Editor's note: Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst and the author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden From 9/11 to Abbottabad," from which this essay is adapted.
By Peter Bergen
There is no better way for historians to assess Osama bin Laden's thinking and the real state of al Qaeda as it was understood by its leaders in the years after 9/11 than the "treasure trove" of more than 6,000 documents that were recovered by the U.S. Navy SEALs who raided bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a year ago.
In those documents we hear bin Laden speak in his own voice, unaware, of course, that one day his most private musings would end up in the hands of the CIA.
The documents paint a portrait of a man who was simultaneously an inveterate micromanager but was also someone almost delusional in his belief that his organization could still force a change in American foreign policies in the Muslim world if only he could get another big attack organized inside the United States - something some of his subordinates were quite skeptical about given al Qaeda's diminished capabilities.
By Barbara Starr
The U.S. Southern Command expects to finish questioning early this week 12 military members suspected of potential misconduct in Cartagena, Colombia during President Barack Obama's recent visit there, a Defense Department official said Monday.
The investigating officer conducting those interviews will then forward his report, along with recommendations, to military lawyers for review, and then to Gen. Douglas Fraser, commanding general of the U.S. Southern Command.
Hundreds of documents were discovered by German cryptologists embedded inside a pornographic movie on a memory disk belonging to a suspected al Qaeda operative arrested in Berlin last year. Details of the documents were obtained by CNN and reveal an inside track on some of the terror group's most audacious plots and a road map for future operations.
Future plots include the idea of seizing cruise ships and carrying out attacks in Europe similar to the gun attacks by Pakistani militants that paralyzed the Indian city of Mumbai in November 2008. Ten gunmen killed 164 people in that three-day rampage. Read the full story FULL POST
By Suzanne Kelly
The Obama administration publicly justified its use of unmanned drones to target suspected terrorists overseas for the first time Monday, with a top official saying the strikes are conducted "in full accordance with the law."
John Brennan, President Barack Obama's top counter-terrorism adviser said strikes are used when the option of capture is not feasible. Brennan discussed the strikes during a Monday address at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington think-tank.
"President Obama said here five years ago, if another nation cannot or will not take action, we will," Brennan said. "And it is an unfortunate fact that to save many innocent lives we are sometimes obliged to take lives - the lives of terrorists who seek to murder our fellow citizens."
The program utilizes unmanned aerial vehicles, often equipped with Hellfire missiles, to target al Qaeda operatives in remote locations overseas - often on the territory of U.S. allies such as Pakistan and Yemen. Brennan said the United States "respects national sovereignty and international law" and is guided by the laws of war in ordering those attacks.
By CNN Wire Staff
As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepared to depart Monday night for China, President Barack Obama was tight-lipped about the whereabouts of escaped Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng and his potential impact on the discussions to be held this week in Beijing.
"Obviously, I'm aware of the press reports on the situation in China, but I'm not going to make a statement on the issue," Obama said in response to a question about whether Chen was under U.S. protection and whether the United States would grant him asylum if he were to ask for it.
"What I would like to emphasize is that every time we meet with China, the issue of human rights comes up," Obama said during a joint news conference with Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda at the White House.
"It is our belief that not only is that the right thing to do, because it comports with our principles and our belief in freedom and human rights, but also because we actually think China will be strong as it opens up and liberalizes its own system."
by Suzanne Kelly and Pam Benson
Editor's note: In the Security Clearance "Case File" series, CNN national security producers profile key members of the intelligence community. As part of the series, Security Clearance is focusing on the roles women play in the U.S. intelligence community
It's true: one of the most powerful players in the world of U.S. espionage and intelligence wears ruby red nail polish.
In her role as chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California is the gatekeeper for the country’s most sensitive intelligence agencies. She is regularly briefed on evolving national security threats and keeps her ruby red-topped finger on the pulse of the most secret of missions. She’s blunt, direct, stubborn, and not afraid to admit it.
Since taking the gavel of the intelligence committee, Feinstein has added her own touches, among them changing the way some classified briefings are held.
