Florida School Shooting
Thoughts and Prayers and then hold a prayer vigil
White Supremacists Claim Nikolas Cruz Trained With Them; Students Say He Wore Trump Hat in School
Thu, 15 Feb 2018 22:17
Samantha Allen, Kelly Weill, Taylor Lorenz
02.15.18 12:40 PM ET
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast
PARKLAND, Florida'--Nikolas Cruz, the man accused of killing 17 people in a Florida high school, was a member of a ''white separatist paramilitary proto-fascist organization,'' the group told The Daily Beast.
Cruz, 19, is accused of opening fire inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Prior to the shooting, he trained with the Republic of Florida, the group's captain Jordan Jereb said (as first reported by the Anti-Defamation League). The RoF seeks to create a ''white ethnostate'' in Florida, according to its website, a view that Cruz supposedly shared.
Local law enforcement told the Tallahassee Democrat it has not corroborated Jereb's claim. After previous mass shootings, the alt-right has spread disinformation online about alleged perpetrators.
''I know he knew full well he was joining a white separatist paramilitary proto-fascist organization,'' Jereb said.
Last year, an alleged school shooter in New Mexico also expressed alt-right ideology online, as The Daily Beast previously reported.
Cruz ''seemed like just a normal, disenfranchised, young white man,'' Jereb said.
While no motive has been described by police, Jereb speculated that Cruz may have allegedly committed the massacre out of hatred for Jews or women.
''There's a very real sense of feminism being a cancer. That could've played into what he did, but we have female members of RoF,'' Jereb said, adding that ''we're not a big fan of Jews. I think there were a lot of Jews at the school that might have been messing with him.''
Jereb said Cruz belonged to a RoF ''cell'' from Clearwater and drove up with members to Tallahassee to do paramilitary training. RoF was recently operating in Tallahassee and attempting to court new members, according to a local news report from last year. The group posts videos of training montages on the internet with members in fatigues brandishing weapons.
Students' Videos Capture Shooting Horror Inside High SchoolVictim's Mom Pleads on CNN: 'Action! We Need It Now!'Florida School Shooting Suspect Was 'Creepy and Weird'''I'm not trying to glorify it, but he was pretty efficient in what he did,'' Jereb said. ''He probably used that training to do what he did yesterday. Nobody I know told him to do that, he just freaked out.''
Cruz received at least one of his guns through the white supremacist group, according to Jereb.
''I think somebody bought him a Mosin''Nagant, but that's bolt action. He had a semi-automatic in the school,'' Jereb said.
Cruz bought the AR-15 rifle authorities say he used at the school in February 2017, the ATF said in an affidavit filed Thursday.
Hate in High School
Six classmates of Cruz told The Daily Beast he expressed extreme political views and disturbing behavior when he attended the high school he is now accused of attacking with a high-powered rifle.
''The one person I would expect to do it did it,'' said Julianna Sivon, who said she sat next to Cruz in English class last year. ''He loved talking about his guns. He just didn't seem right but he didn't seem like he would do something this big.''
Kamrie Bazal, 19, and Damar Osouna, 19, said they knew Cruz in school and that he talked about about guns but they did not suspect he would kill.
Nyla Hussain, a 16-year-old junior said her good friend sat next to Cruz in biology class last year and that he would regularly show her photos of dead animals.
''Whoever he sat next to in class he would show pics of animals that he hunted,'' she said.
Two classmates said they saw Cruz wore a ''Make America Great Again'' hat.
''I saw him wear a Trump hat,'' said Sebastian Gonzalez, a 19-year-old who graduated in 2017.
Ocean Parodie, a 17-year-old junior, said Cruz was politically extreme.
''For example, he would degrade Islamic people as terrorists and bombers. I've seen him wear a Trump hat,'' Parodie said.
A Violent Life Online
Cruz wore the Trump hat in a photo on an Instagram account the company said belonged to him. Over his face he wore a red, white, and blue bandana. On that account and another one, Cruz posted photos of guns, knives, anti-Muslim slurs, and a picture of a toad he killed.
On YouTube, a person by the same name spewed hateful commentary about anti-fascists.
Cruz also celebrated Elliot Rodger, the gunman who killed seven people at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2014, and who is considered a hero of the fringe men's rights movement.
''Elliot rodger will not be forgotten,'' he commented on one video one year ago. Cruz also commented on a CNN video called, ''Is our culture to blame for Elliot Rodger's rants?''
The FBI said on Thursday it received a warning from a YouTube user about a ''nikolas cruz'' who wrote, ''I'm going to be a professional school shooter'' in a comment. FBI field agents interviewed the tipsters, but the bureau's special agent in charge in Parkland said the FBI was unable to identify the user.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, more than 100 people have been killed or injured by perpetrators influenced by the alt-right since 2014.
'--Gideon Resnick contributed to this report
Lobbying Spending Database - National Rifle Assn, 2017 | OpenSecrets
Fri, 16 Feb 2018 03:09
Client Profile: Summary, 2017
A special interest's lobbying activity may go up or down over time, depending on how much attention the federal government is giving their issues. Particularly active clients often retain multiple lobbying firms, each with a team of lobbyists, to press their case for them.
Total Lobbying Expenditures: $5,122,000
Subtotal for Parent National Rifle Assn: $4,802,000
Subtotal for Subsidiary NRA Institute for Legislative Action: $320,000
National Rifle Assn Lobbying by IndustryIndustryTotalGun Rights$5,122,000
Itemized Lobbying Expenses for National Rifle AssnFirms HiredTotal Reported by FilerReported Contract Expenses (included in Total Reported by Filer)National Rifle Assn$4,802,000-MW Capitol Strategies-$120,000Prime Policy Group-$0 $120,000Italicized records not included in Total Reported by Filer
Lobbying Expenses Reported by Subsidiary NRA Institute for Legislative ActionFirms HiredTotal Reported by FilerReported Contract Expenses (included in Total Reported by Filer)Crossroads Strategies$240,000S-3 Group$80,000NOTE: All lobbying expenditures on this page come from the Senate Office of Public Records. Data for the most recent year was downloaded on January 24, 2018.
Feel free to distribute or cite this material, but please credit the Center for Responsive Politics. For permission to reprint for commercial uses, such as textbooks, contact the Center: email@example.com
NRA-ILA | Media Smears the Disabled, Misinforms on Social Security Gun Ban
Fri, 16 Feb 2018 12:12
Last week, the Richmond Times-Dispatch issued an editorial titled, ''Time to license guns - for journalists,'' which cited an embarrassing string of journalistic blunders to illustrate the media's dearth of firearms knowledge. The piece concluded, ''The ignorance is embarrassing, but it does make the media's support for gun control a tad more explicable: People fear what they don't understand.'' The Richmond Times-Dispatch is right to point out that ignorance plays a role in the media's biased coverage of firearms issues. However, given the legacy media's loathsome reporting of recent legislative efforts to block an 11th-hour Obama-era Social Security Administration (SSA) gun ban, it is difficult to consider the media's inaccurate firearms coverage as anything but willful.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed H.J.Res.40, which would block an Obama-era rule that would ban certain Social Security beneficiaries from purchasing firearms. Specifically, the SSA rule would send the names of those who receive benefits for a mental health disability, and have had a representative payee designated to receive such benefits, to the FBI for inclusion in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The rule strips the Second Amendment rights of this class of individual without adequate due process and inaccurately stigmatizes those with a mental health disorder as violent. The measure to block this rule would not remove any names from the NICS, but would simply prevent SSA from adding these beneficiaries' names to the database going forward; the legislation maintains the status quo. The U.S. House of Representatives passed this legislation on February 2, and the measure now awaits President Donald Trump's signature.
During this legislative effort, many in the media have mischaracterized this legislation and fueled fear and misunderstanding about those with a mental health disorder. And chief among the anti-gun propagandists masquerading as a legitimate news source is the New York Times.
Last September, the Times editorial board lavished praise on their presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, for her plan to address mental illness. In touting Clinton's program, the Times noted, ''Central to Mrs. Clinton's plan is'... reducing the stigma attached to mental health treatment.''
Yet, less than six months later, the Times editorial board is doing its very best to stoke baseless prejudice and perpetuate the stigma that those with mental health disorders are violent.
In a February 16 editorial, the board ignorantly wrote of those with mental health disorders, ''Allowing them to buy guns poses an inordinate and needless risk to public safety.'' This is simply false. Citing actual research on the topic, Duke University Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Jeffrey Swanson recently pointed out that ''people with mental illnesses are no more dangerous to others when they have equal access to guns.'' Indulging their prejudice against those with mental health disorders is nothing new for the Times editorial board, who have relied heavily on anti-gun research that stigmatizes suicide victims as ''killers.''
The Times goes on to lament,
An existing law bars gun purchases to people ''adjudicated as a mental defective'' or involuntarily committed to a mental institution. But enforcement of that law has been spotty, because medical records often aren't added to the federal databases '-- thus prompting the Obama administration to create the Social Security rule.
The Times manages to cite the correct law, but appears ignorant of what it requires. An adjudication connotes a formal decision-making process before a judge, or a similar body, that includes an opportunity to present a defense or be heard. In other words, a procedure that provides due process. It does not include the mere opinion of a doctor, a diagnosis, or conjecture based on the contents of a medical record, or the hasty guesswork of a government bureaucrat.
In a strident perversion of the English language, the Times called the legislation to cancel the SSA rule ''regressive.'' This label should come as a surprise to the progressive American Civil Liberties Union, who supports cancellation of the rule. It is also likely to puzzle the American Association of People with Disabilities, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and other disability advocates, who support H.J.Res.40 and are dedicated to progressing the rights of the disabled. In reality, it is the Times's efforts to foster undue fear of those with mental health disorders that is decidedly regressive.
Unsurprisingly, the crosstown tabloid managed to match the Times's prejudice, with the New York Daily News running an editorial on the topic with the headline ''Gun crazy.''
Though perhaps its foremost purveyors, the New York media does not have a monopoly on bias, and similarly deceptive reporting on H.J.Res.40 could be found in a wide array of publications.
Following the actions of the House and Senate, the reporting of many outlets gave the impression that Congress had passed legislation that broadly reduced background check requirements or weakened the NICS database. A BBC piece implied that the legislation would entirely exempt those with a mental health diagnosis from NICS checks, stating, ''The US House of Representatives has voted to scrap regulations that require background checks for gun buyers with mental health issues.'' A deceptive Associated Press headline read, ''House votes to roll back Obama rule on background checks for gun ownership.''
A Bloomberg editorial contended that in passing H.J.Res.40, the House had voted to ''weaken'' background checks. MSNBC personality Rachel Maddow took to Twitter to mischaracterize H.J.Res.40, telling her followers, ''Senate due to vote today to make it easier for seriously mentally ill people to get guns (I swear I'm not kidding). Already passed House,'' and, ''It's not legislation that has, like, a loophole for the mentally ill. It's a rule **specifically for** mentally ill people to get guns.'' In truth, H.J.Res.40 merely prevents SSA from improperly adding names to the NICS database; it does not remove information from the system.
In a curious piece of misinformation, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board argued that the new SSA rule didn't implicate the rights of Social Security beneficiaries. The paper claimed the SSA rule ''would not have denied guns to mentally ill citizens'' and was simply an additional screening procedure.
This episode has further exposed the incredible depths of the mainstream media's bias against gun rights and gun owners. In recent weeks, some in the media have urged others to abandon the term ''fake news,'' noting that it has been co-opted and used to point out media bias. Rather than police the language, were the legacy media to dedicate itself to focusing more on the news and less on the fake, this problem would solve itself.
School Shooters & Stabbings Committed by those on Psychiatric Drugs | CCHR International
Fri, 16 Feb 2018 05:14
Search side effects of psychiatric drugs
Search >At least 35 acts of school-related acts of violence, including mass school shootings, have been committed by individuals taking or withdrawing from psychiatric drugs documented in 27 drug regulatory agency warnings to cause mania, psychosis, hostility, aggression and homicidal ideation.
Fact: At least 36 school shootings and/or school-related acts of violence have been committed by those taking or withdrawing from psychiatric drugs resulting in 172 wounded and 80 killed (in other school shootings, information about their drug use was never made public'--neither confirming or refuting if they were under the influence of prescribed drugs). The most important fact about this list, is that these are only cases where the information about their psychiatric drug use was made public. (See full list below)
The below list includes individuals documented to have been under the influence of psychiatric drugs and not only includes mass shootings, but the use of knives, swords and bombs. 27 international drug regulatory agency warnings cite side effects including mania, violence, psychosis and even homicidal ideation.
Austin, Texas '' May 1, 2017: Kendrex J. White, 21, stabbed four people with a machete-like hunting knife at the University of Texas, killing one and wounding three. The stabbings occurred within a one-block area as the attacker ''calmly walked around the plaza,'' according to the chief of police. After he was arrested, White told police he did not remember the attack. The police department said that White had recently been involuntarily committed in another city, and county records showed that he had been arrested and charged with a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) on April 4, 2017. When an officer spoke to him, White said he had taken two ''happy pills,'' listed as the antidepressant Zoloft.Tallahassee, Florida '' November 20, 2014: 31-year-old Myron May, a Florida State University alum, opened fire in the school's library, wounding three before he was shot and killed by police. ABC Action News found a half-filled prescription for the antianxiety drug Hydroxyzine in his apartment after the shooting. In addition, according to May's friends, he had seen a psychologist and had been prescribed the antidepressant Wellbutrin and the ADHD drug Vyvanse. He also checked himself in to a mental health center called Mesilla Valley Hospital around September of 2014. Shortly after this, his friends discovered the antipsychotic Seroquel among his prescriptions.Seattle, Washington '' June 5, 2014: 26-year-old Aaron Ybarra opened fire with a shotgun at Seattle Pacific University, killing one student and wounding two others. Ybarra planned to kill as many people as possible and then kill himself. In 2012, Ybarra reported that he had been prescribed the antidepressant Prozac and antipsychotic Risperdal. A report from his counselor in December of 2013 said that he was taking Prozac at the time and planned to continue to meet with his psychiatrist and therapist as needed. His lawyer also said that Ybarra had a long history of mental health issues for which he was taking prescribed drugs for at the time of the shooting.Milford, Connecticut '' April 25, 2014: 16-year-old Chris Plaskon stabbed Maren Sanchez, also 16, to death in a stairwell at Jonathan Law High School after she turned down his prom invitation. According to classmates and a former close friend, Chris was taking drugs for ADHD.Sparks, Nevada '' October 21, 2013: 12-year-old Jose Reyes opened fire at Sparks Middle School, killing a teacher and wounding two classmates before committing suicide. The investigation revealed that he had been seeing a psychiatrist and had a generic version of Prozac (fluoxetine) in his system at the time of death.St. Louis, Missouri '' January 15, 2013: 34-year-old Sean Johnson walked onto the Stevens Institute of Business & Arts campus and shot the school's financial aid director once in the chest, then shot himself in the torso. Johnson had been taking prescribed drugs for an undisclosed mental illness.Snohomish County, Washington '' October 24, 2011: A 15-year-old girl went to Snohomish High School where police alleged that she stabbed a girl as many as 25 times just before the start of school, and then stabbed another girl who tried to help her injured friend. Prior to the attack the girl had been taking ''medication'' and seeing a psychiatrist. Court documents said the girl was being treated for depression.Planoise, France '' December 13, 2010: A 17-year-old youth held twenty pre-school children and their teacher hostage for hours at Charles Fourier preschool. The teen was reported to be on ''medication for depression''. He took a classroom hostage with two swords. Eventually, all the children and the teacher were released safely.Myrtle Beach, South Carolina '' September 21, 2011: 14-year-old Christian Helms had two pipe bombs in his backpack, when he shot and wounded Socastee High School's ''resource'' (police) officer. However the officer was able to stop the student before he could do anything further. Evidence showed that he was planning an attack similar to the Columbine High School shooting and had even made a list of who he was going to kill. Helms had been taking drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression.Huntsville, Alabama '' February 5, 2010: 15-year-old Hammad Memon shot and killed another Discover Middle School student Todd Brown. Memon had a history for being treated for ADHD and depression. He was taking the antidepressant Zoloft and ''other drugs for the conditions.'' He had been seeing a psychiatrist and psychologist.Kauhajoki, Finland '' September 23, 2008: 22-year-old culinary student Matti Saari shot and killed 9 students and a teacher, and wounded another student, before killing himself. Saari was taking an SSRI and alprazolam (Xanax). He was also seeing a psychologist.Fresno, California '' April 24, 2008: 17-year-old Jesus ''Jesse'' Carrizales attacked the Fresno high school's officer, hitting him in the head with a baseball bat. After knocking the officer down, the officer shot Carrizales in self-defense, killing him. Carrizales had been prescribed Lexapro and Geodon, and his autopsy showed that he had a high dose of the antidepressant Lexapro in his blood that could have caused him to be paranoid, according to the coroner.DeKalb, Illinois '' February 14, 2008: 27-year-old Steven Kazmierczak shot and killed five people and wounded 21 others before killing himself in a Northern Illinois University auditorium. According to his girlfriend, he had recently been taking the prescribed drugs Prozac, Xanax and Ambien but had stopped taking Prozac three weeks before the shooting. Toxicology results showed that he still had trace amount of Xanax in his system. He had been seeing a psychiatrist.Jokela, Finland '' November 7, 2007: 18-year-old Finnish gunman Pekka-Eric Auvinen had been taking antidepressants before he killed eight people and wounded a dozen more at Jokela High School in southern Finland, then committed suicide.Texas '' November 7, 2007: 17-year-old Felicia McMillan returned to her former Robert E. Lee High School campus and stabbed a male student and wounded the principle with a knife. McMillan had been on drugs for depression, and had just taken them the night before the incident.Cleveland, Ohio '' October 10, 2007: 14-year-old Asa Coon stormed through his school with a gun in each hand, shooting and wounding four before taking his own life. Coon had been prescribed the antidepressant Trazodone.Sudbury, Massachusetts '' January 19, 2007: 16-year-old John Odgren stabbed another student to death with a large kitchen knife in a boy's bathroom at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School. In court his father testified that Odgren was prescribed the drug Ritalin.North Vernon, Indiana '' December 4, 2006: 16-year-old Travis Roberson stabbed another Jennings County High School student in the neck, nearly severing an artery. Roberson was in withdrawal from Wellbutrin, which he had stopped taking days before the attack.Hillsborough, North Carolina '' August 30, 2006: 19-year-old Alvaro Rafael Castillo shot and killed his father, then drove to Orange High School where he opened fire. Two students were injured in the shooting, which ended when school personnel tackled him. His mother said he was on drugs for depression.Chapel Hill, North Carolina '' April 24, 2006: 17-year-old William Barrett Foster took a shotgun to school and took a teacher and a fellow student hostage at East Chapel Hill High School. After being talked out of shooting the hostages, Foster fired two shots through a classroom window before fleeing the school on foot. Foster's father testified that his son had stopped taking his antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs without telling him.Red Lake, Minnesota '' March 21, 2005: 16-year-old Jeff Weise, on Prozac, shot and killed his grandfather and his grandfather's girlfriend, then went to his school on the Red Lake Indian Reservation where he shot dead 5 students, a security guard, and a teacher, and wounded 7 before killing himself.Greenbush, New York '' February 9, 2004: 16-year-old Jon Romano strolled into his high school in east Greenbush and opened fire with a shotgun. Special education teacher Michael Bennett was hit in the leg. Romano had been taking the antianxiety drug Xanax. He had previously spent time in a psychiatric care facility.Red Lion, Pennsylvania '' February 2, 2001: 56-year-old William Michael Stankewicz entered North Hopewell-Winterstown Elementary School with a machete, leaving three adults and 11 children injured. Stankewicz was taking four different drugs for depression and anxiety weeks before the attacks.Ikeda, Japan '' June 8, 2001: 37-year-old Mamoru Takuma, wielding a 6-inch knife, slipped into an elementary school and stabbed eight first- and second-graders to death while wounding at least 15 other pupils and teachers. He then turned the knife on himself but suffered only superficial wounds. He later told interrogators that before the attack he had taken 10 times his normal dose of antidepressants. Police said he had been under the care of a psychiatrist.Wahluke, Washington '' April 10, 2001: Sixteen-year-old Cory Baadsgaard took a rifle to his high school and held 23 classmates and a teacher hostage. Three weeks earlier, his doctor had switched Baadsgaard's prescription from Paxil to Effexor. The morning of the incident, his dosage of Effexor had been increased. Baadsgaard said he had no memory of the incident.El Cajon, California '' March 22, 2001: 18-year-old Jason Hoffman, on the antidepressants Celexa and Effexor, opened fire on his classmates, wounding three students and two teachers at Granite Hills High School. He had been seeing a psychiatrist before the shooting.Williamsport, Pennsylvania '' March 7, 2001: 14-year-old Elizabeth Bush was taking the antidepressant Prozac when she shot at fellow students, wounding one.Oxnard, California '' January 10, 2001: 17-year-old Richard Lopez went to Hueneme High School with a gun and shot twice at a car in the school's parking lot before taking a female student hostage. Lopez was eventually killed by a SWAT officer. He had been prescribed Prozac, Paxil and ''drugs that helped him go to sleep.''Conyers, Georgia '' May 20, 1999: 15-year-old T.J. Solomon was being treated with the stimulant Ritalin when he opened fire on and wounded six of his classmates.Columbine, Colorado '' April 20, 1999: 18-year-old Eric Harris and his accomplice, Dylan Klebold, killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded 26 others before killing themselves. Harris was on the antidepressant Luvox. Klebold's medical records remain sealed. Both shooters had been in anger-management classes and had undergone counseling. Harris had been seeing a psychiatrist before the shooting.Notus, Idaho '' April 16, 1999: 15-year-old Shawn Cooper fired two shotgun rounds in his school, injuring one student. He was taking a prescribed antidepressant and Ritalin.Springfield, Oregon '' May 21, 1998: 15-year-old Kip Kinkel murdered his parents and then proceeded to school where he opened fire on students in the cafeteria, killing two and wounding 25. Kinkel had been taking the antidepressant Prozac. Kinkel had been attending ''anger control classes'' and had previously been under the care of a psychologist.Blackville, South Carolina '' October 12, 1995: 15-year-old Toby R. Sincino slipped into the Blackville-Hilda High School's rear entrance, where he shot two Blackville-Hilda High School teachers, killing one. Then Toby killed himself moments later. His aunt, Carolyn McCreary, said he had been undergoing counseling with the Department of Mental Health and was taking Zoloft for emotional problems.Chelsea, Michigan '' December 16, 1993: 39-year-old chemistry teacher Stephen Leith, facing a disciplinary matter at Chelsea High School, shot Superintendent Joseph Piasecki to death, shot Principal Ron Mead in the leg, and slightly wounded journalism teacher Phil Jones. Leith was taking Prozac and had been seeing a psychiatrist.Houston, Texas '' September 18, 1992: 44-year-old Calvin Charles Bell, reportedly upset about his second-grader's progress report, appeared in the principal's office of Piney Point Elementary School. Bell fired a gun in the school, and eventually wounded two officers before surrendering. Relatives told police on Friday that Bell was an unemployed Vietnam veteran and had been taking anti-depressants.Winnetka, Illinois '' 20 May 1988: 30-year-old Laurie Wasserman Dann walked into a second grade classroom at Hubbard Woods School in Winnetka, Illinois carrying three pistols and began shooting children, killing an eight-year-old boy, and wounding five others before fleeing. She entered a nearby house where she shot and wounded a 20-year-old man before killing herself. Dann had been seeing a psychiatrist and subsequent blood tests revealed that at the time of the killings, she was taking the antidepressant Anafranil.For more information read Another School Shooting, Another Psychiatric Drug? Federal Investigation Long Overdue
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Fla. gunman suspect Esteban Santiago said CIA was controlling him - NY Daily News
Fri, 16 Feb 2018 13:00
Kyle Clayton, Christopher Brennan, Jessica Schladebeck, Denis Slattery · Jan 7, 2017 8:27 AM
The 26-year-old New Jersey-born Iraq veteran accused of executing five people and wounding eight others at a Florida airport claimed just two months ago that he was hearing voices.
