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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.