Last Uyghur captives leave Guantanamo Bay
December 31st, 2013
12:16 PM ET

Last Uyghur captives leave Guantanamo Bay

By Jamie Crawford

The United States has transferred the final three ethnic Chinese Uyghur captives from the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

Yusef Abbas, Saidullah Khalik and Hajiakbar Abdul Ghuper were sent to Slovakia where they were "voluntarily" resettled, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.

"The United States is grateful to the government of Slovakia for this humanitarian gesture and its willingness to support U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," he added.
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Filed under: China • Gitmo
U.S. Navy deploys new reconnaissance planes to Japan
A P-8A Poseidon aircraft takes off from Naval Air Station Jacksonville on November 29.
December 2nd, 2013
12:52 PM ET

U.S. Navy deploys new reconnaissance planes to Japan

By Jamie Crawford

The U.S. Navy has deployed two of its next-generation reconnaissance aircraft to Japan, a long-planned move that comes amid controversy over Chinese air defenses.

Designed to enhance the Navy's long-range maritime patrol capability, the P-8A Poseidon's specialty is submarine detection, the Navy said. The planes flew from Norfolk, Virginia, to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, in recent days.

The P-8A Poseidon also is part of the Navy's effort to phase out the P-3C Orion. It is more technologically advanced than its predecessor and can fly higher with a crew of up to nine. It also can carry torpedoes, cruise missiles, bombs and mines.

While the Navy rebalances resources in the Pacific, the arrival of the aircraft comes at a time of heightened tension in the region with China's imposition of an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea.
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Filed under: Asia • China • Japan • Navy
U.S. officials reject 'abhorrent' comments by Iranian leader
A handout picture released by the official website of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, shows him delivering a speech during a gathering of Basij in Tehran on November 20, 2013.
November 21st, 2013
04:17 PM ET

U.S. officials reject 'abhorrent' comments by Iranian leader

By Jamie Crawford

They may have been directed to a domestic audience, but some offensive remarks from Iran's supreme leader drew heated responses from senior officials in the Obama administration.

At issue were remarks by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to a gathering of senior military officials in Tehran earlier this week in which he said Israeli officials "cannot be even called humans," and referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as "the rabid dog of the region."

"Well, obviously we disagree with it profoundly," Secretary of State John Kerry said in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday.

"It's inflammatory and it's unnecessary, and I think at this moment, when we are trying to negotiate and figure out what can and can't be achieved, the last thing we need are names back and forth," Kerry said.
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Filed under: Iran • Khamenei • Sec. State John Kerry
U.S. offers up to $10 million reward over Benghazi
November 15th, 2013
02:58 PM ET

U.S. offers up to $10 million reward over Benghazi

By Jamie Crawford

The United States has a reward of up to $10 million on the table for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved in the deadly terror attack last year on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, the State Department disclosed for the first time on Friday.

While U.S. authorities have filed charges in the case, no one has been arrested, prompting outrage in Congress.

Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack by armed militants in September 2012.

The reward has been in effect since January but never publicized.
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Filed under: Benghazi • Libya
Obama to Congress: Give Iran sanctions a chance
November 14th, 2013
03:23 PM ET

Obama to Congress: Give Iran sanctions a chance

By Jamie Crawford

Additional sanctions targeting Iran's disputed nuclear program could undermine international progress already made on the issue, President Barack Obama said Thursday.

"If we're serious about pursuing diplomacy then there's no need for us to add new sanctions on top of the sanctions that are already very effective, and that brought them to the table in the first place," Obama told reporters at the White House.

Obama said he would like to see if a "short-term, phase-one deal" with Iran can be put in place in the near term that requires Tehran to freeze aspects of its nuclear program while the international community negotiates a more comprehensive long-term deal.
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Filed under: Iran • Obama
$500 per gallon for gas – Sticker shock from war spending waste
The hospital in Gardez, Afghanistan under construction.
October 23rd, 2013
04:16 PM ET

$500 per gallon for gas – Sticker shock from war spending waste

By Jamie Crawford

$500 for a gallon of fuel?

That was the exorbitant figure paid with U.S. tax dollars to a contractor building a hospital in rural Afghanistan, according to a report from the government watchdog tasked with investigating expenditures on Afghanistan's reconstruction.

