The Dubai-based firm DP World has announced it will not take control of operations at six U.S. ports following a firestorm of criticism. Instead the company said it would transfer the management of the ports to an unnamed U.S. entity. It remains unclear whether DP World plans to sell off its U.S. assets or set up a U.S.-based subsidiary to run the ports. Congress had threatened to derail the handover of port operations to DP World claiming national security would be endangered if a company run by the United Arab Emirates operated the ports. But President Bush vowed to veto any legislation put forward by Congress to block DP World from taking over port operations. The Washington Post reports one company that might take over for DP World is the Carlyle Group. Halliburton has also been mentioned as a possible buyer.
Meanwhile a similar controversy is brewing over another business merger. An Israeli-based company called Check Point is in the process of buying the hi-tech firm SourceFire whose technology is used to protect some of the government’s most sensitive computer systems at the Pentagon and the National Security Agency. The Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States has launched an investigation into the proposed sale. The FBI reportedly opposes the sale of SourceFire to any foreign firm because the agency fears that would give away the keys to the government’s most sensitive computer networks.
More than 250 medical experts have co-signed a letter condemning the United States for force-feeding prisoners on hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The letter appears in the British medical journal The Lancet. The doctors wrote “We urge the US government to ensure that detainees are assessed by independent physicians and that techniques such as force-feeding and restraint chairs are abandoned.” The doctors also said the American Medical Association should instigate disciplinary proceedings against any members known to have violated ethical codes while working at Guantanamo.
Two civil liberties groups asked the federal courts on Thursday to force the Bush administration to end its warrantless domestic spying program because it violates the privacy and free speech rights of US citizens. The requests from the Center for Constitutional Rights and American Civil Liberties Union came just days after Republicans blocked a Senate investigation into the National Security Agency spy program. ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said “In America, no one is above the law, not even the president. The president’s allies in Congress are preparing to cover up his illegal program, while others in Congress are standing on the sidelines. When the President breaks the law, Congress should not be giving him a get-out-of-jail free card.”
A former high-ranking national security lawyer at the Justice Department has come forward to criticize some of the Bush administration’s key legal justifications for the warrantless spying program. Former associate deputy attorney general David Kris says the Bush administration’s contention that Congress had authorized the NSA program by approving the use of force against al-Qaeda was a “weak justification” unlikely to be supported by the courts. Kris oversaw national security issues at the Justice Department from 2000 until 2003.
In news from Iraq–the Iraqi government hanged 13 people accused of being insurgents. It marked the first execution of militants since the US-led invasion. The name of only one of those executed was released.
In Baghdad, another journalist has died. Munsuf Abdallah al-Khaldi, a television presenter with Baghdad TV, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen while driving.
Meanwhile the Pentagon is now denying reports that it is preparing to soon close the notorious Abu Ghraib prison. On Thursday it was widely reported the Pentagon planned to close the prison within the next three months and transfer the 4,500 detainees to another prison. But defense officials are now saying there’s no specific timetable for closing the prison. One of the top stories this morning on the Pentagon’s own website DefenseLink reads “U.S. Has No Immediate Plans to Close Abu Ghraib Prison.” Defense officials are saying that the U.S. always has planned to transfer authority of the prison to the Iraqis, but announcements regarding the imminent closure at the Abu Ghraib prison are premature.
In other Iraq news, a federal jury has found the military contractor Custer Battles guilty of defrauding the United States for grossly inflating the cost of projects in Iraq. The lawsuit was brought under the Federal False Claims Act which allows company whistleblowers to bring suit on behalf of the government and to share in damages awarded.
Meanwhile Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday seeking $65 billion more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was pressed repeatedly about how the U.S. would deal with a civil war in Iraq. Rumsfeld said the plan is to “have the Iraqi security forces deal with it to the extent they’re able to.”
A protester was thrown out of the Senate hearing after disrupting testimony by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The protester said ” ’It’s an Illegal and immoral war–how many of you have children in the illegal and immoral war. Their blood is on your hands and cannot wash it away. Their blood is on your hands and you cannot wash it away.”
Here in Britain, the police killing of an innocent Brazilian man who was mistaken to be a suicide bomb is back in the news this week. On Thursday, Prime Minister Tony Blair discussed the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes shortly after a meeting with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. But the family of Menezes said they would “never accept” Blair’s apology. Menezes’ cousin Alex Pereira said: “I won’t accept Blair’s apology because he’s killing people–he apologised but at the same time they will still carry on with their shoot-to-kill policy.”
And in California, a woman is suing her former employer after she was fired for having a bumper sticker for the progressive radio network Air America. The woman, Linda Laroca, alleges in her lawsuit that her boss at Advantage Sales and Marketing fired her on the spot after seeing the bumper sticker and then said “The country is on a high state of alert. For all I know, you could be al-Qaida.”