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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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WikiLeaks has published what it says is the largest leak of secret CIA documents in history. The thousands of documents, dubbed “Vault 7,” describe CIA programs and tools that are capable of hacking into both Apple and Android cellphones. By hacking into entire phones, the CIA is then reportedly able to bypass encrypted messenger programs such as Signal, Telegram and WhatsApp, although—contrary to many news reports—the documents do not show the CIA has developed tools to hack these encrypted services themselves. The documents also outline a CIA and British intelligence program called “Weeping Angel,” through which the spy agency can hack into a Samsung smart television and turn it into a surveillance device that records audio conversations, even when it appears to be off. Other documents describe ways to hack into Skype, Wi-Fi networks, PDFs and commercial antivirus programs. The leak also shows the CIA has reportedly looked for ways to hack into cars and trucks, which WikiLeaks said “would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations.”
Other documents outline how the CIA has used the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt, Germany, as a covert base to spy on Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Monday’s release totals 7,818 web pages and 943 attachments, which WikiLeaks says comes from the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia. Some of the material was redacted by WikiLeaks to avoid releasing the actual computer code used in the programs.
WikiLeaks says Monday’s release is only the first batch of many more secret CIA documents. The CIA has refused to comment on the authenticity of the documents. But at least one anonymous government official told The New York Times the documents were real, while another a former intelligence officer told the Times the code names used in the documents appeared to be accurate. WikiLeaks did not reveal the source of the leak, but did say the source “wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.”
On Twitter, Edward Snowden said, “The CIA reports show the [U.S. Government] developing vulnerabilities in US products, then intentionally keeping the holes open. Reckless beyond words.”
Tensions are rising between the United States, North Korea and China, threatening to create the first significant national security crisis of the Trump presidency. This week, the United States began deploying a missile defense system to South Korea, sparking warnings from Chinese officials who say the U.S. is escalating a regional arms race. The U.S. says the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System, known as THAAD, seeks to protect South Korea amid a series of recent missile tests launched by North Korea.
On Monday, North Korea launched its latest test of four ballistic missiles, three of which reportedly landed less than 200 miles from Japan’s coastline. North Korea says the missiles are seeking to hit U.S. bases in Japan.
The deployment of the U.S. missile system is widely opposed by both South Koreans, who have been protesting against U.S. militarization, and by Chinese officials, who say the missile system actually aims to counter China’s military power in the region, not to contain North Korea.
Chinese officials are calling for both an end to North Korea’s nuclear program and an end to joint U.S. and South Korean military drills. This is the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Wang Yi: “As a first step, North Korea should suspend nuclear activity, and the U.S. and South Korea should also suspend large-scale military drills, and, with both sides stopping, avoid the current security dilemma and make all sides to return to the negotiating table. Later, based on a dual-track strategy, we will realize denuclearization and establish a peace mechanism on the peninsula to simultaneously and equally resolve the concerns of all parties.”
On Tuesday, the U.S. also imposed a $1.19 billion penalty against the Chinese telecommunications company ZTE over allegations it had broken U.S. laws against selling U.S.-made technology to North Korea and Iran. This morning, ZTE said it would plead guilty and pay nearly $900 million to settle the case.
In Washington, D.C., divisions erupted within the Republican Party over the GOP plan, unveiled Monday, to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act, including its expansion of Medicaid. Factions within the Republican Party that had hoped to repeal Obamacare altogether revolted against the bill Monday, calling it “Obamacare lite.” Conservative groups, including Heritage Action for America and the Koch brothers’ group Americans for Prosperity, also condemned the bill. If more than a dozen House Republicans refuse to vote for the bill, it could fail to pass the House. Other Republicans spent Monday backing the plan, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who vowed Tuesday, “The nightmare of Obamacare is about to end.” Utah Republican Congressmember Jason Chaffetz also tried to defend the bill Tuesday in an interview with Alisyn Camerota on CNN, but instead sparked controversy.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz: “You know what? Americans have choices. And they’ve got to make a choice. And so, maybe, rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own healthcare.”
On Twitter, people immediately condemned Congressmember Chaffetz’s comments, including best-selling author Roxane Gay, who wrote, “My broken ankle cost $117,000 so that’s around 234 iPhones.”
Democratic lawmakers demanded special counsel be appointed to lead any investigation into Russian hacking of the 2016 presidential election, during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearing of Rod Rosenstein for deputy attorney general Tuesday. Rosenstein would take over any investigation into the Russian hacking, following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s decision to recuse himself. That came after revelations Sessions met with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. while serving as a campaign surrogate for Donald Trump. Minnesota Senator Al Franken has accused Sessions of committing perjury during his confirmation hearing for not revealing these meetings. On Tuesday, California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein questioned Rosenstein during his confirmation hearing about whether he would appoint special counsel for any investigation into Russian hacking of the election.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein: “Given all of this and the heightened level of distrust on all sides, do you support the appointment of an independent special counsel to look into these matters?”
Rod Rosenstein: “The answer is: I’m simply not in a position to answer the question, because I don’t know the information that they know, the folks who are in the position to make that decision. And when I am in that position, I don’t—I don’t presume that Attorney General Lynch and acting Deputy Attorney General Boente are correct. I have a lot of respect for them, but if I determine that they’re mistaken, then I would overrule them.”
