In an presidential election campaign that has had virtually every possible surprise, only one thing was missing: a terrorist attack.
Alas, even that may be on the horizon because as CBS News reported moments ago, the news station has learned about a potential terror threat for the day before the election: “Sources say U.S. intelligence has alerted joint terrorism task forces that al-Qeada could be planning attacks in three states for Monday.
CBS adds that it is believed New York, Texas and Virginia are all possible targets, though no specific locations are mentioned.
A senior FBI official told CBS News, ““The counterterrorism and homeland security communities remain vigilant and well-postured to defend against attacks here in the United States. The FBI, working with our federal, state and local counterparts, shares and assesses intelligence on a daily basis and will continue to work closely with law enforcement and intelligence community partners to identify and disrupt any potential threat to public safety.” During holiday seasons and when big events are approaching, intelligence about potential threats always increases.
While CBS tried to moderate the warning by noting that the “sources stress the intelligence is still being assessed and its credibility hasn’t been confirmed, but counterterrorism officials were alerted to the threat out of abundance of caution”, such a threat may lead to a depressed turnout in these three states and potentially impact the outcome of the presidential election.
An unnamed former Navy official has warned the residents of Alaska to prepare for an invasion in the event of war between the U.S. and Russia.
The Daily Star has reported that a former high-ranking Naval official has evidence to suggest Russia is preparing to invade Alaska if war breaks out between the United States and Russia.
“We are the verge of being invaded from Alaska all the way down into Canada and eventually the Northwest,” he said.
The invasion, according to the Naval official, will begin via submarine incursion near the city of Wasilla, approximately 43 miles northeast of Anchorage.
Wasilla is located along the coast of the Knik Arm, a body of water that branches into the Cook Inlet, which flows west into the Gulf of Alaska.
“Our feeling in the Navy was that Obama had turned Alaska into a defenseless area that will serve as a forward base of operations when World War III begins,” the unnamed official suggested.
Russians disguised as “highway road crews” are allegedly already in Alaska preparing to serve in an asymmetrical role during a full-scale invasion. The crews are set to “disrupt communications and seize vital bridges” when war begins.
Another anonymous source claimed Russians in “civilian clothing” have been seen moving into abandoned motels and military bases.
To describe the Alaskan coast around Wasilla as “undefended” is not entirely accurate, however; Joint Base Elmendorf–Richardson, site of Alaska Command, NORAD Alaska, the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division and the 11th Air Force, is located in Anchorage.
Clear Air Force Station, which houses a radar station designed to detect ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and Eareckson Air Station, which houses the Cobra-Dane radar system, are also located in Alaska.
As tensions with the United States continue to rise over competing interests in Syria and threatening language from American military officials, Russia has begun taking steps to build up its military capabilities in the sparsely populated Far East region of the country to counter American military forces in Alaska.
Russia recently announced plans to position a new coastal defense military division along its eastern coast by 2018, with some troops expected to be stationed approximately 50 miles from Alaska.
Deployment of the Iskander M, a mobile missile system capable of targeting aircraft and launching nuclear-armed missiles at targets up to 300 miles away, would drastically limit America’s ability to deploy F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in response to long range patrols by nuclear capable Tu-160 Blackjack and Tu-95 Bear bombers recently ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
‘The US and its allies had established a Field Operations Room in the Aleppo region integrated by intelligence personnel. Until it was targeted by a Russian missile attack on September 20, this “semi-secret” facility was operated by US, British, Israeli, Turkish, Saudi and Qatari intelligence personnel…
…The Fars report conveys the impression that the Operations Room was largely integrated by Israelis. In all likelihood, the US was “calling the shots” and the facility was coordinated by Washington’s regional allies, in close liaison with (and on behalf) of the US military and intelligence apparatus.
With the exception of the Fars report and Sputnik Arabic, this Russian attack directed against a US-led coalition intelligence facility has not made the headlines. In fact there has been a total news blackout. The accuracy of the Fars report is yet to be fully ascertained.
The United States Central Command released a statement admitting that they hit Syrian Army positions, but claim that they did not intend to target Syrian servicemen in violation of the ceasefire agreement, but were instead targeting Daesh terrorists.
US military officials acknowledge responsibility for the bombing attack against Syrian Army positions that paved the way for a major Daesh offensive against Assad government forces and that killed 62 Syrian service personnel, but claimed that the attack was an accident with the intended target being Daesh terrorists.
The attack was conducted by two F-16 fighter jets and two A10 ground attack aircraft that came into Syrian airspace through the Iraqi border without authorization from the Assad government.
The Russian Ministry of Defense immediately blasted the United States for the lethal attack observing that Daesh engaged in a major offensive after American forces crippled the Assad regime’s position. “If this airstrike was carried out due to an error in the coordinates of the targetm it is a direct consequence of US side’s unwillingless to coordinate its actions against terrorist groups with Russia,” the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman emphasized.
The attack came amid a ceasefire in Syria agreed upon by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry one week earlier and that came into effect on September 12. The attack threatens to undermine the delicate ceasefire agreement with the Syrian government concerned that it will provide Daesh terrorists an opportunity to regroup and that the rebels will not hold to the arrangement. Nonetheless, the attack also highlights the importance of the ceasefire deal and the need for the United States and Russia to coordinate on intelligence.
In the statement, Central Command says that “Coalition forces believed they were striking a Da’esh fighting position that they had been tracking for a significant amount of time before the strike. The coalition airstrike was halted immediately when coalition forces were informed by Russian officials that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military.”
The statement, provided in full below, goes on to imply that Russia is somehow to blame for the egregious accident that killed the 80 Syrian soldiers because the US claims that it “had earlier informed Russian counterparts of the upcoming strike.”
Syria is demanding the UN take action after it says French war planes killed more than 120 civilians during airstrikes on Tuesday near the Turkish-Syrian border. The deaths came just a day after US air assaults killed a further 20 people in Manbij.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry sent letters to the UN secretary general and to the president of the UN Security Council, which at present is Japan.
Damascus wants the organization to look into atrocities committed by France, which is a member of the US-led international coalition, after it targeted the village of Toukhan Al-Kubra, located near the Turkish-Syrian border and the city of Manbij.
“The French unjust aggression claimed the lives of more than 120 civilians, most of them are children, women and elderly, in addition to tens of wounded citizens, the majority of them are also children and women as reports say that the fate of scores of other civilians who still under debris are unknown too,” the Syrian Foreign Ministry wrote, as cited by the Syrian Arab News Agency.
The mass death toll in Toukhan Al-Kubra came just a day after US war planes killed around 20 people, mainly women and children, while many more were injured in and around the city of Manbij, the Foreign Ministry states.
“The government of the Syrian Arab Republic condemns, with the strongest terms, the two bloody massacres perpetrated by the French and US warplanes and those affiliated to the so-called international coalition which send their missiles and bombs to the civilians instead of directing them to the terrorist gangs… Syria also affirms that those who want to combat terrorism seriously should coordinate with the Syrian government and army,” the ministry added.
In the letter, the Syrian Foreign Ministry added that it condemns the continued support by the US, France, Saudi Arabia, the UK and Qatar to terrorist organizations such as Al-Nusra Front and Jaish Al-Islam, despite these groups having clear links to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Al-Qaeda.
The human rights watchdog Amnesty International also hit out at the US-led coalition, saying that it needs to do more to prevent the deaths of civilians.
“Anyone responsible for violations of international humanitarian law must be brought to justice and victims and their families should receive full reparation,” Amnesty’s interim Middle East director Magdalena Mughrabi said, as cited by Reuters.
A spokesman for the US Department of Defense says that it is aware of the loss of civilian life in Syria.
“We are aware of reports alleging civilian casualties near Manbij, Syria, recently. As with any allegation we receive, we will review any information we have about the incident,” Matthew Allen said in a statement.
“We take all measures during the targeting process to avoid or minimize civilian casualties or collateral damage and to comply with the principles of the Law of Armed Conflict,” he added.
The US-led coalition has been providing air support to the rebel group the Syrian Arab Coalition, which is involved in heavy fighting around the city of Manbij, currently under the control of Islamic State.
The terrorist group has been in control of the city since it seized large swathes of Syria and Iraq in the summer of 2014.
In an interview with NBC News last week, Syrian President Bashar Assad said that the US is not interested in defeating terrorists in Syria as it really wants “to control and use them.”
“The reality is telling that, since the beginning of the American airstrikes, terrorism has been expanding and prevailing,” he told the channel, specifying that “during the American and alliance airstrikes, ISIS was expanding and taking over new areas in Syria.”
“It’s about being serious, having the will. The United States doesn’t have the will to defeat the terrorists. It had the will to control them and to use them as a card, like they did in Afghanistan. That will reflect on the military aspect of the issue,” Assad said.
The Army plans to cut 40,000 soldiers from its ranks over the next two years, a reduction that will affect virtually all of its domestic and foreign posts, the service asserts in a document obtained by USA TODAY.
The potential troop cut comes as the Obama administration is pondering its next moves against the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria. President Obama said Monday he and military leaders had not discussed sending additional troops to Iraq to fight the Islamic State. There are about 3,500 troops in Iraq.
“This will not be quick — this is a long-term campaign,” Obama said at the Pentagon after meeting top military brass in the wake of setbacks that have prompted critics to call for a more robust U.S. response against the Islamic State.
An additional 17,000 Army civilian employees would be laid off under the plan officials intend to announce this week. Under the plan, the Army would have 450,000 soldiers by Sept. 30, 2017, the end of the 2017 budget year. The reduction in troops and civilians is due to budget constraints, the document says.
The Pentagon’s budget, released in February, envisioned the reduction to 450,000 would occur by Sept. 30, 2018.
Some of the cuts were expected. During the peak of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army swelled to about 570,000 soldiers to ensure that deployments could be limited to one year. After most troops came home from those wars, the Army planned to shrink.
The Army should bottom out at 450,000 soldiers, said Michael O’Hanlon, a military analyst at the Brookings Institution.
Cutting “more would make me quite nervous,” he said.
The Army declined to comment on the proposed reductions in its forces.
If the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration, set to begin in October, take place the Army would have to slash another 30,000 soldiers, according to the document. At that level, the Army would not be able to meet its current deployments and respond to demands for troops in other regions.
Among the proposed changes, brigades at Fort Benning, Ga., and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska will be downsized from units of about 4,000 soldiers to battalion task forces of 1,050 soldiers.
Downsizing Army forces in Alaska “makes no strategic sense,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Republican member of the Armed Services committee from Alaska. The White House emphasis on shifting military assets to the Asia-Pacific region and concerns about Russian aggression in the Arctic require strong forces in Alaska.
“One person who’s going to be very pleased with this is Vladimir Putin,” Sullivan said.
The Army overall will require more than 450,000 soldiers because the number of national security challenges around the world have “risen dramatically” in the past few years.
In 2013, the Army maintained in budget documents that dipping below 450,000 soldiers could prevent it from prevailing in a war.
NBC News spoke with the suspect’s father: ‘We’re apologizing for the whole incident… This had nothing to do with religion,” he said. He went on to say that “his son got very angry when he saw two men kissing in downtown Miami.”
The NBC News report also notes that approximately 320 people were in club when the shooting began.
Update 11:33 am ET:
Florida Gov has declared a state of emergency. City of Orlando also declared state of emergency.
More from Badolato: Many of those brought into area hospitals, local reports say, were in grave critical condition. Hospitals are preparing for intensive trauma surgeries. In addition, local eyewitnesses reported seeing police officers doing chest compressions on victims in the back of pickup trucks.
Update 11:09 am ET:
ORLANDO, Fla — Breitbart News’ Andy Badolato, reporting from the scene, says the local police have swept the night club for bombs. They have not, however, removed any of the at least 50 dead bodies yet. At least 53 people were also taken to local hospitals putting, the victim count at at least 103 total. The status of those taken to area hospitals is unclear.
Update 10:54 am ET:
NBC’s Pete Williams reports that terrorist was on a “watch list” over associations w “suspicious” ppl several yrs ago.
Orlando recently wrapped up its annual weeklong Gay Days festival on June 6 in which up to 150,000 in the LGBT community attend area theme parks, gay nightclubs and special events. It was the 25th anniversary of Gay Days. It is one of the largest gay pride events in the world.
Update 9:54 am ET — Sessions:’More of these attacks are coming’
And it’s not stopping as we see apparently today. More of these attacks are coming. It’s a real part of the threat that we face and if we can’t address it openly and directly, and say directly that there is an extremist element within Islam, that’s dangerous to the world and has to be confronted.
Update 8:22 am ET: The FBI believes the massacre may have perpetrated by someone “leanings to radical Islamic terrorism.”
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun opened fire inside a crowded Florida nightclub early Sunday, killing at least 50 people in the worst mass shooting in American history before dying in a gunfight with SWAT officers, police said.
Authorities were investigating it as an act of terrorism.
At least 53 other people were hospitalized, most in critical condition, officials said.
“I think we will see the death toll rise,” said Dr. Mike Cheatham a trauma surgeon at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
Mayor Buddy Dyer said all of the dead were killed with the assault rifle.
“There’s blood everywhere,” Dyer said.
The suspect exchanged gunfire with an officer working at the gay club known as Pulse around 2 a.m., when more than 300 people were inside. The gunman then went back inside and took hostages, Police Chief John Mina said.
Around 5 a.m., authorities sent in a SWAT team to rescue the hostages. Police have not determined an exact number of casualties, but Mina said “approximately 20” bodies were inside the club.
In addition to the guns, the shooter also had some sort of “suspicious device,” Mina said.
Authorities were looking into whether the attack was an act of domestic or international terror, and if the shooter acted alone, according to Danny Banks, an agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
“This is an incident, as I see it, that we certainly classify as domestic terror incident,” Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said.
The suspect was identified as Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Rep. Alan Grayson named the shooter, citing law enforcement officials. A federal law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation also confirmed the name. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
FBI agent Ron Hopper said there was no further threat to Orlando or the surrounding area.
When asked if the gunman had a connection to radical Islamic terrorism, Hopper said authorities had “suggestions that individual has leanings towards that.”
Police had said previously on Twitter that there was a “controlled explosion” at the scene of the shooting. Mina said that noise was caused by a device intended to distract the shooter.
A woman who was outside the dance club early Sunday was trying to contact her 30-year-old son, Eddie, who texted her when the shooting happened and asked her to call police. He told her he ran into a bathroom with other club patrons to hide. He then texted her: “He’s coming.”
“The next text said: ‘He has us, and he’s in here with us,’” Mina Justice said. “That was the last conversation.”
Dozens of police vehicles swarmed the area around the club. At least two police pickup trucks were seen taking what appeared to be shooting victims to the Orlando Regional Medical Center.
Pulse posted on its own Facebook page around 2 a.m.: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running.” Just before 6 a.m., the club posted an update: “As soon as we have any information, we will update everyone. Please keep everyone in your prayers as we work through this tragic event. Thank you for your thoughts and love.”
Local, state and federal agencies were investigating.
President Barack Obama was briefed on the attack and has asked for regular updates on the investigation, the White House said.
The attack follows the fatal shooting late Friday of 22-year-old singer Christina Grimmie, who was killed after her concert in Orlando by a 27-year-old Florida man who later killed himself. Grimmie was a YouTube sensation and former contestant on “The Voice.”
Jon Alamo said he was at the back of one of the club’s rooms when a man holding a weapon came into the front of the room.
“I heard 20, 40, 50 shots,” Alamo said. “The music stopped.”
Club-goer Rob Rick said the shooting started just before closing time.
“Everybody was drinking their last sip,” he said.
