Thursday, March 25, 2021

Biden Declares May 1 Deadline To Be Out of Afghanistan 'Hard to Meet'

 March 25, 2021 | BY Terri Moon Cronk , DOD News

President Joe Biden said the upcoming May 1 deadline to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan will be "hard to meet," during his first press conference today since taking office.

The president cited "tactical reasons" for the delay, but emphasized it was not his intention "to stay there a long time."

President Joe Biden speaks at the Pentagon.

Biden said it is important for U.S. service members to leave in a safe and orderly manner, and added that he is in coordination with NATO allies who also have troops in the region.

The president has said before today that it would be difficult to meet the May 1 deadline to remove the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops. That deadline was set by former president Donald J. Trump in 2020, according to published news reports. 

The U.S. military has been in Afghanistan for 16 years, making the war there the longest conflict in U.S. history, spanning three presidential administrations.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

DHS Makes $20 Million in Funding Available for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Grants

 WASHINGTON – Today the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is making $20 million available through the Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) Grant Program to help communities across our country develop innovative capabilities to combat terrorism and targeted violence.  

“Domestic violent extremism and targeted violence are two of the gravest threats facing our homeland today,” said Secretary Mayorkas.  “Over the past few years, the United States has experienced an increasing number of targeted attacks by disaffected individuals motivated by a combination of extremist ideologies and personal grievances. This investment in local communities will help our partners develop sustainable capabilities to address an evolving threat environment, including by preventing attacks and online radicalization.” 

Secretary Mayorkas established the following four priorities for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 TVTP Grant Program: (1) preventing domestic violent extremism; (2) enhancing local threat assessment and management capabilities; (3) implementing innovative solutions for preventing targeted violence and terrorism; and (4) challenging online violence mobilization narratives for the first time through this program. 

For FY 2021, Congress supported the Department’s request to double the investment in sustainable prevention programming from $10 million to $20 million. In December 2020, DHS finalized plans to better monitor and evaluate the success of the awards and share results to ensure other jurisdictions can replicate best practices. 

Today’s announcement builds upon DHS’s increased efforts to combat domestic violence extremism. In February 2021, Secretary Mayorkas designated for the first time combating domestic violent extremism as a ‘National Priority Area’ for the FY 2021 State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) and Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant programs. As a result, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments are required to spend 7.5 percent of their DHS grant awards combating this threat. Further, since Inauguration Day, DHS has increased the development, production, and sharing of intelligence and other information central to countering domestic violent extremism.  The Department is also increasing training opportunities for law enforcement partners, including through threat assessment and management programs related to domestic violence extremism.

The TVTP Grant Program application period will close on May 25, 2021.  State, local, tribal, territorial governments; non-profit organizations; and institutions of higher education are eligible to apply for funds to establish capabilities or fill gaps in their prevention capabilities.  Applying for this grant is a multi-step process and it is recommended that applicants begin that process early to allow sufficient time to complete interim steps.  Applicants should consult the Notice of Funding Opportunity for more specific information.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Press Conference in Afghanistan

 March 21, 2021

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III

STAFF: OK. We don't have much time, so I'll let the secretary make a couple of opening comments, and then take some questions.

Go ahead, sir.


STAFF: Off, sir.

SEC. AUSTIN: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for making a trip out with us. Would just like to say I'm very grateful to President Ghani and Ambassador Wilson and General Miller for affording me a pretty good chunk of time today to talk about a number of issues. I'm here to listen and learn. This has been very helpful to me. In analytic form, my participation in the review that we're undergoing here with the president, and so, again, it's very helpful.

And the final thing that I'd just like to say upfront is I really am truly grateful for the continued sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, our diplomats. And, you know, as we've worked together with our coalition partners here to help move things forward in the country of Afghanistan. They've done a great job over the years and they continue to do so each and every day.

And with that, I'll just take a couple of questions here.

STAFF: John, go ahead.

Q: Mr. Secretary, do you think the Taliban have met the conditions to ensure U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan?

SEC. AUSTIN: You know, that process of reviewing conditions that have been met or not met is ongoing. And as you've seen with our efforts in Doha. And so, you know, I won't -- I don't care to comment on that. And I won't comment on that. But what I will say is that it's obvious that the level of violence remains pretty high in the country.

