News Roundup and Notes: December 12, 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

CIA Director John Brennan defended the agency’s post-9/11 program at a news conference yesterday. Avoiding the term “torture,” Brennan acknowledged that “abhorrent” interrogation techniques had been used by some personnel, but said that it is “unknown and unknowable” whether the techniques yielded valuable information. [Politico’s Jennifer Epstein and Josh Gerstein; Vice News’ David Enders]

Brennan offered no guarantee that a future leader would be prevented from authorizing similar programs. At a Q&A session following his address, Brennan stated, “I defer to the policy makers in future times.” [New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo; The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris]  Check out Jen Daskal’s post exploring the preventive value of the Senate torture report at Just Security from earlier this morning.

Brennan’s comments were strongly rebutted by Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who took to Twitter to critique the CIA Director in realtime. [Think Progress’ Beenish Ahmed; The Intercept’s Dan Froomkin]

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden maintained that rectal rehydration of detainees was a “medical procedure,” dismissing the Senate report’s findings in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.

It is “foolishness” to argue that the U.S. has lost “moral high ground” following revelations of the CIA detention and interrogation program, argued top Guantánamo general John F. Kelly yesterday. [Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe]

The CIA operated a black site at Guantánamo, the Senate report confirms, but it remains unclear when, if at all, the agency transferred control of the secret prison to the military. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]  The “rise and fall” of the agency’s overseas black sites are also detailed in the Senate panel’s conclusions, report Greg Miller and Adam Goldman. [Washington Post]

Britain’s intelligence agencies requested redactions to be made in the Senate report on the grounds of national security, a spokesperson for the prime minister has acknowledged. [The Guardian’s Rowena Mason and Ian Cobain]

Debate and analysis in the media continues. The New York Times editorial board highlights the lack of justice and accountability, writing that it will be “dark again” following the Senate report’s release.  Peggy Noonan writes that despite being a product of partisan blame shifting, the Senate report “outlines believable incidents of what is clearly torture.” [Wall Street Journal]  Meanwhile, Rich Lowry argues why the report is clearly partisan, noting that the committee “didn’t bother to interview anyone.” [Politico Magazine]

The extent to which the CIA could act without oversight may be the key revelation of the Senate report, according to The Economist.  And Dean Obeidallah suggests why the Muslim world is not reacting to the torture report as was predicted by many Republicans. [The Daily Beast]

IRAQ and SYRIA

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a draft authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against the Islamic State yesterday, precluding the use of ground troops and containing a clause that would sunset the 2001 AUMF in three years. [The Hill’s Martin Matishak]

It is time Congress gives President Obama the “flexibility and authority he needs to keep America safe” in the fight against the Islamic State, argues Sen. Marco Rubio, who expresses support for the creation of a safe zone along the Syria-Turkey border and the creation of a no-fly zone for government forces in certain areas. [Washington Post]

An Islamic State suicide bomber detonated a tank at a Syrian air base in one of the only remaining government controlled areas in the east of the country. [Reuters]

An Al Jazeera reporter has died while reporting on battles in the Syrian city of Al Sheikh Maskin in Daraa province. His death occurred in the same area where three Syrian journalists were targeted and killed this week. [Al Jazeera]

In 2003, U.S. counterterrorism officials debunked reports that a leader of the 9/11 attacks met with an Iraqi official in Prague, according to a CIA cable disclosed yesterday, further discrediting the Bush administration justification for the Iraq war, reports Reuters.

The key to rebuilding Iraq is unlikely to rest in U.S. and allied airpower, but rather in “bridging the differences between the Shi’ite-led central government and the Sunni communities,” reports Ben Hubbard. [New York Times]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

The Irish and French parliaments have called on their governments to recognize Palestinian statehood, a move reflective of “changing public opinion across the continent.” [The Guardian’s Ian Black]

The Palestinian government blamed Israel for the death of a Palestinian Cabinet minister during a protest in the West Bank, citing preliminary autopsy results disputed by the Israelis. [AP]

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has expressed support for Egypt’s new measures to close off tunnels linking Gaza to the Sinai Peninsula, saying he is supportive of efforts to stop the trafficking of arms and the passage of people. [Al Jazeera]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

An investigation into the alleged tapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone by the NSA has so far come up with no proof, said the country’s top public prosecutor. [Reuters’ Norbert Demuth]

Talks on Iran’s nuclear program will resume next week in Geneva between Iran and the P5 +1, the first negotiations since the group failed to come to agreement by the Nov. 24 deadline. [Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman]  The International Atomic Energy Agency has rejected an offer from Tehran to visit a site originally suspected of hosting high-explosive experiments on the basis that access to the site would not advance its investigations. [AP]

Pakistani authorities arrested the alleged Karachi-area leader of al-Qaeda’s South Asian branch, intercepting a planned assault on a naval base. [Wall Street Journal’s Saeed Shah and Syed Shoaib Hasan]

The U.S. drone program should come under the same scrutiny as the Bush-era interrogation program, argue critics of U.S. counterterrorism policy. Naureen Khan explores the debate around the targeted killing program “cloak[ed]” in secrecy. [Al Jazeera America]

House Benghazi Committee chair Trey Gowdy has called on White House advisors Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes, as well as Hillary Clinton, to testify before the committee. [The Hill’s Peter Sullivan]

The Pentagon will revamp its “controversial” $40 billion littoral combat ship program, setting up a potential contest between Lockheed Martin Corp and Australia’s Austal Ltd. [Wall Street Journal’s Doug Cameron]  Julia Harte discusses how the military “gets what it wants” when it comes to the war budget, highlighting concerns that the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund is “emblematic of a five-year collapse in Washington fiscal discipline.” [Politico Magazine]

Twin explosions in the central Nigerian city of Jos killed at least 30 people yesterday. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks although Boko Haram is suspected. [BBC]

Claims by Israel and the U.A.E. that a British charity funded terrorism have been disproved by an audit of its activities in Palestine, the group has said. [BBC]

French military forces killed a leader of a terrorist group in northern Mali, the French army said yesterday. [France 24]

“Do We Need the International Criminal Court?” The issue is explored at the New York Times “Room for Debate.”

If you want to receive your news directly to your inbox, sign up here for the Just Security Early Edition. For the latest information from Just Security, follow us on Twitter (@just_security) and join the conversation on Facebook. To submit news articles and notes for inclusion in our daily post, please email us at news@justsecurity.org. Don’t forget to visit The Pipeline for a preview of upcoming events and blog posts on U.S. national security. 

Filed under:
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