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'Torture report' stirs up row in US

By Tara McKelvey
BBC News Magazine

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image captionPresident Obama signed an executive order that banned torture

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A retired major general in the US army, Antonio Taguba, says CIA officials are trying to undermine a report about the agency's interrogation programme. In a New York Times op-ed, he also says CIA officials have used extraordinary means to resist oversight of their activities.

"Agency officials, past and current, surely believe that by seeking to undermine the credibility of the report, they are acting in the best interests of the agency," he writes. "But when the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, has accused you of spying, you may want to reconsider your PR strategy."

A columnist for the National Review, Tom Rogan, however, writes in the Telegraph that "Democrats are pursuing a destructive publicity stunt against the CIA".

In addition, he says, the report is incomplete. "No relevant CIA officials were interviewed by senate investigator," he writes. "This begs the question, why are Democrats behaving with such disregard for objectivity? The answer: publicity."

William Taft IV, who served as legal adviser to the State Department from 2001 to 2005, disagrees with Mr Rogan's view - and says the report is valuable.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post that appeared several months ago, he describes the report as an "extensive review of the CIA's rendition, detention and interrogation programme after 9/11".

He says the report should be released. He writes: "It is time for the CIA to open itself up to oversight and implement changes in order to emerge stronger."


Writing in Foreign Policy, Gal Luft says that studying World War I is important today, especially for those who are analysing the policies of President Vladimir Putin.

"Understanding Russia's strategic calculus at the time can help decode Moscow's recent behavior in Ukraine," Luft writes.

"As European and American leaders contemplate what to do next with Russia, it is worth remembering that Putin's takeover of Crimea has much more in common with Tsar Nicholas's concerns in the Black Sea in 1914 than Leonid Brezhnev's in Czechoslovakia in 1968," he writes.

"Putin's takeover was an act in defense of Russia's national interest, fully consistent with the country's geopolitical DNA, rather than one of sheer, blind aggression."


In an article for Foreign Affairs, Mitchell Orenstein looks at diplomatic relations between the Netherlands and Russia. He describes how "European nations such as the Netherlands have long kept smiling as the Kremlin has continued to humiliate them".

In his piece he looks back at an incident in 2006 - when "Russia insisted that Royal Dutch Shell renegotiate the terms of its Sakhalin-2 project". Then he describes how the relationship between the Netherlands and Russia developed in the years that followed - and what the future holds.

In the piece he argues that the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 has forced the Netherlands and other Europeans to "get real about Moscow".


Editorial writers at the Miami Herald say the US should take a hard line against some Venezuelan officials, imposing further sanctions on them because of the way they have violated human rights.

"The Obama administration's decision last week to impose visa sanctions against unnamed government officials in Venezuela is a step in the right direction, but it's nothing more than a slap on the wrist - and a mild one at that," they write.

Human Rights Watch has recorded "more than 40 deaths and 50 cases of torture, in addition to some 2,000 unjustified detentions" in Venezuela, they write, and "opposition leaders say Venezuela's jails hold more than 100 political prisoners".

The visa sanctions will help show Venezuelan officials that they must respect human rights, according to the editorial writers. But US officials should go further.

"The individuals who have been denied entry are not named, which limits the measure's political effectiveness," they write. "Freezing their assets and property in the United States, however, would really hit them where it hurts."

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi has resigned from the UK government, describing the government's position on the crisis in Gaza as "morally indefensible".

"Warsi's resignation is not expected to change anything in British policy in the region, but it is a worrying sign of the way in which Israel splits British public opinion." - Ha'aretz, Israel

"The UK has failed to make serious efforts to protect the innocent people of Gaza against Israeli aggression, which made Sayeeda Warsi take the principled decision of quitting the government." Nawa-i-Waqt, Pakistan

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