PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The detective leading the police investigation into Oscar Pistorius' fatal shooting of his girlfriend offered confusing testimony Wednesday, at one point agreeing with the athlete's defense that officers had no evidence challenging the runner's claim he accidentally killed her.
Testimony by Detective Warrant Officer Hilton Botha of the South African Police Service left prosecutors rubbing their temples, only able to look down at their notes as he misjudged distances and acknowledged a forensics team left in the toilet bowl one of the bullet slugs fired at Reeva Steenkamp. However, Botha still poked holes in Pistorius' own account that he feared for his life and opened fire on Valentine's Day after mistaking Steenkamp for an intruder.
The second day of the bail hearing in a case that has riveted South Africa and much of the world appeared at first to go against the double-amputee runner, with prosecutors saying a witness can testify to hearing "non-stop talking, like shouting" between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. before the predawn shooting on Feb. 14. However, Botha later said under cross examination that the person who overheard the argument was in a house 600 meters (yards) away in Pistorius' gated community in the suburbs of South Africa's capital, Pretoria.
Later, prosecutor Gerrie Nel questioned Botha again and the detective acknowledged the distance was much closer. But confusion reigned for much of his testimony, when at one point Botha said officers found syringes and steroids in Pistorius' bedroom. Nel quickly cut the officer off and said the drugs were actually testosterone.
Pistorius' lead defense lawyer, Barry Roux, asserted when questioning the detective — who has 16 years' experience as a detective and 24 years with the police — that it was not a banned substance and that police were trying to give the discovery a "negative connotation."
"It is an herbal remedy," Roux said. "It is not a steroid and it is not a banned substance."
The name of the drug, offered later in court by Roux, could not be immediately found in reference materials by The Associated Press. A spokesman for prosecutors later said it's too early to know what the substance is, as they don't yet have results of forensic testing on the material.
Pistorius, 26, said in an affidavit read in court Tuesday that he and his 29-year-old girlfriend had gone to bed and that when he awoke during the night he detected what he thought was an intruder in the bathroom. He testified that he grabbed his 9 mm pistol and fired into the door of a toilet enclosed in the bathroom, only to discover later to his horror that Steenkamp was there, mortally wounded.
Pistorius, the first Paralympian runner to compete at the Olympics, is charged with premeditated murder in the case.
The prosecution attempted to cement its argument that the couple had a shouting match, that Steenkamp fled and locked herself into the toilet stall of the bathroom and that Pistorius fired four shots through the door, hitting her with three bullets.
Botha said: "I believe that he knew that Reeva was in the bathroom and he shot four shots through the door."
But asked if the police found anything inconsistent with the version of events presented by Pistorius, Botha responded that they had not. He later said nothing contradicted the police's version either.
Nel projected a plan of the bedroom and bathroom in the courtroom and argued that Pistorius had to walk past his bed to get to the bathroom and could not have done so without realizing that Steenkamp was not in the bed.
"There's no other way of getting there," Nel said.
Botha said the trajectory of the bullets showed the gun was fired pointed down and from a height. This seems to conflict with Pistorius' statement Tuesday, because the athlete said that he did not have on his prosthetics and on his stumps and feeling vulnerable because he was in a low position when he opened fired.
Officers also found .38-caliber pistol rounds in a safe, which Botha said Pistorius owned illegally and for which he said the athlete would be charged with a crime. However, Botha also acknowledged investigators didn't take photographs of the ammunition and let Pistorius' supporters at the crime scene take them away.
Botha said the holster for the 9 mm pistol was found under the left side of the bed, the side on which Steenkamp slept. He also implied it would have been impossible for Pistorius to get the gun without checking to see if Steenkamp was there. Roux later argued that Pistorius had suffered an injury to his right shoulder and wore a "medical patch" the night of the killing which forced him to sleep on the left side of the bed.
Steenkamp was shot in the head over her right ear and in her right elbow and hip, breaking her arm and hip, Botha said. However, Roux later asked Botha if Steenkamp's body showed "any pattern of defensive wounds." The detective said no.
Botha also said the shots were fired from 1.5 meters (five feet), and that police found three spent cartridges in the bathroom and one in the hallway connecting the bathroom to the bedroom. However, later on cross-examination by the defense, Botha said he wasn't a forensics expert and couldn't answer some questions.
