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.
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.
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.
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.
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.