TIME Cuba

Cuba Talks Turn Awkward Over Terror Listing

President Obama Holds End-Of-Year News Conference At The White House
Alex Wong—Getty Images WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 19: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during his speech to members of the media during his last news conference of the year in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House December 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. President Obama faced questions on various topics including the changing of Cuba policy, his executive action on immigration and the Sony hack. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Another round of talks, another round of smiles Friday, as negotiators for Cuba and the United States joined in stepping carefully around the first obvious obstacle to emerge in their joint effort to re-establish diplomatic relations.

The latest meeting was only their second, this time in Washington. Diplomats from both countries crowded around an array of tables at the State Department for what U.S. officials cautioned in advance would be a more “workmanlike” session, less dramatic than the historic inaugural session in Havana in January. That was the first since Presidents Obama and Raúl Castro surprised the world by announcing an intention to reconcile in parallel announcements Dec. 17.

At the time, Obama signaled what sounded very much like an inclination to remove Cuba from the short, brutish roll of nations the State Department lists as official sponsors of terror: The only other countries saddled with the designation are Iran, Syria and Sudan. “At a time when we are focused on threats from Al Qaeda to ISIL, a nation that meets our conditions and renounces the use of terrorism should not face this sanction,” Obama said. But actually removing a nation from the list, and freeing it from the attendant sanctions, turns out to be taking longer than expected. “On why it’s taking so long, I’ve got to tell you it’s just these processes tend to be a little bit more complicated than they seem, and that’s all I’m going to say,” a senior State Department official said in a telephone briefing with reporters on Wednesday.

The consequences of the delay may only be atmospheric, but mood has been one of the things the Obama administration has had going for it on this story. The head of the Cuban delegation, Josefina Vidal, said at the close of Friday’s session that removal from the list was not a strict precondition to resuming ties, but repeated that it is “a very important issue” to Havana, which has harped on it both publicly and privately. And privately,the terror list may indeed have been mentioned as a precondition to re-opening embassies: “It would be very easy to restore diplomatic relations,” the State Department official said in the background briefing with reporters, “if they would not link those two things.”

What’s more, a 45-day interval built into the assessment process means that Cuba will still carry the designation when Castro and Obama meet at the Summit of the Americas, set for the second week of April in Panama City. The confab was envisioned as a celebratory session that marked the end not only of the 50-year cold war between countries, but also of Washington’s estrangement from a Latin American establishment that largely esteems Havana.

The delay clearly pleases Congressional critics of the reconciliation, led by favorites of the Cuban exile community based in Miami. “President Obama and his negotiating team need to stop looking so desperate to secure a deal with the Castro regime to open an embassy in Havana, at any cost, before this April’s Summit of the Americas,” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who also noted the arrest of 200 dissidents in Cuba the previous two weeks. Detentions of activists, often held only a short time, remains routine in Havana, the State Department has noted, and U.S. officials take pains to pay respectful visits to some of the island’s most prominent dissidents.

But on the narrow question of re-establishing diplomatic ties, the nominal point of the talks, both sides appear to be on the same page. “On the issue of the themes on the agenda that were of concern to us, I think we did make progress on a number of them,” said Assistant Secretary of State Robert Jacobson after the meeting. “Some of them, quite honestly, are close to resolution.” Vidal said much the same in a separate news conference. And the negotiators, at least, appeared intent on sustaining the gestures of good will that began in December with an exchange of prisoners, and is supposed to proceed to an exchange of ambassadors. Said Jacobson, in answer to question: “I do think we can get this done in time for the Summit of the Americas.”

TIME

Senate Approves 1-Week Funding Bill for Homeland Security

House Fails To Pass Bill Funding Homeland Security Department
Win McNamee—Getty Images The U.S. Capitol is seen at dusk as the U.S. Congress struggles to find a solution to fund the Department of Homeland Security on Feb. 27, 2015 in Washington, DC.

(WASHINGTON) — The Senate has approved a bill to ensure full funding of the Homeland Security Department for one week, sending the measure to the House just hours before the agency faces a partial shutdown.

By voice vote late Friday, the Senate backed the bill.

It came a few hours after the House, in a surprise move, rejected a bill to grant the department a three-week extension. Republicans objected to the measure for failing to roll back President Barack Obama’s immigration policies, and Democrats opposed it for failing to fund the department through the end of the budget year.

TIME

Stopgap Homeland Security Spending Bill Fails in House

House To Vote On Homeland Security Funding Bill
Mark Wilson—Getty Images House Speaker John Boehner at the US Capitol, Feb. 27, 2015 in Washington, DC.

(WASHINGTON) — The House has rejected a stopgap spending bill for the Homeland Security Department with just hours to go before a midnight deadline to fund the agency or see it begin to partially shut down.

The surprise 224-203 defeat of the legislation was a major embarrassment for House GOP leaders. Next steps were not immediately clear.

Some conservatives opposed the bill because it left out provisions to block executive actions President Barack Obama took on immigration, which Republicans have vowed to overturn.

House leaders tried to win lawmakers over arguing a three-week extension bought them more time to fight Obama while his immigration directives are on hold in court.

But conservatives abandoned the bill in droves and Democrats refused to make up the difference, pressing for a full-year funding bill instead.

TIME Justice Department

President Obama Gives Teary Send-Off to Attorney General Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder's official portait Image Courtesy of the Department of Justice

Notes Attorney General Eric Holder's stance on civil rights in his parting address

The President got misty-eyed during the unveiling of Attorney General Eric Holder’s official portrait Friday when he shared a story about the impact he believes Holder has had outside of the Department of Justice.

President Obama said he hosted a number of young men who are mentees under his My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which is celebrating its first anniversary, for a White House lunch on Friday. As the students, all black and Latino young men from around the Washington area, went around the table sharing their life aspirations, one said he wanted to be the Attorney General when he grew up. That moment clearly touched the President, who wiped away tears as he shared it with the departing Attorney General.

“I think about all the young people out there who have seen you work and have been able to get an innate sense that you’re a good man,” Obama said. “Having good men in positions of power and authority who are willing to fight for what’s right … that’s a rare thing. That’s a powerful thing.”

Obama listed Holder’s accomplishments as the third longest serving Attorney General and the first African American to hold the job. Throughout his tenure Holder made criminal-justice reform and civil rights priorities of the Justice Department, including his recent efforts to challenge strict voting laws.

During his prepared remarks, a teary-eyed Holder said there was still work to be done on civil rights and criminal-justice reform.

“Make no mistake. We still have unfinished business and work to do,” Holder said. “In the defense of our nation we must always adhere to the values that define us. And, at all costs, the right to vote must be protected.”

The unveiling came just days after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve the nomination of Loretta Lynch, who was tapped to replace Holder. The President said the Department of Justice is being left in “outstanding hands.”

TIME 2016 Election

Rand Paul Just Lost the Bulgaria Primary

Rand Paul
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, listens to a question during an interview at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, Feb. 27, 2015.

U.S. ally hits back after the presidential hopeful's dismissive remark

Bulgaria has a bone to pick with Rand Paul.

The country’s Embassy in Washington hit back Friday at comments the Republican presidential hopeful made earlier this week, in which he seemed to dismiss the country’s importance while mounting an attack against Hillary Clinton.

“It goes without saying that Senator Rand Paul’s remark is inappropriate,” the Bulgarian embassy in Washington told TIME in a statement. “His dismissive attitude towards a US and NATO ally and a friendly country and his foreign policy record is to be judged by the American people.”

Paul on Wednesday reiterated his criticism of the former Secretary of State for not paying more attention to the situation on the ground in Libya ahead of the September, 2012 attack on a Benghazi compound that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Clinton has said she didn’t read a diplomatic cable requesting increased security at the compound.

MORE: Republicans Rediscovering Their Old Hawkish Message on Foreign Policy

“I could expect her not to read the cables from Bulgaria,” Paul told Yahoo on Wednesday. “But absolutely it’s inconceivable she didn’t read the cables coming from Benghazi.”

Bulgaria had kinder words for Clinton.

“Not that long time ago Secretary Clinton was on an official visit to Bulgaria,” the embassy added, referring to a 2012 visit by the now-presumptive Democratic presidential front-runner. “She stays engaged with us and is very well aware of the geopolitical realities of the region.”

Paul’s campaign declined to comment Friday on the Bulgarian embassy’s statement. He has long seized on Clinton’s tenure at the State Department and the Benghazi attack in particular as fodder for criticism and to tout his anti-interventionist, libertarian foreign policy ahead of a likely presidential run. Last year, for example, he came out swinging at a talk in Kentucky by pointing to the State Department’s spending bill on embassy décor.

