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Entries in SEALs (6)

Wednesday
Jan252012

Rescued American Sold Her Belongings to Become Missionary

Danish Refugee Council(NEW YORK) -- Jessica Buchanan, the woman rescued from Somalia bandits by U.S. special forces, is so dedicated to helping others that she sold all of her belongings to become a missionary in Somalia.

Buchanan, 32, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. She graduated from Valley Forge University, a Christian college in Phoenixville, Pa., in 2007. She was a student teacher in Africa before graduating and her romance with the continent began.

Buchanan started as a student teacher at Nairobi's Rosslyn Academy in 2007 because of, "God's call on her life to teach overseas," according to her biography on the school's web site. She student taught first and sixth graders before being hired as a fourth grade teacher in 2008.

Buchanan left the school in 2009. She moved to Hargeisa, Somalia with her Danish husband, Erik Landemalm, who she met in Africa.  

Buchanan, 32, was kidnapped on Oct. 25, 2011, along with her Danish co-worker Poul Hagen Thisted, 60, in Galkayo, Somalia. The two worked together for the Danish Demining Group, a division of the Danish Regugee Council, Buchanan served as a regional education adviser, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Over the three months of her captivity, concern grew about Buchanan's deteriorating health, which was described as possibly "life-threatening" and a, "window of opportunity for mission success" presented itself, according to Pentagon spokesperson George Little.

The two were rescued Wednesday by the Navy's elite SEAL Team 6, the same covert group that successfully carried out the mission to kill Osama bin Laden.

Buchanan is doing, "as well as you would expect given what she has gone through," a military official told ABC News.

Buchanan is currently at U.S. Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.

According to officials, she is expected to be reunited with her family in the next day or two, however the location of the reunion remained unclear.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
May302011

Memorial Day Outrage: Feds on Lookout for Fake War Heroes

Jupiterimages/LiquidLibrary(WASHINGTON) -- As millions of Americans honor the service and sacrifices of veterans this Memorial Day, the FBI said it will be busy keeping a close eye out for reports of "frauds" who don fake medals and tell tales of false heroism in hopes of taking advantage of honest patriotism.

While at any particular time the FBI is investigating from 15 to 30 cases of people illegally posing as American war heroes, the Bureau said public veteran celebrations, like the parades taking place across the nation Monday, are ripe targets for impostors.

"They're going to come out of the woodwork," Don Shipley, a private watchdog and former U.S. Navy SEAL, told ABC News. "This is like Christmas for a phony."

Wearing a service medal or claiming to be a medal winner is illegal under U.S. law in most cases and in the past five years alone the Department of Justice has charged dozens of people for violations -- including five so far this year.

In addition to FBI investigators, private veteran watchdogs like Shipley and Home of Heroes founder Doug Sterner say they receive thousands of tips about questionable military service claims, especially on patriotic holidays.

"We always see them come out in droves on Memorial Day, Veterans Day and the Fourth of July and I don't expect this year will be any different," Sterner said.

Following the fame garnered by the U.S. Navy SEALs after the successful operation that killed Osama bin Laden in early May, the number of fake SEAL cases skyrocketed, Shipley said.

"U.S. military medals are symbols of heroism, patriotism, and honor," the FBI said in a statement to ABC News. "The FBI is proud of the men and women who have served our country dutifully. Those who impersonate veterans or wear an unearned military medal are frauds and demean what the medals are meant to honor."

Despite several convictions for fakers in past years, a group of U.S. congressmen is pushing to expand the law under a new version of the Stolen Valor Act, which would make it illegal for anyone to benefit in any way from lying about military medals -- from getting a free beer at a bar to season sports tickets.

A previous iteration of the Stolen Valor Act, passed with overwhelming congressional support in 2006, made it illegal for anyone to wear a medal or claim they had been awarded a medal when they had not. However, that law was ruled unconstitutional by one appeals court last August after one man who pleaded guilty to falsely claiming to be a decorated Marine said it violated the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech.

"What this bill would do is that it makes it more of an anti-fraud bill," said Congressman and U.S. Army Reserve Col. Joe Heck, who sponsors the Stolen Valor Act of 2011. "It says if you lie about your military service in order to gain something of value then you have committed fraud. I think it will close the constitutionality loophole that has caused problems for the original law.

"I find it really deplorable that individuals would try and capitalize on other American service to their nation," he said.

Shipley said he strongly supports Heck's bill and he believed other veterans would as well.

"There's got to be a line drawn somewhere," he said. "Not just for the young Army guys and young Marines, but the parents, the kids, the wives -- they [the impostors] are stealing honor from all these people."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May242011

Pakistan Returns Secret US Helicopter Wreckage

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The wreckage of the secret stealth helicopter that was abandoned by U.S. Navy SEALs during the mission to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan is back in U.S. government hands, a Pentagon official said Tuesday.

The Pakistani government, which has held on to the remains of what experts believed to be a highly modified Black Hawk helicopter since the May 2 raid, returned "what's left of the whole thing" including a large tail section to U.S. officials over the weekend, said Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman. The helicopter is being held in an undisclosed location.

The helicopter made a hard landing after it clipped a wall during the mission to kill bin Laden and was abandoned by the SEALs -- but not before the special operations team attempted to destroy it with explosives. In the days after the raid, the tail section and other pieces of debris -- including a mysterious cloth-like covering that the local children found entertaining to play with -- were photographed being hauled away from the crash site by tractor.

Aviation experts said the unusual configuration of the rear rotor, the curious hub-cap like housing around it and the general shape of the bird are all clues the helicopter was highly modified to not only be quiet, but to have as small a radar signature as possible.

In the days after the raid, U.S. officials asked for the helicopters return, but Pakistani officials said they were interested in studying it and suggested the Chinese were interested as well. One Pakistani official told ABC News earlier this month, "We might let them [the Chinese] take a look."

A U.S. official said then he did not know if the Pakistanis had offered a peek to the Chinese, but said he would be "shocked" if the Chinese hadn't already been given access to the damaged aircraft. Lapan did not say whether or not there is evidence the Chinese had been allowed to see the pieces of the helicopter before it was returned to the U.S.

The Chinese and Pakistani governments are known to have a close relationship. Last month Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif concluded a trip to Beijing, afterwards telling Pakistan's local press that China was Pakistan's "best friend."

The Department of Defense has not officially commented on the nature of the aircraft and a senior Pentagon official told ABC News in the days after the raid the Department would "absolutely not" discuss it.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
May062011

Al Qaeda Train Plot: Did Osama Bin Laden Personally Author?

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- American intelligence analysts are seeking an example of the handwriting of Osama bin Laden to see if it matches the handwritten document discovered in his compound that discusses a possible attack on American train lines, according to people briefed on the process.

The document was among the first pieces of evidence translated from Arabic by the CIA-FBI analysts obtained in the Navy SEAL raid because it did not require the decoding that the seized computer discs and hard drives will, according to those briefed.

"The read-out from the electronic media will take much longer," said one person.

Analysts said the proposed rail plot was dated in February, 2010 and indicates a "low-tech" sabotage operation using trees and cement blocks was being considered, suggesting al Qaeda concluded it would be difficult to obtain explosives.

A bulletin issued Thursday by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security and obtained by ABC News said al Qaeda considered conducting the train attack on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

"As of February 2010, al-Qa'ida was allegedly contemplating conducting an operation against trains at an unspecified location in the United States on the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001," the document reads, using an alternate spelling for bin Laden's terror group. "As one option, al-Qa'ida was looking into trying to tip a train by tampering with the rails so that the train would fall off the track at either a valley or a bridge."

In a statement, DHS press secretary Matt Chandler stressed that the message it sent out to its rail partners about a potential al Qaeda plot was "based on initial reporting, which is often misleading and inaccurate and subject to change. We remain at a heightened state of vigilance, but do not intend to issue [a National Terrorism Advisory System] alert at this time." Chandler said the Transportation Security Administration would also send a bulletin to its rail sector stakeholders.

"We have no information of any imminent terrorist threat to the U.S. rail sector, but wanted to make our partners aware of the alleged plotting," said Chandler. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
May062011

Osama Bin Laden: Officials to Release More Info on DNA Match, Intel

AFP/Getty ImagesUPDATE: A U.S. official tells ABC news that plans have changed, and that the information will not be released Friday, as was previously planned. The source notes that the information is still expected to be released, possibly over the weekend or early next week.

(WASHINGTON) -- The public will learn more Friday about the way officials identified the corpse of Osama bin Laden, as well as other information gleaned from the trove of data taken from the compound, ABC News has learned.

After Navy SEALs took photographs of bin Laden, CIA officials used facial recognition analysis to confirm that the man SEALs shot was in fact bin Laden. DNA samples matched those of bin Laden's relatives with 99.9 percent certainty.

President Obama decided against releasing photographs of bin Laden, fearing their graphic and gruesome nature could be inflammatory and put Americans at risk.

The government will also release more information from the computers seized in the raid on bin Laden's compound. On Thursday, ABC News reported on evidence of discussions about targeting U.S. rail lines and a possible attack marking the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May032011

Osama Bin Laden Evidence Trove: US Hopes to Follow Money Trail

AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- U.S agents charged with disrupting and dismantling al Qaeda are hoping Sunday's harrowing raid of Osama bin Laden's Pakistani compound yields valuable financial clues that could help them expose the underpinnings of the entire organization, including the identities of the major donors who have bankrolled the terror network.

American authorities are ready to follow the money, experts say, hoping detailed ledgers and financial records were scooped up during the raid in which bin Laden was killed. They say any wealthy financiers whose donations helped support the bin Laden terror network now have reason to be nervous.

"Al Qaeda has traditionally been funded by deep-pocket donors," said Stuart Levy, who served as the Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence and is now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "If people have been giving money, and they don't know yet whether their name is being identified in this intelligence, or that their name might be on a list of potential donors, they might have real reason to worry."

Top counterterror officials said the Navy SEALs who conducted the raid on bin Laden's fortified lair did not leave empty handed. But they have not disclosed what exactly they carried away along with bin Laden's corpse.

John Brennan, the president's chief counterterrorism advisor, told reporters the military team "took advantage of their time there to make sure that we were able to acquire whatever material we thought was appropriate."

He wouldn't describe in detail what they found, but said the quantity of the material was not as encouraging as its quality. A special CIA team has been designated to go through it.

"We feel as though this is a very important time to continue to prosecute this effort against al-Qaida, take advantage of the success of yesterday and to continue to work to break the back of al-Qaida," Brennan said.

Levy noted that in Iraq, detailed financial books were discovered in 2007 that provided a roadmap for al Qaeda in Iraq's financial structure. In 2010, a drone strike by U.S. forces took out the man believed to be al Qaeda's chief financial officer, Saeed al-Masri. Little is known about the bookkeeping that occurred after that.

"Others replaced him, but we don't know that they exerted the same control," Levy said.

Whether bin Laden took over that work himself, or kept those records with him remains unclear. But if he did, Levy said, those records could do lasting damage to the entire al Qaeda network.

Investigators are relishing the chance to put their hands on actual records that will enable them to dissect bin Laden's operations, said John Nagl, a counter-terrorism expert who serves as president of the Center for New American Studies. His ability to operate in the world without leaving a trace of himself is what helped him evade capture for more than a decade.

"He did a very good job in hiding himself from the outside world," Nagl said. "He cut himself off from all electronic emissions."

But for his use of couriers whom the CIA was eventually able to track, he may never have been found, Nagl said. "The ability to track his curriers, to find someone he trusted, then to follow that person all the way back to the rats nest was absolutely essential in this," he said.

Regardless of what records have been uncovered in the raid, bin Laden's death will in some respects cripple al Qaeda's ability to raise money – and not just because bin Laden served as an inspirational leader to his followers, Levy said. The network's infamous leader served as a stabile presence for donors who wanted to support the al Qaeda mission. Now, those soliciting donations will have no way to prove to potential donors that they really represent the terror movement.

"That could really create chaos for their fundraising," Levy said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio