November 3rd, 2011
09:26 PM ET

China Syndrome meets Wall Street at Foggy Bottom

Photo by Elise Labott/CNN

By Senior State Department Producer Elise Labott

In the 1970s thriller “The China Syndrome,” Michael Douglas plays a maverick cameraman who helps discover safety cover-ups at a nuclear plant.  In doing so, he comes face to face with the worst-case scenario: a nuclear meltdown where components of a nuclear reactor melt through to the core of the earth "all the way to China."

Though it was a work of fiction, the story gave rise to a decades-long passion for disarmament.  As a United Nations Messenger for Peace since 1988, Douglas has used his star power to call for the elimination of nuclear weapons and nonproliferation of small arms.

For the past nine years Douglas has been on the board of the Ploughshares Fund, a San Francisco-based think tank working on behalf of a world without nuclear weapons.

On Tuesday, he stopped by the State Department to what he called "get the lay of the land" on nuclear issues and to voice concern about new drumbeats about military action against Iran over its nuclear program. FULL POST

Pentagon: Iraq withdrawal on target
A convoy of Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles is lined up in a staging area and ready for departure on Contingency Operating Base Adder, Oct. 25. Daily convoys are carrying out more equipment as Operation New Dawn continues to draw down. (US Army photo)
November 3rd, 2011
05:56 PM ET

Pentagon: Iraq withdrawal on target

By Senior National Security Producer Charley Keyes

The 8-year war in Iraq is ending not with shock and awe but with clouds of dust and diesel exhaust, and the grinding gears of the big trucks pulling out hundreds of thousands of pieces of equipment.

The Pentagon said Thursday that the withdrawal is on schedule and that U.S. troop levels are now below 34,000, with less than two months to get the rest out.

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Filed under: Army • Iraq • Military • Pentagon • Security Brief
November 3rd, 2011
04:49 PM ET

New frontier for military women: serving with elite unit

By Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr reporting from Ft. Bragg,  North Carolina

Editor's note: CNN was the first television network to be allowed to film this elite training, for a story airing November 3 on Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer 

There's plenty of grunting and groaning during the early morning workouts in the gym at the JFK Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  But suddenly among the young men in special forces units doing pull-ups and lifting weights, there are dozens of young female troops - running an obstacle course, pushing and pulling hundreds of pounds of kettlebells, running laps.

These women are part of a groundbreaking and controversial program that for the first time is selecting, training and assigning women to join up with special forces units in Afghanistan. Their job: to do what the men cannot.

In the socially conservative Afghan culture where the sexes do not mix, these women are on the front line of dealing directly with Afghan women and children.

So-called female engagement teams, or "cultural support teams," have been used increasingly in recent years by the U.S. military. But the difference here is that these women are selected to team up with elite special forces. FULL POST

The inner workings of Hezbollah
Shiite Muslim pilgrims affiliated to Hezbollah take part in rituals on January 25, 2011.
November 3rd, 2011
03:22 PM ET

The inner workings of Hezbollah

Nicholas Blanford's new book , Warriors of God: Inside Hezbollah’s Thirty-Year Struggle Against Israel takes an exclusive look at the group - based on over ten years of reporting in Lebanon and what he says is unprecedented access to Hezbollah’s leaders, commanders, and fighters.   A resident of Lebanon since 1994, Nicholas Blanford is a regular contributor to Time magazine and IHS/Jane's Information Group publications as well as the Beirut correspondent for The Times of London and Christian Science Monitor.

Blanford spoke with CNN's Nicole Dow about his new book.

SECURITY CLEARANCE: How did you gain such exclusive access to Hezbollah?

BLANFORD: It's the result of following the organization for 16 years, specifically their military activities from the mid-1990s, when they were confronting Israel's occupation of south Lebanon, and on to the present day. Over time, it's natural that you build contacts. Technically, Hezbullah members should not talk to foreigners, let alone foreign journalists without authorization. But over the years, trust developed and they became accustomed to me. Mind you, what grassroots cadres reveal to me is a fraction of what they really know, but it's still more than they give to other people. FULL POST

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Filed under: Author • Hezbollah • Iran • Israel • Lebanon • Middle East • Syria
Checking the Pentagon's job loss math
November 3rd, 2011
03:15 PM ET

Checking the Pentagon's job loss math

By CNN National Security Producer Jennifer Rizzo

The Pentagon has painted a doomsday scenario of a percentage point increase in unemployment if further cuts are enacted by Congress, but some analysts are questioning the math.

The figure, first cited by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta back in September, assumes 1.5 million Americans would lose there jobs, adding a percentage point increase in the unemployment rate, if $1 trillion is cut from its budget.

The Defense Department is already required to cut $400 billion from its budget as part of an agreement that allowed President Barack Obama to raise the debt ceiling. The same deal created a congressional "super committee" tasked to find another $1.5 trillion in government savings over the next decade. If the commission cannot come to agreement on where the cuts should come from by the end of November, another $600 billion would automatically be axed from the defense budget. The automatic cuts are referred to as sequestration.

The numbers of jobs lost touted by Pentagon officials "seems like a high figure," says Heidi Garrett-Peltier of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts.

Report:  Russia and China continue to steal U.S. technology
November 3rd, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Report: Russia and China continue to steal U.S. technology

By Pam Benson

For the first time, the United States is publicly accusing China and Russia of being the top offenders in the theft of U.S. economic and technology information, according to an intelligence report released Thursday.

The two countries are "trying to build their economies" on American research and development, said Robert Bryant, the National Counterintelligence Executive whose office wrote the report.

That office is responsible for mounting an integrated national counterintelligence battle against foreign intelligence threats to the United States, according to its website, and must compile such a report every two years.

An unclassified version of the report to Congress on Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage was released Thursday and focused primarily on the exploitation of cyberspace from 2009 to 2011.

"U.S. private sector firms and cybersecurity specialists have reported an onslaught of computer network intrusions that have originated in China," said the report.


Filed under: China • Cybersecurity • Foreign Policy • Russia • Security Brief