Bush Administration Member Nominated for CIA Chief has Dark Past with US Torture Sites

This past week we saw now former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson been fired without any warning. This news was followed by an announcement from President Trump that Mike Pompeo would become the new Secretary of State.

President Donald Trump also announced his decision this week to nominate Gina Haspel, an intelligence official that civil libertarians argue “should be in jail” for her role in the former Bush administration’s torture regime, as the next CIA chief has came off as a torture apologists among America’s political elite.

Her nomination has been met with fierce backlash from politicians and advocacy groups who say her involvement in the brutal torture programs should disqualify her. Haspel joined the CIA in 1985 and ran a CIA “black site” prison in Thailand in 2002 that used “interrogation techniques” like waterboarding.

On Tuesday was Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), who is Dick Cheneys’ daughter, tweeted in defense of the CIA’s torture program at Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who argued the Senate should closely scrutinize Haspel’s role in overseeing the torture of detainees at U.S. black sites overseas.

In openly praising the Bush torture regime and the “brave men and women” who carried it out, Cheney differentiated her position from that of many Washington establishment figures who have defended Haspel’s role in overseeing the Bush torture program this week, on the grounds that she was merely “following orders.”

Wells Dixon from the Center on Constitutional Rights said in a statement that “Gina Haspel disgraced herself by participating in the CIA torture program and the destruction of criminal evidence. We do not believe she should be director of the CIA. Rather, she should be in jail.”

On Thursday Jon Schwartz wrote an op-ed for The Intercept that argues the defense of Haspel offered by Hayden, former Obama officials, and some lawmakers is precisely the defense Nazis used during the Nuremberg trials following the Second World War.

While Nuremberg judges rejected the “Nuremberg defense” as illegitimate, “many members of the Washington, D.C. elite are now stating that it, in fact, is a legitimate defense for American officials who violate international law to claim they were just following orders,” Schwartz writes.

Trevor Timm who is the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, tweeted out a summary of the principal narratives of torture apologists, all of which serve to undermine all attempts to hold those who oversee violations of international law accountable for their actions.

Establishment politicians on the right and left have already begun to defend Gina Haspel’s past while Civil Liberties groups are ramping up efforts to stop her from being confirmed for the position.

So far only two Republicans have voices out against the nominees. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he would oppose her nomination, as did Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was tortured while imprisoned during the Vietnam War, said she needed to “explain the nature” of her involvement in the program.

On Thursday Sen. Dianne Feinstein called on the CIA to declassify documents that detail the role that Gina Haspel played in the George W. Bush administration’s interrogation and detention program.

Feinstein sent a letter to Haspel and outgoing CIA Director Mike Pompeo saying that a full accounting of Haspel’s record in the Bush-era interrogation program is needed to evaluate her record.

Her letter said:

“As we move forward with the nomination process for Ms. Haspel, my fellow senators and I must have the complete picture of Ms. Haspel’s involvement in the program in order to fully and fairly review her record and qualifications, I also believe the American people deserve to know the actual role the person nominated to be the director of the CIA played in what I I’m director, faces a difficult confirmation battle over those actions, with Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky already opposed her nomination and Democrats planning to make that a key issue when she testifies on Capitol Hill.

During her 30-year CIA career, Haspel supervised the interrogation of terrorism suspects in Thailand, and she later was involved with the decision to destroy tapes of CIA interrogations.

Haspel, who is currently deputy CIA director, faces a difficult confirmation battle over those actions, with Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky already opposed her nomination and Democrats planning to make that a key issue when she testifies on Capitol Hill.

So far it isn’t clear what records the Senate will receive as part of Haspel’s confirmation process.

Sister of Charleston Church Shooter and Two Others Arrested for Bringing Weapons to School on day of Walkout

On Wednesday Morgan Roof, who is the 18-year-old sister of Dylann Roof, was arrested for having weapons on her at school. This happened the same day of the nationwide walkouts against gun violence.

A school resource officer at A.C. Flora High School in Columbia, South Carolina, allegedly discovered marijuana, pepper spray and a knife in Morgan Roof’s possession.

Morgan Roof is being charged with simple possession of marijuana and two counts of carrying weapons while on school grounds. Roof was also granted a $5,000 bond and ordered not to attend school while out, WIS reported.

NBC reported that Morgan Roof made a post on Snapchat that couldn’t be verified, that they say stated “your [sic] walking out for the allowed time of 17min, they are letting you do this, nothing is gonna change what tf you think it’s gonna do? I hope it’s a trap and y’all get shot we know it’s fixing to be nothing but black people walkin out anyway.”

In her social media post, Ms Roof seemed opposed to her classmates joining the thousands of students across the US walking out of class in memory of the 17 people killed at a Florida school last month.

Her racially charged post said in part, “I hope it’s a trap and y’all get shot”

Two other students were also arrested on Wednesday for carrying weapons on the grounds of Ms Roof’s school, AC Flora High School, local media reported.

Authorities found an unloaded handgun which students reportedly saw one of the 16-year-olds throw into a bush.

The incidents at the school are being treated separately, according to the school’s principal, who shared a letter on the school’s Twitter page.

Currently her brother Dylann Roof is waiting for execution at the Terre Haute Federal Prison in Indiana after he was sentenced to death last year in January. The self-proclaimed white supremacist killed nine black worshippers at a Charleston church in 2015.

North Western University on lockdown after shots fired in dorms

Evanston police tweeted Wednesday afternoon that people should stay out of the area of Emerson Street and Maple Avenue due to a shooting investigation, after a report came in of shots fired.

At 3:11 p.m. on Wednesday, Evanston police tweeted they checked the area and found “no evidence of a victim, scene or gunman.” Police said they are continuing to search and secure the area.

An emergency notification was sent out to staff and students at 2:40 p.m., according to the Daily Northwestern.

Northwestern tweeted out people should seek shelter and stay in a safe place. People were urged to stay away from the area.

This story is developing and will be updated when all clear is given.

Illinois Governor says No to Common Sense Gun law that would License Gun Dealers

On Tuesday, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner voted against a popular bill that would have licensed gun dealers. The previous day many Chicago leaders, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson, reached out to Rauner, saying that he should support the bill. The bill has been awaiting his signature for over two weeks now.

The bill that was vetoed was Senate Bill 1657, which would require criminal background checks for all gun shop employees. It would also require training that would help gun shop employees identify a buyer purchasing a gun for someone else.

(Photo via Chicago Tribune)

In a statement on Tuesday, Emanuel said:

“With one week left in his campaign, Governor Rauner just put his primary election ahead of his primary responsibility to protect the safety of the people of Chicago and Illinois. The governor’s decision was cruel, it was cold and it was calculated to benefit his own politics at the expense of public safety. This veto is a slap in the face to crime victims, faith leaders and police who have pleaded with Governor Rauner to protect public safety by signing the Gun Dealer Licensing Act. This failure will be his legacy.”

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Rauner said that Senate Bill 1657, “created onerous, duplicative bureaucracy that does little to improve public safety.”

Early Tuesday morning, Bruce Rauner appeared on a radio interview with WJPF News Radio. Where he said in the interview that, “I’m going to veto the bill, it’s just not right.”

Rauner continued to say in the radio interview that state laws should be tougher on repeat gun offenders. While also make schools safer, he suggested that “highly trained, highly well-armed security personnel at our schools who are very, very talented and able to protect our students.”

The NRA released a statement Tuesday night saying:

“The bills Gov. Rauner vetoed today were a dramatic overreach designed specifically to shut down as many Illinois federally licensed firearm dealers (FFLs) as possible. Now the law-abiding gun owners of Illinois need to let their lawmakers know this type of infringement upon their fundamental Second Amendment rights is completely unacceptable. Punishing legitimate businesses for the criminal actions of others is exactly why communities continue to suffer as their elected officials appear more concerned about making headlines instead of addressing the real problem; actual criminals.”

Featured video via Politico

Rex Tillerson removed as Secretary of State

On Tuesday Morning, United States President Donald Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, naming Mike Pompeo as his replacement.

President Trump tweeted that the new state secretary would do “a fantastic job”.

Rex Tillerson has only been in the role for just over a year, now joining the handful of others to leave the administration.

To replace the vacancy left by Pompeo, the U.S. president nominated Gina Haspel. If she is elected, then Haspel will be the first female director of the CIA.

In regards to why Trump dropped Tillerson, the president said he had differences that came down to personal “chemistry” between the two.

Rex Tillerson is the latest to be removed from the Trump administration, something that might sound like to a dream to others still in the administration.

Earlier this week Rex Tillerson canceled a trip to Kenya after suddenly falling ill. It isn’t certain if this was something Tillerson knew ahead of time, or if the President randomly decides to remove him from the position.

Featured photo is via VOA News as Rex Tillerson is sworn in as Secretary of State

Turks surround Kurdish-held Afrin

Turkish forces said on Tuesday that had surrounded the Kurdish-held city of Afrin, the main objective of Turkey’s offensive into northwest Syria.