It was part of a difficult adjustment to civilian life after serving overseas. He sat in an FBI office in Anchorage, Alaska, in November, claiming the CIA was forcing him to join ISIS. He also became a father for the first time last year and was struggling to take care of himself, let alone a child.
On Friday, Esteban Santiago snapped, opening fire near the baggage claim area at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. He reloaded, fired until he was out of bullets and calmly surrendered without saying a word.
Santiago was born in New Jersey but moved to Puerto Rico when he was 2, relatives said.
Fort Lauderdale joins long list of soft targets in America
He grew up in the southern coastal town of Penuelas before joining the National Guard in 2007, and served with that unit in Iraq from April 2010 to February 2011.
From there, Santiago spiraled down a dark descent that included a less than honorable discharge, arrests for domestic violence and now the first mass shooting on U.S. soil in 2017.
In November, the Army vet walked into an Anchorage FBI office and unleashed a torrent of conspiracy theories.
A law enforcement official says he told the FBI that the government was controlling his mind and was forcing him to watch ISIS videos.
Fla. politician claims gun bill could have saved airport victims
Santiago appeared incoherent at times, a source told ABC News.
The FBI agents notified local police after the interview, who took him for a mental health evaluation.
A spokeswoman for the Anchorage Police Department referred all questions about Santiago to the FBI.
People run for cover on the tarmac of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport after a shooting took place near the baggage claim on Jan. 6, 2017 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. '²
Airport worker Ivanna Cespedes reacts after a deadly shooting at Fort Lauderdale Airport in Florida on Jan. 6, 2017. '²
People stand on the tarmac at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport after a lone shooter opened fire inside the terminal, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. '²
Police assist people seeking cover outside Terminal 2 of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport after a shooting took place near the baggage claim on Jan. 6, 2017 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. '²
A family takes cover behind a pole at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport after a gunmen opened fire in the baggage claim area at the airport on Jan. 6, 2017. '²
People take cover outsideTerminal 2 of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport after a shooting took place near the baggage claim on Jan. 6, 2017 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. '²
First responders secure the area outside the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport after a shooting took place near the baggage claim on Jan. 6, 2017 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. '²
People take cover behind vehicles at Fort Lauderdale'¬Hollywood International Airport, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. A gunman opened fire in the baggage claim area at the airport Friday, killing several people and wounding others before being taken into custody in an attack that sent panicked passengers running out of the terminal and onto the tarmac, authorities said. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) '²
Continue to Full GalleryFBI agent George Piro, who is in charge of the Miami field office, confirmed that Santiago had come into the Anchorage office and said he clearly indicated at the time that he was not intent on hurting anyone.
Fla. gunman suspect Esteban Santiago said CIA was controlling him
On Thursday, Santiago took a red-eye flight out of Anchorage with only one piece of checked luggage '-- containing a 9-mm. handgun. He flew to St. Paul/Minneapolis and then took a connecting flight to Fort Lauderdale.
After landing just after noon on Friday, Santiago retrieved the gun from his checked bag and opened fire in the airport.
His uncle and aunt in Union City, N.J., were trying to make sense of what happened Friday.
FBI agents and reporters swarmed their home and they spoke briefly about their nephew.
Five dead, 8 wounded after shooting at Fort Lauderdale Airport
Esteban Santiago is transported to the Broward County Main Jail by authorities early Saturday morning. Image by: Jim Rassol/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP Maria Ruiz told ''Noticias Telemundo'' Santiago was hospitalized for two weeks after he visited the FBI.
''They had him in an isolated room because he was a little wrong in the head and he started to like hear things,'' Ruiz said. ''I am not saying he had mental problems. He just didn't seem right to me but he looked like a normal kid.''
And then after he goes to Alaska that happened. And now this, so he wasn't alright.''
A photo from September shows Santiago peacefully gazing down at an infant cradled in his arms.
''It was like he lost his mind,'' Ruiz said of his return from Iraq. ''He said he saw things.''
Santiago, an Iraq veteran, was identified as the gunman who opened fire Friday in the Fort Lauderdale International Airport. Image by: Obtained by Daily News Upon his return, Santiago served in the Army Reserves and the Alaska National Guard in Fairbanks.
He was serving as a combat engineer before his discharge for ''unsatisfactory performance,'' said Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead, a spokeswoman.
His military rank was E3, private 1st class, and he worked one weekend a month with an additional 15 days of training yearly, Olmstead said.
She would not elaborate on his discharge, but the Pentagon said he'd gone AWOL several times and was demoted and discharged.
Still, he'd had some successes during his military career, being awarded a number of medals and commendations, including the Iraq Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Terrified passengers take cover at Fort Lauderdale's Hollywood International Airport on Friday afternoon. Image by: Paul E. Kostyu/AP Santiago was charged in a domestic violence case in January 2016, damaging a door when he forced his way into a bathroom at his girlfriend's Anchorage home. The woman told officers he strangled her and smacked her on the side of the head, according to court documents.
A month later prosecutors said he violated the conditions of his release when officers found him at the home during a routine check.
He told police he had lived there since he was released from custody the previous month.
Police on Friday blocked off access to the small one-story home, attached to what appeared to be an old motel in a rundown section of Anchorage.
Neighbors said they often saw children in the home and one described Santiago as keeping to himself.
A shooting victim is rushed into Broward Health Trauma Center in Fort Lauderdale after the airport attack. Image by: Taimy Alvarez/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP ''He was super quiet and I barely ever heard from him,'' said Eric Brown.
He was also ticketed for minor traffic infractions, including allegedly driving without insurance and having a broken taillight in April 2015.
A landlord also filed eviction proceedings against him in February 2015, stating he had failed to pay his rent.
He was also investigated as part of a child porn investigation in either 2011 or 2012, law enforcement sources told CBS News. Three weapons and a computer were seized, but no charges were filed, sources said.
Santiago had moved to Anchorage two years ago to get a fresh start, his brother said.
He found a job with a security company and had been ''fighting with a lot of people'' while in Alaska and was having relationship issues. Still, he could not imagine his sibling unleashing the carnage that unfolded in Fort Lauderdale.
''He is a regular person, spiritual, a good person,'' he told NBC News.
Santiago was doing his best to maintain a sense of normalcy, his brother said.
Bryan Santiago said his brother's girlfriend had recently called the family to alert them to his psychological treatment.
He said his brother never spoke to him directly about his medical issues.
''We have not talked for the past three weeks,'' Bryan Santiago said. ''That's a bit unusual ... I'm in shock. He was a serious person ... He was a normal person.''
With News Wire Services
Massacre school in Parkland will be torn down | Miami Herald
Sat, 17 Feb 2018 23:52
Students will never be returning to Building 12 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School again.
Florida legislators said Thursday they will provide the resources to help the Broward School District tear down Building 12, the site of the massacre that killed 17 students and teachers. They want to build a new classroom space and replace the site of the murders with a memorial to honor the victims and their families.
''This building has to come down,'' Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, told the Miami Herald on Friday after visiting the school the day before. He said the horror was palpable.
''Everything was strewn across the halls from people running and dodging and there were significant blood splatters on the wall,'' he recalled. ''Like someone took a milk jug and exploded it.''
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''These kids are not going to go back into that building ever again,'' said Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, who was with Galvano. She had encouraged Galvano and Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, to travel from Tallahassee and visit the high school Thursday before attending an evening vigil for victims.
''We need to take a serious look at tearing down that building and build a facility that these kids could return to and be proud of,'' Simpson said Friday. Early estimates indicate the cost of a replacement building is between $25 million and $30 million, he said.
''It will still be very difficult for students to return,'' Galvano said. ''But that particular building should be razed, and the memory of the perpetrator erased and a memorial honoring the victims and their families be put in its place.''
A huge crowd gathered at a vigil Thursday afternoon, Feb. 15, 2018, one day after a shooter took the lives of 17 innocent students, teachers and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Emily Michot Miami Herald
Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie told the Miami Herald on Friday afternoon he agrees that the building, which serves 900 students, should never be reopened.
''Parents and students have told me very clearly they're not going to go back into that building and I believe they're right,'' he said. ''In an ideal world there would be sufficient funding to do a replacement building at a different site on the campus and then erect a memorial on that location.''
Sheriff Scott Israel demanded gun law changes at a vigil for the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school shooting held in Parkland Thursday night. Israel had a stern warning for politicians not willing to help change gun laws. Emily Michot Miami Herald
Related stories from Miami HeraldMeanwhile, he said the school district was still reviewing its plan for returning students to school, will likely decide on a plan over the next 24 to 48 hours and hopes to announce a decision over the weekend.
The most likely scenario is that teachers would be the first to return in order to give them a day to prepare for the arrival of students, Runcie said.
Nikolas Cruz threatened to kill people in private chat | Daily Mail Online
Sun, 18 Feb 2018 12:38
The Florida teen accused shooting and killing 17 people at his former high school on Wednesday was reportedly in a private group chat on Instagram where he regularly discussed his hatred of African Americans and Jewish people and openly talked about his desire to commit murder.
Nikolas Cruz, who allegedly confessed to Wednesday's shooting saying 'demon voices' told him how to pull off the massacre, was one of the members added to 'Murica (American flag emoji) (eagle emoji) great', a group chat where hatred and violence were often the main topics of discussion.
According to CNN, Cruz joined the private chat around August 2017 and mainly conversed with five of its members. The outlet reports that most of the people in the chat appear to be younger than 18 and refused to reveal their identities.
Nikolas Cruz is accused of killing 17 people at his former high school Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday
Cruz was reportedly in a private Instagram group chat where he talked about his love for guns and violence
The 19-year-old also bragged about killing birds with his gun, one current member of the group told CNN
In one message, Cruz said that he wanted to kill people but later claimed it was a joke after a member told him not to say things like that
With one of his paychecks, Cruz purchased a bullet proof vest, pictured above
CNN also reports that Cruz was the one who gave the chat its name.
In one message Cruz sent to the group the 19-year-old reportedly discussed his hatred for 'jews, n******, immigrants'. He also talked about killing Mexicans and keeping black people in chains and cutting their necks.
One member reportedly joked about Cruz's hatred toward African Americans writing that he hated black people, too, but not 'to a point I wanna kill the (sic) like nick'.
Cruz told the members that he did not like black people simply because they were black. He said his dislike for Jewish people was because he believed they wanted to destroy the world.
In one message, Cruz told the members that his birth mother was Jewish and said he was glad he never met her. Cruz was adopted by Roger and Lynda Cruz when he was a child.
Lynda died in November after getting sick with the flu and pneumonia. Roger died from a heart attack in 2004. Following the deaths of his adoptive parents, Cruz was taken in by James and Kimberly Snead, and their 17-year-old son, who went to school with Cruz.
The confessed killer also expressed his hatred for gay people, at one point writing that they should be shot 'in the back of the head'.
Cruz is pictured above doing target practice outside the Parkland home he was staying at
Cruz purchased his AR-15 at Sunrise Tactical Supply store in Coral Springs, Florida
Cruz also posted numerous photos on his Instagram page of his guns
In one Instagram post, Cruz shared a photo of a target riddled with bullet holes
CNN reports that hundreds of racist messages, videos and memes were shared in the group. Some of the vile messages targeted white women who were in interracial relationships. According to Cruz, they were traitors.
The teen also talked about his love for guns and violence telling members that he used his $330 paycheck to buy body armor. He then asked the group whether it was legal to wear the armor to school.
When someone asked why he wanted to know, he reportedly replied: 'school shooters'.
At one point, Cruz allegedly threatened: 'I think I am going to kill people'. He later said he was joking when another member told him not to say things like that.
In another message, Cruz posted about killing animals saying that he killed a number of birds with his gun.
CNN reports that his first message in the chat was to brag about sending a letter to President Donald Trump and allegedly getting a response from the White House.
17 people were killed in Wednesday's massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
Cruz, pictured above during his arrest, was arraigned on 17 counts of murder
White House officials have not said whether Cruz actually did send a letter and get a reply back.
It's unclear if any of the members ever reported Cruz's disturbing messages to Instagram. The company did yet return the Daily Mail's request for comment on what, if any, polices are in place to monitor private group messages.
Cruz is accused of killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday. He was arraigned on 17 counts of premeditated murder '' charges that carry the possibility of the death penalty.
I was able to buy an AR-15 in five minutes
Sun, 18 Feb 2018 12:33
I'm 20 and my ID is expired
Two days after the worst mass shooting in American history, and my local gun shop in Virginia showed no hesitation in selling me an AR-15.
In fact, they really wanted me to buy it. And I was only there for five minutes.
As I was watching CNN Tuesday morning, I thought it was crazy how the first thing society jumps to after such a tragic event was gun rights. I began to think of how much my hometown loves the Second Amendment, and I wondered exactly how hard it would be for me to walk up and buy a gun. Well, I didn't have anything better to do, so I got in my car and did exactly that.
I walked into the store and told them I was interested in something for home protection and target practice. The woman behind the counter smiled and asked, ''Rifle or shotgun?''
The AR-15 they tried to sell me
The shotguns they had in stock honestly looked pretty cool (I occasionally go to the range with my dad), so I asked to look at one of the 12-gauges on the wall. As I was examining the weapon, the lady told me it was a good choice for home defense.
I then asked if I could take a quick picture of it to help me decide, to which she replied, ''Absolutely! Let me get a board for you to set it on.'' By this time, I thought it was pretty surprising how I was never asked about my age, intent, or experience with firearms.
More like this '' Online comments reveal Florida gunman Nikolas Cruz idolized Santa Barbara shooter Elliot Rodger
After I set the gun down to take a photo of it, the manager of the store walked up and finally asked my age. When he learned that I was 20, he simply took a shoulder stock from a cabinet and set it right beside the gun.
''Wait,'' I said. ''Just adding a butt to the rifle lowers the buying age from 21 to 18?''
The two sellers smiled and nodded. They then informed me that I couldn't purchase a handgun, but I could buy a shotgun or rifle as long as it had a stock.
''Now do you want to take a look at the AR-15s?'' the lady asked me.
I was taken by surprise a bit. This is the AR-15, the same weapon the gunman in Orlando used to kill 50 people; the same weapon used in the terrorist attack that occurred two days ago. It was also the weapon used in the massacres at Sandy Hook, the Aurora movie theatre, Umpqua Community College, and San Bernardino.
I never had to ask to see it, I was offered to check it out. I walked over to an employee who was no older than myself. He began to show me an AR-15 which cost $669, and told me it was popular due to the control and grip. He even told me he had one and really liked it.
I took out my phone and asked if I could get my picture taken with the firearm. He simply took the phone and snapped a photo without asking, as if it was part of his daily job.
After exchanging conversation for about five minutes, I asked, ''Can I buy this today?'' The seller replied, ''Yeah, sure. I just need to see your driver's license and have you fill out the paperwork.''
More like this '' ''I'm going to be a school shooter': FBI alerted about Florida gunman last year
I gave him my license, then reached for my receipt showing I renewed it the week before. Before I even got it out of my pocket, the employee told me I was good and I just needed my vehicle registration for verification. He didn't notice that my license had expired recently.
When I came back from my car with the vehicle registration, he was sitting at the front desk with the paperwork and weapon ready.
''Just fill this out and you're good to go.''
Just adding a butt to the rifle lowers the buying age from 21 to 18
After he walked me through the paperwork, all five pages of it, I told him I changed my mind and wanted to think more before I bought an AR-15. He told me it wasn't a problem and listed the store hours if I wanted to come back. I then said thank you and walked back to my car.
Seconds. It took seconds for the salesman to take an AR-15 off the shelf and begin selling it to me. If I had stayed for maybe three minutes longer to fill out less paperwork than I did for the hiring process at my school's bookstore, I would've driven home with an AR-15.
No delay. No extensive background check. Just my recently expired driver's license, my vehicle registration, and filling out some paperwork.
Ultimately these are the laws we have, this shop hasn't done anything wrong. But if a 20-year-old college student can walk into a gun shop and be out in minutes with an AR-15, and you believe nothing needs to be changed, you need help.
White nationalist appears to disavow connection with shooter
Sun, 18 Feb 2018 14:48
PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) '-- A white nationalist appears to have lied to The Associated Press and other news organizations when he claimed that Florida school-shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz was a member of his obscure group.
Law enforcement officials have said they didn't have any evidence to support the claim that Republic of Florida leader Jordan Jereb made in interviews with several news organizations.
Jereb told The Associated Press on Thursday that Cruz had participated in paramilitary drills in Tallahassee, where his group is based. Jereb said he didn't know Cruz personally and that "he acted on his own behalf of what he just did and he's solely responsible for what he just did."
Jereb told the Miami Herald that he knew "with certainty" that Cruz "had something to do with us." He told the Daily Beast that Cruz "wasn't particularly active" in his group but came to Tallahassee with a "secretive cell" from Clearwater, Florida. ABC News reported that three former schoolmates of Cruz said he was part of the Republic of Florida and was often seen with Jereb.
Law enforcement officials said they hadn't confirmed any such ties.
"We've heard that. We're looking into that," Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said.
Lt. Grady Jordan, a spokesman for the Leon County Sheriff's Office in Tallahassee, said he knew of "no known ties" between Cruz and Jereb's group. Jordan said his office has arrested Jereb at least four times since January 2014 and has been monitoring the group's membership. He says his office has "very solid" information on the group and believes it has never had more than 10 members.
Jereb quickly backed away from his claims. Someone posting under Jereb's name on Gab, a social media site popular with far-right extremists, complained about getting criticized over a "prank."
"There was a legit misunderstanding because we have MULTIPLE people named Nicholas in ROF," the user wrote. "And I got a bunch of conflicting information and I have not slept for like 2 days."
Jereb did not respond to repeated phone calls from AP to clarify.
The Anti-Defamation League also said it spoke with Jereb, who told it that Cruz was associated with his group and had been "brought up" by another member. Later Thursday, however, the ADL noted that someone posting in a discussion forum for far-right extremists said the claims were part of an elaborate attempt to dupe news outlets.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups, also said it hadn't confirmed Jereb's claims.
"It may seem odd that Jereb would bring attention to his group by claiming a connection to Cruz, but Jereb has always been somewhat of a publicity seeker. In 2014, in fact, he wrote us to complain that we had not already listed (Republic of Florida) as a hate group," Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, said in a statement Thursday.
Inside the World of Columbine-Obsessed Tumblr Bloggers - VICE
Sun, 18 Feb 2018 15:29
Photo via WikiMedia Commons
This post originally appeared on VICE Canada.
The violent and gruesome world of Columbine blogs surfaced last week following the death of 19-year-old Nova Scotian James Gamble, who police allege helped plan a foiled Valentine's Day shooting at a Halifax mall.
Gamble's Tumblr was dedicated to the two infamous shooters who killed 13 people at the Colorado high school in 1999. When a tipster told police about the plan to shoot up the Halifax Shopping Centre on Valentine's Day, Gamble reportedly committed suicide, and police charged Randall Steven Shepherd of Halifax and Lindsay Kantha Souvannarath of Illinois with conspiracy to commit murder and arson.
Police say the alleged plotters met online. Gamble and Souvannarath posted on Tumblr about their upcoming Valentine's Day plans under the "Columbine" tag, which is used by a dedicated global community of Columbine.
I was curious about this Tumblr community, so I Skyped a few of the so-called "Columbiners"'--people who are obsessed with the shooting and Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the teens who did it'--who followed Gamble's blog. Despite the creepy content they posted, they were fairly personable, and some were willing to talk.
I should be clear about one thing up top: Unlike Gamble, none of the three bloggers I spoke with advocate murder, though like him, they have all struggled with suicidal thoughts.
Based on the US West Coast, 26-year-old Natasha (not her real name) runs a true crime blog with 11,000 followers. Her Tumblr, True Crime Hot House, is home to her obsession with murderers, and she posts letters and art that incarcerated serial killers send her through the mail. (Though she sometimes posts about Columbine, she wouldn't call herself a full-blown Columbiner.)
Pictures of various school shooters. From top left to right: Michael Carneal, Brandon McInerney, John Jason McLaughlin, Kipland Kinkel, and Eric Hainstock. Bottom left to right: Charles Andy Williams, Bobby Gladden prison yard photo
Natasha and Gamble followed each other on Tumblr. When she heard about his death, Natasha posted a eulogy for the 19-year-old: "James, you ran a cool blog and will be missed."
She wrote that Tumblr users posting "rude and thoughtless" comments should think of his friends and family. She also encouraged people with suicidal thoughts to reach out to someone. "I promise I am always here to talk to anyone who feels like they've hit their rock bottom," she wrote.
Younger Columbiners often message her about suicidal thoughts they've had. Like Gamble, a lot of them post about self-harm and suicide, but she says it's hard to know when it's just internet talk and when it's serious.
Gamble's death and the alleged shooting plot took the community by surprise, Natasha says. They didn't see any warning signs. There are more extreme blogs than his, she explains.
The true crime Tumblr community is a varied group. Many bloggers are in their teens. Some are interested in the criminology surrounding serial killers and mass murderers. Others relate to the two Columbine shooters'--known in the community by their first names Eric and Dylan'--and want to copy them.
On February 8, four days before Gamble's death, a commenter on his blog asked, "Do you have combat boots like Dylan?" He replied, "Indeed I do," and posted a photo of himself wearing the boots and holding a long gun and hunting knife.
His blog is also full of glorified Nazi imagery. That's because the Columbine shooters were interested in the Nazis and Hitler, Natasha explains.
She doesn't post that stuff. "I see so many people doing it'--not that I condone it. It's this weird trend," she says. "Strangely it's become hip."
She thinks the posters have "displaced hate."
Not everyone in the community advocates murder or posts Nazi imagery. "James didn't represent the whole true crime community, [and] I don't represent the whole true crime community," Natasha says.
Art by school shooter Bobby Gladden, who was extremely interested in Columbine.
Dana is a 16-year-old Australian who runs a Columbine blog with 500 followers that's dedicated to the victims of the massacre. Not many Australians are interested in Columbine, she says, so most of her followers are in the US.
Dana first learned about Columbine when she was cast as a mass shooter in a school play and started researching the role. The story grabbed her "because it was unlike any other shooting."
"It's human nature to want to know more about death," she says.
Dana says people who are depressed or suicidal can get pulled into the subculture. The two murderers were young, so people her age can relate to them.
"You've got Eric, who was the more homicidal of the pair, and Dylan who was the more suicidal of the pair," she says. "Putting those together sort of represents the way a lot of young people are feeling."
There are people in the community who want to present the facts about Columbine, and others who want to place the shooters on a pedestal, she says. A small number of people have "malicious intentions."
"The public needs to understand the majority of us are people who would never consider doing anything malicious," Dana emphasizes.
Lydia is the same age as Dana. The 16-year-old runs a Columbine blog out of Latvia with 540 followers. She didn't want us to use her real name because she worried her school would find out about her blog.
Lydia learned about the 1999 massacre about a year ago when school shootings came up in her class. She searched for more information and found one of the shooters' diaries online.
"When I first read some pages of Dylan Klebold's journal, I realized he was going through a lot of things that I was going through," she said. "Feeling lost, sad, having suicidal thoughts and other things like that really applied to me. It almost made me forget that this was written by a future mass murderer."
Columbine yearbooks, 1994 to 1997, owned by blogger Natasha.
In the Columbine Tumblr community, she found other people like her.
She says the perception that Columbiners are violent is wrong. Many of them have helped her deal with the dark thoughts. If she's feeling down, she posts about it and her followers send her messages that make her feel better. Lydia said she is also talking to a counsellor.
Some Columbiners advocate violence, Lydia says, "but there aren't that many of them."
Dana, the Australian blogger, says people don't need to be worried about the Columbiner subculture on Tumblr, but the threats within the community shouldn't be taken lightly.
"Every threat and every suicidal claim should be taken seriously, because you never know if they're going to do it or not," she says. "And you always need to assume that they are."
If you have suicidal thoughts, you can find a list of Canadian help lines here, and crisis centers here. If you're in the US, click herefor a help line that will connect you with a trained counsellor.
Follow Hilary Beaumont on Twitter.
Florida suspect said he heard voices telling him to carry out massacre: Sources - ABC News
Sun, 18 Feb 2018 15:21
The 19-year-old who is accused of killing 17 people and injuring dozens more when he opened fire on a South Florida high school Wednesday afternoon told investigators that he heard voices in his head, giving him instructions on what to do to conduct the attack, law enforcement sources told ABC News.
Interested in Florida School Shooting? Add Florida School Shooting as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Florida School Shooting news, video, and analysis from ABC News. The voices were described as "demons" by law enforcement sources.
Those who knew suspect Nikolas Cruz described him as a troubled teen who was largely alone in the world. An attorney for the family who had taken Cruz in after his adoptive mother died said he was "depressed" following her death but had been going to therapy, while a student who participated in Junior ROTC with Cruz described him as a "psycho" who was enthusiastic about weapons.
Cruz was apprehended by authorities more than an hour after he was dropped off on campus by an Uber, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said in a press conference Thursday.
Brynn Anderson/AP Students Nicole Baltzer, right, and Alex Debs, embrace, Feb. 15, 2018, in Parkland, Fla., during a community vigil for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. After Cruz was apprehended and read his Miranda rights, he allegedly stated to authorities that he was the gunman who entered the school with an AR-15-style rifle and began shooting students he saw in the hallways and on school grounds, according to a probable cause affidavit from the Broward County Sheriff's Office. He also allegedly stated that he brought additional loaded magazines to campus and kept them hidden in a backpack until he got there and began the attack, the affidavit states.
Broward Health hospitals received 17 patients after Wednesday's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. As of Friday morning, those hospitals had one patient in critical condition, seven patients in fair condition and one patient in good condition, according to a statement from Broward Health.
Cruz attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School from Jan. 13, 2016, to Feb. 8, 2017, according to school records obtained by ABC Miami affiliate WPLG.
Cruz bought the weapon allegedly used in the crime just three days after his last day attending the school, on Feb. 11, and picked it up one week later on Feb. 18, 2017, following a background check, an attorney for the gun store owner said in a statement.
SLIDESHOW: IN PHOTOS: Chilling Scenes from the Parkland Florida School Shooting An assault involving Cruz occurred on Jan. 19, 2017, the records show. On that same day, he was suspended for one day and a threat assessment was ordered for him. He had been suspended for two days one month earlier. It is unclear what the result of the threat assessment was or whether one was even conducted.
School officials declined to answer questions about Cruz's record, citing privacy rules.
Here is the timeline of how the shooting unfolded on Wednesday, according to authorities:
2:06 p.m.An Uber driver picks up Cruz, according to a timeline from the Broward County Sheriff's Office.
2:19 p.m.Cruz allegedly dropped off on campus by an Uber driver, around the time students were to be dismissed for the day.
2:21:18 p.m.Cruz enters Building 12 by the east stairwell with a black rifle stashed inside a black, soft case.
2:21:30 p.m.Cruz exits the stairwell and removes the rifle from the rifle case.
AP Graphic shows details of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, 2018. 2:21:33 p.m.Cruz allegedly readies his rifle before shooting methodically into classrooms 1215, 1216 and 1214. He then went back and shot into rooms 1216, 1215 and 1213, Israel said.
Alexander Ball, Melody Ball via Reuters Students put their hands up in the air as armed police enter their classroom, following a shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla, in an image taken from a Feb. 14, 2018 social media video. 2:24:39 p.m.Cruz then takes the west stairwell to the second floor and shoots one victim in room 1234, Israel said.
2:27:37 p.m.Cruz takes the east stairwell to the third floor, drops his rifle and backpack, and runs down the stairs.
2:28:35 p.m.Cruz exits Building 12 and runs toward the tennis courts.
2:29:51 p.m.Cruz takes a southbound turn on foot, crosses a field and runs west, attempting to blend into groups of his former classmates as they fled the scene, "fearing for their lives," Israel said.
WPLG Students are evacuated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting in Parkland, Fla., Feb. 14, 2018. 2:50 p.m.Cruz arrives at a Walmart near the school, Israel said. There, he purchased a drink at the Subway before leaving the Walmart on foot.
3:01 p.m.Cruz went to McDonald's and sat there for a short period of time before leaving on foot, Israel said.
Jonathan Drake/Reuters A message about grief counseling appears on the electronic signboard at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School one day after a shooting at the school left 17 dead in Parkland, Fla. Feb. 15, 2018. 3:41 p.m.Cruz is detained without incident, Israel said.
The officer who detained him, Michael Leonard of the Coconut Creek Police Department, said in an earlier press conference Thursday that he spotted someone matching the description of the shooting suspect in a residential neighborhood in Coral Springs, near the school.
Police photo Nikolas Cruz is placed into handcuffs by police near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following a mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., Feb. 14, 2018. Cruz looked like a "typical high school kid," Leonard said. After he saw him, he "immediately" pulled over his vehicle, and Cruz complied with his orders, he said. Cruz was then positively identified by homicide detectives from the Broward Sheriff's Office and taken into custody.
Thursday afternoonCruz makes a brief court appearance. He is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and is being held at the Broward County Jail without bond.
ABC News Suspect Nikolas Cruz appears in court to faces charges in the mass shooting at a Parkland high school shooting, Feb. 15, 2018. Multiple vigils were being held in the Parkland area Thursday in memory of the victims who died in the attack.
Saul Martinez/The New York Times via Redux Pictures Students attend a prayer service at Parkridge Church in Coral Springs, Fla., a day after a mass shooting occurred at the nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Feb. 15, 2018. ABC News' Matt Gutman and Josh Margolin contributed to this report.
General Flynn Should WITHDRAW Guilty Plea | The Daily Caller
Sat, 17 Feb 2018 13:06
Extraordinary manipulation by powerful people led to the creation of Robert Mueller's continuing investigation and prosecution of General Michael Flynn. Notably, the recent postponement of General Flynn's sentencing provides an opportunity for more evidence to be revealed that will provide massive ammunition for a motion to withdraw Flynn's guilty plea and dismiss the charges against him.
It was Judge Rudolph Contreras who accepted General Flynn's guilty plea, but he suddenly was recused from the case. The likely reason is that Judge Contreras served on the special court that allowed the Federal Bureau of Investigation to surveil the Trump campaign based on the dubious FISA application. Judge Contreras may have approved one of those four warrants.
The judge assigned to Flynn's case now is Emmet G. Sullivan. Judge Sullivan immediately issued what is called a ''Brady'' order requiring Mueller to provide Flynn all information that is favorable to the defense whether with respect to guilt or punishment. Just today, Mueller's team filed an agreed motion to provide discovery to General Flynn under a protective order so that it can be reviewed by counsel but not disclosed otherwise.
This development is huge. Prosecutors almost never provide this kind of information to a defendant before he enters a plea '-- much less after he has done so. This is one of myriad problems in our justice system. As Judge Jed Rakoff wrote several years ago, people who are innocent enter guilty pleas every day. They simply can no longer withstand the unimaginable stress of a criminal investigation. They and their families suffer sheer exhaustion in every form '-- financial, physical, mental, and emotional. Add in a little prosecutorial duress '-- like the threat of indicting your son '-- and, presto, there's a guilty plea.
Judge Sullivan is the perfect judge to decide General Flynn's motion. The judicial hero of my book, Emmet Sullivan held federal prosecutors in contempt for failing to disclose evidence, dismissed the corrupted prosecution of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens and appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the Department of Justice.
That independent counsel, Henry Schuelke, issued a scathing report finding systematic, intentional and pervasive misconduct in the Department of (In)Justice. He identified the prosecution's deliberate concealment of evidence favorable to the defense. That is why Judge Sullivan both issues such Brady orders in each of his cases and encourages every other judge in the country to do the same.
Emmet G. Sullivan is one judge who is ready, willing and able to hold Mr. Mueller accountable to the law and who has the wherewithal to dismiss the case against General Flynn '-- for egregious government misconduct '-- if Mueller doesn't move to dismiss it himself.
Judge Sullivan's experience can only help General Flynn as more evidence appears every day to reveal that Flynn should not have been prosecuted. James Comey testified to Congress that the agents who interviewed Flynn '-- including the hopelessly compromised Peter Strzok '-- thought Flynn was telling the truth. The entire FISA warrant application becomes more problematic by the day.
Within the next six weeks, we will probably have the bombshell report of Michael Horowitz, the Inspector General for the Department of Justice. He is the one who discovered the Strzok-Page emails, and he has been investigating the FBI and DOJ in their Clinton cover-up for the last year.
Since Flynn entered his guilty plea, we've learned that information Mr. Comey leaked deliberately to ''trigger'' Robert Mueller's entire investigation was classified. Also, FBI agents Peter Strzok, Lisa Page and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe were working on an ''insurance policy'' to protect the country against a Trump presidency. It seems plausible that this ''insurance policy'' included the appointment of a special prosecutor.
Indeed, the bases for throwing out everything Robert Mueller has touched grow exponentially as more truth finds sunlight.
Watching guilty pleas evaporate is nothing new for Mr. Mueller's favored lieutenant Andrew Weissmann. Along with his Enron Task Force comrade Leslie Caldwell, Weissmann terrorized Arthur Andersen partner David Duncan into pleading guilty. (RELATED: Meet The Very Shady Prosecutor Robert Mueller Has Hired For The Russia Investigation)
Weissmann and Caldwell made Duncan testify at length against Arthur Andersen when they destroyed the company and 85,000 jobs only to be reversed by a unanimous Supreme Court three years later. Turns out, the ''crime'' they ''convinced'' Mr. Duncan to plead guilty to was not a crime at all. The court allowed Duncan to withdraw his plea. And, that was not the only Weissmann-induced plea to be withdrawn either. Just ask Christopher Calger.
Judge Sullivan is the country's premiere jurist experienced in the abuses of our Department of Justice. He knows a cover-up when he sees one. Until the Department is cleaned out with Clorox and firehoses, along with its ''friends'' at the FBI, Judge Sullivan is the best person to confront the egregious government misconduct that has led to and been perpetrated by the Mueller-Weissmann ''investigation'' and to right the injustices that have arisen from it. Stay tuned for the fireworks.
Sidney Powell, former federal prosecutor and veteran of 500 federal appeals, is the author of LICENSED TO LIE: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice. She is a Senior Fellow of the London Center for Policy Research and Senior Policy Advisor for America First.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.
DOJ Complaint: The Russians Organized A Rally Called "Trump Is NOT My President" | Zero Hedge
Sat, 17 Feb 2018 12:42
Late last year, when the Trump-Russia collusion narrative was peaking, something unexpected emerged: back on November 12, 2016, an event organized by BlackMatters US, a 'leftist', anti-Trump group drew thousands of people to protest against the just elected President Trump.
There was just one minor glitch: BlackMattersUS emerged as a Russian-linked group.
As the Hill reported, "the BlackMatters organizing group was connected to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian ''troll farm'' with ties to the Kremlin, according to a recent investigation by the Russian Magazine RBC.
Facebook has identified the IRA as the group responsible for purchasing 3,000 political ads on Facebook's platform and operating 470 accounts that appear to have attempted to influence the perspectives of Americans during the 2016 elections.
And now it's confirmed: from Section 57 of the DOJ complaint against the Russian trolls who "interfered, but did not impact" the outcome of the election:
After the election of Donald Trump in or around November 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used false U.S. personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies in support of then president-elect Trump, while simultaneously using other false U.S. personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies protesting the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. For example, in or around November 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators organized a rally in New York through one ORGANIZATION-controlled group designed to "show your support for President-Elect Donald Trump" held on or about November 12, 2016. At the same time, Defendants and their co-conspirators, through another ORGANIZATION-controlled group, organized a rally in New York called "Trump is NOT my President" held on or about November 12, 2016. Similarly, Defendants and their co-conspirators organized a rally entitled "Charlotte Against Trump" in Charlotte, North Carolina, held on or about November 19, 2016.
As we said back then:
"so the Russians spent $100,000 and created 0.004% of social media content to influence the election... and then the same Russians continued to help President Trump by unifying black and white Americans to protest against him."
Of course, this - together with the other facts previously noted in the DOJ complaint - is why Mueller radically shifted his task, and instead of proving "collusion" by the Trump campaign, showed an unsolicited campaign by 13 Russians who were "engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz & Marco Rubio & to support Bernie Sanders & then-candidate Donald Trump" and in the process managed to troll the US so hard, and somehow had a greater impact on the outcome of the election than the US media, entertainment and polling industries combined.
Finally, what was until now, at least officially, a "Russia-Trump collusion" mandate was downgraded to the amusing, if somehow criminal,"Russians sought to promote discord."
Meanwhile, there's this...
Dear US: I love you to bits. But you can't complain about external influence on your political process when you have prior like this >> pic.twitter.com/8TfyJDWBSp
'-- Yogi Chan (@Yogi_Chan) March 20, 2017
Wagner Group - Wikipedia
Sun, 18 Feb 2018 12:16
The Wagner Group (Russian: Ð'ÑÑÐÐÐ° Ð'Ð°Ð"Ð½ÐµÑÐ° , tr.Grupa Vagnera ), also known as PMC Wagner, ChVK Wagner, or CHVK Vagner (Russian: Ð§Ð'Ð Ð'Ð°Ð"Ð½ÐµÑÐ° , tr.ChVK Vagner , Russian: Ð§Ð°ÑÑÐ½Ð°Ñ Ð'Ð¾ÐµÐ½Ð½Ð°Ñ ÐÐ¾Ð¼ÐÐ°Ð½Ð¸Ñ Ð'Ð°Ð"Ð½ÐµÑÐ° ), is a Russianparamilitary organisation. Some have described it as a private military company (or a private military contracting agency), whose contractors have reportedly taken part in various conflicts, including operations in the Syrian Civil War on the side of the Syrian government as well as, from 2014 until 2015, in the War in Donbass in Ukraine aiding the separatist forces of the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics. Others are of the opinion that ChVK Wagner is really a unit of the Russian Ministry of Defence in disguise, which is used by the Russian government in conflicts where deniability is called for.
History, organization, status [ edit] The founder of the company is alleged to be Dmitriy Valeryevich Utkin, who was born in Kirovohrad Oblast (then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of the USSR) in 1970. According to the Security Service of Ukraine'²s statement in September 2017, Dmitriy Utkin used to be a Ukrainian citizen. Up until 2013, he was a lieutenant colonel and brigade commander of a special forces (Spetsnaz GRU) unit (the 700th Independent Spetsnaz Detachment of the 2nd Independent Brigade) of Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). He retired in 2013 and began working for the private company Moran Security Group founded by Russian military veterans; the company performed security and training missions around the world, specializing in security against piracy. The same year, senior Moran Security Group managers were involved in setting up a Saint Petersburg-based organization Slavonic Corps that headhunted contractors to "protect oil fields and pipelines" in Syria. Utkin was in Syria as part of the Slavonic Corps and survived its disastrous mission. The Wagner Group itself first showed up in 2014, along with Utkin in the Luhansk region of Ukraine. The company's name comes from Utkin's own call sign ("Wagner"), which he allegedly chose due to a passion for the Third Reich. In August 2017, the Turkish Yeni Åafak speculated that Utkin was possibly just a figurehead for the company, while the real head of Wagner was someone else.
On 9 December 2016, Dmitriy Utkin was photographed with Russian PresidentVladimir Putin at a Kremlin reception given to highly decorated servicepeople to mark the Day of Heroes of the Fatherland '-- along with three persons, Alexander Kuznetsov, Andrey Bogatov and Andrey Troshev. The photo was published shortly after and caused a scandal. Kuznetsov (call sign "Ratibor") was said to be the commander of Wagner's first reconnaissance and assault company, Bogatov was the commander of the fourth reconnaissance and assault company, and Troshev served as the company's "executive director". A few days after, the Kremlin spokesman confirmed the presence at the Kremlin reception of a person called Dmitry Utkin as a representative of the Novgorod Region; he said the reception was organised for those who had been awarded the Order of Courage and the title Hero of the Russia and was unable to elaborate further.
Wagner was in 2016''2017 believed to have a membership of 1,000''5,000, be registered in Argentina, and have its members train at a Russian MoD facility Molkino (Russian: Ð'Ð¾Ð>>ÑÐºÐ¸Ð½Ð¾ ) near the village of Molkin (ru) , Krasnodar Krai. The company also has offices in Saint Petersburg. According to a report published by Russian monthly Sovershenno Sekretno, the organisation that hired personnel for Wagner did not have a permanent name and had a legal address near the military settlement Pavshino in Krasnogorsk, near Moscow.
The pay of Wagner private military contractors (PMCs), who are usually retired regular Russian servicemen aged between 35 and 55, is estimated to be between 80,000 and 250,000 Russian rubles a month. One source also stated the pay was as high as 300,000. When new PMC recruits arrive at the training camp, they are no longer allowed to use social network services and other Internet resources. Company employees are not allowed to post photos, texts, audio and video recordings or any other information on the Internet that was obtained during their training. Company employees are not allowed to tell anyone their location, whether they are in Russia or another country. Mobile phones, tablets and other means of communication are left with the company and issued at a certain time with the permission of their commander. Passports and other documents are surrendered and in return company employees receive a nameless dog tag with a personal number. The company only accepts new recruits if a 10-year confidentiality agreement is established and in case of a breach of the confidentiality the company reserves the right to terminate the employee's contract without paying a fee. During their training, the PMCs receive a 1,100 dollar monthly pay.
Wagner is also believed to have a Serbian unit, which was until at least April 2016 under command of Davor SaviÄiÄ, a Bosnian Serb who was a member of the Serb Volunteer Guard (also known as Arkan's Tigers) during the Bosnian War and Serbia's Special Operations Unit (JSO) during the Kosovo War. His call sign in Bosnia was "Elvis". SaviÄiÄ was reportedly only three days in the Luhansk region when a BTR armored personnel carrier fired at his checkpoint, leaving him shell-shocked. After this, he left to be treated. He was also reported to had been involved in the first offensive to capture Palmyra from the Islamic State (ISIL) in early 2016. One member of the Serbian unit was killed in Syria in June 2017, while the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) issued arrest warrants in December 2017, for six Serbian PMCs that belonged to Wagner and fought in Ukraine, including SaviÄiÄ. In early February 2018, the SBU reported that one Serb member of Wagner, who was a veteran of the conflict in Syria, had been killed while fighting in eastern Ukraine.
In early October 2017, the SBU said that Wagner'²s funding in 2017 had been increased by 185 million roubles ($3.1 million) and that around forty Ukrainian nationals were working for Wagner, with the remaining 95 percent of the personnel being Russian citizens. One Ukrainian was killed in Syria while fighting in the ranks of Wagner in March 2016.
It has been reported that Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is also a chef for Russian President Putin, has links with Wagner and Dmitry Utkin personally. Prigozhin, who was sanctioned by the United States Department of the Treasury in December 2016 for Russia's involvement in the Ukraine conflict, denied any communication with Wagner. The US Department of the Treasury also imposed sanctions on '"PMC Wagner'" and Utkin personally in June 2017. The designation of the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control listed the company and Dmitriy Utkin under the '"Designations of Ukrainian Separatists (E.O. 13660)'" heading and referred to him as '"the founder and leader of PMC Wagner'".
Russian experts as well as some people who have been personally involved with Wagner Group believe that the Wagner Group does not actually exist and is but a myth created by Russian propaganda and in reality it is a disguised branch of the Russian MoD. Private military companies are not legally allowed in Russia; nevertheless a number of them appear to have been operating in Russia and in April 2012 Vladimir Putin, then Russian prime minister, speaking in the State Duma endorsed an idea of setting up PMCs in Russia. Several military analysts described Wagner as a "pseudo-private" military company that offers the Russian military establishment certain advantages such as ensuring plausible deniability, public secrecy about Russia'²s military operations abroad, as well as about the number of losses. Thus, Wagner contractors have been described as "ghost soldiers", due to the Russian government not officially acknowledging them. In March 2017, Radio Liberty characterised the ChVK Wagner as a '"semi-legal militant formation that exists under the wing and on the funds of the Ministry of Defence'". In September 2017, the chief of Ukraine'²s Security Service (SBU) Vasyl Hrytsak said that in their opinion Wagner was in essence '"a private army of Putin'" and that the SBU were '"working on identifying these people, members of Wagner PMC, to make this information public so that our partners in Europe knew them personally'".
Operations [ edit] Crimea and Eastern Ukraine [ edit] Wagner PMCs first showed up in February 2014 in Crimea during Russia's 2014 annexation of the peninsula where they operated in line with regular Russian army units, disarmed the Ukrainian Army and took control over facilities. The takeover of Crimea was almost bloodless. The PMCs, along with the regular soldiers, were called "polite people" at the time due to their well-mannered behavior. They kept to themselves, carried weapons that were not loaded, and mostly made no effort to interfere with civilian life. Another name for them was "little green men" since they were masked, wearing unmarked green army uniforms and their origin was initially unknown.
After the takeover of Crimea, the PMCs went to the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine where a conflict started between Ukrainian government and pro-Russian forces. Thanks to their help, the pro-Russian forces were able to destabilize government security forces in the region, immobilize operations of local government institutions, seize ammunition storages and take control of towns. The PMCs conducted sneak attacks, reconnaissance, intelligence-gathering and accompanied VIPs. In October 2017, the Ukrainian SBU claimed it had established the involvement of the Wagner Group in the June 2014 Il-76 airplane shoot-down at Luhansk International Airport that killed 40 Ukrainian paratroopers, as well as a crew of nine. Russian and Serbian "mercenaries" were already reported being involved in the summer 2014 battle for the airport, although it was not stated if they were linked to Wagner back then. According to the SBU, Wagner PMCs were initially deployed to eastern Ukraine on 21 May 2014, and the service was planning to file charges on Dmitry Utkin to the office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine. The PMCs also participated in the early 2015 Battle of Debaltseve, which involved one of the heaviest artillery bombardments in recent history, as well as reportedly hundreds of regular Russian soldiers. The battle ended in a decisive victory over Ukrainian forces.
Following the end of major combat operations, the PMCs were reportedly given the assignment to kill dissident pro-Russian commanders that were acting in a rebellious manner, according to the Russian nationalist Sputnik and Pogrom (ru) internet media outlet and the SBU. According to Sputnik and Pogrom, in one raid, they killed more than 10 militia fighters. In another operation in early January 2015, the PMCs disarmed without any loss of life the Odessa brigade of the Luhansk People's Republic (LPR), after surrounding their base in Krasnodon with the support of tanks and artillery, and demanding the separatists disarm and return to their homes. According to the SBU and the Russian news site Fontanka (ru) , Wagner also forced the reorganization and disarmament of Russian Cossack and other formations. The PMCs acted mostly in the LPR, for whose authorities they allegedly conducted four political killings of separatist commanders. The killed commanders were in a conflict with the LPR's president, Igor Plotnitsky. The LPR accused Kiev of committing the assassinations, while unit members of the commanders believed it was the LPR authorities who were behind the killings. In late November 2017, the SBU published what they said were intercepted audio recordings that proved a direct link between Dmitry Utkin and Igor Cornet, the Interior Minister of the LPR, who was stated to had personally led the initiative of eliminating the dissident commanders.Wagner left Ukraine and returned to Russia in autumn of 2015, with the start of the Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War.
Syria [ edit] The presence of the PMCs in Syria was first reported in late October 2015, almost a month after the start of the Russian military intervention in the country's civil war, when between three and nine PMCs were killed in a rebel mortar attack on their position in Latakia province. It was reported that the Wagner Group was employed by the Russian Defense Ministry, even though private military companies are illegal in Russia. The Russian Defense Ministry dismissed the early reports by The Wall Street Journal about the Wagner Group's operations in Syria as an "information attack". However, sources within the Russian FSB and the Defense Ministry unofficially stated for RBTH that Wagner was supervised by the GRU. Furthermore, according to a few Wagner fighters, they were flown to Syria aboard Russian military transport planes. Their equipment was delivered to Syria via the so-called Syrian Express (ru) , a fleet of Russian military and civilian merchant ships that had been delivering supplies to Syria since 2012. Later, a Defense Ministry source told RBC TV that the FSB was also directing the PMCs. The usage of Wagner had reportedly cost Russia 170 million dollars by August 2016. By July 2017, according to The New York Times, the Kremlin established a policy in Syria where companies that seize oil and gas wells, as well as mines, from ISIL forces would get oil and mining rights for those same sites. Two Russian companies received contracts under this policy by this time, with one employing the Wagner Group to secure those sites from the militants. Later, it was revealed that the company would receive 25 percent of the proceeds from oil and gas production at fields its PMCs captured and secured from ISIL. As of early August 2017, the number of Wagner employees in Syria was reported to had reached 5,000, after the arrival of an additional 2,000 PMCs, including Chechens and Ingush.
Wagner PMCs were involved in both Palmyra offensives in 2016 and 2017, as well as the Syrian Army's campaign in central Syria in the summer of 2017 and the Battle of Deir ez-Zor in late 2017. They were in the role of frontline advisors, fire and movement coordinators and forward air controllers who provided guidance to close air support. When they arrived in Syria the PMCs received T-72 tanks, BM-21 GradMLRs and 122 mm D-30 howitzers. During the first Palmyra offensive, according to one of the contractors, the PMCs were used as "cannon fodder" and most of the work was conducted by them, with the regular Syrian Army, who he described as "chickens", only finishing the job. An expert on Russian security at the IIR, Mark Galeotti, said they served as "shock troops" alongside the Syrian Army. Following the successful conclusion of the offensive, during which 32 of the contractors were reportedly killed and about 80 wounded, the PMCs were withdrawn between April and May 2016, and they surrendered all of their heavy weapons and military equipment. When they returned for the second Palmyra offensive and to capture ISIL-held oil fields at the beginning of 2017, the PMCs reportedly faced a shortage of weapons and equipment as they were issued only older assault rifles, machine guns, T-62 tanks and M-30 howitzers. Several sniper rifles and grenade launchers were delivered a few weeks later, which did not solve the issue. According to Fontanka, the equipment problems in combination with a reported reduction in the quality of its personnel led to Wagner suffering a significantly higher number of casualties in the second battle for Palmyra than the first one. Between 40 and 60 were reported killed and between 80 and 180 were wounded. The Russian investigative blogger group the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) attributed the higher losses mainly to ISIL's heavy use of suicide-bombers and the militant group's unwillingness to negotiate. Still, the second offensive also ended in a victory for pro-government forces.
Besides fighting ISIL militants, according to RBC TV, the PMCs trained a Syrian Army unit called the ISIS Hunters (fr) , which was also fully funded and trained by Russian special forces. The ISIS Hunters were one of the leading units during the capture of the al-Shaer gas fields from ISIL in late April 2017. However, as of the beginning of July, the PMCs were still fighting to secure the al-Shaer gas fields and the areas of the phosphate mines. At this time, a video emerged that allegedly showed Wagner PMCs bludgeoning a captured ISIL militant in the Palmyra area, with the jihadist reportedly being beheaded after. In mid-September, the al-Shaer gas fields started getting back into production.
In late September 2017, the PMCs, along with regular Russian troops, supported Syrian government forces in repelling a HTS-led rebel offensive north of Hama. At the end of that month, during an ISIL counter-offensive in the Deir ez-Zor Governorate, two Wagner PMCs were captured by the militants. Initially, the Kremlin attempted to distance itself from the two, while a brother of one of them accused the Russian government of rejecting them. Subsequently, the Syrian ISIS Hunters unit pledged to pay one million dollars for the release of each of the captive Russians. However, the ISIS Hunters also said they would execute 100 captive militants for each of the Russians if they were killed by the jihadists. At the same time, a Russian parliamentary official stated that the two had almost certainly been executed, presumably for refusing to reject their Christian Orthodox religion, reject Russia, become Muslims and join the militant group. This claim was questioned by the CIT, who pointed out that there had been no reports to this effect from the militants'² sources.
In late October 2017, a video emerged on YouTube glorifying the PMCs actions in Syria. Between the end of October and the start of November, Wagner took part in the Battle of Deir ez-Zor where they cleared the remaining ISIL militants from the districts of Al-Rashidiyah and Al-Ardi, as well as the Al-Bazh and Abu-Adad neighborhoods, along with the Syrian Army. Syrian government forces took complete control of the city by 3 November. A besieged pocket of ISIL militants remained on an island in the city's outskirts, which soon came under attack. As government forces advanced, the pro-opposition SOHR reported that Russia demanded the release of the two captive PMCs during negotiations with the trapped militants. On 17 November, the last ISIL fighters on the island had surrendered, leaving the Syrian Army in control of all territory surrounding Deir ez-Zor city. However, the two PMCs were still prisoners. At the end of November, it was reported that the Russian military was negotiating for the release of the two PMCs who were reportedly being held on the border of Syria and Iraq. However, on 4 December, the ISIS Hunters reported they had killed the ISIL militants that had captured and executed the two PMCs. The same day, a Wagner representative notified the parents of one of the two that both had died in captivity.
At the end of November, Russia announced plans to withdraw some of its troops from Syria by the end of the year. It was reported that to avoid potential security losses, Russia would fill the void with private military companies, including Wagner. On 11 December, Putin declared victory against ''terrorists'' during a visit to Russia's Khmeimim air base in Syria. Ruslan Pukhov, the director of the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies think tank, stated the usage of PMCs was one of the factors that contributed to Russia's victory in Syria. He pointed out that Russia managed to remove the need for deploying large numbers of ground forces by bringing in the Russian PMCs who, unlike American PMCs who were usually only in support roles, were used as highly capable assault troops and that they were often embedded with Syrian units to augment their fighting ability. He also pointed out that the Russian public proved completely indifferent to the losses suffered by the PMCs, rightly believing that ''these people are highly paid, and knew what they were getting into''.
In December 2017, the PMCs took part in the Syrian Army's offensive into Idlib province against mostly HTS rebel forces. As part of the same campaign in the northwest of Syria, in early February 2018, the PMCs helped in the capture of several villages in the northeastern countryside of Hama from IS. Between 3 and 7 February, pro-government forces seized at least 25 villages, shrinking the IS pocket in that part of the country by a reported 80 percent. The pocket was cleared on 9 February.
Late on 7 February, a battle took place in eastern Syria between pro-Syrian government forces and the Kurdish-led SDF, supported by the U.S. military. During the clashes, U.S. aircraft conducted air-strikes against Syrian troops, leaving between 45 and 100 government fighters dead. According to two U.S. defense officials, the U.S. military assessed that Russian PMCs also participated in the assault, with one saying some of the contractors had been killed in the air-strikes. A Kurdish militia commander and an ex-Russian officer also claimed Russian contractors suffered casualties during the fighting, while some posts on Russian social media made claims of over 200 Russian PMCs being killed, although the veracity of this information was questioned and could not be confirmed. A Russian journalist believed between 20 and 25 PMCs died in the strikes. However, the United States Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, stated he could not verify the reports about the PMCs participation and that the U.S. did not think there were any Russians in the battle. Five days after the incident, CIT and other Russian groups confirmed the deaths of between 5 and 10 Wagner PMCs in the air-strikes. By 14 February, the number of confirmed deaths by CIT was eight. On 15 February, Russia confirmed five presumably Russian citizens had been killed in the air-strikes. The SOHR activist organization reported that one or two days after the strikes, in the same area, 23 pro-government fighters were killed in a booby-trapped explosion of a weapons depot. Of the 23, 15 were Russian PMCs who were accompanying government forces as they advanced towards the SDF-held oil and gas fields.
Return to Ukraine [ edit] In late November 2017, a power struggle erupted in the separatist Luhansk People's Republic in Eastern Ukraine between LPR president Igor Plotnitsky and the LPR's Interior Minister, Igor Kornet, who Plotnitsky ordered to be dismissed. During the turmoil, armed men in unmarked uniforms took up positions in the center of Luhansk. Some of the men allegedly belonged to Wagner. In the end, Plotnitsky resigned and LPR Security Minister Leonid Pasechnik was named acting leader "until the next elections." Plotnitsky reportedly fled to Russia and the LPR's People's Council unanimously approved Plotnitsky's resignation.
In an interview with the Russian news site The Insider in early December 2017, veteran Russian officer Igor Strelkov confirmed that Wagner PMCs had returned to Luhansk from Syria. Strelkov had a key role in the annexation of Crimea by Russia, as well as in the early stages of the war in the east of Ukraine where he was one of the most senior commanders. He was pulled out of eastern Ukraine in August 2014, reportedly because the Russian authorities felt he was too much of a liability, after which he started opposing the Kremlin.
Sudan [ edit] In the interview with The Insider, a Russian news magazine, Strelkov additionally said that, besides returning to Luhansk, Wagner PMCs were also present in South Sudan and possibly Libya. Several days before the interview was published, Strelkov stated Wagner PMCs were being prepared to be sent from Syria to Sudan or South Sudan after Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, told Russia's president Putin that his country needed protection ''from aggressive actions of the USA''. Two internal-conflicts have been raging in Sudan for years (the region of Darfur and the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile), while a civil war has been taking place in South Sudan since 2013. The head of the private Russian firm RSB-group said that he heard PMCs had already traveled to Sudan and had returned with a severe form of malaria. Several dozen PMCs from RSB-group were sent to Libya in early 2017, to an industrial facility near the city of Benghazi, in an area held by forces loyal to Field marshalKhalifa Haftar, reportedly to support demining operations. They left in February after completing their mission. The RSB-group was in Libya at the request of the Libyan Cement Company (LCC). In mid-December, a video surfaced allegedly showing Wagner PMCs training members of the Sudanese military, thus seemingly confirming Wagner's presence in Sudan and not South Sudan.
In mid-January 2018, it was reported that Wagner may deploy a contingent of its PMCs to the Central African Republic, as Russia successfully lobbied the UN Security Council to allow it to ship weapons and ammunition to the country, despite an active arms embargo in place since 2013 under Security Council Resolution 2127.
Casualties and awards [ edit] Fontanka and CIT reported a conservative estimate of at least 73''101 Wagner PMCs being killed in Syria between October 2015 and December 2017, 40''60 of which died during the first several months of 2017, according to Fontanka. The founder of CIT stated the PMCs' death toll was at least 100''200, while another CIT blogger said at least 150 were killed and more than 900 were wounded. A former PMC officer stated no fewer than 100 died by the end of August 2016. A combination of evidence compiled by Fontanka, CIT and Reuters would put the number of killed PMCs between October 2015 and late December 2017, at 184.
In early February 2018, Russian social media made claims of over 200 Russian PMCs being killed during the Battle of Khasham by U.S. air-strikes, although the veracity of this information was questioned and could not be confirmed. A Russian journalist believed between 20 and 25 PMCs died in the strikes. Several days after the battle, CIT and other Russian groups confirmed the deaths of between 5 and 10 Wagner PMCs in the air-strikes. By 14 February, the number of confirmed deaths by CIT was eight.
Two Wagner PMCs were also confirmed killed during the Battle of Debaltseve in Ukraine in early 2015. Other estimates put the number of killed PMCs in Ukraine by October 2015, at between 30 and 80. The Ukrainian SBU claimed the Wagner Group had lost 72 PMCs during the fighting at Luhansk International Airport (15), the Battle of Debaltseve (21) and on the demarcation line between government and separatist forces (36). Four of those who died in the battle for the airport were killed at the nearby village of Khryashchevatoe.
Families of killed PMCs are prohibited from talking to the media under a non-disclosure that is a prerequisite for them to get compensation from the company. The standard compensation for the family of a killed Wagner employee is up to 5 million rubles (about 80,000 dollars), according to a Wagner official. In contrast, the girlfriend of a killed fighter stated the families are paid between 22,500 and 52,000 dollars depending on the killed PMC's rank and mission.
Wagner PMCs have received state awards in the form of military decorations and certificates signed by Russian President Putin.Wagner commanders Andrey Bogatov and Andrey Troshev were awarded the Hero of the Russian Federation honor for assisting in the first capture of Palmyra in March 2016. Bogatov was seriously injured during the battle. Meanwhile, Alexander Kuznetsov and Dmitry Utkin had reportedly won the Order of Courage four times.
In mid-December 2017, a powerlifting tournament was held in Ulan-Ude, capital city of the Russian Republic of Buryatia, which was dedicated to the memory of Vyacheslav Leonov, a Wagner PMC who was killed during the campaign in Syria's Deir ez-Zor province. The same month, Russia's president signed a decree establishing International Volunteer Day in Russia, as per the UN resolution from 1985, which will be celebrated annually every 5 December. The Russian Poliksal news site associated the Russian celebration of Volunteer Day with honoring Wagner PMCs.
In late January 2018, an image emerged of a monument that was raised in Syria in honor of Wagner PMCs. The text on the monument read in Arabic '' To Russian volunteers, who died heroically in the liberation of Syrian oil fields from ISIL.
See also [ edit] References [ edit] ^ abcd Gostev, Aleksandr; Coalson, Robert (16 December 2016). "Russia's Paramilitary Mercenaries Emerge From The Shadows". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Retrieved 18 September 2017 . ^ abc Quinn, Allison (30 March 2016). "Vladimir Putin sent Russian mercenaries to 'fight in Syria and Ukraine' ". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2017-08-04 . ^ "Putin Wants to Win, But Not at All Costs". 6 December 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2018 '' via www.bloomberg.com. ^ abcd "Revealed: Russia's 'Secret Syria Mercenaries' ". Sky News. 10 August 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2017 . ^ abcd "Russian Mercenaries in Syria". Warsaw Institute Foundation. 22 April 2017. Retrieved 18 September 2017 . ^ abc "SBU exposes involvement of Russian 'Wagner PMC' headed by Utkin in destroying Il-76 in Donbas, Debaltseve events '' Hrytsak". Interfax-Ukraine. 7 October 2017. Retrieved 7 October 2017 . ^ Sautreuil, Pierre (9 March 2016). "Believe It or Not, Russia Dislikes Relying on Military Contractors". War Is Boring. Retrieved 18 September 2017 . ^ abcdefg Korotkov, Denis (29 March 2016). "ÐÐ½Ð¸ ÑÑÐ°Ð¶Ð°Ð>>Ð¸ÑÑ Ð·Ð° ÐÐ°Ð>>ÑÐ¼Ð¸ÑÑ" (in Russian). Fontanka.ru. Retrieved 18 September 2017 . ^ ab Karouny, Mariam (20 October 2015). "Three Russians killed in Syria: pro-government source". Reuters. Retrieved 21 October 2015 . ^ abc Leviev, Ruslan (22 March 2017). "They fought for Palmyra'... again: Russian mercenaries killed in battle with ISIS". Conflict Intelligence Team. Retrieved 18 September 2017 . ^ ab Tomson, Chris (21 September 2017). "VIDEO: Russian Army intervenes in northern Hama, drives back Al-Qaeda militants". al-Masdar News. Retrieved 24 September 2017 . ^ abc "The media reported the death of another soldier PMC Wagner in Syria". en.news-4-u.ru. Retrieved 12 December 2017 . ^ ab Dmitriy. "Ð' Ð±Ð¾ÑÑ
Ð² ÐÐ¸ÑÐ¸Ð¸ ÐÐ¾Ð"Ð¸Ð± ÑÑÐ¾Ð¶ÐµÐ½ÐµÑ ÐÑÐµÐ½Ð±ÑÑÐ"Ð° ÐÐµÑÐ"ÐµÐ¹ ÐÐ°ÑÐÑÐ½Ð¸Ð½". geo-politica.info. Retrieved 12 December 2017 . ^ ab "ÐÑÐµ Ð¾Ð´Ð¸Ð½ Ð´Ð¾Ð±ÑÐ¾Ð²Ð¾Ð>>ÐµÑ Ð¸Ð· ÐÐ¾Ð¼ÑÐºÐ¾Ð¹ Ð¾Ð±Ð>>Ð°ÑÑÐ¸ ÐÐ¾Ð"Ð¸Ð± Ð² ÐÐ¸ÑÐ¸Ð¸". vtomske.ru. 15 January 2018. Retrieved 20 January 2018 . ^ abc Russians dead in 'battle' in Syria's east ^ abc US attack on pro-gov't forces in Deir Ezzor killed more than 10 Russians (photos) ^ ab "ÐÐ¾ÑÐ²Ð¸Ð>>Ð¾ÑÑ Ð²Ð¸Ð´ÐµÐ¾ Ð¸Ð· ÐÑÐ´Ð°Ð½Ð°, Ð"Ð´Ðµ ÑÐ¾ÑÑÐ¸Ð¹ÑÐºÐ¸Ðµ Ð½Ð°ÐµÐ¼Ð½Ð¸ÐºÐ¸ ÑÑÐµÐ½Ð¸ÑÑÑÑ Ð¼ÐµÑÑÐ½ÑÑ
". Retrieved 12 December 2017 . ^ Russia/Ukraine-related Designations and Identifications, 6/20/2017 U.S. Department of the Treasury/Resource Center ^ abc Ð' ÐÐÐ£ ÑÐ°ÑÐºÑÑÐ>>Ð¸ Ð>>ÑÐ±Ð¾ÐÑÑÐ½ÑÐµ ÐÐ¾Ð´ÑÐ¾Ð±Ð½Ð¾ÑÑÐ¸ Ð¾ Ð½Ð°ÐµÐ¼Ð½Ð¸ÐºÐ°Ñ
Ð Ð¤ Ð½Ð° Ð--Ð¾Ð½Ð±Ð°ÑÑÐµSegodnya, 4 September 2017. ^ "It became known about the death of nine Russians in Syria". RBC.ru. 22 March 2017. Retrieved 7 October 2017 '' via FreeNews-en.tk. ^ abc Vaux, Pierre (29 March 2016). "Fontanka Investigates Russian Mercenaries Dying For Putin In Syria And Ukraine". The Interpreter. Retrieved 18 September 2017 . ^ ab ÐÐ· Ð'Ð¾Ð>>ÑÐºÐ¸Ð½Ð¾ Ð² ÐÐ°Ð>>ÑÐ¼Ð¸ÑÑ: ÐºÐ°Ðº ÑÑÐµÐ½Ð¸ÑÑÑÑ ÑÐ¾ÑÑÐ¸Ð¹ÑÐºÐ¸Ñ
Ð½Ð°ÐµÐ¼Ð½Ð¸ÐºÐ¾Ð² 31 March 2016. ^ Parfitt, Tom (31 March 2016). "Russian-led private army sent to Syria". The Times. Retrieved 7 October 2017 . ^ abcd "Wagner, Russian Blackwater in Syria". Yeni Åafak. 6 August 2017. Retrieved 7 October 2017 . ^ abc Roth, Andrew (5 October 2017). "The Russian captives who may link Syria, Ukraine and the Kremlin's fight against the opposition". The Washington Post. Retrieved 7 October 2017 . ^ ab "Vladimir Putin posed for a banquet photo with a mercenary previously convicted of kidnapping and robbery". Fontanka.ru. 21 August 2017. Retrieved 7 October 2017 '' via Meduza. ^ ÐÐµÑÐºÐ¾Ð² ÐÐ¾Ð´ÑÐ²ÐµÑÐ´Ð¸Ð>> ÐÑÐ¸ÑÑÑÑÑÐ²Ð¸Ðµ ÐºÐ¾Ð¼Ð°Ð½Ð´Ð¸ÑÐ° Ð§Ð'Ð Ð'Ð°Ð"Ð½ÐµÑÐ° Ð½Ð° ÐÑÐ¸ÐµÐ¼Ðµ Ð² ÐÑÐµÐ¼Ð>>Ðµ TASS, 15 December 2016. ^ "ÐÐµÑÐºÐ¾Ð² ÐÐ¾Ð´ÑÐ²ÐµÑÐ´Ð¸Ð>> ÐÑÐ¸ÑÑÑÑÑÐ²Ð¸Ðµ Ð--Ð¼Ð¸ÑÑÐ¸Ñ Ð£ÑÐºÐ¸Ð½Ð° Ð½Ð° ÐÑÐ¸ÐµÐ¼Ðµ Ð² ÐÑÐµÐ¼Ð>>Ðµ". Ð ÐÐ. Retrieved 12 December 2017 . ^ ab "28 ÑÐµÐ½ÑÑÐ±ÑÑ ÐÑÐ¸ÑÐ>>Ð¾ 12 Ð"ÑÐ¾Ð±Ð¾Ð²" Radio Liberty, 6 October 2017. ^ abcd "Russia's Wagner group fighters sighted in Syria". RBC (9). 31 August 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2017 '' via Russia Beyond. ^ "Russia flies 2,000 mercenary troops into Syria". Debkafile. 2 August 2017. Retrieved 2017-08-04 . ^ Korotkov, Denis (21 August 2017). "ÐÐÐ¸ÑÐ¾Ðº Ð'Ð°Ð"Ð½ÐµÑÐ°" (in Russian). Fontanka.ru. Retrieved 22 August 2017 . ^ ab Galeotti, Mark (29 August 2017). "Moscow's mercenaries reveal the privatisation of Russian geopolitics". openDemocracy. Retrieved 7 October 2017 . ^ Ð Ð¾ÑÑÐ¸Ð¹ÑÐºÐ¸Ðµ ÑÑÑÑÐ¼Ñ>> ÑÐ¸ÑÐ¸Ð¹ÑÐºÐ¾Ð¹ ÐÐ¾Ð±ÐµÐ´ÑSovershenno Sekretno, 19 December 2017 (print edition No. 12 (December) 2017, p. 6). ^ ab "More Russian Fighters from Private 'Wagner Group' Die in Syria". The Moscow Times. 22 March 2017. Retrieved 2017-08-04 . ^ Korotkov, Denis (22 October 2015). "ÐÐ° ÐÐ°ÑÐ°ÑÐ° ÐÑÐ°Ð´Ð° - Ð±ÐµÐ· ÑÐ>>Ð°Ð"Ð°, Ð±ÐµÐ· Ð Ð¾Ð´Ð¸Ð½Ñ" (in Russian). Fontanka.ru. Retrieved 18 September 2017 . ^ ab DragoviÄ, R.; ÄuriÄ, Lj. (17 April 2016). "Srbin oslobaÄao drevnu Palmiru?". VeÄernje novosti (in Serbian). Retrieved 18 September 2017 . ^ ab RistiÄ, Marija (22 April 2016). "Put srpskih plaÄenika iz Ukrajine u Siriju". Balkan Insight (in Serbian). Retrieved 7 October 2017 . ^ StaniÄ, MiloÅ; TaÅkoviÄ, Marko (23 June 2017). "U SMRT ZA 5.000 DOLARA Srbin poginuo ratujuÄi na ruskoj strani protiv dÅ¾ihadista u Siriji". Blic (in Serbian). Retrieved 18 September 2017 . ^ "Facebook Reveals Serbian Fighters' Role in Ukraine War". balkaninsight.com. Retrieved 20 January 2018 . ^ Ukraine lists Serbs fighting for Russian unit '' media ^ ab SBU says Russia's Wagner mercenaries involved in Donbas war Kyiv Post, 7 October 2017. ^ ab Korotkov, Denis (21 August 2017). "ÐÐ¾Ð"Ð¾ Ð Ð¾ÑÑÐ¸Ñ ÐÐ¾ÑÐµÑÑÐ>>Ð° Ð² ÐÐ¸ÑÐ¸Ð¸" (in Russian). Fontanka.ru. Retrieved 18 September 2017 . ^ "Navalny asks FSB to investigate Putin's cook". Retrieved 12 December 2017 . ^ "The man allegedly behind Russia's 'troll factory' is reportedly trying to buy the news outlet that keeps exposing his business empire '-- Meduza". Retrieved 12 December 2017 . ^ "ÐÑÑ
Ð½Ñ ÑÐ°ÑÑÐ½Ð¾Ð¹ Ð°ÑÐ¼Ð¸Ð¸". 9 June 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2017 . ^ "Suspected Russian mercenary ex-colonel lands in Petersburg drunk tank with 95,000 dollars in his pockets '-- Meduza". Retrieved 12 December 2017 . ^ "Media: Wagner Group commander becomes CEO of Putin's friend's catering business". Retrieved 12 December 2017 . ^ "U.S. Adds More Russians To Sanctions List, Including 'Putin's Chef' ". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 12 December 2017 . ^ "Treasury Designates Individuals and Entities Involved in the Ongoing Conflict in Ukraine". www.treasury.gov. Retrieved 20 January 2018 . ^ Buravich, Ekaterina. "Yevgeny Prigozhin has denied communication with the PMC Wagner - NewsWorld". NewsWorld. Retrieved 12 December 2017 . ^ ab Kramer, Andrew E. (5 July 2017). "Russia Deploys a Potent Weapon in Syria: The Profit Motive". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-08-04 . ^ Treasury Designates Individuals and Entities Involved in the Ongoing Conflict in Ukraine U.S. Department of the Treasury, 20 June 2017. ^ Ð ÐµÐ¸Ð½ÐºÐ°ÑÐ½Ð°ÑÐ¸Ñ Ð Ð¾Ð±Ð¸Ð½ Ð'ÑÐ´Ð°: ÐºÐ°Ðº ÑÐ¾Ð´Ð¸Ð>>Ð°ÑÑ Ð>>ÐµÐ"ÐµÐ½Ð´Ð° Ð¾ Ð§Ð'Ð ''Ð'Ð°Ð"Ð½ÐµÑ'' rueconomics.ru (Ð¤ÐÐ ÐÐºÐ¾Ð½Ð¾Ð¼Ð¸ÐºÐ° ÑÐµÐ"Ð¾Ð´Ð½Ñ>>), 24 March 2017. ^ Ð Ð¾ÑÑÐ¸Ð¹ÑÐºÐ¸Ðµ Ð§Ð'Ð '' Ð¼Ð¸Ñ ÑÐ¾ÑÑÐ¸Ð¹ÑÐºÐ¾Ð¹ ÐÑÐ¾ÐÐ°Ð"Ð°Ð½Ð´Ñ InformNapalm.org, 5 November 2016. ^ Ð...Ð£Ð : Ð'ÑÑÐÐÐ° Ð'Ð°Ð"Ð½ÐµÑÐ° Ð²ÐµÐ´ÐµÑ Ð°ÐºÑÐ¸Ð²Ð½ÑÐ¹ Ð½Ð°Ð±Ð¾Ñ Ð½Ð¾Ð²ÑÑ
Ð±Ð¾Ð¹ÑÐ¾Ð² Open Russia, 25 January 2017. ^ ÐÐ¨Ð ÐÑÑÐ°ÑÑÑÑ Ð½Ð°ÐºÐ°Ð·Ð°ÑÑ Ð¼Ð¸ÑÐ¸ÑÐµÑÐºÑÑ ÑÐ¾ÑÑÐ¸Ð¹ÑÐºÑÑ Ð§Ð'ÐVzglyad 21 July 2017. ^ ÐÐ¸ÑÐ¸Ð¹ÑÐºÐ¸Ðµ ÐÐ¾ÑÐµÑÐ¸ "ÐÐ>>Ð°Ð²ÑÐ½ÑÐºÐ¾Ð"Ð¾ ÐºÐ¾ÑÐÑÑÐ°" Radio Liberty, 13 December 2016. ^ Mark Galeotti. Moscow's mercenaries reveal the privatisation of Russian geopolitics 29 August 2017. ^ "Ð§Ð'Ð Ð'Ð°Ð"Ð½ÐµÑÐ° ÑÑÑÐµÐ´Ð¸Ð>>Ð¾ Ð"Ð¾ÑÑÐ´Ð°ÑÑÑÐ²Ð¾" Radio Liberty, 4 October 2017. ^ ab Niklas Eklund, J¶rgen Elfving. Russian Private Military Companies'--Redwater? The Jamestown Foundation: Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 14 Issue: 39. ^ ab How ''Wagner'' came to SyriaThe Economist, 2 November 2017. ^ abc Owen Matthews. PUTIN'S SECRET ARMIES WAGED WAR IN SYRIA'--WHERE WILL THEY FIGHT NEXT?, Newsweek, 17 January 2018. ^ Tsvetkova, Maria; Zverev, Anton (3 November 2016). "Ghost soldiers: the Russians secretly dying for the Kremlin in Syria". Reuters. Retrieved 7 October 2017 . ^ ÐÐ· ÐÐ°Ð>>ÑÐ¼Ð¸ÑÑ Ð² ÑÐ¸Ð½ÐºÐ¾Ð²ÑÑ
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ÑÐ¾ÑÑÐ¸ÑÐ½ Interfax, 5 October 2017. ^ Russian mercenaries captured by ISIS 'are executed after refusing to reject Christianity and become Muslim'Daily Mail, 6 October 2017. ^ "Video Glorifying Russian Mercenaries in Syria Trends on YouTube". Retrieved 12 December 2017 . ^ "Syria declares victory over Islamic State in Deir al-Zor". 3 November 2017. Retrieved 5 November 2017 '' via Reuters. ^ France-Presse, Agence (3 November 2017). "Isis dealt twin blows with loss of Deir ez-Zor and key Iraq border post". Retrieved 5 November 2017 '' via www.theguardian.com. ^ "Syrian Army resumes offensive to expel ISIS from large Deir Ezzor island". almasdarnews.com. 11 November 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2018 . ^ "Fears for the lives of about 150 citizens in besieged Hawija Katea of being shelled by the regime forces which started to advance towards it through water bridges". Retrieved 12 December 2017 . ^ "ISIS mass surrenders large Deir Ezzor island, 250+ terrorists captured". AMN News. Retrieved 17 November 2017 . ^ "After an undisclosed agreement, the regime forces imposes their control over Hwyjet Katea' and tens of ISIS members surrender, the fate of about 150 civilians in it is unknown". Retrieved 12 December 2017 . ^ "Russia negotiating the release of two nationals captured by IS". 1 December 2017. Retrieved 12 December 2017 . ^ "Russian-Trained 5th Assault Corps Eliminated ISIS Members Allegedly Involved In Capturing Two Russian Nationals (Graphic Photos)". 4 December 2017. Retrieved 12 December 2017 . ^ "Ð' Ð§Ð'Ð "Ð'Ð°Ð"Ð½ÐµÑÐ°" ÑÐ¾Ð¾Ð±ÑÐ¸Ð>>Ð¸ ÑÐ¾Ð´Ð¸ÑÐµÐ>>ÑÐ¼ ÐÐ>>ÐµÐ½ÐµÐ½Ð½Ð¾Ð"Ð¾ "ÐÐ'" ÑÐ¾ÑÑÐ¸ÑÐ½Ð¸Ð½Ð° Ð¾ ÐµÐ"Ð¾ ÑÐ¼ÐµÑÑÐ¸". tsn.ua. 16 December 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2018 . ^ eakin (29 November 2017). "Private military companies: Moscow's other army in Syria". Retrieved 12 December 2017 . ^ "- The Washington Post". Retrieved 20 January 2018 '' via www.washingtonpost.com. ^ Pukhov, Ruslan (10 December 2017). "Moscow-based think tank director: Russia's unexpected military victory in Syria". defensenews.com. Retrieved 20 January 2018 . ^ ÐÐ¾Ð¹ÑÑ Ð§Ð'Ð Ð'Ð°Ð"Ð½ÐµÑÐ° ÐÐ¾Ð¼Ð¾Ð"Ð>>Ð¸ Ð¾ÑÐ²Ð¾Ð±Ð¾Ð´Ð¸ÑÑ Ð½Ð°ÑÐµÐ>>ÐµÐ½Ð½ÑÐµ ÐÑÐ½ÐºÑÑ Ð½Ð° ÑÐµÐ²ÐµÑÐ¾-Ð²Ð¾ÑÑÐ¾ÐºÐµ Ð¥Ð°Ð¼Ñ ^ The clashes continue in the besieged circle within 3 provinces between the regime forces and their allies against ISIS ^ Syrian Army liberates 80 percent of ISIL's pocket in northeast Hama '' map ^ Islamic State fighters move to Syria's Idlib, clash with factions, sources say ^ ab Syria says rare US strike an effort 'to support terrorism' ^ ab U.S. dismisses fears of wider war after deadly Syria clashes ^ US-led coalition strikes kill pro-regime forces in Syria ^ Russians Reported Killed in US Strikes in Syria ^ U.S. Airstrikes Kill 100 Russian and Syrian Fighters, Reports Say ^ abcde More than 200 Russians may have been killed in Coalition strikes against 'pro-regime' forces in Syria ^ ab Reports: Russian contractors killed by US strike in Syria ^ Detsch, Jack (2018-02-08). "Pentagon plays down Russian influence in Syria after clash with US-backed forces". Al-Monitor. Retrieved 2018-02-11 . ^ "Ð' Ð´ÐµÐ½Ñ Ð°Ð²Ð¸Ð°ÑÐ´Ð°ÑÐ° Ð°Ð¼ÐµÑÐ¸ÐºÐ°Ð½ÑÐµÐ² ÐÐ¾ ÑÑÐ¾ÑÐ¾Ð½Ð½Ð¸ÐºÐ°Ð¼ ÐÐ°ÑÐ°ÑÐ° ÐÑÐ°Ð´Ð° Ð² ÐÐ¸ÑÐ¸Ð¸ ÐÐ¾Ð"Ð¸Ð±Ð>>Ð¸ ÐÑÑÐµÑÐ¾ ÑÐ¾ÑÑÐ¸ÑÐ½. ÐÑÐ¾ Ð¾Ð½Ð¸?" [In the day of airstrike led by Americans against Assad's forces in Syria 5 Russians are perished. Who are they?]. Meduza (in Russian). Retrieved 2018-02-14 . ^ ab Russia seeks to regulate private military contractors ^ Russia says U.S. airstrike killed 5 of its citizens ^ About 220 casualties and wounded of the Russian security companies, the regime forces and their allies in Coalition's bombing and the explosion of a warehouse of the Russian protection forces east of Euphrates ^ Fifteen Russian security staff killed in Syria explosion ^ "Kremlin 'Following' Situation In Ukraine's Russia-Backed Separatist-Controlled Luhansk". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 20 January 2018 . ^ "Luhansk coup attempt continues as rival militia occupies separatist region". independent.co.uk. 22 November 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2018 . ^ "Power struggle among east Ukraine separatists indicates likely Russian consolidation of increased militia control in Donbass conflict - Jane's 360". www.janes.com. 22 November 2017. ^ Ukraine rebel region's security minister says he is new leader , Reuters (24 November 2017)Separatist Leader In Ukraine's Luhansk Resigns Amid Power Struggle, Radio Free Europe (24 November 2017)
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Twitter Was Warned Repeatedly About This Fake Account Run By A Russian Troll Farm And Refused To Take It Down
Sun, 18 Feb 2018 11:41
Twitter took 11 months to close a Russian troll account that claimed to speak for the Tennessee Republican Party even after that state's real GOP notified the social media company that the account was a fake.
