Archive for May, 2013

The Arizona mother detained in Mexico for more than a week on drug charges has been released and returned to the U.S. after a video showed she boarded a bus with no packages that could have contained 12 pounds of marijuana, as police had alleged.

Yanira Maldonado, 42, walked out of the jail late Thursday night local time, and thanked well-wishers and Mexican officials. Maldonado told one jail official in Spanish, “Thank you for everything and the quality of person you are.”

“Is this it?” Maldonado asked officials moments after being released. “Thank you. God bless you,” she added before leaving.

Maldonado met with reporters briefly and said, “Many thanks to everyone, especially my God who let me go free, my family, my children, who with their help, I was able to survive this test,” she said.

Maldonado was met with a hug from her husband Gary, who brought her to a waiting car. The couple hugged again in the car before leaving. Maldonado was taken to Nogales, Ariz., where she spoke again to reporters about her ordeal.

“I love Mexico. My family is still there. So Mexico… it’s not Mexico’s fault. It’s a few people who you know did this to me,” she said.

Hours before her release, court officials reviewed surveillance footage that showed Maldonado and her husband boarding a bus in Mexico on May 22. Maldonado was carrying a black, medium-sized purse and two bottles of water. Her husband was carrying blankets. Maldonado was detained by authorities after Mexican soldiers said they discovered 12 pounds of marijuana under her bus at a check point in Hermosillo, Mexico.

The surveillance video, which has not been released to the public, was reviewed by ABC News Thursday.

The family’s lawyer in Nogales, Mexico, told reporters the surveillance video showed she did not bring 12 pounds of marijuana onto the bus.

“The evidence was very clear that she never [had] contact with the drug,” Jose Francisco Benitez Paz said minutes after Maldonado was released.

Earlier this week, Mexican officials provided local media with photos that they said were of the packages Maldonado was accused of smuggling. Each was about 5 inches high and 20 inches wide. Maldonado’s lawyer said the packets of drugs were attached to the seat bottoms with metal hooks, calling that a task that would have been impossible for a passenger boarding normally to do.

The soldiers who detained Maldonado did not appear in court to make their case against her. The judge presiding over the case was expected to make a decision about Maldonado’s fate later today, but the family received word late Thursday night that she would be released early.

Maldonado maintained her innocence throughout her detainment and her family believes she was framed. Maldonado was being held at a jail in Nogales while authorities decided her fate.

“I was in shock. I’m like this is not real. This is not happening. I don’t know. I thought maybe this was a set-up or a joke or something. I was just waiting for it to end but I realized that it’s real, that I’m being detained,” Maldonado told ABC News affiliate KNXV-TV Wednesday in a jail-house interview.

At the check point, the soldiers who accused her of trafficking drugs took her into custody. Her husband was released after initially being suspected of smuggling.

Maldonado said a Mexican official told her she had to plead guilty despite her insistence that she was innocent.

“She’s like, ‘I’m here to help. I’m here to put criminals behind bars,’ and I thought, “Thank God. I’m innocent.’ So, I thought that she was here to help me and she didn’t,” Maldonado said Wednesday.

The family said an attorney in Mexico told them they could bribe the judge. Gary Maldonado frantically had family wire him $5,000 for the bribe. He says, although the money was offered, it was not accepted.

Yanira Maldonado, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Mexico, is a mother of seven and a devout Mormon.

View Source

The Syrian president has told Lebanon’s Hezbollah-owned TV station that Damascus received the first shipment of Russian air defence missiles, according to remarks released Thursday.

Bashar al-Assad’s comment on the arrival of the long-range S-300 air defence missiles in Syria will further ratchet up tensions in the region and undermine efforts to hold UN-sponsored talks with Syria’s warring sides.

Israel’s defence chief, Moshe Yaalon, said earlier this week that Russia’s plan to supply Syria with the weapons is a threat and that Israel was prepared to use force to stop the delivery.

