshmerga Getting ‘Some’ Help with U.S. Arms, But ‘It’s Not Enough’

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A spokesman for the Peshmerga told CNN today that the Kurdish forces had received “some weapons from the United States,” but “it’s not enough, very little” to be able to defeat ISIS.

Brig. Gen. Hazhar Ismail said they are now “gaining ground” again versus the Islamic State in part thanks to U.S. airstrikes intended to protect Irbil.

“It’s very little, but it helped us a lot. So now, day by day, we are gaining ground, and we have a plan to re-control and defeat our enemy, our common enemy, the international enemy, is, and all the area, to save the area from is. You know they are threatening the civilian people,” Ismail said. “They killed many peoples in Sinjar, in Sinjar Mountain. They kill Christian, Yazidi, Kurd, Arab. There is no difference. So we have a plan with help and support with our friend, the U.S., and some countries.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Tuesday that “in addition to support from the U.S., and the central government of Iraq in Baghdad, seven additional nations – Albania, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom – have committed to helping provide Kurdish forces urgently needed arms and equipment.”

“Operations have already begun and will accelerate in the coming days with more nations also expected to contribute,” Hagel said in a statement. “…This multinational effort, which is being coordinated with the Government of Iraq in Baghdad, will greatly assist Kurdish forces in repelling the brutal terrorist threat they face from ISIL.”

Ismail said Baghdad is stalling shipments, saying it wants to check everything going to the Kurds first.

“For a week, we did not receive anything from U.S. or from other countries. The problem, Baghdad. So we need U.S. and other countries to tell Baghdad, you have to solve some bad policies you’re created in the past. It is a good chance to solve the problems now,” he said.

He stressed that the U.S. arms that did get through “helped us a lot to stop ISIS and to re-control the area.”

“But believe me, it’s not enough, because we have a very long border with ISIS. We have 1,050 kilometer border with ISIS. We’re fighting terrorist country, not terrorist organization or small group. So we need to have weapons, ammunition, equipment, everything as army,” Ismail said. “We are part of Iraqi defense system, but unfortunately, they did nothing for us, with budget, with training, with weapons, with ammunition, with everything. So even for eight years, they did not pay the Peshmerga forces even $1.”

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Senators to Latin American Nations: Return Your Ambassadors to Israel

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Four senators this week called on the presidents of Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador and Peru to restore diplomatic relations with Israel.

The Latin American countries yanked their ambassadors from the Jewish state in protest of the operations in Gaza, with Brazil calling the IDF action a “disproportionate use of force.”

“This is an unfortunate demonstration of why Brazil, an economic and cultural giant, remains a diplomatic dwarf,” Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said in return. “The moral relativism behind this move makes Brazil an irrelevant diplomatic partner, one who creates problems rather than contributes to solutions.”

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho) sent letters Monday to each of the countries involved in the diplomatic spats, saying they were “deeply disappointed by your government’s decision to recall your Ambassador to Israel ‘in protest’ against Israel’s legitimate military operations to restore deterrence against rocket attacks and terrorist tunnels designed by Hamas to kill Israeli civilians.”

“Hamas is a terrorist organization committed to using violence as a political tool and denying Israel’s right to exist. Hamas leaders have violated international law by promoting the use of civilians as human shields, and have rejected multiple cease fire offers that could save lives on both sides of this conflict,” they wrote. “All loss of innocent lives during this conflict is tragic, but your government’s decision to downgrade diplomatic relations with Israel at this critical time will only embolden Hamas leaders to continue on the current course of indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli civilians rather than working with the Israeli government to achieve a sustainable cease fire arrangement.”

“Your actions send a troubling message to the United States about your government’s commitment to long-lasting peace between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.”

The bipartisan group encouraged each president to “return your Ambassador to Israel, as a symbol of your country’s steadfast commitment to achieving an enduring peace in the Middle East and the fight against the scourge of international terrorism.”

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Armed Services Chairman to Obama: Come to Congress with a Strategy Against ISIS, and We’ll Talk

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Congress can’t even begin to speculate what it can do to aid the fight against ISIS until President Obama comes up with a strategy to “destroy” the Islamic State.

“ISIS is a clear and present threat to our allies across the Middle East and to the United States. There is no negotiating with ISIS or deterring it. It must be defeated and destroyed,” chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said in a statement today. “Doing so demands a comprehensive strategy combining diplomatic, political, and military efforts, and the contributions from a broad coalition of countries. Such a strategy will require time, commitment, and leadership that America is uniquely suited to provide.”

“This comprehensive approach may well require additional authorities from Congress, but speculation about that before the president has even offered a strategy is putting the cart before the horse,” he continued. “We need the president to explain to the American people what is at stake, what our objectives are, and the strategy for how to achieve them. Only after we understand all this can we contemplate what new authorities might be needed.”

McKeon, who is retiring at the end of this term, challenged Obama “to engage Congress.”

“I’m willing to work with him, and I would offer a few factors for him to keep in mind,” the chairman continued. “First, ISIS is an urgent threat and a minimalist approach, that depends solely on FY15 funding or pinprick strikes that leave fragile forces in Iraq and Syria to do the hard fighting, is insufficient to protect our interests and guarantee our safety in time.”

“Second, good strategies keep options on the table and keep an adversary guessing, instead of telegraphing what we won’t do. No leader ever won a conflict by first declaring what steps he was unwilling to take – or, for that matter, leaking details about steps he actually is taking.”

Third, McKeon stressed, “the ISIS threat was allowed to build and fester over a period of time.”

“They are not likely to be decisively defeated quickly, but will have to be faced by this president and his successors,” he said. “Therefore, strategy and decisions made by the president now should preserve future options, not foreclose them. Finally, this enemy must be defeated, but if we are not going to adequately resource our effort, we will only make a very complex security situation worse.”

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Obama Tells American Legion U.S. Leads with ‘Strength and Confidence and Wisdom’

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama lauded the U.S. for being a leading force for peace and security in the world while assuring that pulling out of Afghanistan wouldn’t let the country become a haven for terrorists.

Obama told the American Legion convention that “the United States is better positioned to lead in the 21st century than any nation on Earth.”

“It’s not even close. We have the most powerful military in history. That’s certainly not close. From Europe to Asia, our alliances are unrivaled. Our economy is the most dynamic. We’ve got the best workers. We’ve got the best businesses. We have the best universities and the best scientists,” he said.

“…Nobody else can do what we do. No other nation does more to underwrite the security and prosperity on which the world depends. In times of crisis, no other nation can rally such broad coalitions to stand up for international norms and peace. In times of disaster, no other nation has the capabilities to deliver so much so quickly. No nation does more to help citizens claim their rights and build their democracies. No nation does more to help people in the far corners of the Earth escape poverty and hunger and disease and realize their dignity.”

The president continued by noting “even countries that criticize us, when the chips are down and they need help, they know who to call.”

“They call us. That’s what American leadership looks like. It’s why the United States is and will remain the one indispensable nation in the world,” he said. “Now, sustaining our leadership, keeping America strong and secure means we have to use our power wisely. History teaches us of the dangers of overreaching and spreading ourselves too thin and trying to go it alone without international support or rushing into military adventures without thinking through the consequences.”

“And nobody knows this better than our veterans and our families, our veteran families because you’re the ones who bear the wages of war. You’re the ones who carry the scars. You know that we should never send American sons and daughters into harm’s way unless it is absolutely necessary and we have a plan and we are resourcing it and prepared to see it through.”

He added the U.S. “has to lead with strength and confidence and wisdom.”

“And that’s why after incredible sacrifice by so many of our men and women in uniform, we removed more than 140,000 troops from Iraq and welcomed those troops home. It was the right thing to do,” Obama said.

He praised his administration’s drive against “al-Qaeda’s leadership in the tribal regions in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” and stressed that the war would be coming to a close for the U.S. in four months with the pullout from Afghanistan.

“And now, as Afghans continue to work towards the first democratic transfer of power in their history, Afghan leaders need to make the hard compromises that are necessary to give the Afghan people a future of security and progress. And as we go forward, we’ll continue to partner with Afghans so their country can never again be used to launch attacks against the United States.”

He waited for applause after this line; he got a smattering of claps after the pause.

Obama said he’s “always made clear” that “the blows we’ve struck against al-Qaeda’s leadership don’t mean the end to the terrorist threat.”

“Al-Qaeda affiliates still target our homeland. We’ve seen that in Yemen. Other extremists threaten our citizens abroad, as we’ve seen most recently in Iraq and Syria. As commander in chief, the security of the American people is my highest priority, and that’s why, with the brutal terrorist group ISIL advancing in Iraq, I have authorized targeted strikes to protect our diplomats and military advisers who are there,” he continued.

“And let me say it again, American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq. We’ll not allow the United States to be dragged back into another ground war in Iraq. Because ultimately, it is up to the Iraqis to bridge their differences and secure themselves.”

The president referenced the parents of American journalist James Foley, stressing prayers were with them.

“But our message to anyone who harms our people is simple: America does not forget our reach is long. We are patient. Justice will be done. We have proved time and time again we will do what’s necessary to capture those who harm Americans to go after those who harm Americans. And we’ll continue to take direct action where needed to protect our people and to defend our homeland. And rooting out a cancer like ISIL won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick,” Obama said.

“But tyrants and murderers before them should recognize that kind of hateful vision ultimately is no match for the strength and hopes of people who stand together for the security and dignity and freedom that is the birthright of every human being.”

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Rubio Tells Obama Unilateral Action on Immigration Will Kill Bipartisan Legislative Progress

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

One of the Senate Republicans in the gang of eight who forged a bipartisan immigration reform bill that passed the upper chamber last year urged President Obama to not take unilateral action in the face of House inaction.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wrote in a letter to Obama today that he hoped “Senate action on this matter could serve as a catalyst for a humane but responsible reform that could ultimately achieve bicameral, bipartisan support,” but acknowledges the effort is now at a stalemate.

“After the experience of the last 18 months, I have become convinced that there is no realistic path forward on comprehensive reform for the foreseeable future. Instead, it is clear to me now that the only approach that has any chance of success is one that addresses our immigration problems in a series of sequential pieces of legislation,” Rubio wrote.

Those components, he said, would have to address the problems of illegal immigration and a guest-worker program.

“It is my sincere belief that if we can bring illegal immigration under control and modernize our legal immigration system, then the American people and a majority of their representatives in Congress would be willing to reasonably and responsibly address the issue of millions of people currently in this nation illegally. It will not be easy. And it will not be unanimous. But if we can make real progress on stemming the tide of illegal immigration, I am convinced we will have the support necessary to address this serious issue once and for all,” the senator continued.

“All of this is why I have grown increasingly alarmed by news that your administration is considering sweeping executive action to give work permits to millions of people here illegally. If indeed you move forward on such a decision, I believe it will close the door to any chance of making progress on immigration reform for the foreseeable future.”

Rubio offered as example Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) decision in 2012, which “was a major impediment to passage of the kind of immigration reform our nation needs.”

“No matter what we tried to do to institute meaningful enforcement measures in the Senate bill, opponents pointed to DACA as evidence of your unwillingness to enforce the law. They argued that no matter what we wrote into law on enforcement, your administration would simply ignore it,” he said. “Furthermore, your pursuit of unilateral action in the midst of an election year, without any concern for the policy ramifications, has played a significant role in the humanitarian and security crisis that has been occurring on our border with Mexico.”

Rubio said he understood Obama ”inherited a broken system created after years of poor decisions made by both political parties in Washington.”

“But the cumulative result of six years of your administration’s approach on immigration reform is that, for all intents and purposes, America no longer has an immigration system. Instead, we have unsettling chaos,” he added. “I know you are receiving tremendous political pressure from certain activists to grant another unilateral, temporary and uncertain legal status to millions of additional undocumented immigrants. But to do so, without first taking any serious steps to address the border or protect American workers, will increase the perception of ambiguity in our laws, incentivize more people to immigrate here illegally, and significantly set back the prospects of real reform.”

Rubio stressed that “it saddens me that a nation of immigrants is divided by the issue of immigration.”

“At the heart of this issue are the people who are affected by it: the American worker whose wages are undercut by illegal workers. The rancher who lives in fear from the cartels and the coyotes. The brilliant young chemist who got her Ph.D. but can’t get a green card. The young mother risking everything to give her child a chance at a better life. The ‘dreamers’ who graduated at the top of their class but face an uncertain future. The Border Patrol agent who brought diapers and formula from his home to care for the children that have been pouring over the border. And the men and women across this country who ask, ‘If Washington can’t get this right, can they get anything right?’” he wrote.

“As someone who believes sincerely in the need for reform, is the son of immigrants, and lives in a community of immigrants, I still reserve some optimism that you’ll reject the politics of the moment and remember that the decisions you make will impact the people at the heart of this issue long after your duty to serve them has come to an end.”

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Pryor Campaign Ad: Don’t Vote for GOP Challenger Because Ebola

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

You know campaign season has started in earnest when an incumbent accuses his challenger — Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) vs. Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) — of leaving us all vulnerable to Ebola:

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Is White House Pressuring Pentagon to Downplay ISIS Threat?

Monday, August 25th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

In what many are viewing as a walkback from last week’s comments warning of ISIS’ “apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told reporters en route to Afghanistan over the weekend that he would recommend military action against the group only when a threat to the U.S. is substantiated.

Dempsey said, according to the Associated Press, that U.S. officials have seen no ”active plotting against the homeland, so it’s different than that which we see in Yemen.”

“I can tell you with great clarity and certainty that if that threat existed inside of Syria that it would certainly be my strong recommendation that we would deal with it,” said Dempsey. “I have every confidence that the president of the United States would deal with it.”

This morning, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby told Fox that Dempsey wasn’t told by the White House to soften last week’s tone about the threat.

“There’s been no direction from — from the White House or anybody else to tone down the way we’re speaking about ISIL. And I think we’ve all been very consistently talking about the very real and growing threat that ISIL poses,” Kirby said.

“ISIL is a growing network. They are well resourced. They’re well led. They do pose a regional threat. And to the degree that they are supported by foreign fighters from nations all over the world, including the United States, there is an immediacy to the threat that they pose,” he said. “While, you know, while I think the general feeling is they’re not capable of a 9/11- like-style attack on the homeland right now, they certainly could through the use of foreign fighters impact Western targets, including American targets, if they so choose.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) accused President Obama of ”becoming derelict in his duties as commander in chief to protect our homeland by not aggressively confronting ISIL wherever they reside, including Syria.”

“The White House is trying to minimize the threat we face in order to justify not changing a failed strategy,” Graham said in a statement this afternoon. “I fear their foot dragging in confronting increased radical Islamic threats is setting the stage for the creation of an even more powerful ISIL which further terrorizes the region and poses even graver threats to the American homeland.”

“I also fear political pressure is being applied to the military and others to justify President Obama’s reluctance to aggressively confront the threat.”

Graham stressed that Dempsey’s change in tone is “demoralizing to our friends and allies in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel who are worried about the continued strengthening of ISIL.”

“The case has been made.  ISIL is a direct threat to the American homeland,” he said. “They must be defeated and they cannot be beaten without attacking their safe haven in Syria. To do otherwise is ignoring reality and placing the American homeland at risk. The stronger they grow over there, the more in danger we are over here.”

At last week’s press conference, Dempsey said they think ISIS “can be contained, not in perpetuity.”

“This is an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision and which will eventually have to be defeated. To your question, can they be defeated without addressing that part of their organization which resides in Syria? The answer is no. That will have to be addressed on both sides of what is essentially at this point a nonexistent border,” Dempsey continued.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned that the Islamic State is “beyond anything that we’ve seen.”

“ISIL is as sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen. They’re beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded,” Hagel said. “…So we must prepare for everything. And the only way you do that is that you take a cold, steely, hard look at it and– and — and get ready.”

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Congressman at Brown Funeral Advocates ‘Meaningful Changes’ in How Cops Deal with Young Black Men

Monday, August 25th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The congressman who represents Michael Brown’s district said at his funeral service this morning that lawmakers and activists should now focus as a whole on how law enforcement treats young black men.

Congressional attendees at the service, held at Friendly Temple M.B. Church in St. Louis, included Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Steve Horsford (D-Nev.), Al Green (D-Texas), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.).

Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) was bumped off the speaking schedule because the service ran over on time, but his office released the remarks he intended to deliver.

He vowed that the members would stand by the Brown family “regardless of how long and difficult the road to justice may be.”

Clay quoted the book of Isaiah: “I will give you hidden treasures / Riches stored in dark places / So that you may know that I am the Lord.”

“We all favor the sunshine over the darkness, make no mistake about that,” Clay said. “But Michael Brown’s family and the good people of Ferguson — indeed, millions of good people across this great nation — have been in the throes of a dreadful darkness.”

“Michael Brown’s untimely and completely unnecessary death has unleashed a deluge of darkness that at times seems to envelop everything. Dr. King told us ‘darkness cannot drive out darkness, only the light can do that. And hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.’ Perhaps the lesson from Isaiah means that even in the midst of our tears, there is a blessing to be revealed, even in the depths of our despair, God has promised to give us treasure from these tragic days.”

The congressman said the “treasure” might be “a great light of truth that Michael left for us to follow.”

“And if we truly want to honor his memory, we need to shine that light towards how local law enforcement deals with young black men and make meaningful changes that end sad, painful events like today,” Clay said. “And we need to shine that light towards the uneven scales of justice and inequality in this country.”

Clay stressed that Brown was his constituent, “bright, talented, full of hope, 18 years old, and ready to start college.”

“He was also male and black and, sadly, that made him a target,” he continued. “So I pray that his senseless killing will be elevated out of the darkness and into the light to finally become an urgent national priority.”

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British Embassy Trolls America to Mark War of 1812

Monday, August 25th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

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Foley Letter Described 18 Hostages in His Cell, Power of Prayer

Monday, August 25th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The family of journalist James Foley revealed that a former prisoner of ISIS had smuggled out a letter from their son in June.

Because ISIS had been confiscating every letter that Foley tried to write, he asked his fellow hostage to memorize the letter and recite it to his mother, Diane, after being released.

The grisly video of Foley’s beheading was released last week by the Islamic State, with a warning to President Obama to stop airstrikes against the caliphate.

Foley wrote of remembering “so many great family times that take me away from this prison.”

“I know you are thinking of me and praying for me. And I am so thankful. I feel you all especially when I pray. I pray for you to stay strong and to believe. I really feel I can touch you even in this darkness when I pray,” he said.

“Eighteen of us have been held together in one cell, which has helped me. We have had each other to have endless long conversations about movies, trivia, sports. We have played games made up of scraps found in our cell…we have found ways to play checkers, chess, and Risk… and have had tournaments of competition, spending some days preparing strategies for the next day’s game or lecture. The games and teaching each other have helped the time pass. They have been a huge help. We repeat stories and laugh to break the tension.”

Foley admitted having “weak and strong days.”