Police also found two iPhones in the bathroom and two BlackBerrys in the bedroom, Botha said, adding that none had been used to phone for help. Roux later suggested that a fifth phone, not collected by the police, was used by Pistorius to make calls for a hospital and help. After the hearing, Roux told journalists that Pistorius' defense team had the phone, but did not elaborate.
Guards at the gated community where Pistorius lives did call the athlete, Botha said. The detective said that all the athlete said was: "I'm all right."
He didn't hang up, Botha said, and the guards heard him uncontrollably weep.
"Was it part of his premeditated plan, not to switch off the phone and cry?" Roux asked sarcastically.
Gerald Imray reported from Johannesburg. Associated Press writer Michelle Faul in Johannesburg contributed to this report.
Jon Gambrell can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP. Gerald Imray can be reached at www.twitter.com/geraldimrayAP.
- Gloria Borger: Prospect of deep budget cuts was designed to compel compromise
- She says the "unthinkable" cuts now have many supporters
- The likelihood that cuts may happen shows new level of D.C. dysfunction, she says
- Borger: President may want a 2014 House victory, but action needed now
(CNN) -- So let's try to recount why we are where we are. In August 2011, Washington was trying to figure out how to raise the debt ceiling -- so the US might continue to pay its bills -- when a stunt was hatched: Kick the can down the road.
And not only kick it down the road, but do it in a way that would eventually force Washington to do its job: Invent a punishment.
If the politicians failed to come up with some kind of budget deal, the blunt instrument of across-the-board cuts in every area would await.
In fact, something designed to be worse than any conceivable agreement is now completely acceptable to many.
And not only are these forced budget cuts considered acceptable, they're even applauded. Some Republicans figure they'll never find a way to get 5% across-the-board domestic spending cuts like this again, so go for it. And some liberal Democrats likewise say 8% cuts in military spending are better than anything we might get on our own, so go for it.
Opinion: Forced budget cuts a disaster for military
The result: A draconian plan designed to force the two sides to get together has now turned out to be too weak to do that.
And what does that tell us? More about the collapse of the political process than it does about the merits of any budget cuts. Official Washington has completely abdicated responsibility, taking its dysfunction to a new level -- which is really saying something.
We've learned since the election that the second-term president is feeling chipper. With re-election came the power to force Republicans to raise taxes on the wealthy in the fiscal cliff negotiations, and good for him. Americans voted, and said that's what they wanted, and so it happened. Even the most sullen Republicans knew that tax fight had been lost.
Points on the board for the White House.
Now the evil "sequester" -- the forced budget cuts -- looms. And the president proposes what he calls a "balanced" approach: closing tax loopholes on the rich and budget cuts. It's something he knows Republicans will never go for. They raised taxes six weeks ago, and they're not going to do it again now. They already gave at the office. And Republicans also say, with some merit, that taxes were never meant to be a part of the discussion of across-the-board cuts. It's about spending.
Politics: Obama more emotional on spending cuts
Here's the problem: The election is over. Obama won, and he doesn't really have to keep telling us -- or showing us, via staged campaign-style events like the one Tuesday in which he used police officers as props while he opposed the forced spending cuts.
What we're waiting for is the plan to translate victory into effective governance.
Sure, there's no doubt the president has the upper hand. He's right to believe that GOP calls for austerity do not constitute a cohesive party platform. He knows that the GOP has no singular, effective leader, and that its message is unformed. And he's probably hoping that the next two years can be used effectively to further undermine the GOP and win back a Democratic majority in the House.
Slight problem: There's plenty of real work to be done, on the budget, on tax reform, on immigration, climate change and guns. A second-term president has a small window of opportunity. And a presidential legacy is not something that can be kicked down the road.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Gloria Borger.
Jesse Jackson Jr. pleads guilty to misusing campaign funds.
Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, former Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson, pleaded guilty today in what prosecutors said was a conspiracy to siphon about $750,000 in federal campaign funds for their personal use.
Jackson Jr. entered a negotiated plea of guilty this morning on one felony count of conspiracy to commit false statements, wire fraud and mail fraud. He could face years in prison when he is sentenced this summer.
Sandi Jackson pleaded guilty this afternoon to a single charge of willingly filing a false tax return, tied to the same allegations that the couple repeatedly tapped the ex-congressman’s campaign fund, used the money for personal use and then made fraudulent campaign and tax disclosures to cover up the misconduct.
Asked by the judge how she would plead, Sandi Jackson offered a one-word reply of “guilty” as she sniffled and seemed to choke back tears.
Her husband was present for the hearing – and in fact took the seat that Sandi had used behind the defense table when he entered his own guilty plea earlier in the day. As part of her guilty plea, Jackson agreed to pay $168,500 in restitution.
Her sentencing was scheduled for July 1, a few days after her husband’s. Her defense team and prosecutors disagreed on a sentencing range that could apply to her case, but the judge said he believes a range of between one and two years would apply under federal sentencing guidelines. Both sides are free to argue for a term below or above that range.
After entering her plea, a teary Sandi Jackson and her husband left courtroom holding hands.
Prosecutors say the couple enjoyed a life of luxury with campaign cash. About 3,100 personal purchases were made on campaign credit cards alone, totaling $582,772.58, prosecutors said.
“These expenditures included high-end electronic items, collector’s items, clothing, food and supplies for daily consumption, movie tickets, health club dues, personal travel and personal dining expenses,” the court filing states.
Jackson Jr. personally opened a bank account under the name “Jesse Jackson Jr. for Congress" in January 2006, then the following year withdrew $43,350 to buy a gold Rolex watch, according to documents filed with Jackson Jr.'s plea agreement state that.
Other expenses included more than $4,000 on a cruise and $243 at a Build-a-Bear workshop. “Records from Best Buy reveal that defendant purchased multiple flat-screen televisions, multiple Blu-Ray DVD players, numerous DVD’s for his Washington, D.C. home,” the documents state.
Prosecutors said $60,000 was spent on restaurants, nightclubs and lounges; $31,700 on personal airfare; $16,000 on sports clubs and lounges; $17,000 on tobacco shops; $5,800 on alcohol; $14,500 on dry cleaning; $8,000 on grocery stores and $6,000 at drug stores.
In one of the more exotic purchases, Jackson used campaign funds in the spring of 2011 to pay a taxidermist in Montana $7,058 for two mounted elk heads to be shipped to his office in Washington. This was the beginning of an FBI sting, according to court documents.
A year after the purchase, the taxidermist was asked to buy the elk heads back or provide the names of people who might buy them or build storage containers for them. This led to an undercover FBI agent offering to pay $5,300 for the heads. The money was to be wired to Jackson’s personal bank account, the documents state.
"Sir, for years I lived in my campaign," Jackson Jr. told U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins when entering his plea. "I used monies that should have been used for campaign purposes, and I used them for myself personally, to benefit me personally. And I am acknowledging that that which the government has presented is accurate."
As he entered the courtroom this morning, Jackson Jr. gave his wife a peck on the cheek and took his seat. At one point he stepped from the defense table and shook hands with a lead FBI agent in the case, Tim Thibault, who was seated with government prosecutors.
Jackson Jr. spoke softly during the hearing and sometimes dabbed his eyes with a tissue. When asked by Wilkins how he would plead, Jackson answered: “I am guilty, your honor.”
Pressed by the judge on whether he was freely entering the plea, the former congressman acknowledged he had been under psychiatric care but said he had not been treated for addiction to alcohol or narcotics.
Asked whether he understood what was happening, he answered, "Sir, I've never been more clear in my life."
Leaving the courtroom, Jackson Jr. told a reporter, "Tell everybody back home I'm sorry I let 'em down, OK?"
At a press conference following the hearing, Jackson Jr. attorney Reid Weingarten said Jackson's health problems contributed to his crimes.
"It turns out that Jesse has serious health issues," he said. "Those health issues are directly related to his present predicament. That's not an excuse, that's just a fact."
As part of the plea deal, the parties have agreed that sentencing guidelines call for a term of between 46 and 57 months in prison, but the sides reserved the right to argue for a sentence above or below that range for him when he is sentenced June 28.
After his release from an expected prison term, he might face three additional years of supervised release, or probation.
Also under the guideline range agreed to by Jackson Jr. and lawyers on both sides, what had been a maximum fine of $250,000 drops to one in the range of $10,000 to $100,000. In addition, he remains subject to a forfeiture of $750,000.
The judge said Jackson could be released before sentencing and ordered him to be processed by the U.S. Marshal's Service, surrender his passport and undergo drug testing while awaiting sentencing.
His attorney asked if Jackson Jr. could be allowed to travel back and forth from Chicago, saying he essentially lived in both places, and the judge agreed.
As the Jacksons arrived at federal court in Washington, D.C. this morning, neither responded to questions from reporters. The two stepped out of a black SUV, and Sandi Jackson walked ahead of her husband, carrying a satchel. Jackson Jr. looked up when reporters shouted questions but said nothing and looked down as he went into the building.
Minutes later, his father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., and other family members walked through the front entrance of the courthouse, their arms linked together.
Jackson Jr., 47, was in the House of Representatives for 17 years until he resigned last November. Sandi Jackson, 49, was a Chicago alderman from 2007 until she stepped down in January. Both are Democrats.
Jackson Jr. began a mysterious medical leave of absence last June for what was eventually described as bipolar disorder. Though he did not campaign for re-election, he won another term last Nov. 6 while being treated at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. He left office two weeks later, saying he was cooperating with federal investigators.
Married for more than 20 years, the Jacksons have a 12-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son. The family has homes in Washington and on Chicago’s South Side.
Washington defense attorney Stan Brand, the former general counsel of the House of Representatives, said Tuesday that Jackson Jr.’s case involved the largest sum of money he’s seen in a case involving personal use of campaign money.
“Historically, there have been members of Congress who either inadvertently or maybe purposefully, but not to this magnitude, used campaign funds inappropriately,” he said.
Earlier this morning, Judge Wilkins disclosed that he had a past link to Jackson Jr.’s father. But both prosecutors and the Jackson defense waived any attempt to transfer the case, the judge noted in a court memorandum.
Wilkins wrote that he has no interest or bias in the case, but disclosed the following:
“In 1988, while a law student, Judge Wilkins served as a co-chair of Harvard Law School students supporting the presidential campaign of Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., and on October 24, 1988, Judge Wilkins introduced Rev. Jackson when he came to speak at a campus event supporting the presidential candidacy of Governor Michael Dukakis. On March 21, 1999, while an attorney, Judge Wilkins appeared as a guest on a show hosted by Rev. Jackson on the CNN network entitled ‘Both Sides with Jesse Jackson’ to discuss a civil rights lawsuit in which Judge Wilkins was a plaintiff. Judge Wilkins believes that he has spoken to Rev. Jackson only on these two occasions, and he does not believe that he has ever met or spoken to the two defendants in these cases.”
SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's government resigned on Wednesday after mass protests against high power prices and falling living standards, joining a long list of European administrations felled by austerity during four years of debt crisis.
Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, an ex-bodyguard who took power in 2009 on pledges to root out graft and raise incomes in the European Union's poorest member, faces a tough task of propping up eroding support ahead of an expected early election.
Wage and pension freezes and tax hikes have bitten deep in a country where earnings are less than half the EU average and tens of thousands of Bulgarians have rallied in protests that have turned violent, chanting "Mafia" and "Resign".
Moves by Borisov on Tuesday to blame foreign utility companies for the rise in the cost of heating homes was to no avail and an eleventh day of marches saw 15 people hospitalized and 25 arrested in clashes with police.
"My decision to resign will not be changed under any circumstances. I do not build roads so that blood is shed on them," said Borisov, who began his career guarding the Black Sea state's communist dictator Todor Zhivkov.
A karate black belt, Borisov has cultivated a Putin-like "can-do" image since he entered politics as Sofia mayor in 2005 and would connect with voters by showing up on the capital's rutted streets to oversee the repair of pot-holes.
But critics say he has often skirted due process, sometimes to the benefit of those close to him, and his swift policy U-turns have wounded the public's trust.
The spark for the protests was high electricity bills, after the government raised prices by 13 percent last July. But it quickly spilled over into wider frustration with Borisov and political elites with perceived links to shadowy businesses.
"He made my day," said student Borislav Hadzhiev in central Sofia, commenting on Borisov's resignation. "The truth is that we're living in an extremely poor country."
The prime minister's final desperate moves on Tuesday included cutting power prices and risking a diplomatic row with the Czech Republic by punishing companies including CEZ, moves which conflicted with EU norms on protection of investors and due process.
CEZ officials were hopeful on Wednesday that it would be able to avoid losing its distribution license after all and officials from the Bulgarian regulator said the company would not be punished if it dealt with breaches of procedure.
But shares in what is central Europe's largest publicly-listed company fell another 1 percent on Wednesday.
If pushed through, the fines for CEZ and two other foreign-owned firms will not encourage other investors in Bulgaria, who already have to navigate complicated bureaucracy and widespread corruption and organized crime to take advantage of Bulgaria's 10-percent flat tax rate.
Financial markets reacted negatively to the turbulence on Wednesday. The cost of insuring Bulgaria's debt rose to a three-month high and debt yields rose some 15 basis points, though the country's low deficit of 0.5 percent of gross domestic product means there is little risk to the lev currency's peg against the euro.
Borisov's interior minister indicated that elections originally planned for July would probably be pulled forward by saying that his rightist GERB party would not take part in talks to form a new government.
GERB's woes have echoes in another ex-communist EU member, Slovenia, where demonstrators have taken to the streets and added pressure to a crumbling conservative government.
A small crowd gathered in support of Borisov outside Sofia's parliament, which is expected to approve his resignation on Thursday, while bigger demonstrations against the premier were expected in the evening.
Unemployment in the country of 7.3 million is far from the highs hit in the decade after the end of communism but remains at 11.9 percent. Average salaries are stuck at around 800 levs ($550) a month and millions have emigrated, leaving swathes of the country depopulated and little hope for those who remain.
GERB's popularity has held up well and it still led in the latest polls before protests grew in size last weekend, but analysts say the opposition Socialists should draw strength from the demonstrations.
The leftists, successors to Bulgaria's communist party, have proposed tax cuts and wage hikes and are likely to raise questions about public finances if elected.
(Additional reporting by Angel Krasimirov; editing by Patrick Graham)
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks rose on Tuesday as this year's ongoing surge in merger activity suggested investors were still finding value in the market even as indexes hovered near five-year highs.
Based on the latest available data, the Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> was up 53.22 points, or 0.38 percent, at 14,034.98. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> was up 10.96 points, or 0.72 percent, at 1,530.75. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> was up 21.56 points, or 0.68 percent, at 3,213.59.
(Reporting By Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Nick Zieminski)
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius wept Tuesday as his defense lawyer read the athlete's account of how he shot his girlfriend to death on Valentine's Day, claiming he had mistaken her for an intruder.
Prosecutors, however, told a packed courtroom that the double-amputee known as the Blade Runner intentionally and mercilessly shot and killed 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp as she cowered inside a locked bathroom.
Pistorius told the Pretoria Magistrate's Court at a bail hearing he felt vulnerable in the presence of an intruder inside the bathroom because he did not have his prosthetic legs on, and fired into the bathroom door.
The Valentine's Day shooting in Pistorius' home in Pretoria shocked South Africans and many around the world who idolized him for overcoming adversity to become a sports champion, competing in the London Olympics last year in track besides being a Paralympian. Steenkamp was a model and law graduate who made her debut on a South African reality TV program that was broadcast on Saturday, two days after her death.
In a major point of contention emerged even during Tuesday bail hearing, prosecutor Gerrie Nel said Pistorius took the time to put on his prostheses, walked seven meters (yards) from the bed to the enclosed toilet inside his bathroom and only then opened fire. Three of the bullets hit Steenkamp of the four that were fired into the door, Nel said.
Pistorius said in his sworn statement that after opening fire, he realized that Steenkamp was not in his bed.
"It filled me with horror and fear," Pistorius said. The 26-year-old Olympian said he put on his prosthetic legs and tried to kick down the door before finally bashing it in with a cricket bat. Inside, he said he found Steenkamp, slumped over. He said he lifted her bloodied body into his arms and tried to carry her downstairs to seek medical help.
But by then, it was too late.
"She died in my arms," the athlete said.
Nel charged Pistorius with premeditated murder and said the athlete opened fire after the couple engaged in a shouting match and she fled to the bathroom.
"She couldn't go anywhere. You can run nowhere," Nel said. "It must have been horrific."
A conviction of premeditated murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in jail.
Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair ruled that Pistorius must face the harshest bail requirements available in South African law. That means Pistorius' lawyers must offer "exceptional" reasons for the athlete to be free before trial, besides simply giving up his two South African passports and posting a cash bond.
Pistorius sobbed softly as his lawyer, Barry Roux, insisted the shooting was an accident and that there was no evidence to substantiate a murder charge.
"We submit it is not even murder," he said. "There is no concession this is a murder."
Pistorius' emotional outbursts again played a part in how the hearing progessed, as it did during an initial hearing Friday. At one point, Nair stopped the hearing after Pistorius wept as Roux read a portion of the athlete's statement describing how Steenkamp bought him a Valentine's Day present, but wouldn't let him open it the night before.
"Maintain your composure," the magistrate said. "You need to apply your mind here."
Pistorius' voice quivered when he answered: "Yes, my lordship."
Affidavits from friends of Pistorius and Steenkamp described the two as a charming, happy couple. The night before the killing, they said, Pistorius and Steenkamp had canceled separate plans in order to spend the night before Valentine's Day together at his home, in a gated neighborhood.
Outside the court, several dozen singing women protested against domestic violence and waved placards urging that Pistorius be refused bail. "Pistorius must rot in jail," one placard said.
As details emerged at the dramatic court hearing in the capital, Steenkamp's body was being cremated Tuesday at a memorial service in the south-coast port city of Port Elizabeth. Six pallbearers carried her coffin, draped with a white cloth and covered in white flowers, into the church for the private service.
South Africa has some of the world's worst rates of violence against females and the highest rate in the world of women killed by an intimate partner, according to a study by the Medical Research Council. Professor Rachel Jewkes of the council said at least three women are killed by a partner every day in this country of 50 million.
Steenkamp campaigned actively against domestic violence and had tweeted on Twitter that she planned to join a "Black Friday" protest by wearing black in honor of a 17-year-old girl who was gang-raped and mutilated two weeks ago.
What "she stood for, and the abuse against women, unfortunately it's gone right around and I think the Lord knows that statement is more powerful now," her uncle Mike Steenkamp, the family's spokesman, said after her memorial.
He said the family had planned a big get-together at Christmas but that had not been possible. "But we are here today as a family and the only one who's missing is Reeva," he said, breaking down and weeping.
Pistorius has lost several valuable sponsorships estimated to be worth more than $1 million a year.
On Tuesday, the athlete was ousted from a pro-gay campaign being launched in Cape Town, organizers said. In a video axed from the campaign, Pistorius says: "You don't have to worry. You don't have to change. Take a deep breath and remember, 'It will get better.'"
And Clarins Group, which owns Thierry Mugler Perfumes, said in an email that "out of respect and compassion for the families involved in this tragedy, Thierry Mugler Perfumes have taken the decision to withdraw all of their advertising campaigns featuring Oscar Pistorius."
- Obama administration beefing up effort to counter cyberattacks
- Michael Hayden says emphasis is on striking first, as the U.S. does with drone attacks
- Ex-CIA director says drone policy reflects lack of consensus on handling prisoners
- Hayden: Is killing terrorists preferred because of division over how to try them?
Editor's note: Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was appointed by President George W. Bush as CIA director in 2006 and served until February 2009, is a principal with the Chertoff Group, a security consulting firm. He serves on the boards of several defense firms and is a distinguished visiting professor at George Mason University.
(CNN) -- Human decisions have complex roots: history, circumstance, personality, even chance.
So it's a dangerous game to oversimplify reality, isolate causation and attribute any particular course of action to one or another singular motive.
But let me tempt fate, since some recent government decisions suggest important issues for public discussion.
Over the past several weeks, press accounts have outlined a series of Obama administration moves dealing with the cyberdefense of the United States.
According to one report, the Department of Defense will add some 4,000 personnel to U.S. Cyber Command, on top of a current base of fewer than a thousand. The command will also pick up a "national defense" mission to protect critical infrastructure by disabling would-be aggressors.
A second report reveals another administration decision, very reminiscent of the Bush Doctrine of preemption, to strike first when there is imminent danger of serious cyberattack against the United States.
Both of these represent dramatic and largely welcome moves.
But they also suggest the failure of a deeper national policy process and, more importantly, the failure to develop national consensus on some very difficult issues.
Chinese military leading cyber attacks
Let me reason by analogy, and in this case the analogy is the program of targeted killings supported and indeed expanded by the Obama administration. Again, I have no legal or moral objections to killing those who threaten us. We are, as the administration rightly holds, in a global state of war with al Qaeda and its affiliates.
But at the level of policy, killing terrorists rather than capturing them seems to be the default option, and part of that dynamic is fairly attributable to our inability to decide where to put a detainee once we have decided to detain him.
Congress won't let him into the United States unless he is going before a criminal court, and the administration will not send him to Guantanamo despite the legitimate claim that a nation at war has the right to detain enemy combatants without trial.
Failing to come to agreement on the implications of the "we are at war" position, we have made it so legally difficult and so politically dangerous to detain anyone that we seem to default to killing those who would do us harm.
Clearly, it's an easier path: no debates over the location or conditions of confinement. Frequently such action can be kept covert. Decision-making is confined to one branch of government. Congress is "notified." Courts are not involved.
Besides, we are powerful. We have technology at our fingertips. We know that we can be precise, and the professionalism of our combatants allows them to easily meet the standards of proportionality and distinction (between combatants and noncombatants) in such strikes, despite claims to the contrary.
And we also believe that we can live with the second and third order effects of targeted killings. We believe that the care we show will set high standards for the use of such weapons by others who will inevitably follow us. We also believe that any long-term blowback (akin to what Gen. Stanley McChrystal calls the image of "arrogance" such strikes create) is more than offset by the immediate effects on America's safety.
I agree with much of the above. But I also fear that the lack of political consensus at home can drive us to routinely exercise an option whose long-term effects are hard to discern. Which brings us back to last week's stories on American cyberdefense.
In the last Congress, there were two prominent bills introduced to strengthen America's cyberdefenses. Neither came close to passing.
In the Senate, the Collins-Lieberman Bill created a near perfect storm with the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Chamber of Commerce weighing in strongly against the legislation. That two such disparate bodies had issues with the legislation should suggest how far we are from a national consensus.
In the House, a modest proposal from the Intelligence Committee to enhance cybersharing between the private sector and the National Security Agency was met with a presidential veto threat over alleged privacy concerns and was never even considered by the Senate.
Indeed, my preferred option -- a more active and well-regulated role for NSA and Cyber Command on and for American networks -- is almost a third rail in the debate over U.S. cybersecurity. The cybertalent and firepower at Fort Meade, where both are headquartered, are on a short leash because few dare to even address what we would ask them to do or what we would permit them to do on domestic networks.
And hence, last week's "decisions." Rather than settle the roles of these institutions by dealing with the tough issues of security and privacy domestically, we have opted for a policy not unlike targeted killing. Rather than opt for the painful process of building consensus at home, we are opting for "killing" threats abroad in their "safe haven."
We appear more willing to preempt perceived threats "over there" than spill the domestic political blood that would be needed to settle questions about standards for the defense of critical infrastructure, the role of government surveillance or even questions of information sharing. And we seem willing to live with the consequences, not unlike those of targeted killings, of the precedent we set with a policy to shoot on warning.
I understand the advantage that accrues to the offense in dealing with terrorists or cyberthreats. I also accept the underlying legality and morality of preemptive drone or cyberstrikes.
I just hope that we don't do either merely because we don't have the courage to face ourselves and make some hard decisions at home.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michael Hayden.
MESA, Ariz. – The seventh-inning stretch has been a polarizing part of Chicago Cubs games since the introduction of guest conductors in 1998, the year Harry Caray died.
Some fans love it, while others wish the tradition would end and the celebrities there to promote themselves would just go away.
Cubs in-game programming director Jim Oboikowitch said Tuesday there will be some changes to the stretch this year after listening to what fans had to say.
“I think we definitely want to focus on former Cubs players, people that are Chicago natives, people who know baseball and who are Cubs fans,” he said. “I do think we want to get ‘A-listers,’ so if there is that celebrity in a movie ... But we want them to understand what they’re coming to do -- not just come into the booth and say, ‘My movie hits theaters tonight,’ or ‘My book is in stores.’
“They should know something about the Cubs. They should know the background of Harry Caray and what we are doing, and I think it will be a little more teaching them and exposing them. We do want the best guests, so we might come across that situation. But I think it’s all about preparing them so they’re not on with (broadcasters Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies) and talking about stuff while a big home run is being hit in the bottom of the seventh.”
One guest conductor came into the TV booth last year and bragged that he hated baseball. Not every guest will be invited into the booth this year.
“People really like the stretch guest,” Oboikowitch said. “It’s the interview that’s always been a little dicey, and I think people always remember the bad ones -- when a guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about or always interrupting the (broadcasters).”
The Cubs also will play more taped music before games and actually try to move into the new millennium instead of playing the best rock songs of the 1980s.
“We will try to upgrade the music a little,” he said. “(Organist) Gary Pressy is not going anywhere. That will stay the same, but some more updated music at different times. We talked about cutting down some of the pregame (advertising announcements), so I think there will be more music playing pregame, adding a little more life in the stadium.
“It’s tough after a year when you lost 101 games. The year were won 51 home games (in 2008) it was the same music, but it felt a little better and seemed louder. We’ll play what fans want to hear, though we won’t have ‘Call Me Maybe’ on the list.”
New senior director of marketing Alison Miller said they are exploring whether to play the same song at the start of every game, as they did with Van Halen’s “Jump” in the '80s and '90s. They want something that says “Chicago,” though not it also has to get the crowd psyched for the game.
The Cubs played several different songs last year, and there may be no real consensus on what the perfect introductory song should be at Wrigley Field. If Cubs fans have any ideas, they’re free to send their suggestions to Miller or Oboikowitch at Wrigley Field.
AMMAN (Reuters) - A Syrian missile killed at least 20 people in a rebel-held district of Aleppo on Tuesday, opposition activists said, as the army turns to longer-range weapons after losing bases in the country's second-largest city.
The use of what opposition activists said was a large missile of the same type as Russian-made Scuds against an Aleppo residential district came after rebels overran army bases over the past two months from which troops had fired artillery.
As the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, now a civil war, nears its two-year mark, rebels also landed three mortar bombs in the rarely-used presidential palace compound in the capital Damascus, opposition activists said on Tuesday.
The United Nations estimates 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict between largely Sunni Muslim rebels and Assad's supporters among his minority Alawite sect. An international diplomatic deadlock has prevented intervention, as the war worsens sectarian tensions throughout the Middle East.
A Russian official said on Tuesday that Moscow, which is a long-time ally of Damascus, would not immediately back U.N. investigators' calls for some Syrian leaders to face the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
Moscow has blocked three U.N. Security Council resolutions that would have increased pressure on Assad.
Casualties are not only being caused directly by fighting, but also by disruption to infrastructure and Syria's economy.
An estimated 2,500 people in a rebel-held area of northeastern Deir al-Zor province have been infected with typhoid, which causes diarrhea and can be fatal, due to drinking contaminated water from the Euphrates River, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.
"There is not enough fuel or electricity to run the pumps so people drink water from the Euphrates which is contaminated, probably with sewage," the WHO representative in Syria, Elisabeth Hoff, told Reuters by telephone.
The WHO had no confirmed reports of deaths so far.
BURIED UNDER RUBBLE
In northern Aleppo, opposition activists said 25 people were missing under rubble of three buildings hit by a several-meter-long missile. They said remains of the weapon showed it to be a Scud-type missile of the type government forces increasingly use in Aleppo and in Deir a-Zor.
NATO said in December Assad's forces fired Scud-type missiles. It did not specify where they landed but said their deployment was an act of desperation.
Bodies were being gradually dug up, Mohammad Nour, an activist, said by phone from Aleppo.
"Some, including children, have died in hospitals," he said.
Video footage showed dozens of people scouring for victims and inspecting damage. A body was pulled from under collapsed concrete. At a nearby hospital, a baby said to have been dug out from wreckage was shown dying in the hands of doctors.
Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
Opposition activists also reported fighting near the town of Nabak on the Damascus-Homs highway, another route vital for supplying forces in the capital loyal to Assad, whose family has ruled Syria since the 1960s.
Rebels moved anti-aircraft guns into the eastern Damascus district of Jobar, adjacent to the city centre, as they seek to secure recent gains, an activist said.
"The rebels moved truck-mounted anti-aircraft guns to Jobar and are now firing at warplanes rocketing the district," said Damascus activist Moaz al-Shami.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told a news conference a U.N. war crimes report, which accuses military leaders and rebels of terrorizing civilians, was "not the path we should follow ... at this stage it would be untimely and unconstructive."
Syria is not party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC and the only way the court can investigate the situation is if it receives a referral from the Security Council, where Moscow is a permanent member.
(Writing by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Jason Webb)