Supreme Court to review government's foreign surveillance program
May 21st, 2012
12:31 PM ET

Supreme Court to review government's foreign surveillance program

By Bill Mears

The Supreme Court said Monday that it will tackle a major national security and privacy dispute involving the government's little-known foreign surveillance program.

The justices announced they would hear an appeal from the American Civil Liberties Union, representing a coalition of "United States persons" - attorneys, journalists and labor, legal, media and human rights organizations.

Oral arguments will be heard this fall.

The larger issue involves the constitutionality of the federal government's electronic monitoring of targeted foreign people. A federal appeals court said the domestic plaintiffs who deal with overseas clients and co-workers reasonably feared the government was reading and hearing their sensitive communications, and those groups had taken costly measures to avoid such intrusions.

That New York-based three-judge panel last year ruled against the Obama administration proceeding.

The specific question now to be addressed by the high court is whether certain Americans have "standing" to challenge the federal law, without a specific showing they have been monitored. Plaintiffs say the National Security Agency has in turn refused to disclose specifics. The ACLU calls that "Catch-22" logic.
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Filed under: Clapper • Intelligence • Justice Department • NSA
Spy chief orders review of bomb plot leaks
May 9th, 2012
02:08 PM ET

Spy chief orders review of bomb plot leaks

By Barbara Starr

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has ordered an internal review across the intelligence community to determine if leaks regarding a Saudi mole who infiltrated an Qaeda affiliate in Yemen came from any of the 16 intelligence agencies he oversees.

Recommended:  Mole infiltrated al Qaeda plot

The move comes after revelations this week that a mole helped foil a plot to blow up a U.S.-bound plane by penetrating al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

"We are looking internally to determine whether or not there were unauthorized disclosures of classified information," said a U.S. intelligence official, who has direct knowledge of the review but declined to be named and was only authorized to discuss it if no name was used. FULL POST

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Filed under: CIA • Clapper • FIRST ON CNN/EXCLUSIVE • Intelligence • ODNI
First female chief for spy satellite agency
Launch of National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite
April 25th, 2012
06:50 PM ET

First female chief for spy satellite agency

By Pam Benson

The glass ceiling has cracked a bit further as another woman is appointed to lead one of the big five U.S. intelligence agencies.

James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, announced Tuesday that Betty Sapp will take the helm of the National Reconnaissance Office, the agency that oversees the nation's supersecret satellite systems.

Sapp, who joined the intelligence community in 1997, has served as the NRO deputy director for the past two years. She will replace Bruce Carlson, who announced his departure will be July 20.

In a written statement, Clapper praised Sapp as "a smart, exceedingly professional and unflappable leader ... who has already established herself as an expert in her field."

The DNI also touted Carlson's accomplishments, noting the NRO had launched six satellites in just seven months last year.

Sapp becomes the second woman to head a key intelligence agency. Letitia "Tish" Long was appointed director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in August 2010.

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Filed under: Clapper • Intelligence • ODNI • Satellite imagery
Iran nukes: How would the world know?
Fordow enrichment plant near Qom, Iran
March 26th, 2012
03:00 AM ET

Iran nukes: How would the world know?

By Pam Benson

American officials are adamant. The U.S. will respond - possibly with military force - if Iran crosses a red line and decides to actually make nuclear weapons.

But will the U.S. know with an degree of certainty that a line has been crossed?

The decision itself to push ahead really comes down to one person, according to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Clapper told a Senate hearing recently that any decision would be based on "the supreme leader's world view and the extent to which he thinks that would benefit the state of Iran or, conversely, not benefit."

Clapper was referring to Ayatollah Ali Khameini, the supreme leader of Iran.

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Filed under: CIA • Clapper • IAEA • IAEA • Intelligence • Iran • Iraq • Khamenei • Nuclear • ODNI • Petraeus • Petraeus • Stuxnet • weapons
Counterterrorism center can keep data on Americans for longer
Operations Center at the National Counterterrorism Center
March 23rd, 2012
11:26 AM ET

Counterterrorism center can keep data on Americans for longer

By Pam Benson

The Obama administration has revised guidelines to allow the National Counterterrorism Center access to data about Americans that it can search and store for a longer period of time, even if that information is not related to terrorism.

The revision, announced Thursday night, will allow the center to obtain data from other government databases that include nonterrorism information on U.S. citizens and residents, and retain the material for up to five years.

Guidelines established in November 2008 only allowed the center to keep the information for up to 180 days before permanently removing it.

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Filed under: 9/11 • Clapper • Intelligence • NCTC • ODNI • Terrorism • Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab
February 22nd, 2012
06:40 PM ET

Military: Thousands of troops needed to secure Syrian chemical sites

By Barbara Starr

The U.S. military has calculated it could take more than 75,000 ground troops to secure Syria's chemical warfare facilities if they were at risk of being looted or left unguarded, CNN has learned.

The conclusion comes from a military analysis of options for Syria that the Department of Defense is preparing for president should he request it, according to a senior U.S. official.

Securing Syria's chemical sites would be "extraordinarily difficult" given the scope of the problem, a Department of Defense official told CNN. FULL POST

Iran a threat to U.S. on many fronts
February 16th, 2012
01:35 PM ET

Iran a threat to U.S. on many fronts

By Suzanne Kelly

Iran poses a laundry list of threats to U.S. national security, according to top officials in the intelligence community.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that Iran poses a threat on a number of fronts, including its ability to develop a nuclear weapon, and the fact that any nuclear attack would likely be delivered by a ballistic missile.

"Iran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East, and it is expanding the scale, reach, and sophistication of its ballistic missile force, many of which are inherently capable of carrying a nuclear payload," Clapper said during his opening remarks to the committee. FULL POST

Assad's daddy issues
February 16th, 2012
10:43 AM ET

Assad's daddy issues

By Adam Levine

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad will not leave or change course short of a coup, mostly because of the president's need to "emulate his father," U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Thursday.

Clapper said the Syrian opposition, while mostly local, has been infiltrated by al Qaeda elements, maybe without the opposition knowing about it.

His comments about the situation in Syria were the most detailed assessment to date of the U.S. intelligence read on Syria, and came during testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee about threats to the United States. FULL POST

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Filed under: Clapper • Intelligence • Middle East • ODNI • Senate Armed Services Committee • Syria
Help wanted, must keep a secret: the case file on ODNI's Stephanie O'Sullivan
February 9th, 2012
12:02 AM ET

Help wanted, must keep a secret: the case file on ODNI's Stephanie O'Sullivan

By Suzanne Kelly

Editor's note:  In the Security Clearance "Case File" series, CNN national security producers profile the key members of the intelligence community.   This story is the first in a special Case File series focusing on the roles women play in the U.S. intelligence community

You never know when a life of espionage is right there in front of you, in an advertisement, calling you to a new adventure.  At least, Stephanie O'Sullivan says she didn't know when she answered a help wanted ad more than two decades ago for an employer looking for someone with experience in "ocean engineering."

The recent college graduate with a civil engineering degree had moved in with her parents in Annapolis, Maryland, while her fiance, whom she'd met in college, finished up his own program.  Her parents, in full anticipation of sailing off into the sunset when her father retired, had bought a boat, and that's where the three of them lived.

"I thought, 'Well I know about that, I live on a boat and I've been into boating all my life because my father was into it," said O'Sullivan, who answered the ad, not really understanding the full scope of what "ocean engineering" meant.  She soon realized why the ad was so cryptic:  it was for work on a classified program. "It turned out to be intelligence community work and it was luck because it's been a career of infinite challenge." FULL POST

February 2nd, 2012
04:23 PM ET

Catastrophic cyberattack looms

By Pam Benson

The United States will soon suffer a catastrophic cyberattack if it doesn't act now to prevent it, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee warned Thursday.

"The clock is ticking and winding down," Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, said at a hearing on the security threats facing the United States.

Speaking to the nation's top intelligence officials, Rogers said that, "given classified briefings that we've had, discussions with all of you and your counterparts ... that a cyberattack is on its way. We will suffer a catastrophic cyberattack."

The committee's top Democrat, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, said foreign governments - in particular China and Russia - steal American intellectual property to gain a competitive edge.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper accused China of "the greatest pillaging of wealth in history, if you tote up the value of the intellectual property that has been stolen."

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Central Intelligence Agency • CIA • Clapper • Congress • Cybersecurity • Detainees • Intelligence • ODNI • Panetta • Panetta • Petraeus • Petraeus • Sanctions • Security Brief • Terrorism
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