Panetta: Medal of Honor recipient is more proof of benefit of special operations
Medal of Honor Receipient Sgt First Class Leroy Arthur Petry Photo by: CNN's Lesa Jensen
July 13th, 2011
07:22 PM ET

Panetta: Medal of Honor recipient is more proof of benefit of special operations

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta used a Pentagon ceremony for the new Medal of Honor recipient Wednesday to sing the praises of special operations forces.

President Barack Obama awarded the Medal Honor to Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry at the White House Tuesday, and he was added to the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon.

"A member of the U.S. Army's storied 75th Ranger Regiment, Sgt. Petry's actions speak to the extraordinary accomplishments of the special operations forces that have been at the center of the fight this past decade," Panetta told the Pentagon ceremony Wednesday.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Iraq • Military • Panetta • Secretary of Defense
July 13th, 2011
05:58 PM ET

Second diplomat from Myanmar defects in less than two weeks

For the second time in 10 days, a high-ranking diplomat from Myanmar - also known as Burma - has defected, and plans to seek asylum in the United States, a source in touch with the diplomat told CNN.

Aung Din of the U.S. Campaign for Burma told CNN that U Soe Aung, a first secretary at the embassy of Myanmar in Washington, defected on Wednesday after being summoned Tuesday by his government to return home with his family within 24 hours and report to the authorities. Aung Din said that the regime assigned another official, former Maj. Kyaw Tin Shein "to supervise his return."

The summons comes after the second-highest-ranking diplomat at the embassy of Myanmar in Washington defected last week and said he planned to seek asylum in the United States.

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July 13th, 2011
05:57 PM ET

U.S. airport security breached 25,000 times over 10 years

Airports across the United States have suffered about 25,000 security breaches since November 2001, according to a House committee, citing information it says it received from the Transportation Security Administration.
The breaches - amounting to about seven a day, or about five per year at every airport - include everything from people who accidentally leave a bag on a checkpoint conveyor belt to those who purposefully evade security and get onto airplanes without proper screening.
A TSA spokesman did not contest the figure, but questioned its significance, saying all breaches are investigated and resolved. The agency said it did not have a breakdown of breaches by severity.
With around 25,000 of these incidents over a decade at more than 450 TSA-regulated airports, this amounts to just over five such incidents per airport per year, according to the TSA.
The breaches include:
- 14,322 breaches into secure entries, passages or other means of access to the secure side of the airport.
- Approximately 6,000 breaches involving a TSA screener failing to screen a passenger or a passenger's carry-on property, or doing either improperly.
- 2,616 instances involving an individual getting past the checkpoint or exit lane without submitting to all screening and inspections. Some 1,388 of these have occurred at the perimeter areas of airports.
The information was released by the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on national security, homeland defense and foreign operations in advance of a hearing Wednesday on airport perimeter security.
TSA spokesman Nicholas Kimball said the figures represent a "tiny fraction of 1% percent of the more than 5.5 billion travelers at the more than 450 airports nationwide that we have screened effectively since 9/11."
"We take every security incident seriously and take appropriate action accordingly which is why TSA keeps close track of all 'breaches' - a very broadly defined set of accidental or purposeful security violations, including those where an individual is 'caught in the act' and immediately apprehended," Kimball said in a statement.


Filed under: Airport • Foreign Policy • Homeland Security
July 13th, 2011
04:55 PM ET

Afghanistan-Pakistan border a long-term challenge, general warns

A top official with coalition forces fighting in Afghanistan warned Wednesday that the lengthy border with Pakistan - an escape route for terrorists and a transit point for explosives - may never be plugged.

"These borders, with respect to the terrain, may never be fully controllable," German army Maj. Gen. Richard Rossmanith said Wednesday. He is deputy chief of staff for ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Pakistan • Terrorism
US closely monitoring attack in Mumbai
Aftermath of three coordinated blasts at the Opera House in the diamond district of Mumbai, India. Photo by: CNN
July 13th, 2011
04:28 PM ET

US closely monitoring attack in Mumbai

The United States is offering its “full support and assistance” to India in the aftermath of the triple bombing in Mumbai the State Department said Wednesday.

At the daily State Department briefing, Deputy spokesperson Mark Toner said Undersecretary for Political Affairs William Burns had spoken with Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao to offer the condolences of the American people and to offer support. There had not yet been an official request for assistance from the Indian government Toner added the United States was unaware of any American citizens having been injured or killed in the attack.

U.S. national security officials were closely monitoring the situation in Mumbai U.S. officials told CNN. One official said there are a number of potential suspects, but it is too early to tell who is behind the attacks.

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Filed under: Diplomacy • Intelligence • Pakistan • Terrorism
Pakistan's chief spy heads to Washington at time of strained relations
US Adm. Mike Mullen, US Rear Adm. Scott Van Buskirk, Pakistan Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, Lt Gen. Ahmad Shujaa Pasha photo by: US Defense Dept.
July 13th, 2011
02:50 PM ET

Pakistan's chief spy heads to Washington at time of strained relations

A U.S. official says Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shujaa Pasha, the head of Pakistan’s intelligence service ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), will be in Washington Wednesday night and Thursday for meetings which include a meeting with CIA Acting Director Michael Morell.

The official said the 24-hour visit is part of the “continuing dialogue” with Pakistan. “There is no one issue that sparked the visit, “said the official, who indicated there are plenty of issues on the table.

Separately, Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan says Pashsa is not meeting with Defense Secretary (and former CIA Director) Leon Panetta or anyone else at the Pentagon.

The visit comes at a time of increased tensions between the two nations this year.

The US recently announced it is withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in military aide following the Pakistani demand for the US to withdraw some of its military trainers from Pakistan.

Pakistan is still reeling from the US military assault in May on the compound housing Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad which led to the terrorist leaders death. The U.S. kept the Pakistanis in the dark about the operation. Some U.S. officials suspect elements of the ISI might have assisted Bin Laden.

Death of Ahmed Wali Karzai puts fresh attention on fragile country
July 13th, 2011
07:38 AM ET

Death of Ahmed Wali Karzai puts fresh attention on fragile country

He was a player. And the death of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half brother of the president of Afghanistan, is focusing fresh attention on a complicated life, and a fragile country.

Karzai, known by his initials, AWK, had the lineage of a spy-thriller hero. He was a canny politician and power-broker in Afghanistan. He reportedly has been on the CIA payroll - something he consistently denied. And he also had a personal feel for the U.S. and could talk about his time as a Chicago restaurateur, near Wrigley Field.

But most importantly as brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, AWK played an important role in keeping the Taliban at bay. FULL POST

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Karzai • Military