US-soldier-killed-in-possible-Afghan-insider-attack

U.S. soldier killed in possible Afghan insider attack

An Afghan man dressed in the uniform of local security forces opened fire on U.S. soldiers in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing one American and wounding several more before the shooter himself was killed, a U.S. official said.

Many details surrounding the incident were still unclear. The Pentagon and U.S. State Department only confirmed an exchange of gunfire between U.S. and Afghan forces, saying an investigation was ongoing.

“I can confirm that one American soldier was killed today,” Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters.

Asked whether this was an insider attack by an Afghan soldier turning his weapon against NATO forces, Warren said: “It’s a little early to tell. Indications are leaning that way.”

“But we need to let a little more information come out first,” Warren added.

Two Afghan soldiers were also injured in the shootout, but it was unclear who had fired first, Afghan police said.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said shooting was initiated by an unidentified Afghan man dressed in the uniform of Afghan security forces. He was killed in the ensuing return fire from American troops.

A second U.S. official estimated that around six Americans were wounded.

The U.S. State Department acknowledged only that an exchange of gunfire took place about an hour after State Department officials held a meeting with the provincial governor in Jalalabad. They had left the site before the shooting began, officials said.

“I have seen nothing to indicate they were targeted though, and I know the investigation is ongoing,” said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

The frequency of “insider attacks” in Afghanistan has fallen sharply this year as most foreign forces withdrew from the country in 2014.

A small contingent of around 12,000 NATO troops remains in Afghanistan to train Afghan forces after the combat mission officially ended last year.

Wednesday’s incident was the first since January, when three U.S. military contractors were killed by an Afghan soldier in the capital Kabul.

In the final years of the war, dozens of incidents seriously eroded trust between Afghan forces and their international allies, forcing the coalition to scale back interaction with government troops.

The Taliban have sometimes claimed that insider attacks reflect their ability to infiltrate the enemy, but Afghan and coalition forces say incidents more often arise over misunderstandings or arguments between troops.

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Jeb Bush Gives One Of His Most Revealing Interviews Yet

Jeb Bush previewed his plans Monday to attack one of Hillary Clinton’s supposed strengths, criticizing her foreign policy record and blaming current global unrest in part on her term as secretary of State.

“She can’t do the Heisman on the first four years of the Obama foreign policy” and then disown the current unrest abroad, Bush said Monday while appearing on The Hugh Hewitt Show.

Since Bush began considering a run for president late last year, he has been virtually absent from the influential conservative talk-radio circuit. But this was his second appearance in as many months on Hewitt’s program, even coming in-person to Hewitt’s Southern California studio Monday. In recent months, Hewitt has emerged as the go-to pundit for the Republican Party establishment.

On the show, Bush sketched out his lines of attack against the presumptive Democratic nominee. “The pullback began then,” Bush said of Clinton’s tenure. “The reset with Russia, the discussions with Syria, the red line, all these things created the beginnings of what we’re now seeing.”

Bush repeatedly flapped his hawkish wings in the talk-radio appearance, saying he would have abandoned nuclear negotiations with Iran “a long time ago,” criticizing President Obama for showing “incredible disrespect” for Israel and for the administration’s handling of Russian President Vladimir Putin, “trash-talking the guy and doing nothing.”

He went on to channel his brother, former President George W. Bush, calling some of America’s foes in the Middle East “barbarians” and “evil doers.” And he defended the controversial domestic spying program, blaming Obama for failing “to persuade people that their civil liberties are being protected by the systems we have in place.”

In the 30-minute interview, Bush also opened up a bit about his Catholic faith and religious freedom laws, something he has been reticent to do, as documented this week in National Journal.

He embraced Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s recent signing of a controversial religious-freedom law calling it “the right thing” to do. The legislation has sparked intense backlash from Democrats and gay-rights groups, but Bush noted that President Clinton had signed a similar measure two decades ago.

“This is simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs, to have, to be able to be people of conscience,” Bush said. “I just think, once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all.”

In recent weeks, some of Bush’s biggest skeptics in the faith community had specifically mentioned wanting to hear from Bush on the issue of religious liberties. His comments Monday put him publicly in line with the conservative evangelical right that he is quietly wooing ahead of his expected presidential run.

Unsolicited, Bush also brought up the fact that Tuesday marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman whom Bush helped keep alive against the wishes of her husband through a legal and legislative battle that captured the nation’s attention. Her ultimate death, Bush said, “was one of the most difficult times in my life, to be honest with you.”

Bush went on to speak about the extent to which his Catholic faith informs his policy-making. “I’m going to get my economic policy from Milton Friedman and others like that, not from the Pope,” he said. “And as it relates to social doctrine, I do think where my faith comes into play is most as it relates to the most vulnerable in our society.”

Toward the end of the interview, Bush declined to address questions about whether Hillary Clinton should turn over the server that held her private emails (Bush maintained a private email account himself as governor), saying only that, “I put my money on Trey Gowdy,” the Republican leading the House’s investigative committee.

“That guy is a superstar,” Bush said. “He respects the rule of law. He’ll be a gentleman about it, but he’s not going to give up on this notion that she needs to come clean with what she knows about that information and other things, for sure.”

As for acknowledging that he’s actually running for president, Bush took a pass.

“Not today,” he told Hewitt.

Tim Alberta contributed to this article.

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New Bergdahl letter outlines torture

Washington (CNN)House Speaker John Boehner said Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is “innocent until proven guilty” after the U.S. military charged him with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, but emphasized in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Dana Bash that he was more concerned about the circumstances of his release.

Bergdahl’s attorney also released a statement on Wednesday, outlining his defense of the soldier and containing a two-page letter from Bergdahl describing the torture he endured, which included months spent chained to a bed and further years spent chained on all fours or locked in a cage.

