Military takeover of lethal drone operations under consideration
The U.S. MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle has been used to take out key targets in the war on terror.
March 20th, 2013
11:32 PM ET

Military takeover of lethal drone operations under consideration

By Chris Lawrence and Barbara Starr

The Obama administration is considering shifting lethal drone operations run by the Central Intelligence Agency over to the military, U.S. officials tell CNN.

The proposal is under "serious consideration," one U.S. official said. The official said no final decision has been made, and that there is no specific time frame in place, but that the change is being considered "due to a desire for greater transparency in who is being targeted."

By law, the military is not able to act covertly the way the CIA can, and it must answer to Congress.

The Daily Beast website first reported on the potential shift.

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U.S. military considers its options in Syria
NATO has installed Patriot missile batteries in Turkey, near its border with Syria which Admiral Stavridis said could theoretically be used to shoot down Syrian aircraft.
March 20th, 2013
04:53 PM ET

U.S. military considers its options in Syria

By Chris Lawrence

Seven months ago, President Barack Obama warned the use of chemical weapons in Syria could bring direct U.S. involvement in that country's raging civil war. While the administration's interest in U.S. military involvement in Syria remains low, planners still have been preparing for the possibility U.S. forces would have to step in and neutralize Syria's military or safeguard chemical weapons stockpiles.

It's not a pretty picture, NATO commander Adm. James Stavridis said Tuesday, a day after unconfirmed reports emerged that chemical weapons may have been used.

"The Syrian situation continues to become worse and worse and worse," he said.

The mere possibility of U.S. involvement comes at a bad time for the military, which is preparing to ground some aircraft, scrap some naval deployments and cut back on training to meet budget cuts mandated by forced spending cuts that went into effect last month.
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March 20th, 2013
03:29 PM ET

FIRST ON CNN: Bounty on two Americans tied to Somali terror group

By Elise Labott

The State Department has put a multimillion-dollar bounty on the heads of two Americans who the United States claims belong to an al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, CNN has learned.

Posters and matchbooks in Somali and English emblazoned with the names and pictures of Omar Shafik Hammami and Jehad Serwan Mostafa tout rewards up to $5 million each for information leading to their arrest or conviction. Both men are on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists List.

Image on matchbox to be distributed as part of the Rewards for Justice program

The rewards are being offered through the State Department's Rewards for Justice Program.

Hammami and Mostafa are members of Al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, and "have made significant contributions to this terrorist organization's media and military activities," according to a State Department statement on the rewards, obtained by CNN. They are both are believed to be in Somalia and speak English, Arabic and Somali.

A senior FBI official said the United States has information that both men "had a persistent interest in targeting U.S. interests" and are "believed to be involved in planning attacks on U.S. persons or property." But it is unclear what specific attacks against Americans, even ones that have been thwarted, these men have taken part in. Officials said that information is classified.

Hammami, a 29-year-old Alabama native, moved to Somalia in 2006. The State Department claims he joined Al-Shabaab there and received training from Islamic militants, rising through the organization's ranks to command a contingent of foreign fighters. Officials say he was also a "propagandist" for the group, helping to recruit English-speaking youth through writings, rap songs and video statements. FULL POST

Is U.S. leading on Syria, or being led by France?
A Syrian rebel crosses a street while trying to dodge sniper fire in the old city of Aleppo in northern Syria on March 11, 2013.
March 20th, 2013
10:23 AM ET

Is U.S. leading on Syria, or being led by France?

By Elise Labott

Next week, European Union ministers will meet to discuss lifting the arms embargo on Syria, a move that some countries say could strengthen the hand of moderate members of the opposition and make them less reliant on well-armed extremist elements within their ranks.

Not all of the EU's 27 members agree on the idea. Germany, for one, has voiced concern. And EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has warned it could further inflame the conflict and backfire against the West.

But regardless of the decision, Britain and France seem poised to ignore the ban altogether, arguing that it has, in effect, become a weapon against the members of the Syrian opposition it was meant to protect.

"The European Union arms embargo is now backfiring," one French official said. "Ideally, we'd like the European Union to lift the embargo. But if that doesn't happen, we'd be ready to take our responsibility."
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Newly revealed bin Laden document details al Qaeda strategy to attack
March 20th, 2013
06:41 AM ET

Newly revealed bin Laden document details al Qaeda strategy to attack

By Paul Cruickshank, Tim Lister and Nic Robertson

A previously secret document found at Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan sets out a detailed al Qaeda strategy for attacking targets in Europe and the United States.

The document - a letter written to bin Laden in March 2010 by a senior operational figure in the terror group - reveals that tunnels, bridges, dams, undersea pipelines and internet cables were among the targets.

It was written by Younis al-Mauretani, a senior al Qaeda planner thought to have been behind an ambitious plan to hit "soft" targets in Europe in the fall of 2010.

The U.S. Department of Justice passed the letter to German prosecutors last year for use in an ongoing trial in Dusseldorf because it possibly refers to one of the defendants, according to the German newspaper Die Zeit.

The 17-page letter is in Arabic.

Al-Mauretani proposed that al Qaeda recruits take jobs with companies transporting gasoline and and other sensitive companies in the West, and await the right moment to strike.

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