U.S. needs to stop Russian electoral interference, NSA’s top civilian leader says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

U.S. needs to stop Russian electoral interference, NSA’s top civilian leader says

March 25 at 6:48 PM
The U.S. government has not figured out how to deter the Russians from meddling in democratic processes, and stopping their interference in elections, both here and in Europe, is a pressing problem, the top civilian leader of the National Security Agency said.The NSA was among the intelligence agencies that concluded that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin ordered a cyber-enabled influence campaign in 2016 aimed at undermining confidence in the election, harming Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and helping elect GOP nominee Donald Trump.“This is a challenge to the foundations of our democracy,” said NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett, 58, who is retiring at the end of April, in an interview at Fort Meade, Md., the agency’s headquarters. “It’s the sanctity of our process, of evaluating and looking at candidates, and having accurate information about the candidates. So the idea that another nation-state is [interfering with that] is a pretty big deal and something we need to figure out. How do we counter that? How do we identify that it’s happening — in real-time as opposed to after the fact? And what do we do as a nation to make it stop?”The lack of answers, he said, “as an American citizen . . . gives me a lot of heartburn.”

Ledgett, known as a straight-shooting, unflappable intelligence professional, began his NSA career in 1988 teaching cryptanalysis — how to crack codes — and rose to become the agency’s top civilian leader . The NSA, with 35,000 civilian and military employees, gathers intelligence on foreign targets overseas through wiretaps and increasingly by cyberhacking. Its other mission is to secure the government computers that handle classified information and other data critical to military and intelligence activities.

Asked whether the NSA had any inkling that the Kremlin was going to orchestrate the release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails last July, he demurred. “I actually don’t want to talk about that.”

At the same time, he said, what Moscow did was “no strategic surprise.” Rather, “what may have been a tactical surprise was that they would do it the way they did.”

Campaigns of propaganda and disinformation, dating back to the Soviet Union, have long been a staple of the Kremlin’s foreign policy. Now, however, it is making effective use of its hacking prowess to weaponize information and combine it with its influence operations, or what intelligence officials call “active measures.”

“In general, if you’re responding to nation-state actions like that, you have to find out what are the levers that will move the nation-state actors and are you able and willing to pull those levers?” said Ledgett when asked how the United States should respond.

The Obama administration slapped economic sanctions on two Russian spy agencies involved in hacking the DNC, three companies believed to have provided support for government cyber operations, and four Russian cyber officials. The administration also ordered 35 Russian operatives to leave the United States and shut down Russian-owned facilities on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and on Long Island believed to have been used for intelligence purposes.

Yet, intelligence officials including NSA Director Michael S. Rogers and FBI Director James B. Comey said on Monday that they believe Moscow will strike again — in 2020, if not in 2018.

So should the government mull other options, such as hacking Russian officials’ emails or financial records and releasing them in a bid to embarrass or show corruption? “I think every element of national power is something we should consider,” he said. “That would probably fall under something like a covert action. But if that’s the right answer, that’s the right answer.”

Ledgett is probably most well-known for leading the agency task force that handled the fallout from the leaks of classified information by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013. The disclosures prompted a national and global debate about the proper scope of government surveillance and led Congress to pass some reforms, including the outlawing of bulk collection of Americans’ phone metadata.

But the disclosures also caused great upheaval in NSA’s collection efforts, hurt morale, and damaged relations with allies and with tech firms that enable court-ordered surveillance, Ledgett said. “It was a terrible time for the agency,” he said.

He oversaw the probe of the internal breach; relations with Congress, the White House, foreign governments and the press; and the effort to prevent a recurrence. “There was a bit of a narrative on the outside about this evil agency that hoovered up all the communications in the world and rooted through them for things that were interesting, and that wasn’t actually true.”

The operational hit was significant, he said. More than 1,000 foreign targets — whether a person or a group or an organization — altered or attempted to alter their means of communications as a result of the disclosures, he said. They “tried with varying degrees of success to remove themselves from our ability to see what they were doing,” he said.

The agency, which has some 200 stations worldwide, reworked capabilities including virtually all of its hacking tools. “In some cases, we had to do things very differently” to gather the same foreign intelligence as before.

Raj De, a former NSA general counsel, said Ledgett was relied on heavily by both Rogers and Rogers’s predecessor, Keith B. Alexander. “He has really been a source of steadiness for the agency,” said De, now head of the Cybersecurity & Data Privacy practice at Mayer Brown, a global law firm. “What is particularly notable about Rick is his willingness to engage with all types of people, to keep an open mind.”

In December 2013, Alexander, when he was the NSA director, said that Snowden should be given no amnesty. But Ledgett told CBS’s “60 Minutes” then that “my personal view is yes, it’s worth having a conversation about.”

In his interview earlier this week, however, he said what he meant was that by engaging Snowden in conversation, the agency might have been able to learn what material had not been released and where it was.

Today, he said, there is no longer any need to talk to Snowden. “He’s past his usefulness to us.” Snowden, who is living in Moscow under a grant of asylum, has been charged with violating the Espionage Act, and Ledgett said he should not be pardoned. “I’ve always been of the idea that ‘Hey, I think he needs to face the music for what he did.’ ”

Julie Tate contributed to this report.

I Am One Single ‘Independent’ Voting Unit: So Tired Of Extreme Politics

 

I remember about a year ago during the Republican Presidential Debates Texas Senator Ted Cruz chided one of the other Candidates because ‘he’ would compromise with the Democrats. Mr. Cruz swore to the Voting Public that when He is President that he will not negotiate/compromise with the Democrats. I guess the reason this statement didn’t attract more attention was that by this point in time the Media was more focused on the ‘Trump Show’ (the Republican Debates). Think about that statement for a moment folks. Politics, the whole Chess Game of it, always wanting Check and then Check Mate. The reason they are in Politics tend to be Super Ego’s, wealth and the fame. Trouble for most people is that they don’t have or do not wish to spend their own money to finance these hugely expensive Political Campaigns. Here is where a very small handful of people in the top of the DNC and the RNC run/ruin Our Country and everyone’s lives. Those who dictate where the ‘contributions’ will go to, these way too few people, point to polar ends, thus destroying Our Country from the inside.

 

Well, President Trump and the Republicans themselves defeated themselves on the Health Care Issues earlier today. I think what happened earlier today was a good thing, I do mean that. We witnessed individual Congressmen/Women break from the ‘Rank and File’ ‘Party Line’. We witnessed quite a few politicians who were of a President’s own Party stand up to the Party Leadership and say No. You know something? Didn’t ‘We The People’ put these people in ‘Office’ to do what ‘we’ put them in there for? Wouldn’t this be great if it could be the pebble that breaks and now the mountain face falls off? Yep I know it’s just a pipe dream that Elected Officials could actually care something for us ‘little people’, us little ole Voters.

President Trump’s Egomania Shuts Down Teenage Girls Animated Kitten Web Site

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE MERCURY NEWS)

President Donald Trump has had a lot on his plate in recent weeks — defending his administration from news of a criminal investigation by the FBI for alleged Russia collusion, rallying support for a controversial health care bill.

Somehow amid all that, the president, or his lawyers acting on their own, decided to go after a teenage girl from San Francisco, the Hollywood Reporter said.

Apparently, America’s commander in chief took issue with the girl’s website Kittenfeed.com. Originally called Trumpscratch.com, the site allows users to punch an animated image of Trump’s face with tiny kitten paws. It comes with the tagline: “Trump seems very tough at first but he gets weaker with every scratch.”

The girl, identified as “Lucy,” told the Observer that she developed the site, with its #Trumpcat hashtag, for fun while applying for web developer jobs. Little did she know that her site, which only drew 1700 visitors after its launch in February, had attracted the notice of the most important political leader on earth.

