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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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Cameron on ISIS: ‘They are Not Muslims. They are Monsters.’

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Not 24 hours after the brutal video showing the beheading of humanitarian aid worker David Haines was released, the British government said it would seek justice while stressing that ISIS doesn’t represent Islam.

The killer shown in all three ISIS beheading videos — Haines, James Foley, Steve Sotloff — speaks with a London accent.

“David Haines was a British hero. The fact that an aid worker was taken, held and brutally murdered at the hands of ISIL sums up what this organisation stands for,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement today. Haines, a former Royal Air Force engineer, was kidnapped 18 months ago, and the prime minister said ”the whole country, like his grieving family, can be incredibly proud of what he did and what he stood for in his humanitarian mission.”

“They are killing and slaughtering thousands of people, Muslims, Christians, minorities across Iraq and Syria,” Cameron said of ISIS. “They boast of their brutality. They claim to do this in the name of Islam. That is nonsense. Islam is a religion of peace.”

“They are not Muslims. They are monsters. They make no secret of their desire to do as much harm not just in the Middle East, but to any countries or peoples who seek to stand in their way or dare to stand for values they disagree with.”

Cameron said “the British people need to know that this is a fanatical organisation called ISIL, that has not only murdered a British hostage: They have planned – and continue to plan – attacks across Europe and in our country.”

He said they will confront the terrorist state “in a calm, deliberate way – but with an iron determination” with allies.

“The United States is taking direct military action. We support their efforts,” Cameron continued. “British Tornadoes and surveillance aircraft have been helping with intelligence gathering and logistics. This is not about British combat troops on the ground. It is about working with others to extinguish this terrorist threat. As this strategy intensifies, we are ready to take whatever steps are necessary to deal with this threat and keep our country safe.”

“…It falls to the Government, and to each and every one of us, to drain this poison from our society and to take on this warped ideology that is radicalising some of our young people.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg issued a shorter statement calling Haines’ beheading “a crime of the most horrendous kind.”

“This murderous organisation calls itself Islamic State,” Clegg said. “But it is not a state, it is a brutal terrorist outfit whose actions are an affront to every peace loving Muslim around the world. No religion could possibly justify such grotesque acts.”

The Islamic Society of Britain sent a letter to Cameron vowing that they “shall take every opportunity to continue to say clearly and loudly ‘not in our name and not for our faith’.”

“We do not believe the terror group responsible should be given the credence and standing they seek by styling themselves ‘Islamic State’. It is neither Islamic, nor is it a State. The group has no standing with faithful Muslims, nor among the international community of nations. It clearly will never accept the obligations that any legitimate state has, including the responsibility to protect citizens and uphold human rights,” the Islamic Society wrote.

“So we believe the media, civic society and governments should refuse to legitimise these ludicrous Caliphate fantasies by accepting or propagating this name.”

They proposed that “Un-Islamic State” could be an “accurate and fair alternative name to describe this group and its agenda – and we will begin to call it that.”

“We are sure that most British Muslims would agree that ‘Un-Islamic State’ is a considerably more fitting label for this poisonous group – and hope that our fellow citizens will join us in that,” wrote the organization. “We know that this would be one small, symbolic step and that we must all work together to build the inclusion and integration in British society that would repel these poisonous ideas. But we believe that it would help and look forward to your response.”

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Former Afghanistan Commander Named Presidential Envoy for Anti-ISIS Coalition

Saturday, September 13th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

After the third ISIS beheading video was released Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that a former commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan would be coming on board to help lead the administration’s coalition-building effort against the Islamic State.

“The United States has asked one of our most respected and experienced military experts, General John Allen, to join the State Department to serve as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL,” Kerry said in a statement tonight. “In this role, General Allen will help build and sustain the coalition so it can operate across multiple lines of effort in order to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.”

Last year, Allen became the fourth Afghanistan commander to leave under President Obama. He was scheduled for a February 2013 transition to be Commander of United States European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, but retired instead.

“General Allen is a patriot and a remarkable leader. His extraordinary career in the military speaks for itself,” Kerry continued. “Whether as the top commander of NATO’s ISAF forces in Afghanistan during a critical period from 2011-2013, or as a deputy commander in Anbar during the Sunni awakening, or as a thinker, scholar, and teacher at the U.S. Naval Academy. And he has done significant public service out of uniform since he returned to civilian life. His commitment to country and to service has really been enduring.”

“Most recently we worked together very closely in designing new approaches to meet the long-term security needs of the state of Israel, and I could not be more pleased than to have General Allen coming on board now fulltime at the State Department.”

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk, who said earlier this month that an ISIS strategy included the belief that Sunni tribal leaders will get “sick and tired” of the terror group and kick them out of territory, will serve as Allen’s deputy senior envoy with the rank of ambassador.

“Not only has Brett been back and forth to Baghdad and Erbil almost every month this past year, but he has also spent a number of years over the past decade posted in Iraq as a top advisor to three different ambassadors,” Kerry said. “Brett is one of our foremost experts on Iraq, and he will be integral to this effort’s success. Both General Allen and Ambassador McGurk will begin work immediately.”

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Obama: U.S. ‘Stands Shoulder to Shoulder Tonight’ with UK in ‘Grief and Resolve’

Saturday, September 13th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama said in a statement this evening that the United States “strongly condemns the barbaric murder of UK citizen David Haines by the terrorist group ISIL.”

“Our hearts go out to the family of Mr. Haines and to the people of the United Kingdom. The United States stands shoulder to shoulder tonight with our close friend and ally in grief and resolve,” Obama said.

“We will work with the United Kingdom and a broad coalition of nations from the region and around the world to bring the perpetrators of this outrageous act to justice, and to degrade and destroy this threat to the people of our countries, the region and the world.”

Haines, 44, worked for the aid group ACTED and had previously helped the needy in South Sudan and Libya. He was seized in March 2013 shortly after crossing into Syria. He served in the Royal Air Force for more than a decade, service cited by his executioner in the video, “A Message to America’s Allies,” released today.

The Scotsman leaves behind his wife, Dragana, who has been living under police protection in Croatia, and 4-year-old daughter, along with a 17-year-old daughter in Perth from his first marriage.

The executioner is the same Brit as in the videos showing the deaths of American journalists James Foley and Steve Sotloff.

“This British man has to pay the price for your promise, Cameron, to arm the Peshmerga against the Islamic State,” the terrorist says. “Ironically, he has spent a decade of his life serving under the same Royal Air Force that is responsible for delivering those arms.”

“Playing the role of the obedient lapdog, Cameron, will only drag you and your people into another bloody and unwinnable war.”

Like the previous two videos, nothing shows the Brit executioner doing the actual killing. The Haines video shows a knife being pulled across his throat, then cuts away to a grisly shot of the victim’s body.

At the end of the David Haines video another man in an orange jumpsuit is threatened: Alan Henning. “If you, Cameron, persist in fighting the Islamic State, then you, like your master Obama, will have the blood of your people on your hands,” the executioner says.

One Syrian activist tweeted that Henning was part of a British humanitarian aid convoy, abducted in Al Dana by ISIS when they occupied the city.

“The murder of David Haines is an act of pure evil. My heart goes out to his family who have shown extraordinary courage and fortitude,” tweeted British Prime Minister David Cameron.

“We will do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes.”


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Armed Services Chairman: ‘No Way Around It; American Boots Will Be Standing on Sand’

Thursday, September 11th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Warning that the ISIS threat is the same “if not worse” than the threat faced by America from al-Qaeda on Sept. 10, 2001, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) argued this morning that the “minimalist approach” outlined by President Obama would not work.

McKeon traveled last week through the Middle East, meeting with ministers and heads of state.

“I listened, and I asked questions. They gave me blunt answers and some hard truths,” he said. “Our allies are on the front lines of terrorism.There is a genuine sense among the leaders I talked with that America is disengaging from the region and concerns about American credibility, at a time when credibility counts.”

“Our relationships with these allies in the region are at a tipping point. What is also notable is that these allies are ready to bear the burden of the fight.  They know their very existence, and stability in the region, depends on defeating ISIL.”

The chairman said the strategy needs to be “one that pins ISIL down and knocks them out.”

“The president has said the threat is not imminent to the homeland. Well, exactly when does the threat become imminent? Why wait until it does?” McKeon said. “We must have a comprehensive strategy that stops any plot against US citizens or our interests now.”

A “go-slow strategy” just gives ISIS ”space to thrive and grow and blend with the population” as 500 foreign fighters a month come to join their ranks and the terror group rakes in $85 million a month from oil revenue alone.

“Soon all that will be left is a cowering population unable to resist the caliphate,” McKeon said. “…We have to get into those Sunni villages with Special Operations Forces to rebuild relationships. Because if the moderate Sunnis slip through our fingers, they’re gone – and with them, our chances for success. We have to reconnect the intelligence links and security forces’ capabilities that were lost when we left Iraq.”

He added that the strategy can’t focus on Iraq first and must encircle the caliphate. “Any strategy that allows ISIL to squirt out into Jordan, Lebanon, or Turkey will only make the fight more difficult,” he said. “A coalition force, empowered by the Americans, could do just that. And once they are encircled and eliminated, we need that territory held by those friendlies. This is the only way to get this done and done right.”

Obama has “finally started” building that coalition, McKeon said.

