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This week, Democracy Now! is celebrating our 22nd birthday. Since our first show in February 1996, our daily news hour has brought you fearless journalism and hard-hitting news you can trust--all without ads or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. In fact, if everyone reading this gave just $4, it would cover our operating expenses for the whole year. Right now, a generous donor will TRIPLE every donation, meaning your gift today will go three times as far. Pretty amazing, right? Please do your part. Take a moment to give right now for our 22nd birthday.
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The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has begun releasing thousands of secret documents from the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The documents reveal the Bush and Obama administrations knowingly imprisoned more than 150 innocent men for years without charge. In dozens of cases, senior U.S. commanders were said to have concluded that there was no reason for the men to have been transferred to Guantánamo. Among the innocent prisoners were an 89-year-old Afghan villager and a 14-year-old boy who had been kidnapped. Some men were imprisoned at Guantánamo simply because they wore a certain model of Casio watches, which had been used as timers by al-Qaeda. The documents also reveal that the journalist Sami al-Hajj was held at Guantánamo for six years partly in order to be interrogated about his employer, the Al Jazeera news network. Al-Hajj’s file said he was sent to Guantánamo in order to “provide information on…the al-Jazeera news network’s training programme, telecommunications equipment, and news gathering operations in Chechnya, Kosovo and Afghanistan.”
Yemen’s longtime president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has reportedly accepted a plan designed by neighboring Arab nations to hand over power. But demonstrations are continuing because many people do not believe Saleh will keep his promise. Earlier today, at least 10 people were injured in the Yemeni city of Taiz after security forces opened fire.
Syria’s crackdown on anti-government protesters is intensifying. At least 20 people have died so far today in the city of Daraa after thousands of troops backed with tanks opened fire on protesters. Syria has also sealed off its border with Jordan. On Sunday, at least 13 civilians were shot dead in the town of Jableh. And at least 112 people were killed in Syria on Friday in the deadliest day since anti-government protests began last month. The Wall Street Journal reports the Obama administration is drafting an executive order to freeze the assets of senior Syrian officials.
NATO forces bombed an office inside Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s compound early this morning in what Libyan officials described as an assassination attempt. Forty-five people were reportedly hurt in the strike, including 15 of them seriously. The attack came as two prominent Republican senators, Lindsey Graham and John McCain, called on the Obama administration to ramp up operations in Libya. McCain spoke on Sunday after returning from Libya.
U.S. Senator John McCain: “This is a pretty bloody situation, and it has the earmarks of being a stalemate. Now, we hope that Gaddafi will crumble from within, but hope is not a strategy. And it’s pretty obvious to me that we need — even though I was glad to see the Predator now in the fight, it’s pretty obvious to me that the United States has got to play a greater role in the air power side.”
Thousands of demonstrators gathered in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul Sunday to protest any extension of U.S. military presence in the country. The protesters also denounced corruption and pressed for the release of detainees. The U.S. military is due to exit Iraq by December 31, but secret talks have begun to allow the United States to stay longer. Demonstrators loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have vowed to escalate military resistance if U.S. forces do not leave by year’s end.
Sheikh Nasir Al-Saedi, a Sadr aide: “If we are forced to face them, we will. If the occupier doesn’t leave Iraq, we will face it militarily, culturally, in every way.”
A U.S. federal appeals court has reinstated charges against five Blackwater security guards accused of killing 14 Iraqi civilians in 2007 in what has become known as the Nisoor Square massacre. A sixth Blackwater guard has already pleaded guilty to charges of voluntary manslaughter and attempt to commit manslaughter.
In Afghanistan, 500 prisoners have escaped a Kandahar prison through a massive underground tunnel. The escaped prisoners reportedly include many Taliban commanders and fighters.
Newly released data from the Japanese government indicates radioactive material was leaking into the atmosphere from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant Number 1 Unit in far greater quantities than previously estimated. The Daily Yomiuri newspaper reports the level of radiation on April 5 was six times higher than initially reported. In other news from Japan, 25,000 Japanese soldiers are being sent into the disaster zone to scour for the bodies of nearly 12,000 people missing and presumed dead. The estimated death toll from the tsunami and earthquake is 26,000. On Sunday, thousands of people rallied in Tokyo to call for the closure of all nuclear power plants in Japan.
Filmmaker Mayuko Sadasue: “The people of my generation were blessed in that although we knew nuclear power was dangerous, we never had to deal with it and only received the benefits. Our generation ignored the dangers, and I really feel that that needs to be prevented in the future.”
Eleven women were arrested outside the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant on Friday after they chained themselves to the plant’s main gate. Among those arrested included 92-year-old peace activist Frances Crowe.
Pakistani demonstrators blocked a key NATO supply route to Afghanistan on Sunday in a major protest against U.S. drone strikes inside Pakistan. Thousands of NATO trucks were held up by the rally which was organized by the famous Pakistani cricket-player-turned-politician, Imran Khan.
Imran Khan, politician: “Number one is the message to the Pakistani people that unless we come out to protect the rights of our people, no one else will defend us, certainly not this puppet leadership; and secondly, a message to the Americans, that this is completely counterproductive. This is only creating hatred against the Americans. This is — this collateral damage, meaning killing of innocent women and children, all it is doing is helping the terrorists, it’s helping al-Qaeda, it is endangering the Americans. This is a tried and failed policy, and the whole object of this rally is to tell the Americans that, listen, time has come for a change of strategy.”
Twenty-seven people were arrested on Friday at a protest against drones at the Hancock Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, New York. Pilots stationed at Hancock now fly Reaper drones remotely over Afghanistan. The drones are armed with Hellfire missiles and laser-guided bombs. Retired Col. Ann Wright spoke at a rally prior to the mass arrests.
Retired Colonel Ann Wright: “As a former colonel, as a retired colonel, as a former government official who has been with the government 40 years, I think my greatest public service is now challenging the government and challenging these things called drones. These drones — and you might as well just call them assassination machines, that’s what these drones are used for: targeted assassination, extrajudicial ultimate death for people who have not been convicted of anything.”
Nigerian human rights groups are estimating at least 500 people have been killed in violence following last week’s election of President Goodluck Jonathan. More than 65,000 people have been displaced. Most of the deaths occurred in northern states where supporters of defeated presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, attacked churches, homes and police stations, sparking reprisal attacks by supporters of Jonathan.
Congressman Edward Markey of Massachusetts has called for a congressional investigation into the computer giant Apple after researchers revealed the iPhone was secretly collecting and storing detailed location information on the phone. The iPhone controversy continues to grow. The Wall Street Journal reports today that the iPhone is collecting and storing location information, even when location services are turned off. Last week, the Journal reported that the iPhone and cell phones powered by Google Android software were also directly transmitting their locations back to Google and Apple.
President Obama was questioned by supporters of accused U.S. Army whistleblower Bradley Manning last week at a fundraiser in San Francisco. Obama briefly discussed the issue after his event was disrupted by protesters criticizing the government’s harsh treatment of Manning. The President’s comments were recorded on a cell phone.
President Barack Obama: “We’re a nation of laws. We don’t individually make our own decisions about how the laws operate. No, he’s doing fine, he’s doing fine; I mean, he’s being courteous, and he’s asking a question. He broke the law.”
Logan Price: “You can make it harder to break the law, even to tell the truth.”
Obama: “Well, what he did was he dumped” —
Price: “Isn’t that just the same thing as what Daniel Ellsberg did?”
Obama: “No, it wasn’t the same thing. What it was, Ellsberg’s material wasn’t classified in the same way.”
President Obama openly declared that Manning—who has yet to stand trial—has broken the law. Obama also responded to a question comparing Manning to Pentagon analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers, detailing the secret history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. According to President Obama, the cases are not similar because, “Ellsberg’s material wasn’t classified the same way.” In fact, the material disclosed in the Pentagon Papers was designated Top Secret—the highest secrecy designation under law—whereas the material allegedly leaked by Manning to WikiLeaks was marked “secret” or “classified,” among the lowest-level secrecy designations.
The pioneering bluegrass singer Hazel Dickens of West Virginia has died at the age of 75.