By Terry Frieden
The Justice Department on Thursday closed its criminal investigation of the deaths of two prisoners in CIA custody, ending a controversial investigation that Attorney General Eric Holder had approved more than a year ago.
The investigation, conducted by veteran Justice prosecutor John Durham, examined alleged CIA interrogation abuses in connection with prisoner deaths at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003 and at a secret prison in Afghanistan in 2002.
If the probe had led to criminal charges against CIA officers or contractors, it could have ignited a firestorm of objections by Republican lawmakers and the national security community.
Holder acknowledged that he made a controversial decision to appointed Durham in 2009 to examine allegations of CIA interrogation abuses in about 100 cases. His aides say he was aware the Obama White House wanted the torture controversies put behind it, but Holder pressed on. Republican lawmakers and the CIA were upset about the new review of alleged detainee mistreatment. FULL POST
By Carol Cratty
A civilian guard at a new U.S. consulate in China pleaded guilty on Thursday to attempting to sell Chinese security officials photographs and access to the compound so they could plant listening devices.
According to a court proffer, Bryan Underwood had lost a significant amount of money in the stock market and hoped to make between $3 million and $5 million by supplying classified photos and information to China's Ministry of State Security.
Underwood, 32, appeared in federal court in Washington and pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to communicate national defense information to a foreign government. Under the terms of a plea agreement, the government agreed to drop charges that Underwood made false statements and that he failed to appear at a court hearing last year. FULL POST
From Barbara Starr
The Pentagon general counsel threatened legal action Thursday against a former Navy SEAL who wrote a revealing book about last year's Osama bin Laden raid, warning him he has violated secrecy agreements and broken federal law.
In a letter addressed to "Mark Owen," the pen name of book author Matt Bissonnette, General Counsel Jeh Charles Johnson wrote the Pentagon is considering pursuing "all remedies legally available" against the former SEAL and his publisher, Penguin Putnam.
"In the judgment of the Department of Defense, you are in material breach and violation of the nondisclosure agreements you signed. Further public dissemination of your book will aggravate your breach and violation of your agreements," Johnson wrote.
By Jill Dougherty, CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Bashar al-Assad is "increasingly disconnected from reality," according to a senior Obama administration official in dismissing assertions by the Syrian president that the situation in his violence-torn country is improving.
The White House added that Assad's comments only showed "how delusional" the embattled leader has become.
"Only if 'better' means more Syrian people - innocent Syrian people – are dying at the hands of his soldiers; only 'better' if it means that his thugs are moving through the streets of various cities and rounding people up," presidential spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
The Obama administration sentiment came as Human Rights Watch reported that Syrian forces had bombed and fired artillery at 10 bakeries in Aleppo province, killing and wounding dozens of civilians.
The new book by former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette, published under the pseudonym Mark Owen, has some eye-opening, sometimes amusing details about the mission that killed Osama bin Laden.
"No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden" goes step by step through the SEAL team's training and practicing for the attack, the assault itself and the aftermath.
One might find it odd that in the midst of one of the most important Special Operations missions ever, most of these elite warriors weren't exactly pumped up on the flight to bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
"I think most of the guys on the helicopter actually caught some much-needed sleep on the ride in. ... All the hype was gone and it was just another night at work for us."
By Jennifer Rizzo
The Army psychiatrist accused of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting told the military judge his Muslim faith requires him to wear a beard, marking the first time Maj. Nidal Hasan has made a statement in court, according to his lawyer.
"Your honor, in the name of almighty Allah, I am a Muslim," Hasan said. "I believe that my religion requires me to wear a beard."
Hasan made the statement after the presiding judge, Col. Gregory Gross, asked why he was still in contempt of court - in other words, why Hasan hadn't shaved his beard, which is against Army regulations.
"I am not trying to disrespect your authority as a military a judge. And I am not trying to disrupt the proceedings or the decorum of the court," he said. "When I stand before God I am individually responsible for my actions."
Gross has threatened to have Hasan forcibly shaved, previously citing the regulations and the right to ensure "that a military trial proceeds without a distracting and disruptive sideshow."
Condoleezza Rice, Former Secretary of State, talks to CNN's Hala Gorani about many things, starting with Iraq.
By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent
The Obama administration is discussing the final details with the Mitt Romney campaign of how and when the first intelligence and national security briefings will be offered to the presidential candidate and his designated campaign officials.
Traditionally, candidates are offered such briefings by a sitting administration as soon as a nominating convention is over.
"We are finalizing preparations for the candidate briefings, but will not actually deliver a brief until after the GOP convention concludes. With regard to who will receive briefs, that's up to the Romney campaign," said Shawn Turner, spokesman for the director of national intelligence.
The intelligence community is awaiting word from the White House on when to begin the briefings. Before a briefing takes place, campaign officials are likely to need approval for a temporary security clearance, although it's not clear if Romney will have to go through the process.
By Jill Dougherty
As more areas in Syria slip from control of the Syrian military, the United States is training local opposition members how to run a local government free from the grip of the Assad regime.
The State Department says it is running "training programs" for the members of opposition local coordinating councils in "liberated" areas who are beginning to re-establish civilian authority. The programs help them on issues of civil administration, human-rights training and other services.
The council members are learning "the kinds of things that they might need from the international community as they begin to rebuild their towns," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in her Wednesday briefing.
"They're asking for help in how to budget. They're asking for help in how to keep utilities running. How to ensure that the institutions of the state that, you know, provide services to the population, come back up and running. So we are open to supporting all of those kinds of needs," she explained.