No specific, credible terror threat to US: Barack Obama
Atkins: Obama again trying to prove he’s not a ‘feckless weakling’.
WASHINGTON — President Obama isn’t just fighting terrorists — he’s also fighting a public perception, fanned by GOP presidential hopefuls, that he is the wrong president for this era of terror. “I want every American to know, as you go about the holidays … that you’ve got dedicated patriots working around-the-clock all across the country to protect us all,” Obama said yesterday at the National Counterterrorism Center, flanked by nearly every top security-related official in his administration. WASHINGTON, DC: President Barack Obama sought Thursday to reassure Americans they face no “credible” terror threat, as US authorities began a review of the visa system that let one of the San Bernardino shooters into the country.
His remarks came amid heightened fears of terrorist threats on US soil, prompted by the attack in San Bernardino, California earlier this month that killed 14 people and injured 21 others. Obama said intelligence and law enforcement officials “do not have any specific and credible information on an attack on the homeland.” But that was tempered by acknowledgement that a strike by lone-wolf terrorists such as the one carried out in California remains a threat that can slip by the safeguards and security systems put in place after 9/11. Obama explained that his refusal to redeploy large numbers of troops to the region was rooted in the grim assumption that the casualties and costs would rival the worst of the Iraq war. On Thursday, the president also asked his countrymen to stay vigilant during the holiday season, acknowledging that the US is facing “a new phase of terrorism” in which lone actors who plot terrorist attacks are harder to detect. In such a scenario, he said, a renewed commitment could take up to $10 billion a month and leave as many as 500 troops wounded every month in addition to those killed, a toll he deemed not commensurate to the threat.
A new Gallup poll found that the Americans’ confidence in the federal government’s ability to protect its citizens from future acts of terrorism has dropped to a record low. Stephen Lynch (D-South Boston), who blasted State Department and Homeland Security officials at a House Oversight Committee hearing yesterday for failing to check social media accounts of visa-seekers. “We’re not reviewing the social media, even though that’s the world in which (terrorists) operate, and that’s a major problem,” Lynch chided, noting that many colleges check applicants’ online accounts. “If colleges are doing it for students, why the hell wouldn’t the Department of Homeland Security do it for someone coming (from) a country that sponsors terrorism?” Changing that policy is the least they could do. The radicalized Muslim couple are believed to have been inspired, if not directed, by the Islamic State group — illustrating the evolving threat posed by the jihadist network.
It’s past time to assign more resources to security, and push social media companies to better guard against nefarious activity rather than relying on users to report it. Obama said that if he did send troops to Syria, as some Republicans have urged, he feared a slippery slope that would eventually require similar deployments to other terrorist strongholds like Libya and Yemen, effectively putting him in charge of governing much of the region. He told the columnists that he envisioned sending significant ground forces to the Middle East only in the case of a catastrophic terrorist attack that disrupted the normal functioning of the United States.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been hospitalized since early November after suffering a stroke shortly after he pleaded guilty in Chicago to making hush-money payments to hide wrongdoing in his past. Conservatives have also taken issue with Obama’s refusal to use the phrase “radical Islam” which the White House says would confer on terrorists the legitimacy of a faith they have betrayed. Obama said he now realizes that he was slow to respond to public fears after terrorist attacks in Paris and California, acknowledging that his low-key approach led Americans to worry that he was not doing enough to keep the country safe.
Obama indirectly addressed the heated rhetoric from Republican presidential candidates on national security, chief among them Donald Trump, who sparked global outrage with a call to close US border to Muslims. “We cannot give in to fear or change how we live our lives, because that’s what terrorists want. Hastert, 73, suffered a stroke and was admitted to an undisclosed hospital “during the first week of November,” attorney Thomas Green said Thursday.
NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans is poised to make a sweeping break with its Confederate past as leaders decide whether to remove monuments from some of its busiest streets. Trump said even the families of terrorists should be killed, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas proposed to “carpet bomb” Islamic State holdouts despite the risk of civilian casualties, and Ben Carson argued for sending ground troops. Obama made his comments during a nearly two-hour meeting with the columnists and other opinion writers on Tuesday afternoon, about 10 in all, just hours before the debate and when his frustration with Republican criticism was evident. Two nephews of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro who are being held in a Manhattan jail denied U.S. charges they were involved in a drug-trafficking ring. Trump’s comments on Muslims did not make him an outlier in the presidential field, but instead represented the culmination of many years of a Republican strategy of division and fear mongering.
The Senate — with just a handful of senators in the chamber — Thursday night approved on a voice vote a bipartisan bill to update regulation of harmful chemicals for the first time in nearly 40 years. … The House of Representatives on Thursday approved legislation including provisions that would remove the tax advantages of spinning off corporate real estate into a separate, publicly traded real estate investment trust. … The family of billionaire casino mogul and GOP kingmaker Sheldon Adelson confirmed to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that they are the new owners of Nevada’s largest newspaper, ending a week of speculation. Obama emphasized again that vigilance against terrorism should not lead Americans to sacrifice values that define the nation — a direct response to remarks from Republicans. “We have to remind ourselves that when we stay true to our values, nothing can defeat us,” Mr. Obama’s absence, White House officials are concerned by the void that is likely to be filled by his critics and by what they call the overheated claims of Republicans who can afford to be bellicose without the responsibilities of the commander in chief.
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