News Roundup and Notes: December 10, 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 TORTURE REPORT

The Senate Intelligence Committee published the executive summary of its much delayed report on the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation and detention program yesterday. The Committee finds that the agency’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” were not effective and that the CIA repeatedly misled the White House, Congress, and the public about the brutality and effectiveness of its operations. [New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti; Wall Street Journal’s Siobhan Gorman et al; Washington Post’s Greg Miller et al]

The CIA interrogation program did not contribute to the Osama bin Laden hunt, according to the report’s findings, which contradict the agency’s claims on the issue. [AP’s Ken Dilanian]

The CIA is disputing the report’s conclusions. The agency released a statement arguing, among other things, that enhanced interrogation techniques produced “valuable and unique intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives,” citing the example of Bin Laden. At the Wall Street Journal, former CIA leaders defend their record and outline the problems with the “one-sided” report “marred by errors of fact and interpretation.” Former CIA Director Michael Hayden rebuts many of the report’s findings in an interview with Politico Magazine’s Michael Hirsh. And a number of former CIA officials have launched a website to respond to the Senate panel’s conclusions.

President Obama expressed hope that the report on the “troubling” interrogation program would help prevent the U.S. from engaging in actions “contrary to our values” in the future, adding that the report reinforced his view that the interrogation techniques failed to serve the country’s counterterrorism efforts. [The Hill’s Justin Sink]  Josh Gerstein describes the “puzzlement and disappointment” of Democratic senators and others over the president’s handling of the Senate investigation. [Politico]

A timeline of the CIA interrogation and detention program can be found at the New York Times.  The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post offer the key findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee.  NPR’s Krishnadev Calamur details five interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects.  NBC’s Alex Johnson reports on the agency’s interrogation of suspected 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.  And The Daily Beast’s Tim Mak reports on the CIA “dungeon,” apparently in Afghanistan, where many of the brutal interrogations took place.

Josh Gerstein highlights “what’s not” in the report, noting that the multiple redactions block the “many attempts to establish a chain of responsibility.” [Politico]  Scott Shane writes that “bitter infighting” in the CIA interrogation program is just one indication of the “dysfunction, disorganization, … and deception” laid out in the torture report summary. [New York Times]  And Amel Ahmed focuses on the question of legality of the CIA program under U.S. and international law. [America Al Jazeera]

The report has sparked calls for the prosecution of those involved in the CIA program, notably from UN Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism Ben Emmerson. [BBC]  Rights advocates and groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, are similarly calling for prosecutions. [The Guardian’s Oliver Laughland]

Intelligence agencies will face a credibility challenge following the Senate report’s publication. [Wall Street Journal’s Peter Nicholas]  However, the CIA is likely to “emerge from the investigatory rubble with its role and power in Washington largely intact,” report Greg Miller and Dana Priest. [Washington Post]

The media weighs in. The New York Times editorial board finds it “hard to believe that anything will be done now” despite the “portrait of depravity” illustrated by the Senate report.  The Washington Post editorial board calls for a pledge to never repeat America’s post-9/11 mistakes.  The Los Angeles Times editorial board explains why the report, while “wrenching,” is “required reading.”  The Guardian editorial board considers that the “Senate’s decision to publish the report” should not cause outrage, rather “its contents must do so.”  Conversely, the Wall Street Journal editorial board argues that the report—“a collection of partisan second-guessing”—highlights “how fickle Americans are about their security, and so unfair to those who provide it.”

Reactions from around the world. The Guardian provides a helpful roundup of global reaction. And the Washington Post’s Griff Witte reports on how the report’s release marks “another hit for U.S. global standing,” citing reactions to the report from Chinese and Egyptian media.

A former interrogator at Abu Ghraib writes that the torture report stands as a “permanent reminder of the country we once were,” a country that “isn’t always something to be proud of.” [New York Times]

IRAQ and SYRIA

Secretary of State John Kerry called for flexible congressional authorization of U.S. military force against the Islamic State, during testimony before an “unusual” session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. Kerry cautioned Congress against precluding the use of ground forces, saying that while the president’s policy is resolutely against deploying ground troops, “we should not pre-emptively bind the hands of the commander in chief.” [New York Times’ Jeremy W. Peters and Michael R. Gordon]  Sen. Rand Paul “sharply criticized” Kerry for advocating an AUMF without geographic limits during the session, reports Martin Matishak. [The Hill]

Iraqi leadership is pressing for greater U.S. military assistance in the mission against the Islamic State, appealing to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during a short visit to Baghdad. [Washington Post’s Missy Ryan]  Hagel indicated that U.S. firepower is not the solution Iraq needs as “only they can bring lasting peace to their country.” [AP]

Three Syrian opposition journalists were killed by a missile in the southwest of the country, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists yesterday. [Reuters]

Division in Iraq’s Sunni minority has deepened due to the rise of the Islamic State—a “conflict within a conflict” which could leave permanent scars in the country, reports Matt Bradley. [Wall Street Journal]

A report documenting the abuses taking place under the regime of President Assad was released by a Syrian activist group on the same day as the release of the U.S. Senate torture report. Ishaan Tharoor compares and contrasts the two reports. [Washington Post]

Western states have pledged to increase the number of Syrian refugees they will accept, bringing the total to 100,000 over the next few months, a figure far below the aim of the UN and aid agencies. [BBC]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Criticism from the Obama administration is blocking Israel from constructing further settlements, according to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon speaking yesterday in the West Bank. Ya’alon added that he hopes this delay is “temporary” as the current U.S. government “won’t last forever.” [Haaretz]

Israeli airstrikes on four high-rise buildings during this summer’s Gaza war amounted to war crimes, according to a new report from Amnesty International. [Al Jazeera]

A Palestinian minister has died after being hit by Israeli forces during a protest in the West Bank today. [Haaretz’s Amira Hass et al]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Allegations against Iran suggest that it is illicitly increasing purchases for its heavy water reactor, which if completed would produce sufficient plutonium for several nuclear weapons each year, according to UN diplomats speaking yesterday. [AP]

Numerous security deficiencies were discovered at U.S. diplomatic facilities in 2012 and 2013 by a State Department investigation, providing a snapshot of security conditions at the time of the 2012 Benghazi attack in eastern Libya. [Wall Street Journal’s James V. Grimaldi and Peter Nicholas]

President Obama has extended his thanks to Afghan leaders for ratifying the bilateral security agreement permitting U.S. troops to remain in the country following the close of this year. [AP]

Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists accused one another of violating a one-day truce yesterday. [Wall Street Journal’s Nick Shchetko]  The EU is considering a third program of macro-financial assistance for Ukraine linked to the Ukrainian government’s capacity to reform. [Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman]

NATO planes assisted Britain to scour the waters off the coast of Scotland after the periscope from a submarine was spotted. The Cold War “reminiscent” search comes amid growing tensions between the West and Russia, reports Reuters.

A court in the U.A.E. has convicted 11 men of contributing to the formation of an al-Qaeda affiliate and sending fighters to join jihadist and rebel groups in Syria. [Reuters]

A French hostage of al-Qaeda’s North Africa branch has been released and returned to France early today, following what some suspect was a prisoner exchange, reports the AP.

The Sudanese government and rebels failed to come to a cease-fire agreement as talks between the two sides in Ethiopia came to an end yesterday. [Reuters]

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

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

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security