Iran's foreign minister talks of possible relief for jailed Americans
January 23rd, 2014
07:04 PM ET

Iran's foreign minister talks of possible relief for jailed Americans

By Jennifer Rizzo

A reduced sentence for two Americans jailed in Iran may be possible, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an exclusive interview with CNN's Jim Sciutto.

"We have various clemency measures in Iran that can be introduced, happened in the past, can be introduced again in these cases," Zarif said in the interview this week from Davos, Switzerland.

Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine who served in Iraq, was arrested in Iran in August 2011 and held on espionage charges.

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U.S., Iranian presidents share U.N. spotlight
September 24th, 2013
12:56 AM ET

U.S., Iranian presidents share U.N. spotlight

United Nations (CNN) - For years it was a United Nations General Assembly annual ritual: Iran's president would denounce the United States, and the American president would fire back. But this year the talks in New York are brimming with the possibility of diplomacy.

A meeting has not been scheduled between U.S. President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, both of whom will speak Tuesday before the General Assembly. Both sides, however, remain open to possibilities.

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How a military strike on Syria might unfold
A U.S. Navy Destroyer launches a Tomahawk missile
August 31st, 2013
12:32 PM ET

How a military strike on Syria might unfold

By CNN's Barbara Starr and Jennifer Rizzo

The U.S. military could execute a strike against Syria very quickly, if it's ordered to, according to Pentagon sources.

President Barack Obama is still debating a limited strike after Syrian regime forces allegedly unleashed a brutal chemical attack against civilians and rebel forces earlier this month, killing at least 1,429 people, according to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Before any missiles start flying, the president would issue an "execute" order for operations to begin.
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April 10th, 2013
05:58 PM ET

War game plays out poorly

By Jake Tapper and Jennifer Rizzo

Imagine the North Korean regime has toppled, either because the U.S. or South Korea take it out, or because of a coup, and the U.S. has to surge troops to secure the country's nuclear stockpiles to make sure they do not fall into the wrong hands.

The frightening scenario was played out at the U.S. Army War College recently, and it did not end well. The military sets the scene in the fictitious land of "North Brownland," essentially an alias for North Korea.
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Filed under: Asia • Kim Jong-un • Military • North Korea • Yongbyon
March 13th, 2013
10:17 PM ET

Veterans' wait time for benefits is 'too long,' VA official concedes

By Jennifer Rizzo

Questioned about a growing backlog of veterans' claims, a top Veteran Affairs official conceded Wednesday that veterans wait "too long" to receive benefits.

"Too many veterans still have to wait too long to get the compensation benefits they earn, and that is unacceptable to us," said Allison Hickey, Undersecretary for Benefits, during a hearing on Capitol Hill.

Senators pressed officials from the VA on the increase in the number of veterans waiting more than 125 days for their benefits claims to go through.

A recent report from the Center for Investigative Reporting found that since President Obama took office in 2009, the number of veterans waiting more than a year for their benefits has skyrocketed, from 11,000 in 2009 to 245,000 in December 2012, a jump of more than 2,000%.
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Filed under: Security Brief
March 12th, 2013
12:15 PM ET

Hagel ordering review of new drone medal ranking

By Jennifer Rizzo and Kevin Liptak

In an about-face, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has decided to review the criteria of a recently created "drone award" that ranked achievements in related warfare and other modern combat skills above the most noted recognition for bravery on the battlefield.

The Distinguished Warfare Medal, which was approved last month by Hagel's predecessor, Leon Panetta, recognizes "extraordinary direct impacts on combat operations." But the honor denotes that the action is not bound by a "geographic limitation," meaning drone operators could be eligible.

Some lawmakers expressed concern the medal would be placed above those for battlefield valor, including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said production of the medal had been halted so Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey can conduct the review. He is expected to present his findings in 30 days.

"Secretary Hagel consulted with the chairman, the joint chiefs, and the service secretaries, and knows the decision to establish the medal was carefully and thoroughly analyzed within the Department of Defense," Little said at a media briefing. FULL POST

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Filed under: Military
December 4th, 2012
06:55 PM ET

The science behind camo

The Army is ready to buy different camouflage for its fatigues and equipment, just eight years after troops in Afghanistan were outfitted with new uniform.

The move to a different uniform comes after soldiers, many of them redeploying to Afghanistan, began voicing their criticism in the summer of 2009 of the "universal" camouflage pattern, introduced in 2004 and meant to be used in all types of battle environments.

The problem: the one-size-fits-all approach of the universal pattern wasn't working.

CNN's Chris Lawrence spoke to one camo designer, whose three patterns are in running to outfit U.S. soldiers. But the developer has his eyes set even further down the road, to technology that can make U.S. troops invisible on the battlefield.

Click here for the full story on the Army's selection process.

Military judge removed from Fort Hood shooter case
December 3rd, 2012
09:01 PM ET

Military judge removed from Fort Hood shooter case

By Jennifer Rizzo

A military appeals court has removed the judge who had been overseeing accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan’s court-martial, saying the judge was biased.

The ruling makes Col. Gregory Gross’ order for Hasan’s beard to be shaved invalid. Hasan has objected to the order with various appeals, citing religious freedom.

“We order the removal of the military judge on the basis of the appearance of bias,” the court document states.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces faulted Gross with allowing the proceedings to become a “duel of wills” between him and Hasan rather than focusing on the serious crimes with which Hasan is charged.

Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, has been charged with 13 counts of murder in connection with the November 2009 shooting spree at Fort Hood, the sprawling Army post in central Texas.
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Filed under: Army • Legal • Military • Nidal Hasan • Terrorism
Defense companies see cuts coming even with a budget deal
December 3rd, 2012
06:28 PM ET

Defense companies see cuts coming even with a budget deal

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.
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Filed under: Budget • Congress • Defense Spending • Pentagon • White House
With changes, U.S.-based prisons could handle Gitmo detainees, GAO finds
November 28th, 2012
11:16 PM ET

With changes, U.S.-based prisons could handle Gitmo detainees, GAO finds

By Jennifer Rizzo

Federal prisons and Defense Department correctional facilities in the U.S. would need myriad operational changes if detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were transferred into the country, according to a Congressional investigative report released Wednesday.

However, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who ordered the report in 2008, touted it as proof the U.S. prison system could handle the detainees, many of whom are accused of terrorist acts.

"This report demonstrates that if the political will exists, we could finally close Guantanamo without imperiling our national security," Feinstein said.

According to the Government Accountability Office report, there are six Defense Department facilities within the U.S. and more than 2,000 facilities holding individuals convicted of federal crimes that could hold Gitmo detainees.

The report found that many issues would need to be considered if those detainees were transferred to one of the facilities located in the U.S.

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