On March 1, she said she received a cease and desist letter from The Trump Organization. The letter claims her site infringed on the “internationally known and famous” Trump trademark.

After Lucy changed the domain name, she received another letter from the Trump Organization because her site linked to an anti-Trump shirt that is available for purchase on Amazon. Lucy told the Hollywood Reporter that she removed the link, and hasn’t heard anything from the campaign since.

Lucy is not alone in thinking that the president should have better things to with his time than to ask his lawyers to go after a teenager for creating a silly website.

“I really just want people to be aware that this is a president who’s clearly more concerned about what people think of him than doing things of substance,” she told the Hollywood Reporter.


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However, she said she’s not surprised he might be so easily provoked by her site, given that he wages Twitter feuds with former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger over ratings for his former reality TV show “Celebrity Apprentice.”

“Literally all my site is, is punching him with kitten paws,” she said. “A president should not have the time or care to hire people to shut sites like mine down. He should be running the country, not tweeting about TV ratings or anything else like that.”

Not surprisingly, the moves by Trump’s lawyers have had the opposite effect of their intention. After the Observer originally published its report on Tuesday, the site’s visitors surged from 3,000 to 50,000.

However, the site was down on Wednesday, possibly from so many users trying to access it.

The lesson here is that Trump may talk a tough game as president, but he and his tough, high-priced attorneys are no match for animated kittens.

Mr Comey said the investigation was “very complex” and he could not give a timetable for its completion

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

Trump Russia claims: FBI’s Comey confirms investigation of election ‘interference’
Media caption What FBI Director Comey said on Trump, Russia and wiretaps

FBI director James Comey has confirmed for the first time that the FBI is investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.

However, Mr Comey said his agency had seen no evidence to back up President Trump’s claim that his phones had been tapped by the Obama administration.

He was giving evidence to the congressional intelligence committee.

The Trump administration said nothing had changed and there was “no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion”.

Russia has always denied attempting to influence the US presidential election.

The FBI investigation would examine possible links between individuals in the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was co-ordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, Mr Comey said.

The FBI would also assess whether crimes were committed, he said.

Mr Comey said the investigation was “very complex” and he could not give a timetable for its completion.

“We will follow the facts wherever they lead,” he said.

putinImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Mr Putin “hated Mrs Clinton so much” that he had a strong preference for her rival, Mr Comey said

National Security Agency (NSA) chief Admiral Mike Rogers also appeared before the committee.

He said the NSA stood by an intelligence community report published in January, which said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered a campaign to harm the campaign of Mr Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton.

‘No wiretap on Trump Tower’

Mr Comey said he had no information on unsubstantiated claims tweeted by Mr Trump earlier this month that former president Barack Obama had ordered a wiretap on Trump Tower.

This was despite looking carefully for such evidence, he said. The Department of Justice also had no information, he said.


Analysis – BBC North America reporter Anthony Zurcher

FBI Director James Comey (L) and National Security Agency Director Mike RogersImage copyrightAFP

What FBI Director James Comey didn’t say during intelligence hearings today on possible Russian meddling in the 2016 US election was as important as what he did say.

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who had ties to pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians? No comment. Long-time Trump adviser Roger Stone, who reportedly had communications with individuals who hacked the Democratic National Committee emails? No comment. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign after leaked evidence surfaced that he had communicated with a Russian ambassador about US sanctions? No comment.

“I don’t want to answer any questions about a US person,” Mr Comey said.

All of this is evidence that the investigation isn’t just ongoing, it’s substantive and far-reaching.

While Democrats will likely be encouraged by this, it was telling that Republicans pursued the White House line that the topic of greatest concern was the intelligence leaks that put this story in the headlines.

If Mr Trump can consolidate his party’s support, it will go a long way towards insulating the president against any fallout from this investigation.