“The Kurds, the Iraqis, the Turks, the Emeratis, and the Jordanians all have military capability. They all want to knock ISIL on its back. They need our help, they want our help, and we owe them our help,” he said. “Ignoring their pleas is a quick way to end up friendless with little, if any, U.S. influence left in the region. Let’s not forget that our allies around the world are watching and wondering if they can ever trust the U.S. again.”

“The president needs an A-team of diplomats and soldiers on the ground, ushering every player towards the same purpose – not just this week, but on a sustained basis…. We’re holding the starter pistol; the time to pull the trigger was yesterday.”

McKeon called it a “red herring” to assume that “boots on the ground” means a large occupying force. “In fact the best way to ensure that we never have to drop an entire maneuver Corps into Iraq is to be smart about using the right boots on the ground today,” he continued. “The president may not admit it, but he has already made this distinction. He has inserted Special Forces, trainers, advisors, and security forces. This is the right decision. But more can be done.”

“This will take troops. It will not take divisions. But there’s no way around it; American boots will be standing on sand. Americans will be shot at, and they will be shooting back. There’s simply no other way to do this.”

The chairman cautioned that “wars are not won by counterterrorism alone – the 1990s proved as much.”

“The president wants to use a light footprint now in hopes that he doesn’t need a heavy footprint later. This approach was not terribly successful in Libya, which has fallen into chaos. It has short-term benefits, though. It will be cheaper in blood and treasure –for now,” he said. “I want our coalition to go all-in now, so that we do not risk having to use enormously more blood and treasure later. I would much rather fight ISIL in Iraq and Syria today than fight them in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Kurdistan tomorrow. Fortune favors the bold.”

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Boehner Backs Obama on Training Syrian Opposition; Caucus Needs Time to Decide on Rest of Plan

Thursday, September 11th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Declaring “an F-16 is not a strategy,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) t0ld reporters at a press conference today that Republican leaders will “make a decision sometime next week on how we will proceed” with President Obama’s ISIS plans at the congressional level.

“I support the president’s plan to train and equip Iraqi security forces and the Syrian opposition. But I remain concerned that those measures could take years to fully implement, at a time when ISIL’s momentum and territorial gains must be halted and reversed immediately,” Boehner said of the “questions and concerns” that remain after last night’s speech.

“We stand ready to work with the president to put in place a plan that would destroy and defeat ISIL. Members are getting briefed as we speak on a range of options that the president is contemplating. Those briefings and consultations will continue,” he said.

Boehner said he believes “it’s in the institution of the Congress’ interest to speak on this question” of what intervention will look like.

“Now, normally in such a case, I’ve been through this a few times over the 24 years that I’ve been here, the president of the United States would request that support and would supply the wording of a resolution to authorize this force. And, at this point in time, we’ve not gotten that request and we’ve not seen that language,” the Speaker said.

“I think that we’re at the beginning stages of building of the kind of support that’s necessary from the nation to carry out this plan and to carry it out successfully.”

Boehner said “the only request that has come from the White House at this point” is the Title X authorization to train and equip Syrian rebels under the Defense Department instead of the CIA.

“I can tell you, in our conversations this morning, a lot of our members don’t feel like the — the campaign that was outlined last night will accomplish the mission that the president says, and that is to destroy ISIL,” he added. “And so frankly, a lot of our members think a lot more needs to be done than what was laid out last night.”

Congressional leaders went to the White House on Tuesday to discuss what the president would be asking for. Boehner said Obama made his “specific request to have the ability to train Syrian rebels” at that meeting.

“I wanted to make sure that members have ample time to have the conversation about this — started today — and it will continue,” he said.

“…Based on all the information that I’ve looked at, the Free Syrian Army has, by and large, been very well vetted by our intelligence officials. Today they’re in a fight against Assad, they’re in a fight against ISIL, and they’re in a fight against another al-Qaeda affiliate in eastern Syria. And  they’re about to get run over.”

The Speaker stressed that “airstrikes alone will not accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish.”

“And the president’s made clear that he doesn’t want U.S. boots on the ground. Well, somebody’s boots have to be on the ground,” Boehner said. “And so I do believe that what the president has asked for as the commander in chief is this authority to train these Syrian rebels, and frankly we ought to give the president what he’s asking for.”

Boehner was asked if Obama should have publicly taken any chance of troops off the table.

“Listen, we only have one commander in chief. He laid out his plan. I would never tell the enemy what I was willing to do or unwilling to do. But he is the commander in chief. He made that decision,” he replied. “At this point in time, it’s important we give the president what he’s asking for. And — and we’ve got to keep our eye on the ball. The issue here is about defeating a terrorist threat that is real and imminent.”

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Paul: ‘Ultimately, Civilized Islam Will Have to Step Up’

Thursday, September 11th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he agreed with the part of President Obama’s speech about ISIS not representing true Islam, calling the Islamic State “an aberrant form that should not represent most of the civilized Islamic world.”

After Obama’s address, some ISIS accounts on Twitter were using the hashtag ”Islamic State represents Islam right” in response to one part of the speech: “ISIL is not ‘Islamic,’” Obama said. “No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state.”

“I think there was one important point that he was making about them not being Islamic or a form of true Islam. Ultimately, civilized Islam will have to step up. We need to do everything we can to protect ourselves. I’m all in for saying we have to combat ISIS. But also, the ultimate war, the long war, whoever knows how long, ultimately is going to need allies from civilized Islam,” Paul said on Fox.

“So I think it is important not only to the American public but for the world and for the Islamic world to point out that this is not a true form of Islam.”

The senator and potential 2016 presidential candidate said he didn’t think Obama was trying to “diminish” the point that ISIS’ goal is to spread its caliphate.

“I would say that he was trying to make the point to the Islamic world that this isn’t a true or accurate depiction of Islam because, ultimately, we do need — and most of the allies around that also are offended and also are worried about the rise of ISIS are also Muslim nations. And I think they will rise up,” Paul said.  ”And ultimately, the ultimate victory — there are going to be short-term victories in the war on terror and the war on radical Islam, but the long-term victory is going to require allies who are part of the civilized Islamic world, which is the majority of the Islamic world.”

“But they have to step up because, frankly, they’ve been allowing too much of this to go on. And frankly, countries like Saudi Arabia I think have aided and abetted the rise of ISIS.”

Paul also gave a defense of “secular dictators.”

“Assad — as bad as Assad is, he is an enemy of ISIS. He is an enemy of radical Islam. As bad as Gadhafi was, Gadhafi was an opponent of radical Islam. As bad as Hussein was… We didn’t create it, but we did allow a festering of chaos when we toppled the secular dictators.”

The senator acknowledged Obama’s plan “is an intervention, and I don’t always support intervention, but this is one I do support.”

“But I think the president would be more powerful, the country would be more united,” Paul said. “He should have come before a joint session of Congress, laid out his plan as he did tonight, and then called for an up or down vote on whether or not to authorize going to war.”

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Obama at 9/11 Memorial: Americans Have Love ‘That No Act of Terror Can Extinguish’

Thursday, September 11th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama said at the Pentagon memorial this morning that the strength and perseverance of the 9/11 families is the “ultimate rebuke to the hatred of those who attacked us that bright blue morning.”

“They sought to do more than bring down buildings or murder our people. They sought to break our spirit and to prove to the world that their power to destroy was greater than our power to persevere and to build,” Obama said.

“But you and America proved them wrong. America endures in the strength of your families who through your anguish kept living. You kept alive a love that no act of terror can ever extinguish. You, their sons and daughters, are growing into extraordinary young men and women they knew you could be.”

American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, killing 59 aboard the plane and 125 in the building as it slammed into E Ring.

“Our thoughts also turn to others whose lives were forever changed that day. The first responders and survivors whose heroism and resilience we celebrate. The Pentagon personnel who came to work the next day with a greater sense of determination than ever before, and the men and women in uniform who have stepped forward to defend our country over 13 long years of war, bearing incredible sacrifices, along with their families,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said at the morning ceremony. “We live at a time of many complicated challenges, but America has always faced challenges and we have always responded as a nation united in purpose, woven together in a fabric of strong character and resounding commitment to each other and to our country.”

“To lead our nation at such a defining time requires not only the courage and the vision to lead, but the humility that recognizes this unique privilege,” Hagel said. “These traits are embodied in our commander in chief.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey acknowledged to the families and friends of the fallen  that “these memorial ceremonies, and we know you’ve been through many, are especially tough, emotion-filled moments for you.”

“Today offers us, all of us, the opportunity to rededicate our own lives to the causes of our great nation and its great future,” Dempsey said. “For as one of our nation’s leaders said, we could easily allow our time and energy to be consumed by the crisis of the moment, of the day, but we must also lay the groundwork to help define our future.”

The Pentagon leaders were to hold another remembrance ceremony for Pentagon employees in the courtyard at 1 p.m.

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VIDEO: McCain Smacks Down New CNN Analyst Carney for ‘Sayings Facts That are Patently False’

Thursday, September 11th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson
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“BREAKING: Man who was Obama’s chief spokesman like two seconds ago still thinks he’s doing a good job,” the Huffington Post sarcastically tweeted of CNN’s newest political analyst, recent White House press secretary Jay Carney.

But Carney’s TV baptism was going to be even harsher than that.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), linked in from the Capitol rotunda after President Obama’s speech, was paired with Carney in a segment and beat him down to the ground.

