Maybe it was one of the worst kept secrets in Washington and Pakistan, but U.S. officials rarely admit publicly to the active use of drones to hunt down Al Qaeda and Taliban in Pakistan. One reason is out of deference to the Pakistan, whose government relents to the drone flights even while publicly condemning it because the Pakistani populace is so against the strikes.
That being said, the president on Monday casually revealed to his Google+ hangout that "a lot of these strikes have been in the FATA, and going after al Qaeda suspects who are up in very tough terrain on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. For us to be able to get them in another way would involve probably a lot more intrusive military actions than the one we're already engaging in." (FATA being the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan where Al Qaeda and many Taliban are ensconced).
From CNN's Larry Shaughnessy and Jennifer Rizzo
Six F-35 Joint Strike fighter jets have been grounded at Edwards Air Force Base in California after it was discovered that the underseat parachutes for pilots were improperly installed, according to a statement from the Joint Strike Fighter program office.
It's the latest issue for the F-35 program, which has gotten vocal support from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who said the Pentagon committed to the F-35 as the future fighter jet for the military.
The program has been beset by ballooning costs and various technical problems in testing. The latest issue - which is not affecting all F-35s in use by the military - involves parachutes that were inserted backwards under the seats of more than 15 planes that received newer ejection seats, the statement said.
In addition to the six grounded in California, the problem also was discovered in six F-35A and the three F-35B aircraft at Eglin Air Force base in Florida. Those aircraft however were only performing ground tests, which can continue.
Some F-35s still on the assembly line at Lockheed Martin's facility in Fort Worth, Texas, also are affected.
By Joe Sterling
Iraq and other "high-threat" areas such as Afghanistan are the focus of a U.S. State Department plan to use unarmed surveillance drones for the protection of American diplomatic facilities and personnel.
"The State Department has always used a wide variety of security tools and techniques and procedures to ensure the safety of our personnel and our facilities," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters. "We do have an unmanned aerial vehicle program."
The program is emerging about a month after U.S. troops departed Iraq and it's an example of the diplomatic corps moving into territory that was once the exclusive domain of American military and intelligence.
Recent political insecurity and an uptick in sectarian violence in Iraq are among the dangers facing personnel from the State Department, which has a huge presence in the country. FULL POST
By Jill Dougherty and Elise Labott
Three Americans, including International Republican Institute Egypt Country Director Sam LaHood, are taking refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo because they voiced concerns about their personal safety, U.S. government officials say.
"They came in and said they felt threatened; they were afraid for their lives," one official said, adding that the U.S. government doesn't believe they actually are in danger but has concerns about the fate of the groups' Egyptian staff members.
"We are not aware of - that they're in any danger," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday.
"We have - in our discussions with the SCAF, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces - we've made clear our concerns about this issue and our disappointment that these several citizens are not being allowed to depart Egypt in connection with the government's investigation into (non-governmental organizations)," Carney said. FULL POST
By Nasir Habib reporting from Islamabad
Pakistan has not yet decided on whether or not to try a Pakistani doctor for high treason for assisting the U.S. in gathering intelligence ahead of the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in May 2011 that resulted in his death, a senior Pakistani gov’t official tells CNN.
Dr. Shakeel Afridi helped the CIA use a vaccination campaign to collect DNA samples from residents of bin Laden's compound to verify the terror leader's presence there. Pakistan, which expressed its anger over the raid without consulting Pakistani authorities, has held Afridi in custody since May of 2011.
By Jamie Crawford
Guided by an army of "geeks with a conscience," a network of digital activists, working mostly in the shadows, is emerging to challenge the restrictions of repressive governments around the world.
Sascha Meinrath is part of that army.
Working with a team of tech experts inside a nondescript building in downtown Washington, Meinrath is developing new technologies that could one day be used to evade government censors and secret police. "You can imagine any of the world's hot spots, and we have been contacted by people there," he told CNN.
With governments in Iran, Syria, Cuba and elsewhere around the world trying to clamp down on freedom of expression both in public and online, the march is on to put a stop to it.
Since coming into office, the Obama administration has actively supported the construction of detours around Internet censors in repressive environments like Iran and Syria, thereby enabling activists to communicate with each other, and organize, without the threat of surveillance by the very governments they are trying to subvert.
By CNN's Pam Benson
When President Barack Obama told Americans last week that al Qaeda operatives in Yemen "are scrambling, knowing that they can't escape the reach of the United States of America," he may have been telling only half the story.
While al Qaeda's Yemen branch has been hit hard - most notably with the killing of American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki - U.S. officials and experts say there are signs that al Qaeda is making significant gains in Yemen as the government's control over outlying regions continues to fray amid political unrest.
Furthermore, they say, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) hasn't given up its goal of striking the United States, though there have been no attempted attacks on American soil by al Qaeda since 2010.
While the death of al-Awlaki by a CIA-operated drone in September eliminated AQAP's external operations commander and chief recruiter of English-speaking militants, key players remain at-large in Yemen. FULL POST