The National Security Agency has admitted its collection of phone and Internet data exceeds what it has previously disclosed. Testifying before Congress, NSA Deputy Director John Inglis revealed analysts can perform what is called a “second or third hop query” that moves from suspected terrorists to the people they communicate with, and then to others those people are in contact with, and beyond.
Seventeen people were arrested north of Los Angeles Wednesday night at a protest over the acquittal of George Zimmerman. The rally comes ahead of nationwide “Justice for Trayvon” actions in more than 100 cities this weekend.
A federal appeals court has overruled a lower court’s decision to block a controversial statute that authorized indefinite detention. Last year, Judge Katherine Forrest struck down a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, allowing the imprisonment of anyone deemed a terrorism suspect anywhere in the world without charge or trial. A group of journalists, scholars and political activists had brought the case, arguing the provision was so broad it could easily infringe on their freedom of speech. On Wednesday, a three-judge panel ruled the plaintiffs lack proper standing to challenge the law and invalidated the injunction they won.
The Obama administration has won a court decision allowing the continued genital searches of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. Federal Judge Royce Lamberth ordered a halt to the practice last week, ruling the searches were aimed at hindering prisoners’ access to legal counsel. But on Wednesday, a federal appeals court granted an emergency motion freezing Lamberth’s decision.
Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen has confirmed the killing of its number two leader in a U.S. drone strike last year. Saudi-born Saeed al-Shihri had previously been reported dead on two occasions, but al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula says he died in a November attack. Shihri spent six years in Guantánamo Bay after being captured in Afghanistan. He was released in 2007 to Saudi Arabia, but went on to Yemen.
The health of former South African President Nelson Mandela is reportedly improving as South Africans and people around the world mark his 95th birthday. A family member says Mandela has made “dramatic progress” since being hospitalized last month for a recurring lung infection.
Tens of thousands of people have rallied in Egypt today, with both supporters and opponents of ousted President Mohamed Morsi holding rival protests. The interim Egyptian government is facing growing international pressure for Morsi’s release. In a visit to Cairo, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Morsi should be set free.
Israel has announced a new round of settlement construction in the occupied West Bank. On Wednesday, the Israeli government approved the building of more than 700 homes outside of Israel’s internationally recognized 1967 borders.
The move comes as Secretary of State John Kerry continues an effort to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace talks for the first time since 2010. Speaking in Jordan, Kerry said he thinks Israel should consider the long-standing Arab League peace initiative that pledges normalized relations and full recognition if Israel withdraws completely from the occupied territories seized in 1967.
Secretary of State John Kerry: “Israel needs to look hard at this initiative, which promises Israel peace with 22 Arab nations and 35 Muslim nations — a total of 57 nations that are standing and waiting for the possibility of making peace with Israel.”
Israel has long dismissed the original Arab peace offer because it wants to keep the large, illegal settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank.
The European Union meanwhile has announced a new policy aimed at cutting ties with Israeli institutions linked to the settlements. The EU will now ban dealings with any Israeli entity that operates on occupied Palestinian land. Such groups would be barred from receiving EU grants, prizes and loans.
Protests have erupted in India after a poisonous school meal left at least 25 children dead and dozens hospitalized. Investigators say they believe the meals were contaminated with insecticide. The food was provided under a nationwide program feeding tens of millions of children.
Panama has asked the U.N. Security Council for assistance after intercepting a North Korean ship carrying military supplies from Cuba. Panama seized the vessel last week after a standoff with its crew. The ship was reportedly carrying missile equipment and other weaponry that Cuba has described as “obsolete” and being sent to North Korea for repair. Panamanian Security Minister José Raúl Mulino said the cargo will be handed over to the United Nations.
Panamanian Security Minister José Raúl Mulino: “We are expecting the representative of the Security Council of the United Nations, that are invited to Panama by a request of the president and the minister of foreign affairs — our ambassador in the U.N. already sent the invitation — to evaluate and determine what this is all about, in terms of the several resolutions of the United Nations Security Council issued on the North Korea matter.”
The ship’s crew is facing charges for transporting dangerous cargo. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says U.N. officials will look into whether the shipment violates international sanctions on the North Korean regime. A list provided by Cuba shows the weaponry dates back to the Soviet era, bolstering its claim that the shipment was meant for repairs.
Lawmakers in Britain have voted to legalize gay marriage beginning next year. Britain becomes the 15th country to equalize marriage, joining recent countries including France, Uruguay and New Zealand.
President Obama’s nominee to become the next U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power, appeared before a Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday. Power told lawmakers that U.N. inaction on Syria marks “a disgrace.” She also pledged to continue long-standing U.S. support for Israeli government policies at the United Nations.
Samantha Power: “We see the absurdity of Iran chairing the U.N. conference on disarmament. We see the failure of the U.N. Security Council to respond to the slaughter in Syria — a disgrace that history will judge harshly. The U.N. must be fair. The United States has no greater friend in the world than the state of Israel. We share security interests, we share core values, and we have a special relationship with Israel. And yet the General Assembly and Human Rights Council continue to pass one-sided resolutions condemning Israel.”
Power served as Obama’s senior foreign policy adviser during his first run for the White House before being forced to resign for calling Hillary Clinton a “monster.” She is expected to easily win approval.
A federal review of death penalty convictions has reportedly found at least 27 cases where FBI experts implicated defendants with exaggerated scientific testimony. According to The Washington Post, the FBI has identified the cases as among 120 questionable convictions to emerge from a sweeping review that began last summer. The findings prompted a last-minute stay of execution in the case of Mississippi prisoner Willie Jerome Manning earlier this year. The review’s full results are expected next month.
Senate members have reached a bipartisan agreement that could reverse the doubling of interest rates on federally subsidized student loans. The interest rate for Stafford loans climbed to 6.8 percent earlier this month after Congress failed to reach a deal to avoid the hike. Under the agreement, students could see a lower rate through 2015, but then see those rates jump as they become attached to financial markets. A vote on the proposal could come as early as today.
The magazine Rolling Stone has sparked controversy after featuring Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover of its latest issue. The photo accompanies an in-depth story that Rolling Stone calls “a riveting and heartbreaking account of how a charming kid with a bright future became a monster.” The pharmacy chains Walgreens and CVS are refusing to sell copies of the issue in their stores. On Wednesday, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino lashed out at Rolling Stone.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino: “Why would we heroize this guy? He’s just a — he’s a terrorist. We don’t want him in our neighborhoods. We don’t want him on magazines. We don’t want him anywhere.”
In response to the criticism, Rolling Stone published a statement saying in part: “The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens.”
The elder daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney has launched her campaign for a Senate seat in Wyoming. Liz Cheney is among several Republicans challenging three-term incumbent Senator Mike Enzi in the upcoming primary. Enzi says Cheney had previously told him she would not challenge his seat.