David Shepherd: News Blog

Journalist's Notebook

WALK OUT! Ahmadinejad’s U.N. Speech

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Friday, September 24, 2010

Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, addressed the United Nations Thursday. His remarks prompted a walkout.

United States diplomats walked out of the United Nations Thursday as Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke to the General Assembly. 

Sources tell NBC News Ahmadinejad’s remarks, in which he said most people in the world believe the United States was behind the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, prompted the walkout.

27 European Union delegations followed along with diplomats from Canada, Costa Rica, New Zealand and Australia.

Friday, Ahmadinejad held a press conference to defend his remarks.  During that conference in New York, the Iranian President asked the U.N. to set up a commission to investigate the 9/11 attacks.

“I did not pass judgment, but don’t you feel that the time has come to have a fact finding committee,” Ahmadinejad told reporters earlier today.

NBC News reports he also lashed out at the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as an overreaction to the attacks. The Americans should “not occupy the entire Middle East…bomb wedding parties…annihilate an entire village just because one terrorist is hiding there.”

President Barack Obama responded to Ahmadinejad in a BBC Persian service interview Friday saying: “Well, it was offensive. It was hateful.”

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September 24, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Accused Russian Spies Gathered Intel on Nuclear Weapons; Other Sensitive Information

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Monday, June 28, 2010

It sounds more like an old spy novel than reality.  10 people were arrested for allegedly spying on the United States for the Russian Federation, the Justice Department announced Monday.

As details continue to unfold, the more bizarre and potentially dangerous the situation seems.  Authorities say the 10 have been living in the United States for close to 20 years; going to great lengths to cover up any ties to the Russian government.  Officials say they used American names to conceal their identity; using secret code words and making document exchanges in public places like New York City’s Central Park.

The Justice Department says the alleged spies had a special, “deep-cover” mission:  Penetrate U.S. policy-making circles while posing as U.S. civilians.

But now, it appears their lives were anything but ordinary.  They lived across Manhattan, Boston, Montclair, NJ, Yonkers, NY and Arlington, VA while secretly working for the Russian intelligence service, or SVR.  They are the successor to the Soviet KGB.

While 10 of the suspects were arrested Sunday, one was still at large as of Monday night.

Suspects Allegedly Worked For Russian Intel Agency

Court documents show a message sent from the headquarters of the SVR, intercepted by U.S. government officials, to two of the defendants says, “You were sent to USA for long term service trip. Your education, bank accounts, car, house, etc. — all these serve one goal: fulfill your main mission, i.e., to search and develop ties in policy-making circles in the US and send intels (intelligence reports) to Center.”

Another intercepted message talks about one of the alleged spies, known as Cynthia Murphy.  It states she “had several work-related personal meetings” with a man the documents describe as a prominent New York-based financier who was active in politics.

Court documents describe other messages from the suspects to Moscow discussing turnover in the highest levels of the CIA and the 2008 presidential election between President Obama and Senator John McCain.

Sources say the information was received during private conversations between at least one of the suspected spies and a former legislative counselor on Capitol Hill.

Mission: Gather U.S. / World Nuclear Info.

The Justice Department also says Russian intelligence officials wanted one defendant to gain information from a man, who has not been identified, who worked at a U.S. government research facility back in 2004.

The suspect’s intelligence report allegedly said that researcher, “Works on issues of strategic planning related to nuclear weapon development.

That same report claims the suspect had conversations with the researcher about “programs on small yield high penetration nuclear warheads (also known has nuclear “bunker-buster” warheads) recently authorized by the United States Congress.

U.S. intelligence officials say Moscow encouraged the suspects to “try to build up little by little relations,” and to gain more information about U.S. foreign policy, and about the White House “internal kitchen.”   It’s not yet clear what they mean by “internal kitchen.”

Moscow is also accused of sending directives to some of the defendants in advance of President Obama’s visit to Russia last year.  Documents show Moscow wanted information on the United States’ position on a new Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty as well as intelligence information about Afghanistan and Iran’s nuclear programs.

But, according to court documents, the alleged espionage didn’t stop there.  The documents show the defendants developed a short-range wireless network between laptop computers to communicate with other Russian agents.

As the investigation continues, U.S. intelligence officials are trying to determine how much the spies were able to learn during their time in the United States and if, or how, they damaged current or previous U.S. intelligence operations.

June 28, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

al-Qaida Leader’s Death Severe Setback For Terror Group

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com]

The killing of al-Qaida’s “number three” leader, Mustafa al-Yazid (also known as Sheik Saeed al-Marsi) is being seen as a severe setback for the terror network, U.S. officials told NBC News Tuesday.

While it is a setback, officials say al-Yazid’s killing will likely be a short term blow as the group has multiple off-shoots continuing the fight.

Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution Saban Center and a former CIA officer, told NBC News al-Qaida is rapidly inspiring new recruits who are just as eager to attack and kill Americans.

“While we’re having some success in putting pressure on them, they’re also having a great deal of success radicalizing other parts of the global Islamic jihadist movement to join them in attacking the United States,” said Riedel.

Mustafa al-Yazid’s Role in al-Qaida

al-Yazid was al-Qaida’s top commander in Afghanistan.  Running the terror group’s day-to-day operations, he played a role in financing and is described as their prime conduit to Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Al-Yazid’s death leaves a large hole in the terror network.  Men who’ve held that position in the past have all been key players in al-Qaida’s command, strategy, and execution.

  • Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – Reputed mastermind of the September 11th terror attacks. [Being held at Guantanamo Bay Detention Center]
  • Mohammad Atef – Killed in U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan. [2001]
  • Abu Laith al-Libi – Killed in drone strike [Jan. 2008]
  • Abu Farraj al-Libbi – Captured and detained in Pakistan

June 2, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment