NSA to senator: If we were collecting your phone records, we couldn't tell you
January 14th, 2014
11:22 PM ET

NSA to senator: If we were collecting your phone records, we couldn't tell you

(CNN) - National Security Agency chief Gen. Keith Alexander, in response to a letter from Sen. Bernie Sanders, said Tuesday that nothing the agency does "can fairly be characterized as 'spying on Members of Congress or American elected officials.'"

Alexander did not offer any further details about members of Congress specifically, arguing that doing so would require him to violate the civilian protections incorporated into the surveillance programs.

"Among those protections is the condition that NSA can query the metadata only based on phone numbers reasonably suspected to be associated with specific foreign terrorist groups," Alexander wrote. FULL POST

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Filed under: Gen. Keith Alexander • NSA
No. 2 House Dem blasts 'irresponsible' Iran comments
January 14th, 2014
05:35 PM ET

No. 2 House Dem blasts 'irresponsible' Iran comments

By Deirdre Walsh

Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, blasted as "irresponsible" comments by Obama administration officials who have suggested that lawmakers pushing for tighter sanctions on Iran are increasing the risk of war.

Hoyer, of Maryland, didn't name names, but an aide said he was referring to several comments from various officials over the past month.

The New York Times quoted Obama's deputy national security adviser, Benjamin Rhodes, on the subject on Tuesday.

"It just stands to reason if you close the diplomatic option, you're left with a difficult choice of waiting to see if sanctions cause Iran to capitulate, which we don't think will happen, or considering military action," Rhodes said, according to the paper.
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Filed under: Congress • Iran
U.S. defends John Kerry from criticism by Israel's defense minister
January 14th, 2014
04:14 PM ET

U.S. defends John Kerry from criticism by Israel's defense minister

By Steve Almasy

U.S. officials reacted angrily to comments attributed to Israel's defense minister criticizing Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to broker a peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians.

The derisive remarks appeared in a popular daily Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronot, and reflect Moshe Yaalon's skepticism of the Kerry-led U.S. efforts "both in private conversations in Israel and in the U.S."

"American Secretary of State John Kerry, who turned up here determined and acting out of misplaced obsession and messianic fervor, cannot teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians," Yaalon said, according to the paper.

The U.S. State Department fired back Tuesday. Spokeswoman Marie Harf said it was shocking that a close ally would question Kerry's motives.

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Filed under: Israel • Kerry
Obama has room to maneuver on NSA reforms
January 14th, 2014
03:02 PM ET

Obama has room to maneuver on NSA reforms

By Matthew Hoye

President Barack Obama has some room to maneuver in crafting reforms to the National Security Agency’s massive data collection program.

A national security expert tells CNN that the President, in fact, has “a lot of leeway in terms of what to recommend and not  recommend.”

Obama is expected to announce changes to the surveillance initiative at a speech at the Justice Department on Friday .

An independent review ordered by Obama amid concerns that NSA snooping, revealed in leaks by Edward Snowden last year, had gone too far recommended that government do a better job of protecting civil liberties. FULL POST

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Filed under: Obama
Iran nukes: 'secret' side deal or face-saving attempt?
January 14th, 2014
12:51 PM ET

Iran nukes: 'secret' side deal or face-saving attempt?

 

By Elise Labott

Global powers and Iran are preparing to carry out an interim deal to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions in exchange for easing some economic sanctions while they try to negotiate a comprehensive agreement.

Successful implementation may ultimately revolve around previously unreported details about Iranian rights regarding its nuclear program that were included in a 30-page side bar to the six-month agreement that takes effect on January 20.

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Unclassified documents reveal more details about Benghazi attack
January 14th, 2014
03:57 AM ET

Unclassified documents reveal more details about Benghazi attack

(CNN) - The House Armed Services Committee on Monday released hundreds of pages of transcripts of previously classified testimony about the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. The testimony focuses primarily on the military posture before, during, and after the attack, which left U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.

In the testimony, senior military officials said that despite general warnings about the possibility of terrorist attacks around the world because of the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, there were no discussions related to any specific threat in Libya. As a result, additional military assets were not deployed. FULL POST