Entries in White House (19)


White House Responds to North Korean Threats

Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- One day after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned that the time had come to "settle accounts with the U.S.," the White House responded, calling Kim's comments "unconstructive."

"We've seen reports of a new and unconstructive statement from North Korea. We take these threats seriously and remain in close contact with our South Korean allies," said Caitlin Hayden, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council.

In the statement, Hayden did note that North Korea "has a long history of bellicose rhetoric and threats," a pattern followed by Friday's threat.

Kim's statements on Friday declared a "state of war" with South Korea. He additionally threatened to respond to any provocation by South Korea or the United States "without any prior notice."

The Pentagon continues to take every North Korean threat seriously. Recently, plans were announced to increase U.S. ground-based interceptors and early warning and tracking radar.

"We're concerned that their reach in and beyond the region will be extended over time," said a senior defense official. "That's one reason why it's all the more important to show that the United States is committed to our alliances, interests, and personnel in the Asia-Pacific."

South Korean media reported on Friday that North Korea's missile sites have been the location of increased activity. However, the South Korean government has said that there is no evidence to suggest the threats are anything more than propaganda.

Thousands of North Koreans gathered in Kim Il Sung Square on Friday in support of their leader's strong words. The rally came just one day after U.S. B-2 stealth bombers flew over the Korean Peninsula.

According to USA Today, North Korea's military, while poorly trained and equipped, is large enough to cause significant damage to its southern neighbor, before ultimately falling to a joint effort between South Korea and the U.S.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


New French President Will Meet Obama in DC

PATRICK KOVARIK/LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Francois Hollande, the new French president-elect, received both congratulations and an invitation from President Obama on Monday to come to Washington ahead of the G-8 meeting at Camp David and the NATO summit in Chicago, both scheduled for later this month.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that the president told Hollande, who defeated incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, that he looked forward to working with him "on a range of shared economic and security challenges."

The two leaders are expected to address the eurozone crisis, which some economists fear could drag down what little recovery the U.S. economy has made since the recession that began in late 2007.

Hollande, a Socialist, is already butting heads with Germany's Angela Merkel, who favors harsh austerity measures and deficit-cutting.  The new French president wants to retreat from his country's vast spending cuts.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


President Obama Responds to Civilian Afghan Deaths 

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama responded to the death of Afghan civilians in Pakistan on Sunday, saying that he was “deeply saddened” by the incident, according to a statement from the White House.

“I offer my condolences to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives, and to the people of Afghanistan, who have endured too much violence and suffering,” Obama said in a statement. “This incident is tragic and shocking, and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan.”

The White House National Security Council also issued a response, saying that it was “deeply concerned” and is “monitoring the situation closely.”

Meanwhile, Obama said he fully supports “Secretary Panetta’s and General Allen’s commitment to get the facts as quickly as possible and to hold accountable anyone responsible.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Administration Does Not Agree With McCain’s Call for Airstrikes in Syria

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John McCain Monday called for the United States to begin airstrikes against the government of Syria, but the Obama administration indicated it did not agree with his strategy.

“Foreign capitals across the world are looking to the United States to lead, especially now that the situation in Syria has become an armed conflict,” the Republican from Arizona said on the Senate floor. “But what they see is an administration still hedging its bets -- on the one hand, insisting that Assad’s fall is inevitable, but on the other, unwilling even to threaten more assertive actions that could make it so.”

But a senior Obama administration official indicated to ABC News that the president and his advisers did not agree with the Republican senator.

“We share his concern and outrage about what’s taking place,” the official said. “We’re also concerned that further military intervention will accelerate the conflict on the ground and worsen the humanitarian situation without stopping the violence the Syrian regime is committing against its own people.”

The official said the U.S. “wants to keep putting pressure on the Assad regime.”

The official noted that the Syrian situation is very different from Libya in many key technical ways that make them question how effective airstrikes against the Syrian regime would be.

“There aren’t air attacks on the opposition, nor are large sections of country in control of the opposition,” the official said. In Syria, there are “snipers and artillery units in these populated areas” that would also make airstrikes a dicier proposition.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


White House Responds to Boehner's Warning on Libya

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House responded Tuesday to House Speaker John Boehner's warning that President Obama will soon be in violation of the War Powers Resolution -- three months after the president informed Congress of the start of the mission in Libya -- because the White House has failed to answer "fundamental questions regarding the Libya mission."

"We are in the final stages of preparing extensive information for the House and Senate that will address a whole host of issues about our ongoing efforts in Libya, including those raised in the House resolution as well as our legal analysis with regard to the War Powers Resolution," National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement.

"Since March 1, administration witnesses have testified at over 10 hearings that included a substantial discussion of Libya and participated in over 30 member or staff briefings, and we will continue to consult with our Congressional colleagues," Vietor added.

Over the past 90 days, the maximum days allowed under the War Powers Resolution without Congressional approval, Boehner complains that the president has not asked for or received approval from Congress for the action in Libya.

Boehner wrote Tuesday that while the administration has provided tactical operational briefings to the House of Representatives, "the White House has systematically avoided requesting a formal authorization for its action."

"It would appear that in five days, the administration will be in violation of the War Powers Resolution unless it asks for and receives authorization from Congress or withdraws all U.S. troops and resources from the mission," Boehner, R-Ohio, noted.

Boehner is also calling on the president to explain the legal grounds on which he plans to continue to carry out the mission in Libya beyond Sunday.

He asks for the administration to respond by this Friday, June 17.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Invites Controversial African Ruler to White House

ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The family that has ruled the African nation of Gabon for decades has been accused of taking bribes, stealing hundreds of millions of dollars and presiding over a system rife with corruption, but that hasn't stopped President Obama from inviting President Ali Bongo of Gabon to the White House Thursday.

White House press secretary Jay Carney conceded to ABC News on Wednesday that President Bongo has a "less than sterling" record, but said that it was "very important" for President Obama to grant Bongo the coveted Oval Office meeting anyway.

"First of all, the president of Gabon is making reform efforts, which we support," said Carney.  "Secondly...Gabon has been an important partner in some of the issues that are very important to American national security."

Jack Blum, a United Nations consultant and expert on offshore banking, said that the invitation sends a disturbing message.  Blum estimates that in years past the Bongo family and its cronies have "siphon[ed] off 25 percent of the gross domestic product of the country.  And it's made them incredibly rich."

"There's absolutely no shame," said Blum.  "I would say that the people who are running the country are guilty of grand theft nation."

The Bongo family, as detailed in an ABC News investigation that aired on World News with Diane Sawyer and Nightline Wednesday night, has ruled the oil-rich but underdeveloped nation since 1967.  After the death of his father Omar Bongo two years ago, Ali Bongo was himself elected president, and now presides over not only Gabon, but a family empire, allegedly the product of corruption, estimated by U.S. investigators to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

"Omar Bongo and now his son Ali Bongo have for more than 40 years run a regime in Gabon which diverts their country's wealth for their family's personal use," Sen. Carl Levin, D.-Michigan, told ABC News.  Sen. Levin said that a 2010 Congressional report on foreign corruption from an investigative committee that he chairs "shows how the Bongos misused U.S. financial institutions to carry out suspicious transactions involving millions of dollars."

The Bongos have literally dozens of luxury homes worth millions of dollars everywhere from Beverly Hills, where they own three homes, to the French Riviera.  After a criminal complaint filed by a human rights group, authorities in France found that the family had more than 30 luxury properties in that nation alone, including a $120 million, 14-bedroom townhouse in Paris that Ali Bongo bought just last year.

During a 2006 shopping spree in Malibu captured by VH1, Ali Bongo's then-wife Inge turned up her nose at a $25 million mansion.  "I need something really big, really, really, really big," she said.  "I would think for that amount of money, I would expect a bit more grandeur."

"I've tried to downsize, but it's just not in my character," concluded Inge.

The Bongos' lifestyle is a stark contrast to how most people live in Gabon, a French-speaking West African country the size of Colorado that is home to 1.5 million people.  Oil revenues make Gabon one of Africa's most prosperous countries, but it is also a place where some families are still forced to pick through garbage to eat.  One third of the population lives on $2 per day.

The U.S. says there have been improvements under the new President Bongo, but according to the State Department's most recent report, Gabon is still a place of "widespread government corruption" marked by the "use of excessive force by police," where even taking picture of the Bongos' many palaces is against the law.

President Bongo refused repeated requests by ABC News for an interview to discuss allegations of corruption.  One of his top aides said no reputable news agency would ask such questions, and he accused ABC News of conducting a smear campaign against the president.

In Gabon, people can go to prison for criticizing the ruling family.  That's what happened to Marc Ona, a polio victim who is one of the few people in Gabon to criticize the Bongo family's continued rule publicly.  He was briefly sent to prison for it by Bongo's father.

Asked if he thought that by talking to ABC News he was exposing himself to the possibility of fresh trouble with the government, Ona said, "Yes, but I don't care."

Ona said he had to evade secret police to meet with ABC News late at night in a hotel in the capital of Libreville, but that he wanted Americans to know that corruption and impunity are still rampant under President Bongo.

President Bongo has used his money to travel the world in style and make lots of important friends.  In New York last year during a United Nations meeting, he rented an entire museum to throw a party in his honor, where he was praised by former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for his work in protecting the African environment.

His entourage all stayed at one of New York's most expensive hotels, with such celebrities as comedian Chris Tucker dropping by to visit.

When ABC News dropped by for a visit and a few questions, the reaction was very different.  "You're coming here with a biased approach," said a Bongo aide, who put his hand on an ABC News camera and ordered, "Get out of here, get out of here."

A spokesman for President Bongo insisted to ABC News that he is a reformer who is working to fight corruption in the country.  The spokesman offered no explanation to ABC News, however, as to how Bongo's family has been able to amass such a great fortune. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Al Qaeda Confirms Osama Bin Laden's Death

AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Osama bin Laden's terror network admitted Friday that U.S. forces had tracked and killed their leader, but vowed to keep on attacking America.

The statement by al Qaeda, released on the Internet, vowed that bin Laden's blood "will not be wasted" and that the terror network will continue attacking America and its allies.

President Obama has refused to release what some officials who have seen the pictures have described as gruesome photos showing bin Laden's body with a bullet hole in his head.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Did Pakistan Know About Osama Bin Laden's Hideout?

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On Tuesday, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein echoed calls by other top lawmakers in Congress that Pakistan must answer questions about how Osama bin Laden could have lived in Abbottabad for up to six years.

“It does cause one to question how this kind of facility -- which stood out, which was close by a military academy -- could exist for the length of time it did exist. And we now know that bin Laden was there up to six years. That’s a substantial period of time,” Feinstein said at a press conference.

“I think we have to know whether they knew, whether the Pakistanis knew. If they didn’t know, why didn’t they know?” she asked. “Why didn’t they pay more attention to it? Was this just benign indifference or was it indifference with a motive? I don’t know what the answer is and we need to find out.” 

“From an intelligence point of view, we would want to know more about why this wasn’t discovered by the Pakistani authorities,” she emphasized.

However, Feinstein said it would be “premature” to cut off financial aid to Pakistan, as Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, has called for, even though she cited that Pakistan has “very subtly walked both sides of the street” and “that is a concern to many of us.”

In addition to Feinstein and Lautenberg, other key senators such as Senate Armed Services boss Carl Levin, Senate Homeland Security chairman Joe Lieberman, and the top Republican on the Homeland Security panel, Susan Collins, have all demanded that Pakistan explain how bin Laden was able to live in Abbottabad -- a city under 100 miles from the capital of Islamabad and a city with a strong military presence.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pakistan Reacts Cautiously to US Raid on Its Soil

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The discovery of Osama bin Laden's hideout deep inside Pakistan instead of the mountainous border region of Afghanistan complicates the fragile relationship between the United States and one of its key allies in the war against terrorism.

After years of insisting that bin Laden wasn't in its territory, the government of Pakistan on Monday neither lauded nor condemned the killing of bin Laden by U.S. special forces in an attack that unfolded in a mansion less than 1,000 feet from the top Pakistani military academy.

"Osama bin Laden's death illustrates the resolve of the international community, including Pakistan, to fight and eliminate terrorism," the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement. "It constitutes a major setback to terrorist organizations around the world."

But the proximity of bin Laden to the capital of Islamabad casts doubt on the Pakistanis' ability and resolve to root out violent extremists within their own borders.

"All I would say is it's an intelligence failure," former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told ABC News' Diane Sawyer when pressed about why authorities were unable to find bin Laden.

"You're blaming Pakistan. Let me blame the U.S.," Musharraf said. "All along it was intelligence cooperation between Pakistan and the U.S. This was a failure of the CIA, may I say. ... Any accusations that the Pakistani government knew he was staying there, this is absolutely wrong."

President Obama said Sunday night that Pakistani intelligence did help lead the United States to bin Laden, a point the Pakistani government played down in its reaction today. But both U.S. and Pakistani officials said the operation targeting bin Laden's compound was directed solely by the United States, without Pakistani participation or advance notice.

"It is Pakistan's stated policy that it will not allow its soil to be used in terrorist attacks against any country," the Pakistani foreign ministry said. "Pakistan's political leadership, parliament, state institutions and the whole nation are fully united in their resolve to eliminate terrorism."

Pakistan's struggle to root out terrorist strongholds and training camps, coupled with a unilateral U.S. effort to use drone strikes to combat al Qaeda on Pakistani soil, have stoked mutual distrust between the two countries. The incursion of U.S. forces into Pakistani territory to kill bin Laden could further strain relations.

But Obama made clear Sunday night that the United States believed the hunt for bin Laden transcends international borders and diplomatic boundaries.

Obama said he spoke personally with Pakistani President Zardari after the raid and that the two agreed "this is a good and historic day for both of our nations."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Bin Laden Supporters React with Denial, Grief over His Death

AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- While Americans were celebrating Osama bin Laden's death, forming cheering crowds near the White House and New York's Ground Zero, supporters of jihad both on the ground and online had a very different take on the terror leader's death.

"The sorrow is deep," wrote a poster on Ana Muslim (I Am Muslim), a pro-jihadi web forum, "for this is Osama and not just anyone.  More valuable to us than our sons, may Allah rest his soul."

As Sahab, al Qaeda's media arm, did not immediately release a statement following President Obama's announcement of Bin Laden's death, leaving Ana Muslim regulars unsure about whether to believe bin Laden was really gone.

Some of Ana Muslim's readers didn't want to accept the initial reports of his death, warning others not to trust the "reports of the Western media," counseling that supporters of jihad should wait for a statement from the mujahideen.

One claimed that there had been heavy fighting, with American casualties, while another said the two helicopters that came for him had both been downed and "all the infidels that were in them had been killed."

Those who accepted his death tried to take solace in the image of bin Laden dying with guns blazing.

"Bin Laden fought until he was killed," said a poster, "which means [he died] an honorable death."

The pictures of Americans dancing in the streets irked others.

"There are pictures of the American pigs on television as they celebrate in front of the White House," wrote an angry Ana Muslim user.

But others were already looking ahead, to jihad after the death of its best known leader.

"Another lion will take Osama's place," wrote one poster, reassuring his comrades.  "We are all Osama."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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