Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has approved plans to greatly expand the use of elite Special Operations forces to secretly take part in missions outside of war zones as part of the so-called war on terrorism. According to the Washington Post, the Pentagon has already dispatched teams of Army Green Berets and other Special Operations troops to U.S. embassies in about 20 countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America. The secret forces are instructed to carry out clandestine military activities including hunting down wanted individuals, gathering intelligence, attacking sites believed to be terrorist training camps and partnering with foreign militaries. The secret operations will be run off the books and largely free from Congressional oversight and legal restrictions imposed on the C.I.A.
In Nepal, opposition groups are calling for a major protest in Katmandu on Tuesday outside the gates of King Gyanendra’s palaces. A half million people are expected to participate in what would be the country’s largest pro-democracy rally to date. Earlier today the government imposed a daytime curfew for a fifth day in the capital city. Police were ordered to shoot anyone violating the curfew. On Saturday, up to 300,000 marched within a mile of the king’s palace before police beat them back. A British tourist named Ian Chalmers said the police attacked a peaceful protest. “What we saw was a very peaceful protest. Towards the back of that, there was all of a sudden, tear gas came flying in and there is a stampede of people, chaos, absolute pandemonium, every runs all over the place,” said Chalmers. “We tried to get to the side on the basis that we won’t get baton charged. But just a stream of people trying to get out but everyone seemed to be cornered as more and more tear gas rained down on us and as we managed to get away, we saw a couple of bodies just lying limp on the floor.” On Sunday, thousands defied a daytime curfew to hold more protests but police opened fire on the demonstrators with rubber bullets, tear gas and live ammunition. At least 27 people were injured. Since the general strike began on April 6, police have killed at least 14 people and injured hundreds more. On Friday the opposition groups rejected an offer by the King to select a prime minister of their choosing.
The CIA’s former top official in Europe has revealed that President Bush ignored intelligence that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. The official, Tyler Drumheller, said former CIA Director George Tenet personally told Bush and Vice President Cheney that Iraq’s foreign minister had admitted to U.S. spies that Iraq had no WMD program. Drumheller said the information was ignored. He told 60 Minutes “The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy.”
In Britain the Sunday Herald of Glasgow reports Foreign Office lawyers have formally advised Tony Blair’s government that it would be illegal under international law for Britain to support any US-led military action against Iran. In the run-up to the Iraq invasion in 2003, Foreign Minister Jack Straw received similar private advice but it was largely ignored.
New government statistics show that the number of terrorist attacks worldwide nearly tripled over the past year — topping 10,000 for the first time ever. Experts said the number jumped because of the expanding war in Iraq and a broader definition of what constitutes a terrorist attack.
In Baghdad today, six car bombs exploded in the Iraqi capital killing at least eight people, including a 10-year-old boy. Over 80 people were wounded in the blasts. On Sunday at least three U.S. soldiers and 31 Iraqis were killed.
Meanwhile Shiite leader Jawad al-Maliki has been tapped to become the country’s next prime minister replacing Ibrahim al-Jaafari. According to the Los Angeles Times, in terms of ideology and personal history, Maliki and Jafari appear to be carbon copies. They are both devout Shiites from the holy city of Karbala who lived in exile after Saddam Hussein came to power. They both served as spokespersons for the Dawa Party, which was once considered a radical group that claimed responsibility for bombings and assassinations against Hussein’s government.
The White House believes a new audio message from Osama Bin Laden that aired on Al Jazeera is authentic. In the recording, Bin Laden accused western countries of carrying out a crusade against Islam in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Chechnya, Somalia, and Pakistan. He called on supporters to travel to the Darfur region of Sudan to fight peacekeepers who he accused of stealing the region’s oil. Bin Laden also criticized western nations for cutting off funds to the Hamas-led Palestinian government. Both the Palestinian and Sudanese governments distanced themselves from bin Laden’s comments.
The Central Intelligence Agency has fired a longtime officer named Mary McCarthy. The CIA accused her of leaking classified information to the press about how the agency is running secret prisons in several foreign countries including two in Eastern Europe. McCarthy had worked at the CIA for over two decades most recently in the Inspector General’s office where she investigated allegations of CIA-backed torture inside Iraqi prisons. Former State Department counterterrorism expert Larry Johnson said QUOTE “I am struck by the irony that Mary McCarthy may have been fired for blowing the whistle and ensuring the truth about an abuse was told to the American people.”
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been accused of leaking highly classified military intelligence on Iran to a pro-Israel lobbyist in the same manner that landed a lower-level Pentagon official a 12-year prison sentence. The allegation surfaced on Friday in the case of two former lobbyists from AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The lobbyists are charged with receiving and disclosing national defense information. Lawyers for the men asked a federal judge to subpoena Rice to testify in order to show that top Bush administration officials approved of disclosing sensitive information to the defendants and that the leaks may have been authorized.
In military news, the Pentagon has revealed 83 soldiers in the Army and National Guard committed suicide last year — it marks the highest total since 1993.
In New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin has survived the first round of the city’s mayoral election. Nagin won 38 percent of the vote. Louisiana’s lieutenant government Mitch Landrieu came in second with 29 percent. The two will now face each other in runoff on May 20th. Landrieu is the son of Moon Landrieu, the last white mayor of New Orleans. Nagin is the city’s first incumbent to face a mayoral runoff in almost 25 years.
In California, over 1,000 protesters greeted President Bush on Friday during his visit to Stanford University. Protesters blocked the only street to the site of the president’s meeting at the Hoover Institution. This forced the White House to move the planned meeting to the residence of former Secretary of State and Hoover Fellow George Shultz on the outskirts of the campus. Over 100 police dressed in riot gear attempted to clear the street. Three students were arrested for blocking the road. On Saturday, another 2,000 protesters lined the streets of Sacramento where the president gave an Earth Day speech on fuel cell technology. 500 protesters also gathered in San Jose where Bush met with California governor Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and high-tech leaders at Cisco Systems.
In Vermont, over one third of the state’s legislators have signed a letter calling on Congress to consider impeaching President Bush. The letter was signed by 56 members of the House in Vermont and 13 members of the Senate.
In Ontario, a standoff between Mohawks from the Six Nations Territory has entered its 56th day. On Thursday, Canadian police arrested 16 people in a pre-dawn raid. Over the weekend the Mohawks decided to maintain a blockade of a local highway and to keep occupying land that is being developed into a new housing subdivision. The Six Nations Confederacy has been called the oldest living participatory democracy on earth.
In Louisville Kentucky, civil rights activists from around the country gathered to pay tribute to Anne Braden who died last month at the age of 81. Braden was one of the leading white civil rights pioneers in the south. In 1954 she and her husband made national headlines when they bought a home in an all white neighborhood and signed it over to an African-American family. The Bradens were charged with sedition and the house was firebombed. Anne’s daughter Beth Braden said her mother was dedicated to fighting three things: racism, poverty and war. Speakers at Sunday’s memorial included Angela Davis and Bernice Johnson Reagon of the musical group Sweet Honey in the Rock.