“Typically, the sessions were pretty formal, much like the style of public hearings,” said a committee staffer who asked not to be named. Before Feinstein, members of the committee would sit in a briefing room, the witnesses at a separate table before them, and each member would wait his or her turn to pose questions to the witness. Now, once a month, “they all sit together at a round table, usually a few dozen doughnuts are brought in, and they have a discussion,” says the staffer. “There are no opening statements or written statement for the record, no rounds of questioning. Members just ask questions as they see fit.”
The sessions may be informal, but Feinstein remains on a mission of her own when it comes to her responsibility as chairwoman, a responsibility that she says is a key reason why she remains in the Senate.
“It is congressional oversight of intelligence. It is very important,” said Feinstein, who agreed to a rare interview to discuss the role she plays in the country’s intelligence structure. “We have the ability to stop something if we want to stop it. And we have the ability to watch things very carefully, as closely as we want to watch or can watch.” FULL POST
By Pam Benson, CNN
No one is writing al Qaeda's obituary yet. But one year after its leader Osama bin Laden was shot dead by U.S. commandos, U.S. officials and experts say the terror network's core group holed up in Pakistan is hemorrhaging and could be in its final days.
CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen, for one, maintains that al Qaeda - at least its components based in south central Asia - is in terrible shape.
"Their record of failure speaks for itself: No success in the west since the London attacks of 2005, no attacks in the United States since 9/11 (2001), almost the entire top leadership dead or captured," said Bergen.
Adds Robert Grenier, the former head of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, "The movement has essentially been marginalized."
And a senior U.S. official describes al Qaeda as "largely in survival mode, putting most of its energy into coping with the losses and changes of the last year with a disjointed focus on global jihad."
Ayman al-Zawahiri replaced bin Laden at the helm, but by most all accounts he is a shadow of the cult-like figure of bin Laden.
By Jill Dougherty
In diplomacy, "fail" is a strong word. So when State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland uses it, attention must be paid.
Nuland was asked Friday whether it's the administration's official stance that U.N./Arab League special representative Kofi Annan's six-point diplomatic plan for Syria is failing; two senior administration officials said just that at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this week.
"Well, obviously, we can all see that it is the Assad regime that is failing to meet its obligations under the six-point plan," Nuland replied. "And as a result, the plan as a whole is failing thus far."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says violence in Syria is escalating, and he is "greatly alarmed." It includes shelling in residential areas, he says, "in contravention of what the Syrian government has promised. This is totally unacceptable."
By Elise Labott and Guy Azriel
If you've always wanted to travel through the buzzing streets of Tel Aviv, the cobblestone alleys and sacred sites in the old city of Jerusalem or view the extraordinary Baha'I gardens in Haifa, you can now do all of the above free of charge and without leaving your doorstep.
This week, Israel joined Google's ambitious street view service, offering computer users from all over the world a true-life experience of walking through several main cities in this Middle Eastern state.
"We have a lot of religious and cultural sites that speak to many faiths, like the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre , the Via Dolorosa and the Muslim quarter in the old city of Jerusalem" says Meir Brand, managing director of Google Israel. "These sites are precious and they have an emotional impact for billions of people all over the world. Many of those people don't have access or didn't have the chance to come and visit Israel. Our hope is that they see these treasures, the beauty of these, and that after they see and browse virtually from their pc or from their mobile, they are going to fall in love with the country and also come and visit".
By Larry Shaughnessy
The hammer of the U.S. Navy came down on a group of drug smugglers off the coast of Panama when sailors teamed up with other U.S. law enforcement agencies to seize nearly 5,000 pounds of cocaine, worth about $360 million.
Last Friday’s seizure was part of Operation Martillo,which is Spanish for hammer.
According to a U.S. Southern Command news release, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection plane spotted two “fast boats” off the coast of Panama filled with bales assumed to be drugs. The plane radioed the USS Elrod, a Navy frigate on station nearby. The Elrod sent a Sea Hawk helicopter to chase the boats.
With the helicopter, a U.S. navy frigate and Panamanian authorities on their tails, the people in the boats threw the drugs overboard and made a run for it.