Senate confirms Jeh Johnson to lead homeland security
The senate Monday voted to approve former top Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson to head the Homeland Security Department.
December 16th, 2013
09:04 PM ET

Senate confirms Jeh Johnson to lead homeland security

By Ted Barrett, Senior Congressional Producer
The Senate broke another Republican filibuster on Monday in confirming former top Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson to head the Homeland Security Department.

The vote to approve Johnson, a key architect of President Barack Obama's anti-terrorism policies that have included stepped up drone use in terrorist hotspots, was 78-16.

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Filed under: Congress • Homeland Security • Napolitano
Kerry weighs in on North Korea execution, Bob Levinson in Iran
December 15th, 2013
05:52 PM ET

Kerry weighs in on North Korea execution, Bob Levinson in Iran

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s execution of his uncle was “an ominous sign” of instability and danger, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in an interview broadcast Sunday.

Kerry also weighed in on reports about former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran seven years ago. The United States has not stopped efforts to get him released, Kerry told ABC's "This Week."

The secretary of state is on an overseas trip that's taken him to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Vietnam, and will carry him through Manila and Tacloban later this week.

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McCain: CIA did not tell Congress the truth about Levinson
December 15th, 2013
05:51 PM ET

McCain: CIA did not tell Congress the truth about Levinson

Sen. John McCain joined CNN's "State of the Union" from Kiev, Ukraine, on Sunday after the Arizona Republican addressed thousands of protesters who are angry over the Ukrainian government's decision to backpedal away from an agreement with the European Union.

McCain spoke about a range of issues happening around the globe, and suggested the Central Intelligence Agency was not truthful to Congress about former FBI agent Bob Levinson, who went missing in Iran seven years ago.

Here are five noteworthy points from the interview.

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Filed under: CIA • McCain
If Israel strikes Iran, Dempsey says U.S. 'would meet' obligations
November 19th, 2013
12:01 AM ET

If Israel strikes Iran, Dempsey says U.S. 'would meet' obligations

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.

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Filed under: Dempsey • Hagel • Iran • Israel • Kerry • Military
Obama faces crucial Guantanamo votes
U.S. military guards move a detainee inside the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
November 18th, 2013
12:50 PM ET

Obama faces crucial Guantanamo votes

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."
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Filed under: Congress • Detainees • Gitmo
November 10th, 2013
11:31 AM ET

Graham to keep holds on Obama nominees

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.

November 10th, 2013
10:38 AM ET

Graham: New sanctions on Iran needed

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.

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October 27th, 2013
12:48 PM ET

Rogers to European allies: NSA keeps you 'safe'

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."

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Pentagon employee, 92, is back after shutdown, but job is on shaky ground
Andrew Marshall is is the Pentagon’s director of the Office of Net Assessment.
October 21st, 2013
08:36 AM ET

Pentagon employee, 92, is back after shutdown, but job is on shaky ground

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."
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October 8th, 2013
02:43 PM ET

Outrage builds over lapse in funding for families of fallen heroes

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.
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