“Well, like any American, you’re innocent until proven guilty. And these charges are coming. There will be a trial,” he told Bash in an interview taped Wednesday to air Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Boehner said the “more troubling part of this” is the fact that the U.S. government traded five Taliban fighters for Bergdahl’s release, and that recent reports indicate one has returned to the battlefield. He expressed concerns about other detainees held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, which President Barack Obama is working to close, “ending up back on the battlefield and threatening Americans here and abroad.”

Obama “violated the law” in failing to alert Congress before the prisoner swap occurred, Boehner added.

“And I still believe that’s the more troubling part of this,” he said. “We’ve made clear in the past that we won’t negotiate with terrorists, and but yet here we did.”

Military officials announced Wednesday afternoon they would charge Bergdahl with one count each of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

Bergdahl left his post in Afghanistan before being captured and held captive for five years. For that, he faces charges that carry a maximum penalty of life in a military prison, and he could also have to forfeit pay and be stripped of his rank, Army Col. Daniel King said as he announced the charges.

Bergdahl faces a military procedure similar to a grand jury that will whether charges are appropriate, King said. Then, he could face court martial proceedings.

The decision comes nearly a year after Bergdahl returned to the United States as part of a prisoner exchange and since the Army began a formal investigation into his disappearance from his unit in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009.

The Army concluded its investigation into the circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture in December. Until now, it has been in the hands of Gen. Mark Milley, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, who made the decision to charge Bergdahl. Several U.S. military officials CNN has spoken with suggested privately that the process took longer than expected.

Ahead of Wednesday’s announcement, officials said Milley only had a few choices. Though the sense had been that Bergdahl must be held accountable for his actions, there had been little appetite for a lengthy term in military confinement given the five years Bergdahl was held by the Taliban.

Shortly after the charges were announced, Bergdahl’s attorneys released a lengthy statement that includes a letter sent to Milley earlier this month outlining their defense of the soldier.

“In light of the nearly five years of harsh captivity Sgt. Bergdahl endured, the purpose of his leaving his unit, and his behavior while a prisoner, it would be unduly harsh to impose on him the lifetime stigma of a court-martial conviction or an other than honorable discharge and to deny him veterans benefits,” attorney Eugene R. Fidell writes in the letter.

The statement includes a two-page accounting from Bergdahl of his time in captivity, in which he recounts months spent chained to a bed, then further years spent chained on all fours or locked in a cage.

Bergdahl said for years his body and health declined due to malnourishment, and sores on his wrists and ankles from the shackles grew infected.

“My body started a steady decline in constant internal sickness that would last through the final year,” he said.

Bergdahl was frequently beaten, at times with copper wire or a thick rubber hose, and forced to watch Taliban videos, he said. He had no concept of time, and was repeatedly told he would be killed and would never again see his family.

“I was kept in constant isolation during the entire five years, with little to no understanding of time, through periods of constant darkness, periods of constant light, and periods of completely random flickering of light and absolutely no understanding of anything that was happening beyond the door I was held behind,” he wrote.

Bergdahl tried a dozen times to escape, he wrote.

Now 28, Bergdahl was taken by the Haqqani terrorist network. But the circumstances of Bergdahl’s departure from his base and how willingly he left have not been clear.

King said he couldn’t offer those details on Wednesday, and that they’re being treated as evidence for the upcoming proceedings against Bergdahl.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Arizona, called the charges an “important step” on Wednesday.

“This is an important step in the military justice process towards determining the accountability of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl,” he said in a statement. “I am confident that the Department of the Army will continue to ensure this process is conducted with the utmost integrity under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, meanwhile, lambasted the “unevenness” of Obama’s swap of five Taliban prisoners for Bergdahl.

“I wouldn’t have done this trade for a Medal of Honor winner,” he told CNN. “No military member should expect their country to turn over five Taliban commanders to get their release. Nobody should expect that. It’s not the nature of his service that drives my thinking it’s just the illogical nature of the swap.”

Some members of Bergdahl’s platoon have criticized him, labeling Bergdahl a deserter.

“I was pissed off then, and I am even more so now with everything going on,” former Sgt. Matt Vierkant, a member of Bergdahl’s platoon when he went missing on June 30, 2009, told CNN last year. “Bowe Bergdahl deserted during a time of war, and his fellow Americans lost their lives searching for him.”

Bergdahl was freed in May when President Barack Obama agreed to swap five Taliban prisoners who had been detained in Guantanamo Bay to secure Bergdahl’s freedom, sending those detainees to Qatar.

Obama announced Bergdahl’s release to fanfare in the White House Rose Garden, flanked by the Army sergeant’s parents, Bob and Jani Bergdahl. His hometown of Hailey, Idaho, had planned a parade to celebrate Bergdahl’s homecoming but later canceled that celebration amid security concerns stemming from the unanswered questions surrounding his disappearance and the resulting controversy over his release.

After returning to the United States, Bergdahl had been on active duty at an administrative job at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. There, the Army assigned Bergdahl a “sponsor” to help him adjust to life in his new post. Upon returning, Bergdahl refused to meet with his parents — and months later, Army officials had said he was communicating with them but still had not met them face to face.

The five figures the United States exchanged to secure Bergdahl’s release were Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa, Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Nori, Abdul Haq Wasiq and Mohammad Nabi Omari. They were mostly mid- to high-level officials in the Taliban regime and had been detained early in the war in Afghanistan because of their positions within the Taliban, not because of ties to al Qaeda.

The detainee swap for Bergdahl has become increasingly controversial in recent weeks after a report published by the office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said one of the 17 intelligence agencies operating under its umbrella had judged that a prisoner released in the exchange had since contacted the Taliban.

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Ex-Navy SEAL faces up to 12 years for scheme that ensnared brothers in arms

A Navy SEAL who shattered the elite special force’s code of brotherhood by stealing from his brethren to finance his luxurious lifestyle and gambling faces up to 12 years in prison, not to mention the scorn of men who served with him but now consider him “the most repugnant scum on Earth.”

Jason Mullaney, part of SEAL Team Five until 2003, convinced 11 SEAL team members and one civilian to invest a collective $1.2 million into his company, Trident Global Financial Holdings.

Named after the Trident SEAL symbol, Mullaney said his company would award loans to credit-challenged small businesses and individuals for high interest rates, secured with assets that covered the principal and profit. Investors would receive back their investment plus a 24 percent profit within a year, Mullaney pledged.

“Jason, I wish you the worst and hope that you rot in Hell for what you did to all of us – you are the most repugnant scum on Earth.”- Former Navy SEAL Alexander Sonnenberg

Instead, Mullaney ran a pyramid scheme, and, rather than repay investors, he spent their money on a new Mercedes Benz, an extravagant home and on gambling in Las Vegas, according to prosecutors.

The SEALs had no idea they were cheated until some tried to collect on their investment. Mullaney, they reported to the FBI and San Diego District Attorney on April 27, 2011, had vanished with their money.

Former Navy SEAL Alexander Sonnenberg lost $160,000.

“The worst part of my experience with Jason Mullaney is the reprehensible way he calculatingly misrepresented himself to solicit former teammates that he knew would trust him as a brother…,” Sonnenberg said in a written statement.

Navy SEAL Kevin Blackwell lost $10,000. “[Jason] made fools of all of us and, in the end, only looked out for his own interests. He didn’t care about my daughter’s college fund or anyone else, their financial futures, impacts on their families, or their livelihood.”

April Riel, then a forensic investigator with the Office of the San Diego District Attorney, found Mullaney loaned a quarter of the $1,154,327 he took from his investors, repaid $55,050 to one investor, and spent the rest to enhance his lifestyle.

Layne Austin Pollack told San Diego investigator Micheal Brown he was with Mullaney at the Hard Rock Restaurant & Casino Las Vegas when Mullaney blew $40,000 at a blackjack table. He added Mullaney owned a $1.4 million home, an Aston Martin and a Range Rover, and frequently used cocaine with him.

In a July 30, 2012, declaration in support of an arrest warrant, Brown said Mullaney was dangerous and a flight risk. Brown cited an interview he’d conducted with Ruben Cuevas, who was threatened and assaulted by Mullaney after he was unable to repay a loan from Trident in full.

In 2010, when he met Mullaney about the debt, Cuevas said he pulled out a semi-automatic handgun, pointed it at Cuevas’ head and ordered Cuevas to get on his knees. After Cuevas complied, he said Mullaney struck him on the head several times with the butt of the gun, and then pointed at the shower door, where Cuevas said he saw a pair of garden sheers, a blowtorch, a metal hammer and some zip ties.

Cuevas said Mullaney told him he planned to use the items to smash or cut Cuevas’ fingers. Mullaney then bound Cuevas’ hands and feet and placed duct tape over his eyes and mouth. He let Cuevas choose which finger he would cut, and after Cuevas indicated his pinky, Mullaney cut his finger and then used the blowtorch to cauterize the bleeding. Mullaney told Cuevas he had to repay the loan or Mullaney would hurt or kill his family.

When Cuevas reported the incident to police, they documented bruises on the back of his neck, red marks on his wrists and ankles consistent with being bound, Brown said in his report. Mullaney was never convicted in that alleged incident.

However, on July 30, 2012, Mullaney was charged with 35 counts — including grand theft, securities fraud and tax fraud.

San Diego Deputy District Attorney Hector Jimenez told Judge Frederick Maguire the manner in which Mullaney carried out his crimes indicated “planning, sophistication and professionalism.”

Mullaney pleaded guilty to four charges on Sept. 8, 2014, including three counts of grand theft and one count of securities fraud.

In an Oct. 6 sentencing memorandum, Jimenez wrote, “The defendant stole from multiple victims over a long period of time.”

Mullaney asked to withdraw his guilty plea at his October sentencing, but thejudge denied the request Jan. 21, saying there was no “buyer’s remorse.”

When he is sentenced March 17, Mullaney faces up to 12.8 years in prison. Until then, he is at the Vista Detention Facility.

One family is struggling to recover from their financial dealings with Mullaney. Navy SEAL Commander Steven Elias and his wife Kirsten hired Mullaney in 2008 to sell their investment property.

Mullaney, who worked separately as a real estate agent with First California Funding and McJab Realty, sold their house in June 2008 but, according to Steven, never turned over the $345,000 profit.

Meanwhile, the Elias family suffered a series of personal tragedies.

In 2009, after Steven Elias’ mother’s home caught fire, they learned she had Alzheimer’s, and had to be put in a home. She died in Oct. 2009.

Fifteen days later, Elias was deployed to Beirut.

Three days after Christmas that year, Elias and his wife learned their 2-year-old son was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Elias returned home so he and Kirsten could find a cure.

“Our family was stricken with the worst situation any parent could possibly have to face,” Kirsten told the judge.

Their son died 11 months later, on Nov. 8, 2010.

All the while, they were unable to get Mullaney to return the $345,000.

Steven Elias told law enforcement officials he discovered forged escrow instructions that ordered the money wired to Mullaney’s personal bank account.

After 30 years of service, Elias was eligible to retire, but had to sign up for another five-year tour to pull the family out of debt.

“Mullaney has completely betrayed my family and me,” Elias told the judge.

The family was in such financial duress, they were unable to bury their son in a cemetery nearby.

“We are devastated beyond belief,” Kirsten Elias said.

Born in WallaWalla, Wash., Mullaney and his two sisters moved frequently with their parents because their father was in the U.S. Air Force.

After graduating from high school in 1990, Mullaney enlisted in the military, and was accepted to the SEAL program. He received multiple commendations, certificates, honors and awards. Mullaney obtained his real estate license and opened his company Trident while he was on active duty.

According to a pretrial services report, Mullaney claimed that in 2008 he was diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, PTSD and schizophrenia, and is currently on several medications. His psychiatric evaluation is not public.

Several friends wrote letters in support of Mullaney. One, former Navy Seal Brian Mackey, said: “When I first heard of what happened to Jason, I was shocked that anyone could think so low of an individual who had done so much to help many people like me.”

But Sonnenberg’s statement to Mullaney is likely more reflective of the SEAL community’s views: “Jason, I wish you the worst and hope that you rot in Hell for what you did to all of us – you are the most repugnant scum on Earth.”

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Two Japanese hostages, one demand from ISIS: Hand over $200 million, or else.

Two Japanese hostages, one demand from ISIS: Hand over $200 million, or else.

The else being that the pair will meet the same gruesome fate as other captives held by the terrorist group, others who were shown in ISIS videos kneeling in orange jumpsuits in front of masked, black-clad men — just like the Japanese hostages identified as Kenji Goto Jogo and Haruna Yukawa — shortly before being beheaded.

In the latest video, a masked man gives the Japanese government a choice to pay $200 million — the same amount of money Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently pledged for those “contending” with ISIS — to free the Japanese men. That deal holds for 72 hours, which would seem to mean sometime Friday, since the video appeared on social media Tuesday.

Another move that theoretically could change things would be if Japan’s government halts its alliance with those fighting ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State. Tokyo hasn’t participated in airstrikes aimed at the Islamist extremist group, though its leaders have supported those who have, as well as the Iraqi government.

“Although you are more than 8,500 kilometers away from the Islamic State, you willingly volunteered to take part in this crusade,” the masked man on the video posted Tuesday says, addressing his comments to Abe.

But Abe, who is visiting the Middle East, didn’t seem about to bargain Tuesday.

He stood by a pledge, made in a speech at the weekend in Cairo, for funding to help build “human capacities, infrastructure and so on” for those affected by ISIS’ armed campaign.

“The pledge aid is very important to the refugees in need and has nothing to do with the Islamic communities or the radical militants,” the Prime Minister said. “… We will contribute to the (region’s) peace and stability, in cooperation with the global community.”

As to the ISIS threat against two of his nation’s citizens, Abe called it “unacceptable.”

“I feel angry about it,” he said. “I strongly urge them to immediately release the hostages without harming them.”

Abe: ‘Terrorists should not be forgiven’

ISIS has asked for ransoms before, and apparently has been paid them. But rarely are such demands made publicly. Even rarer — unprecedented, in fact — is when the militant group puts its captives on video and threatens them, then lets them go.

Instead, ISIS has made a public show out of its threatening and killings of Western hostages, starting with August’s beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley.

Others’ killings were similarly recorded and posted online, including American journalist Steven Sotloff, British aid worker David Haines, British taxi driver Alan Henning and U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig.

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While not participating in ground combat, both the United States and Great Britain have taken an active role in the anti-ISIS fight with airstrikes and training, arming and otherwise supporting groups — such as Iraq’s military, Kurdish fighters and moderate Syrian opposition — taking on the militants face-to-face.

That’s not the case for Japan, whose post-World War II constitution allows it to use its military only for self-defense. But Tokyo is a strong ally with Western powers, such as the United States, that have been singled out by ISIS.

In his remarks Tuesday in Jerusalem, Abe — who dealt with another hostage crisis involving Islamic militants in January 2013, when 10 Japanese citizens were caught up in the terrorist seizure of a natural gas facility in Algeria — said he had ordered Japanese officials to do the utmost to try to save the two men.

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At the same time, the Prime Minister added, “Terrorists should not be forgiven, for any reason. I criticize (the taking of hostages) emphatically.”

A lost soul and a journalist

The aim is to safely bring home two men who were in the same war-torn region for very different reasons.

Like Foley and Sotloff, Goto went there to help tell the story of what was happening in Iraq and Syria. In recent months, ISIS militants have managed to take over vast swaths of both countries, ruthlessly going after many in their way who don’t share their extremist interpretation of Islam.

The ISIS video refers to him as “Kenji Goto Jogo,” but on his Twitter handle — and a photograph accredited to him — he’s just called Kenji Goto.

The freelance journalist reported for various Japanese news organizations about the situation in the northern Syrian battleground city of Kobani, which for weeks has been under siege by ISIS, and other areas.

While it’s not known when he was taken captive, Goto’s last Twitter post was on October 23.

The man purportedly shown along with him, Yukawa, is believed to have been captured in Syria in August while traveling with rebel fighters, according to the Japanese news agency Kyodo.

The 42-year-old claimed to have set up a company in Tokyo providing armed security services and posted videos online of his activities in Iraq and Syria.

But a report by the news agency Reuters in August portrayed him as a lost soul, who went to the Middle East searching for a purpose after losing his wife, his business and his home over the previous decade.

Kyodo reported previously that Japanese officials in Jordan had being trying to secure his release, including talking to various groups with possible connections to his captors.

So what happens next?

Abe spoke firmly Tuesday against the terrorists and their $200 million ransom demand.

What he did not do, however, is rule out the Japanese government paying ransom or negotiating with its two citizens’ captors.

Like most countries, Japan has never advertised that it or Japanese companies have paid ransom for hostages. In fact, Japanese government officials have at times denied such a practice, and Japan is a signatory to a 2013 G8 communique that stated, “We unequivocally reject the payment of ransoms to terrorists, and we call on countries and companies around the world to follow our lead to stamp this out.”

One reason for this policy is that ISIS and groups like it can use ransoms to fund their bloody campaigns. Paying ransoms also may give them incentive to take more hostages, thus putting more people at risk. And ransoms might not always work, since ISIS and other hostage takers aren’t usually seen as trustworthy.

Still, ruling out ransoms also rules out one peaceful way to free Goto and Yukawa. It’s possible someone else may intervene to negotiate their release, whether out of goodwill or in exchange for something else. Or troops from a Japanese ally could launch a raid to get to them, like the unsuccessful one this summer to free Foley.

Either way, others could play a role in this story before it’s done — hence Abe’s comment Tuesday that the international community “needs to deal with terrorists without giving in to them.”

