Why did North Korea launch a rocket?
North Korean leader Kim Jong un shakes hands with a North Korean military officer in an undated photo.
December 11th, 2012
10:06 PM ET

Why did North Korea launch a rocket?

By Jamie Crawford

Whatever the reasons were behind North Korea's decision to launch a second rocket this year – a feat unprecedented to this point – the intended audience is likely more domestic than international.

Coming on the heels of a failed launch last April, and just before the one year anniversary of his father's death, analysts say North Korea's young new leader is more interested in sending a message to his impoverished nation than he is with any potential international consequences that could follow.

"I think this is very important to Kim Jong-un to build political legitimacy and bolster the spirits of his people," James Schoff, a North Korea specialist with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told CNN. "He is doing this despite the fact that he knows he is going to come into a lot of criticism in the region for it."

Wednesday's launch took many by surprise, considering an extension announced earlier this week to address apparent complications with the rocket could have pushed back an attempt to send it up until the end of the month.

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Filed under: Kim Jong-un • North Korea
December 11th, 2012
09:29 PM ET

Osama bin Laden movie puts CIA analyst in spotlight

Controversy surrounds a CIA analyst that was crucial to the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. CNN's Barbara Starr reports on how some are calling her head strong and combative.

Islamist extremist suspected after bomb found at Bonn rail station
December 11th, 2012
07:45 PM ET

Islamist extremist suspected after bomb found at Bonn rail station

By Paul Cruickshank

German authorities suspect Islamist extremists were responsible for planting an explosive device Monday beside a track at the main railway station in Bonn, a German intelligence official tells CNN.

The explosives were found after a 14-year-old reported the bag to police, according to the official, who said the device was "not sophisticated" in design.

The official said whoever left the bag remains at large. Initially, German police arrested two Bonn residents soon after recovering the explosive components, the official said. The official identified them as Omar D., who's long been on German security services' radar because of his alleged links to Islamist extremists, and Abdifatah W.

Both, however, were released without charge after just a few hours in custody. The official said authorities have not ruled out Omar D. as a suspect but do not have enough evidence to hold him.

On Wednesday German police released a composite sketch of the suspected perpetrator based on a description from the 14-year-old. A German official told CNN the sketch describes a tall, thin, dark-skinned man in his early 30s. FULL POST

December 11th, 2012
06:29 PM ET

Alabama men accused of planning jihad trip to Africa

By Terry Frieden

Two Alabama men have been charged with planning to wage "violent jihad" in Africa, U.S. authorities said on Tuesday.

Mohammad Abdul Rahman Abukhdair was arrested at a bus terminal in Augusta, Georgia. Randy (Rasheed) Wilson was arrested at the Atlanta airport as he was boarding a flight to Morocco.

The men, both 25 and from Mobile, had planned to meet in Casablanca and travel together to Mauritania, according to a criminal complaint.

The document said the suspects divulged their plans to a confidential source working for the FBI. They allegedly told the undercover source that they expected to be in a position to wage violent jihad in Mauritania.

Mauritania is a poor Muslim nation in Western Africa with an unstable government.

Terrorist groups affiliated with al Qaeda have operated in Mauritania and neighboring Mali, according to U.S. officials familiar with the region.


Filed under: Africa • Terrorism
What will recognizing the opposition accomplish?
Participants pose for a group picture during a meeting to form a new Syrian opposition group called the National Coalition of Forces of the the Syrian Revolution and Opposition in the Qatari capital Doha on November 11, 2012.
December 11th, 2012
03:32 PM ET

What will recognizing the opposition accomplish?

By Jill Dougherty

President Barack Obama on Tuesday recognized the leading Syrian opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the country's people, marking a "big step" in U.S. engagement with the nearly two-year-old crisis.

"We've made a decision that the Syrian Opposition Coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime," Obama told ABC's Barbara Walters.

"So we will provide them recognition and obviously with that recognition comes responsibilities on the part of that coalition," he said. "It is a big step."

The United States joins Britain, France, Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council in recognizing the opposition.

The move will be a major psychological boost for the rebels, but it doesn't mean Washington will be arming them anytime soon.

The U.S. announcement had been anticipated to occur at some point this week with a major meeting of governments supporting a transition away from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad scheduled.

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American detained in North Korea
December 11th, 2012
03:07 PM ET

American detained in North Korea

By Elise Labott

An American citizen has been detained in North Korea for more than a month, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

The U.S. government does not believe that Kenneth Bae, who has traveled to North Korea several times before, is being mistreated, a U.S. official told CNN.

The Swedish government, which acts as the protecting power for the U.S. in North Korea, is working to get consular access and trying to get him released, the official said.

Bae's detention was first reported by South Korean newspapers, which said that Bae, a tour operator, entered North Korea at the port city of Rajin accompanied by five other tourists. Bae and the group were on a five-day trip to the country, according to South Korea's Yonhap News.

One of the tour members was carrying a computer hard disk "that apparently contained sensitive information," Yonhap News reported, citing a Korean-language paper.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland would only say that the United States was aware of the reports of Bae's detention, but because of privacy considerations, it would not discuss the issue further.

"We obviously have no higher priority than the welfare of our citizens. As you may know we have no representation in Pyongyang. The embassy of Sweden acts as our protecting power for issues involving U.S. citizens in North Korea," Nuland said Tuesday.

U.S. insists designating rebel group will help opposition
A handout picture released by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows workers removing the debris following twin suicide bombings in Damascus that killed 55 people on May 10. Al-Nusra Front released a video claiming responsibility for twin suicide bombings. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
December 11th, 2012
01:13 PM ET

U.S. insists designating rebel group will help opposition

By Jamie Crawford

U.S. officials insist the designation of a key Syrian rebel group as a terrorist entity was a necessary step that will not weaken the ability of other rebels to combat the Syrian military.

The designation of the al-Nusra Front as a terrorist organization has garnered a good deal of controversy and questions about its effectiveness because of the fierce fighting prowess of its members, but U.S. officials stood resolute Tuesday in their belief that the overall effect will be to minimize the group's role in the Syrian opposition while not reducing the fighting capabilities of the rebel groups.

"Al-Nusra Front is one of many groups that are fighting the Syrian regime now, it is not the only one," a senior administration official told reporters Tuesday in explaining the designation. "In fact it is a minority. Its influence has grown in recent months, but it still represents the minority element within the broader armed opposition."

The State Department added the group to its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations Tuesday, saying it is a front for al Qaida in Iraq, an organization added to the list in 2004. The Treasury Department sanctioned two senior members of al-Nusra in concert.
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Filed under: Syria • Terrorism
U.S. spies describe their vision of sci-fi world of the near future
Robot designed to do recovery work at the damaged Fukusima Nuclear Plant in Japan
December 11th, 2012
01:00 AM ET

U.S. spies describe their vision of sci-fi world of the near future

By Pam Benson

Unmanned vehicles, robotic aides to the elderly and surgical enhancements to make you stronger, smarter, or even give you night vision - it's all part of the world the U.S. intelligence community says could exist just 20 years from now.

In its "Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds" report released Monday, the National Intelligence Council indicated future advancements in technology have the potential to boost economic productivity and reduce scarcity in food, water and energy worldwide.

In a briefing for reporters, Christopher Kojm, the chairman of the council added, "they will continue to extend the average age and life spans of populations around the world."

The report is the fifth in a series that looks 15-20 years ahead at the critical trends and the potential game changers.

It's intended to provide policymakers a way to think about the future of the world. Kojm said the council made a "special effort" to assess one of the game changers: the impact of new technologies in shaping global economic, social and military developments.

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