Pakistan Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah targeted by US strike in Afghanistan

There are unconfirmed reports that Mullah Fazlullah – the commander of the Pakistan Taliban – has been killed in a US air strike in Afghanistan.

Fazlullah’s men shot the schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan in 2012.

He was also behind the 2014 massacre in the Pakistani city of Peshawar that killed more than 130 schoolchildren.

He became head of the Pakistani Taliban in 2013 and has been operating in Afghanistan for years.

The US attack was in collaboration with Afghan forces.

The US military only confirmed it had carried out a strike aimed at a senior militant figure in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar, which is on the Pakistani border.

An Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman told the BBC that Fazlullah was targeted and killed.

The Taliban has not yet commented.

Earlier this month the Afghan government announced a temporary ceasefire with the Taliban to coincide with the end of Ramadan, or Eid al-Fitr.

Days later the Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire with Afghan government forces, also to coincide with Eid.

Afghans are celebrating Eid on Friday. President Ashraf Ghani announced in a televised message that both sides had honoured the ceasefire and called on the Taliban to extend their ceasefire beyond Sunday.

The US said it too would respect the ceasefire in a statement on 7 June “to allow the Afghan people to celebrate Eid al-Fitr without fear of violence”.

The US has sharply escalated its bombing of Taliban targets in Afghanistan since President Trump announced a new, open-ended military strategy last year.

On Friday a spokesman for US Forces in Afghanistan said it was continuing to adhere to the ceasefire “with the Afghan Taliban”. The Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban are separate groups.

Fazlullah is seen as a ruthless extremist who wanted to impose Sharia law across Pakistan.

He was once known as Mullah Radio because of his angry sermons, broadcast from the northern Swat Valley in Pakistan.

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After the brutal school massacre in Peshawar, the influence of the Pakistani Taliban has steadily declined, says the BBC’s Secunder Kermani in Islamabad.

The Pakistani army has waged a successful campaign against the militants, pushing remnants of the group across the border into Afghanistan, he says, though they still continue to carry out sporadic attacks.

Malala Yousafzai, a campaigner for girls’ right to education, recovered from being shot in the head in the 2012 attack when she was just 15, and was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

She is currently studying at the University of Oxford.

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BBC News – World

Will the U.S. Strike on Syria Impact the Alleged Chemical Weapons Attack Investigation?

Last night the U.S. and its allies, France and the U.K. led a military strike against Syria, striking Syrian military targets said to be linked to Syrian chemical weapons programs on the eve of the arrival of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) who is supposed to investigate the alleged chemical attack. Plus, the hottest stories of the week. Newsbud does not take money from advertisers, foundations or NGO’s. We are 100% funded by you, the people. Support Newsbud for a stronger independent grassroots media by subscribing or making a donation today.

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Show Notes 

OPCW Fact-Finding Mission Continues Deployment to Syria

US, France, Britain launch strikes on Syria: Trump

Chemical weapons investigation team arrives in Damascus – OPCW

Russia Call US Aggressor, Washington Locked and Loaded to Hit Syria Again

US-led strikes in Syria without UNSC mandate a violation of international law – Putin

US training Syria militants for false flag chemical attack as basis for airstrikes – Russian MoD

UN accuses Syrian rebels of carrying out sarin gas attacks which had been blamed on Assad’s troops

Syrian Government Accused of Using Chemical Weapons

Russian claims that US is planning a false-flag chemical weapons attack is a distraction, Pentagon says

US found chlorine gas, nerve agent in samples from Syria attack: report

The Latest: Russia says no evidence of gas attack in Douma

Russia claims Syria air defences shot down 71 of 103 missiles

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Donald Trump Ordered Syria Strike Based on a Secret Legal Justification Even Congress Can’t See

On Friday night, President Trump ordered the U.S. military to conduct a bombing attack against the government of Syria without congressional authorization. How can this be constitutional, given the fact that Article I, Section 8 of America’s founding document declares that “The Congress shall have Power … To declare War”?

The deeply bizarre and alarming answer is that Trump almost certainly does have some purported legal justification provided to him by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel — but no one else, including Congress, can read it.

The Office of Legal Counsel is often called the Supreme Court of the executive branch, providing opinions on how the president and government agencies should interpret the law.

We know that Trump received a top secret OLC opinion justifying the previous U.S. strike on Syria on April 6, 2017. Friday’s bombing undoubtedly relied on the same memo or one with similar reasoning.

So while over 80 members of Congress wrote to Trump on Friday night stating that “engaging our military in Syria … without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution,” their action has no impact. The military will rely on the OLC’s opinion that, constitutionally speaking, Trump’s orders were perfectly fine. And it will be quite difficult for members of Congress to argue otherwise, since they don’t even know what the Trump administration’s precise rationale is.

It is not unprecedented for the OLC’s reasoning to be classified. Over 20 percent of its opinions between 1998 and 2013 have been secret.

However, these OLC memos were generally written on government actions that were themselves classified. One notorious example is the so-called “torture memos” produced by the OLC during the George W. Bush administration.

What makes Trump’s actions new, according to several legal experts I spoke with, is that previous presidents appear to have always made public their legal justification for any overt military action on a significant scale. No matter how shoddy their explanations were, this at least made debate possible.

The only reason the existence of the 2017 OLC memo on Syria is public knowledge is because the organization Protect Democracy filed a lawsuit to compel the Justice Department to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request that the OLC provide “the President’s legal authority to launch such a strike.”

The OLC refused — but did produce an index of relevant documents. The first on the list is key: As described by the OLC, it is a “Legal Memo” that “is currently classified TOP SECRET.”

Soon after the 2017 strikes, two prominent Democrats, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Rep. Adam Schiff from California, wrote to Trump and requested “a detailed analysis of the legal precedents and authorities supporting the action in Syria.” They have not received any response.

So what does the OLC’s secret memo say? Obviously it’s impossible to be certain, but it is possible to make educated guesses.

James Madison, the Constitution’s main architect, explained that the power to declare war must be “fully and exclusively vested” in Congress because history showed that “the executive is the department of power most distinguished by its propensity to war: hence it is the practice of all states, in proportion as they are free, to disarm this propensity of its influence.”

The Constitution did, to some degree, work to restrain this presidential tendency through World War II. Since then, however, both Republican and Democratic presidents have made concerted efforts to break the Constitution’s chains, using extremely strained interpretations of the Constitution itself.

In 1950 President Truman sent hundreds of thousands of troops to Korea to fight an extraordinarily brutal war without any authorization from Congress. Instead, his administration claimed he had the power to do this because Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution says that the president “shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.” Therefore, “the President’s power to send the Armed Forces outside the country is not dependent on Congressional authority.”

The Gulf of Tonkin resolution provided some degree of Congressional authorization for the Vietnam War. But then the U.S. began a secret military campaign against Vietnam’s neighbor, Cambodia. In 1970 William Rehnquist, later to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was head of the OLC. He provided the Nixon administration with an opinion stating that the Korean War “stands as a precedent for executive action in committing United States armed forces to extensive hostilities without any formal declaration of war by Congress.” Moreover, the U.S. had “in no sense gone to ‘war’ with Cambodia” and Nixon did not require any further authorization from Congress, given “the constitutional designation of the President as Commander in Chief.” The U.S. ended up dropping more bombs on Cambodia – which then had a population smaller than that of New York City — than we used during all of World War II.

This perspective on presidential power eventually become dogma for the U.S. hard right. Congress in fact did authorize the Gulf War in 1991, but Dick Cheney, who was then Secretary of Defense, believed that this was totally unnecessary, and indeed later claimed the George H.W. Bush administration had the power to go to war even if Congress had voted the resolution down. “We had the Truman precedent from the Korean crisis of 1950,” Cheney explained. “From a constitutional standpoint we had all the authority we needed.”

The OLC handed the George W. Bush administration a memo similar to that of Rehnquist’s three weeks after the 9/11 attacks. Thanks to Article II, it said, the Constitution establishes that “the Founders entrusted the President with the primary responsibility, and therefore the power, to use military force in situations of emergency.” Therefore the President did not need congressional authorization to attack “terrorist organizations or the States that harbor or support them, whether or not they can be linked to the specific terrorist incidents of September 11.”

After Trump ordered last year’s strike on Syria, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson explained that he’d done so “pursuant to his power under Article II of the Constitution as Commander in Chief,” without any authorization by Congress. Then last night, Secretary of Defense James Mattis stated that “the president has the authority under Article II of the Constitution to use military force overseas to defend important U.S. national interests,” and the bombing was therefore constitutional because “The United States has an important national interest in averting a worsening catastrophe in Syria, and specifically deterring the use and proliferation of chemical weapons.”

So the general outlines of Trump’s legal basis for Friday’s bombing are fairly clear. There also are truly extreme. As Jack Goldsmith, one of the heads of the OLC during the Bush administration, has said, it’s a perspective that “places no limit at all on the president’s ability to use significant military force unilaterally.”

That would be bad enough, of course, if everything were out in the open. But at least then it could be debated on specifics, rather than supposition. Instead, we have allowed the Constitution to be eviscerated to the point that not only does the president have nearly unlimited war powers, we can’t even say exactly why.

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The Intercept

Tom ‘two-dinners’ Watson joins Guantanamo solidarity hunger strike

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson has gone on a hunger strike in solidarity with prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

Watson will go without food and will drink only water as he protests against the treatment of Ahmed Rabbani and Khalid Qasim in the US-controlled prison in Cuba.

According to reports, the prisoners have gone without food for 26 days. Both say they have experienced more than 10 years of “torture, injustice and indifference” in detention.

The Labour MP, who is known in some Westminster circles as Tom ‘two-dinners’ Watson, wrote to the Guardian explaining his decision.

He said the prison will not force feed the Rabbani and Qasim because of rule changes and the pair have been denied medical treatment. He also claims that they are not being correctly monitored by prison staff.

“This is not some George Osborne-inspired weight-loss plan,” he joked, poking fun at the fitness-conscious former Tory chancellor.

Watson also called on British Prime Minister Theresa May to intervene in the situation.

Rabbani, a citizen of Pakistan, has been detained at Guantanamo for over 12 years, while Yemeni Qasim has been held there for more than 15 years.

Read more

© Brennan Linsley

Major Ben Sakrisson, a spokesman for the Department of Defense (DoD), told the Guardian that the prison will no longer feed prisoners through the nose when they go on hunger strike.

“There has not been a change in policy.

“Existing policy is just being reinforced with our personnel,” he said.

“In some instances in the past, attempts to provide detainees who claimed that they were on hunger strike with a measure of dignity through voluntary enteral feedings unintentionally created a situation that potentially encouraged future hunger strikes. As a result, the pre-existing standard of medical necessity will be enforced in the future.”

Hunger strikes in Guantanamo occur frequently when inmates protest against their sentences and their treatment.

Medical experts say it takes around six to eight weeks to die from malnutrition for a previously healthy person.

Severe and lasting medical issues can be caused in as little as four weeks.

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