July 18th, 2013
10:59 PM ET

NSA chief strongly defends govt. surveillance programs, but suggests he's open to changes

By Dan Merica and Elise Labott

Editor's note: This is one in a series of stories and opinion pieces surrounding the Aspen Security Forum currently taking place in Aspen, Colorado. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event, which is taking place from July 17 to 20 in Aspen, Colorado.

The director of the National Security Agency on Thursday offered a full-throated defense of a domestic monitoring program that has been at the center of government leaks, while also tacitly supporting an idea to dramatically change the controversial snooping.

In a public interview at the Aspen Security Forum, NSA Director Keith Alexander addressed the leaks carried out by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked classified documents to the media.

At the heart of the Snowden leaks is a program that collects information about all calls in the United States. The information collected, called metadata, includes duration, time of the call and the numbers that are party to the call, all of which are stored in a government database.

But what if private phone companies - instead of the government - ran the database?

"You could technically do that," Alexander said. "Now, it creates some operational problems that we would have to work our way through … But that may be the best solution."

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July 18th, 2013
07:24 PM ET

Terrorism chief worried about European reaction to Snowden leaks

By Dan Merica

Editor's note: This is one in a series of stories and opinion pieces surrounding the Aspen Security Forum currently taking place in Aspen, Colorado. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event, which is taking place from July 17 to 20 in Aspen, Colorado.

The United States' antiterrorism chief is worried about the leaks that former government contractor Edward Snowden has carried out - particularly, he said Thursday, because our European allies are watching and reacting.

In a panel at the Aspen Security Forum, Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said that while "it remains to be seen" how Snowden's leaks have affected relationships with U.S. allies, he is growing concerned.

"I an worried about it when I see what I read, particularly with respect to Europe and our European allies," he said. "How they may be reacting to this. But I think it just remains to be seen on that."

Olsen, who heads the center that is responsible for analyzing all terror threats, was noticeably measured in his answer.

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Filed under: Aspen Security Forum • Edward Snowden • Europe • France • NSA • Terrorism
Heated battle between McCain and military chief
July 18th, 2013
06:52 PM ET

Heated battle between McCain and military chief

By Jamie Crawford

Sen. John McCain and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey traded rhetorical jabs in a lively exchange Thursday over the scope of Dempsey's role as President Obama's chief military adviser.

While the overarching concern on McCain's part was the substance of Dempsey's advice to the president on the civil war in Syria, the debate soon became a surrogate battle over the wisdom of U.S. military assistance to Syrian rebels.

McCain wasted no time in voicing his disapproval of Dempsey's tenure, and that of his deputy, Vice Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee to consider their nominations for a second term in their roles.

"I must tell both witnesses at the onset I'm very concerned about the role they have played over the last two years," he said.
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Filed under: Dempsey • McCain • Syria
July 18th, 2013
06:02 PM ET

ACLU, government reps debate whether Snowden is public servant or traitor

By Dan Merica and Elise Labott

Editor's note: This is one in a series of stories and opinion pieces surrounding the Aspen Security Forum currently taking place in Aspen, Colorado. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event, which is taking place from July 17 to 20 in Aspen, Colorado.

Was Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor?

That is the question the media, the public and elected officials have debated ever since Snowden released classified information about the United States' efforts to monitor its own citizens.

But on Thursday, the debate got more interesting when representatives from the National Security Agency - the organization Snowden leaked information about - the Pentagon and the American Civil Liberties Union informally debated the issue in public.

"I think he did this country a service," Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU said regarding Snowden. "I have not said that publicly until this point. I think he did this country a service by starting a debate that was anemic, that was left to government officials where people did not understand fully what was happening."

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July 18th, 2013
03:34 PM ET

Former spy chief speaks out on NSA surveillance programs

Editor's note: This is one in a series of stories and opinion pieces surrounding the Aspen Security Forum currently taking place in Aspen, Colorado. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event, which is taking place from July 17 to 20 in Aspen, Colorado.

In an interview with CNN's Brooke Baldwin, Dennis Blair, the former Director of National Intelligence weighed in Thursday with his thoughts on the NSA surveillance programs leaked by Edward Snowden. He also gave his thoughts on the killing of civilians in drone operations overseas. Blair spoke from Aspen, Colorado where he is attending the Aspen Security Forum.

Deputy secretary of defense: 2 mistakes led to Snowden leaks
July 18th, 2013
02:37 PM ET

Deputy secretary of defense: 2 mistakes led to Snowden leaks

Editor's note: This is one in a series of stories and opinion pieces surrounding the Aspen Security Forum currently taking place in Aspen, Colorado. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event, which is taking place from July 17 to 20 in Aspen, Colorado.

A senior-level defense official said Thursday that keeping top-secret information on one shared server and giving an individual the ability to view and move that data were two mistakes that allowed NSA leaker Edward Snowden to disclose top-secret information.

Although Ashton Carter, the deputy secretary of defense, said he didn't want to directly comment on Snowden - "because that is a criminal investigation" - he spent a portion of a panel at the Aspen Security Forum laying out the "root causes of all of this."

"This is a failure to defend our own network," Carter said. "That failure originated from two practices that we need to reverse."

The first mistake: "In an effort for those in the intelligence community to be able to share information with one another, there was an enormous amount of information concentrated in one place. ... It creates too much information in one place."

The second: "You had an individual who was given very substantial authority to access that information and move that information. That ought not to be the case, either."

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Filed under: Aspen Security Forum • Cybersecurity • Edward Snowden • NSA • Pentagon
First on CNN: Navy, Marine Corps hope some publicity helps deter sexual assaults
July 18th, 2013
02:07 AM ET

First on CNN: Navy, Marine Corps hope some publicity helps deter sexual assaults

The Navy and Marine Corps will begin publishing their own versions of a sex offenders list as part of an effort to crack down on sexual assaults, CNN has learned.

Both branches will start posting the results of courts-martial, including sexual assault proceedings in the services, on their home pages.

Convictions and acquittals will be listed, according to a Navy official who described the plan to CNN. He declined to be named until it is officially announced.
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