Thursday, September 17, 2009

Colorado man questioned in terror probe.

DENVER, Colorado (CNN) -- A Colorado resident at the center of a federal terrorism probe met with FBI agents for a second day Thursday as his lawyer disputed a report that bomb-making plans were found on the man's computer.

FBI agents search the apartment of Naijbullah Zazi on Wednesday in connection with a terror investigation.

Federal agents searched Najibullah Zazi's apartment and another home in the same Denver suburb on Wednesday in connection with the terrorism probe, which emerged Monday with a series of raids in the New York borough of Queens. A law enforcement official told CNN that diagrams showing how to make bombs were found on the computer Zazi had with him when he was stopped in New York during a recent visit, but his lawyer, Arthur Folsom, dismissed that allegation.

"There's no diagram of a bomb. There's no information like that," Folsom told reporters as he walked his client to his second meeting with federal agents. If something like that had turned up on Zazi's computer, he said, "Do you really think the FBI would have allowed us to walk out of here last night?"

Zazi, an Afghan national, gave writing, fingerprint and DNA samples to FBI agents Wednesday during a "very friendly, very cordial" interview, Folsom said. He said Zazi has no ties to terrorism, and he believes his client drew investigators' attention "because he stayed at a house owned by an old friend of his who was under observation from the FBI."

A former counterterrorism official briefed on the investigation also said bomb instructions were found, but could not say where. The former official said backpacks, computers and maps were found during the searches in New York, and field tests turned up positive for explosives. But initial tests often yield false positives, and the former official was unaware whether more definitive tests had been concluded.

The case began with a New York police informant, with authorized FBI wiretaps used to further develop the case, the former counterterrorism official said. Agents launched the raids after police stopped Zazi on the George Washington Bridge during a recent visit to New York, raising concerns that he would figure out he was under surveillance, the former official told CNN.

Wednesday, Folsom said Zazi stayed in one of the apartments that was raided after he drove to New York from Denver to sort out a business issue. Sources close to the investigation told CNN that the Queens raids were spurred by a confluence of events in the city -- including the upcoming U.N. General Assembly session and President Obama's Wall Street speech on Monday.

It's believed to be the first time Afghan nationals are suspected of possible involvement in an alleged terror plot targeting the United States. But FBI director Robert Mueller told a Senate committee Wednesday that he did not believe the investigation had revealed any "imminent danger."

Shuttle ferry no earlier than Saturday

Space Shuttle Discovery's ferry flight from Edwards Air Force Base to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida has been postponed by at least a day due to weather conditions.

After a Flight Readiness Review Thursday, NASA managers advised that they expect Discovery to be ready to begin the ferry flight by late Friday morning. However, high temperatures at Edwards and stormy weather over the south and southeast portions of the country led them to hold off on having Discovery depart Edwards to no earlier than early Saturday morning, Sept. 19. They plan to meet again with meteorologists and the flight crews at mid-day Friday at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center to discuss whether to aim for a Saturday takeoff, or to postpone the ferry flight further.

Ferry Flight Preps Ahead of Schedule

Discovery’s Ferry Preparations Move Ahead; Friday Departure Possible09.17.09

Preparation of the Space Shuttle Discovery for its ferry flight back to Florida is still running slightly ahead of schedule at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Southern California, and managers expect that preparations will be complete and Discovery will be ready to begin its cross-country ferry flight to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop a modified Boeing 747 by Friday morning, Sept. 18.

The final date and projected time for Discovery’s departure from Edwards will be determined at a Flight Readiness Review, currently slated for Thursday afternoon.

On Wednesday, United Space Alliance technicians completed draining of water from the Power Reactant Storage and Distribution System fuel cells, installation of the drag chute ferry door, and installation of the tail cone attach point fittings. Installation of the tail cone over the main engine rocket nozzles, which reduces the shuttle’s aerodynamic drag during the ferry flight, is in work Thursday. Once that is complete, technicians will focus on several operations such as raising the landing gear and control surfaces requiring powering up Discovery’s hydraulic systems.

Mating of Discovery to the modified 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft is then expected to get under way late Thursday.

If departure occurs Friday morning, the 747-shuttle combo could arrive at the Kennedy Space Center as early as late Saturday, Sept. 19, weather and other factors permitting.

Someone at Nasa has a sense of humor ...

Big bird scares little bird.

My apartment complex got buzzed by an V-22 Osprey again and I just love it. I don't know if it is on purpose or not, but I'd like to think so.

This time he alarmed this pigeon who couldn't get away fast enough.

MV-22 guys:

For future reference:

Long: 101.53.19
Lat: 35.10.00

Heads up on 123.100 MHz

-Steve Douglass

Shuttle ferry update

Preparation of the Space Shuttle Discovery for its ferry flight back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida is running ahead of schedule at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Southern California, and managers expect that Discovery will be ready to begin its cross-country ferry flight atop a modified Boeing 747 by Friday morning, Sept. 18.

3 arrested for rocket attack during Biden visit

3 arrested for rocket attack during Biden visit

By David Rising - The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Sep 16, 2009 8:02:25 EDT

BAGHDAD — U.S.-Iraqi forces arrested three militants suspected of firing rockets at Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, where visiting Vice President Joe Biden was spending the night, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

The rockets hit in the Green Zone on Tuesday evening, killing two Iraqi civilians, soon after Biden had retired for the night following meetings with American officials on the first day of his visit to Iraq.

A joint rapid-reaction force raided the launching site and, after coming under small arms fire, arrested three Iraqis along with three rocket rails believed to have been used to fire the shells, the U.S. military said in a statement.

The military did not identify the men.

An Iraqi military officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said the three men were picked up on the outskirts of the main Shiite district of Sadr City and are believed to be Shiite militants who broke away from anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s now dissolved Mahdi Army.

Shiite militants in the past have frequently fired rockets and mortars at the Green Zone, a district along the Tigris River where Iraqi government offices and the U.S. Embassy are located.

However, a Sunni insurgent group, the Mujahideen Army, also claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement Wednesday on Islamic militant Web sites, saying the rocket-fire was “a reception for Biden, the head of infidelity.” The authenticity of the claim could not be confirmed.

The U.S. military said three 107mm rockets impacted around the Green Zone in Tuesday’s attacks, while Iraqi police say a fourth rocket fell short and hit a residential building, killing two and injuring five others. The shells were initially identified as mortars on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Biden was meeting with a broad spectrum of Iraqi officials in Baghdad, trying to help smooth political differences as the American military moves ahead with plans to pull troops out of the country.

He held talks first with parliament speaker Ayad al-Sammaraie, a senior member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the country’s largest Sunni political party.

The two sides discussed developments in the country’s national reconciliation efforts with former Saddam loyalists and other Iraqi internal issues, al-Sammaraie’s spokesman Omar al-Mashhadani told The AP. He gave no further details.

The American vice president was also meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, and Sunni leaders including Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi ahead of meetings with Kurdish officials on Thursday.

Over his three-day visit, Biden’s main focus was expected to be plans for January elections and the ongoing violence in Iraq’s north. As the number of bombings and other attacks declines elsewhere in Iraq, the north remains a battleground between Sunni Arab extremists and Iraqi and U.S. forces. Kurdish-Arab tension there also frequently flares into violence.

“The whole purpose is to see how we can be helpful, if we can, in helping them resolve the outstanding political issues they have to resolve internally, so that when the (security agreement) is fully implemented we leave a stable Iraq,” he told reporters late Tuesday after meeting with Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill.

The U.S.-Iraqi security agreement calls for the withdrawal of American combat forces by the end of August, 2010 and of all U.S. troops by the end of 2011. Biden said that Odierno was optimistic that the readiness of Iraqi forces would allow the U.S. military to withdraw all combat forces next year according to plan, and then proceed with pulling out the remaining 50,000 troops by the end of the following year. There are now about 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Biden made his last visit to the country on July 4 to spend U.S. Independence Day with the troops. During that trip he also met with his son, Beau, who is an Army captain serving in Iraq.

Somali al-Qaida group confirms death of leader

Somali al-Qaida group confirms death of leader: "CAIRO — A Somalia-based al-Qaida group acknowledged for the first time that U.S. commandos killed one of its senior leaders but vowed to fight on in a statement posted on an Islamic Web site Wednesday.The man was killed along with other fighters in a daring daylight raid by U.S. special forces in southern Somalia on Monday.

The group, the Al-Shabab Mujahideen Movement, confirmed the death of ‘sheik commander’ Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan along with an unspecified number of other militants. U.S. officials have said a total of six people were killed in the strike.American authorities have described the 30-year-old Kenyan as one of the most wanted al-Qaida operatives in the region. He was wanted for involvement in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 250 people, as well as the attempted downing of an Israeli airliner and a car bombing at a beach resort in Kenya in 2002.

Ten Kenyans and three Israelis were killed in the hotel blast.Several past attempts to kill him failed, including one in March 2008 in which the U.S. Navy fired two Tomahawk missiles from a submarine into a southern Somali town.U.S. officials on Tuesday described a long wait for the right opportunity to try again.

Monday’s raid involved elite Navy SEALs in Army assault helicopters launched from U.S. warships off the Somali coast.The group’s statement said six U.S. helicopters took part in the attack on Nabhan and his comrades, who were traveling in a car. Two of the helicopters landed and troops exchanged fire with the fighters, all of whom were killed, before ‘the enemy hurried to the site, collecting the bodies of the brothers,’ according to the statement.

The authenticity of the statement could not be verified, but it was posted on an Islamic Web site that regularly carries statements from al-Qaida and other militant groups.The insurgent group said the loss of its leader will not affect its determination to continue fighting and vowed to avenge his death.U.S. officials have become increasingly concerned that al-Qaida insurgents are moving out of safe havens along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and into Somalia’s anarchic expanses, exploiting the lack of an effective central government to train and mobilize recruits without interference."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Obama scrapping missile defense shield

New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration plans to announce on Thursday that it will scrap former President George W. Bush’s planned missile defense system in Eastern Europe and instead deploy a reconfigured system aimed more at intercepting shorter-range Iranian missiles, according to people familiar with the plans.

President Obama decided not to deploy a sophisticated radar system in the Czech Republic or 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland, as Mr. Bush had planned. Instead, the new system his administration is developing would deploy smaller SM-3 missiles at first aboard ships and later probably either in southern Europe or Turkey, according to those familiar with the plans.

The announcement, to be made by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who was first appointed by Mr. Bush, amounts to one of the biggest national security reversals by the new administration, one that will aggravate Czech and Polish allies and possibly please Russia, which has adamantly objected to the Bush system. But administration officials stressed that they are not abandoning missile defense, only redesigning it to meet the more immediate Iranian threat.

“The way forward enhances our homeland defense and protects our forces abroad as well as our European allies,” said an administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid upstaging the announcement by Mr. Gates. “Our review has been driven by an updated intelligence assessment of Iran’s missile programs and new advances in our missile defense capabilities and technologies.”

Administration officials said the Bush missile defense architecture was better designed to counter potential long-range missiles by Iran, but recent tests and intelligence have indicated that Tehran is moving more rapidly toward developing short- and medium-range missiles. Mr. Obama’s advisers said their reconfigured system would be more aimed at that threat by stationing interceptor missiles closer to Iran.

The Obama administration has begun briefing allies on the decision and the Czech prime minister confirmed that he received a phone call from Mr. Obama informing him of the plans.

A Polish diplomat said Warsaw was waiting to hear, but added that “it is clear that the administration has other priorities.”

Mr. Bush had developed a special relationship with Eastern Europe as relations between Washington and Moscow deteriorated. The proposal to deploy parts of the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic were justified on the grounds that they would protect Europe and the eastern coast of the United States against any possible missile attacks from Iran.

But the Polish and Czech governments saw the presence of U.S. military personnel based permanently in their countries as a protection against Russia. Moscow strongly opposed the shield and claimed it was targeted against Russia and undermined national security. The United States repeatedly denied such claims.

Mr. Obama’s advisers have said their changes to missile defense were motivated by the accelerating Iranian threat, not by Russian complaints. But the announcement comes just days before Mr. Obama is scheduled to meet privately with Russia’s President Dmitry A. Medvedev in New York on the sidelines of next week’s United Nations General Assembly session.

The administration maintains that the switch in the Bush plans does not indicate any diminishment of its relations with Poland and the Czech Republic. “The United States stands by its security commitments to its allies,” said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity



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