AP News in Brief at 5:58 p.m. EDT
U.S. Brings New Indictment in 2007 Blackwater Shootings in Baghdad
Washington (ap) — The Justice Department on Thursday brought fresh charges against four former Blackwater Worldwide security contractors, resurrecting an internationally charged case over a deadly 2007 shooting on the streets of Baghdad.
A new grand jury indictment charges the men in a shooting that inflamed anti-American sentiment in Iraq and heightened diplomatic sensitivities amid an ongoing war. The men were hired to guard U.S. diplomats.
The guards are accused of opening fire in busy Nisoor Square on Sept. 16, 2007. Seventeen Iraqi civilians died, including women and children. Prosecutors say the heavily armed Blackwater convoy used machine guns and grenades in an unprovoked attack. Defense lawyers argue their clients are innocent men who were ambushed by Iraqi insurgents.
The guards were charged with manslaughter and weapons violations in 2008, but a federal judge the following year dismissed the case, ruling the Justice Department withheld evidence from a grand jury and violated the guards’ constitutional rights. The dismissal outraged many Iraqis, who said it showed Americans consider themselves above the law. Vice President Joe Biden, speaking in Baghdad in 2010, expressed his “personal regret” for the shootings.
A federal appeals court reinstated the case in 2011, saying now-retired Judge Ricardo Urbina had wrongly interpreted the law.
Obama to Nominate Ex-Pentagon Lawyer To Head Homeland Security Department
Washington (ap) — President Obama is calling back a trusted counterterrorism adviser from his first term by nominating former top Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson as secretary of homeland security.
Obama plans to announce Johnson’s nomination Friday. He must be confirmed by the Senate before taking over the post most recently held by Janet Napolitano, who stepped down in August to become president of the University of California system.
As general counsel at the Defense Department during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Johnson was an aggressive advocate on a number of complex and contentious legal issues. He oversaw the escalation of the use of unmanned drone strikes, the revamping of military commissions to try terrorism suspects rather than using civilian courts and the repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay service members. He also mapped out the legal defense for the American cross-border raid into Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden.
Prosecutor: Doctor Told Inmates He Was Glad Wife Died
Provo, Utah (ap) — A former Utah doctor accused of hounding his wife to get a face-lift so he could kill her with a lethal combination of prescription drugs acted erratically the day she died and claimed she had wanted the surgery, prosecutors said Thursday in opening statements at the murder trial.
In addition, Martin MacNeill told fellow inmates after his arrest that his wife was a “bitch;” he was glad she was dead; and authorities couldn’t prove he killed her, prosecutor Sam Pead told jurors.
Prosecutors have said the killing was the climax of a twisted plot by MacNeill to carry on an affair with his mistress, who MacNeill invited to his wife’s funeral and asked to marry him weeks later.
The case has shocked the Mormon community of Provo, 45 miles south of Salt Lake City, and captured national attention because the defendant was a doctor.
Pead depicted a scene of bizarre behavior that began when MacNeill discovered his listless wife in a bathtub and called authorities to his house in April 2007.