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Obama to Address Nation Sunday Night

Image: Obama to Address Nation Sunday Night

Sunday, 06 December 2015 12:23 PM

President Barack Obama will pledge to use "every single aspect of American power" to destroy Islamic State during a rare Oval Office address on Sunday in an effort to reassure Americans his administration is handling the threat of terrorism forcefully. 

The president will speak to Americans shortly after 8:00 p.m. EST (0100 GMT Monday) to discuss how the government has worked to keep the country safe since the Paris attacks and, going back further, since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

Obama has come under consistent pressure from Republicans to step up his response to Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, and the shooting in San Bernardino, California last week that killed 14 people has raised fears among Americans about the threat of more attacks at home.

Obama will give an update on the status of the investigation into that shooting during his remarks. He will also express confidence that the United States will prevail over terrorist threats, the administration official said.

"The president will ... discuss the broader threat of terrorism, including the nature of the threat, how it has evolved, and how we will defeat it," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement announcing the address.

"He will reiterate his firm conviction that ISIL will be destroyed and that the United States must draw upon our values, our unwavering commitment to justice, equality and freedom, to prevail over terrorist groups that use violence to advance a destructive ideology," he said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

Unlike previous presidents, Obama rarely uses the Oval Office to make speeches to the American public, preferring to stand at a podium, often overlooking the grander White House East Room, instead.

The choice of venue was meant to send a signal of the importance Obama placed on the topic and give a nod to the growing unease among Americans since the Paris and California incidents.

The president, who visited one of the sites of the Paris attacks during a trip to France last week, made a similar attempt at reassuring Americans during remarks at the White House before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Roughly a week later, the California shooting occurred. Islamic State said afterwards that the couple who carried out the massacre were its followers.

Obama Updated

Obama received an update Saturday morning from Comey and other top law enforcement and intelligence advisers.

“The president’s team highlighted several pieces of information that point to the perpetrators being radicalized to violence to commit these heinous attacks,” according to a White House statement, while also confirming “that they had as of yet uncovered no indication the killers were part of an organized group or formed part of a broader terrorist cell.”

Comey said Friday that there is "indication of radicalization" by the couple and "potential inspiration by foreign terrorist organizations" in the attack. Farook and Malik -- who were armed with two rifles and two handguns and were dressed in black tactical gear -- fled the scene in San Bernardino and died in a gun battle with police in a nearby residential neighborhood.

The shooting, following the deadly strikes in Paris, has intensified fears that terrorists are preparing to wage more attacks on American soil. After the shootings, authorities found a dozen pipe bomb devices in the couple’s home along with thousands of rounds of ammunition.

David Bowdich, assistant FBI director in Los Angeles, said Farook and Malik may have been planning to strike again. He added that federal authorities “are not aware of any other threats in the U.S. at this time.”

Swearing Allegiance

In a Facebook posting using an alias Malik swore allegiance to the head of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who is being pursued by the U.S.-led coalition targeting the extremist group’s strongholds in Syria and Iraq, a law enforcement official said. Malik also posted images of herself and the couple’s six-month-old daughter, though some information was deleted in the days leading up to the shooting, the official said.

A Facebook Inc. representative said the post went up near the time that the shootings were reported to have begun. The company removed the profile from the site and is cooperating with law enforcement, the representative said.

Bowdich said it wasn’t yet clear whether the attacks were inspired by or directed by Islamic State.

Crushed Phones

Authorities recovered various digital media from the couple’s rented townhouse. Bowdich said crushed mobile phones were found in a trash can near the residence.

"They attempted to destroy their digital fingerprints," Bowdich said. “We do hope that the digital fingerprints that were left by these two individuals will take us to their motivation."

Using phone records, investigators know that Farook was in conversation with at least several people under FBI investigation for possible ties to terrorism, according to one of the law enforcement officials. But they don’t know the nature of those conversations and are chasing leads to prevent future violence and to determine whether Farook and his wife were part of a terrorist network.

Comey said that the contacts Farook and Malik had with individuals under FBI investigation didn’t raise flags at the bureau, which had no information in its databases about the two killers.

“Lot of evidence in this case doesn’t quite make sense,” he said.

Saudi Travels

Farook, a U.S. citizen, had traveled to Saudi Arabia about a month ago for unknown reasons, according to another U.S. official, who also requested anonymity. Malik, who held a Pakistani passport, came to the U.S. on a K-1, or “fiance,” visa that she obtained in Pakistan, said Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman. Bowdich said Thursday that Malik had entered the U.S. in July 2014.

Farook had been employed by San Bernardino County for five years, most recently as an environmental specialist, and had worked with some of the victims, who were attending a holiday party at the center. He and Malik used rapid-fire, semi- automatic rifles to spray the room with as many as 75 shots, San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said.

The two semi-automatic rifles and two handguns that Farook and Malik were armed with had been legally purchased, authorities said. Besides the pipe bombs, authorities also found tools for constructing explosive devices, Burguan said.

The U.S. and other nations have been on heightened alert following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris by extremists linked to Islamic State. The shootings and bombings killed 130 people and prompted France, Germany and the U.K. to step up the offensive against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. In a statement from the White House on the day before Thanksgiving, Obama said the government had seen no credible intelligence suggesting plots against the U.S.

© Copyright 2018 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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President Barack Obama will make an address to the nation on Sunday on counterterrorism efforts, the White House said, days after 14 people were shot dead in California. The speech at 8:00 pm (0100 GMT Monday) from the Oval Office will include the steps our government is...
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Sunday, 06 December 2015 12:23 PM
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