By CNN's Gregory Wallace
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney clarified his March remark that Russia is the nation's top foe, saying in an interview which aired Monday on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer" that Iran potentially poses the greatest national security threat to the U.S.
"The number one national security threat, of course, to our nation is a nuclear Iran," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, speaking in Jerusalem about the nearby nation.
Asked about Israel's borders, the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict, withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the London Olympics, and campaign finance, Romney offered little new policy or criticism of President Barack Obama.
"I'm on foreign soil, and because it's long been a policy of both political parties to leave politics at the water's edge, I'm not going to go through specific foreign policy prescription," he said in response to one question, echoing a similar caveat he affixed to other answers.
By Ivan Watson reporting from Northern Syria
Rebels captured a government military base Monday on the outskirts of Aleppo, the hotly contested Syrian metropolis that has seen more than a week of bloody clashes.
The base had about 200 Syrian troops and appeared to be under attack by rebels from three sides overnight.
"The battle lasted around nine hours," said Fazad Abdel Nasr, a rebel commander working in the northern Aleppo suburbs. Nasr said six regime soldiers and four rebel fighters were killed.
The rebels also gained heavy equipment to supplement the lesser weapons they had been fighting with.
By Barbara Starr
When Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visits the Middle East this week, he will start in Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began. But he’ll move quickly into the security hot spots about which everyone is worried.
The sensitive part of the trip begins in Cairo, when Panetta will have his first meeting with newly elected President Mohamed Morsy and Egyptian military leaders, reminding everyone that the United States wants to see a full transition to civilian rule.
Then comes Israel and Jordan, where the dual crises of Syria and Iran have captured everyone’s attention.
By Dan Merica
This weekend marks the conclusion of this year’s Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado, an event that brought together some of the key players in the world of defense and national security policy.
Here the five moments that the Security Clearance Blog’s team will be talking about on the flight back to Washington:
1. The United States is keeping close tabs on Syria’s weapons, al Qaeda’s influence
As war rages on in Syria, the United States intelligence community is closely monitoring the situation, National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen told CNN’s Intelligence Correspondent Suzanne Kelly.
Wearing a t-shirt and jeans, America's top spymaster - National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander, also the head of the U.S. Cyber Command - took the stage Friday at the nation's largest hacker convention to deliver a recruiting pitch.
"In this room, this room right here, is the talent our nation needs to secure cyberspace," Alexander told the standing-room-only audience at DefCon, a grassroots gathering in Las Vegas expected to draw a record 16,000 attendees this year. "We need great talent. We don't pay as high as everybody else, but we're fun to be around."
Print CommentAlexander's appearance is a milestone for DefCon, a hacker mecca with an often-uneasy relationship with the feds. DefCon is the older, wilder and far less official sibling of BlackHat, a cybersecurity conference that wrapped up Thursday in Las Vegas.
BlackHat draws corporate infosecurity workers in suits. At DefCon, they switch to t-shirts and spend the weekend mingling with cryptographers, script kiddies, security researchers and a liberal smattering of military and law enforcement agents - both in and out of uniform.
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."