Guess who is coming to the South Korea state dinner
October 13th, 2011
09:25 PM ET

Guess who is coming to the South Korea state dinner

By Jamie Crawford, CNN

The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed Sung Y. Kim to be the next U.S. ambassador to South Korea after a Republican senator lifted a hold on the nomination that had threatened to derail the effort.

A unanimous consent request by Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, to move the nomination forward was approved without objection. Kim's confirmation came minutes before South Korean President Lee Myung-bak was to address a joint meeting of Congress, and a few hours before President Barack Obama was set to host a state dinner at the White House in Lee's honor.

Senator Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, had placed a hold on the confirmation of Kim, a career diplomat who has served in Republican and Democratic administrations, over concerns about the direction of U.S. policy toward North Korea. In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton obtained by CNN, Kyl expressed "serious concern" about reports the United States may be considering a return to the Six-Party Talks with North and South Korea, Japan, China and Russia regarding the north's nuclear program.

The letter, which did not mention Kim by name, sought guarantees from Clinton that the United States would not engage in any more bilateral talks with North Korea, and asked for a written response explaining the administration's intentions towards Pyongyang.
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In rare admission, Air Force explains and downplays drone computer virus
The computers used at Creech AFB to control UAVs like the Predator (above) have been infected by a stubburn virus. (US Air Force Photo
October 13th, 2011
02:44 PM ET

In rare admission, Air Force explains and downplays drone computer virus

By CNN Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy

A virus that attacked computers controlling unmanned aircraft like the Predator and Reaper is a "nuisance," but is not as severe as media reports indicated, the Air Force said in a statement released Thursday.

The release comes just days after the Air Force refused to answer questions from CNN and other media outlets about the virus, saying, "We generally do not discuss specific vulnerabilities, threats, or responses to our computer networks."

But in an about-face from that policy, the service put out a news release spelling out the details of the computer virus that affected computers associated with its fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

Air Force space command said that the computers at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada that control UAVs like Predators and Reapers had been infected by malware, a type of computer bug that usually causes operating problems. The presence of the virus was first reported by Wired magazine, which described the malware as a "keylogger" program, but the Air Force statement said it was really a bug called a "credential stealer."
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Filed under: Afghanistan • Cybersecurity • drones • Security Brief
U.S. official say Iran sanctions are working
October 13th, 2011
02:04 PM ET

U.S. official say Iran sanctions are working

By CNN's Adam Levine

The United States will not reduce its efforts to isolate Iran through sanctions, administration officials told Congress on Thursday, and current efforts are paying off.

The top Treasury Department official dealing with terrorism and intelligence, appearing with counterparts from the departments of State and Commerce, told the Senate Banking committee that the ratcheting up of sanctions over the last year - including a host of new sanctions added this week after the revelation of an alleged Iran-backed assassination plot - is "putting increasing pressure on Iran."

"Our efforts are paying off. Iran is now facing unprecedented levels of financial and commercial isolation," said David Cohen, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the Treasury Department. "The number and quality of foreign banks willing to transact with designated Iranian financial institutions has dropped precipitously over the last year. Iran's shrinking access to financial services and trade finance has made it extremely difficult for Iran to pay for imports and receive payment for exports.  Iran's Central Bank has been unable to halt the steady erosion in the value of its currency."

The insistence comes as question arise about the tightness of current sanctions.

The U.S. will increase its focus on preventing Iran from evading sanctions and put pressure on the Central Bank of Iran, Cohen said, adding that further pressure on the bank could have a "potentially powerful impact on Iran." FULL POST

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Filed under: Diplomacy • Iran • Sanctions • State Department
Military turns to home hobbyists for drone's future
October 13th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Military turns to home hobbyists for drone's future

By CNN National Security Producer Jennifer Rizzo

The military's research branch is turning to the public for the next "big idea" on small drones.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, is hosting a competition called UAVForge, in which the public is invited to submit designs for small unmanned air vehicles.

An estimated 10,000 amateur drone hobbyists are in the United States, according to Wired Magazine's editor-in-chief and DIY Drones co-founder, Chris Anderson.

DARPA's tapping into that market, saying it is calling "on innovators of every kind; scientists, engineers, citizen scientists and dreamers," according to its website.
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Filed under: DARPA • drones • Military