Myth-making of a new 'Dear Leader'
December 23rd, 2011
04:25 PM ET

Myth-making of a new 'Dear Leader'

By Charley Keyes

When in doubt or in times of national turmoil - or, frankly, most days - the editors of the official North Korean news outlet pour on the superlatives, trot out the adjectives and pump up the rhetoric.

"The land and sky of the country seem to bitterly cry," says one official news agency report about public mourning for Kim Jong Il.  "Can anyone believe this was a reality? How lamentable it is! Isn't it possible for the hearts of all Koreans to bring him back to life?" says Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA.

State media stories describe crowds overcome by grief and schoolchildren who "burst out sobbing before the portraits carrying his benevolent image that seems to be kindly calling them to come to him."

It's all part of governing by cult-of-personality. But between the lines, North Korea watchers are looking for indications of where the fallen leader's son and chosen successor, Kim Jong Un, now stands. The son remains a mystery both abroad and inside the country. FULL POST

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Filed under: Kim Jong Il • Kim Jong Un • North Korea
December 23rd, 2011
04:07 PM ET

U.S. to North Korea: We are waiting

By Elise Labott

In some ways, Kim Jong Il's death could not have come at a worse time for the United States.

Washington was seeing hopeful signs in a carefully orchestrated plan by the administration to engage the North Korean leadership.  A success in bringing North Korea back to talking about its nuclear program would have given President Obama another foreign policy success to tout as he seeks re-election.

The initial meetings between the two sides, one as recently as last week, were promising. In offering some new food assistance to Pyongyang, the United States was reasonably assured the North would suspend its uranium enrichment program and resume operations to recover the remains of American soldiers missing in action from the Korean War.

American officials were hopeful that these modest steps would lead to a resumption of the long-stalled Six Party Talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

But this potential rapprochement has come to a screeching halt, at least while the North Korean people are engaged in their prerequisite mourning for the Dear Leader, and likely beyond that as the new North Korean leadership sorts out its new hierarchy. FULL POST

U.S. considering buying up loose Libyan weapons
This empty shipping case found in a Libya weapons warehouse once held a Russian surface-to-air missile
December 23rd, 2011
03:43 PM ET

U.S. considering buying up loose Libyan weapons

By Elise Labott

As part of a multinational effort to secure loose, portable weapons in Libya, the United States is discussing with the Libyan government a possible program to purchase shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles from militia members and others who picked them up during the NATO-led war against Col. Moammar Ghadafi's forces, U.S. officials said. (See also the U.S. field guide to MANPADS)

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said he couldn't get into the specifics of a classified program, but said the United States was trying to figure out the "most productive and efficient" way to destroy the roughly 20,000 portable air-defense systems, known as MANPADS, and was considering a "variety of different programs and methods" to do so.

The New York Times first reported on the negotiations.

Fearful the weapons could pose a serious potential threat to global aviation if they fell into the hands of terrorists or insurgents, the Obama administration has been working with the transitional government in Libya to take as many weapons out of the hands of the various militia groups as possible to avoid their sale on the black market.

State Department experts are on the ground working with the Libyan government. Also, about a dozen U.S. technical specialists have fanned across the country, inspecting former weapons sites and and trying to track down loose weapons. FULL POST

Panetta readies military's future
December 23rd, 2011
11:48 AM ET

Panetta readies military's future

By Barbara Starr

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is days away from unveiling the long awaited strategic review of the future of military forces, its global role and missions in early January, a senior Pentagon official tells CNN.  The strategy is expected to be the fundamental blueprint for the future of the US military over the next decade.

The so-called “comprehensive strategic review” is nearly done and scheduled to be made public by Panetta according to the official with direct knowledge of the review. He declined to be identified until the review is made public.

The review, which was ordered by the previous defense secretary, Robert Gates, will provide a policy road map for the military and become a guide for where the planned more than $450 billion in budget cuts could be made, the official said.

“This will review the kinds of capabilities the military needs going forward,” he said. “It’s going to provide the overarching strategic guidance.”

The report will review current military missions and capabilities and recommend on a broad level which ones should continue, which can be discontinued, and where new areas of military emphasis may be undertaken. It comes against as the Pentagon increasingly emphasizes 21st century capabilities like cyber-warfare  and decreases emphasis on more traditional large scale land warfare. FULL POST

Gender identity, Assange and the case against Bradley Manning
December 23rd, 2011
10:14 AM ET

Gender identity, Assange and the case against Bradley Manning

By Larry Shaughnessy

Pfc. Bradley Manning won't know for weeks if he will face a court martial for his alleged role in the largest intelligence leak in American history.  If he does go to trial, and experts think it's likely he will, his just-completed Article 32 hearing provides a lot of clues about what to expect.

An Article 32 is the military justice system's rough equivalent of a grand jury hearing, only it's conducted in the open and the defense is allowed to cross-examine witnesses and even present their own witnesses and evidence.

Manning, who served as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, faces 22 charges in connection to the leak of nearly 750,000 U.S. military and State Department documents. Most of them ended up on the WikiLeaks website and much of the week-long hearing focused on those documents and Manning's connection to WikiLeaks. (Read also: Bradley Manning and the need to share)

"This appears to have been the first time any evidence has been publicly presented that directly links Pfc. Manning to Wikileak's founder Julian Assange," said Mark Zaid, an attorney who specializes in national security matters. "Is this proceeding a prelude to a future prosecution of Mr. Assange?" (Read also: Did WikiLeaks pay for the documents?)

Perhaps the most revealing evidence presented by the government is a series of internet chats that the prosecution said were between Manning and Assange. (Read also: WikiLeaks founder keeps tabs on hearing) FULL POST

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Filed under: Bradley Manning • WikiLeaks