War on Terror
Rolling Stone brings us great information on the CIA spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee staffers who were reviewing its interrogation and detention program. The Senate staffers accessed an internal CIA review that CIA officials claim that they were not authorized to access. Interesting point: the internal review, in other words what the CIA wrote about itself, contradicts public testimony officials have given about the torture program and admits to abuses and failures. Also, The Atlantic discusses how people involved in the CIA’s torture program have not only escaped legal consequences, but have kept their jobs and in some cases been promoted. Case in point: the CIA lawyer who gave the go-ahead for CIA officers to destroy tape recordings of their torture sessions at a secret prison several years ago, when it became clear that an investigation into the program would take place, is now the top lawyer for the agency. The situation is turning into a constitutional crisis, with the future of legislative oversight of the executive branch at stake, and some observers are beginning to call for CIA director John Brennan’s removal.
Guantanamo hunger strikers were tortured using methods that date back to the Spanish Inquisition.
The disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight, and the fact that at least two of the passengers were traveling on stolen passports, has called more press attention to the trade in stolen and forged passports. They can be used in drug trafficking operations, human trafficking, illegal immigration, and also terrorist operations. Often when passengers board planes their passports are not checked against Interpol’s database of lost and stolen passports.
Myanmar has detained journalists who printed a report on an alleged secret chemical weapons plant in central Myanmar. This is a step back towards the policies of the military junta from before the country started to increase civilian rule.
Speaking of Myanmar, a reporter from Vice spent some time with a Shan army, an ethnic minority in a semi-autonomous state (also called Shan,) that has been fighting the longest civil war in the world with the Myanmar government (65 years.)
Another important element of the situation in Ukraine is gas. Russia provides about 60% of Ukraine’s gas, (and has just seized a gas plant in Crimea) and its pipelines through Ukraine provide gas to the rest of Europe as well, particularly Germany. This trade provides more than half the Russian national budget as well.
The European Parliament has voted to outlaw secret ownership of corporations. This is a really great and exciting move for greater financial and political transparency.
Michele Bachelet, a socialist who has previously served a term as Chile’s president, has been reelected. (Sebastian Piñera served as president after her first term.) Piñera was the first right-wing president Chile had elected after the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, and now the country is turning back to more leftist politics. This is seen as a rejection of the neoliberal economic politics that was first introduced by Pinochet, under the tutelage of American economists.
Colombia used something called the blank vote in its most recent election. It is a way for citizens to reject all of the candidates and express their discontent, without the implication that they are disinterested in politics, which is sometimes the assumption if large swaths of the population don’t vote in an election. If the blank vote were to win a majority, it would trigger a reelection-this time excluding all of the candidates who were in the previous election. I think it is a super interesting concept. Some activists are worried that if the blank vote does not win this election, the elected politicians will get rid of it.
A writer at the Center for International Policy (where I interned once!) writes about how increased security efforts in Central America often lead to increased violence against women. The reasons she cites include militarism, a form of patriarchal control; predatory capitalism; and backlash against women human rights defenders. In 2012, 38 female human rights activists were assassinated.