News Roundup and Notes: April 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

McClatchy DC (Ali Watkins et al.) has obtained a list of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s findings, including that the CIA’s interrogation went beyond what was authorized by the Justice Department or CIA headquarters, and that the agency obstructed effective White House and congressional oversight of its program. Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein declined to comment on the findings, but said, “If someone distributed any part of this classified report, they broke the law and should be prosecuted.”

In the Washington Post, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Jay Rockefeller outline the origins of the committee’s CIA report, arguing that the “report should be judged on the accuracy of its findings and the quality of its conclusions, not on whether its information came from documents or interviews.”

And The Hill (Rebecca Shabad) reports that forty House Democrats have written to President Obama, urging him to declassify portions of the Senate committee’s report.

Ukraine

BBC reports that Ukraine’s interim prime minister has offered to devolve more powers to the country’s eastern regions, where pro-Russian activists continue to defy the government.

Itar-Tass has obtained the text of a letter from Russian President Vladimir Putin to the leaders of 18 European countries, warning that, in accordance with the contract with Gazprom, “further violation of the conditions of payment [by Ukraine], will completely or partially cease gas deliveries.” The Wall Street Journal (Lukas I. Alpert et al.) has more details. Meanwhile, a Ukrainian minister has told parliament today that Ukraine will file a lawsuit with the Stockholm Arbitration Court regarding its gas contract with Russia’s Gazprom [Kyiv Post’s Evan Ostryzniuk].

Ukrainian officials have expressed concern that Russian troops are laying anti-personnel mines “at the entry points between the continental part of Ukraine and Crimean peninsula” [AFP].

NATO has released a package of satellite imagery showing details of the location and type of Russian forces along the Ukrainian border. According to its assessment, the Russians “have an array of capabilities including aircraft, helicopters, special forces, tanks, artillery, infantry fighting vehicles… and these could move in a matter of hours.” The New York Times (David M. Herszenhorn) and Wall Street Journal (Stephen Fidler) provide more details. This morning, NATO defended the accuracy of its imagery and provided further images to counter claims made by Russian officials that the images were from August 2013.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has warned his Russian counterpart Anton Siluanov that the U.S. is prepared to impose additional sanctions against Russia if it fails to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine [Politico’s Kate Davidson]. And the Wall Street Journal (Ian Talley) reports that the G-7 finance ministers considered escalating sanctions yesterday, “but concerns about potential damage to the European and global economies undermined their efforts to forge a united front.”

Surveillance

The Guardian (Paul Lewis and Philip Oltermann) reports that the U.S. has not provided Angela Merkel with access to or details on her NSA files, “raising the stakes before a crucial visit by the German Chancellor to Washington.”

American journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, who took the lead on the Edward Snowden files, are returning to the U.S. today for the first time since the mass surveillance programs were revealed [Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone]. Greenwald, who along with Poitras will be attending journalism’s Polk Awards ceremony, told the Huffington Post he wanted to return as “certain factions in the U.S. government have deliberately intensified the threatening climate for journalists.”

Israel-Palestine

An Israeli official has said that Israel would withhold tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority “in response to the decision of the Palestinians to apply to United Nations treaties” [Wall Street Journal’s Nicholas Casey].

Haaretz (Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury) reports that the U.S. is offering to extend the peace negotiations for another nine to twelve months, under a deal that is similar to the original outline, according to senior Israeli officials. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki confirmed all parties remain in “intensive negotiations … but any speculation about an agreement are premature at this time.” Psaki also said no decision has yet been made about Jonathan Pollard.

And The Economist explores in detail how “John Kerry’s dogged bid for a two-state solution has faltered.”

Iran

The House unanimously approved legislation yesterday that would ban Iran’s choice for UN ambassador from entering the U.S., sending the bill to the White House and creating “a politically difficult decision” for President Obama [The Hill’s Cristina Marcos].

In a separate development, the Washington Post (Ruth Eglash) reports that Israel has successfully launched a satellite into space to be used for military purposes, including monitoring developments in Iran.

Syria

The New York Times (Ben Hubbard) reports on how Jordan, assisted by the U.S., has provided “a staging ground for rebels and their foreign backers on Syria’s southern front.” However, because the “covert aid has been so limited,” rebels have come to doubt U.S. commitment to removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power.

The U.S. ship adapted to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons is awaiting the delivery of the remainder of the regime’s stockpiles [Wall Street Journal’s Naftali Bendavid]. OPCW officials are cautiously hoping Syria will meet its April 27 deadline for shipping out the chemical weapons.

Activists say the death toll from rebel infighting in eastern Syria has reached 68, as battles continue for a second day in the country’s Deir el-Zour province near the Iraqi border [AP].

Other developments

The Washington Post (Adam Goldman and Julie Tate) explores “the FBI’s secret relationship with the military’s special operations,” including the agency’s “role in secret operations against al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other locations around the world.”

Following reports of the “Cuban Twitter” program, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Robert Menendez has ordered a comprehensive review of all of USAID’s democracy programs [Politico’s Burgess Everett].

Fox News (Jana Winter) reports that the Director of the Federal Air Marshal Service, Robert Bray is resigning after being investigated for his role in a scheme to acquire guns for officials’ personal use. The inquiry was a result of whistleblower accusations.

The Center for Naval Analyses (Larry Lewis) has published a report on drone strikes in Pakistan, and finds that “available data … points to higher [civilian] casualty numbers than suggested in official [U.S.] statements.”

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has warned Southeast Asian countries over the country’s territorial disputes, saying China will “respond firmly to provocations” [Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Browne]. And the New York Times’ Helene Cooper outlines how Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “encountered both combative warnings in public forums and private complaints that Beijing felt besieged by hostile neighbors” during his China visit.

Al Jazeera reports that at least 50 members of the Iraqi armed forces and seven fighters have been killed in the city of Ramadi, while two car bombs in Baghdad have killed at least 13 people.

The UN Security Council has authorized a UN peacekeeping operation in the Central African Republic to protect civilians, comprising up to 10,000 military personnel as well as additional police personnel [UN News Centre].

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

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