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Sep 16, 2013

Gunman opens fire at Navy Yard in Washington D.C., 13 dead

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A 34-year-old gunman opened fire at the U.S. Navy Yard in Washington on Monday in a shooting that left 13 people dead at the busy military installation not far from the U.S. Capitol and the White House, officials said.

The suspect, identified by the FBI as Aaron Alexis of Fort Worth, Texas, was among the dead and authorities said they were searching for another possible gunman wearing military-style clothing.

Sep 12, 2013

U.S. total of Syrian gas deaths could include bomb casualties – sources

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – One of the most precise and dramatic details cited by the Obama administration as proof that Syrian forces used chemical weapons in an August 21 attack was the death toll, which an official U.S. government assessment put at 1,429 people, including 426 children.

The number, first released by the White House on August 30, was underscored by Secretary of State John Kerry in a fiery indictment of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, describing videos of what he said were victims of the attack, which Syria denies.

Sep 12, 2013

Exclusive: U.S. total of Syrian gas deaths could include bomb casualties – sources

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – One of the most precise and dramatic details cited by the Obama administration as proof that Syrian forces used chemical weapons in an August 21 attack was the death toll, which an official U.S. government assessment put at 1,429 people, including 426 children.

The number, first released by the White House on August 30, was underscored by Secretary of State John Kerry in a fiery indictment of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, describing videos of what he said were victims of the attack, which Syria denies.

Sep 7, 2013

Direct link between Assad and gas attack elusive for U.S.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With the United States threatening to attack Syria, U.S. and allied intelligence services are still trying to work out who ordered the poison gas attack on rebel-held neighborhoods near Damascus.

No direct link to President Bashar al-Assad or his inner circle has been publicly demonstrated, and some U.S. sources say intelligence experts are not sure whether the Syrian leader knew of the attack before it was launched or was only informed about it afterward.

Sep 5, 2013

Kerry portrait of Syria rebels at odds with intelligence reports

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Secretary of State John Kerry’s public assertions that moderate Syrian opposition groups are growing in influence appear to be at odds with estimates by U.S. and European intelligence sources and nongovernmental experts, who say Islamic extremists remain by far the fiercest and best-organized rebel elements.

At congressional hearings this week, while making the case for President Barack Obama’s plan for limited military action in Syria, Kerry asserted that the armed opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “has increasingly become more defined by its moderation, more defined by the breadth of its membership, and more defined by its adherence to some, you know, democratic process and to an all-inclusive, minority-protecting constitution.

Aug 30, 2013

In shadow of Iraq, U.S. has ‘high confidence’ Syria carried out chemical attack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. intelligence agencies publicly disclosed on Friday some of the information that led to a “high-confidence” assessment that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad carried out a chemical weapons attack on neighborhoods outside Damascus.

But the declassified intelligence report also showed what the U.S. government does not have: clear evidence that Assad personally ordered the attack, and physiological evidence confirming what caused the deaths of an estimated 1,429 Syrians on August 21.

Aug 30, 2013

UK asked N.Y. Times to destroy Snowden material

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The British government has asked the New York Times to destroy copies of documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden related to the operations of the U.S. spy agency and its British partner, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), people familiar with the matter said.

The British request, made to Times executive editor Jill Abramson by a senior official at the British Embassy in Washington D.C., was greeted by Abramson with silence, according to the sources. British officials indicated they intended to follow up on their request later with the Times, but never did, one of the sources said.

Aug 29, 2013

Amid doubts, Obama and Cameron make a case for Syria strike

WASHINGTON/BEIRUT (Reuters) – President Barack Obama and his allies sought to convince cautious lawmakers and the public of the need to strike Syria although officials conceded on Thursday they lacked conclusive evidence that President Bashar al-Assad ordered his forces to use chemical weapons against civilians.

Obama told Americans on Wednesday evening that a military strike against Syria was in their interest following the gas attack and Britain said armed action would be legal, but intervention looked set to be delayed until U.N. investigators report back after leaving Syria on Saturday.

Aug 29, 2013

U.S. Officials say ‘no smoking gun’ implicating Assad in chemical attack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. and its allies have “no smoking gun” proving Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad personally ordered his forces to use chemical weapons to attack a rebel-held Damascus neighborhood, U.S. national security officials said on Thursday.

In secret intelligence assessments and a still-unreleased report summarizing U.S. intelligence on the alleged gas attack on August 21, U.S. agencies express high confidence that Syrian government forces carried out the attack, and that Assad’s government therefore bears responsibility, the officials said.

Aug 29, 2013

U.S. congressional leaders to receive Syria briefing on Thursday

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senior Obama administration officials will brief congressional leaders on Thursday on the situation in Syria, congressional aides said, amid complaints by lawmakers they have not been properly consulted as the president deliberates about possible military action.

The briefing by senior White House and national security officials will be with leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives, and the chairmen and ranking members of national security committees, Democratic and Republican congressional aides said.