Headlines » Investigative http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines The latest Headlines, news and blog posts from ABC News contributors and bloggers. Wed, 17 Dec 2014 16:07:49 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Vivint Statement to ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/12/vivint-statement-to-abc-news/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/12/vivint-statement-to-abc-news/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 13:22:28 +0000 ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=526951 When ABC News first contacted Vivint about its investigation, the company declined an on camera interview but provided the written statement posted below. Since ABC News’ initial inquiries to Vivint this summer, a company spokesperson told ABC News, “Vivint has received fewer than five complaints from our customers serving in the military. And all of those complaints have been resolved.”

“Vivint continues to resolve every complaint received through the BBB. In the past three months, the rate of complaints from our customer base has declined by 43 percent,” the spokesperson said.

Vivint Statement:

Military Support

Vivint is grateful for the service of our military families and the sacrifices they make on our behalf.

In each of the situations brought to our attention by ABC News, a customer support representative misunderstood our Military Policy for moving or canceling service agreements. We are deeply sorry for any frustration this may have caused and we have reached out to these customers to resolve their specific concerns.

As a result, Vivint has taken measures to clarify our Military Policy with our internal customer service teams. We have established a dedicated Military Support Line to provide exceptional service to our military families. We have also posted our Military Policy on the military section of our website. If servicemembers have additional questions, we encourage them to contact our dedicated Military Support team.

Better Business Bureau

As a two-time recipient of the People’s Choice Stevie Award for Favorite Customer Service, Vivint is passionate about customer service and takes every complaint seriously. We have proactively resolved all of the customer complaints submitted to the BBB and are proud of our track record. The total number of resolved complaints with the BBB represents less than one percent of our consumer interactions each year. We always encourage customers to contact us directly and we are happy to address their specific concerns.

Attorney General Inquiries

Over the past 13 years, Vivint has occasionally received inquiries from governmental agencies. In each case, we respond to these inquiries and work closely with the agencies to resolve any concerns.

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Statement From Bumbo International http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/statement-from-bumbo-international/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/statement-from-bumbo-international/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 17:58:15 +0000 Lee Ferran http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=526614 [Editor's Note: The following is a statement from Bumbo International provided to ABC News in the course of its Recall Roulette investigation.]

Bumbo International worked closely with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to publicize information that restraint belts, which are designed to provide an added measure of safety during proper use of the Bumbo Floor Seat, were available free-of-charge to consumers. The company also undertook a significant effort through traditional and social media to promote the belt kits and to re-emphasize the proper use of the seat. This received extensive media coverage. Consumers who purchase older model seats through online shopping sites or who receive them as hand-me-downs can obtain a restraint belt kit free-of-charge through http://recall.bumbousa.com/. More than two years later, Bumbo International’s homepage (www.bumbo.com) still features a prominent link to a safety information page.

Independent analysis and testing have shown that there is little risk of injury when the seat is used properly: on the floor, under adult supervision, and never on raised or elevated surfaces. With proper use, the risk of injury is no greater than the risk to a child learning to sit, crawl, stand, and walk.

About 9.6 million Bumbo Floor Seats have been sold worldwide, and injury reports, based on the latest data available when the company announced the restraint belt addition in August 2012, account for around 0.001% of the number of seats sold. Most of the injury reports have been due to improper use of the seat.

Legal Cases

Bumbo International fully believes in the safety of the Bumbo Floor Seat. While Bumbo International cannot comment on the specifics of pending lawsuits, the company prevailed in the only lawsuit related to the Bumbo Seat that has been decided to date. A jury found that the seat (without the seatbelt) was not defective in its design and the company was not negligent. Further, U.S. District Judge Gregg Costa “found ‘there is no basis for a reasonable jury to decide that this unambiguous and conspicuous warning was insufficient.’” Court House News.

Compliance Reports

The information provided has been cherry-picked, and is not reflective of the total efforts undertaken by Bumbo International and retailers to inform consumers about the addition of the retrofit belt. Bumbo International does not sell directly to consumers, so it has limited direct consumer contacts. Bumbo International did inform those consumers about the recall and availability of the free restraint belts. Bumbo International also worked closely with its retail partners throughout the recall to ensure that all requests for information or restrain belts were promptly handled.


