Obama sees hope in Syria diplomatic steps but insists US must keep military pressure on
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama told the nation from the White House on Wednesday night that diplomacy suddenly holds "the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons" in Syria without use of force, but he declared the U.S. military will "be ready to respond" against President Bashar Assad if other measures fail.
For now, Obama said he had asked congressional leaders to postpone a vote on legislation he has been seeking to authorize the use of military force against Syria.
In a 16-minute speech, the president repeatedly offered reassurances that even the failure of diplomacy -- in promised talks at the United Nations or elsewhere -- would not plunge America into another war.
"I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria," he promised. "I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo."
"This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective: deterring the use of chemical weapons and degrading Assad's capabilities," he said.
Analysis: In Syria address, Obama seeks American's even if he lacks their support for strike
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama wasn't just seeking Americans' support for military action in Syria. He also was seeking their trust.
Whether he earned it will not only color his response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria's civil war but also his legacy as a world leader and the success of his broader second-term priorities.
With the majority of Americans against the use of force in Syria, Obama asked them Tuesday to have confidence in his judgment as commander in chief if he launches a strike despite their opposition. And he asked them to have faith that a president elected to end wars was still trying to find another way out, perhaps a diplomatic deal at the United Nations to secure Syria's chemical weapons.
"I know that after the terrible toll of Iraq and Afghanistan, the idea of any military action, no matter how limited, is not going to be popular," Obama said in a prime-time address from the White House, adding that he has a "deeply held preference for peaceful solutions."
No matter the outcome of the Syria standoff, keeping the public's faith is a daunting task for Obama at a time when he's already fending off lame-duck status. With trust intact, Obama has space to maneuver on Syria and other issues. But should he lose the public's confidence, Obama would find it more difficult to wield influence on the world stage, much less persuade Congress to pass immigration overhaul, rally support for budget issues or build backing for critical elements of his signature health care law.
10 Things to Know for Wednesday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday:
1. OBAMA: NO ONE DISPUTES CHEMICAL ARMS USE IN SYRIA
In a nationally televised speech to the nation, Obama says that use violates international law and poses a "danger to our security."
FACT CHECK: Obama's case to Americans on Syria still lacks proof who launched chemical attack
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama voiced his conviction Tuesday night that Syrian President Bashar Assad was to blame for deadly chemical attacks against civilians, but again he offered no proof.
A look at his remarks to the nation, seeking support for a military strike against Syria, and how they compare with the facts as publicly known:
OBAMA: "We know the Assad regime was responsible.... The facts cannot be denied."
THE FACTS: The Obama administration has not laid out proof Assad was behind the attack.
The administration has cited satellite imagery and communications intercepts, backed by social media and intelligence reports from sources in Syria, as the basis for blaming the Assad government. But the only evidence the administration has made public is a collection of videos it has verified of the victims. The videos do not demonstrate who launched the attacks.
Securing Syria's chemical weapons stockpile a long, complicated procedure rife with challenges
BEIRUT (AP) -- Russia's proposal to place Syria's chemical weapons stockpile under international control for dismantling would involve a lengthy and complicated operation made more difficult by a deep lack of trust -- not to mention the lack of an inventory.
Syria is believed by experts to have 1,000 tons of chemical warfare agents scattered over several dozen sites across the country, and just getting them transferred while fighting rages presents a logistical and security nightmare.
Very few details are known so far about the plan announced Monday by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, part of a flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at averting U.S.-led military strikes in retaliation for a deadly Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus.
Syria swiftly accepted, and the initiative was endorsed in quick succession by Britain, France and the U.S. as an idea worth exploring. Russia, Syria's most powerful ally, says it is now working with Damascus to come up with a detailed plan of action.
But the process is rife with challenges, taking place to the backdrop of a raging civil war and an opaque regime that until now has never formally confirmed that it has chemical weapons. Lack of trust between the regime's chief supporters and opponents in the international community is likely to complicate the operation.
Early returns indicate de Blasio leads in NYC mayoral primary; unclear if he'll avoid runoff
NEW YORK (AP) -- Bill de Blasio held a clear lead Tuesday night in New York City's mayoral Democratic primary as polls closed, according to early and incomplete voting returns. It was unclear, though, whether he would top the 40 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff.
De Blasio's rise was as sudden as it was unexpected.
Not even two months ago, he was an afterthought in the campaign but surged in part thanks to an ad blitz that centered on his interracial family, his headline-grabbing arrest while protesting the possible closure of a Brooklyn hospital and the defection of ex-congressman Anthony Weiner's former supporters in the wake of another sexting scandal.
With 45 percent of precincts reporting, de Blasio, the city's public advocate, has about 39 percent of the total vote. Former city Comptroller Bill Thompson has 26 percent, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has 15 percent. They were followed by current city Comptroller John Liu at 8 percent and Weiner at 5 percent.
