A major U.S. Supreme Court decision has upheld the right of federal employees to become whistleblowers. The case centers on former Transportation Security Administration Federal Air Marshal Robert MacLean. In July 2003, MacLean revealed to an MSNBC reporter that the Department of Homeland Security had decided to stop assigning air marshals to certain long-distance flights in order to save money, despite warnings of a potential plot to hijack U.S. airplanes. MSNBC’s report on the story sparked outcry, and the policy was quickly reversed. MacLean was fired three years later after admitting to being the story’s source. He filed a lawsuit over his dismissal, sparking a multi-year legal battle that ended earlier this week when the Supreme Court ruled on his behalf in a 7-to-2 decision. At issue was whether MacLean’s actions could be protected by the U.S. Whistleblower Protection Act, a law that protects employees if a disclosure exposes unlawful conduct, gross mismanagement or threats to public safety. We speak to Robert MacLean and attorney Neal Katyal, who argued MacLean’s case before the Supreme Court. Katyal is the former acting solicitor general of the United States.
A journalist and activist accused of working with Anonymous has been given a five-year prison term and ordered to pay nearly $900,000 in restitution and fines. Barrett Brown was sentenced on Thursday after pleading guilty last year to charges of transmitting threats, accessory to a cyber-attack, and obstruction of justice. Supporters say Brown has been unfairly targeted for investigating the highly secretive world of private intelligence and military contractors. After his sentencing on Thursday, Brown released a satirical statement that read in part: "Good news! — The U.S. government decided today that because I did such a good job investigating the cyber-industrial complex, they’re now going to send me to investigate the prison-industrial complex." We discuss Brown’s case with Kevin Gallagher, a writer, activist and systems administrator who heads the Free Barrett Brown support network. He says that the public should not believe what the government says about Brown.
The Justice Department has reportedly concluded it will not bring civil rights charges against police officer Darren Wilson for shooting unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. On Wednesday, The New York Times reported Attorney General Eric Holder will have the final say, but will almost certainly side with investigators who are recommending no charges. A wider Justice Department probe into Ferguson police over reports of racial profiling in traffic stops and use of excessive force remains underway. Meanwhile, a judge has rejected an NAACP Legal Defense Fund request for a new grand jury to consider criminal charges against Wilson. The group raised concerns over the actions of prosecutor Bob McCulloch, including his decision to let a witness provide false testimony. All this comes as President Obama made just one mention of Ferguson in his State of the Union address Tuesday, prompting activists to release their own video on the State of the Black Union. We are joined by Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia has died at the age of 90. Abdullah was one of the world’s most powerful men and a key U.S. ally in the region, controlling a fifth of the known global petroleum reserves. In a statement, President Obama praised Abdullah "as a force for stability and security in the Middle East and beyond." Many analysts accused Abdullah of turning the uprising in Syria into a proxy war with Iran. In 2010, WikiLeaks published U.S. diplomatic cables which identified Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups. Abdullah also sent tanks to help squash pro-democracy uprisings in neighboring Bahrain. Saudi Arabia recently came under criticism for its treatment of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes to be carried out at a rate of 50 per week for charges including insulting Islam. Abdullah’s half-brother, Crown Prince Salman, has now assumed the throne. We are joined by Toby Jones, director of Middle Eastern studies at Rutgers University and the author of "Desert Kingdom: How Oil and Water Forged Modern Saudi Arabia."
Yemen is facing political collapse following the mass resignations of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, his prime minister and entire cabinet. Thursday’s exodus came just hours after Shia Houthi rebels stormed the presidential compound in the capital city of Sana’a. Hadi said he could not continue in office after Houthis allegedly broke a peace deal to retreat from key positions in return for increased political power. The Houthis appear to have major backing from longtime former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted in a popular uprising in 2011. The Obama administration had praised the Yemeni government as being a model for "successful" counterterrorism partnerships, but on Thursday the United States announced it was pulling more staff out of its embassy in Yemen. Some experts warn the developments in Yemen could result in civil war and help al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) gain more power. Meanwhile, Oxfam is warning more than half of Yemen’s population needs aid, and a humanitarian crisis of extreme proportions is at risk of unfolding in the country if instability continues. We are joined by Iona Craig, a journalist who was based in Sana’a for four years as the Yemen correspondent for The Times of London.
A massive hunger strike is underway at what some are calling "the Guantánamo Bay of the Pacific." The Manus Island detention center is paid for by the Australian government and run by an Australian contractor, Transfield Services, but located offshore on Papua New Guinea’s soil. The inmates are not accused of any crimes — they are asylum seekers from war-ravaged countries who are waiting indefinitely for their refugee status determinations. They are asking the United Nations to intervene against the Australian federal government’s plan to resettle them in Papua New Guinea, where they say they could face persecution. Some have barricaded themselves behind the detention center’s high wire fences; others have resorted to increasingly drastic measures such as drinking washing detergent, swallowing razor blades, and even sewing their mouths shut to protest their confinement. We speak with Australian human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson and Alex Kelly, a social justice filmmaker who organized a New York City vigil in solidarity with the Manus Island detainees.
