Former top U.S. commander in Afghanistan cautions against 'zero option'
July 19th, 2013
10:27 PM ET

Former top U.S. commander in Afghanistan cautions against 'zero option'

By CNN's Elise Labott and Shirley Henry

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 former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, retired Gen. John Allen, cautioned Friday against leaving no U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014.

Speaking Friday at the Aspen Security Forum, Allen said that although the Afghan army has made great gains, Afghan leaders realize its forces are not fully trained and need a U.S. presence beyond next year.

"I've got a good bit of experience with senior Afghan leaders, and I can tell you almost to a person, they desperately want our presence after this war," he said. "They don't want us in large numbers, but they want us there in enough numbers to help to continue to develop the ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces)."

Allen, who retired in April, said he was never asked to evaluate a "zero option" - leaving no U.S. troops behind after 2014 - but added that if that option is in play now, it's "largely out of exasperation with the rhetoric coming out of the palace," referring to the strained U.S relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

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July 19th, 2013
05:28 PM ET

Court renews secret U.S. surveillance program

By CNN Staff

A top-secret court has renewed the authority of U.S. national security officials to collect telephone data as part of a surveillance program that was exposed by intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said it had decided to declassify and announce the program renewal, which occurs periodically but is never publicized.

Snowden leaked classified information about the program to media outlets last month and then fled the country. He has been charged with espionage.

His disclosure prompted outrage from civil libertarians, members of Congress and privacy groups concerned with the sweeping nature of the telephone surveillance and a companion effort that monitors e-mails.

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Filed under: Edward Snowden • NSA • ODNI
Kerry: Israelis and Palestinians to return to talks
Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Friday.
July 19th, 2013
03:01 PM ET

Kerry: Israelis and Palestinians to return to talks

The long-dormant Middle East peace efforts got new life on Friday.

An agreement has been reached that "establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between" Palestinians and Israel, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Amman, Jordan.

"This is a significant and welcome step forward," Kerry said.

This came as Kerry visited the Middle East this week and came up with a formula for reanimating peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian territories, a source close to the talks said.

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Filed under: Diplomacy • Israel • Palestine • Sec. State John Kerry
July 19th, 2013
01:09 PM ET

Is terrorism still a threat to American families?

By Dan Merica, Elise Labott and Shirley Henry

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.

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, a majority of Americans were worried about terrorism directly impacting their lives, according to a number of polls.

More than a decade later, is that still the case?

That was the primary question John Ashcroft, former attorney general under President George W. Bush, and Phillip Mudd, a former senior official at the CIA and FBI, debated at a Friday panel at the Aspen Security Forum.

“I think we are still at war,” Ashcroft said bluntly. “I don’t know if I will be able to be sure to say when we will be able to say we are not at war. But as long as they are continuing to hit us and allege that they are at war, I think we can.”

In response, Mudd directly challenged Ashcroft.

“I don't agree, by the way, that we are at war,” the author said.

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July 19th, 2013
09:02 AM ET

Former CIA chief speaks out on Snowden

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.

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden spoke with CNN's 'New Day' and discusses how Edward Snowden's leaks have changed the way terrorists operate and are making them harder to catch. Hayden spoke from Aspen, Colorado where he is attending teh Aspen Security Forum.

As Obama readies to visit Russia for G-20 summit, will he bypass Moscow?
July 19th, 2013
12:13 AM ET

As Obama readies to visit Russia for G-20 summit, will he bypass Moscow?

Edward Snowden’s long layover may be over if Russia grants him temporary asylum. But will it?

The country has the G-20 summit coming up. And while the White House has said President Barack Obama will attend the gathering in St. Petersburg, it isn’t saying whether he’ll stop in Moscow.

That’s not the kind of embarrassment President Vladimir Putin wants to risk over the American intelligence leaker.
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Filed under: Edward Snowden • Putin • Russia
July 19th, 2013
12:00 AM ET

Upheaval and the redrawing of terrorist lines in the Arab world

By Elise Labott and 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 instability and changing governments in the Middle East have redrawn lines in the region and created instability that has provided a breeding ground for terrorism, the former head of the CIA said Thursday.

John McLaughlin, the former acting director of the CIA, also told the Aspen Security Forum that the terrorist threat facing the United States has undergone a sea change, posing challenges to U.S. agencies seeking to understand and dismantle them.

“The changes in terrorism and not whether there is an end point are so transformational as to compare plausibly with the changes of the Berlin Wall coming down,” McLaughlin said.

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