Exit polling showed the appeal of de Blasio, the city's elected public advocate, to be broad-based: He was ahead in all five boroughs; was ahead of Thompson, the only African-American candidate, with black voters and ahead of Quinn, the lone woman in the race, with female voters. He also led Quinn, who is openly gay, among gay voters.
Poll: American public's concerns rise over surveillance programs and privacy erosion
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Following disclosures about the National Security Agency's massive surveillance programs, a majority of Americans believe the U.S. government is doing a poor job of protecting privacy rights, according to a new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Close to 60 percent of Americans oppose the NSA's collection of data on telephone and Internet usage. A similar majority opposes the legal process supervised by a secret federal court that oversees the government's classified surveillance.
The American public is still anxious about terrorism as the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches. About 6 in 10 Americans feel it is sometimes necessary to sacrifice rights to confront terrorism.
But suspicions about the government's promises to protect civil liberties have deepened since 2011. Only 53 percent now say the government does a good job of ensuring freedoms, compared to 60 percent two years ago.
The shift in public attitudes follows a three-month barrage of leaks to media organizations by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who released secret documents about the surveillance agency's inner workings.
Once-secret documents show officials misused US surveillance program, were scolded by judges
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- U.S. officials for nearly three years accessed data on thousands of domestic phone numbers they shouldn't have and then misrepresented their actions to a secret spy court to reauthorize the government's surveillance program, documents released Tuesday show.
The government's explanation points to an enormous surveillance infrastructure with such incredible power that even the National Security Agency doesn't fully know how to properly use it: Officials told a judge in 2009 that the system is so large and complicated that "there was no single person who had a complete technical understanding" of it.
The documents, which the Obama administration was compelled to release as part of a lawsuit by a civil liberties group, show that National Security Agency analysts routinely exceeded their mission to track only phone numbers with reasonable connections to terrorism.
Officials said that the complexity of the computer system -- and a misunderstanding of the laws, court orders and internal policies controlling analysts' actions -- contributed to the abuses. There's no evidence that the NSA intentionally used its surveillance powers to spy on Americans for political purposes, a fear of many critics who recall the FBI's intrusive surveillance of civil rights leaders and protesters in the 1960s.
"The documents released today are a testament to the government's strong commitment to detecting, correcting and reporting mistakes that occur in implementing technologically complex intelligence collection activities, and to continually improving its oversight and compliance processes," said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. "As demonstrated in these documents, once compliance incidents were discovered in the telephony metadata collection program, additional checks, balances and safeguards were developed to help prevent future instances of noncompliance."
iPad video key in George Zimmerman domestic dispute case with estranged wife
LAKE MARY, Fla. (AP) -- Police investigating a domestic dispute between George Zimmerman and his estranged wife said Tuesday they were confident they would be able to get video from her broken iPad, and the evidence will help them determine if charges should be filed.
Police believe the mobile device captured video of Monday's dispute at the Lake Mary house where the Zimmermans had been living. Shellie Zimmerman told authorities he smashed it to pieces, but the former neighborhood watch volunteer said she hit him with it. Police said it was examined at a crime lab, and the chances of them being able to watch the video were "outstanding," but it wasn't clear when that might happen.
"As of right now, we're waiting on the iPad as the last piece of the puzzle," Lake Mary police spokesman Zach Hudson said.
Without the video or some other piece of independent evidence, legal experts said it will be hard to build a case because Shellie Zimmerman changed her story about her husband threatening her with a gun and decided not to press charges.
"I think it's severely limited if they can't get anything from an eyewitness or video," said Randy McCLean, a former prosecutor who now practices criminal defense and family law in central Florida.
Apple expands into low-end market with 1 iPhone while trying to set 'gold standard' with other
CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) -- For the first time since introducing the device that has reshaped technology and culture, Apple will offer two distinct versions of its latest iPhones -- a cheaper model made of colorful plastic and another one that aims to be "the gold standard of smartphones" with a faster processor, fancier camera and fingerprint scanner for better security.
Apple hatched the next iPhone generation, set to go on sale Sept. 20, during a Tuesday spectacle that was capped by a three-song performance by Elvis Costello at the company's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters.
The company also announced it will release a previously announced overhaul of its operating system for iPhones and iPads on Sept. 18.
The iOS 7 adds an iTunes radio station, new photo management tools and more ways to access apps. It will be available for free and compatible with Apple devices dating back to the iPhone 4 released in 2010 and the iPad 2 that debuted in 2011. The operating system will already be installed on Apple's new line-up of phones.
In a mild surprise, Apple said it will also begin giving away its iPhoto, iMovie, Numbers, Pages and Keynote apps as part of iOS 7. The company has been charging 99 cents to $4.99 for each of those apps. Analysts interpreted the free distribution of the Numbers, Pages and Keynote apps -- part of Apple's "iWork" suite of software -- as a challenge to Microsoft Corp.'s package of widely used Office programs for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations.