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As U.S. Frees Five Taliban Members, Questions Remain Over Future of Guantánamo

Democracy Now - Fri 07 46 AM

The Obama Administration is defending its controversial prisoner-swap deal that saw five members of Taliban released from the Guantánamo Bay prison in exchange for the release of U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by the Taliban. On Thursday, State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf disputed some Republicans’ claims that the released detainees were the "worst of the worse." We speak to civil rights attorney Frank Goldsmith who represents one of the freed Guantánamo prisoners, Khairullah Khairkhwa. We also speak to reporter Andy Worthington, who recently wrote an article called, "Missing the Point on the Guantánamo Taliban Prisoner Swap and the Release of Bowe Bergdahl."

The Inside Story of Bowe Bergdahl: Afghan War Vet Matthew Farwell on "America's Last POW"

Democracy Now - Fri 07 12 AM

As the controversy over the prisoner swap grows, new information has emerged about Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s time in Afghanistan. On Thursday, administration officials said Bergdahl’s life could have been in danger if details of the prisoner swap had been leaked. While some in the media have speculated that Bergdahl became sympathetic to his captors, new reports reveal Bergdahl actually escaped from his captors on at least two occasions, once in the fall of 2011 and again sometime in 2012. In another development, the New York Times reveals a classified military report concluded Bergdahl most likely walked away from his Army outpost in June 2009 on his own free will, but it stops short of concluding that there is solid evidence that he intended to permanently desert. The report also revealed that Bergdahl had wandered away from assigned areas while in the Army at least twice before prior to the day he was captured, including once in Afghanistan. We speak to Matthew Farwell, a journalist and veteran of the Afghan war who has been following the Bergdahl story for years. He helped the late Michael Hastings write his 2012 Rolling Stone article, "America’s Last Prisoner of War." Farwell came to know Bergdahl’s parents after they attended the funeral of his brother who served and in Iraq and Afghanistan and died in a helicopter accident in Germany.

EPA Moves to Cut Coal Pollution, But Critics Say Plan Falls Short on Real Emissions Reduction

Democracy Now - Thu 07 51 AM

New environmental regulations unveiled this week are being described as the U.S. government’s most sweeping effort to date in curbing the emissions that cause global warming. The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking a 30-percent reduction of carbon emissions from 2005 levels at coal-fired power plants by the year 2030. But many environmentalists are urging the United States to take greater action on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The Guardian reports some of the most coal-heavy states, including West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, will be allowed to maintain, or even increase, their emissions under the EPA plan. Meanwhile, the European Union said the United States must "do even more" to help keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius. We are joined by Janet Redman, director of the Climate Policy Program at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Seattle’s Socialist City Council Member Kshama Sawant Hails Historic Vote For $15/Hour Minimum Wage

Democracy Now - Thu 07 41 AM

Seattle made history this week by passing the $15-an-hour minimum wage — the highest rate in the country for a major city, and more than twice the federal minimum. The raise will be phased in over time. Seattle businesses will have three to seven years to implement it, depending on their size. The plan also includes several loopholes for businesses, which were fought until the last minute by Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant, the first socialist to be elected to the council in a century. Sawant ran for City Council last year on a platform of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. She join us from Seattle.

Veteran: Politicians Using Freed POW Bowe Bergdahl as "Chess Piece to Win Political Matches"

Democracy Now - Thu 07 22 AM

The Obama administration is seeking to contain a congressional backlash over a prisoner exchange that saw the release of American soldier Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders. On Wednesday, top intelligence and military officials held a closed-door briefing for the entire Senate showing them a recent video of Bergdahl in declining health. The administration says the video helped spur action to win his release over fears his life was in danger. Opponents of the deal say the White House failed to give Congress proper notice, and may have endangered American lives by encouraging the capture of U.S. soldiers. The criticism has exploded as news spread through right-wing media that Bergdahl may have left his base after turning against the war. We are joined by Brock McIntosh, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War who served in Afghanistan from November 2008 to August 2009. McIntosh applied for conscientious objector status and was discharged last month.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's Idaho Hometown Cancels "Welcome Home" Celebration as Backlash Grows

Democracy Now - Thu 07 09 AM

The backlash over the prisoner swap involving U.S. soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and five members of the Taliban continues to grow. In Bergdahl’s hometown of Hailey, Idaho, community members have a canceled a celebration of his release over public safety concerns. In recent days, angry phone calls and emails poured into Hailey city hall and local organizations over the town’s support for the soldier. Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban in 2009 shortly after he left his military outpost in Afghanistan. Some of Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers have described him as a deserter. They have also said at least six soldiers died while searching for him, a claim the Pentagon rejects. We discuss the Bergdahl controversy and its local impact in Idaho with Larry Schoen, a county commissioner in Blaine County.

5 Years After Dr. George Tiller’s Murder, A Doctor Braves Threats to Continue Abortions in Wichita

Democracy Now - Wed 07 44 AM

As Oklahoma enacts a law that could close all but one abortion clinic in the state — and Louisiana is poised to follow suit — we look at the legacy of Dr. George Tiller, who was assassinated five years ago this past weekend. Tiller was one of a handful of doctors providing abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy. He braved constant threats, a firebombing at his clinic and an assassination attempt that left him with gunshot wounds to both arms. On May 31, 2009, anti-choice extremist, Scott Roeder, entered Tiller’s church in Wichita, Kansas, and shot him dead. We remember Tiller by speaking with Dr. Cheryl Chastine, who travels from Chicago to Wichita each week to provide abortions at Tiller’s former clinic, which reopened last year. Chastine discusses the obstacles to abortion access in Kansas and responds to the threats and harassment she and her colleagues face. "I get up in the morning and there are patients that need me," Chastine says. "If I allow myself to be deterred from doing this work, then I am allowing a victory for terrorism."

Is Bowe Bergdahl a Deserter? If Freed POW Left Post, He Joins Ranks of Soldiers Moved by Conscience

Democracy Now - Wed 07 30 AM

With freed American prisoner of war Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl now facing an Army probe into potential desertion, we are joined by Charles Glass, a historian and former ABC News chief Middle East correspondent. Glass’ book, "The Deserters: A Hidden History of the Second World War," tells the story of three men whose lives dramatize how the strain of war can push a soldier to the breaking point. They are among some 50,000 American soldiers who deserted in the European theater during World War II. "We have to understand what [Bergdahl] was going through," Glass says. "The young person at the front line, having believed in his country’s mission in Afghanistan and discovering it was not at all what he was told it was, and saw himself as part of the mechanism of oppression, of killing people, of going into villages, and when trying to take out enemy combatants was killing families. I hope that we’ll understand what he went through and have compassion for him and his family."

"There Were No Good Options": Bergdahl Should Get Honorable Discharge, Says Lawyer for Deserters

Democracy Now - Wed 07 12 AM

The Taliban has released a video showing the hand over of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl to U.S. Special Operations Forces in the deal that saw the U.S. exchange five high-ranking Taliban militants held at Guantánamo bay. Despite winning the freedom of the only known U.S. prisoner of war, the deal has come under Republican attack amidst reports Bergdahl voluntarily left his base after growing opposed to the war in Afghanistan. Army officials say they will investigate whether Bergdahl engaged in misconduct, and several of the soldiers who served with him have taken to the media to call him a deserter. "[Bergdahl] is speaking as someone who has seen firsthand what the American imperial machine is all about … and is responding from a very core, visceral place," says James Branum, a lawyer who specializes in representing U.S. military deserters and conscientious objectors. "One can’t help be moved by that." Branum adds that most other soldiers convicted of desertion, including many of his clients, have received six to 24 month sentences. "[Bergdahl] has already effectively served more jail time than anyone ever has in the modern era for desertion, in his time as a POW. Given that, there is no reason to punish him."

After Supreme Court Rejects Appeal, Will Obama Jail New York Times Reporter James Risen?

Democracy Now - Tue 07 49 AM

In one of the most significant press freedom cases in decades, the U.S. Supreme Court has turned down the appeal of a New York Times reporter who faces prison for refusing to reveal a confidential source. James Risen had asked the court to overturn a ruling forcing him to testify in the criminal trial of ex-CIA analyst Jeffrey Sterling. Prosecutors believe Sterling gave Risen information on the CIA’s role in disrupting Iran’s nuclear program. Risen vowed to go to prison rather than testify and was hoping for Supreme Court intervention. But on Monday, the Supreme Court refused to weigh in, effectively siding with the government. The Obama administration must now decide if it will try to force Risen’s testimony and risk sending one of the nation’s most prominent national security journalists to jail. We are joined by two guests: Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation and a columnist at The Guardian; and Matthew Cooper, a veteran Washington correspondent who was held in contempt of court during the Bush administration leak case that led to the outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA agent.

Former Guantánamo Chief Prosecutor Defends American POW-Taliban Prisoner Swap

Democracy Now - Tue 07 41 AM

In a deal brokered by Qatar, the United States agreed to release five Taliban leaders from Guantánamo Bay in return for winning Bowe Bergdahl’s freedom. Bergdahl is now being treated at an American military hospital in Germany and will return to the United States at a later date. The Taliban leaders be forced to remain in Qatar for one year. The deal has been controversial. Some of Bergdahl’s former soldiers say he should face a court-martial for desertion. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are accusing President Obama of failing to properly give Congress advanced warning of the Guantánamo prisoner transfers, and of endangering U.S. troops worldwide by incentivising their capture. We get reaction from retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis, who resigned as the former chief military prosecutor at Guantánamo Bay in 2007.

Reporter: Bowe Bergdahl's Fellow Soldiers Questioned Afghan War More Than He Did

Democracy Now - Tue 07 29 AM

According to a 2012 profile in Rolling Stone magazine by the late reporter Michael Hastings, the newly freed U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl joined the Army in 2008 after he first tried to enlist with the French Foreign Legion, but was rejected. He was deployed to Afghanistan just after President Obama ordered the first troop surge in the Spring of 2009. Bergdahl reportedly told a soldier in his unit, "If this deployment is lame … I’m just going to walk off into the mountains of Pakistan." And on June 30, 2009, he may have done just that, leaving the base with just a knife and water, along with a digital camera and his diary. Within 24 hours, he was captured. We are joined by Sean Smith, an award-winning photographer and filmmaker for The Guardian who met Bowe Bergdahl while embedded with his unit in Afghanistan. Smith also profiled Bowe’s father, Bob Bergdahl, in the video we aired in the previous segment.

Father of Freed U.S. Soldier: "Nobody Can Relate to Guantánamo Prisoners More Than Our Family"

Democracy Now - Tue 07 10 AM

Bowe Bergdahl, the last known American prisoner of war in Afghanistan, has been freed in a prison swap with the Taliban five years after his capture. Bergdahl was captured after reportedly walking off his base unarmed. He was said to have left a note claiming he had become disillusioned with the Army, did not support the American mission in Afghanistan, and was leaving to start a new life. Bergdahl’s parents, Bob and Jani, had first revealed their son was the subject of prisoner swap negotiations three years ago when U.S.-Taliban talks broke down. In the lead-up to his son’s release, Bob Bergdahl spoke to The Guardian’s Sean Smith in an exclusive interview filmed around the Idaho countryside where the family lives. "I don’t think anybody can relate to the prisoners in Guantánamo more than our family, because it’s the same thing," Bob Bergdahl told Smith. "How could we have such a high standard of judicial process for horrible war criminals [during World War II] ... and yet now we can go for 10-11 years without even having judicial process? It’s just wrong."

Ex-Counterterrorism Czar Richard Clarke: Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld Committed War Crimes

Democracy Now - Mon 07 47 AM

Richard Clarke, the nation’s former top counterterrorism official, tells Democracy Now! he believes President George W. Bush is guilty of war crimes for launching the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Clarke served as national coordinator for security and counterterrorism during Bush’s first year in office. He resigned in 2003 following the Iraq invasion and later made headlines by accusing Bush officials of ignoring pre-9/11 warnings about an imminent attack by al-Qaeda. "I think things that they authorized probably fall within the area of war crimes," Clarke says. "Whether that would be productive or not, I think, is a discussion we could all have. But we have established procedures now with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where people who take actions as serving presidents or prime ministers of countries have been indicted and have been tried. So the precedent is there to do that sort of thing. And I think we need to ask ourselves whether or not it would be useful to do that in the case of members of the Bush administration. It’s clear that things that the Bush administration did — in my mind, at least — were war crimes."

Former Counterterrorism Czar Richard Clarke: U.S. Drone Program Under Obama "Got Out of Hand"

Democracy Now - Mon 07 13 AM

Richard Clarke served as the nation’s top counterterrorism official under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush before resigning in 2003 in protest of the Iraq War. A year before the Sept. 11 attacks, Clarke pushed for the Air Force to begin arming drones as part of the U.S. effort to hunt down Osama bin Laden. According to Clarke, the CIA and the Pentagon initially opposed the mission. Then Sept. 11 happened. Two months later, on November 12, 2001, Mohammed Atef, the head of al-Qaeda’s military forces, became the first person killed by a Predator drone. According to the Bureau for Investigative Journalism, U.S. drones have since killed at least 2,600 people in Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Clarke has just written a novel about drone warfare called, "Sting of the Drone." We talk to Clarke about the book and his concerns about President Obama’s escalation of the drone war. "I think the [drone] program got out of hand," Clarke says. "The excessive secrecy is as counterproductive as some of the strikes are."