Also on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said President Trump has not substantiated his claims that President Obama tapped his phones during the 2016 election because of “separation of powers.” This is Spicer being questioned by NBC’s Hallie Jackson.
Hallie Jackson: “So, bottom line, why would the president want Congress to investigate for information he already has?”
Press Secretary Sean Spicer: “I think there’s a separation-of-powers aspect here, as I mentioned to Jonathan, that we think it’s—”
Hallie Jackson: “But you talk about resources and time. Why waste that?”
Press Secretary Sean Spicer: “Well, it’s not a question of waste it. It’s a question of appropriateness.”
Hallie Jackson: “But if the president has the info—I guess what I’m trying to get to: If he’s sitting on this information that he found out, he’s now directing or asking or recommending that the intelligence committees look into this, and you talk about they have resources and staff, which they do—”
Press Secretary Sean Spicer: “Right.”
Hallie Jackson: “But why expend those resources and staff, if the president found out this information and has it?”
Press Secretary Sean Spicer: “I think there’s a difference between directing the Department of Justice, which may be involved in an ongoing investigation, and asking Congress, as a separate body.”
In Dresden, Germany, a trial has begun for eight people accused of forming a right-wing terrorist group to carry out attacks on refugee homes. Prosecutors say the group carried out at least five attacks, including two on refugees’ homes. A recent report by Germany’s Interior Ministry says refugees and migrants in Germany faced more than 3,500 attacks last year, which injured more than 500 people, including children.
Meanwhile, the Hungarian Parliament has passed a law allowing for all asylum seekers to be imprisoned and then deported to Serbia. This is Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán: “My ladies and gentlemen, the migration crisis will last until the root causes are dealt with. It will last until it is recognized everywhere that migration is the Trojan wooden horse of terrorism.”
The United Nations says the law would allow Hungary to imprison all refugees, including children, in border camps made of shipping containers. International human rights groups have condemned Hungary’s treatment of refugees.
In Lancaster, South Carolina, police are investigating the murder of Harnish Patel—the fourth Indian man to be shot, and the second to be killed, within the last few weeks in the United States. The 43-year-old man was shot and killed in front of his own home on Thursday, after returning home from working at the Speedee Mart convenience store, which he owned. Patel had lived in the United States for 14 years. Local news reports he was married and had one child in elementary school. He was originally from the Indian state of Gujarat.
He was shot and killed only one day before a Sikh man, Deep Rai, was shot and wounded outside his home in Kent, Washington, by a man who yelled “Go back to your own country.” Both shootings come after Srinivas Kuchibhotla was shot and killed by a white man in Kansas who yelled “Get out of my country,” before opening fire on him and his friend, Alok Madasani, who was wounded in the attack.
A new wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers swept the U.S. Tuesday, with reported threats against JCCs in New York, Wisconsin, Illinois and Florida. On Tuesday, a letter signed by all 100 U.S. senators urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions, FBI Director James Comey and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to take action. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also spoke out against the attacks Tuesday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: “And we know that new threats are coming in, literally as of today, directed at other Jewish community institutions around the country. And this is a very troubling reality. This is a moment in time, a moment in history, where forces of hate have been unleashed.”
In breaking news from Afghanistan, Afghan officials say as many as 30 people have been killed after gunmen stormed the military hospital in Kabul. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack. Officials say the gunmen dressed as medics in order to gain access to the hospital. At least 50 people were also wounded in the attack.
Women in more than 50 countries are expected to take part in protests and strikes today for International Women’s Day. Here in the United States, thousands of women are staging a one-day strike in what’s been dubbed a Day Without a Woman. In Virginia, the entire public school system of Alexandria is closed today after 300 women requested the day off. Some schools are also closing in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and in New York City. We’ll have more on International Women’s Day and the Day Without a Woman strike after headlines.
The radical civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart has died at the age of 77 from complications of cancer and a recent series of strokes. A former teacher and librarian, Stewart was known as a people’s lawyer who represented the poor and revolutionaries. Many considered her a political prisoner herself when she was given a 10-year sentence for distributing press releases on behalf of one of her clients, Omar Abdel-Rahman, an Egyptian cleric known as the “blind Sheikh,” who was convicted of conspiring to blow up the United Nations and other New York City landmarks. He died in February. While held in federal prison for nearly four years, Stewart suffered from stage IV breast cancer that metastasized. She was given 18 months to live. After months of campaigning, a federal judge ordered her “compassionate release,” and on New Year’s Day 2014, Democracy Now! was at the airport when she triumphantly returned to New York with her husband, Ralph Poynter, and was met by her family and friends.
Crowd: “We love Lynne! We love Lynne!”
Amy Goodman: “Lynne, how do you feel?”
Lynne Stewart: “Beyond joy. Beyond joy.”
Amy Goodman: “Lynne, did you think this day would come?”
Lynne Stewart: “Well, somehow or other, yes, but not as wonderful as it has come—”
Amy Goodman: “And how are you—”
Lynne Stewart: “—or as suddenly. It’s like bursting on me, you know? I mean, yesterday at this time, I was deep in the dungeons, and here I am in my beloved New York. It’s just wonderful. I can’t tell you. Oh, give me those flowers.”
Lynne Stewart died Tuesday at her home in Brooklyn. Click here to see more interviews with the late radical lawyer over the years