TSA delays knife policy; Swalwell declares victory

U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell is declaring now that the Transportation Security Administration has decided to delay implementing its new policy allowing certain knives and sporting equipment on plans.

Swalwell, a freshman member of the Homeland Security Transportation Subcommittee, had taken a lead role in grilling TSA officials at hearings and organizing other House members to write in opposition to the policy, which they say was revised without adequate input from pilots and flight attendants.

“Today’s announcement by TSA is welcome news for airline passengers and crews,” Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, said in a news release. “I appreciate that TSA Administrator Pistole listened to the 133 Members of Congress who signed our letter asking for this reversal in policy, stakeholders like pilots and flight attendants, and the general public who oppose this disturbing decision. This delay in implementation is a positive step by the Administrator that will allow stakeholders to have their rightful input into a decision that directly affects their safety and that of the flying public.”


Read the charges against Boston bombing suspect

The Justice Department has just released the criminal complaint and affidavit charging Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, a U.S. citizen and resident of Cambridge, Mass., with using a weapon of mass destruction against persons and property at the Boston Marathon on April 15, killing three and injuring more than 200.

Tsarnaev is specifically charged with one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction (namely, an improvised explosive device or IED) against persons and property within the United States resulting in death, and one count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death. If convicted, he could face the federal death penalty. Tsarnaev had his initial court appearance today from his hospital room.

“Although our investigation is ongoing, today’s charges bring a successful end to a tragic week for the city of Boston, and for our country,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Our thoughts and prayers remain with each of the bombing victims and brave law enforcement professionals who lost their lives or suffered serious injuries as a result of this week’s senseless violence. Thanks to the valor of state and local police, the dedication of federal law enforcement and intelligence officials, and the vigilance of members of the public, we’ve once again shown that those who target innocent Americans and attempt to terrorize our cities will not escape from justice. We will hold those who are responsible for these heinous acts accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”


Read the court papers filed against ricin suspect

The Justice Department has released the criminal complaint and affidavit supporting the arrest of Paul Kevin Curtis, the Mississippi man accused of mailing letters containing the deadly poison ricin to President Obama and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

Paul Kevin CurtisThe complaint is pretty boilerplate but the affidavit is interesting reading; it basically describes Curtis as a conspiracy theorist who had corresponded regularly with public officials using the same verbiage he allegedly finally placed in the poisoned letters.

Should we be relieved that this wasn’t part of some sophisticated terrorist plot, or mortified that someone who apparently is stone-cold crazy was able to cook up and mail out a deadly poison?


Reactions to Boston Marathon bomb explosions

The Bay Area is reacting to horrific news of a bombing near the Boston Marathon’s finish line today that killed at least two people and injured at least 100.

Oakland Police said that although they have no reason to believe there’s any threat here, they’re keeping officers apprised of the situation in Boston and will have a more visible presence at tonight’s Oakland A’s and Golden State Warriors games in collaboration with BART Police, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies.

Elected officials are weighing in, too.

From President Barack Obama’s live press briefing at the White House:

“We still do not know who did this or why. And people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. But make no mistake – we will get to the bottom of this. And we will find out who did this; we’ll find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.

“Today is a holiday in Massachusetts – Patriots’ Day. It’s a day that celebrates the free and fiercely independent spirit that this great American city of Boston has reflected from the earliest days of our nation. And it’s a day that draws the world to Boston’s streets in a spirit of friendly competition. Boston is a tough and resilient town. So are its people. I’m supremely confident that Bostonians will pull together, take care of each other, and move forward as one proud city. And as they do, the American people will be with them every single step of the way.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“My heart goes out to the families who lost loved ones in these horrific explosions in Boston, and I am praying for the recovery of all those who were injured.”

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“Words cannot begin to express our sorrow for the families who are grieving so suddenly right now. The House of Representatives offers its prayers to the victims and the city of Boston. We also give thanks for the professionals and Good Samaritans who prevented further loss of life. This is a terrible day for all Americans, but we will carry on in the American spirit, and come together with grace and strength.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Boston today and with the families of all of the victims of this brutal attack. We pray for the health and recovery of those injured, for the witnesses to the explosions, and for the first responders who arrived on the scene to tend to the wounded and secure the area.

“Words are inadequate to console the loved ones of those lost at the Boston Marathon. But we will do what we can to care for them. We will ensure that justice will be done.

“Members of Congress stand ready to assist our partners in Boston and Massachusetts as they respond to this unspeakable tragedy. The entire nation will stand as a source of support and comfort to this community in the days to come.”

From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (who is California’s acting governor during Gov. Jerry Brown’s ongoing trip to China):

Jennifer and I are deeply saddened by the tragic events in Boston today and our hearts go out to the victims’ families and their communities. There’s no indication of any threats to California or our local communities at this time. However, these events are a reminder to remain vigilant and always report anything unusual to your local law enforcement agency.

More, after the jump…
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Martinez 9-11 ceremony a solemn affair

The overcast gray sky and chilly breeze matched the somber mood of the small crowd who gathered this morning to remember and honor those who lost their lives in the horrific terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001.

Click here to read the online story and see a slideshow of photos taken around the country.

I covered the simple ceremony held at Martinez’ downtown memorial erected to honor the men and women who were killed when terrorists crashed airlines into New York, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. The site near the Amtrak train station includes mangled steel beam segments from the World Trade Center.

The Martinez Chamber of Commerce organized the event.

Facing a uniformed formation of Martinez police officers, the hometown congressman, Rep. George Miller, spoke of how that morning a decade ago began as an ordinary day across America as people readied their children for school and headed to work.

“But it became a day when ordinary people did extraordinary things,” Miller said. “We must never forget.”

Martinez Mayor Rob Schroder talked of that surreal morning a decade ago when “we couldn’t believe what we were seeing on the television.”

Martinez Councilman Mark Ross abandoned his customary humor and read a serious poem he wrote for the occasion.

“In the name only. Infamy, no Icaraus. Humans weaponized,” Ross recited.

A young woman sang the national anthem a cappella except for the unsolicited train whistles that accompanied her. Two clean-faced teenage girls wearing plain white shirts and black slacks played taps on trumpets.

But the morning’s most poignant moment came when tearful Army veteran and retired bus driver Gary Jones sang the last haunting note of “Amazing Grace,” then bent his tall frame and hugged Martinez Police Chief Gary Peterson.

The men clung to each other for a moment.

And for those few seconds, everyone seemed to cling together.

It was why they came.

Afterwards, Jones couldn’t stop his tears.

He remembers that morning. The Desert Storm veteran was driving bus for County Connection and he had parked his rig outside the Martinez train station very near where he stood today. A woman in the station had heard the news about the attack on the World Trade Center and collapsed onto the floor; her brother was believed to be in the building.

“We comforted her the best we could but we didn’t have a lot of information,” Jones recalled. “No one did.”

Click through to read Rep. George Miller’s reflections on 9-11: Continue Reading