Honoring Navy Yard Victims, Obama Asks: ‘Do We Care Enough' to Change?
by MICHAEL D. SHEAR
WASHINGTON — President Obama on Sunday eulogized the 12 victims of the Navy Yard shooting and lamented what he called a “creeping resignation” in America about the inevitability of gun violence.
President Obama paid tribute at a memorial to the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shootings in Washington on Sunday.
Family members of victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting before the start of a memorial service in Washington on Sunday.
In remarks to service members and their families who packed the bleachers in the barracks about two and a half blocks from where the killings took place last week, Mr. Obama vowed that he would not accept inaction after the latest in a string of mass shootings during his presidency.
But the president appeared exasperated with the political system that he leads, admitting that changes in the nation's gun laws “will not come from Washington, even when tragedy strikes Washington.” He acknowledged that his previous effort to pass new gun laws had failed, but he did not specifically call for a new political battle, saying change would come only when Americans decide they have had enough.
The question is not, he said, “whether as Americans we care in moments of tragedy. Clearly we care. Our hearts are broken again. The question is do we care enough?”
“It ought to be a shock to all of us, as a nation and a people,” he said. “It ought to obsess us. It ought to lead to some sort of transformation.”
In his remarks to about 4,000 people, Mr. Obama called the Navy Yard shooting “unique,” and he remembered by name each of the victims, offering small memories from family members and friends of those who died: a volunteer, a Bible study leader, a Navy architect, a grandmother, a soccer coach, a car lover.
“These are not statistics,” he said. “They are the lives that have been taken from us.”
But he said the Navy Yard shootings were part of a pattern of gun violence that set America apart among advanced nations. Together, he said, they represented a kind of tragedy that has become accepted as “somehow just the way it is.”
Before the ceremony, Mr. Obama and the first lady, Michelle Obama, met privately with family members of the victims.
It has become an all-too-familiar role for Mr. Obama, who has presided over similarly grim services for the victims of shootings in Newtown, Conn.; Tucson; Aurora, Colo.; Oak Creek, Wis.; and Fort Hood, Tex. At each event, the president has sought to find the right balance between the sadness of a nation and the anger of its citizens.
But past memorial services have also served to provide Mr. Obama with the emotional power to fuel his efforts to curb gun violence. During each event, the president has urged the nation to pass laws that would keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and mentally ill people.
That message reached a fever pitch after the service for the 20 children who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, when Mr. Obama declared that it was time for Washington to take action.
“In the coming weeks,” he said at the Newtown memorial, “I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens — from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators — in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.”
That promise led to an effort by the administration to push through aggressive gun restrictions, including an expanded background-check system that would have closed loopholes that allowed guns to be sold without a check. But months later, that effort failed when the Senate could not pass a compromise background-check bill amid fierce opposition from the National Rifle Association and lawmakers who favor gun rights.
The president on Sunday did not specifically pledge to try again, noting that “the politics are difficult, as we saw this spring.” But he sought to reassure supporters of gun control measures that they would be successful, eventually, because of the grief that tragedies like the Navy Yard shooting produce.
“It may not happen tomorrow and it may not happen next week and it may not happen next month,” he said. “But it will happen, because it's the change we need.
“Our tears are not enough,” he added. “Our words and our prayers are not enough.” If Americans want to honor the 12 men and women who died at the Navy Yard, he said, “we're going to have to change. We're going to have to change.”
Mr. Obama quoted from Robert F. Kennedy's speech in the hours after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. In that speech, the president said, Mr. Kennedy quoted a poet who wrote that “even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart” until later comes “wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
Mr. Obama ended his remarks by urging that “in our grief, let us seek that grace. Let us find that wisdom.”
The United States Navy Band played somber music as the guests quietly filed in ahead of the speakers, who included Vice Adm. William Hilarides, the commander of Naval Sea Systems Command, where the shootings took place.
Also speaking were Vincent Gray, the mayor of Washington; Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations; Ray Mabus, the secretary of the Navy; and Chuck Hagel, the secretary of defense.
Mr. Gray echoed Mr. Obama's frustration with the refusal to pass new gun laws, saying that “this time it happened within the view of our Capitol dome and I, for one, will not be silent about the fact that the time has come for action.”
Mr. Hagel declared that “together, we will recover.”
The memorial wound down with a reading of the names of the 12 people who were killed at the Navy Yard, and then a long, sad rendition of taps.
Independent Surveillance Review Not Exactly "Independent," Per Se
by Brian Feldman
A panel of so-called independent experts appointed by President Obama to review the federal government's surveillance programs "has effectively been operating as an arm of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA and all other U.S. spy efforts," according to a report from the Associated Press. They write:
The panel's advisers work in offices on loan from the DNI. Interview requests and press statements from the review panel are carefully coordinated through the DNI's press office. James Clapper, the intelligence director, exempted the panel from U.S. rules that require federal committees to conduct their business and their meetings in ways the public can observe. Its final report, when it's issued, will be submitted for White House approval before the public can read it.
That sounds super independent. Even though no classified information has been discussed, the meetings have remained closed, and the press office for the DNI said that Clapper exempted the review panel from the Federal Advisory Committee Act due to the "highly classified nature of their review." The office also told the AP that, "We are conducting this review as openly and transparently as possible." In one meeting, representatives from tech giants including Microsoft and Apple advocated for more permission to be open with their users.
Police say 'swatting' leads to serious trouble
by Scott Carroll
PANAMA CITY — It's a hoax, but law enforcement agencies across the country aren't laughing.
The FBI estimates that hundreds of instances of “swatting” — making a false 911 call to cause a police SWAT team to respond — occur each year. Cody Blaine Jones, a 16-year-old Southport boy, added to that tally last Monday when he allegedly caused the Delaware County Police SWAT team and bomb squad in Broomall , Pa. to respond to an empty house. Broomall police were told there was a heavily armed man inside the house holding someone hostage, and that the man had an explosive device.
Those were lies, police said.
Jones was charged with filing a false report of a bomb, explosive device or weapon of mass destruction in the incident. The Bay County Sheriff's Office reported that Jones faced the same charge for an incident of “swatting” at Wyndham Bay Point Resort last October. Jones and his family could not be reached for comment Sunday. Their neighbors said they either didn't know the family or declined to comment on Jones' arrest.
“Swatting” is sometimes done for revenge or as a prank, according to the FBI, and most “swatters” are serial offenders who are involved in other cyber crimes. Jones has been involved in as many as 40 instances of “swatting,” police reported being told by an informant. Bay County Sheriff's deputies seized several computers and pieces of electronic equipment from Jones' home Friday during a search. Investigators said he called Broomall police via Skype.
In a news releases issued earlier this month, FBI assistant special agent Kevin Kolbye called “swatting” a “public safety issue.” In one “swatting” incident, a responding officer was injured in a crash. And some victims of “swatting,” Kolbye reported, have suffered mild heart attacks after SWAT teams arrived at their homes.
“It's only a matter of time before someone gets seriously injured as a result of one of these incidents,” Kolbye said.
When a group of tactical officers in helmets, boots and other body armor show up at their home armed with automatic rifles and percussion grenades, victims of swatting are often scared and taken by surprise, Kolbye said. And the responding officers are similarly on edge.
“They believe they have a violent subject to apprehend or an innocent victim to rescue,” Kolbye said. “It's a dangerous situation any way you look at it.”
Bay County Sheriff 's Office Maj. Tommy Ford agreed.
“We're expecting that we're going into a very serious situation. If there's anyone inside the house that's been targeted, and given the narrative we're working with, their actions could be misinterpreted,” Ford said. “The worst case scenario is that the ‘swatting' results in someone being injured or killed.”
If that were to happen, Ford said, the ‘swatter' would likely face an additional charge of manslaughter — or possibly murder.
The hoax has become such a problem in California that an “anti-swatting” bill is advancing through the state legislature that would require “swatters” to reimburse police the cost of responding to the phony 911 calls, in addition to serving jail time. Such a police response, according to the FBI, can cost thousands of dollars. This year, police in Los Angeles have responded to “swatting” incidents at the homes of celebrities including Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Selena Gomez and Russell Brand.
Not unpredictably, the author of the state's “anti-swatting” bill, Sen. Ted Lieu, fell victim to the hoax months after proposing the legislation.
“Any time there's an emergency response there's an increase in danger for the officers and the public,” Ford said. “What may seem like fun and games can actually be a very serious situation for us and innocent people.”