He estimated more than 100 people were still inside when he heard shots, got on the ground and crawled toward a DJ booth. A bouncer knocked down a partition between the club area and an area in the back where only workers are allowed. People inside were able to then escape through the back of the club.
Christopher Hansen said he was in the VIP lounge when he heard gunshots. He continued to hear shooting even after he emerged and police urged people to back away from the club. He saw the wounded being tended to across the street.
“I was thinking, ‘Are you kidding me?’ So I just dropped down. I just said, ‘Please, please, please, I want to make it out,’” he said. “And when I did, I saw people shot. I saw blood. You hope and pray you don’t get shot.”
Less than a month after a news outfit reported that dozens of airport employees around the country have potential ties to terrorists, officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) admit that only three airports in the United States require workers to undergo security checks. The astounding admission, delivered this week before Congress, comes on the heels of a number of cases involving gun and drug-smuggling schemes operated by airline employees at major airports, including those located in Atlanta, New York and San Francisco.
In all of the cases, airport workers used their security badges to access secured areas of their respective facilities without having to undergo any sort of check. As if this weren’t bad enough, last month government records obtained by the media revealed that 73 employees at nearly 40 airports across the nation were flagged for ties to terror in a June 2015 report from the DHS Inspector General’s Office. The files identified two of them working at Logan International Airport in Boston, four at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and six at Seattle-Tacoma International in Washington State. Here’s the government’s explanation for letting the potential terrorists slip by; the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) didn’t have access to the terrorism-related database during the vetting process for those employees. You can’t make this stuff up!
Now we learn that only three of the nation’s 300 airports—Atlanta, Miami and Orlando—require employees to undergo security checks before work, even though there’s an epidemic of illicit activity among this demographic. The unbelievable stat was delivered by DHS officials testifying at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing this week. In the aftermath of the Belgium terrorist attacks, the hearing was scheduled to address efforts in this country to prevent attacks on passenger and freight targets that could lead to mass casualties. The head of TSA, Robert Neffenger, told lawmakers that the agency has increased the inspection of employees five-fold in the last five months but admitted improvements must be made and the nation’s airports will provide a report by the end of the month assessing their vulnerabilities.
That still doesn’t’ explain why only three of the country’s airports require employees to undergo security checks a decade and a half after the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Apparently DHS can’t afford it and doesn’t really need it. At least that’s what a little-known entity called the Aviation Security Advisory Committee determined last spring. Composed of individuals representing private-sector organizations affected by aviation security requirements, the committee typically meets four times a year and advises the TSA on aviation security matters. The panel was established in 1989 after a terrorist attack on Pan Am flight 103 and members include representatives from various trade groups such as the Cargo Airline Association, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, the U.S. Travel Association and the Airport Consultants Council. These are the folks that are deciding crucial issues associated with airport security.
In a 2015 report the committee wrote that most airports can’t afford daily employee screening and, even if they could, it wouldn’t do much good. That’s because full screening wouldn’t “appreciably increase the overall system-wide protection,” according to the committee’s findings and “no single measure can provide broad-spectrum protection against risks or adversaries.” Furthermore, this group of aviation advisors concluded that daily screening of airport workers “is incapable of determining a person’s motivations, attitudes and capabilities to cause harm, among other limitations.” Under that ridiculous argument, airport security would be eliminated altogether for everyone.
“The president is mobilized, fully mobilized, mobilized to the extent that circumstances demand,” Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on Saturday.
“The circumstances are unprecedented. The gauntlet thrown down to Russia is unprecedented. So naturally the reaction is in line with this threat,” he told Russia’s “News on Saturday” TV program.
In addition to placing S-400 missiles in Syria on Thursday and deploying the Moskva missile cruiser, Russia is preparing to wage electronic warfare.
According to Lieutenant-General Evgeny Buzhinsky Russia will begin using land and air-based jamming systems to protect its aircraft.
“Regarding the possible impact of this incident on the further developments of the operation in Syria, I think that from now on, our pilots will be more attentive and if the Turks continue behaving in such a manner, Russia will have to resort to electronic jamming and other warfare equipment, including special aircraft with special equipment on board, in order to protect our pilots from being stricken with missiles,” Buzhinsky told Sputnik, the Russian news service.
Russia has reportedly struck more than 450 targets in Syria since its Su-24 warplane was shot down on the Syria-Turkey border. The strikes are concentrated primarily in the Latakia and Idlib provinces.
On Thursday Russia bombed the Bab al-Hawa border crossing used by the Turkish government to transfer weapons and money to the jihadists. According to the Israeli source DEBKAfile, targets on the Syrian side of the border post included trailers belonging to the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation, an organization accused of ties to al-Qaeda.
“DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that since Wednesday night, Nov. 25, Russian heavy bombers and warplanes have been hitting every Turkish vehicle moving or stationary inside Syria,” the website reported on Friday.
Turkey has suspended military flights over Syria and the United States halted airstrikes after Russia deployed its S-400 anti-aircraft system at the Khmeimim airbase.
Modern day homesteaders seeking an off-the-grid lifestyle in one of Colorado’s most rural areas have triggered what they moved there to avoid: a battle with the county government over land-use regulations.
Some off-grid residents accuse county officials of harassment and trying to run them out.
The battle turned a routine county commissioners’ meeting in San Louis, Colorado, into an ugly shouting match between sheriff deputies and off-grid homesteaders, Colorado Public Radio (CPR) reported. A YouTube video supplied to CPR shows deputies arresting off-grid demonstrators for chanting about the Constitution.
Located on the New Mexico border in the south-central part of the state, Costilla County is considered the oldest and ninth-least populated county in Colorado. In recent years it has seen an influx of mostly young and lower-income families seeking an off-the-grid lifestyle.
The newly proposed code would require a well, septic tank, and electricity to be installed in a home prior to receiving a building permit, CPR reported. That would require many off-gridders to leave, because water is scarce.
“We’ve been regulated out of life,” resident Robin Rutan told CPR. “I came here because I couldn’t live by the codes [in other regions]”
Many of the newcomers are veterans who want to get away from the city. Others simply cannot afford the high prices for land and homes in other, more fashionable parts of Colorado such as the Central Rockies. The situation is explosive because around 800 new residents have moved into a county that has a population of around 3,700, The Denver Post reported.
“People who come out here have already been through a lot,” resident Chloe Everhart told CPR. “For a lot of us, there’s not much of a home to go back to. … What’s next could be under a bridge in Denver.”
A combination of cheap land, lack of zoning regulations, scenery and solitude is luring the modern day homesteaders to the San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado. Sundance Stadler, a newcomer from Vermont, told The Post that he had paid $3,250 for five acres in Costilla County.
Is Camping on One’s Own Land Now Illegal?
One contentious issue is camping permits which are now required in the county. Many of the homesteaders are camping out while they build permanent homes, but the county has stopped issuing camping permits which makes it illegal for residents to camp on their own property.
“A lot of time we find families living in run-down sheds or in RVs, or some actually in tents,” Matthew Valdez, Costilla County’s land-use administrator, told The Post. “We tell them they cannot live in these conditions. A lot of them abandon their RVs here and they get vandalized, and after a while they become a trash issue.”
Water is one of the divisive issues because its supply is limited in the San Luis Valley. Most of the water rights are in the hands of farmers who have lived in the area for generations. Some off-gridders go to town (such as to a public facility) to fill up water containers.
Other issues include the effects on the schools and services. Costilla County’s chief administrative officer, Ben Doon, said that around 58 new students have enrolled in the local schools – a big increase for a small county.
“The vast majority is from people out there,” Doon told CPR, referring to the off-grid residents.
The conflict in Costilla County is not going to end anytime soon. There are around 40,000 subdivided lots in Costilla County — some which are being sold on the Internet to newcomers for a few thousand dollars.
“When you buy the land they make you think you can do anything with it,” said Rutan, who told CPR that she and her husband moved to the area because they no longer could afford to live in Glenwood Springs.
What do you think? Who is right – the off-grid residents or the county? Share your thoughts in the section below: