White House sending Benghazi emails to Senate
Damaged room at U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya
February 22nd, 2013
04:14 PM ET

White House sending Benghazi emails to Senate

By Pam Benson

The White House has agreed to turn over to the Senate Intelligence Committee additional e-mails and intelligence reports related to the lethal attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, according to a congressional source.

The source said some of the materials have already been received by the panel and others "will be provided shortly."

Republican senators have threatened to hold up the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director until they receive e-mails exchanged between the White House and the spy agency concerning public talking points about the deadly attack last September 11.

U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice relied on those talking points to explain the Obama administration's version of events several days after the armed assault. Her televised comments ignited an election-year controversy, fueled by Republicans, over whether the administration was being truthful about the nature of the attack.

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Potential Pentagon nominee brings all sides out swinging
Chuck Hagel is in the awkward position of defending himself for a job nobody at the White House will publicly acknowledge he is a candidate for.
December 21st, 2012
07:04 PM ET

Potential Pentagon nominee brings all sides out swinging

By Mike Mount

Calls of concern and support over President Obama's possible pick to be the next secretary of defense are piling up as former colleagues and special interest organizations take aim at and defend the independent-thinking former senator.

Chuck Hagel is believed to be the president's preferred candidate to run the Pentagon, but an announcement has yet to be made by the White House.

On Friday Hagel, in the awkward position of defending himself for a job nobody at the White House will publicly acknowledge he is a candidate for, tried to explain an anti-gay comment he made in 1998.

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And the next secretary of defense will be ...
December 7th, 2012
03:00 AM ET

And the next secretary of defense will be ...

By Mike Mount, CNN

One of the worst-kept secrets in Washington is that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will soon leave his post for a calmer life at his beloved Northern California ranch.

Panetta and those close to him have given no public indication he will leave upon the start of the next Obama administration, but people close to the defense secretary say Panetta is more than ready to retire from his long public service life.

Four choices to replace Panetta seem to be getting the most buzz as the announcement day gets closer.

Security Clearance talked to people inside the Department of Defense, on Capitol Hill and in the defense community about what each potential nominee could bring to the table, and what issues might work against them being chosen by the president for the top job.

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Obama faces a world of challenges in second term
November 8th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Obama faces a world of challenges in second term

After a long presidential campaign, Barack Obama has little time to savor his re-election victory as a host of world challenges linger. Security Clearance examines some of the key national security issues Obama will have to tackle in the coming months and what the strategy may be now that the election year politicking is over.

Mideast, Iran and North Africa

On his second day in office in 2009, President Barack Obama appointed former Sen. George Mitchell as an envoy to Mideast peace and pledged to work "actively and aggressively" to secure a final peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.

Four years later, Israelis and Palestinians are father apart from a deal than at any time in the decades-long peace process. And that effort became more difficult with the election of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has made countering Iran's nuclear threat his priority, as well as Palestinian infighting and conditions for restarting talks.

But both parties also blame a lack of U.S. leadership on the issue as a major reason negotiations have stalled. As with previous presidents, a second term could inspire bold moves by Obama to bring the parties back to the table.

One of his most pressing challenges will be curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions. After months of criticizing the Obama administration for not being tough enough on Iran, the Israeli government is now casting Obama's re-election as good for Israel and for dealing with Iran.

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Who might serve in Obama's second term?
November 7th, 2012
10:24 AM ET

Who might serve in Obama's second term?

Now that President Obama has won a second term, this is what CNN's national security team is hearing through the grape vine on what the President's national security team might look like, though don't expect many changes, just a couple of big ones.

There is only one vacancy on his national security team that we are certain of. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made clear she wants to return to private life and does not intend to serve in a second Obama term. Secretary Panetta has been less vocal about what his future holds, but at 74, and after decades of service to multiple administrations, he could decide that he wants to return to his home in California early in a second term. Of course, there are always the rumors of CIA Director David Petraeus's interest in the presidency at Princeton University should it open up.

With the Obama win on Tuesday, here is a list of officials seen as likely candidates for his second term national security team should a vacancy occur:

DEFENSE SECRETARY

Michèle Flournoy
Flournoy had been the highest ranking woman at the Pentagon and was considered an early contender to succeed Defense Secretary Robert Gates last year. As the No. 3 official from 2009 to 2012, she advised Gates and his successor, Leon Panetta, in the formulation of national security and defense policy and had oversight of military plans and operations. With a strong background in defense academia and defense policy analysis, she co-founded the Center for a New American Security, a defense-oriented think tank, and was also senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies as well as a professor at the National Defense University. Flournoy would be the first woman named to the top job, and would bring a sharp and critical mind to the position with the ability to see the small and big picture of how the military should operate post-Iraq and Afghanistan. Flournoy was an adviser on the most recent Obama campaign.

Ashton Carter
Carter is currently the Pentagon's No. 2 official as chief deputy to Secretary Leon Panetta. Prior to this, he headed weapons procurement as under secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics from April 2009 to October 2011. In that role, Carter was most noted for accelerating the urgent need for vehicles that protected troops from roadside bombs in Iraq. Carter is considered a top defense-oriented academic mind with stints at Harvard’s Kennedy school and as co-director of the Preventive Defense Project. In the Clinton administration, he was an assistant secretary at the Pentagon for international security policy. Some liken his leadership thinking to William Cohen, one of President Bill Clinton's defense secretaries who focused on internal operations rather than global perspectives. With upcoming budget cuts and shifting focus away from the last two wars, Obama will need somebody to guide that change in Pentagon thinking.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Security Brief
Navy making sure sailors helping with Sandy recovery get a chance to vote
ATLANTIC OCEAN Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Andre Nation signals an Coast Guard helicopter as it prepares to land on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp. The Wasp is one of three Navy warships providing assistance to the New York/New Jersey region have Hurricane Sandy.
November 5th, 2012
05:40 PM ET

Navy making sure sailors helping with Sandy recovery get a chance to vote

By Larry Shaughnessy

The U.S. military, both active duty and guardsmen, are helping the areas hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy, including making sure the residents can vote Tuesday.

