November 28th, 2012
06:34 AM ET

Rice fails to subdue Republicans' criticism over Libya attack

By Suzanne Kelly

A conciliatory meeting between U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and Republican critics backfired following revelations that the CIA removed terrorism references in unclassified talking points about the U.S. consulate attack in Libya.

Rice, who serves as the top U.S. envoy to the United Nations, met with Republican senators Tuesday over the September 11 attack against the U.S. mission in Benghazi.

She asked for the meeting with Republican Sens. John McCain, Kelly Ayotte and Lindsey Graham after their sharp criticism of her response to the Benghazi attack. The Republican senators have maintained that they are concerned about her explanation on what caused the attack.

At the time of the attack that left four Americans dead this year, Rice said an anti-U.S. demonstration led to the violence, an assertion later disproved by intelligence officials and reports from the ground.

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Paula Broadwell
November 27th, 2012
04:17 PM ET

After Petraeus scandal, Broadwell grapples with 'normal life'

By Suzanne Kelly

In the aftermath of the affair that led to the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus, his biographer and paramour Paula Broadwell has remained publicly silent, turning instead to family and friends as she tries to assess just how news of the affair might impact her future.

"It's been hard for her family and her to see the picture that's being painted of her," says Broadwell's brother, Steve Kranz, a Washington-based attorney. "Her real focus is her family and her husband and her boys and trying to restore the trust she had with her husband and trying to protect her children from the publicity."

After weeks of media portrayals that have ranged from spurned lover to obsessed stalker, both family and friends of Broadwell have begun to present a fuller picture of her as she grapples with the shock of her affair being thrust into the public spotlight.  Part of that outreach included providing  photos from the family collection, given first to CNN, of Broadwell with her family and in Afghanistan.

"She's trying to live as normal a life as possible, but there are moments of realizing all that has happened," says a source close to Broadwell who asked not to be identified.

Early on, Broadwell began quietly returning emails from well-wishing friends, but she hasn't done much beyond that, according to sources who have said she is very focused on how the news has affected loved ones. But that strategy appears to be shifting somewhat with the hiring of a Washington-based public affairs group and friends who have known Broadwell for years now going public to combat images of her that they feel are unfair. FULL POST

November 15th, 2012
05:31 PM ET

CIA launches internal investigation into Petraeus conduct

By Suzanne Kelly

In yet another twist in the aftermath of the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus last Friday, the CIA is now opening an investigation into his conduct as Director of the spy agency. The investigation will be led by the CIA Inspector General.

"At the CIA we are constantly reviewing our performance. If there are lessons to be learned from this case we'll use them to improve. But we're not getting ahead of ourselves; an investigation is exploratory and doesn't presuppose any particular outcome," said CIA Spokesman Preston Golson.

Petraeus resigned a week ago citing an extramarital affair as the reason for his stepping down. According to friends of Petraeus, he began an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell shortly after taking the job as Director of the Agency last fall. Ms. Broadwell has not responded to CNN requests for comment.

The announcement of the internal investigation comes on the eve of closed door testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Petraeus is expected to offer his thoughts to the committee members on what the Agency knew and when it knew it in the days after the attack in Benghazi, Libya that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans on September 11.

Busting Bond: The myths of movie spycraft
Daniel Craig stars as James Bond in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions’ action adventure SKYFALL
November 9th, 2012
03:00 AM ET

Busting Bond: The myths of movie spycraft

By Suzanne Kelly

The latest James Bond movie, "Skyfall," delves into some tantalizing personal details about the world's favorite British spy, from formative events in his childhood to an up-close look at his relationship with M, the chief of the super-secret British spy service where Bond works.

The new film offers plenty of the heart-thumping chase scenes one expects from a Bond movie, and it also gives glimpses of Bond's well honed art of spycraft. Which begs the question: How realistic is today's Bond?

Some real-life former spies offered to help bust through some of the myths created by the movie:

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Obama faces a world of challenges in second term
November 8th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Obama faces a world of challenges in second term

After a long presidential campaign, Barack Obama has little time to savor his re-election victory as a host of world challenges linger. Security Clearance examines some of the key national security issues Obama will have to tackle in the coming months and what the strategy may be now that the election year politicking is over.

Mideast, Iran and North Africa

On his second day in office in 2009, President Barack Obama appointed former Sen. George Mitchell as an envoy to Mideast peace and pledged to work "actively and aggressively" to secure a final peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.

Four years later, Israelis and Palestinians are father apart from a deal than at any time in the decades-long peace process. And that effort became more difficult with the election of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has made countering Iran's nuclear threat his priority, as well as Palestinian infighting and conditions for restarting talks.

But both parties also blame a lack of U.S. leadership on the issue as a major reason negotiations have stalled. As with previous presidents, a second term could inspire bold moves by Obama to bring the parties back to the table.

