Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says the U.S. must do more to prevent homegrown terror with the rise of ISIS.

In a video message Monday, Holder says the country will begin new pilot programs to confront the threat.

“These programs will bring together community representatives, public safety officials, religious leaders, and United States attorneys to improve local engagement, to counter violent extremism,” he says.

Holder says law enforcement is increasing outreach to Muslim communities in the U.S., hoping to detect terrorist threats before they emerge.

“We have established processes for detecting American extremists who attempt to join terror groups abroad,” he notes.

Overseas, Holder says the U.S. is working with partner nations and Interpol, hoping to track Westerners who have made the trip to Syria and Iraq, and flag them before they attempt to come home.

“Ultimately, the pilot programs will enable us to develop more effective and more inclusive ways to build a more just, secure, and free society that all Americans deserve,” he says.

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John Moore/Getty Images(INDIANOLA, Iowa) — If and when Hillary Clinton runs for president again, history will record that her campaign began in all but name with a swarm of young and “ready” activists, stage-managed banter about grilled hunks of Iowa meat, and a concession that she’s “thinking about” what she referred to only as “that other thing.”

“Hello Iowa — I’m baa-aack!” Clinton told a crowd of more than 6,000 gathered to honor the retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, on a field outside Des Moines.

“I’ve got a few things on my mind these days,” Clinton added, drawing rising applause from the group of Democratic activists. “First and most importantly, Bill and I are on constant grandchild watch.”

She said she just might have to sprint off the stage if Chelsea goes into labor, and added: “Then of course — there’s that other thing. Well it is true, I am thinking about it. But for today, that is not why I’m here. I’m here for the steak.”

Framed by a giant American flag, a few tractors, and bales of Iowa hay, Clinton’s speech doubled as a tribute to a retiring liberal stalwart and an initial reintroduction to Iowa’s party faithful.

Her calls for populist Democratic policies and elected Democrats who can help in “moving America forward” received polite, though only occasionally enthusiastic, applause.

Harkin, the event’s host, offered to build on the “Comeback Kid” nickname Bill Clinton famously earned in 1992, after he exceeded expectations in the New Hampshire primary.

“President Clinton and Hillary Clinton are now the ‘Comeback Couple,'” Harkin said.

There was nothing approaching an announcement of candidacy, of course, and no hints about a timeline. Both Clintons parried questions about whether their appearance at an Iowa institution like the Steak Fry means the former secretary of state is running for president again.

“It’s great to be back in Iowa,” Hillary Clinton told reporters who swarmed near her after her designated time behind the steak grill.

Peppered with questions about 2016, she rolled her eyes for dramatic effect.

“This is about the people running right now — 2014,” she said.

But the former president couldn’t help but effuse when asked about the “Ready for Hillary” volunteers who crisscrossed the Steak Fry grounds, about 20 miles outside Des Moines.

“Just like Energizer Bunnies. They’re everywhere,” Clinton said.

Pressed by ABC News on whether his wife would disappoint those supporters by not running, the former president spoke loudly with his no-comment.

“I will not be baited. I cannot be baited,” he said. “I’m waiting to be a grandfather, and I want a happy grandmother.”

Clinton’s appearance drew more than 6,000 Democratic activists — and more than 200 journalists — for the 37th and final Harkin Steak Fry, held on the grounds of the annual National Hot Air Balloon Championships.

As Clinton’s first visit of the year to an early-voting state, the event offered a glimpse of what a potential second Hillary Clinton presidential campaign would look like, with all its strengths and weaknesses.

Conversations with a range of attendees revealed more acceptance than eagerness about another Clinton campaign.

Virtually all said they’d likely support Clinton. But several attendees offered up other potential Democrats — notably Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — as people they’d like to see run as well.

Clinton was the only potential 2016er to attend the Steak Fry, which has historically been a proving ground for Democrats in advance of the Iowa caucuses. Yet the Clintons spent little time mingling with possible caucus-goers; they arrived via motorcade at the back of the sprawling field, and even their few moments of grilling time was fenced off from the press and attendees.

Clinton’s challenges in Iowa are a microcosm of the broader obstacles she could face in a second presidential candidacy. She needs to turn around memories of a dysfunctional and ultimately doomed effort to connect one-on-one with voters in the state that kicks off the presidential process.

In 2008, Clinton finished an embarrassing third in the Iowa caucuses, behind Barack Obama and John Edwards — a result she called “excruciating” in her book. Now, should she run, Clinton needs to find a way to look forward, when at least part of her appeal is based on looking back.

The Democratic Party, too, is in a different place than it was in the pre-Obama era. Harkin, the day’s host, spoke of the broader angst inside the party on the eve of the event. He told ABC News that he and fellow liberals are “always nervous about people moving too far to the right.”

“So where is Hillary on that?” Harkin was asked in an interview that aired on This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

“Well I don’t know,” Harkin said. “I mean, I think this is something that will be developed and we’ll find out when, if she, if she decides to run. You know, what’s her vision for America?”

Cathy Jaschke, a 66-year-old Medicare specialist from Ankeny who attended the Steak Fry, said she’s concerned that the sense of inevitability surrounding Clinton’s candidacy could once again hurt her in Iowa.

“People think it’s a given, and that could be a problem,” said Jaschke, who said she supported Bill Richardson and then John Edwards in the 2008 caucuses. “It’s expected. It’s not something you can get on and get excited over.”

But the event in Indianola also showed off the considerable advantages her candidacy would enjoy. The Clintons themselves traveled with few staffers and no formal campaign apparatus, but they didn’t need an entourage: The quasi-grassroots organization Ready for Hillary took care of the organizing necessary to make her appearance look like a major political event.

Ready for Hillary bused in supporters from six colleges and universities, an implicit response to those who remember her failure to attract the fervor of young voters nearly seven years ago.

The group’s bus — bought and wrapped with pro-Hillary slogans in Iowa — was parked at the Steak Fry entrance. More than 300 volunteers milled the grounds, slapping bumper stickers on cars whose drivers welcomed the additions, and adding names to the group’s growing database.

The baby-blue signs that lined the event site read simply, “Ready,” as if the “for Hillary” part is no longer necessary to convey the mission. Organizers said that’s intended as a message that Democrats are as interested in 2014 as they are 2016 — and to remind Clinton herself that she has a campaign army in waiting.

“The message to her, that she’s been getting wherever she travels, is, ‘We’re ready for you,'” said Adam Parkhomenko, Ready for Hillary’s executive director and a cofounder of the group. “If you decide to run, there’s going to be thousands of people who have your back.”

A few other potential candidates, notably Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, have showered money on Iowa candidates this year.

Vice President Joe Biden will be in Iowa Wednesday, and liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who is mulling a run for president as a Democrat, made a weekend stop in the state that included events both before and after the Clintons were in Iowa on Sunday.

But there’s no Obama-like figure anywhere on the Democratic horizon these days, leaving Hillary Clinton as the far-and-away frontrunner.

Harkin called it a “joy and honor” to welcome two people who “have become a part of our Iowa Democratic family,” and he closed his final speech at the event with the warmest of tributes to his former colleague.

“There are many more chapters to be written in the amazing life of Hillary Clinton,” Harkin said.

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John Moore/Getty Images(INDIANOLA, Iowa) — If and when Hillary Clinton runs for president again, history will record that her campaign began in all but name with a swarm of young and “ready” activists, stage-managed banter about grilled hunks of Iowa meat, and a concession that she’s “thinking about” what she referred to only as “that other thing.”

“Hello Iowa — I’m baa-aack!” Clinton told a crowd of more than 6,000 gathered to honor the retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, on a field outside Des Moines.

“I’ve got a few things on my mind these days,” Clinton added, drawing rising applause from the group of Democratic activists. “First and most importantly, Bill and I are on constant grandchild watch.”

She said she just might have to sprint off the stage if Chelsea goes into labor, and added: “Then of course — there’s that other thing. Well it is true, I am thinking about it. But for today, that is not why I’m here. I’m here for the steak.”

Framed by a giant American flag, a few tractors, and bales of Iowa hay, Clinton’s speech doubled as a tribute to a retiring liberal stalwart and an initial reintroduction to Iowa’s party faithful.

Her calls for populist Democratic policies and elected Democrats who can help in “moving America forward” received polite, though only occasionally enthusiastic, applause.

Harkin, the event’s host, offered to build on the “Comeback Kid” nickname Bill Clinton famously earned in 1992, after he exceeded expectations in the New Hampshire primary.

“President Clinton and Hillary Clinton are now the ‘Comeback Couple,'” Harkin said.

There was nothing approaching an announcement of candidacy, of course, and no hints about a timeline. Both Clintons parried questions about whether their appearance at an Iowa institution like the Steak Fry means the former secretary of state is running for president again.

“It’s great to be back in Iowa,” Hillary Clinton told reporters who swarmed near her after her designated time behind the steak grill.

Peppered with questions about 2016, she rolled her eyes for dramatic effect.

“This is about the people running right now — 2014,” she said.

But the former president couldn’t help but effuse when asked about the “Ready for Hillary” volunteers who crisscrossed the Steak Fry grounds, about 20 miles outside Des Moines.

“Just like Energizer Bunnies. They’re everywhere,” Clinton said.

Pressed by ABC News on whether his wife would disappoint those supporters by not running, the former president spoke loudly with his no-comment.

“I will not be baited. I cannot be baited,” he said. “I’m waiting to be a grandfather, and I want a happy grandmother.”

Clinton’s appearance drew more than 6,000 Democratic activists — and more than 200 journalists — for the 37th and final Harkin Steak Fry, held on the grounds of the annual National Hot Air Balloon Championships.

As Clinton’s first visit of the year to an early-voting state, the event offered a glimpse of what a potential second Hillary Clinton presidential campaign would look like, with all its strengths and weaknesses.

Conversations with a range of attendees revealed more acceptance than eagerness about another Clinton campaign.

Virtually all said they’d likely support Clinton. But several attendees offered up other potential Democrats — notably Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — as people they’d like to see run as well.

Clinton was the only potential 2016er to attend the Steak Fry, which has historically been a proving ground for Democrats in advance of the Iowa caucuses. Yet the Clintons spent little time mingling with possible caucus-goers; they arrived via motorcade at the back of the sprawling field, and even their few moments of grilling time was fenced off from the press and attendees.

Clinton’s challenges in Iowa are a microcosm of the broader obstacles she could face in a second presidential candidacy. She needs to turn around memories of a dysfunctional and ultimately doomed effort to connect one-on-one with voters in the state that kicks off the presidential process.

In 2008, Clinton finished an embarrassing third in the Iowa caucuses, behind Barack Obama and John Edwards — a result she called “excruciating” in her book. Now, should she run, Clinton needs to find a way to look forward, when at least part of her appeal is based on looking back.

The Democratic Party, too, is in a different place than it was in the pre-Obama era. Harkin, the day’s host, spoke of the broader angst inside the party on the eve of the event. He told ABC News that he and fellow liberals are “always nervous about people moving too far to the right.”

“So where is Hillary on that?” Harkin was asked in an interview that aired on This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

“Well I don’t know,” Harkin said. “I mean, I think this is something that will be developed and we’ll find out when, if she, if she decides to run. You know, what’s her vision for America?”

Cathy Jaschke, a 66-year-old Medicare specialist from Ankeny who attended the Steak Fry, said she’s concerned that the sense of inevitability surrounding Clinton’s candidacy could once again hurt her in Iowa.

“People think it’s a given, and that could be a problem,” said Jaschke, who said she supported Bill Richardson and then John Edwards in the 2008 caucuses. “It’s expected. It’s not something you can get on and get excited over.”

But the event in Indianola also showed off the considerable advantages her candidacy would enjoy. The Clintons themselves traveled with few staffers and no formal campaign apparatus, but they didn’t need an entourage: The quasi-grassroots organization Ready for Hillary took care of the organizing necessary to make her appearance look like a major political event.

Ready for Hillary bused in supporters from six colleges and universities, an implicit response to those who remember her failure to attract the fervor of young voters nearly seven years ago.

The group’s bus — bought and wrapped with pro-Hillary slogans in Iowa — was parked at the Steak Fry entrance. More than 300 volunteers milled the grounds, slapping bumper stickers on cars whose drivers welcomed the additions, and adding names to the group’s growing database.

The baby-blue signs that lined the event site read simply, “Ready,” as if the “for Hillary” part is no longer necessary to convey the mission. Organizers said that’s intended as a message that Democrats are as interested in 2014 as they are 2016 — and to remind Clinton herself that she has a campaign army in waiting.

“The message to her, that she’s been getting wherever she travels, is, ‘We’re ready for you,'” said Adam Parkhomenko, Ready for Hillary’s executive director and a cofounder of the group. “If you decide to run, there’s going to be thousands of people who have your back.”

A few other potential candidates, notably Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, have showered money on Iowa candidates this year.

Vice President Joe Biden will be in Iowa Wednesday, and liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who is mulling a run for president as a Democrat, made a weekend stop in the state that included events both before and after the Clintons were in Iowa on Sunday.

But there’s no Obama-like figure anywhere on the Democratic horizon these days, leaving Hillary Clinton as the far-and-away frontrunner.

Harkin called it a “joy and honor” to welcome two people who “have become a part of our Iowa Democratic family,” and he closed his final speech at the event with the warmest of tributes to his former colleague.

“There are many more chapters to be written in the amazing life of Hillary Clinton,” Harkin said.

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United States Senate(DES MOINES, Iowa) — Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may be headlining Sen. Tom Harkin’s annual Steak Fry on Sunday, but the longtime progressive senator indicated that shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement should she decide to run for president in 2016.

Harkin, who is retiring after 30 years in the Senate and was hosting his last annual Steak Fry, said progressives should raise questions about Clinton’s foreign policy and economic positions.

“As someone who has carried the liberal, progressive populist banner for many years, we’re always nervous about people moving too far to the right,” the Democratic lawmaker told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl for This Week. “See we, a lot of us believe the center ought to be moved back, that the center has moved too far right.”

Clinton is making her first trip to Iowa since 2008 for the signature political event that attracts thousands of Iowans, politicos and Democratic hopefuls seeking state and nationwide exposure. She was to headline the event with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Asked where Clinton’s positions fell on the political spectrum, Harkin responded, “Well, I don’t know, I mean I think this is something that will be developed and we’ll find out when, if she, if she decides to run. You know, what’s her vision for America?”

When asked if he had “real questions” about Clinton’s stances on issues, Harkin said, “I do about everybody” considering a run for the White House.

He added that President Barack Obama’s positions have been less progressive than he had hoped they would be.

“I must be frank with you, I thought Barack Obama was a great progressive and a great populist and quite frankly, I haven’t, some things have happened that I don’t agree with,” Harkin said.

And while most eyes on Clinton this weekend are reading signs for what her return trip to Iowa means for her 2016 presidential prospects, Harkin said Clinton’s trip will have more impact on the 2014 midterm elections, as she and former President Clinton begin hitting the campaign trail for Democrats facing tough election battles.

“She wants to focus on 2014 and how we can keep the Senate and elect some key people around the country, so she’s going to be out there working hard,” Harkin said.

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United States Senate(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, has tentatively added her voice to the rising chorus calling for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s resignation in the wake of the Ray Rice incident.

“If he lied, then he has to step down,” Gillibrand said on the latest episode of the ESPN-ABC News podcast “Capital Games.”

“What I’ve said up till now is, I expect Roger to create a zero tolerance policy and change the NFL, but … you can’t lie to the American people about the facts,” she said.

According to the senator, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, whose name has been bandied about as a possible Goodell replacement, “would make a great NFL commissioner, just based on her talent, her intelligence, her love of the sport.”

Appointing Rice commissioner would ignite the NFL’s female fan base and give the league a fresh perspective on issues with which it has long struggled. Choosing Rice would be not only a symbolic gesture, but a functional one as well.

“You know, we always fight for breaking every glass ceiling … But it’s more than just a message. Women often bring to leadership a different style of leadership, one that often is more focused on consensus building, often more focused on transparency and accountability,” Gillibrand said.

“I think what Condi or any other strong, capable woman could bring to the NFL is probably a voice they haven’t been hearing, and one that would do great, great benefit to the organization,” she added.

ESPN analyst and former NFL executive Andrew Brandt echoed Gillibrand’s contention that Rice should not be merely a token candidate.

“Would she be on the list if there wasn’t a Ray Rice issue, if he was retiring as commissioner would she be on the list? For her I would say yes,” Brandt said, adding that Rice has “impeccable credentials, impeccable integrity.”

“Sports are still considered a male-dominated thing,” acknowledges Julie Foudy, a former Olympian and World Cup champion. “I still think, with all the strides we’ve made with Title IX and the number of girls that are playing, the hardest area to break into is the professional game …. It’s a constant challenge.”

As for drawing the line on domestic violence: “I don’t buy the argument that you should do it because your fan base is women,” Foudy says. “Do it because it’s the right damn thing to do!”

The relationship between sports and politics is a reciprocal one, Gillibrand says.

“If you play sports, particularly competitive sports, you learn … your job is to hit your best shot, and your opponent’s going to hit his or her best shot against you as well. And it doesn’t mean anything, it just means you have to stay tough, stay focused, and know why you’re in the game,” she said on “Capital Games.”

“There’s an indicator, when they look at these things, that says if a woman’s played competitive sports, she might be more likely to run.”

Whether or not they play competitive sports, “I want women and girls to believe in themselves just as much as men and boys do. I want them to trust their own power … not just for their own sense of self, but for all of us,” Gillibrand says in her new book, Off the Sidelines. “Girls’ voices matter. Women’s voices matter. From Congress to board meetings to PTAs, our country needs more women to share their thoughts, and take a place at the decision-making table.”

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Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) — Congressional candidate Andy Tobin, R-Arizona, delivered the weekly Republican Address on Saturday, speaking strongly about the importance of “putting people first” and ending an “attack from the federal government.”

Tobin, currently the Speaker of the Arizona House, pointed the finger at “overregulation” and federal debt and ObamaCare for the imbalance of power taxpayers experience compared to the government.

Calling the existing gridlock in Washington “disappointing,” Tobin spoke about the “good-faith effort” being given by Republicans and accused Democrats of avoiding votes, specifically noting the Democratic failure to pass their immigration bill. “They’re more worried about losing their Senate majority than the concerns of the American people,” Tobin said.

Read the full transcript of the Republican address:

Hello, I’m Andy Tobin. I serve as Speaker of the Arizona House, and I’m the Republican candidate for Arizona’s First Congressional District.

Before I begin: we have had terrible flooding in our state this week. At least two Arizonans died. Our hearts go out to their families, and our thanks go to the first responders. Their service inspires us always.

I’m running for Congress for a simple reason: our state is under attack from the federal government. Day after day, the powers-that-be in Washington try to bury us in more regulations and more havoc. This has to stop. Not just here, but everywhere people are working harder only to have Washington take more of their money and more of their freedom.

How do we restore the balance of power for hardworking taxpayers?

Well, one thing we can do is go after overregulation. Here in rural Arizona, the EPA’s mandates threaten to shut down the Navajo Generating Station, a coal-powered plant that is vital to our state’s economy. These mandates will mean higher water and electricity prices for Arizona residents. They also threaten the viability of this plant, putting hundreds of jobs in jeopardy. Instead of perpetrating a war on coal, Washington should be protecting coal, protecting these jobs, and supporting American energy.

Second, we need to repeal ObamaCare. I run a small business involved in employee benefits, so I’ve seen firsthand the rate increases, and the way this law is crushing businesses and pushing people into part-time work. It’s also costing our seniors money they don’t have and doctors they’ve relied on for years. Let’s start over and focus on ideas that lower costs and put the patient back in charge.

Third, we need to get ourselves out of all this debt. It’s a drag on our economy and investment, and it’s not something we should be passing on to our kids. Not too long ago, our state was one of many caught in the grip of recession and a budget crisis. Working together, we turned things around. Cut government by 25 percent. Balanced the state’s budget. And passed the largest tax cuts in our state’s history, saving taxpayers millions of dollars. Now we’re moving in the right direction, building a better future for our children and their children.

And you know how we got it done? By finding common ground, making the tough choices, and recognizing that Arizona would only recover if we all recover.

That’s why the gridlock in Washington is so disappointing. You have Republicans making a good-faith effort, bringing real ideas to the table to help our economy, but Senate Democrats won’t give them a vote. They didn’t even pass their own bill to help us deal with the crisis at our border. They’re more worried about losing their Senate majority than the concerns of the American people.

I’ve dedicated my life to serving others. It was instilled in me as the son of a police officer. To get America back on track, we need to put the people first, be their voice, especially for parts of the country like rural Arizona that have been forgotten by Washington.

Thank you for listening. May God bless Arizona and the United States of America.

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Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Cal(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Mark Sanford has decided to “call off” his engagement to the Argentine “soul mate” he had a intercontinental, extra-marital affair with as governor in 2009.

The announcement of the split with Maria Belen Chapur was buried in a 2,349-word Friday Facebook post responding to the complaint filed by the South Carolina Republican’s ex-wife, Jenny, in Charleston County Family Court Sept. 2.

“No relationship can stand forever this tension of being forced to pick between the one you love and your own son or daughter, and for this reason Belen and I have decided to call off the engagement,” Sanford, 54, wrote in the post. “Maybe there will be another chapter when waters calm with Jenny, but at this point the environment is not conducive to building anything.”

Sanford also said in the post that he would hire a lawyer for his Sept. 15 court date.

The former two-term governor proposed to Chapur, who he had seen in secret for more than a year, in Argentina in 2012.

“Belen is a remarkably wonderful woman who I have always loved and I will be forever grateful for not only the many years we have known and loved each other, but the last six very tough ones wherein she has encouraged me and silently borne its tribulations with her ever warm and kind spirit,” Sanford wrote Friday.

Sanford’s congressional office declined to respond to the letter, while Jenny Sanford did not immediately respond to ABC’s requests for comment.

In 2009, then-Governor Sanford went AWOL from South Carolina, claiming he was hiking, then admitting that he’d been away having an affair with Chapur. Sanford returned to politics in a successful bid for South Carolina’s First Congressional District in 2012. He had served in the Congress from 1995-2001.

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mj0007/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — One day after denying the U.S. is engaged in “a war” against ISIS militants, the White House Friday said a war is in fact underway, indicating it’s an extension of the ongoing campaign against Islamic extremists.

“The United States is at war with ISIL in the same way we are at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.

“Sematics matter,” he added.

At the Pentagon, spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby echoed that assessment: “This is not the Iraq War,” he said. “But make no mistake we know we are at war with ISIL in the same way we are at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates.”

The militant Islamic group goes by the acronym ISIL as well as ISIS and the name of Islamic State.

The new talking points follow a day of insistence by administration officials that President Obama’s new anti-ISIS strategy only amounts to a “counter-terrorism campaign.”

“No,” the U.S. is not at war with ISIS, Secretary of State John Kerry told ABC News Thursday in Saudi Arabia. “We’re engaged in a counter-terrorism operation of a significant order. And counter-terrorism operations can take a long time, they go on. I think ‘war’ is the wrong reference term with respect to that.”

National Security Adviser Susan Rice said since there would be no “boots on the ground” — presumably referring to American combat troops in Iraq or Syria — the campaign would not fit the definition of “war.”

But Friday a different tune, made all the more noteworthy given Obama’s record of distancing himself from his predecessor’s “war on terror” terminology and repeated insistence that “core” al Qaeda have been “decimated.”

“This war, like all wars, must end,” Obama declared of the “war on terror” in May 2013.

Now, his administration is pointing to that definition to say that we are still “at war” — and that it will continue, likely for years to come.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) — U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley introduced legislation this week to stiffen rules for schools seeking to attract foreign applicants with the promise of assistance to obtain a student visa — an effort he says will prevent want-to-be terrorists from exploiting vulnerabilities in the American student entry program.

“It’s time to close the loopholes and clamp down on schools that have a poor track record with regard to foreign students,” Grassley, R-Iowa, said.

Grassley pointed to findings of a recent ABC News investigation that found U.S. Homeland Security officials had lost track of some 6,000 foreign nationals who had overstayed the terms of their student visas in the past year and a half — exploiting a security gap that was supposed to be fixed after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Despite repeated concerns raised by Congress, federal immigration officials have also continued to grant schools certification to accept overseas applicants even if the schools lack accreditation, state licensure, or any obvious measure of academic rigor.

There are now more than 9,000 schools on the government-approved list. The list includes such top flight American colleges as Harvard and Yale, but it also includes 86 beauty schools, 36 massage schools and nine schools that teach horseshoeing. Foreign students can enter the U.S. on a visa to study acupuncture, hair braiding, or join academies that focus on tennis and golf.

In one case, a tiny, state licensed career college in New York City continued to have four campuses on the Department of Homeland Security-certified schools list, even though five of the school’s top officials — including its president — were indicted on charges of visa fraud in May.

According to the indictment, 80 percent of the foreign students enrolled at MicroPower Career Institute had delinquent attendance, putting them out of compliance with their visas. But the school did not report them, the indictment says.

The school declined comment and all five school officials have pleaded not guilty in the case. DHS officials said they had no ability to de-list the school, even after the fraud indictments, because the school was entitled to administrative due process.

Grassley said his legislation would require schools to be accredited by an appropriate accrediting body in order to accept foreign students. He said it would also give Homeland Security officials the ability to immediately suspend school participation if they were failing to comply reporting requirements or fell under suspicion of fraud.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security said the agency does not comment on pending legislation. But she added that the department would “fully support improving and enhancing programs that protect our country’s national security.”

She noted that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is already hard at work trying to improve what officials there have acknowledged are shortcomings of the student visa monitoring program. ICE officials told ABC News, for instance, that it has undertaken a new program to deploy field representatives around the country to personally inspect schools that had been approved to accept foreign students. So far, 15 field representatives have been hired, with a plan to ultimately employ 60 around the country, according to spokesperson Carissa Cutrell.

The agency has also launched a program — so far installed at one airport, but planned for others — that will immediately alert a customs inspector if a student is attempting to re-enter the country after their status has been flagged by a school official.

“The Student and Exchange Visitor Program has made significant improvements to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, increased school and student oversight, and unveiled new policy guidance to close vulnerabilities and better protect our nation from individuals who try to exploit the U.S. visa system,” Cutrell said.

An advocacy group for international students and educators, called NAFSA, has expressed concern that security questions surrounding student visas have created unwarranted fears about the risks those students pose. Rebecca Morgan, a NAFSA spokeswoman, noted that only 3 percent of the 61 million people who entered the United States on nonimmigrant visas in 2013 held student visas.

“It is important to understand that the other 97 percent are entirely unmonitored,” she said. “Students are the only ones that are monitored.

Morgan also said that efforts to attract foreign students should be encouraged, not impeded.

“Generations of American foreign-policy leaders have pointed to educational exchanges as one of our most successful foreign policy tools, the most proven and effective way for the United States to build a foundation for dialogue and partnership with the rest of the world,” she said.

Jill Welch, who oversees NAFSA public policy, said in a statement that the group would oppose the measure, calling it “unfortunate that Senator Grassley’s recent statements imply a false connection between foreign students and terrorism.”

