(CNN) - National Security Agency chief Gen. Keith Alexander, in response to a letter from Sen. Bernie Sanders, said Tuesday that nothing the agency does "can fairly be characterized as 'spying on Members of Congress or American elected officials.'"
Alexander did not offer any further details about members of Congress specifically, arguing that doing so would require him to violate the civilian protections incorporated into the surveillance programs.
"Among those protections is the condition that NSA can query the metadata only based on phone numbers reasonably suspected to be associated with specific foreign terrorist groups," Alexander wrote. FULL POST
The states whose National Guard units continue to deny military benefits to same-sex spouses were taken to task by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Thursday night, in a speech to the Anti-Defamation League.
Denying such benefits "causes division among the ranks, and it furthers prejudice, which DoD has fought to extinguish," Hagel said as he relayed a conversation he had earlier that day with Gen. Frank Grass, who is Chief of the National Guard Bureau.
Four years after a brutal battle in Afghanistan in which he was "outnumbered, outgunned, and taking casualties," former U.S. Army Captain William Swenson will become the sixth living recipient of the Medal of Honor at a ceremony Wednesday afternoon at the White House.
Swenson, who retired from the Army in 2011, is being awarded the medal for his actions in the 2009 Battle of Ganjgal Valley in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan, which claimed the lives of five Americans. Swenson is credited with risking his life to recover the bodies of his fellow soldiers.
The road to this honor has not been easy for Swenson, whose nomination was "lost" for a time, prompting questions from lawmakers and an eventual internal Pentagon investigation.FULL STORY
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) will begin calling more of its furloughed employees back into the office this week despite the ongoing partial government shutdown.
70% of the intelligence community has been furloughed as a result of the shutdown, leaving the leaders of all intelligence agencies scrambling to carry out their core missions.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued a statement Wednesday telling employees he had "authorized the recall of some employees who perform functions that directly support efforts to protect against imminent threats to life or property, and help provide the President with the intelligence he needs to carry out his core constitutional functions related to national security."
Typically, the president receives a daily intelligence briefing in the morning hours.
The CIA made a similar announcement earlier in the week, with CIA Director John Brennan saying in a letter to employees that "keeping our staffing at the dramatically reduced levels of the past week would pose a threat to the safety of human life and the protection of property."
Like Clapper, Brennan also cited the need to provide intelligence information to the president as a reason why more employees would be returning to work.
One U.S. intelligence official told CNN that managers at all agencies are currently "in the process of determining exactly who will be recalled under revised staffing plans" and said the process of determining who can be brought back into work "will continue over the coming days."
Clapper testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, warning Congress the damage from the shutdown would be "insidious" on the intelligence community.
"Each day that goes by, the jeopardy increases. This is a dreamland for foreign intelligence services to recruit," he said.
Since the shutdown first took effect, various U.S. intelligence services have retained the right to call back essential staff in cases where it affected national security. This allowed for management to call in specific experts if, for example, there were reports of terrorist chatter that were particularly concerning.
But as the shutdown drags on with no clear ending in sight, leaders in multiple intelligence agencies are being forced to revise their plans and are recalling a wider circle of employees.
One intelligence official summed up the current situation, saying, "In the beginning of the shutdown, only those CIA employees working imminent threats were on the job. But it's been determined that the CIA not performing its core missions for an extended period of time itself presents the risk that real threats to our national security will go undetected."
CIA-funded weapons have begun flowing to Syrian rebels, a U.S. official told CNN late Wednesday night.
The official confirmed details first reported by the Washington Post but would not speak publicly.
"That is something we are not going to dispute, but we are not going to publicly speak to it," the official said.
The weapons are not American-made, but are funded and organized by the CIA. They started to reach rebels about two weeks ago, the official said.
The artillery provided were described as light weapons, some anti-tank weapons and ammunition.
The supply is in addition to the non-lethal aid that the United States has been providing the rebels since April, when the Obama administration first altered the nature of the aid to include items such as body armor, night vision goggles and other military equipment.
By Leslie Bentz
American-born al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn is calling for attacks on U.S. ambassadors around the world.
In a 39-minute video, Gadahn praised the death of Libya's U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens on September 11 last year - and urged wealthy Muslims to offer militants rewards so they can kill others, according to SITE, a jihadist monitoring group.
Specifically, he referenced a bounty set for the death of U.S. Ambassador to Yemen, Gerald Feierstein.
"These prizes have a great effect in instilling fear in the hearts of our cowardly enemies," Gadahn who has a $1 million dollar bounty on his head, says in the video. "They also encourage hesitant individuals to carry out important and great deeds in the path of Allah."FULL STORY
Edward Snowden’s long layover may be over if Russia grants him temporary asylum. But will it?
The country has the G-20 summit coming up. And while the White House has said President Barack Obama will attend the gathering in St. Petersburg, it isn’t saying whether he’ll stop in Moscow.
That’s not the kind of embarrassment President Vladimir Putin wants to risk over the American intelligence leaker.