U.S. supports plan to relocate terror group
Banners against the Iranian regime are seen at Camp Ashraf as Iraqi special security forces stand guard outside the camp.
December 19th, 2011
09:52 PM ET

U.S. supports plan to relocate terror group

By Jamie Crawford

The Obama administration "welcomes" a United Nations-led effort in Iraq to relocate a group on the State Department terrorism list, before an end-of-the-year deadline that could see heavy violence and a large humanitarian disaster unfold, senior administration officials said Monday.

The Iraqi government has said it will close Camp Ashraf - the home of the Iranian opposition group Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK - by December 31, without offering clear assurances the refugees will be protected against attacks by Iraqi forces, or reprisals from neighboring Iran. MEK has been on the U.S. terrorism list since 1997 because of the killing of six Americans in Iran in the 1970s, and an attempted attack against the Iranian mission to the United Nations in 1992.

The administration is supporting a plan led by Ambassador Martin Kobler, the U.N. special representative to Iraq, that would allow for a peaceful transfer of the approximately 3,400 residents of Camp Ashraf to a new facility in Iraq, one official said. The plan would also work to repatriate MEK members to Iran who go "voluntarily," or resettle to third countries under the auspices of the U.N., the official said.
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Filed under: Iran • Iraq • State Department • Terrorism
U.S. officials puzzling over North Korean leadership
December 19th, 2011
04:25 PM ET

U.S. officials puzzling over North Korean leadership

By Pam Benson

The U.S. is trying to get a better read on the still mysterious successor to North Korean leadership, American officials tell CNN.  How Kim Jong Un will take over and act when he replaces his father remains to be seen. (Read about the next generation of Kims here)

"We’ve done, a significant amount of work to try understand" Kim Jong Un, said Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Monday.  "I would only say at this point that he is young to be placed in this position and we’ll have to see whether in fact it is him and how he reacts to the burden of governance that he hasn’t had to deal with before.” (See more on Dempsey's comments here)

A U.S. official said it's really not clear how the succession in North Korea might go. (Read about questions regarding North Korea's ruling class here)

"A lot depends on whether the power centers of the regime coalesce around Kim Jong Un, or see this period of uncertainty as an opportunity to change the balance of power internally.  Those are very tricky calculations to make in an authoritarian society like North Korea," the official said.

The official described Kim Jong Un as having very similar mannerisms and personality as his father.  The younger Kim's role "has been steadily expanded to build his credentials," noting that Kim Jong Un had been made a general, had military orders issued in his name and has made joint appearances with his father at high-level events. (Read more about the change in Korean leadership here) FULL POST


Filed under: Kim Jong Il • Kim Jong Un • North Korea
U.S.: 'No firm evidence' loose weapons have left Libya
Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro (left) watches MANPAD missiles being detonated during his visit to Libya last week. AFP/Getty Images
December 19th, 2011
04:19 PM ET

U.S.: 'No firm evidence' loose weapons have left Libya

By Jamie Crawford

The effort to secure loose, portable weapons in Libya continues, but there is "no firm evidence" that any weapons have traveled outside Libyan borders, a senior State Department official said Monday.

"We are continuing our efforts to categorize and assess how many weapons are still at large," said Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary for political-military affairs. Shapiro was speaking at an event to highlight a report about U.S. efforts to rid the world of land mines and excess arms and munitions.

At issue is the ongoing effort in Libya to secure the roughly 20,000 portable air-defense systems (MANPADS), shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles that were believed to have been held by the regime of the late Moammar Gadhafi. There is a fear the weapons could pose a serious potential threat to global aviation if they fell into the hands of terrorists or insurgents.
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Filed under: Clinton • Gadhafi • Libya • State Department • weapons
Pentagon Papers leaker tries to talk with accused Wiki-leaker
December 19th, 2011
03:01 PM ET

Pentagon Papers leaker tries to talk with accused Wiki-leaker

By Charley Keyes reporting from the Manning hearing at Ft. Meade

Longtime activists Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked top-secret Vietnam War documents, was rushed out of a military hearing Monday morning after he tried to speak to PFC Bradley Manning.

At a break in the proceedings, Ellsberg stood up and walked toward the front of the section for spectator sitting and leaned over to talk to Manning at the defense table.

Military police moved in quickly and grabbed Ellsberg by the arms and walked him out outside..

Ellsberg was later allowed to return after he told security officials he was unfamiliar with the courtroom rules that prohibit contact with the defendant.

Manning is facing a military Article 32 hearing, which like a civilian grand jury hearing, will determine if he goes to court martial on 22 charges against him. Manning is accused of stealing and leaking State and Defense Department secrets that were later published online by

WikiLeaks while he was serving as an intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2009 and 2010. FULL POST

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Filed under: Bradley Manning • WikiLeaks
North Korea-U.S. deal for food aid was in the works
North Korean soldiers at the border with South Korea on December 2
December 19th, 2011
12:42 PM ET

North Korea-U.S. deal for food aid was in the works

By Elise Labott

A possible exchange of U.S. nutritional aid to North Korea for a halt to Pyongyang's uranium enrichment program has stalled with the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, U.S. and South Korean officials said Monday.

The prospective deal was expected to lead to the resumption of six-party disarmament talks, after which North Korea would have expected a larger amount of food aid, the officials told CNN. The announcement had been slated for this week, they said.

In addition to halting its production of enriched uranium, which can be used to build nuclear weapons, North Korea also would have let inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency return, they said.

But with the news that Kim had died of a heart attack over the weekend, the announcement has been delayed, the officials said. The Obama administration now believes that the ball is in the North Koreans' court, and they will need to signal whether they're still interested, the officials say.

The State Department spokeswoman said officials were supposed to meet at the State Department on Monday about this potential deal, but with the death of Kim Jong Il, those discussions have not happened. FULL POST

December 19th, 2011
12:14 PM ET

North Korea a bigger threat after leader's death?

CNN's Chris Lawrence reports on whether the death of Kim Jong Il could make North Korea a bigger military threat.

Alleged Wiki-leaker day 4: TWink1492!!
December 19th, 2011
10:55 AM ET

Alleged Wiki-leaker day 4: TWink1492!!

By Larry Shaughnessy covering the hearing in Ft. Meade, MD

4:40p update
Testimony Monday afternoon at Ft Mead, MD established links between PFC Bradley Manning and the stolen State Department cables released on WikiLeaks and the site’s founder Julian Assange.

The testimony came from two cyber crime investigators who examined the computers Manning used in Iraq and some computer material found at his aunt’s home in Potomac, MD, where he stayed when not deployed.

Spec. Agent David Shaver testified about a memory card seized during a search last December of Manning’s aunt’s home in Potomac.  Manning, who was estranged from his father, listed the aunt’s home as his home in Army records and stayed there around the time he began his army career.

Shaver found five files on the card. Four of the files had been deleted by the user, but the files were recovered during the investigation.  One of the reasons it was possible for investigators to find files on computers, hard drives and the memory card is that Manning frequently used the exact same password for various devices, TWink1492!!

One file on the SD card contained 91,000 DoD reports of day-to-day actions in Afghanistan, from major battles to meetings between troops and tribal leaders.  A second file on that card contained more than 400,000 similar reports from Iraq. FULL POST

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Filed under: Bradley Manning • WikiLeaks
December 19th, 2011
09:47 AM ET

FIRST ON CNN: U.S. seeing no unexpected moves by North Korea

By Barbara Starr reporting from Ramstein Air Base in Germany and Chris Lawrence at the Pentago

The United States has seen no unexpected moves by the North Korean military since the announcement of Kim Jong Il's death, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday.

Gen. Martin Dempsey said the United States is remaining "vigilant" in the wake of the death of the North Korean leader.

In the first extended on the record comments from a senior U.S. official, Dempsey told a small group of reporters he was awakened overnight to receive the news and immediately joined in an inter-agency phone call of high levels officials to discuss the situation.

Dempsey said he was informed "in the middle of the night" and the military held an overnight call that centered around identifying the key military and intelligence indicators that the U.S. would keep watch on in the coming days for any early warning of instability in the regime.  Though Kim died on Saturday, U.S. officials only learned of his death from North Korean television on Sunday night, administration officials tell CNN.

"The chain of command military and civilian very quickly coalesced around the fact that Kim Jon Jil had died," Dempsey said. "We quickly established a network of leaders to discuss this issue and to determine what we could do to contribute to understanding what might happen next."

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke with his South Korean counterpart Kim Kwan-Jin, the Republic of Korea’s Minister for National Defense, on Monday morning, Pentagon spokesman George Little said.  The call lasted 15 minutes FULL POST

December 19th, 2011
09:14 AM ET

The gamer, the playboy and the young master: the next generation of Kims

By Tim Lister

For almost a decade, scholars, diplomats and politicians have peered inside the Hermit Kingdom to play the "succession game."  Dozens of U.S. diplomatic cables reveal a heated debate about the Kim dynasty, the rival claims of Kim Jong Il's sons, and whether any of them could consolidate power after their father's death.

Back in 2006, one Chinese expert observed that Kim Jong Il's oldest son, Kim Jong-nam, was "too much of a playboy" to be seriously considered, son #2 Kim Jong-chol was "more interested in video games" than governing, and Kim Jong-un (then just 23) was simply too young.

Anxious about his own authority, Kim Jong Il took only tentative steps to organize a succession. Kim Jong-un gradually emerged as the favored son, but the cables show many analysts expect a collective leadership heavily reliant on the military to emerge after Kim Jong Il's death - with Kim Jong-un only a figurehead.

A CNN analysis of more than 50 U.S. diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks shows a highly secretive and unpredictable succession process playing out. A Chinese scholar with high-level contacts in Beijing and Pyongyang acknowledged in 2009 that "no-one except Kim (Jong-il) himself knows who would succeed him." FULL POST

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Filed under: Diplomacy • North Korea • State Department • WikiLeaks
Wiki-leaker trial: the weekend developments
December 19th, 2011
04:00 AM ET

Wiki-leaker trial: the weekend developments

A quick catch-up on some of the stunning revelations from PFC Bradley Manning's Article 32 hearing.

The first official WikiLeaks connection

For all the talk about Manning and WikiLeaks, the U.S. government had never officially said it was Manning who leaked the thousands of documents that the muckraker website posted. Until now. As Charley Keyes reported Sunday, an Army computer investigator testified that a search of Army computers used by Private First Class Bradley Manning in Iraq revealed that he had downloaded the same secret documents and videos that were released online by WikiLeaks.

This was the first evidence of a connection of Manning to WikiLeaks brought out in his preliminary military hearing. Shaver said a forensic analysis of Manning’s computers showed Manning had searched for information about WikiLeaks more than 100 times, as well as information about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

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