Super Bowl security document found on commercial flight

Policemen talk as a Super Bowl promotional banner showing Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hangs in an atrium at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. January 29, 2018

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) – A U.S. government document outlining plans for responding to a possible biological attack at Sunday’s Super Bowl in Minneapolis was left on a commercial jetliner, CNN reported on Monday, saying one of its employees found the paper in a seat pocket.

Multiple copies of the document, marked “for official use only” and “important for national security,” were found during a flight before the Super Bowl was played.

CNN said on its website it had delayed reporting about its discovery until after the game, at the request of federal officials. It did not say when the document turned up or if the flight in question was going to or coming from Minneapolis. CNN said it could not determine who left the documents on the airplane.

The errant document offered a critique of how officials performed during a simulated release of the infectious disease anthrax in Minneapolis on the day of the Super Bowl. Other sensitive material was also found, CNN said, without further description.

Officials conducted such exercises in July and November, as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s BioWatch program, according to CNN.

One of the biggest sporting events of the year, the National Football League’s championship Super Bowl is high on the list of potential targets for an attack, security experts have previously said.

The Department of Homeland Security often conducts exercises with state and local governments to guard against national security threats, Tyler Houlton, acting press secretary of the department, said in a statement in response to a Reuters inquiry about the CNN report.

“It is important that operators regularly exercise their capabilities against a wide range of scenarios in order to effectively counter the changing threat environment,” Houlton said.

Houlton declined to confirm whether any sensitive documents related to the Super Bowl were misplaced.

The game went off without a hitch, with the Philadelphia Eagles beating the New England Patriots, 41-33, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

The security plan included bomb-sniffing dogs, a massive police presence, helicopters and a chain-link and concrete fence surrounding the stadium, officials said at a news conference ahead of the game on Wednesday.

In preparation for the game, authorities conducted more than 200 security assessments of critical infrastructure in the Minneapolis area, in addition to training for everything from active shooters to bombings.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Shumaker)

Russia to amend law to classify U.S. media ‘foreign agents’

Journalists watch Russia's President Vladimir Putin on a big screen during his annual news conference in Moscow, December 20, 2012.

By Polina Nikolskaya and Andrew Osborn

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s parliament warned on Friday some U.S. and other foreign media could be declared “foreign agents” and obliged to regularly declare full details of their funding, finances and staffing.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the State Duma, said parliament could back legislation as early as next week in response to what lawmakers view as U.S. pressure on Russian media.

“Possible restrictions will be the same as those taken by the United States,” Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

He said some U.S. media in Russia were trying to turn U.S. public opinion against Moscow.

“We understand that it’s essential to protect the interests of our citizens and the country and we will do this in the same way as the country which lays claim to be the gold standard and mentor and which is constantly talking about freedom.”

Russian lawmakers said the move was retaliation for a demand by the U.S. Department of Justice that Kremlin-backed TV station RT register in the United States as a “foreign agent”, something Moscow has said it regards as an unfriendly act.

The U.S. action against RT came after U.S. intelligence agencies accused Russia of trying to interfere in last year’s U.S. presidential election to help President Donald Trump win the White House, something Moscow has denied.

 

RUSSIAN ELECTION

Russia faces a presidential election next March. Vladimir Putin is widely expected to stand again and to win. He remains broadly popular though critics accuse him of suppressing dissent not least by tight control of domestic media.

Lawmakers will conduct a first reading of the new restrictions on Nov. 15 and try to complete approval in two further readings by the end of next week.

U.S. and any other foreign media that fall under the new restrictions could have to regularly disclose to Russian authorities full details of their funding, finances and staffing and might be obliged to say on their social media profiles and internet sites visible in Russia that they are “foreign agents”.

The Duma earlier this year launched an investigation into whether CNN, Voice of America, Radio Liberty and “other American media” were complying with Russian law.

U.S. government-sponsored Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) said last month Moscow had threatened to brand their Russian language service projects “foreign agents” in retaliation for U.S. pressure on RT.

Russia said the same month it had dropped accusations against CNN International of violating Russian media law and that the U.S. channel could continue broadcasting in Russia.

