By Elise Labott
Key meetings this week on Syria will try to figure out how the Obama administration can help moderate heavy rebel casualties and stem opposition defections to radical groups as the prospect for a political solution to the civil war grows dim.
Recent gains by the regime in Qusayr and its ongoing offensive to retake areas of Aleppo - all with the help of Hezbollah fighters - has created an urgency in the administration to act before President Barack Obama's stated policy objective of ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is lost.
"It's really bad but whether this is fatal, we don't' know," one senior administration official said of recent gains by regime forces. "There is a recognition that unless we provide help, a lot of help, the situation is going to be very, very terrible."
By Jill Dougherty
Buffeted by Republican criticism for its handling of last September's deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, the Obama administration is mounting a coordinated response.
Thursday, at a Rose Garden news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Barack Obama went out of his way to challenge Republicans to fully fund security for America's diplomats.
Republicans have ripped the administration for not providing adequate security for the Benghazi mission at which four Americans, including Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, were killed.
(CNN) - President Barack Obama said Tuesday he continues to believe the United States should close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"I think it's critical for us to understand Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe, it's expensive, it's inefficient, it hurts us in terms of international standing, it lessens cooperation with our allies in counter-terrorism efforts. ... It needs to be closed."
Obama vowed to close the prison when he first came into office, but Congress blocked him from doing so.
Dozens of prisoners at that detention camp are currently on their tenth week of a hunger strike.
U.S. authorities said last week that 84 – half of the prisoners – were not eating.
Carlos Warner, a public defender who represents 11 of the detainees, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour last week that multiple sources told him the number was actually higher.
By Chris Lawrence and Barbara Starr
The Obama administration is considering shifting lethal drone operations run by the Central Intelligence Agency over to the military, U.S. officials tell CNN.
The proposal is under "serious consideration," one U.S. official said. The official said no final decision has been made, and that there is no specific time frame in place, but that the change is being considered "due to a desire for greater transparency in who is being targeted."
By law, the military is not able to act covertly the way the CIA can, and it must answer to Congress.
The Daily Beast website first reported on the potential shift.
By Sara Sidner, reporting from Jerusalem
The issue of how to deal with the movement or transfer of sophisticated weapons in Syria to groups such as Hezbollah or al Qaeda will come up in Israeli discussions with U.S. President Barack Obama this week.
Israeli officials will not publicly confirm or deny a report in Britain's Guardian newspaper that Israel's leadership will try to persuade Obama - who is traveling to Israel and the Palestinian territories - to have U.S. forces carry out airstrikes against Syria if evidence shows sophisticated missiles are being handed over to groups both have deemed terrorist organizations.
But a senior Israeli official said, "Syria has weapons not even Iran has. We know where their weapons are and we are watching very closely. In prior discussion I have been in I have not heard a specific request to the United States in those terms. However, these sorts of issues have come up in discussions with America."
Syria "is fragmenting and no one wants to see chemical weapons or state of the art weaponry that Syria has fall into the hands of al Qaeda or Hezbollah in Lebanon," the source said, ending with, "We reserve the right to act in such a crisis. But if someone else would act we wouldn't have to."
By David Goldman
Having run out of patience for Congress to act on a cybersecurity bill, President Obama has decided to take matters into his own hands.
Obama signed an executive order on Tuesday addressing the country's most basic cybersecurity needs and highlighted the effort in his State of the Union address.
"We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy," Obama said.
The order will make it easier for private companies in control of the nation's critical infrastructure to share information about cyberattacks with the government. In return, the Department of Homeland Security will share "sanitized" classified information with companies about attacks believed to be occurring or that are about to take place.
The order also directs the government to work with the private sector on standards that will help protect companies from cybercrime, though there is nothing in the order about how this will be enforced.
By Ed Payne, CNN
Reaction to North Korea's nuclear test - its third since 2006 - poured in Tuesday from around the world:
Barack Obama, U.S. president:
"This is a highly provocative act that ... undermines regional stability, violates North Korea's obligations under numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions, contravenes its commitments under the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks, and increases the risk of proliferation.
North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs constitute a threat to U.S. national security and to international peace and security. The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and steadfast in our defense commitments to allies in the region."
"The danger posed by North Korea's threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the international community. The United States will also continue to take steps necessary to defend ourselves and our allies."FULL STORY
By Jill Dougherty
The president's top diplomat said Friday he wasn't looking "backwards" at the White House quashing of a proposal last summer to arm the Syrian rebels, but was instead looking at what the United States will do regarding helping the opposition.
Last summer President Barack Obama's national security team, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CIA Director David Petraeus, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, backed a proposal to provide weapons to Syrian rebels but, U.S. officials told CNN on Thursday, the White House blocked the idea.
That rift was unexpectedly revealed Thursday in testimony on Capitol Hill. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, asked Panetta and Dempsey: "Did you support the recommendation by Secretary of State - then-Secretary of State Clinton and then-head of CIA General Petraeus that we provide weapons to the resistance in Syria? Do you support that?
By Lesa Jansen
The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday morning will receive a classified document that seeks to justify the administration's policy of targeting Americans overseas via drone attacks, chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said late Wednesday.
"I am pleased that the president has agreed to provide the Intelligence Committee with access to the OLC (Office of Legal Counsel) opinion regarding the use of lethal force in counterterrorism operations," the California Democrat said in a statement.
"It is critical for the committee's oversight function to fully understand the legal basis for all intelligence and counterterrorism operations."
The announcement came shortly after an administration official said that President Barack Obama had yielded to demands that he turn over to Congress the classified Justice Department legal advice that seeks to justify the policy.FULL STORY
By Carol Cratty
As law enforcement agencies finalize security preparations for Barack Obama's second inauguration, an FBI official said Tuesday authorities have "no credible corroborated threats to any of the activities."
Debra Evans Smith, the FBI's acting assistant director in charge of its Washington field office, said the FBI will have specialized personnel ready to go to meet any security challenge.
"We will have our SWAT team, pretty much all of our specialty teams will be available and on standby to include (weapons specialists), our dive team, our intelligence team - working around the clock - our hostage negotiators, (and) our special agent bomb technicians will also be available," Smith told reporters.FULL STORY