By Dan Merica
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said Monday that if Israel were to strike Iran in an effort to damage the country's nuclear program, the United States would meet "some defined obligations" it has to the Middle East nation.
"I feel like we have a deep obligation to Israel," the military leader said. "That is why we are in constant contact and collaboration with them."
This fall, diplomats from the United States and other interested countries have met to deal with Iran's nuclear program and ways in which advancements could be halted.
By Evan Perez
President Barack Obama's efforts to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are expected to face some crucial Senate votes this week, and for the first time in four years, he stands a chance to win some.
A Senate bill to authorize defense spending contains some of the loosest restrictions yet on transferring Guantanamo prisoners, including possibly to the United States for detention, trial or medical care.
The bill would still require certification from the secretary of defense that the 164 Guantanamo prisoners won't pose a danger if transferred to the United States or other countries. But the streamlined process could help the Obama administration make progress on a goal that appeared all but given up for lost.
This year, the administration is using tight budgets as part of the argument for closing the prison that Obama, in a speech at the National Defense University in May, said was a symbol of the U.S. flouting the law that "should never have been opened."
By CNN's Jason Seher
Sen. Lindsey Graham vowed on Sunday that he would continue to block President Barack Obama's nominations until Congress hears from Benghazi survivors.
The South Carolina lawmaker told CNN's Candy Crowley on "State of the Union" that he will place holds on any nomination put forth by the administration unless it makes available five survivors of the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, who have been interviewed by State Department investigators but remain out of Congress' reach.
"I've been trying for a year to get these interviews without holds," Graham said.
Graham scoffed at any notion his maneuver amounts to political grandstanding, portraying his actions as a last resort and couching them as part of "trying to perform oversight."
"I don't want to hold anybody. All I want to do is talk to the survivors," Graham insisted. "I'm not trying to prosecute a crime."
Graham announced his intention to hold all of Obama’s nominations the day after CBS's "60 Minutes" aired a controversial report on the attacks. The newsmagazine has since pulled its report, saying that its eyewitness, a British contractor stationed in Libya, lied to reporter Lara Logan about what he saw on the ground.
When pressed by Crowley about whether the debunking of the piece would impact his stance, Graham told her it wouldn’t.
"I never asked for the British contractor. I didn't know he existed," Graham said.
By CNN's Jason Seher
After three days of talks focused on halting Iran's uranium enrichment efforts broke down Sunday morning, Sen. Lindsey Graham said Congress would not wait for the next round of negotiations.
Graham said he intends to put forward a measure that would mandate more sanctions on Iran, aimed at forcing the Middle Eastern nation to dismantle its nuclear weapons program - a move that runs counter to the interim steps sought by the negotiating parties gathered in Geneva, Switzerland.
"We're worried about the endgame, not some interim deal," Graham told CNN's chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley, on "State of the Union," repeatedly asserting that "you can't trust the Iranians" and questioning whether they actually intend to abandon their pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Graham said Iran's President Hassan Rouhani would have to comply with four separate preconditions in order to avoid a new round of crippling sanctions: Stop enriching uranium and other nuclear materials; dismantle centrifuges used in nuclear production; halt the country's plutonium-producing reactor; and place its fuel cycle under international control.
By CNN's Jaosn Seher
The House Intelligence chief emphatically told CNN's Candy Crowley on Sunday that the NSA's foreign intelligence gathering operations keep allies "safe."
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, said on CNN's "State of the Union" that the vision being presented to the American public of a nation spying on its closest allies does not jibe with reality. According to Rogers, the U.S. counterterror operation abroad "keeps the French safe."
By Barbara Starr
When the government shutdown ended and thousands of civilians came back to work at the Pentagon, one employee’s return wasn’t surprising at all - he’s been coming to work for 40 years.
Andrew Marshall is 92 – yes, 92 years old, born in 1921. He is the Pentagon’s director of a group called the Office of Net Assessment, and the Pentagon is pretty sure he is the oldest civilian or military official at the Defense Department. Marshall’s influence is legendary, perhaps because he almost never speaks publicly, a rarity in Washington, let alone in Pentagon circles.
During the 16-day furlough, his entire office was shut down. But coming back may be bittersweet, because the Pentagon is thinking about shutting the office down in the coming months as part of a cost-saving measure, several Pentagon officials said. The office may be disbanded or folded into another part of the Pentagon bureaucracy.
When CNN asked for an official answer about the status of Marshall’s office, the answer was this: “The Department of Defense is currently assessing our missions, structure and programs in light of an evolving set of strategic challenges, as well as a constrained fiscal environment. At this time, it would be premature to comment on pre-decisional issues."
By Jamie Crawford
A lapse in benefits normally paid to the families of U.S. service members killed in combat is adding to the already existing anger over the partial federal government shutdown.
With a good majority of the Pentagon workforce returning to work despite large-scale furloughs hitting other federal agencies, the benefits typically paid to families of the fallen have yet to be restored during the current government shutdown.
"This particular situation is unthinkable," Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), said on the House floor Tuesday. "A great injustice is being done to our service members and their families."
Among the benefits being withheld are a $100,000 cash payment typically paid to a service member's family within three days of their death in the combat zone. Burial benefits, which include reimbursement for recovery, care, as well as the funeral and interment of remains are also included in those benefits.
By Barbara Starr
The Pentagon may announce as soon as this weekend a plan to bring up to 400,000 furloughed civilian employees back to work, according to two Defense Department officials.
CNN has learned the plan is in the final stages of being written and approved.
If all are returned to work, it would represent about half the number of government civilian and contract employees at risk of furloughs during the government shutdown that began on Tuesday.
The partisan congressional stalemate over spending for the current fiscal year shows no sign of ending anytime soon.
By Jamie Crawford
The United States would be prepared to consider relaxing certain sanctions on Iran if it engaged in confidence-building steps to prove its sincerity to negotiate over its disputed nuclear program, a top State Department official said Thursday.
"There may be some elements that we can do initially if they take verifiable, concrete actions that will put time on the clock that are reversible or in fact don't go to any of the key sanctions that have brought them to the table," Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Sherman made clear the entire sanctions regime targeting Iran would not be lifted "any time soon" unless the entire litany of concerns about Iran's nuclear program were fully addressed.
Iran's recent opening and seeming willingness to negotiate seriously over its nuclear program is believed to be a result of crippling sanctions on its economy.
By Josh Levs
The government shutdown is "extremely damaging" to U.S. intelligence operations, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Wednesday.
Clapper noted that he has worked in the intelligence field for 50 years, and "never seen anything like this."
The shutdown "seriously damages our ability to protect the safety and security of this nation," he told a Senate panel.
The law allows intelligence agencies to hold on to the employees needed to protect against "imminent threat to life or property," he noted. Following that guide, approximately 70% of employees were furloughed, he said.FULL STORY