The Al-Manar TV, owned by the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group, released al-Assad’s comment on the Russian missiles through its breaking news service to clients on Thursday morning. An official at the station confirmed to The Associated Press that the remark was from the interview. The TV is to air the exclusive interview later Thursday.

On Monday, the European Union lifted an arms embargo on Syria, paving way for individual countries of the 27-member bloc to send weapons to rebels fighting to topple al-Assad’s regime. The move raised fears of an arms race in the Middle East.

Israel has carried out several airstrikes in Syria in recent months that are believed to have destroyed weapons shipments bound for Hezbollah. It is not clear whether Israeli warplanes entered Syrian airspace in these attacks.

But with the Russian missiles in Syria’s possession, the Israeli air force’s ability to act could be limited.

Israel has lobbied Moscow over the planned sale of S-300 air-defence missiles to Syria but on Tuesday, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said his government remained committed to the deal.

The S-300s have a range of up to 200 kilometres and the capability to track and strike multiple targets simultaneously. Syria already possesses Russian-made air defences, and Israel is believed to have used long-distance bombs fired from Israeli or Lebanese airspace. The S-300s would expand Syria’s capabilities, allowing it to counter airstrikes launched from foreign airspace as well.

Monday’s decision by the EU paved the way for individual countries to send weapons to al-Assad’s outgunned opponents. The EU’s move may have little impact on the conflict since no single European country is expected to send lethal weapons to the rebels anytime soon.

Britain and France, the main military powers in the EU, had pushed for lifting the embargo. They have argued that Europe’s threat of arming the rebels in the future would force Assad to negotiate in good faith.

Russia, an al-Assad ally, harshly criticized Europe’s decision to allow the arming of Syrian rebels, saying it undercuts international efforts to bring the opposing sides in Syrian conflict together for a peace conference.

View Source

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Pakistani Taliban’s No. 2 commander was killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike Wednesday, two Pakistani intelligence officials and a Pakistani Taliban commander said, a potentially significant blow to an insurgent group that has been linked to a series of brutal attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Reports of the drone strike came as Pakistan is transitioning to a new government, and it was the first since President Obama outlined restrictions on the administration’s targeted killing policy in a major counterterrorism speech last week. Under the policy, drone targets are narrowly defined as active members of al-Qaeda and associated groups overseas who pose an imminent threat to U.S. citizens.

Obama indicated that different rules would continue to apply in the border region of Pakistan, which is used as a base by militant groups to carry out cross-border attacks against U.S. troops. The United States considers that area part of the Afghanistan war theater, where Obama said drone operations would continue until the withdrawal of U.S. forces at the end of next year.

U.S. officials declined to confirm the strike, which was the first on Pakistani soil in six weeks. Two officials in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said at least four people were killed in the strike early Wednesday near the town of Miran Shah, including Wali ur-Rehman, a deputy to Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud. A Pakistani Taliban commander in the region also said Rehman was killed.

Their reports could not be independently confirmed, and numerous militant leaders — including Mehsud — have been falsely reported as killed by drones only to quickly resurface. Asked whether Rehman had been killed, a Taliban spokesman, Ensanullah Ehsan, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that he had “no such information.”

Rehman has been a key leader in the Pakistani Taliban, an ally of the Afghan Taliban that is waging war against the Pakistani state in a bid to impose Islamic law. It focuses most of its operations inside Pakistan, where it has claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed thousands of civilians and security forces.

Rehman is the group’s chief military strategist, according to the State Department, which in 2010 offered a $5 million reward for information that would help authorities find him. The United States says he has participated in cross-border attacks against U.S. and NATO personnel in Afghanistan and was involved in a 2009 attack that killed seven Americans at a CIA facility in Khost, Afghanistan.

“We will continue to take strikes against high-value al-Qaeda targets, but also against forces that are massing to support attacks on coalition forces,” a senior Obama administration official said Wednesday. The official said that the Pakistani Taliban “has repeatedly threatened to attack the United States,” most recently following last month’s Boston Marathon bombing.

The strike could complicate Washington’s relations with Pakistan’s newly elected government, which is preparing to take office after a national election that featured ample debate about the U.S. drone campaign in Pakistan. The number of drone strikes in Pakistan has declined sharply over the past four years, from a high of 117 in 2010 to 14 so far this year, according to statistics maintained by the Long War Journal.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who is expected to regain that post when the newly elected National Assembly meets next week, has demanded an end to the drone strikes and said he plans to take up the issue with the Obama administration.

The Pakistani government condemned the strike Wednesday, calling drone attacks “counterproductive” because they entail “the loss of innocent civilian lives, have human rights and humanitarian implications and violate the principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law.”

But Rehman’s death might be welcomed by some in the Pakistani government and military, which have long faulted the United States for targeting al-Qaeda and Afghan insurgents while failing to strike or capture top Pakistani Taliban leaders such as Maulana Fazlul Rahman Khalil, who is believed to be in Afghanistan.

A blow to the Pakistani Taliban might also strengthen the hand of a future government led by Sharif, who said last week he might be willing to engage with the group in peace talks. Mehmood Shah, a retired Pakistani brigadier general, said the latest strike is unlikely to complicate potential negotiations because the group’s leadership is already splintered.

Yet Shah said the high-profile strike — and the Pakistani government’s condemnation of it — highlight the challenges facing Sharif in addressing both Washington and the insurgency.

“Although this man belongs to a terrorist organization in Pakistan, the right to take his life should be done under proper law instead of a foreign government taking his life,” Shah said.

Muhammad Amir Rana, a Pakistani security analyst, said that based on preliminary information, the strike on Wednesday appears consistent with revised U.S. policy.

“We will see such limited drone strikes happening in future, but with much more accountability and care being taken that only terrorists are taken out,” Rana said.

View Source

Chicago authorities say at least six people have been killed in weekend violence and at least another 11 wounded.

Police are investigating the death of a 42-year-old man who was shot in the head early Sunday. The Cook County medical examiner says Charles Jones was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital around 3:30 a.m. The shooting stemmed from a crash and a woman was taken to the hospital.

Also killed Sunday was a man in his late 20s who was shot in the armpit and pronounced dead at a suburban hospital.

Two people were killed in shootings Saturday, including 18-year-old Fearro Denard and a 29-year-old man who was shot not far from President Barack Obama’s South Side home.

On Friday, a 17-year-old and 22-year old were killed in separate shootings.

View Source


Wait, wait, we know what you’re thinking. You’re so over 3D printing. Guns, pizzas, iPhone cases, we’ve seen it all and the stories proclaiming the greatness of this Next Big Thing make the trend grow old quick. But we promise this hype’s worth the read: Without a 3D printer, a baby not even six months old would have died.

Kaiba Gionfriddo, who was born with a life-threatening respiratory disorder called trachebronchomalacia, is the infant saved by such technology. Every day, there was a period where Kaiba stopped breathing as his collapsed bronchus blocked the flow of air to his lungs, and doctors involved with the family were not optimistic about his future. “Quite a few doctors said he had a good chance of not leaving the hospital alive,” said Kaiba’s mother, April. “At that point, we were desperate. Anything that would work, we would take it and run with it.”

It turned out that what could work ended up being research being carried out at the University of Michigan into bioresorbable devices. After being contacted by Kaiba’s doctors, UofM’s associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology Glenn Green and professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering (and associate professor of surgery) Scott Hollister became involved in the case.

“We reasoned that the localized tracheobronchomalacia was the cause of this physiological abnormality,” the doctors write in the paper supporting their actions, “and made a custom-designed and custom-fabricated resorbable airway splint. Our bellowed topology design, similar to the hose of a vacuum cleaner, provides resistance against collapse while simultaneously allowing flexion, extension, and expansion with growth.”

