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Feb. 7, 2013 at 7:59 AM   |   Comments

Obama orders secret drone memo to Congress

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- President Obama bowed to congressional demands for secret legal memos on targeted killings of U.S. terrorism suspects overseas, an administration official said.

The reversal came as John Brennan, Obama's chief counter-terrorism adviser, was to face a confirmation hearing Thursday as Obama's next CIA director. The Senate Intelligence Committee hearing was to begin at 2:30 p.m. EST.

Brennan has been the administration's chief architect of so-called targeted killings and deadly drone strikes against al-Qaida militants, including U.S.-born Anwar al-Awlaki.

Senate Democrats and Republicans had threatened to delay Brennan's hearing and possibly reduce his chances for confirmation.

Obama ordered the Justice Department to hand over the lengthy "Legal Council advice" document to the intelligence panels of both chambers "as part of the president's ongoing commitment to consult with Congress on national security matters," the administration official said.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a statement she was "pleased" with the decision.


Strike over Belaid death idles university

TUNIS, Tunisia, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Classes at the University of Manuoba near Tunis, Tunisia, were canceled Thursday following a strike to protest the killing of an opposition political leader.

Tahar Mannai, vice dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, told Tunisia Live union members would meet to determine the next steps.

Chokri Belaid, 48, a leading opposition leader and government critic, was shot and killed outside of his home in Tunis Wednesday. Belaid, general secretary of the Democratic Patriotic Party, was shot as he was leaving his house.

The higher education union members walked off their jobs Wednesday.

Violent clashes followed news of his assassination in Tunis as thousands of demonstrators were met by security forces who used tear gas and clubs to disperse the crowds. At least one officer was killed, authorities said.

Tunisia's prime minister prepared to form a national unity Cabinet and the president canceled a visit to Egypt Thursday in the aftermath of the Belaid assassination.

Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali called Belaid's assassination a "heinous crime against the Tunisian people, against the principles of the revolution and the values of tolerance and acceptance of the other."


U.S. sanctions on Iran target Cyber Police

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- New U.S. sanctions focus not only on Iran's disputed nuclear program but also on its repression of internal dissent and information access, U.S. officials said.

The latest sanctions target the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, which oversees Iran's TV and radio channels, the Treasury Department said. Included in the sanctions is Ezzatollah Zarghami, IRIB's director since 2004.

The sanctions also target the Iranian Cyber Police and the Communications Regulatory Authority.

The Cyber Police, part of Iran's uniformed police force, filter websites, monitor online behavior, including at Internet cafes, and hack into email accounts of Iranians deemed to be subversive, the Treasury Department said. The CRA enforces Internet filtering and the blocking of websites Tehran deems objectionable, the department said.

Another sanctions target is Iran Electronics Industries, which makes equipment used for jamming, monitoring and eavesdropping, the department said.

Economic sanctions enacted in August 2012 that went into effect Wednesday impose new penalties on individuals and companies that work with Iran's energy, petrochemical, insurance, financial and shipping sectors, the Treasury Department said in a separate statement.


Quake, tsunami in Solomons kills 9

KIRA KIRA, Solomon Islands, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- At least nine people died in a tsunami generated by an earthquake that swamped the Ndende Island coast in the eastern Solomon Islands Thursday, officials said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said an earthquake measuring 6.1-magnitude rumbled off the Santa Cruz islands, following an 8-magnitude quake that struck the same region Wednesday.

Damage at a key airport in the area is preventing aircraft from landing and hindering aid efforts, officials said.

Thursday's earthquake, at a depth of about 6.2 miles, occurred off the Santa Cruz islands, about 195 miles east-southeast of Kira Kira and about 344 miles east-southeast of Honiara in the Solomons.

The three-foot wave surge inundated Lata township, dumping debris on its airstrip and forcing aid to be sent to the affected areas by boat, officials told Radio New Zealand.

Officials said they feared the death toll could rise as reports from the isolated region become available.


Former cop suspected of double slaying

IRVINE, Calif., Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Police in Irvine, Calif., said a former police officer who wrote a manifesto threatening to kill other officers is the suspect in a double slaying.

Christopher Jordan Dorner, 33, is suspected of killing the daughter of a retired Los Angeles police captain, Monica Quan, 28, and her fiance, Keith Lawrence, 27, Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday. The causes of deaths were not reported.

Dorner allegedly posted an online manifesto taking responsibility for the slayings.

"Unfortunately," he said, "this is a necessary evil that I do not enjoy but must partake and complete for substantial change to occur within the LAPD and reclaim my name."

In the posting, Dorner said he was angry about losing his job in 2008 as a Los Angeles police officer for allegedly making false statements about his training officer.

Monica Quan's father, Randy Quan, was involved in the review process that ultimately led to Dorner's dismissal, the Times reported.

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