Long story short: McCain calls out Carney for “saying facts that are patently false.” Carney says they can respectfully agree to disagree. McCain says, “It’s not a matter of disagreements, it’s a matter of facts, and you have yours wrong, and you have distorted them.”

And on and on. “Facts are stubborn things,” McCain schools Carney.


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White House Strategy Includes PR Campaign to ‘Highlight ISIL’s Hypocrisy’

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The White House says part of the administration’s strategy against the Islamic State will be a PR campaign to expose the “true nature” of ISIS.

“Clerics around the world have spoken up in recent weeks to highlight ISIL’s hypocrisy, condemning the group’s barbarity and criticizing its self- proclaimed ‘caliphate,’” says a fact sheet released to reporters just before President Obama spoke. “We will work with our partners throughout the Muslim world to highlight ISIL’s hypocrisy and counter its false claim to be acting in the name of religion.”

The fact sheet also stresses the need to keep “working aggressively” to choke ISIS’ “significant and diverse sources of funding.”

It also notes that intelligence on the group needs to improve.

“Continuing to gain more fidelity on ISIL’s capabilities, plans, and intentions is central to our strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy the group,” the fact sheet said. “Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance flights and other important efforts will strengthen our ability to understand this threat, as well as to share vital information with our Iraqi and other regional partners to enable them to effectively counter ISIL.”

The Sept. 24 “historic summit-level meeting” of the UN Security Council, which will be chaired by President Obama, will focus largely on stemming the flow of foreign fighters, the White House said.

“Foreign terrorist fighters are ISIL’s lifeblood, and a global security threat—with citizens of nearly 80 countries filling its ranks,” the fact sheet said. “Over 100 foreign fighters from the United States have traveled or attempted to travel to the conflict.”

“We will continue to use the criminal justice system as a critical tool in our counterterrorism toolbox.  Federal criminal laws provide a sound basis to prosecute those who provide material support to ISIL or who conspire with ISIL to plot attacks at home or abroad,” continued the strategy. “With respect to aviation security, we will work with air carriers to implement responsible threat-based security and screening requirements, and provide additional screening to individuals suspected of affiliation with ISIL. Finally, we will counter violent extremism here at home, including tailored domestic programs to prevent violent extremism and radicalization in order to intervene with at-risk individuals before they become radicalized toward violence and decide to travel abroad to Syria and Iraq to join ISIL.”

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‘A Core Principle of My Presidency… If You Threaten America, You Will Find No Safe Haven’

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Referring to the Islamic State as one of the “small groups of killers” that “have the capacity to do great harm,” President Obama announced tonight that “America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.”

That four-pronged campaign will include “a systematic campaign of airstrikes” and increasing “support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground.”

It will also include continuing “to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks” and “providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization.”

“In two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the UN Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort,” Obama said.

“As commander in chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people. Over the last several years, we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country. We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al-Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’ve targeted al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia. We’ve done so while bringing more than 140,000 American troops home from Iraq, and drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, where our combat mission will end later this year,” he said.

“Still, we continue to face a terrorist threat. We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. That’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge. At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain. And one of those groups is ISIL – which calls itself the Islamic State.”

Obama said he wanted to “make clear” that ISIL, or ISIS, is “not Islamic” and “certainly not a state.”

“If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region – including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies. Our intelligence community believes that thousands of foreigners – including Europeans and some Americans – have joined them in Syria and Iraq. Trained and battle-hardened, these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks,” he said. “I know many Americans are concerned about these threats.”

“Tonight, I want you to know that the United States of America is meeting them with strength and resolve…. Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.”

Obama called  ”a core principle of my presidency” the promise “if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”

He also indicated that there won’t be any alliance with the dictator in Damascus. “In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its people; a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost,” he said. “Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.”

The president said he “secured bipartisan support” for his four-pronged approach.

“I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL. But I believe we are strongest as a nation when the president and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger,” he said.

“This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.”

Obama veered toward job creation and energy independence, adding that “despite all the divisions and discord within our democracy, I see the grit and determination and common goodness of the American people every single day.”

“American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists. It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny. It is America – our scientists, our doctors, our know-how – that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola. It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so they cannot pose a threat to the Syrian people – or the world – again. And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, tolerance, and a more hopeful future.”

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Admin Lobbying to Pass Training of Syrian Rebels from CIA to DoD

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) plans to give his response to President Obama’s full ISIS plan at a lunchtime speech tomorrow on the floor of the Senate.

More than two hours before Obama was scheduled to speak tonight, though, Graham said he would back authorizing under Title 10 the equipping and training of Syrian rebels through the Pentagon.

Administration officials led by top White House counter-terrorism adviser Lisa Monaco were reportedly lobbying lawmakers on the Hill today to support the move.

“There are risks associated with any decision, but today the biggest risk is to continue on the current path of doing nothing. ISIL now poses a direct threat to the American people and homeland and must be vanquished,” Graham said in a statement.

“For over three years, brave people in Syria have been fighting against a brutal tyrant, Bashar al-Assad.  Nearly 200,000 Syrians have lost their lives as Assad has unleashed his military on his own people. For three years, I have been calling to provide critical military assistance to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to stop the siege. Unfortunately, for three years, the president has rejected this strategy and Syria has descended further into chaos,” Graham continued.

“Seizing an opportunity, ISIL reconstituted itself from a diminished terrorist group in Iraq to become the largest, most well organized terrorist group on the planet, now headquartered in Syria. The ideal time to support the FSA was three years ago, at a time when it would have had the most return on investment.”

Graham added that it’s “clear to me the vast majority of Syrians don’t like Assad and sure don’t want to live under the thumb of ISIL.”

“It’s in our interests to support these Syrian opposition forces in their cause of defeating the ISIL terrorists who are reigning terror on them,” he said. “Therefore, if he makes the request tonight, I plan to support President Obama’s decision to allow the Department of Defense to take over training of the Syrian opposition in place of the CIA. I will also support funding requests for training and arming the Syrian opposition to enhance our chances of success.”

The administration has been reportedly training Free Syrian Army members at a camp in Jordan in a quiet CIA operation.

“Someone has to fight ISIL inside of Syria to keep America safe,” Graham said. “It is my hope that the House and Senate will support this request and provide the authorities and funding necessary to enhance our chances of success.”

“If we do not engage ISIL, the chances of being attacked here at home dramatically increase and I’d rather have willing Syrians do the fighting than have America go it alone.”

Shahid Hamid of the Brookings Institution tweeted that the original $500 million plan “could likely train only less than [a] single brigade of fighters over an 18-month period.”

“So key thing to watch for is whether Obama *explicitly* commits to more than the original $500 million for training/equipping Syrian rebels,” Hamid continued. “If Obama doesn’t commit to anything beyond the $500 million for Syrian rebels, that should be clear enough confirmation we’re not serious.”

The White House released a couple of excerpts from Obama’s address early.

“Tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat. Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy,” Obama will say, according to prepared remarks.

“But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”

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Foreign Affairs Dem: ‘You Cannot Just Wave a Magic Wand and Have ISIS Disappear’

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A leading national security Democrat said he’s hoping President Obama will present a strategy tonight that stresses “you cannot just wave a magic wand and have ISIS disappear.”

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), a key Dem on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a notable critic of the Obama administration’s Iran strategy, said ISIS’ ”destruction doesn’t mean that truth and justice just emerges from the soil of the Middle East.”

“If you destroy one power in the Middle East, you empower the other side,” Sherman told C-SPAN. “And the four groups that are fighting ISIS now are, in many ways, nearly as evil as ISIS itself. And, in fact, those who are fighting against ISIS today on the ground have killed far more Americans than ISIS has.”

The congressman said Obama’s “cautious” approach ”has been a good one — when caution is called for.”

“I hope that the president will put Congress on the spot and ask for an authorization to use force because as important as it is to work for good governance in the Middle East, we’ve got to respect the United States Constitution,” he said. “It is not a given that our constitutional structure can be ignored and degraded and pulled apart and that somehow, the society will be able to face tougher times than we face now without — without it completely unraveling.”

That authorization should cover “air power and air power alone,” Sherman said, with boots on the ground only in instances such as rescuing a pilot.

“I think you authorize for two or three years with expedited procedures to reauthorize as this goes forward. And I think you have to explain to the American people, you can’t always get what you want immediately at a low cost,” the congressman continued. “And ISIS is not going to be destroyed in just a few weeks or a few months.”

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Boxer: Republicans Will ‘Suffer’ if They Don’t Back Obama’s ISIS Strategy

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said President Obama has labored hard to “unite the world” against ISIS and Republicans need to get behind whatever strategy he presents tonight.

“The Congress has to hold together and back the president on this. I think the president has been working very hard to put together a coalition to go against ISIS,” Boxer told MSNBC. “Now, let’s — you know, we forget sometimes who ISIS is, and what they believe in. They believe, if you don’t see the world as they do in terms of this very strict interpretation of Islam, OK? That you either convert or they kill you, I mean, this is an incredible terrorist organization.”

“We’ve seen the way they act. The way they have treated people who are just innocent, freelance journalists, beheading two Americans. Our president is the commander-in-chief. ISIS is an imminent treat. We ought to be backing the president. He has got nine nations now to help us. He’s got NATO to help us. He’s going to the U.N. to get them to help us. The Arab League has said we have to take actions.”

