September 29th, 2011
06:17 PM ET

A top U.S. Army officer in Iraq compares al Qaeda to a Mafia criminal gang

By CNN Sr. National Security Producer Charley Keyes

A senior American military officer in Iraq describes al Qaeda there as having deteriorated into a criminal gang, desperate for money and men.

"Instead of foreign aid coming in in large amounts, they're resorting to what I would call extortion, black marketing, robbery of jewelry stores, things like that," Maj. Gen. David Perkins said Thursday. "And it's devolving more into almost gang Mafia-type activities, especially in Mosul and some of these other areas with people slicing off areas of responsibility that they can use for extortion or something like that to get money."

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Iraq • Military
Defense Secretary applauds new cooperaton between the miitary and intelligence community
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Photo by: AFP/Getty Images
September 29th, 2011
03:20 PM ET

Defense Secretary applauds new cooperaton between the miitary and intelligence community

By CNN Sr. National Security Producer Charley Keyes

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, himself a symbol of close links between the military and intelligence agencies, Thursday praised the new collaboration as vital to national security in an very uncertain and dangerous world.

"History will look back on this moment and recognize that we have come together not only as an intelligence team but the military community and the intelligence community have now formed a strong partnership that is helping to protect this country in every way," Panetta said. He was visiting the Defense Intelligence Agency, celebrating its 50 years of service. Panetta jumped from CIA director to the Pentagon and General David Petraeus now holds the top CIA post.

"Your vital work, the work of DIA, makes our military vastly more effective and lethal," Panetta said at DIA headquarters.

U.S. ambassador safe after 'incident' in Syria
US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford Photo By: AFP/Getty Images
September 29th, 2011
01:00 PM ET

U.S. ambassador safe after 'incident' in Syria

By CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty

The U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, was safe Thursday after being attacked by a pro-government group, a U.S. government official told CNN.

"It was an attack by an armed mob and he is OK," said the official, who was not authorized to speak to the media and did not want to be named.

Ford, who has been outspoken against the Syrian government's use of violence against protesters, is seen by pro-government supporters as an activist more than a diplomat.

Ford sparked a diplomatic firestorm in July when he traveled to the restive city of Hama to express support for demonstrators. He was welcomed with flowers by local residents who had suffered a brutal crackdown by government forces. President Bashar al-Assad's government called the trip an attempt to foment dissent.

Since then, Ford has continued to be seen by some as serving as a traditional diplomat and more as a provocateur.

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Filed under: Arab Spring • Syria
September 29th, 2011
08:46 AM ET

Tattoo becomes reality (from Time's Battleland blog)

Tattoos are as old as war. Lots of soldiers get them, with military motifs, girlfriend's names, or various guns, skulls or dragons adorning their skin. Some get something less ornate. As Mark Thompson reports on Time's Battleland blog, when Private First Class Kyle Hockenberry had For those I love I will sacrifice stitched into his flesh he had no idea how prescient he was.

Read the story on Battleland


Filed under: Afghanistan • Military • Military life • Time's Battleland blog
September 29th, 2011
08:06 AM ET

Analysis: Model planes as weapons of terror

By Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister, CNN

The F-86 Sabre was a fighter jet that played a pivotal role in the Korean War. And it was a model of that plane – packed with high explosive – that Rezwan Ferdaus allegedly planned to use to launch his own war against iconic targets in Washington D.C.

Miniature versions of the plane – 5 feet 6 inches long – can easily be acquired for less than $200 from websites serving model plane enthusiasts.

"Provides authoritative rudder control so you can execute point rolls and knife-edge flight with precision," reads the promotion material for the model on one website.

According to the affidavit in the case against Ferdaus, one of these F-86 models was delivered in August to a storage facility in Framingham, Massachusetts that he had rented under a false name to build his attack planes and maintain all his equipment. FULL POST