The design was created using a CT scan of Kaiba’s trachea, with the computer model then used to create a 3D printed splint. The device is made from a material called polycaprolactone, which will break down and be absorbed by Kaiba’s body after three years – at which point, doctors believe, the body will have managed to grow an unrestricted airway by itself thanks to the support offered by the splint.

Of course, the design and construction of the device were hardly the only problems involved in this case. Before the splint could be installed, the team at the University of Michigan had to apply for (and were, obviously, granted) emergency clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because the process was so unusual.

More than a year later – the surgery to put the splint took place in February 2012 – and signs are that everything is proceeding as planned. Three weeks after the surgery, Kaiba was taken off the ventilator, and has had no problem breathing ever since. Suddenly, the days of silly 3D-printed burritos seems so far behind.

View Source

Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on the controversial warrant application that the Justice Department used to obtain the personal emails of a Fox News reporter.

The warrant, which was obtained after the Justice Department identified Fox News reporter James Rosen as a possible criminal co-conspirator for communicating with a source who allegedly supplied him with classified information, allowed investigators to obtain two days’ worth of email correspondence from Rosen’s personal Gmail account.

Holder said previously that he had recused himself from a separate leak investigation that involved reporters for the Associated Press, but did not do so in this case, and personally signed off on the warrant to obtain the reporter’s emails, according to NBC. Holder recused himself in the previous case involving AP, because he said he himself had been questioned by investigators as a witness in that leak investigation.

In light of the controversy over this and another leak investigation that involved the work and personal phone records of reporters at the AP, President Barack Obama said in a recent speech that Holder has agreed to review the Justice Department’s guidelines for handling investigations that involve journalists and journalist records.

“I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable,” Obama said in the speech. “Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs.”

In an effort to unmask a leaker who fed Rosen classified information about North Korea in 2009, FBI investigators tracked Rosen’s movements in and out of the State Department building where he worked and took the unprecedented step of alleging to a court that Rosen had engaged in a criminal conspiracy simply for doing his job, so that investigators could obtain a warrant to read the reporter’s personal emails.

The FBI took the aggressive steps against Rosen, Fox News’s chief Washington, DC correspondent, over a story he published online in June 2009, according to the Washington Post.

Although investigators had already zeroed in on Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, an employee of Lawrence Livermore National Lab and a security adviser to the State Department, as the suspected leaker, and had examined Kim’s computer and e-mails, federal investigators took the unprecedented step of telling a judge that Rosen was also a suspect in a criminal conspiracy to obtain the classified information simply based on the fact that Rosen had expressed interest to Kim in obtaining information from him.

According to the affidavit (.pdf), FBI Agent Reginald Reyes told the judge there was probable cause to believe that Rosen had violated the Espionage Act by serving “as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator” in the leak. The Espionage Act is the same law that former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning is accused of violating when he leaked information to the secret-spilling site WikiLeaks.

To support his assertion, Reyes quoted an email exchange between Kim and Rosen, in which Rosen told him that he was interested in “breaking news ahead of my competitors” and had a particular interest in “what intelligence is picking up.” He also told Kim, “I’d love to see some internal State Department analyses.”

The suggestion was that Rosen broke the law by soliciting information from Kim, something that all journalists do routinely with sources.

Nonetheless, the federal judge found there was probable cause to believe that Rosen was a co-conspirator and approved the warrant.

“Never in the history of the Espionage Act has the government accused a reporter of violating the law for urging a source to disclose information,” Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project said in a statement after the news broke last week. “This is a dangerous precedent that threatens to criminalize routine investigative journalism.”

The revelations about the Rosen investigation come just a week after news reports revealed that federal investigators had obtained the phone records of journalists for the Associated Press for a leak investigation into a different story published last year about a CIA operation in Yemen that halted an al-Qaida plot to detonate a bomb on an airplane headed to the U.S.

