Blog Posts by Olivier Knox, Yahoo News

  • White House: 'Yeah,' Olympics boycott would be a bad idea

    The White House grudgingly acknowledged on Wednesday that boycotting the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, to protest Moscow’s sheltering of NSA leaker Edward Snowden would be a bad idea.

    It’s not (or at least not just) a silly, media-stoked Beltway debate. The U.S. has been trying to escalate pressure on Russia to turn over Snowden, who faces felony charges tied to his disclosure of how the government collects the telephone and Internet records of millions of Americans.

    Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham has urged President Barack Obama to consider boycotting the upcoming games in response.

    Republican House Speaker John Boehner slapped the idea down sharply. But he doesn't speak for the president. So what did White House press secretary Jay Carney have to say?

    “Our view is that we’re continuing to work with the Russian government and other nations on this matter, and we hope to see Mr. Snowden return to the United States,” Carney replied to the first of maybe five or six

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  • Obama: 'Suspicious' GOP opposes immigration overhaul for political reasons

    President Barack Obama charged Tuesday that some Republicans oppose comprehensive legislation to overhaul the nation’s immigration policies because they are “suspicious” that the measure will swell the ranks of Democrats.

    "I think some in the House who believe that immigration will encourage further demographic changes -- and that may not be good for them politically," he told Norma Garcia, of Telemundo's KXTX in Fort Worth, Texas.

    Obama also rejected calls for a piecemeal approach to the problem – as advocated by some key GOP lawmakers – and said he hoped that the bill could reach his desk in the fall. The president had previously said he hoped it would be done before lawmakers head home next month -- and face voters potentially angry about the sweeping blueprint.

    The president's comments came as he sat down for four question-and-answer sessions with Spanish-language TV interviewers, part of a White House push behind the measure, which has stalled in the Republican-held House of

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  • U.S. to Russia: Turn over Snowden or risk 'long-term problems'

    The White House left no doubt on Tuesday that American patience with Russia playing host to NSA leaker Edward Snowden is wearing thin.

    “The Russian government has an opportunity here to work with us,” press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing. “This should not be something that causes long-term problems for U.S.-Russian relations.”

    Washington and Moscow have been “engaging on a number of important issues, both economic and security related issues, and we want to continue that relationship unimpeded by this issue,” Carney added. By turning over Snowden, or at least expelling him, Russia could “resolve this situation that they have been dealing with now for three weeks.”

    Could the dispute over Snowden lead Obama to cancel his planned attendance at the Group of 20 summit in Russia? Carney did not close out that possibility. "The president intends to travel to Russia in September for the G20 summit. And I don't have any further announcements."

    By the standards of

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  • Key Senator Levin: Wouldn't want J. Edgar Hoover to have NSA powers

    This is not exactly a huge vote of confidence in the National Security Agency's institutional safeguards against wrongly invading Americans' privacy. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D.-Mich, told reporters Tuesday that he wouldn't want someone like notorious FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to have the NSA's powers to spy on U.S. citizens.

    "If this technology were in the hands of J. Edgar Hoover, would I feel comfortable? No," Levin declared at a breakfast with reporters organized by the Christian Science Monitor. "But on the other hand, I wasn't comfortable with J. Edgar Hoover with his technology."

    Levin, who also sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he had been "adequately informed" about the NSA's program of collecting the telephone records of millions of Americans. That program and a parallel program to intercept online communications, known as PRISM, were the focus of revelations by Edward Snowden, an NSA contractor.

    "It's got to be looked at, I

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  • Holder: I share concerns about Zimmerman acquittal

    Attorney General Eric Holder declared on Monday that he shares the worries of those concerned about Travyon Martin’s “tragic, unnecessary shooting death” and the court case that resulted in George Zimmerman’s acquittal.

    Speaking to the Delta Sigma Theta sorority’s national convention, Holder said “the Deltas are deeply, and rightly, concerned about this case.”

    “The Justice Department shares your concern – I share your concern – and, as we first acknowledged last spring, we have opened an investigation into the matter,” he said, referring to a process that could lead the department to file federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.

    At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney said it would be “inappropriate” for President Barack Obama to weigh in on that process.

    “Cases are brought on the merits, and the merits are evaluated by the professionals at the Department of Justice,” Carney told reporters at his daily briefing.

