President Obama is preparing to sign an executive order in the new year establishing the government’s right to indefinitely detain prisoners without charge or trial. This according to a report by ProPublica. The administration is expected to indefinitely hold at least 48 of the prisoners remaining at Guantánamo. Under the executive order, prisoners would be allowed to challenge their incarceration periodically. ProPublica reports that nearly two years after Obama’s pledge to close the prison at Guantánamo, more prisoners there are formally facing the prospect of lifelong detention and fewer are facing charges than the day Obama was elected.
Attorney General Eric Holder has publicly said the United States wants to neutralize the Yemen-based Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is said to be the first U.S. citizen added to a CIA list of targets for capture or killing. During an interview on ABC, Holder was asked how much of a threat al-Awlaki posed.
Eric Holder: “He would be on the same list with bin Laden. He’s up there. I don’t know whether he’s one, two, three, four. I don’t know. But he’s certainly on the list of the people who worry me the most.”
Pierre Thomas: “Does the U.S. have a preference, in terms of Awlaki — dead, captured or prosecuted?”
Holder: “Well, we certainly want to neutralize him. And we will do whatever we can in order to do that.”
While WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange remains under house arrest in Britain, the whistleblowing website is continuing to publish more secret U.S. diplomatic cables. One new cable reveals that the British government has been training a Bangladeshi paramilitary force condemned by human rights organizations as a “government death squad.” Since it was established six years ago, the Rapid Action Battalion force has been accused of carrying out more than 1,000 extrajudicial killings. Despite the killings, U.S. and British officials have embraced the unit. In one cable, the U.S. ambassador to Dhaka, James Moriarty, writes that the Rapid Action Battalion is the “enforcement organisation best positioned to one day become a Bangladeshi version of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
Another newly released cable shows U.S. diplomats privately criticized New Zealand for arresting two suspected Israeli spies in 2004. New Zealand’s then-prime minister Helen Clark said the actions carried out by the Israeli intelligence agents was unacceptable and a breach of New Zealand sovereignty and international law. U.S. diplomats dismissed New Zealand’s concerns. In one cable, a U.S. official said New Zealand arrested the Israeli spies only in an attempt to bolster its export of lamb and other products to Arab states.
There has been political fallout from a WikiLeaks cable related to the U.S. military base on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The nation of Mauritius announced plans on Tuesday to contest the legality of a new maritime reserve park around the disputed Chagos Islands after a leaked U.S. cable suggested the park was a ploy to stop uprooted islanders returning home. Britain leased the archipelago’s biggest island, Diego Garcia, to the United States in 1966, paving the way for the construction of a huge airbase which required the forced removal of some 2,000 Chagossians. Publicly, the British portrayed the establishment of the marine park as a move to save the environment. But a U.S. diplomatic cable dated May 2009, disclosed by WikiLeaks, revealed that a British Foreign Office official had privately told the Americans that the decision to set up a marine protected area would “effectively end the islanders’ resettlement claims.”
In news from Capitol Hill, the Senate appears set to approve a strategic nuclear arms pact with Russia after 11 Republicans joined Democrats on Tuesday in support of a key preliminary measure. A final vote on the New START treaty is expected today. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee explained his support of the treaty.
Sen. Lamar Alexander: “I will vote to ratify the New START treaty between the United States and Russia, because it leaves our country with enough nuclear warheads to blow any attacker to Kingdom Come and because the President has committed to an $85 billion ten-year plan to make sure that those weapons work.”
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina urged the vote on the START treaty to be delayed until the next Senate.
Sen. Lindsey Graham: “It’s not about aborting START. It’s about getting the best deal possible. And I just don’t understand why we can’t wait five more weeks, because five weeks from now, there will be a better treaty for America negotiated than the one we’re about to pass.”
The FBI has subpoenaed the managing editor of the website Electronic Intifada as part of a widening probe into antiwar and pro-Palestinian activists. Maureen Murphy is at least the 23rd activist to have been subpoenaed since September, when the FBI raided the homes of several organizers in Chicago and Minneapolis. Many of the subpoenas have targeted organizers with the Chicago-based Palestine Solidarity Group. On Tuesday, Murphy said, “We are being targeted for the work we do to end U.S. funding of the Israeli occupation, ending the war in Afghanistan, and ending the occupation of Iraq.” Editor’s note: The subpoena received by Murphy did not involve her work with Electronic Intifada, and Electronic Intifada is not mentioned in any of the subpoenas that have been issued.]
A federal judge has ruled the Bush administration conducted “unlawful surveillance” of a defunct Islamic charity by wiretapping members of the organization without a court warrant. The judge ordered the government to pay more than $2.5 million in legal expenses accrued by lawyers and to pay $20,000 to the two targets of the illegal wiretapping, both members of the Al-Haramain charity. The plaintiffs learned of the eavesdropping only after the government erroneously sent them records.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned the Ivory Coast could slide back into a civil war following last month’s disputed election. At least 50 people have died in recent days after Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to his opponent Alassane Ouattara. Gbagbo has ordered U.N. peacekeeping forces to leave the country. In an attempt to improve his image in the United States, Gbagbo has hired the services of attorney Lanny Davis, a Washington insider who was also hired last year by the coup government in Honduras.
In other news from Africa, Halliburton has agreed to pay Nigeria $35 million to settle a bribery dispute which led to charges being filed against former vice president Dick Cheney as well as Halliburton CEO David Lesar. Halliburton was accused of paying out over $182 million in bribes in order to build a liquefied natural gas plant in southern Nigeria.
In news from Asia, South Korea is planning to conduct another round of land and sea military exercises including its largest-ever live-fire drill near North Korea. Beginning tomorrow, South Korea will conduct a land drill involving artillery, fighter jets and the largest number of personnel in a peacetime exercise.
In the former Soviet republic of Belarus, more than 600 opposition political candidates and activists have been jailed following the disputed re-election of Alexander Lukashenko as president. Protesters gathered on Tuesday to call for the release of the prisoners.
Pyotr, opposition protester: “(I came here) to show solidarity with people who suffered, who fought against the dictatorship of Lukashenko. What right did he have to run for president according to the law that he created for himself? I think people were detained illegally, and they suffered illegally for trying to get rid of dictatorship.”
Israeli jets have bombed as many as seven locations in Gaza since Monday. Initial reports from Gaza said that eight Palestinians were wounded. Earlier, on Saturday, Israeli jet strikes killed five Palestinian militants in Gaza in the deadliest strike on Gaza this year. Israel said the attacks were in retaliation for mortar attacks launched from the territory into southern Israel. The latest Israeli attacks comes just days before the anniversary of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, the month-long assault two years ago that killed over a thousand Gaza residents.
Meanwhile, the first Asian convoy bound for Gaza has arrived in Syria. Activists from India, Japan, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Bahrain and other Asian countries are taking part in the convoy called “Asia 1,” which aims to deliver aid to the impoverished Gaza Strip.
Koichi Sakaguchi, an activist from Japan: “Urgently, we have to resolve the siege of Gaza, siege of the Palestinians, occupation by the Zionist Israel. I mean, it’s really urgent.”
A right-wing internet radio host and former FBI informant has been sentenced to 33 months in prison for threatening the lives of three federal judges. Hal Turner was arrested in June 2009 after he named three judges that “deserve to be killed” for their rulings. After issuing the threat, Turner posted their photos, court address and a map on his website.