AP News in Brief at 8:58 p.m. EDT
A Screen grab of the Interpol webpage Thursday Sept. 26, 2013 showing the arrest notice for Samantha Lewthwaite, the fugitive Briton whom news media have dubbed the "white widow." The international police agency says the notice was issued at the request of Kenya, where she is wanted on charges of possessing explosives and conspiracy to commit a felony in December 2011. (AP Photo/Interpol, File)
U.S., Allies Welcome New Iranian Attitude In Nuclear Talks
United Nations (ap) — The U.S. and its European allies said Thursday they were pleased by a new tone and a significant shift in attitude from Iran in talks aimed at resolving the impasse over the country’s disputed nuclear activities. Iran said it was eager to dispel suspicions that it is trying to develop a nuclear weapon and to get punishing international sanctions lifted as fast as possible.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who also had an unexpected one-on-one meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, said six world powers and Iran had agreed to fast-track nuclear negotiations with the hope of reaching a deal within a year.
Iran, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany also agreed to hold a new round of substantive nuclear negotiations on Oct. 15-16 in Geneva.
“We agreed to jump-start the process so that we could move forward with a view to agreeing first on the parameters of the end game ... and move toward finalizing it hopefully within a year’s time,” Zarif said after the talks ended. “I thought I was too ambitious, bordering on naiveté. But I saw that some of my colleagues were even more ambitious and wanted to do it faster.”
Kerry said he was struck by a “very different tone” from Tehran after their sessions, which marked the highest-level direct contact between the United States and Iran in six years. But, like his European colleagues, he stressed that a single meeting was not enough to assuage international concerns that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian atomic energy program.
Intelligence Chief Sidesteps Questions About Tracking Calls
Washington (ap) — The nation’s top intelligence official on Thursday sidestepped questions from a senator about whether the National Security Agency has ever used Americans cellphone signals to collect information on their whereabouts that would allow tracking of the movements of individual callers.
Asked twice by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., if NSA had ever collected or made plans to collect such data, NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander answered both times by reading from a letter provided to senators who had asked the same question last summer. He also cited a classified version of the letter that was sent to senators and said, “What I don’t want to do ... is put out in an unclassified forum anything that’s classified.”
Wyden promised to keep asking.
“I believe this is something the American people have a right to know, whether NSA has ever collected or made plans to collect cell site information,” Wyden said.
The testy exchange at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing illustrates the wider tension that has grown between the public and the U.S. intelligence community, following disclosures by Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former systems analyst on contract to the NSA, about the extensive NSA collection of telephone and email records of millions of Americans.
Interpol Issues Alert
For ‘The White Widow’
London (ap) — The tabloids call her “the white widow,” a British-born Muslim convert who was married to one of the suicide bombers in the 2005 attack on London’s transit system. And for days now, the British media have been rife with speculation she took part in the terrorist takeover at a Nairobi shopping mall.
On Thursday, Interpol, acting at Kenya’s request, issued an arrest notice for 29-year-old fugitive Samantha Lewthwaite — not in connection with the mall attack, but over a 2011 plot to bomb holiday resorts in Kenya.
If Lewthwaite indeed embraced the jihadi cause, it would mark a chilling turnaround for the apparently grieving widow who originally condemned the London transit bombings and criticized her late husband, Jermaine Lindsay, for taking part.
Officials have not made public any evidence linking her to the mall attack. The Interpol notice did not mention it. And al-Shabab, the Somali Islamic extremist group behind the takeover, denied any female fighters participated.
Nevertheless, the timing of the Interpol notice so soon after the attack fueled speculation she was involved in some way — suspicions that were stoked earlier in the week by comments from Kenya’s foreign minister that a British woman had a role in the bloodbath.
Justice Department Has Spent Nearly $5M On Drones
Washington (ap) — The FBI has been using drones to support its law enforcement operations since 2006 and has spent more than $3 million on the unmanned aircraft, the Justice Department’s internal watchdog said Thursday.
The disclosure came in a new report by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, who revealed that the department also has awarded $1.26 million to at least seven local police departments and nonprofit organization for drones.
In addition, the IG said another Justice Department component, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, plans to use drones to support future operations. To date, the ATF has spent almost $600,000, the IG report stated.
From 2004 to May 2013, the Justice Department spent almost $5 million on the unmanned aircraft.
In June, then-FBI Director Robert Mueller told Congress that the FBI occasionally uses the unmanned aerial vehicles but was developing guidelines in anticipation of issues that will arise “as they become more omnipresent.” In one instance earlier this year, the FBI used drones at night during a six-day hostage standoff in Alabama.
Health Care Online Sign-Up Delayed For Small Firms
Washington (ap) — Days before the debut of new online insurance markets, a couple of last-minute technical glitches with President Obama’s health care law are making supporters anxious and giving opponents a new line of attack.
The administration said Thursday that small business owners who want to use insurance markets designed especially for them will have to wait until sometime in November before they can finish their sign-ups. They still can start shopping right away on Oct. 1. And even with the delay, they can get coverage for their employees by Jan. 1, when the law takes full effect. In a potentially more significant delay affecting the law’s larger insurance market for individuals, the administration quietly told Hispanic groups on Wednesday that the Spanish-language version of the healthcare.gov website will not be ready to handle online enrollments for a few weeks. An estimated 10 million Latinos are eligible for coverage, and 4 million of them speak Spanish primarily.
“It’s been at least two years since we’ve known that Latinos are a primary target for enrollment through the Affordable Care Act, so we would have hoped that the administration would have the rollout ready on Day 1,” said Jennifer Ng’andu, health care policy director for the National Council of La Raza. That said, she added that her group won’t object if it takes a few more weeks to get things right.
Meanwhile, a politically powerful small business lobby that unsuccessfully sued to overturn “Obamacare” said the enrollment delay for employers strengthens the case for hitting pause on the entire law.