More furloughed intelligence officers to return to work
October 10th, 2013
03:44 AM ET

More furloughed intelligence officers to return to work

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) will begin calling more of its furloughed employees back into the office this week despite the ongoing partial government shutdown.

70% of the intelligence community has been furloughed as a result of the shutdown, leaving the leaders of all intelligence agencies scrambling to carry out their core missions.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued a statement Wednesday telling employees he had "authorized the recall of some employees who perform functions that directly support efforts to protect against imminent threats to life or property, and help provide the President with the intelligence he needs to carry out his core constitutional functions related to national security."

Typically, the president receives a daily intelligence briefing in the morning hours.

The CIA made a similar announcement earlier in the week, with CIA Director John Brennan saying in a letter to employees that "keeping our staffing at the dramatically reduced levels of the past week would pose a threat to the safety of human life and the protection of property."

Like Clapper, Brennan also cited the need to provide intelligence information to the president as a reason why more employees would be returning to work.

One U.S. intelligence official told CNN that managers at all agencies are currently "in the process of determining exactly who will be recalled under revised staffing plans" and said the process of determining who can be brought back into work "will continue over the coming days."

Clapper testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, warning Congress the damage from the shutdown would be "insidious" on the intelligence community.

"Each day that goes by, the jeopardy increases. This is a dreamland for foreign intelligence services to recruit," he said.

Since the shutdown first took effect, various U.S. intelligence services have retained the right to call back essential staff in cases where it affected national security. This allowed for management to call in specific experts if, for example, there were reports of terrorist chatter that were particularly concerning.

But as the shutdown drags on with no clear ending in sight, leaders in multiple intelligence agencies are being forced to revise their plans and are recalling a wider circle of employees.

One intelligence official summed up the current situation, saying, "In the beginning of the shutdown, only those CIA employees working imminent threats were on the job. But it's been determined that the CIA not performing its core missions for an extended period of time itself presents the risk that real threats to our national security will go undetected."

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Filed under: Brennan • CIA • Clapper • ODNI
Government shutdown 'extremely damaging' to U.S. intelligence operations
October 2nd, 2013
01:29 PM ET

Government shutdown 'extremely damaging' to U.S. intelligence operations

By Josh Levs

The government shutdown is "extremely damaging" to U.S. intelligence operations, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Wednesday.

Clapper noted that he has worked in the intelligence field for 50 years, and "never seen anything like this."

The shutdown "seriously damages our ability to protect the safety and security of this nation," he told a Senate panel.

The law allows intelligence agencies to hold on to the employees needed to protect against "imminent threat to life or property," he noted. Following that guide, approximately 70% of employees were furloughed, he said.

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Filed under: Clapper • Congress • Graham • ODNI
July 19th, 2013
05:28 PM ET

Court renews secret U.S. surveillance program

By CNN Staff

A top-secret court has renewed the authority of U.S. national security officials to collect telephone data as part of a surveillance program that was exposed by intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said it had decided to declassify and announce the program renewal, which occurs periodically but is never publicized.

Snowden leaked classified information about the program to media outlets last month and then fled the country. He has been charged with espionage.

His disclosure prompted outrage from civil libertarians, members of Congress and privacy groups concerned with the sweeping nature of the telephone surveillance and a companion effort that monitors e-mails.

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Filed under: Edward Snowden • NSA • ODNI
March 13th, 2013
06:16 PM ET

Material in North Korea's nuclear test unclear, worrying for U.S.

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.

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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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Who's the spy boss?
CIA Director Nominee John Brennan and DNI James Clapper
January 14th, 2013
12:01 AM ET

Who's the spy boss?

By Pam Benson

Creating the office of the director of national intelligence in 2005 was meant to improve the management of the nation’s intelligence gathering in the wake of 9/11, but it has often led to turf wars between national intelligence directors and directors of the CIA.

Now President Barack Obama’s nomination of his trusted counterterrorism aide, John Brennan, as CIA director may leave the impression the CIA director is the top spy, even though the director of national intelligence technically would be his boss.

The problem, past directors in both posts and other experts say, is that the DNI’s role is ambiguous.

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FIRST ON CNN: Clapper to stay on as intel chief
December 17th, 2012
05:44 PM ET

FIRST ON CNN: Clapper to stay on as intel chief

By Barbara Starr

With the president expected to soon name his choices for leadership at the State Department, Pentagon and CIA, one key position will remain consistent - the director of national intelligence.

James Clapper has told colleagues he will be staying as director of national intelligence (DNI), according to a senior U.S. official with direct knowledge of Clapper's plans. The official said Clapper will stay at the head of the Office of Director of National Intelligence "for the foreseeable future."

President Barack Obama requested that Clapper stay on, amid an expected second-term overhaul of the other key national security posts. The official, who could not be identified because no official announcement has been made about Clapper, said word of the director staying at the request of the White House began to filter through the intelligence community on Monday.

Because the DNI's job does not have a fixed term of office, Clapper will not face a new confirmation hearing by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The official said the director had told colleagues and the White House he did not want to go through another hearing.

Clapper has proven to be a key bulwark for the Obama administration in the face of Republican criticism over response to the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, in particular after he acknowledged it was the intelligence community that was responsible for the substantive changes made to the talking points distributed for government officials who spoke publicly about the attack.

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U.S. losing its sway as the sole superpower
(Photo Credit:Jewel Samad/AFP/GettyImages) President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao standing with leaders of the G20 on June 18, 2012.
December 10th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

U.S. losing its sway as the sole superpower

By Matt Smith

The United States is likely to remain the leading world power in 2030 but won't hold the kind of sway it did in the past century, according to a new study by the U.S. intelligence community.

Washington will most likely hold its status as "first among equals" two decades from now, buoyed not only by military strength but by economic and diplomatic power. That's one of the conclusions of "Alternative Worlds," released Monday by the National Intelligence Council.

Rising powers such as China may be "ambivalent and even resentful" of American leadership, but they're more interested in holding positions of influence in organizations such as the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund than assuming that role, the report found.

"Nevertheless, with the rapid rise of other countries, the 'unipolar moment' is over, and "Pax Americana" - the era of American ascendancy in international politics that began in 1945 - is fast winding down," the report states.
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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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