Clinton: ‘No Information’ Amb. Stevens Was on Al Qaeda ‘Hit List’

William Ng/State Dept(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded today to reports that Ambassador Chris Stevens feared he was on an Al Qaeda “hit list” by saying that she had “absolutely no information or reason to believe that there’s any basis for that.”

Clinton also announced that she has launched an independent panel, an Accountability Review Board, that will be directed by veteran diplomat Ambassador Thomas Pickering, to investigate what happened in the Benghazi consulate attack that killed four diplomats.

The State Department is required by law to investigate any incidents in which there has been loss of life or significant destruction of property at a U.S. mission abroad within 60 days of the attack.  Clinton will provide the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with the findings of the report.

Clinton said the countries affected by the Arab Spring have “fragile” and “new” democracies and America cannot afford to withdraw its support now.  

“The vast majorities of people in these countries did not throw off the tyranny of a dictator to trade it for the tyranny of a mob.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Aurora Massacre: Prosecutors Drop Fight for Suspect’s Notebook

Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office(CENTENNIAL, Colo.) -- Prosecutors in the Aurora theater massacre case changed legal course today, dropping their effort to see a notebook that James Holmes mailed to his psychiatrist Lynne Fenton the day before he allegedly opened fire, killing 12 and injuring 58.

Holmes, 24, appeared clean cut in court, with short, closely-cropped brown hair. The infamous orange hair and long sideburns are now gone. Holmes seemed to sometimes pay attention to today’s proceedings, occasionally staring wide-eyed around the courtroom.

Prosecutors had argued that they should be allowed to see the notebook, arguing that Holmes’ relationship with Dr. Fenton ended on June 11. Holmes’ defense team, however, said in a previous hearing that Holmes tried to reach Fenton nine minutes before the July 20 massacre, suggesting he may not have considered their relationship over.

Prosecutor Rich Orman said that even if they did win the argument that the notebook was not protected by doctor-patient confidentiality, that would likely result in a long delay in an appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court.

“We are in uncharted legal waters,” Orman said.

Orman also told Judge William Sylvester that the issue of privilege will likely become moot because if Holmes pursues an expected insanity defense, he will automatically waive privilege, giving prosecutors access to the notebook.

“Any privilege that exists with the notebook will be waived in the future,” said Orman.

Defense attorneys will soon be granted access to the notebook, where they will be able to read and photograph whatever is inside.

Defense attorneys have said in previous court hearings that Holmes is mentally ill.

“I am surprised at this development, because this district attorney usually fights for everything. But I’m also not surprised, because other district attorneys have seen this fight as being a waste of time,” said David Kaplan, a criminal defense attorney and former head of the Colorado Public Defenders Office.

Holmes’ defense attorneys also asked the judge to level sanctions on prosecutors for making false and misleading statements about the case.

In previous hearings and in court documents, prosecutors have alleged that Holmes threatened a professor and was banned from the University of Colorado campus where he was a neuroscience graduate student. Public defender Daniel King said none of that was true.

“There was no iota of evidence to support allegations that Mr. Holmes threatened anyone or was banned for campus,” King said.

King asked the judge to allow the defense team to release a statement to the media to correct information he called “flagrant and untrue.”

The judge did not immediately issue a ruling on the statement or possible sanctions.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Construction of Inaugural Platform Begins at US Capitol

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Construction began today on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to construct the platform where either Gov. Mitt Romney or President Obama will take the oath of office in January.

Leaders from the House and the Senate marked the occasion by ceremonially hammering in the first nails to the stage which will host the next president’s inauguration on Jan. 21, 2013 on the West Front of the United States Capitol.

The inaugural platform will seat about 1,600 people including former presidents, members of Congress, cabinet officials, joint chiefs and diplomats and serves as the backdrop for arguably the most important inauguration day image when a candidate turns into a president while taking the oath.

The West Front of the U.S. Capitol will be closed to visitors from now until Inauguration Day while construction is completed.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Yeardley Love's Family Feared Ex-Beau's Violent Past

Albemarle/Charlottesville Regional Jail(NEW YORK) -- The family of Yeardley Love, the college senior who was murdered by ex-boyfriend George Huguely, said Thursday that they were shocked when they found out about Huguely's violent past and had urged Yeardley to get a restraining order against him.

Love, 22, was killed by Huguely, 25, in a drunken rage on May 3, 2010, just weeks before she was to graduate. Both played on the University of Virginia's elite lacrosse teams.

In an appearance on ABC's Katie Thursday, Love's mother, Sharon Love, and her sister Lexie Love, recalled their growing concern over Yeardley Love's former boyfriend, a worry that Yeardley seemed to dismiss.

In the weeks after her death, reports emerged that Huguely had a series of violent outbursts and that he once had to be tasered by a female police officer who he had threatened. He also sent Yeardley Love a furious email in a jealous rage saying that he should have killed her.

"I never knew anybody that had done such things like that. It was shocking," Lexie Love told Couric. Lexie Love also said that she recommended that Yeardley obtain a restraining order against Huguely.

"I think she didn't seem to think it was that big of a deal," Lexie Love said. "That that was it. They were over, and she wasn't going to be seeing him much anymore."

Huguely was convicted on Feb. 22 of second-degree murder and sentenced to 23 years in prison.

Watch the full interview with the family of Yeardley Love today at 3 p.m. ET on Katie.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'Fast and Furious' Probe Clears Holder, Faults ATF and Justice Department

Chris Graythen/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- "Operation Fast and Furious," the controversial undercover operation that allowed U.S. guns to be walked into Mexico, was a "risky strategy" that did not "adequately take into account the significant danger to public safety that it created."

That was the conclusion Wednesday from the Office of the Inspector General, Department of Justice, after an investigation that spanned more than a year and a half.

The OIG investigation found that Attorney General Eric Holder was not aware of the strategy and tactics used in "Fast and Furious," and turned up no evidence that Holder tried to cover up the operation, or mislead Congress about it. Holder was held in contempt of Congress earlier this year for allegedly withholding documents about DOJ's "Fast and Furious" investigation from congressional investigators.

In a statement Wednesday, Holder said, "It is unfortunate that some were so quick to make baseless accusations before they possessed the facts about these operations -- accusations that turned out to be without foundation and that have caused a great deal of unnecessary harm and confusion."

The IG report did find that a misleading letter that the DOJ sent to Congress was "troubling" because senior officials who were involved in drafting it knew, or should have known, that reckless behavior had occurred.

The political combat triggered by the flawed undercover operation played out in a series of contentious hearings on Capitol Hill in the past year. Behind the battles, the OIG found, was an undercover operation to catch gun-runners on the Southwest border that quickly turned bad.

Some of the 2,000 guns that made their way into Mexico as a result of "Operation Fast and Furious" were later recovered at crime scenes, including two found at the scene of the killing of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010.

The "Fast and Furious" strategy called for agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to conduct surveillance and review phone and financial records to track guns they believed to be going to Mexican drug lords, who could then be arrested. But ATF lost track of most of the guns, few arrests were made, and yet "the purchasing activity by Operation Fast and Furious subjects continued unabated, individuals who had engaged in serious and dangerous criminal conduct remained at large, and the public was put in harm's way."

The OIG investigation "revealed a series of misguided strategies, tactics, errors in judgment and management failures that permeated ATF Headquarters and the Phoenix Field Division, as well as the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona and at the Headquarters of the Department of Justice."

The report also details serious mistakes in DOJ's response to congressional inquiries about "Fast and Furious."

The Inspector General's review has recommended 14 Justice Department and ATF officials for disciplinary and administrative review, including the head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.

As a result of the OIG findings, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein resigned his post Wednesday. The OIG report charged that Weinstein, a senior aide to Breuer, did not adequately share critical information about "Fast and Furious," and its predecessor operation, "Wide Receiver," with top DOJ officials.

Because that information did not reach the attorney general, more aggressive oversight of the operation did not occur, and misinformation was passed on to Congress, according to the OIG report. Weinstein and his attorney vigorously denied any wrongdoing, saying Weinstein did not receive the key information he needed from the agents carrying out the operation. The former acting director of ATF during the operation, Kenneth Melson, on Wednesday retired from the Department of Justice, effective immediately.

The report was highly critical of William Newell, the former special agent in charge of the Phoenix field office. "Newell also bore ultimate responsibility for the failures in Operation Fast and Furious," the review found, citing his leadership position and involvement in the case.

Newell is working at ATF Headquarters in Washington.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, one of the leading congressional critics of DOJ's handing of "Fast and Furious," issued a statement Wednesday, saying, "Operation Fast and Furious was the height of irresponsibility on the part of a number of people from the ATF Phoenix field office all the way up to the Justice Department headquarters. And, we still don't know the full extent of any White House involvement because they refused to be transparent and provide documents requested by the Inspector General. It's clear that both the ATF and the Justice Department failed to provide meaningful oversight of Operation Fast and Furious."

The OIG report also detailed the mistakes that lead to the killing of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry: "On January 16, 2010, one of the straw purchasers purchased three AK-47 style rifles from a Phoenix-area gun store. ATF agents learned about that purchase 3 days later and, consistent with the investigative strategy in the case, made no effort to locate (the purchaser) or seize the rifles although ATF had identified the suspect in November 2009. Two of the three rifles purchased by (the suspect) on January 16 were recovered 11 months later at the scene of the murder of Agent Terry, who was shot and killed on December 14, 2010, as he tried to arrest persons believed to be illegally entering the United States ... "

The day after Agent Terry's death, ATF agents arrested that suspect, Jaime Avila, and later 20 more alleged gun buyers and traffickers. As of Sept. 1, 2012, 14 defendants, including Avila, had entered guilty pleas to one or more counts of the indictment. In all, "Fast and Furious" identified more than 40 subjects believed to be connected to a trafficking conspiracy responsible for purchasing more than 2,000 firearms for about $1.5 million in cash. The vast majority of the firearms purchased by "Operation Fast and Furious" subjects were AK-47 style rifles and FN Herstal 5.7 caliber pistols.

The OIG report also noted, "What began as an important and promising investigation of serious firearms trafficking along the Southwest Border that was developed through the efforts of a short-staffed ATF enforcement group quickly grew into an investigation that lacked realistic objectives, did not have appropriate supervision within ATF or the U.S. Attorney's Office, and failed to adequately assess the public safety consequences of not stopping or controlling the alarming purchasing activity."

The report indicates that the OIG reviewed more than 100,000 documents and interviewed more than 130 witnesses, many on multiple occasions.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz said, "We operated with complete and total independence in our search for the truth, and the decision about what to cover in this report and the conclusions that we reached were made solely by me and my office."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Washington Man Who Killed Two Rapists Gets Life Sentence

Comstock/Thinkstock(SEQUIM, Wash.) -- A Washington man who gunned down two convicted sex offenders offered little in the way of apology even as he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Patrick Drum, 34, hailed by some as a vigilante hero and others as a cold-blooded killer, called the grief the victim's families felt "collateral damage that I feel bad about."

"As far as the men themselves," he said at his sentencing Tuesday, referring to the two men he admits to killing in June, "actions speak louder than words."

Drum shot Gary Lee Blanton, 28, on June 2 at the home both men shared near Sequim, Wash. The following morning, Dunn shot and killed Jerry Wayne Ray, 57.

Both men were known to Drum and were registered as Level 2 sex offenders, meaning the state believed they presented a moderate risk of recidivism.

Blanton was convicted of third-degree rape while he was a juvenile. In court, during Drum's sentencing, Blanton's wife Leslie Blanton said her husband was convicted of statutory rape after having consensual sex with a high school freshman when he was a senior, according to ABC News affiliate KOMO. Ray, the second victim, was convicted of child rape.

After shooting Ray, police were tipped off to Drum's whereabouts when witnesses reported a suspicious person. Cops found Drum's abandoned rental car with a note that included an apology and full confession.

After his arrest, Drum again confessed to police and said he would have continued killing people were he not picked up.

In court Tuesday, Leslie Blanton said her young children found their father after Drum shot him. She also said Drum's supporters harassed her outside her home.

"It was never my intent to hurt the families involved. That's like collateral damage that I feel bad about," Drum told the court.

"If anybody is bothering folks, the families of my victims, I would ask that they not do that. As for the men themselves, actions speak louder than words," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


NASA to Fly Space Shuttle Endeavour Over Tucson to Honor Gabby Giffords

NASA/ Robert Markowitz(HOUSTON) -- The space shuttle Endeavour is on a 2,700-mile cross-country trip. So you have to wonder why it couldn’t make one small detour -- especially at the request of former astronaut Mark Kelly, who commanded Endeavour’s last mission before it was retired.

Kelly’s wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was struggling to recover from an attempted assassination in Tucson early last year, and his mission to the International Space Station conflicted with her recovery, so his decision to command it was bittersweet, but he had been training for so long and had faith in the medical team treating his wife.

Endeavour is flying a victory lap across the South, taking off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, dropping from 14,000 feet to 1,500 to circle historic locations in space shuttle history. The orbiter, on top of its 747 carrier plane, circled over Houston and the Johnson Space Center Wednesday. Endeavour will overnight in Houston, then head to El Paso, where it will refuel, then arrive in Los Angeles late in the week. It is to go on permanent display at the California Science Center.

Mark Kelly’s request for Endeavour to make a detour and fly over Tucson, so Giffords could see it one last time, doesn’t take it that far out of the way, especially when the idea is for it to be seen anyhow.

The last-minute suggestion was a bit of a surprise to NASA, but late in the day it put out a statement saying it would honor Kelly’s request.

“As part of the delivery of Endeavour to Los Angeles, Endeavour will be flown over the city of Tucson,” said the agency.  “NASA decided to honor that request to pay our respects to a long-time agency supporter in former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Kelly, who commanded Endeavour’s final mission, STS-134. The flight over Tucson will add no additional time or cost to the delivery of Endeavour.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Cremated Remains of 56 People Found in Ohio Closet

Hemera/Thinkstock(DAYTON, Ohio) -- Contractors cleaning out a foreclosed house in Dayton, Ohio, found the cremated remains of 56 people in one of the closets.

The ashes were in black plastic urns, labeled with the names of the decedents. The remains were crammed inside a closet along with several boxes of paperwork, all connected to a controversial funeral home.

“It was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen, but I’m not exactly surprised, given this funeral home’s history,” Dayton police Lt. Wendy Stiver said.

The home was previously owned by the owner of the now-closed funeral home. The McLin Funeral Home’s license was revoked earlier this year after an investigation concluded that the business allegedly violated state laws, including possibly burying someone in the wrong grave, ABC affiliate WKEF-TV reported.

The coroner’s office is working to contact the next of kin of all 56 decedents, at which point they may choose to press charges, although it’s still unclear who is responsible for improperly storing the remains, Stiver said.

“It’s disheartening, obviously, but as of right now, there are no criminal charges,” Stiver said.

The remains date back decades, the earliest from 1982, and the rest are from the 1990s and 2000s, the Dayton Daily News reported.

It’s unclear how the remains ended up in the closet, whether they were abandoned or withheld from the next of kin. Investigators hope the next of kin will be able to clear up exactly what happened, adding that all the remains will have proper burials.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Woman Accused of Trying to Saw Off Sleeping Husband's Head

ABC News(EVERETT, Wash.) -- A Washington state woman accused of trying to saw off her sleeping husband's head is on trial this week on charges of attempted murder.

Renee Bishop-McKean was arrested in Everett, Wash., in October after her husband, Brett Bishop, awoke in the middle of the night to find her standing over him with a handheld electric sabre saw, according to court documents.

Brett Bishop went to sleep first that night, but awoke to the sound of an electric saw revving above him.

"Renee came at me in the kitchen with the Sawzall [saw] raised up, we had a struggle over it. She kept pulling the trigger to make it run, so I reached out and pulled the battery out of it," he said in court, according to ABC News affiliate KOMO-TV.

After the struggle, Bishop-McKean allegedly hit him with a mallet and a hatchet. He was later treated at a hospital for cuts and scrapes, including stitches.

The prosecution said Bishop-McKean, 44, plotted the attack for weeks, buying plastic sheets, bleach and garbage bags to clean up the scene, according to KOMO.

She is charged with first-degree attempted murder and first-degree domestic violence assault in connection with the attack. The trial is expected to wrap up Thursday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Woman Sues Ex Over Trove of Secret Tapes

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CINCINNATI) -- An Ohio woman is suing her ex-husband after she said he spied on her with a hidden video camera, microphone and a GPS for months in their home.

Cathy Zang learned about the recordings during their 2009 divorce proceedings after 14 years of marriage, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Her ex-husband, Joe Zang, admitted to installing all the equipment, but denied doing anything wrong, according to court documents.

After learning of the secret recordings, Cathy Zang searched her home and found numerous recording devices.

"He [Joe Zang] put small microphones and small cameras in wall outlets and disguised them as actual wall outlets. It's a complete view of the computer area, the kitchen area, the living room area," said Cathy Zang's attorney, Don Roberts.

One secret recording in particular captured a vicious fight between the couple, including the exact moment the police showed up during the dispute.

While the Zangs' divorce is now final and out of court, the recordings are at the center of a federal court battle over the right to privacy amidst 21st century technology.  Two lawsuits are now pending in U.S. District Court that involve nearly a dozen of the former couple's friends and family and a computer monitoring software company.

It's not clear what laws Joe Zang has broken since he installed the devices in his own home.

Ohio and federal wiretapping laws permit audio recording as long as one of the parties in the conversation is aware of the recording.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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