“We are so grateful when anyone is freed; but of course, yearn for our own freedom. We try to encourage each other and share strength. We are being fed better now and daily. We have tea, occasional coffee. I have regained most of my weight lost last year,” he said.

He then had specific messages for family members, including his grandmother.

“Grammy, please take your medicine, take walks and keep dancing. I plan to take you out to Margarita’s when I get home,” Foley said. “Stay strong because I am going to need your help to reclaim my life.”

A Mass was held for Foley yesterday in Rochester, N.H. After his 2011 captivity in Libya, Foley wrote how his Catholic faith got him through that ordeal.

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Boko Haram Carves Out Part of Nigeria for the Caliphate

Monday, August 25th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson
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Nigeria-based terror group Boko Haram announced in a video released Sunday that it had carved up a town in the West African nation to be part of the new caliphate.

The al-Qaeda affiliate overran Gwoza, a city of about 275,000 in Borno state, the region where the kidnapping of Chibok schoolgirls touched off the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

Boko Haram terrorists have also been steadily taking towns near Gwoza, driving out Nigerian soldiers sent to guard the villages.

Last week, Boko Haram attacked the Mobile Police Training School. About three dozen policemen were missing after the raid.

“Following the attack launched by insurgents on the Gwoza Training camp of the Nigeria Police Mobile Force (PMF), the Inspector-General of Police, Ag. IGP Suleiman Abba has since ordered the tightening of security around all police facilities in the country in addition to efforts made to further protect the lives of all people in Nigeria and their properties,” Force Public Relations Officer DCP Emmanuel Ojukwud said in a statement.

“Thanks be to Allah who gave victory to our brethren in (the town of) Gwoza and made it part of the Islamic caliphate,” Abubakar Shekau declared in a 52-minute video obtained by Agence France-Presse.

Shekau added that the Boko fighters wanted to someday make pilgrimage to Mecca, but not while the Saudis controlled the holy site.

The leader stressed that Gwoza now has “nothing to do with Nigeria.”

Nigeria has faded to the backseat in Washington as attention has been focused on the heart of the caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

Vice President Joe Biden met with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who has been criticized for a slow response to the schoolgirls’ kidnapping in April. The majority of the girls are still missing.

The Obama administration has maintained that better economic opportunity in Nigeria will naturally halt the gains of the al-Qaeda affiliate. Activists have criticized the White House for glossing over the true nature of Boko Haram and the threats posed by the terror group.

“The Vice President welcomed the Government of Nigeria’s work to improve its business climate, which continues to attract U.S. investors. The President and Vice President agreed on the importance of deepening trade and investment, and the critical role that access to electricity—including through the advancement of Power Africa—plays in supporting that goal,” the White House said in a readout of the Biden meeting with Jonathan. “Lastly, the President and Vice President discussed Nigeria’s efforts to counter Boko Haram. The Vice President reiterated U.S. partnership in defeating the terrorist threat and the need to pursue holistic approaches that respect and protect human rights. The Vice President also underscored the importance of supporting Nigeria’s effort to improve the socioeconomic and security conditions in northern Nigeria.”

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‘Sports and Leisure Activities are a Good Way for Release,’ White House Says of Obama Golf Optics

Friday, August 22nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Back in Martha’s Vineyard for another week of vacation, President Obama hit the golf course for more than four hours directly after giving a statement Wednesday on the beheading of American journalist James Foley.

He hit the links again Thursday for more than four hours.

Today, White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz was asked by reporters just why he kept golfing during times of crisis.

“I am not going to get into the president’s mindset on that. I will say that, generally, I think that, you know, sports and leisure activities are — are a good way for release and clearing of the mind for a lot of us,” Schultz replied.

“The president did give a powerful statement in this auditorium Wednesday afternoon. I think that anyone wondering his views on both the situation with ISIL, that video, or his concern for the Foley family should go back and review that statement. It was delivered from the heart, it was candid, it was honest, and it was open,” the spokesman said.

“And I think anyone trying to assess how seriously he takes the gravity of that situation should go back and watch that or read it or listen to it again.”

But what about the optics of Obama laughing on the golf course after giving a statement about the Foley tragedy, Schultz was asked.

“I understand you’re asking about the optics. But let me just take a minute to explain how we approach this,” he responded. “First and foremost, the president is focused on doing his job. And to us, that’s paramount. And what I think you’ve seen is just because the president is in a different location doesn’t mean he’s not doing his job. And I don’t think anyone in this room who’s been covering this or following the president for the past few weeks could deny that the president’s been deeply engaged on issues both domestic and abroad.”

“It’s important for us to understand, and I think that’s been evident, is that the issues the country is facing, both on the international stage and back here at home, have absolutely captured the president’s attention while we’ve been here.”

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White House Explains Why It Swapped 5 Taliban for Bergdahl But Wouldn’t Consider Foley Ransom

Friday, August 22nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz was asked at today’s press briefing why the administration was unwilling to negotiate with terrorists in James Foley’s case, yet traded five Taliban for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

“I think, again, what the president made clear at the time of the Guantanamo transfer was that his commitment to the men and women that serve overseas is a bedrock one, that we will leave no man or woman behind. That’s what he was keeping faith with, and that’s something that’s unshakeable for him,” Schultz said.

“As we’ve made previously clear, the administration determined that it was lawful to proceed with a transfer in order to protect the life of a U.S. servicemember held captive and in danger for almost five years, notwithstanding that Congress did not receive the 30 days’ notice. Again, we disagree with GAO’s conclusion and we reject the implication that the administration acted unlawfully.”

A brother and sister of the slain journalist told Katie Couric that the U.S. could have done more to free Foley, including considering a $100 million ransom demand made by ISIS before his death. But Michael Foley also appeared to reference the Bergdahl swap.

“We are sitting on prisoners for example in Guantanamo. It doesn’t have to be financial,” he said. “There’s ways to do it… I just feel strongly that more can be done, moving forward.”

Before Schultz delivered the regular briefing, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes delivered probably the strongest administration assessment of Foley’s beheading, calling it a “terrorist attack.”

“When you see somebody killed in such a horrific way, that represents a terrorist attack. That represents a terrorist attack against our country and against an American citizen, and I think all of us have the Foley family in our thoughts and prayers,” Rhodes said.

“The fact of the matter is, we’ve actually seen, you know, ISIL seek to advance too close to our facilities, certainly for our own comfort. And so the president’s decision to take military action a number of weeks ago was out of direct concern that if they were able to get into Erbil, that they could pose a threat to our personnel and our consulate there. So, we have seen them posing a threat to our interests in the region, to our personnel and facilities in the region, and clearly, the brutal execution of Jim Foley represented an affront, an attack, not just on him, but he’s an American and we see that as an attack on our country when one of our own is killed like that.”

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White House: Russia Facing ‘Additional Consequences’ for Latest Invasion Not Called Invasion

Friday, August 22nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The White House vaguely warned today that Russia would face “additional consequences” for its latest incursion into Ukraine.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, however, issued its own lengthy statement earlier today calling ”endless delays hampering the initial deliveries of the Russian humanitarian relief aid to southeastern Ukraine” simply “intolerable.”

“It is no longer possible to tolerate this lawlessness, outright lies and inability to reach agreements. All pretexts for delaying the delivery of aid to people in the humanitarian disaster zone have been depleted. The Russian side has decided to act. Our humanitarian relief convoy is setting out towards Lugansk,” the Russian MFA said.

“We are warning against any attempts to thwart this purely humanitarian mission which took a long time to prepare in conditions of complete transparency and cooperation with the Ukrainian side and the [International Committee of the Red Cross]. Those who are ready to continue sacrificing human lives to their own ambitions and geopolitical designs and who are rudely trampling on the norms and principles of international humanitarian law will assume complete responsibility for the possible consequences of provocations against the humanitarian relief convoy.”

In a statement this afternoon, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden confirmed that “in violation of its previous commitments and international law, Russian military vehicles painted to look like civilian trucks forced their way into Ukraine.”

“While a small number of these vehicles were inspected by Ukrainian customs officials, most of the vehicles have not been inspected by anyone but Russia. We condemn this action by Russia, for which it will bear additional consequences,” she said.

Furthermore, Hayden confirmed that the Red Cross was not escorting the convoy “and has no role in managing the mission, a condition that all parties had agreed would be required.”

“Under the agreed terms, the mission should have been accomplished by sending a small number of inspected trucks in to drop their supplies and return to Russia within 24 hours by the same approved route by which they entered,” she said. “That is not what is taking place. As we and governments around the world have said all along, Russia has no right to send vehicles, persons, or cargo of any kind into Ukraine, whether under the guise of humanitarian convoys or any other pretext, without the express permission of the government of Ukraine.”

At the White House press briefing, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said they “think this is part of a pattern that we’ve seen in recent weeks and that we’ve highlighted of Russian support to armed separatists in eastern Ukraine that, again, violates Ukraine’s sovereignty and destabilizes the situation.”

“So we are, again, deeply concerned about this. We’re in touch with the Ukrainian government,” he said. “We will be in touch today with our partners at the U.N. Security Council to discuss next steps.”

Hayden said “the primary barrier to the delivery of the humanitarian aid has been the lack of security guarantees from the Russia-backed separatists.”

“Russian military vehicles piloted by Russian drivers have unilaterally entered the territory controlled by the separatist forces Russia has been training, supplying, and reinforcing for months. The Ukrainian humanitarian assistance convoy was prevented from delivering much needed assistance to Luhansk city,” she said.

