Showing posts with label white house. Show all posts
Showing posts with label white house. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Pakistan: Al-Qaida No. 2 at house hit by US drone

Pakistan, Al-Qaida No.2
A CIA drone strike Monday, June 4, 2012, targeted al-Qaida's second in command, Abu Yahia al-Libi, in Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistan has evidence that al-Qaida's second-in-command was in a house destroyed by a U.S. drone strike in the country's northwest tribal region, but it is unclear whether he was killed, intelligence officials said Tuesday.

U.S. officials have said they were targeting Abu Yahya al-Libi in Monday's strike in Khassu Khel village in the North Waziristan tribal area and were "optimistic" he was among those killed. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the drone program.

If al-Libi is confirmed killed, he would be the latest in the dozen-plus senior commanders removed in the clandestine U.S. war against al-Qaida since Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden last year.

Militants and residents in the area told Pakistani agents that al-Libi was in the house when it was hit, Pakistani intelligence officials said. They said the mud and brick house was completely destroyed in the attack.

A vehicle used by al-Libi was destroyed during the strike, said one of the officials. Agents intercepted a militant phone call indicating an Arab was killed in the attack, but it is unclear if they were talking about al-Libi, who was born in Libya, said the official.

A local Taliban chief said al-Libi's guard and driver were killed in the strike, but the al-Qaida commander was not there. Al-Libi did survive a previous strike, said the Taliban chief.

The intelligence officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. The Taliban spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being targeted by the Pakistani army.

The White House maintains a list of terrorist targets to be killed or captured, compiled by the military and the CIA and ultimately approved by the president.

The U.S. has stepped up drone strikes in Pakistan recently, carrying out seven in less than two weeks. The flurry follows a relative lull driven by tensions between Washington and Islamabad over American airstrikes last year that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Pakistan seized the opportunity to renegotiate its relationship with the U.S. and demanded Washington stop drone strikes in the country - a demand the U.S. has ignored. The attacks are unpopular in Pakistan because many people believe they mostly kill civilians, an allegation disputed by the U.S.

Pakistan called Deputy U.S. Ambassador Richard Hoagland to the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday to protest the drone strikes.

"He was informed that the drone strikes were unlawful, against international law and a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty," said a statement sent by the Foreign Ministry to reporters.

Members of the Pakistani government and military have supported the strikes in the past, but that cooperation has come under strain as the relationship between the two countries has deteriorated.

The State Department's Rewards for Justice program had set a $1 million reward for information leading to al-Libi, who had filmed numerous propaganda videos urging attacks on U.S. targets after he escaped a prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in 2005.

Al-Libi took the second-in-command spot when Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahri took charge of al-Qaida after bin Laden's death. As al-Qaida's de facto general manager, al-Libi is responsible for running the group's day-to-day operations in Pakistan's tribal areas and manages outreach to al-Qaida's regional affiliates.

"This is one of the more prominent names" among the targets of drone strikes in Pakistan, added former CIA officer Paul Pillar.

He said al-Libi's death would help bolster the CIA's push to continue the drone program despite the continued political resistance from Pakistan and collateral damage.

Al-Libi's death would be "another reason not to accept Pakistan's demand for an end to drone wars," added Brookings Institute's Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and adviser to the White House on Afghanistan and Pakistan policy.

News by AP

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

'Evidence of Prostitution' Seen in Secret Service Scandal

Hotel Caribe in Cartagena Columbia
Hotel Caribe in Cartagena, Columbia
Eleven U.S. Secret Service agents and five military service members are under investigation and facing possible reprimand for allegedly cavorting with prostitutes and drinking excessively at a Colombian hotel ahead of President Obama's visit.

A heated argument between at least one of the alleged prostitutes and at least one of the Secret Service agents on Thursday first alerted local authorities to the alleged behavior at the Hotel Caribe in Cartagena, officials told ABC News.

"My understanding is that 11 secret service agents did bring women to their room and there was a dispute the next morning when one of the women did not leave there room," House Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Peter King told ABC News. "One did not leave, police came and she refused to leave until she was paid for her services. So that is what started all this."

Adult prostitution is legal in designated "tolerance zones" in Colombia, though restricting the sex trade to those zones has been difficult, according to the U.S. State Department. "Sexual tourism" is reportedly widespread in Cartagena and other coastal cities.

After the argument in the room, hotel authorities went down to the reception desk to see who else of the American guests may have signed in female guests -- alleged prostitutes -- for the evening, a senior Obama administration official told ABC News.

Initially, that inspection led the hotel authorities to have questions about 22 Americans -- 17 Secret Service agents and five special operations soldiers who were there to assist the Secret Service, the official said. Their names were reported to the lead U.S. military official on the ground.

U.S. officials have stressed that some of those about whom the hotel raised questions may merely have been attending a party and violating curfew. But Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan made a prompt decision to relieve the entire detail of duty and have them return to Washington for questioning.

"I don't think inspector Sullivan would have all of them leave if there was not evidence of prostitution," King said.

Sources familiar with the situation also said the allegations against the agents include excessive drinking.

The group included special agents, Uniformed Division officers and two supervisors, sources said. None were assigned to the Presidential Protective Division.

The Defense Department also announced today that five personnel who were assigned to assist the Secret Service have been restricted to quarters for alleged inappropriate conduct and will return to the United States for questioning at the conclusion of the mission.

"The nature of the allegations, coupled with a zero tolerance policy on personal misconduct, resulted in the Secret Service taking the decisive action to relieve these individuals of their assignment, return them to their place of duty and replace them with additional Secret Service personnel," Assistant Secret Service Director Paul S. Morrissey said in a statement.

"These actions have had no impact on the Secret Service's ability to execute a comprehensive security plan for the President's visit to Cartagena," he said.

All 11 Secret Service members were interviewed today in Washington and have been placed on administrative leave. If the allegations are proven true, they could face reprimands and firing potentially.

Commander Gen. Douglas Fraser, who heads the U.S. Southern Command, said he is "disappointed by the entire incident and that this behavior is not in keeping with the professional standards expected of members of the United States military."

He also pledged a thorough investigation of the military members who may have participated in the incident, and punishment, if appropriate, in accordance with established policies and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said President Obama was made aware of the allegations but said it "would not be appropriate for the President to characterize something that's being looked into by the Secret Service at this time."

Carney insisted, however, that the incident has not been a distraction for Obama, who is participating in the two-day Summit of the Americas with other Western Hemisphere leaders.

Officials said the investigation of the agents' behavior would center less on moral or legal aspects of the alleged behavior and more on whether Secret Service and U.S. military protocols were violated -- and whether the security of the president could have been compromised.

"If all this happened, this compromised the agents themselves," King said. "It left [the agents] open to be threatened and blackmailed in the future. ... They could have been threatened or blackmailed secondly to bring prostitutes in an area that's a secured zone. It just violates a basic code of conduct."

The Secret Service most recently faced public embarrassment and intense scrutiny in November 2009 when several agents allowed two uninvited guests onto White House grounds for a state dinner and photo line with the president. The so-called "Gate-crasher" incident resulted in three agents later being placed on administrative leave.

News by ABC

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wikipedia to shut for 24 hours to stop anti-piracy act

wikipedia-jimmy wales
Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia
(Reuters) - Wikipedia, the popular community-edited online encyclopedia, will black out its English-language site for 24 hours to seek support against proposed U.S. anti-piracy legislation that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said threatens the future of the Internet.

The service will be the highest profile name to join a growing campaign starting at midnight Eastern Time on Wednesday that will see it black out its page so that visitors will only see information about the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).

The information will urge Wikipedia readers to contact their local congressman to vote against the bills. Other smaller sites leading the campaign include and Cheezeburger.

"This is a quite clumsily drafted legislation which is dangerous for an open Internet," said Wales in an interview.

The decision to black out the site was decided by voting within the Wikipedia community of writers and editors who manage the free service, Wales said. The English language Wikipedia receives more than 25 million average daily visitors from around the world, according to comScore data.

The bills pit technology companies like Google Inc and Facebook against the bill's supporters, including Hollywood studios and music labels, which say the legislation is needed to protect intellectual property and jobs.

The SOPA legislation under consideration in the House of Representatives aims to crack down on online sales of pirated American movies, music or other goods by forcing Internet companies to block access to foreign sites offering material that violates U.S. copyright laws. Supporters argue the bill is unlikely to have an impact on U.S.-based websites.

U.S. advertising networks could also be required to stop online ads, and search engines would be barred from directly linking to websites found to be distributing pirated goods.

Google has repeatedly said the bill goes too far and could hurt investment. Along with other Internet companies such as Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter and eBay, it has run advertisements in major newspapers urging Washington lawmakers to rethink their approach.

White House officials raised concerns on Saturday about SOPA saying they believe it could make businesses on the Internet vulnerable to litigation and harm legal activity and free speech.

"We're happy to see opposition is building and that the White House has started to pay attention," said Wales.

News of the White House's comments prompted a prominent supporter of the bill News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch to slam the Obama administration.

"So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery," he posted on his personal Twitter account Saturday. News Corp owns a vast array of media properties from Fox TV, the Wall Street Journal to Twentieth Century Fox studios.

Wales said the bill in its current form was too broad and could make it difficult for a site like Wikipedia, which he said relies on open exchange of information. He said the bill also places the burden of proof on the distributor of content in the case of any dispute over copyright ownership.

"I do think copyright holders have legitimate issues, but there are ways of approaching the issue that don't involve censorship," Wales said.

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Romney says he is taxed at around 15 percent rate

 Republican Mitt Romney
(Reuters) - Republican Mitt Romney acknowledged Tuesday that his income tax rate is "probably closer to 15 percent than anything," suggesting that one of the wealthiest people to ever run for U.S. president pays a much lower rate than most Americans.

His comment, a day after Romney agreed for the first time to release his tax returns -- but not until April when they are generally filed -- added fuel to his Republican rivals' calls for him to be more transparent about his finances.

It also drew fire from the Democratic White House and other critics, who said it reflected how Romney, whose estimated net worth is $270 million, is out of touch with the experiences and concerns of typical Americans.

Romney, a former private equity executive and Massachusetts governor, seemed to feed that narrative on Tuesday. He said that he gets speaker fees "from time to time, but not very much."

Annual campaign financial disclosure forms indicate that he was paid more than $374,000 in speaker fees from February 2010 to February 2011.

Romney's estimate of his income tax rate suggested that like many of the wealthiest Americans, he could earn a large chunk of his income from investments - much of it in capital gains.

Because capital gains generally are taxed at 15 percent compared with the top income tax rate of 35 percent on ordinary wages, those with significant income from capital gains often pay lower tax rates than many Americans.

Such disparity in the rates within the U.S. tax code are a sore point for many Americans, even some of the very rich whose rates are relatively low.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, for example, has said he paid $6.9 million in federal income taxes on $39.8 million in taxable income in 2010, a rate of 17.4 percent. Buffett has said it's unfair than his tax rate is lower than his secretary's.

Romney is the prohibitive favorite to win the Republican nomination and the right to face Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 6 elections.

On Tuesday, the White House moved quickly to portray Romney as an elitist, which almost certainly will be a theme of Obama's campaign this fall.

"Everybody who's working hard ought to pay their fair share" of taxes, the White House said in a statement. "That includes millionaires who might be paying an effective tax rate of 15 percent when folks making $50,000 or $75,000 or $100,000 a year are paying much more."


Romney has long been reluctant to raise a curtain on his vast financial holdings.

In recent days, Romney's increasingly desperate rivals - former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Governor Rick Perry - repeatedly have questioned whether Romney, in not releasing his tax returns, is hiding something.

Their calls for Romney to release his returns were echoed on Tuesday in a New York Times editorial, which called Romney's "insistence on secrecy impossible to defend now that he appears to be closing in on the nomination and questions have intensified about his personal finances."

During Monday night's Republican presidential debate in Myrtle Beach, Romney said, "I have nothing in (the returns) that suggests there's any problem and I'm happy to" release them around the federal tax filing deadline in mid-April.

"I sort of feel like we are showing a lot of exposure at this point," Romney added. "And if I become our nominee, and what's happened (with past presidential candidates) is people have released them in about April of the coming year, and that's probably what I would do."


Tax analysts say Romney may have good reason to be reluctant to release his returns.

His vast fortune is invested in dozens of funds linked to Bain Capital LLC, the powerhouse private equity firm he co-founded and led for 15 years. Several Bain funds have offshore connections and take advantage of tax breaks used only by the U.S. financial elite.

His tax returns could shed light on how Romney and Bain use offshore strategies to avoid taxes, said Daniel Berman, a former U.S. Treasury deputy international tax counsel and now director of tax at Boston University's graduate tax program.

Bain funds in which Romney is invested are scattered from Delaware to the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, Ireland and Hong Kong, according to a Reuters analysis of securities filings.

"Certain interests in foreign investment structures would have to be reported on attachments to his return," Berman said.

On capital gains, Romney's tax returns would not reveal any gains that he has not yet realized, even though those gains would be easy for him to lock in at any time, Berman said.

"I remember as a young lawyer being surprised to see tax returns of very successful investors showing net losses - because they were recognizing net losses" but not yet factoring in unrealized gains, Berman said.

Romney's returns also might not spell out how much he benefits from a tax break used by private equity executives called the carried interest loophole.

This rule allows private equity and hedge fund managers to pay the 15 percent capital gains tax rate, rather than the top income tax rate, on a large portion of their earnings.


The demands by Gingrich and Perry are their latest attempt to draw attention to Romney's wealth.

They also echo Gingrich and Perry's criticism of Romney's time at Bain, which he left in 1999. Bain was involved in overhauling dozens of companies, and in some cases laid off thousands of workers.

Gingrich, Perry and others have portrayed Romney as a job killer and, as Perry put it, a "vulture" capitalist. The attacks don't seem to have worked, for Romney is still leading in most public opinion polls.

Gingrich continued to pound on the tax return theme Tuesday.

"It's interesting that Romney agreed that he ought to release his income taxes but he doesn't want to do it until April," by which time Romney could have clinched the Republican nomination, Gingrich said during an interview with CBS.

"I think the people of South Carolina ought to know now -- if there's nothing there, why hide it until April? And if there's something there, don't the people of South Carolina deserve to know before Saturday?"

Gingrich added that he would release his tax returns this week. As Texas governor, Perry has released his each year.

Gingrich and Perry are battling former Pennsylvania U.S. senator Rick Santorum to put together enough conservative votes to block Romney's march to the nomination.

Romney won the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary this month - the first two nomination contests - and is favored to win the South Carolina primary Saturday as well as Florida's primary on January 31.

Santorum, thought earlier this month to be Romney's main challenger, has not been as vocal in calls for Romney to release his tax returns.

A Santorum aide said that he was unsure whether Santorum would press Romney on the matter, but said, "We've been a pretty staunch advocate of airing out all the laundry now."

"We don't need any surprises," the aide said. "We need to know now."

The Romney campaign dismissed the latest calls to release his tax returns as a sign of desperation.

"This is pasta politics," Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior Romney adviser, said. Gingrich is "throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Obama Family Photo 2011: All Smiles!

barack obama with family
Barack Obama with family
A brand new family portrait was released on the White House's Flickr feed today (yes, the White House has a Flickr -- how awesome is that?) It seems the president carved out some time to sit, relax and embrace the lovely Obama ladies for the family's second official portrait.

Like the first one, shot by Anne Leibovitz in 2009, Malia and Michelle sat together on one side and Sasha and Barack together on the other. Unlike 2009, however, this picture is all about bright color: Malia in blue, Sasha in purple and Barack in navy and pink (and this time, the president looks a tad more formal in a jacket).

While we don't (yet) know where Michelle got her black cap-sleeve dress, we're loving Malia's navy and black frock from Anthropologie (we know it must fit the tall teen perfectly, considering we tried it on last weekend and it hung well below our knees).

The whole family looks lovely and happy, leaving us with only one little objection...
News by Huffingtonpost