Headlines: Obama Reverses Pledge to Release Photos of Prisoner Abuse; Senate Defeats Proposal to Cap Credit Card Rates

Democracy Now Headlines: Obama Reverses Pledge to Release Photos of Prisoner Abuse; Senate Defeats Proposal to Cap Credit Card Rates

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Report: Admin Mulling Indefinite Jailing of Gitmo Prisoners in US

The Wall Street Journal is reporting the Obama administration is considering holding foreign prisoners indefinitely and without trial following the planned closure of the US military jail at Guantanamo Bay. The plan would revive the military commission tribunals that President Obama ended shortly after taking office. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says current proposals include establishing some form of national security court that would authorize the indefinite imprisonment.

Obama Reverses Pledge to Release Photos of Prisoner Abuse

The Obama administration, meanwhile, has reneged on a pledge to release several dozen photos showing the torture and abuse of prisoners at overseas CIA and military jails. Last month, the Justice Department chose not to challenge an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit seeking the photos’ release. But after indications he was having second thoughts, President Obama confirmed Wednesday he will block the photos’ release.

President Obama: “The publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals. In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger. Moreover, I fear the publication of these photos may only have a chilling effect on future investigations of detainee abuse.”

Around forty-three photos had been set for release. The military is believed to have as many as 2,000 photos depicting prisoner abuse. Amrit Singh, an ACLU lawyer who argued the case, said, “This essentially renders meaningless President Obama’s pledge of transparency and accountability that he made in the early days after taking office… [The Obama administration] has essentially become complicit with the torture that was rampant during the Bush years by being complicit in its coverup.”

FBI Agent, Ex-State Dept. Official Detail Torture Objections

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the interrogation of foreign prisoners Wednesday, the first such hearing since President Obama released the Bush administration legal memos authorizing torture. Testifying behind a wooden screen to protect his identity, former FBI agent Ali Soufan said the Bush administration’s so-called enhanced interrogation techniques were “slow, ineffective, unreliable and harmful.”

Ali Soufan: “From my experience, I strongly believe that it is a mistake to use what has become known as enhanced interrogation techniques, a position shared by professional operatives, including CIA officers who were present at the initial phases of the Abu Zubaydah interrogation. These techniques, from an operational perspective, are slow, ineffective, unreliable and harmful to our efforts to defeat al-Qaeda.”

Also testifying was former State Department counselor and 9/11 Commission head Philip Zelikow. Zelikow said Bush administration officials ordered him to destroy a memo he wrote criticizing the approval of torture. Subcommittee chair Senator Sheldon Whitehouse criticized the censorship of Zelikow’s objections.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse: “We were told that waterboarding was determined to be legal, but were not told how badly the law was ignored, bastardized and manipulated by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.”

Senator Whitehouse went on to call for the establishment of a “truth commission” to further probe the Bush administration torture programs.

US Shares Drone Intelligence with Pakistan

The Pentagon says it’s provided Pakistan for the first time with surveillance material gathered by US drones. It’s unclear whether the intelligence sharing will continue beyond this one instance. Pakistani officials have recently increased calls for the US to share control of the drones, which have killed hundreds of Pakistanis in a series of bombings.

Obama Seeks New Regulation of Derivatives

The Obama administration is proposing new regulatory powers over derivatives, the complex financial instruments that played a major role in the nation’s economic collapse. Derivatives include credit default swaps, the controversial insurance contracts that led to the government bailout of insurance giant AIG. The White House wants new rules that would have credit default swaps traded on public exchanges and backed by existing capital. On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the proposals would bring urgently needed oversight.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner: “Part of our approach will be not just getting the better rules, more sensible rules, more conservative rules across–risk taking across the financial system, but a cleaner, more simple, more consolidated oversight structure so that there’s less opportunity for arbitrage. It’s less easy for risks to just migrate around and move around the parts of the system where regulation is carefully designed.”

Senate Defeats Proposal to Cap Credit Card Rates

The Senate has defeated an amendment that would have capped credit card interest rates at 15 percent. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders tried to include the measure in a bill imposing new regulation on the credit card industry. Democratic lawmakers have vowed to protect consumers and crack down on the credit card companies’ abusive practices. But Sanders’ proposal drew just thirty-three votes, with a bipartisan group of sixty senators voting against. Sanders said, “When banks are charging 30 percent interest rates, they are not making credit available. They’re engaged in loan-sharking.”

Geithner-Led NY Fed Knew of AIG Bonuses

Newly released documents show federal officials were aware of the large bonus payments at the insurance giant AIG more than five months before they became a major public controversy. The bonus details were provided to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, then headed by Timothy Geithner, before he became President Obama’s Treasury Secretary.

Drug Czar Calls for End to “War on Drugs”

The nation’s new drug czar is calling for an end to the so-called “war on drugs.” In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Gil Kerlikowske said, “People see a war as a war on them. We’re not at war with people in this country.” A former Seattle police chief, Kerlikowske has emphasized treatment and harm-reduction approaches to curbing drug use rather than standard US methods of criminalization. Kerlikowske also says he supports needle-exchange programs as part of viewing drugs as an issue of public health.

Pope Criticizes Israel’s Separation Wall

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, Pope Benedict XVI continued his visit with a trip to Israel’s separation wall around the Palestinian town of Bethlehem. The Pope called for the establishment of a Palestinian state and decried the wall as “tragic.”

Pope Benedict XVI: “I have seen, adjoining the camp and overshadowing much of Bethlehem, the wall that intrudes into your territories, separating neighbors and dividing families. Although walls can easily be built, we all know that they do not last forever. They can be taken down.”

Mother of Slain Soldier Cites War Zone Stress, Poor Mental Health Treatment

The mother of a US servicemember killed by another soldier in Iraq has said the war zone conditions and a lack of proper mental health services are partly responsible for her son’s death. Shawna Machlinski’s son Michael Edward Yates, Jr., was one of five US servicemembers who died in Monday’s shooting by Sergeant John Russell at a US military clinic in Baghdad.

Shawna Machlinski: “As much as I have a lot of anger towards him, I also have some sympathy, because I know he must have been going through a lot as well. That doesn’t excuse the fact that he murdered my son. But I believe that if he would have gotten the help that he was there to get maybe sooner or gotten more help, and other people recognized the signs, because there are signs, and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure those signs out.”

Russell is being held on five counts of premeditated murder and one count of aggravated assault. The Pentagon says Russell’s gun had been taken away and that he opened fire at the clinic where he’d been urged to receive counseling.

Suu Kyi Jailed, Charged for Uninvited Visit from US National

In Burma, the military junta has charged the confined pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi for an uninvited visit from a US citizen who swam across a lake to reach her home. The junta says John Yettaw spent two days in Suu Kyi’s home before he was captured as he made his way out. Her attorneys say Yettaw ignored Suu Kyi’s pleas to leave and spent a night sleeping on a ground floor. Earlier today, Suu Kyi and two aides were taken to a prison near the former capital of Rangoon. Suu Kyi has spent thirteen of the last nineteen years under house arrest. She’s being charged with violating the terms of her detention.

Red Cross Worker Killed in Sri Lanka Bombing

In Sri Lanka, a Red Cross worker has become one of the latest victims of Sri Lankan government shelling on a tiny strip held by Tamil Tiger rebels. The attack followed the Sri Lankan military’s two separate bombings of a crowded hospital, killing fifty civilians. On Wednesday, President Obama called on both sides to end the violence.

President Obama: “First, the government should stop the indiscriminate shelling that has taken hundreds of innocent lives, including several hospitals. The government should live up to its commitment to not use heavy weapons in the conflict zone. Second, the government should give United Nations humanitarian teams access to the civilians who are trapped between the warring parties so that they can receive the immediate assistance necessary to save lives.”

7 Afghans Killed in Bombing Near U.S. Base

In Afghanistan, at least seven people were killed and another 21 wounded in a suicide bombing near a U.S. military base in the city of Khost. The victims were all Afghan workers employed at the base.

90 Hospitalized in Poison Attack at Afghan Girls’ School

In other news from Afghanistan, around 90 Afghan school girls were hospitalized this week following a poison attack at their school in Kapisa province. It was the third attack on an all-girls’ school in Afghanistan in as many weeks. Afghan police have blamed the Taliban but the group has denied responsibility.

Illinois Senate Opposes Escalation of Afghan Occupation

President Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan is facing opposition in his home state of Illinois. The Illinois State Senate has passed a resolution calling for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan instead of Obama’s plans to increase the occupation.

Low Pay led to Fatigue for Co-Pilot in Buffalo Plane Crash

Federal transportation officials have revealed the Continental airlines plane that crashed near Buffalo earlier this year was co-piloted by a sleep-deprived twenty-four year old who made just $16,000 a year. Because of her low pay, Rebecca Lynn Shaw was forced to live with her parents in Seattle and commute by plane across the country to her Newark-based job. Fifty people were killed in the crash of Continental Flight 3407 on February 12th. The victims included Alison Des Forges, one of the world’s foremost experts on Rwanda and Beverly Eckert, who had become an advocate for 9-11 families after losing her husband in the attacks on the Twin Towers.

Denied Honoray Degree, Obama Delivers Commencement Address at ASU

President Obama delivered the commencement address at Arizona State University Wednesday, his first since becoming president. The school has sparked controversy over its refusal to award Obama an honorary degree, with officials explaining that Obama’s “body of work” has yet to come. During his address, Obama used the apparent snub to make the point that recognition shouldn’t be conferred based solely on titles or celebrity status. Obama is set to deliver the commencement address at Indiana’s Notre Dame University Sunday where he’s expected to face protests for supporting abortion rights.

Video Shows Police Officer Kicking Suspect’s Head

And in California, a police officer has been videotaped kicking a man in the head who had led police on a high-speed chase. The video shows the man voluntarily lying on the ground before the officer approaches and strikes him with his foot. The officer then high-fives another officer after the man is handcuffed.

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Obama Administration Pursuing Panama FTA

Panama Free Trade Agreement

The Obama administration is currently considering plans to pass the Panama Free Trade Agreement (Panama FTA). The agreement–which is a NAFTA-style free trade agreement–was negotiated under the Bush administration but was not passed before he left office.

Presently, it is being pushed by a number of large banks–many of which received government bailout money. Obama’s trade representative has indicated that the administration is supportive of the agreement.

This is unfortunate as during the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama expressed opposition to NAFTA, saying that he was open to having that treaty “renegotiated” to expand environmental and labor protections.

Public Citizen’s Citizens Trade Campaign came out against the agreement, stating:

On behalf of our more than twelve million combined members, we are writing to express our strong opposition to the Panama “Free Trade Agreement” (FTA). This pact reflects the unsuccessful ending point of the past administration’s trade policy and should not serve as the starting point for the new Congress and administration.

Responding to broad public demand for change, more than one hundred candidates from both parties ran on platforms of trade reform in 2008. The past trade model has led to massive American job loss, downward pressure on wages, the loss of nearly 300,000 family farms and massive trade imbalances that have contributed to our current economic crisis. It has given broad, expansive new rights to foreign corporations to challenge our environmental and public health standards, and flooded the United States with unsafe imported food and products. And, it has devastated developing nations where millions of family farmers have been forced off their land and poverty, despair and desperation-driven mass migrations have grown.

Like many of the proposed free trade agreements in the Americas, the Panama FTA uses language that is almost directly replicated from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). This language is problematic and raises doubts about the extent to which environmental and labor standards will be enforced, limits access to medicines, and grants preferences to foreign investors that allow them to sue governments in order to create a more business-friendly climate.

Panama’s Offshore Tax Haven Status also an Issue

Public Citizen has also released a report criticizing the prospect of a free trade agreement with Panama because the country makes it easy for U.S.-based corporations to setup subsidiaries in Panama in order to avoid paying taxes. In fact, it is so easy to do so that Public Citizen’s dispatched one of its interns to give it a try. Here’s what she found:

Passage of the Panama FTA would not reign in these practices. In fact, Public Citizen argues it would take away regulatory provisions aimed at restricting the use of offshore tax havens.

More on the Panama FTA can be found on Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch website.

Fox News: Riling Up the Right through Selective Editing and Scare Tactics

Fox News

Fox News’ ratings are skyrocketing, in large part due to rightwing opposition to President Barack Obama. In a review of Fox News’ first “100 days” of covering Obama’s administration conducted by Media Matters, the channel has consistently talked about “the extreme left,” “socialism,” “communism,” “fascism,” and touted Obama’s so-called “failures.”

At the same time, Obama’s popularity has remained high. 69% of those living in the United States approve of the job he is doing and “half of Americans now [say] the country’s headed in the right direction.” Rather than presenting the “Fair and Balanced” view of Obama’s administration–which would acknowledge his popularity–Fox News is taking every opportunity to oppose the administration. They are doing this by giving conservative legislatures a prominent voice, having on conservative commentators as guests, and even participating in promoting a series of rightwing anti-tax “tea party” protests.

Fox News has also selectively edited interviews to portray Democrats and progressives–when they appear–in a negative light.

Media Matters recently conducted a study showing that Fox News has consistently done this going back several years. It’s a convenient way to rile up the rightwing base. Recently the channel has selectively cropped comments by Al Gore to make it seem as though he is personally profiting from his work addressing global warming, to make it seem like President Obama supports a healthcare system like “European countries,” and that President Obama want Supreme Court judges that do not look at United States law.

While providing an interesting look at how the rightwing media is attempting to energize its perceived base, Fox News’ selective editing is also an important reminder that progressives and those on the left need to be careful when we use the media. The media in Grand Rapids is certainly willing to distort and selectively edit interviews, making it essential that we carefully prepare for media appearances. We should never assume that they will cover us–or anyone else–fairly. Their number one goal is profit.

Naomi Klein on Obama’s First 90 Days: A Lexicon of Disappointment

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By Namoi Klein, reprinted from The Nation

All is not well in Obamafanland. It’s not clear exactly what accounts for the change of mood. Maybe it was the rancid smell emanating from Treasury’s latest bank bailout. Or the news that the president’s chief economic adviser, Larry Summers, earned millions from the very Wall Street banks and hedge funds he is protecting from reregulation now. Or perhaps it began earlier, with Obama’s silence during Israel’s Gaza attack.

Whatever the last straw, a growing number of Obama enthusiasts are starting to entertain the possibility that their man is not, in fact, going to save the world if we all just hope really hard.

This is a good thing. If the superfan culture that brought Obama to power is going to transform itself into an independent political movement, one fierce enough to produce programs capable of meeting the current crises, we are all going to have to stop hoping and start demanding.

The first stage, however, is to understand fully the awkward in-between space in which many US progressive movements find themselves. To do that, we need a new language, one specific to the Obama moment. Here is a start.

Hopeover. Like a hangover, a hopeover comes from having overindulged in something that felt good at the time but wasn’t really all that healthy, leading to feelings of remorse, even shame. It’s the political equivalent of the crash after a sugar high. Sample sentence: “When I listened to Obama’s economic speech my heart soared. But then, when I tried to tell a friend about his plans for the millions of layoffs and foreclosures, I found myself saying nothing at all. I’ve got a serious hopeover.”

Hoper coaster. Like a roller coaster, the hoper coaster describes the intense emotional peaks and valleys of the Obama era, the veering between joy at having a president who supports safe-sex education and despondency that single-payer healthcare is off the table at the very moment when it could actually become a reality. Sample sentence: “I was so psyched when Obama said he is closing Guantánamo. But now they are fighting like mad to make sure the prisoners in Bagram have no legal rights at all. Stop this hoper coaster–I want to get off!”

Hopesick. Like the homesick, hopesick individuals are intensely nostalgic. They miss the rush of optimism from the campaign trail and are forever trying to recapture that warm, hopey feeling–usually by exaggerating the significance of relatively minor acts of Obama decency. Sample sentences: “I was feeling really hopesick about the escalation in Afghanistan, but then I watched a YouTube video of Michelle in her organic garden and it felt like inauguration day all over again. A few hours later, when I heard that the Obama administration was boycotting a major UN racism conference, the hopesickness came back hard. So I watched slideshows of Michelle wearing clothes made by ethnically diverse independent fashion designers, and that sort of helped.”

Hope fiend. With hope receding, the hope fiend, like the dope fiend, goes into serious withdrawal, willing to do anything to chase the buzz. (Closely related to hopesickness but more severe, usually affecting middle-aged males.) Sample sentence: “Joe told me he actually believes Obama deliberately brought in Summers so that he would blow the bailout, and then Obama would have the excuse he needs to do what he really wants: nationalize the banks and turn them into credit unions. What a hope fiend!”

Hopebreak. Like the heartbroken lover, the hopebroken Obama-ite is not mad but terribly sad. She projected messianic powers onto Obama and is now inconsolable in her disappointment. Sample sentence: “I really believed Obama would finally force us to confront the legacy of slavery in this country and start a serious national conversation about race. But now he never seems to mention race, and he’s using twisted legal arguments to keep us from even confronting the crimes of the Bush years. Every time I hear him say ‘move forward,’ I’m hopebroken all over again.”

Hopelash. Like a backlash, hopelash is a 180-degree reversal of everything Obama-related. Sufferers were once Obama’s most passionate evangelists. Now they are his angriest critics. Sample sentence: “At least with Bush everyone knew he was an asshole. Now we’ve got the same wars, the same lawless prisons, the same Washington corruption, but everyone is cheering like Stepford wives. It’s time for a full-on hopelash.”

In trying to name these various hope-related ailments, I found myself wondering what the late Studs Terkel would have said about our collective hopeover. He surely would have urged us not to give in to despair. I reached for one of his last books, Hope Dies Last. I didn’t have to read long. The book opens with the words: “Hope has never trickled down. It has always sprung up.”

And that pretty much says it all. Hope was a fine slogan when rooting for a long-shot presidential candidate. But as a posture toward the president of the most powerful nation on earth, it is dangerously deferential. The task as we move forward (as Obama likes to say) is not to abandon hope but to find more appropriate homes for it–in the factories, neighborhoods and schools where tactics like sit-ins, squats and occupations are seeing a resurgence.

Political scientist Sam Gindin wrote recently that the labor movement can do more than protect the status quo. It can demand, for instance, that shuttered auto plants be converted into green-future factories, capable of producing mass-transit vehicles and technology for a renewable energy system. “Being realistic means taking hope out of speeches,” he wrote, “and putting it in the hands of workers.”

Which brings me to the final entry in the lexicon.

Hoperoots. Sample sentence: “It’s time to stop waiting for hope to be handed down, and start pushing it up, from the hoperoots”

Headlines: Supreme Court Limits Warrantless Car Searches; In Reversal, Obama Leaves Open Prosecuting Bush Officials

Democracy Now Headlines: Supreme Court Limits Warrantless Car Searches; In Reversal, Obama Leaves Open Prosecuting Bush Officials

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Senate Report: Torture Planning Preceded Prisoners’ Capture, Legal Approval

An explosive Congressional report has revealed new details about the Bush administration’s torture program on foreign prisoners. According to the Senate Intelligence Committee, military and intelligence officials began developing the torture program in December 2001–well before any high-level al-Qaeda suspects had been caught. Bush administration officials have long maintained the so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ were authorized only after standard questioning failed to yield intelligence. The report also shows the torture program was developed well before it received legal approval in the 2002 Justice Department memos de-classified last week. The report singles out top Bush administration officials for the torture of U.S. prisoners, saying they “solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques” and “redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality.”

Military Psychologist Proposed “Exploitation Facility”

The report also documents the role of the military psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen in developing the torture program. A memo written by Jessen in 2002 proposes creating what he calls an “exploitation facility” where prisoners would be subjected to a number of prescribed abuses, including physical violence, sleep deprivation, and waterboarding. Some of the techniques were based on torture used on American captives during the Korean war. Jessen proposed making the facility off-limits to outside observers, including the Red Cross. Soon after the memo, the suspected al-Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah was sent to a CIA prison where he was subjected to intense torture. Zubaydah’s attorneys have long contended the Justice Department memos were written in part to retroactively authorize the techniques used against him.

Drive to Invade Iraq Compromised Interrogations, Led to Abuses

Several army officials raised objections as the torture techniques were developed and taught. And in a development that traces back to the White House’s drive for invading Iraq, one Army major complained the interrogations were being compromised by an insistence on establishing “link between al-Qaeda and Iraq.”

Levin Calls for Probe of Bush Officials

In a statement, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Carl Levin said the new evidence provides a direct line from top Bush officials to abuses at prisons such as Abu Ghraib. Levin said: “Senior officials sought out information on, were aware of training in, and authorized the use of abusive interrogation techniques…[They] bear significant responsibility for creating the legal and operational framework for the abuses.” Levin went on to call on Attorney General Eric Holder to establish a high-level commission to investigate high-level Bush officials.

