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Court Backs Airlines in Reporting Possible Threats (Washington Post)

Glad to see the courts were on the right side in this one. –AA

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that because Congress has given airline employees broad leeway to report potentially dangerous individuals to security officials, those employees cannot be sued for defamation provided that their reports are substantially true. The ruling was made Monday in Air Wisconsin Airlines Corp. v. Hoeper, which involved a former Air Wisconsin pilot whose supervisor reported him to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as a potential security threat. The report to the TSA was made after Hoeper had failed to pass a test on a new aircraft for the third time, angrily said that the testers were sabotaging him, swore at the testers and threatened to contact a union lawyer. His supervisor had booked him on a flight back to Denver, but then called TSA saying Hoeper was “unstable” and expressed concern about the whereabouts of Hoeper’s authorized firearm. Hoeper was ultimately taken off the flight because he was seen as being a security risk. The concerns were unfounded and Hoeper sued, earning a $1.2 billion award, which the Supreme Court ruling says that he was not entitled to. The three dissenting judges felt that the lower court got the right legal standard, but that the majority should not have applied it in this case.

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Russia not sharing Sochi threat information, US says

In my estimation, this can only mean that the threat information received by the Russians in especially daunting. –AA

by Stephen Collinson with the American Foreign Press

Washington — Russia has balked at sharing specific information on terror threats made against the Sochi Olympics with Washington, a US official said amid mounting fears over security at the Games.

The Obama administration meanwhile publicly stopped short of expressing full confidence in a massive Russian security operation ahead of the sporting spectacular opening next month in the Black Sea resort and nearby mountains.

Signs of increasing US concern followed a telephone discussion on security at the Sochi Olympics between Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

A senior US official told AFP on condition of anonymity that Russia “has not been forthcoming in sharing specific threat information.”

Extremist insurgents based in North Caucasus republics such as Dagestan who are seeking their own independent state have vowed to disrupt the Sochi Games in an effort to undermine Putin.

Washington, which has sophisticated intelligence and counterterrorism capabilities that have been deployed in previous Olympics, has offered Russia security assistance as it places a ring of steel around the host city and venues shortly to welcome thousands of athletes and spectators.

White House spokesman Jay Carney admitted earlier that there was “concern” in Washington about an uptick in reporting of threats by Islamic extremists relating to the Sochi Games.

He said the United States would send diplomatic security and FBI agents who would liaise with Russian security officials to protect American athletes and spectators.

But he did not take several opportunities offered by journalists to express full confidence in Russia’s preparations.

“I wouldn’t be qualified or wouldn’t want to venture to assess overall,” Carney said.

“These kinds of major events around the world obviously present security challenges,” he said, without confirming whether Russia had accepted US offers of help.

“The president spoke with President Putin about this. We have offered any assistance that they might want to avail themselves of.”

At the State Department, deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf deflected a query as to whether the United States had full confidence in the Russian effort, but added that Washington knew Moscow was “committed to doing everything they can in terms of security.”

The careful public tone adopted by the administration could signal a desire to avoid offending or antagonizing Russia in the run-up to the Games while concerns are expressed privately with top Russian officials.

The Games are seen as hugely important to Putin’s personal prestige and to his project of restoring stability and honor to Russia as it emerges from the post-Cold War period that saw the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Ties between Moscow and Washington are currently as tense as they have been for many years, with the case of fugitive US intelligence leader Edward Snowden — granted temporary asylum by Russia — and the Kremlin’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, fraying tempers.

The call between Putin and Obama came amid signs of subtle but rising pressure on Russia over securing the Games from Washington.

On Monday, the Pentagon said it was ready to deploy air and naval assets — including two ships — to help secure the Olympics, which begin on February 7.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had already offered American support during a January 4 phone call with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu.

Security fears were exacerbated by two suicide bombings in the southern city of Volgograd last month — Russia’s deadliest in three years — that killed 34 people.

The State Department has warned Americans headed to Sochi to be vigilant.

On Sunday, several prominent US lawmakers raised new concerns about Russia’s security efforts to protect the Games, despite Moscow’s effort to encircle the host city in a ring of steel.

Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said there had been good cooperation between Russian authorities and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

But “it could be a lot better,” he told ABC News in an interview from Moscow.

Another Republican lawmaker, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, said US officials were not getting all the information they needed to protect athletes at the Games.

“What we’re finding is they aren’t giving us the full story about what are the threat streams, who do we need to worry about,” he said.

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Black Widow Terrorists In Sochi?

(CNN) — New details fueled debate Monday over security at the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi: Wanted posters of a terrorism suspect on the loose, warships at the ready and a video threat from beyond the grave.

Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed that his country has stepped up security and is prepared to handle any threats.

But some U.S. lawmakers — and at least one Olympic athlete — have said they’re worried about the situation.

Hotels warned about terror suspect

Police in Sochi have handed out fliers at area hotels warning of a woman they believe could be a terrorist and who may currently be in the city.

One flier, obtained by CNN, asks workers to be on the lookout for Ruzanna “Salima” Ibragimova, described as the widow of a member of a militant group from the Caucasus region.

The woman, according to the flier, may be involved in organizing “a terrorist act within the 2014 Olympic region.”


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A Deserved Win for the Baltimore Museum of Art


There’s no question that this painting was stolen from the BMA, and I’m glad to see it go back where it belonged.–AA

The saga of an Impressionist painting stolen from the Baltimore Museum of Art decades ago and allegedly purchased for $7 at a West Virginia flea market came to an end Friday in federal court in Alexandria when a judge rendered her verdict: Renoir Girl is losing her Renoir.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema awarded the painting to the BMA at the expense of the woman who dubbed herself “Renoir Girl,” ending a bizarre art drama that generated coverage from the Los Angeles Times to “Good Morning America.” The decision wiped out a potential six-figure windfall for Loudoun County driving instructor Martha Fuqua, who claimed that in 2009 she found “On the Shore of the Seine” in a box containing a plastic cow and a Paul Bunyan doll. (Washington Post)


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State Department Issues Warning Regarding Olympics

To the surprise of absolutely no one…

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department is advising Americans going to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia to be vigilant about their security due to potential terrorist threats, crime and uncertain medical care.

In a travel alert issued on Friday, the department said it was not aware of specific threats to U.S. interests related to the Games that begin next month. But it said large events like the Olympics are ‘‘an attractive target for terrorists’’ and Americans should be aware of their surroundings and ‘‘exercise good judgment and discretion’’ if they use public transportation.

It noted that Russia has vowed to take appropriate security steps. But it also pointed out several recent terrorist attacks on public transport in the city of Volgograd while also making clear those occurred 600 miles (965 kilometers) from Sochi.


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Terror Chief Dubbed Russia’s Osama Bin Laden ‘Will Target Britons at Olympics’ Daily Mail (United Kingdom)

More ominous news for the coming Olympics. –AA

A secret intelligence report drawn up by Canadian counterterrorism agencies and shared with British intelligence warns that Doku Umarov, the leader of the Chechen jihadist group Imarat Kavkaz (IK), poses the greatest terror threat for next month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Compiled by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the report states that Umarov–who is blamed for the two recent suicide bombings in Volgograd, Russia–has called for attacks on the “satanic games” and notes that the warlord “appears to have consolidated his leadership” over the IK. The extent to which the IK cells will follow his lead is not known, however, as many IK commanders who have been eliminated in Russia’s counterterrorism efforts have been replaced with younger, less experienced fighters. The report notes that British athletes and spectators will be targeted by Umarov at the Games. MI6, British intelligence has begun working closely with Russia’s security service to counter the threat to British citizens.

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Help Award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the Heroes of United Flight 93

Please sign my petition to the White House to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the heroic passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93.  These brave souls were the first to fight back against terrorism on September 11, 2001, and spared the nation from further devastation on that tragic days.

