30 de agosto de 2009

Israel Declares Shooting of Unarmed American Activist an “Act of War”

The Israeli military has declared the shooting of an unarmed American peace activist “an act of war.” The activist, Tristan Anderson, was critically injured when Israeli soldiers fired a tear gas canister directly at his head in March. Anderson was taking part in a weekly nonviolent protest against Israel’s separation wall in the West Bank village of Ni’lin. The Israeli military says Anderson was involved in a hostile act, which would absolve the military of any liability for his injuries. Michael Sfard, an attorney for Anderson’s family, said, “If [an] unarmed civilian demonstration is classified by Israel as an ‘act of war,’ then clearly Israel admits that it is at war with civilians.” The Anderson family has filed a criminal complaint with the Israeli government and also plans a civil suit.

28 de agosto de 2009

New Jersey Lawmakers Oppose Gaddafi Visit

In New Jersey, state and federal lawmakers are voicing opposition to the possibility Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi may stay on a property there next month. Gaddafi is scheduled to attend the UN General Assembly in New York. The Libyan government has apparently made plans for Gaddafi to stay at a residence owned by the Libyan embassy in the town of Englewood. Gaddafi’s visit would come just weeks after Libya welcomed home Abdel al-Megrahi, who was jailed for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing which killed 270 people, including 189 Americans. The Scottish government released Megrahi because he’s dying of cancer, but his celebratory reception in Libya drew international criticism. Democratic Congress member Steve Rothman said Gaddafi isn’t welcome in New Jersey.

Rep. Steve Rothman: “He is a murderous dictator with American blood on his hands, a person who just held an obscene celebration for the release of the mass-murdering Lockerbie bomber, so it makes him even more of an unpleasant and unwelcome guest or visitor. But we would have objected no matter which nationality he was from, because there are not the resources here, and it’s not the neighborhood for that kind of a visitor or resident in this single-home residential neighborhood.”

Megrahi’s release has renewed attention on the Lockerbie bombing. Megrahi has always maintained his innocence. There has been speculation the bombing was actually committed by Iranian militants in retaliation for the US shoot-down of an Iranian airliner just four months earlier, killing all 290 people aboard.

Mass Graves Discovered in Pakistan’s Swat Valley

In Pakistan, human rights groups say they’ve discovered mass graves in areas of intense fighting between Pakistani troops and Taliban fighters. Over two million Pakistanis have been displaced since the Pakistani military launched an offensive against the Taliban in the Swat Valley earlier this year. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says it founds mass graves in two sub-districts of the Swat Valley. The group has accused the military of scores of extra-judicial killings. The Pakistani government says Taliban fighters buried their dead in the graves.

CIA Interrogators Certified after Two-Week Training

More revelations on the CIA’s interrogation practices have been unearthed in the agency documents released earlier this week. The documents now show CIA operatives were certified as interrogation experts after just two weeks of training. And in Iraq, the CIA’s Iraq station chief was reassigned after the deaths of two Iraqi prisoners in 2003. An internal CIA memo cited the unnamed station chief for “potentially very serious leadership lapses.”

25 de agosto de 2009

Blackwater Involved in CIA Renditions

The German newspaper Der Spiegel is reporting the CIA used the private military firm Blackwater to transfer foreign prisoners to secret jails. Two former Blackwater employees reportedly claim Blackwater helped move the prisoners to secret prison camps in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. The news follows last week’s disclosures Blackwater has played a major role in the CIA’s drone attacks in Pakistan and in its aborted assassination program. According to the New York Times, Blackwater currently has over $400 million in State Department contracts. On Friday, the veteran journalist Helen Thomas asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about the Obama administration’s dealings with Blackwater.

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New Interrogation Unit to Question Foreign Prisoners

The Obama administration meanwhile has created a new team of interrogators to question foreign suspects outside of the CIA. The High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG, will be operated out of the FBI and overseen by the National Security Council. An administration official told the Washington Post the CIA will continue to play “a very important role” in prisoner interrogations.

Report Details New Evidence of CIA Torture

The Justice Department is expected to release a 2004 report today detailing prisoner abuse by the Central Intelligence Agency. The new disclosures include details of how CIA interrogators staged mock executions on prisoners at secret prisons overseas. The report also describes how one prisoner was threatened with a handgun and an electric power drill. A version of the report was released last year but was almost entirely censored. Today’s report will be more extensive but could still contain government redactions.

24 de agosto de 2009

Report Reveals CIA Conducted Mock Executions

A long-suppressed report by the Central Intelligence Agency's inspector general to be released next week reveals that CIA interrogators staged mock executions as part of the agency's post-9/11 program to detain and question terror suspects, NEWSWEEK has learned.

According to two sources—one who has read a draft of the paper and one who was briefed on it—the report describes how one detainee, suspected USS Cole bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was threatened with a gun and a power drill during the course of CIA interrogation.

Report: Blackwater Involved in CIA Drone Program

The New York Times, meanwhile, has revealed the private military firm Blackwater has played a major role in the US drone attack program. The CIA has used Blackwater contractors to assemble and load missiles and bombs on remotely piloted Predator aircraft. The CIA drone attacks have targeted al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, but the vast majority of its casualties have been civilian. The New York Times says Blackwater is not involved in selecting or firing on targets. But its work in loading the munitions has been criticized as faulty when bombs have radically missed their targets. Some of the drones were operated out of a newly disclosed US air base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. The US began using the base out of concern it would be forced out of Pakistan. The news comes one day after the New York Times also revealed Blackwater was hired for the secret CIA program to assassinate terrorist suspects. On Thursday, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein said the CIA’s failure to brief Congress on the program marked “a violation of law.”

14 de agosto de 2009

Morales Warns of Militant Activity Following Letter Bombs

In Bolivia, President Evo Morales is accusing right-wing militants of trying to derail upcoming elections after a series attacks in the capital La Paz. The wife of a Bolivian union leader lost three fingers and suffered serious burns this week when she tried to open what turned out to be a letter bomb. Morales said the culprits had foreign support.

Bolivian President Evo Morales: “This is an assault on the National Coalition for Change process and its authorities. Unfortunately, there are certain experts trained inside and outside Bolivia. There are some former army commanders who take part in such acts.”

Israel Killed 11 Palestinian Civilians Waving White Flags in Gaza Assault

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, the group Human Rights Watch says it’s uncovered evidence of Israeli troops shooting dead at least eleven Palestinian civilians waving white flags during the US-backed attack on the Gaza Strip last January. Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch said most of the victims were women and children.

Joe Stork: “These are incidents in which eleven Palestinian civilians, nine of them children and women, were killed, despite the fact that they were holding or waving white flags to signify that they were civilians, they were unarmed, they had no hostile intent. But still, Israeli soldiers, in many cases after calling them out of their homes, shot them.”

In a homemade video, Gaza resident Khalid Abed Rabbo described the shooting death of his two young daughters.

Khalid Abed Rabbo: “When the soldiers arrived outside our house, they yelled for us to come outside. My wife, mother, three daughters and I went outside. We were holding cloths, because we are a peaceful family. I thought that the soldiers would realize that they were looking at women and children.”

Abed Rabbo’s three-year-old daughter and the children’s grandmother were also wounded in the shooting. The girls’ mother also witnessed the attack.

Umm Soad Abed Rabbo: “Right in front of me, they shot my eldest daughter. Then they shot the little one, Amal, and then Samar, who was in front of her. When we ran inside, they shot their elderly grandmother who can hardly walk.”

4 de agosto de 2009

Palestinians evicted in Jerusalem

Israeli police have evicted nine Palestinian families living in two houses in occupied East Jerusalem. Jewish settlers moved into the houses almost immediately. The US has urged Israel to abandon plans for a building project in the area.

Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967, a move not recognised by the international community. The evictions have been condemned by the United Nations, the Palestinians and also the UK government.

3 de agosto de 2009

Roger Noriega Hired as Lobbyist by Honduran Business Coalition

In other Honduran news, a business coalition of Honduran textile manufacturers and exporters has hired Roger Noriega to lobby US lawmakers on behalf of the coup government. Noriega served as assistant secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs under President Bush. He was a key figure in the overthrow of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004.

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Obama Considers Creating Military-Civilian Prison in US

The Obama administration is considering creating a hybrid military-civilian prison in the United States to hold and try prisoners currently at Guantanamo. The proposal calls for a combined detention and trial facility to be built in an existing US maximum-security prison. The proposed facility would be operated jointly by the Departments of Justice, Defense and Homeland Security. Officials said such a facility could also house prisoners held in indefinite detention. The American Civil Liberties Union said it would oppose such a facility, especially if it included holding some prisoners indefinitely without charge or trial. Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU said, "Closing Guantanamo will be an empty gesture if we just reopen it on shore under a different name.”

Obama considera creación de prisión cívico-militar en Estados Unidos

El gobierno de Obama considera la posibilidad de crear una prisión cívico-militar en Estados Unidos para albergar y juzgar a los prisioneros que actualmente se encuentran en Guantánamo. La propuesta incluye una instalación combinada para detención y juicios que se construiría en una prisión de máxima seguridad de Estados Unidos, que ya existe. El complejo propuesto sería dirigido conjuntamente por los departamentos de Justicia, Defensa y Seguridad Interna. Los funcionarios afirman que el complejo albergaría también a prisioneros que están detenidos por tiempo indeterminado. La Unión Estadounidense por las Libertades Civiles (ACLU, por su sigla en inglés) declaró que se opondría a ese complejo, especialmente si implica retener prisioneros por tiempo indeterminado sin acusaciones ni juicios. Jamell Jaffer, de la ACLU, dijo: “Cerrar Guantánamo será un gesto vacío de contenido si simplemente lo reabrimos en territorio estadounidense con otro nombre”.

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Civilian death toll soaring in Afghanistan

A report issued late last month by the Human Rights Unit of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) sheds light on the rising number of innocent Afghan men, women and children who are being killed in order for the US and its allies to consolidate their neo-colonial occupation of the country.

The UNAMA report contrasted the number of officially recorded civilian deaths for the first six months of 2009 with the number in previous years. From January 1 to June 30, it registered 1,013 civilian fatalities, “compared with 818 for the same period in 2008, and 684 in 2007”. In other words, as the Obama administration has escalated the war and sent thousands of additional troops and aircraft to Afghanistan, the number of civilian deaths has soared by 24 percent.