For more than a decade, Bumbo has created products for infants and toddlers that provide developmental assistance as they grow. In 2005, the company formed a nonprofit organization that assists underprivileged and special-needs children in South Africa, where the company is headquartered. Almost all of Bumbo International’s profits go to this nonprofit organization. Through Bumbo International’s support, the nonprofit organization:

  • Provides approximately 30,000 meals to the underprivileged every month, as well as meals for several local schools, through on-site, fully-staffed kitchen;
  • Builds and operates a spacious multi-level hostel and shelter to house orphans, homeless children, and children who would otherwise face difficult personal circumstances;
  • Helps run the Maranatha Bana Centre, which is a school for children with physical or mental disabilities; and
  • Built and runs the Jonibach Sports Centre, which offers children access to state-of-the-art sporting facilities—an indoor swimming pool with professional swimming instructors, basketball, volleyball, badminton, table tennis, trampolines, and gymnastics—as well as a performance stage, a wide range of musical instruments, and a full sound system for events and concerts.

For more details, see:


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Craigslist Statement to ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/craigslist-statement-to-abc-news/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/craigslist-statement-to-abc-news/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 11:56:10 +0000 ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=526607 [The following is an email received by Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross from William C. Powell, a government relations officer for Craigslist, during ABC News' "20/20" Recall Roulette investigation.]


Your request for an interview with [Craigslist founder] Craig Newmark was forwarded to me.

Craig has not been involved in management at craigslist for many years, and has no role in government relations. He has never spoken to the CPSC [U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission] about craigslist policy to my knowledge, and I have been managing government relations at craigslist for several years.

On the other hand, I did have a conversation with CPSC folks this spring, including Ray Aragon, Marc Schoem, and Dennis Blasius.

As we discussed at the time, craigslist (1) prohibits the sale of recalled items; (2) notifies its users that posting recalled items for sale is prohibited; (3) deploys automated systems to help prevent posting of recalled items; (4) provides a system whereby users can flag postings advertising recalled items for removal; and (5) removes recalled items that come to its attention.

Based on what I learned in conversation with CPSC personnel, craigslist has further minimized the posting of recalled items by craigslist users. A very positive result, and one that the CPSC seemed to appreciate.

We have not heard from the CPSC since the conclusion of these productive talks 6 months ago. As always, our door remains open.

William C. Powell

Government Relations


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CIA Praise, of Sorts, for Glenn Greenwald’s Book on Edward Snowden http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/cia-praise-of-sorts-for-greenwalds-book-on-snowden/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/cia-praise-of-sorts-for-greenwalds-book-on-snowden/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 16:40:21 +0000 Lee Ferran http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=526593 A CIA reviewer has halting praise for journalist Glenn Greenwald’s book on the Edward Snowden affair, calling it the book “the most complete, though far from the most objective account” of the leaker who exposed the National Security Agency’s widespread surveillance programs.

The review, written by a veteran of the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology and Directorate of Operations, was posted recently on the CIA’s website, in a regularly-updated section called the “Intelligent Officer’s Bookshelf”. The Agency veteran and others often review espionage-related popular nonfiction and fiction books for the site.

The reviewer describes Greenwald’s account in “No Place to Hide” of being contacted by Snowden and eventually meeting him in Hong Kong, before taking issue with what he called Greenwald’s “core arguments” presented later.

“Greenwald is appalled at the concept implied in the [third] chapter’s title ["Collect It All"] and analyzes it with the presumption of illegality while dismissing without comment the intelligence issues that led to its adoption,” the reviewer says. “Greenwald also ignores other interpretations regarding the legality of the NSA’s collection programs…”

Greenwald’s book is reviewed along with two others that cover the Snowden affair, and the reviewer concludes that Greenwald’s “sums up the common themes of these three books: Snowden’s acts were justified because he chose to seek ‘reform of the surveillance state.’”

A disclaimer at the bottom of the website notes that the opinions “expressed in this journal are those of the authors” and shouldn’t be “construed as asserting or implying U.S. government endorsement…”

In January, America’s top intelligence officials, including CIA Director John Brennan, testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about the purported severe damage Snowden’s disclosures had done to U.S. national security.

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Early Predator Drone Pilot: I Had Bin Laden in My Crosshairs http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/first-pilot-to-fire-missile-from-predator-drone-breaks-silence/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/first-pilot-to-fire-missile-from-predator-drone-breaks-silence/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 20:22:08 +0000 Lee Ferran http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=526517 A year before he was the first pilot to ever unleash a Hellfire missile from a Predator drone in combat, airman Scott Swanson said he was at the controls of another Predator back in 2000 when a man believed to be Osama bin Laden was directly in his crosshairs.

“As I orbited our Predator over Tarnak Farms, a dusty jumble of buildings in a mud-walled compound just outside Kandahar, Afghanistan, we spotted a strikingly tall man in white robes being treated deferentially by a group of men,” Swanson writes in Breaking Defense today, his first public comments on the September 2000 incident, a year before the 9/11 attacks. “[Sensor operator Master Sgt.] Jeff [Guay] and I immediately knew we had bin Laden in our sights. The U.S. had been searching for OBL for years and now here he was, exquisitely framed on our screen.”

One major problem: At the time, Predator drones were for reconnaissance only and didn’t carry missiles. Bin Laden escaped from Tarnak and evaded American forces until he was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs a decade later in May 2011.

It wasn’t until a little more than a year after spotting bin Laden, and a month after the 9/11 attacks killed nearly 3,000 Americans, that a Predator fired its first missile in combat at a different militant target on Oct. 7, 2001. Swanson said he pulled the trigger.

“We had spent many hours preparing for this moment, but a palpable sense of apprehension hung in the air,” Swanson writes. “The Predator system was by no means mature; it was little more than a prototype… I pulled the trigger, called ‘weapons away’ and flew straight and level.

“The time until impact seemed an eternity; then, in an instant, the screen was filled by a bright white bloom of light. As the bloom dissipated, we saw an object move quickly across the screen, flailing like a ragdoll tossed in the air. It was a body, twisting and contorting and glowing from the heat of the blast. Nearly a decade-and-a-half after that first-ever intercontinental air strike by UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle], that fleeting image remains burned in to my memory,” he writes.

Swanson, who was previously identified in a history of the Predator written by veteran former Pentagon reporter Richard Whittle, said that he was breaking his silence publicly to combat the idea that flying drones is akin to playing videogames – that he “cringes” when he hears the mocking term for UAV program officials, “Chair Force.”

“[T]o all of us who fly or have flown armed UAVs, one thing is as clear as the sharpest video image: war is not now, nor will it ever be, a game,” he writes.

READ: War Is No Video Game – Not Even Remotely (BreakingDefense.com)

The Air Force’s struggle with the “stigma” surrounding the drone program was the subject of an ABC News investigation in April, in which the service admitted that when compared to manned aircraft like fighter jets, the drone program is made up of “less skilled” pilots and “less competent” officers.

“Let’s be honest, when people dream of flying… People in this generation didn’t grow up and say, ‘I want to fly an RPA [remotely piloted aircraft],’” Air Force spokesperson Jennifer Cassidy said at the time. “They were the ones that watched re-runs of ‘Top Gun’ and said, ‘I want to be a fighter pilot.’… So in fact the people that were lower ranking [in flight school], I guess you could say, are the folks that went to RPAs.

“It doesn’t mean they’re bad pilots, or bad officers, it just meant you got to have some at the top and some at the bottom. That’s how that worked,” she said.

A serviceman involved in the drone program told ABC News that there is “definitely” a rivalry between drone pilots and those in manned aircraft. As he put it to ABC News in April, “Most pilots don’t enjoy flying from a box.”

ABC NEWS INVESTIGATION: Drone ‘Stigma’ Means ‘Less Skilled’ Pilots at Controls of Deadly Robots

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Army Lost Nearly $420M-Worth of Equipment in Afghanistan http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/army-lost-nearly-420m-worth-of-equipment-in-afghanistan/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/11/army-lost-nearly-420m-worth-of-equipment-in-afghanistan/#comments Tue, 04 Nov 2014 22:25:20 +0000 Lee Ferran http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=526318 The U.S. Army lost nearly half of a billion dollars-worth of equipment in Afghanistan, a new report from the military’s watchdog says.

Late last week the Department of Defense’s Inspector General published the summary of an audit report it conducted for fiscal year 2013 and said that the 401st Army Field Support Brigade “did not report in a timely manner 15,600 pieces of missing equipment valued at approximately $419.5 million.”

The summary did not describe the kind of equipment that went missing, or when, and stated that part of the problem was that the 401st ”did not consider the inventory lost.” The summary did not expand on that and the full report was not posted online. ABC News has requested a copy through the Freedom of Information Act.

Top 6 Ways to Burn Taxpayers’ Millions in Afghanistan

Afghan Co. With Terror Ties Gets US Money, Sensitive Access, Report Says

US Military in Afghanistan, By The Numbers

The IG’s summary says that there is an “increased risk that missing property will not be recovered… [and] no one was held financially responsible for the property losses or accountable for missed reporting deadlines.”

The IG said the Army “immediately acted” on the IG’s recommendations to resolve inventory reporting and processing problems. “We commend their efforts,” the IG summary says.

