Democracy Now

Democracy Now!
Democracy Now! is an independent daily TV & radio news program, hosted by award-winning journalists Amy Goodman and Juan González. We provide daily global news headlines, in-depth interviews and investigative reports without any advertisements or government funding. Our programming shines a spotlight on corporate and government abuses of power and lifts up the stories of ordinary people working to make change in extraordinary times. Democracy Now! is live weekdays at 8am ET and available 24/7 through our website and podcasts.
Updated: 6 hours 8 min ago

Will Guantánamo Ever Close? U.S. Frees More Prisoners, But Dozens Remain Behind Bars

Wed 07 27 AM

Six years after first promising to close Guantánamo, President Obama is beginning to free more men from the 13-year-old military prison in Cuba. Four Afghans were sent home this week, following six other Guantánamo prisoners sent to Uruguay earlier this month, four years after they were first approved for release. Their transfer was the largest for a single group out of Guantánamo since 2009. Meanwhile, Clifford Sloan, the Obama administration’s envoy for Guantánamo’s closure, has just submitted his resignation. But with 132 prisoners still behind bars, will Guantánamo ever close? We are joined by Pardiss Kebriaei, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Ferguson, NYC, Milwaukee: Protests Erupt as Officer Cleared in Killing of Unarmed Dontre Hamilton

Wed 07 09 AM

A Wisconsin prosecutor has decided not to bring charges against a white police officer who fatally shot a mentally ill African-American man. In April, Milwaukee Officer Christopher Manney responded to a call about a man sleeping in a park. Before Manney arrived, two other officers had already spoken to the man, Dontre Hamilton, and found he was not causing a problem. But Manney said Hamilton resisted when he tried to frisk him, sparking a confrontation, during which Hamilton grabbed Manney’s baton and hit him. Manney opened fire, shooting Hamilton 14 times. The shooting led to Manney’s firing for violating policy on handling people with mental illnesses. But on Monday, the Milwaukee County district attorney said Manney acted in self-defense. The shooting of Hamilton has sparked mass protests in Milwaukee including a highway shutdown Friday which resulted in 74 arrests. One day later, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called up the state’s National Guard to be on standby. The Justice Department has announced a federal review of the case. We speak with Democratic State Representative Mandela Barnes in Milwaukee.

"The War to Start All Wars": Did U.S. Invasion of Panama 25 Years Ago Set Stage for Future Wars?

Tue 07 52 AM

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Panama. On December 20, 1989, President George H.W. Bush launched Operation Just Cause to execute an arrest warrant against Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega, once a close U.S. ally, on charges of drug trafficking. During the attack, the United States unleashed a force of 24,000 troops equipped with highly sophisticated weaponry and aircraft against a country with an army smaller than the New York City Police Department. We discuss the Panama invasion and how it served as a template for future U.S. military interventions with three guests: We are joined by Humberto Brown, a former Panamanian diplomat, and Greg Grandin, a professor of Latin American history at New York University and author of "The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World." His new article for TomDispatch is "The War to Start All Wars: The 25th Anniversary of the Forgotten Invasion of Panama." We also speak with Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Click here to watch the 30-minute extended conversation today.

Bush & Cheney Should Be Charged with War Crimes Says Col. Wilkerson, Former Aide to Colin Powell

Tue 07 42 AM

Calls are increasing for the prosecution of George W. Bush administration officials tied to the CIA torture program. On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch called on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor who would investigate the crimes detailed in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the program. On Monday, The New York Times editorial board called for a full and independent criminal investigation. We put the question about prosecution to Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005.

Ex-Bush Official: U.S. Tortured Prisoners to Produce False Intel that Built Case for Iraq War

Tue 07 33 AM

Since the release of Senate findings earlier this month, the assumption that the CIA’s torture program’s sole motive was post-9/11 self-defense has gone virtually unchallenged. There has been almost no recognition that the George W. Bush administration also tortured prisoners for a very different goal: to extract information that could tie al-Qaeda to Saddam Hussein and justify the invasion of Iraq. While the Senate report and other critics say torture produced false information, that could have been one of the program’s goals. We are joined by retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005. Wilkerson helped prepare Powell’s infamous February 2003 speech to the United Nations wrongly accusing Iraq of possessing weapons of mass destruction. The claim was partially based on statements extracted from a prisoner tortured by Egypt on the CIA’s behalf, who later recanted his claim. Wilkerson says that beginning in the spring of 2002 — one year before the Iraq War and just months after the 9/11 attacks, the torture program’s interrogations "were as much aimed at contacts between al-Qaeda and Baghdad and corroboration thereof as they were trying to ferret out whether there was another attack coming like 9/11. That was stunning to me to find that was probably 50 percent of the impetus."

