February 13th, 2014
02:33 PM ET

Afghanistan releases 65 prisoners despite strong U.S. objections

By Tom Watkins and Jethro Mullen

Citing a lack of evidence, Afghan authorities released from prison 65 men Thursday over strong objections from U.S. officials, who said they pose a threat to security forces and civilians.

"We took this decision according to our law," said Mohammad Ishaq Aloko, the Afghan attorney general.

In a statement posted on its website, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul called the move "deeply regrettable," saying the Afghan government "bears responsibility for the results of its decision."

Abdul Shukor Dadras, head of the Afghan Review Board, said the attorney general ordered the releases from the Parwan Detention Center - formerly known as Bagram prison - after a careful review of 88 cases.

The U.S. military in Afghanistan said some of the men are linked to attacks that killed or wounded 32 American or coalition service members and 23 Afghan security personnel or civilians.

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October 22nd, 2013
02:02 PM ET

Rights groups challenge U.S. on drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen

By Jethro Mullen

The villagers had congregated at the tent, as they often did at the end of the workday, to sit and chat.

Among them were men who sold vegetables or wood. Others mined or traded minerals used to make alloys like stainless steel.

They were husbands and fathers, brothers and sons.

But unlike villagers who might gather like this in many other parts of the world, these men had strange company at their customary get-together.

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Filed under: drones • Pakistan • Yemen
July 2nd, 2013
02:51 PM ET

Snowden's asylum options dwindle

By Michael Pearson, Matt Smith and Jethro Mullen

Edward Snowden's hopes of finding asylum from U.S. prosecution on espionage charges appeared to dim Tuesday as country after country denied his request or said he would have to find a way to travel to their territory to apply.

While Bolivia and Venezuela seemed supportive, 11 of the 21 countries he's applied to, including Ecuador and Iceland, have said they can't consider his request until he shows up at one of their embassies or on their borders. Three have denied the request outright - Brazil, India and Poland.

Snowden had already withdrawn his asylum request with Russian authorities after President Vladimir Putin said he would have to "stop his work aimed at harming our American partners" if he wanted to stay in the country.

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Ecuador to U.S.: Argue against Snowden asylum in writing
June 26th, 2013
05:54 PM ET

Ecuador to U.S.: Argue against Snowden asylum in writing

By Josh Levs, Jethro Mullen and Michael Pearson

Edward Snowden may have no trouble staying longer in a Russian airport, and Ecuador wants the United States to argue in writing why he should not be given political asylum, the two countries said Wednesday.

The Ecuadorian government also took a swipe at Washington, rejecting what it called false and "detrimental" claims the U.S. government has made about Ecuador.

Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked U.S. surveillance secrets, is in the transit area, between arrival gates and passport checkpoints, at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport.

Russian President Vladimir Putin described Snowden Tuesday as a "free man."

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May 3rd, 2013
04:17 AM ET

More tests will take North Korea closer to nuclear missile, Pentagon says

By Jethro Mullen, CNN

If North Korea continues with its controversial missile and nuclear tests, it "will move closer" to its objective of reaching the United States with nuclear weapons, according to a Pentagon report.

During recent heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Pyongyang repeatedly threatened the possibility of nuclear attacks against the United States and South Korea, prompting questions on the progress of its weapons program.

North Korea's secretiveness has made it hard for Western intelligence agencies to gauge exactly what is going on inside its research facilities.

Many clues have come from the regime's large-scale tests such as the long-range rocket launch in December and the underground nuclear detonation in February.

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Filed under: North Korea • Pentagon
February 12th, 2013
05:10 AM ET

North Korea says it conducted new, more powerful nuclear test

By Jethro Mullen

North Korea said Tuesday that it had conducted a new, more powerful underground nuclear test using more sophisticated technology, jolting the already fragile security situation in Northeast Asia and drawing condemnation from around the globe.

It is the first nuclear test carried out under the North's young leader, Kim Jong Un, who appears to be sticking closely to his father's policy of building up the isolated state's military deterrent to keep its foes at bay, shrugging off the resulting international condemnation and sanctions.

It also provided a provocative reminder of a seemingly intractable foreign policy challenge for President Barack Obama ahead of his State of the Union address later Tuesday.

"The test was carried out as part of practical measures of counteraction to defend the country's security and sovereignty in the face of the ferocious hostile act of the U.S.," the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said, referring to new U.S.-led sanctions on Pyongyang in the wake of a recent long-range rocket launch.

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Filed under: North Korea • Nuclear
February 5th, 2013
05:58 AM ET

Five things to know about North Korea's planned nuclear test

By Jethro Mullen

North Korea's plans for a new nuclear test, like most things that happen inside the reclusive state, are shrouded in mystery. But that's not stopping analysts and officials from making some informed guesses about what's going on.

Why is North Korea planning to conduct a nuclear test?

The North says the "higher level" test is part of its military deterrent in its confrontation with the United States, which it describes as "the sworn enemy of the Korean people."

Its declaration that it would carry out the test came just two days after the United Nations Security Council voted in favor of imposing broader sanctions on the regime in response to Pyongyang's long-range rocket launch in December that was widely viewed as a test of ballistic missile technology.

The pattern of events is similar to the lead-up to the previous nuclear tests North Korea carried out in 2006 and 2009.

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Filed under: Kim Jong-un • North Korea • Nuclear • UN Security Council
December 10th, 2012
03:10 AM ET

North Korea extends launch window for rocket after technical problems

By Jethro Mullen

North Korea has extended the window for a controversial long-range rocket launch by one week after finding technical problems in an engine, state media reported Monday.

The planned launch has been widely condemned by other countries like the United States and South Korea, which say it's cover for testing ballistic missile technology. The North insists the launch is aimed at putting a scientific satellite in orbit.

When it announced its plans on December 1, the reclusive North Korean regime said it intended to carry out the launch between Monday and December 22. But on Saturday, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the launch may be delayed.

In a new article Monday, KCNA reported that scientists and technicians had "found technical deficiency in the first-stage control engine module of the rocket," citing a spokesman for the Korean Committee of Space Technology.

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Filed under: Missile Defense • North Korea
Satellite images suggest North Korean working on missiles, group says
A new version of North Korea's Taepodong-2 missile sits on a launch pad prior to its launch last April. (CNN Photo)
November 13th, 2012
02:45 AM ET

Satellite images suggest North Korean working on missiles, group says

By Jethro Mullen

Undeterred by the embarrassment of a failed rocket launch earlier this year, North Korea appears to be pressing ahead with the development of long-range missiles, according to an analysis of satellite images by a U.S. academic website.

Drawing on commercial satellite imagery, the website 38 North suggests that the reclusive North Korean regime has carried out at least two tests of large rocket motors at the Sohae Satellite Launch Station on the country's west coast since April.

That's the same site from which the nuclear-armed North launched a long-range rocket on April 13 that broke apart shortly after takeoff. Pyongyang said the rocket was supposed to put a satellite in orbit, but the launch was seen by many other countries as cover for a ballistic missile test.

The most recent test of a large rocket motor at Sohae took place in mid-September, according to the analysis posted Monday by 38 North, which is run by the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

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Panetta meeting Israeli officials amid Iran nuclear tensions
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, pictured here on July 31, 2012 in Cairo, Egypt, is on a weeklong trip to the Middle East and North Africa.
August 1st, 2012
05:09 AM ET

Panetta meeting Israeli officials amid Iran nuclear tensions

By Jethro Mullen

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta met his Israeli counterpart on Wednesday just days after presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney visited Jerusalem and pledged to support any measures to keep Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.

"The defense ties between Israel and the United States are stronger and tighter than they have ever been," Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense minister, said at the meeting with Panetta in Tel Aviv.

The visit is part of Panetta's weeklong trip to the Middle East and North Africa. He will meet with President Shimon Peres later Wednesday.

Read the full CNN.com story here.

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Filed under: Iran • Israel • Middle East • Military • Panetta