    But McClatchy reported that the FBI – which interviewed

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  • Obama: 'Honor' Trayvon Martin by preventing future tragedies

    Saying "we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken," President Barack Obama on Sunday urged Americans to stay calm in the wake of George Zimmerman's acquittal in the Trayvon Martin case and "honor" the slain teen's memory by preventing similar tragedies in the future.

    "I know this case has elicited strong passions.  And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher.  But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken," Obama said in a written statement released by the White House.

    [RELATED: Jury finds George Zimmerman not guilty]

    "I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son," the president said, calling Martin's death "a tragedy."

    "We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a

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  • Napolitano leaving Homeland Security to head University of California system

    Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Friday that she is resigning her post to become the next president of the University of California system -- the first woman to hold the post in its 145-year history. The Los Angeles Times first reported the news.

    In a resignation statement, the former Arizona governor called heading DHS “the highlight of my professional career.”

    “We have worked together to minimize threats of all kinds to the American public,” she said. “The Department has improved the safety of travelers; implemented smart steps that make our immigration system more fair and focused while deploying record resources to protect our nation’s borders; worked with states to build resiliency and make our nation’s emergency and disaster response capabilities more robust; and partnered with the private sector to improve our cybersecurity.”

    Napolitano said she would be “nominated as the next President of the University of California to play a role in educating our nation’s

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  • Key Republican: No, there’s no ‘zero option’ Afghan withdrawal plan

    U.S. troops stop a man to search him while on patrol near Command Outpost AJK (short for Azim-Jan-Kariz, a nearby village) in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, February 1, 2013. Andrew Burton/Reuters)So is the New York Times right that President Barack Obama is increasingly looking at the "zero option" for Afghanistan, opting not to leave any residual American force in the war-torn country after combat troops leave at the end of 2014?

    On Tuesday, the White House offered a coy mmmmmmaybe. A top Republican lawmaker responded with a resounding no way.

    The Times precipitated the latest curious discussion of how the president will end America's longest war with a report Monday that cited anonymous officials (not necessarily Americans) as saying that Obama -- spurred on by increasing exasperation with his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai -- was looking to speed up the withdrawal and increasingly looking at the “zero option.”

    Key bit: “There’s always been a zero option, but it was not seen as the main option,” said a senior Western official in Kabul. “It is now becoming one of them, and if you listen to some people in Washington, it is maybe now being seen as a realistic path.”

    The White

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  • White House on force-feeding Gitmo prisoners: We don’t want them to die

    The interior of an unoccupied communal cellblock is seen at Camp VI, a prison used to house detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, March 5, 2013. (Bob Strong/Reuters)Faced with an unusually harsh rebuke from a federal judge, the White House on Tuesday cautiously defended the force-feeding of Guantanamo Bay prisoners, stressing, “We don’t want these individuals to die.”

    Press secretary Jay Carney’s comments came after U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler urged Obama to personally address the controversy over the hunger strike at the notorious facility. Kessler dismissed a suit from a Guantanamo detainee who argued that the government will infringe upon his religious freedom by force-feeding him during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, which begins Tuesday, but called the practice “painful, humiliating and degrading" and pressed the president to act.

    Asked about Kessler's comments, Carney told reporters at his daily briefing, "On the questions of litigation I would refer you to the Department of Justice and the Defense Department, which obviously runs Guantanamo Bay, I would refer you to them for specifics about the hunger strikers."

    But "we don’t

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  • Bin Laden wore cowboy hat ‘to avoid detection’: Pakistani report

    The compound where Osama bin Laden was reported to have been killed in Abbottabad May 4, 2011. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

    Osama bin Laden "trusted in Allah for his protection" but made sure to wear a cowboy hat on his walks around his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, "to avoid detection from above." That's according to the blockbuster final report of a Pakistani commission that looked into the circumstances surrounding the May 2011 raid in which U.S. commandos killed the leader of al-Qaida. The report was obtained and published by Al-Jazeera English.

    The so-called Abbottabad Commission comprised Pakistan's most senior supreme court judge, a retired inspector general of police, a retired army lieutenant general, and the director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Its task was to investigate how bin Laden managed to live quietly in that garrison town ("a kilometer in a straight line from the Pakistan Military Academy," the report notes) and how U.S. special operations forces were able to conduct the covert raid without interference from Pakistan government forces. Key question:

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