Five Palestinian journalists have been arrested in the West Bank by Palestinian Authority security forces in what a human rights monitoring group has termed a “serious blow to freedom of opinion and expression.”

All five were arrested at or near their homes on Tuesday night by the General Intelligence Service, according to Shireen al-Khatib, monitoring and documentation associate at the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom (Mada).

A senior security source quoted by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa said four journalists were being held on suspicion of “leaking sensitive information to hostile authorities.” The source said an investigation was under way.

Khatib identified the journalists as Tariq Abu Zayd and Ahmad Halaika of Al-Aksa television, a Hamas-run station, Qutaiba Kasem who writes for the Asdaa website, Mamdouh Hamamreh of the pro-Hamas al-Quds television and Amer Abu Arafa of the Shehab news agency. The Wafa report mentioned all the journalists except for Halaika.

Abu Arafa was arrested after his home was searched and his computer and mobile phone seized, Khatib said.

A West Bank journalist who requested anonymity said “this is not the first time journalists are being arrested but it is the first time five are arrested in one night.”

In the view of the journalist who spoke with The Jerusalem Post the arrests might be aimed at pressuring Hamas to release Fouad Jaradah, a reporter for the PA’s Palestine TV, who was arrested in Gaza on June 8 and was later accused of collaborating with the authority.

“Journalists are paying the price of the Fatah- Hamas conflict,” the West Bank journalist said.

Of the accusation that the five journalists arrested on Tuesday had leaked sensitive information, he said: “No one believes that.”

The Ramallah-based Independent Commission for Human Rights, which monitors rights abuses in the PA, demanded the immediate release of the journalists and called on the authority to “stop the persecution of journalists for their journalistic work.” It termed the arrests a “serious blow to freedom of opinion and expression.”

The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights termed the arrests a “dangerous development.”

In a statement it criticized both the PA and the Hamas government.

“PCHR follows up with concern the measures taken by the authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and warns of the arbitrary use of legal texts or fabricating charges to beat their political rivals. This results in serious consequences on the legal system, rights and freedoms in general.

“PCHR calls for releasing the six journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip until the validity of the charges against them will be proven in accordance with proper and transparent procedures.”

The human rights group al-Haq, which is also based in Ramallah, said the arrests “come in the wake of a dangerous regression in the condition of rights and liberties in the West Bank and Gaza, especially freedom of opinion and expression and journalistic work.” It said that authorities had blocked journalists from covering peaceful gatherings.

PA government spokesman Yusuf Mahmoud said he could not comment on the arrests since they were under the purview of the security apparatus. But he took issue with the criticism that the PA was harming freedom of expression.

“The authority in all manners respects freedom of the press and freedom of expression,” he said. “This is guaranteed in the agreements signed by the national authority and in the law.

The authority adheres to the freedom of journalists and citizens and greatly respects that.”

In June, the PA blocked access to 11 websites that back Hamas or Muhammad Dahlan, a bitter rival of President Mahmoud Abbas.


Who Is Leaking Donald Trump’s Tax Returns?



Someone with access to all or parts of President Donald Trump’s tax returns wants them made public. But who?

Tuesday’s disclosure of two pages from Trump’s 2005 federal returns marked the second time in the last seven months that portions of Trump’s tax filings have been leaked to reporters.

In October, The New York Times published a story based on a leaked portion of Trump’s 1995 state tax returns in multiple states, showing that he declared a massive $916 million loss that year that could have enabled him to avoid paying federal income taxes for nearly two decades. And on Tuesday, investigative reporter David Cay Johnston unveiled some details of Trump’s 2005 federal income tax return on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

Trump promised during the 2016 presidential campaign to release his tax returns, but has repeatedly refused to do so, citing an IRS audit he has yet to show proof of.

Related: Trump paid $38 million in federal taxes

Here’s what we know about how the leaks happened and what they tell us about who the leaker — or leakers — might be:

  • New York Times Reporter Susanne Craig received an envelope containing Trump’s 1995 state tax returns for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut in the mail at her Times office last fall.
  • “It came from just an address at the Trump Tower. It was anonymous,” Craig told Maddow after her scoop on October 1. “We were left with a lot of questions when we opened that envelope.”
  • The documents were the first page of Trump’s New York State resident return, the first page of his Connecticut non-resident return and the first page of his New Jersey non-resident return.
  • The paper, which said it did nothing illegal, showed the tax records to Trump’s 80-year-old retired longtime accountant, who said they appeared to be authentic.
  • The New York Daily News had also received Trump’s tax returns in the mail on September 23, around the same time as The Times.
  • The records were sent to then-Daily News editor-in-chief Jim Rich, according to CNN.
  • However, the Daily News — noted at the time for its harsh anti-Trump coverage — was unable to verify the documents. “We received [the documents] around the same time… but were unable to track down the preparer or verify the veracity of the documents through other attempts,” a Daily News source told CNNMoney.
  • When the paper published a story about Trump’s taxes, it attributed the information to The Times, but also noted that the Daily News had obtained the documents.
  • While there are obvious similarities in the way the records were leaked to The Times, Daily News and Johnston, it is not known of the same person is behind the disclosures.
  • In the most recent leak, Johnston, a former reporter for The Times and tax expert, said he received the 2005 filing in his mailbox. “It came in the mail, over the transom,” he said.
  • Johnston, who runs the dcreport.org website, told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that the plain envelope containing the returns, which arrived at his house in New York on Monday, was postmarked in Westchester, N.Y.
  • Maddow suggested that more tax information about Trump will be leaked.
  • In its story about the 2005 tax returns, published Tuesday night, The Times notes few people outside of a small group close to Trump have seen his tax returns. The paper goes on to write, “One person who has is Timothy L. O’Brien, another former Times reporter, whom Mr. Trump sued for libel after Mr. O’Brien published a book that argued that Mr. Trump’s net worth was $150 million to $250 million, rather than several billion dollars, as Mr. Trump had claimed. The suit was ultimately dismissed.”
  • Appearing on MSBNC with Maddow on Tuesday night, Johnston speculated that Trump might have leaked the 2005 returns himself.
  • “Let me point out, it’s entirely possible that Donald sent this to me,” Johnston told Maddow, saying he had done nothing illegal. “Donald Trump has, over the years, leaked all sorts of things.”
  • On Wednesday, Johnston suggested during an appearance on MSNBC that Trump may not have leaked the returns because he seemed to be so angry that they had been made public.

Trump: Leaking ‘fake’ dossier something Nazis would have done

US President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday flatly denied “phony” explosive allegations about ties with Russia and lurid behavior on a trip to Moscow that have tainted his election victory and threatened to engulf his presidency.

During a press conference, the president-elect suggested the US intelligence agencies leaked the “fake” dossier and said it was “something that Nazi Germany would have done.”

Just over a week before Trump takes office, the United States has been rocked by unsubstantiated claims that his aides colluded with the Kremlin to win the election — and that Russia has compromising sexual material on Trump.

“I think it’s a disgrace that information would be let out,” Trump said, training fire on media outlets that published the allegations and the intelligence agencies who he suggested may have leaked it.

“It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen,” he said in his first press conference in nearly six months.

“It was a group of opponents that got together, sick people, and they put that crap together.”

It “was released by maybe the intelligence agencies, who knows, but maybe the intelligence agencies, which would be a tremendous blot on their record,” Trump said, later saying it was “disgraceful.”

On Twitter, he decried a political “witch hunt” against him and asked: “Are we living in Nazi Germany?”

When pressed on his remark during the Wednesday press conference, Trump likened the leaking of the dossier to a policy employed by Nazi Germany.

“That’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do…. That information that was false and fake got to the public,” he said.

‘No dealings with Russia’

The US intelligence community has concluded Moscow interfered in the November election in a bid to tip the race in Trump’s favor.

Intelligence chiefs last week also presented America’s incoming 45th president, as well as current President Barack Obama, with a two-page synopsis on the potentially embarrassing but unsubstantiated allegations involving Russia, according to CNN and The New York Times, who cited multiple unnamed US officials with knowledge of the meeting.

A part of the declassified version Intelligence Community Assessment on Russia's efforts to interfere with the US political process is photographed in Washington on Jan. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

A part of the declassified version Intelligence Community Assessment on Russia’s efforts to interfere with the US political process is photographed in Washington on Jan. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

The Kremlin has dismissed the dossier — drawn up by a former British intelligence agent hired to do “opposition research” on Trump during the presidential campaign and published by US media outlet BuzzFeed — as a “total fake” aimed at damaging bilateral ties.

Trump spokesman Sean Spicer turned his fire on BuzzFeed.

“It’s frankly outrageous and highly irresponsible for a left-wing blog that was openly hostile to the president-elect’s campaign to drop highly salacious and flat-out false information on the internet just days before he takes the oath of office,” he said, introducing Trump.

Trump later called BuzzFeed “a failing pile of garbage” and warned they would “suffer the consequences.”

“I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals in Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia,” Trump then said.

Even before the allegations surfaced widely in US media on Tuesday, Trump’s Republican allies have become increasingly uneasy about Russia’s role in the election, with calls for an independent investigation growing.

The issue threatens to sap legitimacy from the Trump administration before it even enters the Oval Office.

Trump fanned the flames by again downplaying Russia’s influence in the outcome of the election and defended his openness towards Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“As far as hacking, I think it was Russia, but I also think we’ve been hacked by other countries, other people.”

“If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability, because we have a horrible relationship with Russia,” Trump said.

“I don’t know that I’m going to get along with Vladimir Putin. I hope I do. But there’s a good chance I won’t.”

The dossier

Without corroborating its contents, BuzzFeed published a 35-page dossier of memos on which the synopsis presented to Trump is based.

The memos, which had been circulating in Washington for months, describe sex videos involving prostitutes filmed during a 2013 visit by Trump to a luxury Moscow hotel, supposedly as a potential means for blackmail.

They also suggest Russian officials proposed lucrative deals in order to win influence over the real estate magnate.


Trump was reportedly informed of the existence of the dossier — and its salacious details — last Friday when he received a briefing from US intelligence chiefs on alleged Russian interference in the presidential election.

The classified two-page synopsis reportedly included allegations that there was a regular flow of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and Russian government intermediaries, which a Trump aide denied.

On Wednesday, Trump would not comment on the classified briefing, but did say he had read some of the information “outside of the briefing,” without specifying which parts.

“The Kremlin does not have compromising information on Trump,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling journalists.

The Kremlin spokesman called the dossier a “total fake” and “an obvious attempt to harm our bilateral relations.”

No more rule book

No other US president-elect in modern times has waited so long to go formally before the media, considered important to shore up public accountability, yet Trump has reveled in ripping up the rule book.

During his last press conference — before the election — he invited Russia to hack his Democratic opponents.

The New York billionaire, never previously elected to office, has preferred to make off-the-cuff statements, punch out incendiary tweets and call out anyone who dares cross him — from Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep to an Indiana union leader.

While he has conducted one-on-one interviews with select media and taken questions from reporters in informal settings, his performance at the press conference will be scrutinized, as polls show his already bleak approval ratings deteriorate further as the clock ticks down to inauguration day on January 20.


The Hanford Nuclear Reservation sits on the plains of eastern Washington, where the state meets Oregon and Idaho. This is open country through which cars pass quickly on the way to the Pacific coast or, conversely, deeper into the heartland. The site is nearly 600 square miles in area and has been largely closed to the public for the past 70 years. Late last year, though, it became part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, which will allow visitors to tour B Reactor, where plutonium for one of the two atomic weapons dropped on Japan in World War II was produced.

This was a hopeful turn for a place that, for four decades, stocked the American nuclear arsenal. A total of nine reactors operated at Hanford, and though they are now decommissioned, the reactors have left behind 56 million gallons of radioactive waste. That a place so tainted with radioactive material could become parkland was a positive sign.

Not quite, it seems, with recent reports indicating new breaches in the tanks holding the nuclear waste. Workers on the site have been sickened too, suggesting that the rush to designate Hanford as a park may have been premature.

The 177 underground tanks were never a permanent solution, and the government has hired private contractors to build a plant that will solidify the waste and prepare it for permanent safe storage. The project will cost an astonishing $110 billion, according to estimates, making it what many believe to be the most expensive, and extensive, environmental remediation project in the world. Completion is about five decades away.

When I visited Hanford in 2013, construction of the Waste Treatment Plant—which will pump nuclear sludge out of the tanks and turn them into a hardened, glasslike substance—was slow and rife with technical challenges. Whistleblowers, meanwhile, were alleging that private contractors had neglected safety and engineering concerns in their rush to complete the job. Otherwise sober observers likened the place to a nuclear tinderbox. “America’s Fukushima?” asked the resulting Newsweek cover story.

The question remains disturbingly open. Of the 28 newer double-shelled tanks, AY-102 was already known to be leaking toxic sludge into the soil. Now a second double-shelled tank, AY-101, is believed to be leaking as well, according to a report by Seattle news station KING 5. A contractor’s memo obtained by the station acknowledges “the possibility that the material is from tank waste that has escaped from the primary shell of the double-shell tank.” That material likely includes radioactive isotopes like cesium-137 and strontium-90, though nobody really knows the exact composition of the sludge in each tank. But everyone is certain that their escape bodes poorly for the thousands who live and work in the Tri-Cities area of Washington state.

Those worries were further compounded late last week when 11 workers at Hanford became ill due to vapors emanating from AY-102, the leaking double-shelled tank.

The ill workers and revelations about the second leaking tank are likely to dampen enthusiasm about Hanford’s unlikely return to nature. In the wake of the most recent revelations, a nuclear-energy historian warned on the liberal site CounterPunch that “at Hanford we have the threat of a radiological explosion or terrorist act that could release volumes more radiation than was released by Fukushima…and spread radiation across the West Coast and mountain west.”

This is an unwelcome development for one of the nation’s newest national parks. Maybe the federal government was cavalier in this designation: It’s hard to enjoy nature when the possibility of man-made disaster looms.

Ex-CIA chief may avoid prison for leaking military secrets


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — If he manages to avoid prison, former CIA director David Petraeus‘ guilty plea for providing reams of classified material to his mistress will result in far more lenient punishment than that often meted for leaking the nation’s secrets.

Petraeus, 62, has agreed to admit guilt on a single misdemeanor count of the unauthorized removal and retention of classified material. The agreement was filed Tuesday in federal court in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Paula Broadwell, the general’s biographer and former mistress, lives with her husband and children.

Prosecutors recommended two years of probation and a $40,000 fine. However, the judge who hears the plea is not bound by that and could still impose a sentence of up to one year in prison. No immediate date was set for a court hearing for Petraeus to enter the plea.

By comparison, former CIA officer John Kiriakou pleaded guilty in 2012 to one count of intentionally disclosing the identity of a covert agent to a reporter and was sentenced to 30 months in prison. Then the CIA director, Petraeus hailed the conviction as a victory for the agency.

“Oaths do matter, and there are indeed consequences for those who believe they are above the laws that protect our fellow officers and enable American intelligence agencies to operate with the requisite degree of secrecy,” Petraeus said at the time.

Prosecutors said that while Broadwell was writing her book in Washington in 2011, Petraeus gave her eight binders of classified material he had improperly kept from his time as the top military commander in Afghanistan. Days later, he took the binders back to his house.

Among the secret information contained in the “black books” were the identities of covert operatives, the coalition war strategy and notes about Petraeus’ discussions with PresidentBarack Obama and the National Security Council, prosecutors said.

Those binders were later seized by the FBI in a search of Petraeus’ Arlington, Virginia, home, where he had kept them in the unlocked drawer of a desk in a ground-floor study.

Prosecutors said that after resigning from the CIA, Petraeus signed a form falsely attesting he had no classified material. He also lied to FBI agents in denying he supplied the information to Broadwell, according to court documents.

As part of his deal, Petraeus agreed not to contest the set of facts laid out by the government.

David Deitch, a former federal prosecutor who handled counterterrorism and national security issues, said those deciding Petraeus’ fate likely weighed his decades of service to the nation when considering his punishment. A public trial involving classified material might also potentially reveal information the government would rather keep secret.

“What is achieved by sending David Petraeus to jail?” asked Deitch, now in private practice with a Washington firm. “What will be achieved in terms of deterrence, in terms of punishment, in terms of rehabilitation? The conclusion is ‘Probably not much.'”

Deitch compared the Petraeus case to that against former CIA Director John Deutch, who was negotiating a plea agreement with prosecutors on charges stemming from mishandling classified material when he was granted a pardon by President Bill Clinton.

Petraeus admitted having an affair with Broadwell when he resigned as CIA director in November 2012. Both have publicly apologized and said their romantic relationship began only after he had retired from the military.

Broadwell’s admiring biography of him, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,” came out in 2012, before the affair was exposed.

He held the CIA post less than a year, not long enough to leave a significant mark on the spy agency.

A Ph.D. with a reputation as a thoughtful strategist, Petraeus wrote the Army manual on counterinsurgency and was brought in by President George W. Bush to command multinational forces in Iraq in 2007, a period when the war began to turn in favor of the U.S.

Petraeus presided over the “surge” of American forces in Iraq and a plan to pay Sunni militias to fight al-Qaida in Iraq.

Petraeus was then promoted to commander of U.S. Central Command, which has authority over the Middle East. When Gen. Stanley McChrystal was fired in 2010 by Obama as commander in Afghanistan after his staff made impolitic remarks to a Rolling Stone reporter, Petraeus was brought in to replace him.

Since his resignation as CIA director, Petraeus has slowly taken steps to re-enter public life, going on the speaking circuit, becoming a scholar at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and taking a position at a private equity firm.

Petraeus’ lawyer declined to comment. A telephone message left for Broadwell was not immediately returned. Her lawyer said he had no comment.

Sen. John McCain, a longtime supporter of Petraeus, said it is time to consider the issues raised by the ex-general’s extramarital affair closed.

“At a time of grave security challenges around the world, I hope that Gen. Petraeus will continue to provide his outstanding service and leadership to our nation, as he has throughout his distinguished career,” the Arizona Republican said.

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