We'd really like to see that violence come down. And I think if it does come down, it can begin to set the conditions for, you know, some really fruitful diplomatic work.

STAFF: Sylvie?

Q: Yes. Sir, I wanted to know what was your message to President Ghani. And also I wanted to know if you think it will be a good idea to set an end date withdrawal -- full withdrawal.

SEC. AUSTIN: Yes, so, hey, thanks, Sylvie. I didn't carry a message or convey a message to the president. Again, I really wanted to listen to him and to understand what his concerns were, see the landscape through his eyes. And so -- and that's what we did. We -- I really had a chance to hear from him. And it was very helpful to me.

 And in terms of an end date or setting a specific date for withdrawal, that's the domain of my boss. That's the -- you know, the decision that the president will make at some point in time in terms of how he wants to approach this going forward. And I don't want to try to do my boss's job for him. He doesn't need for me to do that.

I will continue to participate in a very meaningful way in the review that's ongoing.


Q: Mr. Secretary, we hear a lot from Afghan officials who worry about this U.S. departure, what it could mean, what it could mean for their safety. What would you say to Afghan officials or U.S. citizens who are worried how this might end up going?

SEC. AUSTIN: Well, what want to see is a responsible end to this conflict. I think that's a message -- I mean, I heard that from everyone as I talked to all of our partners here today that everyone is really desirous of a responsible end, a transition to something else.

So, you know, there's always going to be concerns about things one way or the other. But I think there's a lot of energy focused on, you know, doing what's necessary to bring about a responsible end, a negotiated settlement to the war.


STAFF: Last question -- last question to Laura.

Q: Thanks, Mr. Secretary. The Taliban warned on Friday against defying the May 1st deadline. Do you have a response to that? And also what concerns do you have about staying in Afghanistan past May 1?

SEC. AUSTIN: I won't endeavor to message the Taliban. I don't have a response to that. I will just tell you that, you know, I -- as I spent the day with General Miller, I'm confident in his ability to accomplish his mission with the resources he has, and I have great confidence in his ability to protect our troops. It's the right of every commander to defend his troops. And so there's no question that General Miller is more than equipped in terms of personal attributes and resources that he has on-hand to accomplish that.

So I have great confidence in him. Thank you.

Q: Well, what about the Afghan people and the Afghan security forces after we leave?

SEC. AUSTIN: What about the Afghan people?

Q: And the Afghan security forces.

SEC. AUSTIN: I mean, we've done a lot to, you know, work with the Afghan security forces. And I don't want to speculate on what could happen or could not happen going forward, Laura. That's -- you know, we'll continue to work the processes that we're involved in and hopefully we'll get to a point where we have a responsible transition to something else.

STAFF: OK. Thanks, everybody. Appreciate it.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Thanks a lot, sir.

Austin Meets With Afghan, U.S., Coalition Leaders; Gathers Info to Aid Biden Decision on U.S. Effort

 March 21, 2021 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met Afghan, American and coalition leaders in Kabul to better understand the situation in the country and see the way forward to a just peace in the long-troubled land.

The Biden administration is conducting a review of the agreement with the Taliban and, even in the midst of COVID-19, the secretary wanted to hear firsthand from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani; Army Gen. Austin S. Miller, the commander of NATO's Resolute Support Mission and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan; and Ambassador Ross Wilson, the charge d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III talks with another civilian at a table in front of an Afghan flag.

"I am here to listen and learn," Austin said during a short meeting with reporters traveling with him. "It will inform my participation in the review we are undergoing here with the president. It's very helpful.”

Austin said he continues to be grateful for the sacrifices made by service members, diplomats, civilian employees and contractors serving in the country. 

Austin wouldn't comment on whether the Taliban has met the necessary conditions under the Doha agreement for a full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. "What I will say is that it is obvious that the level of violence remains pretty high in the country. We'd really like to see that violence come down. If it does come down it can begin to set the condition for some really fruitful diplomatic work."

Austin did not bring or convey a message to Ghani. "I really wanted to listen to him and to understand what his concerns were and see the landscape through his eyes. That's what we did. I really had a chance to hear from him and it was very helpful to me."

The objective is a responsible end to the conflict. American officials have been saying for years that there are no military solutions to the problems that plague Afghanistan. "I heard from all of our partners here today that everyone is really desirous of a responsible end and transition to something else."

Austin said he has complete faith in Miller. He said he is confident that Miller can accomplish his mission with the resources he has, "and I have great confidence in his ability to protect our troops. It is the right of every commander to defend his troops. There is no question that Gen. Miller has the attributes and resources on hand to accomplish that."

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

ODNI, DOJ and DHS Release Unclassified Summary of Assessment on Domestic Violent Extremism

 Note: An executive summary of the joint comprehensive report can be viewed here.

WASHINGTON – The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today released an unclassified summary of the joint comprehensive threat assessment on domestic violent extremism. The unclassified summary is attached and will be available on later today.

The assessment was prepared under the auspices of the DNI, in consultation with DOJ and DHS, and drafted by the National Counterterrorism Center, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and DHS with contributions from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency. All agencies involved are mindful of the duty to respect privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties and to act within the authorities granted to them as they seek to put together as complete an intelligence and analytic picture as is possible. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Guantanamo Periodic Review Board Media Invitation Announced


March 16, 2021

The Department of Defense will allocate seats for news media at the Pentagon satellite viewing location on March 23, to cover unclassified portions of the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board for Abd Al-Salam Al-Hilah   (ISN - 1463).

Due to limited space availability, selection is not guaranteed. Upon selection, additional information on meeting time and location will be provided.

Media desiring to observe the hearing should send requests via email to

All requests must be received no later than noon ET March 18. Media members should include their name, position, sponsoring organization and contact information (cell phone and email address) in their request. Multiple names from the same organization may be submitted.

Further information, including media ground rules, can be viewed at the Periodic Review Secretariat website at

Monday, March 15, 2021

Domestic Terrorist Sentenced for Attempting to Set Fire to Raleigh Police Department Vehicle

 RALEIGH, N.C. – A Raleigh man was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment today for attempting to set fire to a marked police vehicle in Raleigh after a demonstration over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Jabari Devon Davis, of Raleigh, was arrested by special agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) on June 4, 2020 and was charged with one count of attempting to damage or destroy by fire a vehicle owned or possessed by an institution receiving federal financial assistance. 

According to court documents, on  May 31, 2020, at approximately 12:31 a.m. a fire was discovered coming from the fuel filler area of a police vehicle owned by the Raleigh Police Department (RPD), that was parked at the Raleigh Police Southeast District Station (RPSDS) in Raleigh.  The fire was discovered and extinguished by an RPD Captain who was driving through the parking lot prior to the fire departments arrival.   The fire caused approximately $5,000 in damage to the police vehicle.  Investigators seized a charred sock located within the fuel filler of the damaged vehicle, a bottle with the odor of gasoline was located on the sidewalk, behind the damaged vehicle, and another charred sock located between the vehicle and the sidewalk.

On June 2, 2020, investigators were notified that a fingerprint was lifted from the seized bottle recovered at the scene and determined the fingerprint belonged to Davis.

On June 3, 2020, Davis was interviewed at his residence where he admitted to being the subject who intentionally set the police vehicle at the Southeast District on fire. DAVIS stated that after leaving the protest, he and his friend traveled to the RPSDS, where he retrieved the bottle of gasoline and poured a small amount of gasoline on a sock and put another sock in to the mouth of the bottle.  DAVIS placed the gasoline-soaked sock in the fuel filler of the police vehicle and set it on fire.  As DAVIS ran back towards his friend’s vehicle, he set the bottle with the sock on fire and threw it toward several parked police vehicles.  However, when he threw it, the burning sock fell out, catching the grass and straw on fire. 

G. Norman Acker, III, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III. The Raleigh Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) investigated the case and Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel W. Smith  prosecuted the case.

Related court documents and information can be found on the website of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina or on PACER by searching for Case No. 5:20-CR-00433-D.

Dutchess County Man Sentenced for Mailing White Powder to Federal Offices Throughout New York

Sent Letters to Albany, Binghamton, Plattsburgh, Syracuse and Utica

ALBANY, NEW YORK – Jason Pantone, age 36, of Hyde Park, New York, was sentenced today to time served (more than two years in jail) for conveying false information and hoax letters. 

