SEARCH

Monday
Nov222010

TSA Pat Down Went Too Far, Agency Chief Says

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said Monday that at least one airport passenger screening went too far when an officer reached inside a traveler's underwear, and the agency is open to rethinking its current protocols.

An ABC News employee said she was subject to a "demeaning" search at Newark Liberty International Airport Sunday morning. "The woman who checked me reached her hands inside my underwear and felt her way around," she said.  "It was basically worse than going to the gynecologist.  It was embarrassing.  It was demeaning.  It was inappropriate."

That search was against protocols and "never" should have happened, TSA Administrator John Pistole told ABC News Monday.  "There should never be a situation where that happens," Pistole said.  "The security officers are there to protect the traveling public.  There are specific standard operating protocols which they are to follow."

Pistole, reponding to complaints from passengers, has maintained that the TSA will not change its pat down procedures.  But on Monday he said the agency is "open" to changing security procedures.

"The bottom line is, we are always adapting and adjusting prior protocols in view of the intelligence and in view of the latest information we have on how the terrorists are trying to kill our people on planes," Pistole said.  "If that means we need to adjust the procedures, then of course we're open to that."

In recent days, several passengers have come forward to tell shocking stories about their experiences with TSA officers.

Thomas Sawyer, a bladder cancer survivor, said he was humiliated after a pat down broke his urostomy bag, leaving the 61-year-old covered in his own urine.  Sawyer said he warned the TSA officials twice the pat down could break the seal.  And in another incident, Cathy Bossi, a long-time flight attendant and breast cancer survivor said the TSA made her take off her prosthetic breast.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov222010

St. Louis Is Nation's Most Dangerous City, Study Finds

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- St. Louis, Missouri is now the nation's most dangerous city, beating out Camden, New Jersey for the spot, according to a new study released by CQ Press Sunday.

The study found that St. Louis had over 2,000 crimes per 100,000 residents, compared to the national average of about 430 crimes per the same number of residents.  These new figures helped St. Louis overtake Camden, which held the top spot last year.

Rounding out the top five are two Michigan cities -- Detroit and Flint -- and Oakland, California.  Colonie, New York remained the safest city for the second year in a row.

CQ Press based their findings on population numbers and crime data obtained from the FBI.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Nov212010

Al Qaeda Reveals Cost of Foiled Mail Bomb Plot

Photo Courtesy - ABC News/Handout(WASHINGTON) -- Printer bombs planted on two cargo flights last month cost only a few thousand dollars and were intended to affect the American economy, according to a newly published al Qaeda-affiliated magazine.

The attempt was called "Operation Hemorrhage," boasted the magazine, and the entire plot cost al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, only $4,200.

Yesterday, a special edition of Inspire magazine -- an English-language propaganda publication produced by AQAP -- gave a detailed description of how the attempted attack was conceived and produced.

"Two Nokia mobiles, $150 each, two HP printers, $300 each, plus shipping, transportation and other miscellaneous expenses add up to a total bill of $4,200," one article said.  "That is all that Operation Hemorrhage cost us. In terms of time, it took us three months to plan and execute the operation from beginning to end."

The magazine also revealed the attack was not meant to kill more than the plane's pilot and co-pilot, and was meant to force the U.S. government to spend billions of dollars on preventive security screening measures.

The strategy, the magazine said, was "of attacking the enemy with smaller, but more frequent operations is what some may refer to as the strategy of a thousand cuts. The aim is to bleed the enemy to death."

AQAP also took credit for the September crash of a UPS cargo flight in Dubai. However, U.S. and U.A.E. officials have concluded that the crash was not an act of terrorism.

The publication was unusual for the level of detail and candor with which AQAP revealed its attempt and threatened future attacks, said a terrorism analyst who monitors jihadist groups online.

"We have never seen a jihadist group in the al-Qaeda orbit ever release, let alone only a few weeks after, such a detailed accounting of the philosophy, operational details, intent and next steps following a major attack," said Ben Venzke, head of IntelCenter.

"This may represent a new level of interaction by jihadi groups following an operation and is a far cry from the days of shadowy claims and questions as to who was actually responsible."

The magazine also mocked preventive measures taken by Western governments after the attempted attack: "The British government said that if a toner weighs more than 500 grams it won't be allowed on board a plane. Who is the genius who came up with this suggestion? Do you think that we have nothing to send but printers?"

AQAP is largely based in Yemen, where the printer bomb plot was hatched. The group mailed the two printers from Yemen, addressing them to Jewish institutions in Chicago.

Shortly after they were sent, Saudi intelligence was able to learn the tracking numbers and passed the information to U.S. counterparts. The packages were intercepted and disabled in Dubai and England.