 

San Francisco-based social network Twitter has also angered Russian authorities when it accused RT and the Sputnik news outlet of interfering in the 2016 U.S. election and banned them from buying ads on its network.

 

(Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

 

First charges filed in U.S. special counsel’s Russia investigation: source

First charges filed in U.S. special counsel's Russia investigation: source

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A federal grand jury on Friday approved the first charges in the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a source briefed on the matter told Reuters.

The indictment was sealed under orders from a federal judge so it was not clear what the charges were or who the target was, the source said, adding that it could be unsealed as early as Monday.

The filing of charges by the grand jury in Washington was first reported on Friday by CNN, which said the target could be taken into custody as soon as Monday.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in January that Russia interfered in the election to try to help President Donald Trump defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton through a campaign of hacking and releasing embarrassing emails, and disseminating propaganda via social media to discredit her campaign.

Special counsel Robert Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is investigating whether Trump campaign officials colluded with those Russian efforts.

“If the Special Counsel finds it necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a May 17 letter appointing Mueller.

Sources familiar with Mueller’s investigation said he has used that broad authority to investigate links between Trump aides and foreign governments as well as possible money laundering, tax evasion and other financial crimes.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, declined to comment on Friday.

Trump, a Republican who was elected president last November, has denied allegations that his campaign colluded with Russians and condemned investigations into the matter as “a witch hunt”.

The Kremlin has denied the allegations.

Mueller’s investigation also includes an effort to determine whether Trump or any of his aides tried to obstruct justice.

The special counsel’s team has conducted interviews with former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, former spokesman Sean Spicer and other current and former White House officials.

In July, FBI agents raided the home in Virginia of Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, whose financial and real estate dealings and prior work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine are being investigated by Mueller’s team.

Mueller was appointed to lead the investigation a week after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who was heading a federal probe into possible collusion with Russia.

Trump initially said he fired Comey because his leadership of the FBI was inadequate and hurt morale, but in a later interview with NBC he cited “this Russia thing” as his reason.

SHADOW

The Russia investigation has cast a shadow over Trump’s nine-month-old presidency and widened the partisan rift between Republicans and Democrats.

Republican lawmakers earlier this week launched investigations to examine several of Trump’s longstanding political grievances, including the FBI probe of Hillary Clinton’s emails and her alleged role in a sale of U.S. uranium to a Russian firm.

Mueller’s team has also investigated Michael Flynn, who was an adviser to Trump’s campaign and later briefly served as his national security adviser.

Flynn was fired from that post in February after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the extent of his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak last year.

While he was on Trump’s campaign team, Flynn also had a $600,000 contract from a Turkish businessman to help discredit U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused by Turkey’s government of instigating a failed coup in July 2016.

Former CIA director James Woolsey, who was also an adviser to the Trump campaign, has alleged that Flynn discussed with the businessman and two Turkish government ministers the idea of covertly spiriting Gulen out of the United States to face charges in Turkey.

Jonathan Franks, a spokesman for Woolsey, said on Friday that Woolsey and his wife have been in communication with the FBI and Mueller’s team about the claim.

Woolsey and his wife, Nancye Miller, “have responded to every request, whether from the FBI, or, more recently, the Office of the Special Counsel,” Franks said in a statement.

Flynn has previously denied through a spokesperson that such a plan was ever discussed.

Reuters reported on Thursday that Woolsey and his wife last year pitched a $10 million project to the same Turkish businessman who had agreed a smaller contract with Flynn. They did not win a contract.

Bidding for a lobbying or consulting contract with a foreign company or government is not illegal but Flynn came under scrutiny because he waited until March to retroactively register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for the work he did on the Gulen project.

(Additional reporting by Nathan Layne, Mohammad Zargham and Eric Beech; Editing by Kieran Murray and Nick Macfie)

Trump Jr. to testify in Senate, Manafort lawyer subpoenaed: CNN

FILE PHOTO: Donald Trump Jr. speaks at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., has agreed to testify privately to the Senate Judiciary Committee as it looks into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, CNN reported on Tuesday, weeks after he was invited to testify in public at a hearing in July.

Spokesmen and spokeswomen for the committee’s leaders did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report.

