News from North America, Thursday 6th June 2013

BBC News: “US President Barack Obama has named US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice as his national security adviser.

In a second-term shuffle of his foreign policy team, the president also nominated human rights researcher Samantha Power to replace Ms Rice.

Ms Rice will take over from Tom Donilon, who will step down in July.

She was once seen as a contender for the job of secretary of state, but was forced to withdraw amid opposition from Republicans in Congress.

The criticism – dismissed by the White House – centred on her remarks after an attack on US diplomats in Libya.”

The Guardian: “The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an ‘ongoing, daily basis’ to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.”

Washington Post: “In an unemotional, almost rote capitulation of one of the worst atrocities of the Afghanistan war, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales on Wednesday acknowledged rampaging through two villages, killing 16 Afghan civilians and burning many of their bodies.

He had little to offer as explanation for the killings.

When asked by a military judge why he had carried out the March 2012 rampage, the 39-year-old Bales was matter-of-fact in his response: ‘I’ve asked that question a million times, and there is not a good reason in the world for the horrible things I did.’

The exchange occurred shortly before the judge, Col. Jeffery Nance, accepted guilty pleas from Bales on charges of murder, attempted murder and aggravated assault as well as the unlawful use of steroids and alcohol at a U.S. military camp in Kandahar province. In exchange, he will avoid the death penalty when sentenced in August.”

The Guardian: “A Massachusetts man is facing his second month in jail without bail on terrorism charges because of a Facebook in a case that free speech advocates argue is prosecutorial overreach.

High school student Cameron D’Ambrosio called the White House a ‘federal house of horrors’ and made a reference to the Boston Marathon bombings in the post that has landed him in jail. He has since plead not guilty to a charge of ‘communicating a terroristic threat,’ which holds a prison sentence of up to 20 years.”

Daily Telegraph: “Several weeks after overseeing the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta violated security rules by revealing the name of the raid commander to the writer of the film ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ according to a draft report by US Defence Department investigators.

The unpublished report was first disclosed by the Project on Government Oversight and confirmed by Rep. Peter King, who asked for the investigation nearly two years ago.”

Huffington Post: “After years of pressure from civil rights groups and lawmakers who say attacks against religious and ethnic minorities are not adequately monitored by law enforcement, the FBI will begin formally tracking hate crimes against Sikhs, Hindus and Arabs.

Meeting in Portsmouth, Va., on Wednesday, an FBI advisory board voted to expand standard hate-crime incident reports used by thousands of police departments across the country to include crimes motivated by bias against the two religious groups, as well as Arabs.”

Chicago Tribune: “Brian James Moudry was just 14 and had been in and out of psychiatric care when he began doodling Nazi drawings and discussing white pride in letters to his physically abusive father, according to court records.

Diagnosed with severe schizophrenia that went largely untreated, Moudry listened to satanic heavy metal music and suffered from paranoid delusions. He attempted suicide, lashed out at authority and used a hot nail to carve an inverted cross into his forehead.

On Wednesday, the 36-year-old avowed white supremacist was sentenced to the maximum 10 years in prison for setting fire to the home of African-American neighbors in Joliet in June 2007. Nine family members, eight of them children 14 and under, were inside the residence about 4 a.m. when Moudry poured gasoline and ignited the blaze, but they all managed to escape, and damage was limited.”

Comment: CNN: ‘What works in fighting terrorism’ by Ali Soufan. “The Achilles heel of America’s policy against terrorism is its failure to counter the narratives that inspire individuals to become extremists and terrorists.

That’s why — despite the skill and numerous successes of our military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies — the type of tragic events seen most recently with the stabbings of soldiers in London and outside Paris, and the April bombing of the Boston Marathon, will continue to occur. We’re failing to use a key weapon that needs to be used.

There’s no question that the United States has been extremely effective tactically against al Qaeda and other terrorist groups since 9/11. Our military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies have done what they were charged with doing, from routing them in Afghanistan to hunting down Osama bin Laden to thwarting plots against New York.

But this isn’t enough. For as long as extremists are able to attract new recruits, they’ll keep producing replacements for those killed or apprehended and the battle will never end. This is why the strategic tool known as ‘countering violent extremism,’ or CVE, has to be used alongside special operations, drones and other weapons.”

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