Snooping in the mail: Russian police and security services were given the right this week to open anyone’s mail without a court order. The Kremlin announced that agents of the Interior Ministry, the Federal Security Service, the Federal Bodyguard Service, the Foreign Intelligence Service, Customs, and the Penal Service now all have the authority to open letters and inspect packages. In announcing the new policy, the Ministry of Communications did not address any legal or privacy issues. Under the Russian Constitution, postal inspections require a court order, and human-rights activists say they plan to sue to overturn the policy. “This is a flagrant violation of human rights,” said lawyer Anatoly Kucherena.
Gunman confesses: The sole surviving gunman in the 2008 Mumbai attacks has suddenly pleaded guilty and confessed. Ajmal Kasab was one of 10 gunmen who attacked various sites across India’s largest city, killing 173 people in a spree that lasted days. The other nine were killed by police. After maintaining his innocence for months, Kasab said at his trial this week that he was changing his plea because prison guards told him the Pakistani government had acknowledged that he was a Pakistani citizen. He said he was recruited by the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and given weapons training and political and religious indoctrination. The confession is seen as a vindication for the Indian government, which has accused Pakistan of not doing enough to control militants.
Going nuclear? Myanmar may be obtaining nuclear technology with the help of North Korea, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this week. Speaking at the security conference of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, this year held in Thailand, Clinton said that the Obama administration has “growing concerns about military cooperation” between North Korea and Myanmar, also known as Burma, that could “pose a direct threat to Burma’s neighbors.” Evidence that Myanmar could be seeking nuclear weapons has been mounting. Officials from the North Korean company that helped Syria build a nuclear reactor have been visiting there recently, and North Korea has sold Myanmar high-tech equipment that could be used in a nuclear program. U.S. officials said intelligence photographs show hundreds of tunnels and other underground facilities built in Myanmar with North Korean technical assistance. Like North Korea, Myanmar is largely isolated and under international sanctions for its repression and human-rights abuses. It is ruled by a military junta.
Tasered man combusts: An Aboriginal man holding a can of gasoline burst into flames when a police officer tried to subdue him by shooting him with a Taser gun. Ronald Mitchell, 36, suffered third-degree burns over 10 percent of his body, and the officer scorched his hands trying to put out the flames. The police refuse to apologize, saying they were trying to arrest Mitchell for sniffing gasoline to get high when he threatened them with a gas can and a lighter. “The police officers were extremely concerned for their safety and deployed a Taser,” said Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan. “Just remember that two years ago, their only option would have been to deploy a firearm.”
Terrorists strike: Suicide bombings that killed seven people at two Jakarta hotels last week were probably the work of the Islamic terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, police said. Six of the seven victims of the coordinated attacks on the JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels were foreigners. Jemaah Islamiyah, which is linked to al Qaida, has previously targeted sites where Westerners gather, including nightclubs and embassies. Attacks have slowed in recent years, though, after Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono started a crackdown against the group. “My message to the world is that Indonesia can overcome this problem,” Yudhoyono said, “and will continue to guarantee even greater security in the future.”
Prison overhaul: A leaked Pentagon report calls for separating extremist militants from other detainees in Afghanistan in order to prevent the spread of jihad. The review by Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, obtained by The New York Times, says that Taliban militants are using Afghan prisons as recruiting and training grounds to transform petty criminals into fighters. Stone recommends that the U.S. build a new prison for the extremists and upgrade facilities for other prisoners to offer them vocational skills. Officials hope to implement the reforms soon, as they expect a wave of prisoners resulting from the current Marine offensive in southern Afghanistan.