In the AP investigation, the feds seized records for 20 separate phone lines, including the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, the general phone lines for AP bureaus in New York, Washington and Hartford, Connecticut, and a main number used by AP reporters in the House of Representatives. They did so with the approval of the Justice Department, which has insisted it followed its internal rules in signing off on the subpoena used to obtain the records.

In the AP case, the feds used an administrative subpoena to obtain the phone records, instead of a probable cause warrant, as they did in the Fox News case, which requires a judge’s approval.

Although the Justice Department generally follows stricter rules that limit when it will seek a reporter’s phone records and correspondence, these protections disappear if a journalist is suspected of breaking the law. But it remains to be seen whether a reporter communicating with sources can be prosecuted for seeking information.

A Justice Department spokeswoman defended the decision to have Holder review his own actions.

“This review is consistent with Attorney General Holder’s long-standing belief that freedom of the press is essential to our democracy,” she said in a statement to NBC. “At the same time, the attorney general believes that leaks of classified information damage our national security and must be investigated using appropriate law enforcement tools. We remain steadfast in our commitment to following all laws and regulations intended to safeguard national security as well as the First Amendment interests of the press in reporting the news and the public in receiving it.”

View Source

(CNN) — A rash of sexual assaults in the armed forces undermines Americans’ confidence in the military, President Barack Obama told newly commissioned officers at the U.S. Naval Academy Friday.

“Those who commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that makes our military strong,” Obama told the graduates, who were commissioned as Naval ensigns and Marine Corps second lieutenants.

“That’s why we have to be determined to stop these crimes. Because they have no place in the greatest military on Earth,” Obama continued.

The president’s remarks came amid mounting outrage over sexual abuse cases in the armed forces. Figures show the rate of assaults in the armed forced increasing, and some top officers are under fire for condoning such acts.

At least two officers responsible for preventing sexual assault are under investigation for allegedly committing the types of act they were tasked with stopping.

Those factors have led to calls for major changes in how the armed forces handle sexual assaults. Obama has demanded his top military brass “leave no stone overturned” in their quest to prevent abuse, and members of Congress have introduced legislation that would make it easier for victims to get justice.

In his commencement address Friday, Obama characterized the U.S. military as one of the few institutions Americans still trust, but said incidents like sexual assaults, as well as other delinquency by servicemen in the field, could erode that faith.

“Even in our military, we’ve seen how the misconduct of some can have effects that ripple far and wide. In our digital age, a single image from the battlefield of troops falling short of their standards can go viral and endanger our forces and undermine our efforts to achieve security and peace,” Obama told the Naval Academy graduates, 206 of whom were women.

Earlier this month, the Department of Defense released figures estimating 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact occurred in 2012, a 35% jump from 2010. Those cases ranged from groping to rape.

The vast majority of those incidents went unreported as crimes, the study showed.

Meanwhile, officers at bases across the country are under investigation for allegedly committing sexual assaults.

An Army sergeant first class assigned to the sexual assault prevention unit at Fort Hood, Texas, came under investigation in early May for alleged sexual assault, pandering, abusive sexual contact and maltreatment of subordinates. The military said he’s been relieved of duty while investigators look in to the allegations.

Also in May, an Air Force officer who managed an assault prevention unit was charged with sexual battery and removed from duty. He is accused of grabbing a woman and groping her buttocks and breasts in an Arlington County parking lot not far from his Washington office.

And this week, the Army said it had suspended Brig. Gen. Bryan Roberts, the top general at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, due to allegations of adultery and assault.

Fort Jackson is where most new Army recruits go through basic training, which includes training about sexual assault prevention.

The president traditionally delivers the commencement address at one of the military service academies every year. In 2012 he spoke at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. The last time he delivered the commencement in Annapolis was 2009.

Vice President Joe Biden spoke last weekend at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will speak Saturday at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and also will address sexual assaults, according to a U.S. official.

Obama’s remarks came the day after a much-anticipated speech in which the president spelled out a new phase of America’s war on terror. He told the new officers Friday they are entering a military vastly changed from four years ago.

“Just as you have changed in the past four years, so too have the challenges facing our military,” he said, noting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were still being engaged when Friday’s graduates entered the academy.

“Even as we move beyond deploying our large ground armies abroad, we need to conduct precise targeted strikes against terrorists before they kill our citizens,” Obama said. “Even as we stay vigilant in the face of terrorism, and stay true to our Constitution and values, we need to stay ready for the full range of threats.”

View Source

A man and a woman, both 29, have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder in relation to the Woolwich terror killing of Drummer Lee Rigby, according to Scotland Yard.

The soldier, killed by two Islamists who attempted to behead and disembowel him, was 25 years old and had a two year old son.

The two men who were shot, aged 22 and 28, have been arrested on suspicion of murder and remain in hospital in a stable condition with non life-threatening injuries.

Drummer Rigby’s family, friends and colleagues today spoke about their shock and sadness at the loss of a young man who “would help anyone if he could.”

Born in Crumpsall in Manchester, Drummer Rigby had joined 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers in 2006 and was an enthusiastic and accomplished member of the Corps of Drums and, alongside his infantry duties, remained passionately interested in music with an equal passion for Manchester United.

Police were this afternoon guarding the 25-year-old serviceman’s home in Middleton, Greater Manchester. His partner, who lives with their son, Jack was told of the death on yesterday evening and other members of his family have also been informed.

Drummer Rigby deployed on operations for the first time to Afghanistan in April 2009 where he served as a member of the Fire Support Group in Patrol Base Woqab. His friends say they find it difficult to accept that he survived that, at a time of often intense fighting, to meet his death in a London street.

He was later posted to Celle in Germany and then took up a recruitment post at the Regimental Headquarters in the Tower of London, a job to which he was particularly suited, it was considered, because of his sense of empathy and understanding.

Lieutenant Colonel Jim Taylor MBE, Commanding Officer Second Fusiliers, said today: “ He was a dedicated and professional soldier. He was a real character within the Second Fusiliers. Larger than life, he was at the heart of our Corps of Drums. An experienced and talented side drummer and machine gunner, he was a true warrior and served with distinction in Afghanistan, Germany and Cyprus. His ability, talent and personality made him a natural choice to work in the recruiting group. He will be sorely missed by everyone in the Second Fusiliers. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this incredibly difficult time. Once a Fusilier, Always a Fusilier.”

‘A great character and always smiling’: Friends and colleagues pay tribute to ‘Riggers’

Captain Alan Williamson, Adjutant Second Fusiliers (and Drummer Rigby’s Platoon Commander 2010-2011), added: “ ‘Riggers’ as he was known within the Platoon was a cheeky and humorous man, always there with a joke to brighten the mood, he was an extremely popular member of the Fire Support Group (FSG). An excellent side drummer and highly competent machine gunner, he was always there to help out the younger members of the FSG whenever possible. His loss will be felt across the Battalion but this is nothing compared to how his family must be feeling at this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers are with them..”

Warrant Officer Class 1 Ned Miller, Regimental Sergeant Major Second Fusiliers, said: “Riggers is what every Battalion needs. He was one of the Battalion’s great characters always smiling and always ready to brighten the mood with his fellow Fusiliers. He was an excellent drummer and well respected within the Drums platoon. He was easily identified whilst on parade by the huge smile on his face and how proud he was to be a member of the Drums. He would always stop for a chat just to tell me Manchester United would win the league again. My thoughts are with his family and they will always be part of the Fusilier family. Once a Fusilier, always a Fusilier.”

Vicar Guy Jamieson, who married Drummer Rigby in 2007 to the wife whom he was separated from, at St Anne-in-the-Grove Church in Southowram, West Yorkshire, said : “When the news first came through yesterday I felt sickened. It’s abhorrent. We hear a lot about military tragedies overseas but the fact that it was in the street in a city makes it more horrific.

