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International FRIDAY, MARCH 21, 2014

CIA-Senate spat complicates spying oversight WASHINGTON: The government’s top intelligence lawyers on Wednesday renewed assurances that Congress is adequately monitoring US surveillance programs. But it’s suddenly an awkward argument for the Obama administration, since the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee publicly accused the CIA of illegally monitoring its investigators as they carried out their oversight duties. Since disclosures about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, including the collection of phone records and emails of millions of US citizens, the administration has said they were approved and overseen by all three branches of the US government. The congressional intelligence committees are intended to keep the government’s secret activities in check. Those lawmakers are privy to classified details, and Americans rely on them to ensure that the intelligence community follows the law, that the intelligence collection doesn’t eviscerate civil liberties, and that the programs are effective in preventing threats to the US. “We’ve set the balance between public disclosure and the need for secrecy by empowering the congressional intelligence committees,” Robert Litt, general counsel of the office of

the director of national intelligence, said Wednesday. Litt was speaking to a privacy oversight panel that has been reviewing some of the more controversial spy programs revealed last year. But that balance is suspect amid complaints that the executive branch interferes with Congress. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a longtime supporter of the NSA surveillance programs, has accused the government of this type of interference. Feinstein said the CIA interfered with and then tried to intimidate a congressional investigation into the agency’s possible use of torture as it probed suspected terrorists after the Sept 11 attacks. “This is kind of a raw example of how things can go wrong in congressional oversight,” said David M Barrett, a Villanova University professor who has studied the history of Congress and the intelligence community. “Congressional oversight of intelligence is going to be imperfect. It always is.” Some lawmakers have said the allegations, if true, have constitutional implications by preventing Congress from carrying out its oversight duties - the same duties the Obama administration points to when it justifies the legality of its intelligence pro-

grams. When details of the NSA programs were disclosed last year by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden, the Obama administration and other supporters said the programs were key to preventing terrorism. But justifying the effectiveness of a secret program proved difficult, because details are classified. “How can anybody except you people do that?” a member of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, Patricia Wald, asked the government. The Obama administration’s answer: Congress. “I think the public record now indicates there is a fairly robust exchange between the executive branch and the legislative branch on a variety of programs. And so I think that’s where traditionally the evaluation has occurred,” NSA general counsel Rajesh De said. Privacy advocates have been critical of the congressional oversight of the NSA programs, raising concerns that lawmakers are too close to the administration, hindering objective and effective oversight of the secret programs. “Even when Congress tries to do some oversight, they’re thwarted by the administration,” said Michelle Richardson of the American Civil Liberties Union. “I don’t think the public has faith in congressional oversight anymore.”—AP

Multiple suicide attacks kill 10 Afghan policemen A major assault ahead of presidential election

MUMBAI: Indian forensic officials enter The Shakti Mills Area in Mumbai, the scene of a gang rape on a female photojournalist. — AFP

Indian court convicts 5 in Mumbai gang rapes NEW DELHI: An Indian court convicted five men yesterday for raping a photojournalist and a callcenter operator last summer inside an abandoned textile mill in the financial hub of Mumbai, cases that renewed calls to wipe out the scourge of sexual violence in India. The rapes happened about a month apart in the same abandoned mill in the Lower Parel section of Mumbai, where luxury malls and condominiums stand alongside sprawling slums. Three of the men were convicted in both cases. “(I) hope this verdict will act as a deterrent,” said Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil, saying the cases were tried in the “fastest possible time.” The men face 20 years to life in prison, prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said. Sentencing was expected on Friday. Two minors are being tried separately by a juvenile court. In the first case, a call-center operator was gang-raped on July 31 inside the abandoned textile mill. Nearly a month later, a 22-yearold photojournalist was on assignment with a male colleague when several men approached and offered to help them get permission to shoot photos in the abandoned mill. Once inside, the male colleague was beaten and tied up while the attackers took turns raping the woman.

The photojournalist stunned the nation after her attack by telling local media that “rape is not the end of life” - a groundbreaking statement given that many rape victims are often shunned by their families, fired from jobs or driven from their home villages. The women cannot be identified under Indian law. The men convicted of the crimes range in age from 19 to 26, according to the Press Trust of India news agency. In the weeks after the attack on the photojournalist, Mumbai police said the suspects had little to no education and lived in the slums near the abandoned mill. Both trials were held by a fast-track court in a country where the judiciary is notorious for delays. But rape cases have taken on a sense of urgency since December 2012, when a 23-year-old medical student was fatally gang-raped on a moving bus in New Delhi. Rape, rarely talked about in India’s deeply conservative society, became front-page news, with demands that police do more to protect women. Pledging to crack down, the federal government created fasttrack courts for rape cases, doubled prison terms for rape, and criminalized voyeurism and stalking. Four men have been sentenced to death in the New Delhi gang rape case. — AP

JALALABAD: Seven Taleban suicide attackers stormed a police station in the centre of Jalalabad city in eastern Afghanistan yesterday, killing 10 policemen in a major assault ahead of the presidential election. The target of the three-hour truck bomb and gun assault was a police station near the governor’s house in the city, which has been the scene of repeated militant attacks in recent years. The Taleban have vowed a campaign of violence to disrupt the election on April 5, and a spokesman for the insurgents claimed responsibility for the early-morning suicide strike which also left a civilian dead. “Ten policemen, including the district police chief, were killed and 14 police were wounded,” deputy interior minister Mohammad Ayoub Salangi said. “One civilian was also killed, and all seven attackers. Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for the interior ministry, said one or two attackers had holed up in a small room inside the police station before they were finally killed by security forces. The attack began when a mini-truck loaded with explosives was detonated at the police station’s entrance, leaving debris littered across the surrounding streets as security forces cordoned off the scene. About 20 people had been treated for injuries at the city’s main hospital. The area of the attack includes the compound of the governor of Nangarhar province, of which Jalalabad is the capital, several other government buildings and the state-run television station. Taleban target elections Ten days ago Taleban leaders vowed to target the presidential election, urging

their fighters to attack polling staff, voters and security forces before the vote to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai. On Tuesday a suicide bomber killed 16 people at a crowded market in the northern province of Faryab. There was no claim of responsibility for that attack. “(These attacks) are an attempt to disrupt the elections, an important political and historic event in the history of Afghanistan,” a government statement said, accusing the militants of receiving support from neighboring Pakistan. Previous Afghan elections have been badly marred by violence as the Islamist militants display their opposition to the US-backed polls. Another bloodstained election would damage claims by international donors that the expensive military and civilian intervention in Afghanistan since 2001 has made progress in establishing a functioning state system. NATO combat troops are withdrawing from the country after 13 years of fighting a fierce Islamist insurgency, which erupted when the Taleban were ousted from power after the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Karzai, who is barred from serving a third term in office, has consistently said Afghanistan will hold a safe and clean election, despite previous violence and allegations of massive fraud when he won the last poll five years ago. The election frontrunners are Abdullah Abdullah, who came second in 2009, former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul and former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani. The next president will face a testing new era as the Afghan army and police take on the Taleban without the assistance of 53,000 NATO combat troops.— AFP

21 Mar  

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