By Bill Mears
A federal appeals court panel has ruled the CIA must acknowledge the existence of any records related to military unmanned drone strikes aimed at people such as terror suspects overseas.
It called the agency's previous denials "fiction."
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups had filed a Freedom of Information Act request, but the spy agency - citing national security - refused to confirm or deny it had any such records.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia did not buy the argument, giving the outside groups a partial legal victory Friday.
"The CIA asked the courts to stretch that doctrine too far - to give their imprimatur to a fiction of deniability that no reasonable person would regard as plausible." FULL POST
By Barbara Starr
An Iranian fighter jet targeted an unarmed U.S. Predator drone over the Persian Gulf this week, the Pentagon says.
It was the latest Iranian move aimed at thwarting American military airborne intelligence efforts in the region.
Defense Department spokesman George Little said on Thursday the unmanned MQ-1 drone was conducting routine classified surveillance over international waters on Tuesday when approached by an Iranian F-4.
The two aircraft came within 16 miles of each other.
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.
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.
By Pam Benson
The arrest of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, who had been living in Iran for the past decade, has once again raised questions about whether the Iranian government is providing a haven or barrier to the terror group.
Al Qaeda and its members held under "house arrest" in Iran over the past decade have had a complicated relationship with the Tehran regime, one which allowed the detainees to often times continue supporting the terror group's operations in the region.
Current and former U.S. officials say al Qaeda in Iran managed to be fairly active in facilitating the movement of money and people into Pakistan where the core leadership has safe haven in tribal areas.
"They helped move people in and out of FATA through Iran for operational reasons," one former senior counter-terrorism official told CNN.
Attorney General Eric Holder Tuesday stopped short of entirely ruling out a drone strike against an American citizen on U.S. soil—without trial.
Holder’s comment came in a letter to Sen. Rand Paul. Paul had sent a letter to President Obama’s CIA director nominee John Brennan asking for the administration’s views on the president’s power to authorize lethal force.
In the letter, Holder said “It is possible I suppose to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. “
In a separate letter, Brennan told Paul that the CIA has no such authority.
The nomination passed its first hurdle Tuesday with the Senate intelligence committee voting to approve the nomination in a 12-3 vote. Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia said he voted against the nomination because of inconsistencies in Brennan's testimony.
Earlier in the day, the White House agreed to provide legal documents written by Justice Department officials explaining the legal rationale for targeting Americans overseas who are involved in terror-related activities that threatened America or American interests.
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.
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.
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.