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This week, Democracy Now! is celebrating our 22nd birthday. Since our first show in February 1996, our daily news hour has brought you fearless journalism and hard-hitting news you can trust--all without ads or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. In fact, if everyone reading this gave just $4, it would cover our operating expenses for the whole year. Right now, a generous donor will TRIPLE every donation, meaning your gift today will go three times as far. Pretty amazing, right? Please do your part. Take a moment to give right now for our 22nd birthday.
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One of the great mysteries of the Vietnam War era has been solved. In 1971, a group of peace activists broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, and lifted files that helped reveal the FBI’s elaborate program of illegally spying on political groups. The documents, given to journalists at the time, provided the first hints of a secret counter intelligence program, or COINTELPRO, the FBI’s secret program to infiltrate, monitor and disrupt social movements. The burglars called themselves the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI. They were never caught. But decades later, a number of them are coming forward for the first time. The idea for the burglary came from William Davidon, a physics professor and leader of civil disobedience against the Vietnam War. Davidon died last year. Also involved were a social worker named Bob Williamson and John and Bonnie Raines, a married couple with children. Convinced the FBI was infiltrating peace groups, they hatched a plan to stage the break-in on the night of a major championship boxing match. Another of the burglars, Keith Forsyth, described his motivation in a video produced by Retro Report.
Keith Forsyth: “Once I got over the shock of thinking that this was the nuttiest thing I’d ever heard in my life, I’m like, this is a great idea, because we’re not going to make any allegations; we’re going to take their own paperwork, signed by their own people, including J. Edgar Hoover, and give it to the newspapers. So, let’s see you argue with that. I definitely see parallels between [Edward] Snowden’s case and our case. What we revealed changed public opinion, which is why the laws were changed. If revealing ourselves is going to get people arguing with each other about what the FBI did then and what the NSA is doing now, I think that’s a good thing.”
Forsyth was arrested in a separate action months after the burglary by a group of FBI agents who were monitoring the raid of a draft office in Camden, New Jersey. Bob Williamson was also arrested. Their role in the burglary, however, was not revealed until now. Ahead of the burglary, Bonnie Raines cased the office while posing as a college student. While there, she confirmed the office did not have a security system. Raines describes her role in the video.
Bonnie Raines: “I was to call the office and make an appointment as a Swarthmore student doing research on opportunities for women in the FBI. So they gave me an appointment. I tried to disguise myself as best I could, and I went to say goodbye, and I acted confused about where the door was, and that gave me a chance then to check out both rooms and know where the file cabinets were.”
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover assigned nearly 200 agents to investigate the burglary –- in particular, they were told to hunt for the mysterious college girl who had come to the office. But the case was closed when the statute of limitations expired five years later. The story is told in a new book by Betty Medsger, a former Washington Post reporter who received the documents from the burglars. Three other burglars have chosen to remain anonymous.
Record cold temperatures are blasting the Midwest and Eastern United States again today as a so-called polar vortex has descended as far south as Texas and Florida. In Chicago, it was negative 16 degrees Fahrenheit Monday, or as low as negative 42 with the wind chill. In northern Minnesota, it was negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit — that is the actual air temperature, not the wind chill. Here in New York, the temperatures plunged roughly 50 degrees in a matter of hours.
The United States is ramping up its delivery of military equipment to help Iraq battle militants who have overrun parts of Anbar province, including the city of Fallujah. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the United States would deliver Hellfire missiles and surveillance drones as part of a “holistic” strategy to oust the militant group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
Jay Carney: “Now, this situation remains fluid, and it’s too early to tell or make conclusions about it. But we’re accelerating our foreign military sales deliveries and are looking to provide an additional shipment of Hellfire missiles as early as this spring. These missiles are one small element of that holistic -– excuse me -– strategy, but they have been proven effective at denying ISIL the safe haven zones that it has sought to establish in western Iraq.”
Israel has given final approval to a new round of settlements in the occupied West Bank as Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up his visit to the region Monday. The plan includes 272 apartments in two different settlements. Israel had reportedly held off on announcing new settlements in order to avoid embarrassing Kerry during his visit. Meanwhile, thousands of African migrants gathered in Tel Aviv for a third day today to protest Israel’s indefinite detention policies and demand asylum and work rights.
The United Nations is warning conditions in Central African Republic are rapidly deteriorating with nearly one million people now displaced by sectarian violence. Heavy fighting erupted last month between Christian militias and Muslim rebels who had seized power in a coup in March. Jeffrey Feltman, U.N. under-secretary-general for political affairs, said more than 750 people have been confirmed dead in the capital Bangui alone. He warned of a deepening humanitarian crisis.
Jeffrey Feltman: “According to the latest information, approximately 2.2 million people in the CAR need humanitarian assistance –- close to half the population of the country. One in every two inhabitants of Bangui have sought refuge outside their homes. Their numbers are estimated at approximately 513,000 of whom 100,000 are at a makeshift camp at the airport.”
The Supreme Court has halted same-sex marriages in Utah. Nearly 1,000 LGBT couples have gotten married since a federal judge struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage late last month. But Monday’s decision puts those unions in limbo, while Utah defends the ban before an appeals court. The case could end up before the Supreme Court.
A federal judge has struck down Chicago’s ban on handgun sales. The 2010 measure banned gun shops within the city and barred gun owners from leaving home with their weapons. U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang ruled the ordinance went too far. The number of murders in Chicago has dropped to the lowest level in half a century, but Chicago still leads the country in homicides, with more than 400 committed last year.
The Senate has confirmed Janet Yellen as the next chair of the Federal Reserve, replacing Ben Bernanke. Senators voted 56 to 26 to confirm Yellen, with 11 Republicans joining Democrats in her favor. Yellen is the first woman to head the central bank in its 100-year history.
Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, has abandoned her plan to run for the Republican Senate nomination in Wyoming, citing “serious health issues” in her family. A recent poll showed incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi had a 52-point lead over Cheney. Her campaign was marred in part by a public spat over same-sex marriage with her sister Mary, who is a lesbian and married.
In Texas, a hospital is keeping a brain-dead woman on life support against the wishes of her family because she is pregnant. Marlise Munoz collapsed in late November, likely because of a blood clot in her lungs. At the time she was 14 weeks pregnant, a stage when the fetus is months away from viability. Doctors say Munoz has no brain activity. But the hospital in Fort Worth is citing a Texas law they say forbids removing a pregnant woman from life support. The woman’s husband, Erick Munoz, told a local ABC station his wife explicitly told him she never wanted to be on life support.
Erick Munoz: “We talked about it. We were both paramedics. We’ve seen things out in the field, and we both knew that we didn’t want to be on life support. You’ve reached a point where, you know, you wish your wife’s body would stop.”
Despite her family’s pleas, the hospital reportedly plans to keep Munoz on life support for the next several weeks until the fetus is potentially viable. At least a dozen states have statutes that force women to stay on life support against their previous directives if they are pregnant.
A former high school football player who raped a 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio, has been released from juvenile prison less than a year after his conviction. Ma’lik Richmond received a year-long sentence last March. A second teenager convicted in the case, Trent Mays, is serving a two-year sentence. The case drew national attention following the emergence of images and social media postings from the night of the attack.
Jury selection begins today in the trial of a former hedge fund employee accused of orchestrating the largest insider trading scheme in U.S. history. Mathew Martoma, a former portfolio manager for SAC Capital, is charged with conducting illegal trades based on inside information about the development of an Alzheimer’s drug. Prosecutors say the scheme earned SAC Capital $276 million in profits and averted losses. Last year, SAC Capital, which is owned by billionaire Steven Cohen, agreed to plead guilty to fraud and pay a record $1.8 billion to settle charges of “systematic insider trading.”
The former head of the Federal Communications Commission is starting a new job at the secretive private equity firm the Carlyle Group. Nicknamed “the Ex-President’s Club,” Carlyle’s roster has included a long list of powerful figures, including both Bush presidents. Carlyle owns a majority stake in Booz Allen Hamilton, the military contractor that employed Edward Snowden. Julius Genachowski, who led the FCC for four years under President Obama, will serve as a managing director and partner, specializing in telecommunications.