Obama announces choices for top CIA, defense posts

Updated 08 January 2013
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Obama announces choices for top CIA, defense posts

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama yesterday announced his choice of Chuck Hagel as his next defense secretary and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, two potentially controversial picks for his second-term national security team.
Hagel has faced tough criticism from congressional Republicans who say the former Republican senator is anti-Israel and soft on Iran. Brennan, a 25-year CIA veteran, withdrew from consideration for the spy agency’s top job in 2008 amid questions about his connection to criticized interrogation techniques during the George W. Bush administration.
Brennan’s nomination also will draw attention to the highly secretive US drone program, which is highly unpopular overseas. He was the first Obama administration official to publicly acknowledge the targeted killing operations.
Obama called Hagel “the leader that our troops deserve” and said both men understand that “the work of protecting our nation is never done.” Along with secretary of state nominee Sen. John Kerry, Hagel and Brennan would play key roles implementing and shaping Obama’s national security priorities. All three must be confirmed by the Senate.
In nominating Hagel, Obama signaled he is willing to take on a tough confirmation fight. The 66-year-old moderate Republican has criticized discussion of a military strike by either the US or Israel against Iran. He also irritated some Israel supporters with his reference to the “Jewish lobby” in the United States. And he has backed efforts to bring Iran to the table for future peace talks in Afghanistan.
The second-ranking Senate Republican, John Cornyn, said in a statement that making Hagel defense secretary would be “the worst possible message we could send to our friend Israel and the rest of our allies in the Middle East.” White House officials say Hagel’s positions on Israel and Iran have been misrepresented. They cite his Senate votes for billions in military assistance to Israel and his support for multilateral sanctions on Tehran.
Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said Hagel will be “completely in line with the president” on both issues.
“The president has a record of unprecedented security cooperation with Israel, and that’s going to continue no matter who the defense secretary is,” Rhodes said.
Hagel has also been criticized by some Democrats for saying in 1998 that a nominee for an ambassador post was “openly, aggressively gay.” He has since apologized for those comments.
Hagel is the second straight Obama favorite for a top national security post to face criticism from lawmakers even before being nominated. United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration for secretary of state amid charges from Republican senators that she misled the public in her initial accounting of the deadly attacks on Americans in September at a diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.
Both Hagel and Brennan have close relationships with Obama, who values loyalty in his inner circle. Brennan, as the president’s top counterterrorism adviser, was deeply involved in the planning of the 2011 raid that killed Sept. 11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden. And he has led administration efforts to quell the growth of terror organizations in Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa.
Brennan, 57, spent a quarter-century at the CIA. He served as station chief in Saudi Arabia and in a variety of posts, including deputy executive director, during the Bush administration.
His tenure at the agency during Bush’s presidency drew criticism from liberals when Obama considered naming him CIA director after the 2008 election. Brennan denied being involved in what the government called “enhanced interrogation techniques” during the Bush administration but still withdrew his name from consideration.


In a letter to Obama at the time, Brennan said he was “a strong opponent of many of the policies of the Bush administration, such as the preemptive war in Iraq and coercive interrogation tactics, to include waterboarding.” Many people consider waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods to be torture.
White House officials say they don’t expect Brennan to face similar trouble this time, given his four years of service in the Obama administration.
“The issue has been removed from the debate because the president and John Brennan, as his top counterterrorism adviser, brought those techniques to an end,” Rhodes said.
However, Brennan’s nomination will likely put a spotlight on the administration’s controversial drone program. Brennan has defended the legality of the overseas drone operations and has said they protect American lives and prevent potential terror attacks.
If confirmed, Brennan will succeed David Petraeus, who resigned in November after admitting to an affair with his biographer.
Deputy CIA director Michael Morell has been serving as the agency’s acting director since Petraeus resigned and was considered by Obama for the top job. Rhodes said Morell is expected to stay at the CIA.
Hagel would replace retiring Pentagon chief Leon Panetta at a time when the Defense Department is facing potentially deep budget cuts. Hagel would also be tasked with overseeing the military drawdown in Afghanistan, where the US-led war is scheduled to end in two years.
Hagel is likely to support a more rapid withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan than some military generals.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican, said Sunday he was reserving judgment on whether to support Hagel but predicted the former senator would face serious questions.
Any nominee must have “a full understanding of our close relationship with our Israeli allies, the Iranian threat and the importance of having a robust military,” McConnell said on ABC.
Despite the criticism, no Republican lawmakers have threatened to try to block Hagel’s nomination.
Monday’s nominations leave Obama without a woman in line for a top administration post. The president will soon name a new treasury secretary, but current White House chief of staff Jack Lew is the front-runner for the post.


Harvey Weinstein charged with rape

Updated 16 min 46 sec ago
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Harvey Weinstein charged with rape

  • Seven months after allegations of sexual misconduct destroyed his career and catalyzed the #MeToo movement, the once-powerhouse movie producer turned himself in to face charges.
  • Manhattan Assistant Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon: “This defendant used his position, money and power to lure young women into situations where he was able to violate them sexually.”

NEW YORK: Flinching when he heard himself described as a man who used power to prey on women, Harvey Weinstein was arraigned Friday on rape and other charges in the first criminal prosecution to result from the wave of allegations against him that sparked a national reckoning over sexual misconduct.
Seven months after the allegations destroyed his career and catalyzed the #MeToo movement, the once-powerhouse movie producer turned himself in to face the charges, which stem from encounters with two of the dozens who have accused him of sexual misdeeds ranging from harassment to assault.
“This defendant used his position, money and power to lure young women into situations where he was able to violate them sexually,” Manhattan Assistant Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said in court. Weinstein raised his eyebrows as he heard it.
Weinstein has consistently denied any allegations of nonconsensual sex. His lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, didn’t elaborate further on the denials Friday, saying he wasn’t there “to try the case” at this point.
A judge agreed to release Weinstein on $1 million bail, with constant electronic monitoring and a ban on traveling beyond New York and Connecticut.
A make-or-break Hollywood producer until the allegations destroyed his career last fall, Weinstein, 66, found himself surrounded by lights and cameras in a spectacle he couldn’t control.
“You sorry, Harvey?” came a shout from a throng of media as the once powerful movie mogul walked into a lower Manhattan courthouse in handcuffs, his head bowed. Asked “What can you say?” he mildly shook his head and softly said “No.”
Weinstein was charged with rape and a criminal sex act as well as lower-level sex abuse and sexual misconduct charges.
Weinstein lumbered into a police station early Friday wearing a blazer and carrying books including “Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution,” about the Broadway musical duo of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and “Elia Kazan,” about the famed film director,
A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that the criminal sex act charge stems from a 2004 encounter between Weinstein and Lucia Evans, a then-aspiring actress who has said the Hollywood mogul forced her to perform oral sex on him in his office. She was among the first women to speak out about the producer.
The rape charge relates to a woman who was not identified. A court complaint says Weinstein raped her in a Manhattan hotel in 2013.
Brafman has previously said that Weinstein has consistently denied any allegations of “nonconsensual sex.”
Evans confirmed to The New Yorker that she was pressing charges.
“At a certain point, you have to think about the greater good of humanity, of womankind,” she told the magazine.
Evans told The New Yorker in a story published in October that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex during a daytime meeting at his New York office in 2004, the summer before her senior year at Middlebury College.
“I said, over and over, ‘I don’t want to do this, stop, don’t,’” she told the magazine. “I tried to get away, but maybe I didn’t try hard enough. I didn’t want to kick him or fight him.”
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance had been under enormous public pressure to bring a criminal case against Weinstein. Some women’s groups, including the Hollywood activist group Time’s Up, accused the Democrat of being too deferential to Weinstein and too dismissive of his accusers.
A grand jury has been hearing evidence in the case for weeks.
In March, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo took the extraordinary step of ordering the state’s attorney general to investigate whether Vance acted properly in 2015 when he decided not to prosecute Weinstein over a previous allegation of unwanted groping, made by an Italian model. That investigation is in its preliminary stages.
More than 75 women have accused Weinstein of wrongdoing around the globe. Several actresses and models accused him of criminal sexual assaults, but many of the encounters happened too long ago for any prosecution. Film actress Rose McGowan said Weinstein raped her in 1997 in Utah, “Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra said he raped her in her New York apartment in 1992 and Norwegian actress Natassia Malthe said he attacked her in a London hotel room in 2008.
McGowan told the AP on Thursday that “the justice system has been something very elusive.”
“I hope in this case, it works. Because it’s all true. None of this was consensual,” she said.
The statute of limitations for rape and certain other sex crimes in New York was eliminated in 2006, but not for attacks that happened prior to 2001.
New York City police detectives said in early November that they were investigating allegations by another accuser, “Boardwalk Empire” actress Paz de la Huerta, who told police in October that Weinstein raped her twice in 2010. She is not one of the victims in the case on Friday; hers was still pending, officials said.
Authorities in California and London also are investigating assault allegations. Britain has no statute of limits on rape cases; some of the allegations under investigation there date to the 1980s.
Harvey and his brother Bob Weinstein started his now-bankrupt company after leaving Miramax, the company they founded in 1979 and which became a powerhouse in ‘90s indie film with hits like “Pulp Fiction” and “Shakespeare in Love.” The Weinstein Co. found success with Oscar winners “The Artist” and “The King’s Speech.”