The very model of a successful bin Laden raid
May 16th, 2012
06:03 PM ET

The very model of a successful bin Laden raid

By Mike Mount

Inside the Pentagon there are historical displays for almost everything the military has done dating back to this country's Revolutionary War. There are also models of all kinds: planes, trucks, missiles, ships and submarines.

On Wednesday an unassuming display popped up in one of hallways with little fanfare. At first there was passing interest, but as word spread more and more people started to gather around, asking questions and taking pictures.

The Styrofoam-and-acrylic model turned out to be a bit of new Pentagon history - it shows Osama bin Laden's walled compound and surrounding farmland.

Designed and built to be used in the planning for the May 2011 raid that killed the al Qaeda leader, the model also was taken to the White House to brief President Obama on plans for the raid.

It was built over a six-week period in the months before the raid and has sat on display in the lobby of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, just a few miles from the Pentagon and White House.

Until last week, the model was considered classified and only those working or visiting the building could see it.
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Filed under: 1 Year After Bin Laden's Death • Al Qaeda • Intelligence • Military • Navy SEALs • NGA • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Terrorism
Former Yemeni leader thought to be target of Obama action
Ali Abdullah Saleh (R) addresses a ceremony handing powers over to now President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi (L) in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, on February 27, 2012.
May 16th, 2012
05:31 PM ET

Former Yemeni leader thought to be target of Obama action

By Jill Dougherty

The Obama administration Wednesday fired a major shot across the bow of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, his family and cronies, warning them not to interfere with the transition agreement that helped remove Saleh from office.

President Barack Obama issued an executive order targeting "those who threaten the peace, security, or stability of Yemen," including by obstructing implementation of the transition agreement.

The new order allows the Treasury Department to freeze U.S.-based assets of anyone who might subsequently be listed under the order. While no specific entity was named, it is widely believed to be aimed at the former president's circle.

At the State Department, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland refused to cite Saleh by name but said the order was "definitely" meant to "send a message to those who are trying to block transition that we have this tool to use against them, and that they should think again about the policies that they are pursuing."
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Syria: the elephant in the room amid military exercise in Jordan
May 16th, 2012
02:57 PM ET

Syria: the elephant in the room amid military exercise in Jordan

Editor's Note:  Barbara Starr is in Jordan covering the Eager Lion 2012 exercise.  Read her reporting here.  Watch her reports on Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer (4pET-6pET).

By Barbara Starr

With a photo of a raging lion over their shoulders, senior U.S. and Jordanian generals opened a massive military exercise dubbed "Eager Lion."

The kickoff came with adamant statements that the 12,000 troops from 19 countries now in Jordan were here only for the training - and it all has nothing to do with the violence now raging across Jordan's northern border inside Syria.

Recommended: U.S. in waiting game on Syria

But it is hard to avoid. Even the exercise name has raised suspicions. In Arabic, the word for lion is asad.

But the name has nothing to do with the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, say Maj. Gen. Awni Ad Adwan, head of Jordanian military operations and training, and Maj. Gen. Kenneth Tovo, head of U.S. Central Command's special operations force.

Technically, everyone is correct. The name of the exercise was chosen two years ago, the timing of it set nearly three years ago. Officially, the exercise is about 19 nations training together and, as with all U.S. military training exercises, the threat the troops are practicing to fend off is unnamed.

But there is the technical answer and then there is reality. Syria looms large here.
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Filed under: Assad • Eager Lion 2012 • Jordan • Military • Syria
May 16th, 2012
02:03 PM ET

How do you fire a spy?

Suzanne Kelly goes on the set of the hit series ‘Burn Notice’ in Miami to find out whether a spy can really be ‘burned’. Jeffrey Donovan plays Michael Westin, a CIA spy who has been fired, burned, black-listed and is tying to find a new life relying on his old skills. Suzanne brings in a former covert officer for the CIA to find out whether a spy can really ever be burned. The hit show airs on USA network.


Filed under: Intelligence • Spying
To kill or to capture, that is the question.
National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen
May 16th, 2012
01:22 PM ET

To kill or to capture, that is the question.

By Pam Benson

The director of the National Counterterrorism Center made it clear Wednesday where he stands in the debate over whether it is better to capture suspected terrorists or kill them outright. Matthew Olsen prefers capture.

Olsen made his comments during a discussion on the evolving threat of al Qaeda at an American Bar Association event.

Asked if he prefers gaining important intelligence through interrogation over killing terrorists, Olsen responded, "I have a strong preference for gaining intelligence," a comment that brought laughter from the audience.

As the NCTC director, his job is to make sure his analysts have access to as much terrorism-related information as possible so they can connect the dots and help thwart potential plots.

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Filed under: 9/11 • Al Qaeda • drones • Intelligence • Osama bin Laden • Terrorism
May 16th, 2012
12:40 PM ET

U.S. in waiting game on Syria

By Elise Labott, CNN

Fifteen months into the crisis in Syria, and the Obama administration is, as one U.S. official describes it, in "a holding pattern," waiting for Russia to abandon its support for President Bashar al-Assad, waiting for sanctions to topple the economy and waiting for an organized Syrian opposition to present a coherent vision for a post-Assad Syria.

As the U.S. waits for what many believe is the inevitable failure of a United Nations-backed plan, American officials say they would rather U.N.-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan to pronounce his diplomatic efforts a failure himself.

Recommended– Syria: the elephant in the room amid military exercise in Jordan

Senior officials say the international monitors provided for in the current agreement with the Syrian government, however small in number, offer a small buffer against Assad's forces. Additionally, the U.S. and its allies on the U.N. Security Council want Russia to come to its own conclusion that Assad is not living up to his end of the agreement in ceasing the violence, and the plan is a failure. The concern is should the U.S. push for the next step, it would further alienate Moscow, which is skeptical about efforts to push out Syria's president. How the plan fails is as important as when it does, Western diplomats said this week.

"You have the politics part of this plan, and you have what is really happening on the ground," one U.S. official said. "We are going to be in a bit of a holding pattern for a while, debating on whether this has succeeded or failed, and whether it was designed to fail."
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Wage jihad at home, not in Yemen, al Qaeda urges recruits
May 16th, 2012
02:20 AM ET

Wage jihad at home, not in Yemen, al Qaeda urges recruits

By Paul Cruickshank and Adam Levine

Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen has released a new guide for would-be Western recruits urging those Western militants who were thinking of traveling to join the group in Yemen to, in effect, think twice before making the trip.

The guide, entitled "Expectations Full," was apparently compiled by Samir Khan, the American-Saudi editor of the group's Inspire magazine, before his death in a drone strike in late September 2011.

Recommended: Yemen plot exposes new world of U.S. spying

"I strongly recommend all the brothers and sisters coming from the West to consider attacking America in its own backyard. The effect is much greater, it always embarrasses the enemy, and these type of individual decision-making attacks are nearly impossible for them to contain," Khan wrote in a caption underneath a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco skyline.

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