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Attorney General Eric Holder is considering whether to appoint a criminal prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration’s interrogation practices involving the CIA. Newsweek reports Holder has become increasingly troubled after reviewing the Bush administration’s interrogation policies. He reportedly told one associate that what he saw in the reports about the treatment of prisoners at the CIA’s black sites “turned my stomach.” Holder is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks and has already discussed several potential candidates to serve as special prosecutor. Holder is considering the probe despite opposition from President Obama, who resisted an effort by congressional Democrats to establish a “truth commission.” Obama has said the nation should be “looking forward and not backwards.” Holder told Newsweek, “I hope that whatever decision I make would not have a negative impact on the President’s agenda. But that can’t be a part of my decision.”
The CIA is also coming under increasing criticism for failing to inform Congress about a highly classified targeted assassination program started by the CIA after Sept. 11. According to the Wall Street Journal, the program focused on the CIA’s attempt to capture or assassinate terrorists. The Journal reports the CIA spent money on planning and possibly some training. It was acting on a 2001 presidential legal pronouncement, known as a finding, which authorized the CIA to pursue such efforts even though the Ford administration had banned assassinations in the 1970s. Congress only learned about the program last month when President Obama’s CIA Director Leon Panetta ended the initiative. Senator Dianne Feinstein appeared on Fox News Sunday. She didn’t describe the program but confirmed reports that Vice President Dick Cheney had ordered the CIA to withhold information about the program from Congress.
Dianne Feinstein: “The answer is yes, Congress should have been told. We should have been briefed before the commencement of this kind of sensitive program. Director Panetta did brief us two weeks ago, I believe it was on the 24th of June, said he had just learned about the program, described it to us, indicated that he had canceled it and, as had been reported, did tell us that he was told that the Vice President had ordered that the program not be briefed to the Congress.”
This does not mark the first time the Bush administration has been accused of carrying out targeted assassinations. Earlier this year investigative journalist Seymour Hersh said publicly the Bush administration ran an executive assassination ring that reported directly to Vice President Dick Cheney.
Seymour Hersh: “Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination wing, essentially. And it’s been going on and on and on. And just today in the Times there was a story saying that its leader, a three-star admiral named McRaven, ordered a stop to certain activities because there were so many collateral deaths. It’s been going in — under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or to the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving.”
According to Hersh, the program was carried out by the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC. The former head of JSOC, Stanley McChrystal, is now Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan.
In other intelligence news, a government report released Friday found that the Bush administration’s post-Sept. 11 surveillance efforts went well beyond the widely publicized warrantless wiretapping program. The report called the surveillance program “unprecedented” and questioned its legal justification. The report also raised questions about the effectiveness of the surveillance operation. Some CIA officials complained that much of the data from the program was “vague and out of context,” so they turned to other information sources. The report was compiled at the request of Congress by five government agency watchdogs: the inspectors general of the Justice Department, Pentagon, CIA, Directorate of National Intelligence and National Security Agency. More than 200 top officials and front-line agents in defense and intelligence agencies were interviewed for the report, but several top Bush administration officials refused to speak, including former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Justice Department attorney John Yoo, former CIA Director George Tenet, and David Addington, a former top aide to Vice President Cheney.
President Obama has returned from his first official trip to sub-Saharan Africa. In a speech before Ghana’s parliament, Obama urged Africans across the continent to take greater responsibility for stamping out war, corruption and disease plaguing the region.
President Obama: “We must start from the simple premise that Africa’s future is up to Africans. I say this knowing full well the tragic past that has sometimes haunted this part of the world. After all, I have the blood of Africa within me.”
Obama went on to speak about his family’s ties to Africa, about his father being born in Kenya and about how his grandfather was briefly imprisoned during Kenya’s struggle for liberation against Britain.
During the speech, Obama offered “technical assistance and logistical support” to help Africa fight against terrorists and war criminals. He also defended the growing role of AFRICOM, the US military command in Africa.
President Obama: “And let me be clear: our Africa Command is focused not on establishing a foothold in Ghana, but on confronting these common challenges to advance the security of America, Africa and the world.”
While in Ghana, the President and his family toured Cape Coast Castle, a seaside fortress used by slave traders starting in the seventeenth century. The former slave dungeon is now a monument to millions of Africans cast into slavery.
President Obama: “I think as Americans, and as African Americans, obviously, there is a special sense that, on the one hand, this place was a place of profound sadness; on the other hand, it is here where the journey of much of the African American experience began.”
Economic analysts are predicting Goldman Sachs has earned a staggering $2 billion since March. The bank’s stock value has soared 68 percent this year, and analysts predict the bank will pay a total of $18 billion in compensation and benefits this year — that’s an average of more than $600,000 per employee. Goldman Sachs has been a major beneficiary of the government’s bank bailout program. Last year the Bush administration quietly funneled $13 billion to Goldman Sachs as part of the bailout of the failed insurance giant AIG. The government also gave Goldman Sachs $28 billion in low-interest loans.
While Goldman Sachs is making billions, the state of public higher education in California is in a state of crisis. The University of California Board of Regents is preparing to meet this week to discuss plans to implement widespread budget cuts after the state cut about 20 percent of its support for the university system, amounting to a $813 million deficit. On Friday, University of California President Mark Yudof proposed system-wide employee furloughs for most faculty and staff. Under the plan, workers would be forced to take as many as twenty-six unpaid days off or the equivalent of a ten percent salary reduction. Yudof has also proposed deferred hiring and cuts in academic programs. University of California, Davis, has already shut down its liver transplant program, and UC Santa Cruz has axed some science and music classes.
In more fallout from the economic crisis, two privately owned zoos in Massachusetts may soon be forced to close and euthanize some of its animals. The Boston Globe reports that unless the state restores $4 million in funding, the Franklin Park Zoo and the Stone Zoo will soon run out of money. If the zoos are closed, new homes will be needed for more than 1,000 animals. But zoo officials are warning that some 200 animals would not find homes and could be euthanized.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor begins today. If confirmed, Sotomayor will become the nation’s first Latino justice and only third female justice. Here in New York, the Bronx neighborhood where she grew up is celebrating that one of their own could soon have a lifetime seat on the nation’s highest court.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.: “We know collectively in the City of New York that she is a person that has never forgotten her heritage, her culture, where she comes from. It makes me happy that whenever she gives speeches outside of New York that she always talks about where she is from, from the Bronx, from the projects in Bronxdale, that she’s a Nuyorican.”
Monsignor James White of the Blessed Sacrament Church in the Bronx also praised Sotomayor.
James White: “For the students, just knowing that there’s hope, that they can be whatever they want to be, if they put the work into it. And as I said, evidently she worked very hard and just gave a lot of hope in the future to the community, especially to the Bronx, because sometimes people think the Bronx is other than what it is, but it gives them a lot of hope.”
One of Iran’s most senior clerics issued an unusual decree on Saturday calling the country’s rulers “usurpers and transgressors” for their treatment of opposition protesters in recent weeks. The New York Times reports Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri’s decree marked the strongest condemnation by a religious figure since the contested presidential election a month ago. The eighty-seven-year-old Montazeri was a leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and was once designated the successor to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
In Iraq, five Christian churches were bombed Sunday, killing at least four people. Meanwhile, a roadside bomb hit a convoy carrying US Ambassador Christopher Hill. The bomb barely missed Hill’s vehicle and caused minor damage to another one. The bombing is believed to be the first direct attack on a US ambassador since the war began in Iraq 2003.
In Afghanistan, four Marines died Sunday in two separate roadside bomb blasts. On Friday, eight British troops died. Overall, 192 foreign troops have been killed so far this year in Afghanistan — a 40 percent jump from the same period last year. More British troops have now died in Afghanistan than in Iraq. Meanwhile, President Obama has ordered national security officials to look into allegations that the Bush administration resisted efforts to investigate a CIA-backed Afghan warlord over the killings of at least 2,000 Taliban prisoners in 2001. We’ll have more on this story later in the broadcast.
Exiled Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer appeared on Capitol Hill Friday with lawmakers who introduced a resolution to condemn China’s repression of Uyghur protests in western China. Democratic Congressman Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts called on China to end the violence against the Uyghurs.
Rep. Bill Delahunt: “We urge all of our colleagues to join myself and Congressman Rohrabacher in supporting this resolution that condemns the violent crackdown on peaceful Uyghur protests and calls upon the Chinese government to stop its irresponsible slander of Rebiya Kadeer.”
Rebiya Kadeer, who runs the World Uyghur Congress, accused the Chinese government of cracking down violently on protesters in the Xinjiang region of China.
Rebiya Kadeer: “Just like Chinese government’s brutal killing and murder of the pro-democracy students in 1989 at Tiananmen Square, the same thing that took place last Sunday. The Chinese authorities brutally killed and wounded hundreds of people.”
And in Honduras, the military-backed government has lifted a curfew imposed following the coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Meanwhile, two members of the opposition political party, Unificacion Democratica, have been assassinated. Also over the weekend Honduran police detained six employees of the regional television network Telesur and Venezuela state-run station Venezolana de Television. The journalists were taken to police headquarters for five hours, and their passports were confiscated. Larry Sanchez of Telesur said, “They told us we should leave the country because our security wasn’t guaranteed and we were at risk here. We have intelligence, and we’re following you.” Honduran soldiers also arrested Telesur journalists at gunpoint in their hotel rooms on June 29 and later let them go. Telesur is a regional television network funded in part by the Venezuelan government.