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The Obama administration is refusing to call for a new probe into the US military’s killing of twelve Iraqis despite the public release of video footage capturing the attack on tape. Earlier this week, the watchdog website WikiLeaks released a classified US military video showing a US helicopter gunship indiscriminately firing on Iraqi civilians in 2007. The victims included two employees of the Reuters news agency, photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh. Two children were also badly wounded. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said he’s unsure if President Obama even saw the tape.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: “I do not know whether the President has seen the video that was released on the internet. Obviously it is very graphic in nature, and it’s extremely tragic. For details of the investigation that the Defense Department, the Pentagon, did on that, around that incident, obviously I would point you over to the Department of Defense.”
Reporter: “Do you think that this warrants some additional investigation, though?
Robert Gibbs: “Glenn, I don’t, in all honesty, know enough about what was done previous, which is why I would point you over to the Department of Defense.”
Family members of the victims have urged the US to launch a new investigation and bring the US servicemembers involved to trial. An initial military probe shortly after the killings cleared the attackers of any wrongdoing.
The Pentagon, meanwhile, is claiming it can no longer find its copy of the video footage. Military officials say they’re trying to track it down from the unit that investigated the attack. The video was never publicly released and only came to light after at least one source inside the military released it to WikiLeaks. (Related coverage: Massacre Caught on Tape: US Military Confirms Authenticity of Their Own Chilling Video Showing Killing of Journalists.)
A federal appeals court has ruled the Federal Communications Commission lacks the authority to prevent internet service providers from blocking and controlling internet traffic. The FCC has long sought to force internet service companies to give web users equal access to all websites, a concept known as network neutrality. But the decision grants the companies further control over internet traffic while threatening the future of internet regulation. The ruling is a major victory for cable giant Comcast, which had challenged the FCC’s authority to impose network neutrality obligations on broadband providers.
The Obama administration has formally unveiled its new policy on nuclear weapons that maintains the right to use nukes in launching attacks on other nations. Anti-nuclear activists and some Democratic lawmakers were hoping Obama would issue a blanket statement that the US would never again be the first to use nuclear weapons. Announcing the policy in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US would only pledge to not use the weapons against non-nuclear states that comply with the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We are enforcing our commitment to the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) by stating clearly, for the first time, that the United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations.”
The policy also maintains the US can attack nations for violating the NPT. Defense Secretary Robert Gates singled out Iran and North Korea in asserting that “all options are on the table.”
Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “If there is a message for Iran and North Korea here, it is that if you’re going to play by the rules, if you’re going to join the international community, then we will undertake certain obligations to you. And that’s covered in the NPR. But if you’re not going to play by the rules, if you’re going to be a proliferator, then all options are on the table in terms of how we deal with you.”
Critics say the new strategy doesn’t go far enough in meeting President Obama’s stated pledge to reduce nuclear proliferation. In a statement, Kevin Martin of Peace Action said, “[The new policy] appears to be too beholden to outdated Cold War thinking, and it doesn’t measure up to [President Obama’s] vision of a nuclear-free world.”
Four people remain missing in a West Virginia coal mine two days after a huge explosion killed at least twenty-five miners. Rescue efforts have been suspended due to conditions underground at the Upper Big Branch mine. Massey Energy, which owns and operates the mine, says rescuers were forced to pull back from the search area because methane gas and smoke made it too hazardous to continue searching. Meanwhile, new revelations have come to light about repeated safety violations at the mine over the last several years. According to federal records, the US Mine Safety and Health Administration cited the Upper Big Branch mine for more than 1,300 safety violations from 2005 through Monday. Fifty citations came in the last month alone.
In India, at least seventy-six government security forces were killed Tuesday in an attack by Maoist rebels. The ambush struck an Indian convoy as it returned to base in a central state. It was the deadliest attack on the Indian security services to date and the latest in a conflict that has killed over 6,000 people in the last seven years. The Indian government is vowing a harsh retaliation.
In Egypt, dozens of people were arrested on Tuesday for taking part in a pro-democracy rally in Cairo. Hundreds of Egyptian police officers scuffled with demonstrators calling for constitutional changes to ensure fairer elections. There were widespread reports of Egyptian forces beating protesters and seizing videotapes and cameras documenting the unrest. Egyptian opposition leader Ayman Nour criticized the police crackdown.
Ayman Nour: “I think that some of you passed through Tahrir Square this morning and saw this outrageous display that harms Egypt’s image: thousands of plainclothes and uniformed officers and soldiers laying siege to Tahrir Square to prevent the right of tens or hundreds of citizens and youth from expressing their opinion on their right to demand constitutional changes.”
In Kyrgyzstan, at least five people have been killed in a government crackdown on a protest in the capital Bishkek earlier today. Thousands of demonstrators reportedly tried to seize a government building as part of a wave of protest calling for the resignation of Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. There were reports of police firing live ammunition into the crowds. The Kyrgyz government has declared a nationwide state of emergency. The US has backed Bakiyev since he took office five years ago. The Obama administration has been largely silent on alleged fraud and other abuses in Kyrgyzstan since the Kyrgyz government reversed the closure of a US military base last year. The base has been vital to the US occupation of Afghanistan.
The Obama administration is suggesting it might cancel a scheduled visit from Afghan President Hamid Karzai next month. Over the past week, Karzai has criticized Western interference in Afghanistan and said the Taliban risks becoming a legitimate resistance movement. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the US might “evaluate” Karzai’s remarks to determine whether a White House visit would be worthwhile.
Meanwhile, a former top UN official in Afghanistan, Peter Galbraith, continued his war of words with Karzai by suggesting the Afghan president may have a drug problem. Galbraith made the comments in an interview with MSNBC.
Peter Galbraith: “He’s prone to tirades. He can be very emotional, act impulsively. In fact, some of the palace insiders say that he has a certain fondness for some of Afghanistan’s most profitable exports.”
Savannah Guthrie: “If you’re going to make that allegation, let’s be explicit about it.”
Chuck Todd: “So you’re saying he’s got an issue — he’s got his own substance abuse problem?”
Peter Galbraith: “There are reports to that effect. But whatever the cause is, the reality is that he is — he can be very emotional.”
In a speech last week, Karzai singled out Galbraith and accused him of interfering in Afghan elections last year.
Galbraith was fired last year from his UN position. He says he was let go for speaking out against widespread fraud in Karzai’s reelection, but Galbraith’s former superior said he was fired for conspiring to replace Karzai with a different Afghan leader.
The Washington Post is reporting a top US official has confirmed a Yemen-based Muslim cleric has become the first US citizen added to CIA a list of targets for capture or killing. Anwar al-Awlaki is a US-born cleric accused of having ties to the failed Christmas Day airline bombing and the shooting at Fort Hood. He was previously placed on a similar Joint Special Operations Command list for capture or killing. His addition to the CIA list means the White House gave its approval. In targeting Awlaki, the Obama administration has renewed a Bush-era policy granting US forces authority to kill US citizens abroad if they’re linked to terrorist actions against the US or “US interests.”
And the Native American leader Wilma Mankiller has died at the age of sixty-four. Mankiller was the first woman to head the Cherokee Nation, the second-largest tribe in the United States.