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The Justice Department is expected to release a 2004 report today detailing prisoner abuse by the Central Intelligence Agency. The new disclosures include details of how CIA interrogators staged mock executions on prisoners at secret prisons overseas. The report also describes how one prisoner was threatened with a handgun and an electric power drill. A version of the report was released last year but was almost entirely censored. Today’s report will be more extensive but could still contain government redactions.
The report’s release comes as the Justice Department has recommended reopening nearly a dozen prisoner abuse cases that the Bush administration had closed. The move could open the door to prosecuting CIA employees and contractors for torture and other abuses that in some cases led to the prisoners’ deaths. The Office of Professional Responsibility’s recommendations overrule previous determinations made under the Bush administration, which declined to press charges after receiving the same findings. The cases mainly center around alleged abuses at US prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to announce this week whether he’ll appoint a prosecutor to probe CIA torture.
The Obama administration meanwhile has created a new team of interrogators to question foreign suspects outside of the CIA. The High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG, will be operated out of the FBI and overseen by the National Security Council. An administration official told the Washington Post the CIA will continue to play “a very important role” in prisoner interrogations.
The German newspaper Der Spiegel is reporting the CIA used the private military firm Blackwater to transfer foreign prisoners to secret jails. Two former Blackwater employees reportedly claim Blackwater helped move the prisoners to secret prison camps in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. The news follows last week’s disclosures Blackwater has played a major role in the CIA’s drone attacks in Pakistan and in its aborted assassination program. According to the New York Times, Blackwater currently has over $400 million in State Department contracts. On Friday, the veteran journalist Helen Thomas asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about the Obama administration’s dealings with Blackwater.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: “I asked for an update, which I have not yet gotten, on where we are in different contracts. I would — as it relates to CIA’s use of contracting, I would point you specifically to them for responses on that.”
Helen Thomas: “I don’t think they would tell us.”
Gibbs: “They may tell you, Helen. If you use that sweet voice on the phone, you never know what you could get.”
Thomas: “I want them to stop killing people.”
Gibbs: “You should let them know.”
Thomas: “You should, too.”
The Pentagon has begun informing the Red Cross of the identities of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. The prisoners are being held at secret prisons run by US Special Operations forces. The new disclosure policy took effect this month after years of denying the Red Cross access to the prisoners.
In Afghanistan, US military commanders have reportedly told the White House they don’t have enough troops for their fight against the Taliban. The New York Times reports the assessment was relayed to Obama administration envoy Richard Holbrooke this weekend. On Sunday, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said violence is worsening in Afghanistan.
Adm. Mike Mullen: “It’s the mission that the military has right now to focus — and General McChrystal is doing this — focus on the security for the people, focus on the Afghan people. And that’s a significant change from where we were just a few months ago. And it is in that focus that both understands what they feel about their security, which is pretty bad right now and getting worse, and moving to a direction — moving in a direction that provides security, so then we can develop governance, so then we can develop an economy, and they can take over their own destiny.”
President Obama has already escalated the Afghan war with around 17,000 troops. The new US commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, could still request additional forces. A poll last week showed a majority of Americans now see the Afghan war as not worth fighting.
New figures meanwhile show military contractors in Afghanistan are now far outnumbering US troops. A Pentagon census shows there were nearly 74,000 contractors in Afghanistan in June, compared to the estimated 58,000 troops there at that time. In Iraq, there were nearly 120,000 contractors and around 132,000 US troops.
Afghans, meanwhile, continue to await the results of last week’s national elections. On Sunday, Abdullah Abdullah, the main challenger to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said his campaign had filed more than 100 complaints of election fraud allegedly committed by Karzai supporters.
In Iraq, members of the Iraqi security forces are being accused of involvement in last week’s coordinated bombings that killed more than 100 people. The Iraqi government says it’s arrested eleven military and police commanders responsible for the targeted areas.
In Honduras, the Honduran Supreme Court has rejected a Costa Rica-brokered deal that would restore ousted President Manuel Zelaya. In a new ruling, the Honduran justices say Zelaya won’t be allowed to return to office and will face arrest if he tries. The Honduran Supreme Court backed the Honduran military when it forced out Zelaya in June.
Former Cuban President Fidel Castro has appeared on Cuban television for the first time in more than a year. Footage broadcast on Saturday shows the eighty-three-year-old Castro meeting with a group of Venezuelan students. Castro is heard talking to the students about Latin American independence.
Fidel Castro: “The most important thing is the fight for independence and that we are free and that no one has the right or sovereignty over the Bolivarian or Martiana homeland.”
Castro hasn’t been seen in public since undergoing intestinal surgery in July 2006.
In Iran, Iranian lawmakers have approved a bill that would establish a $20 million fund to expose human rights abuses committed by the United States. Iranian officials call the move a response to US measures that have funded media efforts in Iran and the documentation of Iranian human rights abuses.
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, the Israeli government has frozen the press credentials for Swedish journalists over an article alleging that Israeli troops were involved in organ theft. The article was published in a Swedish tabloid last week. The piece repeats allegations Israeli troops stole Palestinian organs for sale on the black market. The Israeli government called the article a “blood libel” and has demanded a Swedish apology. The withdrawal of press credentials would prevent Swedish journalists from entering the Occupied Territories. Swedish journalist Mats Gezelius called the Israeli move an overreaction.
Mats Gezelius: “It’s a big ado about not so much. I mean, one article, not so substantiated, perhaps not the best article that has been written, more of an op-ed piece on the cultural page of a Swedish newspaper, and then it becomes a big diplomatic scandal.”
An Israeli professor, meanwhile, has become the first Israeli Jew elected to the governing council of the Palestinian movement Fatah. Doctor Uri Davis was elected at Fatah’s convention earlier this month.
The imprisoned Native American activist Leonard Peltier has lost a long-awaited bid to receive parole. It was Peltier’s first full parole hearing in fifteen years. His next parole date won’t come until 2024, when he will be seventy-nine years old. Peltier has been jailed for thirty-three years for the alleged killing of two FBI agents in 1975. He’s long maintained his innocence and is widely considered a political prisoner denied a fair trial.
The only US soldier convicted for the 1968 My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War has publicly apologized for the first time. Speaking last week at a gathering in Georgia, William Calley said, “There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai.” He added that he had been following orders. More than 500 villagers were murdered, most of them women, children and the elderly, at My Lai. We’ll have more on this story later in the broadcast.
Senate Democrats say they’re drawing up plans to pass healthcare reform legislation by simple majority, instead of the sixty votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. Under this scenario, Democrats would approve a public health insurance option through a process known as budget reconciliation. The procedure is used in cases where legislation can bear on federal spending and revenues. On Sunday, independent Senator Joe Lieberman signaled he won’t vote with Democrats on a healthcare bill. Appearing on CNN, Lieberman said a healthcare overhaul should be postponed until the economy improves.
Indigenous and environmental groups are vowing to challenge an Obama administration decision to approve a pipeline carrying oil from the Canadian tar sands to the United States. Last week, the State Department issued a permit for the Alberta Clipper, a 1,000-mile pipeline running from Alberta to Wisconsin. Extracting oil from the tar sands is said to generate three to five times as much greenhouse gas pollution as the production of conventional oil. In a statement, the group Earthjustice said, “At a time when concern is growing about the national security threat posed by global warming, it doesn’t make sense to open our gates to one of the dirtiest fuels on Earth…This is exactly the kind of project the State Department should be protecting us from.”
The Huffington Post is reporting the Environmental Protection Agency has failed to inform residents of four states that a dangerous chemical has been found in their drinking water. Tests show that the weed-killer atrazine violated annual federal standards at least ten times in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Kansas.
And in New York, dozens of people gathered at a Brooklyn cemetery on Sunday to mark the twentieth anniversary of the killing of Yusuf Hawkins. On August 23rd, 1989, the sixteen-year-old African American was shot twice by a white mob who had attacked him and three friends. In a ceremony at Hawkins’s grave site, the Reverend Al Sharpton said the murder helped set off a new civil rights movement in the northern United States.