November 29th, 2012
01:23 AM ET

Key U.S. official defends use of drones

Kevin Bohn

In a rare move, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon on Wednesday publicly defended the United States' use of armed drones in the counter-terrorism fight, calling it a "targeted effort."

Donilon addressed their controversial deployment after a student asked him about their use while he was speaking at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

He said they are only used against groups and individuals who pose the most serious threats against the United States.

"We are using all of the tools," available to fight al Qaeda and one of those is the drones, Donilon said.

Donilon did not use the word drones in his answer. He called them UAVs– unarmed aerial vehicles - and said the U.S. is in "full compliance" with domestic and international law.

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Filed under: drones
With changes, U.S.-based prisons could handle Gitmo detainees, GAO finds
November 28th, 2012
11:16 PM ET

With changes, U.S.-based prisons could handle Gitmo detainees, GAO finds

By Jennifer Rizzo

Federal prisons and Defense Department correctional facilities in the U.S. would need myriad operational changes if detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were transferred into the country, according to a Congressional investigative report released Wednesday.

However, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who ordered the report in 2008, touted it as proof the U.S. prison system could handle the detainees, many of whom are accused of terrorist acts.

"This report demonstrates that if the political will exists, we could finally close Guantanamo without imperiling our national security," Feinstein said.

According to the Government Accountability Office report, there are six Defense Department facilities within the U.S. and more than 2,000 facilities holding individuals convicted of federal crimes that could hold Gitmo detainees.

The report found that many issues would need to be considered if those detainees were transferred to one of the facilities located in the U.S.

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November 28th, 2012
07:06 PM ET

U.S. had plans to nuke the moon

By Brian Todd and Dugald McConnell

You could easily skip by it in an archive search: a project titled "A Study of Lunar Research Flights." Its nickname is even more low-brow: "Project A-119."

But the reality was much more explosive.

It was a top-secret plan, developed by the U.S. Air Force, to look at the possibility of detonating a nuclear device on the moon.

It was hatched in 1958 - a time when the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a nuclear arms race that would last decades and drive the two superpowers to the verge of nuclear war. The Soviets had also just launched Sputnik 1, the world's first satellite. The U.S. was falling behind in the space race, and needed a big splash.
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Filed under: Security Brief
Officer says not pressured over jailing of accused WikiLeaker
U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley E. Manning arrives for a court hearing in Fort Meade, Maryland.
November 28th, 2012
06:43 PM ET

Officer says not pressured over jailing of accused WikiLeaker

By Larry Shaughnessy

The officer who oversaw security at the military base where Army private Bradley Manning was held for a time said on Wednesday he was not pressured by superiors to keep the accused WikiLeaker in a high-level lockup and under constant watch.

Marine Col. Robert Oltman said his decision to maintain maximum-security status for Manning during his eight-month confinement in Quantico in Virginia was borne out of caution.

Oltman said at a pre-trial hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland, for Manning that he recognized the case was high profile but told subordinates at the Marine base to "do what's right" and not "worry about somebody looking over your shoulder."

Manning's lawyers are trying to get the case thrown out - or at least any sentence reduced, if he's convicted - by claiming he was mistreated at the Quantico brig from July 2010 until he was moved to the military prison at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, in April 2011.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Kerry • Security Brief • WikiLeaks
November 28th, 2012
06:34 AM ET

Rice fails to subdue Republicans' criticism over Libya attack

By Suzanne Kelly

A conciliatory meeting between U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and Republican critics backfired following revelations that the CIA removed terrorism references in unclassified talking points about the U.S. consulate attack in Libya.

Rice, who serves as the top U.S. envoy to the United Nations, met with Republican senators Tuesday over the September 11 attack against the U.S. mission in Benghazi.

She asked for the meeting with Republican Sens. John McCain, Kelly Ayotte and Lindsey Graham after their sharp criticism of her response to the Benghazi attack. The Republican senators have maintained that they are concerned about her explanation on what caused the attack.

At the time of the attack that left four Americans dead this year, Rice said an anti-U.S. demonstration led to the violence, an assertion later disproved by intelligence officials and reports from the ground.

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November 27th, 2012
08:45 PM ET

Second North Korean missile launch would be unprecedented

By Jennifer Rizzo

While new satellite images show preparations for what is believed to be a coming long-range missile launch by North Korea, a second attempt in 2012 would be unprecedented, a top satellite image analyst told Security Clearance.

There have been four launches of this scale since 1998, including a failed attempt in April of this year. A second launch in 2012 would be the first time North Korea has launched two systems of this class, their largest missile class, in less than three years.

"The fact that they are now apparently preparing for a second launch in 2012 indicated that the decision to do this was made at the highest level," said DigitalGlobe analyst Joe Bermudez.

The North Koreans are looking for "maximum political impact" domestically, regionally and internationally with a test launch such as this, according to Bermudez, calling it a "very politically motivated event."

The timing of a launch at the end of this year would coincide with many consequential events, said Bermudez.

South Korea will be launching a rocket into space by the end of this week. North Korea and Japan will be holding another set of bilateral talks early in December and the South Korean presidential election will take place in less than a month. North Korea watchers say new leader Kim Jung Un may be responding to internal political pressure from hard-liners to send a message.
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Pentagon ethics standards review nearing completion
November 27th, 2012
08:35 PM ET

Pentagon ethics standards review nearing completion

By Barbara Starr

The U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff are putting the finishing touches on an initial review of ethics standards for senior officers, to meet a December 1 deadline for a report to President Obama.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered the review earlier this month after several incidents of reported improper behavior among senior officers, although officially the Pentagon claimed the timing was coincidental.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has gathered some initial ideas from the chiefs of the military services and will send his plan to Panetta on November 30. Dempsey is now moving ahead with "forming a discussion group of retired, respected generals and admirals, and possibly academics and chaplains, to look at professional ethics and our profession of arms," said his spokesman, Col. David Lapan.
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Bradley Manning case heads back to court
November 27th, 2012
06:18 PM ET

Bradley Manning case heads back to court

By Larry Shaughnessy

The officer who oversaw security at the military base where Bradley Manning was held for a time said on Wednesday he was not pressured by superiors to keep the Army private accused of leaking classified documents to the WikiLeaks website in a high-level lockup and under constant watch.

Marine Col. Robert Oltman said his decision to maintain maximum-security status for Manning during his eight-month confinement in Quantico in Virginia was borne out of caution.

Oltman said at a pre-trial hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland, for Manning that he recognized the case was high profile but told subordinates at the Marine base to "do what's right" and not "worry about somebody looking over your shoulder."

Manning's lawyers are trying to get the case thrown out - or at least any sentence reduced, if he's convicted - by claiming he was mistreated at the Quantico brig from July 2010 until he was moved to the military prison at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, in April 2011.
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Filed under: Bradley Manning • WikiLeaks
November 27th, 2012
04:17 PM ET

After Petraeus scandal, Broadwell grapples with 'normal life'

By Suzanne Kelly

In the aftermath of the affair that led to the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus, his biographer and paramour Paula Broadwell has remained publicly silent, turning instead to family and friends as she tries to assess just how news of the affair might impact her future.

"It's been hard for her family and her to see the picture that's being painted of her," says Broadwell's brother, Steve Kranz, a Washington-based attorney. "Her real focus is her family and her husband and her boys and trying to restore the trust she had with her husband and trying to protect her children from the publicity."

After weeks of media portrayals that have ranged from spurned lover to obsessed stalker, both family and friends of Broadwell have begun to present a fuller picture of her as she grapples with the shock of her affair being thrust into the public spotlight.  Part of that outreach included providing  photos from the family collection, given first to CNN, of Broadwell with her family and in Afghanistan.

"She's trying to live as normal a life as possible, but there are moments of realizing all that has happened," says a source close to Broadwell who asked not to be identified.

Early on, Broadwell began quietly returning emails from well-wishing friends, but she hasn't done much beyond that, according to sources who have said she is very focused on how the news has affected loved ones. But that strategy appears to be shifting somewhat with the hiring of a Washington-based public affairs group and friends who have known Broadwell for years now going public to combat images of her that they feel are unfair. FULL POST

CNN Poll: Thumbs down on W.H. reaction to Benghazi attack and Petraeus resignation
November 27th, 2012
05:03 AM ET

CNN Poll: Thumbs down on W.H. reaction to Benghazi attack and Petraeus resignation

Americans are giving the White House low marks for how it's handled the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the resignation of former CIA Director David Petraeus, according to a new national survey.

But according to a CNN/ORC International poll released Tuesday, a majority of the public doesn't believe the Obama administration intentionally tried to mislead Americans on the September attack that left the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans dead. And the survey also indicates a plurality have a positive opinion of Petraeus and are divided on whether the former top U.S. should have resigned as CIA director after acknowledging an extra-marital affair.

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Filed under: Benghazi • Petraeus • Polling • White House
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