Review Category : National News

NSA Contractor Arrested, Allegedly Took Top Secret Docs

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Federal officials arrested a contractor for the National Security Agency for allegedly pilfering highly classified material that, if made public, could have caused “exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States.”

In a criminal complaint filed in late August but unsealed Wednesday, the FBI alleges that 51-year-old Harold Martin of Maryland had kept the classified information, some of it with the highest Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) clearance rating, in his home or two nearby sheds. The papers and digital media files indicate they were produced in 2014, the complaint says.

“These six documents were produced through sensitive government sources, methods, and capabilities, which are critical to a wide variety of national security issues,” the complaint says.

The complaint does not specifically identify which U.S. government agency for whom Martin was contracting, but a source familiar with the case said it was the NSA — the same agency that suffered the biggest leak of information in U.S. intelligence history when contractor Edward Snowden made off with a cache of documents in 2013.

The complaint says Martin was interviewed by federal agents in late August and, when “confronted with specific documents, admitted he took documents and digital files from his work assignment to his residence and vehicle that he knew were classified.” Martin allegedly said he knew what he had done was wrong.

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Parents Found Dead After Child Tells School She Couldn’t Wake Them Up

iStock/Thinkstock(McKEESPORT, Pa.) — A McKeesport, Pennsylvania, couple was found dead in their home Monday evening after their 7-year-old daughter told a school employee that she was unable to wake them up that morning, according to the Allegheny County Police Department.

The girl told a school bus monitor that she did not want to go home because her parents “had not moved” for more than two days and had been “changing colors,” according to Lt. Andrew Schurman with the Allegheny County Police Department.

The school bus monitor alerted McKeesport Area School District officials, who then requested county police to perform a welfare check on the home, Schurman told ABC News Wednesday.

Officers responded to the residence around 5 p.m. that day and found the young girl’s parents dead, along with “evidence of paraphernalia and drug use in the home,” according to Schurman.

The couple were parents to four children: a 9-month-old, 3-year-old, 5-year-old and the 7-year-old girl who alerted the school employee. Three of the children were home at the time their parents were discovered by police, Schurman said.

All four children were taken to a local hospital for evaluation before being placed with Allegheny County’s Office of Children, Youth and Families, Schurman said.

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services — which operates the county’s Office of Children, Youth and Families — is not permitted “to discuss specific details about any child or family who may be receiving child welfare services,” its public relations manager, Mark Bertolet, told ABC News.

The deceased couple has been identified as 26-year-old Christopher Dilly and 25-year-old Jessica Lally by the county’s medical examiner’s office, according to Amie Downs, director of communications for Allegheny County.

Downs said the couple’s “cause and manner of death are both pending examination and toxicology.” She added that Dilly was incorrectly identified as a 35-year-old male in the county’s original news release on Monday.

The McKeesport Area School District told ABC News in a statement that it “took immediate action” after being “notified of the concerns shared by one of our students on their route home.”

“We alerted all appropriate officials and ensured the students’ safety,” the school district added. “Each school in our district offers counseling to any student who needs it. We will be available for the family affected by this tragedy.”

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Obama Warns Hurricane Matthew Could Have ‘Devastating Effect’

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama visited the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters Wednesday for a briefing from his homeland security team on the latest updates with Hurricane Matthew, which is currently barreling through the Caribbean and headed for Florida’s Atlantic Coast.

Matthew is “a serious storm,” Obama said and asked residents in the storm’s path to take evacuation orders seriously.

The president warned that the storm appeared to be building strength on its way to Florida and warned that winds on even the outskirts of the storm could have a “devastating effect” on many areas in southeastern states.

“You cannot restore life if it is lost,” Obama said. “This is something to take seriously. We hope for the best but we want to prepare for the worst.”

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Hurricane Matthew Prompts Warning for Many US Residents to ‘Leave Now’

ABC News(NEW YORK) — With the hours counting down until Hurricane Matthew is expected to slam into the coastal United States, widespread evacuations are taking effect as residents brace for the most powerful Atlantic storm in almost a decade.

After barreling through Haiti and Cuba, where it left behind a trail of devastation, the Category 3 hurricane will strike the Bahamas with maximum sustained winds of up to 115 mph. By Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, it’s expected to become a Category 4 storm again with winds up to 130 mph as it nears Florida, according to an advisory issued at 8 a.m. ET by the National Hurricane Center.

A hurricane warning is already in effect for parts of Florida, from Golden Beach north all the way up to Sebastian Inlet, as well as Lake Okeechobee. The area north of Sebastian Inlet to the Fernandina Beach is also under a hurricane watch.

Meanwhile, a tropical storm warning is in effect from Chokoloskee to Golden Beach, the Florida Keys from the Seven Mile Bridge eastward, as well as Florida Bay, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The governors of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina have already declared states of emergency. They have issued stern warnings for millions of coastal dwellers to prepare to evacuate as the Hurricane Matthew moves north-northwest at about 10 mph.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday urged coastal residents to “leave now” if they are able and warned the Sunshine State to prepare “for the worst.”

“We are preparing for the worst, we are hoping for the best and we’re not taking any chances,” Scott said at a news conference Wednesday morning. “We must prepare to be hit by a devastating hurricane.”

In Miami-Dade County, bridges will shut down at 8 p.m. ET ahead of the storm’s wrath. But Miami Mayor Gimenez said there are currently no evacuation plans for the city.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, however, is ordering an evacuation of Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach.

In South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley is ordering an evacuation of the state’s coastal communities in phases because the storm has slowed slightly.

A quarter-million people will be evacuated Wednesday, starting in the Charleston and Beauford Counties at 3 p.m. ET. The scope of the evacuation may expand to include other areas Thursday, including parts of Horry and Georgetown, the governor said.

“The storm did slow down, and it did move somewhat, but we are not in stable territory yet,” Haley told reporters at a news conference Wednesday morning. “If you do not leave, you are putting a law enforcement officer life in jeopardy when they have to go for you.”

The U.S. Coast Guard is warning the public to stay off the water, secure their boats stay clear of beaches and follow evacuation orders, as their search and rescue capabilities will be limited as Hurricane Matthew strengthens.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is advising residents in states potentially affected by Hurricane Matthew to “familiarize themselves with evacuation routes now.”

President Obama is visiting the agency’s headquarters on Wednesday for a briefing on the federal response.

All U.S. airports remain open and fully operational. So far, flight cancellations are limited to flights to, from and through the Caribbean. The major airlines are offering customers waivers to change fees for affected flights to, from or through affected areas in the southeast United States.

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Superhero-Themed Funeral Being Held for Boy Shot at SC School

iStock/Thinkstock(TOWNVILLE, S.C.) — A superhero-themed funeral is taking place Wednesday for the 6-year-old boy who was fatally shot at an elementary school in Townville, South Carolina.

Jacob Hall was a kindergarten student at Townville Elementary School when he was allegedly shot by a suspected 14-year-old gunman who opened fire on the playground during recess on Sept. 28, officials said, injuring Jacob and others.

Jacob was hospitalized and put on life support. He died on Oct. 1.

Jacob’s parents, Renae and Rodger Hall, said in a statement: “Jacob came into our lives six years and four months ago and changed it completely. He showed us how to love, laugh and smile even on days we did not want to. God gave him to us and he was taken away from us by a senseless act. We know that Jacob has already forgiven this child for what he did to him and his family because that’s the kind of child he was. Jacob was sent to this earth for this short a period of time to show us that there is such a thing as pure love. Jacob is in heaven with God now and everyone who loves him. Words cannot express how much we will miss him.”

According to local media reports, Jacob loved superheroes, and those attending the funeral were asked to dress as superheroes.

The alleged gunman, who is being charged as a juvenile, has been accused of Jacob’s murder and the shooting and killing of his father earlier that day. He is also facing weapons possession charges and attempted murder. He had not entered a plea as of Oct. 1.

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Accused Hitman in FSU Murder Case Now Cooperating with Authorities

Tallahassee Police Department(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — In a stunning development, one of the men accused of killing Florida State University law professor Dan Markel has “flipped,” pleading guilty to second-degree murder and cooperating with investigators in exchange for a more lenient sentence.

At a hearing Tuesday in Tallahassee, Florida, Luis Rivera, 33, changed his original not guilty plea as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Markel was shot and killed in the garage of his Tallahassee home in 2014 in what police have called a murder for hire scheme. Authorities allege that the family of Markel’s ex-wife Wendi Adelson hatched the plot in the wake of the couple’s bitter divorce. Police say that Adelson’s family had a “desperate desire” for Wendi Adelson and her two children to move closer to them in South Florida and that Markel was standing in the way.

Police say they were able to trace a Toyota Prius seen leaving the crime scene to Rivera and his childhood friend Sigfredo Garcia, both of whom lived in the Miami area. Authorities say Rivera was known as a leader in the North Miami chapter of the Latin Kings gang. GPS and cellphone data revealed that Rivera and Garcia had traveled in the Prius to Tallahassee at the time of Markel’s murder, according to police.

This May, Rivera and Garcia were charged in Markel’s killing. Both pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder at the time.

In exchange for his cooperation, Rivera, who originally faced the death penalty for Markel’s murder, was sentenced to 19 years in prison. The sentence will run concurrent with the 12-year federal sentence Rivera is presently serving for a gang-related conviction. At today’s hearing, Chief Assistant State Attorney Georgia Cappleman said Rivera had told investigators where the murder weapon is located, but it has not yet been recovered. Cappleman also named Garcia as the triggerman in Markel’s murder.

In response to Rivera’s plea deal, Garcia’s attorney, Saam Zanganeh, told ABC News that prosecutors gave away too much “for the word of a federally convicted gang member.”

Cappleman said Rivera has already provided some information to authorities, who are hopeful that his cooperation will lead to convictions against others involved in the alleged murder for hire plot.

Cappleman said Rivera’s information led to the arrest of one of those suspects, Katherine Magbanua, who was taken into custody this weekend on a warrant for first-degree murder. According to her arrest affidavit, police believe “the murder was arranged through” Magbanua and that she “has been romantically involved with both Garcia and Charlie Adelson, the victim’s former brother-in-law.”

The affidavit states that Magbanua made cash deposits of more than $56,000 in the 16 months following the murder. After Rivera was incarcerated on the unrelated charge he was ultimately convicted of, police say he told someone in a phone conversation that “Magbanua had all the money and that she needed to be nice to [Rivera] and give him bail money.”

In response to Magbanua’s arrest, her attorney, Tara Kawass, said, “Katherine is a single mom who has no prior convictions. There was no reason to arrest her like this. Our sole priority right now is getting her on bond so she can take care of her two kids.”

Arrest affidavits were submitted for Magbanua and Charles Adelson in May but prosecutors declined to file charges at the time, citing a lack of evidence.

In a statement, Charles Adelson’s attorney, David Oscar Markus, said of Tuesday’s deal with Rivera, “The prosecution admittedly didn’t have enough evidence so it went out and bought some by giving away the farm to a murderer. This convicted gangster knows the game and would have said anything not to come out of prison in a box. The prosecution literally threatened him with the needle to get this testimony. That’s not a search for the truth. That’s a deal with the devil.”

No member of the Adelson family has been charged in connection with Markel’s murder.

Attorneys for the Adelsons say allegations that the family was involved are nothing more than “fanciful fiction.”

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NC Police Release Full Videos from Keith Scott Shooting

iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — Police in Charlotte, North Carolina, released Tuesday the entirety of the dash-cam and body-cam videos from the deadly officer-involved shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.

Protesters had demanded the full videos be released to the public since the Sept. 20 shooting in an apartment complex parking lot that left 43-year-old Scott dead. Police say Scott was armed and a gun was recovered.

Some videos from the deadly shooting were released to the public on Sept. 24. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, who said last week that they would release the full videos once Scott’s family reviewed them — said Tuesday that the family has now reviewed the videos.

Police said Tuesday the released body-cam footage spans from “the moment it was turned on until officers began rendering first aid.” Approximately the first 20 seconds of the body-cam video shows before Scott is shot, as officers point guns at him. The rest of the over 16-minute long body-cam video is after Scott is shot. The graphic video shows Scott handcuffed and bleeding, lying on the ground as police render aid.

Police also released dash-cam video, 911 call audio and the radio traffic from officers at the scene.

Scott family attorney Justin Bamberg this evening called the footage “difficult to watch.”

“You see him handcuffed. You see a human being, a father, a husband, lose his life,” Bamberg said. “That is extremely hard to watch but that is the reality of these situations.”

Bamberg called this a “perfect example of why law enforcement has to be sure before they pull the trigger, and why the use of deadly force has to always be a last resort and not a first resort.”

Bamberg said there was no evidence Scott had a gun.

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Creepy Clown Incidents Should Be Taken ‘Seriously’ By Law Enforcement, White House Says

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A creepy epidemic is sweeping the nation in the form of clown threats, clown sightings and even made-up clown encounters, further exacerbating people’s coulrophobia, the term for a fear of clowns, with the mere mention of a clown enough to send some towns into a frenzy.

The problem has become so widespread that even the White House weighed in today after a reporter noted during the White House press briefing that “creepy clown” sightings had led to more than a dozen arrests, and that local law enforcement agencies are asking for assistance from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security on how to handle the “phenomenon.”

“Obviously, this is a situation that local law enforcement authorities take quite seriously and they should carefully and thoroughly review, you know, perceived threats to the safety of the community and they should do so prudently,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday.

This is believed to be the first time the topic of “creepy clowns” has been brought up during a press briefing at the White House. Earnest said he was unsure if the president had been briefed on the clown situation.

A plethora of clown activity has occurred just this past week.

Philadelphia police said Monday that a 13-year-old girl who made clown threats on Instagram indicated that they were pranks and that she never intended to harm anyone. But in Virginia, a 13-year-old girl was arrested Monday for allegedly soliciting an individual on social media who uses a clown as the profile picture to murder one of her teachers, according to the Hampton Police Division.

A 14-year-old in Texas was also charged for making clown-related terroristic threats online, which were discovered by police Monday night, according to the Livingston Police Department. The Livingston Independent School Department said the threats were found to not be credible, but stressed that it takes all threats “seriously.”

