Entries in Capitol (6)


US Capitol Rotunda Closed as Police Investigate White Powder

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The rotunda at the U.S. Capitol has reopened to pedestrian traffic after a white powdery substance discovered Friday morning just steps away from the office of the Speaker of the House was determined to be harmless.

How harmless? The substance that prompted Capitol Police to close down the rotunda was in fact just candy from a candy necklace.

“Rotunda clear,” Kimberly Schneider, U.S. Capitol Police public information officer, confirmed in an email. “Candy from a candy necklace.”

Officers in hazmat suits responded to the scene to test the powder. As officers investigated, tourists and congressional staffers in the Capitol were prevented from passing through the rotunda.

ABC News was among the first to arrive on the scene and capture video of officers in hazmat suits walking around the rotunda.

Schneider later emailed to confirm the substance is harmless. She did not immediately explain how the substance was discovered, or whether foul play was suspected.

House Speaker John Boehner and most other members of Congress are not at the Capitol, as the House of Representatives conducted a brief pro forma session Friday morning. Lawmakers return Monday for legislative business.

Last week, the FBI arrested a man who allegedly planned to launch a suicide attack on the Capitol. Amine El Khalifi, charged last Friday in an FBI sting in a plot to bomb the Capitol, was arrested just two blocks from the Capitol complex, wearing what he believed was a suicide vest, although the FBI says it provided the inert device as the bureau built a case on the 29 year old Moroccan man.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Would-Be Capitol Bomber Waives Right to Detention Hearing

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Amine El Khalifi, the 29-year-old Moroccan man charged last Friday in an FBI sting in a plot to bomb the Capitol made a brief court appearance Wednesday afternoon and waived his right to a detention hearing.

The court appearance lasted only a few minutes with Khalifi not seeking bond for his release while the case proceeds.

Khalifi appeared before a federal magistrate wearing a green jumpsuit with "PRISONER" labeled on the back, as he was flanked by his defense lawyers from the Federal Defenders office.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Virginia is expected to indict Khalifi in the next 30 days after presenting the case to a federal grand jury.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Feds Foil Remote-Controlled Terror Attack on Washington

FBI(WASHINGTON) -- A Massachusetts man was arrested Wednesday for allegedly masterminding a plot to hit the nation's capital with explosive-laden remote-controlled airplanes followed by a ground assault, the Department of Justice said.

Rezwan Ferdaus, a 26-year-old U.S. citizen and Northeastern University graduate, was nabbed in an elaborate FBI sting after he told undercover officers exactly how he planned to arm "small drone airplanes" with explosives in order to hit the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol building before opening fire on the survivors, federal officials said in a statement.

"The conduct alleged today shows that Mr. Ferdaus had long planned to commit violent acts against our country, including attacks on the Pentagon and our nation's Capitol [building]. Thanks to the diligence of the FBI and our many other law enforcement partners, that plan was thwarted," U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen M. Ortiz said.

According to investigators, Ferdaus believed he had been working for al Qaeda since 2010 when he began modifying cellphones to serve as electrical switches for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to be passed on to fighters in the Middle East.

"During a June 2011 meeting, he appeared gratified when he was told that his first phone detonation device had killed three U.S. soldiers and injured four or five others in Iraq. Ferdaus responded, 'That was exactly what I wanted,'" the Department of Justice statement said.

The cellphones, however, never got anywhere near the Middle East as Ferdaus was actually handing them over to undercover officers for the FBI. Still, Ferdaus appeared to want to do more, investigators said.

"Ferdaus envisioned causing a large 'psychological' impact by killing Americans, including women and children, who he referred to as 'enemies of Allah,'" the DOJ's statement said. "According to the affidavit, Ferdaus' desire to attack the United States is so strong that he confided, 'I just can't stop; there is no other choice for me.'"

Ferdaus allegedly wanted to command a team of six operatives that would use up to three remote-controlled aircraft filled with explosives in the "aerial" part of the attack before firing on any survivors in a follow-up "ground" attack.

Federal investigators said Ferdaus traveled to Washington, D.C., to "conduct surveillance" and take photographs of his targets before acquiring his weapons Wednesday, including six AK-47 assault rifles, grenades and what he believed to be C-4 explosives.

"Although Ferdaus was presented with multiple opportunities to back out of his plan, including being told that his attack would likely kill women and children, the affidavit alleges that Ferdaus never wavered in his desire to carry out the attacks," the DOJ said.

Ferdaus has been charged in connection to the plot as well as attempting to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda.

An attorney for Ferdaus, Cathy Byrne, was not available for comment for this report.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Congress Pays Tribute to 9/11, Sings ‘God Bless America’

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With the same sense of unity that pulled Congress together after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, members of Congress from both the House and Senate gathered on steps of the Capitol Monday night to pay tribute to the victims and heroes of the 9/11 attacks.

Congress was not in session Sunday during the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  Instead, many members traveled to their home states to participate in local events marking the date, and to New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon to attend ceremonies.

“The 11th of September will always be a day of remembrance,” House Speaker John Boehner said.  “It is up to we who live on -- particularly we who serve -- to ‘never forget,’ to never yield, but to hold fast until we have preserved the blessings of freedom for those who come after us.  If we are successful, no one will have to tell them what to do.  They will know, and they too will ‘never forget.’”

Monday night was reserved for a moment of silence and the singing of “God Bless America” on the steps of the Capitol -- a sight recreated from the spontaneous rendition of the patriotic tune the night of Sept. 11, 2001.

“Here 10 years ago we reaffirmed in our own way that our commitment was for freedom and democracy -- that’s what makes America the greatest nation in the world,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said of that moment.  “Little did we know then the effect that [Maryland Senator] Barbara Mikulski suggesting to us, members of Congress here assembled, that we would sing ‘God Bless America.’  We did -- the sweetest song I ever heard.”

Reid said the only reason that Members of Congress could share that experience in 2001 was because of the courage of the heroes on board United Flight 93.

“The plane was headed here,” he said.  “We’ve learned since then the ringleader of that evil band had made a decision that it would be the Capitol, not the White House, because it was a much easier target.  That night we didn’t know that when we met here, but we know it now.”

“It was clear what needed to be done.  No one had to tell them.  They saved countless lives.  They steadied our country before a watching world,” Boehner said.

Holding small American flags, hundreds of lawmakers sang along Monday evening while the Marine Corps band played “God Bless America,” 10 years after Congress gathered on the steps of the Capitol to sing the song a cappella.

Each of Congress’s four top leaders also delivered brief remarks, touching on the themes of unity, patriotism, remembrance and progress that characterized the 10-year anniversary ceremonies last weekend.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gerald Ford Honored with Statue at Capitol

Tom Williams/Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- A statue honoring the late President Gerald Ford was dedicated Tuesday in the rotunda at the U.S. Capitol building.

Speaking at the ceremony on Tuesday, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell praised Ford’s leadership during the bitter days after Watergate, when McConnell said Americans had lost confidence in its government.

“That bitterness has yielded to a sense of pride that America, in her resilience, bounced back,” McConnell said. He said that Americans were overcome with “a sense of gratitude to the man who steadied the ship of state when scandal came.”

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi recalled Ford’s 1993 visit to the Capitol, when he celebrated his 90th birthday.

“He was like a rock star,” Pelosi said Tuesday. “Everyone surrounded him.  It he moved through the chamber, it was just...he was engulfed by members.”

Ford, who served as the 38th president, died in 2006 after suffering a number of health complications.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Capitol Momentarily Put On Lockdown 

Photo Courtesy - Matthew Gagnon/ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Capitol was momentarily put on lockdown Thursday after a report of a man with a gun near an office building on the Senate side of the complex.

The lockdown was lifted after only a few minutes and the all-clear was given.

Capitol police said in a statement just after 11:30 a.m. there had been a report of a man with a gun near 1st and Constitution Ave. NE and a suspect was in custody. That location is just outside the Dirksen Office Building.

Matthew Gagnon, an aide for Sen. Susan Collins, R-Me., described the incident on Twitter.

“Plain clothes cop in gray sweat-shirt is a hero. Totally took the guy down Ray Lewis style. Epic,” Gagnon tweeted.

“Epic take down by the cops outside Dirksen. Five seconds before officer had gun drawn,” he said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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