Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Benjamin Bissell
Tuesday, December 9, 2014, 11:17 AM

The US is bracing for the expected release today of the most extensive review of CIA intelligence-gathering tactics “in generations.” The report is expected to be released at around 11:15 AM, right as Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is scheduled to address the body’s floor. While the full document, which totals approximately 6,000 pages and 38,000 footnotes, will not be released, the public will be provided with its 480-page executive summary, in addition to a shorter Republican counter-assessment and the CIA’s own assessment.

Reportedly included in the report are “graphic details” about sexual threats and other interrogation tactics that the CIA employed on captured militants. In advance of the report’s controversial findings, the US military has put thousands of troops “on alert” amid fear that the disclosures could precipitate a violent backlash in countries worldwide. Additionally, some Republican lawmakers, citing “domestic and foreign intelligence reports,” have warned that a detailed account of the agency’s interrogation methods under George W. Bush’s administration could cause attacks against US military and diplomatic installations and possibly the death of Americans. While the White House has been outwardly supportive of the disclosures, US Secretary of State John Kerry did call Senator Feinstein last Friday and asked her to consider the timing of release.

Foreign Policy reports that in response to the report, former spies at the CIA have launched a website to rebut the report: In a more official reaction to the alleged abuses, the secretive agency said that it “policed” its interrogators and referred over 20 cases of wrongdoing. Additionally, with regards to spies who worry that the new report will paint “targets” on their backs, the CIA is offering new security checks meant to help ensure their personal safety.

Time is out with a how-to guide for reading the report. It suggests readers focus on the facts, not the mutual recriminations, and look for answers to these questions: 1) what was done; 2) was it worth it; and 3) who screwed up?

In addition to our own commentary guide, Lawfare has also provided an outline of what readers can expect from our analysis of the document.

If you are looking for early commentary on the report, here is a list:

In other news, the Washington Post reports that outgoing US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is in Baghdad today. According to the article, Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, told him that despite an increase in US support, Iraq needed additional help to defeat ISIS.

Relatedly, the New York Times writes that US allies in the campaign against ISIS have agreed to send an additional 1,500 troops to join US forces that are advising and training Iraqi and Kurdish troops.

DefenseOne divulges that the fight against ISIS is creating three separate armies in Iraq: the Iraqi army, the Kurdish peshmerga and the Shiite militias.

The New York Times reports that despite US warnings, Iraqi governmental and military officials are pushing for a winter offensive on Mosul, Iraq’s second city. ISIS occupied the metropolis in June of this year.

Alarmed over increasing instability in the region, the Gulf Cooperation Council is expected to soon inaugurate a new joint military command among its members, writes NPR. The “NATO-inspired force” will be established this week at a GCC summit Doha, Qatar, and will have its base in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.

In a video on Monday, Nasr bin Ali al Ansi, an al Qaeda military strategist based in Yemen, came out publicly against the practice of beheading. His announcement, according to the New York Times, makes “clear” that the organization was more pragmatic and less extreme than ISIS, its rival in Syria and Iraq.

Politico writes that President Obama’s war against ISIS, and the continuing “lack” of explicit congressional authorization of it, will come to a head this week when Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In response to reported airstrikes by Israel on targets inside of Syria, Damascus asked the UN Security Council yesterday to impose sanctions on its southern neighbor. Reuters has more.

In an interview on Monday, Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the last American general to lead combat operations in Afghanistan, offered a “nuanced take” on the final year of America’s longest war. The New York Times provides more on the general’s comments.

The Washington Post reports that the Taliban is indoctrinating kids with jihadist textbooks that are--get this---paid for by the United States.

Also, Israel officially dissolved its Parliament after a raucous series of debates. The date for next year’s early elections is set for March 17th.

Nearly a year after President Obama pledged to end the NSA’s bulk collection of telephony metadata “in its current state,” the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved a 90-day extension of the program. The National Journal has more.

The Washington Post reports that yesterday, the Ninth Circuit held oral arguments in Smith v. Obama, which is the Fourth Amendment challenge to the telephony metadata program.

According to Politico, the Senate passed the FOIA Improvement Act, which was a “broadly supported bill” that aimed to reform the Freedom of Information Act by creating a “presumption of openness” among government agencies. The bill was sent to the House, which approved similar legislation earlier this year.

The six former Guantanamo inmates that were transferred to Uruguay began their new lives yesterday as “free men.” The Wall Street Journal has more on the former detainees’ first steps into Uruguayan life. Including the recent release, more than 600 former Guantanamo detainees have ended up in over 53 different countries. Time takes a look at where those freed inmates are now.

Finally, President Obama unveiled new curbs on racial profiling in the United States. The Guardian has more.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Tara Hofbauer alerted us to newly declassified documents demonstrating that the government filed an application with FISC to extend the NSA’s telephony metadata collection program by 90 days.

Wells Bennett linked us to video of yesterday’s oral argument in Smith v. Obama, a challenge to the NSA’s call records program.

Matt Waxman commented on a recent silver lining for GITMO policy.

Finally, Bruce Schneier shared his thoughts on new reports of operations AURORAGOLD and NSA hacking of cell phone networks.

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