DEA Taps Privacy

DEA acknowledges massive phone call database

DEA acknowledges massive phone call database

The Drug Enforcement Administration has formally acknowledged that it maintained a sweeping database of phone calls made from the United States to multiple foreign countries. The program has since been discontinued, the Justice Department said Friday.

The revelation was made in a court filing in the case of a man accused of conspiring to export goods and technology illegally to Iran.

A DEA official wrote in a three-page document filed Thursday that the program relied on administrative subpoenas to collect records of calls originating in the U.S. to foreign countries, including Iran, that were “determined to have a demonstrated nexus to international drug trafficking and related criminal activities.”

The statement says the records kept track of the date, time and duration of the phone call between the initiating telephone number and the receiving telephone number.

The database could then be used to query a specific telephone number if law enforcement officials “had a reasonable articulable suspicion that the telephone number was related to an ongoing federal criminal investigation,” according to a declaration by Robert Patterson, a DEA assistant special agent in charge. The statement said the database did not include consumer content or personal identifying information.

Patrick Rodenbush, a Justice Department spokesman, said the program was discontinued in September 2013 and that all information held in the database has been deleted.

In a letter dated in March 2014, Sen. Patrick Leahy, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, urged Attorney General Eric Holder to ensure that the DEA program was discontinued and also made public. The program was collecting an “enormous number of records” as part of routine drug investigations, through methods that were intrusive and discriminate, according to the letter made public Friday.

The program is separate from a National Security Agency phone records program exposed in 2013 by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden. Though the DEA database appears to be more limited in scope, Leahy and others said its existence shows the extent to which electronic government surveillance has not been limited to counterterrorism investigations.

“The fact that the DEA has been engaged in similar bulk collection of records from service providers about calls between the United States and many other countries, and has been doing so without judicial review or independent oversight, is of great concern,” Leahy, D-Vt., wrote in the letter.

Hanni Fakhoury, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said he wasn’t surprised by the revelations of the DEA database, noting that, “When one agency starts doing something, other agencies are going to look for ways to also do it” if they think it would be helpful to them.

In a statement, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Patrick Toomey said the disclosure “underscores how the government has extended its use of bulk collection far beyond the NSA and the national security context, and into ordinary criminal investigations.

“It also shows yet again how the government has used strained legal theories to justify the surveillance of millions of innocent Americans under laws that were never written for that purpose,” he added.

Afghan women use graffiti as a medium as a voice

An Afghan woman’s tryst with graffiti to bring in positive changes in her country…

Inspiration can manifest itself in any form. Sometimes, it might seem too bizarre to relate to whereas at other times it might appear to be quite discernible that people would be just falling in love with it altogether. The other important aspect of this is that it’s not time-bound at all. One can say that it’s always a spontaneous reaction inside a human brain which is considered very opportune.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in war-torn places of the world where people struggling do have the guts to let their lives be an example of some great achievements. They want to make sure that deep beneath the constant shelling and bombing there is at least an element of eternal peace and harmony which can create a harmonious environment. One such volatile region is Afghanistan, still mired into sectarian violence and bedlam but at the same time trying hard to pick up the pieces after what has been a devastating experience almost on all fronts. More often than not, it’s mostly women who dream of getting rid of the inhumanely beleaguered past to start a new life.

Leading the motivating crusade to change the status of the country through her art works is Shamsia Hassani, 24. She teaches sculpture at Kabul University as an associate professor and she loves her profession a lot. Besides, she also heads a modern-day art group ROSDH as its founding member. In the entire country, she is the only female graffiti artist supported by a male graffiti artist Qasem Foushanji who too works on issues that people have to grapple with on a daily basis. He is also one of the members of her association ROSDH. “We are the two trying to shine light on the state of affairs our country is ducked in, “said she.

The capital which used to be a prime target of numerous bomb attacks and assassinations has now emerged as the popular hotspot for showcasing one’s artistic acumen like hers. Amidst the ruins of Kabul’s cultural heritage, she has displayed her own specialty in graffiti by drawing a spray-art work of a female hiding her face behind a sky-blue veil. Likewise, all other spray-paintings of women have been done to convey different messages to society which is still embroiled into mischief of the past. “The images reflect the impenetrable dimensions of women’s survival in Afghanistan. They are anguished about their way of life as it stands. I planned all this secretly at the destroyed Russian Culture Center here in Kabul because it was a safe place to do so, “said she. 

Making sure that its message is decoded well by people while they see it, she has buffed it up with a beautiful verse. “If a river lies in a dried state, it could get filled with water any time but once the creatures living inside it are dead because of this, they can never come back ever again” is her translated version of the poem already embedded into cavernous holes which were created inside the walls due to heavy shelling.  In reply to this anguish bursting through her illuminating face, she said, “The moment I realized what it was about, I could only think of it reflecting the lows and highs of Afghans. More importantly, those who lost their lives can no longer be with us”.  

So what led her to tap into this medium to demonstrate the aspect of ‘Yes, we can’ against the odds? Was it her fondness for graffiti because of its direct connection to people’s consciousness? Her interest in graffiti arose thanks to an artist from Britain named Chu who had visited the country way back in 2010 for the purpose of rendering the know-how of street art to the budding artists here. And that’s how she became a pupil of his training and got a chance to know about this people’s friendly medium at first-hand. Initially, she used to sketch her works and paint them in oil which she still does as part of her teaching at Kabul University.

Since her training session with Chu in the field of graffiti, she had become a well-versed at this in every way, letting the sore feelings or emotions flow on the surface. “It’s easy to persuade a big crowd to come peer at your graffiti-the street magic of art which an exhibition cannot do. Therefore, I prefer to use spray cans and stencils than otherwise to glorify my work as more society-centered in the context of its larger aims.