One of his most pressing challenges will be curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions. After months of criticizing the Obama administration for not being tough enough on Iran, the Israeli government is now casting Obama's re-election as good for Israel and for dealing with Iran.

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November 1st, 2012
07:27 PM ET

Intelligence official offers new timeline for Benghazi attack

From Suzanne Kelly

A senior U.S. intelligence official emphatically denied that the CIA refused repeated requests from its officers on the ground in Benghazi, Libya, to assist the Americans under attack at the U.S. mission there.

Just five days before the presidential election and in a rare briefing to reporters, the official Thursday offered almost a minute-by-minute account of what happened that night.

According to a Fox News report last Friday, citing an unnamed source, CIA officers working at an annex about a mile from the mission were told by officials in the CIA chain of command to "stand down" after receiving a call from the mission asking for help.

"There were no orders to anybody to stand down in providing support," the senior intelligence official said, offering a passionate defense of the actions taken by the CIA officers on the ground during the September 11 attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

The official insisted the agency operators at the annex were in charge of their movements and the safety of those who were preparing to respond to the initial attack on the mission compound.

E-mails: White House knew of extremist claims in Benghazi attack

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Benghazi attack prompts additional reviews of embassy security in hot spots
The damage inside the burnt U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
November 1st, 2012
06:54 AM ET

Benghazi attack prompts additional reviews of embassy security in hot spots

By Suzanne Kelly

The Office of the Inspector General at the State Department is launching two reviews to determine whether the U.S. security posture is adequate at overseas posts prone to violence and terrorism.

In a letter provided to CNN by a source familiar with the investigation, Deputy Inspector General Harold Geisel announced the additional reviews, which are part of ongoing audits. According to the letter, the new reviews, known as “scopes of work,” will take a closer look at not only the security measures and procedure in place, but they will also focus on the role contractors play in assessing whether local security guards are up to the task of protecting U.S. embassies and missions.

A number of inspections are underway that examine how information about threats is shared within the State Department and its various missions. According to the letter, additional inspections are already being planned for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad with more being considered at U.S. embassies in Beirut, Lebanon, and Rabat, Morocco. The scope extends to a number of missions around the world as well.

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October 24th, 2012
08:21 PM ET

US intel believes some Benghazi attackers tied to al Qaeda in Iraq

By Suzanne Kelly, Pam Benson and Elise Labott

U.S. intelligence believes that assailants connected to al Qaeda in Iraq were among the core group that attacked the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, a U.S. government official told CNN.

That would represent the second al Qaeda affiliate associated with the deadly September 11 attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Previously, intelligence officials said there were signs of connections to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the North African wing of the terror group.

The revelation that members of al Qaeda in Iraq are suspected of involvement in the Libya attack comes at a time when there is a growing number of fighters from that group also taking part in the Syrian civil war.

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October 15th, 2012
04:11 PM ET

U.S. officials believe Iran is behind recent cyberattacks

By Mike Mount, with reporting from Suzanne Kelly and Pam Benson

The United States believes that Iran is behind cyberattacks on American banks and the oil industry in the Middle East, officials said.

Although officials have not made such an assertion publicly, they have characterized the attacks that occurred in recent months as initiated by a "state actor." The U.S. intelligence apparatus observed and tracked the attacks as coming out of Iran, a third official said Monday. The official would not describe further what was observed but said the belief is the perpetrators were surrogates working with the Iranian government.

“We strongly believe there is a relationship between the people typing the code and people running the government,” according to the official.

"It certainly is the case that Iran is improving its capabilities in the cyber field. We're paying attention. We are concerned about their increasing ability to operate in this realm," a U.S. intelligence official said.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta noted the attacks in a speech last week and warned that United States must beef up its cyber defenses or risk a potentially devastating strike. FULL POST

October 12th, 2012
11:17 AM ET

Spy movie gets out the spy community

by Suzanne Kelly

The small theater in Washington was packed with friends and admirers of Antonio Mendez. The highly-decorated former CIA officer, played by Ben Affleck in the movie 'Argo,' is the real-life mastermind behind the once-classified 1979 operation to sneak six Americans out of Iran in the aftermath of the Embassy siege in 1979.

But this screening was markedly different than the premiere. Instead of the film stars like Ben Affleck and John Goodman, the Washington screening was mainly filled with the people who live their lives in the shadows.

While the movie definitely invokes a pulse-pounding pace that typically only exists in Hollywood, the extent to which Mendez was able to pull off the daring real-life rescue is impressive. Impressive enough to not only earn him a place on the silver screen, but he was also awarded the Intelligence Star for Valor, one of the highest honors a CIA Officer can receive.

The Spy Museum's Director, Peter Earnest (a former CIA Officer himself) paid tribute, as did the audience, with a standing ovation after the movie. Proof enough that coming out of the shadows can have it's perks

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