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May 22, 2014

U.S. steps up scrutiny of Americans fighting in Syrian civil war

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Justice Department has tapped a veteran prosecutor to probe the flow of foreign fighters including Americans who are joining Syria’s rebels, U.S. officials said, in a sign of heightened alarm over the threat of radicalized militants returning home.

U.S. law enforcement and security agencies for months have expressed growing anxiety about a steady stream of Western militants, including Americans, heading to Syria. Most of the foreigners join up with the most extreme factions trying to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

May 12, 2014

NSA chief: U.S. spy agency targets changed behavior after Snowden

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Foreign governments, individuals and groups targeted by the U.S. National Security Agency for intelligence collection have changed their “behavior” following disclosures by former agency contractor Edward Snowden, the NSA’s new chief said on Monday.

“They’re changing the way they communicate,” said Admiral Mike Rogers, who became NSA’s new director last month following the retirement of U.S. Army General Keith Alexander. Rogers was speaking to the Reuters Cybersecurity Summit in Washington.

May 9, 2014

Swisspartners Group to pay $4.4 million in U.S. tax evasion probe

WASHINGTON, May 9 (Reuters) – A Swiss asset management firm,
Swisspartners Group, agreed to pay $4.4 million to the United
States to settle a probe into whether it helped U.S. taxpayers
evade their federal income taxes, the U.S. Department of Justice
announced on Friday.

From about 2001 to about 2011, according to a Justice
Department statement, Swisspartners helped its U.S. clients open
and maintain undeclared foreign bank accounts, which allowed
them to avoid paying taxes in full.

May 8, 2014

Bill ending NSA bulk data collection moving quickly in U.S. House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bill to end the government’s bulk collection of telephone records got a unanimous go-ahead on Thursday from a second U.S. congressional committee, but the measure, according to some sources, could actually enhance U.S. surveillance capabilities.

Advancing the first legislative effort at surveillance reform since former contractor Edward Snowden disclosed the program a year ago, the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee unanimously approved by voice vote the “USA Freedom Act.”

Apr 25, 2014

U.S. investigating theft of doctors’ tax refunds

BOSTON/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Secret Service and Internal Revenue Service are investigating widespread reports that identity thieves are stealing the tax refunds of physicians, a senator said on Friday, as doctors fear a database containing their personal information has been breached.

Senator Jean Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, contacted the agencies this week after more than 100 physicians and other healthcare workers in her state became victims of tax fraud. The American Medical Association has received reports of tax fraud from state medical groups in Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Apr 25, 2014

As Iraq violence grows, U.S. sends more intelligence officers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is quietly expanding the number of intelligence officers in Iraq and holding urgent meetings in Washington and Baghdad to find ways to counter growing violence by Islamic militants, U.S. government sources said.

A high-level Pentagon team is now in Iraq to assess possible assistance for Iraqi forces in their fight against radical jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a group reconstituted from an earlier incarnation of al Qaeda, said two current government officials and one former U.S. official familiar with the matter.

Apr 22, 2014

Fund manager Ackman promised Herbalife whistleblower as much as $3.6 million: ABC

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Hedge fund manager William Ackman, who placed a $1 billion bet against Herbalife, said that he had promised a former Herbalife executive who became a whistleblower against the company up to $3.6 million, ABC News reported on Tuesday.

ABC said on its website that Ackman’s payments would come if Giovanni Bohorquez, the former executive, lost the job he took after leaving Herbalife.

Apr 16, 2014

Ex-bin Laden ally turns key witness in U.S. terrorism cases

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – A British shoe bomb-plotter-turned-government informant, who once conspired with Osama bin Laden, has become a key witness for U.S. prosecutors seeking to give American juries a taste of life inside al Qaeda, court documents, U.S. and British officials and lawyers say.

Saajid Badat, 33, has already testified via video link at the trials in New York of two alleged al Qaeda militants, and he is scheduled to give testimony at the trial of Abu Hamza al Masri, a fiery, one-eyed Egyptian preacher with hooks for hands whose terrorism case began this week.

Apr 11, 2014

White House, spy agencies deny NSA exploited ‘Heartbleed’ bug

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House and U.S. intelligence agencies said on Friday neither the National Security Agency nor any other part of the government were aware before this month of the “Heartbleed” bug, denying a report that the spy agency exploited the glitch in widely used Web encryption technology to gather intelligence.

The White House, the NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued statements after Bloomberg reported that the NSA was aware of the bug for at least two years and exploited it in order to obtain passwords and other basic information used in hacking operations. The Bloomberg report cited two unnamed sources it said were familiar with the matter.

Apr 9, 2014

U.S. may test influence at U.N. by denying visa to Iran envoy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States may soon deny a visa to Iran’s proposed U.N. ambassador, two U.S. officials said on Wednesday, a rare and potentially precedent-setting step that would test U.S. influence over the world body.

The U.S. government objects to Hamid Abutalebi entering the United States because of his suspected participation in a Muslim student group that held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days starting in 1979, when the group seized control of the U.S. embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran.