House of Representatives lawmakers want $25,000 each to hire private security right away to protect them in their home districts, an unusually quick, bipartisan response to the shooting of a Republican House leader and others at a baseball practice.
A House panel has approved providing an immediate $10 million for the rest of fiscal 2017, which runs through Sept. 30, for that purpose. Representatives could use the money to pay for an off-duty police officer or private security guard at town halls, fish fries, meet-and-greets or other public events in their districts. The legislation would also add $7.5 million for Capitol Police to bulk up threat assessment and security measures in Washington for fiscal year 2018 especially when lawmakers gather in groups and $5 million for members to invest in cameras, door buzzers, key cards and panic buttons in representatives district offices.
The Federal Election Commission is considering allowing lawmakers to use campaign funds to secure their residences, as well. Capitol Police provide security at lawmakers offices in Washington and at the Capitol building where Congress meets. They also shadow members of the House and Senate leadership teams, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., who was shot during the baseball practice earlier this month. Scalise was reported to be making good progress and remains hospitalized in fair condition. Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas, chairman of the subcommittee writing the security budget legislation, wants to provide more money in member s office accounts for personal protection next year as well, but the exact amount hasn t been determined yet.
His legislation assumes Congress existing budget will be enough to absorb increases for security by tapping unused funds members typically return to treasury at the end of each fiscal year.
We believe they need additional resources to meet their mission in his polarized political climate, he said. It still needs to pass through several more steps before final approval, notably support from the full House and Senate. The measure needs House and Senate approval, but signs for increased funding are positive. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has called for more money. I would support and I have suggested they need a bigger budget, she said of the Capitol Police. EDITORS: BEGIN OPTIONAL TRIM
The top Democrat on Yoder s subcommittee, Tim Ryan of Ohio, said Yoder s bill was a good start.
Some members want security details to follow lawmakers wherever they go, Yoder said.
There are a number of members who have had very specific threats and after the Scalise tragedy are feeling legitimately scared that they will be next, he said. The cost for 24-hour personal security guards for all 535 lawmakers in Congress likely would be prohibitive, Yoder said, and could make them less accessible to voters.
It puts up barriers between the public and members of Congress, Yoder said. Lawmakers need to be responsive to the people they represent, he said, and a wall of security would complicate that … So we re trying to find a balance.
Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri is one of the members who would like to see heightened personal security for members who want it, at least when they re in their districts. He estimated it would cost about $45,000 to $50,000 a year to hire a personal security guard to protect a member in their home states during weekends and congressional breaks. Even before the shooting, Cleaver felt threatened at times. He s received death threats and racist screeds. A Missouri man firebombed his district office in 2014. More recently, an angry voter screamed at Cleaver at the airport.
I don t want to overstate the threats, he said, but we only talk about it after a tragedy, and if nothing is done now the next time it happens not if it happens again then people will say well it s probably time for us to do something. END OPTIONAL TRIM
Yoder s panel was in the process of writing a bill that included security funding for Congress when gunman James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, opened fire on Republican lawmakers practicing for a charity baseball game in Alexandria, Va. Witnesses said Hodgkinson asked whether the ballplayers were Republicans or Democrats before opening fire.
Members of Congress were badly shaken by the shooting, which wounded Scalise and four others, including two Capitol Police officers who were part of a private security detail traveling with Scalise in his role as a member of the House leadership team. After the shooting, people wrote menacing messages on Yoder s official Facebook page, saying it was too bad he wasn t at the practice too, the congressman said. For Yoder, heightened security concerns have been a factor in his own reluctance to hold a town hall in his suburban Kansas City district.
Town halls in some other Republican-held districts have become rowdy affairs over the past seven months as voters upset about President Donald Trump s victory in November mobilized at a grass roots level to pressure their representatives to resist Trump s agenda.
Yoder said he s been working with media groups and Trump resistance organizations in his district to find a safe venue for a town hall that will accommodate a productive dialogue instead of devolving into a circus
He prefers telephone town halls for now.
Members of Congress are being shot in broad daylight because of what they believe in. Of course we re going to be concerned, he said. We just want to find a safe, constructive format for both me and the constituents.
For weeks, U.S. Sen. Angus King has been telling anyone who ll listen that the biggest, most worrisome thing about Russian interference in the 2016 election isn t getting enough attention and has nothing to do with President Trump.
King has warned in congressional hearings, television appearances and interviews with reporters that Moscow tried and is still trying to compromise American voting systems and that if nothing s done it might very well change the results of an election.
Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine who caucuses with Democrats, listens as Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., asks a question during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 7. King says meddling by Russia in the 2016 U.S. election isn’t getting enough scrutiny. Associated Press/Susan Walsh
Unfortunately I don t think there s a wide realization of this threat, King said in an interview with the Maine Sunday Telegram. They were probing and experimenting and learning where there are vulnerabilities, and they ll be back. This month the issue finally got on the national radar, as King and his colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee heard testimony from cybersecurity experts and national security officials about the seriousness of the situation, and news outlets digested the implications of a Bloomberg News report alleging that the Russians had infiltrated voter registration systems in 39 states. While intelligence officials say there is no evidence that vote counts were changed last November, a leading expert on security threats to voting machines said this possibility cannot be excluded without a forensic audit of the results. Even voting and vote counting machines that are not connected to the internet can be and could have been compromised when they received software programming them to display or recognize this year s ballots, said J. Alex Halderman, director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society.
I am more pessimistic than the Department of Homeland Security officials who (testified) about whether they would have been able to detect such an attack were it carried out, Halderman said after testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which both King and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, sit on. The most direct and scientific way to establish that there had not been interference in our election would be to look at the physical evidence and to perform computer forensics on the voting machines and other election equipment.
KING PROPOSES TWO-STEP SOLUTION
Halderman said his team has successfully hacked widely used voting machines during security tests and has been able to reprogram them to spread software from machine to machine that allowed them to change vote counts undetected. Russia could introduce such code to devices by infecting pre-election programming. In Michigan, he said, 75 percent of counties outsource this programming to just two companies, emailing them the ballot design to load into the machines. It s a path sophisticated hackers like Russia might well exploit, he said, adding that the malware could be passed from machine to machine via the thumb drives and memory cards their software patches are delivered on. While 70 percent of U.S. votes are made with paper ballots or backups, five states and jurisdictions in nine more do not, according to Verified Voting, a nonprofit in Carlsbad, California, that focuses on electoral security. In those jurisdictions, the group says, it is impossible to conduct a post-election audit to detect a hack or software error.
King on May 9 asked his colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee to have Washington devote $160 million to execute a two-step quick fix that would ensure the integrity of future elections. The money would be used to replace voting machines that do not have paper ballots or backups with ones that do and to fund post-election audits that would detect any discrepancies between automated vote counts and the paper evidence. Halderman endorsed this approach. Those two steps taken together would allow states with a very high confidence to be able to detect any kind of cyberattacks, he said. Asked whether his proposal had garnered any champions in Congress, King said it hadn t because people were still waking to the threat and because some Republicans viewed it as an attack on Trump. Somehow we need to make everyone understand that this is not a partisan issue, he said. We have got to get it through to people that the next time, the shoe could be on the other foot.
MAINE AMONG LEAST VULNERABLE STATES
King also said he was not at liberty to say whether Maine was among the states whose election systems Moscow had infiltrated in 2016, as any information he has came from classified briefings. All I can say is that the Russians went after a number of states, but I can t confirm the details, he said. Experts say Maine is one of the least vulnerable states because all polling stations use paper ballots which enable non-hackable hand recounts in the event of uncertainty and same-day voter registration, which removes the possibility that people would be prevented from voting if the state s central voter registration databases were compromised.
In Maine we just have tabulators that just make optical scans of the paper ballots, and you still have those ballots, says Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, whose office oversees Maine s elections. If there is any question, you just have a recount. You don t even have to do audits. Dunlap said that in order to minimize the effects of any hack of the state s centralized voter registration database, his office had advised Maine s 500 local clerks to back up their constituency s registration information daily on a thumb drive. That way if someone from Ukraine or Vladivostok puts a worm into our CVR, they still have their database and it s no longer than a day out of date, he said. We figured even if an outside malevolent force were able to shut down our CVR, we d still have Election Day.
I M GOING TO KEEP POUNDING ON THIS
In such a scenario, however, one group of voters might be prevented from casting ballots: overseas residents and military personnel, some of whom rely on the central database to cast same-day ballots from abroad. These overseas votes would be out in the cold, Dunlap said, but added that despite high turnout in November 2016 there were fewer than 5,000 such voters, probably not enough to sway anything but a razor-thin contest for a seat in the state Legislature. Dunlap also said the thumb drives containing the pre-election programming for Maine s tabulating machines were sent by post, not the internet, making them impossible to hack remotely. Dunlap and his counterpart in New Hampshire, Bill Gardner, both serve on a presidential commission charged with investigating alleged voter fraud. On Thursday, both men who are Democrats called on the commission to also explore Russian hacking of state election systems, and the commission s vice chairman, Republican Kris Kobach of Kansas, said he had no objection.
In his interview with the Maine Sunday Telegram, King also expressed concern that Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have shown little interest in the issue, as evidenced by Trump s tweets and congressional testimony by Sessions and former FBI Director James Comey.
If you re under attack and the commander in chief and the nation s chief law enforcement officer both say, Attack, what attack? how do you prepare and respond? he said. I m going to keep pounding on this because we have to do something.
Colin Woodard can be contacted at:
Mali attack: ‘Two dead’ as suspected jihadists open fire on tourist resort Le Campement and ‘take hostages’
- Suspected terrorist attack on tourist resort in Mali
- Two dead, one of whom is French-Gabonese
- Malian forces fighting three or four attackers
- 32 hostages freed
“The first victim was a French-Gabonese citizen. We are in the process of confirming the other’s nationality,” said Baba Cisse, security ministry spokesman. The attackers took dozens of people hostage, with security forces in Mali saying that 32 had been freed. It was unclear how many remained in captivity. Modibo Traore, a spokesman for the Malian special forces in the former French colony, said there were three or four attackers.
The resort, popular with expats on the weekend, features a hotel and restaurant with three small swimming pools. Bicycles and kayaks can be rented, and the site includes football and volleyball pitches. A UN official said those at the resort when the attack began included people affiliated with the French military mission, as well as the UN. Mali is currently home to 1,600 French soldiers, stationed in the north of the country on the largest French military base outside of France.
I heard gunfire coming from the camp and I saw people running out of the tourist site, said Modibo Diarra, who lives nearby.
I learned that it was a terrorist attack.
Over an hour after the first reports of the incident, helicopters hovered over the site and a large black plume of smoke billowed into the sky.
“The US Embassy informs US citizens of a possible increased threat of attacks against Western diplomatic missions, places of worship, and other locations in Bamako where Westerners frequent,” they said on June 9. Americans, currently advised to avoid all travel to Mali, were told: “Avoid vulnerable locations with poor security measures in place, including hotels, restaurants, and churches.”
A state department spokesman told The Telegraph that they could not say whether the updated advice was in relation to any specific threat.
The Foreign Office, unlike the state department, does not advise against all travel to the country instead issuing the milder advice that Britons should avoid all but essential travel to the African nation.
Britons are, however, told not to go at all to the areas of Timbuktu, Kidal, Gao and Mopti, and parts of other provinces.
“Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Mali, including kidnaps,” the Foreign Office said in its advice, updated on Saturday.
“Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.”
A Foreign Office spokesman told The Telegraph they were monitoring the situation closely. Emmanuel Macron, the French president, visited the northern city of Gao last month, at the end of his first week in office, to discuss fighting terrorism with his Malian counterpart, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. France intervened in its former colony in January 2013 to drive out al-Qaeda-linked groups that hijacked a rebellion in 2012 by ethnic Tuaregs, and attempted to take control of the central government in Bamako.
In November 2015 Islamist militants took 170 hostages and killed 20 of them in a mass shooting at the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako. Auto update
Mali no stranger to jihadi attacks
Religious extremism in Mali once was limited to northern areas, prompting the French military in 2013 to lead a military operation to oust jihadists from power in the major towns. But the militants have continued targeting Malian forces and peacekeepers, making it the deadliest UN mission in the world.
A French foreign legion paratrooper (L) standing beside a Malian soldier near Sevare Credit: AFP
In March 2015, five people died when militants hit a popular restaurant in the capital.
A devastating attack on the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako later that year, in November, left 20 dead – six Malians and 14 foreigners. That attack was jointly claimed by both the regional al-Qaeda affiliate and a group known as Al Mourabitoun, which was founded by Moktar Belmoktar after he fell out with al-Qaeda leaders. In a video released in March, jihadists said those two were joining together along with two Mali-based terror groups.
“Explosions still being heard” – local journalist
32 hostages rescued
SECURITY FORCES HAVE RESCUED 32 GUESTS FROM MALI RESORT UNDER ATTACK BY GUNMEN – SECURITY MINISTRY SPOKESMAN
Emmanuel Macron being kept informed
Mali is home to the largest French military base outside of France, with 1,600 soldiers stationed in the north. President Emmanuel Macron travelled to Mali last month, in his first week as president.
Emmanuel Macron, the French president
The Elys e has issued a statement:
“The president has been informed of the attack on a holiday village on the outskirts of Bamako.
“With his teams, he is following events very closely.”
Two dead in attack
At least two people were killed in the attack, which began around 4:30pm at Le Campement, half an hour southeast of Bamako.
Baba Cisse, security ministry spokesman, said:
“The first victim was a French-Gabonese citizen. We are in the process of confirming the other’s nationality.”
’20 hostages freed’ – local media
A spokesman for Algeria’s security ministry has told local news outlet Studio Tamani that 20 hostages have been freed.
Avoid area, locals told
Hostages taken, casualties – reports
There are reports of casualties in this attack, and of hostages being taken, but there is no further detail, according to a spokesman for Mali’s UN mission
First images of scene
Photographs of the scene show a huge armed police presence, as tourists in their swimsuits look on.
Foreign Office: Terror attacks ‘very likely in Mali’
The Foreign Office noted the updated US warning, but stopped short of advising all Britons against travel to the entire country. Instead, they are told to avoid the areas of Timbuktu, Kidal, Gao and Mopti, and parts of other provinces.
Le Campement resort in Dougourakoro
The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the rest of Mali.
“Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Mali, including kidnaps,” the Foreign Office said in its advice, updated on Saturday. “Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.”
US warned of increased threat of attack in Bamako
The attack came a little over a week after the US state department warned its citizens of an increased threat of attack in Bamako. On June 9 they said: “The US Embassy informs US citizens of a possible increased threat of attacks against Western diplomatic missions, places of worship, and other locations in Bamako where Westerners frequent.”
Americans, currently advised to avoid all travel to Mali, were told: “Avoid vulnerable locations with poor security measures in place, including hotels, restaurants, and churches.”
Gunshots started at 4.30pm
Mohamed Salaha, a journalist based in Mali, said the first shots were heard around 4:30pm local time (5:30pm UK).
“A lot of black smoke coming from the Kangaba area,” he tweeted at 6pm local time.
“Helicopters overhead. The operation continues.”
‘Suspected jihadists’ behind attack
The government of Mali says that “suspected jihadists” are carrying out the attack.
“There is an attack by presumed jihadists on the Kangaba camp,” one official told AFP.
- ^ Mali (www.news4security.co.uk)
- ^ half an hour southeast of Bamako. (www.news4security.co.uk)
- ^ the US state department updated its travel advice (ml.usembassy.gov)
- ^ “Avoid vulnerable locations with poor security measures in place, including hotels, restaurants, and churches.” (ml.usembassy.gov)
- ^ #Mali (twitter.com)
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- ^ Britons should avoid all but essential travel to the African nation. (www.gov.uk)
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- ^ #Bamako (twitter.com)
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- ^ June 18, 2017 (twitter.com)
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- ^ #Mali (twitter.com)
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