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Manziel to sit half of A&M's opener against Rice

Wednesday, 28 August 2013 23:01 Published in Sports

 

HOUSTON (AP) -- Johnny Football's season will start a little late.

Johnny Manziel was suspended for the first half of Texas A&M's opening game against Rice on Saturday for what the school called an "inadvertent" violation of NCAA rules by signing autographs.

The penalty appears to have brought a quick end to an investigation that could have ruined the seventh-ranked Aggies' upcoming season.

The school issued a statement Wednesday saying it declared the Heisman Trophy winner ineligible and that the NCAA agreed to reinstate Manziel after he sits out the first half against the underdog Owls.

"I am proud of the way both Coach Sumlin and Johnny handled this situation, with integrity and honesty," Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp said in the statement. "We all take the Aggie Code of Honor very seriously and there is no evidence that either the university or Johnny violated that code."

The quarterback was being investigated by the NCAA for allegedly accepting money for signing autographs for memorabilia brokers, a violation of NCAA rules that could have led to a much longer suspension. ESPN first reported the allegations against Manziel earlier this month.

According to the statement, Texas A&M and the NCAA "confirmed there is no evidence Manziel received money in exchange for autographs based on currently available information and statements by Manziel."

Conditions for reinstatement include Manziel discussing his actions with teammates and A&M revising how it educates student-athletes about signing autographs.

"Student-athletes are often asked for autographs from fans, but unfortunately, some individuals' sole motivation in seeking an autograph is for resale," said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs. "It is important that schools are cognizant and educate student-athletes about situations in which there is a strong likelihood that the autograph seeker plans to resell the items."

He likely will be replaced in the starting lineup by either junior Matt Joeckel or freshman Kenny Hill. Joeckel has thrown only 11 passes in his college career.

The news of Manziel's suspension was the talk of Twitter on Wednesday afternoon, with many questioning the length of the suspension. Former NFL and MLB star Deion Sanders was incredulous at the brevity of Manziel's suspension, after Dez Bryant was suspended for an entire season while at Oklahoma State after lying about having dinner with Sanders.

"Can we investigate the investigators? (at)DezBryant got suspended a season 4 lying about a dinner that wasnt a violation & Manziel gets a half," Sanders tweeted soon after the ruling was made public.

The decision also had a major impact in Las Vegas, where the odds of Manziel's chances of repeating as a Heisman winner and Texas A&M's chances of winning the national championship shifted dramatically on Wednesday. RJ Bell, the founder of sports betting web site Pregame.com, said that Manziel's chances of winning the Heisman jumped from 12/1 to 6/1 on Wednesday, and the team's shot at the title increased from 18/1 to 10/1.

The latest problem isn't the first time off-the-field trouble has put Manziel's career in jeopardy.

Manziel was arrested last summer after a bar fight near campus and charged with disorderly conduct, possession of the fake ID and failure to identify himself to police. It was an incident that put him in danger of being suspended from school and left him having to earn the starting job in fall camp.

Manziel admitted this June that he failed to identify himself to police following the altercation. As part of a plea deal, other charges against the 20-year-old, including disorderly conduct, were dismissed, and it looked like Manziel's trouble was behind him before the latest problems came to light.

Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy last season, setting numerous school and Southeastern Conference records while leading Texas A&M to an 11-2 mark and a victory over No. 1 Alabama in its first season in the SEC.

He followed that with a high-profile offseason of road trips to Las Vegas and the NBA Finals. Manziel got to meet Heat star LeBron James and rapper Drake, and he posted some Tweets that made headlines.

His biggest misstep, however, came during the summer when he departed early from a quarterback camp for high school players run by the Manning family in Louisiana. Manziel said it was a mutual decision after he overslept and missed meetings and activities.

Dat Nguyen, an All-America linebacker at Texas A&M in the 1990s and former assistant coach for the Aggies, lamented Manziel's mistakes, but noted what he's done for the program.

"I'm a little bit disappointed with what's going on down there," Nguyen said recently. "Going into the season I thought this would be the year for A&M to win a national championship and this has been a distraction. He made a bad decision and he's just got to move on ... but overall the guy has put A&M back on the map."

Former Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum, who is now a special adviser to Texas A&M's president, has watched Manziel's career with great interest and is looking forward to seeing how he'll follow up his incredible first season.

"This young man has been in a position that no one has ever been in," Slocum said on Wednesday before the suspension was announced. "He's been a freshman and a 20-year-old winner of the Heisman Trophy, and he's done some great things with that and he's had a few things I'm sure he'd like to have a do-over with. And if I were advising him, I might have said, `That's probably not in your best interests to do that or say that or be there,' but in terms of the upcoming season, I'm as anxious as anybody to see what happens and see what the results are."