Meanwhile, Admiral Rogers strongly denied that the NSA had asked Britain’s GCHQ intelligence agency to spy on Mr Trump – a claim that had been repeated by Mr Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer.

The allegation “clearly frustrates a key ally of ours”, he added.

GCHQ has described the claim as “utterly ridiculous”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Donald Trump at a press conferenceImage copyrightREUTERS
Image caption Mr Trump raised eyebrows after he suggested both he and Mrs Merkel had been wiretapped by Mr Obama

Mr Trump’s recent joke about how Mr Obama had wiretapped both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and him “complicates things” with an ally, Admiral Rogers added.

However, Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said it was still possible that other surveillance activities had been used against Mr Trump and his associates.

What are the allegations?

In January, US intelligence agencies said Kremlin-backed hackers had broken into the email accounts of senior Democrats and released embarrassing messages in order to help Mr Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.

“That was a fairly easy judgement for the community,” Mr Comey said. “Putin hated Secretary Clinton so much that the flipside of that coin was he had a clear preference for the person running against the person he hated so much.”

However, late last summer the Russians concluded that Mr Trump had no chance of winning, based on polls at the time, and so focused on undermining Mrs Clinton, Mr Comey said.

Media caption Trump’s wiretap saga explained in two minutes

Both intelligence chiefs said that Russia had made its intervention in last year’s election campaign unusually obvious, perhaps to further its aim of undermining US democracy.

Mr Comey said Russia had succeeded in this goal, by sowing chaos, division and discord.

Mr Trump has since faced allegations that his campaign team had links to Russian officials.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has said he saw no evidence of any collusion, up until the time he left his post in January.

Which campaign members have been accused of deception?

Two senior officials in the Trump administration have been caught up in the allegations – former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Attorney-General Jeff Sessions.

Mr Flynn was fired last month after he misled the White House about his conversations with the Russian ambassador before he was appointed national security adviser.

Michael FlynnImage copyright AP
Image caption Michael Flynn encouraged a softer policy on Russia and a harder line on Iran

He allegedly discussed US sanctions with ambassador Sergei Kislyak. It is illegal for private citizens to conduct US diplomacy.

Meanwhile, Mr Sessions was accused by Democrats of lying under oath during his confirmation hearing in January.

He said he had “no communications with the Russians”, but it later emerged that he had met Mr Kislyak during the campaign.

Mr Sessions denied any wrongdoing, but removed himself from an FBI inquiry into Russia’s alleged interference in the election.

Related Topics

Wire Tapping Your Phone Lines, No Proof: The Biggest Habitual Liar: Hillary Or Donald The Quack?


(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ABC NEWS)

The top Republican and Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said today that there is no evidence that any wiretap took place at President Donald Trump’s building in Manhattan during the presidential campaign or transition.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said that there is “no basis” for President Trump‘s accusations that President Obama illegally wiretapped Trump Tower “whatsoever.”

Schiff said it “deeply concerns me that the president would make such an accusation without basis.”

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said “I don’t think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower.”

Trump had alleged in a series of Tweets that former President Barack Obama had his phones tapped.

How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!

 “The challenge here is that the President Obama wouldn’t physically go over and wiretap and then you have to decide if you’re going to take the tweets literally, and if you are, then clearly the president was wrong.” Nunes said referring to the multiple tweets that President Trump sent on the morning of March 4 making accusations.

“But if you’re not going to take the tweets literally and if there’s a concern that the president has about other people, other surveillance activities looking at him or his associates, either appropriately or inappropriately, We want to find that out. It’s all in the interpretation of what you believe,” he said.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer maintained that the president will be “vindicated” by evidence. On March 13, Spicer said that Trump was not talking literally or specifically when he accused President Obama of “wiretapping” his campaign.

“If you look at the president’s tweet, he said wiretapping in quotes. There’s been substantial discussion in several reports,” Spicer said.

“The president was very clear in his tweet, it was wiretapping. That spans a host of surveillance options,” he said. “The House and the Senate Intelligence Committees will now look into that and provide a report back. I think there’s been numerous reports from a variety of outlets over the last couple months that seem to indicate that there has been different types of surveillance that occurred during the 2016 election.”

Nunes said that there will be a public hearing about the issue in the coming weeks.

“Certainly at the open hearing that we have… we’ll be asking the director if he has seen any evidence that substantiates the president’s claim,” Schiff said.

Turk President Er- Dog’ The Dictator Dares To Threaten EU Countries About Democratic Values?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

By Ercan Gurses and Humeyra Pamuk | ANKARA/ISTANBUL

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday warned the Netherlands that he could take further steps in a deepening diplomatic row, while a government spokesman in Ankara said economic sanctions could be coming.

Incensed by Dutch and German government bans on his ministers from speaking to rallies of overseas Turks, Erdogan also accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of siding with the Netherlands in the fight between the NATO allies.

Turkey suspended high-level diplomatic relations with the Netherlands on Monday, banning the Dutch ambassador from the country and preventing diplomatic flights from landing in Turkey or using its airspace.

Those steps were taken after Erdogan branded the Netherlands “Nazi remnants” at the weekend for muzzling his ministers.

“The cabinet took action yesterday but there are many other things that could be done against the Netherlands,” Erdogan said in a speech broadcast live on television.

“We will show those who think they can get away with an apology that they are making a mistake,” said Erdogan, who is campaigning for an April 16 referendum on boosting his powers and has been looking to the large number of Turks living in Europe to help secure victory.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus later told broadcaster CNN Turk that economic sanctions could be in the works.

“Pressure will continue against the Netherlands until they make up for what they did. We’ve started with the political, diplomatic sanctions, and economic sanctions may follow,” he said.

Erdogan has threatened to take the Netherlands to the European Court of Human Rights over the ban on his ministers, which both the Dutch and Germans have imposed citing fears of unrest.

Dutch police used dogs and water cannon on Sunday to disperse hundreds of protesters waving Turkish flags outside the consulate in Rotterdam. Some protesters threw bottles and stones and several demonstrators were beaten by police with batons, a Reuters witness said. Mounted police officers charged the crowd.

SAARLAND, BELGIAN BANS

The small western German state of Saarland said on Tuesday it would ban political campaigning by foreign politicians.

“Internal Turkish conflicts have no place in Germany. Election appearances which put at risk domestic peace in our country must be banned,” State Premier Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said in a statement.

“The atmosphere that has been created by Nazi comparisons and insults must not be allowed to escalate,” she said.

The Belgian city of Antwerp said it would not allow a politician from the nationalist MHP party to speak at an event, although Ali Guler was still set to appear on Sunday at a Turkish restaurant in Genk, in the east of the country.

While Turkish law forbids election campaigning abroad and in diplomatic missions, ministers are circumventing the ban by holding what they say are cultural events with Turkish citizens.

Erdogan has said that those who oppose the referendum, are aligning themselves with terrorists. He has also accused European states, including Germany, of harboring terrorism, an allegation they deny.

SHARP WORDS FOR MERKEL

EU states are also unhappy with what they see as an increasingly authoritarian tone from Turkey and the spat is likely to further dim Ankara’s prospects of EU membership.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn called on Turkey to moderate its language and avoid further escalating the dispute.

Erdogan renewed his attack on Merkel after she criticized his “Nazi remnants” jibe against the Dutch.

“The countries that have embraced this thuggery have lost all their credibility. The Chancellor of Germany has come out and said she supported the Netherlands. We know that you are no different from them,” Erdogan said.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the Turkish sanctions, while “not too bad”, were inappropriate as the Dutch had more to be angry about.

Ankara’s foreign ministry said the European Union was exercising democratic values selectively.

“It is very grave for the EU to hide behind member country solidarity and stand by the Netherlands, which has clearly violated human rights and European values,” it said.

(Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu, Ece Toksabay and Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara, Daren Butler in Istanbul; Toby Sterling in Amsterdam; Madeline Chambers in Berlin and Robert-Jan Bartunek in Brussels; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Jon Boyle and Toby Davis)

So Turkey’s Sunni Dictator Er-Dog-an Calls European Countries Nazi Because They Won’t Allow Him To Rule Them

 

So the Sunni Dictator Dog of Turkey, the man who has ruined the lives of his people with his hate and his ego has the gall to call the governments of Germany and the Netherlands Nazi’s. When he first took power in Turkey the country and it’s people lived in relative peace with its neighbors and within its own borders. Turkey was the crown jewel in the Middle-East of the countries that had a majority Islamic population as far as people of various religions being free to worship as they pleased. There were many Gothic Churches that were hundreds of years old that dotted the landscape of this beautiful restive country. Now by my understanding of the many different articles I have read over the past few years several of these landmark Churches have either been destroyed or turned into Sunni Mosque.

 

Since Er-Dog-an has been in power he has through his policies created a situation where it is rather common for the people to have to try to survive car and truck bombs as well as suicide attacks on not just Turkey’s police and military personnel but on the civilians themselves. He had created tensions with Russia and with Israel before recently correcting this error, at least publicly. I say publicly because if you honestly think that Russia’s President Putin or Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu consider him a friend or that they trust him you are being quite delusional. He has spent his time in power doing mainly one thing and that is to gain more power and control over every aspect of life within the borders of Turkey. He has invaded his Shiite neighbor Syria and is not welcome in Iran or Iraq. Yet personally I believe that one of his biggest most arrogant and stupid policies has been his constant assault on the Kurdish people. The Dog has made it very plain that he wants nothing to do with peace with this huge ethnicity of people that live in the eastern part of Turkey. He could have peace with them if he wasn’t so darn greedy. The Kurdish people simply want their own homeland and being they already had settled in the eastern part of Turkey it would have been easy to have had peace with them by simply letting this small part of Turkey be officially theirs. Then the two Nations could have easily become good neighbors, brothers, sisters and trading partners. There would have been peace this way and many people who are now dead would still be alive. He has been playing the EU against Russia card trying to see how much he can get from both sides. He cared so little for his countrymen that instead of sealing off their border with Syria and not allowing millions of refugees to enter Turkey at all he let them in then has used them as bargaining chips with the EU trying to extort money and EU membership from them.

 

Now this egomaniac Dictator dares to call the governments of Germany and the Netherlands Nazi’s because of their policies that he personally doesn’t like. Think about this for a moment please, why is he slandering the leadership of these two countries? In Rotterdam they are going to be having elections very soon and Turkey has a huge number of Turk people living there now and there was going to be a big rally that the Turk Foreign Minister was going to address and the government decided to not let him show up. What is going on is very simple, if the Turk population grows to a high enough level they can then have more control of the laws passed in that country. If a minority population can gain control of a foreign country and they are loyalist to their home Dictator, this Dictator can have a huge effect on being the defacto Ruler of that Nation. Do not be naive, the people who believe in the teachings of ‘the prophet’ Mohammed know that they are ordered to infiltrate Infidel countries and when they have sufficient numbers to attack from within and to take control of the country and then to convert everyone there to Islam. The easiest way to take control of a Democratic country is through the ballot box, then if that doesn’t work, take it by force. Europe is starting to wake up and many of the people of Europe’s Nations are realizing the dangers they are having now and that it will only get much worse if they allow Islamic believing people to settle in their country. It is obvious why this Sunni egomaniac used the slur of Nazism toward Germany because the pain of their past but when this horse’s behind referred to the Netherlands the same way he showed his ignorance and his hate as well as pure stupidity. The worse thing that has happened to the Nation of Turkey since world war two has been allowing this madman to continue breathing within their borders. I say this because as he proves constantly like this upcoming referendum to give him alone even more power to rule as a King or a god would, he is only interested in making as many people as possible bow to his power, even Nations outside of Turkey’s current borders. If the EU Leaders in Brussels ever allow Turkey or any Islamic Nation to become part of the EU, that will be the kiss of death for their Countries and their way of life, and their very lives.

Man With Backpack Breaches White House Security Near Residence Entrance: Was Arrested

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) A man carrying a backpack was arrested Friday night after breaching security at the White House complex and was discovered by a Secret Service officer by the south entrance to the executive residence, officials said.

The incident happened just before midnight while President Donald Trump was at the White House.
A Secret Service source said the intruder might have entered the White House grounds on the east side before making his way near the residence’s south portico entrance.
The White House was placed under security condition “orange,” one of the highest levels of security for the Secret Service.
The suspect was arrested by the Secret Service and taken into custody.
The President was spending the weekend in Washington and was alerted to the incident late Friday night, an administration official said.
There have been numerous instances of people trespassing on the White House grounds over the last several years.
In one notable instance in 2014, 42-year-old Omar Gonzales, of Copperas Cove, Texas, made it through the north portico doors with a three-and-a-half-inch folding knife in his pants pocket, according to the Secret Service. Gonzalez was apprehended just after making it inside the doors, the Secret Service said. The first family was not at the White House at the time.
In another, the Secret Service apprehended Joseph Caputo, of Stamford, Connecticut, on the North Lawn after he scaled the fence wearing an American flag-like cape while the first family was inside the residence celebrating Thanksgiving.

Netherlands Bars Turkish Foreign Minister’s Plane From Landing

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

The Netherlands bars Turkish foreign minister’s plane from landing

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan compares the Dutch to Nazis in a rally Saturday in Istanbul.

Story highlights

  • Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was set to address political rally in Rotterdam
  • Turkish President has provoked controversy with his comparisons of allies to Nazis.

(CNN) The Netherlands barred a plane carrying Turkey’s foreign minister from landing to stop him from addressing a political rally Saturday in Rotterdam.

The Dutch government announced that Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s flight permit was revoked amid concerns over public order at the expected large gathering of Turkish expatriates.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacted angrily to the news, comparing the Dutch government to Nazis.
Addressing crowds at an opening ceremony in Istanbul, Erdogan said: “They are timid and coward. They are Nazi remnants and fascists.”
Earlier this week Erdogan had angered German Chancellor Angela Merkel by making similar remarks about Nazism in her country.

Turkish referendum

Cavusoglu was due to address Turkish expatriates in Rotterdam to win support for an April 16 referendum vote on the Turkish Constitution.
Pushed by Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, these sweeping constitutional changes would grant new powers to Turkey’s President and transform the way the country is governed.

Erdogan: Germany using 'Nazi practices'

Erdogan: Germany using ‘Nazi practices’
Turkish politicians have sought to address rallies in European cities and towns with large populations of Turkish expatriates, but the authorities in several countries have blocked their plans.
Around 1.5 million Turkish nationals living in Germany are eligible to vote in the referendum, according to Turkish news agency Anadolu.

Increased tensions

In the latest twist in the row, Cavusoglu angered the Dutch by threatening “severe sanctions” if he were banned from traveling to the Rotterdam rally.
“If the Netherlands cancels my flight, we will impose severe sanctions on them that will affect it economically and politically,” the foreign minister said in remarks in a TV interview on CNN Turk.
He added, “If tension will increase (between the two countries) because of my visit, then let it increase.”
In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: “Many Dutch people with Turkish heritage are voting in the referendum on the Turkish constitution. The Dutch government has no objection to meetings in our country in order to inform them about that.
“But these meetings cannot contribute to tensions in our society and everyone who wants to contribute to an event must comply with instructions from the authorities so that public order and security can be guaranteed. It should be noted that, in this respect, the Turkish government does not want to respect those rules.”

Negotiations failed

Rutte said there had been discussions with the Turkish authorities to try to find a way to hold a smaller-scale meeting in a Turkish Consulate or Embassy.
However, he said, a public threat of sanctions made by the Turks before the negotiations were complete made it impossible to find a “reasonable solution” — so the Netherlands banned the foreign minister’s flight.
The Dutch will vote Wednesday in national elections in a campaign that has focused heavily on the issue of immigration from Muslim countries.
Far-right presidential candidate Geert Wilders praised the decision to bar the Turkish minister from speaking in Rotterdam, taking credit due to the influence of his party, the Party For Freedom, or PVV.
“Great! Thanks to heavy PVV- pressure a few days before the Dutch elections our government did NOT allow the Turkish minister to land here,” Wilders wrote.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the Dutch charge d’affaires Saturday following the decision to bar Cavusoglu’s flight.

Iran’s Top Leader Appears To Rebuke President As Election Nears

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Photo

Tajrish Square in Tehran. The Iranian economy did not get the boost many had hoped for after the nuclear deal. Credit  Khamooshi for The New York Times

Iran’s top leader criticized the pace of national economic growth on Thursday in what appeared to be a rebuke of the president, who had forecast prosperous times after the 2015 accord that lifted international sanctions in exchange for nuclear limits.

The critical comments by the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, came two months before elections in which President Hassan Rouhani is expected to seek a second term. The comments suggested some tension between them as the vote draws nearer.

“We receive complaints from people,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in the remarks reported on state television, as translated by Reuters. “People should feel improvements regarding creation of jobs and manufacturing. It is not the case now.”

It is not yet clear who may run against Mr. Rouhani, a moderate cleric. While he is said to enjoy a longstanding relationship with Ayatollah Khamenei, the president is not well liked by some other hard-line conservative elements of Iran’s political hierarchy.

In the 2013 elections, Mr. Rouhani won against a field of comparatively conservative rivals, partly on his pledge to negotiate an end to the international sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear activities, which had left the country economically weakened and isolated.

An agreement between Iran and major world powers, most notably the United States, ended many of those sanctions in January 2016 in return for Iran’s verifiable commitments to peaceful nuclear work.

Photo

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran is expected to seek a second term in the coming elections.Credit Atta Kenare/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Yet while Mr. Rouhani has received credit for that achievement, Iran’s economy has not flourished as hoped. Moreover, foreign investment in the country remains muted and tenuous, leaving Mr. Rouhani potentially vulnerable to conservative critics who say he compromised Iran’s nuclear autonomy without any clear benefit.

Mr. Rouhani and his associates have countered that Iran has improved economically compared with the era of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They also say many foreign companies remain reluctant to invest in Iran because of non-nuclear related sanctions by the United States, part of the long history of animosity between the two countries.

Economists also have partly attributed Iran’s persistent economic weakness to reliance on sales of oil — its most important export — in a heavily glutted market that has left prices depressed.

Punctuating that point, the benchmark grade of crude oil in the American market dropped below $50 a barrel Thursday to its weakest level since December.

Ayatollah Khamenei appeared to express frustration on Thursday over what he described as the government’s failure to achieve a “resistance economy,” a reference to self-sufficiency and less reliance on imports.

He acknowledged there had been some economic improvements under Mr. Rouhani but also said that “if the resistance economy had been implemented fully and widely, we could witness a tangible difference.”

While Ayatollah Khamenei endorsed the nuclear agreement, he also has expressed wariness about any step toward reconciliation with the United States, describing the Americans as duplicitous and malevolent.

President Trump’s election, his publicly stated contempt for the nuclear agreement and his hostility toward Iran appeared to reinforce the suspicions of Ayatollah Khamenei. Reacting to Mr. Trump’s order last month suspending visas to a group of mostly Muslim countries including Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei sarcastically ridiculed Mr. Trump, thanking him for revealing America’s “true face.”

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