By Jamie Crawford, reporting from Charlottesville, Virginia
Even in an era of budget austerity in Washington, continued investment in foreign aid and American diplomacy will benefit the economy, and is cheaper in cost and risk than requiring future overseas military deployments, Secretary of State John Kerry said.
Just days before departing on his first overseas trip as the nation's top diplomat, Kerry chose his first foreign policy address on Wednesday to lay out out the case for continued American engagement.
"How we conduct our foreign policy matters to our everyday lives – not just in terms of the threats we face, but in the products we buy, the goods we sell, the jobs we create, and the opportunity we provide for economic growth and vitality," Kerry told a University of Virginia audience.
"It's not just about whether we'll be compelled to send our troops into another battle, but whether we'll be able to send our graduates into a thriving workforce," he said.
By Jill Dougherty
John Kerry, the new secretary of state, jokingly calls himself a "recovering politician."
After 28 years in the Senate, he now finds himself "sort of walking a new line," as he says, not allowed to mix politics with international policy.
But Kerry does see a direct connection between what the State Department does abroad and its impact at home.
"This is not just about over there; this is about here," he told staff of the U.S. Agency for International Development on Friday.
By Elise Labott and Barbara Starr
North Korea's nuclear test Tuesday set off a diplomatic scramble for America's new secretary of state as the U.S. national security community began working with other countries to try to determine what North Korea truly achieved.
The test was was not a total surprise, senior administration officials said. North Korea warned the United States and China on Monday that it would be undertaking a nuclear test, two senior administration officials told CNN. The warning came in the form of a message through the "NY channel," which is the U.S. mission to the United Nations, North Korea's typical method for passing messages to the United States. The warning was not specific on timing, but the officials said Washington took it to mean the test could happen at any moment.
After the test was detected late Monday night, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with South Korea's foreign minister. He's also expected to talk with the foreign ministers for China, Japan and Russia. The United States began coordinating its own response with inter-agency calls between Washington and Seoul, Tokyo, Moscow and Beijing. U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Sung Kim and Gen. James Thurman, commander of the US-Republic of Korea Combined Forces Command, met with the South Korean defense minister.
The U.S. intelligence community and military began the process of assessing the test and North Korea's claims and by morning concluded an underground nuclear test had probably been conducted.
By Elise Labott
Incoming Secretary of State John Kerry plans to include stops in the Middle East as his first official trip, according to a US official. The trip, which is expected as early as mid-February, is likely to include stops in Israel and Egypt, the official said.
A western diplomat said Kerry has already been invited by some European capitals to visit later this month. Kerry indicated interest in going, but did not commit given he has not been sworn in yet.
By Kevin Liptak
President Barack Obama is still grappling with what role the United States should play in Syria's bloody conflict, which began nearly two years ago and has claimed the lives of 60,000 people.
In interviews released Sunday, the president pushed back on criticism from political rivals that his administration has been overly detached from foreign unrest, including the ongoing Syrian civil war.
"Muammar Qaddafi probably does not agree with that assessment," Obama told "60 Minutes."
"Syria's a classic example of where our involvement, we want to make sure that not only does it enhance U.S. security, but also that it is doing right by the people of Syria and neighbors like Israel that are going to be profoundly affected by it," he explained later. "And so it's true sometimes that we don't just shoot from the hip."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, appearing alongside the president on "60 Minutes," called the situation in Syria a "wicked problem," but argued there was no clear blueprint for American involvement in the country. FULL POST
It has been more than a year since the United States government withdrew its ambassador to Syria and closed its embassy in Damascus.
On Thursday, that ambassador returned to the region along with a U.S. delegation, touring a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey to bring more attention to the growing humanitarian crisis. As the civil war has intensified in Syria, hundreds of thousands of people have sought refuge in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and other neighboring countries.
Ambassador Robert Ford gave an exclusive interview to CNN's Ivan Watson and described what the U.S. is doing to help the refugees and the Syrian opposition.FULL STORY
By Tim Lister
Much of the focus of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s appearance on Capitol Hill Wednesday was on whether her department failed to appreciate and respond to the risks that led to the Benghazi attack - and whether it had the resources to confront such risks.
And, of course, on whether in the immediate aftermath, the administration characterized the attack candidly and accurately.
But the hearings also illustrated how the United States is scrambling to catch up with new realities in North Africa – and how it faces a long struggle in a new arena of instability.
Clinton acknowledged that “the Arab revolutions have scrambled power dynamics and shattered security forces across the region.”
Looking back to her confirmation as secretary of state four years ago, Clinton said, “I don’t think anybody thought [Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak would be gone, [Libya’s Moammar] Gadhafi would be gone, [Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali would be gone.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is testifying today about the deadly terrorist attack in #Libya last year. Follow our coverage:
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Read CNN's summary of the hearings (constantly updated)
Update: Read CNN's coverage of the report which cites "systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies" at the State Department. The full report can be found here. It includes recommendations for substantial improvements to how security is handled.
By Elise Labott
An independent review of the September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi criticizes the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security for its work in Libya before the event in which four Americans were killed, two sources who have read the report told CNN Tuesday.
The senior management in charge of diplomatic security "does not come out well at all," said one of the sources. FULL POST
By Elise Labott
After months of accusations and political recriminations, the State Department is getting ready to present the most detailed explanation yet regarding the circumstances surrounding the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Monday, the State Department is expected to get a report on the incident from the independent Advisory Review Board, sources in the State Department told CNN Sunday. The review was ordered by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Congress will receive the report from the board ahead of a classified briefing for members on Wednesday by Thomas Pickering, who led the Advisory Review Board. Retired Adm. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was also on the panel, will be part of the briefing as well.
The State Department is also expected to present recommendations on improving security. That's likely to include an explanation of measures that have already been put in place since the September 11 attack on the consulate, which left four Americans - including U.S. Amb. Chris Stevens - dead.