Manziel was the main attraction at SEC Media Days, where he was peppered with questions but answered with the same cool and calm he often shows in the face of a pass rush.

"I don't feel like I've done anything that's catastrophic," Manziel said at the time. "Of course, I've made my mistakes. It's time to grow up."

The day before the Aggies reported for preseason practice, ESPN reported Manziel signed thousands of autographs for brokers in Texas, Florida and Connecticut, and cited unidentified sources who said Manziel was paid thousands for dollars for the signatures.

Manziel has been off-limits to the media since news broke of the NCAA investigation, but has been practicing with the Aggies.

NYPD DESIGNATES MOSQUES AS TERRORISM ORGANIZATIONS

Wednesday, 28 August 2013 12:04 Published in National News
NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorist organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen "terrorism enterprise investigations" into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. The TEI, as it is known, is a police tool intended to help investigate terrorist cells and the like.

Many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organization with operating as a terrorism enterprise.

The documents show in detail how, in its hunt for terrorists, the NYPD investigated countless innocent New York Muslims and put information about them in secret police files. As a tactic, opening an enterprise investigation on a mosque is so potentially invasive that while the NYPD conducted at least a dozen, the FBI never did one, according to interviews with federal law enforcement officials.

The strategy has allowed the NYPD to send undercover officers into mosques and attempt to plant informants on the boards of mosques and at least one prominent Arab-American group in Brooklyn, whose executive director has worked with city officials, including Bill de Blasio, a front-runner for mayor.

The revelations about the NYPD's massive spying operations are in documents recently obtained by The Associated Press and part of a new book, "Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spying Unit and bin Laden's Final Plot Against America." The book by AP reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman is based on hundreds of previously unpublished police files and interviews with current and former NYPD, CIA and FBI officials.

The disclosures come as the NYPD is fighting off lawsuits accusing it of engaging in racial profiling while combating crime. Earlier this month, a judge ruled that the department's use of the stop-and-frisk tactic was unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union and two other groups have sued, saying the Muslim spying programs are unconstitutional and make Muslims afraid to practice their faith without police scrutiny.

Both Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly have denied those accusations. Speaking Wednesday on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Kelly reminded people that his intelligence-gathering programs began in the wake of 9/11.

"We follow leads wherever they take us," Kelly said. "We're not intimidated as to wherever that lead takes us. And we're doing that to protect the people of New York City."

---

The NYPD did not limit its operations to collecting information on those who attended the mosques or led prayers. The department sought also to put people on the boards of New York's Islamic institutions to fill intelligence gaps.

One confidential NYPD document shows police wanted to put informants in leadership positions at mosques and other organizations, including the Arab American Association of New York in Brooklyn, a secular social-service organization.

Linda Sarsour, the executive director, said her group helps new immigrants adjust to life in the U.S. It was not clear whether the department was successful in its plans.

The document, which appears to have been created around 2009, was prepared for Kelly and distributed to the NYPD's debriefing unit, which helped identify possible informants.

Around that time, Kelly was handing out medals to the Arab American Association's soccer team, Brooklyn United, smiling and congratulating its players for winning the NYPD's soccer league.

Sarsour, a Muslim who has met with Kelly many times, said she felt betrayed.

"It creates mistrust in our organizations," said Sarsour, who was born and raised in Brooklyn. "It makes one wonder and question who is sitting on the boards of the institutions where we work and pray."

---

Before the NYPD could target mosques as terrorist groups, it had to persuade a federal judge to rewrite rules governing how police can monitor speech protected by the First Amendment.

The rules stemmed from a 1971 lawsuit, dubbed the Handschu case after lead plaintiff Barbara Handschu, over how the NYPD spied on protesters and liberals during the Vietnam War era.

David Cohen, a former CIA executive who became NYPD's deputy commissioner for intelligence in 2002, said the old rules didn't apply to fighting against terrorism.

Cohen told the judge that mosques could be used "to shield the work of terrorists from law enforcement scrutiny by taking advantage of restrictions on the investigation of First Amendment activity."

NYPD lawyers proposed a new tactic, the TEI, that allowed officers to monitor political or religious speech whenever the "facts or circumstances reasonably indicate" that groups of two or more people were involved in plotting terrorism or other violent crime.

The judge rewrote the Handschu rules in 2003. In the first eight months under the new rules, the NYPD's Intelligence Division opened at least 15 secret terrorism enterprise investigations, documents show. At least 10 targeted mosques.

Doing so allowed police, in effect, to treat anyone who attends prayer services as a potential suspect. Sermons, ordinarily protected by the First Amendment, could be monitored and recorded.

Among the mosques targeted as early as 2003 was the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge.

"I have never felt free in the United States. The documents tell me I am right," Zein Rimawi, one of the Bay Ridge mosque's leaders, said after reviewing an NYPD document describing his mosque as a terrorist enterprise.

Rimawi, 59, came to the U.S. decades ago from the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

"Ray Kelly, shame on him," he said. "I am American."

---

The NYPD believed the tactics were necessary to keep the city safe, a view that sometimes put it at odds with the FBI.

In August 2003, Cohen asked the FBI to install eavesdropping equipment inside a mosque called Masjid al-Farooq, including its prayer room.

Al-Farooq had a long history of radical ties. Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind Egyptian sheik who was convicted of plotting to blow up New York City landmarks, once preached briefly at Al-Farooq. Invited preachers raged against Israel, the United States and the Bush administration's war on terror.

One of Cohen's informants said an imam from another mosque had delivered $30,000 to an al-Farooq leader, and the NYPD suspected the money was for terrorism.

But Amy Jo Lyons, the FBI assistant special agent in charge for counterterrorism, refused to bug the mosque. She said the federal law wouldn't permit it.

The NYPD made other arrangements. Cohen's informants began to carry recording devices into mosques under investigation. They hid microphones in wristwatches and the electronic key fobs used to unlock car doors.

Even under a TEI, a prosecutor and a judge would have to approve bugging a mosque. But the informant taping was legal because New York law allows any party to record a conversation, even without consent from the others. Like the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, the NYPD never demonstrated in court that al-Farooq was a terrorist enterprise but that didn't stop the police from spying on the mosques for years.

And under the new Handschu guidelines, no one outside the NYPD could question the secret practice.

Martin Stolar, one of the lawyers in the Handschu case, said it's clear the NYPD used enterprise investigations to justify open-ended surveillance. The NYPD should only tape conversations about building bombs or plotting attacks, he said.

"Every Muslim is a potential terrorist? It is completely unacceptable," he said. "It really tarnishes all of us and tarnishes our system of values."

---

Al-Ansar Center, a windowless Sunni mosque, opened in Brooklyn several years ago, attracting young Arabs and South Asians. NYPD officers feared the mosque was a breeding ground for terrorists, so informants kept tabs on it.

One NYPD report noted that members were fixing up the basement, turning it into a gym.

"They also want to start Jiujitsu classes," it said.

The NYPD was particularly alarmed about Mohammad Elshinawy, 26, an Islamic teacher at several New York mosques, including Al-Ansar. Elshinawy was a Salafist - a follower of a puritanical Islamic movement - whose father was an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center attacks, according to NYPD documents.

The FBI also investigated whether Elshinawy recruited people to wage violent jihad overseas. But the two agencies investigated him very differently.

The FBI closed the case after many months without any charges. Federal investigators never infiltrated Al-Ansar.

"Nobody had any information the mosque was engaged in terrorism activities," a former federal law enforcement official recalled, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the investigation.

The NYPD wasn't convinced. A 2008 surveillance document described Elshinawy as "a young spiritual leader (who) lectures and gives speeches at dozens of venues" and noted, "He has orchestrated camping trips and paintball trips."

The NYPD deemed him a threat in part because "he is so highly regarded by so many young and impressionable individuals."

No part of Elshinawy's life was out of bounds. His mosque was the target of a TEI. The NYPD conducted surveillance at his wedding. An informant recorded the wedding and police videotaped everyone who came and went.

"We have nothing on the lucky bride at this time but hopefully will learn about her at the service," one lieutenant wrote.

Four years later, the NYPD was still watching Elshinawy without charging him. He is now a plaintiff in the ACLU lawsuit against the NYPD.

"These new NYPD spying disclosures confirm the experiences and worst fears of New York's Muslims," ACLU lawyer Hina Shamsi said. "From houses of worship to a wedding, there's no area of New York Muslim religious or personal life that the NYPD has not invaded through its bias-based surveillance policy."

--- Online: Documents TEI Discontinuance: HTTP://APNE.WS/146ZQF9 Informant Profiles: HTTP://APNE.WS/1ANFUYH Elshinawy Surveillance: HTTP://APNE.WS/15FAU4D Handschu Minutes: HTTP://APNE.WS/1CENPD6 --- AP's Washington investigative team can be reached at DCinvestigations(at)ap.org Follow Goldman and Apuzzo at HTTP://TWITTER.COM/ADAMGOLDMANAP and HTTP://TWITTER.COM/MATTAPUZZO © 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

US MULLS OBJECTIVES, OUTCOMES OF A STRIKE ON SYRIA

Wednesday, 28 August 2013 11:55 Published in National News
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. officials are still grappling with how to design a military strike to deter future chemical weapons attacks in Syria and assessing how President Bashar Assad might respond, two senior officials said Wednesday, as the Obama administration insisted the Syrian government must be punished.

U.S. intelligence agencies are preparing a report laying out the evidence against Assad's government in last week's alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians. The classified version would be sent to key members of Congress and a declassified version would be released publicly.

The White House says it's already convinced, however, and is rounding up support from international partners while planning a possible military response.

"If there is action taken, it must be clearly defined what the objective is and why" and based on "clear facts," said one of the senior administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss internal deliberations publicly.

The official said the administration is considering more than a single set of military strikes and "the options are not limited just to one day" of assault.

In broad terms, the U.S. and international goals in striking Syria would be to damage the Syrian government's military and weapons to make it difficult to wage chemical attacks, and to make Assad think twice about using such weapons in the future. Such a strike likely would be led by low-flying cruise missiles fired from any of four U.S. Navy destroyers off Syria's coast.

The manner and timing of Syria's response are among the so-called "next day" questions that the administration is still thinking through as it prepares a possible military action. No additional U.S. defensive weapons have been deployed in the region in anticipation of Syria reprisals, the official said. The U.S. already has Patriot anti-missile batteries in Jordan and Turkey.

The other senior U.S. official said the administration has determined it can contain any potential Syrian military response in the event that President Barack Obama orders a U.S. attack.

Both officials were granted anonymity in order to discuss internal deliberations on complex questions that surround crafting a response to the Aug. 21 attack in which hundreds of Syrian civilians were killed.

In Congress, which is in summer recess, members from both parties have expressed reservations about a rush toward launching a military action without congressional approval. On Wednesday, Washington Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, cautioned that an attack might be ineffective and draw the United States into the Syrian civil war.

"Simply lashing out with military force under the banner of 'doing something' will not secure our interests in Syria," Smith said in a statement.

In the House, 69 Republicans and 13 Democrats have signed a letter to Obama demanding that he seek congressional authorization for military action against Syria. The letter written by Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., argues that intervention without a direct threat to the United States and without Congress' approval would be unconstitutional.

The administration in recent days has made clear it believes it must take punitive action against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons, which are banned by international convention. But the senior officials' comments Wednesday made clear that questions about using military force in this circumstance are still being worked out.

The officials said diplomatic and legal issues also are still being discussed internally.

"If any action is taken it will not be taken until all these pieces are in place: the legal issues, the international piece, the consequences thought through, the facts and everything that needs to be tied together," the first senior official said.

The official did not go into detail. Questions may include to what degree military strikes would prevent Assad from using poison gas in the future, and how to respond if he does. The administration also is concerned that if Assad is not punished, dictatorial leaders of other nations in possession of chemical weapons, like North Korea, might see the failure to act as a sign that they could get away with using the weapons.

In Israel, a close U.S. ally in the Middle East, the military and citizens were preparing for what officials said was a slim possibility of a retaliatory attack by Syria after a U.S. strike.

Administration officials have said Assad's actions posed a direct threat to U.S. national security, providing Obama with a potential legal justification for launching a strike without authorization from the United Nations or Congress. However, officials did not detail how the U.S. was directly threatened by an attack contained within Syria's borders. Nor have they yet presented concrete proof that Assad was responsible.

Assad has denied using chemical weapons, calling the allegations "preposterous."

"Allowing the use of chemical weapons on a significant scale to take place without a response would present a significant challenge to, threat to, the United States' national security," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday.

The U.S. and its international partners were unlikely to undertake military action before Thursday. That's when British Prime Minister David Cameron will convene an emergency meeting of Parliament, where lawmakers are expected to vote on a motion clearing the way for a British response.

The prime minister's office said Wednesday that it will put forward a resolution to the U.N. Security Council condemning the Syrian government for the alleged chemical attack.

Obama and Cameron spoke Tuesday, and a Cameron spokesman said the two leaders agreed that a chemical attack had taken place, and that the Assad regime was responsible.

Also Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden became the highest-ranking U.S. official to publicly charge that Assad's government fired chemical weapons last week near Damascus.

"There's no doubt who is responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria: the Syrian regime," Biden said.

Ahead of any strike, the U.S. also planned to release additional intelligence it said would directly link Assad to the attack in the Damascus suburbs. Syrian activists said hundreds of people were killed in the attack. A U.S. official said the intelligence report was expected to include "signals intelligence" — information gathered from intercepted communications.

Even before releasing that information, U.S. officials said Assad was culpable in the attack, based on witness reports, information on the number of victims and the symptoms of those killed or injured, and intelligence showing the Syrian government has not lost control of its chemical weapons stockpiles.

___ AP National Security Writer Robert Burns reported from Bander Seri Begawan, Brunei. Lolita C. Baldor and Bradley Klapper in Washington contributed to this report.

___ Follow Julie Pace on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jpaceDC

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