CNN also reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had issued subpoenas to Melissa Laurenza, an attorney with the Akin Gump law firm, who formerly represented Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and to Jason Maloni, a Manafort spokesman.

CNN said Maloni and a spokesman for Mueller declined comment and that Laurenza referred questions to a spokesman who did not immediately comment.

Russia has loomed large over the first six months of the Trump presidency. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia worked to tilt last year’s presidential election in Trump’s favor. Mueller, who was appointed special counsel in May, is leading the investigation, which also examines potential collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia.

Several congressional committees are also looking into the matter.

Moscow denies any meddling. Trump denies any collusion by his campaign, while regularly denouncing the investigations as political witch hunts.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Grant McCool)

Three CNN journalists resign after Russia-related article retracted

(Reuters) – Time Warner’s news division CNN has accepted the resignations of three journalists after the publication of a Russia-related article that was later retracted, a CNN spokesperson said on Monday.

The three journalists included Thomas Frank, the writer of the story; Eric Lichtblau, an editor in CNN’s investigative unit; and Lex Haris, who oversaw the unit, the network had earlier reported. [http://cnnmon.ie/2td7Ufy]

The Russia-related story, published on Thursday, reported Congress was investigating the ties of a Russian investment fund to an aide of U.S. President Donald Trump.

CNN had reported an internal investigation by its management found that certain editorial processes were not followed when the article was published.

The report said CNN had deleted the story from its website on Friday night after its investigation.

The story was replaced with an editor’s note of apology to Anthony Scaramucci, the Trump aide who was reported to be investigated in the story. [http://cnn.it/2rVWDgm]

Trump has been critical of CNN, calling the news outlet “fake news” and refusing to take a CNN reporter’s questions at his first formal news conference earlier in the year after his Nov. 8 electoral win.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Bill Trott)

Russians suspected in hack of New York Times, other U.S. media

The sun peaks over the New York Times Building in New York

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The FBI and other U.S. security agencies are investigating cyber breaches targeting reporters at the New York Times and other U.S. news organizations that are thought to have been carried out by hackers working for Russian intelligence, CNN reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed U.S. officials.

“Investigators so far believe that Russian intelligence is likely behind the attacks and that Russian hackers are targeting news organizations as part of a broader series of hacks that also have focused on Democratic Party organizations, the officials said,” CNN said.

Reuters could not immediately confirm the report. The FBI declined to comment, and representatives for the U.S. Secret Service, which has a role in protecting the country from cyber crime, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The intrusions were detected in recent months, according to CNN. Citing the U.S. officials, it said the Times had hired private security investigators to work with national security officials in assessing the breach.

Representatives for the Times could not be immediately reached for comment.

News of the cyber attack comes amid a wave of similar attacks targeting major U.S. political parties that have surfaced in recent weeks ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election.

The Democratic National Committee, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the party’s congressional fundraising committee have all been affected.

Hackers have also targeted the computer systems of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Republican Party organizations, sources have told Reuters.

If confirmed, the breach at the Times would not be the first time foreign hackers infiltrated a news organization: media are frequently targeted in an order to glean insights into U.S. policies or to spy on journalists.

In 2013, a group of hackers known as the Syrian Electronic Army also attacked Times and other media outlets. Chinese attackers also infiltrated the Times that year.

(Reporting by Dustin Volz, John Walcott and Mohammad Zargham in Washington, and Jessica Toonkel in New York; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Frances Kerry)

ISIS Says 150 Christian Prisoners Will Be Released

Terrorist group ISIS says that all the 150 Christians kidnapped this week are “safe” and that they plan to release them in a few days.

Assyrian International News Agency interviewed a man who is not part of ISIS but connected with many ISIS fighters and he reported that the Christians are in “good condition.”

The source said that while the terrorists insist they will be releasing the Christians within a week he doubts that’s what they will really be doing.  He cited the fact that ISIS is known for executing Christians on video for use in social media propaganda.

“The local ISIS members said the hostages are ‘safe’ and in ‘good condition’ and will be released within a few days,” the report states. “But given the history of the brutality of ISIS, Matthew (the source) said he doubts the hostages will be released.”

Osama Edward of the Assyrian Human Rights Network told CNN that ISIS will likely release a video threatening to kill the captives.

Edward showed CNN a video of a woman who fled the kidnappings.

“They [ISIS] went into Tel Hurmiz and killed people there, even young men. We didn’t understand what had happened fully, but there was so much fear in our hearts that we didn’t even know how to escape. In the south [of the village] even old men and women were fleeing. All the roads were closed, there wasn’t a single car. No one could help us. We called some people in Qamishli who came to get us, who came to Zumar after Tel Tamar. People were running with house clothes on,” the woman says.

ISIS Says Torture and Slavery Part of Islam

A German journalist has emerged from an investigative mission inside ISIS and has brought out a surprising story about life under the terrorist regime.

Juergen Todenhoefer visited a mosque in Mosul where the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his only public speech.  He wanted to capture the daily activities of ISIS and said that despite the cruelty of ISIS, there is a “sense of normalcy” in Mosul.

“130,000 Christians have been evicted from the city, the Shia have fled, many people have been murdered and yet the city is functioning and people actually like the stability that the Islamic State has brought them,” Todenhoefer wrote.

The author says despite the feeling of normalcy, there is a layer of fear.

“Of course many of the them are quite scared, because the punishment for breaking the Islamic State’s strict rules is very severe.”

Todenhoefer said that ISIS fighters told him their goal is to take over the world.

“We will conquer Europe one day,” one terrorist said. “It is not a question of if we will conquer Europe, just a matter of when that will happen. But it is certain … For us, there is no such thing as borders. There are only front lines.

“Our expansion will be perpetual … And the Europeans need to know that when we come, it will not be in a nice way. It will be with our weapons. And those who do not convert to Islam or pay the Islamic tax will be killed.”

When asked about Shia Muslims around the world who do not believe in the ISIS version of the faith, the response was short and brutal.

“150 million, 200 million or 500 million, it does not matter to us,” the fighter answered. “We will kill them all.”

Part of the interview quoted by CNN showed ISIS endorses slavery:

“So do you seriously think that beheadings and enslavement actually signal progress for humanity?” Todenhoefer asked.

“Slavery absolutely signals progress,” the man said. “Only ignorant people believe that there is no slavery among the Christians and the Jews. Of course there are woman who are forced into prostitution under the worst circumstances.

“I would say that slavery is a great help to us and we will continue to have slavery and beheadings, it is part of our religion … many slaves have converted to Islam and have then been freed.”

New Orleans Saints Player Takes Bold Stand On Ferguson

A member of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints is causing a bit of a stir in the wake of the Ferguson riots by saying the situation is not a problem of race.

Benjamin Watson, a tight end for the Saints, says the problem is sin.

Watson said he was sympathetic to the family and friends of Michael Brown and since he wasn’t there he can’t say exactly what happened but that ultimately the problem is our fallen world.

“I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn,” wrote Watson.

“BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.”

Watson has repeated his stance on various networks including CNN, which cut him off when he began talking about Jesus.  The moment Watson said Jesus died for our sins, the CNN feed from Watson cut off and the network claimed they lost the feed.

Female Ex-ISIS Member: “I Knew I Had To Escape”

A woman who had been “duped” into joining the Islamic State terrorist group is speaking out in an attempt to keep other women from being deceived into joining the murderous organization.

The woman, a 25-year-old who had been an ISIS patrol officer and whose name has been kept secret by CNN to protect her, said she fled the group just before U.S. airstrikes in September.

“I don’t want anyone else to be duped by [ISIS],” the woman speaking under the alias of “khadija” told CNN. “Too many girls think they are the right Islam.”

Khadija said a Tunisian man that she met through an online dating service influenced her.  He spoke glowingly about the terrorist group, saying they were not terrorists and that the media was slandering their group.  He said they were just trying to “implement true Islam.”

She joined the man in Raqqa and was part of a women’s patrol unit that would beat any woman not wearing the correct Sharia clothing.  She said that once she saw ISIS’ brutality first hand, she could no longer support the group.

She now is living in fear in Turkey that ISIS has her marked for death.

“A girl who is merry, who loves life and laughter… who loves to travel, to draw, to walk in the street with her headphones listening to music without caring what anyone thinks,” she said. “I want to be like that again.”