August 1st, 2013
10:14 PM ET

Pentagon pressed to streamline MIA recovery effort

By Larry Shaughnessy

The Pentagon came under pressure in Congress on Thursday to shape up its process for accounting for those reported missing in action.

More than 83,000 American servicemen and women are listed as missing from the wars of last century, including World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and the effort to account for them is divided among various military agencies.

"For the past decade, DOD has accounted for an average of 72 persons each year," Brenda Farrell of the Government Accountability Office told a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

But the Pentagon has mandated the overall search effort increase annual recovery to 200 people per year.

"It's time we focus our attention on how we make the POW/MIA accounting community more effective and efficient to be able to meet the goal of identifying at least these 200 sets of remains a year by 2015," Rep. Susan Davis, D-California, said.

No American troops are listed as missing from the most recent conflicts in Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, due in part to modern DNA testing.

So why is it so hard to resolve past cases?

There are a handful of Pentagon units involved.

The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) is based near Washington; Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command is headquartered in Hawaii; and the Air Force Life Sciences Equipment Laboratory is based in Texas.

They have overlapping duties and different bosses.

"DPMO and JPAC developed two competing proposed plans, neither of which encompass the entire accounting community," Farrell said. "There are other players such as the Life Science equipment laboratory that reports to the Air Force Material Command. That's another chain of command we've got. Now we're up to three chains of command."

Sen. Claire McCaskill said at a Homeland Security subcommittee hearing that a 1993 Senate report noted the process at the time for locating missing Americans in Southeast Asia was flawed by a "lack of organizational clarity, coordination and consistency.

"Is it any wonder that this is a mess." she said.

August 1st, 2013
07:16 PM ET

Security worries trigger embassy closings

The State Department will close a number of U.S. embassies and consulates on Sunday due to "more than the usual chatter" about a potential terrorist threat.

A senior U.S. official said that although the threat does not have a great deal of specificity about time and location, it is being taken "very seriously."

U.S. "interests" including military installations could also see additional security and protection measures. The official, and a second official as well, noted that tensions are rising with the approach of both the holy days at the end of Ramadan and the first anniversary of the September 11 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.

Several hundred Marines in Spain, Italy and in the Red Sea could provide additional security for U.S. embassies in southern Europe, North Africa or the Middle East if requested by the State Department.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf revealed the closings but gave no details as to the locations of the affected embassies or the nature of the threat.

"The Department of State has instructed certain U.S. embassies and consulates to remain closed or to suspend operations on Sunday, August 4. The department has been apprised of information that out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting our installation, that indicates we should institute these precautionary steps. The department, when conditions warrant, takes steps like this to balance our continued operations with security and safety," Harf said.

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Exclusive: Dozens of CIA operatives on the ground during Benghazi attack
August 1st, 2013
06:40 PM ET

Exclusive: Dozens of CIA operatives on the ground during Benghazi attack

CNN has uncovered exclusive new information about what is allegedly happening at the CIA, in the wake of the deadly Benghazi terror attack.

Four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed in the assault by armed militants last September 11 in eastern Libya.

Sources now tell CNN dozens of people working for the CIA were on the ground that night, and that the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing, remains a secret.

CNN has learned the CIA is involved in what one source calls an unprecedented attempt to keep the spy agency's Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out.

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Filed under: Benghazi • CIA • Libya
U.S. may end drone strikes in Pakistan
August 1st, 2013
04:39 PM ET

U.S. may end drone strikes in Pakistan

The US is looking to end drone strikes in Pakistan, Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday. Kerry told a Pakistani television station that President Barack Obama has "very real timeline".

"We hope it's going to be very very soon," according to a transcript of the interview provided by the State Department.

"I believe that we're on a good track. I think the program will end as we have eliminated most of the threat and continue to eliminate it," Kerry said. He added that the cessation depends on "a number of factors" and the US is working with the Pakistani government.

After ramping up strikes in the tribal region in the first few years of Obama's presidency, the number of drone strikes in Pakistan has dropped significantly, in part due to the deterioration of al Qaeda in the country and more focus on threats from al Qaeda groups in other countries like Yemen.

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Filed under: Central Intelligence Agency • CIA • drones • Pakistan • Security Brief
Official: U.S. not surprised Snowden got asylum
August 1st, 2013
09:48 AM ET

Official: U.S. not surprised Snowden got asylum

By Evan Perez and Barbara Starr

U.S. law enforcement officials said Russia’s decision to grant temporary asylum to intelligence leaker Edward Snowden wasn’t a surprise, since Russian authorities had signaled their plans in previous public statements.

The FBI and its counterparts at Russia’s FSB security agency have held talks in recent weeks on the former National Security Agency contractor, who left the main Moscow airport on Thursday after a month in diplomatic limbo.

But U.S. law enforcement officials said they never expected the lower-level talks would decide Snowden’s status in Russia or lead to his return to the United States to face espionage charges.

Snowden has admitted leaking secret documents to media outlets that detailed NSA anti-terror telephone and e-mail surveillance. Some people view him as a patriot who exposed government over-reach while others say he should be prosecuted.
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