In Reversal, Obama Leaves Open Prosecuting Bush Officials

The report’s release came hours after President Obama reversed course on ruling out the prosecution of Bush administration officials who wrote the legal memos authorizing torture. The White House had previously said it opposes any legal action against both the officials who provided legal cover for torture and the CIA interrogators who carried it out. But on Tuesday, Obama said now he won’t preclude legal action against the memos’ authors.

President Obama: “For those who carried out some of these operations within the four corners of legal opinions or guidance that had been provided from the White House, I do not think it’s appropriate for them to be prosecuted. With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the perimeters of various laws, and–and I don’t want to prejudge that. I think that there are a host of very complicated issues involved there.”

UN Racism Conference Passes Declaration

In Geneva, delegates at the UN Conference on racism adopted a final declaration on Tuesday without the support of the United States. The U.S. and several other Western nations have boycotted the conference over concerns it would include criticism of the Israeli government. The conference president, Amos Wako, criticized the boycott.

Amos Wako: “What we have decided shows the outcome when you remain engaged in the process, it shows that boycotts do not assist, it shows that one can remain constructively engaged and reach a consensus.”

Bowing to U.S.-Israeli concerns, the declaration avoids any references to Zionism. Instead, it reaffirms a conference text from 2001 that recognizes the Palestinian right to self-determination and calls for a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The text also urges signatories to fight all forms of racism, in particular naming anti-Semitism, anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia.

Reports: Ahmadinejad Deleted Holocaust Denial from Speech

The declaration came one day after nearly two dozen diplomats walked on a speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after he called Israel a “cruel and repressive racist regime.” According to several reports, Ahmadinejad omitted prepared comments denying the Nazi Holocaust from his final speech. Instead, he appeared to acknowledge it, referring to the “abuse of the Holocaust.” Ahmadinejad has previously denied the Nazi Holocaust and questioned the number of Jewish victims.

Israeli FM: “America Accepts All Our Decisions”

Israel’s new foreign minister is claiming the Obama administration will only pursue peace initiatives with the Palestinians if Israel gives its approval. In his first extensive since taking office, Avigdor Lieberman said: “Believe me, America accepts all our decisions.” The Washington Post is reporting the Israeli government is now telling the U.S. it will condition any willingness to enter peace talks with Palestinians on U.S. policy towards Iran. The Israeli government has long advocated military action against Iran.

Poll: Most Palestinians, Israelis Support Two-State Solution

The developments come as a new poll shows a majority of both Palestinians and Israelis would support a two-state solution. According to the group One Voice, 74% of Palestinians and 78% of Israelis say they would accept the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza alongside Israel. Palestinian leaders including Hamas have accepted the two-state solution. Successive Israeli governments have rejected returning Palestinian land and have instead expanded Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank while maintaining the stranglehold over the Gaza Strip.

Report: Prosecutors Mull Dropping AIPAC Spy Case

The Washington Post is reporting prosecutors are considering dropping charges against two former pro-Israeli government lobbyists accused of violating the Espionage Act. Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, formerly of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, are accused of conspiring to obtain and disclose classified national defense information to journalists and the Israeli government. The review follows a series of court rulings that prosecutors say could hinder their prospects at winning a trial, including allowing the defense to use classified information and forcing the government to prove the accused knew they would be harming the United States. Prosecutors say the review has nothing to do with recent controversy surrounding Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman. It was revealed this week Harman was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent she would lobby for reducing the espionage charges in return for AIPAC support in her bid to chair the House intelligence committee.

Bailed-out Firms Spend Millions on Lobbying

Newly-disclosed records show some of the top recipients of the federal bailout continue to spend millions on political lobbying. According to the Washington Post, the top bailed-out firms spent more than $10 million dollars in the first three months of this year, $22 million dollars over the last six months. The lobbying included efforts to block initiatives such as executive pay caps and new financial regulation.

IMF: Financial Crisis Losses Total $4.1T Worldwide

The International Monetary Fund is estimating banks and financial institutions have lost an estimated $4.1 trillion dollars during the financial crisis. Of the losses, $2.7 trillion originated in the United States. Testifying on Capitol Hill, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said banks’ vast amount of toxic assets is limiting their ability to lend and borrow.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner: “The cost of credit is still very high. Reports on bank lending show significant declines in lending for consumer loans and for commercial and industrial loans, although mortgage refinancing has picked up considerably. We may have to adapt and expand them over time, but they represent the foundation of any credible strategy to help ensure the financial system is working for, rather than against, economic recovery.”

Court Hears Arguments in Iraq War Suit

In New Jersey, a federal court heard arguments Tuesday in a case seeking to have the U.S. invasion of Iraq declared unconstitutional. An Iraq war veteran and two mothers of soldiers filed the case last May. They argue then-President George W. Bush violated the constitution by failing to formally declare war and attacking a country that didn’t threaten the United States.

Colorado House Votes to Abolish Death Penalty

In Colorado, the state House has passed a measure to abolish the death penalty. Tuesday’s measure passed by a single vote. The bill now goes to the Colorado state Senate.

Somali Pirate to Be Tried as Adult

The lone surviving Somali pirate involved in the kidnapping of an American cargo captain earlier this month was charged Tuesday in a New York courtroom. The pirate, Abduhl Wal-i-Musi, surrendered before US Navy snipers shot his three accomplices aboard their boat. Musi will be tried as an adult, even though his family claims he is only fifteen years old. He appeared to weep during his arraignment. Defense attorney Deirdre Von Dornum called Musi “young and terrified.”

Deirdre Von Dornum: “Judge Peck may have found for today that he is of the age of majority, but as you could tell he is extremely young, injured and terrified. We’re pleased that he will have the protection of the United States Constitution, and that the government chose to bring him to an open court and not to a secret prison or any other form of non-public proceeding.”

Supreme Court Limits Warrantless Car Searches

The Supreme Court has issued a ruling to make it more difficult for police to conduct warrantless car searches. On Tuesday, justices ruled five to four police must seek a warrant to search a vehicle if the suspect has been removed from the vehicle and poses no threat to others.

On Earth Day, Reports Warns of Growing Numbers Endangered by Global Warming

And today is Earth Day. Millions of people around the globe are expected to take part in events honoring the protection of the environment. A new report from the Oxfam aid agency warns relief groups will be overwhelmed within the next six years by people affected by climate-related disasters. More than 375 million people are expected to be effected each year until 2015, up from the 250 million people today. Oxfam is calling for greater support for aid groups to offset the dangers. Oxfam says: “There is nothing inevitable about a future in which greater numbers of people die and are made destitute by natural hazards and conflict.”

Headlines: Obama Asks Cabinet to Cut $100M; Diplomats Walk Out on Ahmadinejad over Israel Comments

Democracy Now Headlines: Obama Asks Cabinet to Cut $100M; Diplomats Walk Out on Ahmadinejad over Israel Comments

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Tamils Ignore Military Deadline as Refugees Flee

In Sri Lanka, a government deadline for the surrender of Tamil Tiger rebels has passed with the Tamils refusing to lay down their arms. The deadline prompted some 49,000 civilians to flee the Tamils’ last remaining stronghold to avoid an expected intensified Sri Lankan military assault. Sri Lanka has been accused of indiscriminate bombings, while the Tamils have been accused of using the trapped civilians as human shields. An estimated 4,500 civilians have died in the fighting over the last three months. Aid groups have raised concerns of more civilian casualties, as up to 100,000 people remain trapped in the Tamil-controlled area.

Addressing CIA, Obama Treads Softly on Bush Torture Memos

President Obama visited the CIA’s Virginia headquarters Monday, following last week’s release of Bush administration memos authorizing torture techniques. Speaking before a raucous crowd, Obama refused to condemn the memo’s contents outright, calling them potential mistakes.

President Obama: “Don’t be discouraged by what’s happened the last few weeks. Don’t be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we’ve made some mistakes. That’s how we learn. But the fact that we are willing to acknowledge them and then move forward, that is precisely why I am proud to be president of the United States, and that’s why you should be proud to be members of the CIA.”

The Obama administration has said it opposes any effort to prosecute CIA interrogators who engaged in torture, as well the Bush administration officials who authorized its use. On Monday, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein asked Obama to hold off on ruling out prosecutions until her panel finishes an investigation over the next six months.

Obama Asks Cabinet to Cut $100M

Obama meanwhile held a cabinet meeting at the White House, where he laid out a plan to cut a collective $100 million from all government agencies.

President Obama: “I’m asking for all of them to identify at least $100 million in additional cuts to their administrative budgets, separate and apart from the work that Peter Orszag and the rest of our team are doing to go line by line with the budget and identify programmatic cuts that need to be made. And in the next few weeks, we expect to cut at least 100 current programs in the federal budget.”

Diplomats Walk Out on Ahmadinejad over Israel Comments

In Geneva, diplomats from twenty-three European nations walked out of a UN conference on racism Monday after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a speech calling Israel a “cruel and repressive racist regime.” Audience members applauded as the diplomats exited the room.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “After World War II, under the pretext of Jewish suffering and by taking advantage of the Holocaust, they used aggression and military force to turn an entire nation into refugees. And they transplanted people from Europe, the United States and other parts of the world into their land, establishing a thoroughly racist government in occupied Palestine.”

The US and several other nations are already boycotting the conference over concerns it will criticize the Israeli government. Prior to the walkout, two protesters dressed in clown suits were removed after yelling at Ahmadinejad, “You are a racist!” Hundreds also protested Ahmadinejad outside the conference, including the Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel.

Elie Wiesel: “His presence is a scandal. A man who is the number one Holocaust denier in the world, a man who publicly, repeatedly said that he was going to destroy the people of Israel, his place is not at the place where we discuss human rights. He violates human rights. He preaches hatred, and therefore he should be in jail, actually, in The Hague for incitement of genocide.”

The Israeli government and its supporters have accused Ahmadinejad of inciting genocide over a mistranslated 2005 speech. After the Geneva session, Ahmadinejad said Iran has been subject to repeated threats of violence from the Israeli government.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “We will be able to experience peace and brotherhood when we all develop a more tolerant vision and improve our capacity to listen to each other. Please pay attention to this last point. They threaten us with war. The Zionist regime threatens to take military actions against us, again and again. But we do not believe in war. We think the solution to global problems should be based on humanitarian solutions, democratic solutions, based on the free votes of all nations.”

Nobel Laureate to Defend Jailed Iranian American

In news from Iran, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi has joined the defense team of the imprisoned Iranian American journalist Roxana Saberi. A secret Iranian court sentenced Saberi to eight years in prison last week for allegedly spying for the United States. One of Iran’s leading dissidents, Ebadi will join Saberi’s legal team as it appeals the conviction. On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeated US calls for Saberi’s immediate release.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We believe she should be freed immediately, that the charges against her are baseless, and that she has been subjected to a process that has been non-transparent, unpredictable, arbitrary. And we hope that actions will be taken as soon as possible by the authorities in Iran, including the judiciary, to bring about the speedy release of Ms. Saberi and her return home.”

3 Iraqis Killed, 8 US Soldiers Wounded in Baquba Bombing

In Iraq, at least three Iraqis were killed in a suicide attack on a meeting between US soldiers and local officials in the city of Baquba. At least eleven other Iraqis were also injured, along with eight US soldiers.

Harman Won’t Deny Speaking to Alleged Israeli Agent

Back in the United States, Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of California is coming under growing scrutiny over allegations she discussed trading political favors with an Israeli agent in 2005. CQ Magazine reported Harman was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent she would lobby the Justice Department to reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of AIPAC, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee. In exchange for Harman’s help, the suspected Israeli agent reportedly pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi to appoint Harman chair of the House Intelligence Committee after the 2006 congressional elections. On Monday, Harman issued a statement denying lobbying the Justice Department about the two AIPAC officials, but she did not deny the allegations of her discussion with the suspected Israeli agent, nor did she address whether she tried to lobby the White House.

Obama Seeks $100B for IMF

President Obama has asked Congress to authorize a $100 billion grant to the International Monetary Fund. The funding boost would come as part of a $500 billion international commitment made at the G20 summit in London earlier this month.

Obama to Meet Credit Card Execs at White House

The White House has announced Obama will meet with credit card executives from the nation’s top fourteen banks later this week. The White House says Obama will lobby them to back new limits on lending abuses, including arbitrary interest rate hikes, premature late fees, and interest charges on debt paid on time.

IG: 20 Criminal Probes, 6 Audits Investigating Bailout Abuses

The Inspector General overseeing the government bailout of Wall Street has revealed he’s opened twenty criminal investigations and six audits into whether tax dollars are being misused. In a new report released today, Neil Barofsky says the investigations focus on allegations including securities fraud, tax, insider trading and public corruption.

Struggling Chrysler Turned Down Government Aid over Pay Caps

Meanwhile, Barofsky has also revealed the financial services wing of the auto giant Chrysler turned down government aid over new federal limits on executive pay. In his new report on the bailout, Barofsky says Chrysler Financial turned down $750 million earlier this year. Chrysler Financial’s parent company, Chrysler, has received $4.5 billion in government loans. Chrysler Financial collected $1.5 billion in federal loans when less stringent pay limits were in place.

Oakland Hires Private Security Firm to Patrol Neighborhoods

Oakland has become the latest American city to hire private armed guards to carry out police duties. Oakland’s city council recently voted to hire the company International Services to patrol troubled areas. Proponents say the move will save money for the cash-strapped city. Chicago’s city council recently proposed to grant private guards more responsibilities, including the authority to write traffic tickets.

Ex-Presidents Clinton, Bush to Appear in Joint Event

Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have signed onto a joint appearance next month in Toronto, Canada. Clinton and Bush will appear together on stage in what organizers call a “moderated conversation.” Last month, Bush faced wide protests and calls for his arrest when he came to the Canadian city of Calgary for his first post-White House public speech.

Somali Pirate to Appear in US Court

The lone surviving Somali pirate involved in the kidnapping of an American cargo captain earlier this month has been brought to face trial in the United States. The pirate, nineteen-year-old Abduhl Wal-i-Musi, surrendered before US Navy snipers shot his three accomplices aboard their boat. Musi is expected to be arraigned in a New York courtroom later today.

French Energy Giant Spied on Anti-Nuke Activists

In France, the state-controlled energy operator has admitted to infiltrating and spying on anti-nuclear activists across Europe. Pierre Francois, a former top security official for EDF, says he began organizing the spying since 2002.

Arizona Duo Wins Pulitzer for Arpaio Coverage

And in media news, the Pulitzer Prize winners for journalism were handed out on Monday. The winners included Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin of the East Valley Tribune in Mesa, Arizona. The duo won for their coverage of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who’s been accused of practicing discriminatory enforcement of federal immigration laws. Last month, the Justice Department opened a civil rights probe into Arpaio’s immigration enforcement policies.

Headlines: Obama Won’t Prosecute Bush and CIA Officials for Torture; EPA: Greenhouse Gasses Endanger Human Health and Welfare

Democracy Now Headlines: Obama Won't Prosecute Bush and CIA Officials for Torture; EPA: Greenhouse Gasses Endanger Human Health and Welfare

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

CIA Used Waterboarding 266 Times

A footnote in one of the newly declassified torture memos has revealed that CIA interrogators used waterboarding far more than had been previously reported. In August 2002, the CIA waterboarded Abu Zubaydah, 83 times. The CIA also used waterboarding 183 times in March 2003 against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. In 2007 a former C.I.A. officer publicly claimed that Abu Zubaydah had undergone waterboarding for only 35 seconds before agreeing to tell everything he knew.

Rahm Emanuel: Bush Officials, CIA Interrogators Will Not Be Prosecuted

Meanwhile on Sunday, White House chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said the Obama administration opposes any effort to prosecute CIA interrogators who engaged in torture as well Bush administration officials who authorized the use of torture. Rahm made the comment in an interview on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos.

Rahm Emmanuel: He believes that people in good faith were operating with the guidance they were provided. They shouldn’t be prosecuted.

George Stephanopolous: What about those who devised policy?

Rahm Emmanuel: Yes, but those who devised policy, he believes that they were–should not be prosecuted either, and that’s not the place that we go–as he said in that letter, and I would really recommend people look at the full statement–not the letter, the statement–in that second paragraph, “this is not a time for retribution.” It’s time for reflection. It’s not a time to use our energy and our time in looking back and any sense of anger and retribution.

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Says Obama Violating International Law

The UN special rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak has said President Obama is in violation of international law for declining to prosecute CIA agents who used torture. Nowak said the US is bound by the UN Convention Against Torture, which requires prosecution in all cases in which there is evidence of torture.

Spanish Judge Garzon Keeps Alive Case Against “Bush Six”

Prosecution of Bush administration officials may still take place in Spain. On Friday, Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon defied Spanish prosecutors and kept alive a criminal investigation into the actions of six high-ranking Bush admininistration officials including former attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former Justice Department attorney Jay Bybee.

Calls Increase For Bybee’s Impeachment

This comes as calls are increasing for Bybee’s impeachment as a federal judge. During an interview on Fox News Sunday, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri questioned whether Bybee should be serving on the federal bench after approving the use of torture.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO): “What’s scary to me, Chris, is that one of them got a lifetime appointment on a federal bench. Yikes! You know, a lawyer that’s responsible for this kind of advice that clearly went too far in terms of stretching what our law is. It worries me that he’s sitting on the federal bench right now.”

More Nations Boycott UN Conference on Racism

The United Nations Conference on Racism has opened Geneva but the United States and several other nations are boycotting the conference over concerns the conference will criticize Israel. In 2001 the U.S. and Israel walked out of the UN racism conference in South Africa after Arab states sought to define Zionism as racist. During his opening talke, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said racism including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia needs to be tackled. We’ll have more on the conference after headlines.

Chavez Gives Obama Eduardo Galeano Book on History of Latin America

President Obama has returned to Washington after attending the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago where he vowed to repair relations with Latin America. At the summit Obama briefly met with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez who gave Obama a copy of Eduardo Galeano’s book “The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.” At a news conference on Sunday Obama responded to criticism of him for shaking Chavez’s hand.

President Obama: “It’s unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chavez that we are endangering the strategic interests of the United States. I don’t think anyone can find any evidence that that would do so. Even within this imaginative crowd, I think you would be hard-pressed to paint a scenario in which U.S. interests would be damaged as a consequence of us having a more constructive relationship with Venezuela.”

Obama Says 50 Year U.S. Policy Toward Cuba Has Failed

On Cuba, Obama acknowledged that the U.S. policy of the past 50 years has failed. Obama’s comment came days after he eased travel restrictions on Cuban Americans. On Sunday he called on Cuban President Raul Castro to take some steps if he wants to start a dialogue with the United States

President Obama: “And the fact that you had Raul Castro say that he is willing to have his government discuss with our not just issues of lifting the embargo but issues of human rights, political prisoner, that’s a sign of progress. And so we’re going to explore and see if we can make some further steps. There are some things that the Cuban government could do. They could release political prisoners.”

Iran Sentences U.S. Journalist to Eight Years

A secret Iranian court has sentenced Iranian-American journalist, Roxana Saberi, to eight years in prison for allegedly spying for the United States. Saberi had worked as a freelancer for the BBC, NPR and other outlets. Her father Reza Saberi spoke to NPR on Saturday.

Reza Saberi: “She is very weak and frail, last time we saw…and she wanted to go on hunger strike but we persuaded her not to do so. And after this most probably she will, even though when we visit her we will ask her not to do so. But she is quite depressed about this matter and she wants to go on hunger strike. And if she does she’s so frail it can be dangerous to her health.”

The Obama administration has demanded Saberi be released. On Sunday Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a letter to Tehran’s chief prosecutor instructing him to personally ensure that Saberi be allowed to offer a full defense during her appeal.

U.S. Drone Attack in Pakistan Leaves 8 Dead

U.S. drones have carried out another strike inside Pakistan killing as many as eight people in the Waziristan region. The News in Pakistan said all of the dead were civilians. However other reports said the strike targeted a home used by Al Qaeda.

Israeli Troops Kill Unarmed Palestinian Protesting Wall

Israeli forces have killed another unarmed Palestinian during a protest against the Israel separation wall in the West Bank. 30-year-old Basim Abu Rahmah died Friday after he was shot with a high velocity tear gas canister. Abu Rahma is the third Palestinian to be killed in the past three months alone during protests against the Wall.

Congressional Quarterly: Wiretap Recorded Rep. Harman Promising to Intervene for AIPAC

Congressional Quarterly is reporting Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of California was overheard in 2005 on an NSA wiretap speaking with a suspected Israeli agent. During the call Harman reprotedly said she would lobby the Justice Department to reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of AIPAC, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee.

In exchange for Harman’s help, the suspected Israeli agent reportedly pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi to appoint Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections. The conversation is said to have been picked up on a court-approved NSA wiretap directed at alleged Israel covert action operations in Washington. Congressional Quarterly reports then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales decided to stop a probe of Harman because he wanted Harman to be able to help defend the administration’s secret domestic spy program that the New York Times was about to expose.

35,000 Civilians Flee as Sri Lankan Military Intensifies Assault on Tamil Tigers

In Sri Lanka, more than 35,000 civilians have fled the last area controlled by the Tamil Tigers as the Sri Lankan military intensifies its assault on the separatist group. The United Nations says up to 100,000 civilians are trapped in the sliver of coastal jungle controlled by the Tamil Tigers and are living in “dire humanitarian conditions.” Channel 4 in Britian and Al Jazereera have aired some footage from the area that has been closed off to journalists. The video, which was shot by an aid group, showed scores of civilian victims killed last week in fighting. An estimated 4,500 civilians have been killed in Sri Lanka in the last three months.

EPA: Greenhouse Gases Endanger Human Health and Welfare

The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare, opening the door for the EPA to to possibly regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. The EPA found that rising levels of greenhouse gases are “the unambiguous result of human emissions, and are very likely the cause of the observed increase in average temperatures and other climatic changes.”

Bloomberg Sues Fed Reserve

In economic news, Bloomberg News has filed a lawsuit to force the Federal Reserve to disclose information about the $2 trillion it has lent to financial institutions. The Fed has refused to name the borrowers or the amounts of loans. The biggest recipients of taxpayer aid made or refinanced 23% less in new loans in February than in October. Goldman Sachs reduced lending by 50 percent.

London Police Questioned in Man’s Death During G20 Protest

In news from Britain, A London Police officer is being questioned on suspicion of manslaughter following the death of a British man during the G20 protests. An autopsy has found Ian Tomlinson died from internal bleeding, not a heart attack. Tomlinson was a newspaper seller who got caught up in the middle of the G20 protest. Video has emerged showing a baton-wielding British police officer hitting Tomlinson and shoving him to the ground shortly before he collapsed and died. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is also investigating at least two other assaults committed by the police during the protest.

Swedish Court Sentences Founders of File-Sharing Website

A Swedish court has sentenced the four founders of the file-sharing website Pirate Bay to one year in prison and to pay a $3.5 million fine for violating copyright laws. The men were convicted even though they did not host copyrighted works on their own servers. Instead the site indexed and tracked torrent files. Attorney Per Samuelson represented the founders of Pirate Bay.

Per Samuelson: “My comment is that the Swedish legal system did not stand against the political pressure from the whole of the world, from the whole of the power and it’s very hard for them to acquit, but they should have done that, so this is the proof that the legal system doesn’t work when you put enough pressure on it.”

Time Warner Scraps Pricing Model to Charge for Bandwidth

In other tech news, Time Warner Cable has announced it will stop testing a new pricing model where customers were being charged for how much Internet bandwidth they used. Time Warner had proposed charging as much as $150 per month for unlimited web downloads.

Goldman Environmental Prizes Awarded

The 2009 Goldman Environmental Prizes are being awarded today in San Francisco. Recipients include the Indonesian activist Yuyun Isamawati who developed a community-based waste management system to stem her island nation’s overwhelming waste infrastructure problems. I spoke to her last week in San Francisco.

Yuyun Isamawati: “We need more efforts from all countries. But it has to be a better mechanism how developed countries can channel support to developing countries to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions. [Inaudible] mechanisms should be reformed because the complicated and difficult mechanism cannot be implemented in the field to reach the target of reduction.”

The other recipients of the Goldman prize are West Virginian anti-coal mining activist Maria Gunnoe; the Russian physicist Olga Speranskaya who is campaigning to rid the former Soviet Union of toxic chemicals; the Bangladesh environmental attorney Rizwana Hasan; two anti-logging activists from the South American nation of Suriname and; conservationist Marc Ona Essangui from the African nation of Gabon.

Marc Ona Essangui: “The forest that we are defending in Gabon isn’t only for Gabon-it’s in the interest of the entire planet. Climate change, the destruction of the ozone layer-it’s not only about Gabon, it’s about the planet. A tree that is saved in Gabon will in the future save many lives in many countries.”

Vigils Mark 10th Anniversary of Columbine Massacre

And in Colorado, hundreds attended a vigil Sunday to mark the 10th anniversary of the Columbine High School when two students killed 12 students and a teacher.

Headlines: Former Bush Admin. Official Says He Should Have Resigned Over Torture; Obama Backtracks on Release of Torture Memos

Democracy Now Headlines: Former Bush Admin. Official Says He Should Have Resigned Over Torture; Obama Backtracks on Release of Torture Memos

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Report: Recent NSA Spying Exceeded Guidelines

The New York Times is reporting that recent National Security Agency domestic spying has gone beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress last year. The NSA, meanwhile, also reportedly attempted to wiretap a member of Congress, without court approval, on an overseas trip in 2005 or 2006. The plan was ultimately blocked amidst concerns about spying on a member of Congress.

Obama Backtracks on Full Release of Torture Memos

The Obama administration has reportedly decided to censor portions of three secret Bush administration torture memos it had previously vowed to release. The Justice Department memos were written to give legal backing to the CIA’s interrogation program. The Wall Street Journal is reporting the Obama administration will redact the prisoners’ names as well as details on how particular techniques were used. The administration is expected to make the announcement later today under a court-imposed deadline in a case brought by the ACLU.

Spanish Prosecutors Recommend Dropping Torture Probe Against Bush Admin Lawyers

In Spain, prosecutors are planning on asking a Spanish court to drop a criminal investigation into whether six Bush administration lawyers, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the Bush administration’s use of torture at Guantanamo. Spanish law allows it to claim jurisdiction because five citizens or residents say they were tortured while imprisoned there. Earlier today, Spanish prosecutor Candido Conde-Pumpido said the case has no merit because the Bush officials weren’t physically present when the torture occurred. The suit could still go forward despite the prosecutors’ stance. The presiding judge, Baltasar Garzon, pursued the case against former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet over prosecutors’ advice.

Armitage: I Should Have Resigned over Torture

Former Bush administration official Richard Armitage has said he would have resigned had he known what he knows now about the torture committed on his watch. In an interview with Al Jazeera’s Avi Lewis, Armitage admitted the Bush White House authorized forms of torture.

Avi Lewis: “So when you knew that the administration, of which you were a part, was departing from the Geneva Conventions and sidelining them, why didn’t you quit?”

Richard Armitage: “In hindsight, maybe I should have. But in those positions, you see how many more battles you have. You maybe fool yourself. You say how much worse would X, Y, or Z be if I weren’t here?”

Armitage went on to say, “I hope, had I known about it at the time I was serving, I would’ve had the courage to resign.” Armitage served as Deputy Secretary of State from 2001 to 2005.

Interpreter: FBI Interrogators Beat Kenya Bombing Suspect

A former FBI interpreter is claiming she witnessed the beating of a suspect in the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Kenya. The unidentified translator says she became so upset by the interrogation that she fled the room. The translator couldn’t see the prisoner but could hear him behind a partition. According to her account, the suspect, Mohamed al-Owhali, begged her to ask the interrogators to stop beating him. Al-Owhali later confessed to the bombing and was sentenced to life in prison. His lawyers have maintained his confession was coerced.

Obama Admin Appoints Mexico “Border Czar”

The Obama administration has appointed a so-called “border czar” to oversee drug-related law enforcement along the US-Mexico border. Alan Bersin held a similar post under the Clinton administration. Speaking to reporters in El Paso, Texas, Bersin vowed to cooperate with the Mexican government.

Alan Bersin: “We now have an opportunity between the United States and Mexico to construct a foundation of cooperation that will result in benefits for the future of both sides of the border. I believe we have the opportunity and we must act on it.”

US Army Sergeant Convicted of Iraqi Prisoner Killings

A US Army sergeant has been convicted of murder for the murder of four bound and blindfolded Iraqi prisoners. The killings took place in Baghdad in 2007. The sergeant, John Hatley, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit premeditated murder. Two other soldiers have already been convicted, and another two have pleaded guilty in the case.

Afghan Women Protest Rape Law

In Afghanistan, dozens of women were attacked earlier today as they tried to protest a recent law that legalizes rape within marriage. The law bans women from refusing to have sex with their husbands and also says they can only seek work, education or medical care with their husbands’ permission. The women were pelted with stones as they gathered in the Afghan capital Kabul. It was the second straight day of protest against the law following another protest on Wednesday.

Venezuela to Seek Posada Extradition

Venezuela says it will again ask the US for the extradition of the Cuban militant and former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles. Posada is wanted in Cuba and Venezuela for a 1976 airliner bombing that killed seventy-three people. But the US has harbored Posada and rejected calls for his extradition. Earlier this month, Posada was indicted on charges of lying about his role in several 1997 bombings at tourist areas in Cuba. The new charges mark the first time the US government has formally acknowledged Posada’s role in carrying out attacks. Venezuela says it will present the renewed extradition request before the opening of tomorrow’s Americas summit in Trinidad and Tobago.

Jurors Criticize Deportation Proceedings Against Egyptian Student

In Florida, four jurors who acquitted an Egyptian student of explosives charges earlier this month have condemned a US government attempt to deport him, apparently on the same allegations. Youssef Megahed was arrested just three days after a Tampa jury found him not guilty of possessing explosives that could be used for building a destructive bomb or rocket. He’s now being held in an immigration jail. Megahed is a legal permanent resident here in the United States. He’s lived here since he was eleven years old with his family. In a statement, the jurors said the government is putting Megahed in “double jeopardy.” They continued, “More troublesome is the government’s seeming blatant disregard for the will of its own people.”

UNC Students Disrupt Tancredo Speech

In North Carolina, clashes broke out Tuesday night at a student protest against former Republican Congress member Tom Tancredo at the University of North Carolina. Hundreds of protesters converged on a lecture hall where Tancredo was speaking on opposing education benefits for undocumented immigrants. The protesters disrupted Tancredo’s speech and raised banners saying “No dialogue with hate” and “No one is illegal.”

Report: US Hate Groups Up 34% Since 2000

A new report says the number of violent hate groups in the US has increased more than 34 percent since 2000. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 926 groups were active last year, up from 602 nine years ago. The report comes on the heels of a warning from the Department of Homeland Security that right-wing extremist groups are gaining new recruits by exploiting fears about the economy and the election of the nation’s first black president.

Varying Agendas Present in Tax Day Protests

Tax Day was Wednesday, and with it came dozens of protests of varying political stripes. In several major cities, right-wing groups protested government spending in rallies modeled after the 1773 Boston Tea Party. In Washington, D.C., hundreds rallied near the White House.

Protester #1: “I think it’s time to let people know that we are upset with some of the spending that’s going on. The amount of spending is unheralded in the history of this country.”

Protester #2: “And I don’t think that our elected officials are really listening to our views about what’s going on and what we feel. They just want to follow what the administration is doing.”

Protests were also held by opponents of government spending on the military and war. The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee says protests and vigils were held in more than twenty states.

Potential Foreclosures Rise 24%

And in housing news, new figures show the number of Americans facing the loss of their homes grew 24 percent in the first three months of this year. According to RealtyTrac, more than 800,000 homes received at least one foreclosure-related notice from January through March.

Obama’s War Spending Request Could be Better Spent in Michigan

The National Priorities Project has released a new analysis showing that President Barack Obama’s recent request for $83.4 billion for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars could be better spent funding social programs in Michigan.

According to the analysis, $22,060,228,423 from Michigan has been spent thus far to finance the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama’s recent request will add $2,047,572,900 to that total (a long with another $40.3 million from Grand Rapids).

That $2 billion is enough to provide:

  • 769,874 people with health insurance for one year
  • 2,877,761 homes with renewable electricity for one year
  • 382,724 students with maximum Pell Grants ($5350)

To date, the cost of war that has been approved by Congress is $830.2 billion with $657.3 billion to Iraq and $172.9 billion to Afghanistan. The $77.1 billion from the supplemental request brings total war spending to $907.3 billion dollars since 2001.

Obama’s Defense Budget to Increase in 2010

Obama's Defense Budget Increased Over Bush's

The proposed defense budget for fiscal year 2010, announced last Wednesday by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, has been praised by the mainstream media for cutting funding to weapons programs. Although this is true — for example, the high profile F-22 fighter jet, a project that has been in development since 1986, costs $300 million per plane, and has been openly talked about by Gates as useless to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, has been cut. Yet, the overall budget is still increased by 3.4% — surpassing George Bush’s spending on defense by $20 billion, amounting to about $700 billion total.

Economic Stimulation Myth

Military spending is being portrayed as a sort of stimulus package by industry leaders and their publicists. The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), which represents more than 100 defense and aerospace corporations, claims that these corporations contribute $97 billion in exports a year and maintain 2 million jobs. Yet according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing, which includes some non-defense related corporations, employed 472,000 wage and salary workers in 2006.

The claim that spending more money on defense will stimulate the economy begs the question of why, after spending increasingly ludicrous amounts on defense since 2002, the U.S. is not experiencing an economic boom now. The truth is that spending billions on defense only stimulates the pockets of corporate CEOs. In 2002, the top three defense contractors – Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman – split $42 billion in Pentagon contracts. In 2007 (the latest year for which there is data), the Big Three split $69 billion. Yet, according to the University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute, for every $1 billion invest in defense, 8,555 jobs are created. That same billion invested in health care creates 12, 883 jobs. Invested in education, it creates 17,687 jobs.

Implications for War

Part of Obama’s military budget includes an additional $130 billion on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. By cutting spending on weapons programs, Obama is not seeking to reduce the U.S.’s commitment to war – rather, he is looking to shift the focus of U.S. military capabilities away from traditional wars against other armies, to the counterterrorism and counterinsurgency skills needed for the type of wars the U.S. has been fighting since 2001. Obama continues to increase troops in Afghanistan – a 4,000-troop increase was announced on top of the 17,000-troop increase previously planned — and maintain the number of troops stationed in Iraq.

It is easy to see that despite cutting funding to some weapons programs, the overall defense budget increase, new focus, and increase in troops are clear signs that Obama is as committed to senseless war as his predecessor.