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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
March 12, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Senate-CIA Row Goes Public

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the Intelligence Committee Chair, accused the Central Intelligence Agency of searching a computer network set up for lawmakers to investigate allegations of torture of terrorism suspects by the CIA, exposing to the public the tense relationship between Capitol Hill and the nation's spy agencies (AP). CIA Director John Brennan, in remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday, denied the charge. Feinstein said the CIA's alleged search may have violated the Constitution as well as a federal law that prohibits the agency from conducting domestic searches, an accusation that may prompt a new investigation into the CIA's alleged actions (CSMonitor).


"This dispute between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA is, in fact, part of a much larger dispute about the Intelligence Committee's investigation of the agency's post-9/11 secret overseas prisons housing al Qaeda detainees and the CIA interrogation program for those prisoners, some of whom were subjected to coercive techniques such as waterboarding," writes Peter Bergen in CNN.

"The exasperation with Ms Feinstein is that she directs her sense of outrage only at the CIA. It seems restricted to issues that impact on her. She is outraged when the CIA allegedly hacked into her committee's computers. She is upset over the alleged intrusion into the privacy of her own staff. And yet this is the same senator who could not empathize with Americans upset at the revelations in the Snowden documents of millions of citizens whose personal data has been accessed by the NSA," the Guardian writes in an editorial.

"It's possible the investigations will vindicate Brennan. But Feinstein has a very different view of the facts and that could put pressure on Obama to let one of his closest advisers go. If Obama decides to do that, though, he could face the same kind of political problems that many observers believe besieged the George W. Bush administration after the invasion of Iraq," writes Eli Lake in the Daily Beast.


Pacific Rim

Chinese Use Government Bank Card to Smuggle Money

UnionPay, the world's second-largest card brand and payment system after Visa, is becoming an important money laundering tool to illegally smuggle more than $200 billion dollars a year out of China, Reuters reports.

NORTH KOREA: Growing trade with China is helping North Korea's economy open up, and has made life in Pyongyang more tolerable for the country's expanding middle class (FT).


South and Central Asia

Swedish Reporter Shot Dead in Kabul

A Swedish reporter was shot on a crowded street in Kabul on Tuesday, just blocks from a restaurant popular with foreigners that was attacked in January, raising concerns about the safety of foreign workers expected to remain in Afghanistan after NATO's withdrawal this year (NYT).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and resiliency of the Taliban.

INDIA: Malaysia asked India to join in the search for its missing jet near the Andaman Sea, far to the northwest of the flight's last reported position (AP).


Middle East

Turkish Boy’s Death Rekindles Unrest

The death of a fifteen-year-old boy who had been in a coma since being struck in the head by a tear-gas canister during an antigovernment protest last summer prompted fresh clashes between demonstrators and the police, who used water cannons and tear gas to clear the streets (al-Jazeera).

SAUDI ARABIA: The kingdom's campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood has divided Gulf Arab states, with countries such as Kuwait and Bahrain treading carefully due to the presence of the Islamist group in daily politics (Reuters).

CFR's Steven A. Cook provides context in this blog post on Saudi Arabia's decision to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group.



UN Warns of New Violence in Darfur

The United Nations said peacekeepers and aid agencies have been blocked from entering some areas in Sudan's Darfur region, where new violence has displaced 50,000 people since the end of February (BBC).

UGANDA: Activists filed a petition in the Constitutional Court challenging Uganda's new anti-homosexuality law, which includes a penalty of life imprisonment (All Africa).



West Pledges Sanctions on Russia

European nations will likely impose asset freezes and travel bans to punish Russia within days if Moscow doesn't accept a U.S. proposal to halt its military expansion in Crimea and begin discussions with the government in Ukraine (WaPo).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the crisis in Ukraine.

UKRAINE: President Barack Obama plans to meet with Ukraine's prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk today in a show of support for Kiev's new government as a vote in Crimea looms (Bloomberg).



Lawmakers Float Plan to Reshape Mortgage Market

Top members of the Senate and White House officials agreed to a framework that would wind down mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and overhaul the $10 trillion mortgage market in the United States (WSJ).



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