The account, @TEN_GOP, was enormously popular, amassing at least 136,000 followers between its creation in November 2015 and when Twitter shut it down in August, according to a snapshot of the account captured by the Internet Archive just before the account was "permanently suspended."
Some of its tweets were deliberately outrageous, the archive shows, such as one in December 2016 that claimed that unarmed black men killed by police officers deserved their fate. It also trafficked in deliberate fake news, claiming just before it was shut down that a photo of the Cleveland Cavaliers' NBA championship parade was actually a crowd waiting to hear Donald Trump speak.
Twitter, already under fire, along with Facebook, for being slow to recognize its role in Russian election meddling, declined to comment. A spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the company does not comment on individual accounts.
@TEN_GOP gained enough support from the far right that when it was finally shut down, commentators like Reddit's pro-Trump r/the_donald forum expressed outrage. Jack Posobiec, a pro-Trump internet activist who himself has more than 213,000 Twitter followers, questioned the action when Twitter temporarily suspended the account in July.
''Fascinating,'' Posobiec told BuzzFeed News this week. ''We have to learn more about their operations. It's been their tactic since the KGB in the '70s to turn Americans against one another.''
Posobiec, whose Twitter page identifies him as political director of a political action committee "dedicated to overhauling the GOP," has been a frequent and harsh critic of the various probes into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. In April, he released a video railing against the idea Russians had meddled in the election.
''The left and the mainstream media have repeated the same refrain: that Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump not because any fault of her own, but that Russia meddled with the US election somehow," he said in the video, before citing a CNN poll that said 58% of Americans didn't think Russia had changed vote totals.
After speaking to BuzzFeed News, Posobiec deleted his tweets that mentioned @TEN_GOP.
The @TEN_GOP account was one of many created by Russia's Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-linked ''troll farm'' that devoted hundreds of thousands of dollars and nearly 100 people specifically to influencing American political sentiment. The account was first identified this week in an investigation by Russia's RBC news outlet into the troll farm's efforts to influence US politics.
That investigation documented the lengths that Russia went to in its influence campaign, including paying unsuspecting Americans to undertake activities seemingly intended to increase polarization.
The @TEN_GOP account offered a lesson in how inflammatory tweets can be used to gain followers and influence. In contrast, the actual Tennessee GOP's Twitter account, @tngop, has only 13,400 followers, despite being the Twitter voice of the state party since 2007.
The actual Tennessee Republican Party tried unsuccessfully for months to get Twitter to shut @TEN_GOP down.
''It was in no way affiliated with our office,'' Candice Dawkins, the real Tennessee Republican Party's communications director, told BuzzFeed News. ''It was very misleading.''
On three separate occasions '-- Sept. 17, 2016, March 1, 2017, and Aug. 14, 2017 '-- the Tennessee GOP reported the fake account to Twitter for impersonating it, according to email correspondence that Dawkins shared with BuzzFeed News.
According to screen shots captured by the Internet Archive, the fake account did switch its Twitter profile in February from ''I love God, I Love my Country'' to one that admitted it wasn't an official account: ''Unofficial Twitter of Tennessee Republicans. Covering breaking news, national politics, foreign policy and more. #MAGA#2A.''
It wasn't until sometime between Aug. 18 and Aug. 25, 2017, that Twitter closed the account.
One snapshot of the account captured just before @TEN_GOP was shut down shows a pinned tweet that claimed that first lady Melania Trump had prayed at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, along with a shot at mainstream news media: ''You won't see this on CNN.''
CNN had covered her trip to Paris, including her stop at Notre Dame, though it didn't mention her actually praying.
To Stir Discord in 2016, Russians Turned Most Often to Facebook - The New York Times
Sun, 18 Feb 2018 12:59
Jonathan Albright, research director at Columbia University's Tow Center for Digital Journalism, said the indictment laid bare how effectively Facebook could be turned against the country.
Photo Russians used inflammatory posts and ads on Facebook ahead of the 2016 election. ''Facebook built incredibly effective tools which let Russia profile citizens here in the U.S. and figure out how to manipulate us,'' Mr. Albright said. ''Facebook, essentially, gave them everything they needed.'' He added that many of the tools that the Russians used, including those that allow ads to be targeted and that show how widespread an ad becomes, still pervade Facebook.
Facebook, with more than two billion members on the social network alone, has long struggled with what its sites show and the kind of illicit activity it may enable, from selling unlicensed guns to broadcasting live killings. The company's business depends on people being highly engaged with what is posted on its sites, which in turn helps make it a marquee destination for advertisers.
When suggestions first arose after the 2016 election that Facebook may have influenced the outcome, Mark Zuckerberg, the company's chief executive, dismissed the concerns. But by last September, Facebook had disclosed that the Internet Research Agency had bought divisive ads on hot-button issues through the company. It later said 150 million Americans had seen the Russian propaganda on the social network and Instagram.
The resulting firestorm has damaged Facebook's reputation. Company officials, along with executives from Google and YouTube, were grilled by lawmakers last fall. Facebook has since hired thousands of people to help monitor content and has worked with Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel leading the investigation into Russian election interference. It has also changed its advertising policy so that any ad that mentions a candidate's name goes through a more stringent vetting process. Mr. Zuckerberg has vowed to not let Facebook be abused by bad actors.
Yet Facebook's multiple mentions in Friday's indictment renew questions of why the world's biggest social media company didn't catch the Russian activity earlier or do more to stop it. How effective the company's new efforts to reduce foreign manipulation have been is also unclear.
Rob Goldman, Facebook's vice president of advertising, waded into the discussion on Friday with a series of tweets that argued that Russia's goal was to sow chaos among the electorate rather than to force a certain outcome in the election. On Saturday, President Trump cited those tweets as evidence that Russia's disinformation campaign was not aimed at handing him a victory.
In Silicon Valley, where Facebook has its headquarters, some critics pilloried the company after the indictment became public.
''Mueller's indictment underscores the central role of Facebook and other platforms in the Russian interference in 2016,'' said Roger McNamee, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who had invested early in Facebook. ''In its heyday, television brought the country together, giving viewers a shared set of facts and experiences. Facebook does just the opposite, enabling every user to have a unique set of facts, driving the country apart for profit.''
Joel Kaplan, Facebook's vice president of global policy, said in a statement that the company was grateful the government was taking action ''against those who abused our service and exploited the openness of our democratic process.''
He added that Facebook was working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation ahead of this year's midterm elections to ensure that a similar manipulation campaign would not take place. ''We know we have more to do to prevent against future attacks,'' he said.
Facebook has previously questioned whether law enforcement should be more involved in helping to stop the threat from nation state actors. Facebook said it worked closely with the special counsel's investigation.
YouTube did not respond to a request for comment, while Twitter declined to comment. PayPal said in a statement that it has worked closely with law enforcement and ''is intensely focused on combating and preventing the illicit use of our services.''
According to the indictment, the Internet Research Agency, created in 2014 in St. Petersburg and employing about 80 people, was given the job of interfering with elections and political processes.
The group began using American social media to achieve those aims in 2014, when it started making Facebook pages dedicated to social issues like race and religion. Over the next two years, the indictment said, the Russians stole the identities of real Americans to create fake personas and fake accounts on social media. The group then used those to populate and promote Facebook pages like United Muslims of America, Blacktivist and Secured Borders.
Photo Facebook was also used by the Russians to organize political rallies in the United States. By 2016, the indictment said, the size of some of these Russian-controlled Facebook groups had ballooned to hundreds of thousands of followers.
GraphicThirteen Russian nationals have been charged with illegally trying to disrupt the American political process through inflammatory social media posts and organized political rallies.
The Russians then used these groups to push various messages, including telling Americans not to vote in the 2016 election for either Mr. Trump or his opponent, Hillary Clinton. In October 2016, according to the indictment, one Russian-controlled Instagram account called Woke Blacks posted a message saying: ''Hatred for Trump is misleading the people and forcing Blacks to vote Killary. We cannot resort to the lesser of two devils. Then we'd surely be better off without voting AT ALL.''
Around 2015, according to the indictment, the Russians also started purchasing ads on Facebook and other social media sites like Twitter, targeting specific communities within the United States. The group used stolen PayPal accounts to pay for the ads and to promote posts, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the outreach.
In one ad, published to promote a Facebook event called ''Down with Hillary,'' an image of Mrs. Clinton was shown with a black ''X'' painted across her face. The text read, ''Hillary Clinton is the co-author of Obama's anti-police and anti-Constitutional propaganda.''
By mid-2016, according to the indictment, the Russians were using their fake Facebook personas to organize political rallies in the United States. That June, for example, posing as the United Muslims of America on Facebook, they promoted a rally called ''Support Hillary. Save American Muslims.'' For an August 2016 event organized through Facebook, the Russians also paid for a cage to be built that was large enough to hold an actress depicting Mrs. Clinton in a prison uniform.
At every step, the Russians used Facebook's own tools to make sure their propaganda was as effective as possible. Those tools allowed them to get real-time results on which types of ad campaigns were reaching their target audience or which posts were getting the most engagement with viewers.
Researchers said that those tools are still widely available and that while the company has worked to remove fake accounts and stem the flow of disinformation, it has refused to let outside researchers examine the data on how Russian actors used the platform so effectively.
''They're taking steps to fix this, but there's no easy solution,'' Anton Vuljaj, a Republican media strategist who has advised campaigns and media groups, said of Facebook and other social media companies. ''This also shows that the public needs to be more vigilant about what is real and what is not online.''
Sheera Frenkel reported from San Francisco, and Katie Benner from Washington.
Follow Sheera Frenkel and Katie Benner on Twitter: @sheeraf and @ktbenner
A version of this article appears in print on February 18, 2018, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: To Create Rifts, Russians Liked Facebook Most.
Continue reading the main story
How UK Spies Hacked a European Ally and Got Away With It
Sun, 18 Feb 2018 14:53
The covert operation was the first documented example of a European Union member state hacking the critical infrastructure of another. The malware infection triggered a massive cleanup operation within Belgacom, which has since renamed itself Proximus. The company '' of which the Belgian government is the majority owner '' was forced to replace thousands of its computers at a cost of several million Euros. Elio di Rupo, Belgium's then-prime minister, was furious, calling the hack a ''violation.'' Meanwhile, one of the country's top federal prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into the intrusion.
The criminal investigation has remained open for more than four years, but no details about its activities have been made public. Now, following interviews with five sources close to the case, The Intercept '' in collaboration with Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant '' has gained insight into the probe and uncovered new information about the scope of the hack. The sources, who are subject to confidentiality agreements and not authorized to talk to the media, spoke on the condition of anonymity. Their accounts reveal an extraordinary investigation that was hindered from the outset by political, diplomatic, technical, and legal difficulties.
The Belgacom breach sparked outrage in Europe's political institutions and made global headlines. But Belgium's effort to identify the spies responsible and hold them accountable faced roadblocks at almost every turn. Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency, refused to assist. Prosecutors overseeing the case feared triggering a major diplomatic dispute and were reluctant to pursue it aggressively. Meanwhile, British spies tried to destroy the evidence.
''We wanted to show that as a small country, we would not be bullied,'' said a source close to the investigation. ''But we were fighting against two big cyberarmies from the U.K. and the U.S. We knew we could never win this.''
The Belgacom network control center is seen in Brussels, Belgium, Thursday, April 6, 2006.
At first, it was not clear how severely Belgacom's systems were compromised or who was responsible for the breach. Inside a grayish four-story office building on Lebeau Street in Brussels, one of the company's email servers kept malfunctioning. The problem, first identified in the summer of 2012, was assumed then to be a routine technical fault. But about a year later '' in June 2013 '' the issue flared up again, and Belgacom's security experts realized there was a more sinister explanation: The company's systems had been hacked.
Belgacom notified the authorities that it had been targeted, and in July 2013, filed a formal complaint with a federal prosecutor. The complaint triggered a major investigation that was code-named ''Trinity,'' led by a group that included members of Belgium's federal police, domestic secret service, military intelligence, and a specialist unit known as a Computer Emergency Response Team. Belgacom also recruited help in the form of Netherlands-based cybersecurity firm Fox-IT; it called in the U.S. technology company Cisco to assess the damage, as well.
Once they had the chance to analyze Belgacom's infected computers, the Belgian authorities realized that they were not dealing with a routine cyberattack. Instead, they assessed that it was an ''advanced persistent threat'' '' a deep-reaching hack perpetrated by a well-funded, highly skilled actor. They had never encountered anything like it before.
The malware that had infected Belgacom's systems was disguised as legitimate Microsoft software, the investigators found. It was secretly collecting data from the company's networks before storing it in compressed containers with several layers of encryption. Assessing the extent of the damage was no easy task. The Belgians could not completely decrypt the files and were therefore unable to identify exactly what had been taken from Belgacom's computers.
The hackers were retrieving the stolen information from Belgacom's systems during business hours, masking their activity within the normal flows of data passing to and from the company's networks. But in late August 2013, the malware suddenly began deleting itself, vanishing in minutes from Belgacom's infected computers. ''The attackers knew they'd been discovered,'' said a security expert who worked on the case. ''They pushed a button to destroy the malware.''
Their prime suspects were people who did not exist.
Luckily, the investigators had already made copies of the bug. They followed the digital evidence, forensically analyzing it for clues. They found that the stolen data had been sent out of Belgacom's systems to a network of servers seemingly operated by the hackers. They identified the servers by tracing IP addresses '' a series of numbers assigned to computers when they connect to the internet '' to countries including India, the Netherlands, Indonesia, and Romania.
The hackers had rented the servers from private companies operating in each of these countries. Belgian police contacted the companies and asked them to turn over any information they had about the customers who had purchased the servers. The companies complied, providing the police with names, addresses, and payment records. The police now had a list of people they believed could be responsible for the hack. But that's where the trail began to go cold.
The addresses were for people who appeared to live in Germany and Denmark. Belgian federal police officers reached out to their counterparts in these countries, sharing the details about their suspects. But there were no records of anyone with the suspects' names having lived at the addresses. In Germany, the address the hackers had used turned out to be a theater. It quickly became obvious to the investigators that the information was fraudulent. Their prime suspects were people who did not exist.
''There was nothing there '' just ghosts,'' said a source close to the investigation. ''They are spies. They put up smokescreens.''
One detail would later take on significance, however. The servers had in some cases been purchased with payment cards that appeared to have been issued to people based in the U.K.
The building of the European Parliament (EP) as seen from Rue Lucien Febvre Street in the city of Strasbourg.
Photo: Alexei VitvitskyTASS/Getty Images
In June 2013, shortly before the discovery of the intrusion at Belgacom, journalists began publishing documents leaked by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. The documents exposed controversial mass surveillance programs operated by the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ.
Some of the Belgacom investigators initially suspected that the NSA was involved in the hack, partly due to the complexity of the malware. It bore similarities to Stuxnet and Flame, U.S.-created digital viruses designed to sabotage and collect intelligence about Iran's uranium enrichment program. ''This was by far the most sophisticated malware I've ever seen,'' recalled Frank Groenewegen, a researcher who analyzed Belgacom's infected systems for the cybersecurity firm Fox-IT.
It was not until September 2013 that the Belgians would learn the truth: The Belgacom intrusion had in fact been carried out by another of their close allies, the British. Documents from Snowden, published that month by Der Spiegel, showed that a GCHQ unit called the Network Analysis Centre had hacked into the computers of three Belgacom engineers who had access to sensitive parts of the company's systems.
Layout of a GCHQ office from which the hack of Belgacom was planned and carried out.
Image: GCHQ/Snowden archive
When the details about the hack went public, Belgacom tried to play down the extent of the breach. The company circulated a press release insisting there was ''no indication of any impact'' for its customers and their data. But the reassurance turned out to be false. As The Intercept revealed in December 2014, the most sensitive parts of Belgacom's networks were compromised in stages between January and December 2011. After installing malware on the engineers' computers by luring them to a fake version of the LinkedIn website, GCHQ was able to steal their keys to the secure parts of Belgacom's networks and begin monitoring the data flowing across them. The agency boasted in classified reports that the operation was ''hugely successful.'' It gained access to Belgacom ''both deep into the network and at the edge of the network'' and hacked into data links carrying information over a protocol known as GPRS, which handles cellphone internet browsing sessions and multimedia messages.The British spies appear to have targeted Belgacom due to its role as one of Europe's most important telecommunications hubs. Through a subsidiary company called Belgacom International Carrier Services, it maintains data links across the continent and also processes phone calls and emails passing to and from the Middle East, North Africa, and South America. But tapping into a broad range of global communications is only one possible motive. GCHQ may also have sought access to Belgacom's networks to snoop on NATO and key European institutions, such as the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Council. All of those organizations have large offices and thousands of employees in Belgium. And all were Belgacom customers at the time of the intrusion.
Over the last decade, as the internet and smartphone use have boomed, GCHQ has increasingly turned to hacking to collect intelligence on matters related to economics, geopolitics, and security. Aside from Belgacom, the agency has broken into the computer systems of the oil production organization OPEC; the Netherlands-based security company Gemalto; and organizations that process international cellphone billing records, including Switzerland's Comfone. The agency has also hacked several governments and companies from countries including Ireland, South Africa, Pakistan, India, Turkey, Iran, Argentina, Russia, North Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and Zimbabwe, according to previously undisclosed lists of some of its targets, contained in the archive of classified documents that The Intercept obtained from Snowden.
The hacking attacks are among GCHQ's most sensitive and risky operations, mainly because the method is not as discrete as more traditional forms of electronic surveillance, like monitoring a phone line. Challenges the agency faces during its computer intrusions include ''avoiding detection by [the] target or another agency'' and ''remaining within the law,'' according to a previously undisclosed top-secret GCHQ document from the Snowden archive. All of GCHQ's hacking activities ''must be U.K. deniable,'' the document says, meaning it should be impossible for those targeted by the hacks to trace them back to GCHQ's computers. The agency's hackers use what they call ''intermediary machines'' and ''covert infrastructure'' to disguise themselves before they steal information from hacked computers or phones.
In the Belgacom case, these protections failed and GCHQ's biggest fear was realized. Its operation was discovered and its identity as the perpetrator was publicly exposed. For the authorities in Belgium, however, seeking justice for the damage that the agency caused still proved a remarkable challenge.
In this Jan. 16, 2015 , the head of the European Union's police agency Europol, Rob Wainwright, answers questions during an interview in The Hague, Netherlands.
Photo: Peter Dejong/AP
As news organizations began publishing the Snowden documents in 2013, the Belgians studied them with interest. The classified files revealed details about the planning and execution of the hack. But because the documents appeared in the press, were partly redacted, and had not been handed straight to the police, the law enforcement officials overseeing the criminal investigation did not consider them direct evidence, though they did enter the documents into their case file.
According to a source close to the investigation, there were informal discussions over whether it would be possible to ask Snowden to testify as a witness in the case, so he could verify the documents and potentially provide his own statement about the hack of Belgacom. However, senior prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw poured cold water on the idea, on the grounds that it would be too damaging diplomatically. Snowden was in Russia, where he had sought asylum, and interviewing him could upset the U.S., a powerful ally of the Belgian government. At the time, there were rising concerns about the movement of potential Islamist terrorists in Europe. The Belgians needed U.S. assistance in tracking that threat and feared any move that could jeopardize the cooperation. (A spokesperson for Van Leeuw declined to comment for this story.)
The investigators knew the U.K. was responsible for the hack. But they wanted to build their own case, based on their own sources, that nailed GCHQ as the perpetrator. Some of the forensic evidence they had obtained from Belgacom's systems pointed toward the U.K., but it was not conclusive and could still be denied.
The Belgians believed Europol had stonewalled them for political reasons.
There were the payments they had been able to trace to the U.K., but those turned out to have been made using pre-paid credit cards that were obtained anonymously '' in the Kent area of England and elsewhere '' and not linked directly to GCHQ. The investigators also found the names ''Daredevil'' and ''Warriorpride'' embedded within the code of the malware that had infected Belgacom's systems. These are the names of a hacking tool used by GCHQ and NSA, according to the Snowden documents, and their discovery within Belgacom was as close as the investigators got to a smoking gun. But the Belgians felt these details were still too circumstantial. They needed more.
In late 2013, Belgian police decided to approach the European Union's law enforcement agency, Europol, for assistance. Europol helps E.U. member states fight terrorism and serious crime. It has a specialist unit called the European Cybercrime Centre, whose mandate is to ''strengthen the law enforcement response to cybercrime in the E.U.'' The Belgians hoped the unit would help them gather more evidence about the hack.
However, Europol wanted nothing to do with the investigation and refused to assist, according to two sources familiar with the interaction. Europol asserted that it would not carry out investigations into other European Union member states '' in this case, the U.K. The Belgians were frustrated and believed Europol had stonewalled them for political reasons; they noted with suspicion that the organization was led by Rob Wainwright, who is British.
Jan Op Gen Oorth, a spokesperson for Europol, told The Intercept in an email that regulations restricted the organization to ''investigating acts affecting two or more EU Member States, involving serious and organized crime and terrorist actors only.'' Questioned on which regulations he meant, Op Gen Oorth pointed to a policy that did not exist at the time the Belgians asked for assistance with the hack of Belgacom. (The policy was in fact brought into force in May 2017; it states that Europol is empowered to investigate hacks ''of suspected criminal origin,'' but says nothing about hacks perpetrated by governments.)
At every turn in the case, the Belgian investigators encountered a dead end. They knew that even if they identified specific GCHQ personnel responsible for the hack, they would likely never be able to arrest or extradite them from the U.K. It might have been possible to place the names of particular GCHQ employees on a watch list, and if they ever traveled to Belgium, police could detain and interrogate them. But that would pose its own set of problems. Arresting a British spy would trigger a massive public dispute with the U.K. and there was insufficient political appetite for such a showdown. As such, the Belgian Trinity investigation came to be viewed as little more than symbolic in value.
''We could see GCHQ was behind it, but we knew it was never going to go to court,'' said a source close to the case. ''But still, we wanted to gather information and make it known to the world that in Belgium if you try to hack our national telecoms we won't look away, we will investigate.''
British Foreign Secretary William Hague walks in to attend the EU foreign ministers meeting, at the European Council building in Brussels, Monday, Dec. 16, 2013.
Photo: Yves Logghe/AP
The British government has never publicly acknowledged any role in the Belgacom hack. GCHQ declined to answer questions for this story and instead issued a statement asserting that its work is carried out ''in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate.'' Any GCHQ hack that targets foreign organizations must be approved at a senior level within the agency, and particularly sensitive operations sometimes require the sign-off of the government's foreign secretary, who at the time of the Belgacom intrusion was William Hague. A spokesperson for Hague refused to discuss the case, saying he would not comment on ''national intelligence matters.''
In the aftermath of the incident, it is likely that the Belgian government lodged diplomatic protests with its British counterparts. According to U.K. government records obtained by The Intercept through the Freedom of Information Act, British officials held a series of meetings with Belgian government representatives after the Belgacom intrusion was publicly exposed. In October 2013, for instance, foreign secretaries of each country and senior diplomats attended a two day ''Belgian-British conference'' at Lancaster House in London's West End. Two weeks later, the British ambassador to Belgium met in Brussels with Johan Delmulle, a top Belgian federal prosecutor, who was overseeing the Belgacom investigation at the time.
Even within the Belgian government and law enforcement community, however, there was a lack of clarity about how the case was being handled. The country's law enforcement personnel were not informed about whether a diplomatic dialogue was underway with the British. Meanwhile, Alexander De Croo, the Belgian government minister responsible for telecoms services, appears to have been kept in the dark about the incident. During a January 2016 talk at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, De Croo made the extraordinary suggestion that his own government might even have secretly allowed the British to go ahead with the hack.
''The whole question is: Did we agree or not,'' De Croo said. ''I am not the Minister of Justice so I don't get access to everything .'... It might very well be that the Belgian intelligence services said, 'Yes please go ahead, why not?'''
De Croo declined to be interviewed for this story. Belgium's Ministry of Justice and intelligence services refused to discuss De Croo's comments, citing an ongoing investigation.
Aerial photograph of the Government Communications Headquarters, also known as GCHQ, Cheltenham Gloucestershire.
Photo: David Goddard/Getty Images
The police file on the Belgacom hack numbers thousands of pages and is expected to be handed over soon to the prosecutor now overseeing the case. That prosecutor, Geert Schoorens, will decide what to do next, including whether to charge anyone over the breach.
Despite the political uproar the incident triggered in 2013, it is unlikely that any action will be taken. That GCHQ was responsible is beyond doubt, but the agency will face no consequences, say sources with knowledge of the case. There will be no sanctions for the U.K., no compensation to cover the damage caused, no arrests, no interrogations, no apology, and no admission of guilt. Rather, Schoorens will turn over a report to the Belgian parliament and the investigation will be quietly closed.
Despite this, the hack has had a palpable impact in Belgium. Belgacom '' or Proximus, as it is now known '' committed to spend more than $55 million to reform its internal security procedures. The company created a cyberdefense unit and recruited ''ethical hackers'' who routinely try to break into its networks, which helps identify and fix any potential vulnerabilities. It has also trained its employees in how to spot potential hacking attempts, introduced new systems that constantly monitor activity within its internal networks, and reduced the number of its computers that have access to sensitive parts of its systems.
The Belgian authorities, too, were forced to embrace changes after the breach. The criminal investigation brought the country's law enforcement and secret services closer together, and now the agencies are more cooperative on cybersecurity issues. For them, GCHQ's actions were a rude awakening '' and the sign of a looming new threat, for which they are now preparing. ''In the next few years, this malware is going to be in the hands of criminals and terrorists,'' said a source close to the investigation. ''Belgacom was a learning curve. We learned how to respond to a crisis before the next crisis.''
Documents published with this article:
Top photo: The Belgacom Group is the largest telecommunications company in Belgium, headquartered in Brussels.Belgacom flag, Belgian national flag hang together at the entrance mirrored in the windows.
Cifas fraud marker left me with do not employ status | Daily Mail Online
Sat, 17 Feb 2018 20:01
A This is Money reader had two job offers snatched away from him because he had a fraud marker on his file that he didn't even know about, which caused him financial strain and stress.
The black mark had been put on his records following a failed mortgage application a year earlier. It only came to light after the reader failed background checks for two jobs, leaving him unemployed and in the dark about what was being held against him.
The case raises real questions about what information is held about Britons without their knowledge, and their ability to contest it.
The reader, who works as a contractor in the financial services industry, received the first job offer in July last year.
Unknown marker: Our reader was locked out of work in the financial services industry, twice, as he had a fraudulent marker on his Cifas file without his knowledge
The interview was successful and he resigned from his previous role. All that was needed was background checks to be completed before he started the job the following months.
The jobseeker thought this aspect would just be a formality as he had no criminal background or issue with his finances.
So he was shocked when some days later he received a letter from the employer withdrawing its offer, saying checks had come back with the menacing wording: 'Do not employ'.
The reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, was gutted and could not understand why he had been rejected.
The employer would not tell him why he failed the background check, but sent him a sheet detailing which agencies it uses for checks, including Cifas and Experian.
The reader was perplexed - the only explanation he could come up with was that maybe he wasn't on the electoral register.
He applied for another job, passed the interview with flying colours - but failed the background check once more.
This time, after some probing the employer in question, it revealed the rejection was due to a market on Cifas.
Cifas is a not-for-profit organisation that it says exists to reduce and prevent fraud and financial crime.
It maintains a database of individuals who carry our fraudulent activity. Financial services providers can provide it with information about their customers.
Employers in some sectors, financial services in particular, run checks on the database to see if applicants have a record, before deciding whether or not to offer them a job. Some will also check other databases for details of applicants' credit score.
The logic is that if, for example, someone has been caught making fraudulent claims on an application for a loan, they may not be suitable for a job in financial services.
In some industries, such as the financial services sector, background checks, including for fraud and a credit search, are compulsory when looking to hire a new staff member.
We revealed last November that nearly 2,000 job applicants had been turned down for roles in the past year after background checks revealed they had 'bad debt'.
A difficult cycle can emerge, whereby job applicants are unable to work because they have bad debts, which gets them further into debt and even less likely to receive a job offer.
The reader contacted Cifas and found a single entry was on his file '' and was shocked to see it was from the Bank of Ireland.
It dated back from early 2016 when the bank had declined him for a buy-to-let mortgage application.
The property he was buying was in Belfast and getting a mortgage for it proved difficult at the time.
Three lenders rejected his mortgage application: one said the £53,000 mortgage he had applied for was too small a sum, another claimed the property was the wrong height; the third lender he tried was Bank of Ireland, which he contacted via his financial adviser.
It too turned him down but he says it didn't give him a concrete reason why.
A week later, he managed to finally sort the mortgage with BM Solutions and that, he believed, was the end of the matter.
However, lurking in the background was a fraud marker issued by the Bank of Ireland - of which he says he was never made aware.
Cifas told This is Money that these markers can be placed on an individual for up to six years 'if someone is considered to pose a fraud or money laundering risk.'
When the jobseeker discovered it, he wrote to the bank to get the marker removed.
It agreed to do so, but was keen to add that it believed it had acted correctly in attaching the marker to him.
Incredibly, Cifas members do not have to have to proactively tell an individual that a marker has been placed.
The Bank of Ireland says he had 'undeclared commitments' which he believes relates to credit cards.
He held a few, but says he sent over the details of them to Bank of Ireland, which he adds were on the first page, along with bank statements and outstanding personal loans information, when applying for the mortgage.
Turned down: Our reader was rejected for a small buy-to-let mortgage by Bank of Ireland, which has a UK presence
He says: 'It has caused me lots of problems, not being able to work or even apply for jobs in my industry knowing I would be turned down due to background checks.
'I've had emotional stress and not working has put a strain on my finances. I wonder how many people have gone through the same stress by a marker they never knew existed.
'I am horrified that a bank is allowed to perform such an action that can have such a profound experience on someone's life and never inform them.
'Simply by responding to my financial adviser would have avoided any of this every happening. Instead, the Bank of Ireland seem quite happy to hide behind "undeclared commitments"'.
The reader says it has since refused to tell him or a lawyer what it means, but will tell the Financial Ombudsman if asked.
Cifas says that undeclared commitments is a type of fraudulent conduct that can be recorded onto its database and is often logged when an individual doesn't declare all financial obligations, such as outstanding debt.
Cifas says some people will deliberately not declare all their commitments knowing that if they did their application would not be successful.
Cifas added: 'In the case of financial undeclared commitments, the individual would need to be referred to the relevant credit reference agency or agencies to see what data was found. They will then have the opportunity to correct it if it's found to be wrong.'
The reader has written to the FOS, believing that the bank is trying to wriggle out of blame and any compensation.
In his letter, he has asked for more information on what questions Cifas asks in order to put a marker on an account.
He adds that if the Bank of Ireland put the marker on his account to stop him applying for other mortgages, it clearly didn't work.
As well as the buy-to-let mortgage he secured shortly afterwards, he was able to apply and obtain a joint mortgage with his wife and also renew their residential mortgage '' all it did was stop him from working.
He also wants answers as to how staff are trained in Cifas at the bank saying that one customer service agent he spoke to had no idea what Cifas was.
In fact, he claims in one letter sent from the bank, they spelt Cifas 'Cyphus'.
Furthermore, he says the decision by Bank of Ireland to remove the marker so easily should be questioned.
He adds: 'If it believed their decision for Application Fraud was genuine, then what research did the bank perform to work out that it should be removed, other than myself saying to them that I am unable to find a job due to having this marker at Cifas?'
In a letter at the start of January, Bank of Ireland said: 'Our position is that this was correctly reported due to undeclared commitments.
'We have removed the marker, as although relevant at the time of application we do not believe this is an ongoing concern.
'In summary we do not uphold your complaint that the Cifas entry was incorrectly reported.' It then goes on to add the details of the FOS.
This is Money approached Bank of Ireland but it didn't wish to comment on the case.
We contacted Cifas who gave us a detailed overview of how it works. Cifas operates the National Fraud Database and the Internal Fraud Database in conjunction with the Information Commissioner's Office
Before an organisation is able to place a warning about someone on its database, it must be in a position to make a formal complaint to the police or other relevant law enforcement agency.
It must have carried out checks of sufficient depth to satisfy this standard of proof.
Typically, organisations will have found material falsehoods in the personal information supplied on an application, proposal or claim, or in the case of an account, policy or service, and will be able to demonstrate that the behaviour of the customer amounts to fraud.
A criminal offence must be identifiable, Cifas adds.
HOW TO CHALLENGE A CIFAS MARKERShould there be any fraud data recorded in the individual's details, the next steps to take are:
1. When data Cifas holds is being challenged, the organisation who recorded the information should be contacted in the first instance, outlining the reasons why the information recorded is disputed.
2. Once the filing Cifas member has reviewed the case, they will issue a 'Final Response Letter' and if necessary, amend or delete any data held.
3. If the member does not uphold the complaint, Cifas can conduct our own review of the case.
4. If an individual disagrees with Cifas' response, the Financial Ombudsman Service can be contacted to review further - the step our reader has taken.
It says all individuals when applying for a financial product will have been provided with a Fair Processing Notice.
In a nutshell, this explains that if fraud is identified, their details will be shared through a fraud prevention agency and this may have an impact on their ability to gain other products, services and employment.
The Fair Processing Notice also details how individuals can contact the fraud prevention agencies used and obtain a copy of any information held about them.
If an individual is rejected for a product, account or a job application, they have the right to ask what information has been used in that decision.
But the reader claims he was never given a concrete answer from Bank of Ireland as to why he had been turned down.
If Cifas data has been used, its rules mean an individual must be told that fraud prevention agency data has been used and given advice on how to contact it.
It's now down to the FOS to determine whether the correct procedures had been undertaken.
It says members are responsible for the filings they make and they do not need to contact Cifas to delete it.
It adds: 'We audit our members on a regular basis to review cases and ensure they are being filed within the Cifas rules.
'It is important to note Cifas members cannot auto decline applications on the basis of a Cifas warning, any decision to grant credit or application approval is down to each individual lender's risk appetite.'
If an individual is aware of or believes Cifas data has impacted on a decision, they can request a copy of any data held by returning a Subject Access Request form, along with payment and appropriate proofs of identity and address.
'You lied. You defamed me': Patrick Brown blasts CTV News after sexual misconduct accuser changes timeline - Toronto - CBC News
Sun, 18 Feb 2018 12:41
Patrick Brown is blasting CTV News saying, "You lied. You defamed me," in a Facebook post on Wednesday after the broadcaster reported one of the women who accused him of sexual misconduct wasn't under the legal drinking age at the time or in high school at the time of the alleged incident.
Brown stepped down as leader of Ontario's Progressive Conservatives on Jan. 25, a day after he was accused of sexual misconduct by two women with the allegations dating back to when he was a federal MP. CTV News first reported the accusations in a report that did not name the two women who alleged the incidents occurred in his home in Barrie, Ont.
Since then, Brown has vowed to disprove the allegations.
CTV News published a story late Tuesday that changed the timeline of the alleged events. One of his accusers now says she was of legal drinking age and not in high school when Brown allegedly asked her to perform oral sex.
"CTV News fabricated a malicious and false report about me from two anonymous accusers," Brown wrote. "The significance of this changed story is monumental."
CBC News has not independently verified the complainant's new versions of the alleged incident.
The unnamed woman, however, told CBC News in a statement through her lawyer, David Butt, on Wednesday: "I stand firmly by the truth of what I said about Patrick Brown's conduct involving me."
She said "collateral details," such as the timeline difference of a year from what she first recalled, "are not important."
The woman said she has experienced a barrage of comments on social media that were "demeaning, victim-blaming and woman-hating." As a result, the complainant said she will not be engaging in any more public discussion of the incident.
She did explain, however, the reason she came forward with the accusations against Brown is because she "wanted to help other women feel safe in coming forward themselves."
"The comments that I have been subjected to ignore altogether the abuse of power by an older sober man over a young intoxicated woman," the statement read.
Her lawyer echoed this in an interview with CBC News on Wednesday. Butt said while "collateral details" fade over time, the allegations of sexual misconduct remain an integral part of the core story.
"Ask anyone about an important event in their life, calendar dates are not printed on the bottom of those memories like they are on digital cameras," Butt said.
"We simply tend not to remember in terms of '... dates and time. What we remember are key events in relation to more physical elements of our surroundings rather than the concept of time and date."
CTV 'stands by its reporting': spokespersonMatthew Garrow, spokesperson for Bell Media, also responded to Brown's Facebook post on Wednesday in an email to CBC News.
"CTV News continues to stand by its reporting," Garrow said.
"Patrick Brown's allegations regarding our reporting are false. As we reported once again last night, the two women have reiterated their allegations of sexual misconduct by Patrick Brown."
Accusers challenged to press chargesBrown also included a message to his accusers in his Facebook post, challenging them to go to police in Barrie, Ont., and try to have authorities press charges.
"If you truly stand by your allegations, then I urge you to contact Barrie police and have them lay charges. Barrie police can be reached at 705-725-7025. These types of allegations should be dealt with in a proper and fair forum," he said.
Butt told CBC News his client, one of the women, has no intention of going to police and doesn't intend to press charges.
"By daring my client to go to the police, Mr. Brown destroys the credibility of his self-proclaimed support for women who have suffered sexual mistreatment," he said in a statement.
"No one with a contemporary understanding of the dynamics of sexual victimization and its aftermath would be so insensitive and patriarchal as to try to dictate to a survivor what her healing path should be, much less goad her."
'By daring my client to go to the police, Mr. Brown destroys the credibility of his self-proclaimed support for women who have suffered sexual mistreatment.' - David Butt, lawyer
Brown told reporters last month the allegations against him are false and were difficult to hear.
"It's never OK for anyone to feel they have been a victim of sexual harassment or feel threatened in any way," he said.
"A safe and respectful society is what we expect and deserve, and no one knows that more than I do, I've got two younger sisters who are my best friends."
Brown, who had already strongly denied the allegations, said over the weekend in his first interview since resigning from his position that he's contemplating legal action to restore his reputation.
CBC News has reached out to Brown about his Facebook post, but hasn't received a response.
Patrick Brown's resignation over allegations of sexual misconduct has left the Ontario PC party scrambling to quickly select a new leader before the provincial election in June. (CBC)
Brown's resignation as leader of the Official Opposition triggered the Ontario PC leadership contest months before the provincial election in June.
Christine Elliott, Caroline Mulroney and Doug Ford have all announced their intention to seek the party's leadership. Tory members will decide on the new face of the party on March 10.
While he is no longer head of the Ontario PCs, Brown remains the MPP for Simcoe North and is still officially a member of the PC caucus.
Patrick Brown enters the race for his old job, hours after the PC caucus turfed him | Toronto Star
Sun, 18 Feb 2018 12:42
Ousted former Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown is running again for the right to battle Premier Kathleen Wynne in the June 7 election '-- even though he has been banished from the Tory caucus at Queen's Park.
In a bizarre twist to a saga that has plunged the official opposition Conservatives into further chaos, Brown on Friday filed the paperwork to join the PC leadership race, prompting rivals to blast his stunning decision.
''I think my name has been cleared and now it's about getting Ontario back on track,'' Brown proclaimed as he led reporters and cameras on a chase down the stairs at party headquarters and along Adelaide St. to a taxi.
He said the party has been ''hijacked'' and his People's Guarantee election platform abandoned.
Brown's demeanour was a marked change from three weeks ago, when he resigned as leader after a teary news conference over a CTV News report that alleged sexual impropriety involving two teenage girls.
Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown speaks at a press conference at Queen's Park in Toronto Jan. 24, 2018. On Friday he entered the party's leadership race, a move that comes three weeks after he resigned as leader. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim / THE CANADIAN PRESS ) The leadership gambit came just two hours before the deadline for entering the March 10 contest.
But party president Jag Badwal cautioned that Brown's leadership application must still pass a vetting process ''in the same manner as the other declared candidates.''
Furious leadership rivals blasted Brown's stunning decision and questioned his claim to having cleared his name.
Brown called the allegations in the CTV report ''fictitious'' and has threatened to sue the network.
''Our focus should remain squarely on beating Kathleen Wynne in less than 100 days. This is a distraction from that and I am disappointed,'' said Caroline Mulroney on Twitter.
''Patrick Brown made the right decision to step down. A leadership election is not the place for him to try to clear his name,'' said Mulroney, a rookie PC candidate in York-Simcoe.
Doug Ford echoed that, saying the ''party is objectively stronger without Patrick Brown.''
After a tearful Wednesday night news conference, Patrick Brown issued a statement saying he was leaving as leader of Ontario's Progressive Conservatives. His resignation is a blow to his party just months before the provincial election.''The rot that was identified by our interim leader (Vic Fedeli) is real and serious. It has served as an obstacle to our victory in June,'' the former Toronto councillor said on Twitter, referring to Fedeli's move to part company with the party's executive director, other staff and investigate an inflated membership list.
Two suspicious nominations of candidates have also been overturned while a third is under police fraud investigation.
Christine Elliott, who placed second to Brown in the party's 2015 leadership race, said ''with fewer than 100 days, now is a time for unity.''
Ford emphasized ''the Ontario PC Party is about more than any one person.''
Opinion | Martin Regg Cohn: Patrick Brown's re-election bid comes at PC party's expense
Opinion | Martin Regg Cohn: Progressive Conservative party sitting down to eat itself alive three months before an election
Patrick Brown says he's suing CTV over sexual misconduct allegations
But anti sex-education activist Tanya Granic Allen, who slammed Brown for ''corruption'' in Thursday night's leadership debate, welcomed his entry.
''Finally, he will be held to account for his political crimes,'' her campaign said in a blistering statement, accusing Brown of flip-flopping on opposition to Wynne's updated sex education curriculum for the social media era and of ''ballot-box stuffing'' at several nominations.
Brown's surprise move happened the same day he was turfed from the Tory caucus at Queen's Park, meaning he will be sitting as an Independent MPP when the House resumes Tuesday.
''Shortly after becoming interim leader, I asked Patrick Brown to step aside from the PC caucus,'' said Fedeli.
''Earlier today, Mr. Brown was notified that he has been removed from the PC Caucus effective immediately,'' added Fedeli, who has vowed to clean up the ''rot'' in the Brown-era party.
''The same procedure was followed when Mr. Brown removed Jack MacLaren from the PC caucus,'' the interim leader said, referring to the member of the Trillium Party.
Brown's dismissal from caucus came just two hours after the Star posted a recording from one of two conference calls with Tory MPPs late on the night of Jan. 24.
In that call, which happened hours after the CTV News report, Brown quit as leader.
''Despite the fact that this is character assassination and false allegations, I don't want any of us to set back on our mission to defeat Kathleen Wynne,'' he told his colleagues.
''I want nothing more than to see you all successful in replacing this corrupt government. When you work 20 hours a day like I do on defeating this government, I would never want to be an obstacle to you defeating (it),'' Brown continues.
''I've asked (director of communications) Rebecca (Thompson) to prepare a statement that I will resign,'' he says.
''And I've asked her to figure out at what point tomorrow that is set, and she has drafted a statement while you guys were on the call, and she can read it to you if you want to hear what we've put together so far.''
In contrast to his emotional 81-second news conference earlier that the evening, where he was too upset to take journalists' questions and led them on a chase through the building to a waiting van, Brown sounded composed and resigned to his fate in the caucus call.
Despite his resignation, some of his loyalists in the party were claiming he is still technically the leader.
Brown, himself, suggested to Global News earlier this week that he did not agree to the departure plan.
''The resignation was sent out without my permission,'' he told Global.
But the audio of the conference call appears to contradict that assertion.
That revelation came Thursday just as the first leadership debate by his would-be successors was starting.
Voting for a new leader take place online between March 2 and March 8 and the winner will be announced March 10.
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VIDEO - WARNING FROM CIA, NSA AND THE FBI! DON'T BUY THIS PHONE!" - YouTube
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VIDEO - Rick Scott: If someone is mentally ill, they shouldn't have access to a gun - YouTube
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VIDEO - CIA Argues Public Can't See Classified I | The Daily Caller
Sun, 18 Feb 2018 15:26
Intelligence officials can selectively release classified information to trusted journalists while withholding the same information from other citizens who request it through open records laws, CIA lawyers argued Wednesday.
In a motion filed in New York federal court, the CIA claimed that limited disclosures to reporters do not waive national security exemptions to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies frequently deny records requests on the basis of protecting sensitive national security information, one of nine exemptions written into the federal FOIA law.
The case stems from lawsuit against the CIA by New York-based independent journalist Adam Johnson, who had used FOIA to obtain emails between the agency's public information office and selected reporters from the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and The New York Times. The emails the CIA provided to Johnson were redacted, leading him to question why he was not allowed to see the same information that had been given to uncleared reporters.
Johnson challenged the redaction in court, arguing that the CIA, once it has selectively disclosed information to uncleared reporters, cannot claim the same information is protected by a FOIA exemption.
The judge in the case appeared to find Johnson' argument compelling. In a court order last month, Chief Judge Colleen McMahon of the Southern District of New York said FOIA laws do not authorize limited disclosure, to favored journalists or otherwise.
''In this case, CIA voluntarily disclosed to outsiders information that it had a perfect right to keep private,'' she wrote. ''There is absolutely no statutory provision that authorizes limited disclosure of otherwise classified information to anyone, including 'trusted reporters,' for any purpose, including the protection of CIA sources and methods that might otherwise be outed.
McMahon also said it didn't matter if the journalists in question published the information they received, only if the CIA waived its right to deny the information.
''The fact that the reporters might not have printed what was disclosed to them has no logical or legal impact on the waiver analysis, because the only fact relevant to waiver analysis is: Did the CIA do something that worked a waiver of a right it otherwise had?'' she wrote, asking CIA lawyers to come up with a stronger defense for non-disclosure.
The CIA's response on Wednesday centered on the contention that the information disclosed to favored reporters had not actually entered the public domain. As such, the limited disclosure did not constitute a waiver of the FOIA exemption, government lawyers said.
''The Court's supposition that a limited disclosure of information to three journalists necessarily equates to a disclosure to the public at large is legally and factually mistaken,'' the CIA motion stated. ''The record demonstrates beyond dispute that the classified and statutorily protected information withheld from the emails has not entered the public domain.''
Selective disclosure of classified information to uncleared reporters is a fairly common practice recognized by Congress, which requires briefings by the CIA on such disclosures, according to Steven Aftergood, the director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy. Johnson's case, if decided in favor of the CIA, could end up ratifying the practice via the courts, Aftergood says.
Johnson has until March 1 to reply to the government's motion, which asks for a summary judgement in favor of the CIA.
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VIDEO - Tamarac gun owner surrenders his AR-15 rifle to BSO in wake of high school shooting '' WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports | Fort Lauderdale
Sun, 18 Feb 2018 13:24
TAMARAC. FLA. (WSVN) - - A Tamarac gun owner has surrendered his rifle to the Broward Sheriff's Office in wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Ben Dickmann says he took his AR-57 semi-automatic rifle, a caliber variant of the AR-15, to BSO's Tamarac location Friday, two days after 17 people were killed in Parkland.
''This is just my opinion and probably not held by the majority of gun owners is, I don't think that that rifle, that type of rifle, that military-style rifle has a place in public,'' he said. ''That rifle was designed for military combat. I'm not participating in military combat. I have no need for that.''
Dickmann surrendered the rifle to ensure it doesn't land in the hands of the public, and posted photos to social media. His post quickly went viral.
''I have no need for this, nor does anybody else and that's why didn't try to sell it,'' he said. ''I could've sold it very easily, but I decided not to. I don't need it and nobody else does either.''
Dickmann said he wanted to be a part of the solution instead of the problem.
''I am member of probably the second-most vilified demographic in the country currently (If you didn't know, I'm a conservative leaning, gun-owning, middle-aged, financially stable white male),'' he wrote on Facebook. ''Maybe more like me will stand up, because I'm sorry, until my demographic gets behind this, nothing will change.''
The semi-automatic rifle is similar to the rifle used to kill 17 students and faculty members at the high school Wednesday. Dickmann said the tragedy needs to met with action and not just conversation.
''I don't see any change happening at the government level and if I can do something to start that, maybe one little thing can do something,'' Dickmann said.
Dickmann hopes his choice will inspire other gun owners to do the same.
For more information on how to surrender weapons to law enforcement, call your local police department or sheriff's office.
Copyright 2018 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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VIDEO - 17 killed in mass shooting at high school in Parkland, Florida - NBC News
Fri, 16 Feb 2018 13:12
The teen gunman accused of opening fire with a semi-automatic rifle at his former high school in Parkland, Florida, has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, officials said Thursday.
Authorities said the suspect, identified as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, concealed himself in the crowd fleeing Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following the massacre on Wednesday afternoon. He was arrested in nearby Coral Springs.
Fourteen others were wounded, five with life-threatening injuries, hospital officials said.
FBI discusses probe into 2017 YouTube comment about school shootingCruz had recently been expelled from Douglas for disciplinary reasons and was enrolled elsewhere in the district, the schools superintendent in Broward County, Robert Runcie, said. Cruz took an Uber to the Douglas campus on Wednesday, Runcie told NBC News.
What We Know:
17 people were killed and another 14 were wounded.Suspect identified as Nikolas Cruz, who has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. He may appear in court Thursday.Cruz, 19, was believed to have used an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle.Broward County Sheriff's Office set to hold a news conference at 10:30 a.m. ET Thursday.A YouTube user named "Nikolas Cruz" reportedly posted "I'm going to be a professional school shooter" on the site.President Donald Trump has tweeted that there were "many signs the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed." He will address the nation at 11 a.m. ET.The gunman was believed to have been armed with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle and multiple magazines, said Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. It was unclear whether he had any other weapons, Israel said.
There was no indication that the gunman had an accomplice or accomplices, federal and local authorities said.
The moment Nikolas Cruz was captured after Parkland school shootingCruz was taken into custody off campus about an hour after he "committed this horrific, detestable act," said Israel, who added investigators were reviewing social media postings that he described as "very disturbing." The suspect was treated for "labored breathing" as a precaution but was later released from the hospital, according to officials.
"You come to the conclusion this is just absolutely pure evil," said Florida Gov. Rick Scott, his hands clutched over his chest.
The FBI was alerted six months ago after a YouTube user named "Nikolas Cruz" posted a comment stating "I'm going to be a professional school shooter" on the video site, BuzzFeed reported early Thursday.
Cruz's mother died in early November and he had been staying with a local family '-- whose son is a junior at Douglas, the family's attorney told NBC Miami.
'This is pure evil,' Florida governor says"He lived here without any concerns or issues for almost three months, and they are shocked and horrified by the allegations being made," the lawyer, Jim Lewis, said, adding that his clients are fully cooperating with investigators.
Related: Florida shooting leaves families distraught
The general store chain Dollar Tree confirmed that Cruz had worked at its Parkland branch.
The gunfire began outside the school and continued inside, where 12 of the victims were killed, Israel said.
All of those victims have been identified, he said, but no identities will be made public until the families have been notified.
Videos capture terrifying scenes inside Florida school shootingBrandon Minoff, a senior at the school who said he had two classes with Cruz two years ago, said that while it was "surreal" to hear Cruz named as the suspect, "I wasn't surprised."
"I got paired with him for a project, and he started talking to me about his life '-- how he was held back twice, expelled from two private schools. He likes to do reckless stuff," Minoff said.
"He had aspirations to join the military," Minoff said. "He enjoyed hunting."
Sebastian Toala, another senior, told NBC Miami: "I never really got close to him, because I always had a feeling there was something wrong."
Broward County Sheriff's OfficeParkland, in north Broward County, is about 30 miles northwest of Fort Lauderdale. The shooting on the sprawling campus happened despite the presence of police officers at the school.
Runcie, the school superintendent, said at least two police cars were typically on campus "on a daily basis."
While students filed out of the school with their hands up, heavily armed SWAT team members conducted a class-by-class search to make sure there were "no other shooters" '-- and to retrieve any bodies, he said.
"This is a terrible day for Broward County, the state of Florida, the United States," Israel said. "There really are no words."
The first sign that something awful was happening Wednesday came around 2:30 p.m., not long before classes were supposed to have been dismissed, when authorities were called to respond to an active shooter.
What we know about the suspect in the Florida school shootingFor more than an hour, the school was at the mercy of a gunman on the loose.
"He was outside and inside the school," Israel said.
Just after 4 p.m., the Broward County Sheriff's Office announced on Twitter that the suspect had been apprehended. Not long after, stunned survivors began sharing their accounts of what happened.
Several students told NBC News that the school had gone through a fire drill earlier in the day. They said the fire alarm sounded again just before the shots were heard.
Relieved parents like Lisette Rozenblet, whose daughter attends the school, also said she was told that a fire alarm was pulled about the time the shots began. But her daughter's teacher, sensing that it might be a trap, told the students to stay in the classroom, she said.
"Her biggest fear is a school shooting," Rozenblet said of her daughter. "She is always begging me to be home-schooled because she was scared of this."
Joel Leffler, whose son and daughter attend the school, said both of his kids were safe '-- but in shock.
"My son called me as it was unfolding, running. He had to jump a fence," Leffler said. "My son heard around eight gun shots as he was running out."
When he reached his daughter by phone, she was whispering, he said.
"My daughter, who was there in the freshman hall where the shooting took place '-- she's in shock right now, and she's being taken out by SWAT," Leffler said. "She saw multiple dead bodies."
Joel Auerbach / APPresident Donald Trump tweeted Thursday that there were "many signs the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed." He was scheduled to address the nation Thursday at 11 a.m. ET.
Scott, a Republican whom the National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund gave an "A+" rating, didn't directly answer reporters' questions Wednesday about how the gunman was able to obtain a semi-automatic rifle.
"There is a time to continue to have these conversations about how, through law enforcement, how through mental illness funding, to keep people safe, and we'll continue to do that," the governor said.
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Fri, 16 Feb 2018 12:58
VIDEO - Local law enforcement: No known ties between militia and school shooter
Thu, 15 Feb 2018 22:42
CLOSEJordan Jereb, local leader for the Republic of Florida, a separatist group on the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hate Watch
Authorities say Nikolas Cruz, a former student, opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, killing more than a dozen people and injuring several. (Photo: Broward County Jail)
Local law enforcement sources have not found a connection between accused Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz and a Tallahassee-based paramilitary group.
Leon County law enforcement sources told the Tallahassee Democrat that they could not find information linking Cruz, 19, to the Republic of Florida Militia, as claimed by the group's self-proclaimed leader Jordan Jereb.
His comments to the Anti-Defamation League and The Associated Press set off a media firestorm Thursday at about midday that Cruz was connected to the alt-right, white nationalist group.
Hours after news outlets around the nation reported Cruz's alleged ties, Leon County Sheriff's Office Lt. Grady Jordan told the Tallahassee Democrat investigative work did not yield any connections.
''We are still doing some work but we have no known ties between the ROF, Jordan Jereb or the Broward shooter,'' Jordan said.
Jordan and other law enforcement sources declined to confirm whether they had spoken to Jereb, who is no stranger to Tallahassee law enforcement.
Cruz entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Wednesday, investigators say, with an AR-15 and opened fire, killing 17 people and injuring 14. He faces 17 counts of premeditated murder.
More: Florida school shooting victims remembered as 'hero,' 'baby girl,' sweet angel'
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Jereb said Cruz was a member of the group and had participated in paramilitary training drills in Tallahassee.
In a brief phone call with the Tallahassee Democrat, Jereb said there was ''No way to put a good spin on all of this."
(Photo: Leon County Jail)
''This is a negative situation,'' he added before hanging up to speak with ABC News.
Jereb did not answer repeated phone calls following law enforcement officials saying they found little to lead them to believe Cruz was connected to the organization which has a scant following of around a dozen members.
VIDEOS: SCENES, INFORMATION FROM HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING Student describes teacher being shot while closing classroom door | 1:44 ''He was going to close the door and then he got shot.,'' said Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Anna Cecilia Girao Feb. 14, 2018. LUCAS DAPRILE/TCPALM
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VIDEOS: SCENES, INFORMATION FROM HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING Parent says she's taking her daughter home and 'love her' | 0:45 ''I'm gonna take her home and hold her and love her'' Monique Golberg said after being reunited with her daughter after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
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VIDEOS: SCENES, INFORMATION FROM HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING Florida school shooting: Stoneman High grad on shooter Nikolas Cruz | 3:57 Jillian Davis was in JROTC class with the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland. Cruz killed 17 people in the mass shooting on Feb. 14, 2018. Wochit
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VIDEOS: SCENES, INFORMATION FROM HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING Florida shooting: News conference from Broward hospital | 7:44 Doctors treated 8 patients and the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, at Broward Health North after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14, 2018. MELISSA E. HOLSMAN/TCPALM
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VIDEOS: SCENES, INFORMATION FROM HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said 17 are dead | 0:22 It was near dismissal time Wednesday as hundreds of students were preparing to leave Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County when gunshots rang out Feb. 14, 2018. EMILY BOHATCH/TCPALM
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VIDEOS: SCENES, INFORMATION FROM HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING Video: Scene from Broward Health North after school shooting | 0:24 A press conference is expected at Broward Health North hospital where several of the Parkland shooting victims were taken Wednesday, FEb. 14, 2018. MELISSA HOLSMAN/TCPALM
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VIDEOS: SCENES, INFORMATION FROM HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mother of 10th grader talks about shooting | 0:57 Tammy Venter's 10th-grade daughter was in the school, but managed to call her mother about what was happening. Wochit
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VIDEOS: SCENES, INFORMATION FROM HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING Video: Florida's school safety funding hasn't changed since 2007 | 1:33 Florida's 67 school districts this year are sharing $64.4 million, an amount unchanged for the last seven years despite countless pleas from educators. ANDREW ATTERBURY/TCPALM Wochit
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VIDEOS: SCENES, INFORMATION FROM HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING New York Mets pitcher Anthony Swarzak talks about shooting | 1:05 New York Mets pitcher Anthony Swarzak grew up in Broward County and had family members who attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. "My heart aches for the families." JON SANTUCCI/TCPALM
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Last VideoNext Video Student describes teacher being shot while closing classroom door
Parent says she's taking her daughter home and 'love her'
Florida school shooting: Stoneman High grad on shooter Nikolas Cruz
Florida shooting: News conference from Broward hospital
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said 17 are dead
Video: Scene from Broward Health North after school shooting
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mother of 10th grader talks about shooting
Video: Florida's school safety funding hasn't changed since 2007
New York Mets pitcher Anthony Swarzak talks about shooting
Jereb, a self-described "right-wing extremist nut," faced charges in 2016 after threatening a high-ranking staff member of Gov. Rick Scott's office.
Related:'Extremist nut' arrested after threatening Scott staffer
Jereb is known to ride a bike through neighborhoods wearing paramilitary garb and stand at the side of the road with an ROF flag. He has filmed numerous run-ins with law enforcement in Tallahassee in which he consistently tells officers when he is stopped, "I'm a free man traveling the land."
Contact Karl Etters at firstname.lastname@example.org or @KarlEtters on Twitter.
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VIDEO - Nikolas Cruz was living with Florida high school student in months leading up to shooting, attorney says | Fox News
Thu, 15 Feb 2018 22:30
Florida shooting gunman: Who is Nikolas Cruz?Who is Nikolas Cruz? He is accused of murdering 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Cruz is in custody as authorities comb through his background for clues into why he went on the horrific shooting spree.
Nikolas Cruz, the suspected gunman in Wednesday's shooting at a Florida high school that left at least 17 people dead, was living in a mobile home with a student for the last three months, his attorney said.
A portrait of the suspected gunman, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where the massacre occurred, began to emerge in the hours following the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook in 2012.
Police said Nikolas Cruz, 19, allegedly opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday.
Cruz was arrested without incident just over a mile from where he was suspected of killing more than a dozen people, the Broward County Sheriff's Office said.
Police said Cruz used an AR-15 and had multiple magazines on him during the shooting. Cruz's attorney, Jim Lewis, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that the firearm was legally bought and Cruz already owned the gun when he moved in with a friend, a junior at the Parkland high school, three months ago.
''It was his gun,'' Lewis told the newspaper. ''The family made him keep it in a locked gun cabinet in the house but he had a key.''
The mobile home in Lantana, about 30 miles north of Parkland, where Cruz lived with the friend, drew a police presence late Wednesday, according to WPEC-TV.
The Broward County Sheriff's Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI were investigating the mobile home, the Palm Beach Post reported. Authorities were reportedly notified of a possible explosive device at the property.
Cruz was adopted, along with his younger brother Zachary, by Lynda and Roger Cruz after the couple moved from Long Island, N.Y., to Broward County.
Lynda Cruz died Nov. 1 of pneumonia and Roger had died earlier in Nikolas' life, according to the Sun Sentinel.
Barbara Kumbatovich, a family friend who lives on Long Island, told the Sun Sentinel she didn't think there was a major issue with Cruz and was shocked to find out he was the suspected gunman.
''I know she had been having some issues with them, especially the older one. He was being a problem. I know he did have some issues and he may have been taking medication. (He) did have some kind of emotional or difficulties,'' Kumbatovich told the newspaper. ''(Lynda) kept a really close handle on both boys. They were not major issues, as far as I know, just things teenagers do like not coming home on time, maybe being disrespectful.''
Lewis told the Sun Sentinel that Cruz and his brother were living with a family in Palm Beach County, but Cruz was not happy and asked a friend from the Parkland high school if he could move in.
Lewis said Cruz was allowed to move in after Thanksgiving and was encouraged to take adult education classes. Cruz also got a job at a dollar store.
''The family is devastated, they didn't see this coming. They took him in and it's a classic case of no good deed goes unpunished,'' he said. ''He was a little quirky and he was depressed about his mom's death, but who wouldn't be?''
Cruz was described by former classmates as ''weird,'' ''a little off,'' and a ''loner.'' He had been expelled from the high school for ''disciplinary reasons'' and was also told he couldn't bring a backpack on campus. School officials said he had been attending another school in Broward County after his expulsion.
Dakota Mutchler, 17, said he used to be close friends with Cruz but hadn't seen him since Cruz was expelled from school. He recalled Cruz posting on Instagram about killing animals and said he had talked to him about doing target practice in his backyard with a pellet gun.
''The family is devastated, they didn't see this coming."
- Cruz's attorney Jim Lewis "He started going after one of my friends, threatening her, and I cut him off from there," Mutchler said. "I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him.''
One student told WJXT-TV that ''everyone predicted'' the shooting.
''Honestly, a lot of people were saying it was gonna be him,'' the unnamed student told the news station. He said kids joked around that the student would be the one to ''shoot up the school.''
Another student told WSVN that the suspect is a "troubled kid" who has "always had a certain amount of issues going on."
Mike Watford, who graduated from the high school in 2016, told BuzzFeed News that "something definitely pushed [the suspect]" before he allegedly opened fire at the school on Wednesday.
Cruz, according to Watford, often said "how tired he was of everyone picking on him and the staff doing nothing about it."
Watford's brother, Giovanni, described Cruz to the news outlet as "a sketchy kid," who was "off" and "super stressed-out all the time and talked about guns a lot and tried to hide his face."
Wednesday's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was the 25th deadly shooting at a U.S. elementary, middle or high school since '-- and including '-- Columbine in 1999. There have been a combined 98 deaths as a result.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Nicole Darrah covers breaking and trending news for FoxNews.com. Follow her on Twitter @nicoledarrah.
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