News Roundup and Notes: August 1, 2014

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.

Senate-CIA dispute

CIA Director John Brennan has apologized to the Senate Intelligence Committee, following an internal probe that confirmed that agency officials had penetrated a computer network used by Senate staffers in preparing the report on the CIA’s post-9/11 practices. The CIA inspector general also found that that the agency’s criminal referral to the Justice Department was based on false information [New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti and Carl Hulse; Politico’s Josh Gerstein].

The findings of the investigation sparked a “rare display” of bipartisan anger among members of the Senate Intelligence Committee [McClatchy DC’s Jonathan S. Landay and Ali Watkins]. Sen. Mark Udall, who serves on the committee, issued a statement calling for Brennan’s resignation.

The editorial board of the New York Times writes that the CIA “needs far more than a few quiet personnel changes,” arguing instead that “[i]ts very core, and basic culture, needs a thorough overhaul.”

Dan Froomkin [The Intercept] considers that “the single biggest — and arguably most constructive — thing to focus on is how outrageously CIA Director John Brennan lied to everyone” when the allegations were first made.

The Daily Beast (Josh Rogin and Eli Lake) reports that the still classified Senate report documents widespread and horrific abuse, but does not describe the CIA’s interrogations as “torture,” according to those familiar with the contents of the report.

Israel-Palestine

A 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire agreed upon by Israel and Hamas yesterday collapsed this morning, only a few hours after the unconditional agreement came into effect [Haaretz]. Two hours after the U.S. and EU-brokered truce deal took effect, mortar shells were fired from within the Gaza Strip and landed near a border town. The Israeli military response to the attack is said to have killed at least 40 Palestinians [Reuters’ Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller].

Earlier this morning, Secretary of State John Kerry had expressed hope that the ceasefire would offer “a moment for the sides … to be able to come together … in an effort to [reach] a sustainable cease-fire and then … address the underlying issues.”

The BBC reports that Israel suspects an IDF soldier has been abducted by Hamas militants.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest called the Israeli shelling of a UN school in Gaza “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible” yesterday, saying Israel “can and should do more to protect the lives of innocent civilians” [The Hill’s Amie Parnes and Kristina Wong].

Somini Sengupta [New York Times] reports on the escalating tensions between Israel and the United Nations in an intensified “war of words,” that “regardless of verbal volleys” cannot have much impact without further action from the Security Council.

The Washington Post (William Booth and Ruth Eglash) reports on the anxiety “stoked” in Israel by the Hamas tunnels, and the “unprecedented domestic support” that the offensive in Gaza has received, with many Israelis saying they wish the offensive to continue until the tunnels are destroyed.

The New York Times (Ben Hubbard) takes a look inside a UN school in Gaza acting as a shelter for refugees and explores the impact of the recent strikes on UN premises, amid concerns that that “there are no safe places left in Gaza.”

The BBC (Joe Miller) has seen evidence that seems to confirm that Chinese hackers stole a number of secret military documents relating to the development of the Israeli Iron Dome missile defense system.

Charles Krauthammer [Washington Post] details the recent criticism of Secretary of State John Kerry’s cease-fire diplomacy, stating, “Whatever his intent, Kerry legitimized Hamas’s war criminality,” calling it “a moral disgrace.”

Russia and Ukraine

International monitors were finally able to access the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 yesterday, after Ukrainian troops suspended their operations in the region [New York Times’ Andrew Roth and Andrew E. Kramer]. However, separatist rebels ambushed an army convoy near the crash site overnight, killing at least 10 soldiers [BBC].

Ukraine’s parliament has rejected Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk’s resignation and passed legislation required to finance the army offensive against rebels in the country’s east [Reuters’ Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets].

Japan is set to impose sanctions on Russia over its role in eastern Ukraine, following the lead of the U.S. and the EU [Washington Post’s Anna Fitfield].

President Obama is not open to changing his position on providing lethal assistance to Ukraine’s military, according to congressional leaders who were briefed by the White House yesterday [The Hill’s Martin Matishak].

The Senate has unanimously approved John Tefft to serve as the new ambassador to Russia, filling a position that has been left vacant since February [Reuters].

The Wall Street Journal (Laurence Norman and Stephen Fidler) explores the impact that the EU’s tough reaction to Russia may have on the unity of the European bloc, questioning whether a “bellicose Russia” will pull the EU closer or push it apart.

Syria

The Wall Street Journal (Jess Bravin and Michael R. Crittenden) reports that the Obama administration is intending to utilize information provided by a Syrian defector – code-named “Caesar” – to prosecute Syrian war crimes, according to U.S. officials. The trove of photographs opens up the possibility for the U.S. and allies to prosecute within their own jurisdiction by identifying individuals with dual citizenship who may have been victims or perpetrators in Syria.

Michael Gerson [Washington Post] explores why the prevention of mass atrocities, such as those exposed by “Caesar,” constitutes a “core national security interest.”

The New York Times (Ceylan Yeginsu) writes about the heavy strain that Syrian refugees are placing on the Turkish capital of Istanbul, resulting in the Turkish authorities sending thousands out of the city. And the Associated Press has learned that many Syrian refugee women who have fled to Lebanon are facing sexual exploitation.

Libya

The Associated Press reports that Islamic militias declared control of Benghazi yesterday. The streets of the Libyan city were reportedly empty on Thursday as locals stayed indoors.

The Chinese government has chartered a merchant vessel to be used to evacuate hundreds of Chinese citizens from Libya, according to a Greek government official [Associated Press].

Karim Mezran [New York Times] implores Western states not to abandon Libya, noting that “Libyans have demonstrated little capacity to keep their transition from derailing.”

Other Developments

Edward Snowden’s temporary asylum status expired last night, although he is expected to remain in Russia while the authorities decide on his application for an extension [Associated Press].

The U.K.’s public inquiry into the death of Alexander V. Litvineko, the former K.G.B. officer, was opened in London yesterday. The senior judge leading the inquiry said that allegations of Russia’s involvement in the death would be “of central importance” [New York Times’ Alan Cowell].

The Wall Street Journal (Drew Hinshaw and Patrick McGroarty) explores the rise of Boko Haram and the threat it poses to the Nigerian economy.

Reuters (Ahmed Rasheed) reports that Iraqi Shi’ite militias have developed hit lists for the kidnapping and execution of suspected Sunni insurgents, according to security and police officials.

The Wall Street Journal (Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee) discusses the surge of extremist Islamism in the Middle East, stating that the region has “begun shaking to its core,” and suggests that the U.S.’s hope is that the traditional powers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Israel, “will find common interest in curbing the extremist forces.”

In an op-ed in the New York Times, Slawomir Sierakowski discusses the recent European Court of Human Rights decision on Poland’s role in the CIA’s rendition and torture program, criticizing a “servile” Polish government for consenting to the use of their territory for such a purpose.

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

Former Associate Editor at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@RParekh88).