A potential domestic travel ban has state leaders and local business owners worried during one of the Tampa Bay area’s busiest tourist season.
- The Independent
Kamala Harris casts tie-breaking vote to allow debate on Biden’s Covid relief bill to begin in Senate
Polls suggest more than 70 per cent of the American public back the legislation
- The Independent
Capitol rioter who put feet on Pelosi’s desk yells in court over pre-trial jailing: ‘It’s not fair!’
Richard Barnett, 60, of Arkansas faces federal charges including disorderly conduct in a capitol building
- The Independent
Obama administration greatly expanded the use of drone strikes before later imposing checks
- The Independent
White House admits Biden cannot force people to wear masks or get vaccines as Texas and Mississippi drop safeguards
With Republican governors in Texas and Mississippi rolling back Covid-related public health safeguards, the Joe Biden administration has recognised the stark reality when it comes to overseeing the pandemic response: There’s only so much the White House can do. On Wednesday, Mr Biden was highly critical of Governors Greg Abbott of Texas and Tate Reeves of Mississippi, who have both decided to dispense with mask mandates in their states and limitations on businesses, including restaurants that had previously been forced to operate at reduced capacity.
- The Independent
‘I’m always up for a good fight,’ says Trump ally
- Reuters Videos
Dutch police are investigating an explosion at a coronavirus testing center north of Amsterdam and say that it appears to have been intentionally targeted.The blast occurred in the town of Bovenkarspel, about 35 miles north of the capital and shattered windows, but caused no injuries to the one security guard reported to have been inside.Metal remains of a small explosive device were found at the front of the building. A police spokesman told Reuters that they were investigating exactly what exploded, but said "something like that doesn't just happen by accident, it has to be laid."The region around the rural town, is currently suffering one of the Netherlands' worst COVID-19 outbreaks. At least one hospital has been forced to send patients to other provinces, due to lack of space in its intensive care units.The incident also comes shortly before national elections on March 17 widely seen as a referendum on the government's handling of the pandemic.Wednesday (March 4) marks the first day in several months in which lockdown measures in the Netherlands have been slightly eased, although a night-time curfew from 9 p.m. remains in place.
- The Daily Beast
MATHIEU LEWIS-ROLLANDBy Elaine ShannonThe FBI-Homeland Security intelligence bulletin circulated at midnight Tuesday is ominous, but entirely predictable, given widely published reports of far-right chatter over the past several weeks: It alerts local law enforcement officials that extremists may try to breach the U.S. Capitol on Thursday and attack Democratic lawmakers.The warning is based on a malevolent fantasy spread by followers of QAnon, the cultish pro-Trump movement, that Donald Trump will reemerge to take power as the rightful president on March 4, which was Inauguration Day until 1933. Preposterous, but the FBI has learned not to dismiss any threat, no matter how irrational.“It does not take an armed takeover” by an organized group to do a lot of damage, says Tom O’Connor, an FBI agent who investigated suspected domestic terrorists for 23 years. “It takes one person who believes they need to act. How possible is that, I ask you?”Dead easy, as the FBI knows from the many cases in which lone actors or a couple or three angry people unleashed spectacular destruction, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Charleston church shooter Dylan Roof, and, most recently, Nashville bomber Tony Warner.The FBI’s ability to surveil American citizens and build domestic terrorism dossiers on them is tightly restricted by laws and regulations enacted in the post-Watergate era.Which is why the FBI has developed alternative tools and techniques for finding and discouraging people who might be thinking of escalating from radical anti-government speech, which is protected by the First Amendment, to violent action, which is a crime.FBI agents are currently deploying, among other strategies, preemptive interviews, also known as “knock and talk,” as a tactic for dealing with potential troublemakers when there’s insufficient evidence to file criminal charges—for instance, people who have been out bragging in bars or “shit-posting” online about their determination to come to Washington to help restore Trump to the White House, disrupt Congress or the Biden administration or intimidate lawmakers.The knock-and-talk drill is powerful, requires no intrusive technology and no warrant. It goes like this: FBI agents, sometimes with local police partners, knock on doors of people of interest and ask to interview them. The mere appearance of courteous but unsmiling and obviously well-informed badge-carriers, armed with notebooks and a long list of very specific questions, is often enough to chill someone from carrying out a half-baked scheme.“FBI agents and [Joint Terrorism] Task Force [police] officers routinely conduct these interviews with people who may have information or involvement in activity,” O’Connor told SpyTalk. “The effort is to let the interviewee know the FBI is aware they have potential involvement or information. This may slow the person’s potential involvement and most importantly, after building a relationship with the person, may produce information which will stop potential violence.”“These interviews are related to [uncovering] potential criminal violence,” he stressed, “and not First Amendment-protected activity. The FBI in no way is looking to chill a citizen’s rights to peaceful protest or free speech.”On Wednesday morning, Jill Sanborn, the FBI’s assistant director for counterterrorism, alluded to the FBI uses of the knock-and-talk technique to deter known violent extremists from traveling to the Capitol for the Jan. 6 event. Testifying before a joint session of the Senate Homeland Security and Rules committees, Sanborn explained that of the 257 people charged so far for taking part in the riot, only one person was already under criminal investigation for domestic terrorism-related activities. Asked why so few documented domestic terrorists were in the crowd, Sanborn replied, “We were aware of some of our subjects that intended to come here. We took overt action by going and talking to them to get them to not come. That worked in the majority of our already predicated cases.”FBI director Christopher Wray made a similar disclosure to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. “There were individuals on whom we had previously predicated investigations, that we saw getting ready to travel,” Wray said. “…We had agents…approach those individuals, interview them, and even if we didn’t have the basis to charge somebody, it persuaded a number of those people from traveling.”‘Ready to Die’: Two Months of MAGA Mob Warning SignsWray said the FBI has 2,000 open domestic terrorism investigations, a fourfold increse over 2017.Knock-and-talk is “not new and certainly not just for terrorism,” says a retired agent with extensive experience in domestic and foreign counterterrorism investigations. “It's been done for years on organized crime cases. Sometimes to keep people from possibly doing something and sometimes to shake the bushes and see what reaction you get. Put pressure on a group of people, make them worried, make them suspicious and see what they do. In some cases where you are employing [court approved] Title III judicial wiretaps, you do interviews to see who the guys you talked to call. Do they call their bosses or do they warn people? It's a great technique. It works on different levels and it sends the message, ‘We are watching you. We know who you are.’ People think the Internet makes them invisible. Sometimes they need to be reminded that's not true.”Last week, Capitol Police chief Yogananda Pitman disclosed another malign fantasy reported by a FBI-Homeland Security intelligence bulletin—that some domestic extremists were talking of bombing the U.S. Capitol while President Biden was addressing a joint session of Congress in a State of the Union-style event, to assassinate the president and his cabinet and kill every lawmaker in sight.“The State of the Union is the juiciest target this country ever had, but the logistics are challenging,” says a retired senior FBI counterterrorism agent.“We always took the attitude, if your purpose is to stop the State of the Union, all you have to do is set off a bomb somewhere in D.C. and that will shut everything down,” he said, speaking with SpyTalk on condition of anonymity. “If a car bomb goes off in front of Union Station,” four blocks from the Capitol building, “they’ll stop it.”Presumably, the Secret Service would whisk the president away to a bunker and congressional leaders would also go to ground.But, the ex-G-man adds, “If your mission is to blow up the whole Capitol and decapitate the government, you better use a cruise missile because that’s the only way you’re going to get it.”As during previous State of the Union events, when the president travels to the Hill, streets around the Capitol building will be closed. Many are already closed off from the Jan. 6 event. Some will be blocked with buses and trucks. Secret Service, FBI, Homeland Security and local law enforcement surveillance teams will be everywhere, in patrol cars and on foot.Choppers and SniffersCounterterror veterans say that military aircraft and customs and police helicopters will overfly the Capitol and nearby streets, looking for everything from light aircraft to armed drones. Radiation detectors will be mounted in aircraft, cars and in backpacks shouldered by plainclothes agents, so they can head off “dirty” bombs packed with radioactive trash as shrapnel.The Capitol Police force has the biggest bomb squad in Washington, D.C., the ex-G-man says, and if its bomb techs encounter a device they can’t defuse, they’ll be able to summon backup from the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, which includes specialists trained to render safe unusual explosive devices.“If somebody wanted to put a package bomb on a drone, it would be hard to catch, hard to stop, but it wouldn’t do much damage,” he says. “If somebody wants to put a plane down somewhere, it’s very hard to stop that.”“It is possible [to hit the Capitol building] with an improvised missile,” Dave Williams, a retired FBI bomb tech who now consults on security, told SpyTalk. “The payload would be limited depending on the delivery system, but 20 pounds of high explosive would get some attention. A drone attack is unlikely, due to electronic jamming systems that could/will be in place. But a homemade rocket/missile has been made by a number of people. And they could easily fire it from a good distance away, a mile or so. It’s not out of the question.”That’s a chilling scenario, because the domestic extremist movement has attracted a significant number of military veterans. Some of them, or some to be recruited in coming months, could have useful artillery skills. Any explosion would yield the kind of publicity terrorists crave.Nightmares of Bombings PastA truck bomb would be a terrorist’s preferred, low-tech method for demolishing part of a massive stone building. The bomb that blew up about a third of the Oklahoma City federal building on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people, consisted of about 4,000 pounds of ANFO— ammonium nitrate fertilizer mixed with fuel oil—concealed in a Ryder moving truck. Williams says it would take at least that much ANFO or another homemade explosive to wreak equivalent damage on the hallowed Capitol building. A car, pickup or van couldn’t hold that much. Large trucks are impossible to hide, and they’re under routine scrutiny in Washington, especially during special events.A smaller amount of stolen military high explosives such as C4, PETN or TNT might do the job, but Williams doubts a terror group could get its hands on enough to create a catastrophic event in Washington.The most diabolical scenario is an explosion, or a series of them, detonated by an insider— or an outsider who has gained access to the building.The pros say that’s been considered. They say that since the anthrax attacks in 2001, the Capitol complex’s air conditioning system has been outfitted with filters that capture particles down to nanograms. These filters are regularly checked with forensic instruments that can detect particles of chemical explosives and also biological and radiological agents.As well, the Capitol Police make regular rounds with dogs trained to sniff explosives. Dog’s noses are often more sensitive than machines, and they like the job.“It’s like play for these dogs,” says Williams.Buzz Kill“They have all kinds of detectors within the Capitol, with all kinds of different levels of sensors,” says the ex-G-man. “The military has mobile systems that you can run out of a Humvee to detect explosives. They’re designed to protect troops out in the field. They work in fields, jungle, deserts.” So, the thinking goes, they’ll work well on Capitol Hill.“At this point, all threats have to be run to ground,” says O’Connor, who retired from the FBI in 2019. “The threat does not have to be fully vetted and confirmed to have actions taken to guard against potential attacks. The threats of overrunning the Capitol were thought by many to be along the same lines. No agencies will be writing off any threats until they are proven non-credible.”Privately, though, some FBI counter-terror hands expect the attack-the-Capitol moment to go sideways.“Guys like this don't want to go toe-to-toe with security forces and police that they know are waiting for them and really, really want another shot at the rioters,” says a retired FBI agent. “The Capitol Police and the National Guard both want to prove to the world that they can do the job and would love for people to try and breach the Capitol again. I expect lots of online rhetoric. I expect several groups to declare Trump is president again. I expect stories of a ‘secret Inauguration' taking place.”And then?Nothing for a while. Then maybe a change of venue.“If I was Capitol Police,” says the ex-Gman, “I would be more concerned about direct actions taken against specific congressional leaders when they are at home or traveling back to their home offices. That is when they are most vulnerable now.”Co-published with SpyTalk, where Jeff Stein leads an all-star team of veteran investigative reporters, writers, and subject-matter experts who will take you behind the scenes of the national security state. Subscribe to get full access to the newsletter and website.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- The Independent
Republicans in 43 states have introduced more than 250 bills restricting voting rights, underscoring urgency in Congress to pass sweeping elections legislation, Alex Woodward reports
Democrat Joe Biden has promised to undo the 'cruelty' of Donald Trump's immigration policies.
- The Independent
‘Everything is made in China,’ said a business partner behind the six foot replica
- The Telegraph
Europe's volte-face on Oxford Covid vaccine PM faces Tory backlash over masks in classroom Judith Woods: Masks will be the least of our problems when schools return Excess deaths could already be back at normal levels Subscribe to The Telegraph for a month-long free trial Italy is not the problem, AstraZeneca is, an Italian MP has said as she defended the decision by the country to block the export of 250,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses to Australia. Lia Quartapelle, an Italian politician of the Democratic Party (PD), said the move was legal due to EU law, and said: "I'm amazed by the fact that the problem is that Italy bans the export and the problem is not AstraZeneca not delivering what is written in the contracts. "Italy is coming under scrutiny for something that is allowed while AstraZeneca is doing something that is not allowed under the contract it signed. I do not understand why." While Australian prime minister Scott Morrison insisted the blocked shipment of the AstraZeneca jabs would not affect Australia's vaccine programme, former former leader of the Liberal Party of Australia Alexander Downer said a phonecall would have been better than "bludgeoning around with some sort of EU law where you can just terminate arrangements with other countries outside the EU". Follow the latest updates below.
Britain's decision to make unilateral changes to Northern Irish Brexit arrangements is "not the appropriate behaviour of a respectable country" and will erode trust with the European Union, senior Irish ministers said on Thursday. The EU promised legal action on Wednesday after the British government unilaterally extended a grace period for checks on food imports to Northern Ireland, a move Brussels said violated terms of Britain's divorce deal.
- The Independent
‘Yes, it could take 10 hours but the American people deserve to know what’s in it,’ claims Ron Johnson
- Business Insider
Federal investigators are zeroing in on potential communications between lawmakers and Capitol mob in lead up to the insurrection
The report added that Democrats are pushing investigators to review security footage, to determine if lawmakers toured organizers ahead of the riot.
Former President Donald Trump intensified his war with the Republican establishment on Thursday by attacking Karl Rove, a longtime Republican strategist who criticized Trump's first speech since leaving office for being long on grievances but short on vision. "He’s a pompous fool with bad advice and always has an agenda," Trump complained in a statement issued by his office in Palm Beach, Florida. Rove, the architect of Republican George W. Bush's presidential victories in 2000 and 2004, wrote in an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that Trump's speech last Sunday to the Conservative Political Action Conference was wanting.
Skip Bayless is reportedly staying at Fox Sports for a reported $8 million per year after ESPN pursued him with offers in the same salary range.
Devin Booker says he's learned from having WNBA 'Greatest of All Time' Diana Taurasi, Mercury stars 'right in your backyard'
"Having the greatest of all time in Diana right in your backyard, I obviously took advantage of that opportunity and went to many games," Booker said.
- Associated Press
The Senate is beginning debate on a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, after Democrats made eleventh-hour changes aimed at ensuring they could pull President Joe Biden’s top legislative priority through the precariously divided chamber. Democrats were hoping for Senate approval of the package before next week, in time for the House to sign off and get the measure to Biden quickly. After the Senate voted by the slimmest of margins Thursday to begin the debate, Democrats were encountering opposition from Republicans arguing that the measure’s massive price tag ignored promising signs that the pandemic and wounded economy were turning around.
A New Orleans police officer groomed and raped a 14-year-old girl he was assigned to take to a rape kit exam, a lawsuit alleges
The lawsuit alleges the officer began grooming the girl as they sat in the waiting room of a New Orleans children's hospital.
- Business Insider
Biden changed his plan for the strike on Iran-backed militias at the last minute to avoid killing a woman and children
Intelligence came in that a woman and children were in the strike area as F-15E Strike Eagles were in the air and on their way.