Nov. 4, 2014: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., after being re-elected, in Columbia, S.C.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham on Sunday criticized a recently released House Republican report that concludes no intelligence lapses in connection with the fatal Benghazi attacks, saying congressional investigators did a “lousy job.”
“I think the report is full of crap,” Graham, a Republican, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence report released late Friday concluded the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
The report also found no wrongdoing by Obama administration officials, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.
“This report puts all the blame on the State Department and absolves the intelligence community,” Graham said.
Graham, among the most outspoken Capitol Hill lawmakers about the administration’s handling of Benghazi, also told CNN the report does not exonerate the administration.
He said the House committee is “doing a lousy job policing their own.”
Graham suggested the findings are flawed because the information was supplied by former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell and other members of the intelligence community who have already misled Congress.
The report found contradictory intelligence reports in the immediate aftermath of the attack on who carried out the strike and why.
That led Susan Rice, then-U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to inaccurately assert that the attack had evolved from a protest.
The report did not conclude that Rice or any other government official intentionally misled the American people.
Graham called those conclusions “a bunch of garbage.”
The criticism of Rice by Graham and other GOP senators for her handling of the Benghazi aftermath led Rice to withdraw from consideration for the secretary of state post.
Many of the new report’s findings were similar to those in six previous investigations by congressional committees and a State Department panel. The eighth Benghazi investigation is being carried out by a House Select Committee appointed in May.
The attacks killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, foreign service officer Sean Smith, and two CIA contractors, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty. A Libyan extremist, Ahmed Abu Khatalla, is facing trial on murder charges after he was captured in Libya and taken to the U.S.
In the aftermath of the attacks, Republicans criticized the Obama administration and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is expected to run for president in 2016.
People in and out of government have alleged that a CIA response team was ordered to “stand down” after the State Department compound came under attack, that a military rescue was nixed, that officials intentionally downplayed the role of Al Qaeda figures in the attack, and that Stevens and the CIA were involved in a secret operation to spirit weapons out of Libya and into the hands of Syrian rebels.
However, the report did find that the State Department facility where Stevens and Smith were killed was not well protected and that State Department security agents knew they could not defend it from a well-armed attack.
Previous reports have found that requests for security improvements were not acted upon in Washington.
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the Security Council at the Kremlin in Moscow, November 20, 2014.
BY GABRIELA BACZYNSKA
President Vladimir Putin blamed the West for worsening relations with Russia since the Ukraine crisis and said Moscow would not allow itself to become internationally isolated behind another ‘Iron Curtain’.
In an interview published by state news agency TASS on Sunday, Putin also said Western sanctions against Moscow, combined with the slide in the rouble and oil price falls would have no “catastrophic consequences” on Russia’s economy.
The United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and ratcheted them up over Moscow’s backing for separatists fighting Kiev troops to split east Ukraine.
“We understand the fatality of an ‘Iron Curtain’ for us,” Putin was quoted as saying. “We will not go down this path in any case and no one will build a wall around us. That is impossible!”
Russia’s ties with the West are at their worst since the Cold War because of Ukraine, where more than 4,300 people have been killed since violence erupted in the east mid-April.
As the West pressures Moscow over Ukraine, Putin accused Washington and Brussels of disregarding Russia’s interests.
“When Russia starts… safeguarding people and its interests, it immediately becomes bad (in the view of the West), he said.
“You think it’s over our position over east Ukraine or Crimea? Absolutely not! If it wasn’t for that, they would have found a different reason. It has always been like that.”
OIL AND POWER
The sanctions hit Russia’s weak economy and sparked a slide in the rouble, which shed about a third of its value this year. Economic woes are exacerbated by a sharp drop in the global price for oil, one of Russia’s main exports.
“If the price of energy is lowered on purpose, this also hits those who introduce those limits,” Putin said, adding that major producers such as the United States and Saudi Arabia could be in cahoots to lower prices and harm the Russian economy.
He said big supply, which he blamed for the price fall, came from the U.S. shale fields, Libya and Saudi Arabia, as well as from Iraq, including what he said were black market sales by Islamic State militants who hold swathes of that country.
But he struck a defiant tone on possible consequences for the Russian stagnant economy.
“It’s far from certain that sanctions, sharp falls in the oil price (and) the depreciation of the national currency will cause negative effects or catastrophic consequences only for us. No such thing will happen!”
Putin also did not rule out running for the presidency again in 2018 when his current term expires, though he denied he wanted to rule until death. He first came to Russia’s top job as acting president on the last day of 1999, remaining the country’s paramount leader ever
Armed members of the militant group al-Shabab attend a rally on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia in this Feb. 13, 2012 file photo. Police officials say al-Shabab militants from Somalia have hijacked a bus Saturday Nov. 23, 2014 in northern Kenya and killed 28 non-Muslims on board.
Al-Shabab militants from Somalia hijacked a bus in Kenya’s north and killed 28 non-Muslims on board after they had been singled out from the rest of the passengers, police officials said on Saturday.
Two police officers said that the bus traveling to the capital Nairobi with 60 passengers was hijacked 31 miles from the town Mandera near Kenya’s border with Somalia.
The officers insisted on anonymity out of fear of reprisals because of an order from Kenya’s police chief that officers should not speak to the media.
Some of the dead were public servants who were heading to the capital Nairobi for the Christmas vacation, the officers said.
Kenya has been hit by a series of gun and bomb attacks blamed on Somalia’s al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militants since it sent troops into Somalia in October 2011. Authorities say there have been at least 135 attacks since then, including the Westgate Mall attack in which 67 people were killed. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the Westgate Mall attack in September 2013.
The terror group also said it was responsible for other attacks on Kenya’s coast earlier this year which left at least 90 people dead.
