By Paul Courson
Secretary of State John Kerry tried to reassure diplomatic workers on Monday that security improvements are underway at American missions around the world where they are likely to be deployed.
The measures include plans for a rapid evacuation contingency if conditions turn deadly, as they did last September during a terror attack on the U.S. post in Benghazi, Libya.
In opening remarks at a "Security Overseas Seminar" at the Foreign Service Institute, Kerry said there's a balance between making contact with the local populations the United States is trying to serve, and protecting Americans working in hostile regions.
"Diplomacy and security needs do not have to be trade-offs," he said, declaring that "if we are going to bring light to the world, we have to go where it is dark."
Parents who lose children in national calamities come to represent a pain and grief and importance that it is difficult to ignore.
Pat Smith, mother of Benghazi victim Sean Smith, a State Department information officer, listened to the Benghazi hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. In an interview on "The Lead with Jake Tapper," she said she did not get the answers she was looking for.
Watch and read about it here.
By Paul Cruickshank, Tim Lister, Nic Robertson and Fran Townsend
Several Yemeni men belonging to al Qaeda took part in the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi last September, according to several sources who have spoken with CNN.
One senior U.S. law enforcement official told CNN that "three or four members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," or AQAP, took part in the attack.
Another source briefed on the Benghazi investigation said Western intelligence services suspect the men may have been sent by the group specifically to carry out the attack. But it's not been ruled out that they were already in the city and participated as the opportunity arose.
The attack on the compound and subsequently on a "safe-house" to which Americans had been evacuated left four U.S. citizens dead, including the ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.
Read the full story here.
By Barbara Starr
The first of 500 Marines have begun deploying to Spain as part of a new rapid reaction force to respond to threats against U.S. citizens, government personnel or installations in Africa.
The new task force is based at Moron Air Base in southern Spain, which provides quick access especially to northern Africa, where security concerns have grown since the September 2012 attack on a U.S. government facility in Benghazi, Libya, a Pentagon official told CNN.
Deployment began Wednesday
When fully operational, the unit will be required to be airborne within six hours of receiving orders, providing the type of rapid response that the Pentagon says was not possible during the Benghazi attack. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died during the assault at the U.S. mission and CIA annex.
By Elise Labott
A greatly reduced role in Iraq and Afghanistan after more than a decade of war means the State Department can shift financial resources to priorities in the Mideast and Asia and enhance security at high-threat diplomatic posts.
President Barack Obama asked Congress on Wednesday for $47.8 billion for the State Department and international programs in fiscal 2014, a 6 percent budget decrease from fiscal 2013 levels.
The most dramatic reduction would come from the Iraq and Afghanistan accounts, known as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). The new budget for that line item requests $3.8 billion, a 67 percent reduction from what was received last year.
Although U.S. forces left the country in 2011, Iraq is home to the largest American embassy in the world.
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 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.
By Jill Dougherty
Secretary of State John Kerry will highlight the priority of protecting diplomats overseas during his ceremonial swearing-in on Wednesday.
The safety of America's diplomats has been scrutinized since Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in a terror attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, last September.
"This will be front and center as we move forward," agency spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Kerry will take the ceremonial oath at the State Department. He was officially sworn in last Friday.
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.”
By Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister
More than three months after the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, not a single person has been charged in connection with the assault.
Most, if not all, of those questioned in Libya since the attack have been released.
A Libyan source with knowledge of the investigation, who did not want to be identified because of the sensitivities involved in the probe, told CNN there are indications that the perpetrators of the attack came from beyond the Benghazi area and slipped away immediately afterward. The source says it is possible the attackers came from the city of Derna or surrounding areas, about 120 miles (200 km) to the east, which remains a stronghold of militant Islamist and jihadist groups.
The September 11 attack killed four Americans, including Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya. The State Department's independent report on security lapses in Benghazi did not focus on who was responsible as part of its mandate, review leader Ambassador Thomas Pickering said Wednesday, but the FBI continues to investigate.