By Dan Merica
A group of rabbis, reverends and priests has a message for President Barack Obama: stop the drone war.
In a video produced by the Brave New Foundation, a group that uses video and social media to protest against drones, Jewish and Christian leaders describe the practice as "assassination by remote control," which violates religious principles.
“From a New Testament point of view, drones are completely appalling,” the Rev. Paul F. M. Zahl, the retired Episcopal rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase, Maryland, told CNN. “The whole idea of killing a guy without giving the guy a chance to surrender is preemptive. That for me was completely contrary to the teachings of Christ.”
The video criticizes the Obama administration, stating that the use of war does not follow Just War Theory, which has Roman and Catholic influences. The theory includes criteria that legitimize war, including ensuring that war is a last resort and that it is being carried out with the right intentions.FULL STORY
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.
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
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.FULL STORY
By Adam Levine
There is a "high probability" that Syria deployed chemical weapons in the ongoing civil war, but final verification is needed, the chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee said Tuesday.
"I have a high probability to believe that chemical weapons were used," Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) told CNN. "We need that final verification, but given everything we know over the last year and a half, I would come to the conclusion that they are either positioned for use, and ready to do that, or in fact have been used."
Rogers and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, struck ominous tones in an interview on CNN's Situation Room about the possibility that Syria had crossed what President Barack Obama has said was a 'red line' that could lead to the United States getting involved militarily in the conflict.
"The White House has to make some decision in this. I think the days are becoming more desperate. The regime is more desperate," Feinstein said in the interview. "We know where the chemical weapons are. It's not a secret that they are there, and I think the probabilities are very high that we're going into some very dark times and I think the White House needs to be prepared." FULL POST
By Mike Mount
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered a review of how steep military cuts that took effect this month might impact the Pentagon's overall strategy for deploying its resources globally.
Hagel instructed Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey to lead a group of civilian and military officials in conducing the review.
Last year, the Pentagon issued new guidelines on its future strategy. The blueprint called for shifting most of its emphasis toward the Asia-Pacific region while still keeping an eye on hot spots in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
The two-month review will help define major strategy decisions over the next 10 years, according to a statement from Pentagon spokesman George Little.
It will look at assumptions that guided the initial strategy shift and will build a framework that Hagel can turn to for making the next round of budget decisions.
The Pentagon is expected to absorb roughly half of $85 billion in government-wide spending cuts for the remainder of the fiscal year that took effect on March 1.
By Bill Mears
A federal appeals court panel has ruled the CIA must acknowledge the existence of any records related to military unmanned drone strikes aimed at people such as terror suspects overseas.
It called the agency's previous denials "fiction."
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups had filed a Freedom of Information Act request, but the spy agency - citing national security - refused to confirm or deny it had any such records.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia did not buy the argument, giving the outside groups a partial legal victory Friday.
"The CIA asked the courts to stretch that doctrine too far - to give their imprimatur to a fiction of deniability that no reasonable person would regard as plausible." FULL POST
By Chris Lawrence
The U.S. military will enhance the nation's ability to defend itself from any missile attack by North Korea or Iran, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Friday.
Still relatively new in his post, the Pentagon chief told reporters that the United States will deploy 14 additional ground-based missile interceptors to bring the total to 44. He said the expansion should be completed by 2017.
Part of the move would involve reopening a missile field at Fort Greely, Alaska, and some of the interceptors would be based in California, U.S. officials said.FULL STORY
By Barbara Starr
An Iranian fighter jet targeted an unarmed U.S. Predator drone over the Persian Gulf this week, the Pentagon says.
It was the latest Iranian move aimed at thwarting American military airborne intelligence efforts in the region.
Defense Department spokesman George Little said on Thursday the unmanned MQ-1 drone was conducting routine classified surveillance over international waters on Tuesday when approached by an Iranian F-4.
The two aircraft came within 16 miles of each other.
By Alex Mooney
President Obama has invited a handful of CEOs to the White House Situation Room on Wednesday to discuss the growing threats posed by cyberattacks.
Administration officials are so far staying tight-lipped about who is attending the closed-door meeting, but one White House official tried to downplay the choice of convening it in the Situation Room, which is ordinarily reserved for high-ranking members of the president's national security team.
Instead, the White House official said, the Situation Room is the only conference room available Wednesday to accommodate the meeting.
The president is expected to discuss his administration's latest steps to beef up cybersecurity, including a recently signed executive order designed to improve intelligence sharing between the government and the private sector over potential cyber vulnerabilities, particularly those posed by Chinese hackers.
Among the CEOs invited are the leaders of AT&T, Honeywell and Northrop Grumman, the White House said Wednesday. FULL POST
By Jennifer Rizzo and Kevin Liptak
In an about-face, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has decided to review the criteria of a recently created "drone award" that ranked achievements in related warfare and other modern combat skills above the most noted recognition for bravery on the battlefield.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal, which was approved last month by Hagel's predecessor, Leon Panetta, recognizes "extraordinary direct impacts on combat operations." But the honor denotes that the action is not bound by a "geographic limitation," meaning drone operators could be eligible.
Some lawmakers expressed concern the medal would be placed above those for battlefield valor, including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said production of the medal had been halted so Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey can conduct the review. He is expected to present his findings in 30 days.
"Secretary Hagel consulted with the chairman, the joint chiefs, and the service secretaries, and knows the decision to establish the medal was carefully and thoroughly analyzed within the Department of Defense," Little said at a media briefing. FULL POST