Review Category : Poltics

Feds Worry Whether Foreign Fighters in Syria May Target U.S., DHS Head Says

US Department of Homeland Security(NEW YORK) — Federal authorities are worried that Americans or other Westerners who have trained with terrorists in war-ravaged Syria may slip back into the United States looking to strike the U.S. homeland, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told ABC News in an exclusive interview.

“We’re very concerned about Syria foreign fighters, people who are going into Syria, who are being recruited by extremists there and who then may leave Syria with a different purpose in mind,” Johnson told ABC News’ Pierre Thomas for This Week, in his first network interview since becoming Homeland Security secretary in December 2013.

Several Americans have already been arrested inside the United States for joining terrorist groups in Syria, though none of them have been accused of actively trying to carry out any attacks inside the U.S. homeland.

“Syria has become a matter of homeland security,” Johnson told ABC News. “We are continually monitoring the situation, and we are concerned.”

“And so with my European counterparts and counterparts from other parts of the world, we’ve been working together on sharing information [and] tracking these individuals,” Johnson added.

Johnson said another way to address a homeland threat like the one emanating from Syria is to fight radicalization at home – particularly self-radicalization online – with community outreach efforts and other programs.

“In many respects, the homegrown lone-wolf threat is the hardest to detect,” Johnson said. “Particularly since 9/11 [we have] become pretty good at detecting potential threats from overseas. We need to engage the public here in the homeland in helping us detect domestic-based threats from independent actors.”

Johnson called the Boston Marathon bombing a year ago “a perfect example” of the threat posed by “lone-wolf” terrorists.

Nevertheless, Johnson warned that Al Qaeda affiliates still pose a serious threat to the U.S. homeland, and he said Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – the Yemen-based affiliate behind the failed Christmas Day “underwear bombing” in 2009 and a cargo-based plot the next year – is “still very active.”

“They’re still making efforts to attack the homeland,” he said.

Johnson, who previously served as general counsel in the Department of Defense, now leads an agency borne out of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks – a nightmare he experienced firsthand in an intensely personal way.

Not only is Sept. 11 his birthday, but he was in New York that tragic day watching it all unfold in front of him from his law office in Manhattan.

“I was looking forward to a quiet birthday dinner with my family that evening,” Johnson recalled. “And I remember looking out the window, and I could see the World Trade Center on fire. And within minutes, I saw the second plane hit… And [then] I saw the buildings collapse.”

Johnson left his office building “and literally wandered the streets asking, ‘What can I do?’” he told ABC News. “And so since that day, I’ve tried to answer the question, ‘What more can I do?’ And so I’m here in the Department of Homeland Security. I didn’t expect to be here, but I’m here and I believe very much in the mission of homeland security.”

But to accomplish that mission, Johnson said he needs to address a serious issue within his own agency: employee morale.

That’s why on Friday, he sent a message to his entire workforce of 240,000 men and women.

“Let us not forget that the Department was founded in reaction to the most horrendous terrorist attack in our nation’s history and that more than a decade later, threats to our homeland security remain real,” Johnson said in the message. “There is no room for complacency. I need your continued dedication, I need your help.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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DHS Head: Changes to Immigration Enforcement May Be Coming ‘Pretty Soon’

US Department of Homeland Security(NEW YORK) — The Obama administration will announce “pretty soon” how it plans to remodel enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws and potentially “realign” deportation policies, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told ABC News in an exclusive interview.

This comes a month after President Obama asked Johnson to “conduct a review of practices” to ensure “we are carrying out these policies in the most humane way possible,” as a White House spokesman put it at the time.

In an interview with ABC News’ Pierre Thomas for This Week, Johnson said the enforcement of immigration laws “needs to comport with American values.”

“One of those American values is respect for human dignity … [and] one of those American values is respect for the sanctity of the family unit,” Johnson told ABC News’ Pierre Thomas.

When announcing the new review last month, White House spokesman Jay Carney cited, “the pain that families who are separated have been feeling as a result of deportations.”

As part of his review, Johnson said he has been talking to members of Congress, advocacy groups and his own workforce.

In particular, he is “consulting” officials within Immigration and Customs Enforcement – or ICE – “in a way that I’m not sure they’ve been consulted in the past,” according to Johnson.

“I’ve consulted ICE leadership on what our priorities should be, how we could realign them, potentially,” Johnson said. “I am looking for ways to more effectively enforce and administer our immigration laws. I believe there is room for improvement, and hopefully we’ll get to a better place.”

On Friday, dozens of protesters marched to ICE headquarters in Washington to confront the agency over its deportation policies.

“President Obama has been promising immigration reform, but what he has given the people is actually record numbers of deportations and violations of their civil rights,” said Jacinta Gonzalez, a lead organizer For Congress of Day Laborers.

But one day before the protest at ICE headquarters, 22 Republican senators sent President Obama a letter expressing their “grave concerns” over Johnson’s review, saying the “changes under consideration would represent a near complete abandonment of basic immigration enforcement.”

“As a result of your policies, individuals here illegally who do not meet administration ‘priorities’ are not only largely exempt from the law, but are released even if they come into contact with federal law enforcement authorities,” the letter added.

Calling it a matter of “public safety,” the administration has focused its limited enforcement resources on undocumented immigrants who have committed other crimes, especially violent crimes.

“I have to be honest, I don’t understand those who say we are not enforcing the law,” Johnson told This Week. “We are enforcing the law every day… There are thousands of people who are convicted criminals and others who are removed from this country [each day].”

Johnson also took aim at critics who suggest immigration authorities are skirting the law when they offer services to unaccompanied children found sneaking into the U.S.

“The law requires that we, as quickly as possible, get them to [health officials] for services there,” Johnson said. “That’s a legal requirement, and we follow that.”

Asked when his review would be complete, Johnson said he expects “to have something pretty soon.”

Regardless of what types of changes may come from that review, Johnson urged lawmakers to pass comprehensive immigration reform, saying there is no “substitute for action by Congress.”

“[It] is vitally important as a matter of homeland security,” he said. “We need more resources for border security. I also believe that we need to encourage the 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in this country to come out of the shadows, become accountable and get on an earned path to citizenship.”

Johnson said there are “a lot” of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who support comprehensive immigration reform, and he is “confident that it will happen.”

“I couldn’t tell you when, but there is so much support for this in Congress, in the business community, among organized labor, and, if the polls are to be believed, by a majority of the American public,” Johnson said. “And I believe that there will come a point when Congress will act.”

On Thursday, during a lunch in his home state of Ohio, Republican House Speaker John Boehner mocked his fellow House Republicans for their seeming reluctance to act on immigration reform, saying in a mock whine, “Here’s the attitude: ‘Ohh, don’t make me do this! Ohh, this is too hard!’ You should hear ‘em.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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President Obama Backs Malaysian Handling of MH370 Search

(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) — President Obama Sunday endorsed the Malaysian government’s handling of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, giving an important boost to Prime Minister Najib Razak amid swirling public criticism and private grumblings among some U.S. officials that his administration has bungled the effort.

“I can’t speak for all the countries in the region, but I can say the U.S. and other partners have found the Malaysian government eager for assistance, have been fully forthcoming with us in terms of the information they have, and this is a joint effort,” Obama said at a news conference.

The president said the Malaysians have been working “tirelessly” to recover the missing Boeing 777 and determine what brought it down, even though no wreckage or remains have been found.

“It’s not easy,” Obama said. “If in fact the plane went down in the ocean in this part of the world, that is a big, big place. And it is a very challenging effort, and very laborious effort that’s going to take some time.”

He offered condolences to families of the victims and said their pleas for transparency in the investigation were understandable and legitimate.

“I want to again express the deepest condolences of the American people to all the families who lost loved ones on that flight – Malaysian, American, Chinese – and people from many other nations,” he said.

Obama said during his meeting with Najib that both men discussed “some of the lessons that are being learned from this tragedy” and how the U.S. and Malaysia can improve cooperation in the future.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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US Military Forces Return to Philippines in 10-Year Deal

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) – The U.S. has reached an agreement with the Philippines for an expanded American military presence, more than 20 years after forces stationed at bases there were pushed out.

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes announced the 10-year deal – an Enhanced Defense Cooperation agreement — in a briefing with reporters on Sunday. He said the arrangement serves the national interest and underscores a “historic commitment to the Pacific.”

When it is signed ahead of President Obama’s arrival in Manila on Monday, the agreement will broaden U.S. access to bases in the Philippines on a rotational, temporary basis, officials said. The deal will allow the Pentagon to move fighter jets and ships in the area, making the U.S. a more present and capable partner in the region.

The officials would not specify the exact numbers of troops or where or when they will arrive in the Philippines, saying those details are still under discussion.

U.S. service members are broadly expected to conduct joint exercises with the armed forces of the Philippines, ranging from disaster response, maritime security, transnational crime and tracking and containing weapons of mass destruction.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Youngest Members on Hand for NRA Annual Meetings

Photo by John Gress/Getty Images(INDIANAPOLIS) — The National Rifle Association is holding its annual meetings in Indianapolis, and some of the attendees are quite young.

In fact, they are babies.

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre Saturday asked members in attendance at the third day of the group’s national gathering to stand if they were born after 2004, then progressed through the years in search of the NRA’s youngest lifetime member to attend the meeting.

Parents held up young children, one or two years old, in the Indiana Convention Center auditorium.

“We’re going to need a delivery room here,” LaPierre joked as he kept progressing any closer to the present date, moving through the months of 2014.

The youngest member in attendance, it turned out, was a baby girl from Spring, Texas.

“Here is our youngest life member in attendance — please come on up,” LaPierre announced. “Born in February and a life member for five days.”

The girl’s parents brought her up to the stage for a photo op with LaPierre. The crowd gave an audible “Awww” as they saw her in her pink swaddling.

According to the NRA’s website, a lifetime membership costs $1,000.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Girl, 13, Gets Presidential Selfie Snub from Obama

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)(SEOUL) — How sad is this?

In anticipation of President Obama’s visit to the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul, South Korea, on Saturday, 13-year-old Mika Taylor and her friends stood holding a bright orange sign with large block letters. The message was unmistakable: “MR. PRESIDENT MAY [I] HAVE A SELFIE WITH YOU?”

But the girl did not get her wish.

Obama worked his way down the rope line finally arriving where Taylor was standing with her sign. But the president took a pass, saying if he did it for her, he’d have to do it for everyone.

“Just take a picture of me as I’m going by,” Obama told her, according to TV pooler Bret Hovell of CBS News who overheard the conversation.

So, does young Mika Taylor have David Ortiz to thank for this selfie snub?

Earlier this month Obama found himself in hot water over a selfie with the Red Sox star who has a business relationship with Samsung. The selfie “scandal” led White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer to suggest, “Maybe this will be the end of all selfies.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney later assured reporters that Pfeiffer was only speaking “humorously” and that “there’s no discussion of a ban” on selfies at the White House.

However, at the same April 7 press briefing, Carney added, “Whenever someone tries to use the president’s likeness to promote a product, that is a problem. … We have had conversations with Samsung about this and expressed our concerns.”

Obama departed Seoul on Saturday for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where he already attended a state dinner and has a full schedule of events on Sunday.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Obama Shares Memories of Mother on Trip to Malaysia

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) — President Obama marked the first visit by an American president to Malaysia in nearly 50 years with a toast to the country’s “vitality” and its cultural connection to his mother, Ann Dunham.

“It has been nearly 50 years since an American president visited Malaysia,” Obama said. “LBJ [President Johnson] wrote that he was incredibly impressed by the vitality of Malaysia. Mr. Prime Minister, I look forward to our work together and I pledge to infuse our efforts with that spirit.”

Offering a personal reflection, Obama recalled his mother’s love of the art of batik and a collection of her work that was showcased at the Islamic Arts Museum here two years ago.

“For my mother, batik wasn’t about fashion — it was a window into the lives of others, their cultures, traditions and hopes,” he said. “It meant so much to her and was part of her spirit, so I’m deeply grateful to the people of Malaysia for celebrating that part of my mother’s life.

“My mother believed and I believe that whether we come from a remote village or a big city, whether we live in the U.S. or Malaysia, we all share basic human aspirations: to live in dignity and in peace, to shape our own destiny, to be able to make a living and work hard and support a family,” he said.

“These are the aspirations I believe illuminate a new era of partnership between the United States and Malaysia.”

Malaysian King Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah offered a toast in English, thanking Obama for U.S. support in the aftermath of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. And he welcomed the U.S. working “hand in hand” with Malaysia to advance their common goals.

The leaders and guests enjoyed a menu of Soto Ayam Bergedil (shredded chicken, rice cake, fried glass noodle and roasted peanut), grilled wagyu beef with Sarawak pepper jus, and grilled cod fish with turmeric and kaffir lime leaf crust, according to a menu released by the White House. For dessert they had warm banana fritters with vanilla ice cream.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Obama Shares Memories of Mother on Trip to Malaysia

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) — President Obama marked the first visit by an American president to Malaysia in nearly 50 years with a toast to the country’s “vitality” and its cultural connection to his mother, Ann Dunham.

“It has been nearly 50 years since an American president visited Malaysia,” Obama said. “LBJ [President Johnson] wrote that he was incredibly impressed by the vitality of Malaysia. Mr. Prime Minister, I look forward to our work together and I pledge to infuse our efforts with that spirit.”

Offering a personal reflection, Obama recalled his mother’s love of the art of batik and a collection of her work that was showcased at the Islamic Arts Museum here two years ago.

“For my mother, batik wasn’t about fashion — it was a window into the lives of others, their cultures, traditions and hopes,” he said. “It meant so much to her and was part of her spirit, so I’m deeply grateful to the people of Malaysia for celebrating that part of my mother’s life.

“My mother believed and I believe that whether we come from a remote village or a big city, whether we live in the U.S. or Malaysia, we all share basic human aspirations: to live in dignity and in peace, to shape our own destiny, to be able to make a living and work hard and support a family,” he said.

“These are the aspirations I believe illuminate a new era of partnership between the United States and Malaysia.”

Malaysian King Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah offered a toast in English, thanking Obama for U.S. support in the aftermath of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. And he welcomed the U.S. working “hand in hand” with Malaysia to advance their common goals.

The leaders and guests enjoyed a menu of Soto Ayam Bergedil (shredded chicken, rice cake, fried glass noodle and roasted peanut), grilled wagyu beef with Sarawak pepper jus, and grilled cod fish with turmeric and kaffir lime leaf crust, according to a menu released by the White House. For dessert they had warm banana fritters with vanilla ice cream.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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New York Congressman to Be Indicted Next Week

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The only Republican congressman from New York City, Rep. Michael Grimm, will be indicted next week.

Grimm had been under investigation for campaign finance violations, which heated up after he was caught on video threatening a reporter at the Capitol Building after President Obama’s State of the Union Address. In a statement, Grimm’s attorney said that his client was “disappointed by the government’s decision,” but not surprised.

Grimm’s lawyer added that the government “has pursued a politically-driven vendetta against Congressman Grimm and not an independent search for the truth.”

Grimm maintained his innocence on Friday. He will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Agreement Reached to Keep “House of Cards” Filming in Maryland

Netflix(ANNAPOLIS, Md.) — The hit Netflix show House of Cards will film its third season in Maryland, Gov. Martin O’Malley said on Friday.

The show had received $26 million in tax credits during the show’s first two seasons, a figure that was set to go down due to expiring tax credits. Instead, O’Malley and Media Rights Capital — the maker of the hit drama — agreed to keep filming in the state. O’Malley said that the agreement will “keep the 3,700 jobs and more than $100 million of economic activity and investment that House of Cards generates right here in Maryland.”

Media Rights Capital will receive $11.5 million in 2014, combined between the annual Film Production Tax Credit program and $7.5 million in grants from the state’s fiscal year 2015 budget. That figure, a release from the Governor’s Office says, is “less than the production qualified for, but enough to keep the hit franchise in Maryland.”

House of Cards is the gift that keeps on giving, having injected hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy, while also helping to provide thousands of jobs to our Maryland community,” Asif Satchu, co-CEO of Media Rights Capital said.

Producers hope to begin production on the third season of House of Cards within the next few months.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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