Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Latest: Sept. Thousands Demonstrate In Minneapolis


Somali refugee Habibo Mohamed speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017, in Decatur, Ga.. Mohamed's 20-year-old daughter is unable the leave Somalia due to the travel ban implemented by President Donald Trump. Image: John Bazemore/AP

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WASHINGTON (AP) The Latest on President Donald Trump, his travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries and other immigration actions (all times local):

6:16 p.m.

Thousands gathered in downtown Minneapolis to protest President Donald Trump's immigration restrictions.

The demonstration was organized through a Facebook event and shut down several blocks around the U.S. Courthouse Tuesday evening.

Salveen Siddique and her son Aswar are immigrants from Bangladesh and came to the protest with an American flag draped over their shoulders. Siddique says they moved to make their lives beautiful and experience freedom.

Somali-American Sahra Ali says she and her six siblings moved to the U.S. in 2003. She says the temporary immigration ban on predominantly Muslim countries — including Somalia — has propelled Americans into the past.

Ali says many family members are back in Somalia. Now she's afraid that she won't be able to leave the country and be able to get back in.

5:15 p.m.

Some families of those killed in the Sept. 11 attacks are speaking out against President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries.

In announcing the temporary ban last week, Trump referenced the Sept. 2001 attacks and said the measure was about national security.

But a group of those whose loved ones were killed say the ban, which also bars refugees, is wrong.

Terry McGovern, whose mother was killed at the World Trade Center, says she's "sickened" by Trump's reference of Sept. 11 and is tired of what she calls the "exploitation" of that day.

Other Sept. 11 families support the ban. Debra Burlingame, who lost her brother, says she thinks it's smart to have scrutiny of anyone who wants to come to the U.S.

4:25 p.m.

Somalian refugee Habiba Mohamed is appealing to First Lady Melania Trump to persuade her husband to reverse course on tough new restrictions on refugees.

Mohamed and her husband arrived in Georgia in mid-January but are now separated from their 20-year-old daughter, who planned to fly to the U.S. this week but is now unable to leave a refugee camp in Kenya.

Mohamed says she's appealing to the first lady because she's a mother and "knows the love that a parent has for their child."

3:55 p.m.

A civil rights group in Michigan has sued on behalf of U.S. green-card holders objecting to President Donald Trump's order temporarily banning refugees and immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries.

The Arab-American Civil Rights League argues in the suit filed Tuesday in Detroit's U.S. District Court that the executive action is unconstitutional and targets immigrant communities. It represents about a half-dozen legal, permanent residents, some of whom have been turned away from U.S.-bound planes.

League Director Rula Aoun says most plaintiffs live in the Detroit area, which has one of the nation's largest Arab and Muslim communities.

Aoun says green-card holders have a "lawful right to be in the U.S." but have been detained or denied entry.

Trump says the ban is about safety, not religion. It faces numerous legal challenges.

3:35 p.m.

Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says the rollout of President Donald Trump's executive order restricting travel from seven majority-Muslim countries was "terrible."

Christie says Trump's intention to protect the country from terrorist attacks is right but that the order was explained so "unartfully" that it allowed the president's opponents to mischaracterize it.

He says Trump deserves to be better served by his advisers.

1:10 p.m.

A lawsuit has been filed against the Trump administration on behalf of a Syrian family who was denied entry into the United States at the Philadelphia airport during the weekend.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania says the complaint filed Tuesday on behalf of the Asali family alleges President Donald Trump's executive order violates several constitutional guarantees.

The family — including four adults and two children — landed in Philadelphia on Saturday. They planned to settle in Allentown, where family members who are U.S. citizens had bought a home for them.

They were denied entrance and returned to Syria. The families had obtained their visas after a 13-year effort.

1:05 p.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling on President Donald Trump to lift his ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries "as soon as possible."

Guterres said Tuesday that countries have the right to avoid infiltration of terrorist organizations — but not based on discrimination related to religion, ethnicity, or a person's nationality.

Guterres warned that "blind measures, not based on solid intelligence, tend to be ineffective as they risk being bypassed by what are today sophisticated global terrorist movements."

He also said such discrimination is against "fundamental principles and values" and "triggers widespread anxiety and anger" that may spur extremist propaganda.

Guterres expressed concern that refugees fleeing conflict and persecution are finding more borders closing, in violation of the protection they are entitled to under international refugee law

1 p.m.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly is denying reports that he was not given details of President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration until around the time Trump signed it.

Kelly told reporters he looked at two drafts of the order before the Friday signing and that high-level government lawyers and agency officials were involved in drafting it.

He also said he knew it was coming because Trump had long talked about it as a presidential candidate.

Trump's order temporarily halted the U.S. refugee program and banned entries from citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days.

People who know Kelly told The Associated Press that he was not aware of the details in the directive until around the time that Trump signed it.

12:50 p.m.

A senior U.S. official says 872 refugees will be allowed into the United States this week despite the Trump administration executive order suspending the U.S. refugees program.

Kevin McAleenan, acting commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, said these refugees would be granted waivers. He said that was allowed for under the order, in instances where refugees were ready for travel and stopping them would cause "undue hardship."

McAleenan said this was being done in concert with the State Department. He said 872 refugees will be arriving this week and will processed for waivers through the end of the week.

He was speaking at a news conference Tuesday about the administration's new immigration restrictions, which also suspends arrival by nationals from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

12:45 p.m.

Iraq's prime minister says a travel ban ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump is an "offense to Iraq," but that he won't take retaliatory measures.

An executive order signed over the weekend temporarily prevents the entry of citizens of Iraq and six other Muslim-majority countries. The new U.S. administration says it is necessary to keep out potential terrorists until security procedures can be improved.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told a news conference Tuesday that he hopes the order will be changed.

He said the U.S. should be grateful to Iraq because of its "sacrifices in fighting terrorism," but that "the way the order was issued was not good, and I don't want to cause the same offense to the American people."

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have been battling the Islamic State group for more than two years, and are currently trying to drive the extremists from Mosul, the country's second-largest city.

12:30 p.m.

The U.S. Embassy in Israel says Israelis born in the seven Muslim-majority countries under a travel ban ordered by President Donald Trump can still travel to the United States under certain conditions.

A message posted on the embassy website on Tuesday says Israeli passport holders born in Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen who do not have a valid passport from their birth country can travel to the U.S. under a valid visa.

The embassy says it's continuing to process visa applications from Israelis born in those countries who don't have a passport from one of the seven countries or have not "declared themselves to be a national of one of those countries."

Hundreds of thousands of Jews born in countries in the Middle East and North Africa settled in Israel after the country's establishment in 1948. Many were automatically stripped of their citizenship by those countries when they left.

It is rare for Israelis to be dual nationals of one of the seven countries and the U.S. Embassy did not specifically say what happens to Israelis who carry a second passport from one of the countries under Trump's ban.

The executive order Trump issued caused confusion among Israelis born in countries affected by the travel ban.

10:45 a.m.

France's prime minister is criticizing U.S. President Donald Trump's three-month immigration ban on refugees from Muslim countries as being useless in the fight against terrorism.

Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Tuesday that Trump's decision "only aims at exacerbating tensions, creating potential conflicts" and "in the end, the greatest inefficiency regarding results in the fight against terrorism."

Cazeneuve, who was interior minister in 2015 and 2016 when deadly terror attacks were carried out by Islamic extremists in France, said the government reinforced its counterterrorism law and boosted security forces while preserving "national unity" and the values of the country.

He says the U.S. ban "is useless because it ostracizes some countries" and "makes it impossible to welcome people who are persecuted in their country and need protection from free nations."

9:45 a.m.

The Netherlands' firebrand anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders has clashed in Parliament with the Dutch foreign minister over U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban for people from seven Muslim nations.

In a debate Tuesday, Wilders — seen by many as a Dutch equivalent of Trump — paid tribute to the new U.S. leader, saying, "Finally America has a president, finally a country in the West has a president, who not only lives up to his promises but who says 'the freedom of my citizens is more important than anything.'"

Foreign Minister Bert Koenders hit back, saying, "If you want to fight terror, then the worst thing you can do is trample human rights."

The Dutch government has updated its travel advisory for the U.S. to warn of the effects of Trump's new policy on Dutch citizens who have dual nationality with one of the seven nations affected.

9:20 p.m.

The leaders of Germany and Sweden are decrying the immigration restrictions imposed by President Donald Trump and both say they're seeking more clarity on how citizens will be affected.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said that "the fight against terrorism does not justify such general action against particular countries and people of a particular faith." Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven called the move "counterproductive" and "totally unacceptable."

The two leaders were speaking at a press conference in Stockholm Tuesday.

Merkel also stressed Germany's commitment to the independence of the European Central Bank and trading "in fair competition with everyone else" on world markets.

That came after Peter Navarro, who is to lead a new White House council on trade, was quoted in the Financial Times as saying that Germany is using a "grossly undervalued" euro to "exploit" the U.S. and its European partners.

3:35 a.m.

Iran's foreign minister has reiterated that Iran will no longer issue visas for Americans, describing the decision as a "counter-action" to Trump's executive order banning nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, from entering the United States.

Mohammad Javad Zarif added that "if there is an exception, it will be reviewed through the mechanism which has been created in the Foreign Ministry." Zarif spoke to the "Khorasan daily" on Tuesday on the sidelines of a joint press conference with his visiting French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault. About 5 million tourists visit Iran each year, most of them coming from Iraq and other neighboring countries. Europeans have also been coming to Iran, but Americans represent far less than 1 percent of the total — or about 50,000 — and are subjected to rigorous background checks. Zarif first announced the reciprocal move by Tehran on Saturday, when Trump's visa restrictions took effect. At the time, he said Iran's ban will not be retroactive and that all Americans with already valid Iranian visas "will be gladly welcomed."

3:35 a.m.

Iran's oil minister says there is no ban on American companies working in Iran's oil industry.

The semi-official ILNA news agency on Tuesday is quoting Bijan Zanganeh as saying: "American companies face no ban for entering our oil industry."

However, Zanganeh said American companies "have not directly applied" to work in Iran's oil industry, so far.

This is the first such remark by Iran after an executive order by U.S. president Donald Trump on Friday banned immigration and visa processing for Iranians alongside six other Muslim countries.

In January, Iran's Oil Ministry published a list of 29 international companies qualified to bid for oil and gas projects following the lifting of sanctions under a landmark nuclear accord that went into effect last year.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article129754314.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article129754314.html#storylink=cpy

Monday, January 30, 2017

Starbucks To Hire 10,000 Refugees Over Next 5 Years

JANUARY 30, 2017

Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz speaks during the Starbucks 2016 Investor Day meeting in New York. Starbucks says it will hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years, a response to President Donald Trump's indefinite suspension of Syrian refugees and temporary travel bans that apply to six other Muslim-majority nations. Schultz said in a letter to employees Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, that the hiring would apply to stores worldwide.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Starbucks says it will hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years, a response to President Donald Trump's indefinite suspension of Syrian refugees and temporary travel bans that apply to six other Muslim-majority nations.

Howard Schultz, the coffee retailer's chairman and CEO, said in a letter to employees Sunday that the hiring would apply to stores worldwide and the effort would start in the United States where the focus would be on hiring immigrants "who have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel."

Schultz, a supporter of Hillary Clinton during the presidential run, took aim at other parts of a Trump agenda focused on immigration, repealing former President Barack Obama's health care law and restructuring trade with Mexico. The letter said that Starbucks would help support coffee growers in Mexico, provide health insurance to eligible workers if the health care law is repealed and back an Obama-era immigration program that allows young immigrants who were brought to the country as children to apply for a two-year reprieve from deportation and a work permit.

The move reflects the increasing complexity that businesses face when dealing with the Trump administration. Trump has met with CEOs at Ford, General Motors and Boeing and asked them to create jobs in the United States, while touting each announcement about new factory jobs as a success even if those additions had been planned before his presidential victory.

But not all corporate leaders have embraced Trump. Schultz added that Starbucks would aim to communicate with workers more frequently, saying Sunday, "I am hearing the alarm you all are sounding that the civility and human rights we have all taken for granted for so long are under attack."

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Trump Wants To Enlist Local Police In Immigration Crackdown

JANUARY 29, 2017

Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies process a suspect brought in during an immigration and crime suppression sweep in Phoenix. President Donald Trump plans to revitalize a long-standing program to deputize local police officers to enforce federal immigration law. The program was used in the past by Joe Arpaio, then sheriff of metro Phoenix, to conduct immigration patrols that were later discredited in court.

PHOENIX (AP) — To build his highly touted deportation force, President Donald Trump is reviving a long-standing program that deputizes local officers to enforce federal immigration law. The program received scant attention during a week in which Trump announced plans to build a border wall, hire thousands more federal agents and impose restrictions on refugees from Middle Eastern countries.

But the program could end up having a significant impact on immigration enforcement around the country, despite falling out of favor in recent years amid complaints that it promotes racial profiling. More than 60 police and sheriff's agencies had the special authority as of 2009, applying for it as the nation's immigration debate was heating up. Since then, the number has been halved and the effort scaled back as federal agents ramped up other enforcement programs and amid complaints officers weren't focusing on the goal of catching violent offenders and instead arrested immigrants for minor violations, like driving with broken tail lights.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio used the program most aggressively in metro Phoenix, and he became arguably the nation's best-known immigration enforcer at the local level in large part because of the special authority. In a strange twist, he was thrown out of office in the same election that vaulted Trump to the presidency, mostly because of mounting frustration over legal issues and costs stemming from the patrols.

In his executive order this week, Trump said he wants to empower local law enforcement to act as immigration officers and help with the "investigation, apprehension, or detention" of immigrants in the country illegally.

The move comes at a time when the country is sharply divided over the treatment of immigrants. Cities such as Chicago and San Francisco have opposed police involvement in immigration while some counties in Massachusetts and Texas are now seeking to jump in.

Proponents say police departments can help bolster immigration enforcement and prevent criminals from being released back into their neighborhoods, while critics argue that deputizing local officers will lead to racial profiling and erode community trust in police.

Cecillia Wang, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney, said police bosses who want to get into immigration enforcement should consider what happened when 100 of Arpaio's deputies were given the federal arrest power.

The longtime sheriff used the authority to carry out traffic patrols that targeted immigrants. The patrols were later discredited in a lawsuit in which a federal judge concluded Arpaio's officers had racially profiled Latinos. The lawsuit so far cost county taxpayers $50 million.

"There are people like Joe Arpaio who have a certain political agenda who want to jump on the Trump bandwagon," Wang said, adding later that the Arizona sheriff was "most vocal and shameless offender" in the program.

When asked to comment on Trump's effort to revitalize the program, a Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman said the executive orders would speak for themselves. Traditionally, police stayed out of immigration enforcement and left those duties to federal authorities. But a 1996 federal law opened up the possibility for local agencies to participate in immigration enforcement on the streets and do citizenship checks of people in local jails.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement trained and certified roughly 1,600 officers to carry out these checks from 2006 to 2015. The Obama administration phased out all the arrest power agreements in 2013, but still let agencies check whether people jailed in their jurisdiction were citizens. If they find that an inmate is in the country illegally, they typically notify federal authorities or hand them over to immigration officers. Today, more than 30 local agencies participate in the jail program.

Alonzo Pena, a retired deputy director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who once oversaw such agreements with police agencies, said some officers were using the authority in ways that didn't match the agency's enforcement priorities.

He said federal officials need to closely monitor participants to ensure their actions don't veer away from the goal of catching violent offenders and confronting national security threats. "It's hard to regulate to make sure it's followed," Pena said.

In California, three counties nixed the program after state legislation and a federal court ruling in nearby Oregon limited police collaboration with immigration enforcement. Orange County still makes the immigration checks inside its jail and flags inmates for deportation officers, but won't hold anyone on behalf of federal authorities out of legal concerns.

"The window has narrowed to a large extent," said Orange County sheriff's Lt. Mike McHenry. With Trump in office, the program has new life. Even before the change in administration, two Republican county sheriffs in Massachusetts said they were starting programs. In Texas, Jackson County sheriff A. J. "Andy" Louderback said two officers will get trained to run immigration jail checks this spring and nearby counties want to follow suit.

Louderback said teaming up with federal agents will cost his agency roughly $3,000 — a small price to pay to cover for officers while they're on a four-week training course, especially in an area struggling with human smuggling. Once the program is underway, he said immigration agents will send a daily van to pick up anyone flagged for deportation from jail.

"It just seems like good law enforcement to partner with federal law enforcement in this area," he said. "It takes all of us to do this job." Experts said Trump's outreach to local law enforcement will create an even bigger split between sanctuary cities that keep police out of immigration enforcement and those eager to help the new president bolster deportations.

"There is no question that in order to do the type of mass deportation that he promised, it will require him conscripting local law enforcement agencies," said Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. "It is going to balkanize things ... and we're going to see more of the extremes."

__ Taxin reported from Santa Ana, California. __ Follow Jacques Billeaud on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud and Amy Taxin at www.twitter.com/ataxin

Trump Shuts Door On Refugees, But Will The US Be Safer?

JANUARY 29, 2010

Protesters assemble at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 after two Iraqi refugees were detained while trying to enter the country. On Friday, Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending all immigration from countries with terrorism concerns for 90 days. Countries included in the ban are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, which are all Muslim-majority nations.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says his halt to immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations and ban on refugees is being done in the name of national security. But it's not clear the measures will help prevent attacks on American soil, and they could wind up emboldening extremists who already view the U.S. as at war with Islam.

Recent acts of deadly extremist violence have been carried out either by U.S. citizens or by individuals whose families weren't from the nations singled out. And the list of countries in Trump's order doesn't include Saudi Arabia, where most of the Sept. 11 hijackers were from, or other places with a more direct link to terrorism in America.

The admissions ban announced Friday also does not directly address a more urgent law enforcement concern: homegrown violent extremists already in the United States who plot their attacks without any overseas connections or contacts.

"The primary terrorism-related threat facing the U.S. today comes from individuals living here who become inspired by what they see on the internet, who carry out attacks independent of any terrorist organization," said John Cohen, a former Department of Homeland Security counterterrorism official who worked in government under Democratic and Republican administrations and who has been involved in refugee vetting policy.

The FBI has for years been concerned by the prospect of airplane bomb plots and terrorists dispatched from overseas to commit violence in America. But the ascendancy of the Islamic State, and the group's ability through slick and easily accessible propaganda to reach susceptible young Americans in all corners of the country, has been a more immediate challenge — and a more realistic danger — for counterterrorism officials than any threat posed by refugees from abroad.

"Dealing with that threat should be a top priority for this administration," Cohen said. The executive order suspends refugee admissions for 120 days and bars all immigration for 90 days from Muslim-majority countries with terrorism concerns: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

It indefinitely bars the processing of refugees from Syria, a country that's been of particular country to the FBI even though the number of Americans who have looked to travel there to fight with the Islamic State has been dwindling.

But the culprits of recent deadly terror attacks aren't linked to the countries singled out by Trump's order. Omar Mateen, the man responsible for the Orlando nightclub shooting, the deadliest terror attack in the U.S. since the Sept. 11 attacks, was born in New York to Afghan parents.

Syed Rizwan Farook, who took part in the December 2015 San Bernardino attack, was born in Chicago. His wife, Tashfeen Malik, had been living in Pakistan and visiting family in Saudi Arabia before she passed the background check and entered the U.S.

The brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon were ethnic Chechens who had been living in the U.S. In general, Islamic extremists have accounted for a minuscule amount of the roughly 240,000 murders since Sept. 11, 2001, said Charles Kurzman, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Kurzman said his research identified zero fatalities since Sept. 11 caused by extremists from the seven nations in Trump's order. He said people with ancestry from those countries have accounted for only a small fraction of extremist-related arrests and disrupted plots during the same time period.

"I can only conclude that this is whipping up fear and hostility toward Americans who have family background from these countries," Kurzman said. Still, while refugees are subject to screening — including in-person interviews, checks with law enforcement databases and collection of biometric data, when available — the process is not perfect.

FBI counterterrorism officials have long expressed concern about the lack of background information about refugees from Syria, a home base of the Islamic State, and Director James Comey has said that he could not guarantee a mistake-free vetting process.

There have been isolated incidents of refugees later accused in terror-related plots. An Iraqi refugee who entered the U.S. in 2009, for instance, pleaded guilty in Houston in October to attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State. Two Iraqi refugees who lived in Kentucky are now in prison after having been convicted in a plot to send sniper rifles, Stinger missiles and money to al-Qaida operatives waging an insurgency back home.

And the man accused in the November car-and-knife that injured 11 people at Ohio State University was a refugee originally from Somalia who, as an adolescent, moved with his family to the United States in 2014 after living in Pakistan.

Though not immune from lapses, the screening process has improved over the years, Cohen said. He said he was concerned that the refugee ban could deter Muslim-majority countries from cooperating with the U.S. on policy matters and could embolden an extremist already bent on violence.

"That's something," Cohen said, "that law enforcement folks are going to be factoring into their violence prevention efforts."

Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP

White House Reverses Course On Green Card Holders

JANUARY 29, 2017

Protesters rally against President Trump's refugee ban at Miami International Airport on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017.President Donald Trump’s immigration order sowed more confusion and outrage across the country Sunday, with travelers detained at airports, panicked families searching for relatives and protesters registering their opposition to the sweeping measure. (C.M. Guerrero/El Nuevo Herald via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Sunday tried to tamp down concerns about President Donald Trump's sweeping immigration order in the face of widespread protests, as some Republicans in Congress urged him to proceed with caution in the face of legal pushback. Top congressional Republicans, however, remain largely behind the new president.

During a round of Sunday show interviews, Trump's aides stressed that just a small portion of travelers had been affected by the order, which temporarily bars the citizens of seven majority Muslim nations from entering the country. The aides also reversed course and said that citizens of those countries who hold permanent U.S. residency "green cards" will not be barred from re-entering the country, as officials had previously said.

"I can't imagine too many people out there watching this right now think it's unreasonable to ask a few more questions from someone traveling in and out of Libya and Yemen before being let loose in the United States," insisted Trump's chief of staff Reince Priebus. "And that's all this is."

The changes, said White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, are "a small price to pay" to keep the nation safe. But others see the order as ill-conceived and rushed. The order, which also suspends refugee admissions for 120 days and indefinitely bars the processing of refugees from Syria, has sparked widespread protests and denunciations from Democrats and a handful of Republicans. Many have accused the administration of rushing to implement the changes, resulting in panic and confusion at the nation's airports.

"You have an extreme vetting proposal that didn't get the vetting it should have had," said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who urged the new president to "slow down" and work with lawmakers on how best to tighten screening for foreigners who enter the United States.

"In my view, we ought to all take a deep breath and come up with something that makes sense for our national security" and reflects the fact that "America's always been a welcoming home for refugees and immigrants," he said.

The comments came the morning after a federal judge in New York issued an emergency order temporarily barring the U.S. from deporting people from the seven majority Muslim nations subject to Trump's travel ban. The judge said travelers who had been detained had a strong argument that their legal rights had been violated.

The order barred U.S. border agents from removing anyone who arrived in the U.S. with a valid visa from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. It also covered anyone with an approved refugee application.

The Department of Homeland Security, however, said Sunday said the court ruling would not affect the overall implementation of the White House order. "President Trump's executive orders remain in place — prohibited travel will remain prohibited, and the U.S. government retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety," the department said in a statement.

Top congressional Republicans, meanwhile, were backing Trump despite concerns raised Sunday from a handful of GOP lawmakers. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he supports more stringent screening mechanisms, though he cautioned that Muslims are some of the country's "best sources in the war against terror."

"I think it's a good idea to tighten the vetting process But I also think it's important to remember that some of our best sources in the war against radical Islamic terrorism are Muslims, both in this country and overseas," he said.

He also stressed the need "to be careful as we do this," and said it would be up to the courts to decide "whether or not this has gone too far." Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, meanwhile, warned of unintended consequences, expressing fear the order could "become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism."

"This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security," they wrote.

Trump billed his sweeping executive order as a necessary step to stop "radical Islamic terrorists" from coming to the U.S. It included a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen.

But it's unclear the measures would prevent attacks on American soil. The directive did not address homegrown extremists already in America, a primary concern of federal law enforcement officials. And the list of countries in Trump's order doesn't include Saudi Arabia, where most of the Sept. 11 hijackers were from.

Priebus, Trump's chief of staff, said the ban could be expanded to more countries in the future. Portman was on CNN's "State of the Union," while McConnell appeared on ABC's "This Week."

Follow Caldwell and Colvin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/acaldwellap and https://twitter.com/colvinj

Saturday, January 28, 2017

US No Longer Has Geography As Defense, Ally In Cybercombat

JANUARY 28, 2017

AP FILE: In this Sept. 30, 2011, file photo, a reflection of the Department of Homeland Security logo is seen reflected in the glasses of a cyber security analyst in the watch and warning center at the Department of Homeland…

WASHINGTON (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — The United States has long relied on its borders and superior military might to protect against and deter foreign aggressors. But a lack of boundaries and any rulebook in cyberspace has increased the threat and leveled the playing field today.

