February 2nd, 2012
06:29 PM ET

Panetta believes Israel could strike Iran this spring

By Barbara Starr

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has come to the conclusion there is a growing likelihood Israel could attack Iran sometime this spring in an effort to destroy its suspected nuclear weapons program, according to a senior administration official.

The official declined to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the information.

Panetta's views were first reported by the Washington Post's David Ignatius, who wrote Panetta "believes there is strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June - before Iran enters what Israelis described as a 'zone of immunity' to commence building a nuclear bomb."

Asked by reporters in Brussels, where Panetta is attending NATO meetings, the defense secretary refused to comment. But Panetta told reporters the U.S. has "indicated our concerns" to Israel, according to a transcript provided by the Defense Department.

But the official also noted that Israel goes through cycles of making aggressive statements about its intentions toward Iran in an effort to pressure the United States and the West to take more action.

Iran's supreme leader issued a blunt warning Friday that war would be detrimental to the United States - and that Iran is ready to help anyone who confronts "cancerous" Israel.

"You see every now and then in this way they say that all options are on the table. That means even the option of war," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said during Friday prayers in Tehran. "This is how they make these threats against us.
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Filed under: Iran • Israel • Panetta • Panetta • Pentagon
21,000 people now on U.S. no fly list
Airport security screening
February 2nd, 2012
06:28 PM ET

21,000 people now on U.S. no fly list

By Carol Cratty

The U.S. government's list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to the United States or within its borders has more than doubled over the past year, a counterterrorism official told CNN Thursday.

The "no fly" list produced by the FBI now has approximately 21,000 names on it, according to the official, who has knowledge of the government's figures. One year ago about 10,000 individuals were on it.

Only about 500 people currently on the no-fly list are Americans, the official said.

The dramatic jump in the numbers resulted from reforms made after a Nigerian man with explosives in his underwear was able to get on an international flight bound for Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. It was later learned the father of Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab had gone to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria prior to Christmas to raise concern about his son, but that did not result in his going on the no-fly roster.

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Filed under: Airport • Anwar al-Awlaki • FBI • Nigeria • Terrorism • Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab • Yemen
Kazakhstan a model for Iran?
Kazakhstan's foreign minister, Yerzhan Kazykhanov, says his country has no regrets giving up its nuclear weapons.
February 2nd, 2012
05:38 PM ET

Kazakhstan a model for Iran?

By Jill Dougherty

No matter what the international community may think, Iran and North Korea are adamant about their right to a nuclear program. But one country that used to have the fourth-largest inventory of nuclear weapons in the world decided to give them up, and says it has no regrets.

Kazakhstan was a republic in the old Soviet Union. After the USSR fell apart in 1991 its president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, transferred all nuclear weapons to Russia and closed the country's nuclear testing sites.

Last September at the United Nations, he urged all countries to sign a declaration for a nuclear-free world.

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Filed under: Nuclear • Russia
February 2nd, 2012
04:23 PM ET

Catastrophic cyberattack looms

By Pam Benson

The United States will soon suffer a catastrophic cyberattack if it doesn't act now to prevent it, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee warned Thursday.

"The clock is ticking and winding down," Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, said at a hearing on the security threats facing the United States.

Speaking to the nation's top intelligence officials, Rogers said that, "given classified briefings that we've had, discussions with all of you and your counterparts ... that a cyberattack is on its way. We will suffer a catastrophic cyberattack."

The committee's top Democrat, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, said foreign governments - in particular China and Russia - steal American intellectual property to gain a competitive edge.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper accused China of "the greatest pillaging of wealth in history, if you tote up the value of the intellectual property that has been stolen."

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Central Intelligence Agency • CIA • Clapper • Congress • Cybersecurity • Detainees • Intelligence • ODNI • Panetta • Panetta • Petraeus • Petraeus • Sanctions • Security Brief • Terrorism
February 2nd, 2012
10:59 AM ET

Reality behind the changing Afghan mission

By Nic Robertson

While there are undoubtedly strong political (and financial) reasons for U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to set a firmer timetable for a change in mission of US forces in Afghanistan, they are probably not the whole story behind NATO’s evolving “end-game.”

French President Nicholas Sarkozy has already announced that his country's 3,600 troops deployed in Afghanistan will leave by the end of 2013 - a year early. That may have something to do with the fact that he is trailing badly in the polls ahead of presidential elections in April. But he is not alone. In Washington, London and Paris, Afghanistan is an unpopular war.

Panetta's suggestion that Afghan security forces can be capped now at just over 300,000 rather than the 350,000 target originally set is another indication of the prevailing mood. Money and popular support for the Afghan mission are in short supply. There's also an air of exasperation with Afghan President Hamid Karzai creeping in.

Sarkozy expressed it when he announced his sudden decision to get French troops out early - following the killing by an Afghan soldier of four French servicemen two weeks ago. The United States, too, has plenty of frustrations with Karzai, not least his recent attempts to stifle Washington's efforts to engage the Taliban in talks.
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Filed under: Afghanistan • Analysis • Diplomacy • ISAF • Kabul • Karzai • Military • NATO • Panetta • Taliban
February 2nd, 2012
10:28 AM ET

Intel chair warns of catastrophic cyber attack

By Pam Benson

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Michigan,  said a cyber attack is on its way and that the U.S. will suffer a catastrophic cyber attack.

At a hearing on the security threats facing the U.S., Rogers said the clock is ticking and it was time for Congress to act and pass cyber
security legislation.

On Wednesday night, top officials from the White House, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense and intelligence agencies held a classified briefing with senators to discuss U.S. efforts to defend against cyber attacks. See our reporting on that meeting here.

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Filed under: Cybersecurity
GOP seeking alternatives to military cuts
February 2nd, 2012
10:09 AM ET

GOP seeking alternatives to military cuts

By Kate Bolduan

Top Senate Republicans are proposing eliminating part of the across-the-board and painful budget cuts required after the so-called super committee failed in November, according to two Senate Republican aides.

The Republicans instead want to achieve the required savings through extending a freeze on federal worker pay and cutting back the federal workforce through attrition, the aides said. Federal agencies would only be allowed to hire two people for every three retiring or leaving government employment.

The plan is backed by GOP Senators John McCain, Jon Kyl, Lindsay Graham and Kelly Ayotte.

The measures would cut $127 billion from the federal budget, effectively replacing the first year of savings that are scheduled to begin in 2013 and would hit most elements of the federal budget, including deep cuts to defense.
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Filed under: Congress • Military
February 2nd, 2012
09:28 AM ET

Israel: Iran developing long-range missiles

By Kevin Flower

Iran is developing a missile capable of delivering payloads up to 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) away, Israel's vice prime minister charged Thursday.

Speaking to Israel's annual Herzliya national security conference, Moshe Ya'alon, who also serves as Israel's minister for strategic affairs, suggested that an Iranian military compound that mysteriously blew up late last year was developing a long-range missile capable of hitting the United States.

Ya'alon said the project was "aimed at America, not us" and said it served as further argument that Iran posed a "military problem" that needed to be stopped.

"Such a non-conventional regime should not have such non-conventional capabilities," he added.
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Filed under: Iran
February 2nd, 2012
03:06 AM ET

Secret cyber meeting of top intel officials

By Suzanne Kelly

The guest list was impressive: assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan; Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; Deputy Director of National Intelligence Stephanie O’Sullivan; Director of the National Security Agency Keith Alexander; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey …

In all, 12 of the administration’s top officials met with senators in a classified meeting organized by the majority leader’s office late Wednesday afternoon to discuss the battle that has been raging in cyber space.

“There is an arms race in cyber space,” said Sen. Mark Udall, (D- Colorado). “It’s interesting two of the areas where we have seen the most advances and where our quality of life has really improved because of these advances, but we’re mostly vulnerable, are inter space which is cyberspace and outer space, which is where our satellites orbit the earth. They’re linked but they’re both opened to real threats going forward. We have the tools, the technology, if we have the willpower to meet those threats.”

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Filed under: Security Brief
US encouraged to up the military ante against Iran
The USS Abraham Lincoln conducts operations in the Persian Gulf
February 2nd, 2012
01:16 AM ET

US encouraged to up the military ante against Iran

By Pam Benson

The chairman of the House intelligence committee tells CNN the U.S. military needs to do more to "scare" Iran away from pursuing nuclear weapons.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, made the comment in response to a question about a new report by the Bipartisan Policy Center that says the United States must put more teeth into its threat to use military power to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions.

In an interview with CNN, Rogers said more needs to be done: "I'm not saying we ought to bomb Iran, but you almost have to scare them, you have to frighten them to get to the right place."

The report from the Washington think tank recommended the United States should undertake visible, credible military preparations to go along with more intense sanctions and diplomatic efforts. The military activities could include naval deployments, military exercises and pre-positioning supplies in the region.

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Filed under: Congress • Iran • Military • Nuclear • weapons