News Roundup and Notes: April 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 torture report

The Washington Post (Greg Miller et al.) reports that according to officials who have reviewed the Senate Intelligence Committee’s CIA report, the agency “misled the government and the public about aspects of its brutal interrogation program for years—concealing details about the severity of its methods, overstating the significance of plots and prisoners, and taking credit for critical pieces of intelligence that detainees had in fact surrendered before they were subjected to harsh techniques.”

Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein has said she will hold a committee vote on Thursday on declassifying the summary and key findings of the panel’s report [Politico’s Burgess Everett and Josh Gerstein].

Israel-Palestine

Secretary of State John Kerry met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the second time in less than 12 hours early this morning, as peace negotiations “appeared on the brink of collapse at the weekend” [Reuters’ Lesley Wroughton].

According to U.S. officials, the Obama administration is considering the release of Jonathan Pollard—a former Navy intelligence analyst convicted of spying for Israel in the 1980s—in an attempt to salvage the Israel-Palestine peace talks [New York Times’ Mark Landler and Michael R. Gordon]. An administration official has confirmed to The Daily Beast (Josh Rogin) that Pollard’s release, “although not likely, is now on the list of items being discussed” between Kerry and Netanyahu.

Politico (Edward-Isaac Dovere) notes that “[i]n a region where strength is often the most important language,” experienced negotiators believe that any such move “might be the clearest sign yet that the peace process is essentially over once again.” And hard-line Israeli Cabinet minister, Uri Ariel said that Pollard opposes a “shameful deal” under which he is freed in exchange for Palestinian prisoners [AP].

Surveillance

The Los Angeles Times (Ken Dilanian) covers how Gen. Keith Alexander, who has retired as NSA Director, “achieved ‘absolutely invaluable’ results with digital spying but failed to anticipate how the public would feel about privacy.”

The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald reports that the NSA “blows its own top secret program in order to propagandize.” In particular, Greenwald points to the Los Angeles Times report, in which the agency’s recently retired top civilian John Chris Inglis spoke of the NSA’s ability “to collect, sort and make available every Iraqi email, text message and phone-location signal in real time.”

Ukraine

NATO foreign ministers are meeting today in Brussels to discuss ways to help Ukraine and reassure Eastern Europe allies [BBC].

Russia’s state-controlled energy giant, Gazprom has “sharply hiked” natural gas prices for Ukraine and “threatened to reclaim billions” in previous discounts, “raising the heat on [Ukraine’s] cash-strapped government” [AP].

Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday about “the partial withdrawal of Russian troops … from the eastern border of Ukraine,” according to Merkel’s office [The Telegraph’s Roland Oliphant]. However, officials in Washington said they could not confirm if any Russian troop movement had taken place [Washington Post’s Will Englund and Karen DeYoung].

McClatchy DC (Roy Gutman) covers how “[r]eports of multiple voting [and] falsified turnout cast doubt on results of [the] Crimea referendum.”

The White House said Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov have agreed to meet again to discuss developments in Ukraine, but no date has been set so far [The Hill’s Justin Sink]. And the Washington Post editorial argues that the administration’s diplomatic approach is “unbalanced.” The editorial says the Obama administration “should insist that Ukraine’s representatives be present in all meetings and that Crimea be put back on the agenda.”

Other developments

March 2014 marks “the first time in more than a decade that there were zero U.S. fatalities” among U.S. troops engaged in combat, according to numbers from the Pentagon [Think Progress’ Hayes Brown].

Fox News (Jana Winter) is reporting that the FBI is searching for a recent Army recruit suspected to be planning a “Fort Hood-inspired jihad against U.S. soldiers.”

The White House has criticized the North Korean military drill, which led to an exchange of fire with South Korea, as “dangerous and provocative” [The Hill’s Justin Sink]. Meanwhile, South Korea says it has recovered an unidentified drone on one of its border islands, which some officials suspect came from North Korea [AFP].

The State Department has clarified that it has not and does not intend to transfer excess military equipment “from Afghanistan to any of its neighboring countries, including Pakistan.” However, the U.S. is “currently reviewing Pakistan’s request for [Excess Defense Articles] sourced from the worldwide available EDA pool.”

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered an “urgent investigation” into the Muslim Brotherhood “amid fears that the Islamist organisation is planning extremist activities from Britain,” reports The Times (Francis Elliot et al.).

The State Department and USAID have released a joint summary of performance and financial information for FY 2013, describing “the performance and accomplishments achieved … toward the highest U.S. diplomatic and development objectives.”

Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch, the AQAP has mocked Saudi Arabia’s new counter-terrorism laws in an online statement, saying they would not deter the group’s fighters and that they proved that Riyadh was in the pay of the U.S. [Reuters’ William Maclean].

Al Jazeera America (Ben Gilbert) covers how the Syrian rebel group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is “starting to retreat” to the north of the country “after a campaign of kidnappings and executions.”

The Wall Street Journal (Rob Taylor and Nathan Hodge) reports that the “Taliban’s onslaught to disrupt [Afghanistan’s] presidential elections has failed to curb voter enthusiasm.”

A former senior U.S. official, Robert Einhorn has suggested proposals for a long-term nuclear deal with Iran, which “would allow it to continue enriching uranium at low levels and would ask Congress to preauthorize military action if Iran violates the accord” [Al Jazeera America].

A court in Egypt has denied bail to the three Al Jazeera English journalists, who are being detained in Cairo, “as they approach 100 days since their arrest.”

Six people were killed in explosions in Kenya’s Nairobi yesterday [BBC].  While no group has claimed responsibility, many are blaming the attack on Somali militant group, al-Shabaab.

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

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