“I remember his wedding well. He had already spoken to the chaplain at Catterick (Garrison) and came to me well prepared with lots of questions. The wedding day was wonderful. Because it was a military wedding it requires a lot of preparation. I remember sitting next to Lee on the front pew before everything started and reminding him what his first words to say were.”

Flood of donations crashes charity website

The website of the charity Help for Heroes crashed after it was deluged with thousands of donations. The military-support group said it had been swamped with thousands of donations following the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, who was wearing one of the charity’s T-shirts when he was attacked on Wednesday. The charity has urged people to donate in other ways.

Drummer Rigby’s death was met with outrage by colleagues

Army personnel were initially told to stop wearing their uniforms when off-base for fear of further attacks, but the emergency rules were quickly relaxed following an outcry – with members of the military changing their social-media profiles to show them in uniform.

The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, said: “There is no reason why we should not wear our uniforms with pride, but on a common-sense basis.”

Armed-forces personnel based in London and elsewhere were ordered to be more vigilant. The Metropolitan Police said an extra 1,200 officers were to be placed on duty and security at military bases has been stepped up.

MoD spokesman Jim Nisbet said the advice was a precaution and had been issued as part of a package of “immediate, reactive security-measures”.

“A decision has been taken to relax some of these temporary measures imposed yesterday, including advice to members of the Armed Forces in London not to wear uniform outside of defence establishments,” he said.

View Source

WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to open a new phase in the nation’s long struggle with terrorism on Thursday by restricting the use of unmanned drone strikes that have been at the heart of his national security strategy and shifting control of them away from the C.I.A. to the military.

In his first major speech on counterterrorism of his second term, Mr. Obama hopes to refocus the epic conflict that has defined American priorities since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and even foresees an unspecified day when the so-called war on terror might all but end, according to people briefed on White House plans.

As part of the shift in approach, the administration on Wednesday formally acknowledged for the first time that it had killed four American citizens in drone strikes outside the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, arguing that its actions were justified by the danger to the United States. Mr. Obama approved providing new information to Congress and the public about the rules governing his attacks on Al Qaeda and its allies.

A new classified policy guidance signed by Mr. Obama will sharply curtail the instances when unmanned aircraft can be used to attack in places that are not overt war zones, countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The rules will impose the same standard for strikes on foreign enemies now used only for American citizens deemed to be terrorists.

Lethal force will be used only against targets who pose “a continuing, imminent threat to Americans” and cannot feasibly be captured, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a letter to Congress, suggesting that threats to a partner like Afghanistan or Yemen alone would not be enough to justify being targeted.

The standard could signal an end to “signature strikes,” or attacks on groups of unknown men based only on their presumed status as members of Al Qaeda or some other enemy group — an approach that administration critics say has resulted in many civilian casualties. In effect, this appears to be a step away from the less restricted use of force allowed in war zones and toward the more limited use of force for self-defense allowed outside of armed conflict.

In the speech he will give on Thursday at the National Defense University, Mr. Obama will also renew his long-stalled effort to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Officials said they would make a fresh push to transfer detainees to home countries and lift the ban on sending some back to Yemen. The president plans to reappoint a high-level State Department official to oversee the effort to reduce the prison population.

The combined actions constitute a pivot point for a president who came to office highly critical of his predecessor, George W. Bush, yet who preserved and in some cases expanded on some of the counterterrorism policies he inherited. Much as Mr. Bush did in 2006 when he acknowledged and emptied secret overseas C.I.A. prisons, Mr. Obama appears intent on countering criticism of his most controversial policies by reorienting them to meet changing conditions.

In his speech, Mr. Obama is expected to reject the notion of a perpetual war with terrorists, envisioning a day when Al Qaeda has been so incapacitated that wartime authority will end. However, because he is also institutionalizing procedures for drone strikes, it does not appear that he thinks that day has come. A Pentagon official suggested last week that the current conflict could continue for 10 to 20 years.