Kenyan troops are part of the African Union Mission in Somalia which is bolstering Somalia’s weak U.N.-backed government against the al-Shabab insurgency. Al-Shabab has continued to carry out attacks on Somalia’s capital despite being pushed out of Mogadishu by African Union forces supporting the government in August 2011.
The Somali government troops backed by AU forces are making progress in capturing the remaining al-Shabab strongholds. Recently, they captured the port town of Barawe.
Al-Shabab was also dealt a heavy blow following the death of their leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, who was killed in early September in a U.S. airstrike. Godane has been replaced by Ahmed Omar, also known as Abu Ubeid.
amas supporters rally in the West Bank, where Palestinian Authority officials say the terror group is seeking to undermine it, with help from an operative in Turkey.
By Paul Alster
Israel and Egypt have Hamas pinned inside Gaza after destroying hundreds of tunnels leading out of the Palestinian enclave, but the terrorist group is coordinating its efforts in the West Bank with logistical help from a command center more than 500 miles away in Turkey, according to Palestinian Authority officials.
The PA and the Jewish State are mutually convenient bedfellows in their opposition to Hamas, which has conducted a campaign of terror against Israel and seeks to destabilize the West Bank. While the PA officially remains Hamas’ so-called “governing partner” in the Palestinian territories, new accusations that Hamas’ efforts are guided by its Turkey-based commander Salah al-Aruri have exposed the growing and violent rift between the two groups.
Now, the PA has gone on record as accusing al-Aruri of planning multiple attacks that have been foiled recently by Israel, resulting in the arrest of dozens of Hamas operatives in the West Bank. Those arrests, likely coordinated with PA security services who themselves allegedly foiled a planned coup by Hamas in the West Bank this summer, may have included the cell which, it was revealed on Thursday, had been planning to assassinate Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman in August in an RPG missile attack.
“The officials accused Turkey as well as Qatar — the current home of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal — of enabling Hamas to operate freely within their territories to carry out attacks against Israel and undermine the Palestinian Authority,” Friday’s Times of Israel revealed. “The officials added that several Hamas operatives connected to the recently uncovered network were also being held in PA detention facilities.”
Despite the recent serious escalation in lethal incidents in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and further afield in Israel, including this week’s brutal murder of four rabbis and a policeman at a synagogue in the capital, Israeli and Palestinian Authority security forces still have shared mutual interests in combating radical Islamist terrorists groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and others.
“There is regular cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian police which is continuing despite the terrorist attacks that have taken place,” Mickey Rosenfeld, spokesman for the Israeli Police, told FoxNews.com.
It was Al-Aruri who on Aug. 20, speaking at the World Conference of Islamic Sages in Turkey, admitted that Hamas had instigated the “heroic action carried out by the al-Qassam Brigades [the military wing of Hamas], which captured three settlers in Hebron.” The three teenage boys were kidnapped and brutally murdered by Hamas operatives, an incident that triggered the spiral of violence – including the retaliatory murder of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish settlers – that led to the vicious 50-day war in Gaza this summer.
Hamas appears to have been given a free hand to operate out of Turkey and Qatar, both of whom are close U.S. allies, and neither of whom deem Hamas a terrorist organization. Regional critics say the Obama administration has allowed its efforts to broker peace in the Middle East to be consistently undermined by its own Turkish and Qatari allies, who provide safe haven for Hamas leaders and funding for terrorists bent on undermining a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
Talking to the Al Monitor website in August, a Turkish diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested that Turkey’s support for Hamas is basically because the regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed diplomatically some time ago to influence its neighbors in the region, so has decided to find other ways in which to wield power.
“Trying to be a major actor in the Middle East and having felt betrayed multiple times, the Erdogan administration decided we have to be Middle Eastern, which means non-state entities should be considered as serious actors, partners, enemies, and allies.” Al Monitor’s Turkish correspondent, Pinar Tremblay, added, “Turkey’s support for Hamas – along with Qatar – hampers Israel’s ability to isolate Hamas. The Turkish government has been rather frank and “proud” of its engagement with the organization, despite all [the] financial and political repercussions.”
The policy of siding with Hamas, experts suggest, may also be a way for both Turkey and Qatar to continue their campaign against Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has clamped down hard on the Muslim Brotherhood, parent organization of Hamas, declaring the Brotherhood an illegal organization and arresting countless of its members.
El-Sisi has taken firm action against Hamas in Gaza, closing the key Rafah crossing and establishing a buffer zone on Egypt’s northern Sinai border with Gaza in an attempt to stop infiltration into Egypt by Hamas terrorists – backed by Turkey and Qatar – and the trafficking of weapons, missiles, and Islamic extremists in both directions.
This Nov. 11, 2014, file photo shows entertainer and Navy veteran Bill Cosby speaking during a Veterans Day ceremony, at the The All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors in Philadelphia.
NBC has scrapped a Bill Cosby comedy that was under development and TV Land will stop airing reruns of “The Cosby Show,” moves that came a day after another woman came forward claiming that the once-beloved comic had sexually assaulted her.
NBC spokeswoman Rebecca Marks said Wednesday the Cosby sitcom “is no longer under development.” A TV Land representative said the reruns will stop airing immediately for an indefinite time. “The Cosby Show” also was to have been part of a Thanksgiving sitcom marathon.
The NBC sitcom and “Cosby Show” reruns joined a Netflix Cosby standup comedy special, which was indefinitely postponed late Tuesday, as mounting evidence of Cosby’s faltering career. They occurred a day after model Janice Dickinson, in an interview with “Entertainment Tonight,” became the third woman in recent weeks to allege she’d been assaulted by Cosby — charges strongly denied by the comedian’s lawyer.
The developments, which involve allegations that were widely reported a decade ago as well as new accusations, have gravely damaged the 77-year-old comedian’s reputation as America’s TV dad at a time when he was launching a comeback. A year ago, a standup special — his first in 30 years — aired on Comedy Central and drew a hefty audience of 2 million viewers. His prospective new series was announced by NBC in January.
Cosby has never been charged in connection with any of the allegations. Former Pennsylvania prosecutor Bruce L. Castor Jr., who investigated a woman’s claims that Cosby had sexually assaulted her in 2004, said Wednesday he decided not to prosecute because he felt there was not enough evidence to get a conviction.
“I wrote my opinion in such a way as I thought conveyed to the whole world that I thought he had done it, he had just gotten away with it because of a lack of evidence,” the former Montgomery County district attorney said.
If Cosby hadn’t been cooperative with the investigation, “I probably would have arrested him,” he said.
Cosby has continued working as a stand-up comic, and has at least 35 performances scheduled throughout the U.S. and Canada through May 2015. None of the performances has been cancelled.
National Artists Corporation, which is promoting part of the tour, said it will not be canceling any shows.
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art has not changed its plans for an exhibition featuring Cosby’s African-American art collection alongside African artworks. The show opened this month on the National Mall and is scheduled to remain on view through early 2016.
“The exhibition has been very well received. We’ve actually had record numbers through the door,” spokesman Eddie Burke said, adding the museum has had no complaints.
Cosby was asked about the growing furor by an AP reporter when the comedian was promoting the exhibit earlier this month.
When the AP interviewed Cosby, on Nov. 6, the story involved long-circulated accusations from several women and recent criticism from comedian Hannibal Buress. Cosby declined to comment, saying “We don’t answer that.”
The AP mentioned the allegations and Cosby’s decision not to comment at the end of its story, which, like the interview, was primarily about his loan of more than 50 artworks to the Washington museum.
Since then, two women have come forward publicly to accuse him of sexual assault, Netflix, TV Land and NBC cut ties and an appearance on “The Late Show With David Letterman” was canceled. In recent days, as the allegations gained increasing attention, AP went back through the full video of the Nov. 6 interview and decided to publish Cosby’s full reaction to questions about the claims.
The AP was among a handful of news organizations granted interviews with Cosby in connection with the art exhibition. After his initial refusal to comment — as the interview was winding down but with the camera still running and Cosby wearing a lapel microphone — the comedian asked the AP to not use the brief on-camera refusal to comment he had just made about the allegations. “And I would appreciate it if it was scuttled,” he said.
The interview was on the record. The AP had made no agreement to avoid questions about the allegations or to withhold publishing any of his comments at any time.
The NBC project was in the very early stages, without a script or commitment to production. But it would have brought Cosby back to the network where he had reigned in the 1980s with the top-rated “The Cosby Show.”
There’s some precedent for a network burying a project because of stories involving a star’s personal life. NBC shelved a two-hour TV movie, “Frogmen,” starring O.J. Simpson in 1994 after the former football star was implicated in his wife’s death.
Dickinson told “Entertainment Tonight” that Cosby had given her red wine and a pill when they were together in a Lake Tahoe, California, hotel room in 1982. When she woke up the next morning, “I wasn’t wearing my pajamas and I remembered before I passed out I had been sexually assaulted by this man.”
Cosby’s lawyer, Martin Singer, said in a letter to the AP that Dickinson’s charges were “false and outlandish” and were contradicted by Dickinson herself in a published autobiography. Cosby’s spokesman, David Brokaw, did not return calls for comment.
Singer said the first Cosby heard of any assault allegation from Dickinson came in the “Entertainment Tonight” interview, and suggested the actress was “seeking publicity to bolster her fading career.”
With the GOP set to take control of the Senate, defenders of civil liberties may have to find other ways to rein in the surveillance state.
The NSA’s spying is not going anywhere yet.
By Marcy Wheeler
On Tuesday evening, the USA Freedom Act died in the Senate, failing a cloture vote, 58-42. The bill’s demise ended the legislative effort to put some limits on the National Security Agency phone dragnet first exposed by Edward Snowden in June 2013. But there are still modest steps Congress can take to chip away at the surveillance state, and other avenues that civil liberties groups can pursue.
The USA Freedom Act would have prevented the government from acquiring some subset of all Americans’ phone records, and it was the only bill under consideration that tackled that aspect of NSA’s enormous surveillance program. But there are two more efforts to limit the NSA legislatively via appropriations. The Massie-Lofgren amendment to the Defense Department appropriations bill would defund NSA’s ability to search the content of the American side of conversations picked up under PRISM, the program that mines a massive amount of our electronic data.
An amendment by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) would end the requirement that the government’s standards-setting body consult with the NSA when setting encryption standards. Grayson’s amendment is designed to prevent the NSA from deliberately weakening encryption.
The Massie-Lofgren amendment, at least, is likely to draw opposition from Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), the chair for the Senate Appropriations Committee.
That leaves the courts as the most likely means of limiting the phone dragnet. Both the American Civil Liberties Union and FreedomWatch’s Larry Klayman argued their suits against the phone dragnet in appellate courts in recent months. And an Idaho nurse named Anna Smith will argue her case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit next month.
The Second Circuit, which heard the ACLU’s argument, seems particularly skeptical of the program. During the hearing in that case, Judge Gerard Lynch described the implications of the government’s justification for keeping all Americans’ phone records thusly: “You can collect everything there is to know about everybody and have it all in one big government cloud.”
Other court challenges may have implications for the phone dragnet as well. In a remarkable amicus brief filed with the Eleventh Circuit on Tuesday, AT&T suggested that the Third Party doctrine — the legal theory that the government uses to justify its claim that it can collect Americans’ phone records without a warrant — may be outdated. The Third Party doctrine holds that people submitting information to a third party (e.g. a telephone company) have “no reasonable expectation of privacy,” but AT&T said this may be anachronistic given how reliant people have grown on new communication technologies.
