TIME Terrorism

Lawyers Believe Torture Report Will Help Prosecution of CIA Agents in Europe

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein discusses a newly released Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's anti-terrorism tactics, in the U.S. Senate in Washington, Dec. 9, 2014.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein discusses a newly released Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's anti-terrorism tactics, in the U.S. Senate in Washington, Dec. 9, 2014. Reuters

The Senate Committee's explicit description of US torture may facilitate legal action

The lawyers of those who’ve spent years in U.S. detention centers like Guantánamo Bay did not expect any surprises in the Senate’s torture report, which described the CIA’s tactics as “brutal”; the prisoners’ lawyers have already heard hours of grim testimony about what their clients endured.

Yet even so, they say, the Senate report could be a breakthrough in cases that have dragged on for years in the U.S. and Europe — and could pave the way for fresh legal action against the CIA’s top officials for permitting torture. “The gaps have been between the CIA agents involved and the higher-ups conducting this policy,” says Wolfgang Kaleck, a lawyer and director of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin, which has brought criminal cases against the U.S. military and CIA agents in Germany, Switzerland, Spain and France. Kaleck says lawyers will now study the Senate report for signs that the coercive tactics were a policy directed from the agency’s top levels, rather than simply the actions of errant employees. “It would hopefully allow us to argue for command responsibility for torture,” he told TIME on Tuesday.

Take the case of Khaled al-Masri. In 2003, al-Masri, a Lebanese-born German citizen, was mistakenly arrested in Macedonia because his name was similar to a wanted al-Qaeda militant. He was sent to a U.S. prison in Afghanistan as part of the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program. In 2012, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ordered Macedonian officials to reward al-Masri damages for his being “severely beaten, sodomized, shackled and hooded” after his arrest. Yet the Senate report makes clear that al-Masri also suffered abuse at the hands of the CIA, which conducted “enhanced interrogation techniques” that included sleep deprivation.

But the more serious criminal indictments in courts in Germany against the 13 CIA agents involved in Masri’s detention have languished for years because the agents have scrupulously avoided traveling to Europe — where they are likely to be arrested — making a hearing against them effectively fruitless. Another case against the agents, filed in Spain, has been closed. The Senate torture report says that in 2007, the CIA’s Inspector General said the agency, “lacked sufficient basis to render and detain al-Masri.” Yet the CIA opted not to charge the agents involved, arguing that “the scale tips decisively in favor of accepting mistakes” rather than erring on the side of “under-connecting” the dots.

Al-Masri’s is not the only case the Senate report could impact. In a similar trial, an Italian judge convicted 22 CIA agents in their absence in 2009, for the kidnapping of Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr on a street in Milan in 2003, and sending him to a jail in Egypt, where he says he was tortured. The agents were sentenced to jail terms ranging from seven to nine years. But the convictions remain symbolic, since the Italian government, a close ally of Washington, refused to seek their extradition from the U.S.

The Senate’s torture report makes it no more likely that those CIA agents will ever see the inside of an Italian jail. Still, lawyers say the very fact that the agency’s torture tactics are now written into an official U.S. document could make it far easier for them to argue their case in court. This is especially true in countries that are close allies in the U.S.’s anti-terrorism campaign, and which have tried to block cases from being heard on the grounds of political sensitivities. Lawyers believe that the release of the Senate report suggests that government officials are taking torture claims far more seriously than they did before, and they hope that will lead to closer scrutiny not only of CIA abuses but also by the U.S. military. “It’s evidence of a broader social trend, that we are considering more honestly the nature of the torture program,” says attorney Cori Crider, who represents several people the CIA rendered to U.S.-run prisons in the early 2000s; she spoke from Uruguay, where she was meeting her client, Abu Waled Dhiab, one of the six Guantánamo prisoners freed last weekend and flown there.

After years of legal wrangling, Libyan politician Abdel-Hakim Belhaj finally won the right to sue Britain’s intelligence agency MI6, for a joint MI6-CIA operation against him in 2003, when Belhaj and his wife were snatched from their Bangkok home and flown to Libya. There, Belhaj, a conservative Islamist, faced years of torture in one of Muammar Gaddafi’s notorious jails. “The British government has always said those cases cannot go to trial because ‘it will damage our relations with the U.S.,'” Crider says. “But if the Senate is involved in a very detailed examination of torture, that excuse by the British government is exposed for the kabuki that it is.”

The Senate report may have given the lawyers much more ammunition but now they have to take the battle back to the courts.

TIME Middle East

Wife of ISIS Leader Could Be ‘Best Source of Information’ About ISIS

A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Mosul, Iraq, in 2014.
A man purported to be the reclusive ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Reuters

Saja al-Dulaimi is being held by the Lebanese military with her child

In what could be one of the biggest breaks yet in the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), Lebanese officials said on Tuesday they had arrested a wife and child of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as the two tried to cross over the Syrian border late last month using false identity documents. The Lebanese military has detained the pair and is in coordination with foreign intelligence agencies,” according to Lebanon’s as-Safir newspaper.

If that is correct, intelligence agents from the U.S. to Iraq might have stumbled on a goldmine.

The woman, whom Iraqi and Lebanese officials identified as Saja al-Dulaimi, is not the first wife of a fugitive leader to flee her husband’s territory; the wives of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi fled across the borders of their countries before the capture of their husbands, fearing they would be arrested or killed in the attacks on the regimes of their husbands.

