Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Obama administration to rethink its backing of Pakistan following the killing of Osama bin Laden. The Saudi-born leader of al-Qaeda was killed on Sunday inside a heavily fortified compound located just 1,000 feet from Pakistan’s premier military academy. Bin Laden may have lived there for five years. John Brennan is President Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser.
John Brennan, Deputy National Security Adviser: “I think it’s inconceivable that bin Laden did not have a support system in the country that allowed him to remain there for an extended period of time. I am not going to speculate about what type of support he might have had on an official basis inside of Pakistan. We are closely talking to the Pakistanis right now, and again, we are leaving open opportunities to continue to pursue whatever leads might be out there.”
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has suggested the United States cut off military aid to Pakistan. She said, “Our government is in fiscal distress. To make contributions to a country that isn’t going to be fully supportive is a problem for many.” Since 2001, Congress has approved about $20 billion for Pakistan in direct aid and military payments. U.S. officials say they deliberately withheld information about Sunday’s raid on bin Laden’s compound from the Pakistani government out of fears it would be compromised. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Pakistan’s cooperation over the years.
Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State: “As the President made clear, it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation, over a number of years now, with Pakistan has contributed greatly to our efforts to dismantle al-Qaeda. And, in fact, cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound in which he was hiding. You know, going forward, we are absolutely committed to continuing that cooperation.”
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi to “immediately step down.” The call has been described as a a major escalation of Turkish pressure on the Libyan leader.
The Guardian newspaper reports scores of Syria’s most prominent intellectuals and activists have gone into hiding as government forces continue to carry out raids and arrests across the country. Two former guests of Democracy Now! are now in hiding: Haitham al-Maleh and Razan Zeitouneh, both prominent Syrian human rights attorneys. Human rights organizations estimate the Syrian authorities have detained more than 7,000 people since protests began in mid-March. About 600 people have been killed. Meanwhile, a journalist with Al Jazeera named Dorothy Parvaz has been missing since Friday. Parvaz is an American, Canadian and Iranian citizen. She used to work at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and was a Nieman fellow at Harvard University.
The AFL-CIO is urging the Obama administration to suspend a trade pact with Bahrain over the Gulf nation’s attempt to crush pro-reform protesters. On Monday, authorities in Bahrain arrested two former parliament members of Bahrain’s main Shiite opposition party. Bahraini authorities have also ordered the nation’s main opposition newspaper to be shut down by next week and for three of its former top editors to be tried. Bahrain is a close U.S. ally and is home of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.
In the United Arab Emirates, authorities have shut down the elected board of directors of the Teachers’ Association. The move comes just weeks after UAE had dissolved the board of the Jurist Association. On April 6, both organizations had co-signed a public appeal calling for greater democracy in the country, which is a close U.S. ally.
Egypt’s justice minister has said former president, Hosni Mubarak, could face the death penalty if he is convicted of involvement in the death of more than 800 pro-democracy demonstrators during the country’s uprising earlier this year.
Thirteen Palestinian factions, including Fatah and Hamas, have signed a reconciliation deal that will pave the way for elections within a year. The deal was signed following talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo. Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad says the Palestinian Authority may not be able to pay for the salaries for about 130,000 public employees or anything else if Israel does not release about $100 million in funds collected over the last month on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Israel is withholding the funds to punish Fatah for reaching a deal with Hamas. Fayyad said, “Israel has no right to withhold this money. This is Palestinian money and it is not a grant or charity from Israel.”
In Canada, the Conservative party led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper was elected to a majority in the Canadian parliament in Monday’s election, ending five years of minority government. Meanwhile, the left-leaning New Democratic Party won enough seats to become the official opposition party for the first time. The NDP nearly tripled its parliamentary seats.
In news from Japan, parents of young schoolchildren have staged an unusual protest to oppose the Japanese government’s decision to allow children to be exposed to 20 times more radiation than was previously permissible. Furious parents responded to the rule change by delivering a bag of radioactive playground dirt to school officials. Before the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility, the acceptable radiation level for children was set at one millisievert per year. After the disaster, the government raised the acceptable limit to 20 millisieverts per year. Officials said the move was needed because most of the schools near the plant were above the radiation original level.
British police arrested five men near a nuclear reprocessing site in Cumbria on Monday. The men are being held under the Terrorism Act.
Police in South Korea have raided the offices of Google Korea and Daum Communications following allegations the companies collected information on the location of smartphone users for advertisement purposes without their permission. Google is also under investigation by South Korean authorities for allegedly collecting emails from unsecured wireless networks while photographing neighborhoods for its mapping service. The raid comes at a time when Apple and Google are facing scrutiny around the world for their practices of tracking the location of smartphone users.
Sony has suffered another major information breach just two weeks after the personal account information of 77 million PlayStation network users was compromised. The electronics giant has revealed that an additional 25 million game users had their personal information stolen days before the breach that was first reported. The head of PlayStation’s video game unit estimates 10 million credit cards were involved in the incident.
A court in Honduras has dropped all remaining corruption charges against ousted president Manuel Zelaya, clearing the way for his return to the country after a June 2009 coup. The court dismissed charges of fraud and falsifying documents. Zelaya has said he will not return to Honduras until he is guaranteed immunity from legal action.
In Vermont, protesters rallied in Burlington on Sunday to show support for Vermont to become the first state to establish a single-payer healthcare system that guarantees coverage to all residents. Mari Cordes is president of the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals.
Mari Cordes, president of the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals: “We are here as healthcare professionals because we absolutely refute the corporate mandate that is stealing lives and stealing livelihood from the middle class and attacking the most vulnerable. So we stand in solidarity with everyone around the world who’s fighting for workers’ rights and for the vulnerable. When we talk about healthcare as a human right and we talk about equity and participation, we mean everybody. It can’t be just white folks like me that get to have it. It means everybody.”
In Portland, Maine, a mosque was defaced on Monday just hours after the news broke that Osama bin Laden had been killed. The graffiti read, “Osama Today, Islam tomorow” [sic]. The vandal misspelled the word “tomorrow.”
A correction from yesterday’s headlines. The memorial service for famed civil rights attorney Leonard Weinglass is scheduled to take place on Friday, May 13, at New York Society for Ethical Culture in Manhattan.