An attorney for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says he has heard that U.S. authorities have secretly empaneled a grand jury in Virginia in an attempt to indict Assange. Attorney Mark Stephens made the claim in an interview with Al Jazeera. Assange has been held in a London jail since last Tuesday on an international warrant to face sexual crime allegations in Sweden. While international protests in support of Assange continue around the world, calls are increasing for Julian Assange to be charged in the United States. Over the weekend, President Bush’s former Attorney General Michael Mukasey said he hopes to see Assange prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917.
Julian Assange’s mother has spoken out in defense of her son. Christine Assange has traveled to London in an attempt to visit Julian in jail.
Christine Assange: “It’s a worry, of course. You know, I’m no different to any other mother. You know, every time the news goes on, I’m sort of glued to it. 'Is he OK?' And these massive forces have decided they’re going to stop him, and they’re not going to play by the rules.”
Christine Assange defended Julian’s actions and called on WikiLeaks supporters to defend their rights.
Christine Assange: “Don’t take your freedoms for granted, or you’ll lose them. They were hard fought for. People lost their lives, over and over again. And if we don’t protect them, we’ll lose them, and next time it could be your son or your daughter.”
While WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange remains in jail, the whistleblowing website continues to release classified U.S. diplomatic cables. The latest batch of cables show that the Clinton administration considered removing Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe from office 10 years ago. A secret cable from November 2000 reveals then U.S. Assistant Secretary Susan Rice and Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai discussed a number of possible ways to push out Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since its independence from Britain three decades ago.
Other newly released U.S. diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks characterize the post-Soviet state of Uzbekistan as a nightmarish world of “rampant corruption,” torture, indentured servitude and organized crime. However, the cables also reveal that the United States makes special efforts to pander to Uzbek President Islam Karimov because he allows a crucial U.S. military supply line to run into Afghanistan. U.S. Ambassador Richard Norland warned in a cable to Washington: “Clearly, pressuring [Karimov] could cost us transit.”
Another just-released WikiLeaks U.S. diplomatic cable reveals former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe was ready to order troops to cross into Venezuela and capture rebel leaders in 2008. According to one secret cable, Uribe told U.S. Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that he was “prepared to authorize Colombian forces to cross into Venezuela, arrest FARC leaders, and bring them to justice in Colombia.” Less than two months after Uribe’s meeting with Mullen, Colombia’s military attacked a FARC camp in Ecuador on March 1, 2008, killing Raul Reyes, one of the rebel group’s senior leaders. In addition, Uribe told a group of visiting U.S. lawmakers that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez represented a threat to South America, similar to the one Adolf Hitler once posed to Europe.
A group of former WikiLeaks members have announced plans to launch a rival organization called OpenLeaks. One of the group’s founders said the new group was needed because Julian Assange had weakened WikiLeaks. Daniel Domscheit-Berg said WikiLeaks had become “too much focused on one person, and one person is always much weaker than an organization.” Like WikiLeaks, OpenLeaks will allow people to anonymously send them secret information to publish online.
The U.N. Climate Change Conference in Cancún came to a close early Saturday morning after the signing of a modest agreement to combat climate change. The deal, known as the Cancún Agreements, commits all major economies to voluntarily reduce their greenhouse gas emissions but does not lay out how far overall global emissions should be cut. The agreement does not include a commitment to extend the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012, when its first period expires. The deal also establishes a green climate fund that will be run by the World Bank. Prior to the close of the summit, U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern praised the deal.
Todd Stern: “So, let us now do what it takes to support the Mexican presidency, get this deal done, and put the world on a more hopeful path toward a low-emission and a sustainable future.”
But, the Bolivian government expressed deep reservations over the climate deal, saying it does not do enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. During the closing night of the summit, Pablo Solón, Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations, outlined Bolivia’s concerns.
Pablo Solón: “We responsibly cannot follow a text that firstly doesn’t guarantee a second commitment to the Kyoto Protocol and which, even worse, establishes that there will be a rise in temperature of more than four degrees centigrade. This would make us responsible for a situation which my president has described as genocide.”
Thousands of prisoners in at least seven prisons across Georgia went on strike Thursday in protest of poor living and working conditions. Prisoners apparently assembled the nonviolent protest largely through a network of banned cell phones. They say they will continue refusing to leave their cells or perform their jobs until they receive better medical care and nutrition, more educational opportunities, just parole decisions, an end to cruel and unusual punishments, better access to their families, and payment for the work they do in the prisons.
Two former cabinet members have joined the banking giant Citigroup. Peter Orszag, who served as President Obama’s first budget director, has signed on to Citi’s investment banking group as a vice-chairman. Orszag resigned from the Obama administration in June. His hiring comes shortly after Citi also took on Carlos Gutierrez, who served as commerce secretary under former President George W. Bush.
In news from Afghanistan, six U.S. troops and two Afghan soldiers died Sunday when a man rammed a minibus packed with explosives into a newly built military installation in Kandahar Province.
The New York Times is reporting one of Afghanistan’s most powerful drug lords in recent years was also a longtime paid informer for the CIA and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The Times details how in 2006, at the height of his power as a drug lord, the Bush administration secretly flew Hajji Juma Khan to Washington for a series of clandestine meetings with CIA and DEA officials. The meeting took place even though the United States was receiving reports that he was on his way to becoming Afghanistan’s most important narcotics trafficker and was paying off Taliban leaders and corrupt politicians in President Hamid Karzai’s government. Juma Khan was eventually arrested in 2008, but the United States never disclosed his role as an informer.
A former New Orleans police officer has been convicted of fatally shooting an African American man shortly after Hurricane Katrina. The officer, David Warren, was convicted of shooting 31-year-old Henry Glover with an assault rifle. Another officer was convicted of burning Glover’s body after he bled to death in the backseat of a car. A third officer was also convicted for writing a false report to cover up the crime. Glover’s death was first detailed by investigative journalist A.C. Thompson of ProPublica.
During a speech before a Muslim advocacy group near San Francisco, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder denied allegations Friday that government anti-terrorism tactics are overly aggressive and border on entrapment. Holder stood behind FBI methods used in recent undercover operations against Muslim American groups. Muslim Advocates executive director Farhana Khera, who invited Holder to speak to the group, said many people feel that the government has been enticing Muslims into terrorism. She said, “We have very serious concerns about FBI surveillance tactics that are used.”
Five victims of CIA kidnapping and torture under the former Bush administration have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate their case against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan. The lawsuit accused Jeppesen of arranging at least 70 flights since 2001 as part of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. The case was originally filed in May 2007, but the Obama administration continued the Bush stance of asserting the so-called “state secrets” privilege to have it dismissed. A federal appeals court sided with the administration and dismissed the case in September. The Supreme Court will decide whether to take up the appeal in the coming months.
A German court has rejected a lawsuit filed by rendition victim Khalid El-Masri. El-Masri was seeking to force the government to prosecute operatives he says worked for the Central Intelligence Agency and illegally detained him for five months in 2003.