Weaponizing Health Workers: How Medical Professionals Were a Top Instrument in U.S. Torture Program

Tue 07 12 AM

Physicians for Human Rights is calling for a federal commission to investigate, document and hold accountable all health professionals who took part in CIA torture. Last week, the group released a report titled "Doing Harm: Health Professionals’ Central Role in the CIA Torture Program." The report finds medical personnel connected to the torture program may have committed war crimes by conducting human experimentation on prisoners in violation of the Nuremberg Code that grew out of the trial of Nazi officials and doctors after World War II. We speak with Nathaniel Raymond, a research ethics adviser for Physicians for Human Rights, who co-wrote the new report. "We now see clear evidence of the essential, integral role that health professionals played as the legal heat shield for the Bush administration — their get-out-of-jail-free card," Raymond says.

"There has often been this narrative that Mitchell and Jessen were the lone gunmen of torture, that they were doing this out of their garage," Raymond explains. "They were operating inside a superstructure of medicalized torture. It was not just them alone. It includes physicians’ assistants, doctors and it may include other professionals. What they were doing was everything from 'care' to actual monitoring, calibration and design of the tactics."

"The Interview" Belittles North Korea, But is Film's Backstory and U.S. Policy the Real Farce?

Mon 07 44 AM

President Barack Obama has said the United States is considering putting North Korea back on its list of terrorism sponsors after the hacking of Sony Pictures. Last week, the studio canceled the release of the screwball comedy film "The Interview," about a plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, following threats against theaters and a hack of corporate data, which officials say was ordered by the North Korean government. North Korea was on the U.S. list of state terrorism sponsors for two decades until the White House removed it in 2008, after Pyongyang agreed to full verification of its nuclear sites. Last month’s cyber-attack was claimed by a group calling itself The Guardians of Peace. The group released the salary and Social Security numbers of thousands of Sony employees, including celebrities, and also threatened to attack screenings of the film. Although U.S. officials have said North Korea is behind the attack, many experts have questioned whether the evidence is sufficient. North Korea has denied involvement and proposed a joint investigation with the U.S. government to prove it. We are joined by two guests: Tim Shorrock, an investigative journalist who has been writing about U.S.-Korea relations for 30 years; and Christine Hong, assistant professor at University of California, Santa Cruz, and an executive board member of the Korea Policy Institute. Hong has spent time in North Korea, including a visit to the country as part of a North American peace delegation.

Calls for Calm After NYPD Union Says Mayor, Protesters Have Blood on Their Hands for Cops' Murder

Mon 07 13 AM

New York City is grappling with the aftermath of the first targeted killings of police officers in years. Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were ambushed in broad daylight while sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn on Saturday. The shooter, 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, fled to a nearby subway station where he turned the gun on himself. Brinsley had shot his former girlfriend hours earlier in Maryland, leaving her wounded. He later used her Instagram account to make anti-police statements suggesting he would kill officers to avenge the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Criminal records show Brinsley had a troubled history with the law, with multiple arrests and at least two years behind bars. His family says he had mental issues, including a reported suicide attempt a year ago. But the head of the city’s biggest police union has faulted the recent anti-police brutality protests and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has expressed sympathy for the movement’s concerns. After the killings, Patrick Lynch of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association said: "There’s blood on many hands tonight: those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protests, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day. … That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall — in the office of the mayor." We discuss the officers’ murders, the recent protests against police brutality and police-community relations going forward with two guests: Graham Weatherspoon, a retired detective with the New York City Police Department and board member of the Amadou Diallo Foundation; and Steven Thrasher, a weekly columnist for the Guardian US.

Assata Shakur: What Does New U.S.-Cuba Pact Mean for Exiled Black Panther Wanted in New Jersey?

Fri 07 55 AM

Authorities in New Jersey have said they hope a historic warming of ties between the United States and Cuba will help them capture and imprison Black Panther Assata Shakur. "We view any changes in relations with Cuba as an opportunity to bring her back to the United States to finish her sentence for the murder of a New Jersey State Trooper in 1973," said State Police Superintendent Colonel Rick Fuentes. The encounter left both the officer and a fellow Black Panther, Zayd Malik Shakur, dead. Shakur has said she was shot by police with both arms in the air, and then again from the back. She was sentenced to life in prison but managed to escape and flee to Cuba, where she has lived since 1984. What will happen to Shakur now? We put the question to two attorneys: Michael Ratner and Martin Garbus.

