JERSEY CITY, N.J. — The two killers who stormed a kosher market in Jersey City were driven by hatred of Jews and law enforcement, New Jersey’s attorney general said Thursday, adding that the case is being investigated as domestic terrorism.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal also disclosed that the man and woman had five guns, including an AR-15-style rifle and a shotgun that they were wielding when they burst into the store in an attack that left the scene littered with several hundred shell casings. They also had a pipebomb in their van.
“The outcome would have been far, far worse” if not for the Jersey City Police, Grewal said. Authorities noted that a Jewish school is next to the market, and a Catholic school is across the street.
The attackers killed three people in the store, in addition to a police officer at a cemetery about a mile away, before dying in an hourslong gunbattle with police Tuesday afternoon, authorities said.
“The evidence points toward acts of hate. I can confirm that we’re investigating this matter as potential acts of domestic terrorism fueled both by anti-Semitism and anti-law enforcement beliefs,” the attorney general said. He said social media posts, witness interviews and other evidence reflected the couple’s hatred of Jews and police.
Grewal noted that after killing three people in the store, the couple concentrated their fire on police and did not shoot at others who happened to be on the streets.
Grewal said the attackers, David Anderson, 47, and Francine Graham, 50, had expressed interest in a fringe religious group called the Black Hebrew Israelites, whose members often rail against Jews and whites. But he said there was no evidence so far that they were members, and added that the two were believed to have acted alone.
The pair brought their cache of weapons in a U-Haul van they drove from Bay View Cemetery, where they shot and killed Jersey City Detective Joseph Seals, according to the attorney general.
Anderson fired away with the AR-15-style rifle as he entered the store, while Graham brought a 12-gauge shotgun into the shop. They also had handguns with a homemade silencer and a device to catch shell casings. In all, they had five guns — four recovered in the store, one in the van — in what Grewal called a “tremendous amount of firepower.”
Serial numbers from two of the weapons showed that Graham purchased them in Ohio in 2018, the attorney general said.
The victims killed in the store were: Mindel Ferencz, 31, who with her husband owned the grocery; 24-year-old Moshe Deutsch, a rabbinical student from Brooklyn who was shopping there; and store employee Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, 49. A fourth person in the store was shot and wounded but managed to escape, authorities said.
Members of New York’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community gathered Wednesday night for funerals for Ferencz and Deutsch. Thousands of people, mostly men, followed Ferencz’s casket through the streets of Brooklyn, hugging and crying.
The bloodshed in the city of 270,000 people across the Hudson River from New York City spread fear through the Jewish community and weighed heavily on the minds of more than 300 people who attended a vigil Wednesday night at a synagogue about a mile from where the shootings took place.
In the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history, 11 people were killed in an October 2018 shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Last April, a gunman opened fire at a synagogue near San Diego, killing a woman and wounding a rabbi and two others.
Report spurs calls for FBI surveillance changes
WASHINGTON — Revelations that the FBI committed serious errors in wiretapping a former Trump campaign aide have spurred bipartisan calls for change to the government’s surveillance powers, including from some Republicans who in the past have voted to renew or expand those authorities.
Anger over the errors cited in this week’s Justice Department’s inspector general’s report of the Russia investigation has produced rare consensus from Democrats and Republicans who otherwise have had sharply different interpretations of the report’s findings. The report said the FBI was justified in investigating ties between the campaign and Russia, but criticized how the investigation was conducted.
The report cited flaws and omissions in the government’s warrant applications under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, documenting problems with a surveillance program that Democrats and civil libertarians have long maintained is opaque, intrusive and operates with minimal oversight. They now have been joined by Republicans who are irate that FBI officials withheld key information from judges when they applied to eavesdrop on former Trump aide Carter Page.
“I’m still trying to get my arms around the proposition that a whole bunch of conservative Republicans who’ve logged years blocking bipartisan FISA reforms are now somehow privacy hawks,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
It’s unclear what steps, if any, Congress could or will take to rein in the FBI’s power under the surveillance law, and it remains to be seen whether outrage over the way a Trump ally was treated will extend to less overtly political investigations.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who has recommended changes, said his office will conduct an audit of how the FBI applies for warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. FBI Director Christopher Wray said the bureau is making its own changes to ensure more accuracy and completeness in warrant applications. That includes tightening up layers of review and record-keeping.
“I think we’re entrusted with very significant power and authority. The FISA statute provides the FBI with absolutely indispensable tools that keep 325 million Americans safe everyday,” Wray told The Associated Press on Monday. “But with that significant power and authority comes a responsibility to be scrupulously accurate and careful, and I think that’s what the FBI does best.”
The 1978 law authorizes the FBI to seek warrants to monitor the communications of people they suspect of being agents of a foreign power, such as potential terrorists or spies. In Page’s case, officials suspected that he was being targeted for Russian government recruitment though he was never accused by the FBI of wrongdoing. Unlike criminal wiretaps, the FBI need not have probable cause that a crime was committed.
Last year, the House Intelligence Committee gave the public an unprecedented peek into the secret process as it released dueling memos about the Page warrant, part of the partisan dispute over special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Most of the surveillance applications do not result in criminal charges. When they do, there’s no presumed right for a defendant to see the document themselves. Judges can order prosecutors to share FISA information with defendants if they deem it necessary for challenging a search’s legality, but courts consistently have said disclosing the material could expose intelligence secrets.
“The absolute lack of any potential for adversarial testing at any point in the process creates an environment where sloppiness and corner-cutting is so much more likely,” said Elizabeth Goitein, who co-directs the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program.
Another criticism of the surveillance court has been that it is viewed as a virtual rubber-stamp for government requests. Justice Department documents show the government made 1,081 requests for electronic surveillance under FISA in 2018, and that one was withdrawn and only one other was rejected in full.
The requests to wiretap Page, originally made in the fall of 2016 and then renewed three times after that, included what the inspector general said were 17 flaws and omissions.
According to Horowitz, the FBI failed to update the court as it learned new information that could have undercut some of the original assertions that the bureau made about Page. Agents, for instance, did not reveal that questions had been raised about the reliability of a source whose reporting had been relied on in obtaining the warrant, or that a Trump campaign aide had denied to an informant that anyone in the campaign was coordinating with Russia.
Those omissions are problematic, though not necessarily surprising, Goitein said.
“Investigators become wedded to their theories of the case and invested in the success of their investigations,” she said.
For Republican senators, even some who describe themselves as hawkish and who supported FISA as a powerful counterterrorism tool in the post-9/11 era, the problems detailed by Horowitz were enough for them to demand change.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, invoked the specter of J. Edgar Hoover, the longest-serving FBI director whose tenure included repeated civil liberties abuses.
“I would hate to lose the ability of the FISA court to operate at probably the time when we need it the most,” Graham, R-S.C., told Horowitz. “But after your report, I have serious concerns about whether the FISA court can continue unless there is fundamental reform.”
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said he had warned for years that the FISA statute was ripe for abuse and that “it was just a question of when government officials would get caught doing it.”
Wyden said he would like to see new alliances.
“I’ve always felt that security and liberty are not mutually exclusive — that smart policies get you more of both and not so-so-smart policies get you less of both,” he added.
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White House, Chinese negotiators reach trade deal in principle that would dramatically scale back import tariffs
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · David J. Lynch · NATIONAL, BUSINESS, WORLD, POLITICS, US-GLOBAL-MARKETS, ASIA-PACIFIC · Dec 12, 2019 - 5:37 PM
WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Thursday approved a proposed U.S.-China trade deal, raising hopes for a possible truce in a 21-month commercial conflict that roiled financial markets, disrupted corporate supply chains and cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.
At a White House meeting with his top trade advisers, the president signed off on a swap of U.S. tariff reductions in return for China spending $50 billion on U.S. farm goods, tightening its intellectual property protections and opening its financial services markets, according to Michael Pillsbury, a China expert at the Hudson Institute, who says the president briefed him on the deal Thursday.
"It's a breakthrough," Pillsbury said. "He says it's historic. I certainly agree with that."
The limited accord caps a roller-coaster negotiation that brought the two countries to the brink of success more than once this year only to see talks stall. Diplomats from the world's two largest economies have been working against a Sunday deadline, when new U.S. tariffs on $160 billion in Chinese goods were scheduled to take effect.
That increase now will not go forward and existing tariffs on $360 billion in Chinese imports will also be reduced, according to Pillsbury and others familiar with the arrangement. The deal includes provisions that will penalize the Chinese government if it fails to place the required agricultural orders.
As of Thursday evening in Washington, the Chinese government had issued no official confirmation of a deal.