The New York Times has revealed the Pentagon has aggressively expanded its role in conducting domestic intelligence. According to the paper, the Pentagon has been secretly obtaining private banking and financial records of U.S. citizens by requesting banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions to voluntarily hand over information. This has allowed the military — as well as the CIA — to examine the financial assets and transactions of perhaps thousands of American citizens. The program took place even though the military and the CIA are barred from conducting traditional domestic law enforcement work. One of the most prominent targets was James Yee, the former Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo Bay. The military obtained Yee’s private financial records after he was falsely accused of espionage. The American Civil Liberties Union said it has “serious concerns” over the secret program and called for a congressional investigation.
The United States continues to hold five Iranian diplomats who were seized on Thursday when U.S. special forces raided the Iranian Consulate in the Iraqi city of Erbil. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the raid was authorized under an order from President Bush to target Iranian operatives in Iraq. Bush signed the order several months ago, but it had not been previously disclosed. During his prime-time address on Wednesday, President Bush threatened Iran and Syria and said the U.S. would seek out and destroy those who are providing material support to U.S. enemies in Iraq. On Sunday, Vice President Dick Cheney defended the president’s decision to target Iranian interests.
Vice President Dick Cheney: “Well, I think it’s been pretty well known that Iran is fishing in troubled waters, if you will, inside Iraq. And the president has responded to that, as you suggest. I think it’s exactly the right thing to do. Iran’s a problem in a much larger sense. They have begun to conduct themselves in ways that have created a great deal of tension throughout the region.”
During the same interview on Fox News, Vice President Cheney claimed the United States has made enormous progress in Iraq.
In other news from Iraq, President Bush said that he plans to escalate the war in Iraq regardless of what Congress does. In an interview with 60 Minutes, the president said Congress could not stop him from sending 20,000 more troops to Iraq.
Two former top aides of Saddam Hussein were hanged early this morning despite international calls to postpone their executions. Killed were Hussein’s half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti and ex-Revolutionary Court chief Awad al-Bandar.
The Israeli government has announced plans to expand another settlement in the West Bank. Palestinians and the Israeli group Peace Now warned the move to build 44 new units jeopardized the international roadmap to Middle East peace. The news comes as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is visiting Jerusalem to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Olmert agreed to hold a three-way meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Thirty-five hundred media activists, journalists and concerned citizens gathered in Memphis, Tennessee, this weekend for the third National Conference on Media Reform. Speakers called for the preservation of a free and open Internet, the end of media consolidation, and a more democratic and diverse media system. Congressmember Dennis Kucinich announced the formation of a new House committee on media reform. Other speakers included Bill Moyers.
Bill Moyers: “As ownership gets more and more concentrated, fewer and fewer independent sources of information have survived in the marketplace; and those few significant alternatives that do survive, such as PBS and NPR, are under growing financial and political pressure to reduce critical news content and to shift their focus in a mainstream direction, which means being more attentive to establishment views than to the bleak realities of powerlessness that shape the lives of ordinary people.”
We’ll play Bill Moyers’ address from the National Conference on Media Reform on Tuesday.
In Nepal, 84 former Maoist rebels are being sworn in today as part of the country’s new interim government. This comes nine months after a historic ceasefire was reached to end the Maoists’ people’s war.
And the musical legend and spiritual leader Alice Coltrane has died at the age of 69.