 

“Art like this is more accessible to people from all walks of life including those who aren’t well-read in society. More or less, each Afghan will be aware of what art is if graffiti is ubiquitously splashed on the walls and fences.” Every second is important for her and she finishes her graffiti accordingly. “Usually I am very fast when it comes to doing graffiti because I may not be so lucky next time to find some other opportunity to continue my work. Therefore, the value of time in my case is quite significant, “said she.

With a sad note, the excitement just gets overshadowed by the conservative elements that are still rampant across the country and barging with their dictatorial agendas which try to suppress the voice of women. “There is always the possibility of women being harangued unnecessarily in our intolerant society, making it difficult for them to step outside their homes, “said she.

 

When one’s determination is too strong to evaporate, there is no chance that obstacles will stand in the way to create unnecessary incongruity. “What one could refer to as unusable stuff could also be utilized if one’s frame of mind is in a positive tenor. I am displaying my works in buildings which have been left bare open as a result of infighting going on but they seem to be a perfect corner where people could relate to what they are going through, “said Shamsia.

As prejudices of all sorts continue against women, she favors virtual graffiti which gives her a lot of scope to send the clear message without being bogged down by hateful comments from men in the street. This is what she does. She captures the shots of places liked by her and then tries to work upon them using latest tools like Photoshop where she makes the entire thing digitally attractive. Sometimes, she publishes an image of the street on which to insert graffiti dimensions with the help of a paintbrush. When she is done with all this, she puts the painted images in a scanner to get their print outs looking quite authentic. But they are not. Every now and then, after printing the pictures she does graffiti with brush, oil and acrylic color on the picture walls. What else could she do in such fragile circumstances?

Whatever graffiti works she has been able to do so far, most of them have shown women wearing burqas. Nonetheless, she has given a modern touch to them by bringing in new contemporary silhouettes with sexy hips and shoulders. In some of her works, there are fishes mired in an immovable state inside their soggy territory.

“The truth is that sometimes politicking is not the right way to resolve matters relating to people’s interests. Rather, they could be addressed amicably by different means which teaches no divide at all. And the prowess of art is a genuine method to bringing an end to conflicts, “said she.

Her family’s roots are etched in Kandahar (Taliban’s safe haven) where she comes from. Strangely, her birth took place in Iran. Her parents had fled to this country as a result of continuing violence where they lived like refugees.

“I chose art just as everybody did during my childhood. The road wasn’t that easy. A lot of them simply gave in and went to do something else. Though there were no art teachers to guide me, I was determined to go on and spruce up my knowledge about art as a whole.”

While living in Iran there was another hurdle waiting to striker her. As she got promoted into ninth grade (the appropriate time for learning art lessons in the country), her face became pale after hearing that such lessons were forbidden for Afghans, forcing her to opt for accountancy.

However, Shamsia and her parents decided to come back to their own native land. Soon afterwards, she enrolled at the University art department in Kabul to make up for what she had missed. Though there were conventional barriers here and there, she kept her spirits high and moved on with doing research on contemporary art. Since she is a professor at the University, she wishes to launch a graffiti course in her bid to make as many Afghans familiar with art as possible. “I have inkling that my city can be a backyard of stirring graffiti adorning every wall if this course comes into being, “said she.

That’s why graffiti is the most sought-after phenomenon among youths fighting for their rights worldwide. And certainly Shamsia Hassani is no exception but someone to be really admired for her forward-looking essence in a region where nothing is predictable.

By Nagmani

International Correspondent/ Writer, IJRNews

An Afghan woman’s tryst with graffiti to bring in positive changes in her country…

An Afghan woman’s tryst with graffiti to bring in positive changes in her country…

"Shamsia"

Inspiration can manifest itself in any form. Sometimes, it might seem too bizarre to relate to whereas at other times it might appear to be quite discernible that people would be just falling in love with it altogether. The other important aspect of this is that it’s not time-bound at all. One can say that it’s always a spontaneous reaction inside a human brain which is considered very opportune.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in war-torn places of the world where people struggling do have the guts to let their lives be an example of some great achievements. They want to make sure that deep beneath the constant shelling and bombing there is at least an element of eternal peace and harmony which can create a harmonious environment. One such volatile region is Afghanistan, still mired into sectarian violence and bedlam but at the same time trying hard to pick up the pieces after what has been a devastating experience almost on all fronts. More often than not, it’s mostly women who dream of getting rid of the inhumanely beleaguered past to start a new life.

Leading the motivating crusade to change the status of the country through her art works is Shamsia Hassani, 24. She teaches sculpture at Kabul University as an associate professor and she loves her profession a lot. Besides, she also heads a modern-day art group ROSDH as its founding member. In the entire country, she is the only female graffiti artist supported by a male graffiti artist Qasem Foushanji who too works on issues that people have to grapple with on a daily basis. He is also one of the members of her association ROSDH. “We are the two trying to shine light on the state of affairs our country is ducked in, “said she.

The capital which used to be a prime target of numerous bomb attacks and assassinations has now emerged as the popular hotspot for showcasing one’s artistic acumen like hers. Amidst the ruins of Kabul’s cultural heritage, she has displayed her own specialty in graffiti by drawing a spray-art work of a female hiding her face behind a sky-blue veil. Likewise, all other spray-paintings of women have been done to convey different messages to society which is still embroiled into mischief of the past. “The images reflect the impenetrable dimensions of women’s survival in Afghanistan. They are anguished about their way of life as it stands. I planned all this secretly at the destroyed Russian Culture Center here in Kabul because it was a safe place to do so, “said she.

Making sure that its message is decoded well by people while they see it, she has buffed it up with a beautiful verse. “If a river lies in a dried state, it could get filled with water any time but once the creatures living inside it are dead because of this, they can never come back ever again” is her translated version of the poem already embedded into cavernous holes which were created inside the walls due to heavy shelling.  In reply to this anguish bursting through her illuminating face, she said, “The moment I realized what it was about, I could only think of it reflecting the lows and highs of Afghans. More importantly, those who lost their lives can no longer be with us”.  

So what led her to tap into this medium to demonstrate the aspect of ‘Yes, we can’ against the odds? Was it her fondness for graffiti because of its direct connection to people’s consciousness? Her interest in graffiti arose thanks to an artist from Britain named Chu who had visited the country way back in 2010 for the purpose of rendering the know-how of street art to the budding artists here. And that’s how she became a pupil of his training and got a chance to know about this people’s friendly medium at first-hand. Initially, she used to sketch her works and paint them in oil which she still does as part of her teaching at Kabul University.

Since her training session with Chu in the field of graffiti, she had become a well-versed at this in every way, letting the sore feelings or emotions flow on the surface. “It’s easy to persuade a big crowd to come peer at your graffiti-the street magic of art which an exhibition cannot do. Therefore, I prefer to use spray cans and stencils than otherwise to glorify my work as more society-centered in the context of its larger aims.

 

“Art like this is more accessible to people from all walks of life including those who aren’t well-read in society. More or less, each Afghan will be aware of what art is if graffiti is ubiquitously splashed on the walls and fences.” Every second is important for her and she finishes her graffiti accordingly. “Usually I am very fast when it comes to doing graffiti because I may not be so lucky next time to find some other opportunity to continue my work. Therefore, the value of time in my case is quite significant, “said she.

With a sad note, the excitement just gets overshadowed by the conservative elements that are still rampant across the country and barging with their dictatorial agendas which try to suppress the voice of women. “There is always the possibility of women being harangued unnecessarily in our intolerant society, making it difficult for them to step outside their homes, “said she.

 

When one’s determination is too strong to evaporate, there is no chance that obstacles will stand in the way to create unnecessary incongruity. “What one could refer to as unusable stuff could also be utilized if one’s frame of mind is in a positive tenor. I am displaying my works in buildings which have been left bare open as a result of infighting going on but they seem to be a perfect corner where people could relate to what they are going through, “said Shamsia.

As prejudices of all sorts continue against women, she favors virtual graffiti which gives her a lot of scope to send the clear message without being bogged down by hateful comments from men in the street. This is what she does. She captures the shots of places liked by her and then tries to work upon them using latest tools like Photoshop where she makes the entire thing digitally attractive. Sometimes, she publishes an image of the street on which to insert graffiti dimensions with the help of a paintbrush. When she is done with all this, she puts the painted images in a scanner to get their print outs looking quite authentic. But they are not. Every now and then, after printing the pictures she does graffiti with brush, oil and acrylic color on the picture walls. What else could she do in such fragile circumstances?

Whatever graffiti works she has been able to do so far, most of them have shown women wearing burqas. Nonetheless, she has given a modern touch to them by bringing in new contemporary silhouettes with sexy hips and shoulders. In some of her works, there are fishes mired in an immovable state inside their soggy territory.

“The truth is that sometimes politicking is not the right way to resolve matters relating to people’s interests. Rather, they could be addressed amicably by different means which teaches no divide at all. And the prowess of art is a genuine method to bringing an end to conflicts, “said she.

Her family’s roots are etched in Kandahar (Taliban’s safe haven) where she comes from. Strangely, her birth took place in Iran. Her parents had fled to this country as a result of continuing violence where they lived like refugees.

“I chose art just as everybody did during my childhood. The road wasn’t that easy. A lot of them simply gave in and went to do something else. Though there were no art teachers to guide me, I was determined to go on and spruce up my knowledge about art as a whole.”

While living in Iran there was another hurdle waiting to striker her. As she got promoted into ninth grade (the appropriate time for learning art lessons in the country), her face became pale after hearing that such lessons were forbidden for Afghans, forcing her to opt for accountancy.

However, Shamsia and her parents decided to come back to their own native land. Soon afterwards, she enrolled at the University art department in Kabul to make up for what she had missed. Though there were conventional barriers here and there, she kept her spirits high and moved on with doing research on contemporary art. Since she is a professor at the University, she wishes to launch a graffiti course in her bid to make as many Afghans familiar with art as possible. “I have inkling that my city can be a backyard of stirring graffiti adorning every wall if this course comes into being, “said she.

That’s why graffiti is the most sought-after phenomenon among youths fighting for their rights worldwide. And certainly Shamsia Hassani is no exception but someone to be really admired for her forward-looking essence in a region where nothing is predictable.

By Nagmani

Honorary IJR News guest journalist

Sadaf Rahimi dream to become the Olympic boxing champ

Afghanistan’s first female Olympic boxer eyes London dream

By Nick Paton Walsh and Mitra Mobasherat, CNN
17-year-old Sadaf Rahimi was given a wild card to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.17-year-old Sadaf Rahimi was given a wild card to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — An arena where the Taliban used to execute women provides a chilling and incongruous setting for one teen girl’s unlikely Olympic dream.

But the dusty floors, broken mirrors, and poorly-lit hallways inside Kabul’s Ghazni stadium have been the training base for 17-year-old Sadaf Rahimi.

Dressed in a track suit, red lace up boots and a blue bandana, she is on course to become Afghanistan’s first female Olympic boxer and only the third Afghan sportswoman to compete at an Olympic Games.

“The first time I hit someone it was in my village, I was 11. It was actually my cousin,” she told CNN during a break from training. “Afterwards he said I hit him so hard that I should become a boxer!”

She did just that. A wild card from the Olympic committee has propelled the student towards the London games this summer, a daunting prospect given the modest resources at her disposal.

Rahimi and her teammates, including her sister Shabnam, can’t train in a proper boxing ring, because one doesn’t exist in war-torn Afghanistan. Instead dozens of girls and women in the team shuffle around in mismatched uniforms inside a small, dirty improvised gym complete with padded flooring.

“The equipment we have is pretty inadequate. I’ve even had to buy my own boxing socks,” she said.

Women’s boxing in Afghanistan

With sport facilities in short supply in Kabul, the boxing team’s time in this gym is limited.