She said the legislation is “redundant because DHS already has the authority to shut down fraudulent programs after an investigation and due process.”

The Grassley legislation is similar to a proposal introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in 2012 that failed to pass. Grassley said that as the number of foreign students being issued visas has grown, the amount of risk posed by the program is expanding. He cited a recently released Brookings Institution report showing the number of visas in U.S. colleges and universities grew from 110,000 in 2001 to 524,000 in 2012.

“Despite this overwhelming increase, the technology and oversight of the student visa program has insufficiently improved,” he said. “Now, 13 years after 9/11, we have sham schools setting up in strip malls without real classrooms. We have foreign nationals entering the U.S. with the intent to study, but then disappear and never attend a real class.”

Thomas Kean 9/11 Commission Co-Chair told ABC News that he is stunned the federal government continues to lose track of so many foreign nationals who had entered the country with student visas. He noted that both the hijacker who flew the airplane into the Pentagon and the man who drove the van containing explosives into the World Trade Center garage in 1993 were student visa holders who were no-shows at school.

“It’s been pointed out over and over and over again and the fact that nothing has been done about it yet…it’s a very dangerous thing for all of us,” Kean said. “The fact that there’s been no action on this is very bothersome.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — In a montage that includes militant jihadists wielding automatic weapons, exploding buildings, and even an apparent firing squad, the most arresting image lasts only a moment, but it is unmistakable: a masked terrorist brandishing a knife.

New Mexico Senate candidate Allen Weh made headlines last month when his campaign included the image — a still from the ISIS video of James Foley’s beheading — in a 60-second campaign spot.

Including an image from one of the year’s most high-profile murders in a campaign ad is a risky move politically — especially when that image comes from a particularly gory piece of extremist propaganda. But addressing the threat of ISIS is becoming almost unavoidable as national security issues continue to dominate the news cycle.

“That video is rough, but that’s the unvarnished truth,” Weh told ABC News. “The whole message was very simple: failed leadership in Washington.”

ISIS is “absolutely going to be on the front of people’s minds” this election cycle, he added.

And slowly but surely, other candidates have been following Weh’s lead.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who’s fighting to hold on to his seat against Democratic challenger Allison Lundergan Grimes, also invoked the ISIS threat. In an ad released last week, the McConnell campaign ties Grimes to Obama’s no-strategy-yet gaffe.

“These are serious times,” a narrator intones, as footage of an ISIS militant wielding an automatic weapon flashes on the screen. Later, a three-second clip shows Obama saying, “We don’t have a strategy yet.”

“When so many in Washington can’t do the job, shouldn’t Kentucky have a senator who can? Obama needs Alison Grimes. Kentucky needs Mitch McConnell,” the ad says.

The National Republican Congressional Committee also unveiled an ISIS-themed ad portraying incumbent Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., as soft on terror.

“America is under a new threat of terrorism, yet Nolan voted to cut funds from the fight against al Qaeda,” the narrator says, as the screen shows men in Middle Eastern garb.

“Rick Nolan. Dangerously Liberal. Wrong for Minnesota,” the ad concludes.

In Michigan, an ad released by the U.S. Senate campaign of Democratic Rep. Gary Peters doesn’t specifically reference terrorism but it does mention an upcoming “vote” — presumably a vote to authorize military action against extremists in the Middle East.

“When it comes time to cast a vote, the decision to put men and women in harm’s way is one of the toughest ones you can make, and I will always think of the people I served with, their sacrifices,” Peters, a former Navy Reservist lieutenant colonel, says in the ad.

And in perhaps the most hard-hitting spot of all, one candidate seeks to tie his opponent not to ineffective policy — but to the terrorists themselves.

David Perdue, a Republican battling Democrat Michelle Nunn for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat, recently dusted off an old ad linking Nunn to militants.

“In her campaign plan, Michelle Nunn admits she’s too liberal, and her foundation gave money to organizations linked to terrorists,” the ad says.

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