But that is where the similarities end, say some experts. Saddam’s family, who now live in Amman, Jordan, and Gaddafi’s wife, who found refuge in Algiers and finally Oman, live in freedom and keep a low profile.

MORE: Feds Say ISIS May Target U.S. Military at Home

But Dulaimi, an Iraqi and one of Baghdadi’s three wives, could provide crucial details in custody about her husband, as the U.S. and allies wage a fierce bombing campaign to crush ISIS. With so few known facts about Baghdadi, “she is the best source of information about him and about the dynamics of ISIS that anyone has had up until now,” says Sajjan Gohel, International Security Director at the Asia Pacific Foundation in London. He added that the fact that Lebanon waited 10 days before announcing her arrest suggests that they were squeezing Dulaimi for information before letting ISIS know they had her in custody, perhaps to give the U.S. and its allies time to plan surprise operations against Baghdadi. “Until now the flow of information has been always directed by ISIS,” says Gohel.

Among the details the U.S. and Iraq might find interesting — and which Dulaimi could be well-placed to know — is where Baghdadi is now, what routes he uses to travel around ISIS-controlled territory in Syria and Iraq, and whether he was injured in an airstrike last month, as reports suggested. It was unclear on Tuesday whether the child arrested with Dulaimi was a boy or a girl. But the very fact that Dulaimi has fled Syria might suggest that ISIS is under such severe pressure, that Baghdadi has sent his loved ones to safety elsewhere, or that his wife decided herself to flee the war. Dulaimi was among 150 women prisoners the Syrian government freed last March in exchange for 13 nuns captured by Islamic militant insurgents of the al-Nusra Front.

Little is known about Dulaimi’s own role in ISIS; CNN on Tuesday quoted a Lebanese security force describing her as “a powerful figure heavily involved in ISIS.” Now, she could also find herself a valuable bargaining chip in the turmoil rocking the region, as governments and insurgent forces trade firepower and prisoners. Reuters on Tuesday quoted a Lebanese security official saying Dulaimi was “a powerful card to apply pressure” on militants, who are not directly connected to ISIS, to free 27 members of Lebanon’s security forces.

As long as Dulaimi remains in custody, however, she joins a growing number of close relatives of terrorist leaders who have paid the price for their loved ones’ actions.

Immediately after the September 11 attacks in 2001, several relatives of Osama Bin Laden fled Afghanistan, some across the border to Iran. “They stayed there for many years,” Gohel says. “The assumption is that whatever intelligence they provided was never shared with the international community.” And after U.S. Navy SEALs assassinated Bin Laden in May, 2011, in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that country arrested the al-Qaeda leader’s wives and children who lived with him there, keeping them under house arrest for a year before deporting them to Saudi Arabia.

Read next: Wife of ISIS Leader Detained in Lebanon

TIME France

Mystery Surrounds Disappearance of North Korean Student in France

French officials believe the young man was escaping North Korean agents at Paris airport

One day in early November a young North Korean student passing through Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris suddenly bolted away from his travel companions and vanished into the crowds. It seemed to be a last-ditch effort to save himself from imprisonment or execution, according to French government officials.

Officials believe the man, whom they have identified only as Han, was escaping from North Korean agents who French authorities believe had abducted him. “He was taken to the airport but he escaped,” says a French official who did not want to be named because she was not authorized to speak about the case. “This is a young guy who is the son of an important man in the North Korean regime. His dad was executed a few months ago so that is why, I suppose, he was targeted.”

Han’s father was an aide to Jang Song-thaek, a powerful figure under former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. The current North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the son and successor of Kim Jong-il, ordered Jang executed in December 2013 after Jang was charged with treason.

About two weeks before Han fled his captors he had disappeared from his campus at l’Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Architecture in Paris, according to school officials and French police. A group of North Korean students began studying at the school in 2012 as part of a cultural exchange program between France and North Korea, aimed at improving relations between the two countries.

When Han vanished from the university French police quizzed faculty members and students about where he was, but no one had seen him for about two weeks, according to Yonhap, a South Korean news agency.

Han now appears to be in hiding. The French official who spoke to TIME said Han’s location was being kept secret “for his own safety,” but suggested that the government knows where he is. Pascal Dayez-Burgeon, a North Korea expert who served as a French diplomat in Seoul between 2001 and 2007, believes that after escaping from his captors Han might have headed to South Korea’s embassy in Paris to find refuge and claim asylum. He points to the fact that reports of Han’s escape appeared in South Korea in late November, suggesting that journalists in Seoul had waited until they knew Han was safe before publishing the news.

The alleged kidnapping of Han was the second North Korea-related incident in France in just under a year. Last December another young student, Kim Han-sol, vanished from his university campus in the French coastal city of Le Havre, where he was studying at the Institute of Political Science. Kim, 19, is a nephew of Kim Jong-un and apparently feared he was in danger because of a political purge that was underway in North Korea. The young student stayed out of sight for a week and then reappeared on campus guarded by French police. He now has two bodyguards, “to make sure he will not be abducted by the regime,” according to Dayez-Burgeon.

Kim Han-sol’s family had been closely connected to Jang Song-thaek. The student had another reason to worry: In a Finnish television interview two years ago, when he was 17, he described his grandfather, former leader Kim Jong-il, as having been a “dictator” whom he had barely known growing up.

