CNN's Suzanne Kelly gets an inside look at a homeland security inspired TV drama called "Homeland."
By Barbara Starr
The United States has increased contacts with Syrian opposition officials in recent week, a senior U.S. official said Friday.
The official explained that "the U.S. and others are playing more of an advisory role to the opposition now." Underpinning those increased contacts with the opposition is the effort to begin to plan for the post-Assad regime.
Still, any action so far stops short of arming the opposition. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Friday that lethal support is not being discussed.
"We have been discussing a range of options for some time. Among them would be assisting the opposition," Gen. Martin Dempsey said in a news conference in San Francisco. "I've never heard any discussion of assisting them with lethal support. That is to say, the discussions that I've been involved with were about providing non-lethal support." FULL POST
By Suzanne Kelly, reporting from Aspen, Colorado
U.S. officials continue to closely monitor the situation in Syria with an eye toward the status of the country's biological and chemical weapons, National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen told Security Clearance.
U.S. officials believe the Syrian regime still has control of the country's chemical and biological weapons, but it's a situation that officials are continuing to watch closely in an effort to make sure that the weapons don't fall into the wrong hands, as was the case with the fall of the Libyan regime last year, said Olsen during an interview on the sidelines of the Aspen Security Forum, in Aspen, Colorado,
"We are still looking in Libya at where those weapons may be, and there are concerns that weapons in Libya have fallen into the hands of groups like al Qaeda and al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb. As of right now with respect to Syria, we do think the government has control of the weapons," Olsen said Thursday.
U.S. officials are trying to keep tabs on al Qaeda's presence among opposition groups in Syria, and are focused on whether members of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) are flowing across the border in any significant numbers.
By Jill Dougherty, reporting from Aspen, Colorado
War is hell, but the war on terror is a chronic disease.
"It's a different type of war," Hank Crumpton says. He is one of three top officials - former and present - on a panel at the Aspen Security Forum. He's dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt. Don't let it fool you. He's the State Department's former coordinator of counterterrorism as well as former director of the CIA's National Resources Division.
Dealing with terror, he says, "is going to be more like managing disease." To fight it, he believes, the United States needs "a different mindset, a different structure. And it's going to be much more than military action and covert power."
Al Qaeda has been greatly diminished but, he says, "they are the vanguard, I think, in a new type of threat."
By Pam Benson, reporting from Aspen, Colorado
The use of military Special Operations Forces has been a proven success in Iraq, Afghanistan and - with last year's raid on Osama bin Laden's compound - in Pakistan, but that success has some people concerned. Will the forces become the tool of choice for a president?
The former head of the U.S. Special Operations Command told the Aspen Security Forum Thursday he fears there could be a misuse of the highly trained specialists.
"It's a real danger," retired Adm. Eric Olson said. "They come to be thought of as a utility infielder, sometimes a utility infielder with guns, and they may be asked to solve problems that are not necessarily special operations problems."
As the U.S. considers what to do if Syria's president falls, a former director of the C.I.A. says the Obama administration should look to the lesson of Iraq. Gen. Michael Hayden, who was appointed to run the C.I.A. under President George W. Bush, writes on CNN's Opinion page that the mistaken approach post-Saddam Hussein is an important warning when it comes to Syria:
We should not allow the dramatic power of the most visible narrative, the struggle between oppressed and oppressor, to drown out the sad reality of another less noble story line - namely that this is still, at least for now, a sectarian conflict.
That this is the dominant narrative, the one that is most controlling and the one we should pay most attention to, is suggested by Vali Nasr's 2006 post mortem on Iraq. Nasr observed that we mistakenly "thought of politics as the relationship between individuals and the state" rather than recognizing "that people in the Middle East see politics also as the balance of power among communities."
We would do well to keep that in mind as the Syrian end game approaches. We should accelerate work to get the minorities into the game against the regime, hastening its end and broadening its opposition. The Christian and Kurdish communities have historic ties to the West that should play to our advantage in this.
By Jill Dougherty, reporting from Aspen, Colorado
Former Ambassador Christopher Hill doesn't always keep his eye on wedding announcements, but the former U.S Ambassador to South Korea and former head of the U.S. delegation to the Six Party Talks on North Korea's nuclear program is closely following the news that the young North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, is married.
I spoke with Hill as he took a break between sessions at the Aspen Security Forum. After years of dealing with North Korea, Hill often uses words like "weird," "odd," and even "hideous." But in trying to understand Pyonyang, he says, the U.S. should be coldly objective.
"As hideous as that system looks to us," Hill says, "we need to keep our analytical tools at hand and not just react to the situation emotionally but try to think through and think where this is taking them." FULL POST
By Dan Merica
Speaking candidly at the Aspen Security Forum, one defense department official expressed great concern about the possibility of a terrorist attack on the U.S. electric grid that would cause a “long term, large scale outage.”
Paul Stockton, assistant secretary for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs at the Department of Defense, said such an attack would affect critical defense infrastructure at home and abroad – a thought that Stockton said was keeping him up at night.
“The DOD depends on infrastructure in order to be able to operate abroad. And to make those operations function, we depend on the electric grid,” Stockton said.
Editor's note: Raffaello Pantucci is an Associate Fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King's College, London, and the author of the forthcoming "We Love Death As You Love Life: Britain's Suburban Mujahedeen" (Hurst/Columbia University Press). His work can be found at http://www.raffaellopantucci.com.
By Raffaello Pantucci, Special to CNN
Just one day after the 2012 Olympics were awarded to London back in 2005, the British were given a graphic and deadly display of the domestic terrorist threat that British security services faced.
On July 7, 2005, four British-born suicide bombers sent by al Qaeda blew themselves up on the London transport system. Seven years on, the threat picture to the Olympics is one of uncertainty that will keep security services alert for the duration of the Games and beyond. A high-profile opportunity like the Olympic Games might seem too good for a terrorist to miss.
Since the bombing in Bulgaria of a busload of Israeli tourists, concerns have been ramped up about the possible threat to the Israeli Olympic team and, by extension, the Games.