By Terry Frieden
A Drug Enforcement Administration agent stationed in Cartagena, Colombia, arranged for a prostitute to have an encounter with a U.S. Secret Service Agent only days before a visit there by President Barack Obama, the Justice Department's inspector general has found.
In a December 20 letter to the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, the inspector general said the agent admitted his role in hiring the woman, while a second DEA agent said he was intoxicated that night and was unable to "recall specifically his involvement."
A third DEA special agent was present for a dinner with the Secret Service agent but was not present at a residence where the sexual encounter took place and played no role in facilitating it, the report said.FULL STORY
By Pam Benson
If President Barack Obama's selection to lead the CIA is confirmed, it will be a homecoming of sorts.
John Brennan, the president's chief homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, spent 25 years at the Central intelligence Agency distinguishing himself as a Mideast and terrorism expert.
But moving back to Langley would be a big change.
He's spent the past four years at the White House, where he has had Obama's ear.
If there is an act of terrorism against Americans anywhere in the world or a mass shooting at home, Brennan is often the one who picks up the phone or walks into the Oval Office, day or night, to tell the president about the calamity.
He has been the president's trusted counterterrorism and homeland security aide who can be seen in photographs briefing Obama on such incidents as the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, or the Times Square bombing attempt in 2010. He's with the president in the Situation Room during crisis deliberations.
By Larry Shaughnessy
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta sent a memo this week to all the troops and civilians who work for him to address concerns about the mandatory spending cuts that would occur if the president and lawmakers do not reach a budget agreement by the end of the year.
In it, Panetta wrote that if the procedure, known as sequestration, were to occur, it "would not necessarily require immediate reductions in spending."
He also wrote that "under sequestration, we would still have funds available after Jan. 2, 2013, but our overall funding for the remainder of the year would be reduced."
It's a very different spin on the sequestration from Panetta, who in the past said it would be a "disaster." If this "meat ax" approach to budget cutting were used, he said, it would "hollow out the force."
The cuts are slated to be across the board, totaling roughly $500 billion over 10 years.
Panetta tried to reassure the troops that "the president indicated his intent to exercise his legal authority to exempt military personnel" from the mandatory cuts.
But he couldn't make the same promise to the Defense Department's million or so civilian employees.
Instead he said, "Should we have to operate under reduced funding levels for an extended period of time, we may have to consider furloughs or other actions in the future."
Asked about the change of tone, a senior defense official said, "The secretary continues to believe that sequestration would be devastating and is puzzled that Congress can't reach a deal."
The same official said the memo reflects the Office of Management and Budget's view of the issue, especially with respect to furloughs.
Panetta wrapped up the memo by writing, "I want to assure you that we will do our very best to provide clear information about the status of events as they unfold."
By Larry Shaughnessy
"You've got to be kidding me."
That's how Secretary of Defense and former CIA Director Leon Panetta first responded when asked about David Petraeus's sudden and unceremonial departure from the CIA.
The question was asked during an event Tuesday at the National Press Club.
"As the former head of the CIA, please explain why Gen. Petraeus was forced to resign, rather than a lesser punishment," an unidentified audience member asked.
By Jennifer Rizzo
Defense company executives conceded on Monday that their industry would likely see billions more in cuts even if Congress reaches a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff.
"We need to stop believing or pretending that there is a scenario out there that offers no defense cuts," said David Langstaff, president and chief executive of TASC, Inc. "The question is whether we make them responsibly or irresponsibly."
The automatic cuts, referred to as sequestration, are set to go into effect on January 2 if the White House and Congress cannot agree on where $1 trillion in federal savings over the next decade should come from.
The Pentagon's budget would be axed by $500 billion over that time. That would be on top of a similar cut the Pentagon is already committed to achieving.
Langstaff discussed the threat of the looming budget cuts at the National Press Club along with three other defense industry executives: Wes Bush, CEO of Northrop Grumman; David Hess, president of Pratt & Whitney; and Dawne Hickton, CEO of RTI Metals.
Americans are giving the White House low marks for how it's handled the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the resignation of former CIA Director David Petraeus, according to a new national survey.
But according to a CNN/ORC International poll released Tuesday, a majority of the public doesn't believe the Obama administration intentionally tried to mislead Americans on the September attack that left the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans dead. And the survey also indicates a plurality have a positive opinion of Petraeus and are divided on whether the former top U.S. should have resigned as CIA director after acknowledging an extra-marital affair.FULL STORY
By Mike Mount, CNN Senior National Security Producer
The fallout from the scandal involving now disgraced CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus and possible connection to top Afghan commander Gen. John Allen comes at a transition time for the Obama administration. Just a week after the election, one of Washington's favorite guessing games started as politicians, journalists and every other political wonk started to calculate who could be filling the major Cabinet positions that would be opening as some get set to step down. It raises the question of what effect all this could have on the country's national security.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton long ago announced she would be leaving and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, said this week that he does want to return to his home in California. Asked how long he plans to stick around the Pentagon, he responded to reporters, "Who the hell knows?"
In the military, regularly scheduled command changes were getting set as well, as Allen was moving to head the European Command and a new commander was preparing to take over in Afghanistan. Both have to be confirmed by the Senate and a confirmation hearing is set for Thursday with the Senate Armed Services Committee.
But in light of the scandal, is the president at risk of losing too much of his foreign policy brain trust as Petraeus departs and Allen works under the haze of an investigation?
The newly re-elected president had a busy morning returning calls to world leaders who had sent messages of congratulations, according to a White House statement.
"In each call, he thanked his counterpart for their friendship and partnership thus far and expressed his desire to continue close cooperation moving ahead," according to the statement.
Not everyone got a call returned by President Obama, mind you. The statement notes the president returned "some" of the messages personally.
Here's a list of who got called: FULL POST
The Cybersecurity adviser to the White House, Michael Daniel, gave a candid assessment today of the cyber risks the U.S. faces. This comes as there are rumblings that the President is getting ready to issue an executive order on cybersecurity in light of Congress failing to pass legislation on this issue. CNN's Suzanne Kelly reports on what the government is doing to protect the U.S. from the threat of cyber attacks.
By Adam Levine
As the investigation into the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, continues, there is disagreement about whether the violence was a result of a mob gone awry, a planned terror attack or a combination of the two.
The White House said Friday there was no indication before the attack in Libya this week that something was in the works beforehand.
"We were not aware of any actionable intelligence indicating that an attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi was planned or imminent," presidential spokesman Jay Carney said.
The comment came as a top Libyan official and some within Congress and other aspects of the U.S. government said there are signs now that the attack on the consulate that killed the ambassador and three other Americans was not a spontaneous outgrowth of a mob angered by an anti-Muslim film.
A U.S. official told CNN's Suzanne Kelly that American intelligence was sufficiently concerned about the attention the movie was receiving online to warn the embassy in Egypt in a bulletin a few days before protesters stormed that compound in Cairo on Tuesday, the same day the consulate in Libya was attacked by armed militants.