North Korean students abroad rarely defect. North Korea experts say that could be because possible defectors fear that the government would retaliate against their relatives back home. “They all belong to the elite of the regime, so if they do break away their whole family back home could be held hostage,” says Dayez-Burgeon.

TIME France

French National Front Secures Funding From Russian Bank

National Front president Marine Le Pen gives a press conference on Nov. 7, 2014 in Nanterre, near Paris.
National Front president Marine Le Pen gives a press conference on Nov. 7, 2014 in Nanterre, near Paris. Eric Feferberg—AFP/Getty Images

Party official claims National Front is almost broke

Is Russian President Vladimir Putin meddling in the internal politics of countries in the European Union? That seemed a strong possibility to some Europeans this week, after French political leader Marine Le Pen confirmed she had secured a €9-million ($11.1 million) loan from a Moscow-based bank, in order to run her right-wing National Front party.

“At this stage, Russia is trying to influence French domestic policy,” says Jean-Yves Camus, a political researcher at France’s Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS). If so, Putin’s strategy resembles the Soviet Union before its collapse in 1991, when Moscow funded trade unions and political groups in western Europe in an attempt to buy influence and destabilize foes. “In this respect Putin is pretty much in line with the former USSR. It is the same policy all over again,” says Camus.

The French investigative news site Mediapart first broke the news that the National Front had taken the loan, with a 6% interest rate, from First Czech Russian Bank, a small Moscow-based institution, the chairman of which is Roman Popov. Mediapart said the deal emerged partly as a result of Le Pen’s visit to Moscow last February, where she met Alexander Babakov, a Russian lawmaker with connections to Putin. Babakov, who owns businesses in Ukraine, was placed under E.U. sanctions in April in retaliation for Putin annexing Crimea from Ukraine.

Well before Le Pen’s political prospects rocketed this year — the National Front won a string of victories in municipal elections in March and polled top among French voters in E.U. elections in May — the Front’s president threw her energies into cultivating allies beyond the borders of France. She traveled to Moscow in June, 2013, and met with the Speaker of the State Duma, Sergei Naryshkin and deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who hailed her as a politician of stature. She made a return trip shortly before the E.U. elections.

The trips appear to have paid dividends. A key Le Pen aide told TIME on Tuesday that the Russian loan was desperately needed since the party was close to broke after investing heavily in its election success.”It has been a real struggle,” says Ludovic de Danne, senior E.U. advisor to Le Pen, speaking from the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. He says Front officials have spent months trying to borrow money, tapping their supporters in countries around the world in an attempt to shake loose funds in order to run their operations. “Banks did not want to lend to us,” he says, adding that those who rejected them included “really, really big American institutions.”

Le Pen has been a staunch supporter of Russia. For months she has lambasted the E.U. for its sanctions against it, and she told Naryshkin in Moscow last year that Europe’s “Cold War on Russia” was “not in line with traditional, friendly relations nor with the economic interests of our country.”

Le Pen — whose party is similar to populist movements like the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP) and the Alternative for Germany — aims to pull her country out of the Union and reclaim its sovereignty over border control and fiscal budgets. As Putin fights to keep Ukraine and other countries allied to Russia, anything that weakens the 28-country E.U. could help further that cause.

The far-right parties in Europe share certain ideological opinions with Putin including opposition to gay marriage and open immigration. UKIP leader Nigel Farage earlier this year said Putin was one of the world leaders he most admired.The National Front aims to dismantle the E.U. and replace it with a European coalition of sovereign states that would include Russia, rather than a union that hues to U.S. values and policies, as Le Pen claims. “Russia should be a privileged partner in Europe,” de Danne says. “We don’t see Russia in 2014 as an enemy, we see Russia as a European country. And we want a multipolar world.”

Even so, some believe Putin might be misjudging the potential for right-wing leaders in Europe to take control of their governments. “In practical terms the far-right parties are of little help to him as they hold no power,” says Cas Mudde, associate professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia. Similarly, Camus believes that Putin could be further isolated if Le Pen fails to become French president. “This strategy can backfire,” he says. “Putin is pretty much isolated in the international community. So I think he doesn’t have anything to gain by supporting or helping the extreme right.”

By contrast, Le Pen has already gained something valuable — a loan to support her party finances. Still, her aide de Danne denies that the loan will lead to Russian influence on the group. “It is not the agenda of Marine to get her orders from Moscow, not at all,” he says. “We had no choice. If a European bank says we’ll give you money, we will switch tomorrow.”

TIME Syria

Marriage and Martyrdom: How ISIS is Winning Women

Severine Ali Mehenni holds pictures of her daughter Sahra dressed in a traditional Islamic robe, at her home in Lezignan Corbieres, France, Oct. 2, 2014.
Severine Ali Mehenni holds pictures of her daughter Sahra dressed in a traditional Islamic robe, at her home in Lezignan Corbieres, France, Oct. 2, 2014. Fred Scheiber—AP

At least 300 women have tried to join Isis from Europe and the U.S.

Last March 11, was a normal Thursday morning for the Ali Mehenni family, or so Kamel Ali Mehenni thought when he dropped off his 17-year-old daughter Sahra at the train station on her way to school. It was only that evening, when Sahra failed to meet her father at the station, that it became clear something was amiss. Even then the family thought the quiet, plump-cheeked teenager with a soft smile might have missed her train or gone out with friends.

Sahra, from Lézignan-Corbières in a wine-producing region of southern France, never went to school that day. Instead, she took a train to a nearby airport and flew alone to Turkey— to join ISIS jihadists on the warfront in Syria.

How a quiet young French woman from a mixed Muslim-Catholic family with five children was convinced to exchange her home in the south of France to one in the north of Syria, remains a mystery to her family and friends, even eight months later. “It is a catastrophe,” says her brother Jonathan, 22, sitting in his apartment in Margny-lès-Compiègne, an hour north of Paris, as he reads the private messages Sahra has written from Syria to her “beloved” sibling. “There is not a day that goes by when my parents don’t cry ‘Sahra, Sahra,'” he says. “They watch the news from Syria and it is so surreal.”

Yet Sahra’s story is hardly unique. ISIS has persuaded hundreds of young Western women to travel to Syria. That marks its battle as distinctly different from al-Qaeda’s campaigns of the last decade, and demonstrates that ISIS seeks to colonize the areas it has conquered with its soldiers, civil servants and women to breed a new generation of fighters.

In al-Qaeda’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, young armed men holed up on the battlefield far from their families. But in Syria ISIS aims to install a purist Islamic state—an entire new country—as its name denotes. And so ISIS fighters are looking to build lives that are far broader than fighting the war, ones in which they can come home after a day’s battle to a loving wife and children, and home-cooked meals. As such, recruiting women into ISIS is not simply about expanding the organization. It is the essential building block of a future society. ISIS members have said their women do not fight, but are there to help build the new society. “The strategy is geared to building a community and bringing families in so they have the infrastructure to set up a society,” says Melanie Smith, research associate at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at Kings College London, who has tracked dozens of British women who have joined ISIS. “They are the support system.”

A new ISIS-affiliated online group named “Al-Zawra’a Foundation” launched last month, advising Western women not only to watch training videos on handling weapons, but also to have their mothers teach them recipes and tailoring skills so they can cook for ISIS fighters and sew their combat uniforms. “May Allah be pleased with the female companion,” says the Al-Zawra’a’s recruiting pitch, describing women’s lives in ISIS as teaching others first aid, sewing and cooking, “until Allah chooses you for martyrdom.”

The female recruits come from all over the world—including the U.S. Last month German police arrested three teenage girls from Denver, Colorado at Frankfurt Airport, 5,000 miles from home, making their way to Syria to join ISIS. German officials extradited the high-schoolers back home. A fourth Denver woman, Shannon Conley, 19, was arrested last April as she was about board a flight from that city on her way to joining ISIS. Conley was convicted in September of aiding a terrorist organization and faces a possible five-year jail term at her sentencing in January.

Anti-terrorism officials in Europe estimate about 300 Western women have joined jihadist groups in Syria, about one-third from France. That might be because the largest number of foreign fighters in ISIS are believed to come from French-speaking Tunisia, many of them hardline militants who were freed from prisons after the Jasmine Revolution drove out the country’s secular dictator in January 2011. Those men moved on to Syria and from there have sought French-speaking wives.

In addition, French officials estimate about 1,000 French men have joined the Syrian jihad since 2011 of which about 375 are currently there. On Monday they identified one of them in the video that included the severed head of U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig: Maxime Hauchard, 22, a small-town convert to Islam. Last week another convert, Flavien Moreau, was sentenced to seven years for having briefly traveled to Syria to join ISIS, before returning to France.

Within weeks of fleeing her home, Sahra called her brother Jonathan to tell him she had married a Tunisian fighter, deepening the family’s sense that she had slipped into a dark world far beyond their reach.

Sahra, by contrast, seems to have no thought of coming home. Still, in her messages to Jonathan, Sahra seems anxious for her parents’ approval, exposing herself as a vulnerable teenager, albeit in the midst of a war. “I miss you a lot, tell daddy and mommy I love them strongly, strongly,” she wrote soon after arriving in Syria. “They mustn’t worry about me, especially mom, I know the last time I heard her voice she was trembling. The choice I made was considered, I didn’t leave blindly. I love you a lot, mes amours.

But as the months have gone by, Sahra’s messages have begun to feel hollow to Jonathan. “It’s always the same: I’m eating okay, I’m well,” he says angrily. To the family Sahra’s life is abhorrant. Sahra’s mother is a French-born Catholic who married an Algerian-born Muslim. “For her we are non-believers,” Jonathan says. “For us, she is. It is two religions, in opposition to each other. For us, this is not Islam,” he says, referring to the macabre footage on television of ISIS beheadings.

Jonathan knows few details of Sahra’s ISIS life. But as U.S. fighter jets pound ISIS positions in Iraq and Syria, Sahra’s messages have become increasingly frantic, with her apologizing that she has only sporadic communications—a signal, perhaps, that the organization is on the run.

On November 2 Jonathan’s phone beeped with a new Facebook message he had waited weeks to read. “The connection is very weak,” Sahra wrote. “I hope you are well and that work is very good,” she went on, then scrambled to finish without punctuation. “I’m sorry I’m hurrying I’ll be quick all okay except for the planes.”

