From the L.A. Daily News
4 TSA screeners at LAX arrested for allegedly taking bribes
by Art Marroquin
Two former and two current Transportation Security Administration screeners have been arrested for allegedly accepting bribes to allow large shipments of cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana to pass through Los Angeles International Airport over a six-month span, federal authorities said Wednesday.
All four were arrested Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, accused of various narcotics trafficking charges and accepting bribes as high as $2,400, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles.
Three alleged drug couriers also were named in a 22-count indictment issued Wednesday by a county grand jury.
"The allegations in this case describe a significant breakdown of the screening system through the conduct of individuals who placed greed above the nation's security needs," U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said.
Five drug deals spanning from February through July 2011 were allegedly orchestrated by former TSA screener Naral Richardson, who was fired from LAX nearly two years ago, according to the indictment.
Current TSA employees John Whitfield, 23, and Capeline McKinney, 25, also were charged, along with former screener Joy White, 27.
The TSA declined to specify why Richardson was fired in June 2010 or why White was released last year.
"While these arrests are a disappointment, TSA is committed to holding our employees to the highest standards," said Randy Parsons, the TSA's federal security director at LAX.
Duane Eleby of Downey is expected to surrender to authorities today for his part as a drug courier, authorities said.
Stephen Bayliss Jr. of Los Angeles, another alleged courier, was already in state custody. Authorities are seeking a third courier, Terry Cunningham of Los Angeles.
The current and former TSA workers face life in federal prison if convicted.
The smuggling scheme allegedly began Feb. 2, 2011, when Richardson arranged for Eleby to pass nearly 5 kilograms of cocaine through an X-ray machine operated by White inside LAX's Terminal 6, according to the indictment.
The deal was thwarted when Eleby went to the wrong terminal and the drugs were seized, authorities said.
A second attempt proved to be successful when Richardson and White unknowingly worked with an undercover operative from the Drug Enforcement Administration to pass 20 kilograms of cocaine through a security checkpoint inside Terminal 6 on Feb. 16, 2011, authorities said. The following week, the source paid Richardson $2,400 in cash.
Richardson then allegedly arranged two more separate drug deals on March 8, 2011, authorities said.
First, drug couriers Cunningham and Bayliss were instructed to take a pair of suitcases filled with 22 pounds of marijuana through White's security lane in Terminal 6, according to the indictment.
Then, Richardson allegedly accepted $600 from the DEA's source to smuggle 20 kilograms of cocaine through LAX with help from McKinney, authorities said.
In the final instance, Richardson enlisted Whitfield to help the DEA's source in smuggling nearly 4 kilograms of methamphetamine through Terminal 4 on July 1, 2011.
Shortly afterward, Whitfield met the operative in an airport bathroom and accepted $600 in cash, marking the second half of a $1,200 bribe, authorities said.
The former and current TSA screeners "traded on their positions at one of the world's most crucial airport security checkpoints," and "used their special access for criminal ends," said Briane Grey, acting special agent in charge of the DEA in Los Angeles.
Napolitano: Secret Service scandal `inexcusable'
by Laurie Kellman
WASHINGTON - There was no risk to President Barack Obama as a result of a prostitution scandal at a Colombia hotel that involved a dozen Secret Service officers, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a Senate panel Wednesday.
Napolitano, who was facing questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee for the first time since the scandal erupted earlier this month, testified that the alleged behavior by Secret Service employees is "inexcusable" and a "thorough and full investigation is under way." She said the officers' behavior "was not part of the Secret Service way of doing business."
"All 12...have either faced personnel action or been cleared of serious misconduct," Napolitano said. "We will not allow the actions of a few to tarnish the proud legacy of the Secret Service."
Napolitano also said part of the investigation will include a review of training to see "what if anything needs to be tightened up."
When asked by committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., if Secret Service officers are specifically training on issues related to having intimate relationships with foreign nationals, she said the training is "focused on professionalism, on conduct consistent of the highest moral standards."
Napolitano also testified that the Secret Service Office of Professional Responsibility, which is investigating the incident in Cartagena, Colombia, had not received any similar complaints of misconduct in the last 2 years.
The Homeland Security inspector general is also supervising the investigation and "the investigatory resources of the Secret Service," she said, adding that she expect the inspector general to do a complete investigation.
Leahy said before the hearing that he wanted to know how thorough the investigation into the misconduct has been and whether such behavior by Secret Service officers has been tolerated in the past.
"I think that's a very legitimate question. And I've raised it twice with the director of the Secret Service. We'll raise it again," Leahy told NBC's "Today Show."
The Secret Service announced late Tuesday that all 12 implicated officers had been dealt with: eight forced out, one stripped of his security clearance and three cleared of wrongdoing, all within two weeks of the night in question.
The scandal erupted after a fight over payment between a Colombian prostitute and a Secret Service employee spilled into the hallway of the Hotel Caribe ahead of President Barack Obama's arrival at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena. A dozen military personnel have also been implicated, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said they have had their security clearances suspended.
Obama said Tuesday the employees at the center of the scandal were not representative of the agency that protects his family in the glare of public life. "These guys are incredible. They protect me. They protect Michelle. They protect the girls. They protect our officials all around the world," the president said on NBC's "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon."
"A couple of knuckleheads shouldn't detract from what they do," Obama added. "What these guys were thinking, I don't know. That's why they're not there anymore."
Lawmakers across Congress say they are concerned about the security risk posed by the proximity the prostitutes - as many as 20, all foreign nationals - had to personnel with sensitive information on the president's plans.
"No one wants to see the president's security compromised or America embarrassed," Leahy said.
Napolitano said that there was no risk to the president. Questions about the culture of the agency, she said, are still being investigated but she was not aware of this being a wider problem.
"This behavior was not part of the Secret Service way of doing business," Napolitano testified. "We are going to make sure that standards and training, if they need to be tightened up they are tightened."
Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, House Speaker John Boehner said the scandal is an embarrassment to the agency and the United States, but stopped short of calling for an independent investigation.
"What I'm looking for are the facts. I don't want to just jump out there and make noise just to be making noise," Boehner told reporters. "Let's get to the bottom of this."
The Colombia scandal has been widely denounced by official Washington, but it's a delicate political matter in an election year with the presidency and congressional majorities at stake. All sides have praised Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan's swift action and thorough investigation, in part because he's spent significant time keeping key lawmakers in the loop. Pentagon officials, too, are investigating and are expected to brief Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin and ranking Republican John McCain on Wednesday.
In a similar but unrelated incident, Panetta said Tuesday that three Marines on a U.S. Embassy security team and one embassy staff member were punished for allegedly pushing a prostitute out of a car in Brasilia, Brazil, last year after a dispute over payment. Panetta, speaking in Brasilia, said he had "no tolerance for that kind of conduct."
The military investigation into the Cartagena incident is continuing.
Another Senate panel is looking for a pattern of misconduct. Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, told reporters on Tuesday that he'll hold hearings on the service's culture and whether clear rules exist on how employees should behave when they are off duty but on assignment.
"I want to ask questions about whether there is any other evidence of misconduct by Secret Service agents in the last five or 10 years," Lieberman said. "If so, what was done about it, could something have been done to have prevented what happened in Cartagena? And now that it has happened, what do they intend to do?"
From the Washington Times
U.S. seen as Iran ‘cyberarmy' target
Specialists to testify about threat
by Shaun Waterman
Iran is recruiting a hacker army to target the U.S. power grid, water systems and other vital infrastructure for a cyberattack in a future confrontation with the United States, security specialists will warn Congress on Thursday.
“Elements of the [ Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps ] have openly sought to pull hackers into the fold” of a religiously motivated cyberarmy, according to Frank J. Cilluffo , director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University .
Lawmakers from two House Homeland Security subcommittees will hold a joint hearing Thursday about the cyberthreat posed by Iran – as tensions over Tehran's nuclear program continue at a high level and as a possible Israeli strike against it looms.
The Washington Times obtained advance copies of witnesses' prepared testimony.
In his remarks, Mr. Cilluffo says that, in addition to the recruiting by the Revolutionary Guards, another extremist militia, the Basij, “are paid to do cyberwork on behalf of the regime, [and] provide much of the manpower for Iran 's cyber-operations.”
Both militias are thought to be under the control of Iran 's clerical leadership, headed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei . Two Revolutionary Guard leaders have been indicted by U.S. prosecutors in connection with a suspected plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia 's ambassador to the United States by bombing a prominent Washington restaurant.
“Over the past three years, the Iranian regime has invested heavily in both defensive and offensive capabilities in cyberspace,” states testimony from Ilan Berman , vice president of the hawkish American Foreign Policy Council , in his remarks for Thursday's hearing.
Estimates of the skill level of Iran 's hacker army vary, but Mr. Cilluffo points out that a veritable “arms bazaar of cyberweapons” is accessible through the Internet hacker underworld.
“Adversaries do not need capabilities, just intent and cash,” he states.
Mr. Cilluffo was recruited by President Bush on Sept. 12, 2001, the day after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon . He helped set up the Office of Homeland Security in the White House and left for George Washington University in 2003.
In 2009, Iran 's nuclear program was attacked by a cyberweapon called Stuxnet. Although there is no definitive evidence of Stuxnet's origins, Iran has blamed the United States and Israel and has been girding for a conflict in cyberspace ever since.
“For the Iranian regime the conclusion [drawn from Stuxnet] is clear: War with the West, at least on the cyberfront, has [already] been joined, and the Iranian regime is mobilizing,” states Mr. Berman .
The tensions between Iran and the West have taken unconventional forms besides cyberwarfare.
Iran claimed this month that it has been able to copy sensitive technology from a U.S. drone that crashed over its territory. It also has accused the United States and Israel of killing several of its nuclear scientists.
In a statement released Wednesday night, Rep. Dan Lungren, California Republican and chairman of the cybersecurity, infrastructure protection, and security technologies subcommittee said that “if recent reports are accurate that Tehran is investing $1 billion to expand their cyberwarfare capabilities, Iran will be a growing cyber threat to our U.S. homeland.”
The congressional testimony will be presented as the world waits for the next round of talks about Iran 's nuclear program – which Tehran insists is for peaceful purposes – next month in Iraq.
The United States and other members of the U.N. Security Council are pushing Iran to end its program of uranium enrichment. In exchange, trusted third-party countries would provide fuel for its civilian nuclear program. Enriched uranium can be used as fuel, but it can also be further enriched quickly and used in a nuclear weapon.
“Tensions between the West and Iran are increasing over Iran 's illicit nuclear program, making the potential for an Iranian cyberattack against the homeland a real possibility,” said Rep. Patrick Meehan, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the counterterrorism and intelligence subcommittee, the other panel at Thursday's hearing.
As negotiators prepare for the next round of talks, the tightening screw of international sanctions and the looming threat of an Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear sites have provoked threats from leading figures in the Revolutionary Guards.
Mr. Cilluffo notes that “ Iran is not monolithic: command and control there is murky, even within the [Revolutionary Guards], let alone what is outsourced.”
He notes that the Lebanese-based militant Hezbollah movement – which Iran has frequently used as a terrorist proxy – has begun recruiting its own cybermilitia of skilled hackers.
“ Iran has a long history of demonstrated readiness to employ proxies for terrorist purposes,” Mr. Cilluffo 's testimony states.
“There is little, if any, reason to think that Iran would hesitate to engage proxies to conduct cyberstrikes against perceived adversaries.”
Those proxies could make it hard to prove that Iran was behind the attacks.
Mr. Berman 's testimony notes that an extremist newspaper affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards last year warned the United States to “worry about ‘an unknown player somewhere in the world' attacking a section of [U.S.] critical infrastructure.”
In 2009 and 2010, a hacker group calling itself the Iranian Cyber Army attacked Twitter and the Chinese search engine Baidu, as well as Iranian websites belonging to the opposition Green Movement.
“In the event of a conflict in the Persian Gulf,” attacks like that on Twitter “could provide Iran an avenue for psychological operations directed against the U.S. public,” states Mr. Cilluffo .
Such operations would aim at sowing fear and confusion by attacking systems Americans use in their daily lives.
In a Persian Gulf military standoff, Iran also might combine computer-network attacks against U.S. military information and communications systems with more conventional jamming techniques “to degrade U.S. and allied radar systems, complicating both offensive and defensive operations,” Mr. Cilluffo adds.
Some parts of the federal government, such as U.S. Strategic Command and the State Department's Nonproliferation Bureau, have begun to pay attention to the Iranian threat of a cyberattack, but no one in the administration is “tasked with comprehensively addressing the Iranian cyberwarfare threat,” Mr. Berman warns.
“The U.S. government, in other words, has not yet even begun to get ready for cyberwar with Iran,” he concludes.
U.S. needs top-level approval to launch cyberattacks
by Richard Lardner
The United States would use cyberweapons against an adversary's computer networks only after those at the highest levels of government approved of the operation because of the risks of collateral damage, a senior U.S. military official said this week.
The director of intelligence at U.S. Cyber Command , Navy Rear Adm. Samuel J. Cox , said cyberattacks can do significant harm to a country's infrastructure and never should be carried out in a cavalier manner.
Offensive cyberoperations are difficult to conduct with enough precision to avoid unintended casualties and damage to unrelated systems, he said.
“If you're trying to do precision strike in cyberspace with a very high degree of confidence,” Adm. Cox said, “that takes enormous amounts of intelligence, planning, great care and very carefully crafted cybertools that won't boomerang against you down the road.”
Adm. Cox also downplayed the prospect that an enemy of the United States could completely disable the nation's electric power grid or shut down the Internet because these systems are designed to withstand severe cyberattacks.
“There's huge amounts of resiliency and redundancy built into the system nowadays that makes that kind of catastrophic thing very difficult,” he said.
Cyber Command is in charge of defending U.S. military networks from attacks and intrusions. The command 's top officer, Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander , also is the director of the secretive National Security Agency , which gathers electronic intelligence from foreign governments.
Both NSA and Cyber Command are headquartered at Fort Meade, Md.
The Defense Department is developing rules of engagement for how commanders will operate in cyberspace and what missions they can conduct under their own authority.
During congressional testimony last month, Gen. Alexander said decisions on how to respond to adversaries in cyberspace would be made by the president and secretary of defense. But military commanders would have authority if circumstances demanded immediate action.
“Our job would be to defend and protect and to stop some of these attacks analogous to the missiles coming in and give the administration options of what they could do to take it to the next step, if they choose,” Gen. Alexander told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The House of Representatives on Thursday will consider legislation to better defend critical U.S. industries and corporate networks from electronic attacks and intrusions by foreign governments, cybercriminals and terrorist groups. However, there are deep divisions over how best to accomplish the goal.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups oppose cybersecurity regulations. Rules imposed by Washington would increase their costs without reducing their risks, they say.
But Obama administration officials and security experts say companies that operate power plants, communication systems, chemical facilities and other such entities should have to meet basic performance standards to prove they can withstand cyberattacks or recover quickly from them.
There is broad agreement, though, on the need for the private sector and government to share information about hackers and the techniques they use to control the inner workings of corporate networks. With a system to securely exchange information, there is a much better chance of blocking cyberattacks and the theft of proprietary information.
Rep. Mike Rogers , Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the panel's top Democrat, said Tuesday that they had worked out several amendments to their information-sharing bill to address privacy concerns and to clarify parts of the legislation.
“Companies like Facebook have been very good working with us on language to get the bill to where they think it helps them protect their users and still protects the privacy and civil liberties,” Mr. Rogers said during a conference call with reporters.
Lawmakers will offer the amendments when the House considers the bill later this week. Mr. Rogers said he clearly has the votes to pass the overall measure.
North Korean general boasts of defeating U.S. with ‘a single blow'
Military leader's rhetoric viewed as face-saving move
by Andrew Salmon
SEOUL — North Korea 's top general warned Wednesday that his army holds weapons that can defeat the United States – a threat that regional experts dismissed as face-saving rhetoric.
“The [North] Korean People's Army is armed with powerful modern weapons [that can defeat the United States] at a single blow,” Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho , chief of the General Staff, told a meeting attended by new North Korean leader Kim Jong-un .
Vice Marshal Ri added that his army would “cut the throats” of anyone who defamed North Korean leaders.
The address, reported by North Korean state media, commemorated the 80th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean People's Army, and followed the totalitarian regime's failed rocket launch earlier this month intended to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country's founder, Kim Il-sung .
The White House responded by urging North Korea “to refrain from any provocative acts that would threaten the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.”
“Threatening rhetoric only reinforces North Korea 's isolation and does nothing to address the need of its people,” said Tommy Vietor , spokesman for the National Security Council .
On Monday, North Korean army units warned, via state media, that they were planning unspecified special operations against South Korea's government .
And North Korea is believed to be preparing a nuclear test – its third, after detonations following failed missile launches in 2006 and 2009.
Regional experts said the North Korean military 's recent bellicosity could be an effort by the regime to mask failed economic policies, influence the South Korean electorate or demonstrate the army 's loyalty to the country's young new leader, who succeeded his father Kim Jong-il in January.
North Korea is not believed to possess a missile that can reach the U.S. or have the capability of creating a nuclear warhead, the experts noted.
“I think it is bluster, it is kind of absurd,” Dan Pinkston , who heads the International Crisis Group 's Seoul office, said of Vice Marshal Ri 's threat. “The U.S. has robust second-strike capabilities. If they had a war with the U.S., they would cease to exist.”
However, Kim Myung-chol, a North Korea apologist who has visited Pyongyang's missile units, claimed in the Asia Times this month that the regime now has a hydrogen-based munition that could disable all electronics and potentially paralyze U.S. forces in South Korea .
Specialists agree that North Korean technology is constantly improving.
“When we take a look at the history of nuclear weapon development, the average country took three to four years to build a hydrogen bomb after their first-generation bomb,” said Kim Tae-woo , president of Seoul's Korea Institute for National Unification. “This is why we have no reason not to believe that North Korea is trying to have a hydrogen bomb program. Technology-wise, it is feasible.”
The regime's unfulfilled economic promises could be behind recent rhetoric.
Pyongyang has told its people that 2012 would be the nation's year of “strength and prosperity.” But while North Korea 's 1.2 million strong military is formidable, prosperity is a distant dream, given that as much as one third of the population is estimated to be malnourished.
“I think the [failed] rocket launch was very important. They have failed to become a strong and prosperous nation and their economic situation is getting worse,” said Choi Jin-wook, the senior North Korea researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification. “They need aid from outside, but they can't get this aid, so what is left? One option: tension.”
With South Korea 's presidential election set for December, North Korea is likely to continue issuing threats, experts said.
“ North Korea may commit another provocation as they want to maintain some degree of tension in South Korea in expectation of the next government being more friendly to them,” said Mr. Kim of the Korea Institute for National Unification.
Still, Mr. Pinkston said the situation holds elements of risk.
“What I think this is, is the need to demonstrate loyalty within the military . I think this is mostly for internal consumption,” he said of the army 's rhetoric. “But they better watch what they wish for. They can miscalculate. They are playing with fire.”
From Google News
Black teenager, 18, admits beating and robbing white man as 'revenge' for Trayvon Martin death
A black teenager has told police he punched a white man to the ground and robbed him because he was angry about the Trayvon Martin case.
Alton Hayes III said he smashed his 19-year-old victim to a Chicago suburb road after pinning his arms to the side and threatening him with a tree branch.
Alongside a 15-year-old black accomplice, who cannot be named as he is a juvenile, he screamed at the man to 'empty your pockets, white boy'.
He then battered his victim, who he chose purely because he was white, on his back and head.
MyFoxChicago aaid Hayes told police his motive for the 1am, April 17 crime, was his anger over the death of Trayvon Martin.
Hayes has been charged with attempted robbery, aggravated battery and a hate crime. His teenage comrade was referred to juvenile court.
The attack comes just days after an angry mob of youngsters brutally battered a man who told them to stop playing basketball outside his home - and allegedly then told him 'that's justice for Trayvon'.
Matthew Owens was hit with bricks, chairs, pipes and paint cans on his own Mobile, Alabama, front porch by 20 people on April 21 after complaining about the noise.
Owens' sister, Ashley Parker, claimed the group attacking her white brother were all African-American as she told wkrg.com: 'It was the scariest thing I have ever witnessed.'
And she alleged that, as they walked away leaving him badly bruised and bleeding on the ground, one of them then said: 'Now that's justice for Trayvon'.
The slur was, she said, in reference to the unarmed black 17-year-old Trayvon.
He was allegedly gunned down in February by white neighbourhood watch captain George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida.
The killing has left America on a racial knife-edge, despite revelations that Zimmerman actually had an Afro-Peruvian great-grandfather.
A growing digital lynch mob of Twitter users is calling for street justice against the killer, who has gone into hiding, and advocating he be murdered.
Some have even threatened to kill the neighbourhood watch volunteer themselves. The 28-year-old has now been charged with second-degree murder in the killing, and took to the stand last week to apologise for Trayvon's death.
Anger initially erupted after Zimmerman was not arrested for the shooting until earlier this month, with demonstrations taking place across the country.
It led to Sanford's top cop Bill Lee to offer to step down, but his proposal has been rejected by the Sanford City Commission.