“The privacy and related social interests implicated by the use of modern mobile devices,” former Acting Attorney General Peter Keisler argued for the phone company, “are fundamentally different and more significant than those evaluated” in the original Third Party doctrine cases.
If any of these circuits rule against the government, it will surely appeal (if it is a broad ruling) or rush to push through legislation ending the phone dragnet in current form to moot the legal challenges. But even if these cases do not prompt Congress to act more quickly, it is bound to consider the phone dragnet again in the next six months, as the section of the Patriot Act authorizing it — Section 215 — is due to sunset in June. While the rising Republican leadership in the Senate — Chuck Grassley (Iowa), who will chair the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Richard Burr (N.C.), who will chair Senate Intelligence Committee — shows no interest in reform, the House may have enough votes to force some improvements.
There’s one more source of pressure for reform, in addition to the courts and Congress: the corporations being asked to partner with the nation’s spy agencies. Under USA Freedom Act, the providers (and a secondary set of contractors) would have received expansive immunity, not even requiring the providers to exercise good faith in their assistance to the government. Providers don’t have that now, nor does the existing law authorize payment for their cooperation.
Moreover, both telecommunication companies and internet providers are seeking to reassure their customers they can protect their privacy. One way or another, the providers have a business interest in pushing for more reform, whether it is via Congress or via the courts, as AT&T did yesterday.
The Republicans who helped defeat USA Freedom Act ranted about the Islamic State, arguing that the government had to retain a massive surveillance program that had never once identified a terrorist because tomorrow that program might, for the first time, identify someone plotting to attack the country. (The dragnet has only ever identified a man sending money to the Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab to combat an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia.)
Yet the NSA’s overbearing surveillance itself poses a risk to the country. In addition to eroding trust between the government and its citizens, it is harming the reputation of some of the country’s most vibrant businesses. An interest in civil liberties might not convince Republicans to give up on a program that has never been effective. But the economic consequences of the dragnet to Big Business might.
Saying Adrian Peterson has “shown no meaningful remorse” for injuring his young son, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended the Minnesota Vikings star without pay for at least the remainder of the 2014 season Tuesday morning for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
The NFL Players Association quickly announced it will appeal the decision and demand a neutral arbitrator — not Goodell — to hear the appeal, accusing an unnamed league executive of telling Peterson his time on the exempt list would be considered time served.
If the suspension stands, the soonest Peterson would be considered for reinstatement is April 15, 2015, Goodell said in a letter notifying the 2012 NFL MVP of the decision and laying out the basics of a counseling and treatment program, including a mandatory meeting by Dec. 1 with a league-appointed psychiatrist.
“We are prepared to put in place a program that can help you to succeed, but no program can succeed without your genuine and continuing engagement,” Goodell’s letter said. “You must commit yourself to your counseling and rehabilitative effort, properly care for your children, and have no further violations of law or league policy.”
Fail to do so, and Peterson could face additional discipline, including banishment from the NFL.
Peterson, 29, was indicted Sept. 12 on a felony charge for injuring his 4-year-old son while disciplining him with a switch months earlier. He avoided jail time by pleading no contest Nov. 4 to a reduced charge of misdemeanor reckless assault.
But the NFL came down hard in what could be a test case for the personal conduct policy Goodell has pledged to revise and strengthen in the wake of the league’s mishandling of the Ray Rice domestic assault case.
The letter said Peterson would remain on the exempt list with pay while his appeal is pending. A grievance to have Peterson removed from the exempt list was heard Monday in a brief conference call by arbitrator Shyam Das, whose decision is due by Saturday.
Peterson has been paid for the nine games he has missed, eight of them since his voluntary placement on the exempt list Sept. 17. A six-game unpaid suspension would cost Peterson $4,147,058 in base salary.
“The decision by the NFL to suspend Adrian Peterson is another example of the credibility gap that exists between the agreements they make and the actions they take,” the NFLPA said in a statement. “Since Adrian’s legal matter was adjudicated, the NFL has ignored their obligations and attempted to impose a new and arbitrary disciplinary proceeding.
“The facts are that Adrian has asked for a meeting with Roger Goodell, the discipline imposed is inconsistent and an NFL executive told Adrian that his time on the Commissioner’s list would be considered as time served.”
Peterson informed the NFL in a letter Thursday he wouldn’t participate in a pre-discipline hearing Friday in part because of unanswered questions about the role of outside experts. His representatives also declined to provide most of the materials related to his case that the NFL requested. But the league moved forward with its review of the case Friday anyway.
Goodell’s letter to Peterson laid out several “aggravating circumstances” that led to the extended suspension, which amounts to at least six games — the suggested length for first offenses involving family violence under enhancements to the existing personal conduct policy Goodell announced in August.
Those aggravating circumstances involved the age of the child; the repetitive use of a switch that is “the functional equivalent of a weapon, particularly in the hands of someone with the strength of an accomplished professional athlete;” and Peterson’s lack of remorse.
“When indicted, you acknowledged what you did but said that you would not ‘eliminate whooping my kids’ and defended your conduct in numerous published text messages to the child’s mother,” Goodell’s letter said.
“You also said that you felt ‘very confident with my actions because I know my intent.’ These comments raise the serious concern that you do not fully appreciate the seriousness of your conduct, or even worse, that you may feel free to engage in similar conduct in the future.”
Peterson’s mandatory meeting by Dec. 1 is to be with Dr. April Kuchuk, an instructor in the NYU department of psychiatry and forensic consultant who will design Peterson’s program.
The NFL said Peterson made Dr. Cynthia Winston — a professor in psychology at Howard University who had conducted an assessment of Peterson — available Sunday to meet with Dr. Kuchuk. But Winston “advised Dr. Kuchuk that she does not have a background in child abuse or in assessing or treating victims or perpetrators of child abuse.”
