Newspaper headlines: America's 'torture shame'

One big story dominates Wednesday's newspapers: the release of a report by a group of senators into the CIA's "detention and interrogation" programme.

The report - by Democrats on the intelligence committee - accuses the agency of using brutal "enhanced interrogation techniques", lying to the White House, and exaggerating its successes.

The CIA - which fought to have the report suppressed - says its conclusions are flawed.

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The Independent calls the publication a cue for "America's day of shame".

Its subheading says: "Report shows the CIA tortured suspects at secret overseas sites for years, achieved nothing from it, and lied about it".

The paper says the report's details of the interrogation of an unknown number of al-Qaeda suspects in the wake of the September 11 attacks are "so replete with details of barbarism and inhumane treatment as to call into question the values at the core of the nation's identity."

The paper lists the treatment meted out to detainees at "black site" secret prisons around the world, including being kept awake for up to 180 hours; being shackled and held in stress positions for days; being waterboarded repeatedly in "a series of near drownings"; having their families threatened, and being force-fed via the rectum.

Some were also subjected to extremes of cold and heat, and it is accepted by the agency that one man died of hypothermia at an Afghan secret prison.

The Independent adds that the senate committee found these techniques were "not effective" ways to gather intelligence, with many detainees fabricating information and others providing significant help to their captors without having been subject to such interrogations.

The Times notes that the UN has said America has a "legal duty" to prosecute those responsible for torture, and Amnesty International has called for the perpetrators to be "held accountable".

The Times also lists ways in which the interrogations yielded mainly useless information.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confessed to his involvement in 20 plots

The paper says Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the supposed instigator of the 9/11 plot, was waterboarded 183 times because he did not reveal the details of a plot which was later discovered never to have existed.

During the simulated drownings, the jihadist fabricated a plot to recruit black Muslims in the Midwest, in an effort to get his captors to stop the torture.

The Daily Telegraph says the report also throws light into the way the CIA lied about its operations, "exaggerating the importance of information obtained under torture to justify its actions" and falsely claiming to have "cracked a plot" to crash hijacked planes into Heathrow Airport.

The paper says even the US president was "hoodwinked" by misleading briefings from the CIA.

The Guardian reports a company formed by two psychologists to develop the "enhanced techniques" received $81m from the agency between 2002 and 2009, when its contract was terminated.

It quotes Mark Fallon, a US Navy investigator who interrogated detainees but did not use torture techniques.

He tells the paper the CIA's programme was "illegal, ineffective, immoral and inconsistent with American values.

"Al-Qaeda used what we did to recruit more terrorists, so we have to ask how much damage torture did to our national security, not how much damage the report has done."


'Wrong targets'

In its comment page, the Daily Mail says the revelations were "a truly black day for the 'civilised' West".

"This devastating report finds the CIA systematically violated every precept and value that we believe make us better than our enemies, from the rule of law and observance of treaty obligations to the dictates of common humanity," the paper adds.

It notes: "As for Britain, it is impossible to tell how deeply the Blair Government was implicated in the CIA's programme.

Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Diego Garcia

"For any references to MI5, MI6 or Diego Garcia, the British territory used for rendition flights, have been redacted from the report, presumably under diplomatic pressure from Downing Street.

"Yesterday, the US took a significant step towards recovering its moral authority. We in Britain haven't so much as begun to restore ours."

It's a theme continued by the Guardian's comment writer Natalie Nougayrede.

She says, "The UK co-operated closely with the CIA on detention and rendition - as documents found in Libya after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 showed. But there have been few judicial cases or investigations.

"As the US embarks on a renewed effort to get to the truth, this could be a good time for Europe to come clean. The bottom line is that fully exposing such practices is the only way to ensure they will never be repeated."

The Times leader column comments, "The world's remaining tyrants will read this report carefully.

"Its best lesson is that when America loses its way it works hard to recover the moral high ground.

"Washington's next step... should be to publish the entire report, unredacted."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Michael Hayden was CIA Director from 2006 to 2009

The Daily Telegraph features a commentary from former CIA director Michael Hayden.

Mr Hayden says the report's authors did not talk to anyone involved in the CIA's programme, but if they did "they would have had to deal with our absolute assurance that this program led to the capture of senior Al-Qaeda operatives (including helping to find Osama bin Laden)... and led to the disruption of terrorist plots, saving American and Allied lives.

"The Senate Democrat document reads like a shrill prosecutorial screed rather than a dispassionate historical study.

"What happened here seems clear. The staff started with a conclusion and then "cherry picked" their way through 6 million pages of documents, ignoring some data and highlighting others, to make their case."

Patrick Cockburn in the Independent says the CIA's mistake was to pursue "the wrong targets".

"It was an open secret Pakistan's [intelligence service] fostered the Taliban but the US never confronted Islamabad," he writes.


'Wriggle room'

With Christmas cash registers ringing, this should be a happy time for retailers, but it isn't for Tesco, many papers report.

The Financial Times reports that a fourth profit warning in 2014 from the supermarket giant ends "an abysmal year".

The paper adds that the "former retail powerhouse" has seen its shares halve in price this year, and some analysts expect Tesco to sell some of its assets to boost its balance sheet.

Image copyright Reuters

The Sun says the store chain is "a basket case".

In an article by its city editor Simon English, it claims Tesco makes £1.40 profit on every £40 shoppers spend - "or almost nothing", in English's words.

"New chief executive Dave Lewis... is in the fight of his life." he adds.

The problem is, English says, that the company cannot afford to cut prices to compete with many of its rivals and so Mr Lewis "has no wriggle room".

The Guardian says Tesco was in the vanguard of a British superstore sector that enjoyed "30 glorious years".

But once supermarkets stopped being able "to increase profits by accruing an ever increasing share of the market" food prices have risen 22% (in the last six years) while median incomes have been static or falling.

"Tesco's troubles show that the model of supermarkets as an extractive industry has failed," it concludes.

The Daily Mail says the group is to shelve plans for 100 new superstores, and will mothball two already built but not yet opened.

"Some [sites] may now have to be sold at a loss," the paper observes.


Mayhem

It's weather watch time, and the Daily Express's front tells us that "snow storm chaos" is on its way to UK shores.

The country faces "days of blizzards, 100mph gales and floods" in the "most extreme weather for a century".

Image copyright AP
Image caption The St Jude's Day Storm swept across the UK on October 28 last year

The Atlantic storm system, due to hit Northern Ireland and western Scotland on Wednesday is "a serious danger to the public" according to Piers Corbyn of forecasters WeatherAction, and the man behind the worst in a century quote.

The Met office was warning of exceptionally high waves in western areas, the paper adds, with "significant accumulations of snow" in Scotland.

The Daily Mirror says the "60ft waves" have already led the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to describe the coming 24-hours as "black Wednesday".

The Scottish Highlands have already felt the storm's force, the paper adds, with wind speeds of 108mph being recorded at Cairngorm.

The Guardian says that southerners should not relax in the face of the northern storms of Wednesday and Thursday.

"A second Atlantic storm is expected to bring gales, some of which could be severe, to much of England and Wales during the first half of Friday, before easing off by early afternoon.

"The Met Office said 'A period of heavy rain may also make for tricky driving conditions at times, especially across south Wales and southern England'."

The Daily Mail reports the "weather bomb" storm - accompanied by a 24 millibar fall in atmospheric pressure - will be "similar to St Jude's Day's storm which brought mayhem last year".

You have been warned!


'The drinking'

As we're well into December, this blog is allowing itself to dip its toes into some of the Christmas miscellania to be found in the national press.

The Times reports that traditional Christmas Day dip in the sea at Brighton has been called off this year over health and safety fears.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Brighton beach: Don't even think of going for a Christmas dip there

The event, which began in 1860, will not be held after Brighton & Hove Council decided to close central beaches to deter swimmers.

"The combination of the amount of people, their inexperience, and some of the drinking... it's an accident waiting to happen," says seafront manager Chris Ingall.

Also at risk are the many reindeer imported into Britain at this time of year for festive events, the Daily Telegraph says.

Many of the animals last only one Christmas before dying due to the unaccustomed heat, confinement and an unsuitable grass diet, reindeer herdswoman Tilly Smith tells the paper.

Mrs Smith, who runs an 8,000 acre reindeer ranch in (very windy) Cairngorm says, "they need to move around - they can't just stand sedentary in a pen all the time.

"The key thing is that my reindeer go back to the mountains".

More cheery festive news - and a challenge perhaps to BBC News Website readers - is the Daily Mail's item about "Britain's oldest fairy lights".

The paper reports that Vina Shaddick of Plymouth has decorated her tree with the same set since 1969.

The £3 German-made set were bought in Woolworths, but now stay in situ all year as they are too fragile to take down.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Reindeer: increasingly popular attractions at UK festive fairs and winter wonderland parks

"They hold a lot of memories for me," says Mrs Shaddick, 65.

Back swiftly to the unhappy Christmas news, and the Mail also carries news of a very unfortunate Mistletoe-related incident in New York.

The paper says a restaurant planned to fly a drone festooned with the traditional parasitic plant through its dining room to give customers some wintery romance.

Sadly, the paper reports, the miniature aircraft crashed into a female diner's face, slicing her nose and cutting her lip.

Drone pilot David Quiones blamed the diner for "wincing" as he tried to land the mistletoe on her hand.

"Diners would not be put off," he told the Mail, "the majority would happily accept the risks".

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