More furloughed intelligence officers to return to work
October 10th, 2013
03:44 AM ET

More furloughed intelligence officers to return to work

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) will begin calling more of its furloughed employees back into the office this week despite the ongoing partial government shutdown.

70% of the intelligence community has been furloughed as a result of the shutdown, leaving the leaders of all intelligence agencies scrambling to carry out their core missions.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued a statement Wednesday telling employees he had "authorized the recall of some employees who perform functions that directly support efforts to protect against imminent threats to life or property, and help provide the President with the intelligence he needs to carry out his core constitutional functions related to national security."

Typically, the president receives a daily intelligence briefing in the morning hours.

The CIA made a similar announcement earlier in the week, with CIA Director John Brennan saying in a letter to employees that "keeping our staffing at the dramatically reduced levels of the past week would pose a threat to the safety of human life and the protection of property."

Like Clapper, Brennan also cited the need to provide intelligence information to the president as a reason why more employees would be returning to work.

One U.S. intelligence official told CNN that managers at all agencies are currently "in the process of determining exactly who will be recalled under revised staffing plans" and said the process of determining who can be brought back into work "will continue over the coming days."

Clapper testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, warning Congress the damage from the shutdown would be "insidious" on the intelligence community.

"Each day that goes by, the jeopardy increases. This is a dreamland for foreign intelligence services to recruit," he said.

Since the shutdown first took effect, various U.S. intelligence services have retained the right to call back essential staff in cases where it affected national security. This allowed for management to call in specific experts if, for example, there were reports of terrorist chatter that were particularly concerning.

But as the shutdown drags on with no clear ending in sight, leaders in multiple intelligence agencies are being forced to revise their plans and are recalling a wider circle of employees.

One intelligence official summed up the current situation, saying, "In the beginning of the shutdown, only those CIA employees working imminent threats were on the job. But it's been determined that the CIA not performing its core missions for an extended period of time itself presents the risk that real threats to our national security will go undetected."

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Filed under: Brennan • CIA • Clapper • ODNI
Controversial officer passed over for CIA spy chief post
May 7th, 2013
05:55 PM ET

Controversial officer passed over for CIA spy chief post

By Pam Benson

The undercover officer temporarily running the CIA's spy division who had ties to the agency's controversial interrogation program will not get the job permanently.

CIA Director John Brennan said on Tuesday the first female to lead the National Clandestine Service will be replaced by a man, a nearly 30-year veteran who served covertly overseas, including a stint as station chief in Pakistan.

The identities of these undercover officials were not made public.

Whether the acting director would get to keep the job was in question due to opposition from a number of senior lawmakers concerned about her ties to the CIA's controversial interrogation and detention program.

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Filed under: Brennan • Central Intelligence Agency • CIA • Congress • Intelligence • Security Brief • Terrorism
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 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 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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CIA nominee met with 'Zero Dark Thirty' filmmaker
John Brennan is President Obama's nominee to be the next CIA Director.
February 15th, 2013
06:30 PM ET

CIA nominee met with 'Zero Dark Thirty' filmmaker

By Barbara Starr

President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the CIA met for an hour with one of the filmmakers of "Zero Dark Thirty," the movie about the agency's effort to find and kill Osama bin Laden.

John Brennan, who currently serves as the president's chief counterterrorism adviser, detailed that meeting for the first time in written answers to questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The panel is considering his nomination to head the spy agency.

Brennan told the committee that he and other White House officials met with filmmaker Mark Boal on June 30, 2011, for an unclassified discussion "on how White House officials viewed the opportunities and risks associated with a film about the raid that killed bin Laden" the previous month. FULL POST

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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Graham vows to block nominations unless White House more forthcoming
February 11th, 2013
04:38 AM ET

Graham vows to block nominations unless White House more forthcoming

By Kevin Liptak

President Barack Obama's nominees for secretary of defense and CIA director could be held up by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham unless the White House provides more information about its response to September's attack on an American diplomatic post in Libya.

The South Carolina lawmaker made the threat Sunday on CBS, using the phrase "no confirmation without information" in vowing to put a hold on the nominations of both John Brennan and Chuck Hagel unless the Obama administration provides more information about the Benghazi attack.

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Filed under: Benghazi • Brennan • Graham • Hagel
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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