With Obama “pulling together the world,” she continued, “you would think that the Republicans would be heart of that world coalition because no one will be left — faith in this world if we don’t bear down on this group.”

Boxer charged that all Republicans care about is making Obama look bad.

“Trying to defeat him in his last election. That’s what they care about and now, all they care about is taking back the Senate. That’s all they care about,” she said.

“So, if there’s one point in history — and it’s coming… when this president is going to go out to the American people and I can tell you, he has worked hard to get the world united here. The people of this country are going unite behind him, and frankly if [Republicans] don’t act as if they’re part of this fabric of this nation against ISIS I think they will suffer. I hope they will suffer because this is a time for us to put aside the D label, the R label, the I label, whatever label we hide behind and be Americans who want to stand up to this threat, but not do it the way we did Iraq, with walking into the middle of the civil war.”

Calling Obama “deliberative,” Boxer then acknowledged the president “does wear a tan suit once in a while.”

“But let me tell you, he is decisive once he has all the facts on his plate and I want a deliberative president,” she added.

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No ‘Go-Slow Strategy’: Armed Services GOPs Name Five Things Necessary to Destroy ISIS

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The Republican majority on the House Armed Services Committee took preemptive action on President Obama’s address to the nation tonight on ISIS, releasing its five elements of a successful strategy to destroy the terrorist group:

1. Recognizes the Immediate Threat to US National Security

• ISIL is more than a regional threat, it poses a clear and certain threat to the United States, our interests, and our allies and partners across the globe.

• Waiting until a terrorist organization is planning an “imminent” attack will cost American lives, as we learned 13 years ago on September 11th.

• ISIL also poses an imminent and existential threat to our allies in a critical region within the world.  Their assistance is key to comprehensively and sustainably handling this threat.

2. Calls for Swift Action with a Clear Objective to Destroy ISIL 

• The window for targeting ISIL while it is still operating largely in the open and has not yet fully blended in with the populace is closing.

• A go-slow strategy gives ISIL the space and time to defeat potential partners, attract more foreign fighters, secure additional funding, and plot and plan for future attacks against the United States, Europe, and our interests in the region.

• Our allies recognize that now is the time to act and are seeking US support and leadership.  Missing the opportunity presented by this coalition will make the job harder in the long run and will not lead to a sustainable solution.

3. Embraces Simultaneous Operations In Iraq and Syria

• An Iraq first, or Iraq only strategy cannot sufficiently erode ISIL. Decisive simultaneous action in Iraq and Syria is required to deny ISIL a safehaven.

• Waiting until the political situation in Iraq becomes more clear fails to create the space for moderate Sunnis to reject ISIL.  Rather it allows ISIL to further radicalize the population and foment sectarian tensions.

• Actions in Syria can be tailored to reduce the risk that operations embolden Assad or Jahbat al-Nusra and other al Qaeda affiliates.

4. Establishes the US as a Leading Coalition Partner

• The US is uniquely able to build, lead, and support coalition operations.  There are military options available to us that leverage the capabilities of regional allies on the ground, with the US in a supporting role.

• It is a misleading to suggest that the use of any American forces on the ground is akin to “serial occupation.”

• There is a narrow opportunity to defeat ISIL that will not require American boots on the ground in “surge” level numbers, but anyone who suggests a minimalist approach will be successful is not being clear-eyed about the challenge and resiliency of ISIL.

5. Does Not Rely On a Counter Terrorism (CT)-Only Approach

• Air strikes alone will not defeat ISIL, or meaningfully degrade them.

• Our allies are willing to lead the fight, but they will not be able to succeed on the ground without US support in areas like command & control, intelligence, refueling, and special operations.

• A strategy that closely resembles the CT centric standoff operations of the last 5 years is one that cannot prevent this threat from growing.  Nor can it sufficiently roll ISIL back as a threat.

Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) will present his strategy to defeat ISIS tomorrow morning at AEI.

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Brown Wins GOP Nomination to Try to Oust Shaheen

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown decisively beat two challengers to win the GOP nomination for New Hampshire’s Senate race.

Brown got 50 percent of the vote compared to 23 percent each for former New Hampshire state Sen. Jim Rubens and former New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith, with 91 percent of precincts reporting.

Some conservative groups had endorsed Rubens, arguing Brown was too centrist to take on Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

Shaheen started out with a double-digit lead over Brown in the polls, but that has narrowed to a Real Clear Politics average of 5.4 points.

“We worked hard to get this far, and we’re only halfway there.  Now I am ready to work even harder to earn the vote and win on the fourth of November,” Brown told supporters Tuesday night in Concord.

“Whatever comes next on the Obama agenda, whatever Team Obama asks of Senator Shaheen, there’s a 99 percent chance that she’ll vote yes. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like those odds,” he continued.

“Here’s how I look at it. Just because she’s been throwing her vote away in the Senate, does not mean you have to throw your vote away in November. President Obama is not up for reelection this year… however, his No. 1 foot soldier Senator Shaheen is. New Hampshire voters have a unique chance to be a check and balance on six years of failed policies. If we’re ever going to hold this president accountable, we have to hold this senator accountable. The chance won’t come again, so let’s take it right now and turn this country around.”

Brown promised to be a ”vote for the independent spirit of our state 100 percent of the time.”

He noted that he submitted a bill to yank the citizenship and passports of Americans who join jihad — an idea introduced by some senators this week in response to citizens fighting abroad for ISIS — back when he was in the Senate.

“The president has been slow to move, and so far his foreign policy has been unsteady and incoherent. And how about we start with those American jihadists and their American passports?” Brown said.

“All of these jihadists need to be dealt with where they are. If it’s going to happen at all, then America has to lead. And for America to lead we need to stop all the careless cutting in defense, and start rebuilding the military power of this country.”

Shaheen made clear in her remarks Tuesday night that she’ll try as much as possible to pin the carpetbagger label on Brown.

“I didn’t just move here. I’ve been here, working to make a difference for New Hampshire. No matter where Scott Brown lives, he’s going to put Scott Brown first. Not you. Not your family. Not New Hampshire,” Shaheen told supporters.

“The fact is Scott Brown may have changed his address but he hasn’t changed his stripes. New Hampshire is not a consolation prize.”

On Friday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will endorse Brown at a unity rally in Durham.

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Reid on Why Obama Should Go ‘Real Big’ with Immigration Action

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he hopes President Obama “goes real big” with an executive order on immigration if the House doesn’t act in the short time Congress is in session before midterm elections.

“This is an example of why we should have done comprehensive immigration reform that we passed here more than a year ago,” Reid said outside of a closed policy luncheon today when asked about the decision to delay executive action as vulnerable Senate Democrats face re-election contests. “The president has stated he’s going to do something administratively, unless there’s legislative action taken. It appears to me, based on what we have been told and what I see, the Republicans still have a chance to do something.”

“They complain, they grieve, they stomp. Why should the president do anything administratively?” Reid told reporters. “Let’s do it legislatively. They’ll have another chance to do it legislatively. If they don’t, I hope the president goes real big and does something administratively, which I believe he has the authority to do.”

Reid was asked if there’s any chance that repeal efforts for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would come to the floor.

“Well, if I have anything to do with it, no. No, no.”

He was asked about the likelihood of Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) insisting on blocking the deferred action program in the next continuing resolution.

“They have every right to do whatever they want legislatively,” Reid replied. “If they want to be the lead team of shutting down the government, that’s what they’re going to have to do.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in his own press conference, was noncommittal to Cruz’s proposal.

“We’re going to wait and see what the House sends over. I think they’re going to act this week. And when we see what they send over, we’ll take a look at it,” McConnell said.

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Landrieu Challenger Says Reid Runs Senate ‘Like a Plantation,’ Tea Party Candidate Calls for Apology

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A congressman hoping to replace Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) come November is getting criticism for comparing the Senate majority leader to a plantation owner — from his Tea Party challenger.

Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told E&E Daily in an interview at a McDonald’s that President Obama “wouldn’t get his agenda through if [Landrieu] wasn’t there supporting Harry Reid.”

Reid “runs the Senate like a plantation,” Cassidy said. “So instead of the world’s greatest deliberative body, it is his personal, sort of, ‘It goes if I say it does, if not it stops.’ Senator Landrieu’s first vote for him to be re-elected means that every other wish for a pro-oil and gas jobs bill is dead. Reid will never allow a pro-oil and gas jobs bill.”

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee press secretary Justin Barasky seized on the comments. “Imagining reaction if a dem senate candidate likened mcconnell to a plantation owner the way Bill Cassidy just did to Harry Reid,” Barasky tweeted.

When she was in the Senate, Hillary Clinton told an audience at a Harlem church that House Speaker Dennis Hastert and other GOP leaders were running the lower chamber “like a plantation.”

Rob Maness, an Air Force veteran endorsed by Sarah Palin, called on Cassidy to apologize.

“Congressman Cassidy may not realize this but the language he used included a term that is incredibly offensive to many Americans and he should immediately apologize,” Maness said in a statement. “It’s this type of over-the-top, out-of-bounds ignorance that drives so many people away from the Republican Party.”

“We need to be better than that,” he added. “We need to be the party of thoughtful ideas and common-sense reforms – not extreme rhetoric and ignorant comments. We all make mistakes and when we do, we should have the fortitude to own up to them.”

Cassidy didn’t back down in a statement, saying, ”I wish there was as much offense taken by Harry Reid running the Senate dictatorially, not allowing any votes which he does not personally approve of and the result of which he does not endorse.”

