January 15, 2007

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The Somali government today shut down three major independent radio stations as well as the Aljazeera TV office in Mogadishu. Abdurrahman Warsameh has the story.

Authorities gave no official explanation for the closure of four broadcast media outlets in Mogadishu. A letter issued by the newly reestablished National Security Agency has ordered certain radio and TV stations to halt their broadcasting operations upon receipt of the decree. Station managers have been told to go to the NSA office tomorrow to receive further instructions regarding the order. The Somali Parliament has endorsed the imposition of a state of emergency and martial law in the country this week. This gives the government wide-ranging powers and makes it a de-facto dictatorship, as the president can issue decrees instead of going to the parliament to enact or pass new laws. Meanwhile, suspected Islamists launched a major attack on a convoy of Somali and Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu last night. A series of rocket-propelled grenades hit the troops as they prepared to conduct house-to-house searches for weapons in the Huriwa District in the capital. The attack destroyed two Ethiopian armored vehicles and killed an unknown number of soldiers. There have been nightly attacks on the Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu since they entered the capital last month. For FSRN this is Abdurrahman Warsameh in Mogadishu.

In Iraq, two of Saddam Hussein’s co-defendants were hanged today. The 2 men were convicted of killing nearly 150 people in 1982. Saddam’s half-brother and former intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti was decapitated by the noose. Iraqi authorities filmed the hanging, but say they will not publicly release the video.

The Israeli army killed two Palestinian fighters in northern Gaza today as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in the region in bid to revive peace talks. Rami Almeghari reports from Gaza.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today announced plans for a three-way summit with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas. No date has been set. Rice also held a meeting with Mahmud Abbas on Sunday in which she reiterated Washington’s commitment to push forward the internationally backed Road Map peace plan, which calls for reciprocal moves by both Palestinians and Israelis to realize the two state solution envisioned by the U.S. president in 2001. Rice’s visit to the Mid East comes as the Israeli Housing Ministry announced plans to build 44 residential units in the Ma’ale Adumim settlement in the Occupied West Bank. The Road Map peace plan specifically calls for a halt in the construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. For Free Speech Radio News on imemc.org this is Rami Almeghari reporting from Gaza.

Oaxacan police have forcefully evicted the protest encampment outside of the Miahuatlan state prison where family members of detainees had been holding a vigil since the first of January. At least 8 people were arrested on Saturday shortly after some 500 people marched to the jail to call for the release of those imprisoned on charges stemming from the state’s 7 month long political crisis. Approximately 3,000 people hit the streets in Oaxaca City yesterday in reaction to the incident outside of the Miahuatlan prison. At deadline, attorneys were in proceedings to determine the legal situation of those detained over the weekend.

Ecuador’s new president, Rafael Correa was officially sworn in today after the nation’s powerful indigenous movement held an alternate ceremony yesterday to welcome him to what he terms as “a citizens’ revolution”. Joseph Mutti attended the inauguration and files this report from Quito.

Bush Defends Iraq Plan
In Norfolk, Virginia today, not far from the US Naval base, several dozen active-duty members of the military held a press conference to call on Congress to end funding for the war and bring the troops home. The group is part of the nation-wide Appeal for Redress and will present Congress members with a petition signed by more than 1000 active duty military personnel. President Bush’s new Iraq War Strategy is also under criticism from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. After announcing additional troops to the war zone, Bush defended his decision, and says he’ll press ahead despite opposition from Congress and the American public. Yanmei Xie has more in Washington DC.

CIA, Pentagon Spying on Americans
The Department of Defense and the CIA have been sending National Security Letters to credit card and banking companies asking that they release personal information on Americans, according to a report published Sunday in The New York Times. Since the September 11th terrorist attacks, the FBI has been sending thousands of their own National Security Letters each year. But this is the first news that the military and CIA are also involved. Earlier today, FSRN spoke to Caroline Fredrickson, Director of Washington, DC legislative office of the ACLU. FSRN asked Fredrickson about the extent of the military and CIA’s use of these letters.

CF: Well, the extent is hard to gauge right now because we all know is really what we’ve read in the Times, similar to what we read last year about the National Security Agency spying. Until Congress really gets into it and finds out, all we have to go on is that hundreds, perhaps thousands of Americans have been looked at with no real legal basis by our government.

FSRN: In the Times Article, military officials said the 1978 Right to Financial Privacy Act and the Patriot Act give them the legal authority to issue National Security Letters. Do you think they’re protected by the law, or is this a broad interpretation of the law?

CF: It’s clearly a broad interpretation of the law. And I think even in the Times article, there are experts on that particular privacy law who said this beyond what they expected to see in the law. As far as the PATRIOT Act goes, I don’t think anyone thought the Pentagon and CIA were going to be spying on Americans with these National Security Letters. Our lawyers are looking at it carefully to see if there’s actually been a clear legal violation, but even without that, this is a very broad reading of the law.

FSRN: The demands in these letters are reportedly non-compulsory. But banks and financial institutions have reportedly been turning over information. Is it legal for them to do this?

CF: Again, our lawyers are looking into it. But the fact of the matter is when CIA or the Pentagon agents show up at your door or sends you a letter saying you have to turn records over, people turn them over. That’s just the fact of the matter. Nobody wants to tango with those types of agencies, particularly when they claim it’s in the name of national security. So I think there’s got be a very thorough investigation by Congress.

FSRN: Related to that, is it your understanding that the CIA and Military needs warrants to obtain this personal banking and telephone data?

CF: That’s the beauty of a National Security Letter. All it has to be quote “relevant” to an ongoing investigation. There is no body else besides the agency internally, besides an agent, who determines if it meets that standard of relevancy. And we’ve seen with the FBI when individual agents issue National Security Letters, they’ve sent tens of thousands of out, that have potentially swept up millions of people’s records. It’s really mind boggling what they’re getting away with.

CF: Could you explain why it’s potentially dangerous for the military or CIA to gather intelligence on Americans.

FSRN: It’s a fundamental aspect of democracy that military and law enforcement functions are separated and we do that for a very basic reason, we do that so that our military doesn’t become a controlling force in our society. Here we have this mission creep, where the Pentagon and the CIA are starting to look at what’s going on American soil and that is completely outside their authority and really sends this country in a bad direction.

Caroline Fredrickson, Director of Washington, DC legislative office of the ACLU.

MLK Jr. Tribute
On this day, the US celebrates the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. FSRN brings you Dr. King’s voice from 1963 and the voices of many in the Washington DC area who are remembering him, thirty nine years after his death. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

India Mobilizes Troops After Violent Attacks
The Indian government has moved some 20,000 troops to the northeastern area bordering China, Myanmar and Bangladesh after suspected Assam liberation insurgents carried out a series of attacks on Hindi speaking migrant workers last week. FSRN’s Vinod K. Jose has this report.

Mumia Commentary
From his cell on Pennsylvania’s death row, a commentary from Mumia Abu Jamal on the whitewashed history of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Alice Coltrane Obit
Jazz musician Alice Coltrane has died at the age of 69. The organist, pianist and wife of John Coltrane passed away Friday of respiratory failure in Los Angeles. Famous for her use of the harp in jazz as well as her spiritual leadership, Alice took a vow of celibacy upon the death of her husband in 1967.

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