But the U.S. Navy has to not only worry about helping civilians, but also about taking care of some sailors who find themselves at sea when it's time to vote.

The USS Wasp is a large helicopter carrier anchored off the coast of New Jersey. It was at sea for some short-term training when Sandy formed and headed toward the Wasp's home port of Norfolk, Virginia. FULL POST

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Marines • Military • Navy
Who might serve on Romney's national security team?
November 5th, 2012
06:01 AM ET

Who might serve on Romney's national security team?

Economic issues might decide the winner of this week's Presidential election, but pressing national security issues–Iran, terrorism, the Arab spring, the Afghanistan troop withdrawal, to name a few–will require immediate attention. With just a few days to go, the campaigns are tight lipped about who might be in the cabinet to help the president make some weighty decisions. But here is what CNN's national security team is hearing through the grape vine on who President Obama or Governor Romney might be considering for some of the key national security positions:

Also: Who might serve in an Obama second term?

If Mitt Romney is elected the 45th President of the United States on Tuesday, he will have the task of filling an entire presidential cabinet as opposed to President Obama who will likely have less vacancies to fill. Foreign policy analysts say the national team is unique from other cabinet positions in that their agencies work closely together on a daily basis. Those who are picked to be members of the national security team will need to be consensus players with the entire national security team and able to confront difficult situations abroad, while the vast focus of the early days of the administration focused on rejuvenating the nascent economic recovery – a central theme of the Romney campaign. Jamie Fly, Executive Director of the Foreign Policy Initiative in Washington says it will be "very important" for Romney to pick a team capable to go out and "be effective advocates for America abroad" while Romney and his senior staff focus on the economy at the beginning of the term.

Here is a list of possible candidates for national security positions in a Romney administration that we are hearing from campaign advisors and analysts who are following the situation:

DEFENSE SECRETARY

Jim Talent
Currently a national security adviser for the Romney campaign, Talent's name has been floated for the top defense job. Outspoken against military spending cuts and an advocate for Romney's position to expand the military, Talent seems like a natural to lead a Romney agenda at the Pentagon. As a Republican in the House and Senate from 1993-2007, Talent was a member of the House and Senate Armed Services committees and chaired the Sea Power subcommittee in the Senate, another credential Romney would like as he plans to expand the Navy, if elected. Talent holds a fellowship position at the conservative Heritage Foundation policy analysis organization where he specializes in military and welfare reform issues.

Sen. Lindsey Graham
Graham is also a colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserves and veteran of the active duty Air Force. He sits on some of the most powerful Senate committees and is hawkish on national defense issues. Graham has taken a keen interest in issues involving detainee interrogations. As a senator on the Armed Services panel, he has traveled to the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times to get what he calls on-the-ground assessments. There is little doubt Graham would hit the ground running if he got the job, but his selection could depend on whether Romney wants a self-starter as Graham would have many of his own ideas and agendas to push as defense secretary.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Security Brief
International election observers say they’ll respect U.S. laws
Voters in Texas cast early ballots
November 2nd, 2012
07:32 PM ET

International election observers say they’ll respect U.S. laws

By Jill Dougherty

For the past decade, international election observers have traveled to the United States to witness how Americans conduct their presidential election.

They are back again this year but officials in the battleground state of Iowa and in Texas have warned that the observers could face criminal charges if they try to show up at polling stations on Tuesday.

Observers, however, told CNN it's a tempest in a teapot - they're not going to break the law.

"They won't be attempting to go to a polling station and have access where the state laws or the local laws prohibit it. They won't even try," said R. Spencer Oliver, Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
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Texas, international election monitors face off
October 25th, 2012
06:31 PM ET

Texas, international election monitors face off

By Elise Labott

The presence of international monitors observing next week's presidential and Congressional election has caused a firestorm among voter ID law supporters and, particularly, the Texas attorney general.

The reservations came after the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) announced it is sending dozens of monitors from around the world to monitor the upcoming presidential and Congressional elections.

The OSCE, which sends monitoring teams to elections around the world, has been observing U.S. elections since 2002, when the Bush administration invited them after the hotly contested 2000 presidential election. They are expected to observe in 15 states on November 6th.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott Thursday wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing his displeasure with the OSCE's approach, stating that "an unnecessary political agenda may have infected OSCE's election monitoring." Texas law, he notes, does not allow "unauthorized individuals" within 100 feet of polling places. He asked Clinton to work with the OSCE to ensure the group abides by the state law or they will risk "legal consequences."
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Unanswered questions from the debate
October 23rd, 2012
05:11 PM ET

Unanswered questions from the debate

By CNN's National Security Unit

The final debate of the presidential election was notable for all the areas of foreign policy on which the two candidates seemed to agree. But in their answers were plenty of unanswered questions about how they would handle key foreign policy issues going forward.

Where do things stand on Iran?

It was hard to see concrete differences between the candidates Monday on when it will be necessary to use military force against Iran's nuclear program - the so-called "red line."

Both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney sought to portray themselves as tough on Iran and as having Israel's back. Both suggested they would be willing to use military power if necessary to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. But neither was exactly clear about what point at which they would act to prevent that from happening.
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Filed under: 2012 Election • Obama • Romney
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