News Roundup and Notes: December 11, 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 administration is facing growing calls for accountability following the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s conclusions on the CIA’s post-9/11 detention and interrogation program. Outgoing Sen. Mark Udall voiced his criticism yesterday, calling for a “purge” of the CIA leadership.  [The Guardian’s Dan Roberts and Spencer Ackerman]  Peter Baker similarly highlights how the president is caught between his Democratic allies and his former aide, CIA Director John Brennan. [New York Times]

Director John Brennan is set to defend his agency during an address at the CIA today. Siobhan Gorman outlines the challenges facing Brennan as he aims to restore trust in the agency. [Wall Street Journal]

Defense of the CIA program continues. James Mitchell, one of the chief architects of the CIA program, criticized the report, accusing Democrats of “rewrit[ing] history.” [Al Jazeera America’s Roxana Saberi and Amel Ahmed].  Former Vice President Dick Cheney called the report “full of crap” and refuted claims that then President George W. Bush was kept in the dark, stating that Bush “knew everything he wanted to know and needed to know.” [Fox News]  Meanwhile, former head of the agency’s counterterrorism center, Jose Rodriguez, said that he was unaware of some details of the abuses until the publication of the Senate report. [The Daily Beast]

Americans involved in the CIA program can be prosecuted overseas, including by the International Criminal Court, although the prospects of such a prosecution are exceptionally slim, say legal experts. [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta]

The details in the report are drawing criticism from around the world, including from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani who condemned the mistreatment of Afghan citizens and the former Polish president who accused the United States of misleading his country about its activities. [CNN’s Ray Sanchez]  Two former Polish leaders acknowledged yesterday that they allowed the CIA to operate a secret prison on their territory, but emphasized that they did not authorize brutal treatment or torture of detainees. [AP’s Monika Scislowska]

Early plans for the CIA’s detention program included some basic rights and protections in line with the “requirements of U.S. law and the federal rules of criminal procedure,” according to a 2001 memo. [New York Times’ Matt Apuzzo and James Risen]

The administration has asked a court to reject a disclosure request for documents from the Justice Department investigation into CIA torture, as part of a FOIA lawsuit brought by the New York Times, reports Charlie Savage.

Debate and analysis in the media continues. Former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh argues that the report “fails to acknowledge the Pearl Harbor-esque emergency” after 9/11, in an opinion piece at the Wall Street Journal.  David Ignatius writes that the report’s “one glaring weakness” is that it does not address Congress’ “own failure to oversee these activities more effectively.” [Washington Post]  Tim Weiner argues that most shocking is the “devastating deceit”—the “continuing claim of the CIA’s leaders that torture worked.” [Politico Magazine]  And Dan Froomkin explores how the agency is “actuated by fantasy and faith” as the truth about the torture program became an “existential threat.”

The Guardian editorial board highlights a “second scandal,” namely the revelation that a private company played a “central role” in the CIA program. Gail Collins similarly notes that one of the “most unnerving parts” of the report is that many interrogation techniques took place under the direction of an outside contractor. [New York Times]

Rectal feeding is “nothing but a torture method” and is not a legitimate means of nourishing detainees, explains Russell Saunders. [The Daily Beast]

AFGHANISTAN

The U.S. has closed the detention facility near Bagram Airfield; officials said there are no remaining American-held prisoners in Afghanistan. [NBC News’ Jim Miklaszewski and M. Alex Johnson]

A suicide bombing on the outskirts of Kabul has killed at least six soldiers today after the bomber targeted a bus carrying Afghan troops; the Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack. [BBC]

Afghan Shi’ite Muslims are expressing concern over the possibility of sectarian strife as U.S.-led forces begin to withdraw from the country and the anti-Shi’ite Islamic State gains strength in the region. [Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov]

IRAQ and SYRIA

U.S. airstrikes continue. U.S. military forces conducted seven airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria from Dec. 8-10. Separately, U.S. and partner nations carried out 13 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq during the same time period. [Central Command]

Members of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS hold divergent views on the question of Syria, and whether to target the Assad regime, despite being “firmly united” in its strategy against the Islamic State group, says a top U.S. official. [The Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz]

The U.S. has stopped supplying pro-western rebels in northern Syria with arms, according to rebel commanders. [McClatchy DC’s Mousab Alhamadee and Roy Gutman]

The origins of the Islamic State can be traced to the American-run Camp Bucca prison in southern Iraqhaving at one time held many of the group’s senior leadership, including leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. [The Guardian’s Martin Chulov]

CIA Director John Brennan is facing “new heat” over an apparent coverup linked to false intelligence used by the Bush administration in justifying the 2003 Iraq war, reports Jonathan S. Landay. [McClatchy DC]

ISIS is reportedly trying to sell the body of murdered U.S. journalist James Foley for $1million, three sources in contact with the group told BuzzFeed News, writes Mike Giglio.

The New York Times editorial board considers that any authorization of “military force must have limits,” highlighting the absence of rules of engagement in the proposed AUMF currently being considered by Congress.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The State Department has undergone a complete “culture” change since the Benghazi attack, according to an official speaking at a congressional hearing yesterday. [Politico’s Lauren French]  The chairman of the House committee investigating the attack, Trey Gowdy, defended the inquiry against critics during the hearing, saying “we should not move on” until further questions have been answered. [New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt]

The administration has been told to decide whether it will force reporter James Risen to testify at the trial of a whistle-blower by next week. [New York Times’ Jonathan Mahler]

A Yemeni Guantanamo Bay detainee has been cleared for release. Abdel Malik Wahab al Rahabi arrived in 2002 on the day Camp X-Ray opened, but was never charged. [Miami Herald]

The Pentagon is issuing hundreds of troops back pay for airstrikes and surveillance missions over Syria, due to an oversight regarding the designation of the airspace as dangerous. [AP]

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has blamed President Obama for the deaths of U.S. and South African hostages during a recent failed rescue attempt. [AP]  Conflicting accounts have arisen following the raid, with discrepancies between the U.S. and local versions of the event. [New York Times’ Saeed Al Batati and Kareem Fahim]

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has issued a public plea to Moscow, asking it to withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory, one day after a Russian general said that Russian troops in the east of the country were there at the behest of Kiev. [Al Jazeera]

The U.S. is considering economic and other countermeasures against Russia due to its violation of an important nuclear weapons treaty, according to a State Department arms control official speaking yesterday. [AP]

Over 5,000 people were killed by jihadist violence in November of this year, a BBC study has revealed. The worst affected countries were Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Syria. [BBC]

The International Criminal Court ordered Libya to hand over Muammar el-Qaddafi’s son, and referred the matter to the UN Security Council following Libya’s failure to comply with court orders concerning Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi. [New York Times’ Marlise Simons]

Israeli and Palestinian pathologists expressed conflicting views on what killed a Palestinian cabinet minister, who died during a scuffle with Israeli police at a protest in the West Bank on Wednesday. [AP]  Ishaan Tharoor comments on the “tragic irony” of the minister’s death, an official associated with non-violent protests against Israeli settlements in the West Bank. [Washington Post]

Austria’s parliament passed anti-terrorist legislation yesterday that makes the symbols of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda illegal and opens up the possibility of issuing travel bans on minors suspected of planning to travel to join jihadist groups. [AP]

Two female suicide bombers in Nigeria’s northern city of Kano killed four people on Wednesday. Boko Haram is suspected of carrying out the attack. [AP]

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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