TIME

The Fight Against Ebola Could Lead to Surge in Measles and Malaria

The reflection on an ambulance window of an Ebola outreach team from the Bong County International Medical Corps treatment unit in Kakata, Liberia, Oct. 24, 2014.
The reflection on an ambulance window of an Ebola outreach team from the Bong County International Medical Corps treatment unit in Kakata, Liberia, Oct. 24, 2014. Daniel Berehulak—The New York Times/Redux

Focus on Ebola has affected prevention of more deadly diseases

This year’s Ebola outbreak is far from over, and it has already killed more people than all other previous outbreaks: Nearly 5,000 people, among a total of about 13,200 cases. Even so, health experts are already bracing for the next deadly epidemics, which they fear are lurking on the horizon as a direct knock-on effect of the Ebola crisis, and which have the potential to kill many more thousands than that virus looks likely to do. Chief among them are two deadly diseases: Measles and malaria.

Take measles, whose power to spread and kill people is even more lethal than Ebola; it is about 18 times more infectious than Ebola. While almost all Americans and Europeans are immunized against measles, the disease killed about 122,000 people in 2012 (the most recent figures), many of them in Africa’s poorest parts, including the three Ebola-hit countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Although that might seem like a grim death toll, health experts hail the figures as a sign of success of the U.N.’s mass vaccination programs, since the number has plummeted since the 1990s, when more than 500,000 people a year, or about 1,300 a day, died of measles.

But 2014 could mark the year when that progress slides back, at least in the three hard-hit Ebola countries. Among the multitude of problems Ebola has brought is the fact that mothers are currently giving birth at home, rather than in clinics—an act that health workers in Africa have spent years trying to persuade them not to do.

As Ebola swept through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia late last year and early this year, vaccination programs struggled to keep pace with the huge demands of treating those patients. Desperately short of health workers at the best of times, the countries focused their meager resources on trying to control the outbreak, throwing regular health services into havoc. By mid-summer, say health experts, countless clinics had shut down, while those that remained open found families deeply reluctant to visit, for fear of being infected with Ebola. “Limited human resources were diverted to the outbreak,” says Peter Salama, a Unicef epidemiologist who heads the organization’s global Ebola response. Salama estimates that in Liberia at least half the children who ought to have been vaccinated against measles and other diseases this year have not been. “Measles is very highly transmissible,” he told TIME on Monday. “You need high coverage to prevent an outbreak.”

Health workers are fearful too. As Ebola has spread, one of their most essential tasks—vaccinating children—has now become one of the most dangerous to perform, since infections occur through bodily fluids. “We limit the use of needles tremendously in these circumstances,” says Christopher Stokes, general manager of the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Ebola crisis center in Brussels, which coordinates MSF’s outbreak response. In additions, officials in those countries have stopped crowds of people from gathering–exactly the situations where mass vaccinations are performed–in an attempt to contain the outbreak. “Routine vaccination services are free in these areas, and all of that has stopped,” Stokes says. “The question now is, how do you restart immunizations in the middle of an Ebola epidemic? Everyone is right to be worried about it.”

The other big post-Ebola epidemic could be malaria, which is a huge killer even in normal years; about 627,000 people died of malaria in 2012— 125 times the number that have so far died of Ebola this year. Unlike measles (and similar to Ebola) there is no vaccine for malaria. But Unicef and others distribute free anti-malarial tablets and mosquito repellents to millions of Africans. Those programs have also faltered this year, as health workers scramble to treat Ebola patients, and as clinics that would normally conduct malaria programs have shut. MSF workers recently began distributing malaria tablets in Ebola-hit villages, by having people throw coupons from a distance and then picking up their kits without contact with health workers.

While programs like that might help to stave off a spike in malaria deaths, halting a deadly outbreak of measles—a totally preventable disease—could prove a lot more complicated. “Immunization will have to be very carefully done,” Stokes says. “This will not be an easy one.”

TIME ebola

WHO Chief Says Ebola Response ‘Did Not Match’ Scale of the Outbreak

TIME sits down with WHO Director-General Margaret Chan

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has morphed into one of our biggest health crises in years, with at least 4,900 known deaths among more than 13,000 cases and experts warning the worst could be yet to come.

Despite a growing international effort to combat the virus, outside health experts say the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO)—the only worldwide health institution—has been slow to react. They stress that there’s plenty of blame to go around, including with the U.S. and other regional governments, who were tragically sluggish in responding to Ebola. Still, critics complain that WHO has failed to lead the global fight—exactly the kind of crisis it has aimed to efficiently handle or prevent since its founding in 1948. In general, many say it’s “too politicized, too bureaucratic… too overstretched and too slow to adapt to change,” according to a report by the London think tank Chatham House, citing health experts and some former WHO staffers.

Armchair critics have it too easy, says WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, or “DG,” as she’s known in the graceful Geneva headquarters. WHO, she says, is only as good as the world’s 194 governments—their members, whose contributions pay their salaries and set direction—allow them to be. Governments haven’t raised their WHO dues in decades. The global financial crisis has pummeled the organization, stripping it of $1 billion in funds and about 1,000 bright minds. If the world wants a strong WHO, its staffers say, it needs to plow more money in and help it transform—and hopefully stop the next outbreak from whipping half way across the globe in just seven months.

On Oct. 28, WHO invited TIME to spend the day inside its Geneva headquarters, watching officials grapple with the Ebola epidemic and sitting in on a two-hour, top-level crisis meeting. In a wide-ranging interview with TIME’s Vivienne Walt, in her Geneva office, Chan, a 67-year-old Hong Konger, explains how she and her staff have struggled with the outbreak:

TIME: When was the moment when you thought to yourself, “Holy cow, this Ebola outbreak is big?”

