April 10th, 2013
06:39 PM ET

State Department budget reflects end of war, ramped up security

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.

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Filed under: Budget • Libya • State Department
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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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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Benghazi forces security to the top of Kerry’s to-do list
Secretary of State John Kerry tours the Operations Center at the State Department.
February 6th, 2013
12:35 AM ET

Benghazi forces security to the top of Kerry’s to-do list

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.

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Clinton lays out daunting security challenges in North Africa
Attack on U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya September 11, 2012
January 23rd, 2013
02:36 PM ET

Clinton lays out daunting security challenges in North Africa

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.”
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Benghazi suspects still on the loose
The city of Derna, Libya which remains a stronghold of militant Islamist and jihadist groups.
December 19th, 2012
08:09 PM ET

Benghazi suspects still on the loose

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.
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December 19th, 2012
01:01 PM ET

Three resign for Benghazi security failures

By Elise Labott

Three State Department officials, including two who oversaw security decisions at the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, resigned in the wake of a review of security failures there, senior State Department officials told CNN Wednesday.

The independent review of the September 11 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi released Tuesday cites "systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies" at the State Department.

The attacks killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

The failures resulted in a security plan "that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place," the 39-page unclassified version of the report concludes.

Despite all the criticism, the board found no U.S. government employee had engaged in misconduct or ignored responsibilities, and it did not recommend any individual be disciplined.

Eric Boswell, assistant secretary of diplomatic security, and Charlene Lamb, deputy assistant secretary of state for international programs, submitted their resignations, a senior official said. A third official in the Near East Affairs bureau also resigned, the official said.

Boswell and Lamb oversaw security for the Benghazi mission. Lamb testified before Congress about the security precautions. Documents show Lamb denied repeated requests for additional security in Libya.

November 26th, 2012
07:07 PM ET

Ambassador Rice to meet with lawmakers on Libya

By Dan Lothian

After facing criticism from Republican lawmakers surrounding her characterization of the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice will hold meetings on Capitol Hill about Libya, an administration official said Monday.

Rice will meet with Sen. John McCain on Tuesday morning, a Senate source said.

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Filed under: Libya • State Department • Susan Rice
Official: Changes to Benghazi talking points made by intel community
US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice on State of the Union on September 16
November 19th, 2012
07:32 PM ET

Official: Changes to Benghazi talking points made by intel community

By Pam Benson

The intelligence community - not the White House, State Department or Justice Department - was responsible for the substantive changes made to the talking points distributed for government officials who spoke publicly about the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, the spokesman for the director of national intelligence said Monday.

The unclassified talking points on Libya, developed several days after the the deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, were not substantively changed by any agency outside of the intelligence community, according to the spokesman, Shawn Turner.

Republican criticism of the talking points intensified last Friday following a closed door hearing with former CIA Director David Petraeus.

Rep. Peter King, R-New York, told reporters after the hearing that the original talking parts drafted by the CIA had been changed and it was unclear who was responsible.

"The original talking points were much more specific about al Qaeda involvement and yet final ones just said indications of extremists," King said.

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Filed under: Benghazi • Central Intelligence Agency • CIA • Intelligence • Libya • Libya • ODNI • Peter King • Petraeus • Rep. Mike Rogers • Terrorism
Benghazi talking points omitted link to al Qaeda
November 16th, 2012
12:36 PM ET

Benghazi talking points omitted link to al Qaeda

By Jennifer Rizzo, with reporting from Pam Benson

Former CIA Director David Petraeus testified on Capitol Hill on Friday that the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was an act of terrorism committed by al Qaeda-linked militants.

That's according to Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who spoke to reporters after the closed hearing, which lasted an hour and 20 minutes.

The account Petraeus gave was different from the description the Obama administration gave on September 14, King said.

Then, the attack was described as "spontaneous," the result of a protest against an anti-Muslim film that got out of control outside the compound.

Petraeus told lawmakers Friday that he had discussed the possibility of it being a terrorist attack in his initial briefing in September, according to King.

"He had told us that this was a terrorist attack and there were terrorists involved from the start," King said. "I told him, my questions, I had a very different recollection of that (earlier account)," he said. "The clear impression we (lawmakers) were given was that the overwhelming amount of evidence was that it arose out of a spontaneous demonstration and it was not a terrorist attack."

The "spontaneous" adjective was "minimized" during Petraeus' testimony Friday, King said.
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