March 30th, 2014
01:28 PM ET

Senate Intel chair: Crimea’s gone

Washington (CNN) - Some U.S. lawmakers are ready to say that it's futile to try to persuade Russia to give up control of Crimea.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley on Sunday that the debate over the Crimean Peninsula is "done" and the region is now under Moscow's control.

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Woman heads CIA spy unit for first time
March 29th, 2013
05:33 PM ET

Woman heads CIA spy unit for first time

By Pam Benson

Another glass ceiling has been cracked at least temporarily with a woman now running the CIA's spy division.

The long time CIA veteran leading the National Clandestine Service on an acting basis cannot be publicly named because she is still a covert officer.

The question is whether she will get the job permanently. But her background could be problematic for new CIA boss John Brennan.

According to sources familiar with her career, she was assigned to a senior position at the CIA's Counterterrorism Center shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

In that role, she was involved in the controversial interrogation and detention program set up as the agency tracked and captured suspected al Qaeda terrorists.

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March 13th, 2013
06:16 PM ET

Material in North Korea's nuclear test unclear, worrying for U.S.

By Jill Dougherty and Pam Benson

More than a month after North Korea tested a nuclear device, the United States is unable to pinpoint whether the regime was able to use uranium to fuel the explosion, a capability that would represent a significantly enhanced nuclear program.

The lack of clarity comes as North Korea ratchets up its bellicose rhetoric each day.

New video broadcast on North Korean television showed the nation's leader, Kim Jong Un, addressing his troops along the border on Monday and issuing a blood-chilling threat, "Throw all enemies into the caldron, break their waists and crack their windpipes." It was the same location he and his late father visited in November 2010, just two days before the North shelled an island, killing four South Koreans.

The bellicose comments have been intensifying over the past months, increasing worry about Kim's unpredictability.

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March 12th, 2013
04:02 PM ET

Cyberattacks, N. Korea, jihadist groups top U.S. threats

By Mariano Castillo and Chelsea Carter

Cyberattacks pose more of an eminent threat to the United States than a land-based attack by a terrorist group, while North Korea's development of a nuclear weapons program poses a "serious threat," the director of national intelligence told Congress on Tuesday.

The warning by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper came in his annual report to Congress of the threats facing the United States. It was one of the rare times since the September 11, 2001, attacks that terrorism was not the leading threat facing the nation.

"Attacks, which might involve cyber and financial weapons, can be deniable and unattributable," Clapper said prepared remarks before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "Destruction can be invisible, latent and progressive."

The Internet is increasingly being used as a tool both by nations and terror groups to achieve their objectives, according to Clapper's report.

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March 5th, 2013
11:28 AM ET

White House to give senators targeted killing documents

By Adam Levine

The White House has agreed to provide senators sitting on the intelligence committee with additional legal opinions related to targeted killings of Americans, the chair of the committee said Tuesday.

The legal opinions, written by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), set out the justification for lawfully targeting Americans overseas who are involved in terror-related activities that threatened America or American interests. The statement from Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said the opinions would be provided “in a way that allows members to fulfill their oversight responsibilities.”

The White House had already provided some information regarding the justification to Congress.

The agreement could help assuage some senators’ concerns raised about the targeting killing program and the involvement of CIA Director-nominee John Brennan.

“I am pleased the administration has made this information available. It is important for the committee to do its work and will pave the way for the confirmation of John Brennan to be CIA director,” Feinstein said in a statement.

The committee is expected to vote on the Brennan nomination this afternoon. But Brennan’s nomination is still being challenged by several Republicans seeking other answers from the White House. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is demanding the White House respond to whether it would ever seek to use its targeted killing program to go after Americans within the U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is demanding further answers on the administration response to the attack in Benghazi. Both have threatened to block the nomination.

White House providing Benghazi e-mails to Senate panel
Damage at US Mission in Benhgazi, Libya
February 26th, 2013
12:50 PM ET

White House providing Benghazi e-mails to Senate panel

By Pam Benson

Senate Intelligence Committee members will have access Tuesday to the e-mails associated with the development of the intelligence community's talking points on the attack at the U.S. mission in Benghazi, a committee aide said.

The Obama administration will provide the e-mails for members and some committee staff to read, take notes and ask questions in the committee's classified hearing room, the aide said. Members will not get copies of the documents.

Republican senators have threatened to hold up the nomination of John Brennan to be the next CIA director until they receive e-mails exchanged between the White House and the CIA concerning the public talking points used by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice for her appearances on Sunday talk shows the weekend after the September attack.

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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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Senate committee delays vote on CIA nomination
February 14th, 2013
02:12 PM ET

Senate committee delays vote on CIA nomination

By Pam Benson

A Senate committee vote on whether to confirm John Brennan as CIA director has been put off until lawmakers return from their recess at month's end.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein planned a vote for Thursday, but rules giving members more time to review transcripts of Brennan's testimony from last week's confirmation hearing will push back consideration.

There are also some other issues to resolve.

"Members on both sides of the aisle have asked that certain information be provided to the committee," Feinstein said in a statement.
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Drone court considered
February 9th, 2013
11:48 AM ET

Drone court considered

By Pam Benson

Should federal judges weigh in on a president's decision to pursue and kill terrorists overseas?

The suggestion, raised at this week's nomination hearing of John Brennan to be CIA director, goes to the heart of the debate on whether President Barack Obama or any U.S. leader should have unfettered power to order the targeted killing of Americans overseas who are al Qaeda terrorists.

Some Democratic senators argued there should be a check on the president's authority to use lethal force, particularly against Americans, as occurred in September 2011 when a CIA-operated armed drone killed American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.

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Obama to give white paper on targeted killings to Congress
The U.S. MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle has been used to take out key targets in the war on terror.
February 6th, 2013
11:10 PM ET

Obama to give white paper on targeted killings to Congress

By Lesa Jansen

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday morning will receive a classified document that seeks to justify the administration's policy of targeting Americans overseas via drone attacks, chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said late Wednesday.

"I am pleased that the president has agreed to provide the Intelligence Committee with access to the OLC (Office of Legal Counsel) opinion regarding the use of lethal force in counterterrorism operations," the California Democrat said in a statement.

"It is critical for the committee's oversight function to fully understand the legal basis for all intelligence and counterterrorism operations."

The announcement came shortly after an administration official said that President Barack Obama had yielded to demands that he turn over to Congress the classified Justice Department legal advice that seeks to justify the policy.

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