Scores of Libyan army vehicles have crossed the desert frontier into Niger. The convoy included as many as 250 vehicles and was given an escort by the army of Niger. Sources told Al Jazeera the convoy included officers from Libya’s southern army battalions and pro-Gaddafi Tuareg fighters. While some have speculated Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi was in the convoy, his whereabouts remain unknown. Libyan rebel leaders say they believe the convoy may also have been carrying large amounts of gold and money from the Central Bank of Libya. On Sunday, the head of Gaddafi’s security brigade, Mansour Dhao, fled from Libya to Niger.
Human Rights Watch has uncovered hundreds of letters in the Libyan foreign ministry proving that Gaddafi’s government directly aided the extraordinary rendition program carried out by the CIA and the MI6 in Britain after the 9/11 attacks. The documents expose how the CIA rendered suspects to Libyan authorities knowing they would be tortured. One of the most prominent suspects rendered to Libya was an Islamic militant named Abdelhakim Belhaj, who is now the military commander for the Libyan rebels. At the time of his capture in 2004, Belhaj was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a group that had ties to al-Qaeda. Peter Bouckaert is the emergencies director at Human Rights Watch.
Peter Bouckaert: “Our concern is that when these people were handed over to the Libyan security, they were tortured, and the CIA knew what would happen when they sent people like Abdulhakim into the hands of the Libyan security services. We must remember that these are Islamic militants who were first in the hands of the CIA. So if they wanted to interrogate them themselves, they could have done so. But instead, they sent them to a security service which, even in the U.S. State Department’s own public reporting, is known for its torture and abuse.”
Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch said the letters from the CIA and MI6 were found in the offices of the former head of Libyan intelligence director, Musa Kusa.
Peter Bouckaert: “What’s remarkable is, first of all, the frankness of these files, they sent questions to the Libyan security services to ask to the suspects they have rendered, but also the very friendly tone. They thank Musa Kusa for the crate of oranges and dates that he sent back with the intelligence agent who came to visit. And all of the—these are letters, 'Dear Musa' letters, to a man who is infamous in Libya for his involvement in repression. Musa Kusa was Gaddafi’s enforcer, together with Senussi, the intelligence chief.”
The United Nations is warning that as many as 750,000 people could die of starvation over the next four months in Somalia. The United Nations says the famine has now spread to six out of the eight regions in southern Somalia. Hundreds of people are dying daily.
Mark Bowden, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia: “There are now four million Somalis facing crisis, more than 50 percent of the entire Somali population… The entire Bay region has now been declared a famine area, so there are now six famine areas in Somalia, up from five. In these areas, there are some 750,000 people who are affected by famine conditions. This is an increase from the July figure of 350,000 people.”
The Wall Street Journal is reporting U.S. military commanders and intelligence officers are pushing for greater authority to conduct covert operations in Iraq to thwart Iran’s attempts to expand its influence in Iraq. In recent months, the U.S. military has reportedly boosted efforts to capture Iranian agents and intercept Iranian munitions in Iraq. The Journal reports the proposal for new covert operations reflects a more hawkish attitude toward Iran within the Obama administration’s reshuffled national security team.
New evidence has emerged exposing a U.S. campaign to spy on Israeli officials inside the United States. Details of the spy effort are coming to light in connection to the case of former FBI translator, Shamai Leibowitz, who was sentenced to 20 months in prison last year for leaking classified information. The recipient of the information, the blogger Richard Silverstein, has spoken out for the first time about the leaks. In an interview with the New York Times, Silverstein said Leibowitz passed on secret transcripts of conversations caught on FBI wiretaps of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. Those overheard by the eavesdroppers included American supporters of Israel and at least one member of Congress. Silverstein said Leibowitz released the documents because of concerns about Israel’s aggressive efforts to influence Congress and public opinion, and fears that Israel might attack Iran.
In a move made on the Friday before Labor Day, President Obama asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw a plan to limit smog pollution that was projected to prevent as many as 12,000 premature deaths from heart and lung complications. Obama said he made the decision in part to reduce regulatory burdens in a time of economic uncertainty. The decision was seen as a major victory for polluters and Republicans and another setback for environmentalists. The Natural Resources Defense Council described the decision as “the most outrageous environmental offense of the Obama administration.”
More than 360 people were arrested outside the White House on Friday and Saturday for taking part in civil disobedience against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil from Canada’s tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries. The group, Tar Sands Action, says 1,252 people were arrested during the two-week campaign that wrapped on Saturday. The Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein was among those arrested on Friday.
Naomi Klein: “I’m here to stand in solidarity with my friends from the Indigenous Environmental Network. I’m here because I’m Canadian, and the tar sands are destroying our country. They’re destroying an incredibly beautiful part of the country. They are endangering the lives of indigenous people who live downstream. And they are threatening Canadian values and what we say we believe in. We say we believe in human rights and international law, and we are violating those values with our actions.”
A new exposé by the Associated Press has revealed the New York City Police Department has collected intelligence on more than 250 mosques and Muslim student groups in and around New York City. The intelligence effort was overseen by a secret NYPD squad known as the “Demographics Unit” that sent teams of undercover officers to help keep tabs on the area’s Muslim communities.
In economic news, the nation’s official unemployment remained at 9.1 percent in August as the Labor Department reported no growth in jobs for the month. Some 14 million people remain unemployed, and another 8.8 million are working part-time, but seeking full-time work. The White House budget office is now predicting the unemployment rate will not fall below six percent until 2017. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for African-American men jumped by a full percentage point in August to 18 percent. The unemployment rate for African-American teenagers jumped a staggering 7.3 percent to 46.5 percent.
On Thursday, President Obama is scheduled to lay out a new plan to create jobs at a Joint Session of Congress. On Monday, President Obama spoke in Detroit, Michigan, at a Labor Day rally.
President Obama: “We’ve got roads and bridges across this country that need rebuilding. We’ve got private companies with the equipment and the manpower to do the building. We’ve got more than one million unemployed construction workers ready to get dirty right now. There is work to be done, and there are workers ready to do it. Labor is on board. Business is on board. We just need Congress to get on board. Let’s put America back to work.”
Teamsters President James Hoffa spoke at the Labor Day rally before President Obama. Hoffa said there has been a war on workers.
James Hoffa: “President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. And President Obama, we want one thing: jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. That’s what we’re going to tell him. He’s going to be—and when he sees what we’re doing here, he will be inspired, but he needs help. And you know what? Everybody here has got a vote. If we go back, and we keep the eye on the prize, let’s take these son-of-a-bitches out and give America back to America where we belong.”
In the lead-up to the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, a group of family members of victims of the attacks have traveled to Afghanistan to meet local Afghan families and victims of war.
Paul Arpaia, member of September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows: “I’m coming for two reasons, mainly. The first is to bring a declaration of solidarity and support for Afghanistan and for the people who, like ourselves, have lost members, family members, in this war on terrorism. The second reason I am coming is, on this 10th anniversary, to have people look at Afghanistan, not just New York, to think about how we can help. And so, I’ve been asking people here in Kabul, 'How can we help?'”
Paul Arpaia’s cousin, Kathy Mazza, died at the World Trade Center. She was the commanding officer of the Port Authority Police Academy.
Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, is warning the United States will remain in Afghanistan for years to come.
Ryan Crocker: “This may definitely not be over, and it may not be over for a long time. Nine-and-a-half years later, it is most definitely not over. So, what we have to do is I think demonstrate the strategic patience that is necessary to win a long war.”
As many as 430,000 people marched in Israel Saturday in unprecedented protests calling for social and economic justice. Some 300,000 took to the streets in Tel Aviv, 50,000 marched in Jerusalem, and another 40,000 rallied in Haifa.
In Texas, at least two people have died and 500 homes have been destroyed in a series of massive wildfires that have already consumed tens of thousands of acres. The largest fire was just east of Austin. State officials said Sunday was the worst fire day in the state’s history in regards to home losses. The fire comes at a time of record drought in the state. Texas Gov. Rick Perry returned to the state on Monday, cutting short a presidential campaign trip to South Carolina.
In business news, the oil giant BP has hired former Pentagon press secretary, Geoff Morrell, to be its new head of communications. Morrell is being hired at a time when BP is facing a series of investigations and lawsuits stemming from the catastrophic Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The state of Arizona is coming under criticism for a new law that forces all visitors to state prisons pay a one-time $25 fee in order to visit incarcerated friends or relatives. The background check fee is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.
The San Francisco Weekly has revealed that the San Francisco Police Department helped private investigators from the computer giant Apple search the house of a California man. The Apple officials were looking for a lost prototype of the yet-to-be-released iPhone 5. According to the newspaper, three or four plainclothes officers stood outside the home while allowing two Apple security officials to scour the home and a car in apparent violation of police policy.