A bipartisan group of lawmakers has filed a lawsuit accusing the Obama administration of waging unconstitutional military operations in Libya. The suit says President Obama violated the War Powers Act by failing to obtain congressional approval for the Libya attack within 60 days. On Wednesday, the White House issued a lengthy report arguing Obama had the authority to ignore the 60-day window because the U.S. role in Libya was limited, and therefore outside the scope of Congress.
Two civilians have been killed and two others wounded in a U.S. military attack in the Iraqi city of Basra. U.S. helicopters launched the strike after seven rockets were fired at U.S. and Iraqi forces. A witness said the victims were farmers working their land.
Witness: “Those people are farmers. They came early this morning to the farm to reap the plants. They were working when a U.S. helicopter attacked them with four missiles, killing a man and members of his family. Three people were critically wounded and taken to the hospital, and a man died.”
Al-Qaeda has issued a statement naming Ayman al-Zawahiri as its new chief following the death of Osama bin Laden. The 59-year-old, Egyptian-born Zawahiri has long served as the group’s second-in-command and was widely expected to replace bin Laden. Al-Qaeda said it would continue a holy war against the United States and Israel under Zawahiri’s leadership. Zawahiri is believed by some experts to have overseen the execution of the 9/11 attacks.
A friend and leading public supporter of the alleged U.S. military whistleblower, Private Bradley Manning, has refused to testify before a grand jury probe into WikiLeaks and the disclosure of thousands of classified U.S. diplomatic cables. David House is one of the founders of the Bradley Manning Support Network, established following Manning’s arrest last year. On Wednesday, House cited his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in refusing to testify. Outside of the Virginia district court, House said the Obama administration is using “Nixonian fear tactics” to dismantle WikiLeaks.
A former top counterterrorism officer at the CIA is claiming the Bush administration sought damaging personal information on a prominent critic of the Iraq war in order to smear him publicly. Speaking to the New York Times, the former officer, Glenn Carle, says the Bush administration made at least two requests for intelligence about Juan Cole, a Middle East expert and professor at the University of Michigan. Cole, who has been a frequent guest on Democracy Now!, maintains the popular blog “Informed Comment,” which rose to prominence after the Iraq invasion. Carle says he was personally approached by his National Intelligence Council supervisor, David Low, who told him the White House wanted “to get” Cole, adding: “What do you think we might know about him, or could find out that could discredit him?” When Carle responded that the spying would be unlawful, Low apparently told him, “But what might we know about him? Does he drink? What are his views? Is he married?” Carle says he refused to carry out the request, only to find out months later of a second attempt to collect intelligence on Cole. Carle says Low personally wrote a memo containing derogatory claims about Cole, but he is unsure if it ever reached the White House. A CIA spokesperson denied Carle’s account. Legal experts say the spying on Cole would violate federal laws barring CIA spying and data collection on U.S. citizens. Democracy Now! reached Professor Cole just before going to broadcast.
Juan Cole: “Well, it’s just outrageous that the Bush administration should be using CIA resources to not only spy on an American citizen on American soil, but to direct them to destroy the person’s reputation. This is just sabotage. And we should remember that this was a period in which the nation was facing enormous challenges—capturing bin Laden, destroying al-Qaeda, understanding what was happening in Afghanistan and Iraq—and that any resources should be diverted to this kind of political shenanigans at that time is absolutely criminal.”
Cole is now calling for a congressional investigation into the Bush administration’s efforts to discredit him.
Wisconsin’s public unions have filed a new lawsuit seeking to block Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-collective bargaining law from taking effect. The move comes one day after a divided Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstated the law by reversing a lower court ruling that it was pushed through unlawfully.
The Pakistani military is denying claims a top army major has been arrested after feeding the CIA information that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. According to the New York Times, the major gave the CIA the license plate numbers of visitors to bin Laden’s hideout. Pakistan’s army and main intelligence agency have not denied claims another four CIA informants in the bin Laden operation have also been detained. The arrests have further strained U.S. relations with Pakistan. At a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy asked U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about the arrests.
Sen. Patrick Leahy: “How long do we support governments that lie to us? When do we say enough is enough? Secretary Gates, I’ll start with you.”
Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “Well, first of all, I would say, based on 27 years in CIA and four-and-a-half years in this job, most governments lie to each other. That’s the way business gets done.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy: “Do they also arrest — do they also arrest the people that help us” —
Defense Secretary Gates: “Sometimes.”
Sen. Leahy: “— when they say they’re allies?”
Defense Secretary Gates: “Sometimes.”
Sen. Leahy: “Not often.”
Defense Secretary Gates: “And sometimes they send people to spy on us, and they’re our close allies.”
Sen. Leahy: “And we give aid to them.”
Defense Secretary Gates: “So, that’s the real world that we deal with.”
In Pakistan, at least 15 alleged militants have been killed in three U.S. drone strikes in the Pakistani tribal regions of North and South Waziristan.
As many as 200 al-Qaeda-linked militants took control of a provincial capital in southern Yemen on Wednesday. The gunmen launched a surprise attack on the town of Houta, then took control of several neighborhoods in the area for nearly 12 hours. Militants also reportedly attacked neighborhoods in the southern port city of Aden, opening fire on forces in the area. Yemen has been embroiled in conflict since February, with massive protests calling for an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33 years in power. Saleh is currently in Saudi Arabia receiving treatment for wounds he sustained in a rocket attack on his compound.
The United Nations’s top human rights official is calling for a full probe of the Syrian government’s crackdown on protesters opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Speaking before the U.N. Human Rights Council, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Assad’s regime had committed a number of unlawful abuses.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay: “I am gravely concerned about the human rights and humanitarian crises that the country is facing. Once again, I call upon the Syrian government to halt this assault on its own people, to desist from using excessive force and to respect its obligations under international human rights law. I remind the Syrian authorities that violations of international law are serious crimes for which perpetrators can be held accountable.”
Pillay’s report affirms estimates that more than 1,100 people have been killed and some 10,000 detained in the Syrian crackdown.
New York Republican Rep. Peter King has opened the second session of his series of House Homeland Security Committee hearings into the “radicalization” of the American Muslim community. Tuesday’s hearing focused on whether Muslims are falling prey to so-called “radical ideology” in U.S. prisons. In his opening statement, King defended the scope of his hearings.
Rep. Peter King: “I have repeatedly said that the overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans are outstanding Americans. Yet, the first radicalization hearing, which this committee held in March of this year, was met by much mindless hysteria, led by radical groups such as the Council of Islamic Relations and their allies in the liberal media, personified by the New York Times. Countering Islamic radicalization should not be a partisan issue.”
Critics have described the hearings as a modern-day form of McCarthyism designed to stoke fear against American Muslims. In a rebuke of King, Democratic Rep. Laura Richardson of California said the focus on Muslims is an act of racism.
Rep. Laura Richardson: “I don’t disagree, as Mr. Dunleavy said, that radicalization in fact occurs in prisons with various groups. What I disagree with—and I would say again, with all due respect to the chairman—is the scope of this committee’s only focusing on one particular group. I actually believe that the focus of one particular group on the basis of race or religion can be deemed as racist and is discriminatory.”
The United Nations is warning a Sudanese bombing campaign is causing “huge suffering” for civilians in southern Sudan. Clashes between forces from the north and the south have exploded in the South Kordofan region since earlier this month, with northern warplanes pounding opposition troops from the south. Both sides have accused the other of sparking the fighting. It is believed over 65 people have been killed in air raids over the last 10 days. In an audio message, President Obama called on northern Sudan to end military operations.
President Obama: “There is no military solution. The leaders of Sudan and South Sudan must live up to their responsibilities. The government of Sudan must prevent a further escalation of this crisis by ceasing its military actions immediately, including aerial bombardments, forced displacements and campaigns of intimidation.”
Southern Sudan is due to become independent next month under a referendum approved in January. An estimated two million people were killed in a decades-long civil war between the north and south.
Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has been released from a Houston hospital five months after being seriously wounded in the Tucson shooting rampage. Giffords will continue to visit the hospital for outpatient care.
An online hacker group is claiming responsibility for briefly taking down the CIA’s website. On Wednesday, the group LulzSec announced it had jammed the CIA homepage for about two hours. LulzSec has claimed responsibility for hacks on websites targeting PBS, Sony, the U.S. Senate, and the Atlanta chapter of InfraGard, a partnership between the FBI and the private sector that shares sensitive national security information.