The alleged Army whistleblower Bradley Manning is closer to being court-martialed after the investigating officer presiding over his case recommended prosecution on all 22 charges for leaking classified documents and video to WikiLeaks. The decision by Lieutenant Colonel Paul Almanza now goes to a superior officer who will determine whether Manning should stand trial. Defense attorneys lost a bid to consolidate Manning’s charges on the grounds he is being unfairly prosecuted with charges including "aiding the enemy." In a statement, the Bradley Manning Support Network said, "We’re disappointed but by no means surprised... These charges contradict the administration’s own impact assessments which showed that these WikiLeaks revelations posed no threat to our national security."
The Obama administration has reportedly used a "secret channel" to directly warn Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, against closing the Strait of Hormuz. According to the New York Times, the U.S. has communicated to Khamenei closure of the straight would be a "red line" that would elicit a U.S. response. Iran has threatened to block the Strait in response to harsher international sanctions or in the event of a military attack from the U.S. or Israel. The U.S. warning to Iran comes just days after an Iranian nuclear scientist was assassinated, the latest in a string of similar attacks. On Thursday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta denied U.S. involvement.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: "We were not involved in any way, in any way, with regards to the assassination that took place there. I’m not sure who was involved. We have some ideas as to who might be involved, but we don’t know exactly who was involved. But I can tell you one thing: the United States was not involved in that kind of effort. That’s not—that’s not what the United States does."
Amid the heightened tensions, Iran has signaled its willingness to take part in renewed international talks on its nuclear activities. On Thursday, Iran’s parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, said he thinks the impasse could be resolved through "serious talks" and proposed Turkey as a host state.
The U.S. military says it’s identified at least two of the four marines shown in a video urinating on the corpses of three Afghan men. The video has sparked outrage in Afghanistan, prompting apologies from top U.S. officials. The marines in the video are active-duty members of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, based out of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. On Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s condemnation of the video.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "It is absolutely inconsistent with American values, with the standards of behavior that we expect from our military personnel, and that, you know, the vast, vast majority of our military personnel, particularly our marines, hold themselves to. So, I know Secretary Panetta has ordered a complete investigation of this incident. Anyone, anyone found to have participated or known about it, having engaged in such conduct, must be held fully accountable."
Republican presidential candidates continue to flood South Carolina ahead of next week’s primary. Much of the campaign talk has focused on front-runner Mitt Romney’s record at the private equity firm Bain Capital, where he oversaw hundreds of job losses through buying and restructuring a number of companies. Romney’s rivals have cited his Bain tenure as evidence he’s a "job killer," but they’re now facing a major pushback from Republican and corporate-backed groups who fear their message will promote further resentment of Wall Street. On Thursday, Newt Gingrich said he’s received pressure from "extraordinarily wealthy institutions" to stop criticizing Romney’s record at Bain, saying they’ve told him: "You’d better shut up." At a speech in Washington, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Thomas Donohue, defended Romney.
Thomas Donohue: "I think it’s just been foolish for the—for the Republicans to carry on that line of attack, because they’re not doing anything other than setting up the ad base for the—for their opponents. Romney, at least, has experience beyond most of the candidates throughout both parties in terms of having operated successfully in the global marketplace and in the free enterprise system."
Nigerian oil workers are vowing to suspend oil production nationwide on Sunday as part of a general strike. Tens of thousands of Nigerians have taken to the streets over the past five days in protest of the lifting of a fuel subsidy and rampant corruption. On Thursday, Nigeria’s oil workers’ union gave the government of Goodluck Jonathan a Sunday deadline to reinstate the fuel subsidy or face a complete shutdown of oil production. Nigeria is Africa’s top crude producer and a key supplier to the United States.
The military junta in Burma has freed hundreds of prisoners, including a number of high-profile dissidents. Those released include key figures from the 1988 student protest movement and the 2007 monk-led protests. The junta meanwhile has also signed a ceasefire agreement with ethnic Karen rebels, who have been fighting for greater autonomy inside Burma for 60 years.
In Arizona, the Tucson Unified School District has voted to suspend its acclaimed Mexican American Studies program under the threat of a loss of funding for allowing it to continue. A school administrator had previously ruled the program violates a new state law that bans the teaching of any class designed for a particular ethnic group or that "promote[s] resentment toward a race or class of people." Under the ruling, the district would have lost up to $14 million in funding this fiscal year had it allowed the program to carry on.
The comedian and television host Stephen Colbert has paved the way for a presidential run in the South Carolina Republican primary by poking fun at the Supreme Court ruling allowing unlimited corporate spending on elections. On Thursday, Colbert announced on his program, "The Colbert Report," he would form an exploratory committee to make a presidential run. But first, because he’s barred from entering the race and simultaneously running a super political action committee, or super PAC, Colbert gave up control of his super PAC to fellow talk show host Jon Stewart.
Stephen Colbert: "Trevor, if you will."
Trevor Potter: "Colbert Super PAC transfer, activate."
Stephen Colbert: "I am proud to announce that I am forming an exploratory committee to lay the groundwork for my possible candidacy for the president of the United States of South Carolina. I’m doing it!"
Colbert’s super PAC has been renamed "The Definitely Not Coordinated with Stephen Colbert Super PAC."
And nearly 40 people were arrested outside the White House on Thursday in a protest against torture and the indefinite detention of prisoners by the United States. The group Witness Against Torture staged the action as part of a series of protests marking this week’s 10th anniversary of the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay.