In Brief | Nation & World | Sept. 5, 2013


US didn’t connect dots before WMD strike

WASHINGTON — U.S. intelligence agencies did not detect the Syrian regime readying a massive chemical weapons attack in the days ahead of the strike, only piecing together what had happened after the fact, U.S. officials say.

One of the key pieces of intelligence that Secretary of State John Kerry later used to link the attack to the Syrian government — intercepts of communications telling Syrian military units to prepare for the strikes — was in the hands of U.S. intelligence agencies but had not yet been “processed,” according to senior U.S. officials.

That explains why the White House did not warn either the regime or the rebels who might be targeted as it had done when detecting previous preparations for chemical strikes.

“We know that for three days before the attack the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons personnel were on the ground in the area making preparations,” Kerry said as he presented the evidence in a State Department speech last week.

But the Obama administration only uncovered the evidence after Syrians started posting reports of the strike from the scene of the attack, leading U.S. spies and analysts to focus on satellite and other evidence showing a Syrian chemical weapons unit was preparing chemical munitions before the strike, according to two current U.S. officials and two former senior intelligence officials.

Al-Qaida-linked rebels attack Christian village

BEIRUT — Al-Qaida-linked rebels launched an assault Wednesday on a regime-held Christian village in the densely populated west of Syria and new clashes erupted near the capital, Damascus — part of a brutal battle of attrition each side believes it can win despite more than two years of deadlock.

As the world focused on possible U.S. military action against Syria, rebels commandeered a mountaintop hotel in the village of Maaloula and shelled the community below, said a nun, speaking by phone from a convent in the village. She spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

The attack came hours before a Senate panel voted to give President Barack Obama authority to use military force against Syria — the first time lawmakers have voted to allow military action since the October 2002 votes authorizing the invasion of Iraq.

The measure, which cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a 10-7 vote, was altered at the last minute to support “decisive changes to the present military balance of power” in Syria’s civil war, though it ruled out U.S. combat operations on the ground. It was expected to reach the full Senate floor next week.

Samsung introduces watch that makes calls

BERLIN — Nearly 70 years after Dick Tracy began wearing a two-way wrist radio in the funny pages, the technology that once seemed impossibly futuristic will be widely available by Christmas.

Samsung on Wednesday introduced a digital watch for the holiday season that will let users check messages with a glance at their wrists and have conversations secret agent-style.

So-called smartwatches have been around for several years. But so far, they have failed to attract much consumer interest. That may change with the Samsung Galaxy Gear, which offers the company a chance to pull off the same feat Apple did with the iPad — popularize a type of device that has lingered mostly unnoticed on store shelves.

The Gear must be linked wirelessly with a smartphone to perform its full range of functions.

It acts as an extension to the phone by discreetly alerting users to incoming messages and calls on its screen, which measures 1.63 inches diagonally.

“With Gear, you’re able to make calls and receive calls without ever taking your phone out of your pocket,” Pranav Mistry, a member of Samsung’s design team, told reporters at the launch in Berlin.

By wire sources