Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag:

TSA Finds 20 Percent More Guns In Carry-On Bags In 2015, And Most Are Loaded

By Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

Airport security screeners in the U.S. found a record high number of firearms in carry-on bags last year, and most of them were loaded, officials said.

The Transportation Security Administration said it found 2,653 firearms, 20 percent more than in 2014, and that 83 percent of them contained ammunition.

The agency suggested that the increase may be the result of better search techniques by airport screeners, although a moderate uptick in the number of travelers also may have contributed.

“The transport of firearms by commercial air in carry-on bags represents a threat to the safety and security of air travelers,” TSA Administrator Peter V. Neffenger said. “Through increased training in detection methods, our officers are becoming more adept at intercepting these prohibited items.”

Firearms were discovered in carry-ons at 236 airports last year, the TSA said. Those with the most were:

—Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, with 153 firearms found

—Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, with 144

—Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport, with 100

—Denver International Airport, with 90

—Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, with 73

All weapons, including guns, knives and ammunition, as well as inert bombs and realistic props made to look like firearms, are prohibited in carry-on bags on commercial planes.

Travelers who bring firearms to an airport checkpoint can face criminal charges and fines.

The TSA said it screened 708 million passengers in 2015, up about 6 percent from the previous year.

©2016 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: A man walks past an exhibit booth for firearms manufacturer Sig Sauer at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Chicago, Illinois, October 26, 2015.     REUTERS/Jim Young 

Big Ammo Stash Found In White House Intruder’s Car

Washington (AFP) — A homeless U.S. army veteran who jumped a fence and ran into the White House with a knife had more than 800 rounds of ammunition in his car, a court heard on Monday.

Omar Gonzalez, 42, appeared in U.S. District Court as Barack Obama’s spokesman said the president is “obviously concerned” by Friday’s stunning security breach.

Wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, Gonzalez stood impassively as U.S. prosecutor David Mudd revealed that investigators had found the ammunition — “in boxes and magazines” — during a search of a car that was parked near the White House.

Also discovered were two hatchets and a machete, said Mudd, who made no mention of any firearms but described the accused as homeless, penniless and a flight risk.

Gonzalez was arrested on Friday after he evaded the outer layer of security around the U.S. presidential residence, carrying a folding knife, and made it inside before being tackled.

A native of Texas who twice served in Iraq, he is charged with unlawfully entering a restricted building or grounds while carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon.

If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

Mudd revealed that Gonzalez had been free on bail following his arrest in July in the nearby state of Virginia on felony charges of eluding arrest and possession of a sawed-off shotgun.

On that occasion, he said, police found “numerous firearms” in Gonzalez’s vehicle, including a sniper rifle, plus a map tucked into a Bible with the White House and a Masonic temple circled.

Gonzalez was also stopped, but not arrested, outside the White House in August with a hatchet in his rear waist band. Police searched his car, but only found camping gear and two dogs.

– ‘Danger to president’ –

“Mr Gonzalez’s preoccupation with the White House and accumulation of a large amount of ammunition… renders him a danger to the president,” Mudd told Judge John Facciola, who set October 1 for a detention hearing.

Gonzalez was assigned a public defender to represent him, but an offer of a mental health assessment was declined.

Earlier Monday, as the Secret Service reviewed its security practices, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama had been repeatedly briefed on Friday’s incident.

“His family lives in the White House, and so he is obviously concerned by the incident that occurred on Friday evening,” he said.

“At the same time, the president continues to have complete confidence in the professionals at the Secret Service.”

Obama, who had set off for a family weekend at his Camp David retreat in Maryland shortly before the incident, later said that he thought the Secret Service did “a great job.”

“I am grateful for all the sacrifices they make on my behalf, and on my family’s behalf,” he told reporters.

Earnest said the review by the elite presidential protection branch would test the feasibility of what he called the “positioning of tactical and non-tactical assets inside and outside the fence line.”

It would also look at Secret Service staffing, procedures, and physical and technical security enhancements, he said.

The drama has whipped up intense media and public interest, prompting Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to warn against jumping to premature conclusions.

– ‘No rush to judgement’ –

“I encourage all of us to not rush to judgement about the event and not second-guess the judgement of security officers who had only seconds to act, until all the facts are in,” he said.

U.S. lawmakers are also scrutinizing the incident, setting up a September 30 meeting of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to examine the circumstances of the breach.

The fence-jumper’s former stepson told CNN that Gonzalez suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and paranoia.

Extra Secret Service officers were in evidence around the presidential mansion and adjacent Lafayette Park on Monday.

Earnest said the ceremonial front door — through which large groups of tourists routinely file on White House tours — would from now on be secured when not in use.

AFP Photo/Saul Loeb

Interested in more national news? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!

Despite Concerns, United States Restocks Israel With Ammunition

By Jo Biddle

Washington (AFP) — The United States confirmed it had restocked Israel’s supplies of ammunition, hours after finally sharpening its tone to condemn an attack on a United Nations school in Gaza.

But while both the White House and the State Department condemned the shelling of the U.N.-run school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza in which at least 16 Palestinians were killed, neither would assign blame to staunch U.S. ally Israel.

“Obviously nothing justifies the killing of innocent civilians seeking shelter in a U.N. facility,” deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf acknowledged, in some of the toughest U.S. comments since the start of the 23-day fighting in the Gaza Strip.

“Innocent Palestinians seeking refuge in these schools should not have shells dropped on them, should not come under attack.”

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA said Israeli forces had hit the school, which had been sheltering some 3,300 Gazans.

But despite heated exchanges with reporters, Harf stressed that “we don’t know for certain who shelled this school, we need to get all the facts.”

National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan also condemned “those responsible for hiding weapons in United Nations facilities in Gaza” and warned of rising fears that thousands of Palestinians who have been told by Israel to leave their homes increasingly had nowhere to go in the blockaded narrow coastal strip.

U.S. officials also warned that patience with “crazy” Israeli criticism of would-be-peacemaker John Kerry had snapped.

– New ammunition for Israel –

The Pentagon confirmed the Israeli military had requested additional ammunition to restock its dwindling supplies on July 20, with the U.S. Defense Department approving the sale just three days later.

“The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

“This defense sale is consistent with those objectives.”

Two of the requested munitions came from a little-known stockpile of ammunition stored by the U.S. military on the ground in Israel for emergency use by the Jewish state. The War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition-Israel is estimated to be worth $1 billion.

The decision to provide ammunition to Israel could fuel controversy, coming just as Washington expresses growing concern about the deaths of more than 1,300 Palestinians, most of them civilians, since the Israeli operation began on July 8.

Kirby said Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel told his Israeli counterpart that the United States was concerned about the deadly consequences of the spiraling conflict, including a “worsening humanitarian situation” in Gaza, and called for a ceasefire and end to hostilities.

He also renewed calls for the disarmament of Gaza’s Hamas rulers and “all terrorist groups.”

Relations between Israel and its staunch ally the United States have plunged in recent days after Kerry returned from a mission to the Middle East to try to broker a ceasefire between the Israelis and Hamas militants.

Anonymous Israeli officials have hit out at Kerry’s truce proposal, calling it “a strategic terrorist attack” and criticizing it for being a “Hamas wish-list” including moves to lift a long-standing Israeli blockade of Gaza while failing to address Israel’s security concerns, such as Hamas rocket fire and a network of underground tunnels.

And on Tuesday a fabricated transcript of a call between U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went viral on social media.

– Out to hurt ties? –

Stressing the “unprecedented” U.S. support for the Jewish state, Harf hit out at Israeli elites’ “offensive and absurd” claims that Kerry backs Hamas.

She rubbished the fake transcript as “complete crap,” adding “there’s clearly people… who are putting out false and defamatory and absurd information.”

“I don’t know what else you can assume about the intentions except that they’re designed to hurt our relationship,” she added.

Washington, which has provided billions in military aid to Israel, including funding the Iron Dome shield protecting the country from Hamas rockets, was “very committed” to the security of the Jewish state, which is “why these vicious attacks on the secretary are just crazy,” she added.

And U.S. lawmakers are working on a package of additional military support from Washington to commit $225 million for the Iron Dome missile defense shield.

More than 100 people died in Israeli strikes across Gaza Wednesday, medics said, including 17 at a crowded marketplace, sending the Palestinian toll from the 23 days of fighting to 1,363.

On the Israeli side, the conflict has cost the lives of 56 Israeli soldiers, and two civilians.

AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards

Interested in world news? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!

Norwegian Killer Bought Ammo From The United States

Just as Jared Loughner, the madman who nearly killed Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and murdered several others, including a federal judge, at a town hall in Arizona at the beginning of this year, took advantage of lax American gun laws to purchase high capacity magazines, apparently the man who killed over 60 people in Norway last week, Anders Behring Breivik, bought his ammo from this side of the Atlantic.

“The easy availability of high-capacity ammo magazines in the U.S. has once again helped enable a large-scale massacre, this time with a shocking 68 people killed,” Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), the leading gun-control advocate in Congress, said.

“This is another tragic example of our lack of commonsense gun laws failing us with deadly consequences, allowing a cold-blooded killer to easily acquire the tools of mass murder even from another country. How many more innocent people need to die before we realize that some simple, commonsense gun safety laws in the United States could actually save lives?”

Likewise, Violence Policy Center Legislative Director Kristen Rand intoned, “America’s militarized gun industry is now in the business of exporting U.S.-style gun violence. The Norwegian terrorist who shot and killed 68 people knew to look to the United States when he wanted military-style high-capacity ammunition magazines. It is urgent that we act now to prevent a similar terrorist incident on American soil by passing Representative McCarthy’s bill to restrict high-capacity magazines.”

Gun control groups have had no luck moving a renewal of the Assault Weapons ban, which passed under Bill Clinton in 1994 before George W. Bush refused to renew it in 2004, through Congress, either in 2009-10 or, unsurprisingly, the Tea Party-infused one currently in session. They haven’t had help from Barack Obama, who has embraced the post-Al Gore paradigm of avoiding discussion of gun control like the plague to placate white conservatives.