It's unclear how President Donald Trump, who has emphasized an "America First" approach to domestic issues, will respond to cyberspace threats, which transcend traditional borders and make it easier and cheaper than ever for foreigners to attack the U.S. Whatever the approach, it will set the tone and precedent for global policies during a critical time when the ground rules are still being written.

At a hearing this month on foreign cyberthreats, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., ran through a list of recent operations the U.S. believes was carried out by foreign countries — Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. The targets: the White House, State Department, Office of Personnel Management, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy, major U.S. financial institutions, a small New York dam and Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.

"Our adversaries have reached a common conclusion, that the reward for attacking America in cyberspace outweighs the risk," McCain said.

With most of the U.S. critical infrastructure in private hands and Americans among the most connected citizens in the world, the potential attack surface for any hacker is vast and increasing. U.S. officials and lawmakers have argued that because there is no official policy on cyberwarfare, the response to any attack can be slow, politicized and ultimately ineffectual.

The U.S. took two months, after publicly accusing Russian government hackers of trying to influence the presidential election, to respond with economic sanctions and other more symbolic measures.

The reality is that the "nature of conflict has moved to the information space instead of just the physical kinetic space, and it now operates at greater scale and quicker speed," said Sean Kanuck, who served as the first U.S. national intelligence officer for cyber issues in the Office of the Director for National Intelligence.

Under the Obama administration, the U.S. proposed international cyber rules for peacetime, including that countries should not target another's critical infrastructure. But otherwise, it has maintained existing international laws and reserved the right to respond to any cyberattack.

The Trump administration is reviewing cyber policies, but it has said it will prioritize developing defensive and offensive cyber capabilities. It has also said it will work with international partners to engage in "cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable (terrorist) propaganda and recruiting."

Unlike conventional warfare, the costs in cyberspace can have rippling impacts for both the victim and attacker. Malicious software may end up spreading in an unforeseen and unplanned manner, and a hacker who gets into a single computer can cause unpredicted effects to a network.

"Look at what North Korea did to Sony or what China did to us via the OPM hack," said David Gioe, a history fellow at the Army Cyber Institute at West Point and a former FBI agent. "You've got all of these aircraft carriers and all of this ocean, and it really doesn't matter because we're still feeling effects. They're not kinetic effects, but they're surely effects."

More than 20 million people had their personal information compromised when the Office of Personnel Management was hacked in what the U.S. believes was a Chinese espionage operation.

"Really it's our geeks versus their geeks," Gioe said. "In the same way as single combat. It doesn't matter how good my army is or your army is, it's me versus you."


Follow Tami Abdollah on Twitter at https://twitter.com/latams

Diplomatic Debut: Trump Makes Uneven Entry Onto World Stage


British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during a news conference with President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017.

WASHINGTON (AP) — One week into office, President Donald Trump was trying to clean up his first international incident. The president shifted a jam-packed schedule Friday to make room for an hourlong phone call with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who had abruptly snubbed the new president by canceling a visit. Trump's team had appeared to respond by threatening a hefty border tax on Mexican imports.

By the end of the conversation, Trump had tasked his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner — a real estate executive with no national security experience — with managing the ongoing dispute, according to an administration official with knowledge of the call.

The episode, an uneven diplomatic debut, revealed the earliest signs of how the new president plans to manage world affairs. In a matter of days, he both alarmed and reassured international partners. He picked fights, then quickly backed away from them. He talked tough, and toned it down. And at each step, Trump relied on the small clutch of advisers that guided his norm-breaking campaign, a group with scant foreign policy experience but the trust of the president.

Much of the foreign policy decision-making has rested with Kushner and Steve Bannon, the conservative media executive turned White House adviser, according to administration officials and diplomats. Rex Tillerson, his nominee for secretary of state, is still awaiting confirmation. Officials at the National Security Council, an agency Trump has described as bloated, are still seeking marching orders from the new administration.

Some of Trump's early diplomatic moves have followed standard protocols. He scheduled early phone calls with friendly allies, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who both plan to meet Trump at the White House next month. Additional calls were planned Saturday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, key European partners.

But Trump also moved swiftly to announce a new era. He declared an end to efforts to pursue multi-nation trade deals and used his first executive action to withdraw the U.S. from a sweeping Pacific Rim pact. He also effectively closed off the United States to refugees, at least temporarily, and risked angering the Arab world by halting visas for people from seven majority Muslim nations for at least three months.

On his first full day as president, he told members of the intelligence community gathered at CIA headquarters that the U.S. should have taken Iraq's oil for "economic reasons," given America's efforts in the country, adding, "But, OK, maybe you'll have another chance."

Some officials at the National Security Council raised concerns over several elements of the refugee measure, as well as other early actions the president took on border security. But administration officials say Trump's inner circle has addressed few of their concerns.

Administration officials and diplomats insisted on anonymity to disclose private dealings with the White House. Kushner and Bannon have been heavily involved in the Trump administration's early dealings with some European partners, leading during both phone calls and in-person meetings with diplomats and government officials.

In a discussion with British officials, Kushner is said to have angrily denounced the United Kingdom's decision to support a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the expansion of Israeli settlements. The U.S. abstained from the vote before President Barack Obama left office, brushing aside Trump's demands that the U.S. exercise its veto.

In contrast with the Trump team's strong views on Israel, European partners have been left largely in the dark about Trump's approach to Russia. Some are on edge over a phone call with Putin on Saturday and fear he may strike a deal that leads to the removal of U.S. sanctions on Russia. The call was said to be arranged by national security adviser Mike Flynn, who has kept a low profile in recent days amid scrutiny over his ties to Russian officials.

Trump did little to ease anxieties Friday when he pointedly refused to say whether he planned to keep in place economic sanctions on Russia as punishment for its provocations in Ukraine. "We'll see what happens," Trump said during a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

The prime minister was the first world leader to meet Trump following last week's inauguration, underscoring May's eagerness to get a reading on a man who is a mystery to many world leaders. Trump was measured during their brief joint press conference, but he also showed flashes of charm, joking with May about a British reporter's pointed question about his position on torture and complimenting her for being a "people person."

A visit from Pena Nieto to Washington had been expected to follow May's. But after Trump needled the Mexican president on Twitter, saying it would be better for him not to come if he couldn't commit to paying for Trump's proposed wall along the U.S. southern border, Pena Nieto told the White House he wouldn't be coming.

The White House quickly threatened to slap a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico to pay for the wall, though officials quickly tried to walk the proposal back, saying it was just one option being considered.

Kushner, who already wields enormous power in the White House, is expected to work through the dispute with Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray. The two men, who know each other from the financial circles, also worked together to arrange Trump's surprise visit to Mexico during the presidential campaign.

The readouts released by the two countries after Friday's call pointed to the work to be done. A statement from Mexico said the presidents agreed "to no longer speak publicly" about their dispute over payment for the border wall.

The White House statement made no such promise.

AP Diplomatic Correspondent Matthew Lee contributed to this report.

Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC and Vivian Salama at http://twitter.com/vmsalama

Friday, January 27, 2017

Muslims, Latinos Unify Over Trump's Immigration, Border Plan

JANUARY 27, 2017

Jocelynn Lujan, 6, left, and her sister, Jennifer, 8, attend a news conference in Albuquerque, N.M., Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, where activists denounced President Donald Trump's executive actions on immigration. Many U.S. Muslim and Latino advocates have been speaking out and preparing lawsuits against executive actions taken by President Donald Trump to build a Mexican border wall and strip funding for immigrant protecting sanctuary cities, as well as anticipated orders to restrict refugees.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — U.S. Muslim and Latino advocates have joined forces in opposing changes to immigration rules by President Donald Trump, bolstering their alliance as they mull the prospect of aggressive restrictions.

In joint press conferences and rallies across the country, they are decrying an action Trump signed to jumpstart construction on a southern border wall. Trump is expected to take steps to stop accepting Syrian refugees, suspend the United States' broader refugee program for 120 days and suspend issuing visas for people from seven predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East and Africa.

As Trump signed the first actions Wednesday afternoon, the hashtags #NoBanNoWall and #RefugeesWelcome trended on Twitter, and thousands signed a pro-refugee petition by Christian evangelical groups. Muslims, immigrants and their supporters rallied in New York City and elsewhere in protest.

Advocates and activists across racial, religious and ethnic lines have linked before but are now mounting a more unified response. "An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us," said Greisa Martinez, an advocacy director of the United We Dream Network, describing herself as "undocumented, unafraid and here to stay."

"We believe this is the start of Donald Trump's mass deportation agenda," she said. Trump said Wednesday that his executive actions on immigration show that the U.S. will get back "control of its border." But the flow of immigrants at the Mexican border has declined, and immigrant and refugee advocates call the moves and plans reckless, dangerous and un-American — and say that actions taken against one group affect them all.

The executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Michigan chapter questioned whether the signed actions would create more security in the U.S. "These executive orders will not make our country safer, rather will produce more xenophobia in our society," Dawud Walid said in a statement.

Michigan has one of the nation's largest Muslim communities and thousands of Middle Eastern refugees have settled there. A draft order indicates Trump plans to suspend issuing visas to citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries for at least 30 days, halt the Syrian refugee program and stop admitting refugees from other countries for 120 days.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops condemned plans for a wall. Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, who was recently appointed by Pope Francis, tweeted: "A fearful nation talks about building walls and is vulnerable to con men. We must challenge the fear before we are led into darkness."

Trump also signed an action that would block federal grants from so-called sanctuary cities, where local police don't enforce federal immigration laws. Marielena Hincapié, executive director of National Immigration Law Center, said her organization has drafted lawsuits challenging Trump's actions and that law firms have offered "pro bono support."

In New Mexico, which has the nation's highest percentage of Hispanic residents, activists worried the executive actions would hurt all Latinos and Mexican-Americans. The Albuquerque-based immigrant rights group El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos and the Islamic Center of New Mexico held a press conference along the city's historic Camino Real.

"When they go after Latinos, they go after all Latinos," Ralph Arellanes, chairman of the Hispano Round Table of New Mexico, said. "It's not like people are walking on the streets and they have identification that says they've been here four centuries, or three centuries, or two centuries or one century."

Javier Gonzales, mayor of Santa Fe, New Mexico, vowed to fight any effort to make the city hostile to immigrants. Santa Fe recently renewed its commitment as a sanctuary city. "There is no presidential executive order that will ever change our values of being a welcoming and inclusive city. It's what's made our city thrive for more (than) 400 years," wrote Gonzales, whose ties to the city go back to 17th century Spanish settlers.

A coalition of Muslim, Latino and civil rights leaders also held a press conference in Atlanta to persuade Georgians to denounce Trump's immigration and refugee policies. Edward Ahmed Mitchell, executive director of the Georgia branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said they're speaking out before some of the actions have even been issued in hopes that "maybe we can make the horrible just bad."

Mexican-American activist DeeDee Garcia Blase said Trump's moves have increased anxiety in Phoenix because of Arizona laws that targeted immigrants. "Everybody is bracing themselves," Blase said. "We are telling undocumented immigrants: Don't sign anything."

Samia Assed, 51, of Albuquerque, participated in the recent Women's March on Washington. "I don't think there is anything that's going to come out of this as far as countering terrorism," said the third-generation Palestinian-American. "The fear is that it will trickle down to everyday life and every different aspect of Muslim life in America."

Karoub reported from Detroit. Associated Press writers Rachel Zoll in New York City and Kate Brumback in Atlanta contributed to this report.

On Twitter, follow Contreras at https://twitter.com/RussContreras and Karoub at https://twitter.com/jeffkaroub

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Look At Border Security, Fencing As Trump Announces Wall


Border Patrol agent Eduardo Olmos walks near the secondary fence separating Tijuana, Mexico, background, and San Diego in San Diego. U.S. President Donald Trump will direct the Homeland Security Department to start building a wall at the Mexican border.

HOUSTON (AP) — President Donald Trump announced his long-awaited plan Wednesday to build a wall on the 1,954-mile U.S. border with Mexico, calling for its "immediate construction" to stop illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking and acts of terrorism.

He is not the first president to embark on an aggressive buildup on the border. Here's a look at what is already there: SEMI-FORTIFIED BORDER One-third of the U.S.-Mexico border, or 653 miles, is already studded with fence in a potpourri of styles, from menacing barriers to those that can be easily hopped. The barriers arose from the Secure Fence Act passed in the last year of the George W. Bush administration.

In dunes to the east, a "floating fence" of 16-foot steel tubes can be raised or lowered as sands shift.

Almost all of Arizona's border is fenced, although the deterrence effect for human-and drug smugglers is constantly questioned. Cities such as Yuma and Nogales have high fencing but stretches of the remote desert have things like posts, wire-mesh and livestock fencing that can halt vehicles but people can hop. Vehicular fencing marks most of New Mexico's 180-mile border.

Nearly all Texas' 1,250-mile border is fence-free, the winding Rio Grande the only barrier. The state has just 110 miles of fences and fortified concrete levees . Mountains, rivers and other natural barriers are expensive to build on and have been largely left alone . One stretch in Texas' Hidalgo County along the Rio Grande cost $10 million a mile.

SURVEILLANCE TECH Politicians along the border, even GOP lawmakers in Washington, have endorsed surveillance technology as offering more security for the buck than fence or wall. The Border Patrol is expanding the use of eye-in the-sky tethered dirigibles that scan the horizon as they float on cables and of camera-studded towers. Its high-flying Predator drones have logged more than 3,000 hours a year since 2011.

Neither technology nor maintenance of existing fence comes cheap. The government spent $450 million last fiscal year on "Border Security Fencing, Infrastructure, and Technology." And a major Boeing-led project in Arizona called the "SBINet," whose network was supposed to marshal surveillance monitoring, proved a boondoggle, costing taxpayers $1 billion before it was canceled in 2010.

PEOPLE CROSSING Not a single person involved in a terrorist act in the United States is known to have illegally entered the country from Mexico along the southwest border. Apprehensions of people at the border are far down from a peak of 1.6 million in 2000 to 408,870 in the year ending Sept. 30, with net immigration by Mexicans at zero.

More Central Americans were apprehended illegally crossing the border than Mexicans last year. The Central Americans are fleeing a humanitarian crisis — the world's highest murder rates and abject poverty. Most surrender at the border and seek asylum. The Border Patrol has bulked up, too, from about 9,500 agents in 2004 to some 17,500 today.

The locals, meanwhile, mostly don't want a wall. A May poll in U.S. southwest border cities found 72 percent against the idea. The Cronkite News-Univision-Dallas Morning News poll had a 2.6 percent error margin

DRUG SMUGGLING Most drugs entering the United States sneak through legal ports of entry — not through fence-less wilds. They hide in concealed compartments of passenger vehicles or commingled with legitimate goods in tractor-trailers, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says.

The U.S. Border Patrol says it seized 1.3 million pounds of marijuana, most of it in Arizona, and 4,180 pounds of cocaine, most split between the San Diego sector and Texas' Rio Grande valley, in the most recent fiscal year.

Smugglers have been tunneling under fences for years, primarily in California and Arizona where marijuana is the payload. Authorities also occasionally find ladders constructed a foot higher than existing fence as creative smugglers find new ways in — and under.

And since 1990, the DEA says, 225 border tunnels have been discovered. Off-road vehicles and backpackers are also used, but that tends to require scouts. Ultralight aircraft and drones have also made cross-border airdrops, mostly of marijuana.

Elliot Spagat in San Diego and Astrid Galvan in Phoenix, contributed to this report.

Trump Moves To 'Build That Wall' With Mexico, Curb Refugees


Moina Shaiq holds a sign at a rally outside of City Hall in San Francisco, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. President Donald Trump moved aggressively to tighten the nation's immigration controls Wednesday, signing executive actions to jumpstart construction of his promised U.S.-Mexico border wall and cut federal grants for immigrant-protecting "sanctuary cities."

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump moved aggressively to tighten the nation's immigration controls Wednesday, signing executive actions to jumpstart construction of his promised U.S.-Mexico border wall and cut federal grants for immigrant-protecting "sanctuary cities." As early as Thursday, he is expected to pause the flow of all refugees to the U.S. and indefinitely bar those fleeing war-torn Syria.

"Beginning today the United States of America gets back control of its borders," Trump declared during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security. "We are going to save lives on both sides of the border."

The actions, less than a week into Trump's presidency, fulfilled pledges that animated his candidacy and represented a dramatic redirection of U.S. immigration policy. They were cheered by Republicans allies in Congress, condemned by immigration advocates and triggered immediate new tension with the Mexican government.

"I regret and reject the decision of the U.S. to build the wall," Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said Wednesday in a nationally televised address. Trump is expected to wield his executive power again later this week with the directive to dam the refugee flow into the U.S. for at least four months, in addition to the open-ended pause on Syrian arrivals.

The president's upcoming order is also expected to suspend issuing visas for people from several predominantly Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — for at least 30 days, according to a draft executive order obtained by The Associated Press.

Trump is unveiling his immigration plans at a time when detentions at the nation's southern border are down significantly from levels seen in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The arrest tally last year was the fifth-lowest since 1972. Deportations of people living in the U.S. illegally also increased under President Barack Obama, though Republicans criticized him for setting prosecution guidelines that spared some groups from the threat of deportation, including those brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

As a candidate, Trump tapped into the immigration concerns of some Americans who worry both about a loss of economic opportunities and the threat of criminals and terrorists entering the country. His call for a border wall was among his most popular proposals with supporters, who often broke out in chants of "build that wall" during rallies.

Immigration advocates and others assailed the new president's actions. Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants' Rights Project, said the president's desire to construct a border wall was "driven by racial and ethnic bias that disgraces America's proud tradition of protecting vulnerable migrants."

How Trump plans to pay for the wall project is murky. While he has repeatedly promised that Mexico will foot the bill, U.S. taxpayers are expected to cover the initial costs and the new administration has said nothing about how it might compel Mexico to reimburse the money.

In an interview with ABC News earlier Wednesday, Trump said, "There will be a payment; it will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form." Pena Nieto said Wednesday, "I have said time and again, Mexico will not pay for any wall." He has been expected to meet with Trump at the White House next week, although a senior official said Trump's announcement had led him to reconsider the visit.

Congressional aides say there is about $100 million of unspent appropriations in the Department of Homeland Security account for border security, fencing and infrastructure. That would allow planning efforts to get started, but far more money would have to be appropriated for construction to begin.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, in an interview Wednesday on MSNBC, said Congress will work with Trump on the upfront financing for the wall. Asked about estimates that the project could cost $8 billion to $14 billion, Ryan said, "That's about right."

Trump has insisted many times the border structure will be a wall. The order he signed referred to "a contiguous, physical wall or other similarly secure, contiguous and impassable physical barrier." To build the wall, the president is relying on a 2006 law that authorized several hundred miles of fencing along the 2,000-mile frontier. That bill led to the construction of about 700 miles of various kinds of fencing designed to block both vehicles and pedestrians.

The president's orders also call for hiring 5,000 additional border patrol agents and 10,000 more immigration officers, though the increases are subject to the approval of congressional funding. He also moved to end what Republicans have labeled a catch-and-release system at the border. Currently, some immigrants caught crossing the border illegally are released and given notices to report back to immigration officials at a later date.

Trump's crackdown on sanctuary cities — locales that don't cooperate with immigration authorities — could cost individual jurisdictions millions of dollars. But the administration may face legal challenges, given that some federal courts have found that cities or counties cannot hold immigrants beyond their jail terms or deny them bond based only a request from immigration authorities.

Some of the nation's largest metropolitan areas — including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — are considered sanctuary cities. The president also moved to restart the "Secure Communities" program, which was launched under President George W. Bush and initially touted as a way for immigration authorities to quickly and easily identify people in the country illegally who had been arrested by local authorities.

The program helped the Obama administration deport a record high of more than 409,000 immigrants in 2012. But Obama eventually abandoned the program after immigration advocates and civil libertarians decried it as too often targeting immigrants charged with low-level crimes, including traffic violations.

Among those in the audience for Trump's remarks at DHS were the families of people killed by people in the U.S. illegally. After reading the names of those killed, Trump said, "Your children will not have lost their lives for no reason."

Trump's actions on halting all refugees could be announced sometime this week. Administration officials and others briefed on the plans cautioned that some details of the measures could still be changed, but indicated that Trump planned to follow through on his campaign promises to limit access to the U.S. for people coming from countries with terrorism ties.

AP writers Alicia A. Caldwell, Vivian Salama, Andrew Taylor and Erica Werner in Washington and E. Eduardo Castillo in Mexico City contributed to this report.

Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

Trump Says Torture Works As His Government Readies A Review


President Donald Trump, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, and others, speaks during a visit to the Homeland Security Department in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump declared Wednesday he believes torture works as his administration readied a sweeping review of how America conducts the war on terror. It includes possible resumption of banned interrogation methods and reopening CIA-run "black site" prisons outside the United States.

In an interview with ABC News, Trump said he would wage war against Islamic State militants with the singular goal of keeping the U.S. safe. Asked specifically about the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, Trump cited the extremist group's atrocities against Christians and others and said: "We have to fight fire with fire."

Trump said he would consult with new Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo before authorizing any new policy. But he said he had asked top intelligence officials in the past day: "Does torture work?"

"And the answer was yes, absolutely," Trump said. He added that he wants to do "everything within the bounds of what you're allowed to do legally." A clip of Trump's interview was released after The Associated Press and other news outlets obtained copies of a draft executive order being circulated within his administration.

Beyond reviewing interrogation techniques and facilities, the draft order would instruct the Pentagon to send newly captured "enemy combatants" to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, instead of closing the detention facility as President Barack Obama had wanted. Altogether, the possible changes could mark a dramatic return to how the Bush administration waged its campaign against al-Qaida and other extremist groups.

Trump spokesman Sean Spicer, questioned about the draft order, said it was "not a White House document" but would not comment further. House Speaker Paul Ryan told MSNBC the draft order was not written by the Trump administration. "My understanding is this was written by somebody who worked on the transition before. ... This is not something the Trump administration is planning on, working on," Ryan said.

The draft says U.S. laws should be obeyed at all times and explicitly rejects "torture." But its reconsideration of the harsh techniques banned by Obama and Congress raises questions about the definition of the word and is sure to inflame passions in the U.S. and abroad.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President George W. Bush authorized a covert program that led to dozens of detainees being held in secret locations overseas and to interrogation tactics that included sleep deprivation, slapping and slamming against walls, confinement in small boxes, prolonged isolation and even death threats. Three detainees faced waterboarding. Many developed psychological problems.

While some former government leaders insist the program was effective in obtaining critical intelligence, many others say the abuses weakened America's moral standing in the world, hurt morale among intelligence officers and proved ineffective before Obama shut it down.

The AP obtained the draft order from a U.S. official, who said it had been distributed by the White House for consultations before Trump signs it. The official wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.

The Pentagon didn't immediately comment and Spicer, Trump's press secretary, said, "I have no idea where it came from." But reports of the upcoming order quickly sparked alarm among Republicans and Democrats.

"The president can sign whatever executive orders he likes. But the law is the law," said Republican Sen. John McCain, tortured himself as a prisoner during the Vietnam War. "We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America."

On the campaign trail, Trump spoke emphatically about toughening the U.S. approach to fighting the Islamic State group. He said he would authorize waterboarding and a "hell of a lot worse." After winning the election, however, he appeared to backtrack, pointedly citing Mattis' advice that torture is ineffective.

Pompeo, Trump's CIA director, said in his confirmation hearing that he would abide by all laws. But he also said he'd consult with CIA and other government experts on whether current restrictions were an "impediment to gathering vital intelligence to protect the country or whether any rewrite of the Army Field Manual is needed."

Specifically, Trump's draft order calls for reinstating an executive order — "to the extent permitted" by current law — that President Bush signed in 2007 and Obama later revoked. Trump's draft would reverse two other executive orders of Obama's. One called for closing Guantanamo Bay. The other ordered the CIA to shut any detention facility it operated and prohibited the U.S. from using any interrogation technique not listed in the Army Field Manual, demanding treatment in compliance with the Geneva Conventions, including timely access for the International Red Cross to all detainees.

Among the interrogation techniques banned by the manual were forced nakedness, hooding, beatings, sexual humiliation, threatening with dogs, mock executions, electric shocks, burning and waterboarding.

Any changes would face steep legal and legislative hurdles. McCain, the Senate Armed Services Committee's chairman, may be the most formidable opponent in Congress, but he is not the only one. "It is wrong and I hope he will rethink it," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said.

On Guantanamo, the draft order says detention facilities "are a critical tool in the fight against international jihadist terrorist groups who are engaged in armed conflict with the United States, its allies and its coalition partners." About 40 detainees remain in Guantanamo.

The document says "over 30 percent of detainees" who've been released have returned to armed conflict, with at least a dozen conducting attacks "against U.S. personnel or allied forces in Afghanistan." Six Americans, including a civilian aid worker, died as a result of those attacks.

U.S. intelligence agencies say 17.6 percent of detainees released from Guantanamo are confirmed to have re-engaged in conflict. An additional 12.4 percent are "suspected" of re-engaging. Trump pledged on the campaign trail to "load it up with some bad dudes."

But it's unclear who the new detainees would be. As American ground troops have stepped back this decade from the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan, captures of high-level detainees have become much rarer, and Obama tried to direct them through the U.S. justice system.

AP writers Eric Tucker, Erica Werner and Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Israeli Leader Accepts Invitation From Trump To Visit US

JANUARY 22, 2017

A worker stands in a construction site in the West bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. The municipality of Jerusalem has granted final approval for the construction of hundreds of new homes in east Jerusalem, while a hard-line Cabinet minister pushed the government to annex Maaleh Adumim, a major West Bank settlement as emboldened Israeli nationalists welcomed the presidency of Donald Trump. The building plans were put on hold in the final months of President Barack Obama's administration.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's prime minister on Sunday accepted an invitation to visit the White House next month in hopes of forging a "common vision" for the region with President Donald Trump that could include expanded settlement construction on occupied territories and a tougher policy toward Iran.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his plans to head to Washington in early February hours after delaying a vote on an explosive proposal to annex one of the West Bank's largest settlements, apparently to coordinate his policy toward the Palestinians with the new administration.

The move put on hold legislation that threatens to unleash fresh violence and damage already faded hopes for Palestinian independence. It also may have marked Trump's first presidential foray into Middle East diplomacy.

After eight years of frosty relations with President Barack Obama, Netanyahu has welcomed Trump's election as an opportunity to strengthen ties between the two allies. Israeli media reported that Netanyahu was gearing up plans to expand settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem — a policy that had been condemned by Obama.

Late Sunday, the two men held what Netanyahu's office described as a "very warm conversation" by phone. It said they discussed the international nuclear deal with Iran, which both men have harshly criticized, and the Palestinian issue.

"The prime minister expressed his desire to work closely with President Trump to forge a common vision to advance peace and security in the region, with no daylight between the United States and Israel," the statement said. It said a date for Netanyahu's visit would be finalized in the coming days.

The White House said Trump told Netanyahu that peace with the Palestinians "can only be negotiated directly between the two parties" and that the U.S. will work closely with Israel on that goal. Trump also affirmed his "unprecedented commitment to Israel's security" and his administration's focus on countering terrorism, the White House added.

With Trump signaling a more tolerant approach toward the much-maligned settlement movement, Israel's nationalist right now believes it has an ally in the White House, and Israeli hard-line leaders make no secret they will push for aggressive action in the occupied West Bank.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the pro-settlement Jewish Home Party, has been pushing Netanyahu to abandon the internationally backed idea of a Palestinian state and to annex the Maaleh Adumim settlement near Jerusalem.

But after convening his Security Cabinet on Sunday, Netanyahu said his Cabinet ministers, including Bennett, had decided "unanimously" to delay action on the annexation plan until he goes to Washington to meet with Trump.

In order to placate Bennett, Israeli media reports said Netanyahu had promised the ministers to clear the way for expanded settlement construction in east Jerusalem and in major West Bank settlement "blocs" that Israel hopes to keep under a future peace deal. He was quoted as saying his "vision" is to place all settlements under Israeli sovereignty.

In Washington, Trump described their phone call as "very nice." Netanyahu, a longtime supporter of the settlements, has nonetheless been cautious about expanding them in the face of strong opposition from the international community. In a final showdown with Israel last month, the Obama administration allowed the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution condemning settlements as illegal.

But Bennett and other hard-liners believe there is no longer any reason for restraint. "For the first time in 50 years, the prime minister can decide: either sovereignty or Palestine," Bennett wrote on Twitter.

Annexing Maaleh Adumim, a sprawling settlement of nearly 40,000 people east of Jerusalem, could cause a major clash with the Palestinians and the rest of the international community. The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank and east Jerusalem — areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war — for a future state. The Palestinians and the international community consider all settlements illegal, and unilaterally making Maaleh Adumim part of Israel would deal a powerful blow to hopes for a two-state solution.

To the Palestinians, it would be seen as undermining negotiations. Maaleh Adumim is also strategically located in the middle of the West Bank, potentially hindering the establishment of their state. "If they are serious about making it part of Israel and closing it down, then it is actually cutting the West Bank into two," said Hagit Ofran of the anti-settlement group Peace Now.

While Trump has not expressed an opinion on the annexation, he has signaled a softer approach toward the settlement movement than any of his predecessors. His designated ambassador to Israel has close ties to Jewish West Bank settlements, and a delegation of settler leaders attended Friday's inauguration as guests of administration officials.

Trump also has already said he supports one of Israel's key demands — moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The president ignored a question Sunday from reporters about the issue. The U.S., like other countries, maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv, saying the conflicting claims to Jerusalem must be worked out in negotiations.

Trump, however, faces heavy pressure from the Palestinians and Arab countries against moving the embassy. The fate of east Jerusalem, home to the city's most sensitive religious sites, is deeply emotional, and disagreements have boiled over into violence in the past.

The White House dispelled rumors that Trump had imminent plans to announce the move. It said it was only at the "very beginning" of discussing plans to move the embassy. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has sent a series of messages to Trump urging him not to move the embassy and warning that he would revoke recognition of Israel if the move takes place.

Abbas met Sunday with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Amman. Jordan, which serves as the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, has warned that moving the embassy would cross a "red line." Jordan is a key Israeli and Western ally in the battle against Islamic militants.

"We discussed the possibility of moving the embassy, and we say that if this thing happens, then we have measures that we agreed to implement together with Jordan," Abbas said. "And we hope that the American administration will not do that."

Also Sunday, Jerusalem city officials granted building permits for 566 new homes in east Jerusalem. The permits had been put on hold for the final months of the Obama administration. "We've been through eight tough years with Obama pressuring to freeze construction," said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. "I hope that era is over."

Unlike other West Bank settlements, Israel annexed east Jerusalem and considers its neighborhoods inseparable parts of its capital. But the annexation is not internationally recognized. Palestinian official Nabil Abu Rdeneh and condemned the building plans and called on the U.N. to act. "It is time to stop dealing with Israel as a state above the law," he said.

Associated Press writer Julie Pace in Washington contributed.

Gambia's Ex-Leader Made Off With Millions, Luxury Cars

JANUARY 22, 2017

A ferry bringing back people who fled arrives at the port in Banjul, Gambia, as it reopens Saturday Jan. 21, 2017. life slowly returns to the Gambian capital as Gambia's defeated leader Yahya Jammeh announced early Saturday he has decided to relinquish power, after hours of last-ditch talks with regional leaders and the threat by a regional military force to make him leave. Image: Jerome Delay/AP

BANJUL, GAMBIA (AP) — Exiled Gambian ruler Yahya Jammeh stole millions of dollars in his final weeks in power, plundering the state coffers and shipping out luxury vehicles by cargo plane, a special adviser for the new president said Sunday.

Meanwhile, a regional military force rolled in, greeted by cheers, to secure this tiny West African nation so that democratically elected President Adama Barrow could return home. He remained in neighboring Senegal, where he took the oath of office Thursday because of concerns for his safety.

At a press conference in the Senegalese capital, Barrow's special adviser Mai Ahmad Fatty told journalists that the president "will return home as soon as possible." Underscoring the challenges facing the new administration, Fatty confirmed that Jammeh made off with more than $11.4 million during a two-week period alone. That is only what they have discovered so far since Jammeh and his family took an offer of exile after more than 22 years in power and departed late Saturday.

"The Gambia is in financial distress. The coffers are virtually empty. That is a state of fact," Fatty said. "It has been confirmed by technicians in the ministry of finance and the Central Bank of the Gambia."

Fatty also confirmed that a Chadian cargo plane had transported luxury goods out of the country on Jammeh's behalf in his final hours in power, including an unknown number of vehicles. Fatty said officials at the Gambia airport have been ordered not to allow any of Jammeh's belongings to leave. Separately, it appeared that some of his goods remained in Guinea, where Jammeh and his closest allies stopped on their flight into exile.

Fatty said officials "regret the situation," but it appeared that the major damage had been done, leaving the new government with little recourse to recoup the funds. The unpredictable Jammeh, known for startling declarations like his claim that bananas and herbal rubs could cure AIDS, went into exile under mounting international pressure, with a wave to supporters as soldiers wept. He is now in Equatorial Guinea, home to Africa's longest-serving ruler and not a state party to the International Criminal Court.

Jammeh's dramatic about-face on his December election loss to Barrow, at first conceding and then challenging the vote, appeared to be the final straw for the international community, which had been alarmed by his moves in recent years to declare an Islamic republic and leave the Commonwealth and the ICC.

Barrow's adviser disavowed a joint declaration issued after Jammeh's departure by the United Nations, African Union and West African regional bloc ECOWAS that bestowed a number of protections upon Jammeh, his family and his associates — including the assurance that their lawful assets would not be seized.

"As far as we're concerned, it doesn't exist," Fatty said. The declaration also said Jammeh's exile was "temporary" and that he reserved the right to return to Gambia at the time of his choosing. Although the declaration was written to provide Jammeh with maximum protection, it doesn't give him amnesty, according to international human rights lawyer Reed Brody.

"Under international law in fact you can't amnesty certain crimes like torture and massive or systematic political killings," he said in an email. "Depending where Jammeh ends up, though, the real obstacles to holding him accountable will be political."

Barrow will now begin forming a Cabinet and working with Gambia's national assembly to reverse the state of emergency Jammeh declared in his final days in power, said Halifa Sallah, spokesman for the coalition backing the new leader.

The president's official residence, State House, needs to be cleared of any possible hazards before Barrow arrives, Sallah added. The regional military force that had been poised to force out Jammeh if diplomatic efforts failed rolled into Gambia's capital, Banjul, on Sunday night to secure it for Barrow's arrival.

Hundreds greeted the force's approach to State House, cheering and dancing, while some people grabbed soldiers to take selfies. The force will remain in the country "until such time the security general situation is comprehensively redressed," Barrow said in a statement.

Marcel Alain de Souza, chairman of the regional bloc, said part of Gambia's security forces needed to be "immobilized," and he confirmed that Jammeh had had mercenaries by his side during the standoff. The former leader also had requested "a sort of amnesty" for him and his entourage and had wanted to remain in his home village, de Souza said.

With Jammeh gone, a country that had waited in silence during the crisis sprang back to life. Shops and restaurants opened, music played and people danced in the streets. Defense chief Ousmane Badjie said the military welcomed the arrival of the regional force "wholeheartedly." With proper orders, he said, he would open the doors to the notorious prisons where rights groups say many who have disappeared over the years may be kept.

"We are going to show Barrow we are really armed forces with a difference, I swear to God," Badjie said. "I have the Quran with me." Some of the 45,000 people who had fled the tiny country during the crisis began to return. The nation of 1.9 million, which promotes itself to overseas tourists as "the Smiling Coast of Africa," has been a major source of migrants heading toward Europe because of the situation at home.

"I think it will be safer now," said 20-year-old Kaddy Saidy, who was returning to Banjul with her three young children. Barrow, who has promised to reverse many of Jammeh's actions, told The Associated Press on Saturday he will launch a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate alleged human rights abuses of Jammeh's regime. Rights groups say those include arbitrary detentions, torture and even killing of opponents.

"After 22 years of fear, Gambians now have a unique opportunity to become a model for human rights in West Africa," Amnesty International's deputy director for West and Central Africa, Steve Cockburn, said in a statement Sunday.

Larson reported from Dakar, Senegal. Associated Press writers Babacar Dione in Dakar, Senegal; Youssouf Bah in Conakry, Guinea; and Abdoulie John and photographer Jerome Delay in Banjul contributed.

Gambia: A Lesson For African Dictators

What Gambia Can Teach Other Countries About The Peaceful Transfer Of Power


Image courtesy of African Leadership

Soon after the peaceful transition of power from Barack Obama to Donald Trump in the US, Gambia's crisis was also resolved without a single gunshot. The embattled President Yahya Jammeh appeared on national TV announcing his decision "to relinquish the mantle of leadership".

Jammeh's decision to step down was not only important to his own people, as he effectively decided not to push the country into bloodshed to retain power, but it also set an important precedent in Africa for a peaceful transition of power after a decades-long dictatorship.
The descent into a preventable crisis

The political turmoil in Gambia, was the result of what I call "the curse of an authoritarian electoral defeat". It is a curse that plagues any country with long authoritarian rule where questions about the fate of the outgoing leader during and after the handover of power and about the transition from authoritarian to democratic politics remain unresolved.

Jammeh took power in Gambia in 1994 through a military coup and stayed in power for 22 years, getting regularly re-elected in, what were perceived as, unfair elections. On December 1, 2016 Jammeh's opponent, Adama Barrow, won the elections with a four percent lead, a defeat that the incumbent initially accepted.

The crisis started when, on December 9, Jammeh rescinded his earlier concession of defeat . Although Jammeh claimed that there were electoral irregularities, what really pushed him to change his mind was his fear of political reprisals against him by the opposition.

Instead of seizing Jammeh's concession of defeat as an opportunity to negotiate an exit strategy ensuring peaceful transfer of power, politics of vengeance, not uncommon in transitions from authoritarian rule, started to creep into the political discourse. Members of the opposition started talking about annulling Gambia's withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, refusing immunity to Jammeh, having him prosecuted, and seizing his assets.

Jammeh was cornered and went on the offensive, declaring a state of emergency and pressing the parliament to extend his rule by three months.
Diplomatic efforts

Central to the success of diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis was regional leadership. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) took the lead both in setting the agenda and launching the diplomatic process which involved five rounds of presidential missions to Banjul mobilising a total number of six African presidents, including Nobel Peace Prize laurate, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia.

Unlike in other African transfer of power crises, where power sharing was the focus of negotiations, ECOWAS decided not to compromise and pushed for enforcing the outcome of the December 1 elections.

Its diplomatic efforts also received firm support from international actors such as the African Union, which warned Jammeh of " serious consequences ", the United Nations, and the European Union.

An important factor in the successful resolution of the crisis was that ECOWAS did not limit its actions only to diplomacy, but also backed its efforts with a credible threat of military action. Apart from its 17 December summit decision to "undertake all necessary action" - a euphemism for use of force - ECOWAS member states mobilised their troops and prepared to enter Gambia's territory upon the expiry of the 19 January deadline they set for Jammeh to leave power.

The crumbling of Jammeh's regime from inside was major internal catalyst for the swift and peaceful end of the stalemate. The string of cabinet resignations followed by the departure of long-time vice president, Isatou Njie-Saidy, forced Jammeh to dissolve his cabinet entirely. Even Jammeh's military chief who stood by him throughout the crisis eventually announced that he had no plan to fight the ECOWAS troops marching into the Gambia.

Trying to avoid bloodshed, ECOWAS decided not to follow up on its initial threat of ensuring the inauguration of Mr Barrow in Banjul and instead opted for an extraordinary decision to swear Gambia's new president in the Gambian embassy in Senegal's capital, Dakar on January 19 .

This act sealed Jammeh's political defeat, paving the way for the AU and others to withdraw their recognition of Jammeh and welcome Mr Barrow as the legitimate president of Gambia.
A lesson for other African dictators

What ultimately guaranteed the peaceful end of the crisis was the eventual successful negotiation of the terms for Jammeh's exit. In exchange for peaceful transfer of power to the new president, he received guarantees of a secure retirement with full benefits of a citizen, a party leader and a former head of state.

In this way, Gambia set an important precedent for other authoritarian rulers, who continue to be in power long after losing popular support due to their uncertain future. Gambia's experience shows that they can get a dignified exit, if they allow free and fair election.

In so doing, not only would they spare their countries the agonies of a violent transition, but also avoid the fate of Ivory Coast's former president Laurent Gbagbo, who is on trial at the ICC after he was forced out of power by a French military intervention in 2011.

The clear lesson for opposition parties and the citizenry in countries with authoritarian leaders is that not only should they forge unity during elections, but also prepare to work with regional and international bodies for a negotiated exit guaranteeing peaceful transfer of power.

As Barrow's plan to convene a truth and reconciliation commission for dealing with past abuses shows, Jammeh's exit does not completely preclude the pursuit of measures of accountability as part of an inclusive transitional process.

Solomon Ayele Dersso is a senior legal scholar and an analyst on Africa and African Union affairs.