Should Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld & CIA Officials Be Tried for Torture? War Crimes Case Filed in Germany

Fri 07 43 AM

A human rights group in Berlin, Germany, has filed a criminal complaint against the architects of the George W. Bush administration’s torture program. The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights has accused former Bush administration officials, including CIA Director George Tenet and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, of war crimes, and called for an immediate investigation by a German prosecutor. The move follows the release of a Senate report on CIA torture which includes the case of a German citizen, Khalid El-Masri, who was captured by CIA agents in 2004 due to mistaken identity and tortured at a secret prison in Afghanistan. So far, no one involved in the CIA torture program has been charged with a crime — except the whistleblower John Kiriakou, who exposed it. We speak to Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights and chairman of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, and longtime defense attorney Martin Garbus.

New York Says No to Fracking: State Bans Drilling Following Grassroots Outcry over Public Health

Fri 07 20 AM

New York has become the first state in the nation with major natural gas deposits to ban the oil and gas extraction process of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, citing potential risks to public health. Fracking involves blasting sand, water and toxic chemicals deep into shale rock to release oil and gas, a process which can poison water supplies and pollute the air. Following a two-year study, New York Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said fracking was too risky. We speak to biologist, activist and author Sandra Steingraber, co-founder of New Yorkers Against Fracking. Also joining us is Cornell University professor Tony Ingraffea, president of Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy.

From Free Pre-K to Paid Sick Leave to Pay Raises, NYC Mayor de Blasio Fulfills Progressive Promises

Fri 07 12 AM

Democracy Now! co-host Juan González discusses his exclusive year-end interview with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. "The list of his accomplishments in just one year has shocked even me — a total skeptic after more 35 years of covering urban politics in this country," writes González in his latest column. "And it’s not just the big issues like education, affordable housing, reform of police-community relations, or new contracts and pay raises for city workers. It’s also a host of less publicized but important measures affecting ordinary New Yorkers. Things like paid sick leave and a living wage for low-income workers. Like the lowest rent increase in memory for 800,000."

Can Obama Lift the Embargo on Cuba Without Congress in Effort to Normalize U.S.-Cuba Relations?

Thu 07 46 AM

We look at the details of the new normalized relations between the United States and Cuba, which include an easing of restrictions on banking, investment and travel, and discuss whether President Obama can lift the embargo on Cuba without congressional approval. We speak with Robert Muse, an expert on U.S. laws relating to Cuba and attorney based in Washington, D.C. His recent article published in Americas Quarterly is "U.S. Presidential Action on Cuba: The New Normalization?" We also speak with Michael Ratner about what will happen to the U.S. military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Joining the discussion live from Havana is Peter Kornbluh, director of the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

Does the Release of the Cuban Five Prove the U.S. Failed to Destroy Cuba After Decades of Trying?

Thu 07 23 AM

As a new chapter in U.S.-Cuban relations begins, we host a roundtable discussion about the prisoners released as part of the new deal. Cuba freed USAID contractor Alan Gross and a former Cuban intelligence officer who who worked secretly for the CIA, and the United States released the remaining members of the Cuban Five: Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino. We speak with attorney Martin Garbus of the Cuban Five legal team and broadcast an excerpt from our 2013 interview with the first freed member of the Cuban Five, René González, who describes why he came to the United States to investigate militant Cuban exile groups. We also discuss the significance of the new relationship between the two countries. "Our government has been trying to destroy the Cuban Revolution since day one … and essentially this is an admission that it didn’t succeed," says guest Michael Ratner, co-author of "Who Killed Che?: How the CIA Got Away with Murder." We are also joined by Peter Kornbluh, director of the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive, who met twice with Gross while he was detained.

"Cut Loose the Shackles of the Past": U.S. and Cuba Announce a New Dawn in Diplomatic Relations

Thu 07 11 AM

President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced Wednesday that the United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time in more than half a century. The historic deal will include the opening of a U.S. embassy in Havana and comes with a prisoner exchange. Live from Cuba, we go to Havana for reaction from Peter Kornbluh, director of the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive at George Washington University. "Finally after 55 years, an element of sanity and effectiveness and modernization has arrived to the insane U.S. policy that U.S. presidents have been pursuing towards Cuba or all these years," Kornbluh says. He is the co-author of the book, "Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana."