Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Published:

Senator accuses CIA: Agency interfered, tried to intimidate torture probe, Feinstein contends

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In an extraordinary public accusation, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee declared on Tuesday that the CIA interfered with and then tried to intimidate a congressional investigation into the agency's possible use of torture in terror probes during the Bush administration.

The CIA clandestinely removed documents and searched a computer network set up for lawmakers, said Sen. Dianne Feinstein in a long and biting speech on the Senate floor. In an escalating dispute with an agency she has long supported, she said the CIA may well have violated criminal laws and the U.S. Constitution.

At odds on major contentions, both sides noted the matter has now been handed to the Justice Department for further investigation and potential prosecution. The CIA's inspector general, David Buckley, first referred the matter to Justice, and the CIA's acting counsel responded by filing a criminal report about the intelligence committee staff.

"I am not taking it lightly," Feinstein said of the tit-for-tat investigations. "I view the acting counsel general's referral as a potential effort to intimidate this staff" in the interrogation investigation.

The dispute between the CIA and senators, which has been going on privately for more than five years, exploded into a public clash as the California Democrat offered a detailed account of the Senate's secretive dealings with the CIA in an investigation of post-Sept. 11 interrogation and detention practices.

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Intrigue at the top: CIA, Senate trade charges over vanishing papers, meddling, intimidation

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secret reports. Vanishing documents. Whispers of crime, intimidation and cover-up.

A quarrel between the CIA and the Senate that's been rumbling beneath the surface for years burst into full view Tuesday when Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., laid it all out in eye-popping detail on the Senate floor, and the CIA quickly pushed back.

Each side has suggested improper meddling by the other, and raised questions about criminal activity.

Such intrigue at the highest levels of government -- laid out in public, no less -- raises big constitutional questions spanning two presidencies and has revived old questions about harsh CIA interrogation of suspects after the 9/11 terror attacks of 2001.

A look at the unfolding dispute:

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10 Things to Know for Wednesday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday:

1. CIA ACCUSED OF MISCONDUCT

A powerful senator accuses the agency of interfering with a congressional investigation into the CIA's possible use of torture during Bush-era terror probes.

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Malaysia's air force says jet may have turned back, denies saying it reached strait

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- The missing Malaysian jetliner may have attempted to turn back before it vanished from radar, but there is no evidence it reached the Strait of Malacca, the country's air force chief said Wednesday, denying reported remarks he said otherwise.

The statement suggested continued confusion over where the Boeing 777 might have ended up, more than four days after it disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board.

Air force chief Gen. Rodzali Daud was quoted as saying in local media report Tuesday that the military had radar data showing the plane had turned back from its original course, crossed the country and made it to the Strait of Malacca to the west of Malaysia. The Associated Press contacted a high-level military official, who confirmed the remarks.

In a statement, Daud denied saying the remarks, and referred to a statement he made March 9 in which he said the air force has "not ruled out the possibility of an air turn back" and said search and rescue efforts had been expanded in this regard.

Authorities began their search for the missing aircraft at the position it was last reported to be over the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam. But they have also said search operations were ongoing in the Malacca strait.

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Republican Jolly wins Florida congressional special election over Democrat Sink

CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Republican David Jolly defeated Democrat Alex Sink on Tuesday in a Tampa-area House district where President Barack Obama's health care overhaul got its first test ahead of November's midterm elections and both sides spent millions auditioning national strategies.

With almost 100 percent of the vote counted, Jolly had 48.5 percent of the vote to Sink's 46.7 percent. Libertarian Lucas Overby had 4.8 percent. The election was to replace 42-year Republican Rep. CW Bill Young, who died in October of cancer, and the evenly divided district had been considered a toss-up.

The implications of the dueling messages for the midterm elections inspired both parties to call in star advocates like former President Bill Clinton and former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, in addition to blanketing the district with ads, calls and mailings. More than $11 million has been spent on the race, according to the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit group that tracks government information.

Jolly's election night headquarters in Clearwater Beach erupted into loud cheers as it became clear he was the winner. In his victory speech, Jolly simultaneously struck a conciliatory tone and expressed gratitude for his mentor, Young, and Young's family. Jolly was introduced by former "Price is Right" game show host Bob Barker, via video. Young's two adult sons were also onstage with Jolly, and he embraced them at the end of his speech.

Jolly didn't mention the issue that dominated much of the campaign -- the president's health care package -- and instead said that Pinellas County must work together.

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Ukraine's Crimea seeks to become independent state, not immediately part of Russia

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) -- As the campaign increased for tension-filled Crimea to split off from Ukraine in a weekend referendum and join Russia, the region's parliament said Tuesday that if voters approve the move it would first declare itself an independent state, a maneuver that could de-escalate the standoff between Moscow and the West.

The move would give Moscow the option of saying there is no need for Crimea to become part of Russia while keeping it firmly within its sphere of influence.

The dispute between Moscow and the West over Crimea is one of the most severe geopolitical crises in Europe since the end of the Cold War. Russian forces have secured control over the peninsula, but Ukraine's government and Western nations have denounced the referendum as illegitimate and strongly warned Russia against trying to annex Crimea.

Backers of voting to split off from Ukraine in Sunday's referendum say becoming part of Russia would return the Black Sea peninsula to its rightful home. Billboards around the regional capital proclaimed "Together with Russia" and street vendors were selling Russian flags to passing motorists.

But Russia's absorbing Crimea would only worsen tensions with the West, and the parliament declaration could put the bid on hold, depending on the outcome of Russian President Vladimir Putin's bargaining with the West.

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Defense will try to renegotiate plea deal in US Army general's sex-assault case; trial delayed

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) -- The trial of an Army general accused of sexual assault moved into uncharted legal territory Tuesday when the judge dismissed the jury to allow the defense time to hammer out a new plea deal with the military.

While the highly unusual decision gives Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair a second chance to negotiate the dismissal of the most serious charges, he appears certain to face an inglorious end to a nearly 30-year career spanning service in three wars. His lawyers said it could take weeks to finalize an agreement.

Experts in military law said Judge Col. James Pohl is seeking a just and innovative solution for a courtroom situation that doesn't fit prior case law.

"No one has ever seen anything like this before, but it seems like the right thing to do," said retired Maj. Gen. Walt Huffman, a Texas Tech University law professor who previously served as the Army's top lawyer. "This case was already unusual in so many respects."

Judge Pohl reviewed newly disclosed emails Monday and said he found the appearance of "unlawful command influence" in Fort Bragg officials' rejection of a plea bargain with the general in January. He declined to dismiss the charges outright, but allowed Sinclair's lawyers to negotiate with Army officials not previously involved with the case.

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More than half of Syria's children affected by the country's civil war, UN says

BEIRUT (AP) -- The number of Syrian children affected by the civil war in their homeland has doubled in the past year to at least 5.5 million -- more than half the country's children -- with devastating effects on the health, education and psychological well-being of an entire generation, the United Nations children's agency said Tuesday.

The conflict, which enters its fourth year this month, has unleashed massive suffering across all segments of Syrian society, but the impact on children has been especially acute, according to a new report by UNICEF. Malnutrition and illness have stunted their growth; a lack of learning opportunities has derailed their education; and the bloody trauma of war has left deep psychological scars.

"After three years of conflict and turmoil, Syria is now one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a child," the agency said. "In their thousands, children have lost lives and limbs, along with virtually every aspect of their childhood. They have lost classrooms and teachers, brothers and sisters, friends, caregivers, homes and stability."

"Millions of young people risk becoming, in effect, a lost generation," UNICEF said.

Since the conflict began, thousands of videos and photographs of bloodied babies, lifeless children and bombed out schools in Syria have provided stark images of the war's impact on children. But in many ways, figures provide perhaps the clearest indication of how sweeping an effect the conflict has on their lives.

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Obama appears between 2 ferns: New ground for presidential promotion on Web's Funny or Die

NEW YORK (AP) -- Zach Galifianakis brought the ferns, and President Barack Obama opened a new avenue of presidential communication.

The president urged young people to sign up for the new health care plan through an appearance posted Tuesday on the comic website Funny or Die, bypassing the news media and even previous favorites like TV talk show titans Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman. Instead, he chose to be a guest on Galifianakis' "Between Two Ferns," the digital short with a laser focus on reaching people ages 18 to 34.

The video reached 1 million views within three and a half hours of posting and was adding more at a pace of 1 million per hour in the middle of the day, according to Funny or Die. The website was briefly the number one source of referrals to Healthcare.gov, the Obama administration said, with some 19,000 people navigating directly from the video to the health care website in the first few hours.

"Gone are the days when your broadcasts -- or yours or yours -- can reach everybody that we need to reach," Obama press secretary Jay Carney said to broadcast journalists at the White House press briefing Tuesday.

With 4 million viewers, Obama exceeded in six hours the typical audience he would get by appearing on television shows hosted by Letterman, Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. That doesn't count the ancillary views -- clips of the interview aired repeatedly on CNN. And the video was a topic on Howard Stern's radio show. By nighttime, the video had more than 8 million viewers.

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Dolphins trade tackle Jonathan Martin to 49ers to be reunited with college coach Jim Harbaugh

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Jonathan Martin, the offensive tackle who accused a Miami Dolphins teammate of bullying, was traded to the San Francisco 49ers on Tuesday night and will be reunited with his college coach, Jim Harbaugh.

The Dolphins announced the move on Tuesday night on the first day of NFL free agency. San Francisco then confirmed the trade, saying only that it would send an undisclosed draft choice to Miami and that Martin still must pass a physical to complete the deal.

Martin's move cross country brings him back to the Bay Area to play again, and he has been at Stanford taking classes.

"This is great for him to get back on the field and he's in Palo Alto right now. It couldn't be much better," his agent, Ken Zuckerman, said in a phone interview. "I just think everyone wanted this to happen. Harbaugh knows Jonathan, I think the Dolphins were compensated and Jonathan wants to get back on the field. It's a good day."

An investigation for the NFL determined last month that Dolphins guard Richie Incognito and two other offensive linemen engaged in persistent harassment of Martin, another offensive lineman and an assistant trainer.