From the grave, al-Awlaki calls for bio-chem attacks on the U.S.
May 2nd, 2012
06:10 PM ET

From the grave, al-Awlaki calls for bio-chem attacks on the U.S.

By Tim Lister and Paul Cruickshank

The editor and star contributor may be dead, but that hasn't prevented al Qaeda in Yemen from issuing the eighth and ninth editions of its online English-language magazine, Inspire.

The eighth edition of the high-color magazine includes the most detailed advice yet from radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki on launching attacks against Western countries.  In a five-page article entitled "Targeting the Populations of Countries at War With Muslims," al-Awlaki justifies the killing of women and children and the use of chemical and biological weapons in addition to bombings and gun attacks.

Al-Awlaki and the man widely believed to have been Inspire's editor, former North Carolina blogger Samir Khan, were both killed in a drone attack in September in Yemen. It's unclear why it's taken so long to publish their articles. FULL POST

Bioterror security at risk
December 20th, 2011
11:21 AM ET

Bioterror security at risk

By Mike M. Ahlers

Recent and proposed budget cuts at all levels of government are threatening to reverse the significant post-9/11 improvements in the nation's ability to respond to natural diseases and bioterror attacks, according to a report released Tuesday.

"We're seeing a decade's worth of progress eroding in front of our eyes," said Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America's Health, which published the report with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Budget cuts already have forced state and local health departments to cut thousands of health officials, the report says.  Cuts are jeopardizing the jobs of federal investigators who help states hunt down diseases, threatening the capabilities at all 10 "Level 1" state labs that conduct tests for nerve agents or chemical agents such as mustard gas, and may hurt the ability of many cities to rapidly distribute vaccines during emergencies, it says.

The "upward trajectory" of preparedness, fueled by more than $7 billion in federal grants to cities and states in the past 10 years, is leveling off, and the gains of the last decade are "at risk," the report says. FULL POST

Clinton warns of terrorist bio-attacks
The infectious disease anthrax in a laboratory dish
December 7th, 2011
12:59 PM ET

Clinton warns of terrorist bio-attacks

By CNN's Elise Labott

A mass outbreak of disease caused by biological weapons could cripple the global economy, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Wednesday, calling for greater international efforts to prevent terrorists from getting and using such devices.

"We view the risk of a bioweapons attack as both a serious national security challenge and a foreign policy priority," Clinton said at the 7th Review Conference of the United Nations Biological Weapons Convention. "In an age when people and diseases cross borders with growing ease, bioweapons are a transnational threat. We can only protect against them with transnational action."

While advances in science and technology make it possible to prevent and cure more diseases, they also can make it easier for states and nonstate actors - including terrorists - to develop biological weapons, Clinton noted.

" A crude but effective terrorist weapon can be made using a small sample of any number of widely available pathogens, inexpensive equipment, and college-level chemistry and biology," she said.

FULL POST

Finally, a word about national security (a debate, actually)...
November 7th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Finally, a word about national security (a debate, actually)...

Without question, the public's attention in the race for the White House has centered on the economy and domestic issues.  It’s a sign of how things have changed since the start of these post-September 11th times.  In 2004 and 2008, a good portion of the discussion focused on keeping American safe and foreign policy. But things began to shift as the 2008 election was wrapping up and the economy was hurting.

Now there is no question the campaign talk has moved from 9/11 to 9-9-9 (and other economic plans). A fact not lost on the Republican candidates who spend little time talking about national security issues.  Debate after debate, interview after interview, domestic issues have dominated the campaign so far.  Until now.

On November 22, CNN, along with AEI and The Heritage Foundation, will host a Republican candidate debate focused on national security topics.

In the run-up to the debate, Security Clearance asked both the sponsoring conservative think tanks to look at the key foreign policy issues and tell us what they want to hear candidates address. From Afghanistan toIraq,ChinatoSyria, cybersecurity to defense spending, the folks at Heritage Foundation and AEI will make sure you are fully prepped for the big debate.

The first in the series will publish today on Security Clearance.  For more coverage of the campaign, don't forget to read CNN's Political Ticker and our political section on CNN.com.

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Militia members plotted to kill federal officials, prosecutors say
November 1st, 2011
06:02 PM ET

Militia members plotted to kill federal officials, prosecutors say

By the CNN Wire Staff

Federal agents charged four Georgia men they say are part of a fringe militia group with plotting to attack government officials with explosives and the biotoxin ricin, prosecutors in Atlanta announced Tuesday.

A government informant recorded the men discussing plans to manufacture ricin, a highly poisonous substance derived from castor beans, and attack Justice Department officials, federal judges and Internal Revenue Service agents, according to court papers released Tuesday afternoon. All four suspects were in custody and are scheduled to make their initial court appearances Wednesday in Gainesville, about 50 miles north of Atlanta, the U.S. attorney's office announced.
FULL POST

U.S. doesn't need bioterror czar, administration officials say
This image shows the infectious disease, anthrax, in a laboratory environment Photo By Centers for Disease Control
October 18th, 2011
04:01 PM ET

U.S. doesn't need bioterror czar, administration officials say

By CNN Senior Producer Mike M. Ahlers

Obama administration officials who would be front and center during any bioterror attack pushed back on arguments the nation needs one central figure to coordinate bioterror preparedness and response, saying the existing structure is agile and capable of dealing with the threat.

Two separate boards have recommended a White House-level official be assigned to focus on bioterrorism, providing the topic the same clout given to nuclear- and cyberterrorism. And at a Senate hearing Tuesday, a former Bush administration adviser also said a White House-lever bioterror leader is needed.
FULL POST