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World

U.S. Extends Terror Alert Through End of News Cycle

Washington – The U.S. State Department is extending the worldwide terror warning it issued two days ago, until the end of the current news cycle, according to officials. The officials stressed this was not indicitive of a new threat, but a continuation of the original one, which cited an “unspecified threat against unknown targets,” most likely perpetrated by operatives of an al Qaeda affiliate in the Arabian Peninsula.

Officials continued to offer no further details about a specific time or target of the threat, but said they are now, “more certain than ever it will occur in Europe, Africa, or Asia. Possibly elsewhere.”

This morning, State Department spokesman John Crowley notified the media the State Department was extending the warning “until at least the end of this current news cycle.”

“We don’t have details on where specifically the threat might be targeted, and we don’t know exactly when it is intended to occur,” Crowley said, “but we do know we want it to be the top story for the next few days or so.”

Crowley added that the warning might wind down sometime this weekend.

“We issued the threat on Sunday night/Monday morning,” he said. “We’re looking at possibly lessening the severity, starting on Friday or maybe Saturday.”

Asked for details on what prompted the extension, Crowley noted “an abundance of caution,” due to the unusually high level of chatter.

“And this is not just your usual chatter,” Crowley added. “This is very sophisticated, high-level stuff. It’s some of the best chatter I’ve ever seen.”

Categories
National

Obama: Snowden Can Make His Case in Court, Like Any Other Guilty Traitor

Washington – During a press conference Monday, President Obama denied that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the leaker of classified information regarding U.S. government surveillance programs, was a patriot or a hero, and pointed out that the 29-year-old systems administrator had other, “more reasonable” options, besides leaking details of the programs to journalists.

The president was responding to a question from Chuck Todd of NBC News, and he was unequivocal in his denouncing of Snowden’s decisions, including his accepting a year-long offer of temporary asylum in Russia, where he now resides.

“Edward Snowden is not a patriot or a hero, in my book,” the president said. “There are other avenues he could have taken. He could have come back here, to the United States, and faced the charges against him, like any other traitor to this nation, whom we know to be guilty. He would have let us incarcerate him without due process in a Supermax prison, where he would likely be stripped of his clothes, put in solitary confinement, and denied any of the basic rights that most human beings enjoy, including the right to privacy. He would have had no right to visitors and only occasional consultations with an attorney. He would have been given something approximating a trial, and quickly found guilty of the crimes we already know he committed, with the result of probably being incarcerated for the rest of his natural life in horrible conditions. Now, why he chose a different path, I can’t say, but he did.”

Snowden has not commented on Obama’s remarks, though his specific whereabouts in Russia are unknown at this time and it may be exceedingly difficult for him to make any public statements.

At another point in the press conference, Obama admitted there was “tension” with Russian President Vladimir Putin over his refusal to extradite Snowden to the United States and instead offer him asylum. This even after a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to Russia’s minister of justice, which said, in part, “Seriously, we’re not going to kill him. You can totally send him back.”

Asked if Snowden was “brave,” Obama denied that, as well.

“If his conscience bothered him and he thought what was going on was wrong, before he chose to break the law, he could have gone to the proper authorities and told them what he thought was wrong,” Obama said. “He would have been ignored, or fired, or possibly charged with some unrelated crime and discredited, maybe disgraced in some sex scandal created out of whole cloth by the CIA, but he could have done it, and it would have been the right thing to do. And that’s the point.”

Obama was also asked if Snowden had reason to be concerned about his treatment in light of the finding of the UN special rapporteur on torture related to the treatment of PFC Bradley Manning, who was convicted of leaking troves of classified documents and other information to WikiLeaks. The U.N. rapporteur found the U.S. guilty of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of Manning, who was held in solitary confinement for almost a year, and stripped of his clothes on several occasions.

“I don’t think that’s relevant at all,” Obama said. “They’re different people. It’s apples and oranges. No, it’s even more different than that. It’s apples and Cadillacs.”

Categories
National

Man Kind of Disappointed NSA Isn’t More Interested in His Phone Calls

Santa Clara, CA – Mitch Benson, a computer programmer, is feeling a little down in the dumps lately. It seems the NSA is not interested in the content of his phone calls.

“It just kind of sticks in your craw a bit,” Benson said. “I mean, what’s wrong with me? I make interesting phone calls. Maybe not to a foreign country, or to a terrorist, but sometimes to some really weird people who say crazy shit. Doesn’t that count? Don’t I warrant some kind of stricter review?”

Benson said it’s unfair that only calls to and from someone living in a foreign country, or calls involving someone the NSA considers a “target,” might have their content recorded. For U.S. calls, it appears only the metadata is recorded, or the information on what number called which other number, not the content of the calls itself.

“It’s stupid, all this attention on foreign countries. What about me? I’m an American. I pay taxes. I deserve some attention, too,” Benson said. “You’re going to spend all that money to record somebody in Pakistan? How about you put some money into us here at home? Record some of us, for a change.”

Benson said it is some relief that his emails may be monitored more closely, as he thinks he has sent and received emails from people living in other countries. But that relief is small, and it doesn’t go very far.

“It’s not the same,” he said. “Any idiot anywhere can send an email. I get one a day from some guy in India saying I can claim his inheritance.”

Categories
World

U.S. Less Hospitable to Whistleblowers than Country That Poisons Them with Polonium

Washington – When Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who leaked classified information about vast NSA information-gathering capabilities, accepted a year-long temporary asylum offer from Russian authorities, it was the clearest proof yet of what many have suspected for a long time — the United States is now more hostile toward whistleblowers and leakers of classified information than most countries on earth, including countries that have them killed with poisonous, radioactive material.

This includes even Russia, whose leadership was thought by many to have been behind the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko with a radioactive isotope of Polonium, Polonium-210. He became violently ill, shortly after meeting with former Russian agents in the United Kingdom, where he had been granted political asylum, and he died within weeks. Litvinenko was a former officer in the Russian secret service who publicly blew the whistle on what he claimed was the ordered assassination of tycoon Boris Berezovsky. He went on to reveal several other criminal acts by Russian leadership, which included Vladimir Putin.

Snowden, who was virtually trapped in the transit area of the Moscow airport for over a month, apparently found the leadership thought to be responsible for the alleged murder of Litvinenko to be a safer bet than returning home and facing justice in the United States. Another prominent U.S. whistleblower, Bradley Manning, was recently convicted of several acts of espionage, and faces up to 136 years in prison.

“I wouldn’t come home either, if I was in his place,” said Mark Jacobi, a criminal justice professor at Georgetown University. He points out that the Obama Administration and its Justice Department have waged a remarkably vicious war against whistleblowers and others involved in the leaking of classified information.

“This administration has charged double the number of people under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined. They’ve tapped reporters phones, they’ve gone after journalists. This is not a nice administration, if you’re into disclosing information that the powerful might not want disclosed. I know one guy who told a reporter what the White House lunch special was, and he’s now in several different pieces, all over the world.”

Categories
World

Terrorist Smuggles Entire al-Qaeda Training Class Aboard Flight to U.S.

Chicago, Illinois – Officials at O’Hare International Airport, the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration are piecing together clues as to how an alleged terrorist was able to smuggle 12 of his al-Qaeda training school classmates onto a flight from Germany to Chicago in his carry-on luggage.