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The Obama administration has urged a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit challenging the administration’s assertion that it can assassinate US citizens anywhere in the world. Earlier this year the Obama administration authorized the CIA to capture or kill Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric who is believed to be in hiding in Yemen. With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union and Center for Constitutional Rights, al-Awlaki’s father asked a federal judge to issue an injunction and force the administration to publicly reveal its criteria for determining who can be assassinated. In court papers filed on Friday, the Obama administration asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit without hearing the merits of the claims, citing state secrets. The ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights criticized the Obama administration’s stance. In a statement, the groups said, “The idea that courts should have no role whatsoever in determining the criteria by which the executive branch can kill its own citizens is unacceptable in a democracy.”
A military tribunal will begin today for the first of twelve US soldiers accused of forming a secret “kill team” in Afghanistan that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies. The tribunal will decide whether Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock’s case proceeds to court-martial. Morlock is charged with premeditated murder in the deaths of three Afghan civilians, assaulting a fellow soldier, and “wrongfully photographing and possessing visual images of human casualties.” Morlock and other soldiers allegedly took photos posing with the dead Afghan civilians. In May, Morlock spoke to investigators and reportedly made a number of statements implicating him and four other soldiers. Morlock’s attorney now says the statements should be discounted because Morlock talked while under the influence of up to ten prescription drugs. The trials of Morlock and the other soldiers will likely be the most high-profile prosecutions of US war crimes to result from the nearly nine-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.
The Associated Press has revealed that Army records show no Iraqi prisoners tortured at Abu Ghraib prison ever received compensation from the United States despite promises by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. In 2004 Rumsfeld told Congress that he had found a legal way to compensate Iraqi prisoners who were abused. Rumsfeld said, “It’s the right thing to do. And it is my intention to see that we do.” Six years later, no record of payment exists, and the Army cannot verify whether any such payments were made informally through Iraqi leaders. The news come as the Supreme Court is expected to decide this week whether to hear a lawsuit filed by former Abu Ghraib prisoners against two private companies: CACI International and L-3 Services, formerly Titan Corp.
On Saturday, President Obama used his weekly radio address to criticize the Republican Party’s “Pledge to America” manifesto. Obama accused Republicans of wanting to put special interests back in the driver’s seat in Washington.
President Obama: “Now, the Republicans who want to take over Congress offered their own ideas the other day. Many were the very same policies that led to the economic crisis in the first place, which isn’t surprising, since many of their leaders were among the architects of that failed policy. It’s grounded in same worn-out philosophy: cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires, cut the rules for Wall Street and the special interests, and cut the middle class loose to fend for itself. That’s not a prescription for a better future. It’s an echo of a disastrous decade we can’t afford to relive.”
The New York Times reports President Bush’s former adviser Karl Rove is playing a leading role in building what amounts to a shadow Republican Party, a network of donors and operatives that is among the most aggressive in the Republican effort to capture control of the House and the Senate. With help from former White House counselor Ed Gillespie, Rove has started the groups American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, which are spending millions on ads boosting Republicans in some of the most closely contested Senate races. American Crossroads is now planning a barrage of anti-Democratic attack ads that will be run tens of thousands of times, a final get-out-the-vote push with some 40 million negative mail pieces, and 20 million automated phone calls.
Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank have resumed building work earlier today, a day after a ten-month-long moratorium on settlement construction ended. In the West Bank settlement of Oranit, bulldozers have begun preparing the grounds for more new homes. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is threatening to quit the direct peace negotiations unless the moratorium is extended. Despite Abbas’s threat, many Israeli lawmakers called for the construction of more settlements. Aryeh Eldad is a member of the Israeli Knesset.
Aryeh Eldad: “We will start building as in the past. We hope that tomorrow morning we will see more and more and more new buildings in Judea and Samaria to close the gap that was opened in the past ten months that the freeze was empowered over the settlements, and to build everything that is needed for the people who live here.”
The Israeli organization Shalom Achshav, or Peace Now, said Israel is prepared to build thousands of more homes in the occupied West Bank.
Yariv Oppenheimer, Peace Now: “According to our information there are 13,000 housing units that has an approval and can be built without a new approval of the government. But we think that in the next few weeks we will see construction of 2,500 housing units immediate. So the other 11,000, it will take some time until the settlers will take advantage of this plans and will go ahead with the construction.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency has narrowly rejected a resolution calling on Israel to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Arab states were pushing for the resolution in an attempt to put all of Israel’s nuclear facilities under the oversight of the IAEA. For decades, Israel has been the only nation in the Middle East with a nuclear weapons arsenal, though the country has never acknowledged its nuclear program.
A group of Jewish activists have set sail for Gaza in an effort to defy the Israeli sea blockade. The group said they were taking a symbolic load of medicine, a water-purifying kit and other humanitarian aid. Activists on board include eighty-two-year-old Holocaust survivor Reuven Moskovitz and former Israeli Air Force pilot Yonatan Shapira.
Yonatan Shapira: “Israelis’ propaganda is always self-defensive. Israel tries to be the victim, to put itself as a victim. This is what I received as a child all the way throughout growing until I went to the army to fight in order to be this victim that protects himself.”
In Haiti, at least five people have died after a storm swept through Port-au-Prince on Friday. The storm destroyed thousands of tents in makeshift camps where over a million survivors of January’s earthquake still live. Haitian residents say more money is needed to help the recovery efforts from the devastating earthquake.
Joseph: “The main thing we really need for this country is to help the people to have a chance to live. We’re spending billion, billion of dollars, where many ONGs, many organizations from the US, are taking the money. Seventy-five percent of the money is going outside, and the people are still in this condition. You are telling me people are going to help Haiti?”
In Australia, climate change activists from the group Rising Tide shut down operations at the world’s largest coal port on Sunday. Activists occupied the port in Newcastle by entering the port’s three terminals and attaching themselves to loaders.
Scores of students at Harvard University held a protest Saturday condemning the school’s decision to honor Martin Peretz, the editor of the New Republic magazine. Students held signs with some of his own recent anti-Muslim remarks and then followed him out of the auditorium. Peretz recently wrote, “Muslim life is cheap, especially to other Muslims.” He also wrote that Muslim Americans are not “worthy” of First Amendment rights and alleged that all Muslims are complicit in the “routine and random bloodshed that defines their brotherhood.”
And comedian Stephen Colbert testified on Capitol Hill Friday during a hearing examining the effect of American immigration policies on agricultural businesses. Colbert recently took up a dare from the United Farm Workers union to live the life of a farm worker. Colbert lasted one day on the job.
Stephen Colbert: “I like talking about people who don’t have any power, and this seemed like one of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work but don’t have any rights as a result. And yet we still invite them to come here and, at the same time, ask them to leave. And that’s an interesting contradiction to me. And, you know, whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers. And these seem like the least of our brothers right now. A lot of people are least brothers right now because the economy is so hard, and I don’t want to take anyone’s hardship away from them or diminish anything like that, but migrant workers suffer and have no rights.”