Police in New Haven, Connecticut, are investigating photos posted to Instagram with captions telling several schools to “watch out” and “wait and see.” However, school officials said in a statement Monday that there’s “no indication” that the posts pose any real threat to students. That message was reiterated by New Haven police during a news conference Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in Reading, Ohio, an 18-year-old allegedly fabricated a story about being attacked by a knife-wielding clown because she was late to work and didn’t want to lose her job, said Reading Police Chief Scott Snow. The woman described the clown quite vividly, saying he was wearing a clown suit, a red wig and white facial makeup with a teardrop drawn on his left cheek, according to ABC affiliate WCPO-TV.

Coincidentally, the woman’s false report had nothing to do with the closure of all junior and senior high schools in Reading, which were shut down Friday after a woman was allegedly assaulted by a man dressed as a clown, possibly a juvenile, who made threats toward the school, Snow said.

The recent uptick in scary clown activity isn’t entirely a new phenomenon, Slate reported on Monday, noting that a wave of evil clown sightings happens every few years.

And with Halloween fast approaching, it may take a while for the trend to subside.

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South Carolina Begins Evacuation of Coastal Areas as Hurricane Matthew Turns North

iStock/Thinkstock(HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C.) — Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Haiti Tuesday morning, lashing the western shores of the country with 145 mph winds and causing thousands of Haitians to seek emergency shelter.

The hurricane has weakened a little since and as of Tuesday at 5 p.m. has maximum sustained winds near 140 miles per hour and is moving north at around 9 miles per hour.

Forecasters predict it could reach the United States and brush Florida by Thursday morning.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley declared a state of emergency Tuesday and began medical evacuations for residents living along the coast.

Haley said that all coastal communities in South Carolina — about 1.1 million people — will be asked to evacuate tomorrow.

Schools and government offices will be closed tomorrow in South Carolina, and Haley recommended that residents move at least 100 miles from the coast.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned that the storm “could bring devastation to Florida [that] we haven’t seen in years,” adding that “we can not rule out a direct hit on Florida” starting as early as Wednesday. He declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the storm.

He said that the effects of Matthew could be “catastrophic,” bringing with it a chance of heavy rain, rip currents, beach erosion, tornadoes and hurricane-force winds.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal issued a state of emergency for 13 counties in his state this afternoon in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew.

Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez said that there are no plans to evacuate the city yet but residents should brace themselves for the possibility of danger.

“The message is simple,” he told reporters. “You should be prepared.”

Hurricane Matthew is life threatening and approaching Florida. Make sure to prepare

— Rick Scott (@FLGovScott) October 3, 2016

In Haiti, some 6,000 people were being housed in temporary shelters, the country’s civil protection service said on Twitter. Many more remained in flood-prone areas.

Ouragan #Matthew : lanmè a kòmanse monte. L ap rantre nan vil #Okay. Tanpri, mande moun yo deplase san pèdi tan. #Fèmesajlapase

— Pwoteksyon sivil (@Pwoteksyonsivil) October 3, 2016

“Life-threatening flash floods and mudslides are likely from this rainfall in southern and northwestern Haiti, the southwestern Dominican Republic and eastern Cuba,” the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory.

Some 10.6 million people are in the storm’s path in Haiti, according to the United Nations, in addition to 11.2 million in Cuba and 2.8 million in Jamaica.

Citing “life-threatening rains, winds and storm surges,” USAID released $400,000 in initial assistance to mount a humanitarian response to the storm.

We are prepared to mobilize emergency supplies like hygiene kits, tarps and blankets in response to #HurricaneMatthew.

— USAID (@USAID) October 4, 2016

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency for 66 counties in his state in anticipation of Matthew’s arrival Thursday night. He said he has been in contact with FEMA to prepare for the storm.

“I’m hoping this is a false alarm, but we can’t gamble,” McCrory said.

A FEMA representative said the storm is being monitored very closely, adding that the agency is in touch with officials in potentially affected states.

“It’s too soon to know what impact, if any it, will have on the U.S., but we’re urging individuals to take advantage of the time they have right now to prepare,” the representative said.

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NTSB Recovers Second Black Box, Video from Hoboken Train Crash

NTSB Photo by Chris O’Neil(HOBOKEN, N.J.) — A second black box and front-facing video footage have been recovered from the front car of the New Jersey Transit commuter train that crashed in Hoboken last week, a government source tells ABC News.

The two items could hold key pieces of information for the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation.

One woman was killed and more than a hundred were injured when the commuter train crashed into the station on Thursday.

The first event recorder located in the rear of the train, recovered on Sunday by federal investigators, is not functional.

Investigators were force to wait until the area around the front car, the controlling cab, was safe before they could access the second event recorder and front facing camera.

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