Israeli planes destroy large Syrian military convoy on its way to Hezbollah

In the first overt outside military intervention in the Syrian civil war, twelve Israel Air Force planes early this morning attacked and destroyed a large Syrian military convoy carrying sophisticated anti-tank and anti-air craft Russian missiles to Hezbollah. The convoy was destroyed inside Syria, before it crossed the border into Lebanon. Israel has warned Syria in no uncertain terms that the transfer of certain classes of sophisticated weapons from the beleaguered Assad regime to Hezbollah would be, for Israel, a red line necessitating military action. Israel has been concerned with what it describes as “balance changing” weapon systems such as anti-air craft, anti-tank, and anti-ship missiles, mid-range surface-to-surface missiles – and chemical weapons.

Twelve Israeli planes early this morning attacked and destroyed a large Syrian military convoy carrying sophisticated anti-tank and anti-air craft Russian missiles to Hezbollah.

The convoy was destroyed inside Syria, before it crossed the border into Lebanon.

Israel, Syria, Hezbollah, and the Lebanese government have remained silent, saying nothing about the attack.

Israel, since 2008 – and with greater emphasis since the anti-Assad rebellion erupted two years ago — has warned Syria in no uncertain terms that the transfer of certain classes of sophisticated weapons from the beleaguered Assad regime to Hezbollah would be, for Israel, a red line necessitating military action.

Israel has been concerned with what it describes as “balance changing” weapon systems such as anti-air craft, anti-tank, and anti-ship missiles, and mid-range surface-to-surface missiles.

In the last year, with the steady weakening of the Assad regime – the regime now controls no more than about 20 percent of Syrian territory — Israel has become even concerned about the transfer of chemical weapons from Syria to Hezbollah.

During the forty years, under the Assad family control of Syria, the country has built the world’s largest chemical weapons arsenal, and has accumulated vast quantities of sophisticated arms, supplied mostly by Russia.

With the end of the Assad regime in sight, Iran, a staunch ally of Syria, has been pressuring the regime to transfer some of its more sophisticated weapon systems to Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi’a organization.

When the Assad regime leaves the scene, Hezbollah will remain the sole dedicated Iranian agent in the region, and Iran has every interest to continue to strengthen this agent.

Hamas, which used to be a loyal regional agent of Iran, has begun to distance itself from Iran under the pressure of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar, the two major Sunni backers of the Palestinian organization.

The destruction of the Syrian military convoy is part of an emerging Israeli strategy of bolstering what Israel calls its “outer envelope” capabilities.

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WIKILEAKS AFGHAN PAPERS KILLING OBAMA

By DICK MORRIS & EILEEN MCGANN

Published on DickMorris.com on August 4, 2010

As we suggested in our recent column, the new Gallup/USA Today poll confirms that Obama’s ratings have collapsed as a result of the WikiLeaks release of Afghan War memos.  Down from 46% in the most recent poll, Obama’s job approval has plunged to 41% — the lowest it has ever been in any major poll.
     
Democrats have now joined in the defection from Obama impelled by their increasing anger over his continued involvement in Afghanistan and the emerging double dip in the recession.  Support for his war policies there has dropped to 38% from 46% in February while approval of his handling of the economy has plunged to 39%.

Elected as a peace and jobs candidate, the defections over these two issues among his base are likely to be especially injurious in the 2010 Congressional elections.  The generic Republican v Democratic ballot now shows an eight point GOP lead according to Rasmussen Reports.
        
We have recently reviewed polls for five Republican House challengers to Democratic incumbents in Iowa, North Dakota, Virginia, and New York and were shocked to see the Republicans leading in each.  Normally, one would consider GOP chances excellent if the challenger were able to hold the incumbent to under 50% of the vote, since the undecided almost always goes entirely for the challenger.  But to actually show leads at this point is incredible.
     
Once Democrats start abandoning Obama, there is no bottom to his ratings.  Disaffection and cynicism spread easily in that party and the left has shown signs of increasing galvanization against the war.  More than 100 House Democrats voted against war funding, about 40% of the total Democratic membership in the House.
      
Adding to the party’s woes is, of course, the emerging scandals involving Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Maxine Waters (D-CA).  Coming just as the fall campaign kicks off, they remind one of the Foley scandal that so darkened GOP chances in 2006.  With the House Democrats certain not to expel either member but to slap each on the wrist, the scandal will flare into a conflagration that will further diminish Democratic chances in November.
     
In a presidential year, these Democratic defections would only be consequential were there a third candidate or a primary challenger to choose.  But in an off-year, staying home is a viable option, particularly for the minority and young voters Obama lured to the polls for the first time in 2008.  Their defection will be disastrous for Obama and will cost him control of both houses of Congress

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National Security

Last Sunday, the website WikiLeaks published some 92,000 classified documents concerning the Afghan war, covering the period from 2004 to 2009. The military is investigating U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning in connection with the leak. Manning served with the 10th Mountain Division’s 2nd Brigade in Baghdad, working on intelligence operations.

The documents were quickly picked up by nearly every military, government and news organization around the world. They cover an extraordinary range of topics, from small unit operational and tactical reports to broad, strategic analysis of political and military relations between the U.S. and Pakistan. While the leak drew justifiable condemnation, at this point it doesn’t appear that there are any major revelations — other than names and hometowns of some Afghan informants.

The documents confirm the general consensus about the Afghan war, especially the suspected links between Pakistani intelligence and the Taliban. Pakistani spy services meet directly with the Taliban in order to organize the fight against American forces and to develop assassination plots against Afghan leaders. The reports also indicate that American soldiers know about a Pakistani-run network that assists the insurgents and that runs from the Afghan border to southern Afghanistan and on into Kabul. While U.S. officials won’t verify these details, they confirm that the alleged Pakistani collaboration is consistent with other classified sources. Combined with firsthand accounts of American soldiers’ anger at Pakistan’s unwillingness to fight insurgents attacking Pakistani border posts, the documents contrast sharply with U.S. pronouncements that Pakistan is a loyal ally in the Afghan war. Then again, they do comport with then-candidate Obama’s pledge to bomb Pakistan.

Unfortunately, the documents also suggest that the current U.S. strategy won’t win the war because an insufficient U.S. ground force is fighting a determined enemy on his home turf with time on his side. If Pakistan believes this to be the case, then when (not if) the U.S. leaves Afghanistan, the Taliban will be back in control. Therefore, it makes sense for Pakistanis to lend support surreptitiously to the Taliban, who will be living on their border and who would seek retribution against an unfriendly neighbor. This also means that long-term U.S. goals in Afghanistan (not to mention the lives of our soldiers) are in greater jeopardy given the current strategy.

Perhaps most disturbing, the documents reveal much about our military’s tactics, methods, sources and communication. Such details will be all too useful to our enemies. “If I had gotten this trove on the Taliban or al Qaeda, I would have called this priceless,” said former CIA director Michael Hayden. “If I’m head of the Russian intelligence, I’m getting my best English speakers and saying: ‘Read every document, and I want you to tell me, how good are these guys? What are their approaches, their strengths, their weaknesses and their blind spots?'”

The Obama regime has some serious soul searching to do regarding the Afghan war effort. If the U.S. is unsuccessful there, our jihadist foes will no doubt redouble their efforts against us.

Read this on the Web at http://patriotpost.us/edition/2010/07/30/digest/

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Massachusetts vs. the Electoral College

“The Massachusetts Legislature has approved a new law intended to bypass the Electoral College system and ensure that the winner of the presidential election is determined by the national popular vote,” reports the Boston Globe. The bill would award all 12 of the Bay State’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote and is part of a larger National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). The goal is to persuade enough states to enact similar legislation to reach 270 electoral votes, ensuring that the winner of the popular vote also wins the Electoral College vote. Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and Washington — all blue states — have already approved the legislation. No doubt the main reason for this effort is lingering bitterness over the 2000 election, in which George W. Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore, but won the Electoral College, and thus, the presidency.

However, the law would take effect only when enough states have signed on — and assuming a future legislature doesn’t change the rules again. Indeed, as Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto, in an outstanding analysis of the constitutionality and political feasibility of the law, writes, “Since the NPVIC would be legally unenforceable, only political pressure could be brought to bear to ensure that state legislatures stand by their commitments to it. Would this be enough? Let’s put the question in starkly partisan terms: If you’re a Republican, do you trust Massachusetts lawmakers to keep their word, and to defy the will of the voters who elected them, if by doing so they would make Sarah Palin president?”

