Today we look back at 2013. It was a historic year. Edward Snowden exposed how the National Security Agency had built a worldwide surveillance apparatus, while Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in jail for leaking U.S. secret documents to WikiLeaks. Pope Francis urged the world to address economic inequality, warning about the tyranny of unfettered capitalism. Tens of thousands were killed in Syria, with many more displaced. The Philippines was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act, while overturning the Defense of Marriage Act that barred federal recognition of same-sex marriages. George Zimmerman was acquitted in the killing of Trayvon Martin. The U.S. government was shut down for 16 days, while Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform or any true gun-control measures. The U.S. war in Afghanistan entered its 13th year, while more than 8,000 civilians were killed in Iraq — in the deadliest year there since 2008. Meanwhile, Obama’s secret drone wars continued in Pakistan and Yemen. We spend the hour today looking back at the stories that shaped 2013.
AMY GOODMAN: Today, we look back at 2013. It was an historic year. Edward Snowden exposed how the National Security, the NSA, built a worldwide surveillance apparatus, while Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in jail for leaking U.S. secret documents to WikiLeaks. Pope Francis urged the world to address economic inequality, warning about the tyranny of unfettered capitalism. Tens of thousands were killed in Syria. And the Philippines was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. The Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act, while overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred federal recognition of same-sex marriage. George Zimmerman was acquitted in the killing of Trayvon Martin. The U.S. government was shut down for 16 days while Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform or any true gun-control measures. The U.S. war in Afghanistan entered its 13th year, while over 8,000 civilians were killed in Iraq in the deadliest year there since 2008. Meanhwhile, President Obama’s secret drone wars continued in Pakistan and Yemen. We’ll spend the hour looking back at 2013. We begin with President Obama’s inauguration.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: A prominent immigrant rights activist has spoken out after her mother and brother were detained in a raid by federal immigration agents at their Phoenix home. Erika Andiola, who has played a leading role in the undocumented youth movement, urged an end to the raids in a tearful recording.
ERIKA ANDIOLA: We need to do something. We need to stop separating families. And this is real. This is so real. I need everybody to stop, to stop pretending like nothing is wrong, to stop pretending that we’re just living normal lives, because we’re not. This can happen to any of us.
AMY GOODMAN: The late Internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz was laid to rest on Tuesday at a funeral near Chicago. Swartz killed himself on Friday, weeks before he was to go to trial for downloading millions of articles provided by the nonprofit research service JSTOR. He was facing 35 years in prison, a penalty that supporters of Swartz called excessively harsh.
AMY GOODMAN: In a moment, we’ll be joined by Aaron Swartz’s girlfriend, but first let’s turn to Aaron Swartz in his own words. This is part of a speech he delivered last May in Washington, D.C., when he explained the challenges he sees the Internet facing.
AARON SWARTZ: There’s a battle going on right now, a battle to define everything that happens on the Internet in terms of traditional things that the law understands. Is sharing a video on BitTorrent like shoplifting from a movie store? Or is it like loaning a videotape to a friend? Is reloading a webpage over and over again like a peaceful virtual sit-in or a violent smashing of shop windows? Is the freedom to connect like freedom of speech or like the freedom to murder?
TAREN STINEBRICKNER-KAUFFMAN: Aaron was the most—person most dedicated to fighting social injustice of anyone I’ve ever met in my life, and I loved him for it. He used to say—I used to say, "Why don’t you—why we do this thing? It will make you happy." And he would say, "I don’t want to be happy. I just want to change the world."
NERMEEN SHAIKH: A retired CIA agent who blew the whistle on the agency’s Bush-era torture program has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. John Kiriakou becomes the first CIA official to be jailed for any reason relating to the torture program.
JOHN KIRIAKOU: I’m going to prison, ostensibly, for violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. I believe, and my supporters believe, that this, however, was not a case about leaking; this was a case about torture. And I believe I’m going to prison because I blew the whistle on torture.
AMY GOODMAN: President Obama has formally unveiled his second-term nominations for two key Cabinet posts: former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel for defense secretary and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to helm the CIA.
AMY GOODMAN: In a rare move, Brennan’s confirmation hearing was temporarily called into recess following multiple interruptions by protesters drawing attention to his leading role in the drone war.
JOHN BRENNAN: And I’m very pleased to be joined today by my wife Kathy and brother Tom.
CODEPINK PROTESTER: Speaking of children, I speak for the mothers who lost children—
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: All right, we will stop again.
CODEPINK PROTESTER: —in your drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia. And who else? Who else? Where else?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Please remove the—
CODEPINK PROTESTER: The CIA and the Obama administration refuse to even tell Congress. They won’t even tell Congress what countries we are killing children in.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Please—
CODEPINK PROTESTER: Senator Feinstein—
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: If you could please expedite the removal?
CODEPINK PROTESTER: —are your children more important than the children of Pakistan and Yemen? Are they more important? Do your job! World peace depends on it! We’re making more enemies—
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Forty-eight environmental activists were arrested Wednesday in front of the White House as part of an ongoing protest calling on the Obama administration to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.
MICHAEL BRUNE: And so we know that we can’t win on climate change if we continue to dither, if we continue to talk about it but not do anything. And so, the Sierra Club is engaging in civil disobedience for the first time, because we have a moral catastrophe on our hands, and we need to do everything that we can to compel stronger, bolder action.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Venezuela has announced seven days of mourning for its president, Hugo Chávez, who has died at the age of 58. Chávez died after a two-year battle with cancer that was first detected in his pelvis in June of 2011. This is Bolivian President Evo Morales remembering Chávez.
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] He fought for his country, for the great nation, like Simón Bolívar, a friend who gave his entire life for the liberation of the Venezuelan people, the people of Latin America and all anti-imperialists and anti-capitalists of the world.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: More than a hundred detainees held in the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, are reportedly entering their fifth week of a hunger strike against deteriorating conditions.
PARDISS KEBRIAEI: We’ve heard reports of people losing over 20, 30, 40 pounds. And we’re now today in day 36 or so of the strike. By day 42, 45, you start seeing things like loss of vision, loss of hearing, and eventually death.
AMY GOODMAN: A papal conclave has selected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, to be the new pope. He is viewed as a theological conservative who has staunchly opposed abortion, same-sex marriage and the ordination of women. In Argentina, he has long been dogged by reports that he aided the military dictatorship in the 1970s.
TOM ROBERTS: He really does live a life identified with the poor. He lives in a simple apartment, cooks his own meals, and has really been identified with a very, very strong social justice current in Latin America. He has used language about the inequalities between countries and talks about Argentina as one of the most unequal places in the world, talks about the unjust distribution of goods as a social sin.
AMY GOODMAN: Military officials appeared before a Senate panel on Wednesday to answer questions over the failure to halt the epidemic of sexual assault within their ranks. New York senator and panel chair, Kirsten Gillibrand, blasted the military’s handling of sexual assault.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: I am extremely disturbed, based on the last round of question and answer, that each of you believes that the convening authority is what maintains discipline and order within your ranks. If that is your view, I don’t know how you can say that having 19,000 sexual assaults and rapes a year is discipline and order.
AMY GOODMAN: Anuradha Bhagwati of Service Women’s Action Network also testified.
ANURADHA BHAGWATI: Military sexual violence is a very personal issue for me. During my five years as a Marine officer, I experienced daily discrimination and sexual harassment. I was exposed to a culture rife with sexism, rape jokes, pornography and widespread commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls, both in the United States and overseas. My experiences came to a head while I was stationed at the School of Infantry at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, from 2002 to 2004, where I witnessed reports of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment swept under the rug by a handful of field-grade officers. Perpetrators were promoted or transferred to other units without punishment, while victims were accused of lying or exaggerating their claims in order to ruin men’s reputations.
AMY GOODMAN: A series of bomb blasts have ripped through Baghdad and surrounding towns on the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion that began a decade-long war in Iraq. At least 56 people died in more than a dozen explosions, most of them car bombings. It was 10 years ago today the United States, under President George W. Bush, invaded Iraq on the false pretext that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction. Now, a decade after the invasion began, a new poll confirms most people in the United States believe it was a mistake.
DAHR JAMAIL: The situation in Iraq today, 10 years after the U.S.-led invasion and occupation began, it’s just utter devastation. It’s a situation where, overall, we can say that Iraq is a failed state. The economy is in a state of crisis, perpetual crisis, that began far back with the institution of the 100 Bremer orders during—under the Coalition Provisional Authority, the civil government set up to run Iraq during the first year of the occupation. And it’s been in crisis ever since.
AMY GOODMAN: Two high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio, have been found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl at a party last August. On Sunday, the teenagers, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, were convicted of sexually assaulting the victim, who witnesses testified was too drunk to move or speak. The case sparked a national controversy following the emergence of images and social media postings from the night of the assault, including one picture of the defendants holding the victim over a basement floor.
AMY GOODMAN: At least three people are dead and 144 wounded, 17 of them critically, after two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This was a heinous and cowardly act. And given what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism.
AMY GOODMAN: One suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings is dead, and a massive manhunt is underway for the second, after a chaotic scene erupted overnight that left one police officer dead, another critically wounded.
JAY CARNEY: He will not be treated as an enemy combatant. We will prosecute this terrorist through our civilian system of justice.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: On Tuesday, the Senate held its first-ever public hearing on the U.S. secret drone program, 12 years after the United States launched its first deadly drone strike. The most moving testimony at the Senate hearing on drones came from Farea al-Muslimi, a youth activist from Yemen.
FAREA AL-MUSLIMI: Now, however, when they think of America, they think of the terror they feel from the drones that hover over their heads, ready to fire missiles at any time. What the violent militants had previously failed to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instant. There is now an intense anger against America in Wessab.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: For the first time, the Obama administration admitted Wednesday it had killed four U.S. citizens in drone strikes overseas.
AMY GOODMAN: For more, we go to Jeremy Scahill, author of the new book Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield. He is also a producer and writer of the documentary film by the same title, Dirty Wars, which premieres in theaters around the country June 7th.
JEREMY SCAHILL: I really think that Congress needs to step it up and ask how these Americans were killed. But I also think that, on both a moral level and, my understanding, also on a legal level, it really is irrelevant whether they’re Americans or not Americans. Why I think it’s important to focus on these cases is because how a society will treat its own citizens is a good indicator of how it’s going to treat noncitizens around the world. And if the basic standards of due process are not being afforded to American citizens, then they certainly are not going to be afforded to non-American citizens.
AMY GOODMAN: The retail giant Wal-Mart has been tied to the collapsed Bangladesh industrial building where more than 1,100 workers died last month. The New York Times reports documents found in the rubble show a contractor had hired one of the building’s factories to produce jeans for Wal-Mart stores.
AMY GOODMAN: Bangladeshi activist and former garment worker, Kalpona Akter, attended Wal-Mart’s annual meeting and addressed Wal-Mart Chair Rob Walton.
KALPONA AKTER: Mr. Rob Walton, I’m sure you know that these fixing buildings would cost just a tiny fraction of your family wealth. So I implore to you, please, help us. You have the power to do this very easily. Don’t you agree that the factories where Wal-Mart products are made should be safe for the workers? For years, every time there is an accident, Wal-Mart officials have made promise to improve the terrible conditions in my country’s garment factories, but the tragedies continue. With all due respect, the time for empty promises is over.
AMY GOODMAN: The FBI has added the former Black Panther Assata Shakur to its Most Wanted Terrorists list, and the reward for her capture has been doubled to $2 million. Shakur is the first woman added to the list. We’re joined now by Angela Davis.
ANGELA DAVIS: It’s designed to frighten people who are involved in struggles today. Forty years ago seems as if it were a long time ago, four decades; however, in the 21st century, at the beginning of the 21st century, we’re still fighting around the very same issues—police violence, healthcare, education, people in prison, and so forth. So I see this as an attack not so much on Assata herself, although of course she deserves to be brought home.
AMY GOODMAN: In an historic verdict, former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt was found guilty Friday of genocide and crimes against humanity and was sentenced to 80 years in prison. Judge Yassmin Barrios announced the verdict on Friday.
JUDGE YASSMIN BARRIOS: [translated] By unanimous decision, the court declares that the accused, José Efraín Ríos Montt, is responsible as the author of the crime of genocide.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest in Mexico City is the Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchú. It was her lawsuit that helped to lead to the conviction—first trial, then conviction and 80-year sentence of the former U.S.-backed dictator of Guatemala, Efraín Ríos Montt.
RIGOBERTA MENCHÚ: [translated] This verdict is historic. It’s monumental. The verdict against Ríos Montt is historic. We waited for 33 years for justice to prevail. It’s clear that there is no peace without justice. There is no peace without truth. We need justice for the victims for there to be real peace. This verdict is crucial.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to move to another subject with the former attorney general of the United States here, Ramsey Clark, and that is this top story in our headlines today, the Associated Press saying the Justice Department secretly obtained a trove of journalists’ phone records, believed more than 100 reporters working at AP and outside, reporters who even used the AP phones.
RAMSEY CLARK: It seems to be a terrible intrusion on the freedom of the press. I don’t see how the press can operate effectively if the public and people that talk to the press have to assume that Big Brother is listening in or can seize the conversations that they engage in. So, the impairment to freedom of the press would seem—the threat to freedom of the press would seem clear and substantial, and it ought not to be done.
AMY GOODMAN: President Obama’s speech at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., was interrupted multiple times by Medea Benjamin, the founder of CodePink.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Once again—
MEDEA BENJAMIN: There are 102 people on a hunger strike—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Today—
MEDEA BENJAMIN: —these desperate people [inaudible]—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’m about to address it, ma’am, but you’ve got to let me speak. I’m about to address it.
MEDEA BENJAMIN: You are commander-in-chief.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Let me address it.
MEDEA BENJAMIN: You can close Guantánamo today.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Why don’t you let me address it, ma’am?
MEDEA BENJAMIN: You can release those 86 prisoners cleared for release [inaudible]—
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Why don’t you sit down?
AMY GOODMAN: We continue our look back at 2013 in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: "If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)" by the Staple Singers. Cleotha Staples died February 21st, 2013, at the age of 78. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our look back at 2013.
AMY GOODMAN: A newly disclosed court order shows the telecom giant Verizon is handing over the phone records of millions of subscribers to the U.S. government without individual warrants. The Guardian of London reports the FBI obtained the three-month authorization from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in April. It compels Verizon to provide the National Security Agency with "metadata" of all subscriber phone calls: who they spoke to, where and at what time they made the call, and for how long. This appears to mark the broadest act of government surveillance known to date.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re now joined by two former employees of the National Security Agency, Thomas Drake and William Binney.
WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, it’s certainly an extension of what I’ve been trying to say, that we were on a slippery slope to a totalitarian state. And that was simply based on the idea that the government was collecting so much information about all the citizens inside the country, that it gave them so much power.
THOMAS DRAKE: I think what people are now realizing is that this isn’t just a terrorist issue. This is simply the ability of the government in secret, on a vast scale, to collect any and all phone call records, including domestic to domestic, local, as well as location information. We might—there’s no need now to call this the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Let’s just call it the surveillance court. It’s no longer about foreign intelligence. It’s simply about harvesting millions and millions and millions of phone call records and beyond.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the man who blew the whistle on the National Security Agency and the expanding U.S. surveillance state. On Sunday, The Guardian newspaper revealed the source of its explosive series on the NSA to be a 29-year-old former CIA technical assistant named Edward Snowden.
EDWARD SNOWDEN: Any analyst at any time can target anyone, any selector anywhere. Where those communications will be picked up depends on the range of the sensor networks and the authorities that that analyst is empowered with. Not all analysts have the ability to target everything. But I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge, to even the president, if I had a personal email.
AMY GOODMAN: On Friday, President Obama confirmed the existence of the surveillance program.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When it comes to telephone calls, nobody is listening to your telephone calls. That’s not what this program’s about.
AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, Ed Snowden turned 30 on Friday. Also, then, the charges against him were made known. Can you explain what he has been charged with by the United States?
GLENN GREENWALD: He’s been charged so far with three felony counts, one of which is essentially stealing property that doesn’t belong to him. The other two are the much more serious ones. They’re offenses under the Espionage Act of 1917.
AMY GOODMAN: Journalist Michael Hastings has died at the age of 33. Hastings was killed in a car crash in Los Angeles early Tuesday morning. Speaking to Democracy Now! in 2012, Michael Hastings said the Afghan War, like the invasion of Iraq, was based on a false premise.
MICHAEL HASTINGS: If WMDs were the big lie of the Iraq War, the safe haven myth is the big lie of the Afghan War. And what I mean by that—and this was true in Iraq, as well—but 99 percent of the people, maybe even higher, honestly, the people we’re fighting, whether it was Sunni insurgents in Iraq or Shiite militias in Iraq or in Afghanistan, the Taliban never actually posed a threat to the United States homeland.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: In a major blow for voting rights, the Supreme Court has gutted an integral part of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. The act was a crowning achievement of the civil rights movement and helped transform the South.
AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Jesse Jackson, let’s begin with you. Your reaction to the Supreme Court decision?
REV. JESSE JACKSON: A source of deep pain. My father came from World War II, had to sit behind lots of POWs on American military bases and did not have the right to vote. I’ve grown up with this all of my life. I marched in Selma, Alabama, for the right to vote; went to jail trying to get Mandela his right to vote. We’ve been fighting the struggle to democratize our nation and our nations for a long time, and so it hurt at that level.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In a resounding victory for marriage equality, the Supreme Court ruled that married same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits, as it struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. In addition, the court paved the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California. When the five-to-four decision on DOMA was announced, an enormous cheer went up outside the courtroom, and the crowd started chanting, "DOMA is dead!" as couples hugged and cried. The lead plaintiff in the case was an 84-year-old lesbian named Edith Windsor.
EDITH WINDSOR: Children born today will grow up in a world without DOMA, and those same children who happen to be gay will be free to love and get married as Thea and I did, but with the same federal benefits, protections and dignity as everyone else. If I had to survive Thea, what a glorious way to do it. And she would be so pleased.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Pro-choice advocates and Democratic lawmakers waged a battle into the early hours of Wednesday morning to successfully block a bill that would have forced nearly all of the state’s abortion clinics to close.
SEN. WENDY DAVIS: Members, I’m rising on the floor today to humbly give voice to thousands of Texans who have been ignored.
AMY GOODMAN: Wendy Davis’s filibuster lasted nearly 11 hours before Republicans cut her off. That was when her colleagues and the protesters in the gallery took over.
AMY GOODMAN: Deadly violence is continuing in Egypt days after the military ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. Earlier today at least 42 people were reportedly killed at the military site where Morsi is being detained. The Muslim Brotherhood says the victims were holding a peaceful sit-in when gunmen opened fire, wounding over 500. The victims included women and children.
AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Cairo, where we’re joined by Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, Amy, I’m just coming back from the scene of a bloodbath in Cairo today. As you mentioned, the official count is at least 42 people killed, 300 wounded, many of them killed with live ammunition. I spoke to many eyewitnesses. All of them say that the attack began right at the end of dawn prayer, where pro-Morsi supporters are holding a sit-in.
AMY GOODMAN: The Pakistani schoolgirl attacked by the Taliban last year appeared at the United Nations on Friday to deliver her first speech since undergoing surgery and to celebrate a global day in her honor. Malala Yousafzai was left seriously wounded when militants shot her in the head for campaigning for the rights of girls. On Friday, her 16th birthday, Malala said she is undeterred by the Taliban’s efforts to silence her voice.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Dear friends, on the 9th of October, 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends, too. They thought that the bullet would silence us. But they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died; strength, power and courage was born.
JUDGE DEBRA NELSON: Members of the jury, have you reached a verdict?
CLERK: In the Circuit Court of the 18th Judicial Circuit in and for Seminole County, Florida, State of Florida v. George Zimmerman, verdict: We, the jury, find George Zimmerman not guilty. So say we all, foreperson.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me, 35 years ago.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re going to Columbus, Ohio, where we’re joined by Michelle Alexander, civil rights advocate, attorney, author of the best-selling book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.
MICHELLE ALEXANDER: I think it’s critically important that we not allow ourselves to get bogged down in the details of who said what when, but rather step back and consider what this Zimmerman mindset, a mindset that views a boy walking in his neighborhood carrying nothing but Skittles and iced tea as a threat, this mindset that views black men and boys as a perpetual problem to be dealt with. This mindset has infected our criminal justice system, has infected our schools, has infected our politics, in ways that have had disastrous consequences, birthing a prison system unprecedented in world history and stripping millions of basic civil, human—millions of people of basic civil and human rights once they’ve been branded criminals and felons.
AMY GOODMAN: Pope Francis has issued unusually candid remarks about LGBT people, saying they should not be marginalized in society, but maintaining that homosexual acts are a sin under Catholic teaching.
POPE FRANCIS: [translated] If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?
AMY GOODMAN: In Iran, Hassan Rouhani took the presidential oath of office Sunday, replacing outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
PRESIDENT HASSAN ROUHANI: [translated] Interactions based on equal footing and cooperation will be the basis of our relations with other countries. On this basis, proportionate to the behavior and approach of the other side, in view of improving and promoting future ties, we will ascertain our next step. So I will say this: If you want the right response, don’t speak with Iran in the language of sanctions; speak in the language of respect.
AMY GOODMAN: A federal judge has denied a request for compassionate release from jailed civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart, who is dying from stage IV breast cancer. Stewart has served almost four years of a 10-year prison sentence for distributing press releases on behalf of her jailed client, Omar Abdel Rahman, an Egyptian cleric known as the "blind Sheikh."
AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Poynter, your wife, Lynne, in prison, you visited her last week.
RALPH POYNTER: This is dangerous, a dangerous situation, and the prison wants her dead. I don’t call them "prisons" anymore; I call them "death camps."
AARON MATÉ: We begin with a historic ruling in federal court that the stop-and-frisk tactics used by New York police officers are unconstitutional.
AMY GOODMAN: Shortly after the decision was announced, the plaintiffs in the case held a news conference alongside their lawyers.
LALIT CLARKSON: The reason why I joined on to this case was because many of us, including myself, feel like "stop and frisk" is police abuse, and that that’s the lowest level of police abuse. And once police abuse power when it comes to "stop and frisk," then they can do it in terms of falsely arresting people, then they can do it in terms of planting evidence. And at the most extreme cases, they can do it in terms of killing people.
AARON MATÉ: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg reacted angrily to the ruling and accused the judge of denying the city a fair trial.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: This is a very dangerous decision made by a judge that I think just does not understand how policing works and what is compliant with the U.S. Constitution as determined by the Supreme Court.
AMY GOODMAN: In breaking news out of Russia, National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has been given one year temporary political asylum in Russia. Snowden has reportedly already left the Moscow airport where he’s been holed up for over a month.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood have called on followers to march in protest in Cairo today after at least 525 people died when security forces raided two protest encampments filled with supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. More than 3,500 people were injured. The Muslim Brotherhood says the death toll may top 2,000.
AMY GOODMAN: In Cairo, Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: The scene inside the main medical facility in Rabaa was extremely tragic. People were being brought in, the dead and wounded, every few minutes. The floor was slippery with blood. The windows were closed to prevent tear gas from coming in, and it was almost unbearably hot. And the dead were everywhere. In one room alone, I counted 24 bodies just strewn on the ground, packed so closely you couldn’t even walk in; on another floor, another 30; on another floor, another eight. Doctors were overwhelmed with the casualties.
AMY GOODMAN: The British government is being accused of abusing press freedom after detaining the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. On Sunday, Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, was held and interrogated at London’s Heathrow Airport while traveling home to Brazil.
DAVID MIRANDA: [translated] I stayed in a room with three different agents that were entering and exiting. They spoke to me, asking me questions about my whole life. They took my computer, my video game, cellphone, everything.
AMY GOODMAN: Syrian opposition activists are accusing the regime of Bashar al-Assad of killing hundreds of civilians in new chemical violence. The Syrian Revolutionary Command Council claims as many as 650 people have died in a gas attack on rebel-held areas of eastern Damascus.
RAZAN ZAITOUNEH: Hours later, we started to visit the medical points in Ghouta to where injured were removed, and we couldn’t believe our eyes. I haven’t seen such death in my whole life. People were lying on the ground in hallways, on roadsides, in hundreds.
AMY GOODMAN: Army Private Bradley Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking more than 700,000 classified files and videos to WikiLeaks. The sentence is much longer than any punishment given to previous U.S. government officials who have leaked information to the media. Under current guidelines, Manning could be released on parole in about seven years. After the hearing, Manning defense attorney David Coombs read a statement from Manning asking President Obama for a pardon.
DAVID COOMBS: When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others. If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society.
AMY GOODMAN: We welcome you back to Democracy Now!, Julian Assange. What is your response to the verdict?
JULIAN ASSANGE: Edward Snowden’s freedom is a very important symbol. Bradley Manning’s incarceration is also an important symbol. Bradley Manning is now a martyr. He didn’t choose to be a martyr. I don’t think it’s a proper way for activists to behave, to choose to be martyrs. But these young men—allegedly in the case of Bradley Manning and clearly in the case of Edward Snowden—have risked their freedom, risked their lives for all of us. That makes them heroes.
AMY GOODMAN: In a statement just released this morning, Bradley Manning thanked supporters and announced plans to live as a woman under the name Chelsea Manning. Manning said, quote, "As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition."
AMY GOODMAN: Tens of thousands gathered in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, originally held on August 28, 1963. Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, the only surviving speaker from the 1963 march, said the struggle for racial and economic justice continues today.
REP. JOHN LEWIS: We are one people. We are one family. We are one house. We all live in the same house. So I say to you, my brothers and sisters, we cannot give up. We cannot give out. We cannot give in. We must get out there and push and pull.
AMY GOODMAN: The Obama administration is considering launching unilateral air strikes against Syria after British lawmakers voted against the use of force.
PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON: It is very clear tonight that while the House has not passed a motion, it is clear to me that the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that, and the government will act accordingly.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’m confident in the case our government has made without waiting for U.N. inspectors. I’m comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable.
AMY GOODMAN: Fast-food workers went on strike in 60 U.S. cities in the largest protest of an almost year-long campaign to raise service sector wages at restaurants, including McDonald’s and Burger King.
KAREEM STARKS: I have two kids, six and 12. Both of my boys graduated kindergarten and fifth grade at the same time this year. My general manager told me that he was going to give me some extra opportunities to make some money—extra days. He calls me in on my day off, and three days after that, every day, a different manager sends me home. At the end of the week, I only get a paycheck with 28 hours. I didn’t have enough to do anything for my son, more or less just buy balloons or take him out to a pizza shop. I couldn’t really celebrate his graduation, because I didn’t have any money.
AMY GOODMAN: New York City Council Member Letitia James expressed support for the fast-food workers.
LETITIA JAMES: Most of the individuals who work in fast-food restaurants, which is one of the growing—fastest-growing industries in the City of New York, it’s a race to the bottom. A significant number of them in retail and in the fast-food restaurants are women of color who look like me. And so, there is a feminization of poverty. It’s a term which describes most women who live below the poverty level who are struggling to make ends meet.
AMY GOODMAN: We’ll be back with our 2013 year in review in a moment.
AMY GOODMAN: "Sunday Morning," performed by Velvet Underground, featuring Lou Reed on vocals. Activist, artist, musician Lou Reed passed away October 27th at the age of 71. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our look back at 2013.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The Guardian, The New York Times and ProPublica have jointly revealed the National Security Agency is successfully waging a long-running secret war on encryption, jeopardizing hundreds of millions of people’s ability to protect their privacy online.
GLENN GREENWALD: And what these documents show is not just that the NSA is trying to break the codes of encryption to let them get access to everything, but they’re forcing the companies that provide the encryption services to put backdoors into their programs, which means, again, that not only the NSA, but all sorts of hackers and other governments and all kinds of ill-motivated people, can have a weakness to exploit, a vulnerability to exploit, in these systems, which makes the entire Internet insecure for everybody.
AARON MATÉ: Syria’s foreign minister has announced Syria has accepted a Russian proposal to surrender control over its chemical weapons. The Russian initiative was apparently sparked by remarks made by Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday about what Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could do to prevent a U.S. attack.
SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week—turn it over, all of it, without delay—and allow a full and total accounting for that. But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously.
AMY GOODMAN: In a national address from the White House Tuesday night, Obama said the United States will explore Russia’s proposal to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It’s too early to tell whether this offer will succeed, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments. But this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particularly because Russia is one of Assad’s strongest allies. I have therefore asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path.
AMY GOODMAN: And your response, Rania Masri, of these latest fast-moving developments?
RANIA MASRI: I think it strongly reveals both President Obama’s international isolation, with his only main ally supporting a bombing campaign against Syria being the Saudis, who have themselves funded many of these so-called rebels in Syria, and at the same time President Obama is facing increasing domestic opposition, from the Republicans to the Democrats, across the political spectrum.
AMY GOODMAN: We go to Washington, D.C., to speak with Seymour Hersh himself, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist. His latest piece in the London Review of Books is headlined "Whose Sarin?"
SEYMOUR HERSH: The fact is that I think the administration should just take the high road here and put out what it knows. I have every reason to believe they know more than they’ve indicated about who did what and what the sarin looked like. And, you know, as I wrote in the article, here you have a president of the United States that one day is telling us he’s going to bomb Syria, and the next day he suddenly cuts a deal.
AMY GOODMAN: Thirteen people have died after a former Navy reservist opened fire at a naval base in Washington, D.C., Monday morning, killing 12 people and wounding several others before dying in a shootout with police. The gunman has been identified as Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old who had been arrested at least twice in the past for shooting-related incidents, but who had security clearance to enter the Washington Navy Yard and worked for a military contractor.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In the wake of the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard that left 12 people dead, dozens of gun-control activists, many from the Newtown Action Alliance, convened on Capitol Hill Wednesday to try to revive a bill that would expand federal background checks of gun buyers.
SHUNDRA ROBINSON: You guys can leave here and go on with your lives, but we got to go home to empty rooms, because our children’s lives were taken away by people who should not have had guns anyway. Most of our children’s lives were lost by people under 21. This universal background check is a start. We need healing, you guys. And it’s a global thing. It’s beyond an epidemic. This is genocide in America.
AMY GOODMAN: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has cancelled an upcoming trip to the U.S. over revelations of spying by the National Security Agency. Rousseff was due to visit Washington next month and attend a state dinner in her honor at the White House.
PRESIDENT DILMA ROUSSEFF: [translated] Like so many other Latin Americans, I myself fought on a firsthand basis against arbitrary behavior and censorship, and I could therefore not possibly fail to uncompromisingly defend individuals’ rights to privacy and my country’s sovereignty.
AMY GOODMAN: An armed standoff is continuing at a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, where al-Qaeda-linked militants have taken hostages in a deadly rampage. At least 68 people have died and nearly 200 have been wounded since armed gunmen with Somalia’s al-Shabab stormed the shopping center on Saturday.
AMY GOODMAN: Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is staging a marathon filibuster as part of his campaign against the Affordable Care Act. The Democrat-controlled Senate is set to strip a provision from a House Republican spending bill that would tie the aversion of a government shutdown to the defunding of "Obamacare." During his comments, Cruz compared those who oppose efforts to repeal "Obamacare" to the Western appeasement of Nazi Germany.
SEN. TED CRUZ: You go to the 1940s, Nazi Germany. Look, we saw in Britain Neville Chamberlain, who told the British people, "Accept the Nazis. Yes, they’ll dominate the continent of Europe, but that’s not our problem. Let’s appease them. Why? Because it can’t be done. We can’t possibly stand against them."
AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. government has begun a partial shutdown for the first time in 17 years after Congress failed to break a partisan deadlock by a midnight deadline. Some 800,000 federal workers are to be furloughed, and more than a million others will be asked to work without pay.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The Affordable Care Act is moving forward. That funding is already in place. You can’t shut it down.
AMY GOODMAN: Hundreds gathered Saturday in New Orleans to remember Angola 3 member Herman Wallace as he was laid to rest. Wallace spent nearly 42 years in solitary confinement before he was released on October 1 and died three days later, a free man, after a Louisiana federal judge overturned his conviction. This is fellow Angola 3 member Robert King, who was released in 2001, speaking at Wallace’s funeral.
ROBERT KING: It is often said that I was the only freed member of the Angola 3, and that is true. But if someone would also say that Herman was the second freed member of the Angola 3, I would also agree with that. And even though it was short-lived, Herman died with a clean slate.
AMY GOODMAN: U.S. officials are pushing for an agreement by the end of the year on the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal described by critics as "NAFTA on steroids" that would establish a free trade zone stretching from Vietnam to Chile to Japan and encompassing nearly 40 percent of the global economy.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined by Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.
LORI WALLACH: Well, one of the most important things to understand is it’s not really mainly about trade. I guess the way to think about it is as a corporate Trojan horse. The agreement has 29 chapters, and only five of them have to do with trade. The other 24 chapters either handcuff our domestic governments, limiting food safety, environmental standards, financial regulation, energy and climate policy, or establishing new powers for corporations.
AMY GOODMAN: President Obama defended his signature healthcare law Monday following weeks of technical failures that have prevented many people from signing up.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There’s no sugarcoating it. The website has been too slow. People have been getting stuck during the application process. And I think it’s fair to say that nobody is more frustrated by that than I am, precisely because the product is good.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We’re joined now by the Rehman family, who have just traveled to the United States from Pakistan. On Tuesday, they became the first victims of U.S. drone war to address members of Congress on Capitol Hill.
ZUBAIR UR REHMAN: [translated] I had gone to school that day, and when I came back, I had a snack, and I offered my prayers. And my grandma asked me to come outside and help her pick the vegetables.
AMY GOODMAN: You were hit by this drone that killed your grandmother?
ZUBAIR UR REHMAN: [translated] Yes, I had seen a drone, and two missiles hit down where my grandmother was standing in front of me. And she was blown into pieces, and I was injured to my left leg.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Nabila, you’re nine years old. How have things changed for you since the attack? How’s your—going out again, out into the fields alone, do you fear again other possible attacks?
NABILA UR REHMAN: [translated] Ever since the strike, I’m just scared. I’m always scared. All of us little kids, we’re just scared to go outside.
AMY GOODMAN: Here in New York, Bill de Blasio won an overwhelming victory to become the city’s first Democratic mayor in two decades.
MAYOR-ELECT BILL DE BLASIO: So, when we call on the wealthiest among us to pay just a little bit more in taxes to fund universal pre-K and after-school programs, we aren’t threatening anyone’s success. We are asking those who have done very well to ensure that every child has the same opportunity to do just as well as they have. That’s how we all rise together.
AMY GOODMAN: One of the most intense storms in world history has hit the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan has already killed at least four people, injured several others and prompted millions to flee. President Benigno Aquino has warned the country faces "calamity." With sustained winds of up to 199 miles per hour, it may be the most powerful storm ever to make landfall.
AMY GOODMAN: Filipino chief climate negotiator Yeb Saño.
NADEREV "YEB" SAÑO: What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness. Mr. President, we can stop this madness right here in Warsaw. We cannot sit and stay helpless staring at this international climate stalemate. It is now time to raise ambition and take action. We need an emergency climate pathway.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Warsaw, Poland, where the climate is cold and the protests are hot. We are at the U.N. climate change summit, known as COP 19. As we go to broadcast, hundreds of activists are walking out of the talks. We turn right now to Kumi Naidoo, who, just moments ago, surrounded by hundreds of people, addressed the protest. He’s head of Greenpeace International.
KUMI NAIDOO: So our message to our political leaders: Understand that nature does not negotiate. You cannot change the science. And we have to change political will. And it’s within their capacity to do that, and they cannot drag their feet any longer, and they need to start doing that now.
AMY GOODMAN: Iran and six world powers have clinched a deal to temporarily limit and roll back the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for the easing of international sanctions
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program. And key parts of the program will be rolled back.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: That’s why we’re here.
JU HONG: Mr. President, please use your executive order to halt deportations for all 11.5 [million] undocumented immigrants in this country right now.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: What we’re trying—
JU HONG: We agree—
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama!
JU HONG: —that we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform at the same time. You have a power to stop deportations for all undocumented families in this country.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Actually, I don’t. And that’s why we’re here.
JU HONG: So, please, I need your help.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: OK.
JU HONG: Yes, we can!
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Stop deportations!
AMY GOODMAN: A federal judge has approved Detroit’s bid to qualify for bankruptcy, putting the city on a path to financial recovery, but threatening the livelihoods of thousands of city workers. In a landmark decision that could harm retiree benefits nationwide, Federal Judge Steven Rhodes ruled that federal bankruptcy law can override state laws that protect public pensions. That clears the way for Detroit to make major cuts to the health and retirement benefits of city employees.
AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined by Richard Wolff, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and visiting professor at New School University here in New York City.
RICHARD WOLFF: This is an example of a failed economic system. You have to judge an economic system, like ours, not only by the good things that it can produce—which it does—but also by the disasters, which it sees, which it worsens, and which it does nothing to reverse.
AMY GOODMAN: Across South Africa and the world today, people are mourning the death of Nelson Mandela. The anti-apartheid leader spent 27 years in prison before becoming South Africa’s first black and democratically elected president in 1994. South African President Jacob Zuma delivered the news to the nation in a televised address, saying Mandela died peacefully, surrounded by his family.
PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA: Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father. Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound, enduring loss.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A White House panel has proposed a series of curbs on some key National Security Agency surveillance operations following the leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The panel recommended the NSA halt its bulk collection of billions of American phone call records.
AMY GOODMAN: Also with us is Ben Wizner, Edward Snowden’s legal adviser and director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project.
BEN WIZNER: What a week this has been to vindicate the act of conscience that he engaged in—first a conservative federal judge saying that the NSA’s sweeping domestic intelligence program violates the Constitution, then what we expected to be a whitewash executive branch report coming back with these really incredible recommendations for a sweeping overhaul. None of this would have happened but for what Snowden did.
AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden has released a new video statement urging concerned citizens to unite against unfettered surveillance. In a Christmas Day address, Snowden said mass spying is undermining basic rights to privacy.
EDWARD SNOWDEN: Recently, we learned that our governments, working in concert, have created a system of worldwide mass surveillance, watching everything we do. Great Britain’s George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information. The types of collection in the book—microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us—are nothing compared to what we have available today. We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person. A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They’ll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. And that’s a problem, because privacy matters. Privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be. The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it. Together, we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying. For everyone out there listening, thank you and Merry Christmas.
AMY GOODMAN: That does it for our look back at 2013. Special thanks to Mike Burke and Sam Alcoff. If you’d like a copy of today’s broadcast, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. Democracy Now! is produced by Mike Burke, Renée Feltz, Aaron Maté, Nermeen Shaikh, Steve Martinez, Sam Alcoff, Hany Massoud, Robby Karran, Deena Guzder, Amy Littlefield, Cassandra Lizaire, Messiah Rhodes, Charina Nadura. Mike DiFilippo and Miguel Nogueira are our engineers. Special thanks to Becca Staley and Julie Crosby and Hugh Grand, Jessica Lee, John Wallach, Vesta Goodarz, and to our camera crew, Jon Randolph, Kieran Krug-Meadows, Carlo De Jesus, Phil Raymond. Special thanks also to Neil Shibata and Brenda Murad and Clara Ibarra and Simin Farkhondeh and Rob Young and Jamie Hill. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.