“At the same time as Russian vehicles violate Ukraine’s sovereignty, Russia maintains a sizable military force on the Ukrainian border capable of invading Ukraine on very short notice. It has repeatedly fired into Ukrainian territory, and has sent an ever-increasing stream of military equipment and fighters into Ukraine. As a result, the international community has been profoundly concerned that Russia’s actions today are nothing but a pretext for further Russian escalation of the conflict. We recall that Russia denied its military was occupying Crimea until it later admitted its military role and attempted to annex this part of Ukraine.”

Hayden added that if Russia “really wants to ease the humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine, it could do so today by halting its supply of weapons, equipment, and fighters to its proxies.”

“It is important to remember that Russia is purporting to alleviate a humanitarian situation which Russia itself created – a situation that has caused the deaths of thousands, including 300 innocent passengers of flight MH17,” she said. “…Russia must remove its vehicles and its personnel from the territory of Ukraine immediately.”

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Armed Services Chairman: Leak on Unsuccessful Rescue Op Puts Hostages, Informants, Troops at Risk

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee today called for an investigation into the leak that led the Obama administration to say that it attempted a rescue of ISIS hostages earlier this summer.

The Pentagon and White House released details of the operation reportedly to beat some news stories that were expected on it.

“Earlier this summer the president authorized an operation to attempt the rescue of American citizens who were kidnapped and held by ISIL against their will in Syria,” Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “The president authorized action at this time because it was the national security team’s assessment that these hostages were in danger with each passing day in ISIL custody.”

“The U.S. Government had what we believed was sufficient intelligence, and when the opportunity presented itself, the president authorized the Department of Defense to move aggressively to recover our citizens,” Monaco said in the statement. “Unfortunately, that mission was ultimately not successful because the hostages were not present.”

Armed Services chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said in a statement this afternoon that he, “like all Americans,” continues to be “shocked and outraged at the brutal execution of James Foley at the hands of ISIS terrorists.”

“I commend the bravery of our forces who attempted to rescue him and other American captives earlier this summer. They put their lives on the line for people they’d probably never met, and we are forever blessed to have such men and women in service to our country,” McKeon said.

“Successful or not, such operations are incredibly sensitive, even after they have concluded. Disclosure of these missions puts our troops at risk, reduces the likelihood that future missions will succeed, and risks the lives of hostages and informants alike.”

The chairman said while he found it “unwise for the White House and Department of Defense to formally acknowledge this operation, it is outrageous that someone would be so selfish and short sighted to leak it to the media.”

“Secretary Hagel should investigate this matter immediately and thoroughly to determine who, if anyone, at the Department of Defense was the source of this damaging leak,” McKeon said. “Likewise, the heads of the other agencies involved should take similar steps.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to address the media at 3:30 p.m. EST.

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Cheney Rips Obama: ‘It’s Hard to Believe That This President Is as Ineffective as He Clearly Is’

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Americans need to take the “terrible development” of the beheading of journalist James Foley and “magnify that a million times over because that’s what’s in store for the rest of the world if we don’t deal effectively with this crisis.”

“There’s no question what with the developments of Iraq and Syria, the development of a caliphate, that the ISIS organization in charge is very much a threat to the United States, to our friends and allies not only in the Middle East but in Europe,” Cheney told Fox last night.

The veep said he’s still wrestling with the question of whether Obama is operating from “naivete or lack of experience or because that’s the way he wants things to work.”

“I’ve just about reached the point where I’ve concluded that what he is discovering fairly late in his administration is that his basic world view is fundamentally flawed, that the world is a mean, nasty place on occasion, that you need a very strong America, you need superior American military forces to deal with it,” Cheney said.

“And I think every single day that goes by, he’s finding that there’s a bigger and bigger gulf between his hoped-for view of the world and reality. He’s not up to speed and does not want to believe all that’s going on out there. But every day, we find new evidence that he’d rather be on the golf course than he would be dealing with the crisis that’s developing rapidly in the Middle East.”

Obama headed straight for a game with Alonzo Mourning and others after yesterday’s statement at Martha’s Vineyard about Foley’s murder.

Cheney compared this with the reaction of British Prime Minister David Cameron. Foley’s killer had a Londoner accent.

“He wanted to immediately leave his vacation spot, head back to London and go to work, trying to deal with the problems that that represents. And of course, our president headed for the golf course as soon as he made his relatively, I thought, ineffective statement,” he said.

“I think the danger is enormous. I don’t think the president understands it… The intelligence is there for all to see. There’s no question about what’s happening. But this president and the people around him refuse to recognize it and certainly refuse to deal with it.”

Cheney maintained that Obama is making the situation even worse with military cuts.

“They’re taking our Army down below levels we haven’t seen since Pearl Harbor. They’ve made major reductions in the Air Force and the Navy. There was a recent excellent study done by a commission, bipartisan commission, Republican and Democrat alike, studying the long-term trends of the defense budget that basically concludes that there’s no way under current circumstances we can execute the national strategy,” he said. “So it’s a train wreck. And there’s one more train wreck every day. It’s hard to believe that this president is as ineffective as he clearly is.”

The former VP acknowledged the “lack of appetite” among many Americans to declare war on ISIS after Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Of course, it’s difficult to persuade the American people that we ought to send our sons and daughters off to fight a war. But sometimes, it’s absolutely necessary. And that’s why we have presidents. And that’s why they have the authority as commander-in-chief to make those decisions and why those of us who are involved need to do everything we can to support them and support our troops in the field,” Cheney said.

“Now, is there a great threat coming? Absolutely. Remember what happened on 9/11, when 19 guys armed with airline tickets and box cutters came here and killed 3,000 of us, took down the World Trade Center, blew a big hole in the Pentagon. I’m absolutely certain that some day, there will be another mass casualty attack against the United States. Only next time, they’ll have far deadlier weapons.”

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McCain: ‘Failures of Policies Have Consequences, and We’re Paying Those in Human Blood’

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) stressed that “failures of policies have consequences, and we’re paying those consequences in enormous… cost of human blood.”

“The president wanted out of Iraq. We predicted — many of us predicted that this chaos would ensue. We did not predict the rapidity of the collapse of collapse of the Iraqi military, but certainly this was all predictable when the president of the United States — and he — he’s not telling the truth when he says that he wanted to leave a residual force behind. He did not. And that’s a huge mistake,” McCain said this morning on Fox.

“These things are not like earthquakes or hurricanes… And he still doesn’t get it.”

“He gave a very moving statement about Mr. Foley which all touched us. And then what? He said we have to contain ISIS. We don’t have to contain ISIS. We have to defeat ISIS. And we have to do whatever is necessary. And ISIS is in Syria. And they have obliterated the — the boundary between Iraq and Syria. And we have to go in, and it’s more than pinprick air strikes. And we’re going to need more boots on the ground. And that does not mean combat troops, but it does mean a significant increase,” McCain continued.

“And rather the incrementalism that we are — that they are now practicing, we need a comprehensive strategy that can be explained to the American people, which is designed to defeat ISIS wherever they are. And I hope that this tragic thing that happened with — with Foley will serve to — as a — as a strong message to the United States of America that these people are going to attack us, and they’re going to attack us in the United States of America.”

He reminded all of the words Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — now the self-styled caliph — said when he left U.S. custody at Camp Bucca in 2004: “See you in New York.”

McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) issued their first statement on the execution of journalist James Foley after President Obama’s statement yesterday.

“We agree with the President that America must take the necessary actions against ISIS to protect our people, but ISIS is not just a threat to our personnel serving in Iraq. It is a threat to our nation, as all of our top military, national security, and intelligence leaders have clearly stated. America and our allies and partners will only be secure when ISIS is defeated. That means we must get beyond half-measures, tactical responses, and defensive actions. We need to develop a comprehensive strategy – political, economic, and military – to go on the offensive against ISIS, both in Iraq and Syria,” they said.

The senators noted that Obama “did not articulate a commitment to the comprehensive strategy necessary to defeat ISIS.”

“We cannot allow the darkness to spread, and we must accept our share of the responsibility to stop it, for the sake of our people and the entire civilized world,” McCain and Graham added.

McCain reminded viewers on Fox that Obama previously said, ”It’s not a question of whether Bashar Assad will go, it’s a matter of when.”

“Another debacle, which is the 170,000 dead, 150,000 Syrians still in Bashar Assad’s prison. And the barrel bombs that are so horrendous are continuing to be dropped on innocent men, women and children,” the senator said. “This is an abject failure. And I get emotional about it, because I know these people, and what they’re going through is horrendous.”

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‘War Is Deceit’: Tipsheet Tells Jihadists How to Shake Off Intel Agencies During Online Ops

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

ISIS members and supporters took over not just land in Syria and Iraq but a lot of Internet territory in their push to expand the Islamic State, advertise their operations, threaten the West and recruit new members.

Many of the accounts that spread like wildfire across Twitter, though, came under suspension Tuesday for tweeting photos or video of the beheading of journalist James Foley. Other Islamic State tweeters announced that they were voluntarily turning off their accounts for a few days until the storm passed, or resurfaced with altered account names.

A document posted on JustPaste.it, where ISIS has placed previous announcements such as photos posted Wednesday of its presence dangerously close to Aleppo, tells supporters and jihadists how to lay low online for the most effectiveness — including deceptively tweeting that they don’t support the bloody jihad of ISIS.

“The intelligence agencies specifically monitor the internet with the intention of dismantling anti-colonial narratives and attacking those who postulate them. Whether Muslim, radical socialist, anarchist, or anti-government activist, they want you. They want to know what you send, when you send it, to whom you send it to, why, and how to use it against you. They monitor your social media. Even if you never use your real name, post a picture, or leave any hints, they can track your IP address, know your identity, and jail you for a few online posts. They search for keywords such as ‘kafir’ in order to find specific individuals,” warns the paper, which begins with the verse, ”And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know [but] whom Allah knows.”

It stresses that the dangers posed online for jihadists aren’t a big deal in “South Africa or Sham [Syria],” but in the West, where the terror group wants to quietly maintain and grow its influence, “kafir intelligence agencies are particularly interested in entrapping young Muslims.”

“Is it lying to trick the kufar into thinking we live in different locations than we actually do, through words or otherwise, even if other Muslims may hear or see this?” the paper asks as a “minor issue,” before stressing that “war is deceit.”

“The people we are fooling are ones who have an open war with Allah, his messenger, our khilafah, and just about every sincere Muslim on this planet. You are engaging in war tactics so that you can spread the true dawah and discuss matters of jihad, to uncover news about your mujahid brothers, to dismiss lies. You are entering into a sort of psychological warfare with them, they do not take it lightly, and we do not take it lightly. Therefore, we can trick them and it is totally permissible.”

The paper was posted and pinned in a tweet by a user named Amreeki Witness, who is “dedicated to raising awareness about the upcoming conquest of the Americas, and the benefits it has upon the American people.” His avatar uses a State Department symbol and his Twitter cover photo is the White House with an Islamic State flag perched on top. He also posted the tips on remaining anonymous on a WordPress blog.

First, the tipsheet advises using a ghost VPN so “if the agencies attempt to track you, their search will lead them to a dead end,” and an Internet browser named TOR so “instead of simply placing you in one location, it sends you internet signal through nodes, or servers, across dozens of countries. That way, any searches will come up inconclusive.”

Users are then walked through how to create an encrypted email address “to confuse any spies who wish to uncover who sent what email to who” and install a TAILS operating system that runs off a flash drive instead of a hard drive. Instant messaging is encouraged only on Cryptocat or ChatSecure.

“One might be asking themselves if they can continue using their old social media on these. The answer is yes, but I do not recommend it whatsoever,” the paper continues. “If one feels they post things in which they would need this security, which is most Muslims upon haqq who are active online, then they should make a disclaimer saying something similar to, ‘I recant all opinions deemed dangerous or violent expressed on this page. This page was run for educational and analytic purposes only, to study the radical Muslim community for recreational purposes. I invite all those who follow this page to leave such corrupt ideology. I am not affiliated with any groups or organizations deemed terrorist or dangerous otherwise by any Western government or union of governments. I am a law abiding citizen in every regard.’”

“And then proceed to delete all other tweets/posts on the page and after leaving this up for a few minutes, simply delete the page. Make no indication that you have done this based on instructions. You are in a war with these people, we have discussed this earlier. Now, once you are on either TOR with a VPN, TOR, and/or TAILS OS, make a new bitmessage email. Make an alias. Sign-up for Twitter on TOR. Do not post pictures or any indication of who you are explicitly. If you feel the need to alter your writing style a bit, if you were a popular page, do so. You can make subtle indications that this is so and so, however, nothing that can be proven in a court of law. Allah’u must’a'n, may we never see inside one of those rooms for such a purpose.”

The writer asks Allah ”to hasten our venturing to the lands of jihad and hijrah, the lands in which there is no worry about people spying on private matters, in which the justice of Allah is supreme over the paranoia of men.”

A new Twitter account named @KhilafaHackers — Caliphate Hackers — also appeared online today, indicating that the Islamic State doesn’t plan on just playing defense against intelligence agencies trying to track them down.

“When it comes to Muslims in America i Quote Yasser Fazaga: The Less you Talk the more you Walk,” tweeted a user called @TheArabWitness today. “Too many informants. Keep it down.”

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Obama Admin Says It Tried to Rescue Americans from ISIS ‘Earlier This Summer’

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The White House said that it attempted to rescue U.S. hostages held by ISIS, including James Foley, who was beheaded in a video distributed by the terror group yesterday.

“Earlier this summer the president authorized an operation to attempt the rescue of American citizens who were kidnapped and held by ISIL against their will in Syria,” Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco said in a statement. “The president authorized action at this time because it was the national security team’s assessment that these hostages were in danger with each passing day in ISIL custody.”

“The U.S. Government had what we believed was sufficient intelligence, and when the opportunity presented itself, the president authorized the Department of Defense to move aggressively to recover our citizens,” Monaco said in the statement. “Unfortunately, that mission was ultimately not successful because the hostages were not present.”

She added that “given the need to protect our military’s operational capabilities, we will not be able to reveal the details of this operation.”

“But the president could not be prouder of the U.S. forces who carried out this mission and the dedicated intelligence and diplomatic professionals who supported their efforts. Their effort should serve as another signal to those who would do us harm that  the United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will spare no effort to secure the safety of our citizens and to hold their captors accountable.”

Foley’s news outlet, the Global Post, received an email a week ago from ISIS stating their intentions to execute the photojournalist.

“We received an email from the captors on Wednesday night of last week stating their intention to execute Jim,” Philip Balboni, president of the online news service, told a Boston Fox affiliate.

“The email was full of rage. We pleaded (to his captors) for mercy, but to no avail,” he added.

The White House knew of the email. It released the statement about the attempted rescue op hours after the news that ISIS gave warning of Foley’s execution.

In a Pentagon statement, press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said the operation “involved air and ground components and was focused on a particular captor network within ISIL.”

“As we have said repeatedly, the United States government is committed to the safety and well-being of its citizens, particularly those suffering in captivity. In this case, we put the best of the United States military in harms’ way to try and bring our citizens home,” Kirby said.

“The United States government uses the full breadth of our military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities to bring people home whenever we can. The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will work tirelessly to secure the safety of our citizens and to hold their captors accountable.”

It has not been revealed exactly how many Western hostages are being held by ISIS, including journalists and aid workers.

At the end of the gruesome video of Foley’s murder, his executioner held journalist Steve Sotloff by the shirt and threatened to kill him next if Obama didn’t stop airstrikes against the caliphate.

At the State Department today, spokeswoman Marie Harf said they ”remain very deeply concerned” about Sotloff’s “safety and whereabouts.”

“Obviously, the intelligence community is looking to get anything they can to possibly use from this video,” Harf said. “Obviously I’m not going to outline what tactical military or intelligence options are at our disposal to respond here and don’t want to get ahead of any discussions in that regard. But we have the ability to hold people accountable for what they’ve done. We have reserved the right to take action to protect our people, including when our people have been harmed. The principle will guide what we do going forward.”

The U.S. military conducted an additional 14 strikes around Mosul dam today, she said.

When asked if any sort of rescue operation was in the works to get Sotloff, Harf replied, “I’m not ruling anything in or out specifically. I don’t — I’m not going to have more specifics to share with you right now on that.”

“But I just want to be very clear that we — no effort is spared in trying to bring our people home. While we can’t always talk about it publicly for obvious security and safety reasons of the remaining people being held, I just want to make very clear that we are taking and will continue taking steps.”

Foley’s parents appeared outside of their Rochester, N.H., home today to speak of their son — and the cruelty of his death.

“It’s horrific,” said John Foley. “People can die in lots of different ways but this was the most horrific and it haunts me how much pain he was in and how cruel this method of execution is.”

His parents learned of their son’s beheading at the same time everyone else did — when ISIS posted the video on YouTube and distributed the link widely on social media.

“It testified to his courage. He was courageous to the end and I think he accepted his situation and I think he accepted God’s faith in him and his faith in God,” John Foley said.

James Foley’s mother, Diane, stressed that her son was ”a great American and he believed in the very best of this country.”

She said they pleaded with Obama to rescue Sotloff, and she asked people to pray for the president.

“How long are we going to tolerate this?” John Foley said of the terrorists’ crimes.

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Obama: ‘ISIL Speaks for No Religion,’ Global Effort Should ‘Extract This Cancer So That It Does Not Spread’

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama condemned the beheading of journalist James Foley and ISIS in a strongly worded statement to reporters moments ago, but didn’t offer specifics on how the U.S. would react policy-wise to ISIS killing Americans.

“Today, the entire world is appalled by the brutal murder of Jim Foley by the terrorist group, ISIL. Jim was a journalist, a son, a brother, and a friend. He reported from difficult and dangerous places, bearing witness to the lives of people a world away,” Obama said from Martha’s Vineyard.

“…Earlier today, I spoke to the Foleys and told them that we are all heartbroken at their loss, and join them in honoring Jim and all that he did.”

He added that “Jim Foley’s life stands in stark contrast to his killers.”

“Let’s be clear about ISIL. They have rampaged across cities and villages, killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children and subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They have murdered Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, by the thousands. They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when they can, for no other reason than they practice a different religion. They declare their ambition to commit genocide against an ancient people,” Obama said.

“So ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt. They may claim, out of expediency, that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is, they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior.”

The president said “people like this ultimately fail.”

“They fail because the future is won by those who build and not destroy, and the world is shaped by people like Jim Foley and the overwhelming majority of humanity who are appalled by those who killed him,” Obama continued. “The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done.”

“And we act against ISIL standing alongside others. The people of Iraq who, with our support, are taking the fight to ISIL, must continue coming together to expel these terrorists from their communities. The people of Syria, whose story Jim Foley told, do not deserve to live under the shadow of a tyrant or terrorists. They have our support in their pursuit of a future rooted in dignity.”

He stressed that among “governments and peoples across the Middle East, there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer so that it does not spread. There has to be a clear rejection of these kind of nihilistic ideologies.”