A statement from Ankara said the armed forces, along with allied Syrian rebel groups, had also taken control of several key areas.

A Kurdish source confirmed that all road into the city are under attack by Turkish shellfire, reported BBC News.

Reports a day before described hundreds fleeing the city to nearby areas controlled by forces loyal to the Syrian government.

Ankara considers the YPG, or People’s Protection Units, as associated with the Kurdish Workers’ Party terror group in eastern Turkey, a claim Kurds in Syria and their western allies have vehemently denied.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan launched the offensive against Syrian Kurds on Jan. 20, to much condemnation from the United States.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, considered the most effective ground-fighting force against so-called Islamic State, is led and largely made up by Kurds.

The SDF is currently pushing back the last remnants of IS, along with Syrian government forces.

Damascus sent government-loyal troops to Afrin to support the Kurds against the Turkish aggression but it is not clear what their role has been in the last few days.

Kurdish spokesperson Nouri Mahmoud told Reuters news agency that Afrin had long been surrounded on all sides by enemy forces.

The only road out of a siege that was confirmed on Tuesday by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights in within the range of Turkish artillery fire and therefore unusable.

The Observatory reported that the city of Afrin, 90 villages and a nearby town were under siege.

The United Nations chief told the Security Council that the battle for Afrin, which is also the name for the territory, had resulted in “significant civilian displacement” with reports of “numerous casualties and damage to infrastructure”.

Some 324,000 were living in the Kurdish enclave before the Turkish offensive launched, according to U.N. figures.

More coverage to follow. Image of forces near Afrin, Syria from Hurriyet Daily News. 

Elizabeth Warren: “I’m Not Running for President”


Giovanni LoPiccolo

“For the people of Massachusetts, and for the people across this country… This government is working better and better and better for a thinner and thinner slice at the top. I am in these fights, and I am in this fight to retain my Senate seat in 2018. That’s where I’m focused. That’s where I’m going to stay focused. I’m not running for president.” are the words of Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts while on State of the Union on NBC with Chuck Todd.

Elizabeth Warren is one of the few highly qualified progressives who would have a true shot at winning the White House in 2020, and like many Senators, is up for re-election in 2018. She has been a law professor, specializing in bankruptcy law, for decades, and now a member of the Senate since 2013. Bernie Sanders, however, is most likely going to run. He continues to traverse the states spreading his message of a better America, a future to really believe in. This is a clear way to keep not only himself prevalent in Americans’ lives, but also the progressive message. And one more thing to remember, Elizabeth Warren has been doing the same thing. I do not think she said she’s not going to run for President in 2020, she’s making it clear what she’s doing right now.

Right after the 2016 Presidential election, Bernie Sanders was continuously asked if he would’ve won if he were the Democratic Nominee, and if he is going to run in 2020. Bernie became frustrated with the media asking these what-ifs, as they distracted us from the real issues. The 2016 election was nasty, it was filled with and hate on both sides, both the Democratic and Republican primaries. I personally think Elizabeth Warren is seeing how with each passing day, the more atrocities the Trump Administration commits, the more she is pressed on running for President. It is a way to ease people’s minds, of course, for this entire article itself is somewhat speculation.

Warren has a more important task ahead of her at the moment, securing her seat in 2018 so she can continue to do progressive work in Congress for another six years. If she loses the Senate seat in 2018, that makes her lose all her credibility, and even “electability”. I do not think she’s made up her mind on 2020, and right now is just telling the media to shut up about 2020. There’s too much going on in this country, too much suffering, inequality, anger, and neglect of the everyday citizen to constantly run stories of who might run for President. It would become an endless cycle, something the American people are tired of.

But what we’re really tired of is that millions of people still do not have health insurance, Republicans tried taking away health care from those who already have it, college can and will put you into debt, minimum wages are still $7.25 in some states, thousands of people die each year from preventable gun violence, the federal government is threatening to withhold funds to cities housing undocumented immigrants, the federal government is trying to ban Muslims… the list goes on. But, if Warren does decide to remain in the Senate by 2020, perhaps she can become the next head of the Democratic Party. Chuck Schumer is a career politician who’s been in office too long, and has not truly served the needs of the American people. And if worse comes to worst, Republicans maintain a Congressional majority in 2018 and 2020, we’ll need someone in the Senate to keep the Democrats on the right path.

Besides, we have the rest of the following to keep an eye out in the coming months; Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, Nina Turner, Joe Biden, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Kamala Harris. Of course, Warren is staying on this list, right after Bernie Sanders, what Senator goes around the country to talk about today’s issues if they weren’t trying to spread their name recognition and message?