More revelations continue to emerge from the U.S. State Department cables released by the online whistleblower group WikiLeaks. The latest cables to be disclosed show the CIA spearheaded the State Department’s program to spy on foreign diplomats. Although the orders were authorized by U.S. Secretary of States Condoleezza Rice and her successor, Hillary Clinton, The Guardian of London reports a CIA official drew up the instructions for who should be monitored and what information should be tracked. The targets of the U.S. spying included U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other top U.N. officials.
The WikiLeaks released embassy cables also show Britain has allowed the United States to store banned cluster bombs on British soil. Britain signed the international convention barring cluster munitions in December 2008. But six months later, a U.S. embassy cable said Britain had agreed to keep silent about a dealing allowing the United States to store cluster bombs until 2013.
According to Amnesty International, the leaked embassy cables also confirm reports of massive civilian casualties in a U.S. attack on Yemen one year ago. The cables disclosed that the Yemeni government agreed to falsely claim they were carrying out missile strikes that were actually coming from the U.S. military. Yemen’s Deputy Prime Minister is quoted mentioning the Abyan strike, in which dozens of local residents were killed, including 21 children. In June, Amnesty released photographs showing the remnants of U.S.-sourced bombs at the site of the attack.
Embassy cables revealed on Thursday show U.S. diplomats accused top Sri Lankan officials of involvement in the mass killings of Tamil Tiger rebels in the closing months of the 25-year civil war last year. A cable from January says Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and other top officials were likely responsible for many alleged killings of Tamil rebels. The disclosure comes as Rajapaksa was forced to cancel a public appearance in Britain Thursday following protests from a Tamil group.
Protester: “These people are asking for justice. That’s what we’re asking. We want an independent international investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by President Rajapaksa and his government.”
The U.S. State Department has imposed an order barring employees from reading the leaked WikiLeaks cables. State Department staffers have been told not to read cables because they were classified and subject to security clearances. The State Department’s WikiLeaks censorship has even been extended to university students. An email to students at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs says: “The documents released during the past few months through Wikileaks are still considered classified documents. [The State Department] recommends that you DO NOT post links to these documents nor make comments on social media sites such as Facebook or through Twitter. Engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government.”
A former attorney for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has revealed that the sex assault allegations against Assange in Sweden center around his allegedly not using a condom. James Catlin says Assange has been accused of not using a condom during consensual sex with the two accusers. Catlin says Sweden’s justice system is likely to become the
“the laughingstock of the world” if the case proceeds. An international arrest warrant was issued for Assange this week.
The House has approved a measure to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for individuals with an annual income of $200,000 or less and married couples earning no more than $250,000 a year. All but three Republicans voted against the measure as part of a GOP effort to preserve the cuts for those making over $250,000 as well. The measure has virtually no chance of reaching President Obama’s desk amidst Republican vows for a Senate filibuster. Ahead of the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized Republicans for demanding tax cuts for the wealthy while stalling jobless benefits for the unemployed.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “$700 billion in tax cuts to the top two percent in our country, and our Republican colleagues say we should do that and we should not pay for it, we should add that $700 billion to the deficit. But when it comes to unemployment insurance, and just the renewal we want to have is — costs $18 billion — $700 billion, $18 billion — they’re saying that has to be paid for. We have to pay for unemployment insurance; we don’t have to pay for tax cuts for the rich. Tax cuts for the rich do not create jobs.”
Newly released documents show warrantless government spying is continuing with real-time tracking of Americans’ everyday transactions. A government memo obtained by privacy activist Christopher Soghoian shows law enforcement agencies have been able to monitor targets by obtaining their credit cards, loyalty cards and travel bookings without a court order. Agents can obtain the so-called “Hotwatch” orders by writing up their own subpoena and getting a judge to rule that it cannot be disclosed. The American Civil Liberties Union has released hundreds of pages of government documents it says show the government continues to violate legal limits on domestic surveillance. The documents acknowledge breaches in collecting personal information but do not specify how many people have been affected.
Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona has given new indications he plans to block a repeal of the military’s ban on gay and lesbian servicemembers known as the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. On Thursday, McCain told a Senate hearing that he doubted this week’s Pentagon study that a repeal would have little impact.
Sen. John McCain: “This is a complex and important issue that could have significant repercussions for our force, a force that is engaged in its tenth straight year of sustained combat, but a force that is performing exceptionally well. At this time, we should be inherently cautious about making any changes that would affect our military, and what changes we do make should be the product of careful and deliberate consideration. I’m not saying that this law should never change. I am simply saying that it may be premature to make such a change at this time and in this manner.”
Democrats have called for a repeal vote before the end of the year. The chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said the military is ready for a repeal.
Adm. Mike Mullen: “I’m convinced that repeal of the law governing ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is the right thing to do. Back in February when I testified to this sentiment, I also said that I believe the men and women of the Armed Forces could accommodate such a change, but I did not know it for a fact. Now I do. And so what was my personal opinion is now my professional opinion. Repeal of the law will not prove an unacceptable risk to military readiness.”
The House of Representatives has voted to censure Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York following his conviction of ethics violations related to his personal finances. Last month a congressional panel convicted Rangel for acts including failing to report rental income, improperly leasing a rent-stabilized apartment, and receiving donations from people with business before Congress. Rangel is the first House member in nearly three decades to be censured. Speaking before the full chamber, Rangel maintained his innocence.
Rep. Charles Rangel: “In my heart, I truly feel good. It’s not all the commitments that are made to God in 1950; a lot of it has to do with the fact that I know in my heart that I’m not going to be judged by this Congress, but I’m going to be judged by my life, my activities, my contributions to society. And I just apologize for the awkward position that some of you that are in. But at the end of the day, as I started off saying, compared to where I’ve been, I haven’t had a bad day since. Thank you.”
New figures show 2010 is likely to rank as one of the three warmest years on record. The World Meteorological Organization says 17 countries saw all-time high temperatures this year. The last decade has also been the hottest since record keeping began in 1850. The data was released at the ongoing U.N Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico.
Protests continued Thursday against Japan’s call for abandoning the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012. Japan says it will not agree to extend emissions cuts under Kyoto unless the United States and China also sign on. Masako Konishi of the World Wildlife Fund urged Japan to preserve Kyoto.
Masako Konishi: “Japan said at the beginning of the conference that Japan is not going to commit itself to after post-2012 the Kyoto Protocol. So Japan is moving away from the Kyoto Protocol. And if Japan does that, then it upsets a lot of developing countries and really block the negotiation here at Cancún. So Japan needs to say, at the Kyoto Protocol, so that it can show leadership, that it’s really, really serious about tackling the global climate change.”
In another protest, North American indigenous activists led a protest against Canada’s mining of oil in tar sands, the world’s biggest single industrial source of carbon emissions.
Melina Mewapun Laboucan-Massimo: “The tar sands are the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, and it’s one of the biggest emitters of toxic contaminants in our traditional territories.”
In Haiti, an estimated 2,000 people marched in the capital Port-au-Prince to protest alleged fraud in last week’s presidential election. The protest included some of the 12 Haitian presidential candidates who have called for the results to be annulled. The election was Haiti’s first since January’s devastating earthquake and the recent cholera outbreak.
Protester: “We say that this is unacceptable. We are not going to swallow this for them. On November 28th, there was no election. The ballot boxes arrived full, and 12 voting centers were closed because the ballot boxes were full in a way that favored the candidates they wanted.”
Nigeria is reportedly planning on filing charges against former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney in a $180 million bribery investigation involving Halliburton, the company he headed before taking office. A Nigerian prosecutor says Cheney and executives from five foreign corporations, including Halliburton, will be indicted in the coming days and that an arrest warrant could be issued through Interpol. Halliburton has been accused of bribing Nigerian officials to win a lucrative gas project during the time Cheney was CEO.