The NFLPA has pushed for collective bargaining on a new personal conduct policy and wants neutral arbitration in all cases. For now, though, the authority belongs to Goodell.
The Vikings did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Peterson’s contract, which runs through 2017, has no guaranteed money left.
The complete media release from the NFL is provided below:
Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings was notified today that he has been suspended without pay for at least the remainder of the 2014 NFL season, and will not be considered for reinstatement before April 15, for violating the NFL Personal Conduct Policy in an incident of abusive discipline that he inflicted on his four-year-old son last May. Peterson pled no contest on November 4 in state court in Montgomery County, Texas to reckless assault of the child.
In a letter to Peterson, Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “The timing of your potential reinstatement will be based on the results of the counseling and treatment program set forth in this decision. Under this two-step approach, the precise length of the suspension will depend on your actions. We are prepared to put in place a program that can help you to succeed, but no program can succeed without your genuine and continuing engagement. You must commit yourself to your counseling and rehabilitative effort, properly care for your children, and have no further violations of law or league policy.”
Under Article 46 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Peterson may appeal the decision by giving written notice to the commissioner within three business days. If he appeals, a hearing will be scheduled promptly, at which he may be represented by counsel of his choice and by the NFLPA and at which he will have the opportunity to present evidence in support of his appeal. If he appeals, Peterson will remain on the Exempt List and continue to be paid pending a decision.
In modifying the NFL Personal Conduct Policy August 28, Commissioner Goodell established a baseline discipline of a suspension without pay for six games for certain offenses, including a first offense of assault, battery, or domestic violence. He also identified aggravating circumstances that would warrant higher levels of discipline. In his letter, Commissioner Goodell identified several aggravating circumstances present in this case:
“First, the injury was inflicted on a child who was only four years old. The difference in size and strength between you and the child is significant, and your actions clearly caused physical injury to the child. While an adult may have a number of options when confronted with abuse – to flee, to fight back, or to seek help from law enforcement – none of those options is realistically available to a four-year old child. Further, the injury inflicted on your son includes the emotional and psychological trauma to a young child who suffers criminal physical abuse at the hands of his father.
“Second, the repetitive use of a switch in this instance is the functional equivalent of a weapon, particularly in the hands of someone with the strength of an accomplished professional athlete.
“Third, you have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct. When indicted, you acknowledged what you did but said that you would not ‘eliminate whooping my kids’ and defended your conduct in numerous published text messages to the child’s mother. You also said that you felt ‘very confident with my actions because I know my intent.’ These comments raise the serious concern that you do not fully appreciate the seriousness of your conduct, or even worse, that you may feel free to engage in similar conduct in the future.”
On November 6, the NFL requested that Peterson and the NFL Players Association furnish a range of information that would be relevant to evaluating Peterson’s conduct under the Personal Conduct Policy. No information was provided beyond some of the court papers relating to his November 4 plea agreement. This request was reiterated on November 11. Although there were several additional exchanges of correspondence between the NFL and NFLPA, no further information was provided, other than the name of a professional with whom Peterson has consulted during the past two months.
Peterson was advised on November 11 that a hearing had been scheduled for November 14 to review his case and to allow him or his representatives, as well as the NFLPA, to offer their views and present information on the question of discipline under the Personal Conduct Policy. The NFL then was advised that neither Peterson nor the NFLPA would participate in the hearing scheduled for November 14. The NFL offered to hold the hearing the following day, but was told that date was similarly unacceptable.
Under the Personal Conduct Policy, a deferred adjudication of the kind entered in Montgomery County establishes a basis for imposing discipline. In addition, many prior decisions confirm that the judgment entered with Peterson’s consent is entirely sufficient to find that he violated the Personal Conduct Policy.
“Your plea agreement in Texas, and the related violation of the Personal Conduct Policy, arise out of abusive injuries that you inflicted on your son earlier this year,” Commissioner Goodell said in his letter. “Based on public reports of your statements and photographs that were made public at the time of the indictment, you used a ‘switch’ – a flexible tree branch – to punish your son, striking him in the ankles, limbs, back, buttocks, and genitals, leaving visible swelling, marks, and cuts on his body and risking severe and long-term damage. The visible injuries were such that a local pediatrician in Minnesota, upon examining your son, felt obligated to make a child abuse report to the police. According to contemporaneous media reports, police and medical examiners termed the cuts as ‘extensive’ and as ‘clinically diagnostic of child physical abuse.’ Based on the severity of those injuries, a grand jury made up of citizens of Montgomery County, Texas, voted to indict you on a felony charge, reflecting their belief that there was reasonable cause to conclude that you had overstepped the bounds of acceptable corporal punishment and engaged in physical abuse of your child. Moreover, it appears that this is not the first time that you have punished children in this way. Public statements attributed to you indicate that you believe that this kind of discipline is appropriate and that you do not intend to stop disciplining your children this way.”
Commissioner Goodell’s decision includes mechanisms to ensure, insofar as possible, that there will be no repetition of this conduct. Peterson was directed to meet with Dr. April Kuchuk, an instructor in the NYU Department of Psychiatry and a forensic consultant to the New York City District Attorney’s offices and New York courts, by December 1. After this meeting, Dr. Kuchuk will design a program of counseling, therapy, and community service as appropriate, which will be shared with the commissioner and NFLPA. Peterson will be expected to adhere to that program. Dr. Kuchuk will report any failure to do so to the commissioner and NFLPA.
On Sunday, Peterson made Dr. Cynthia Winston, a professor of psychology at Howard University, available to meet with Dr. Kuchuk to discuss the case. Dr. Winston advised that she was contacted by an attorney representing Peterson to conduct an assessment and that she has met with him in connection with this matter. Dr. Winston, a respected academic and practicing psychologist, advised Dr. Kuchuk that she does not have a background in child abuse or in assessing or treating victims or perpetrators of child abuse.
Dr. Kuchuk has informed the NFL she believes it is essential for her to meet with Peterson personally to review his counseling and other therapeutic work to date. Dr. Kuchuk states that two evidence-based forms of therapy have been shown to contribute to reducing the risk of future abusive behavior in child abuse cases: first, therapy that addresses parenting your children, in particular those who do not live with you, using a modality called parent-child interactive therapy; and second, cognitive-behavioral therapy that teaches the effects of abusive behavior on children and how it traumatizes them. Dr. Kuchuk’s understanding is that Dr. Winston does not provide these types of cognitive and behavioral therapies.
Commissioner Goodell encouraged Peterson to take advantage of the counseling and other resources available to his son through NFL Player Assistance and Counseling Services.
“The well-being of your children is of paramount concern,” Commissioner Goodell wrote. “In the absence of speaking to you to understand your current disposition toward child discipline, we cannot be sure that this conduct will not be repeated. Moreover, we are unaware of any effort on your part to acknowledge the seriousness of your conduct and your responsibility to demonstrate a genuine commitment to change.
“In order to assess your progress going forward, I will establish periodic reviews, the first of which will be on or about April 15, 2015. At that time, I will meet with you and your representatives and the NFLPA to review the extent to which you have complied with your program of counseling and therapy and both made and lived up to an affirmative commitment to change such that this conduct will not occur again. A failure to cooperate and follow your plan will result in a lengthier suspension without pay.”
Peterson also is required to adhere to all conditions imposed on him by the Montgomery County Court as part of his plea agreement and deferred adjudication. If he fails to adhere to any of those conditions, he is obligated to promptly report that failure to the commissioner, who may elect to impose further discipline.
“It is imperative that you to avoid any incident of this kind in the future,” Commissioner Goodell stated in his letter. “Any further violation of the Personal Conduct Policy will result in additional discipline and may subject you to banishment from the NFL.”
In an unprecedented step, agents from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration conducted surprise inspections Sunday, targeting the medical and training staffs of visiting NFL teams, in an effort to determine whether they violated federal drug laws governing the handling and distribution of prescription painkillers, “Outside the Lines” has learned.
A federal law enforcement official, with knowledge of the investigation, told “Outside the Lines” the inspections were motivated by allegations raised in a May 2014 federal lawsuit, filed on behalf of several prominent NFL players, who allege team physicians and trainers routinely gave them painkillers in an illegal manner to mask injuries and keep them on the field.
“DEA agents are currently interviewing NFL team doctors in several locations as part of an ongoing investigation into potential violations of the Controlled Substances Act,” DEA spokesperson Rusty Payne said Sunday.
“The Drug Enforcement Administration has a responsibility under the Controlled Substances Act to ensure that registrants who possess, prescribe and dispense controlled substances are following the law,” Payne added.
Spokesmen for the San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks all acknowledged that DEA agents showed up to inspect their medical staffs after their teams’ respective road games Sunday.
“What we were told was they are random checks of team physicians as they travel to see if anyone is transporting controlled substances across state lines,” 49ers spokesman Bob Lange said after Sunday’s game against the Giants. “The 49ers medical staff complied and the team departed the stadium as scheduled.”
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy later also issued a statement, saying: “Our teams cooperated with the DEA today and we have no information to indicate that irregularities were found.”
Earlier, a federal law enforcement source said that DEA agents had plans to interview visiting team doctors in several NFL cities Sunday, but declined to provide a specific number.
“I think it’s great that the DEA is taking this seriously. We alleged back on May 20th that the NFL was issuing these controlled substances and prescription medicines in an illegal manner and nobody has really disputed the factual basis of that claim,” said Phil Closius, an attorney representing the former NFL players involved in the ongoing federal lawsuit.
Sunday’s inspections were administrative in nature, Payne said. They were not conducted with search warrants and no arrests were expected to be made.
As “Outside the Lines” first reported in January 2011, the DEA has taken steps in the past to inform NFL team doctors what treatments they can and cannot provide to players, particularly when they travel for road games.
Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, doctors cannot give players prescription drugs like Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin, outside of the facilities where they are registered with the DEA to prescribe those controlled substances and trainers are not permitted under the federal drug laws to ever provide prescription medications to players.
But according to a federal law enforcement source with knowledge of Sunday’s inspections, the DEA has reason to believe those laws are frequently violated, particularly by visiting NFL teams.
“NFL doctors are not obtaining a separate registration where they are administering controlled substances to NFL players. They are administering in different states and treating players at hotels and stadiums outside of their registered location with the DEA,” the source said.
The DEA also has reason to believe visiting team physicians may not be keeping “readily retrievable documents,” that spell out which prescription drugs are administered and to whom, the federal law enforcement source said.
“Our intelligence suggests controlled substances are not properly logged to specific players,” the source added.
DEA agents planned Sunday to inspect the medical bags of visiting team doctors for prescription drugs while alongside Transportation Safety Administration screeners.
“If doctors don’t get players back on the field, you think they’re going to continue to be the team doctor?” Closius said, when asked about the NFL culture that routinely demands players play with pain.
“Everybody is subservient to this return-to-play culture — doctors, general managers, coaches, everybody. And that return-to-play culture is responsible for this illegal distribution on drugs,” Closius added.
The federal lawsuit, filed in the northern district of California, includes 10 named plaintiffs, including members of the celebrated 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl team, Jim McMahon, Richard Dent and Keith Van Horne, but could grow to include more than 1,300 former players if the court eventually certifies the case as a class action, Closius said.
A federal judge said last week that he wants to hear from the players’ union before ruling on a recent NFL motion to dismiss the case. The NFL Players Association is expected to file its response to the court on Wednesday.
Payne, the DEA spokesperson, declined to speculate on any future actions by the federal agency.
In a video posted last month on YouTube, a group of men believed to be Islamic State fighters are shown sitting in a room bantering about buying and selling Yazidi girls on “slave market day.”
By KIRK SEMPLE
KHANKE, Iraq — The 15-year-old girl, crying and terrified, refused to release her grip on her sister’s hand. Days earlier, Islamic State fighters had torn the girls from their family, and now were trying to split them up and distribute them as spoils of war.
The jihadist who had selected the 15-year-old as his prize pressed a pistol to her head, promising to pull the trigger. But it was only when the man put a knife to her 19-year-old sister’s neck that she finally relented, taking her next step in a dark odyssey of abduction and abuse at the hands of the Islamic State.
The sisters were among several thousand girls and young women from the minority Yazidi religion who were seized by the Islamic State in northern Iraq in early August.
The 15-year-old is also among a small number of kidnapping victims who have managed to escape, bringing with them stories of a coldly systemized industry of slavery.
Their accounts tell of girls and young women separated from their families, divvied up or traded among the Islamic State’s men, ordered to convert to Islam, subjected to forced marriages and repeatedly raped.
While many of the victims are still living in areas of northern or western Iraq under the control of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, many others have been sent to Syria or other countries, according to victims and their advocates.
Five girls and women who recently escaped agreed to be interviewed at the end of October. Four of them were in Khanke, a predominantly Yazidi town in the far north of Iraq, and a fifth in the nearby city of Dohuk. Tens of thousands of Yazidi refugees have sought refuge in this region, in vast tent camps and in relatives’ homes, after fleeing their villages around the Sinjar mountains.
The five victims consented to speak publicly only on the condition that their names not be revealed for fear that the Islamic State would punish their relatives.
At first, though, the 15-year-old felt differently. “I want my name used because when the Islamic State reads it, it will be like a revenge for me,” she declared at the outset of her interview, though she soon demurred on the advice of a Yazidi advocate with her, only permitting the use of her initials, D. A. The militants, she said, were still holding most of her immediate family.
The Islamic State itself has openly acknowledged its slavery industry. In an article last month in Dabiq, the group’s online English-language magazine, the Islamic State said it was reviving a custom justified under Shariah.
“One fifth of the slaves were transferred to the Islamic State’s authority to be divided as khums,” a tax on war spoils, and the rest were divided among the fighters who participated in the Sinjar operation, the article said.
Yazidis follow a religion influenced by a medley of faiths, including Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Islam. But the Islamic State regards them as devil-worshiping pagans deserving of enslavement or death. By forcing Yazidi women and girls to marry Islamic State members and become their “concubines,” the article said, the group is helping to protect its fighters against committing adultery.
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In a video posted last month on YouTube, men purported to be Islamic State fighters sit in a room and banter about buying and selling Yazidi girls on “slave market day.” One says he will check the girls’ teeth. Another says he will trade a girl for a Glock handgun. They discuss the relative value of girls with blue eyes.
“Today is the day of (female) slaves and we should have our share,” a fighter declares.
The Islamic State has kidnapped more than 5,000 Yazidis, and possibly as many as 7,000, most of them women and girls, according to Matthew Barber, a member of the Sinjar Crisis Management Team, an advocacy group that has conducted an extensive survey of displaced Yazidi families.
Human Rights Watch, in a report released last month, said the systematic abduction, abuse and killing of Yazidis might amount to crimes against humanity.
“We’ve all been living these cases,” said Amena Saeed, a former member of the Iraqi Parliament and a Yazidi who has been advocating on behalf of the kidnapped.
The Yazidis’ communal ordeal began on Aug. 3 when the Islamic State launched an attack on their villages in the Sinjar region, driving thousands to flee into the nearby mountains.
D. A. was part of that exodus, traveling in a car with her parents, five of her sisters and a niece. But their path was cut off by militant fighters who rounded them up, along with other families, and took them to a building in the town of Sinjar. There, the militants separated the female Yazidis and young children from the men and boys, then later in the day picked out the unmarried women and older girls, D. A. said.
“I was crying and grabbing my mother’s hand,” she said during an interview at a relative’s house in Khanke, a Yazidi village near Mosul Dam Lake. “One of the Islamic State members came and beat me and put a pistol to my head. My mother said I should go so I wouldn’t be killed.”
Along with dozens of other girls, D. A. and two of her sisters — one 19, the other 12 — were loaded onto a convoy of three buses and driven to the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul.
D. A. and her two sisters were held in a house there for nine days along with women and girls from other villages in the region, then they were taken to a three-story building crowded with hundreds of captives.
The building functioned as a kind of clearinghouse. Islamic State fighters would stop by and take their pick of the girls and young women. Some, perhaps in a reflection of their lower rank, would take only one girl, while others took more, D. A. and other escapees said.
The man who chose D. A. “was wearing a beard, though not a long one, and not very long hair,” she recalled. She refused to go at first, holding on to her older sister. But the sight of a dagger at her older sister’s throat convinced her to submit. Her 12-year-old sister looked on in stunned silence.
“She couldn’t talk, she couldn’t cry,” D. A. said. “It’s like she had no feelings.”
That was the last time she saw her sisters.
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Over the next several weeks she was moved at least eight more times, among increasingly smaller groups of girls.
She was taken across the border into Syria. She remembers spending a day in a white house, next to a lake, near Raqqa, Syria, where Islamic State fighters engaged in another round of commerce involving the girls. She saw men haggling, money trading hands. “It was like an auction,” she recalled.
At that house, the girls were forced to shed their clothes, bathe and change into conservative Islamic garb. Some of the girls were as young as 11.
At one point, while she was being held in another house near Raqqa, D. A. tried to escape along with five other girls. But their attempt failed, and D. A., accused of being the ringleader, was severely beaten and imprisoned.
She was released into the custody of yet another jihadist who locked her in a house with several other girls.