“Any other interpretation of my remarks is a false controversy designed to distract attention from policies which are demonstrably crushing jobs and taking our country in the wrong direction,” he added.

Reid responded to the comments after a policy luncheon today on the Hill.

“With all the things going on in America today, that’s fairly insensitive. That’s really insensitive, very insensitive,” Reid told reporters. “And if there were ever a statement that deserved an apology, this is it, big time. I mean, has he been taking lessons from Donald Sterling? Where’d he get this?”

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Gutierrez: Obama May Have Damaged the Base By Delaying Immigration Order

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A leading House Democratic advocate of enacting immigration reform accused President Obama of breaking down the left’s coalition instead of strengthening the party’s hand in midterms by punting on an executive order.

“When you play it safe, politically, that is take four or five states and say, well, I am not going to make a decision so that I do not affect these Democrats in these states. You usually do not get good, public policy that you can be proud of. It is bad, right?” Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said on MSNBC.

He added that “when you take these kinds of actions” as Obama did, delaying executive action to win votes, “you break down the coalition that makes sure that there is justice and fairness and that we have ideals and that we have principles.”

“I am going to continue to encourage people to vote and to register and to get out to vote in spite of this action of the president, but he has made it harder for us.”

Gutierrez said he has called the White House and is “sure” he’ll get to meet with President Obama.

“I am sure there is going to be a broader group of us meeting with him and sitting down and talking with him, so that we can get those 4, 5, 6 million people and get them their documents, right?” the congressman added, citing his estimates of how many of the illegal immigrants in the United States could get legalized under an Obama order.

“What is this really all about? So the president says, ‘Oh, Luis, I want to educate people better before I make the announcement.’ Well, look, there is nothing I can do to change the president’s mind. There is nothing I can do or say tomorrow when I meet with them or when I see Secretary Jeh Johnson, who I think is wonderfully situated to really be helpful, because I really think he is a man of compassion when it comes to immigrants,” Gutierrez continued.

“Look, I want to work with them, so that we can get that. Not so much because of the political calculation, but because I care about all of these wonderful constituencies in America and I care about immigrants and I want to keep them in the fold of justice and fairness.”

Despite his disappointment, Gutierrez said he wouldn’t give up on Obama.

“I think it is going be 4, 5, 6 six million people. We are going to work to get there. And, I still believe, and I want people to know, do not give up hope because we are going to get it done,” he said. “And, this president is eventually going do it.”

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Before ISIS Speech, Obama Convenes Dinner with His Foreign Policy Dream Team

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Two days out of revealing his ISIS strategy, President Obama convened a private dinner Monday night with select administration officials and foreign policy wonks to hear ”their views on a range of national security and foreign policy issues.”

The White House billed the “group of foreign policy experts” as “including former Administration officials from Republican and Democratic Administrations, academics and think tank experts.”

Tops on the list was Sandy Berger, the former national security adviser to President Clinton who in 2005 pleaded guilty to removing classified documents from the National Archives.

Also on the invitation list were President Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, former Obama national security adviser Tom Donilon, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy, president of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass, and George W. Bush adviser for national security affairs Steve Hadley.

Former congresswoman Jane Harman (D-Calif.), now president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, was there, along with former acting CIA Director Michael Morell, who resigned after Obama picked John Brennan to lead the agency. Morrell has recently been critical of Obama Afghanistan withdrawal plans, warning it will lead to a renewal of al-Qaeda in the region.

Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution, rounded out the guest list.

Administration guests, in addition to Obama and Vice President Biden, included Secretary of State John Kerry, Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken, counselor John Podesta, White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region Phil Gordon, and Executive Secretary / Chief of Staff for the National Security Council Suzy George.

Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are in charge of putting the ISIS strategy in place. Hagel was in Turkey on Monday.

According to the White House, Obama made calls to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday.

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Sotloff Family Spokesman: Journalists Were ‘Pawns’ in Game of Uncooperative Administration

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson
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The spokesman for journalist Steven Sotloff’s family told CNN last night that relations with the Obama administration were “very strained” as they don’t feel they got the help they needed in trying to get him back before he was beheaded by ISIS.

Barak Barfi, a research fellow specializing in Arab and Islamic affairs at the New America Foundation and a longtime friend of Sotloff, revealed that Sotloff was sold out by rebels to ISIS for a price of between $25,000 and $50,000.

Barfi said he talked to his friend by phone “minutes” before he was kidnapped, right after he crossed the border from Turkey into Syria in August of last year.

“Somebody at the border crossing made a phone call to ISIS, and they set up a fake checkpoint with many people,” he said. “Steve and his people that he went in with could not escape.”

Barfi said activists spread a “false” story that Sotloff was involved in a hospital bombing. He said they’ve gleaned information that the person who tipped off ISIS is one of “the so-called moderate rebels that people want our administration to support.” The capture happened so quickly that friendly sources on the ground couldn’t stop the kidnapping, Barfi added.

It was revealed to the world that Sotloff was in ISIS’ hands when his life was threatened at the end of the Aug. 19 video showing the beheading of journalist James Foley.

“Once Steve appeared in that video, the Sotloff family made one simple request of the administration — and they were rebuffed on that,” Barfi told CNN, not elaborating further out of concern for the safety of those still in the hands of ISIS. “…We do not believe [the administration] gave the cooperation we needed.”

“The administration could have done more,” Barfi said. “They could have helped us. They could have seen them [the Sotloff family] through.”

One of the administration’s weaknesses, cited by other families of Americans held abroad as well, is the lack of an authoritative figure tasked with overseeing the cases and working cooperatively with families.

Barfi charged that Foley and Sotloff were being used as “pawns” in “a larger game of bureaucratic infighting” between the administration and the intelligence community. He said they know that the location of the hostages was “stationary” for the early part of the year.

“If there continue to be leaks, the Sotloff family will have to speak out to set the record straight,” Barfi said.

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Back from Recess, Lawmakers Unveil First Anti-ISIS Bills

Monday, September 8th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Monday was the first day that Congress has been back in session since ISIS released the gruesome videos showing the beheading of two Americans, and some lawmakers came prepared with legislation addressing the terror group.

Senators from the home states of murdered journalists James Foley and Steve Sotloff introduced a bill today to authorize up to $10 million in rewards to catch their killers.

The legislation from Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) would update the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program to include the murders of the journalists. The program has paid out more than $125 million in return for actionable intelligence since 1984.

Sotloff was from Florida, while Foley was from New Hampshire.

“James Foley and Steven Sotloff nobly risked their lives in the pursuit of truth, and the United States will not stand idly by after two of its own were brutally murdered at the hands of fundamentally evil and freedom-hating extremists,” Rubio said in a statement. “This bill is a symbol of our commitment to their parents that America will not rest until justice is served, and let it serve as a clear message to ISIL that we will stop at nothing to ensure the deaths of these beloved journalists do not go unpunished.”

“The world lost two courageous and inspiring journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as a result of the cowardly acts of a barbaric terrorist group and their deaths must not go unanswered,” Shaheen said. “James and Steven contributed greatly to the world through their reporting, and we must vigorously pursue those responsible for their murders.”

The only legislation directed at ISIS filed before the five-week summer recess were bills from Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) urging the administration to protect religious minorities from ISIS’ rampage. Democratic leadership in the Senate did not allow a vote on Portman’s bipartisan resolution before recess.

Nelson also filed a bill today to give President Obama authority to broaden the air campaign against ISIS to Syria.

“This is a barbaric group that’s committed heinous acts of torture and murder, and we have to go after them now – not only in Iraq, but in Syria as well,” said the Senate Armed Services Committee member.

Nelson’s bill states that “the President is authorized to use appropriate force against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the people and interests of the United States and our allies.”

It explicitly “does not include authorization for the use of rotational ground forces” and expires three years from the date that the bill is enacted.

In the House today, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) introduced the Terrorist Denaturalization and Passport Revocation Act to strip members or associates of terrorist organizations of U.S. passports and citizenship.

“Those who have joined a foreign terrorist organization have taken up arms against the United States and our very way of life. By turning against their country, their passports should be revoked and if they’re naturalized citizens, they should lose their citizenship,” Bachmann said. “As elected officials, protecting our nation and keeping the American people safe is our highest duty.”

In the Senate, Cruz filed the Expatriate Terrorist Act to “amend the existing statute governing renunciation of United States citizenship to designate fighting for a hostile foreign government or foreign terrorist organization as an affirmative renunciation of citizenship.”

“On May 24, an ISIS member returned to Belgium, where he attacked innocent visitors at a Jewish museum, slaughtering four people. And it was reported today that he had been plotting an even larger attack on Paris on Bastille Day. In addition, on August 11 of this year, an accused ISIS sympathizer, Donald Ray Morgan, was arrested at JFK airport trying to reenter the United States. Mr. President, we know that this threat is real,” Cruz said in a floor speech.

“The desire to become a citizen of a terrorist organization that has expressed a desire to wage war on the American people, has demonstrated a brutal capacity to do so, murdering American civilians on the global stage and promising to bring that Jihad home to America,” Cruz added. “We should not be facilitating their efforts by allowing fighters fighting alongside ISIS to come back to America with American passports and walk freely in our cities to carry out unspeakable acts of terror.”

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) said Obama shouldn’t wait for Congress to revoke the passports of known ISIS members. Officials have estimated about 100 to 200 Americans are fighting for ISIS.

“As America faces a clear threat from ISIS fighters, I have called upon the president to act lawfully, under existing statutory and regulatory authority, to deprive U.S. citizens who have allied themselves with ISIS of the use of their passport. This is a common-sense, non-controversial solution already authorized by our laws,” Salmon said.

“This action would do nothing to change their status as American citizens or their protection under our laws,” he added. “What it would do is stop those who have proclaimed their intention to harm our nation by restricting them from traveling abroad or returning home under the protection of her flag. I encourage the president to take this simple action as soon as possible to help us prevent a possible attack on our shores.”

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Boehner Asked to Invite Ukrainian President to Address Joint Session of Congress

Monday, September 8th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The senators who lead the Foreign Relations Committee have asked House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to invite Ukraine’s president to address a joint session of Congress.

President Petro Poroshenko will visit Washington on Sept. 18.

Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told Boehner in their letter that it’s ”critically important for every Member of Congress to hear from Ukraine’s President at this defining moment for not only Ukraine, but for Russia and the post-Cold War international order.”

“Earlier this year, the Ukrainian people surprised the world when they came together and stood their ground in Maidan Square in the face of violence and tyranny, in order to defend their beliefs and the very sovereignty of their nation against corrupt leaders who had abandoned the will of the people and the interests of their nation,” Menendez and Corker wrote. “Today, with a newly elected democratic government in office, and having chosen for themselves the direction of their nation, Ukraine faces a renewed battle for its economic and political sovereignty.”

“Russia, under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin, is challenging the very foundations of the security architecture that has supported peace and stability on the European continent since the end of the Cold War. President Poroshenko is on the front line of this conflict to determine the fate of Ukraine and the future of the international order.”

The senators urged to Boehner to seize “this historic moment” and “extend a hand of friendship to the Ukrainian people by inviting President Poroshenko to address a joint session of Congress and share his views on the critical situation in Ukraine.”

Menendez went to Kiev over Labor Day weekend and urged President Obama to start assisting Ukraine with much-needed military aid.

“As has been reinforced by my meetings in Estonia and Poland, it is clear that, in the case of Russia, any projection of weakness is potentially more provocative than the projection of strength,” Menendez wrote to Obama. “I am gravely concerned about President Putin’s blatant aggression in Ukraine and the risk that his imperialist ambitions may pose to our eastern NATO allies.”

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Sanders Introduces Proposal for New Wealth Tax

Monday, September 8th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called for a new tax at this weekend’s Vermont AFL-CIO annual convention: the wealth tax.

According to Sanders’ office, the proposal for a progressive estate tax works like so: The tax rate on estates valued from $3.5 million to $10 million would be 40 percent, those worth $10 million to $50 million would get a 50 percent levy, and estates worth more than $50 million would pay 55 percent.

If you’re worth more than $1 billion, you get slapped with an additional 10 percent tax.

Sanders argued this would pay down the national debt, reduce wealth inequality, and “pay for investments in infrastructure, education and other neglected national priorities.”

“A nation will not survive morally or economically when so few have so much while so many have so little,” Sanders told the convention. “We need a tax system which asks the billionaire class to pay its fair share of taxes and which reduces the obscene degree of wealth inequality in America.”

The senator got a supporter in former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a professor at University of California at Berkeley.

The country “is creating an aristocracy of wealth populated by heirs who don’t have to work for a living yet have great influence over how the nation’s productive assets are deployed,” Reich said, and Sanders’ bill would be “a welcome step toward reversing this trend.”

As the Senate returns from recess today, Sanders is getting a debate he’s long sought in the upper chamber as an amendment to reverse the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision on campaign finance comes to the floor.

“Billionaires buying elections is not what our Constitution stands for,” Sanders said in a statement Sunday. “The major issue of our time is whether the United States of America retains its democratic foundation or whether we devolve into an oligarchic form of society where a handful of billionaires are able to control our political process by spending hundreds of millions of dollars to elect candidates who represent their interests.”

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Romney on Obama: ‘I Don’t Know If You Can See Reality from a Fairway’

Monday, September 8th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told Fox on Sunday that he thinks Americans are having “some buyer’s remorse about President Obama.”

“I’m not sure how they feel about me,” he added. “But that’s kind of irrelevant.”

Romney said the “real question” is “how’s this president doing?”

“And, frankly, they recognize the president has not been engaged. The idea that we have a group known as ISIS or ISIL, that we’ve known about for almost year, where members of Congress have said to the president, prepare for this, get ready for them, make sure they don’t make incursions into Iraq. I mean, we’ve fought long and hard to provide security and freedom for those people,” he continued.

“Yet, the president was too busy on the golf course to pick up the phone and meet with the leaders around the world and to say what happens if? You know, the Pentagon was going through what-if scenarios. But the president apparently wasn’t, hasn’t developed a strategy.”

President Obama is due to announce his strategy in a Wednesday address.

“I don’t know whether you can’t see reality from a fairway, but the president has not seen the reality internationally and domestically. We’ve got, what, 92 million people that have stopped looking for work, that are out of work in this country? It’s unacceptable,” Romney said.

“The American people are struggling, having a hard time. This president’s policies, both at home and abroad, are hurting people and people are responding in the way they review him.”

On his 2012 run, Romney said ”there’s no question that I and my campaign made some mistakes.”

“I think it’s going to be a long time before we see a perfect campaign and a perfect candidate,” he said. “Look, I have weaknesses. I don’t get every sentence up perfectly. Sometimes I misspeak.”

Romney said “the opposition did a very good job picking up on those mistakes and just beating the heck out of me, and I didn’t do as good a job as I wish I would have, describing who I am to the American people.”

On the future? “I’m not running. I’m not planning on running.”

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Rubio: Midterms Should Give ‘Clarity’ on Decision for Presidential Run

Monday, September 8th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told CBS on Sunday that he should have more “clarity” on whether or not he’ll run for president after November’s midterm election.

“I’ll have to make decision in 2016 either way, because I’m up for re-election in the Senate and for me it’s not going to be about the position. It’s going to be about where can I best advocate for a 21st century reform agenda that allows us to usher in another American century,” Rubio told Face the Nation.

“The decision I have to make is can I best do that as a senator or can I best do that as running and hopefully winning the presidency,” he continued. “And that is a question I’ll have more clarity on after this midterm, because I can promise you this, the one place where I will not be able to do that from is a Senate that is still run by Harry Reid, that allows no votes on anything of substance or importance.”

Rubio sits on the Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees and has been seizing foreign policy as a signature issue in the past few months.

He stressed that he believes ISIS currently poses a threat to the homeland.

“First and foremost because they are replete with both European and American fighters and more Europeans than Americans who have passports that allow them immediate access into the United States,” Rubio said. “Second, because I think it’s important not to overestimate the amount of intelligence that we have on these groups and about these groups; they have learned a lot about our intelligence gathering capabilities through a series of disclosures and other sorts of things.”

“And they have become increasingly capable at evading detection. So for us to simply sit back and say we don’t think they pose a threat because we haven’t seen one I think would be shortsighted. The fact of the matter is this group has, among their ranks, hundreds if not thousands of people with the capability of entering the United States quickly and easily and we should not take that lightly.”

Saying he doesn’t take the accusation lightly, Rubio charged that “this president has committed presidential malpractice in his foreign policy.”

“I think that Exhibit A is what he’s done with the Middle East. He ran for office under the notion that our national interests in the Middle East were to disengage as quickly as possible and disentangle from the region, and that has been chaotic, it has led to a series of policy pronouncements and words that he is — whether it’s saying that the ISIL was the J.V., whether it’s setting red lines that weren’t in force,” the senator said.

“All these things have been dramatically counterproductive to our foreign policy and I think have created some generational and reputational damage to the United States of great significance.”

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Obama on Golfing After Foley Murder: ‘I Should Have Anticipated the Optics’

Sunday, September 7th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

On this morning’s Meet the Press, Chuck Todd asked President Obama about golfing directly after addressing last month’s beheading of journalist James Foley:

TODD: I’ve got to ask, like, so during that vacation, made the statement on Foley, you went and golfed. Do you want that back?

OBAMA: You know, it is always a challenge when you’re supposed to be on vacation, because you’re followed everywhere. And part of what I would love is a vacation from–

TODD: You want us to stop following you.

OBAMA: — the press, because–

TODD: I promise you in two and a half years I think that happens.

OBAMA: Because the possibility of a jarring contrast given the world’s news, there’s always going to be some tough news somewhere, it’s going to be there.

But there’s no doubt that after having talked to the families, where it was hard for me to hold back tears listening to the pain they were going through, after the statement that I made, that I should have anticipated the optics. That’s part of the job.

And you know, I think everybody who knows me, including, I suspect, the press, understands that you take this stuff in. And it’s serious business. And you care about it deeply. But part of this job is also the theater of it. Part of it is how are you–

TODD: You hate the theater.

OBAMA: Well, it’s not something that always comes naturally to me, but it matters. I’m mindful of that. So the important thing is in addition to that, is am I getting the policies right, am I protecting the American people, am I doing what’s necessary?

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Feinstein: It’s ‘Overdue,’ But Obama Finally ‘on the Offense’ Against ISIS

Sunday, September 7th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she thinks President Obama has gotten to the point where he is acting appropriately against the threat posed by ISIS.

“I want to congratulate the president,” Feinstein said this morning on CNN. “He is now on the offense.”

Feinstein pointed out the coalition of nine nations to fight ISIS agreed upon at last week’s NATO summit. “His people are in different regional countries as we speak consulting and trying to bring in other countries in the region. I think that this is a major change in how ISIS is approached,” she said.

“ISIS is a major threat to this country in the future and right now to the entirety of Syria and Iraq, and the expanding caliphate,” she stressed. “I think where they’re going is to Baghdad. It is my belief they will try to attack our embassy. So we’re going to protect our embassy, protect our consulate in Irbil, and, at the same time, begin to use Special Operations, more [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], crack down on where they’re getting their money, and taking aggressive action against this terrorist group.”

“It is overdue, but the president is now there. And I think it’s the right thing for America, and, hopefully, our partners will be aggressive with us.”

Feinstein said she spoke with Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes on Saturday and asked him specifically “who is going to be in charge now” of this coalition.

“The devil is in the details of putting this together,” she noted. “And he said very clearly Secretary Hagel and Secretary Kerry. So, what I want to hear is from both of those two, what is the military plan and what is the diplomatic plan? And time’s a wasting, because we have now said that we’re going to go on the offensive. And it’s time for America to project power and strength.”

On Wednesday, the day before the 9/11 anniversary, Obama is planning to address the nation on the ISIS threat.

Feinstein said Obama should speak to “what other Middle Eastern countries are going to do, and what would be the prime role for America.”

“I hope we have Special Operations. We have made air attacks now 137 times,” she said. “We should have Special Operations working. We should use our ISR much more than has been. It’s been difficult in Syria, but that is now ramping up. I believe we should go after their command-and-control, where there are caches of equipment, and use that ISR and take it out, as well as in Iraq, as — the same thing.”

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Al-Shabaab Names New Leader, Vows to ‘Punish’ U.S. and Renews Allegiance to al-Qaeda

Saturday, September 6th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Somali al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab quickly promoted a new leader for the organization and vowed retaliation for the “American Crusaders’ aerial bombardment” that killed Ahmed Godane on Labor Day.

The White House confirmed Godane’s death yesterday, calling his “removal… a major symbolic and operational loss to the largest al-Qaida affiliate in Africa.”

Al-Shabaab confirmed Godane’s “martyrdom” in a slick, six-page statement that offered “congratulations” on the martyrdom and heralded the late leader for his “patience and steadfastness.”

“We hereby take the opportunity to advise our Mujahideen brothers and the courageous tribes of Somalia to fulfil their obligation to the utmost of their means so as to repulse the malicious onslaught of the Crusaders against the Islamic Wilaayaat and the oppressive American and Western aggression on our lands. We advise them to take a unified stand against the Crusaders just as they are fighting us regardless of their religious, ideological and political differences; for defending the religion of Islam is a trust binding upon your necks,” said the English-language statement.

“So sacrifice your lives for that which your leaders have sacrificed their lives for and avenge their deaths. Defend your religion and your honour, for waging Jihad against the Americans, their crusader allies and the treacherous apostate agents is the most binding of individual obligations. Beware of allowing the disbelievers any sense of enjoyment and safety as long as your hearts beat and your eyes blink.”

Al-Shabaab vowed to ”not delay in punishing those who have perpetrated such heinous massacres,” and promised that the terror group would “only grow in strength and ferocity” after Godane’s death.

“Our Jihad will not be affected in the least by the martyrdom of our Shaykhs and if Jihad were to end with the death of an individual,” it would have been derailed by the deaths of Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zaqawi and others, the statement continued.

“We also reassure you that the Shaykh has left behind a group of men that reject oppression and refuse for their religion to be humiliated. They are men who will neither rest nor settle down until they govern all the corners of the earth with the Shari’ah of Allaah, deliver justice, spread fair council, unify Muslims upon the kalima of Tawheed and purify the lands of Islam from the filth of the crusaders and their apostate allies.”

Godane’s successor is Ahmad Umar Abu Ubaidah, aka Ahmed Diriye, a longtime senior adviser to Godane and former primary school Quran teacher.

Al-Shabaab also “renews its pledge of allegiance” to al-Qaeda, with whom it allied in 2012, and leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

“Indeed, a vibrant and glorious dawn is today imminently approaching on the horizon of the Muslim Ummah after the growth, refinement and maturity of the Jihad across the entire Islamic world. The ruthless and oppressive onslaughts by the Crusaders, Zionists and Raafidha in our lands and the lands of Palestine, Iraq, Shaam [the Levant], Afghanistan, the Arabian Peninsula, the Islamic Maghreb, Chechnya and elsewhere has only further inflamed the passion for Jihad in the hearts of the Muslim youth across the globe,” the statement says. “Similarly, the many sacrifices, unyielding fortitude, robust eemaan, and the daring manner in which the Mujahideen confronted the vicious campaign of the enemies have increased the intensity, purity and clarity of Jihad.”

It ends with a message to the “enemies of Allaah”: “Expect only that which will cause you great distress and be prepared to reap the fruits of your recklessness and folly. Avenging the death of our scholars and leaders is a binding obligation on our shoulders that we will never relinquish nor forget no matter how long it takes. By the permission of Allaah, you will surely taste the bitter consequences of your actions.”

Al-Shabaab’s attacks include last year’s brutal assault on the Westgate mall in Nairobi.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) stressed in a Friday statement that despite Godane’s killing dealing a “serious blow” to the terror group, “we must keep a close watch on al-Shabaab, offering support to the African allies fighting these terrorists, as the group looks to adapt to this loss.”

“The rapid growth of al Qaeda-inspired affiliates like al-Shabab throughout the Middle East and Africa represents a grave danger to the U.S. and our allies and we must have a comprehensive strategy to eliminate these threats,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said.

While in the U.S. last month for the African leaders summit in D.C., Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud flew to Minnesota to urge Somali-Americans to not fundraise, support or be recruited by Al-Shabaab.

“Somalis in Minnesota, you should also play your part,” Mohamud told the crowd, according to MPR News. “The enemy that is in [Somalia] is also in here. Keep your children safe.”

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GOPs: Obama Delay Means ‘Radical Agenda,’ ‘Blanket Amnesty’ in the Works

Saturday, September 6th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Republicans lashed out at President Obama’s decision to delay an immigration executive order until after midterm elections, saying the move is proof that what is coming will be drastic.

“Once again, President Obama is playing political games to protect his liberal friends in November by using sleight of hand to temporarily hide his radical agenda from the American people,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said. “The president needs to abandon his attempt to issue blanket amnesty by executive order, and instead focus on securing the border as the House already did.”

“Border security is a critical national security issue, and President Obama should stop using immigration as a political tool during election time, and instead work in a bipartisan way to solve this problem and secure the border,” Scalise added. “The decision to delay is a blatant admission that this is not just the wrong policy for the president’s liberal friends, but for the American people.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said “it’s not enough for the president to wait until after the election to act on immigration.”

“Under our Constitution, he should wait until Congress passes a law,” Alexander said. “The Founders of our country did not want a king and the American people do not want a president who acts like one. Every voter this November should take into account this shameful presidential trick of delaying action until after the election.”

One candidate already pressing this with voters is former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R), vying to replace Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) in New Hampshire.

“President Obama’s decision to delay executive action to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants until after the election is of little comfort to people like myself who believe in the rule of law,” Brown said in a statement. “Make no mistake: President Obama plans to grant amnesty, it’s just that he will cynically wait until after the election so as not to harm Senate Democrats like Jeanne Shaheen.”

“On illegal immigration and so many other issues, Jeanne Shaheen stands with the president, as she has with his previous executive orders on amnesty,” Brown continued. “Senator Shaheen votes with President Obama 99% of the time. The people of New Hampshire have a choice: they can re-elect Senator Shaheen and send President Obama a blank check, or they can have a real check and balance by supporting me.”"

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said the White House’s decision “to delay executive action on immigration until after the election is an open admission that the president intends to take actions that the majority of Americans oppose.”

“This is no surprise, coming from an administration that has avoided accountability and transparency at every turn,” the former Judiciary Committee chairman added. “I continue to urge the president to take measured, legal actions that Americans support to address the surge at our Southern border.”

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Obama Promises Decision on Immigration Action Coming ‘Fairly Soon’

Friday, September 5th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama told reporters in Wales today that he’s been preoccupied by dealing with ISIS, but expects to decide what executive action he wants to take on immigration reform “fairly soon.”

Congress comes into session next week. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has been gathering petition signatures on his website to “stop the president’s pro-amnesty agenda.”

“I have to tell you that this week I’ve been pretty busy, focused on Ukraine, and focused on ISIL, and focused on making sure that NATO is — is boosting its commitments and following through on what’s necessary to meet 21st-century challenges,” Obama said at today’s press conference when asked if he was going to press forward with an executive order with midterm elections just two months away.

“Jeh Johnson and Eric Holder have begun to provide me some of their proposals and recommendations. I’ll be reviewing them. And, you know, my expectation is that fairly soon, I’ll be considering what the next steps are.”

Obama said he’s “unequivocal” about the need for immigration reform, but has an “overriding preference”  to see Congress act first. “We had bipartisan action in the Senate. The House Republicans have sat on it for over a year. That has damaged the economy,” he said. “It has held America back. It is a mistake.”

“And in the absence of congressional action, I intend to take action to make sure that we’re putting more resources on the border, that we’re upgrading how we process these cases, and that we find a way to encourage legal immigration and give people some path, so that they can start paying taxes, and then pay a fine and learn English and be able to not look over their shoulder but be legal, since they’ve been living here for quite some time.”

He added that “on my flight back, this’ll be part of my reading, taking a look at some of the specifics that we’ve looked at.”

“And I’ll be making an announcement soon,” Obama said.

“But I want to be very clear: My intention is, in the absence of — in the absence of action by Congress, I’m going to do what I can do within the legal constraints of my office, because it’s the right thing to do for the country.”

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‘How Cool Is This!’: Obama Drops in on Stonehenge

Friday, September 5th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A beaming President Obama said he was at one of the places he’d always wanted to visit while touring Stonehenge after the NATO summit.

Obama walked about the prehistoric monument for about 20 minutes, according to the White House pool report, exclaiming, “How cool is this!”

The visit was added to his schedule at the last minute before he departed the UK.

“It’s spectacular, it’s spectacular. It’s a special place,” he added.

Reporters asked if he had always wanted to visit Stonehenge, which could have been an ancient calendar or spot for sacred ritual. “Knocked it off the bucket list!” the president replied.

Obama is scheduled to arrive back at the White House tonight.




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Islamic State Starts Issuing Traffic Tickets

Friday, September 5th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Who knows what the vehicle code is in the Islamic State, except for that rule of driving white Toyota pickups. Whatever it is, a fighter from Bahrain got nailed in the caliphate “capital,” Raqqa. No word on what the penalty is.


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Administration Says Al-Shabaab Leader Killed in Labor Day Strike

Friday, September 5th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The Obama administration confirmed today that the leader of Al-Shaaab was killed in a Labor Day airstrike.

“We have confirmed that Ahmed Godane, the co-founder of al-Shabaab, has been killed. The U.S. military undertook operations against Godane on Sept. 1, which led to his death. Removing Godane from the battlefield is a major symbolic and operational loss to al-Shabaab,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement. “The United States works in coordination with its friends, allies and partners to counter the regional and global threats posed by violent extremist organizations.”

Al-Shabaab was quiet after the strike, issuing no statements, leading analysts to believe that either the terror group had taken a hit or has been planning a retaliatory hit.

The White House echoed the news, with press secretary Josh Earnest saying “Godane’s removal is a major symbolic and operational loss to the largest al-Qaida affiliate in Africa and reflects years of painstaking work by our intelligence, military and law enforcement professionals.”

“Even as this is an important step forward in the fight against al-Shabaab, the United States will continue to use the tools at our disposal – financial, diplomatic, intelligence and military –to address the threat that al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups pose to the United States and the American people. We will also continue to support our international partners, particularly the African Union Mission in Somalia, that are working to support the Federal Government of Somalia build a secure and stable future for the Somali people,” Earnest continued.

There was no mention of Godane being killed on Al-Shabaab’s news site, which carried Ayman al-Zawahiri’s statement yesterday of al-Qaeda’s South Asia expansion and the recent beheading of American journalist Steve Sotloff.

Al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda allied in 2012. In September of last year, they executed the gruesome attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi.

Last month, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud warned an audience in D.C. of the concern of Al-Shabaab and Nigeria’s Boko Haram training together even though they’re physically a continent apart.

Boko Haram has been making lightning-quick gains, taking territory and declaring a caliphate.

“There are more non-Somalis than Somalis at the highest level” of Al-Shabaab now, he said. “We have people from North America, people from Europe, people from Asia, the Gulf… we have all kinds of people in place but still Somalia has the name associated with Al-Shabaab.”

The country’s instability left the nation “a vacuum for a long time,” Mohamud acknowledged. “This has been a breeding ground for them.”

Secretary of State John Kerry said at the top of an anti-ISIS coalition meeting in Wales today that they could learn lessons from fighting the Islamic State to use later against al-Qaeda in North Africa.

“I think this could become conceivably a model that can help us with Boko Haram, could help us with Shabaab, with other groups if we can do this successfully,” Kerry said.

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Holder Expanding Ferguson Investigation to Entire Police Department

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that the Justice Department is significantly expanding its inquiry into the conduct of the Ferguson police after the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown.

Holder said the federal civil rights investigation into the shooting itself “remains open and remains very active,” and assured Americans that the probe is “fair, thorough and independent.”

When he was recently in Ferguson, though, the attorney general said he heard people “consistently” express “compelling” concern about law enforcement incidents and a “lack of diversity on the police force.”

In addition to collecting resident complaints, the Justice Department said it reviewed public records including “demographics” and “cases filed by private litigants” in its decision to open the investigation.

“As a result of this history,” Holder said, his department decided to launch an “extensive review of documented allegations” and open an investigation to determine if there is a pattern or practice of violations in Ferguson.

Holder said the review of “constitutional policing” practices would be undertaken by the Civil Rights Division.

The investigation will focus on all aspects of policing, he said, including force, the use of deadly force, stops, searches, arrest, detainment procedures and conditions, and any “discriminatory police techniques and tactics.”

Holder said they met with the mayor and police chief, who “welcomed this investigation” and pledged to cooperate with the DOJ.

He added that the investigation would go wherever it may lead, and could expand to neighboring jurisdictions. “We will not hesitate to do so,” he said.

Two days after Officer Darren Wilson shot Brown, Holder vowed that the DOJ would “supplement, rather than supplant, the inquiry by local authorities.”

On Aug. 20, Holder visited Ferguson to meet with local officials and the Brown family.

“As the brother of a retired police officer, I know firsthand that our men and women in uniform perform their duties in the face of tremendous threats and significant personal risk.  They put their lives on the line every day, and they often have to make split-second decisions,” Holder said after his trip.

“But in my conversations with dozens of people in Ferguson, it was clear that this shooting incident has brought to the surface underlying tensions that have existed for some time; tensions with a history that still simmers in communities across the country,” he added. “The national outcry we’ve seen speaks to the sense of mistrust and mutual suspicion that can sometimes take hold in the relationship between law enforcement officers and their constituents.”

Rep. Wm “Lacy ” Clay (R-Mo.), who represents the district where the Brown shooting occurred, said in a statement that he’s “very gratified that the Department of Justice has responded to my concerns and those of my constituents by launching this federal probe into possible civil rights violations that may have been committed by the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department.”

“I want to personally thank Attorney General Holder for responding to my request with such strength and speed,” Clay said.

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‘Decimated’ al-Qaeda Announces Big Expansion with New South Asia Chapter

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson
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Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the formation of a new chapter —  the Al-Qaeda Jihad Organization in South Asia — intended to ”raise the flag of jihad” in India and beyond.

“This step is an effort for the ascendancy of Islam, re-establishment of Islamic government, and rule of Islamic sharia in the land of South Asia, which was once part of the world of Islam but infidels captured it and divided it into small pieces,” Zawahiri said, according to a MEMRI translation.

The terror leader said the formation of the new wing has been underway for “nearly two years” now. The expansion plans were being fomented at the same time as Zawahiri initiated another key cog in al-Qaeda expansion and rebranding — appointing young and ruthless al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi as the organization’s general manager.

Zawahiri says that existing jihadi leaders in South Asia were brought into the al-Qaeda fold to form the new branch.

Taliban leader Mullah Omar will oversee the new unit. ”In the entire word at this time, the message of jihad under the flag of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has been spreading and expanding continuously,” Zawahiri said.

He said his confidence on Mullah Omar rests in part on the fact that U.S. troops are soon leaving Afghanistan, making the Taliban leader’s 2001 prediction of eventual victory correct.

“Therefore, O mujahid brothers, progress towards unity and fraternity! Hold tight Allah’s rope by leaving behind internal differences and discord, and stay away from groupism! This organization has been established so that, by uniting with our Muslim brothers in the entire world, to erase the borders which were drawn by the Britishers to divide the Muslims of South Asia,” he continued. “Therefore, the fundamental message of this organization for the inhabitants of South Asia is that they unite based on the Islamic monotheism and perform the duty of aiding Islam by walking on the path of dawah [invitation to Islam] and jihad adopted by prophets and pious persons of Allah.”

Zawahiri specifically noted Burma, Bangladesh, and India’s regions of Assam, Gujarat and Kashmir as regions where al-Qaeda cares and will offer “a cool breeze for the hapless and weak people.”

“Today, the core of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on a path to defeat. Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us. They did not direct the attacks in Benghazi or Boston. They have not carried out a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11,” President Obama declared in May 2013 at the National Defense University.

Last August, Obama told Marines at Camp Pendleton that “al-Qaeda’s top ranks have been hammered.”

“The core of al-Qaeda, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is on the way to defeat,” he added.

Two days later, when questioned about this in a press conference at the White House, the president reiterated that “core al-Qaeda is on its heels, has been decimated.”

“So it’s entirely consistent to say that this tightly organized and relatively centralized al-Qaeda that attacked us on 9/11 has been broken apart and is very weak and does not have a lot of operational capacity, and to say we still have these regional organizations like AQAP that can pose a threat, that can drive potentially a truck bomb into an embassy wall and can kill some people,” he maintained.

And while Obama admitted in his State of the Union address that the “threat has evolved” with the growth of affiliates, he maintained “we have put al-Qaeda’s core leadership on a path to defeat.”

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