Margaret Chan: I heard about it moving up at the end of June, when the analysis [inside WHO headquarters] was presented. I was very concerned. I asked my scientists to give me an assessment. After that we scaled up unprecedentedly. We have managed many outbreaks in the past but this has got to be the biggest. If you are going to war with Ebola, you need soldiers, weapons, and you need a war chest. WHO is well geared and has the capacity to do outbreaks on a smaller scale. We have been doing this for many, many years, protecting the world from pandemics. But this, the complexity and the scale of things, outstripped the capacity of WHO.

TIME: You say it was the end of June when you thought, oh my God. But people I’ve interviewed in the U.S. and elsewhere tell me that for months they were raising the alarm, from back in March, and that somehow the sense of urgency was not felt here at WHO in Geneva. Is that a fair criticism?

Chan: Well, with the benefit of hindsight, in retrospect…. We are doing a retrospective study on a regular basis, with all this information of colleagues around the world. And they realize, actually, cases of Ebola were spreading in a hidden manner. And now, looking back, all of us would say, yes, the scale of the response did not match the scale of the outbreak. And that is fair. And of course all of us underestimated the complexity.

When you look at this outbreak, thousands of people in Africa died and it didn’t get the attention it deserved until recently. People were saying, quite rightly, it takes a few cases outside of Africa to get attention. This was a perfect storm in the making. In the past, Ebola outbreaks happened in the bush in small villages. Twenty, 30, 40 years ago, there were less people in these countries, and less movement of people. It happened in three countries which came out of long-term conflict. Health systems were destroyed. And in terms of doctors and nurses, they have one or two per 100,000.

TIME: Yes, that’s certainly true. But others say you in Geneva did not get the information from the field when the outbreak occurred, that the details did not reach you. One person we’ve interviewed describe some WHO regional offices are “awful.”

Chan: I’ve promised to do a review and get all the documentation… and will identify what mistakes were made, and correct them. That’s my commitment. But now the most important thing for me is to bring the whole team together, to bring the total assets of the organization together to fight Ebola. There will be plenty of time for history, and we really need to do it in a transparent and accountable manner. But it is important that we move on and get the job done first and foremost.

TIME: You’re dealing with this unprecedented outbreak. Do you think it is going to change the way WHO works?

Chan: This has to be the turning point. It’s not only Ebola. You have to look at what other crises we are dealing with. We have crises in Central African Republic, Iraq, Syria, South Sudan. My staff are truly, truly at [a] breaking point. Members [governments] need to look at what kind of WHO is appropriate for the 21st century. With climate change, which is the defining issue for the 21st century, and a highly interconnected world, we should expect to see more crises of different sizes, magnitude and geographic location.

When a crisis gets to a certain level the D.G. [Director General] has [to have] the ability to deploy the entire assets of the organization. At this point, I need to consult, ask, urge. We don’t have the money. When I talk to member states, I tell them, the system does not provide the flexibility and the agility for the Director General to manage the organization. I said to them, if you want a credible, strong WHO, we need a WHO reform.

TIME: Do you think pre-recession WHO might have been able to handle the Ebola crisis better? Or with all the money in the world, are you up against something too complex, too difficult?

Chan: This is too big and it’s happening in countries with a lot of factors that amplify it. There are lessons the world’s countries need to learn, like the reliance on old experience to deal with Ebola in a new context. What worked 20, 30, 40 years ago will not work. Another lesson: I was not able and also MSF [Doctors Without Borders] we were not able to mobilize people. For the typhoon in the Philippines [in 2013] 150 medical teams came to help. For the Haiti earthquake, more than 125,000 aid workers came. With Ebola, the fear factor, the lack of formal medevac, lack of quality health care…. Outbreaks are human-resource intensive. To manage an Ebola treatment center of 80 beds you need 200 health workers. And I need foreign medical teams to manage them. The U.S. and U.K. governments are building state-of-the-art treatment centers to take care of health care workers in Liberia and Sierra Leone. So there are some good signs and things that are coming.

TIME: Any regrets about decisions made early on or not made early on?

Chan: If people think WHO alone can prevent this crisis I think people are trivializing the reality on the ground. In the initial phase, we sent experts right away. We sent commodities, we sent equipment, we supported governments.… But, as I said, the transmission of the disease was spreading hidden through the movement of people.

I’ve been asking myself: how much time can I spend on Ebola given that it is going to be a sustained, severe outbreak? I [spend] about 70% of my time on Ebola. Would my member states accept I’m a one-issue D.G. There are more people dying of non-communicable diseases: Cancers, heart diseases, lung diseases, diabetes. There are millions suffering from mental health conditions. There are many people dying too early in road crashes. Can I drop everything? I don’t think so. I work at least 18 hours a day, even on weekends. And I’ve also learned great humility is important—to make sure we are not taken by surprise by an unforgiving virus.

TIME: It seems to me that WHO and certainly you have been talking about reforming WHO for years, and you have been running up against walls. So, is Ebola a crisis of such magnitude that this will shake the world into rethinking all this, allowing reform to happen?

Chan: This Ebola outbreak should really make them [governments] look very hard, really hard, at if outbreak control is so important, why didn’t they [WHO] have resources to do the job? The problem is that with prevention when you do a good job people say, okay that’s alright, now we need to move the money some place else.

Ebola for 40 years was an African disease. The world this time has learned a lesson: The world is ill-prepared for severe, sustained public health emergencies. That’s why I hope this is a turning point, a watershed event for people to understand that. If you want global health security, you need to invest.

In the next 2.5 years [Chan retires in 2017], I’m going correct all the mistakes before I leave this organization. I have the responsibility to the governments, but governments also have to look at how they can support WHO to do what they want it to do.

With the reforms [streamlined staff, reworked programs] I would never have been able to pull it off without the financial crisis. I’m very good at this. You know why? There are two sides to the Chinese character for crisis: One side crisis, one side opportunity. Deeper reforms will come from the Ebola crisis. I’m not going to waste this crisis.

For more, read TIME‘s feature on how the World Health Organization has come under fire for its failure to stop Ebola

TIME France

Oil Exec Who Charmed Kings and Dictators Killed in Plane Crash

Total CEO Christophe de Margerie Dies in Plane Crash
Christophe de Margerie, chief executive officer of Total SA, reacts during a Bloomberg Television interview on day three of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. Simon Dawson—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Tributes For Total CEO Killed When His Jet Hit a Snowplow On Russian Runway

Christophe de Margerie, the CEO and chairman of the French energy giant Total who was killed in a private plane accident in Moscow on Monday night, was fond of saying that one couldn’t drill for oil in pleasant, peaceful places — a riposte to environmentalists and human-right activists who have railed against oil companies for cutting lucrative deals with repressive leaders. “I’d be more than delighted to go find energy in Club Med,” he told TIME back in December 2009, seated on a private plane during an overnight flight from Paris to the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain. “But we’ve tried, and did not find it.”

It was a characteristically blunt statement in an industry that is famous for its opaque leadership rather than plain-talking executives. Unlike his peers, De Margerie, 63, seemed unconcerned about what he said publicly. Rather, he appeared to relish his image as an outsized personality whose common touch — despite his wealthy family background — won him friends, as well as some detractors, in difficult, even hostile, places. Explaining his personality, he told TIME that his lifelong shyness (“I hate going on stage, I’m really scared,” he said) had compelled him from childhood to become a keen observer of people, and that he had learned to “listen to people, from the hotel doorman to the King of Saudi Arabia.”

Tributes flooded in on Tuesday after news broke that De Margerie had died on his way back from Moscow where he had attended a gathering of foreign investors and met with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at Medvedev’s country residence near the capital. The private plane in which De Margerie was traveling collided with a snowplow at Moscow’s Vnukovo International airport shortly before midnight, killing him and three French crew members on board. Russian investigators quickly blamed the operator of the plow (who survived unscathed), saying that the man was drunk, and adding that air traffic controllers might also have made errors. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov voiced President Vladimir Putin’s condolences, saying that the Russian leader “has long known De Margerie [and] had a close working relationship with him.” In Paris, President François Hollande said De Margerie had “brilliantly defended the level of excellence and success of French technology,” and praised his “independent character” and “originality.”

Indeed, it seemed hundreds of people across the world knew De Margerie — if only as the man with the abundant gray whiskers framing his corpulent cheeks, which had earned him the nickname of “Monsieur Moustache” among his employees.

De Margerie joined the company in 1974 fresh out of university, largely, he told TIME, because it was a 10-minute walk from his family home in western Paris, and because his youthful dream of becoming a motorcycle policeman had come to naught. He rose to head its crucial exploration and production department, helping to expand hugely Total’s operations across the world. He became CEO in 2007 and chairman in 2010. During his career the company faced several serious accusations of wrongdoing. He and other Total executives faced charges in France of helping then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein skirt the U.N.’s oil-for-food sanctions during the 1990s and although they were cleared, the company paid a fine in the U.S. And after an oil tanker broke apart and sank off the Brittany coast in 1999, spewing thousands of tons of oil into the sea and killing an estimated 150,000 sea birds, a Paris court ordered Total to pay more than $250 million in damages.

Apparently unaffected by these controversies, De Margerie steadily built Total into a giant company, opening new fields across the world — including in places from which other energy companies steered clear, like Burma and Yemen. Total is now the fourth biggest Western oil company, after ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron, with nearly 100,000 employees in 130 countries and revenues of nearly $240 billion last year.

But De Margerie will likely be remembered most of all for his insistence that governments should as much as possible leave it to oil companies to decide where to operate. And it is that insistence that led him most regularly into fiery debates with activists, who accused Total of cozying up to dictators in order to win concessions that were worth billions.

De Margerie, unlike other oil executives, never shied away from the argument, telling journalists that the world could face a serious oil shortage — an argument that seems less urgent these days, with declining growth in demand for oil and sinking prices on the world oil markets. “Where is electricity coming from? Flowers?” he told TIME during the flight from Paris to Bahrain in late 2009. “Maybe some day. But what’s available now is from oil and gas,” he said.

De Margerie defended his decision to extract natural gas in Burma and pipe it across the country at a time when U.S. sanctions prevented most American business links with the military government, telling an audience of Columbia University students in 2009, “Who is telling us who are the cowboys and who are the Indians? People who have never been in those countries.” As such, De Margerie nurtured relationships even under sanctions — including in Russia, where Total has a $27-billion deal to produce liquefied natural gas in Siberia.

Gregarious, with a love of fine dining — his grandfather Pierre Taittinger founded the famed Champagne house of that name — De Margerie was known to be excellent company, no matter one’s views. During the all-night flight on the rented private plane he slept little, preferring to talk for hours about everything from politics to the latest celebrity gossip, and to debate which Bordeaux wine on offer in the plane was best. Back then, Total executive Jacques de Boisseson, who heads the company’s exploration and production operations in Russia, told TIME that his boss had a knack for breaking the ice even in formal meetings with heads of state — and even after arriving late, as he frequently did. “He changes a meeting with his personal touch,” de Boisseson said. “He can get very close to very different people.”

TIME France

Frenchman’s Beheading Raises Fears of Wider Fight Against ISIS

A portrait of mountain guide Frenchman Herve Gourdel hangs near a French flag outside the town hall in Saint-Martin-Vesubie, Sept. 25, 2014.
A portrait of Herve Gourdel hangs outside the town hall in Saint-Martin-Vesubie, France, Sept. 25, 2014. Patrice Masante—Reuters

French and other officials are wondering how widely they will need to fight in order to crush ISIS's growing influence

The videotaped killing of French tourist Hervé Gourdel in Algeria on Wednesday seemed at first yet another in a string of horrific beheadings of Westerners—the fourth since the chilling death last month of American journalist James Foley. Yet to Western officials, the killing bore another ominous signal too: That the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, or ISIS, could become far more complicated as the terror group’s clout expands across a region already awash in weaponry and riven by violent upheaval.

Far different from the three Westerners ISIS has beheaded in Syria – Foley, American journalist Steven Sotloff and British aid worker David Haines–Gourdel, 55, was hundreds of miles from any lethal battlefront and seemed to have no expectation that he was headed into potential danger. A mountain guide from a small village near Nice, he arrived in Algeria last Saturday to hike in the rugged area of the country’s northeast Tizi Ouzu region. He was kidnapped one day later by a new group calling itself Jund al-Khalifa. The organization had broken away from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) just earlier this month and sworn allegiance to ISIS. It threatened to kill Gourdel unless France stopped its airstrikes on ISIS in Iraq, which began on September 19. A second, grisly video appeared on the Internet Wednesday, showing men with their faces concealed standing over Gourdel, one announcing they were executing him as a “message of blood for the French government.” The final shot shows one of the men apparently holding Gourdel’s severed head.

In the shocked aftermath, French and other officials were left wondering how widely they will need to fight in order to crush ISIS’s growing influence—and whether they might be drawn into another war less than two years after France fought a major air and ground assault against al-Qaeda to force them out of northern Mali. In an impassioned speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday just hours after Gourdel’s murder, a somber French President François Hollande made it clear that he would not call off France’s bombing raids on ISIS, saying, “It is not weakness that should be the response to terrorism but force.”

What kind of force might succeed is unclear, however. Just 16 months ago, Hollande declared France’s Mali war a success, saying his forces had effectively crushed AQIM and its allies. But in recent weeks, North African officials and journalists have said that ISIS’ rise in Syria, and its sweep across Iraq, could reenergize remnant fighters from France’s fight, many of whom slipped across Mali’s remote desert border with Algeria as French troops closed in. They said lethal battles might begin as different jihadist organizations vy for primacy in the region—perhaps by proving their lethality against Westerners.

“We will witness an internal war within the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” the Algerian newspaper L’Expression wrote earlier this month, citing “very well-informed sources,” and said that as groups compete to become the main jihadist organization in the region, ISIS-aligned organizations could begin assassinating those still affiliated to al-Qaeda who “could hamper the emergence of ISIS in North Africa.”

As it was, the first public assassination was Gourdel, a totally innocent Frenchmen—signaling that Westerners, even far from Syria, are now potential targets. On Wednesday, the SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S. terrorism monitoring organization, warned that Gourdel’s murder could be the start of a new pattern. “As the Islamic State has instructed its supporters all over the world to execute attacks, the beheading of this French hostage may not be the last demonstration of this nature,” SITE director Rita Katz said in an online commentary after Gourdel’s killing.

For France, there are compelling reasons to fight ISIS’ rise in North Africa. Millions of North Africans live in France, which has Europe’s biggest Muslim population, and Algeria, for example, is a cheap two-hour flight from Paris. French officials estimate that more than 900 French citizens have joined ISIS’ ranks in Syria and Iraq, many just this year, and are increasingly worried that some might return to mount attacks at home. The United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday to stop foreign fighters from traveling to join ISIS, and from blocking them from returning back home.

But while Hollande strongly supported that resolution, French officials have shown how difficult it could be to enforce those measures.

On Tuesday—as Gourdel’s life hung in the balance—three French citizens known to have traveled to Syria boarded a flight from Turkey to Marseille without French officials’ knowledge, even though all three were well-known Islamic militants. One pilot in Turkey blocked the group from boarding his plane, fearing they were a potential threat to the flight. Turkish officials then put the three on a plane to Marseille. French officials, who had dispatched police to Paris’ Orly Airport to arrest the three, claim Turkey did not inform them of the change of destination until the group had disembarked in the southern French city and walked through passport control without notice. On Wednesday French Defense Minister Yves le Drian admitted in a radio interview that this week’s incident was “a huge foul-up” caused by muddled communications between Turkey and France.

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