After a seven-year legal battle, the diary of a prisoner held at Guantánamo Bay has just been published and has become a surprise best-seller. Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s diary details his experience with rendition, torture and being imprisoned without charge. Slahi has been held at the prison for more than 12 years. He was ordered released in 2010 but is still being held. "The cell — better, the box — was cooled down so that I was shaking most of the time," he writes. "I was forbidden from seeing the light of the day. Every once in a while they gave me a rec time in the night to keep me from seeing or interacting with any detainees. I was living literally in terror. I don’t remember having slept one night quietly; for the next 70 days to come I wouldn’t know the sweetness of sleeping. Interrogation for 24 hours, three and sometimes four shifts a day. I rarely got a day off." We air a clip of a Guardian video about Slahi’s case, which features actors Colin Firth and Dominic West reading from his diary. We speak with three guests: Slahi’s lawyer, Nancy Hollander; book editor, Larry Siems; and Col. Morris Davis, the former chief military prosecutor at Guantánamo Bay, who says Slahi is "no more a terrorist than Forrest Gump."
It was five years ago today that the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark Citizens United decision, allowing unlimited political spending by corporations and unions. Some of the biggest spenders since have been the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch. On Tuesday night, newly elected Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, who was strongly backed by the Koch brothers, gave the GOP response to President Obama. Meanwhile this weekend, four leading Republican presidential prospects — Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rand Paul and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — are set to appear at an exclusive gathering of rich conservatives organized by the Koch brothers. We speak to longtime consumer advocate Ralph Nader and Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, which published an article Tuesday headlined "Koch Party Delivers SOTU Response."
Republicans have accused President Obama of waging class warfare for using his State of the Union to push for an increase in taxes and closing loopholes that benefit the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. Pulitzer Prize-winning tax reporter David Cay Johnston says there is indeed a class war going on in Washington — but by the rich against the poor. Johnston’s latest book is "Divided. The Perils of Our Growing Inequality."
Much of President Obama’s State of the Union address focused on the economy and efforts to bolster the middle class with a push for education, child care and tax breaks. But did he go far enough? We speak to Ralph Nader, longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic and former presidential candidate. His latest book is called "Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State."
We get reaction to President Obama’s State of the Union address from Rep. Keith Ellison, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the first Muslim elected to Congress. He discusses Obama’s policies on war, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the proposed Robin Hood tax, and growing economic inequality.
On the foreign policy front, President Obama used his State of the Union to defend his decision to begin normalizing relations with Cuba, to pledge again to close Guantánamo and to call for authorization to expand war against the Islamic State. He mentioned the words "drones" and "torture" once each. We get reaction from Phyllis Bennis, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.
In a major victory for human rights activists, a Guatemalan court has returned a guilty verdict in the Spanish Embassy massacre of 1980. On Monday, the court found former police chief Pedro García Arredondo responsible for ordering an attack on 37 peasant activists and student organizers who were occupying the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City to protest government repression. According Monday’s ruling, Arredondo was the officer who gave the order to set fire to the diplomatic mission, burning the activists to death. He was also found guilty of two separate murders and sentenced to a total of 90 years in prison. One of the victims of the Spanish Embassy massacre was Don Vicente Menchú, an indigenous peasant leader and father of Rigoberta Menchú, who later won the Nobel Peace Prize. Rigoberta Menchú joins us from Guatemala City to discuss the historic verdict. We are also joined by filmmaker Pamela Yates, who is finishing the third documentary in her trilogy about Guatemala’s internal armed conflict. It looks at how the genocide trial of former dictator Efrain Ríos Montt trial empowered Guatemala’s nonviolent resistance movements.
Click here to watch Part 2 of this interview.
Fox News has apologized for broadcasting false information about Muslims in the wake of the Paris attacks. Last weekend, self-described terrorism expert Steve Emerson claimed on air that parts of Europe, including the entire English city of Birmingham, were totally Muslim areas where non-Muslims do not go. Emerson was forced to apologize, but the claim about so-called "no-go zones" was repeated by other Fox guests and anchors. On Saturday, according to a CNN Money tally, Fox News took time out of four broadcasts to apologize for reports on Muslims. Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept, discusses the rise of so-called "terrorism experts" by Fox News and other major cable networks. In two recent interviews with CNN, Scahill has criticized the news giant and others for their use of "on-air analysts who also work in the private sector and make money on the idea that we should be afraid." He also responds to blistering criticism from FBI chief James Comey of using an anonymous al-Qaeda source in reporting on the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and analyzes what al-Qaeda’s claim of responsibility will mean for the U.S. drone war in Yemen.
As the world focuses on the threat posed by al-Qaeda in Yemen, the Yemeni government is on the verge of collapse. A dispute between Shia Houthi rebels and the government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi has sparked the capital Sana’a’s worst violence in months. Houthi fighters have reportedly entered Yemen’s presidential palace in a possible coup attempt. This comes days after fighters abducted the president’s chief of staff. As the government fights the Houthis, it also wages a U.S.-backed offensive against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), whose insurgency has only grown deadlier by the year. The latest unrest comes days after AQAP took responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. Will the Yemeni government be overthrown in a coup? We are joined by two guests: Iona Craig, a journalist who has reported from Yemen for years and until recently was its last accredited foreign reporter; and Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of the The Intercept and the reporter who broke the story that AQAP took credit for the Charlie Hebdo killings. Scahill reported from Yemen extensively for his book and documentary film, "Dirty Wars."
In a Democracy Now! and Pacifica Radio Archives exclusive, we air a newly discovered recording of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On December 7, 1964, days before he received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, King gave a major address in London on segregation, the fight for civil rights and his support for Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. The speech was recorded by Saul Bernstein, who was working as the European correspondent for Pacifica Radio. Bernstein’s recording was recently discovered by Brian DeShazor, director of the Pacifica Radio Archives.
Sign Up Now to receive our weekly E-Newsletter every Sunday!