A spokesperson for the Army did not immediately return requests for comment for this report.

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Classified: Military Suddenly Doesn’t Want You to Know How $61B Afghan Training Is Going http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/10/classified-military-suddenly-doesnt-want-you-to-know-how-61b-afghan-training-is-going/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/10/classified-military-suddenly-doesnt-want-you-to-know-how-61b-afghan-training-is-going/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 17:06:54 +0000 Lee Ferran http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=526218 AP afghan foces mar 141030 16x9 608 Classified: Military Suddenly Doesnt Want You to Know How $61B Afghan Training Is Going

Afghan National Army soldiers load their belt-fed machine gun during a mock attack on an enemy's stronghold during a military training exercise at Kabul Military Training Center, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Oct. 22, 2014.

If you’re curious what America is getting for its multi-billion dollar effort to train and equip local security forces in Afghanistan, sorry, that’s now classified.

In its most recent quarterly report to Congress, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) sharply criticized a new move by the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to classify even the executive summary of its regular reports on the capabilities of the Afghan forces in which the U.S. has invested more than $61 billion.

The regular ISAF reports, most recently called the Regional ANSF Status Report (RASR), have been produced by ISAF in some form since 2008. A majority of the contents always have been classified, since they deal with ground-level capabilities of Afghan forces — potentially useful intelligence for insurgents — but the executive summary was not. SIGAR called the sudden, “inexplicable” classification “deeply troubl[ing]” and a direct hit to government accountability.

“ISAF’s classification of the report summary deprives the American people of an essential tool to measure the success or failure of the single most costly feature of the Afghanistan reconstruction effort,” SIGAR said in its latest quarterly report to Congress. “SIGAR and Congress can of course request classified briefings on this information, but its inexplicable classification now and its disappearance from public view does a disservice to the interest of informed national discussion.”

“It is not clear what security purpose is served by denying the American public even high-level information,” the SIGAR report says.

Afghan Security Forces Still Enduring High Casualty Rates

Top 6 Ways to Burn Taxpayer Money in Afghanistan

Afghan Police Locked Out of Own $7.3M Facility: Report

Lt. Col. Chris Belcher, a public affairs officer at ISAF in Afghanistan, told ABC News in an email that the move was made to “address potential concerns about operational security” after a reevaluation in August.

“After careful review, it was determined that the entirety of the report was classified to include the executive summary which contained Afghan-provided readiness information,” Belcher said. “While we appreciate and understand SIGAR’s responsibility to provide information to Congress and the American public, we have a responsibility to protect data that could jeopardize the operational security of our Afghan partners to include unnecessarily highlighting possible vulnerabilities and capability gaps; information which could provide adversaries critical intelligence that could be exploited, endangering the lives of our Afghan partners and coalition forces serving alongside them.”

READ: SIGAR Report to Congress

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Report: ISIS Puts Literal Price Tags on Abducted Girls http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/10/report-isis-puts-literal-price-tags-on-abducted-girls/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/10/report-isis-puts-literal-price-tags-on-abducted-girls/#comments Fri, 03 Oct 2014 16:34:54 +0000 Lee Ferran http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=525595 Members of the terror group ISIS are literally putting price tags on abducted women and girls to sell them as merchandise in a major Iraqi city, according to allegations cited in a new United Nations human rights report.

“UNAMI/OHCHR received a number of reports that an office for the sale of abducted women was opened in the al-Quds area of Mosul city,” says the report by the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Mosul is Iraq’s second-largest city, much of which is controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“Women and girls are brought with price tags for the buyers to choose and negotiate the sale. The buyers were said to be mostly youth from the local communities. Apparently ISIL [ISIS] was ‘selling’ these Yezidi women to the youth as a means of inducing them to join their ranks,” the report says.

The Yezidis, or Yazidis, are a religious minority in Iraq who have been targeted along with Christians and Shias by ISIS, a Sunni extremist group.

“Some women managed to inform UNAMI/OHCHR that they had been forced to convert [to Islam] and were to be married to ISIL [ISIS] fighters and would be taken to destinations unknown,” says the report, which covers alleged human rights abuses in Iraq from July to September and was released Thursday.

Who Are the Yazidis and Why Is ISIS Attacking Them?

Digital Feature: What Is ISIS?

From Bang to Whimper, ISIS Propaganda Withers Under US Strikes

The section on the persecution of Yazidi women was just one part of the 26-page report, which found overall that “gross human rights abuses and acts of violence of an increasingly sectarian nature, committed by armed groups, have exacerbated the effect on civilians and contributed to the deterioration in the human rights situation and the rule of law in many parts of the country.”

“These include attacks [by ISIS and associated groups] directly targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, executions and other targeted killings of civilians, abductions, rape and other forms of sexual and physical violence against women and children, forced recruitment of children, destruction or desecration of places of religious or cultural significance, wanton destruction and looting of property, and denial of fundamental freedoms,” the report says.

UNAMI reported Wednesday more than 9,000 civilians are estimated to have been killed in Iraq this year alone.

The new report did not cover Syria, where heavy fighting between a number of armed groups including ISIS has been taking its own toll on a devastated civilian population for more than two years.

ORIGINAL DOCUMENT: Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in Iraq

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CEO Indicted for Spyware App That Records Calls, Nearby Conversations http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/09/ceo-indicted-for-spyware-app-that-records-calls-nearby-conversations/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/09/ceo-indicted-for-spyware-app-that-records-calls-nearby-conversations/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 22:25:16 +0000 Lee Ferran http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=525454 For the first time criminal charges have been brought against a suspect for allegedly advertising and selling spyware for the iPhone, Android and Blackberry – software that’s purportedly capable of intercepting phone calls, text messages and emails, and even eavesdropping on offline conversations happening within a few yards of the smartphone carrier.

The Department of Justice announced today the indictment of Pakistani national Hammad Akbar, CEO of InvoCode Pvt Ltd, the U.K.-based company that sells StealthGenie software online, in part marketing it to suspicious spouses and lovers. Akbar was arrested in Los Angeles Saturday.

“This application allegedly equips potential stalkers and criminals with a means to invade an individual’s confidential communications,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge Andrew McCabe said in a DOJ release. “They do this not by breaking into their homes or offices, but by physically installing spyware on unwitting victim’s phones and illegally tracking an individual’s every move. As technology continues to evolve, the FBI will investigate and bring to justice those who use illegal means to monitor and track individuals without their knowledge.”

The FBI says a potential user would need to be alone with a target device for “only a few minutes” to install the software and then could monitor the phone without physical contact again – using software that is “undetectable by most users and was advertised as being untraceable.”

In addition to monitoring basically all communications on the target smartphone, the StealthGenie user could “call the phone and activate it any time to monitor all surrounding conversations within a 15-foot radius,” the FBI said.

The DOJ release said that part of StealthGenie’s marketing plan was to sell to customers who suspect their significant others are cheating on them.

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F-22 Raptor Carried US Flag on Maiden Combat Mission Into Syria http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/09/f-22-raptor-carried-us-flag-on-maiden-combat-mission-into-syria/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/09/f-22-raptor-carried-us-flag-on-maiden-combat-mission-into-syria/#comments Thu, 25 Sep 2014 16:33:56 +0000 ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/?p=525302 HT usaf f22 flag jtm 140925 16x9 608 F 22 Raptor Carried US Flag on Maiden Combat Mission Into Syria

(Maj. Jefferson S. Heiland/U.S. Air Force)


One of the F-22 Raptor fighter jets that went on the fleet’s first ever combat mission in Syria carried an American flag into battle, according to a mid-air photograph snapped of the plane just after the mission.

The photo was taken from an Air Force refueling plane as the next generation F-22 filled its tanks after its mission to strike a single Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) target in Syria – a mission the Air Force said was a “success.” A folded American flag can be seen in the cockpit, in front of the pilot, as reported by The Aviationist.

Though it was a special flight for the F-22 – the first time any planes from the $79 billion fleet have gone into combat since going operational in 2005 — Capt. Chris Hoyler, an Air Force spokesperson, told ABC News that it’s “not unusual for Air Force pilots and aircrews to fly American flags during training and combat operations.”

RT syrian target site isis 2 sk 140923 4x3 992 F 22 Raptor Carried US Flag on Maiden Combat Mission Into Syria

Pictures showing an ISIS command and control Center in Syria before, left, and after it was struck by bombs dropped by a U.S. F-22 fighter jet are seen in handouts released by the U.S. Department of Defense, Sept. 23, 2014. (Department of Defense)

The Raptor had sat out two previous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and one other smaller conflict in Libya before joining in the fight against ISIS. Though the Air Force said previously the planes simply weren’t necessary for the other conflicts, for years the pricey Raptors had also been plagued with mysterious and potentially deadly oxygen-related problems, which the Air Force believes it has since solved.

After Years of Trouble, F-22 Raptor’s First Combat Mission a ‘Success’

ABC News Investigation: F-22′s Fatal Flaws

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