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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fallout from Leaked NSA Documents Continues

After documents leaked last week showed the unprecedented breadth and depth of the NSA’s surveillance program, Prism, the EU has demanded assurances that it has not been used on European citizens.  According to former NSA and CIA worker, Edward Snowden, Prism gives the NSA access to the servers of all nine major US telecommunications companies. The NSA then collects and stores material directly from those servers, including search history, e-mails, file transfers and live chats. The US government has claimed that the program is legal under the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), although who, specifically, has been under surveillance remains a secret.  US politicians have come out overwhelmingly in support of Prism, the Obama administration is prosecuting Snowden and the majority of Americans still believe government surveillance is not a problem. Snowden checked out of his Hong Kong hotel today and has gone into hiding.

Syrian Government’s Resurgence Creates New Problems

After the government’s conquest of the rebel-held city of Qusayr last week, attacks have escalated on Shia-dominated northern Lebanon. These are widely seen as retribution against Hezbollah for supporting the Assad regime. Ten rockets have been launched today alone, killing a lone driver. Meanwhile, a suicide bombing in the center of Damascus that targeted a police station, shook the city, killing at least 14 people, predominantly police. Over the weekend, the government overtook the last rebel-held villages between the Lebanese border and the central city of Homs, and sent militias into north-western parts of Aleppo, hoping to cut off Turkish supply lines and, eventually, retake the city itself. The regime’s gains on the battlefield have called the U.S.’s non-intervention strategy into question as the Obama administration mulls whether it should arm the rebels, protect them with airstrikes, or continue its existing policy.

Bombing at Afghan Supreme Court

At least 17 people were killed and dozens more were injured when a suicide bomber hit a bus carrying Afghan Supreme Court employees to work. The Taliban claimed responsibility, claiming that the attack was retribution for the employees’ “important role” in “legalizing the infidels.” This, despite the fact that the vast majority of the casualties were low-level employees. The explosion also occurred within hours of an announcement by the top United Nations official in Afghanistan saying that the Taliban had signaled their readiness to discuss reducing civilian casualties. This follows on the heels of the beheading of two boys on Sunday (although the Taliban denies involvement), an attack on the capital’s airport earlier this morning and a truck bombing at a provincial council building and voter registration center. Pakistan has set a deadline of June 30th for all Afghan refugees to leave the country, and many fear deportation back to their violence-stricken homeland.

Turkish Police Move into Taksim Square

After Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdogan issued an order for protesters to leave Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkish police moved in, using tear gas and water cannons to regain control. While Prime Minister Erdogan praised the police operation, at least 15 people were hospitalized in the aftermath of the police attack. Protesters accused security services of attempting to provoke violence by using provocateurs to throw bombs at police vehicles. The protesters’ lawyers gathered to make a statement about police brutality in front of Istanbul’s main court, but their meeting was broken up by riot police. Over 50 lawyers have been detained.

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