US Homeland Security agents, who were to begin pulling out of central Portland, Oregon, on Thursday, in an embarrassing retreat by the White House, made it clear they would not leave quietly.
The troops, who were guarding the federal courthouse in downtown Portland which has become the focus of protests, fired teargas, rubber bullets and stun grenades into the early hours of Thursday morning against hundreds of demonstrators.
Kate Brown, governor of Oregon, announced on Wednesday that she had secured an agreement with the White House for most of the federal forces to withdraw from the courthouse, and for it to be guarded by state police instead.
This was met with equal joy and skepticism with some regarding the retraction of troops a face-losing defeat for President Donald Trump, who had personally sent the DHS to Portland a month ago, saying they would bring an end to “anarchy” in the city after weeks of Black Lives Matter protests. That obviously didn’t go according to the presidential plan.
Trump tweeted late Friday, “Homeland Security is not leaving Portland until local police complete cleanup of Anarchists and Agitators!”
Hundreds of demonstrators were still on the streets of Portland on Saturday morning, without any federal law enforcement in sight.
Trump says fed agents to stay
Earlier, Portland police cleared parks and nearby roads around the city center on Friday in anticipation of the phased pullout by federal forces.
City mayor Ted Wheeler said the deployment was part of the agreement for federal officers to leave.
“The federal officers are using CS gas broadly, indiscriminately and nightly,” he said. “That is why it is escalating the behavior we’re seeing on the streets rather than de-escalating it, and that’s why this must come to an end.”
Wheeler apologized for the Portland police using tear gas in late May and June to break up Black Lives Matter protests.
“It should never have happened,” he said.
In a tweet late Friday, Wheeler thanked the peaceful protesters, and said they had “reclaimed the space that has been a staging ground for violence, to share their powerful message of reformative justice.”
The deployment earlier this month of federal tactical teams by the administration, many wearing combat-like gear, to intervene in the city after weeks of protests against racism and police brutality saw windows broken and graffiti scrawled on the federal courthouse and other buildings.
The arrival of the “Trump Troops,” as they are being called by some, exacerbated the situation, particularly when footage of protesters being snatched off the street by federal agents and put into unmarked cars went viral.
Democrats have said this “police state” intervention was, in all likelihood, a political move to present Trump as a strict law-and-order president to voters ahead of the presidential election in November.
US Attorney General Bill Barr has, predictably, came out in defense of utilizing federal officers, and rejected any suggestion of the political motivation.
“In the wake of George Floyd’s death, violent rioters and anarchists have hijacked legitimate protests to wreak senseless havoc and destruction on innocent victims,” Barr said in testimony to the House Judiciary Committee.
The federal forces were to begin withdrawing from the city on Thursday, under an agreement between Oregon officials and the Trump administration reached on Wednesday.
The withdrawal, however, was conditional to local law enforcement ensuring the security of the federal courthouse and other buildings that have been targeted by protesters.
Trump says fed agents to stay
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf had warned earlier this week that a full pullout depended on the security situation “significantly” improving.
And on Thursday, Trump reiterated the need for federal intervention.
“The governor and the mayor, we’ve been dealing with them, and we think they don’t know what they’re doing, because this should not have been going on for 60 days,” he told reporters.
“It’s not our job to go in and clean out the cities. That’s supposed to be done by local law enforcement,” Trump added.
“If the mayor and governor do not stop the Crime and Violence from the Anarchists and Agitators immediately, the Federal Government will go in and do the job that local law enforcement was supposed to do!” the president added.
Not only did the DHS agents fail to rectify the situation, but they also managed to compound it by using unnecessarily violent tactics, which in turn prompted a backlash in other parts of the country after agents in camouflage were filmed snatching protesters from the streets in unmarked vans.
Whether the deployment of state police will defuse the situation, given weeks of conflict between protesters and the Portland city police before the federal agents arrived, is not clear.
For some, however, the fact that state forces are independent of the man in the White House is blessing enough for the moment.
“It’s a step in the right direction. At least the state police are not under Trump’s control,” said a demonstrator, who gave his name only as Alex. “I was afraid he would send the national guard in and it would be chaos.”
Governor Brown had told the state police to “use each and every strategy to deescalate” protests and avoid the level of force used by the federal agents. But she said they will protect the courthouse.
“They will use crowd control tactics only as a last resort,” she said.
Trump says fed agents to stay
US spy agencies identify suspected undeclared nuclear site near Saudi capital: Report
American intelligence agencies have reportedly spotted what appears to be an undeclared nuclear site near Saudi Arabia’s capital city of Riyadh, scrutinizing attempts by the kingdom to process uranium and move toward the development of atomic bombs.
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the agencies had in recent weeks circulated a classified analysis about Saudi attempts to build up its ability to produce nuclear fuel that could potentially lead to the development of nuclear weapons.
The study shows “a newly completed structure near a solar-panel production area near Riyadh, the Saudi capital, that some government analysts and outside experts suspect could be one of a number of undeclared nuclear sites,” the report said.
The site is situated in a secluded desert area not too far from the Saudi town of al-Uyaynah, located 30 kilometers northwest of Riyadh, and its Solar Village.
“The analysis has raised alarms that there might be secret Saudi-Chinese efforts to process raw uranium into a form that could later be enriched into weapons fuel, according to American officials,” the report added.
A day earlier, an article in The Wall Street Journal said that Western officials were concerned about a desert site in northwestern Saudi Arabia just south of the town of al-Ula.
It was part of a program with the Chinese to extract uranium yellowcake from uranium ore, according to the article.
Frank Pabian, a former satellite image analyst at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, said the desert site appears to be a small mill for turning uranium ore into yellowcake as it has a checkpoint, high security fences, a large building about 150 feet on a side and ponds for the collection of uranium waste.
Last week, the US House Intelligence Committee included a provision in the intelligence budget authorization bill requiring the administration to submit a report about Saudi efforts since 2015 to develop a nuclear program.
The provision obliged the US government to include in its report an assessment of “the state of nuclear cooperation between Saudi Arabia and any other country other than the United States, such as the People’s Republic of China or the Russian Federation.”
The US State Department has not commented on the reported intelligence findings.
The US opposes “the spread of enrichment and reprocessing” and attaches “great importance” to continued compliance by the Saudis to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), it said in a statement to the New York Times.
The State Department also urged Riyadh to conclude an agreement with Washington “with strong nonproliferation protections that will enable Saudi and US nuclear industries to cooperate.”
Last year, a document, titled “Updates on Saudi National Atomic Energy Project” and posted by the Vienne-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), detailed a plan for building nuclear reactors as well as fueling them through the “localization” of uranium production.
The kingdom was looking for uranium deposits in more than 10,000 square miles of its territory and had teamed up with Jordan to make yellowcake, according to the report.
“The IAEA is unhappy with Saudi Arabia because they refuse to communicate about their existing program and where it is going,” said Robert Kelley, a former inspector for the UN nuclear watchdog.
Saudi Arabia’s attempts to speed up its nuclear and missile projects have raised fears that it aims to acquire nuclear weapons. Observers believe that a nuclear Saudi Arabia — where warmongers are currently at the helm — could pose a serious security threat to the Middle East region.
Riyadh has so far turned a deaf ear to calls by the IAEA to implement proportionate safeguards and an inspection regime that would prevent possible deviation towards nukes.
In March 2018, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Riyadh would quickly go for nuclear bomb Iran does so.
Iran has repeatedly enunciated its nuclear program as exclusively civilian, subject to the most intensive UN supervisions ever.
Tehran signed a nuclear agreement with six world countries, which forged close cooperation between Iran and the IAEA, but the US severely undermined the pact by abandoning it in May 2018.
nuclear site near Saudi capital
Amnesty International condemns excessive use of force by US police against protesters
A prominent human rights organization has condemned the excessive use of force by the US police against demonstrators protesting racial injustice.
Amnesty International USA released a report on Tuesday documenting over 120 separate incidents of police violence against protesters, medics, journalists and legal observers in more than 40 states during May and June protests.
Many observers maintain that the report, “The World is Watching: Mass Violations by US Police of Black Lives Matter Protesters’ Rights”, is the most comprehensive human rights analysis of police violence so far.
The researchers of the AIUSA have conducted more than 50 interviews over several weeks in June 2020, highlighting people’s experiences in the context of the protests.
Amnesty International condemns excessive use of force by US police
“The unnecessary and sometimes excessive use of force by police against protesters exhibits the very systemic racism and impunity they had taken to the streets to protest. The research shows that people who were simply exercising their human right to peacefully protest were met with such violence that they lost eyesight, survived brutal beatings, and suffered seizures and severe wounds,” said Ernest Coverson, AIUSA’s End Gun Violence campaign manager.
“The Trump administration is now doubling down on military-style crackdowns against protesters, with Attorney General William Barr’s egregious defense of the use of federal troops in Portland and threats to deploy more agents to other cities. President Trump’s actions represent a slippery slope toward authoritarianism and must immediately stop. We need the country’s approach to the policing of protests to be changed from the ground up at the local, state, and federal levels,” said Justin Mazzola, a researcher at AIUSA.
The report comes as the US Attorney’s office in Portland announced on Tuesday that it has produced no evidence linking dozens who have been arrested in anti-racism protests to the antifa or anarchist movements.
“We have not alleged defendant affiliation with any specific groups or ideologies in our cases stemming from recent Portland protests,” said Kevin Sonoff, the spokesman for the US Attorney’s office. “Our cases focus purely on the criminal conduct alleged.”
US President Donald Trump and other officials, however, have repeatedly applied these labels to the Portland protesters.
“I think there are anarchists and far-left groups involved in the violence in Portland,” Attorney General William Barr said in testimony before Congress last week. “I think antifa is involved in Portland.”
Meanwhile, the US Congress announced on Tuesday that it has launched an investigation into the activities of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over its involvement in the crackdown on anti-racism protesters following reports of misuse and abuse of power.
The US cities, including Portland, had seen more than two months of violent protests following the brutal murder of unarmed African American George Floyd during a May 25 arrest in Minneapolis.
In early July, Trump sent the federal agents to Portland to protect the federal courthouse, but, according to the local officials, their presence made things worse. Last week the federal agents pulled back.
Amnesty International condemns excessive use of force by US police
Alleged war crimes by British Special Forces in Afghanistan set to have major repercussions
New evidence has come to light that British Special Forces in Afghanistan routinely committed war crimes by shooting dead unarmed civilians.
The fresh material follows an investigation by BBC Panorama which focuses on the concerns of the Special Forces top brass that the units under their command were routinely killing unarmed men and women as part of their operations.
At their height, the operations, dubbed the “night raids”, occurred on a virtually nightly basis and were ostensibly targeted at senior echelons of the Taliban militant movement.
The new documents – held by the courts – were recently released to the solicitors Leigh Day as part of an active case at the High Court, which is set to rule on whether allegations of unlawful killing by British Special Forces were originally investigated properly.
The original complainant in the case is Afghan national, Saifullah Ghareb Yar, who claims four members of his family were “assassinated” by UK Special Forces in the early hours of February 16, 2011.
The case is of seminal importance especially in the light of the British government’s consistent refusal to properly investigate alleged war crimes committed by British troops – both regular and Special Forces – in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The situation has deteriorated to the point that the International Criminal Court (ICC) intervened back in November 2019 by stating its willingness to investigate the British military for the first time.
The ICC’s intervention has been widely interpreted as a major embarrassment to the British government and military alike.
Alleged war crimes by British