Yet even as he moves the counterterrorism effort to a next stage, Mr. Obama plans to offer a robust defense of a continued role for targeted killings, a policy he has generally addressed only in passing or in interviews rather than in a comprehensive speech. A White House official said he “will discuss why the use of drone strikes is necessary, legal and just, while addressing the various issues raised by our use of targeted action.”

While Mr. Obama may not explicitly announce the shift in drones from the Central Intelligence Agency in his speech, since the agency’s operations remain formally classified, the change underscores a desire by the president and his advisers to balance them with other legal and diplomatic tools. The C.I.A., which has overseen the drone war in the tribal areas of Pakistan and elsewhere, will generally cede its role to the military after a six-month transition period as forces draw down in Afghanistan, officials said.

Read More

A Senate committee approved a sweeping immigration reform bill Tuesday that would provide a path to citizenship for up to 11 million illegal immigrants, setting the stage for the full Senate to consider the landmark legislation next month.

After five days of debate over dozens of amendments, the Judiciary Committee voted 13 to 5 in support of the bill, with three Republicans joining the committee’s 10 Democrats. The legislation emerged with its core provisions largely intact, including new visa programs for high-tech and low-skilled workers and new investments in strengthening border control.

“The dysfunction in our current immigration system affects all of us and it is long past time for reform. I hope that our history, our values, and our decency can inspire us finally to take action,” committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said. “We need an immigration system that lives up to American values and helps write the next great chapter in American history by reinvigorating our economy and enriching our communities.”

President Obama, who has made immigration reform his top second-term priority, issued a statement praising the committee for approving a bill that is “largely consistent” with the principles he had outlined.

“None of the committee members got everything they wanted, and neither did I,” Obama said, “but in the end, we all owe it to the American people to get the best possible result over the finish line.”

The comprehensive bill is now headed to the full Senate, where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urged fellow Republicans on Tuesday not to block the bill from a floor vote. The Congressional Budget Office will take two weeks to issue an assessment of the fiscal cost of the bill, so Democratic aides said the floor debate could begin around June 10.

The final Judiciary Committee vote represented a victory for the bipartisan group — four Democrats and four Republicans — that negotiated the 850-page comprehensive bill over several months.

Four of the bipartisan group members who are on the Judiciary Committee banded together to fight off the most serious challenges to the core provisions of the bill, including a last-minute attempt by Leahy to add protections for same-sex couples.

In an emotional debate, Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said they wanted to support Leahy’s amendment, but that they would not because Republican members of the bipartisan group, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), said they would drop support if the provision were added to the legislation.

Leahy ultimately withdrew the amendment “with a heavy heart,” amid near silence in the packed Senate hearing room.

Rubio, who is not on the Judiciary Committee, issued a statement after the committee approved the bill praising their work but adding that “work still remains to be done.”

“Immigration reform will not become law unless we can earn the confidence of the American people that we are solving our immigration problems once and for all,” he said.

Schumer, representing the bipartisan group that authored the bill, also negotiated a compromise Tuesday with Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) to relax some restrictions on high-tech companies that seek to hire foreign engineers and computer programmers.

The legislation already would raise the annual limit of high-tech visas, known as H-1B, from 65,000 to as many as 180,000, but Hatch had lobbied to eliminate other restrictions on U.S. companies seeking to hire engineers and programmers from abroad.

The compromise amendment lifts the requirement that companies first offer tech jobs to Americans for all firms except those that depend on foreigners for more than 15 percent of their workforce and relaxes the formula for determining the annual number of foreign high-tech workers.

The high-tech amendments are perhaps the most substantial changes to the immigration bill over five days of hearings on dozens of proposed changes.

Hatch warned he could still drop his support in the full Senate if other concerns aren’t met. “I’ve got to get those or we’ll never pass this bill,” he said.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called Hatch’s amendments “unambiguous attacks on American workers” and he vowed to press for changes during the full Senate debate.

View Source