FP’s Situation Report, presented by the UAE Embassy: CIA chief refuses to rule out future torture; U.S. closes last detainee site in Afghanistan; Democrats break with Obama on the Islamic State; and much more.
By David Francis and Sabine Muscat
The CIA refuses to rule out torture and urges the nation to turn the page on the torture report. Agency Director John Brennan admitted at a rare press conference at Langley that some of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation tactics were “abhorrent” but refused to call them torture. He also refused to agree with the Senate report’s conclusion that enhanced interrogation failed to yield actionable intelligence. Brennan seemed more concerned with getting lawmakers, the press, and the public to close the door on the investigation than with explaining the CIA’s actions over the last decade.
FP’s John Hudson and Gopal Ratnam: “One member of Congress has already previewed plans to introduce legislation that would ban the practice of torture.… The bill, called the American Anti-Torture Act, would make the Army Field Manual, which rules out the use of torture, the standard for all interrogations. However, it’s far from certain that such a bill would gain traction in next year’s GOP-controlled legislature.” More here.
More on the torture report fallout below.
As violence continues to rock Kabul, the United States closed the last detainee site in Afghanistan. Severing one of the final ties of the post-9/11 detainee program, the United States placed all remaining prisoners at Bagram Air Force base prison in Afghan custody. The closure comes as violence in and around Kabul — once a safe haven from the war in Afghanistan — continued to rage with a series of suicide bombings yesterday, killing dozens in the Afghan capital. It’s not clear if the attacks are related to the release of the torture report, but they serve as a grim reminder of the chaos the United States is leaving behind.
The Washington Post’s Sudarsan Raghavan: “At one point, hundreds of detainees from different countries were held there. The officials said the decision to close the facility did not stem from the CIA report but was part of the effort to scale down the U.S. military mission by the end of the year.” More here.
More on Afghanistan below.
Democrats break with the White House as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee votes to authorize the fight against the Islamic State without U.S. troops in combat. The committee authorized a three-year fight against the Islamic State and allowed DoD to broaden the fight to target other extremists groups associated with it. However, Democrats on the committee refused to grant American troops the authority to engage in combat operations in Iraq, despite repeated assurances from Obama administration officials that the authority would not be used. With the GOP set to take control of Congress in January, the president and Republicans are now unlikely allies.
FP’s David Francis: “The measure passed on a party-line vote, 10–8. The 10 Democrats who voted for the bill, reluctant to grant any Authority to Use Military Force that could lead to American troops engaging in combat in the Middle East, exposed a clear split with President Barack Obama.… All but one Republican opposed the measure because it would limit options for using troops. In contrast, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) thinks it wouldn’t limit Obama and the Defense Department enough.” More here.
More on the Islamic State below.
Welcome to Friday’s edition of the Situation Report.
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Who’s Where When Today
10:30 a.m. Secretary of State John Kerry meets Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in Bogotá. 12:00 p.m. The Middle East Institute hosts a discussion on “Building Moderate Syrian Rebel Forces: Challenges and Prospects.”
What’s Moving Markets
CNBC’s Everett Rosenfeld on a House deal to keep the government open: “The legislation, which had become known as a ‘CRomnibus,’ passed with a vote of 219 to 206. This result, for which both House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama advocated, came after the original 2 p.m. vote was deferred over seven hours so lawmakers could drum up support for the bill.” More here.
FP’s Keith Johnson on Europe striving for unity on energy security: “After almost 10 years of trying, the European Union is doubling down on its efforts to do the seemingly impossible: make its energy system simultaneously greener, cheaper, and more secure.” More here.
Financial Times’ Eric Platt on how a strong dollar hurts corporate profits in the United States: “The dollar, which climbed nearly 8 percent against the euro and yen in the quarter to September 30, has proved an added hitch for companies dependent on foreign sales, particularly as economic growth in Europe and Asia disappoints.” More here.
The Washington Post’s Greg Miller and Adam Goldman on CIA black sites: “Three days after the planes had plunged into New York’s tallest towers, a secret message went out to CIA stations overseas. Start making a list of potential detention sites, it said, a request that was relayed as an ‘urgent requirement’ from the chief of the agency’s Counterterrorism Center.” More here.
The New York Times’ Nick Cumming-Bruce on the U.N. and torture: “The C.I.A.’s use of torture and the United States’ reluctance to punish those responsible have set back efforts to fight torture worldwide, the United Nations expert investigating such abuses said Thursday, reinforcing a United Nations human rights official’s call for those involved to be prosecuted.” More here.
The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe on questions about intelligence before the Iraq war: “CIA officials questioned in the run-up to the Iraq War in 2003 whether key intelligence cited by President George W. Bush’s administration as a reason for a military invasion was faulty, according to a newly declassified CIA letter released Thursday by the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.” More here.
The Guardian’s Uki Goñi on prisoners recently released from Guantánamo Bay: “The six — four Syrians, a Palestinian and a Tunisian — were never charged, and were cleared for release in 2009, but the US struggled to find countries willing to receive them until the Uruguayan president, José Mujica agreed to accept them.” More here.
Thailand’s the Nation on the Thai government denying it hosted black sites: “Government figures yesterday denied the existence of secret prisons or the torture of suspected foreign terrorists here while being skeptical of a security alert issued by the US Embassy in Thailand.” More here.
Reuters’s Zaid Sabah and Caroline Alexander on the difficulties of running a de facto country: “The restrictions of life in Mosul show how the people Islamic State were trying to mollify and recruit are now bracing for further hardship. While militants have promised to stock market stalls with the spoils of war, the scarcer availability of some staples has been compounded by the struggle to cope with the rising price of cooking fuel.” More here.
Writing for Foreign Policy, Suha Maayeh on Syrian widows: “Two years ago, Salma’s husband, a rebel fighter, was killed by a sniper in the western part of Daraa province. In the blink of an eye, Salma became a widow — part of a group known locally as the ‘wives of martyrs.’” More here.
The New York Times’ Joseph Goldstein on a bad month in Kabul: “[S]uicide bombers were striking frequently in the city, targeting a British Embassy vehicle, the headquarters of a small aid organization and a prominent women’s rights leader and member of Parliament, Shukria Barakzai, among other targets. One bomber managed to infiltrate Kabul Police Headquarters last month, apparently in an attempt to assassinate the police chief.” More here.
Reuters’s Fredrik Dahl on the International Atomic Energy Agency receiving more money to monitor Iran’s nuclear program: “Several states pledged on Thursday to back a U.N. nuclear agency request for 4.6 million euros ($5.7 million) as soon as possible to pay for its monitoring of an extended, interim nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.” More here.
The Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman: “Nuclear talks between Iran and six major powers will resume in Geneva next week, European Union officials said Friday.” More here.
The New York Times’ Ellen Barry on a show of loyalty by Russia and Crimea in India: “[T]he most intriguing event of the day occurred across town in a private dining room at a luxury hotel, where Sergei Aksyonov — the barrel-chested prime minister of Crimea, the Ukrainian territory annexed by Russia — signed a memorandum of understanding with a group of Indian businessmen who call themselves the Indo-Crimean Partnership.” More here.
FP’s Christian Caryl on the other war in Ukraine: “What’s the best way to save Ukraine? ‘By reforming the country,’ says Sergii Leshchenko, a freshman member of the Ukrainian parliament.” More here.
The Guardian’s Michael Safi on the truce in Ukraine holding up: “The president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, said in Sydney on Friday that the war-torn east of his country had just had its first day without military or civilian casualties in seven months.” More here.
The BBC on Poland reporting unprecedented Russian naval and air force activity in the Baltic: “Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said most of the activity was in international waters and airspace and Sweden was the country most affected.” More here.
Writing for Foreign Policy, Matthew Duss on Europe and Israeli elections: “[T]he EU could play an important role in sharpening the choice before Israeli voters: If Israel ceases settlement expansion and works to end the occupation, it will enjoy a closer and more fruitful relationship with the EU. If it continues to consolidate the occupation and expand settlements, it will face increasing isolation and sanctions.” More here.
The Guardian’s Randeep Ramesh on relief operations in Palestine: “Britain’s biggest Islamic charity is due to resume its operations in Palestine in defiance of a ban on working in the territory after Israel’s defense ministry described the aid group as a ‘terrorist organization.’” More here.
The New York Times’ Chris Buckley and Keith Bradsher on why the end of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong are only a partial victory for Beijing: “The intransigent positions on both sides seem likely to last. Hong Kong, if subdued for now, could well offer a continuing reminder, in an uncensored environment, of thwarted hopes for greater rights in greater China. The protests have also left the territory deeply polarized and trickier to govern.” More here.
The Diplomat’s Barclay Bram Shoemaker on how events in Hong Kong are a cautionary tale for Taiwan: “Hong Kong functions like a mirror, in which the Taiwanese can glimpse a reflection of themselves were they to ever return to the mainland. While there is no mention of universal suffrage in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, Hong Kongers have long held that true democracy was enshrined in their constitution and was forthcoming. That their hopes have been so spectacularly dashed upon the rocks provides a worrying precedent for Taiwan.” More here.
The Telegraph’s Julian Ryall reports North Korean defectors claim that the regime systematically disappears disabled people and even performs chemical and biological weapons tests on them. More here.
The Associated Press on attacks in central Nigeria: “Witnesses say twin explosions have rocked the Nigerian central city of Jos and killed about 20 people. The blasts occurred as store owners were shutting their shops and Muslims were preparing for prayers Thursday evening.” More here.
The New York Times’ Jeremy Ashkenas, Derek Watkins, and Archie Tse on “the other Islamic State”: “Since the public execution of Boko Haram’s founder in 2009 by Nigerian security forces, a hard-line militant, Abubakar Shekau, has led this makeshift army of Islamist fighters through years of escalating attacks on government personnel, religious leaders, young students, crowded mosques and marketplaces.” More here.
Writing for Foreign Policy, Laurie Garrett on Ebola spiraling out of control in Sierra Leone: “Turnaround time on lab work averages three to four days in Sierra Leone — versus a mere four to five hours in neighboring Liberia — so most patients die here, without ever learning whether or not it is the Ebola virus that is driving their fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and hemorrhaging.” More here.
Reuters on a lockdown in Sierra Leone: “Authorities in Sierra Leone have imposed a two-week lockdown in the eastern district of Kono after health workers uncovered a surge of Ebola infections in the area, where the epidemic was thought to be largely under control.” More here.
The Washington Business Journal’s Jill R. Aitoro: “Two years year after Intelsat went public, the satellite services provider will swap out its chief executive. Stephen Spengler will take over as CEO April 1, when current chief Dave McGlade transitions into the role of executive chairman.” More here.
Center for a New American Security publishes a report with recommendations for a U.S. strategy in the Arctic. More here.
And finally, the Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe on Army vs. Navy football spirit videos ahead of this weekend’s football game in Baltimore: “Even senior service leaders would get involved in a series of spirited and occasionally ridiculous ‘spirit videos’ ahead of the big game. There are many of them, ranging from the awkward to the hilarious, and the production value on them are frequently high.” More here.