Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Ritika Singh, Yishai Schwartz
Thursday, April 17, 2014, 1:05 PM

The Ukrainian military pressed on with operations in Eastern Ukraine after yesterday’s surrender of weapons and vehicles to pro-Russian militias, killing three and wounding and capturing dozens more in the city of Mariupol. Given the strength, training, and morale of Ukrainian troops---and the difficulty of the mission they face---the New York Times is not optimistic about their chances of success.

Meanwhile, talks between the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, the U.S. and the European Union began in Geneva today. A joint statement was issued, the full text of which is hereAccording to the Times, Secretary of State John Kerry may have come in with some leverage; the Russian economy was already under deep strain even before Western sanctions were imposed.

CIA Director John Brennan was in Kiev this past weekend. Eli Lake and Josh Rogin of The Daily Beast discuss the intelligence-sharing that may have been taking place, and Leslie H. Gelb says it was a warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

For some time, Snowden’s critics have raised questions about his coziness with the Russian government. Well, an apparently scripted PR exchange with President Putin on Russian TV is bound to provide more ammunition. The Times’  “The Lede” has the story. In the same interview, President Putin also admitted for the first time that Russian forces were operating in Crimea before the recent referendum, the Washington Post reports.

Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition is accusing the Assad regime of once again using poison gas in an attack in the capital, reports Reuters. Opposition forces contend that this is the fourth such attack this month. For the first time, the opposition has been supplied with U.S. antitank missiles---although many are wondering whether it is too little, too late. Similarly, the Christian Science Monitor takes a look at where things stand in Syria, and the results are, unsurprisingly, not pretty.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are set to meet today with American mediator, Martin Indyk. But circumstances are already tense after riots broke out on the Temple Mount yesterday, where Palestinians stockpiled rocks in al-Aqsa mosque and Israeli police responded with force. Separately, an Israeli family came under fire while driving to a Passover meal. The Wall Street Journal has more.

The Times reports on a Taliban announcement ending its six-week ceasefire with the Pakistani government, but claims it will continue to pursue peace talks “in complete sincerity.” Riiiiiight.

The Afghan Taliban kidnapped a dozen Afghan policemen, and killed seven of them. And beware the coming proxy war in Afghanistan, writes Sharon Behn of Voice of America.

The Times' "Room for Debate" is a discussion about fear and the appropriateness of government responses to it. It features Carrie Cordero, Stewart Baker, and Faiza Patel, among others.

Opening statements began today in the trial of Abu Hamza, the radical British cleric who was extradited to the United States last year.

In an interview with McClatchy, John Rizzo, formerly the CIA’s top lawyer, publicly disputes some of the findings purportedly contained in the controversial Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation and detention. Rizzo insists that CIA’s harsh interrogation techniques did produce important intelligence, and that CIA never misled the Justice Department about the kinds of methods being used.

Carol Rosenberg reports on Guantanamo trial judge Army Col. James Pohl’s order that the US government turn over details about overseas CIA “black sites” to the attorneys of USS Cole bombing defendant, Abd al Rahim al Nashiri. Observers expect that prosecutors will appeal rather than complying with the order to release the information, which includes names of agents, interrogators, and medical personnel who worked at the sites. Wells has the details.

Over at Politico, Josh Gerstein reports on the 4th Circuit’s upholding of a contempt finding against email provider Lavabit LLC and owner Ladar Levison for failing to cooperate in investigations focused on Edward Snowden. Paul briefly discussed the ruling yesterday as well.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on Tuesday that the Pentagon would conduct a comprehensive review of the entire military justice system. Although the review comes on the heels of a legislative debate over the military’s handling of sexual assault cases, the review will not be limited to that issue, reports the Hill.

And Ben is not the only person disappointed with this year’s Pulitzer for Public Service. Former British Defense Minister Liam Fox is close to apoplectic. The Independent reports on his statements at an AEI event, only a few days after Fox published a blistering opinion piece in the Journal.

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