TDB Top 5 International Stories: Wednesday 22nd March 2017


5: Could New Zealand Face the International Criminal Court for War Crimes in Afghanistan?

The coming days are critical to determining New Zealand’s liability for war crimes at the International Criminal Court, following today’s release of Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s new book Hit & Run. I’ve worked at the Court as an investigator, and at every other UN war crimes tribunal. The key question will be whether New Zealand is willing or able to investigate the allegations regarding SAS troops in Afghanistan during August 2010, or if the International Court will have to step in and do it for us.

Perhaps contrary to what you might expect, war crimes are not a numbers game. One unlawful killing can lead to charges at the International Criminal Court. Furthermore, it can actually be lawful to kill civilians in certain contexts. However, reviewing the 151 pages of this book, I can see there are sufficient grounds to include these allegations in the International Criminal Court preliminary examination against allied troops in Afghanistan—a case which I have worked on.

It is considered a war crime to intentionally direct attacks against civilians, to destroy the property of adversaries unless immediately demanded by the conflict, or to torture detainees. International law also requires that after an attack all parties should attempt to take care of wounded, and states must investigate allegations of war crimes by their armed forces.

The book records details of the alleged killing of six civilians in the New Zealand-initiated and led raid, including women and children as young as three, plus injuries from shrapnel and fire. It documents reports of New Zealand troops destroying villagers’ homes, and failing to offer help to wounded villagers. It also reports one incident where a captured insurgent is allegedly beaten by New Zealand forces in the back of a van, then handed over to Afghan secret police to be tortured.

New Zealand Defence Force has issued a repeat of their statements in 2011 and 2014 saying no New Zealanders were involved in the killing of civilians.

Vice News

4: Inside How the Federalist Society & Koch Brothers Are Pushing for Trump to Reshape Federal Judiciary

All eyes are on the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch, who is facing his second day of confirmation hearings. But Trump has 123 other federal judgeships to fill, because Senate Republicans blocked many of Obama’s nominees. We take a look at how a top official at the Federalist Society, named Leonard Leo, is playing a key role in helping Trump reshape the nation’s judicial landscape from behind the scenes. We speak with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eric Lipton of The New York Times. He recently co-wrote a piece headlined “In Gorsuch, Conservative Activist Sees Test Case for Reshaping the Judiciary.”

Democracy Now

3: Donald Trump Is Filling Top Pentagon and Homeland Security Positions With Defense Contractors

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP has weaponized the revolving door by appointing defense contractors and their lobbyists to key government positions as he seeks to rapidly expand the military budget and homeland security programs.

Two Department of Homeland Security appointments Trump announced Tuesday morning are perfect examples.

Benjamin Cassidy, installed by Trump as assistant secretary for legislative affairs, previously worked as a senior executive at Boeing’s international business sector, marketing Boeing military products abroad. Jonathan Rath Hoffman, named assistant secretary for public affairs, previously worked as a consultant to the Chertoff Group, the sprawling homeland security consulting firm founded by former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. The firm has come under fire for advising a variety of firms seeking government contracts, including for full-body scanners deemed invasive by privacy activists. Hoffman also led a state chapter of a neoconservative military-contractor advocacy organization during the 2016 presidential campaign. Neither position requires Senate confirmation.

Personnel from major defense companies now occupy the highest ranks of the administration including cabinet members and political appointees charged with implementing the Trump agenda. At least 15 officials with financial ties to defense contractors have been either nominated or appointed so far, with potentially more industry names on the way as Trump has yet to nominate a variety of roles in the government, including Army and Navy secretaries.

Before their confirmations, Jim Mattis and John Kelly, the secretaries of the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, were primarily paid by defense firms.

Mattis was paid $242,000, along with up to $500,000 in vested stock options, as director of General Dynamics, a company that produces submarines, tanks, and a range of munitions for the military. Mattis also received speaking fees from several firms, including Northrop Grumman. Kelly previously served in a number of roles at defense contracting consulting and lobbying firms and worked directly as an adviser to Dyncorp, a company that contracts with the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Defense firms have eagerly watched as Trump recently unveiled a budget calling for $54 billion in additional military spending next year, as well as an additional $30 billion for the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security for this fiscal year, which ends on September 31. About $15.5 billion of the $30 billion is slated to be spent on new military equipment.

The spending spree will provide a brand new opportunity for defense lobbyists to get business for their clients. And the most effective lobbying generally involves contacting former colleagues in positions of power.

The Intercept

2: Twitter: Over half a million blocked for ‘terror’ ties

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Social media giant Twitter announced it has suspended 636,248 accounts since the middle of 2015 as the company steps up efforts to counter “promotion of terrorism” around the world.

In its latest transparency report published on Tuesday, the company said 376,890 accounts were shut down in the last six months of 2016.

The move comes as social networks are under pressure from governments around the world to use technology tools to lock out individuals promoting religious violence, and others who use the platforms to recruit and launch attacks.


1: Fox drops analyst who said UK might have helped spy on Trump

Fox News has dropped a legal analyst who claimed British intelligence might have helped spy on Donald Trump during his bid to become US president.

Andrew Napolitano had been pulled from the channel, a source at Fox said. The network made no immediate comment on Monday.

Napolitano said last week on Fox & Friends he had three intelligence sources who said Obama went “outside the chain of command” to watch Trump.

Britain dismissed the report as “nonsense” after the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, quoted it in a briefing, part of the administration’s continued defence of Trump’s unproven contention that Obama wiretapped him at Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The director of the FBI, James Comey, testifying before Congress on Monday, became the latest official to state that no evidence had been found to support Trump’s charge.

The Guardian