January 31st, 2012
06:02 AM ET

9 killed in air strike in Yemen

Update: A senior US official tells Barbara Starr that the strike was carried out by a mix of drones and manned aircraft under the control of the Defense Department and not the CIA. Both drones and manned aircraft shot at the target. The post attack assessment is still ongoing and a determination is to be made on how many people, and whom was killed. A second US official calls the attack “very complex.”

By Hakim Almasmari, For CNN

Three suspected drone strikes hit militant targets in southern Yemen on Monday night and Tuesday morning, killing at least nine people with suspected links to al Qaeda, security officials said.

The missiles struck Abyan province near areas that have been taken over by Ansaar al-Sharia, a militant group with links to al Qaeda, three security officials officials said. FULL POST


Filed under: Africa • Al Qaeda • drones • Terrorism • Yemen
Obama admits to Pakistan drone strikes
January 30th, 2012
09:48 PM ET

Obama admits to Pakistan drone strikes

Maybe it was one of the worst kept secrets in Washington and Pakistan, but U.S. officials rarely admit publicly to the active use of drones to hunt down Al Qaeda and Taliban in Pakistan. One reason is out of deference to the Pakistan, whose government relents to the drone flights even while publicly condemning it because the Pakistani populace is so against the strikes.

That being said, the president on Monday casually revealed to his Google+ hangout that "a lot of these strikes have been in the FATA, and going after al Qaeda suspects who are up in very tough terrain on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. For us to be able to get them in another way would involve probably a lot more intrusive military actions than the one we're already engaging in." (FATA being the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan where Al Qaeda and many Taliban are ensconced).


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Filed under: Al Qaeda • drones • Pakistan • Taliban
More problems for pricey F-35
An F-35 at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida
January 30th, 2012
07:45 PM ET

More problems for pricey F-35

From CNN's Larry Shaughnessy and Jennifer Rizzo

Six F-35 Joint Strike fighter jets have been grounded at Edwards Air Force Base in California after it was discovered that the underseat parachutes for pilots were improperly installed, according to a statement from the Joint Strike Fighter program office.

It's the latest issue for the F-35 program, which has gotten vocal support from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who said the Pentagon committed to the F-35 as the future fighter jet for the military.

The program has been beset by ballooning costs and various technical problems in testing. The latest issue - which is not affecting all F-35s in use by the military - involves parachutes that were inserted backwards under the seats of more than 15 planes that received newer ejection seats, the statement said.

In addition to the six grounded in California, the problem also was discovered in six F-35A and the three F-35B aircraft at Eglin Air Force base in Florida. Those aircraft however were only performing ground tests, which can continue.

Some F-35s still on the assembly line at Lockheed Martin's facility in Fort Worth, Texas, also are affected.

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Filed under: Air Force • Military • Panetta • Pentagon • weapons
Diplomatic drones to fly
January 30th, 2012
04:31 PM ET

Diplomatic drones to fly

By Joe Sterling

Iraq and other "high-threat" areas such as Afghanistan are the focus of a U.S. State Department plan to use unarmed surveillance drones for the protection of American diplomatic facilities and personnel.

"The State Department has always used a wide variety of security tools and techniques and procedures to ensure the safety of our personnel and our facilities," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters. "We do have an unmanned aerial vehicle program."

The program is emerging about a month after U.S. troops departed Iraq and it's an example of the diplomatic corps moving into territory that was once the exclusive domain of American military and intelligence.

Recent political insecurity and an uptick in sectarian violence in Iraq are among the dangers facing personnel from the State Department, which has a huge presence in the country. FULL POST

January 30th, 2012
02:18 PM ET

NGO staff sheltered by embassy in Cairo

By Jill Dougherty and Elise Labott

Three Americans, including International Republican Institute Egypt Country Director Sam LaHood, are taking refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo because they voiced concerns about their personal safety, U.S. government officials say.

"They came in and said they felt threatened; they were afraid for their lives," one official said, adding that the U.S. government doesn't believe they actually are in danger but has concerns about the fate of the groups' Egyptian staff members.

"We are not aware of - that they're in any danger," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday.

"We have - in our discussions with the SCAF, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces - we've made clear our concerns about this issue and our disappointment that these several citizens are not being allowed to depart Egypt in connection with the government's investigation into (non-governmental organizations)," Carney said. FULL POST

Pakistani doctor's fate is still undecided
Compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was killed.
January 30th, 2012
06:37 AM ET

Pakistani doctor's fate is still undecided

By Nasir Habib reporting from Islamabad

Pakistan has not yet decided on whether or not to try a Pakistani doctor for high treason for assisting the U.S. in gathering intelligence ahead of the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in May 2011 that resulted in his death, a senior Pakistani gov’t official tells CNN.

Dr. Shakeel Afridi helped the CIA use a vaccination campaign to collect DNA samples from residents of bin Laden's compound to verify the terror leader's presence there. Pakistan, which expressed its anger over the raid without consulting Pakistani authorities, has held Afridi in custody since May of 2011.


Filed under: Al Qaeda • Central Intelligence Agency • Intelligence • ISI • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Panetta • Terrorism
The invisible revolution is online
January 30th, 2012
02:01 AM ET

The invisible revolution is online

By Jamie Crawford

Guided by an army of "geeks with a conscience," a network of digital activists, working mostly in the shadows, is emerging to challenge the restrictions of repressive governments around the world.

Sascha Meinrath is part of that army.

Working with a team of tech experts inside a nondescript building in downtown Washington, Meinrath is developing new technologies that could one day be used to evade government censors and secret police. "You can imagine any of the world's hot spots, and we have been contacted by people there," he told CNN.

With governments in Iran, Syria, Cuba and elsewhere around the world trying to clamp down on freedom of expression both in public and online, the march is on to put a stop to it.

Since coming into office, the Obama administration has actively supported the construction of detours around Internet censors in repressive environments like Iran and Syria, thereby enabling activists to communicate with each other, and organize, without the threat of surveillance by the very governments they are trying to subvert.

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Filed under: State Department • Technology
Al Qaeda benefits from Yemen turmoil
Followers of Ansar al-Sharia, an Al-Qaeda affiliate group in Jaar, Yemen Photo From: AFP/Getty Images
January 30th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Al Qaeda benefits from Yemen turmoil

By CNN's Pam Benson

When President Barack Obama told Americans last week that al Qaeda operatives in Yemen "are scrambling, knowing that they can't escape the reach of the United States of America," he may have been telling only half the story.

While al Qaeda's Yemen branch has been hit hard - most notably with the killing of American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki - U.S. officials and experts say there are signs that al Qaeda is making significant gains in Yemen as the government's control over outlying regions continues to fray amid political unrest.

Furthermore, they say, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) hasn't given up its goal of striking the United States, though there have been no attempted attacks on American soil by al Qaeda since 2010.

While the death of al-Awlaki by a CIA-operated drone in September eliminated AQAP's external operations commander and chief recruiter of English-speaking militants, key players remain at-large in Yemen. FULL POST

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Filed under: AQAP • Arab Spring • CIA • drones • Terrorism • Yemen
Audit: U.S. Defense Department can't account for billions for Iraq
January 29th, 2012
10:52 AM ET

Audit: U.S. Defense Department can't account for billions for Iraq

By CNN's Josh Levs

The U.S. Defense Department cannot account for about $2 billion it was given to cover Iraq-related expenses and is not providing Iraq with a complete list of U.S.-funded reconstruction projects, according to two new government audits.

The reports come from the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

The Iraqi government in 2004 gave the Department of Defense access to about $3 billion to pay bills for certain contracts, and the department can only show what happened to about a third of that, the inspector general says in an audit published Friday.

Although the Department of Defense (DoD) had "internal processes and controls" to track payments, the "bulk of the records are missing," the report says, adding that the department is searching for them.


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Filed under: Iraq • Military
Fate of bin Laden raid doctor concerns SecDef
Photo: Department of Defense
January 28th, 2012
11:19 AM ET

Fate of bin Laden raid doctor concerns SecDef

By CNN Wire Staff

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is acknowledging publicly the key role a Pakistani doctor who assisted the United States ahead of the strike on Osama bin Laden's compound last May that killed the terrorism mastermind.

The doctor who provided key information ought to be released, Panetta told CBS's "60 Minutes" in a segment set to air Sunday.

"I'm very concerned about what the Pakistanis did with this individual," Panetta told CBS. "This was an individual who in fact helped provide intelligence that was very helpful with regards to this operation. And he was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan."

Dr. Shakeel Afridi helped the CIA use a vaccination campaign to collect DNA samples from residents of bin Laden's to verify the terror leader's presence there.

Filed under: Pakistan • Panetta • Secretary of Defense
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