January 7th, 2013
07:52 PM ET

Taking to the air on hunt for dirty bomb threats

By Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd

Residents of Washington may be surprised by a helicopter flying low overhead this week, endlessly prowling the city to map its radiation signature.

The helicopter is crisscrossing the city, like a lawn mower covering a lawn, flying as low as just 150 feet off the ground. CNN spotted it northwest of downtown on Monday, flying low over the buildings, back and forth, east to west.

The purpose: to produce a baseline scan of the natural radiological readings in the capital. Once the map is done, any new anomalies - or suspicious radioactive activity - could be more easily detected.

FULL POST

January 7th, 2013
06:57 PM ET

Obama makes telling foreign policy picks

President Barack Obama said Monday he will nominate former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, to become Defense Secretary and tapped his chief counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency. CNN's Barbara Starr reports on the message Obama is sending about foreign policy in his second term with these two top national security post nominations.

Peter Bergen on Obama's drone warrior
January 7th, 2013
01:41 PM ET

Peter Bergen on Obama's drone warrior

By Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst, and Jennifer Rowland, Special to CNN

President Barack Obama has nominated his top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, to be the next director of the CIA.

If there is an emerging Obama doctrine to deal with the threat from al Qaeda and its allies, it is clearly a rejection of the use of conventional military forces and a growing reliance instead on the use of drones and U.S. Special Operations Forces - and Brennan has been central to Obama's policy.

One of Brennan's most significant legacies in the four years he has been the president's principal adviser on terrorism is the American drone campaign against al Qaeda and its allies in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen - one that has shifted focus significantly in the past year or so.

The steadily increasing rate of drone strikes in Yemen over the past two years shows that the CIA's drone war - rather than declining – is shifting from one part of the world to another.

Brennan has been the key architect of this policy. The Arabic-speaking Brennan, who was once CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, in a sense became the "case officer" for the Yemen "account," traveling to Yemen seven times since al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula sent the so-called underwear bomber to try and bring down Northwest Flight 235 over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.

FULL STORY
January 7th, 2013
01:32 PM ET

Ready to tackle the job: Clinton returns to State

Who says politics and diplomacy aren't contact sports?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton returned to work Monday and was gifted the proper equipment for her final plays on the job.

Her Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides and staff at the weekly meeting of approximately 75 department managers presented her "a football helmet with a State Department seal, lots of good padding," State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Reporters were not in the room, but the presentation was described by Nuland at a press briefing Monday afternoon, and the department distributed photos of her opening the gifts.

FULL STORY

Obama to name John Brennan to lead CIA
January 7th, 2013
07:10 AM ET

Obama to name John Brennan to lead CIA

By Pam Benson

If President Barack Obama's selection to lead the CIA is confirmed, it will be a homecoming of sorts.

John Brennan, the president's chief homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, spent 25 years at the Central intelligence Agency distinguishing himself as a Mideast and terrorism expert.

But moving back to Langley would be a big change.

He's spent the past four years at the White House, where he has had Obama's ear.

If there is an act of terrorism against Americans anywhere in the world or a mass shooting at home, Brennan is often the one who picks up the phone or walks into the Oval Office, day or night, to tell the president about the calamity.

He has been the president's trusted counterterrorism and homeland security aide who can be seen in photographs briefing Obama on such incidents as the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, or the Times Square bombing attempt in 2010. He's with the president in the Situation Room during crisis deliberations.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • CIA • Intelligence • White House
Nations prepare for cyber war
A cyberattack believed to be backed by Iran brought down 75% of the PCs at Saudi oil company Aramco.
January 7th, 2013
06:27 AM ET

Nations prepare for cyber war

By David Goldman

Security analysts are predicting that 2013 is when nation-sponsored cyberwarfare goes mainstream - and some think such attacks will lead to actual deaths.

In 2012, large-scale cyberattacks targeted at the Iranian government were uncovered, and in return, Iran is believed to have launched massive attacks aimed at U.S. banks and Saudi oil companies. At least 12 of the world's 15 largest military powers are currently building cyberwarfare programs, according to James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

So a cyber Cold War is already in progress. But some security companies believe that battle will become even more heated this year.

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Filed under: Cybersecurity • Iran • Terrorism
Officials: Suspected U.S. drone strike kills 17 in Pakistan's tribal region
Pakistani demonstrators with a U.S. flag during protests in Multan January 3, 2013 against the drone attacks in tribal areas.
January 7th, 2013
03:26 AM ET

Officials: Suspected U.S. drone strike kills 17 in Pakistan's tribal region

By Shaan Khan

A suspected U.S. drone strike killed 17 people and wounded three Sunday in Pakistan's volatile tribal region, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The strike occurred in Babar Ziarat, which borders the Pakistani provinces of North and South Waziristan, near the Afghan border, the officials said.

Those killed and injured in the strike were believed to be militants, the officials said.

The attack follows two suspected U.S. drone strikes in the same area last week that killed 15 people, including a Taliban commander with ties to the Pakistani military.

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Filed under: drones • Pakistan