The announcement was made by Acting United States Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon and Thomas F. Relford, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Acting U.S. Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon stated: “With these hoax letters, Jason Pantone intended to terrify federal employees throughout Upstate and Central New York.  Today’s sentence justly punishes Pantone for causing emotional distress to some letter recipients, and for consuming the valuable time and resources of our first responders.  I commend our law enforcement partners for quickly arresting Pantone shortly after his crimes began.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge Thomas Relford stated: “Mr. Pantone's actions caused widespread panic and fear for employees who simply showed up to work that day, and he spent two years in jail as a result. The public should know the FBI will work diligently with our law enforcement partners to actively investigate and pursue prosecution of any individual who poses a threat to the safety of our citizens.”

Pantone was arrested on February 27, 2019, and had been in custody since that time.  As part of his guilty plea, Pantone admitted that in February 2019, he mailed several envelopes addressed to Social Security Administration Offices in Plattsburgh, Binghamton and Utica.  Additional letters were addressed to United States District Court offices in Syracuse, Binghamton, Albany, and Plattsburgh.  All of the envelopes contained a typed note that read “ANTHRAX.”  Some of the letters included a smiley face with “X” in the place of the eyes, meant to indicate death. 

Pantone’s actions caused several locations to be evacuated and hazardous material teams to be deployed, to assess and clear the buildings. All samples of the white powder were tested and yielded negative results for anthrax or other hazardous material. 

United States District Judge Mae D’Agostino also imposed a 3-year term of supervised release.

This case was investigated by the FBI, the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Protective Service, the New York State Police, the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Department, the New York State Department of Health, and the Department of Homeland Security. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Troy Anderson.


Monday, March 08, 2021

Military Commissions Media Invitation Announced for United States v. Majid Shoukat Khan Sentencing Hearing

 March 8, 2021

The Department of Defense and the Office of Military Commissions will allocate seats for news media aboard a military-chartered aircraft for travel from Joint Base Andrews (JBA) in Maryland to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (NSGB) Cuba to cover military commission proceedings scheduled for United States v. Majid Shoukat Khan, May 18 – 28, 2021.

Reporters are required to stay for the entire duration of scheduled hearings.

Currently, the tentative flight will be available as follows:

  • May 2 – Joint Base Andrews to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay
  • May 29 – Naval Station Guantanamo Bay to Joint Base Andrews

Please note that the flight schedule, to include departure and arrival locations, is subject to change. Media desiring to view this hearing from NSGB must complete the registration form. All requests must be received no later than noon EST, Friday, March 12. Multiple requesters from the same organization must register separately via the form.

Due to a limited number of seats aboard the flight and limited accommodations at NSGB, selection is not guaranteed. Additionally, all traveling media shall have proof of a negative polymerase chain reaction COVID-19 viral test within three days prior to departing the national capital region, and media may be further required to be tested day of travel.

In accordance with Naval Station Guantanamo Bay policy, a Restriction of Movement (ROM)/Quarantine of 14 Days is required for media upon arrival at NSGB.

Additional viewing is available for media via Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) from a media work center at Fort George G. Meade, in Maryland. Regular COVID-19 mitigation protocols, such as mask wearing and social distancing will apply at all locations, although media viewing from Fort Meade are not subject to COVID-19 testing or ROM requirements.

Media desiring to view this hearing from Fort Meade must send their requests via email to with the following information:

Subject Line: Khan 18-28 MAY 2021

  • Individual's full name
  • Individual's occupation/position
  • Sponsoring organization (News Outlet)
  • Contact information (cell phone and email)

NOTE 1: There are no tours of detention camps scheduled during military commissions. Requests for reporting on Guantanamo topics not related to the military commissions must be coordinated through OSD Public Affairs and the Joint Task Force Guantanamo public affairs office. The primary purpose of travel to Guantanamo Bay is courtroom reporting.

NOTE 2: All media must ensure their passports and visas (foreign press) are up-to-date and eligible to enter and exit the United States.

View Expeditionary Legal Complex – B-roll 2017

View Expeditionary Legal Complex – Photos 2014.

Further information including the media ground rules can be viewed at the Office of Military Commissions website at

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Northern Colorado Man Pleads Guilty For Possessing Pipe Bombs

 Defendant failed to register the devices or comply with regulations

DENVER – The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado announced that Bradley Bunn, 55, of Loveland, Colorado, pleaded guilty to one count of making destructive devices and four counts of possessing destructive devices in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 5861.  Each count carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release.  Bunn was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals following today’s hearing before U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello.  A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 3, 2021. 

According to the facts contained in the plea agreement, on May 1, 2020, the FBI executed two search warrants at Bunn’s home.  They found four explosive devices.  Each device consisted of galvanized steel pipe with end caps and a fuse.  The devices measured 2 inches in diameter and between 13.5 and 9.25 inches in length.  FBI Bomb Technicians concluded that each of the devices was filled with explosive materials.  Agents recovered additional bomb-making components in the house, including more steel pipes, end caps, primers, fuses, and bottles of smokeless powder.  The defendant had not registered the devices in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record and he had not complied with any regulations concerning the making of destructive devices. 

“The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to making Colorado safer,” said Acting United States Attorney Matthew T. Kirsch.  “Thanks to the hard work of our law enforcement partners and prosecutors, we were able to find and remove these dangerous devices before the defendant could cause serious harm.”

“The operation to remove and render safe the explosives discovered in Mr. Bunn's home averted a potentially hazardous situation from endangering innocent people in our community.  According to facts in the public record, Mr. Bunn knowingly and willingly assembled home-made explosives with the intent to use them against law enforcement,” said FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider.  “The FBI and our partners stand ready to identify, disrupt, and dismantle any plans to inflict harm on our communities and hold individuals accountable for their criminal actions.”

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the ATF, the Northern Colorado Bomb Squad, and the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office.  Assistant United States Attorney David Tonini is handling the prosecution. 

Case number:  20-cr-00158-CMA

Phoenix Man Sentenced to 15 Years for Planning to Release Stolen Radiological Materials in Scottsdale and Payson

 PHOENIX, Ariz. – Jared Trent Atkins, 27, of Phoenix, Arizona, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge John J. Tuchi to 15 years in prison, followed by twelve years of supervised release. Atkins previously pleaded guilty to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

In the early morning hours of April 28, 2019, Atkins entered a gas station in Phoenix, Arizona, and stabbed the night clerk working inside. Atkins then fled the gas station and drove to his place of employment, where he stole three radiological devices containing Iridium-192 along with the tools to open the devices and expose the radiological material.  Approximately one hour after the stabbing and theft, Atkins set fire to a vehicle at a Mesa car dealership. 

Atkins texted his co-workers to inform them he had the radiological devices. He warned his co-workers to stay home until the devices were found. Security footage from Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall shows Atkins driving on Camelback Road adjacent to the Mall. Atkins later told the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) he intended to have a “last stand” and considered conducting it at the Mall.

Atkins then drove to Mt. Ord in the Payson area and called his family to say goodbye.  Atkins opened one of the radiological devices. Atkins planned to commit suicide by irradiation, knowing he would harm anyone who tried to stop or arrest him. For unknown reasons, however, Atkins closed the radiological device and returned to Phoenix.

Later the same morning, Atkins drove back to his apartment, with the radiological devices and the bloody knife he used to stab the gas station clerk. The Phoenix Police Department and FBI agents responded to the scene, but Atkins barricaded himself inside his apartment. After roughly two hours of a standoff and working with a negotiator, Atkins agreed to surrender and was taken into custody without further incident. Law enforcement safely recovered all three radiological devices, including all stolen radiological material, from Atkins’s vehicle.

On April 28, 2019, Atkins was arrested on state charges in Maricopa County. He subsequently pleaded guilty to Aggravated Assault and Arson of Property, and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison. Atkins’s federal sentence will run consecutive to his state sentence.

“Today’s sentence sends a powerful message of deterrence to would-be criminal actors who plan to weaponize industrial technologies,” said Acting United States Attorney Anthony Martin. “As was done in this case, we stand ready to work alongside our federal and state partners to respond quickly to any threats to public safety.”

“This case is a prime example of how the FBI and our partners come together to keep our communities safe,” said Sean Kaul, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Phoenix Field Office. “From beginning to end, this investigation was truly a team effort. I commend the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Phoenix Police Department, which did significant work on this investigation from the day of the incident, to the weeks, and months that followed. I also commend the Phoenix Stabilization Task Force members, who played an important role in this case by finding and successfully securing the radiological material.”

The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Phoenix Police Department investigated the case, with support and assistance from the FBI Phoenix Stabilization Task Force, Laboratory, and Intelligence Analysts.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristen Brook of the District of Arizona, and Celeste Corlette and Jason Denney of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section. 

CASE NUMBER:        CR-20-00344-PHX-JTT
RELEASE NUMBER: 2021-112_Atkins

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Any Response to Early Morning Rocket Attack Will Wait on Investigation

 March 3, 2021 | BY C. Todd Lopez , DOD News

Ten rockets were launched at the U.S. and ally-occupied Al Asad military base in Iraq early this morning. One American contractor who was sheltering suffered a "cardiac episode," and later died as a result, the Pentagon press secretary said. There is an investigation into who is responsible for the attack.

A man stands behind a lectern. In front of him are severalindividuals seated in chairs.

"We cannot attribute responsibility for the rocket attacks at this time, and we do not have a complete picture of the extent of the damage on base," John F. Kirby said during a press briefing Wednesday afternoon . "We stand by as needed to assist our Iraqi partners as they investigate."

Kirby said he's not aware that the Iraqis have asked for assistance in investigating the rocket attacks and that any response to the attacks will need to wait until that investigation is complete.

"Let's let our Iraqi partners investigate this, see what they learn, and then if a response is warranted, I think we have shown clearly ... that we won't shy away from that. But we're just not there yet."

A truck sits on a dusty landscape. To the left of the truck are gravel-filled barriers.

On the ground at Al Asad, Kirby said, the department has counted ten "impact points" from rockets that are believed to have been launched from points east of the installation. He also said the counter-rocket, artillery and mortar system, or C-RAM, also engaged those rockets, but that there's no indication now as to how successful the C-RAM's engagement was against them.

"I suspect as time goes on, we'll know a little bit more," he said.

Just last week there were three other rocket attacks in Iraq. One attack in Irbil killed a U.S. contractor and wounded a service member and others, while an attack in Baghdad's Green Zone caused property damage. An attack at Balad Air Base also wounded personnel there.

The U.S. responded to those attacks Feb. 25, with airstrikes against infrastructure used by Iranian-backed militant groups in Eastern Syria.

"When we conducted this strike last week in Syria," Kirby said, "we believed that it was measured and proportionate. It was intended to take that compound out and not allow these groups to use it, but also to send a signal about how seriously we take our responsibilities to protect our people."

A helicopter flies over troops at night.

It's the hope of the department, Kirby said, that the strike would have a deterrent effect, rather than escalate the situation.

"Nobody wants to see this escalate into ... a tit for tat," Kirby said. "That is, that's not in our interest. It's not in the Iraqi people's interest."

Just last year, in January 2020, as many as 16 missiles were launched at Al Asad, with 11 of those missiles striking. Although the Iranian missiles damaged equipment and infrastructure at the installation, training and defensive readiness there paid off in no lives being lost, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley said.

Suburban Chicago Man Sentenced to 12 Years in Federal Prison for Conspiring to Provide Material Support to ISIS

 WASHINGTON – An Illinois man was sentenced today to 12 years in prison for conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham, a foreign terrorist organization (aka ISIS).

Joseph D. Jones, 38, of Zion, Illinois, was convicted by a federal jury on one count of conspiring to provide material support and resources to ISIS in 2019.  According to court documents, Jones advocated on social media for violent extremism in support of the terrorist group.  In 2015, Jones began meeting with undercover FBI employees and individuals who, unbeknownst to Jones, were cooperating with law enforcement.  During the meetings, Jones discussed his devotion to ISIS and his commitment to ISIS principles.

In 2017, Jones furnished cellular phones to one of the cooperating individuals, believing the phones would be used to detonate explosive devices in ISIS attacks overseas.  On April 7, 2017, Jones drove with the cooperating individual to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, with the understanding that the cooperating individual would be traveling to Syria to fight with ISIS.

A co-defendant, Edward Schimenti, 39, of Zion, Illinois, was also convicted of the conspiracy charge, as well as a charge of making false statements to the FBI.  U.S. District Judge Andrea R. Wood set sentencing for Schimenti for April 9, 2021 at 12:30 p.m.

U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr. for the Northern District of Illinois; Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers of the Justice Department’s National Security Division; and Special Agent-in-Charge Emmerson Buie Jr. of the FBI Chicago Field Office made the announcement.

The Chicago Joint Terrorism Task Force comprised of numerous federal, state and local law enforcement agencies investigated the case.

Trial Attorney Alexandra S. Hughes of the Justice Department’s National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Barry Jonas and David Rojas of the Northern District of Illinois prosecuted the case.

DOD Statement on Rocket Attack at Al Asad by Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby

 March 3, 2021

We can confirm that early this morning the air base at Al Asad in Iraq came under rocket attack. 

Preliminary indications are that approximately ten rockets were fired from points of origin east of the base.

There are no current reports of U.S. servicemember injuries and all are accounted for. A U.S. civilian contractor suffered a cardiac episode while sheltering and sadly passed away shortly after.

Iraqi security forces are on scene and investigating. We cannot attribute responsibility at this time, and we do not have a complete picture of the extent of the damage.  We stand by as needed to assist our Iraqi partners as they investigate.

Al Asad’s Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) missile defensive systems engaged in defense of our forces.

Secretary Austin was briefed by his team and is closely monitoring the situation.

We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of the individual who died.

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

TSA strengthens operational readiness in advance of spring break

 WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has substantial efforts underway in preparation for spring break travelers, who typically travel late February through April. Those efforts include technology upgrades across airport checkpoints that reduce or eliminate physical contact, recruitment efforts to prepare for possible increasing passenger volumes, and vaccination efforts for our officers and personnel who regularly engage directly with members of the public.

Although spring break typically represents one of TSA’s busier travel seasons, the agency continues to anticipate average daily passenger volume will remain well below pre-pandemic levels. For individuals who choose to travel, TSA offers six tips for navigating the airport checkpoint most efficiently and reminds passengers that pandemic precautions remain in place with social distancing, acrylic barriers, nitrile gloves and routine disinfecting protocols throughout the checkpoint.

“There is no higher priority than our operational readiness as well as the health and safety of our workforce and the traveling public,” said Darby LaJoye, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the TSA Administrator. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve installed new credential authentication technology and computed tomography equipment at hundreds of checkpoints that greatly reduces the need for physical contact between our officers and the traveling public.”

On Jan. 21, DHS launched Operation Vaccinate Our Workforce (VOW) with the goal of accelerating COVID-19 vaccinations to its frontline employees. TSA leaders have encouraged employees to obtain a vaccine through this effort or to take advantage of getting vaccinated through local, state and federally supported vaccination sites.

Face masks for both employees and passengers are required throughout all domestic transportation modes, including airport security screening checkpoints. Since the implementation of the face mask mandate for travelers on Feb 2, there has been near-100 percent compliance at airport checkpoints and authorities have reported the same throughout the surface and rail transportation modes, which together safely transport millions of individuals per day. TSA continues to work closely with its airport and surface transportation partners to enable the highest security standards within a travel environment that helps reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

Those who choose to travel by commercial airline for spring break should follow these six tips for getting through the TSA checkpoint as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Tip 1: Wear a face mask. The federal requirement supports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Emergency Order mandating face masks be worn on all public conveyances and at stations, ports, or similar transportation hubs. 

Tip 2: Leave prohibited items at home. To reduce the likelihood of physical contact with TSA officers at the checkpoint, check for prohibited items by using the “What Can I Bring?” page on

Tip 3: Prepare for the security checkpoint. Have a valid ID card readily available. Follow the liquids rule of 3.4 ounces or less, with the exception of hand sanitizer, which has a temporary 12-ounce limit in carry-on baggage.

Tip 4: No guns at checkpoints. Airline passengers can fly with firearms only in checked baggage. All firearms must be properly packed and declared at check-in. Contact your airline for additional guidance. 

Tip 5: Help is always available. Get live assistance by tweeting your questions and comments to @AskTSA or via Facebook Messenger, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST and weekends/holidays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST. You can also call the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673.

Tip 6: Enroll now in TSA PreCheck®. “Travel with Ease” by enrolling in TSA PreCheck and avoid removing shoes, belts, liquids, food, laptops and light jackets. Most new enrollees receive a known traveler number within five days, and membership lasts for five years.   

TSA is committed to remaining transparent with the traveling public while supporting a healthy and secure environment for our employees and airline passengers. For additional information about TSA procedures during COVID-19 as part of our “Stay Healthy. Stay Secure” campaign, visit