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victoriaVictoria Jones created and edits Quick Morning News. She is chief White House correspondent with Washington DC-based Talk Media News, where her insight and analysis are made available to over 400 news talk radio stations around the country and internationally.
SecDef Ash Carter in Afghanistan today to review security as violence from ISIS grows

 

Quick News
  • San Bernardino: Friend charged
  • Frustrated Obama defends terror response
  • Visa applicants: Social media
  • Spending Bill: Poised to pass?
  • Democrats punish Sanders: Clinton data breach
  • Iran missile test: Senators want action
 
San Bernardino: Friend Charged (BBC, NYT, WaPo, me)
• Enrique Marquez, 24, a friend of Syed Farook, one of the San Bernardino shooters, has been charged with plotting to attack a university in 2011 and 2012. Marquez is also accused of illegally purchasing the two rifles that were used by couple Farook and Tashfeen Malik in the mass shooting that killed 14 people
 
• According to the criminal complaint, Marquez called emergency services hours after the attack and told the dispatcher that the attackers “used my gun.” Marquez and Farook once lived next door, Marquez was introduced to radical Islam and they allegedly watch radical Islamist videos, including lectures by former al Qaeda leader, Anwar al-Awlaki
 
• Marquez is said to have trained at gun ranges and to have studied an English al Qaeda magazine on how to make bombs. Marquez and Farook planned to bomb a local university, where they had both been students and shoot students as they ran away, according to court records. A drunk Marquez checked himself into a mental health facility after the San Bernardino attack
 
• They also had plans to attack a freeway during afternoon rush hour by dropping pipe bombs onto cars and shooting into cars and at law enforcement, the records said. Marquez distanced himself from Farook following the arrest of other suspected terrorists in the area. Authorities also charged Marquez with entering into a sham marriage with Farook’s relative
 
Frustrated Obama Defends Terror Response (NYT, me)
• President Obama, seeking to counter pressure for a military escalation in response to terrorist attacks, told a group of news columnists this week in a nearly two-hour off the record session that sending significant ground forces back to the Middle East could result in the deaths of 100 American soldiers every month and leave as many as 500 injured a month
 
• Obama said that if he did send troops to Syria, he feared a slippery slops that would eventually require similar deployments to other terrorist strongholds like Libya and Yemen, effectively putting him in charge of governing much of the region. He saw sending ground forces only in the case of a catastrophic terror attack that disrupted the normal functioning of the U.S.
 
• But Obama said he now realizes he was slow to respond to public fears after terrorist attacks in Paris and California, acknowledging that his low-key approach led Americans to worry that he wasn’t doing enough to keep the country safe. He has engaged in a blitz of public events lately to try to convince them otherwise (his bubble is too small – too protected)
 
• Obama met the columnists Tuesday afternoon, hours before the debate and when his frustration with Republican criticism was evident. Obama told them that Donald Trump’s Muslim comments didn’t make him an outlier in the GOP field, but instead represented the culmination of many years of a Republican strategy of division and fear mongering (true)

 

• President Obama is scheduled to hold his year-end press conference today at 1.50 pm in the Brady Press Briefing Room (hope he’ll be asked how he could be so out of touch – big weakness of this presidency has been its messaging – said so for years)
 
Obama: Didn’t Realize the Anxiety (NYT, me)
• In his meeting with columnists, Obama indicated that he didn’t see enough cable TV to fully appreciate the anxiety after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino (stunning – that’s why you have staff – should have been briefed) and made clear he plans to step up his arguments. Republicans were telling Americans he’s not doing anything when he is doing a lot, he said
 

• For all of the attention paid to Trump, he said, the ideas that the Republican candidates are promoting have been part of a longer-term strategy of the party. And they have been successful to a point, Obama added, noting that many Americans believe he is a Muslim who wasn’t born in the U.S. (40% – what has he done to counter it? not much)
 

• Obama visited the National Counterterrorism Center Thursday for a threat briefing with nearly all his top military, intel and security officials. “Here’s what I want every American to know – since 9/11 we’ve taken extraordinary steps to strengthen our homeland security,” he said – went into details
 
• Obama said Thursday that presently there is no “specific and credible info about an attack on the homeland,” although he added that Americans should remain vigilant. Obama claimed progress in pushing back ISIS through a strategy of airstrikes combined with Special Ops raids and support for local forces on the ground
 
• Addressing the homegrown threat, as seen in San Bernardino, Obama said the U.S. was changing visa rules and stepping up coordination with state and local police. He’s set to leave today for two weeks in Hawaii and will stop on the way in San Bernardino to meet privately with the families of the 14 victims of the attack there on 2 Dec
 
Visa Applicants: Social Media (Hill, AP, NYT, me)
• Dept of Homeland Security officials are insisting that they do sometimes look at the social media accounts of immigrants and travelers headed to the U.S. after several reports have suggested otherwise. Yet the searches are only occasional and social media isn’t routinely included in screenings of visa applicants coming to the U.S. (bit like partial pregnant)
 
• MSNBC reported that the Obama admin rejected a proposal in 2011 to authorize officials to vet the social media accounts of visa applicants, according to a DHS memo obtained by the network. “There is no, nor has there ever been a secret policy prohibiting the use of social media for vetting,” said DHS’s Leon Rodriguez at a House Oversight Committee hearing Thursday
 
• Rodriguez, the head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said that, working with intel and law enforcement agencies, the dept had already completed two small pilot programs incorporating social media, and is working on a third, larger, pilot program (companies looking to hire people look at social media, just seems like you would…)
 
• The FBI has said the San Bernardino terror couple communicated privately online about jihad and martyrdom before they married. “We should have gotten that anyway,” Rep Stephen Lynch (D-Mass) insisted. “That’s entirely reasonable to ask people coming from countries that are known as hotbeds of terrorism. Why aren’t we doing this?”

 

• 2016ers Sens Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla) are feuding over who’s tougher on immigration. Cruz sees Rubio’s support for a more forgiving immigration policy as a vulnerability among conservatives and Rubio sees Cruz’s shifting rhetoric on immigration as a prime example of a larger pattern of political pandering (AP)
 
Spending Bill: Poised to Pass? (Hill, me)
• The House is poised to pass a bipartisan $1.1 trillion bill to fund the govt, despite numerous Democratic objections to the package. But with WH support – and dozens of conservatives expected to buck GOP leaders and vote no – Dems are scrambling to convince members that the current package is the best they can get (it is)
 
• Senior Obama admin officials and Cabinet secretaries began reaching out to congressional Dems, a source said, urging them to back the deal. Leaders from both parties stayed in close contact as they swapped respective vote tallies (it’s tight, but they think they’ve got them – bit of a squeaker)
 
• House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) said the provision lifting the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports is “the biggest obstacle,”  but “Republicans’ desperate thirst for lifting the oil export ban empowered Democrats to win significant concessions throughout the Omnibus,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to Democrats Thursday night
 
• Rep Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill) said he’s opposing because Republicans stripped out a proposal to help Puerto Rican leaders manage their debt crisis. But one thing lawmaker agree on is a desire to put 2015 behind them. Many were anxious to vote quickly and begin their long holiday recess – or head to the wedding of GOP Rep Mike Turner (R-Ohio) this weekend
 

• The House voted 318-109 for the $622 billion tax extenders package on Thursday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) has locked in a Senate voting agreement for today – which cuts out Sens Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla) who have been campaigning and railing against the tax and spending bill and threatening to slow it down – too late (Politico)

 

Democrats Punish Sanders Campaign: Clinton Data Breach (NYT, WaPo, Guardian, me)
• The Democratic National Committee has told Sen Bernie Sanders’s (Vt) campaign that it was suspending its access to its voter database after a software error enabled at least one of his staff members to review Hillary Clinton’s private campaign data, WaPo reported. The DNC blamed tech company NGP VAN for the software glitch
 
• The decision by the DNC is a major blow to Sanders’s campaign. The database includes info from voters across the nation and is used by campaigns to set strategy, especially in the early voting states. The suspension comes as Sanders prepares to face Clinton at the Democratic debate in NH on Saturday
 
• The breach occurred after a software problem at tech company NGP VAN, which gives campaigns access to the voter data. The problem inadvertently made proprietary voter data of Clinton’s campaign visible to others, according to party committee officials
 
• The Sanders campaign said that it had fired a staff member who breached Clinton’s data. But according to three people with direct knowledge of the breach, there were four user names associated with the Sanders campaign that ran searches while the security of Clinton’s data was compromised (naughty). The Sanders campaign didn’t provide the names to NYT
Iran Missile Test: Senators Want Action (Reuters, AP, FP, me)
• Washington is considering how to respond to an Iranian ballistic missile launch that violated UN Security Council resolutions, Stephen Mull, the State Dept’s point man on the Iran nuclear deal, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday
 
• Saying that the deal is off to a “terrible start,” chair Sen Bob Corker (R-Tenn), rattled off a list of recent actions by Iran, including the conviction of WaPo reporter Jason Rezaian; the export of weapons to Syria and Yemen; and the violation of the UN ballistic missile test ban (general disgusting human rights violations? – no, they’re the norm…)
 
• On 10 Oct, Iran conducted a ballistic missile test that, according to Samantha Power, the U.S. representative to the UN, violated Security Council resolution 1929. Sen Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and 21 GOP senators wrote President Obama on Thursday urging him to act following the ballistic missile test
 
• “I’m getting the strong sense that the reason we’re doing nothing … is because we’re trying to affect the internal elections that will take place this spring,” Corker said. Neither State Dept official responded to Corker’s claim that the U.S. was going easy on Iran to bolster the electoral prospects of President Hassan Rouhani, considered by some a relative moderate (not by me)

 

___________________
Victoria Jones – Editor

 
 

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