You can sign the petition by clicking HERE.Image

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This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Islamists will stop at nothing, and Chechen Islamists are especially brutal, having massacred 385 innocents in Beslan.–AA

(CNN) — Another deadly blast has struck the southern Russian city of Volgograd, killing at least 14 people and further highlighting Russia’s security challenges as it readies to host the Winter Olympics in less than six weeks.

An explosion hit a trolleybus near a busy market during the morning rush hour Monday, a day after a blast at Volgograd’s main train station killed 17 people and wounded at least 35 others.

Like Sunday’s attack, the blast Monday was a terrorist act, Vladmir Markin, a spokesman for the country’s federal investigation agency, told the state-run news agency RIA Novosti.

No one claimed responsibility for the explosions. But they come several months after the leader of a Chechen separatist group pledged violence to disrupt the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.


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An Absurd Decision from the Court

Political Correctness hits the Courtroom:  Apparently comparing jihadists to savages is not protected under the First Amendment now.  Who’d have thought that the Court would want to protect the sensibilities of jihadists? –AA



A federal judge rejected a pro-Israel group’s assertion that its free speech rights were violated when the MBTA turned down a subway advertisement on the grounds that the ad was “demeaning or disparaging.”

The ad is paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a New York organization that seeks to combat the spread of Islam in the United States. With bold, all-capital-letter text placed against a stark black background, the ad reads: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel; defeat Jihad.”

Officials with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority rejected the ad in November on the basis that it violated the agency’s advertising guidelines.

On Friday, US District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton sided with the state’s transportation authority, saying in the ruling that “it was plausible for the defendants to conclude that the . . . pro-Israel advertisement demeans or disparages Muslims or Palestinians.”

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AP: Radical preacher goes on trial in Jordan

This jihadist is linked to Shoebomber Richard Reid.  The shoebomb attack occurred 12 years ago today. AA

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — A radical al-Qaida-linked preacher deported from Britain pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges at the start of his trial Tuesday in one of two terror cases against him before a Jordanian military court.

Abu Qatada, 53, is charged with plotting terror attacks against Israelis, Americans and other Westerners in Jordan in two foiled attempts in 1999 and 2000. In both cases, Abu Qatada, who was abroad at the time, was convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison.

But on his deportation to his homeland in July, those sentences were suspended and he had to be re-tried under Jordanian law.

Abu Qatada, whose real name is Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman, has been described in courts in Britain and Spain as a senior al-Qaida figure in Europe who had close ties to the late Osama bin Laden.

Britain accused him of links with Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in the United States over the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and with shoe bomber Richard Reid. Audio recordings of some of the cleric’s sermons were found in an apartment in Hamburg, Germany, used by some of the Sept. 11 hijackers.

On his arrival in Amman on July 7, Jordanian prosecutors charged him with conspiring to carry out terror attacks in Jordan twice — once in 1999 for a foiled plot against the American school in the Jordanian capital, and another time in 2000 for allegedly targeting Israeli and American tourists and Western diplomats during Jordan’s Millennium celebrations.

On Tuesday, the tribunal — consisting of two civilian judges and a military one — said the cases will be heard separately, and proceeded with the hearing in the case involving Israeli and American tourists.

But Abu Qatada objected to the presence of the military judge — Col. Mohammad Afif — and said it violated an agreement with Britain that paved way for his extradition and meant to guarantee him a fair trial in his homeland.

Sporting his tradition salt-and-pepper beard and wearing a dark brown prison uniform, Abu Qatada appeared defiant as he stood in the dock, his back to the bench. Later, he asked for a microphone and addressed the tribunal.

“I will not answer questions by this court because I do not recognize its jurisdiction,” he said. His relatives, including his son Qatada, and reporters crowded the courtroom. Cameramen and photographers were not allowed inside.

“This tribunal includes a military judge and this is a violation of the deal with Britain that encouraged me to return home for re-trial,” he added somberly.


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