By CNN's Jason Seher
Sen. Lindsey Graham vowed on Sunday that he would continue to block President Barack Obama's nominations until Congress hears from Benghazi survivors.
The South Carolina lawmaker told CNN's Candy Crowley on "State of the Union" that he will place holds on any nomination put forth by the administration unless it makes available five survivors of the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, who have been interviewed by State Department investigators but remain out of Congress' reach.
"I've been trying for a year to get these interviews without holds," Graham said.
Graham scoffed at any notion his maneuver amounts to political grandstanding, portraying his actions as a last resort and couching them as part of "trying to perform oversight."
"I don't want to hold anybody. All I want to do is talk to the survivors," Graham insisted. "I'm not trying to prosecute a crime."
Graham announced his intention to hold all of Obama’s nominations the day after CBS's "60 Minutes" aired a controversial report on the attacks. The newsmagazine has since pulled its report, saying that its eyewitness, a British contractor stationed in Libya, lied to reporter Lara Logan about what he saw on the ground.
When pressed by Crowley about whether the debunking of the piece would impact his stance, Graham told her it wouldn’t.
"I never asked for the British contractor. I didn't know he existed," Graham said.
Editors Note: Jane Harman is director, president and chief executive officer of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She was a nine-term congresswoman from California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee from 2002 to 2006, and a principal coauthor of the Intelligence Reform Law of 2004 and the FISA Amendments of 2008.
By Jane Harman, Special to CNN
The October 5 takedown of Nazih Abdul Hamed al Ruqai – an alleged perpetrator of the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, a long-standing occupant of the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list, and alleged one-time member of Osama bin Laden’s security team – surprised many.
It was a brilliantly successful operation conducted by our military under strict legal guidelines for capture, interrogations, arrest and now transfer to New York for trial. This process may be the new gold standard for CT operations going forward.
U.S. officials hope he will provide useful information about his al Qaeda colleagues and plots being planned against Western and American targets so we may be able to thwart future attacks.
But while this capture was picture-perfect, al Ruqai was only one of many terrorists currently on the loose.
By Barbara Starr and Evan Perez
U.S. military forces were involved in two separate operations in Africa - one of them targeting a member of the group Al-Shabaab that was behind last month's Kenya mall attack, and the other going after an al Qaeda leader tied to bombings of two U.S. embassies.
The Al-Shabaab raid took place in Somalia, where that terrorist group is based, sometime in the past 24 hours, a senior U.S. official said Saturday evening.
The team of U.S. Navy SEALs had to withdraw before it could confirm whether it killed the target because they came under fire, the official said. The SEALs made the "prudent decision" to withdraw rather than engage in further combat, according to the official.
The other mission ended in the capture of Abu Anas al Libi, who is suspected to have played a significant role in the August 7, 1998, bombings of American embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and Nairobi, Kenya, U.S. officials said.FULL STORY
By Jamie Crawford
A commission that investigated last year's terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four people lacked sufficient independence and did not hold senior officials accountable, a congressional report said on Monday.
The House Oversight Committee conclusion also raised new questions about the relatively short time frame taken by the Accountability Review Board to investigate the attack by armed militants and issue its findings.
"The ARB operated under significant time pressure, completing its work and issuing a final report in just over two months," the report found.
"For some, including (the State Department), this report represented the final word on the internal failures that contributed to the tragedy in Benghazi. For others, however, the report overvalued certain facts, overlooked others, and failed to address systemic issues that have long plagued the State Department," it said.
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.