In the report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the International Organization for Migration was found to lack sufficient internal controls able to detect overpayments of at least $507,000 to the contractor it hired to build a 100-bed hospital in the town of Gardez.

It was part of a project begun in July 2008 in a cooperative agreement between the United States International Agency for Development and IOM.

The examples of oversight ineptitude are staggering.
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Kerry, Netanyahu discuss Iranian nuclear program in Rome
Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Rome on Wednesday.
October 23rd, 2013
10:10 AM ET

Kerry, Netanyahu discuss Iranian nuclear program in Rome

By Jamie Crawford

Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States will not let up its pressure on Iran over its disputed nuclear program despite recent diplomatic overtures between the two countries.

"We will pursue a diplomatic initiative with eyes wide open," Kerry said in Rome during a meeting Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, "aware it will be vital for Iran to live up to those standards other nations that have nuclear programs live up to as they prove those programs are indeed peaceful."

Despite a softening of rhetoric on some fronts by the regime in Tehran, there have been fears by other countries in the region that the United States might be too quick to offer incentives to Iran in the latest round of negotiations between Iran and the group known as the P5+1, which includes the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany.

Netanyahu, who has said Iran's nuclear program poses an existential threat to Israel, was cautious in his assessment of the current state of play.
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Filed under: Iran • Israel • Sec. State John Kerry
Kerry: Relations with Saudi Arabia are 'close'
Secretary of State John Kerry at a press conference in London on Tuesday.
October 22nd, 2013
03:05 PM ET

Kerry: Relations with Saudi Arabia are 'close'

By Jamie Crawford

Secretary of State John Kerry says relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia are strong despite reports the Saudis are looking to de-emphasize its alliance with Washington.

"I have great confidence that the United States and Saudi Arabia will continue to be the close and important friends and allies that we have been," Kerry told reporters on Tuesday in London on the sidelines of a conference about the international response to the civil war in Syria.

Kerry was responding to questions based on a report from Reuters that quoted Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, telling European diplomats the kingdom would be making a "major shift" in relations with Washington over perceived inaction towards the carnage in Syria, and a possible rapprochement with Iran over its nuclear program.

The comments were noteworthy coming from Bandar, who served as the kingdom's ambassador to Washington for many years and enjoyed warm relations with both Democratic and Republican administrations.
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Hagel warns of more uncertainty after budget deal
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel
October 17th, 2013
03:43 PM ET

Hagel warns of more uncertainty after budget deal

By Jamie Crawford

The head of the largest U.S. government employer says there is still a long way to go to remove uncertainty for federal employees despite the end of the government shutdown.

"People have to have some confidence that they have a job that they can rely on," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday. "We can't continue to do this to our people, having them live under this cloud of uncertainty."

With a $680 billion budget, the Pentagon has the highest payroll of any federal agency as it supports 7.4 million active duty forces and 718,000 civilian workers.

Hagel said the civilian defense workforce was hit hardest during the 16-day shutdown that ended on Thursday.
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Filed under: Defense Spending • Hagel • Military • Sequestration
Report sheds light on al Qaeda-linked hijacking plot in 2000
The document cites a January 2000 meeting between Osama bin Laden and Taliban officials to discuss a plot to hijack airplanes.
October 8th, 2013
07:01 PM ET

Report sheds light on al Qaeda-linked hijacking plot in 2000

By Jamie Crawford

Did the United States intelligence community dismiss a warning of an al Qaeda plot to hijack a commercial airliner a year before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001?

That's the assertion made by Judicial Watch, a conservative, nonpartisan government watchdog group, based on a document it obtained from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) through the Freedom of Information Act and distributed to media.

In the Intelligence Information Report dated September 27, 2001, the DIA says al Qaeda planned to hijack a plane leaving Frankfurt International Airport sometime between March and August 2000. Advanced warning of that plot "was disregarded because nobody believed that (Osama) bin Laden or the Taliban could carry out such an operation," the report said.

The plot was eventually delayed after one of the participants withdrew from the plot.
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Filed under: Afghanistan • Al Qaeda • Intelligence • Osama bin Laden • Terrorism
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