“We can only train one hour a day, and that’s it,” said Rahimi. “It’s not enough to prepare for London. Other teams around the world train three times a day.”

Rahimi says she would like expert help in Dubai or India to be competitive against more seasoned international fighters.

But this is Afghanistan, where money is too often in all the wrong places. So they’re left hoping for a sponsor to help them out.

“We would like a sponsor with a good name in the world of sports. But more importantly a company that can assist our female athletes in the future, Rahimi’s coach, Mohammed Saber Sharifi, said.

Sharifi, a former male professional boxer and an advocate for women’s rights, believes the world will see Afghanistan in a different light when Rahimi steps into the ring in London.

“I hope the world can see that Afghan women are breaking down barriers by pursuing their dreams of becoming a professional athlete. We represent this country with pride,” he said.

I hope the world can see that Afghan women are breaking down barriers by pursuing their dreams of becoming a professional athlete.
Mohammed Saber Sharifi, coach

Afghan females imprisoned for ‘moral crimes’

The Afghan Amateur Women’s Boxing Association was established by the Cooperation for Peace and Unity project in 2007 to promote women and girls in sports.

When female athletes were banned by the Taliban from competing in sport, Afghanistan was suspended from competition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It missed the 2000 Olympics in Sydney as a result. Afghanistan — with female athletes involved for the first time — competed in Athens in 2004 after the Taliban had been ousted in 2001.

But the Taliban have not been the only obstacle.

In a country where human rights activists say women are still vulnerable to prejudice and a range of issues including domestic violence, forced marriage and sexual abuses, Rahimi fears for her own safety.

Her father spoke of anonymous threats and warnings that his daughters should not be boxing. Many fear this kind of conservatism in Afghan society will increase when NATO leaves the country.

“For one month I was not allowed to come to the gym for practice because of my safety”, she said.

While her own parents are extremely supportive of her and her sister, she says other family members have criticized their lifestyle.

“My aunt used to say girls should stay at home and do housework, they shouldn’t be going out and playing sports. She would say my actions are not in line with Islam.”

But Rahimi says this pressure doesn’t keep her from the sport she loves.

It’s easy to be impressed by the dedication shown by someone who says she’s never hit anyone in anger — well, not yet anyway.

Sadaf Rahimi dream to become the Olympic boxing champ

Afghanistan’s first female Olympic boxer eyes London dream

By Nick Paton Walsh and Mitra Mobasherat, CNN
17-year-old Sadaf Rahimi was given a wild card to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.17-year-old Sadaf Rahimi was given a wild card to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — An arena where the Taliban used to execute women provides a chilling and incongruous setting for one teen girl’s unlikely Olympic dream.

But the dusty floors, broken mirrors, and poorly-lit hallways inside Kabul’s Ghazni stadium have been the training base for 17-year-old Sadaf Rahimi.

Dressed in a track suit, red lace up boots and a blue bandana, she is on course to become Afghanistan’s first female Olympic boxer and only the third Afghan sportswoman to compete at an Olympic Games.

“The first time I hit someone it was in my village, I was 11. It was actually my cousin,” she told CNN during a break from training. “Afterwards he said I hit him so hard that I should become a boxer!”

She did just that. A wild card from the Olympic committee has propelled the student towards the London games this summer, a daunting prospect given the modest resources at her disposal.

Rahimi and her teammates, including her sister Shabnam, can’t train in a proper boxing ring, because one doesn’t exist in war-torn Afghanistan. Instead dozens of girls and women in the team shuffle around in mismatched uniforms inside a small, dirty improvised gym complete with padded flooring.

“The equipment we have is pretty inadequate. I’ve even had to buy my own boxing socks,” she said.

Women’s boxing in Afghanistan

With sport facilities in short supply in Kabul, the boxing team’s time in this gym is limited.

“We can only train one hour a day, and that’s it,” said Rahimi. “It’s not enough to prepare for London. Other teams around the world train three times a day.”

Rahimi says she would like expert help in Dubai or India to be competitive against more seasoned international fighters.

But this is Afghanistan, where money is too often in all the wrong places. So they’re left hoping for a sponsor to help them out.

“We would like a sponsor with a good name in the world of sports. But more importantly a company that can assist our female athletes in the future, Rahimi’s coach, Mohammed Saber Sharifi, said.

Sharifi, a former male professional boxer and an advocate for women’s rights, believes the world will see Afghanistan in a different light when Rahimi steps into the ring in London.

“I hope the world can see that Afghan women are breaking down barriers by pursuing their dreams of becoming a professional athlete. We represent this country with pride,” he said.

I hope the world can see that Afghan women are breaking down barriers by pursuing their dreams of becoming a professional athlete.
Mohammed Saber Sharifi, coach

Afghan females imprisoned for ‘moral crimes’

The Afghan Amateur Women’s Boxing Association was established by the Cooperation for Peace and Unity project in 2007 to promote women and girls in sports.

When female athletes were banned by the Taliban from competing in sport, Afghanistan was suspended from competition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It missed the 2000 Olympics in Sydney as a result. Afghanistan — with female athletes involved for the first time — competed in Athens in 2004 after the Taliban had been ousted in 2001.

But the Taliban have not been the only obstacle.

In a country where human rights activists say women are still vulnerable to prejudice and a range of issues including domestic violence, forced marriage and sexual abuses, Rahimi fears for her own safety.

Her father spoke of anonymous threats and warnings that his daughters should not be boxing. Many fear this kind of conservatism in Afghan society will increase when NATO leaves the country.

“For one month I was not allowed to come to the gym for practice because of my safety”, she said.

While her own parents are extremely supportive of her and her sister, she says other family members have criticized their lifestyle.

“My aunt used to say girls should stay at home and do housework, they shouldn’t be going out and playing sports. She would say my actions are not in line with Islam.”

But Rahimi says this pressure doesn’t keep her from the sport she loves.

It’s easy to be impressed by the dedication shown by someone who says she’s never hit anyone in anger — well, not yet anyway.