October 12th, 2012
06:16 PM ET

Spy chief gets Zen

By Pam Benson

You usually don't associate spying with being Zen, but that's exactly what the nation's chief intelligence officer did this week at an intelligence gathering in Orlando, Florida.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was the keynote speaker at the annual Geoint Symposium and what the audience of intelligence officers, contractors and academics heard probably rank as one of the more unusual presentations.

Clapper unfurled some "heavy philosophy" as he told the audience what intelligence professionals could learn from motorcyclists. And he tied it all together with a reference to Robert Pirsig's nearly 40 year old best seller, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," which is more a discourse of life philosophy than motorcycles.

It's all, Clapper explained, about finding the elusive "Truth."

These initial comments set up the body of his speech which focused on what he feels is his primary mission as DNI–the integration of all facets of intelligence gathering.

Here are Clapper's remarks:

FULL POST

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Filed under: Intelligence • James Clapper
October 12th, 2012
03:52 PM ET

White House backs Biden's statement about Benghazi security requests

The White House faced a political maelstrom after Vice President Joe Biden's claim during Thursday's vice presidential debate about who was aware of requests for additional security at the diplomatic office in Benghazi.

""We weren't told they wanted more security. We did not know they wanted more security," Biden said during the debate.

As was pointed out by CNN's Fact Check team, just days earlier there were State Department security officials who testified to Congress about requests made and denied for more security.  But it's coming down to what the meaning of "we" is.

The White House explanation, on Friday, was that such requests were not made to the White House, they were handled by State.  Here's one of numerous exchanges between White House Spokesman Jay Carney and reporters: FULL POST

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Libya
October 12th, 2012
11:17 AM ET

Spy movie gets out the spy community

by Suzanne Kelly

The small theater in Washington was packed with friends and admirers of Antonio Mendez. The highly-decorated former CIA officer, played by Ben Affleck in the movie 'Argo,' is the real-life mastermind behind the once-classified 1979 operation to sneak six Americans out of Iran in the aftermath of the Embassy siege in 1979.

But this screening was markedly different than the premiere. Instead of the film stars like Ben Affleck and John Goodman, the Washington screening was mainly filled with the people who live their lives in the shadows.

While the movie definitely invokes a pulse-pounding pace that typically only exists in Hollywood, the extent to which Mendez was able to pull off the daring real-life rescue is impressive. Impressive enough to not only earn him a place on the silver screen, but he was also awarded the Intelligence Star for Valor, one of the highest honors a CIA Officer can receive.

The Spy Museum's Director, Peter Earnest (a former CIA Officer himself) paid tribute, as did the audience, with a standing ovation after the movie. Proof enough that coming out of the shadows can have it's perks

Checking the VP debate facts on Libya and Iran
October 12th, 2012
06:44 AM ET

Checking the VP debate facts on Libya and Iran

Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan, the man who wants his job, exchanged fire regarding national security in their only debate before Election Day. They challenged each other's facts and claims and offered starkly different visions for the direction of the country. CNN conducted fact checks on each politician’s assertions.

CNN Fact Check: What about the security in Benghazi?

The September attack that killed four Americans at a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya was the subject of a few claims at Thursday night's vice presidential debate at Centre College in Kentucky.

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan contended that requests for more security at the mission were denied before the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, on September 11.

Vice President Joe Biden said Ryan is in no position to argue about diplomatic security, arguing that Ryan, in Congress, didn't provide all the embassy security funding that the Obama administration asked for. Biden also contended that the administration knew of no requests for more security at the Benghazi mission.

We'll look at these claims separately.

FULL STORY

CNN Fact Check: Iran and the Bomb

Fears of a possibly nuclear-armed Iran took center stage early in Thursday night's vice presidential debate between incumbent Democrat Joe Biden and his Republican challenger, Paul Ryan.

The Wisconsin congressman said Iran's progress has sped along "because this administration has no credibility on this issue."

Biden hit back by criticizing what he called "bluster" and "loose talk" about the issue, saying international sanctions are crippling the Iranian economy and that U.S. and Israeli officials believe Iran is "a good way away" from getting the bomb.

We’ll look at the facts.

FULL STORY


Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Biden • Iran • Libya • Nuclear • Romney • Ryan
October 12th, 2012
03:00 AM ET

Russia nuclear partnership not dead, State Department insists

By Jill Dougherty, CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent

The State Department maintained Thursday that a long-standing partnership with Russia to dismantle and safeguard weapons of mass destruction from the Soviet Union's once-massive arsenal is not dead, as Russian media has reported.

Russian officials, however, indicated they had no intention of extending the agreement - at least in its present form - dealing a serious blow to cooperation between the two countries.

The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which has spent approximately $7 billion in its two decades, financed primarily by the U.S. government, has deactivated more than 7,500 nuclear warheads, implemented security upgrades at Russian's nuclear storage sites, neutralized chemical weapons, safeguarded fissile materials, converted weapons facilities for peaceful use, and mitigated biological threats.

"We are still in talks," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington Thursday. Russia officials "have told us that they want revisions to the previous agreement. We are prepared to work with them on those revisions, and we want to have conversations about it."

But in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying, "Our American partners know that their proposal is at odds with our ideas about the forms and basis for building further cooperation in that area."

FULL POST

Panetta: Cyber threat is pre 9/11 moment
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
October 12th, 2012
03:00 AM ET

Panetta: Cyber threat is pre 9/11 moment

By Pam Benson

The United States must beef up its cyber defenses or suffer as it did on September 11, 2001 for failing to see the warning signs ahead of that devastating terrorist attack, the Secretary of Defense told a group of business leaders in New York Thursday night.

Calling it a “pre-9/11 moment,” Leon Panetta said he is particularly worried about a significant escalation of attacks.

In a speech aboard a decommissioned aircraft carrier, Panetta reminded the Business Executives for National Security about recent distributed denial of service attacks that hit a number of large U.S. financial institutions with unprecedented speed, disrupting services to customers.

And he pointed to a cyber virus known as Shamoon which infected the computers of major energy firms in Saudi Arabia and Qatar this past summer. More than 30-thousand computers were rendered useless by the attack on the Saudi state oil company ARAMCO. A similar incident occurred with Ras Gas of Qatar. Panetta said the attacks were probably the most devastating to ever hit the private sector.

FULL POST

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Filed under: 9/11 • Congress • Cybersecurity • Military • Panetta • Secretary of Defense