“They spent $700,000 on landscaping at the Brussels embassy,” he said in August. “They spent $5 million on crystal glassware for the embassies around the world.”

The Bulgarian embassy said Paul could benefit from its foreign policy counsel.

“Among EU and NATO Member States Bulgaria is one of those standing closest to the major regional and global security challenges of today,” the statement said. “In this context the information coming from the American Embassy in Sofia might be more than useful to anyone striving to responsibly shape US foreign policy.”

TIME #RealTime

Real TIME: Jeb Bush Courts Conservatives at CPAC

Jeb Bush addressed his mother’s comments and outlined his views on immigration and Common Core education standards during the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday.

Watch #RealTIME to see what he had to say, and read more here.

TIME #RealTime

Real TIME: Rand Paul Bashes Hillary Clinton At CPAC

Rand Paul touched on Hillary Clinton, Obamacare, and his proposed reforms for Congress in his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday.

Watch #RealTIME to hear what he had to say, and read more here.

TIME

CPAC: Republicans Rediscover Their Old Hawkish Message On Foreign Policy

Rand Paul speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 27, 2015.
Mark Peterson—Redux for TIME Rand Paul speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 27, 2015.

The threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria looms large

Rand Paul took the stage like a conquering hero Friday, his shirtsleeves rolled, his regular laconic manner turned fiery. The audience stacked with young libertarians gave him a standing ovation. But Paul, who became the reigning prince of the Conservative Political Action Conference partly by preaching his signature brand of non-interventionist foreign policy, had a new twist in his stump speech.

Paul tamped down his famous skepticism of military adventures, and replaced it with the more conventionally muscular rhetoric of Cold War conservatism. “Without question, we must now defend ourselves and American interests,” he said, in comments about the fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). When it came to the question of federal spending, he added, “for me, the priority is always national defense.”

Paul was hardly the only presumptive presidential candidate to focus on the perils brewing abroad. The annual confab of conservative activists, held this week outside Washington, has showcased the Republican Party’s new embrace of its old hawkish foreign policy. It’s a dramatic shift from recent years, when CPAC has been a forum for the party to air its grievances about the sprawling U.S. surveillance state. But for the past two days, speaker after speaker has sought to demonstrate their steeliness, earning reliable cheers by taunting ISIS and slamming President Obama for seeking a deal with Iran while snubbing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Likely 2016 candidates, from Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz to Scott Walker and Carly Fiorina, all roused the crowd by promising a tougher brand of foreign policy than the one practiced by Obama and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Former Senator Rick Santorum, the runner-up for the Republican nomination in 2012, called for 10,000 U.S. ground troops in the middle to battle ISIS and urged “bombing them back to the seventh century.”

This view is increasingly popular within the party. A mid-February poll conducted by CBS News found that 72% of Republicans favor sending U.S. ground troops into Iraq or Syria to fight ISIS militants, an increase of seven percentage points since only October. That leap comes as the issue replaces the brightening economy at the top of newscasts.

According to aides to several candidates, the increased focus on foreign policy in stump speeches reflects increasing public concern as well as the belief among several campaigns that Republicans will have an edge with voters on security issues in a race against Clinton.

“Folks are getting beheaded over there,” says an adviser to one likely candidate. “People are seeing the failure of this president’s foreign policy on TV every day.”

The shifting political winds have heartened the hawkish groups who watched the GOP’s isolationist turn—and Paul’s rise—with alarm. “Rand and his acolytes hoped that if we left the world alone, the world would leave us alone. But experience is a cruel teacher, and beheadings and Iranian nukes focus the mind,” says Noah Pollak, the executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel. “To their credit, many of the conservatives who flirted with the Rand and Obama foreign policy are changing their minds after seeing what happens when America withdraws from the world.”

The view was a popular one at an event that is a revealing—if imperfect—glimpse of the GOP’s current zeitgeist. “National security issues must be at the center of the 2016 presidential debate,” former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton declared onstage, and it seemed few of his potential rivals for the nomination disagreed.

Fiorina blistered Obama and Clinton for dithering: “While you seek moral equivalence,” she said, “the world waits for moral clarity and American leadership.” Walker, who has risen in the early primary polls by positioning himself as a conservative fighter, suggested he would take an aggressive stance on foreign policy. “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world,” Walker said. (A spokeswoman for Walker’s political-action committee later clarified that the governor was “in no way comparing any American citizen to ISIS.”)

But it was Paul, who was most notable for having freshened his message. Back in 2011, he came to CPAC to call for cuts in military spending. “If you refuse to acknowledge that there’s any waste can be culled from the military budget, you are a big-government conservative and can you not lay claim to balancing the budget,” he said. This year he claimed “a foreign policy that encourages stability, not chaos.” His many fans here say they still believe his more restrained approach will bear political fruit. Daniel Jenkins, a 28-year old Iraq veteran and Paul supporter at Charlotte School of Law, says the senator’s foreign policy will have broad appeal in the general election. “It may not be the strongest point here among these conservatives,” Jenkins says, “but I think with Independents and in the big picture, it’ll catch on.”

CPAC is still Paul’s crowd, rippling with the young libertarians who form a cornerstone of his base. And the two-time defending champ of CPAC’s symbolic straw poll is likely to make it a three-peat when the event wraps up Saturday evening. But the annual confab has also signaled the challenges that lie ahead for the Kentucky Republican.

With reporting by Sam Frizell

Read next: Jeb Bush Pitches Skeptical Conservatives at CPAC

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TIME 2016 Election

Jeb Bush Pitches Skeptical Conservatives at CPAC

Jeb Bush speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 27, 2015.
Mark Peterson—Redux for TIME Jeb Bush speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 27, 2015.

In the first pitch of his unofficial campaign to the GOP grassroots activists, Jeb Bush cast himself as a full-spectrum conservative who was in sync with the party’s base on economic, social and foreign-policy issues.

Describing himself as a “practicing, reform-minded conservative,” Bush made a game effort to ingratiate himself with Republicans who are leery of a third Bush presidency. Still, he encountered a raw dose of the disappointment that still lingers around the Bush brand.

Speaking on a low stage in a jam-packed ballroom split between hostile opponents and backers bused in from D.C., Bush drew a raucous mix of cheers, boos and intermittent heckling. “I’m marking them down as neutral,” Bush joked of the booers, “and I want to be your second choice.” A small number of opponents staged a walkout during the speech. Outside, costumed activists started a chant of “No More Bushes!”

The reception appeared to rattle Bush during the first minutes of his question-and-answer session with Fox News commentator Sean Hannity, but the former Florida governor recovered quickly to enumerate the merits of his record.

Bush defended his support of Common Core education standards. “The federal government has no role in the creation of the standards,” Bush said. He noted that as governor, he championed school vouchers and ended affirmative action in the Sunshine State’s public universities.

Tackling the other main policy obstacles looming in the GOP primary contest, Bush blistered President Obama’s executive orders on immigration as an overreach that he would reverse as president. “The courts are going to overrule that,” he said. Asked how he would’ve handled the tide of unaccompanied minors who arrived at the southern border last summer, Bush said they should have been sent home. Defending his call for comprehensive immigration reform, he said there should be a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. “The simple fact,” he said, “is there is no plan to deport 11 million people.”

Citing his record amassed as the former two-term governor of Florida, Bush sought to rebut the “moderate” tag that critics have applied. “It’s a record that may be hard for people to imagine,” he said, “because it’s a record of getting things done.”

Bush painted himself as a fiscal conservative who slashed taxes, grew the economy at a faster rate than the rest of the U.S., left his successor with a $9.5 billion rainy day fund and issued so many line-item vetoes that his opponents dubbed him “Veto Corleone.”

Like other potential presidential candidates at CPAC, Bush laid out a muscular foreign policy position that reasserted America’s place in the world. “This total misunderstanding of what this Islamic threat is is very dangerous,” he said, adding that “the American people are going to reject what President Obama is trying to do with Iran.”

Bush suggested he was in step with movement conservatives on social issues as well. Responding to a Hannity question, Bush said he had no regrets about his reaction to the Terri Schiavo controversy, and noted he was a pro-life governor who believes in “traditional marriage.”

Democrats hammered Bush for the remarks, noting he has cast himself as a rare Republican candidate capable of bridging the party’s deficit with Latino voters. “Jeb Bush isn’t a new type of Republican, and he certainly isn’t looking out for everyday people in America,” said Democratic National Committee spokesman Ian Sams. “Instead, he’s the same Jeb Bush who, as governor, supported slashing funding for urban schools and higher education, while giving massive tax cuts to the wealthy and big corporations. Bush may say he can bring Latino voters into the GOP fold, but with priorities like these, that’s really hard to imagine.”

After Bush’s remarks, hundreds of supporters waited in line for a closed-press reception with the former governor. Aides handed out red “Jeb ’16” T-shirts and baseball caps. To enter the event, supporters were required to register their contact info with Bush’s Right to Rise political-action committee.

Bush took the microphone at the event to the theme song from “Rocky.” Of the question-and-answer session, he said “that was raucous and wild and I loved it.” He then argued for expanding the Republican tent: “There are a lot of conservatives out there in America who just don’t know it yet.”

TIME Terrorism

Why Terrorism Works: Jihadi John and the Fear Premium

Alan Henning
AP This frame from a video released by Islamic State militants purports to show 'Jihadi John' before the alleged killing of taxi driver Alan Henning, released on Oct. 3, 2014.

It costs a lot to identify future threats

What’s it worth it to keep the world safe from “Jihadi John”? In theory, the vast economic resources and intelligence power of the West should make identifying, tracking and detaining a single, brutal terrorist worth the cost.

But ease of travel, availability of low-tech weapons and our inability to identify future threats from the vast pool of potential terrorists make neutralizing bad guys before they become high-profile killers difficult. The calculation becomes even harder when you realize the enormous cost of counterterrorism investments and how many lives can be saved in other areas of life for the same money.

On the surface, it seems like a simple thing. Mohammed Emwazi, who was identified by the Washington Post Thursday as the ISIS executioner “Jihadi John”, had been questioned and released by British authorities long before he went to Syria to join the group, according to the BBC. Not surprisingly, some are already asking how such a notorious killer could have slipped through authorities’ hands.

For starters, it’s hard to know whom to watch. Investigations into the July 7, 2005 terrorist bombings in London that killed 52 people and injured 700 confirmed that the UK’s domestic security service, MI5, had previously come across some of the members of the plot. But the investigations [pdf] concluded that the huge amount of threat information before MI5 and the lack of evidence of an imminent threat meant “it would not be right or fair to criticise the Security Service for the fact they did not pay greater attention” to the plotters.

Similarly, after the Paris attack at the satirical weekly magazine, Charlie Hebdo, French authorities were criticized for not doing a better job tracking the killers beforehand. Both men had been on U.S. terrorist watch lists, and the French Prime Minister admitted “failings” by intelligence services after the attack. But some estimates say it costs millions to monitor just one terrorism suspect, let alone the hundreds that French authorities say they would have to track to foil every possible future attacker, assuming one could even create a reliable and useful list of suspects.

Some have tried to calculate the total cost of such an effort. A 2014 study by John Mueller of Ohio University and the CATO Institute and Mark Stewart of the University of Newcastle in Australia, did a “back of the envelope” estimate to compare the cost of attacks to the cost of prevention. The authors assumed what they say is a common valuation of a human life of $6 million-$7 million and factored in their calculations the consequences of an attack, its likelihood of success, the risk reduction of terrorism measures and their costs.

Their conclusion: based on an estimated $75 billion increase in annual counterterrorism spending in the wake of 9/11 by the U.S. government, authorities would have to stop “150 Boston-type attacks per year, 15 London-type attacks each year, or one 9/11-type attack every three years” to justify the expense.

Such numbers are more polemical than scientific, of course: dollar costs aren’t the only consequences to factor into the equation. We may decide to pay extra to feel safe from foreign threats, or to fight back against those who directly challenge our political and social structures. We may value humanitarian intervention against terrorists who embrace genocide. Or we may think that the costs of current terrorist attacks could rise dramatically if, for example, bad guys got nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

National security hawks argue that we should pay with diminished privacy to leverage America’s technical superiority in electronic surveillance, which gives a lot of coverage for relatively little money. Mueller points out that the “Transportation Security Administration’s Federal Air Marshal Service and its full body scanner technology together are nearly as costly as the entire FBI counterterrorism budget,” which delivers a regular stream of arrested potential future jihadis.

Ultimately, if all we’re doing is paying extra because we’re afraid, though, Mueller’s numbers highlight the premium that fear factor represents. It costs a lot more to protect you from a terrorist attack that is statistically extremely unlikely to kill you than to minimize many other daily dangers, like auto accidents, gun deaths and falls by seniors.

That of course is the asymmetric idea as far as terrorists are concerned–use cheap but scary methods to trick opponents into costly, ineffectual countermeasures. In other words, terrorism works.

See our cover story this week, “The ISIS Trap” for more on the current calculation before the Obama administration.

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