Read this on the Web at http://patriotpost.us/edition/2010/07/30/digest/

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IMMIGRATION DECISION WILL ERODE OBAMA SUPPORT

By Dick Morris And Eileen McGann

07.28.2010

When Judge Susan Bolton granted an injunction halting the enforcement of key provisions of the Arizona immigration enforcement law, she ruled in favor of the Justice Department’s position, but against the president’s political interest.

Had the judge sustained this law, it would have made moot Obama’s opposition to the Arizona law. As it is, she has transformed the law into a big campaign issue against Obama. Now the president is standing in the way of a state that wants to enforce the law that he won’t.

The Arizona law is massively popular in the United States. Over 60 percent of all American voters support it. But the president has sought and has succeeded in stopping it from taking effect. Now this majority — close to two-thirds of the electorate — that backs the law will be able to focus their blame for its non-enforcement squarely on the president of the United States.

In the long term, the Bolton decision will likely be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court and Arizona will find itself vindicated. But, in the meantime, the decision endangers the re-election chances of three Democratic Congressmen from Arizona. Their constituents will not be satisfied with statements from these Democrats supporting the Arizona law. They will become embittered because Obama’s Justice Department has overridden their will.

Why did Obama bring the suit in the first place if it hurts him? Because he was seeking to increase the turnout of Latino voters and trying to win them by the same huge margin (2:1) that they delivered to him in 2008. Since he took office, Obama’s approval among Hispanics has dropped to 54%, foreshadowing a massive abandonment of his Congressional candidates in November.

But what Obama miscalculated was the intense support from among most voters that the Arizona law has elicited. As he bid for Latino votes, he has sacrificed much of his liberal, Democratic base.

This decision hurts him badly.

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Sheriff Joe Arpaio: I’ll Enforce Arizona’s Immigration Law

Wednesday, 28 Jul 2010 05:21 PM

By: Jim Meyers

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the controversial top cop in Maricopa County, Ariz., tells Newsmax he will jail any protesters who attempt to block his jail on Thursday when provisions of his state’s tough new immigration law take effect.

Arpaio also says it’s “great” if undocumented aliens react to the new law and his strict anti-illegal immigration agenda by moving back to Mexico or to the “sanctuary state” of California, and challenges President Barack Obama to invite him to the White House for a “wine summit” to discuss illegal immigration.

Arpaio, whose county includes most of the Phoenix metropolitan area, promotes himself as “America’s toughest sheriff.” He has limited county inmates to two meals a day, banned “sexually explicit material” in prison, reinstituted chain gangs, and set up a “tent city” as an extension of the Maricopa County Jail.

On Wednesday a judge blocked the most controversial sections of Arizona’s new law and put them on hold. The law will still take effect on Thursday, but without some of the provisions that angered opponents — including sections that required officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws.

Nevertheless there are reports that opponents of the new law plan to block Arpaio’s jail on Thursday in an act of civil disobedience.

“There’s a rumor that they’re going to block our jails down the street,” Arpaio says in an exclusive Newsmax interview.

“You know what? They’re not going to block our jails. They’re going into the jail if they block our jail. I’m not going to succumb to these demonstrators keeping law enforcement from booking people in our jail. So we may have to take some action.”

Arpaio also vows to conduct a “crime suppression operation” on Thursday.

“This morning we raided another business and arrested five more illegal aliens with false identification. On Thursday we’re going to do our 17th crime suppression operation and go out with our volunteer posse and deputy sheriffs and catch criminals. We’ve done 16. Just by chance about two-thirds [of those arrested] happen to be here illegally.

“People say, why are you doing it on the day that the law may be put in effect? Well, should I wait? We’ve been enforcing the other state immigration laws and we’re still the only ones doing it. We’re going to continue doing our job.”

Arpaio was asked about concerns that the federal government will refuse to cooperate with a handoff of illegal aliens to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency after they are apprehended in Arizona.

“There’s been some rumbles that maybe ICE will not take the illegal aliens off the hands of law enforcement,” he responds.

“So we may have a little problem, but not that big, because most of the time we arrest illegal aliens we have them on another charge and we book them into our jail.

“After people do their time and we have them deported, if [ICE doesn’t] accept many of those people who are going to be deported, the only alternative is that they may be released on the street.

“So let’s see what the federal government does. I know they’re not happy with this new law. They’re not happy with me, because I had 100 deputies trained by Homeland Security, trained to work on the streets and function as federal officers, but they took that away when the new administration took office.”

There have been media reports that with the law taking effect, many Hispanics are moving out of Phoenix this weekend — as evidenced by a recent increase in yard sales to dispose of items before they move. Arpaio calls that “hype” and said “they have garage sales every week. Go into any Hispanic neighborhood and they’re having garage sales.

“But a lot of them are moving out. I’d like to take a little credit for that, because they’re accusing me of breaking up families, they’re accusing me because people don’t want to go to church, they don’t want to go to school because they worry about the sheriff coming in and arresting people that are here illegally.

“Consequently many people have moved out. Of course they don’t all go to Mexico. They go to the sanctuary state called California and other states where they don’t care about illegal immigration. But many of them are moving out, moving back to their home country. That’s great. Now let [them] get the proper paperwork and come into this country legally.”

The sheriff of neighboring Pinal County has invited President Obama to come to Arizona for a first-hand look at the illegal immigration problem.

“Why would he go to Pinal County?” Arpaio says.

“We’re bigger than all counties put together. We’ve locked up 40,000 people. Why doesn’t he come to Maricopa County to talk to the sheriff that he himself doesn’t like?”

Arpaio also scoffs at the notion that Obama should come to the Mexican border to observe the situation there.

“What is this, symbolic? He knows where the border is. Of course I spent 14 years at the border as the head of federal drug enforcement [in Arizona]. No one’s invited me, including Republicans, U.S. senators. No one has asked me my opinion as to what I would do if I was president.

“But that’s O.K. I’m not concerned about that. I know what we are doing.

But to say the president should take a tour of the border — I think he knows. He watches television. He talks to [Homeland Security Secretary] Janet Napolitano. I think he knows where the Mexican-U.S. border is.

“So just to say let him come down, for the president [to get] in a Jeep along with a little show of all the politicians and going to the border, that’s not going to solve any problems.

“Now I do realize that he did invite the Cambridge police sergeant in Massachusetts who arrested the college professor, and racial profiling was thrown in there. So he invited both of them to the White House [for the so-called beer summit]. They had a little beer.

“So why doesn’t he invite me to the White House? I’m accused of racial profiling and I have all those years experience. Why doesn’t he invite me to the White House? We’ll have a little wine and throw a little basketball. I’m from Springfield [Mass., birthplace of basketball] so I think I’ll beat him. But I’m not holding my breath.”

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Pelosi, Reid: Divorced From Reality

IBD Editorials

Leadership: A major poll just gave Congress a favorability rating of 11% — lowest in history. Never, it seems, have our representatives in Washington been so disconnected from the people they purport to serve.

The disconnect was most evident in separate comments made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at a conference of the far-left group Netroots Nation last weekend in Las Vegas. Both weighed in on vital topics. Both revealed why they’re so out of touch with reality.

Pelosi told the audience she adamantly opposes raising the retirement age for Social Security and said the Depression-era program shouldn’t be cut to help reduce the deficit. “When you talk about reducing the deficit and Social Security, you’re talking about apples and oranges,” she said.

She has it exactly backward. The No. 1 problem facing this nation is the massive deficit we face over the next 75 years, due almost entirely to the expansion of Social Security and Medicare. The only way to address the deficit is to address entitlements.

Social Security and Medicare trustees estimated last year that the unfunded liability — that is, future expected deficits — of the two programs is $107 trillion, or 7 1/2 times the size of our entire economy. If not addressed immediately, these shortfalls will require a tripling of payroll taxes to 37% by 2054 from 12.4% today.

Governments as diverse as Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, France and Great Britain face similar scary arithmetic and are already lengthening the amount of time workers have to work to get a public pension. They’re making other cuts as well.

When the U.S. lags behind reform enacted even by the soft-socialist countries of Europe, it’s a sign of how radical and beholden to special interests our Democrat-controlled government has become. To assert, as Pelosi has, that we don’t need to alter Social Security in any way is the fiscal equivalent of joining the Flat Earth Society.

Meanwhile, the speaker had the chutzpah — or maybe it was twisted humor — to tell the Netroot folks that Democrats are “moving on all fronts to reduce the deficit.”

“Moving on all fronts”? Last we saw — and it’s hard to keep up — the U.S. this year is slated to have a deficit of $1.5 trillion, or 10% of GDP, and an additional $1.4 trillion, or 9.2% of GDP, next year. Anticipated deficits, all from Democratic policies, will add $10 trillion to $13 trillion to our national debt over the next decade.

Just Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office again warned that U.S. deficits are “unsustainable.” Apparently, the free-spending Democrats don’t think so.

In the recent debate over a $35 billion extension of jobless benefits, Republicans merely asked that the bill be paid for with cuts elsewhere — as the Democrats’ own pay-go rules, passed earlier this year, require. Democrats refused. Instead, the GOP was slandered as racist and accused of hating poor Americans.

Reid’s comments, made to the same Netroot group, were equally absurd — and no doubt offensive to voters.

After his party insisted during more than a year of debate over the health care overhaul that they did not want a single-payer public option, Reid gloated to the Netroot gathering: “We’re going to have a public option. It’s just a question of when.”

As with Pelosi’s comments, Reid’s fly in the face of what’s going on around the world. Europe, in particular, has been forced to face up to its debt problems, and countries there are actively attacking their governments’ involvement in health care.

Take Britain, the country most often cited as a model for Obama-Care. The government-run National Health Service is going through massive cuts, and “some of the most common operations — including hip replacements and cataract surgery — will be rationed” to save money, according to Britain’s Telegraph.

Meanwhile, the new conservative government is pushing the biggest reform of Britain’s health care system since its 1948 founding, with a plan to decentralize the bureaucracy to the local level.

Nor does Reid, like Pelosi, get that Social Security is in a deep crisis. He called it “the most successful social program in the history of the world.” Successful? A program that socks future generations with trillions in higher taxes and lower standards of living? A program that’s already running in the red and whose unsustainable finances promise to push the U.S. to the verge of bankruptcy?

The arrogance of Reid’s and Pelosi’s remarks underscore the problems that the Democrats have with the electorate. They promised moderation and fiscal responsibility. Instead, we got a radical expansion of government power — with trillions of dollars in spending, thousands of pages of costly regulations, a government takeover of vast swaths of the private economy and deficits stretching into the future as far as our best forecasts can see.

The country has seen what arrogant, untrammeled rule looks like. And as the polls show, it doesn’t care for it at all.

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Counter-Terrorism – Israel Identifies The Perfect Terrorist

July 26, 2010: Israel and the United States have collected a lot of information on how Islamic terrorists operate. A lot of this data will remain secret for some time, but new tidbits are made public from time to time. The latest revelation is actually confirmation of many older bits of information. That is, the suicide bombers themselves are usually persuaded, not forced, to carry out their missions.Israel, for example, has captured at least fifteen suicide bombers who did not (could not or would not) carry out their mission. These terrorists were extensively questioned, as were family and friends. The Israelis also collected similar data on dead suicide bombers, including email or tapped phone calls and other material the bomber left behind. The Israelis, like the suicide bomb organizations, came to the same conclusion; that certain personality traits make someone very willing to carry out these attacks. And the chief characteristic is usually not fanaticism, but deference to authority and public opinion. This is one reason why the  Palestinian media campaign to glamorize suicide bombers is so dangerous. Over a decade of this propaganda provides a large supply of potential suicide bombers, and even assists them in contacting terrorist groups to sign up. For terrorists unable to find these impressionable volunteers (who are easy to train and control), there is another pool of recruits. These are the deranged and impulsive. This is why you will occasionally hear about dead suicide bombers who were mental patients, or widows of terrorists. The widows are told, quite accurately, that they faced a dim future and that becoming a martyr for the cause was a good move. In these cases, the cash paid (by terrorist organizations) to the families of suicide bombers helped with the recruiting.

Terrorists consider suicide bombing a very effective weapon. But to make it work they need volunteers who are reliable and able to learn the techniques of getting to the target undetected, and then actually setting off the bomb. You don’t hear much about it, but many (in some situations, over a third of) suicide bombers refuse to go through with it. Thus the many “handlers” that work closely with the suicide bomber, until the final moment. If a suicide bombing campaigns goes on for a while, only killing Moslem civilians, there will be a shortage of competent volunteers. All those dead Moslem civilians gives the attacks a bad reputation. That means fewer successful suicide bombing missions, and more captured (or surrendered) bombers, which results in more suicide bombing cells (and their hard to replace management and technical personnel) are destroyed.

Israeli police have long known how the terrorist groups recruit, equip and deliver bombers. This information was obtained from Palestinian publications, captured documents and interrogations of Palestinian militants. Eventually, the Israelis found several weaknesses in the suicide bomber system. The first one discovered was transportation. Most of the suicide bomber volunteers lived in the West Bank, and had to be transported to areas with a large Israeli population. As the Israelis discovered, most of the cost of each suicide bombing went to paying a driver or guide to get the suicide bomber close to a target area. Using a system of checkpoints and profiling, the Israelis began to catch most of the suicide bombers.

But some still got through. So the Israelis went back to a 1990s technique that, while it worked, was widely criticized as unfair and inhumane. Namely, the family home of the suicide bomber was destroyed. The bomber usually came from a family that housed several generations in one house (which was often the family’s major asset. Before resuming this practice, the family actually profited from the bombing, receiving up to $30,000 for their son (or daughter’s) sacrifice. Soon after the house destruction policy went into effect, there were reports of familys forcibly restraining adult children from joining the suicide bombing effort (or reporting the kid to the Israelis, who would then arrest the bomber volunteer.) While that dried up the source of the more competent bombers, it did not eliminate all the bombings. So Israel cut the West Bank off from Israel. Thus for the last five years, there have been hardly any attacks. Because the Palestinians continue their suicide bomber recruitment program (especially on children’s television shows), the Israelis don’t plan on reopening their borders to the Palestinians any time soon.

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Domestic Terrorism Case Shocks Remote Alaska Town

He was the local weatherman, sending up weather balloons twice a day above this remote community of 450 full-time residents near Bristol Bay and preparing short-term forecasts for pilots and fishermen.

She was a stay-at-home mom who drove their 4-year-old to preschool, sang in the town choir and picked berries with her girlfriends. She took part in the community play, in which she portrayed a fairy godmother who acted as a prosecutor in court, confronting the Big Bad Wolf for his crimes against Little Red Riding Hood, the Three Little Pigs and the Boy Who Cried Wolf.

So beloved were Paul Rockwood Jr. and his wife, Nadia, that when they left King Salmon in May to move to England, where Nadia was born, more than 30 people — pretty much their entire circle of friends — showed up at the airport. The choir sang “Wherever You Go,” and “people were just bawling,” said Rebecca Hamon, a friend of the couple.

What none of them could have known was that FBI agents were meeting the small turboprop plane in Anchorage to question the Rockwoods on suspicion of domestic terrorism-related crimes.

This week, Paul and Nadia Rockwood pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Anchorage to one count of willfully making false statements to the FBI; in Paul Rockwood’s case, it was a statement about domestic terrorism.

The plea agreements state that Rockwood, 35, had become an adherent of extremist Islam who had prepared a list of assassination targets, including U.S. service members. And, though no plot to carry out the killings was revealed, he had researched methods of execution, including guns and explosives, the agreements say.

Federal charging papers said his wife, 36, who is five months pregnant with the couple’s second child, lied to investigators when she denied knowing that an envelope she took to Anchorage in April at her husband’s request contained a list of 15 intended targets. (None were in Alaska.) She told FBI agents that she thought the envelope contained a letter or a book. She gave it to an unidentified individual who her husband believed shared his radical beliefs, the FBI said.

Nadia knew exactly what was on the list and what it was for, federal authorities said.

“Obviously we take it very seriously when somebody starts talking about building bombs and component parts and killing citizens because of a hatred that is fueled by violent Internet sites,” said Karen L. Loeffler, U.S. attorney for Alaska.

Loeffler, who would not elaborate on how the FBI became aware of the Rockwoods, said the investigation does not involve any other terrorism suspects, and no additional charges are expected.

The plea agreements the couple signed said Paul Rockwood converted to Islam in late 2001 or early 2002 while living in Virginia and became a follower of radical U.S.-born Muslim cleric Anwar Awlaki, now believed to be living in Yemen.

“This included a personal conviction that it was his religious responsibility to exact revenge by death on anyone who desecrated Islam,” his agreement said.

Here in King Salmon, where the biggest thing is the annual red salmon run — it happens to be the biggest one in the world — this has the air of a poorly written movie.

“If all terrorists were this harmless, we’d all be living in a much less complicated world,” said Hamon, who lived in Camarillo before moving 12 years ago to King Salmon, on the Alaska Peninsula, 280 miles southwest of Anchorage.

“We’ve all been in shock,” said Mary Swain, who was friends with Nadia and baked the birthday cake for the Rockwoods’ son’s party last year. “I mean, kids would go over to her house all the time where she was teaching them ballet. She always went to library time, she went to story time…. Her mom would come over here from England and stay with her for a month at a time, and people got to be friends with her too.”

King Salmon is little more than a windy cluster of homes surrounding the airport, grocery, repair shops and a handful of bars and restaurants, with emphasis, like any fishing town, on the bars. Populated mainly by government employees year-round, it lies on limitless fields of grassy tundra and low stands of white spruce, not far from the fishing port of Naknek on Bristol Bay and world-famous Katmai National Park. Like most of Alaska, it is accessible only by air or small boat.

The National Weather Service paid for the couple’s move to King Salmon after hiring Paul in 2006 as a meteorological technician. They moved into a small tract of modern government housing populated by the many federal employees working for the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the weather service.

In the summertime, the populations of King Salmon and especially Naknek swell with thousands of itinerant fishermen and cannery workers. Nadia worked to become part of the close-knit permanent community, friends and neighbors said. Paul, because of his irregular work hours, often slept during the day and wasn’t as engaged in the community.

“He was a good employee. I never had any problems with him,” said Debra Elliott, his supervisor at the small, two-room building next to the airport, where the weather service shares an office with the Federal Aviation Administration. “He was very likable.”

The couple told neighbors they were Muslim but, other than avoiding pork, never made an issue of their religion. Paul had a beard, but the couple never prayed publicly. Nadia performed Christian and secular songs with the choir in performances at the local chapel; her husband attended with his video camera.

Loukas Barton, a National Park Service archeologist who lived next door, said the couple’s seeming reticence about discussing their religion may have been because they were, so far as anyone here can remember, the only Muslims who have ever lived in King Salmon.

“It’s not uncommon in a bar here to hear some moron say, ‘I hate Barack Obama because he’s … a terrorist and an Ay-rab.’ And people will swear up and down that he’s a Muslim. Which is really well-informed, right?” Barton said.

“So for families like them, you could imagine it’d be a little tough. Maybe that’s why Paul wasn’t all that social. I don’t think he’d be welcome down at Eddie’s, or any of the other bars in town. He certainly didn’t look Arab or Muslim, so those kind of comments would just fly freely.”

Hamon said Nadia was a fresh-faced, lively, fun-loving woman. She seemed determined to embrace rural life with enthusiasm.

“I met her and we just really hit it off. She became a really central part of our little group of girlfriends here,” Hamon said. “She did set-net fishing with us to catch salmon in summer. She learned to smoke and can salmon…. We learned to knit about the same time. We’d all get together and do crafts and stuff. We were all very welcome in each other’s homes.

“There was never a feeling with Nadia that there was anything funny or secretive going on. Paul was always very comfortable with us too,” she said.

The couple’s garage was a clearinghouse for fresh vegetables flown in from Washington state, and neighbors were free to let themselves in to pick up their allotments when no one was home.

The couple decided to leave because Paul had a disease of the inner ear that gave him frequent bouts of vertigo, friends said. Barton said Paul told him at the couple’s going-away yard sale that he also was growing tired of the annual clouds of mosquitoes and biting flies that descend each summer on King Salmon.

They were planning to move near Nadia’s mother in Kent, England, where Paul could get better medical treatment than at the small clinic in Naknek, neighbors said.

If U.S. District Judge Ralph R. Beistline accepts the plea agreements, Paul Rockwood Jr. will serve eight years in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Nadia Rockwood, who is free and in seclusion in Anchorage, would be sentenced to five years’ probation and return to England. Sentencing is set for Aug. 23.

Some of the targets on Rockwood’s list listened in by telephone to Wednesday’s plea hearing in Anchorage federal court, though none of them was identified and none of them spoke. The couple said very little, beyond entering their guilty pleas.

“We’ve known them since Zaid was a tiny little tyke,” Hamon said, referring to the couple’s son. “Everybody was sad they had to leave. Then when this came out, we were all completely shocked. It’s just impossible for me to imagine the friend that I knew being involved in anything like this.”

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Mexico – Guards Allegedly Released Inmates To Commit Massacre

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Guards and officials at a prison in northern Mexico allegedly let inmates out, lent them guns and sent them off in official vehicles to carry out drug-related killings, including the massacre of 17 people last week, prosecutors said Sunday.

After carrying out the killings the inmates would return to their cells, the Attorney General’s Office said in a revelation that was shocking even for a country wearied by years of drug violence and corruption.

“According to witnesses, the inmates were allowed to leave with authorization of the prison director … to carry out instructions for revenge attacks using official vehicles and using guards’ weapons for executions,” office spokesman Ricardo Najera said at a news conference.

The director of the prison in Gomez Palacio in Durango state and three other officials were placed under a form of house arrest pending further investigation. No charges have yet been filed.

Prosecutors said the prison-based hit squad is suspected in three mass shootings, including the July 18 attack on a party in the city of Torreon, which is near Gomez Palacio. In that incident, gunmen fired indiscriminately into a crowd of mainly young people in a rented hall, killing 17 people, including women.

 

Police found more than 120 bullet casings at the scene, and Najera said tests matched those casings to four assault rifles assigned to guards at the prison.

Similar ballistics tests linked the guns to earlier killings at two bars in Torreon, the capital of northern Coahuila state, he said. At least 16 people were killed in those attacks on Feb. 1 and May 15, local media reported.

Najera blamed the killings on disputes between rival drug cartels. “Unfortunately, the criminals also carried out cowardly killings of innocent civilians, only to return to their cells,” he said.

Coahuila and neighboring Durango are among several northern states that have seen a spike in drug-related violence that authorities attribute to a fight between the Gulf cartel and its former enforcers, known as the Zetas.

Mexico has long had a problem with investigating crimes, catching criminals and convicting people. Reports estimate less than 2 percent of crimes in Mexico result in prison sentences. But Sunday’s revelation suggests that even putting cartel gunmen in prison may not prevent them from continuing to commit crimes.

Interior Secretary Francisco Blake said the revelation “can only be seen as a wake-up call for authorities to address, once again, the state of deterioration in many local law enforcement institutions … we cannot allow this kind of thing to happen again.”

Also Sunday, Mexican federal police announced the arrest of an alleged leading member of a drug gang blamed in recent killings and a car-bombing in the violence-ridden border city of Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas.

Police described Luis Vazquez Barragan, 39, as a top member of La Linea gang, the enforcement arm of the Juarez cartel, saying he received orders directly from cartel boss Vicente Carrillo Fuentes.

Vazquez Barragan allegedly organized payments, moved drugs and oversaw a system of safe houses in and around Ciudad Juarez.

Police said he held the same rank as fugitive gang leader Juan Pablo Ledezma, though Vazquez Barragan is not named on reward or most-wanted lists published by the Attorney General’s Office, as Ledezma is.

La Linea has been blamed for a car bomb that killed three people July 15 in Ciudad Juarez and for two separate shootings March 13 that killed a U.S. consular employee and two other people connected to the consulate.

Police did not say when they caught Vazquez Barragan, but he was allegedly in possession of about a half-kilogram (pound) of cocaine and two guns.

His arrest led to a raid on a safe house where authorities detained four suspects and freed a kidnap victim.

Also Sunday, the Attorney General’s Office said soldiers on patrol in Ciudad Madero in the border state of Tamaulipas seized an arsenal of about three dozen guns, 17 grenades and thousands of bullets in a house.

Elsewhere in Tamaulipas, police and prosecutors raided a lot full of truck-pulled tankers in the border city of Reynosa and seized two loaded with oil of a type sometimes stolen from the pipelines of the state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos. Nore than a dozen other tankers and freight containers were also seized.

Mexican drug cartels have allegedly become involved in increasingly sophisticated thefts of fuel and oil from Mexico’s pipelines.

In the Pacific coast state of Guerrero, authorities reported Sunday they had found the bullet-ridden bodies of six men dumped in various locations, including three in or around the resort of Acapulco. Two of the dead men were identified as people kidnapped earlier in the month.

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