The plot itself was not unexpected. The CIA and the White House were aware of 'dry run' attempts in the weeks leading up to the Oct. 29 plot.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Nov212010

Murder Mystery: Mother, Three Kids Killed in Florida Home

Photo Courtesy - WTXL Tallahassee, Fla.(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- Police are desperately trying to unravel the horrible mystery of who killed a mother and her three young children in their Florida home.

Autopsies were being performed Sunday on the woman, her 6-year-old twin daughters and her 3-year-old son, who were found Saturday morning after a neighbor called the police.

Police have not identified the four victims, who lived in a recently built quiet subdivision near Florida State University and Florida A&M University. The woman and her children lived alone in the house, so police are talking to their relatives and friends to learn what they can and find out if there was anyone who might have wanted to hurt them.

Neighbors who gathered Saturday were in shock, watching police going in and out of the house with bags of evidence, as the children's bicycles lay in the open garage.

Police are asking anyone with any information about the family to call the Tallahassee Police Department at 850-891-4200.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Nov212010

Hillary Clinton: Understand Fury over Enhanced Pat-Downs

File photo. Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Hillary Clinton is the latest of Obama administration officials to weigh in on the enhanced security pat-downs and screenings taking place at airports across the country.

In an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation, the secretary of state was asked whether she would submit to an enhanced pat down.

"Not if I could avoid it, no," Clinton said. "I mean, who would?"

"I understand how difficult it is, and how offensive it must be for the people who are going through it," she said.

Clinton suggested that the administration and its experts were open to changes in the controversial procedure, echoing a message sent by President Obama on Saturday.

"I understand people's frustrations," the president said, "And what I've said to the TSA is that you have to constantly refine and measure whether what we are doing is the only way to assure the American people's safety. And you also have to think through are there ways to do it that are less intrusive."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Nov202010

Ohio Coroner: Victims Stabbed, Dismembered Before Stuffed Into Tree

Photo Courtesy - WSYX Columbus, Ohio(MOUNT VERNON, Ohio) -- An Ohio woman, her young son and a family friend were “attacked with a knife and stabbed multiple times in the back and chest,” the Knox County Coroner's Office revealed Saturday, before their bodies were dismembered, stuffed into garbage bags and left in a hollow tree.

Authorities found the remains Thursday when Matthew Hoffman, the man in custody for kidnapping the fourth member of the group – 13-year-old Sarah Maynard, who was recovered from Hoffman’s basement – tipped them to a location.

The victims include Sarah's mother, Tina Herrmann, 32, Sarah’s younger brother, Kody Maynard, 10, and 41-year-old family friend Stephanie Sprang.

The bodies were found just miles from Hoffman's home, where Sarah was found last week by a SWAT team.

Hoffman is a 31-year-old drifter who was recently released from a Colorado prison after serving a term for arson and burglary. He was arrested last Sunday and charged with kidnapping.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Nov202010

Thanksgiving Without Turkey? Down Economy Means Fewer Donations

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- No law says that you have to have turkey on Thanksgiving, but just try to imagine the holiday without it.

With less than a week before Thanksgiving, the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions surveyed 25 of its members in some of the country's biggest cities. The association found that more than half of those missions -- including ones in Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, Detroit and Seattle -- have seen a "major drop" in turkey donations this year.

The missions "will not be able to provide food boxes the way they have done in the past unless there is a sudden increase in turkey donations in the next couple of days," association president John Ashmen told ABC News.

ABC News called the CEO of Butterball, Keith Shoemaker, to see if they could help. The company gives away thousands of turkeys every year, but now inventory is way down.

"I just don't have a lot of turkeys sitting anywhere in a bag to give someone at this point," Shoemaker said.

Charities and food banks nationwide also report donations have plummeted. They blame empty freezers on the poor economy and higher turkey prices.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Nov202010

Obama: TSA Security Scans, Pat-Downs Necessary for Now

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(LISBON, Portugal) --  President Obama said Saturday he understands Americans’ frustrations with what some have called invasive screening procedures conducted by the TSA throughout the nation's airports. The president, however, noted that the process is the best way right now to ensure their safety.

“What I’ve said to the TSA is that you have to constantly refine and measure whether what we’re doing is the only way to ensure the American peoples’ safety and you have to think through are there ways of doing it that are less intrusive?” he said.
 
President Obama said his counterterrorism advisors have told him that these procedures “are the only ones right now that they consider to be effective against the kind of threat we saw in the Christmas Day bombing.”

“Every week I meet with my counterterrorism team and I’m constantly asking them whether is what we’re doing absolutely necessary, have we thought it through, are there other ways of accomplishing it that meet the same objectives?” he said.

U.S. airline pilots learned Friday that they will be exempt from the invasive x-ray screening and pat-downs that have sparked a revolt across the country.

As of yet, there is no change in policy for regular travelers.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Nov202010

Wedding Nightmare: Fire Leaves Brides Desperate

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(CHICAGO) -- When a Chicago-area bridal shop went up in flames this week, so did the dreams of dozens of brides-to-be whose burned dresses were left among the rubble.

Eva's Bridal Shop in Oak Lawn, Ill., was destroyed by the fast moving fire Wednesday. Only a handful of dresses were salvaged.

Bride-to-be Ashley Kuhl lost her dress, as well as four of her five bridesmaids' dresses. "I looked good in it," she said. "I felt good in it and it has some special touches." With her wedding scheduled for Dec. 4, two weeks away, Kuhl was at a loss for what to do.

Enter Renee Fennell, owner of A' Paris House of Bridal & Fashion in Michigan City, Ind., which boasts one of the largest selections of wedding dresses in the Midwest. Fennell has offered to outfit not only Kuhl but all her bridesmaids -- for free.

Fennell said she knows what Eva is going through. About 20 years ago, her family-owned store, then located in downtown Chicago, lost everything in a fire. "I am a firm believer in karma," she said. "What goes around comes back and we just want to help."

Several other bridal shops in the area have rushed to the rescue as well, offering several brides-to-be help in replacing their dresses, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Nov202010

Authorities Hunt for Mysterious Figure in Veterans Charity Scam

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- The man who once rubbed shoulders with GOP political luminaries is now wanted by Ohio state authorities who say the $100 million he raised in the name of a charity for U.S. Navy veterans cannot be located.

He went by the names Bobby Thompson and Ronnie Brittain, but authorities say both were stolen identities. His charity, the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, ran its national headquarters in Washington, D.C., out of a post office box at a UPS store.

Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray charged that this alleged con artist had done "in the charitable sphere what Bernie Madoff did in the investment sphere. It's shocking, and it's discouraging and it's depressing to think so many people wanted to give to veterans and in fact they were giving to this man and his sham organization."

Thompson collected as much as $100 million over the past decade from donors who thought they were contributing to a legitimate veterans service organization, according to Cordray, and 99 percent of the funds are now unaccounted for. He donated more than $200,000 to prominent politicians, mostly Republicans.

Some, like President George W. Bush and the presumptive incoming House Speaker, John Boehner, posed for photographs with him. Others, including a former Ohio Attorney General, initially supported what they believed were his legitimate charitable efforts.

Darryl Rouson, a Florida legislator, initially helped represent the man he thought was Bobby Thompson after he first came under fire in reports by the St. Petersburg Times, the newspaper that first raised questions about the so-called veterans charity.

"He seemed to be a knowledgeable man about politics and community affairs," Rouson told ABC News. "He was engaging, jovial. I had no reason to suspect he was anything other than who he said he was."

Mike DeWine, a former U.S. Senator who is preparing to take over as Ohio Attorney General, was one of many Republicans who took donations from the man who called himself Bobby Thompson. He now says he expects to pursue the case against Thompson with the same vigor as his Democratic predecessor, Cordray.

He conceded in an interview with ABC News that the business of political fundraising is not always as intimate as people believe -- that candidates raise most of their money from people who are, essentially, total strangers.

"Some people who give you money, you just don't know them," DeWine said. "You don't know who they are. You're talking about thousands of people, you don't have a clue who they are. It can be pretty hard to sort all that out. You've got to try."

Now, authorities are trying to sort out Thompson's real identity. And his location.

The person calling himself Bobby Thompson and claiming to be a retired lieutenant commander in the Navy surfaced in Florida in 1998, according to a timeline compiled by the St. Petersburg Times, giving his age as 52 when he registered to vote in Hillsborough County. He formed a Navy veterans' political action committee the next year, and then launched the U.S. Navy Veterans Association as a non-profit veterans service organization in 2002, applying for tax-exempt status with the IRS.

After the St. Petersburg Times began investigating Thompson, a reporter from the newspaper was able to confront "Thompson" outside his Ybor City, Florida duplex in 2009 and conduct an interview with him. Thompson told the paper he was part Choctaw Indian and was from Mississippi. He also said he had a relative in the tribe named Bobby Thompson, "but I'm not him." He also claimed to have joined the Navy underage, but the Navy has no record of his service.

According to Ohio authorities, "Thompson" stole the identity of a man named Bobby Thompson from Washington State. He also had an identity card from the state of Indiana issued under the name of a man from New Mexico named Ronnie Brittain. The real Ronnie Brittain is the head of a veterans group in New Mexico.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio