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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines. Maybe you come for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. This week Democracy Now! is celebrating our 23rd birthday. For over two decades, we've produced our daily news hour without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. Right now, in honor of Democracy Now!'s birthday, every donation we receive will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $30 today, Democracy Now! will get $60 to support our daily news hour. Please do your part. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else. Thank you! -Amy Goodman
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The Senate Intelligence Committee has voted to release parts of a report on the Bush administration’s torture and rendition program. The panel voted 11 to 3 Thursday to declassify nearly 500 pages of the more than 6,000-page report, including its executive summary. The CIA will review the findings before their release, leading to fears they might redact large portions. The report caused a spat between the CIA and Senate panel, with Committee Chair Senator Dianne Feinstein openly accusing the CIA of spying on Senate staffers and deleting files. Speaking Thursday, Feinstein said the results of the investigation are shocking.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein: “The report exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation. It chronicles a stain on our history that must never be allowed to happen again. This is not what Americans do. The report also points to major problems with the CIA’s management of this program and its interactions with the White House, other parts of the executive branch and Congress. This is also deeply troubling and shows why oversight of intelligence agencies in a democratic nation is so important.”
McClatchy reports the Senate probe concluded CIA officers illegally detained 26 prisoners and used interrogation methods that were not approved by either CIA headquarters or the Justice Department.
In Afghanistan, an Associated Press photographer has been shot dead by an Afghan police officer while her colleague has been wounded. Anja Niedringhaus, age 48, died instantly in the attack near the Pakistani border; AP reporter Kathy Gannon survived. It is believed to be the first time an Afghan police officer has intentionally killed a foreign journalist. The pair were traveling with election workers delivering ballots ahead of Saturday’s presidential election. Niedringhaus was a veteran German photographer who served on a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for photographing the Iraq War. She was previously hit by a sniper’s bullet while working in Sarajevo, blown out of a car by an explosion in Kosovo, and mistakenly bombed by NATO in Albania along with a number of other journalists in 1999. One of her last projects depicted women lawmakers in Afghanistan. Her death follows the killings last month in Afghanistan of AFP reporter Sardar Ahmad and Swedish radio journalist Nils Horner.
Afghans head to the polls on Saturday to elect a successor to President Hamid Karzai. In a televised address Thursday, Karzai urged Afghans to vote.
President Hamid Karzai: “The significant participation of our people in this election will be the biggest guarantee of the continuation of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. A strong participation will be the greatest response to those who believe violence and destruction will act as a deterrent against our people.”
The Afghan election has already been marred by the anticipation of voter fraud and undue influence by Karzai.
A new report reveals the United States oversaw the creation of a fake social media network in Cuba in a bid to undermine the Cuban government. The Associated Press reports the so-called Cuban Twitter project was built with secret shell companies and financed through foreign banks. Called ZunZuneo, Cuban slang for a hummingbird’s tweet, the network masqueraded as a Twitter-like platform. But it was actually created by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and its users were unaware their private data was being gathered by U.S. contractors for potential political use. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney denied the program was secret.
Jay Carney: “Suggestions that this was a covert program are wrong. Congress funds democracy programming for Cuba to help empower Cubans to access more information and to strengthen civil society. These appropriations are public, unlike covert action. The money invested has been debated in Congress. In addition, GAO [Government Accountability Office] reviewed this program in detail in 2013 and found that it was conducted in accordance with U.S. law and under appropriate oversight controls.”
Despite Carney’s claims, top congressional Democrats have said they knew nothing about the program. We’ll have more on the story later in the broadcast.
The energy firm Anadarko has agreed to pay more than $5 billion in what the Justice Department hailed as the largest payment ever for cleaning up environmental contamination. The case involves thousands of sites across the country polluted by nuclear fuel and other toxic material and more than 8,000 people who say they were sickened by chemical exposure. Anadarko had tried to avoid liability for pollution caused by Kerr-McGee, an energy company it acquired in 2006. The payments include $1 billion to the Navajo Nation for damages from Kerr-McGee’s uranium mining operations.
The activist and journalist Barrett Brown has reportedly reached a plea deal with prosecutors after 19 months behind bars. Supporters say Brown has been unfairly targeted for investigating the highly secretive world of private intelligence and military contractors. Last month, prosecutors dropped a number of charges against him related to the hacking of the private intelligence firm Stratfor, which exposed how the firm monitors activists and spies for corporate clients. Brown was still facing up to 70 years in prison. The plea deal remains sealed, but Wired reports Brown is now being charged with assisting the Stratfor hacker after the fact and obstructing the execution of a search warrant. Those two charges would dramatically reduce his possible prison time. A hearing is scheduled for April 29.
U.S.-brokered peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians have deadlocked after Israel cancelled a planned release of Palestinian prisoners. The move came after Palestinians applied for membership in 15 international conventions and treaties. Speaking Thursday in Algeria, Secretary of State John Kerry said the talks had reached a critical point.
Secretary of State John Kerry: “The disagreement between them is not over the fundamental substance of a final status agreement. It’s over the process that would get you there and what you need to do in order to be able to continue to negotiate. It would be a tragedy for both of them, we would say, for them to lose the opportunity to get to those real issues that are the differences of a final status agreement.”
Earlier today, Secretary of State Kerry said the United States would re-evaluate its approach to the talks to determine whether or not it is worth continuing their efforts.
In the United States, legal groups including the ACLU of Washington are suing Immigration and Customs Enforcement to block them from retaliating against immigrant hunger strikers at the Northwest Detention Center in Washington state. Activists say 20 hunger strikers and supporters have been placed in solitary confinement at the prison, which is run by the for-profit GEO Group. At one point last month, at least 750 prisoners were on hunger strike demanding better conditions and an end to record deportations.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has signed a measure critics say could enable discrimination against LGBT people. Opponents of the bill protested outside the State Capitol Thursday. While lawmakers removed some controversial language, opponents still say the law could open the door to discrimination under the guise of religious freedom. Another provision of the law adds the words “In God We Trust” to the Mississippi state seal.
Texas has executed its fifth prisoner of the year, using a drug from an undisclosed compounding pharmacy. Convicted murderer Tommy Lynn Sells was the first to be executed with the state’s newly refreshed supply of pentobarbital after its old batch expired. The Supreme Court declined to halt the execution despite a plea from Sells’ attorneys, who wanted the name of the drug’s supplier disclosed. The state has kept the supplier secret, purportedly to protect it from threats, but an Associated Press report found no evidence authorities in Texas are investigating any such threats.
Citigroup is reportedly facing a criminal investigation after revelations of a $400 million fraud involving its Mexican unit, Banamex. In February, Citigroup revealed at least one Banamex employee had processed false documents which helped a Mexican oil services firm defraud the company. According to The New York Times, the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan have opened a probe into whether Citigroup ignored warning signs. The bank is also facing a separate probe from federal prosecutors in Massachusetts over the possible laundering of drug money through a Citigroup account. Citigroup received two taxpayer bailouts, racking up more in federal aid during the financial crisis than any other bank.
The delivery company UPS is firing 250 unionized drivers for staging a 90-minute walkout in February to protest the dismissal of a longtime worker. The New York Daily News reports UPS has already fired 20 workers from a facility in Queens, New York, and told the remaining 230 they will be dismissed as soon as their replacements are trained.
The co-founder and CEO of the nonprofit Internet firm Mozilla has stepped down after coming under fire for his anti-gay views. Brendan Eich had donated $1,000 to support California’s Proposition 8 ballot initiative against same-sex marriage. After his promotion to CEO last week, three Mozilla directors resigned and the online dating platform OkCupid protested by blocking users from running its site on Mozilla’s Firefox web browser.
In a step toward preventing deaths from drug overdoses, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved an emergency overdose treatment for use in homes and other non-medical settings. When activated, the treatment device, called Evzio, delivers verbal instructions on how to inject a dose of naloxone, a drug used to reverse the effects of an overdose on heroin or painkillers. The FDA said the move will help save lives amid a nationwide epidemic of drug overdoses, which now claim more lives in the United States each year than car accidents.