“One thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century,” said Obama. “Friends and allies around the world, we share a common security and a common set of values that are rooted in the opposite of what we saw yesterday, and we will continue to confront this hateful terrorism and replace it with a sense of hope and civility.”

“That’s what Jim Foley stood for, a man who lived his work, who courageously told the stories of his fellow human beings and who was liked and loved by friends and family. Today, the American people will all say a prayer for those who loved Jim. All of us feel the ache of his absence. All of us mourn his loss.”

Obama, who did not take questions from reporters, did not mention the specific threat in the beheading video to kill journalist Steve Sotloff if strikes continue. “We keep in our prayers those other Americans who are separated from their families. We will do everything that we can to protect our people and the timeless values that we stand for,” he said. “Maybe God bless and keep Jim’s memory and may God bless the United States of America.”

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Syrian Town Pays Tribute to James Foley, Digs at Obama’s ‘Vague Vision’

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

It’s not the first time the northwestern Syrian fig-and-olive-producing town of Kafranbel has cited President Obama in its famous signs — see Obama as Pinocchio and a genocide enabler — but it’s especially poignant in their touching tribute to slain journalist James Foley:

 

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‘It Didn’t Make Sense, But Faith Did’: James Foley on the Power of Prayer in Captivity

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

After being held for 45 days by pro-Gadhafi forces in Libya in April 2011, journalist James Foley told the magazine of his alma mater, Marquette University, how prayer had gotten him through the time in captivity:

Myself and two colleagues had been captured and were being held in a military detention center in Tripoli. Each day brought increasing worry that our moms would begin to panic. My colleague, Clare, was supposed to call her mom on her birthday, which was the day after we were captured. I had still not fully admitted to myself that my mom knew what had happened. But I kept telling Clare my mom had a strong faith.

I prayed she’d know I was OK. I prayed I could communicate through some cosmic reach of the universe to her.

I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. 
I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused.

Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone.

Finally, 18 days into his captivity, Foley was allowed to call his mom, Diane.

I replayed that call hundreds of times in my head — my mother’s voice, the names of my friends, her knowledge of our situation, her absolute belief in the power of prayer. She told me my friends had gathered to do anything they could to help. I knew I wasn’t alone.

My last night in Tripoli, I had my first Internet connection in 44 days and was able to listen to a speech Tom Durkin gave for me at the Marquette vigil. To a church full of friends, alums, priests, students and faculty, I watched the best speech a brother could give for another. It felt like a best man speech and a eulogy in one. It showed tremendous heart and was just a glimpse of the efforts and prayers people were pouring forth. If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us. It didn’t make sense, but faith did.

Foley was held captive for two years after being taken in Syria. Yesterday, ISIS released the barbaric video of his beheading. Foley closed his eyes during the terrorist’s speech, as if concentrating on prayer before he was murdered.

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Dem Congressman Stresses to MSNBC: ISIS ‘Personification of Evil,’ Wants Fight Against ‘Infidels’

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee stressed to MSNBC last night that what ISIS wants is “a fight against the infidels” — us.

“It’s hard to imagine a more apt description than evil for what this group represents. They’re beheading people. They’re forcing people to convert. They’re victimizing women and children, starving whole population centers,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said. “They are the personification of evil. And we see this most graphically in this latest barbarous act.”

MSNBC host Chris Hayes then asked, “Is ISIS, ISIL evil?” — adding that there seems to be “a widespread feeling what they’re doing is just monstrous and evil.”

Hayes then said “the situation seems to have gotten better” around Mount Sinjar, where ISIS laid siege to fleeing Yazidis, and questioned whether we’re now at war with ISIS.

“The mission has broadened. It began to protect American citizens as well as the humanitarian crisis you mentioned. It then expanded to protecting critical information, the Mosul dam,” Schiff said. “And it’s a very treacherous and slippery slope, particularly when you talk about a long-term strategic plan of aiding the Iraqis and helping to defeat ISIL. We may not have declared it a war, but when we’re dropping bombs and they’re apparently beheading our citizens, it certainly looks like war.”

“So this is, you know, a very precarious situation. America doesn’t want to be dragged back in. At the same time, this is a group if left to its own device has made it clear they intend to attack us in the homeland.”

“Is this an attempt to bait America into war? Or is it an attempt to warn America away from continued airstrikes?” Hayes asked of the beheading of journalist James Foley.

“I think it may be at a bit of both. This is their way of trying to deter, on the one hand, America from engaging these airstrikes which have really set ISIL back for the first time,” Schiff said. ”At the same time, part of what al-Qaeda has done, part of what ISIL wants to do, is they want to pull us in. These are conflicting objectives. Maybe they see it as a win either way for them. But part of what they’re trying to get is the reaction, part of what they want is a fight against the infidels, and we are apparently the greatest infidel of all.”

“So, I think they have those twin objectives. Maybe most immediately, they want to halt the airstrikes, but that’s simply no going to happen.”

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Congress Reacts with ‘Fear that James Foley Will Not be the Only American to Die’ by ISIS Hands

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A Congress in recess began to react late Tuesday to the horrific beheading of journalist James Foley, with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) stressing that Foley won’t be the last American to die at the hands of ISIS unless the Islamic State is stopped.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who represents Foley’s native state and where his parents live, said in a statement that ”our hearts are broken for the Foley family.”

“James was an innocent civilian who was bravely performing his job as a journalist,” Ayotte said. “This barbaric and heinous act shocks the conscience and highlights the truly evil nature of the terrorists we confront, who must be defeated. My thoughts and prayers are with James Foley’s family at this extremely difficult time.”

Ayotte replaced Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) as the third senator in the powerful national-security trio including Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Neither McCain nor Graham has yet spoken on the Foley murder, but they have been the loudest voices in the upper chamber for some time warning that President Obama let ISIS get out of hand. “Our senior military, intelligence, and national security leaders have all stated that ISIS is a direct threat to the United States, and we should delay no further in taking the necessary actions to counter it,” they said in a joint statement the day before the gruesome execution video was released by ISIS.

Five days ago, an MSNBC piece accused Graham of “fear-mongering” on the Islamic State.

Foley’s other home-state senator, Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), noted that Foley “was a respected and accomplished journalist who devoted his life to one of our most important freedoms – the freedom of press.”

“Everyone who knew him recognized his dedication to his work and his commitment to sharing his eye-witness reporting of world events,” she said in a statement late Tuesday on her Facebook page. “His murder was a cowardly act of terrorism and underscores the threat that ISIL poses to the freedoms we hold dear. My thoughts are with the Foley family and everyone who knew and loved James, both in New Hampshire and around the world.”

Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R-N.H.), who’s aiming to unseat Shaheen this November, quickly issued a one-sentence statement after the devastating news: ”If anyone needed further evidence of the utter inhumanity of Islamic terrorism, this is it. ISIS is pure evil, and they must be stopped.”

Rubio issued a lengthy statement around midnight calling the murder “the latest example of the evil and barbarism of these terrorists.”

“My thoughts and prayers are with the Foley family and with other Western hostages who at this hour are still being held.”

The Daily Beast reported in January that terrorists hold a cache of journalists and aid workers, and moved them east and away from the reach of the Free Syrian Army when they expanded the Islamic State.

“Just as Al Qaeda’s initial killings of Americans abroad foretold the carnage they would unleash within our borders, this barbaric beheading of a defenseless hostage is the clearest indication to date that ISIL has declared war on the United States, on the American people, and on freedom loving people everywhere,” Rubio said. “For more than a year, ISIL has been murdering civilians, raping women and young girls and enslaving them, and carrying out a systematic genocide of anyone who does not share their warped and extremist Islamist views. ISIL cannot be reasoned with, they can’t be negotiated with, and their view of the world is irreconcilable with civilized society.”

Rubio added that he remains “deeply concerned that despite the preponderance of evidence that proves ISIL is a fundamentally evil and dangerous terrorist threat to the United States, President Obama continues to appear unwilling to do what is necessary to confront ISIL and communicate clearly to the American people about the threat ISIL poses to our country and to our way of life.”

“ISIL is not a problem for only Iraqis or Syrians to solve. A piecemeal approach will not eliminate the growing threat to the United States and our allies. If we do not do more to assist our Iraqi partners and those moderate Syrians who are fighting ISIL and directly target ISIL’s leadership and networks in Iraq and Syria, I fear that James Foley will not be the only American to die at their hands.”

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Pentagon Not Taking a ‘Position’ on How Police Departments Use Surplus Military Equipment

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Pentagon leaders are informally studying how surplus military equipment is distributed to police departments, though a Defense spokesman stressed that after it leaves their hands it’s up to law enforcement to use it as they wish.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “has not ordered a review of this program,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters this afternoon. “He’s simply asked for some more information so that he can have a more informed opinion about it.”

Hagel “has been mindful of the public debate and discussion” about police militarization in Ferguson, Mo.

“He has been given an information paper that provides some more detail to it, and he’s consuming that now,”  Kirby said.

“It’s important to understand this is a program legislated by Congress which allows the secretary to transfer some excess military property to local law enforcement. This has been on the books since 1991,” he added. “And many, many law enforcement agencies have benefited from it. In fact, many citizens of many towns and cities all over the country have benefited from it. But it — but how, as I said before, how and where and under what circumstances the equipment actually gets used is up to the local law enforcement agencies to determine.”

Since 2007 the Defense Logistics Agency has transferred to the Ferguson police department two Humvees, one generator, and one cargo trailer, Kirby said. “In all of St. Louis County, over that same period of time, which includes Ferguson, six pistols, 12 rifles, 15 weapon sites, an EOD robot, three helicopters, seven Humvees, as I said, two of which are being used by Ferguson, and two night-vision devices. That’s what they got,” he said.

When asked if the Pentagon thinks Ferguson “misused” their equipment, Kirby stressed, “We don’t take a position on the way the equipment is being used.”

“That is up to local law enforcement to determine. I will tell you, though, that we have rigorous compliance and accountability standards, and biannually, the Defense Logistics Agency spot-checks many of these local law enforcement agencies in the states to make sure that they’re keeping proper accountability inventorying — keeping an inventory of the equipment. But we do not legislate, we don’t dictate, we don’t — we don’t mandate any kind of certain use. That is up to local law enforcement,” he said.

“And many of the equipment finds use in counterdrug and counterterrorism-type activities that, of course, get right to the protection of the homeland. So we’re not — the — as I said at the outset, how and when and where and under what circumstances the equipment gets used is up to local law enforcement agencies to speak to.”

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Sanders: Don’t Ignore Problem of Black Unemployment in Ferguson Response

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said the high unemployment rate among African-Americans should not be overlooked in the outrage over Ferguson.

The overall unemployment rate for July was fairly steady at 6.2 percent, but the rate for blacks edged up to 11.4 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The jobless rate for teenagers was 20.2 percent.

Sanders told MSNBC that “if there’s any silver lining in the tragedy of Ferguson is that I hope we learn some very important lessons.”

“When I was a mayor of Burlington, Vermont and all over this country, what mayors are trying to do is develop community-based policing, where police officers are seen as part of the neighborhood, they know people in the neighborhood, they are trusted by people in the neighborhood,” he said.

“When you see the kind of force that’s been used in Ferguson, it really does make an appeal that the police department there is an occupying army in a hostile territory and that is absolutely not what we want to see in the United States. So, I think we’ve got to rethink a lot of this heavy equipment that police departments around the country are utilizing.”

The senator said he hopes “that what Ferguson teaches us is that not only the violence being perpetrated against young black men but also the economic crises facing black youth in this country.”

“Youth unemployment in America is tragically high, it is 20 percent. African-American youth unemployment is 35 percent. In the St. Louis area, it is significantly higher than that. And if we are going to address the issue of crime in low-income areas and in African-American areas, it might be a good idea that instead of putting heavy equipment into police departments on those areas, we start creating jobs for the kids there who desperately need them,” Sanders said.

He added that “we want to make sure that our police department has the effective tools and equipment to combat those threats.”

“But on the other hand, I do not think you need tanks and heavy military looking equipment in low income communities in America. I think that it essentially makes a difficult situation, a dangerous situation much more provocative and much more difficult,” he said. “…I think this is an issue along with the economic issue of having to create jobs for our young people that Congress should be addressing when we return.”

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said last week that Congress would review how the Pentagon transfers surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies.

The promise from Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) came after criticism, including from Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), that the SWAT reaction to the protests and rioting in Ferguson, Mo., resembled a police state more than a suburb.

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Border Patrol Catching Convicted Sex Offenders Trying to Re-Enter U.S.

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

In the midst of concerns about the safety of minors sent to illegally cross the border both alone and accompanied, the Border Patrol reported that it recently caught two convicted sex offenders trying to cross in Texas.

For the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1, the Del Rio sector alone, which covers 210 miles of the border and reaches 300 miles into Texas,  reports capturing a total of 26 sex offenders — convicted in the U.S., deported, and now trying to cross back into the States.

On Aug. 9 near noon, Border Patrol agents arrested Franklin Alexander Rodriguez-Diaz, 36, near railroad tracks in Eagle Pass.

“During processing it was determined that Rodriguez-Diaz has several convictions including a sex offense against a child – rape – in Cherokee, Oklahoma. He was ordered removed in 1999 by an immigration judge and was subsequently deported from the United States via Houston on March 11, 2004 to his native country of Honduras,” the Border Patrol said in a statement.

On Aug. 11 around 4 a.m., the Border Patrol said, an agent apprehended a group of six illegal immigrants.

“During processing, record checks revealed that Marcelino Argueta-Amaya, 59, an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador was a registered sex offender,” the agency said.

“Argueta-Amaya has two previous arrests involving sexual offenses. In 1987 he was convicted by the Los Angeles Superior Court for molestation of a child and sentenced to three years of probation. In 1996 he was arrested by the Huntington, California Park Police for Indecent Exposure. An immigration judge ordered Argueta-Amaya deported in 2004 and he was subsequently removed from the United States via Houston on Oct. 8, 2004 to his native country of El Salvador.”

Both suspects face charges of illegal re-entry, the Border Patrol said.

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Portraits of Brave People Defending Families, Homes from ISIS

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

 

 

 

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Think-Tank Tweet Tells Amnesty to ‘Suck It’ Over Ferguson Dig

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

I have to say, think tanks in D.C. usually don’t get this exciting. But the centrist Center for Strategic and International Studies mixed it up on Twitter last night with Amnesty International — then apologized for the incident.

It started when Amnesty plunged into the Ferguson debate on Monday, announcing that it sent a 13-person “human rights delegation,” to the Missouri town, “which included observers who monitored police and protester activity and sought meetings with officials. Other members of the delegation trained local activists in methods of non-violent protest.”

“Amnesty International has a long and tested history of monitoring and investigating police conduct, not just in foreign countries, but right here at home in the United States,” said Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA, in a statement. “Our delegation traveled to Missouri to let the authorities in Ferguson know that the world is watching. We want a thorough investigation into Michael Brown’s death and the series of events that followed.”

Amnesty called for a “prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown,” along with investigation of “any human rights abuses in connection with the policing of protests” and a “thorough review of all trainings, policies and procedures with regards to the use of force and the policing of protests.”

“Moving forward, we must seize this moment to bring about a wide-ranging review of all trainings, policies and procedures with regard to the use of force and the policing of protests in Ferguson and around the country,” said Hawkins. “This is a moment for people around the country – and around the world – to join the Ferguson community in raising concerns about race and policing, and about the impact of militarization on our fundamental right to peacefully assemble.”

Amnesty tweeted last night, “US can’t tell other countries to improve their records on policing and peaceful assembly if it won’t clean up its own human rights record.”

Then came the CSIS response in the wee hours, which has since been removed:

csisamnesty

The think tank pulled the tweet and issued this response:

Famous names at CSIS include former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Henry Kissinger.

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Obama on Ferguson: ‘I Have to be Very Careful About Not Prejudging These Events’

Monday, August 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Back from his weeklong vacation, President Obama told a late afternoon press conference that he has to be “very careful about not prejudging these events” like the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown “before investigations are completed.”

Obama met with Attorney General Eric Holder in the Oval Office after lunch, and said he spoke with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) and Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) by phone.

Holder, Obama said, “will be traveling to Ferguson on Wednesday to meet with the FBI agents and DOJ personnel conducting the federal criminal investigation and he will receive an update from them on their progress.”

“He will also be meeting with other leaders in the community who’s support is so critical to bringing about peace and calm in Ferguson,” the president added.

Holder will be joined by Ronald Davis, the director of the DOJ’s Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services. DOJ community relations officials have been “working in Ferguson since the days after the shooting to foster conversations among the local stakeholders and reduce tensions among the community.”

“We have all seen images of protesters and law enforcement in the streets. It’s clear that the vast majority of people are peacefully protesting. What’s also clear is that a small minority of individuals are not,” Obama said. “While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving into that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos. It undermines rather than advancing justice.”

Giving another nod to the recent arrests of reporters in Ferguson, he added, “Let me also be clear that our constitutional rights to speak freely, to assemble, and to report in the press must be vigilantly safeguarded: especially in moments like these.”

“Ours is a nation of laws: of citizens who live under them and for the citizens who enforce them. So, to a community in Ferguson that is rightly hurting and looking for answers, let me call once again for us to seek some understanding rather than simply holler at each other. Let’s seek to heal rather than to wound each other,” Obama continued. “As Americans, we’ve got to use this moment to seek out our shared humanity that’s been laid bare by this moment. The potential of a young man and the sorrows of parents, the frustrations of a community, the ideals that we hold as one united American family.”

The president gave a pitch for his My Brother’s Keeper initiative, an administration program focused on the challenges faced by young men of color. “In too many communities around the country, a gulf of mistrust exists between local residents and law enforcement. In too many communities, too many young men of color are left behind and seen only as objects of fear.”

Obama said the chasm between the community and law enforcement is nothing new, but “it’s always tragic when it involves the death of someone so young.”

“I have to be very careful about not prejudging these events before investigations are completed. Because, although these are, you know, issues of local jurisdiction — you know, the DOJ works for me. And then when they’re conducting an investigation, I’ve got to make sure that I don’t look like I’m putting my thumb on the scales one way or the other,” he said.

Obama said his job is getting at the “root causes” of why young men of color are “more likely to end up in jail or in the criminal justice system than they are in a good job or in college.”

“There are young black men that commit crime. And — and — and we can argue about why that happens because of the poverty they were born into or the lack of opportunity or the school systems that failed them or what have you, but if they commit a crime, then they need to be prosecuted because every community has an interest in public safety,” he said. “And if you go into the African American community or the Latino community, some of the folks who are most intent on making sure that criminals are dealt with are people that have been preyed upon by them.”

“So, this is not an argument that there isn’t real crime out there and that law enforcement doesn’t have a difficult job…  But what is also true is that given the history of this country, where we can make progress in building up more confidence, more trust, making sure that our criminal justice system is acutely aware of the possibilities of disparities in treatment, there are safeguards in place to avoid those disparities where, you know, training and assistance is provided to local law enforcement who, you know, may just need more information in order to avoid potential disparity.”

Obama did not directly responded to the main question of retiring ABC News Radio correspondent Ann Compton, who asked about Ferguson, “Has anyone there asked you, or have you considered going yourself?”

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Private Autopsy: Brown Shot ‘at Least’ Six Times, One Wound ‘Could Be’ from Back

Monday, August 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

badenautopsy

A renowned forensic pathologist who conducted a second autopsy on the body of 18-year-old Michael Brown said the teen was shot multiple times with “survivable” wounds but was felled by a shot to the top of the head.

“There weren’t signs of a struggle. In talking about a struggle, one of the things that the attorneys have also asked for is the medical examination of the officer who was in a struggle. So signs of injury to the officer, to Michael Brown, are both needed,” Dr. Michael Baden said a press conference with the attorneys for the Brown family.

Baden, who was chief medical examiner in New York City for 25 years, conducted the autopsy with the assistance of Shawn Parcells, a professor and pathologist assistant based in Kansas.

Baden said he agreed to do the autopsy before Attorney General Eric Holder said the federal government would do its own autopsy, a move he acknowledged was rare. “The only time the president got involved I remember was Charles Manson did his thing and you guys weren’t born in those times and he was very upset by it,” he said. “But not in a civil rights way.”

“Dr. Baden and I concluded that he was shot at least six times. We’ve got one to the very top of the head, the apex. We’ve got one that entered just above the right eyebrow. We’ve got one that entered the top part of the right arm. We’ve got a graze wound, a superficial graze wound, to the middle part of the right arm. We’ve got a wound that entered the medial aspect of the right arm, and we’ve got a deep graze wound that produced a laceration to the palm of the right hand,” Parcells said while pointing out the location of the wounds on a diagram.

Parcells said one of the arm wounds, a graze on the side, was “consistent” with witness statements that Brown was walking away before he turned toward the officer after the first shots. Baden said there was no gunpowder residue on the body, but he didn’t get to examine the clothes.

Baden said the wounds “could be consistent with his going forward or going backward. But they’re from the front, and if he was shot going forward, he would collapse right away.”

He stressed that they need to see the x-rays that were taken before the bullets were removed, which “should be available at some time.”

“The autopsy itself counted as consistent with police or witnesses. There are many different witness testimonies. Many of them seem to line up in one direction, some in another direction. Right now, till we get more information, till we get from a forensic science point of view, can’t distinguish — can’t make a definite judgment,” Baden said.

They wouldn’t speculate on the order of the gunshot wounds, but had an idea. “Dr. Baden and I do feel that, because of the two gunshot wounds to the head, indicating that Mr. Brown was bending over as they were coming down, that those two shots were most likely the last two to occur to him,” Parcells said.

Baden stressed that he didn’t have access to toxicology samples. An anonymous source told the Washington Post that the county’s autopsy will reveal that Brown had marijuana in his system, but didn’t elaborate how much.

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Dem Iraq Vet: If Our Mission Isn’t to Take Out ISIS, ‘We’ve Got a Real Problem Here’

Monday, August 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A congressional Democrat and Iraq veteran cautioned that the U.S. has a “real problem” if the current mission in Iraq isn’t to take out ISIS.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who in 2004 chose to serve in Iraq with the Hawaii National Guard over running for a second term in the state’s House of Representatives, appeared on ABC News on Sunday with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), an Air Force veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“I think it’s important as we talk about whether or not there should be troops or exactly what tactical strategy should be used moving forward we’re missing a critical question here, which is what is our mission? What is the United States’ mission. What are we trying to accomplish here?” Gabbard said.

“You know, Adam and I both enlisted, joined the military after 9/11 because we heard our nation’s leaders say after that attack that we would go and take out these Islamic extremists wherever they are. We would fight against those who are waging war against the United States,” she said. “That stated mission after 9/11 has been lost… and as we heard from White House officials last week, they said, and I quote, these airstrikes are not an authorization of a broad based counter terrorism campaign against ISIS, end of quote.”

“So if our mission is not to take out the Islamic extremists who continue to threaten and wage war against us, then I think we’ve got a real problem here. If we focus on that mission, which I think we should, then we can look at what are the tactics that we need to take them out.”

Gabbard stressed that “we need to arm the Kurds with heavy weapons, because they are doing the hard work on the ground, they are fighting against ISIS. And we can augment that and support that wit hour targeted air strikes.”

Kinzinger called the situation on the ground “the worst-case scenario.”

“Back in January I called for air strikes against ISIS, in fact, on this show. When they were just about 1,000 or 2,000 people. Today we see them in the tens of thousands and they are only continue to metastasize,” he said.

“I think what we begun doing is very good, but I think we have to get even bigger and realize that the crushing and the pushing back of ISIS, not just in Iraq, but also in Syria, is utmost priority. And allowing the Free Syrian Army who now finds itself in Syria surrounded by both the regime in Syria, al Nusra, and ISIS, has got to be emboldened to be able to fight them back. They need the equipment and the weapons.”

The congressman added, “At the end of the day I think the defeating of ISIS is the mission. And so I think everything has to be on the table for that end result.”

“The reality is they have made it very clear that they want to strike us in the United States of America. They’ve made it clear that they want to strike Europe. And they have the means to do it,” Kinzinger said. “So they have the intention and they have the means, the means being, you know, passports and westerns fighting with ISIS with the ability to get back into the United States or to get back in Europe. I think we have to have a goal of saying, we need to crush ISIS.”

“…I understand that the American people are war weary. I mean, I hear it a lot. But the reality is, is after World War II, Harry Truman didn’t look at the American people and say I know you’re war weary, so Russia is Europe’s problem. He talked about the bigger issue of what American strength means and what it means for security of our land. And he said we’re going to leave troops in Europe.”

Obama, the congressman stressed, “has got to stand up in front of the American people and say, look you may be war weary, but in five or 10 years we don’t want to look back and say that we missed all the signs, all the signals of the intention of these extremists and this is — it’s definitely there and it’s very serious.”

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Yazidis Held as Sex Slaves by ISIS Plead for Help

Monday, August 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

As the White House declared mission accomplished for saving the Yazidis under siege by ISIS fighters on Mount Sinjar, activists and leaders from the sect tell Kurdish news outlet Rudaw that about 2,000 Yazidis remain unaccounted for — in the hands of ISIS.

Rudaw reported today that one of its writers received a call from a Yazidi girl being held in a group of 200 others by the Islamic State in a prison hall in Mosul province.

The chilling details:

Every day, IS fighters visit the prison hall to pick out the prettiest for their emirs, said the girl, who is 24 and whose name is being withheld by Rudaw for her safety.

“Three to four times a day they visit the hall.  The girls plead with them for a bullet in the head to put them out of their misery,” she said in between sobs in a secret phone call to a Rudaw reporter.

…“We were in Gir Azair district where IS fighters appeared so suddenly that we were unable to flee. They started arresting everyone — men, women and children. Later, they took us to Shingal county, where they separated women from men.”

“We were about 200 girls together. Later, we were taken by pick-up trucks to another location close to Baaj district,” she added.

In weeping tones, the girl repeatedly gave the location of their prison, pleading for fighter jets to pound the place so they could all rest in peace.

…“Every day the fighters come and look among us,” she said, hardly able to control her emotions. “They pick two or three pretty girls. When the girls return they are in tears, exhausted and humiliated. The fighters take the girls to their emirs, and the emirs assault them sexually.

One phone conversation was suddenly interrupted when she hurriedly whispered, “Hang up, hang up, they are coming.”

In another call she said that conditions, including the food, were bad. “So far, a number of girls have committed suicide. Today, one girl hanged herself with her headscarf and died,” she recounted, pleading for help.

“Rescue us, rescue us,” she begged. “Anyone who can hear our voice — US, Europe, anyone — please help; rescue us.”

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Obama to Congress: Mosul Dam Strikes Necessary Because Break Could Endanger U.S. Lives Downstream

Monday, August 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama sent to congressional leaders on Sunday a notification under the War Powers Resolution that his original operation to protect Irbil and provide aid to refugees on Mount Sinjar had been extended to fighting around a key dam along the Tigris taken by ISIS.

Iraqi and Kurdish forces said today that the Mosul Dam is now back in their hands. The Islamic State said it still had control of the key water and power facility.

“On August 14, 2014, I authorized the U.S. Armed Forces to conduct targeted air strikes to support operations by Iraqi forces to recapture the Mosul Dam. These military operations will be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to support the Iraqi forces in their efforts to retake and establish control of this critical infrastructure site, as part of their ongoing campaign against the terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),” Obama said in the letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate President Pro Tempore Pat Leahy (D-Vt.).

“The failure of the Mosul Dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians, endanger U.S. personnel and facilities, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace. Pursuant to this authorization, on the evening of August 15, 2014, U.S. military forces commenced targeted airstrike operations in Iraq,” Obama continued.

“I have directed these actions, which are in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive. These actions are being undertaken in coordination with the Iraqi government.”

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said reiterated that the strikes were “limited in their nature, duration, and scope and are being undertaken in coordination with and at the request of the Government of Iraq.”

“The Administration will continue to consult with the Congress on the way forward in Iraq and our efforts against ISIL, and we will continue to provide appropriate reports to the Congress consistent with the War Powers Resolution,” Hayden added.

Tweets indicated that the battle was still continuing Monday morning.

 

 

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