The jihadist told them he was going to force them to marry him at the end of the week. They could hear another group of girls living in a different section of the house being taken away from time to time for sex.
None of the five escapees interviewed said they had been raped while in captivity. But one said she had fought off a sexual assault, and most said they had met other girls who had been raped, sometimes by several men.
Several advocates said that even if the girls had been sexually assaulted, they might never admit it, particularly not to a stranger. Some advocates said they were concerned that the shame surrounding rape might drive victims to suicide, though Ms. Saeed and other community leaders insisted that there had been no suicide attempts among the estimated 150 Yazidi escapees.
The threat of forced marriage led D. A. to consider killing herself, but instead she decided to try another escape. Late one night, she and another girl squeezed through a small window, and the two ran into the darkness, eventually coming to a house in a rural area. They took their chances, knocked on the door and a sympathetic-seeming young Arab man answered.
He took them to the house of a Kurdish family who then contacted D. A.’s brother, arranged a meeting in a Kurdish area of Syria and agreed that the girls’ families would pay $3,700 each to the Arab man for his help. (They withheld details of the transaction, including the route D. A. took out of territory controlled by the Islamic State, to protect the identities of those involved.)
Asked why the Arab took the extraordinary risk of helping the two girls, D. A. said, “I think he needed the money.”
That meshes with other accounts suggesting that a cottage industry of for-profit rescuers has sprung up in response to the Yazidi girls’ abductions. One 19-year-old woman, the daughter of a Yazidi police officer, said her family had paid a smuggler $15,000 to help her escape captors in Aleppo, Syria.
D. A.’s parents are still in captivity — if they are still alive — as are five sisters and her niece, relatives said.
Their absence, D. A. said, has left her feeling bereft. During the day, relatives, relief workers and television provide distractions. But at night, she said, when the house goes quiet and she is left alone with her thoughts, that is when it hurts the most.
In this Friday, Nov. 7, 2014 file photo, people rally for comprehensive immigration reform outside the White House in Washington. According to advocates in touch with the White House, President Barack Obama is poised to act soon to unveil .
By ALICIA A. CALDWELL and ERICA WERNER
The Obama administration is considering a plan that would shield possibly around 5 million immigrants living in the country illegally from deportation as part of a broad set of executive actions that President Barack Obama could announce as early as next week, people familiar with the discussions say.
Obama has pledged to move on the measures by year’s end, and White House officials are debating whether to act soon after he returns this weekend from his current trip to Asia and Australia or wait until after Congress approves a major spending bill in December.
A senior Obama administration official said it’s possible Obama’s immigration announcement could come next week, but the official said the president hadn’t made a decision yet either about timing or content of the decision.
Several officials said Obama still hasn’t received formal recommendations from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, but they said Obama is well acquainted with the realm of possibilities. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the status of the decision publicly.
The 5 million estimate includes extending deportation protections to parents and spouses of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for some years. The president is also likely to expand his 2-year-old program that protects young immigrants from deportation.
Such a step would represent an expansive use of Obama’s executive authority. The step would fall shy of what many immigrant advocates have been demanding, but is sure to enrage Republicans who are already trying to devise ways to thwart his actions.
“We’re going to fight the president tooth and nail if he continues down this path. This is the wrong way to govern. This is exactly what the American people said on Election Day they didn’t want,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Thursday. “And so, all the options are on the table.”
Some conservatives in the House and Senate announced plans to push for language in must-pass spending bills to block the president from acting. But other Republicans warned that such a push could result in another government shutdown like the one last year over Obama’s health care plan.
“My sense is that the vast majority of us want to do everything we can to stop it, but also want to avoid outcomes that would prove bad for the country as a whole,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. It wasn’t clear, though, what other options Republicans had.
Traveling in Asia, Obama said Friday Congress could simply undo his executive actions by passing comprehensive immigration legislation.
“I would advise that if in fact they want to take a different approach, rather than devote a lot of time trying to constrain my lawful actions as the chief executive of the U.S. government in charge of enforcing our immigrations laws, that they spend some time passing a bill,” he said during a news conference in Yangon, Myanmar.
Immigration advocates, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of a public announcement, said final details of the plan remained in flux. But the White House is likely to include parents and spouses of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, stipulating that they’ve resided in the U.S. for some period of time — possibly as little as five years. That group totals around 3.8 million people, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
Although Obama is not able to grant citizenship or permanent resident green cards on his own without Congress, he can offer temporary protection from deportation along with work authorization, as he has done in the past.
Adjustments also are expected to the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that allowed immigrants under 31 who had arrived before June 2007 to apply for a reprieve from deportation and a work permit. More than 600,000 young immigrants have been shielded from deportation to date under the program. Removing the upper age limit so that applicants don’t have to be under 31 — one option under consideration — would make an additional 200,000 people eligible.
There may also be tweaks to business visa programs to speed up visas or make more available for high-tech workers or others.
Changes are also expected on the law enforcement side, including to a controversial program called Secure Communities that hands over people booked for local crimes to federal immigration authorities. A former administration official with knowledge of the plans said the Secure Communities program would be eliminated or at least renamed, although some of the concepts would remain.
Priorities for immigrants to be picked up by immigration authorities will also be revised to eliminate some of the less serious conduct that previously would have caused someone to be detained, said the former official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private details.
Advocates are gearing up to embrace the long-sought changes, which Obama has delayed twice, most recently under pressure from Senate Democrats concerned about the midterm elections. At the same time they intend to keep pushing for wider protections and a legislative solution.
“This is definitely a step in the right direction and we would still encourage the administration to go even bigger than the estimated 5 million,” said Kica Matos, of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement. “This is a temporary fix and Republicans need to understand that the immigrant rights movement intends to wage a ferocious fight until we have permanent solution and that is through legislation.”