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The alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, told a courtroom at Guantánamo Bay Wednesday that the United States had killed more people in the name of national security than he is accused of killing on 9/11. Mohammed addressed the court during a hearing ahead of his trial for coordinating the attacks. Speaking through a translator, Mohammed said that while about 3,000 people were killed on 9/11, the United States has killed thousands or even millions. He said: “Many can kill people under the name of national security. And to torture people under the name of national security. And detain their children under the name of national security.” He went on to say: “I don’t want to be long, but I can say that the President can take someone and throw him in the sea in the name of national security. And so well he can also legislate the killings, assassinations, under the name of national security, for American citizens. My only advice to you that you do not get affected by the crocodile tears. Because your blood is not made of gold and ours made of water. We are all human beings.”
A U.S. drone attack on a farmhouse in southern Yemen has killed nine people suspected of being militants. Residents said they found the remains of nine bodies, including a senior al-Qaeda militant.
Authorities have arrested a 21-year-old Bangladeshi man they say was attempting to blow up New York’s Federal Reserve building with fake explosives provided as part of an elaborate sting operation. Officials say Quazi Nafis believed he was remotely detonating a 1,000-pound bomb. On Wednesday, New York City Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly said Nafis had come to the United States to commit “some sort of jihad.”
Commissioner Ray Kelly: “This individual came here for the purpose of doing a terrorist act. He came in January of this year. He gets a student visa under the pretext of being a student in a college in Missouri, and he comes here with, again, the avowed purpose of committing some sort of jihad here in the United States. He goes to the New York Stock Exchange. He sees that there’s significant security there, and he shifts his target to the Federal Reserve Bank.”
Nafis was charged with conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction and providing material support to al-Qaeda. He could face life in prison. Authorities alleged he tried to make contacts and form a terrorist cell to carry out an attack, but one of his recruits was an FBI informant who then introduced him to an undercover FBI agent. The FBI said it had controlled the “entire operation” in order to ensure public safety, a claim that’s raised the specter of entrapment. In the past, the agency has been accused of enabling and entrapping terror suspects who may have been unable to act on their own. An article in Mother Jones magazine last year examined more than 500 terrorism-related cases and found nearly half of prosecutions involved the use of informants, many of them incentivized by cash rewards.
In Greece, tens of thousands of people Thursday joined the country’s second general strike in less than a month to protest austerity measures. On Wednesday, Greek doctors, journalists and other workers walked off the job to protest austerity measures they say will worsen unemployment, which is already over 25 percent. Journalist Eleni Iliopoulou said the situation is bleak.
Eleni Iliopoulou: “For us [journalists], the crisis is permanent. There is no media company, whether it’s television, radio, internet or wherever, that is not firing its workers or driving them to poverty. Wages are extremely low, and there are very few professional reporters that are still being paid properly as staff.”
Students protested across Spain Wednesday as part of a student strike that has seen thousands take to the streets to protest education cuts. In the capital Madrid, more than 1,000 people chanted and blew whistles to protest fee hikes and reductions in scholarships under government austerity. One student said cuts would impact the quality of education.
Barbara, pharmaceutical student: “We will finish our studies without learning anything, and we won’t be able to find work, because if they are going to have interns working for free for nine months, who are they going to hire?”
Pedro, songwriter: “What we have to do is chase down the rich and take their money now. It’s the only solution, because with the Troika and what they impose from Europe, we will be lost here if we do as they say.”
The protests come as European leaders gather in Brussels for the opening of a two-day summit on the future of the eurozone. Ahead of the talks, French President François Hollande signaled his opposition to the strict austerity approach backed by Germany. In an interview with European newspapers, Hollande said: “The time has come to offer a perspective beyond austerity.”
Human rights groups say at least 28,000 people have disappeared in Syria after being abducted by soldiers or militia during the 19-month conflict between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebels seeking to topple him. Turkey, meanwhile, has fired into Syria after a Syrian mortar shell landed just inside its border. Tensions had previously risen between the two countries after a similar blast from Syria killed five Turkish civilians earlier this month. Turkey and Iran have both declared support for a plan by U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi that would see a holiday ceasefire between the rebels and the Syrian government. During a trip to the region Wednesday, Brahimi warned the turmoil in Syria could spread.
Lakhdar Brahimi: “The neighboring countries have two concerns. First, no one can ignore the pains the Syrian people are suffering now. I don’t think any person is happy with what’s going on inside Syria. Secondly, those countries should realize, as we have heard from officials today in Lebanon, that this crisis cannot remain within Syrian borders indefinitely. Either it will be addressed, or it will overflow…and be all-consuming.”
With less than three weeks to go before the presidential election, President Obama hit the campaign trail in Iowa on Wednesday, taking a jab at Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s remark during Tuesday’s debate that he had been brought “binders full of women” while picking cabinet members in Massachusetts.
President Obama: “I’ve got to tell you, we don’t have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women, ready to learn and teach in these fields right now.”
Mitt Romney campaigned in the battleground state of Virginia Wednesday. He is now facing criticism over a conference call from June where he told employers they should give their staff advice on how to vote. Romney made the remarks during a talk with small-business owners.
Mitt Romney: “I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise, and therefore their job and their future, in the upcoming elections. And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope — I hope you pass those along to your employees.”
Talks between the Colombian government and its largest rebel group opened Wednesday in Norway. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has been fighting the government for nearly 50 years. Past attempts at peacemaking between the two sides have failed.
Reports have emerged a CIA officer was among two U.S. intelligence officers killed over the weekend in a suicide bombing by a guard working for the Afghan intelligence service in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. The attack also killed two Afghan intelligence officials and two Afghan bodyguards. Such insider attacks have been on the rise in Afghanistan, accounting for about 15 percent of coalition troop deaths this year.
New government data reveals the number of violent crimes in the United States increased 18 percent last year. It was the first year-to-year increase in violent crimes in nearly two decades.
A judge has set a trial date for the self-appointed neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman is charged with second degree murder for the February 26 attack in Sanford, Florida. He appeared in court Wednesday, and his trial date was tentatively set for June 10. But Zimmerman’s defense team has said they will likely request a hearing under Florida’s controversial stand-your-ground law that would allow Zimmerman to make the claim before the trial that he acted in self-defense.
Uruguay’s Senate has passed a measure legalizing first-trimester abortions, and the president is widely expected to sign it into law, making Uruguay one of a few Latin American countries to allow abortions for any reason. Those seeking abortion would need to explain their case before a panel of healthcare professionals, hear about alternatives such as adoption, and then wait for five days. Uruguayan Senator Constanza Moreira defended the right to abortion.
Senator Constanza Moreira: “They are the sexual and reproductive rights of women. No woman can be obligated to carry out a pregnancy she does not want. That is violence against women. And, well, separating women from their bodies and giving them the right to not just be a body where a future life can be held has taken many years.”
A newly released document shows Israel calculated the precise number of calories that residents of the Gaza Strip would need to eat in order to avoid malnutrition during a strict Israeli blockade that lasted until 2010. An Israeli military spokesperson said Wednesday a mathematical formula was created to avoid a humanitarian crisis, but denied it was used to restrict food into Gaza.