Clinton honors slain diplomat, says security being bolstered globally
The United States ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, was killed in a rocket attack on the American consulate in the city of Benghazi on Tuesday, September 11, 2012.
November 8th, 2012
11:19 PM ET

Clinton honors slain diplomat, says security being bolstered globally

By Jill Dougherty

In an emotional speech honoring the slain U.S. ambassador to Libya, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States is taking "immediate steps to bolster security and readiness at our missions across the globe."

Clinton said the State Department and the Defense Department already have dispatched joint teams to review high-threat posts "to determine whether improvements are needed in light of the evolving security challenges we now face."

U.S. diplomats serve in more than 275 posts in 170 countries around the world, Clinton noted Thursday.

Three investigations into the circumstances of Christopher Stevens' death are under way: by the FBI, Congress and the State Department's Accountability Review Board. "We will apply its recommendations and lessons learned to our security around the world," Clinton said.

The review board is expected to issue its report by early to mid-December, according to the State Department.

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U.S. targets Iranian human rights violators
Masked members of Iran's paramilitary Basij militia parade in front the former US embassy in Tehran on November 25, 2011 to mark the national Basij week.
November 8th, 2012
06:25 PM ET

U.S. targets Iranian human rights violators

By Jamie Crawford

The United States sanctioned 17 Iranian individuals and entities for their alleged roles in the Iranian government's human rights abuses and support of terrorism, the Treasury and State departments announced Thursday.

The actions were carried out under the authority of three separate executive orders that had already been put into effect.

In the first set of sanctions, the United States targeted four Iranian individuals and five entities for their roles in censoring or blocking citizen access to the internet and international media - including the jamming of international satellite broadcasts.

Among those targeted is Ali Fazli, deputy commander of the Basij militia, who participated in the brutal crackdown of civilian protestors in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 Iranian presidential election.

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Obama administration officials to brief intelligence committees on Benghazi
Extensive damage at U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya following September 11th attack
November 8th, 2012
05:53 PM ET

Obama administration officials to brief intelligence committees on Benghazi

By Pam Benson

Senior intelligence, State Department and FBI officials can expect to be grilled next week as congressional hearings resume on the terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya that killed four Americans.

Lawmakers want answers to many outstanding questions surrounding the September 11 armed assault on the diplomatic facility and a CIA annex in Benghazi.

Specifically, they want to know who was responsible, whether it was planned, the intelligence reporting on the threat to Libya prior the attack, and whether security was adequate.

The Senate Intelligence Committee will conduct a closed-door hearing on November 15. Scheduled witnesses include Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director David Petraeus, Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy, FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce and National Counterterrorism Center Director Matt Olsen.

Clapper, Petraeus and Olsen will also testify behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee on the same day.

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As China's leadership changes, issues with the U.S remain
President Barack Obama (R) and Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping pose for photographs before meeting in the Oval Office at the White House February 14, 2012 .
November 8th, 2012
05:35 PM ET

As China's leadership changes, issues with the U.S remain

By Jamie Crawford

As President Barack Obama prepares for a second term in the White House, his administration is keeping an eye on another leadership transition now underway on the other side of the world in China. The ramifications will surely to have a global impact.

With Obama's re-election, any notion that complexity of the relationship between the world's two largest economies could somehow change overnight has been quickly dispelled.

Chinese state media issued its own view of the American election on Wednesday, saying Obama's re-election offered an opportunity to improve ties after a first term that many senior Chinese officials viewed as saying things one way then in many ways acting differently.

Regardless of the sentiment, China watchers say Obama's re-election, while not greeted with elation in Beijing, still provides some element of predictability going forward. There was perhaps greater concern if Mitt Romney had won, given how the Republican presidential candidate had turned China into the ultimate foreign policy bogeyman in the presidential campaign. Chinese officials made clear that any attempt to label their country a currency manipulator, as Romney pledged he would do his first day in office, would complicate the bilateral relationship even further.
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Filed under: China
Army private offers plea in WikiLeaks case in exchange for nothing
November 8th, 2012
05:30 PM ET

Army private offers plea in WikiLeaks case in exchange for nothing

By Larry Shaughnessy

(CNN) - The Army private accused of leaking millions of government files has offered to plead guilty to some of the charges against him, his attorney announced during a court hearing Wednesday.

But this is not some kind of deal guaranteed to get Pfc. Bradley Manning a lighter sentence.

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November 8th, 2012
04:30 PM ET

Convicted terrorist guilty of plotting murder-for-hire from behind bars

By Carol Cratty

A convicted terrorist was found guilty Thursday in North Carolina of plotting to kill witnesses who testified against him at his terror trial.


Hysen Sherifi, 28, was found guilty in Raleigh on nine counts of conspiring with his brother and a female friend to hire someone to kill the witnesses in retaliation for their 2011 trial testimony. Sherifi directed the plot from behind bars, prosecutors said.

"The trial evidence and testimony proved that from November 2011 through January 2012, Sherifi conspired to pay a hit man to murder and behead three witnesses and three law enforcement officers who testified against him," according to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office in the Eastern District of North Carolina.

Prosecutors said Sherifi wanted revenge, hoped to get his conviction overturned and wanted to help one of his alleged terrorism conspirators who had not yet gone to trial.

The scheme was foiled as a result of a sting operation. In October 2011, Sherifi asked a fellow inmate in his North Carolina jail how to hire someone to commit the murders, according to testimony. The inmate told his lawyer and federal law enforcement officers about what Sherifi was up to. The government then secretly taped conversations between Sherifi and his fellow inmate in which Sherifi talked about wanting the witnesses killed.
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Filed under: Legal • Living With Terror • Marines • Terrorism
President Obama calls long distance
File photo
November 8th, 2012
02:27 PM ET

President Obama calls long distance

The newly re-elected president had a busy morning returning calls to world leaders who had sent messages of congratulations, according to a White House statement.

"In each call, he thanked his counterpart for their friendship and partnership thus far and expressed his desire to continue close cooperation moving ahead," according to the statement.

Not everyone got a call returned by President Obama, mind you. The statement notes the president returned "some" of the messages personally.

Here's a list of who got called: FULL POST

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Foreign Policy • White House
November 8th, 2012
02:00 PM ET

FIRST ON CNN: Iranian jets fire on U.S. drone

By Barbara Starr

Two Iranian Su-25 fighter jets fired on an unarmed U.S. Air Force Predator drone in the Persian Gulf on November 1, the Pentagon disclosed on Thursday.

The incident, reported first by CNN, raised fresh concerns within the Obama administration about Iranian military aggression in crucial Gulf oil shipping lanes.

The drone was on routine maritime surveillance in international airspace east of Kuwait, 16 miles off the coast of Iran, U.S. officials said. The Predator was not hit.

Also: U.S. adds to Iran sanctions

"Our aircraft was never in Iranian airspace. It was always flying in international air space. The recognized limit is 12 nautical miles off the coast and we never entered the 12 nautical mile limit," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in responding to questions from reporters after CNN reported the incident.

Little said the United States believed this was the first time an unmanned aircraft was shot at by the Iranians in international waters over the Gulf.  In December of 2011, a U.S. surveillance drone crashed in eastern Iran.  Iranians claimed to have shot it down, and created a toy model of the drone to celebrate its capture.

Little stopped short of calling the incident an act of war although the Pentagon was concerned.

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Fake tech gear has infiltrated the U.S. government
November 8th, 2012
11:26 AM ET

Fake tech gear has infiltrated the U.S. government

By David Goldman

A record number of tech products used by the U.S. military and dozens of other federal agencies are fake. That opens up a myriad of national security risks, from dud missiles to short-circuiting airplane parts to cyberespionage.

Despite laws designed to crack down on counterfeiters, suppliers labeled by the U.S. government as "high risk" are increasing their sales to federal agencies. Their presence in government's supply chain soared 63% over the past decade, according to a new study released by IHS, a supply chain management consultancy.

Suppliers with the high-risk branding are known to engage in counterfeiting, wire fraud, product tampering and a laundry list of other illicit and illegal behaviors.

Last year, 9,539 banned businesses were found to have sold technology the government. Roughly 10% of those incidents involved counterfeit parts or equipment.

"What keeps us up at night is the dynamic nature of this threat, because by the time we've figured out how to test for these counterfeits, they've figured out how to get around it," said Vivek Kamath, head of Raytheon's supply chain operations. "It's literally on almost a daily basis they change. The sophistication of the counterfeiting is amazing to us."

The number of fake tech products floating around in the market quadrupled from 2009 to 2011, according to IHS - and they're sneaking into some high-profile places.
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Filed under: Security Brief
Obama faces a world of challenges in second term
November 8th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Obama faces a world of challenges in second term

After a long presidential campaign, Barack Obama has little time to savor his re-election victory as a host of world challenges linger. Security Clearance examines some of the key national security issues Obama will have to tackle in the coming months and what the strategy may be now that the election year politicking is over.

Mideast, Iran and North Africa

On his second day in office in 2009, President Barack Obama appointed former Sen. George Mitchell as an envoy to Mideast peace and pledged to work "actively and aggressively" to secure a final peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.

Four years later, Israelis and Palestinians are father apart from a deal than at any time in the decades-long peace process. And that effort became more difficult with the election of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has made countering Iran's nuclear threat his priority, as well as Palestinian infighting and conditions for restarting talks.

But both parties also blame a lack of U.S. leadership on the issue as a major reason negotiations have stalled. As with previous presidents, a second term could inspire bold moves by Obama to bring the parties back to the table.

One of his most pressing challenges will be curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions. After months of criticizing the Obama administration for not being tough enough on Iran, the Israeli government is now casting Obama's re-election as good for Israel and for dealing with Iran.

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