February 9th, 2012
08:52 PM ET

Real Navy SEALs go Hollywood

Real Navy SEALs act in the new action thriller movie “Act of Valor”, which is opening in theaters this month. For the first time Special Operations Forces are acting out their real work, shooting, high altitude jumps, and patrolling in murky waters. CNN spoke to the director and had an exclusive interview with one of the SEALs in the movie.

Filed under: Military • Navy • Navy SEALs
February 9th, 2012
08:51 PM ET

Key U.S. ally buying more Iranian oil despite sanctions drive

With many U.S. allies in Europe and Asia looking elsewhere for oil in the face of mounting sanctions on Iran’s oil industry, India actually increased its import of Iranian crude last month.

“We are working with countries around the world, including India, that maintain strong oil relationships with Iran, encouraging all of them to reduce their dependence on Iranian crude,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday of efforts to keep up pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.

But India imports seventy percent of the oil it uses – fourteen percent of it from Iran. CNN's Jill Dougherty reports on the complex set of issues that could see the key U.S. ally increasing its Iranian imports going forward.

Filed under: India • Iran • Sanctions • Security Clearance on TV
Al Qaeda merger raises new concerns
February 9th, 2012
07:42 PM ET

Al Qaeda merger raises new concerns

By Suzanne Kelly and Paul Cruickshank

News that Harakat Al-Shabaab - long associated with al Qaeda but never formally welcomed into the family - has gotten the blessingp from al Qaeda's leader seems to be a merger that was a long time coming. But the announcement does raise concerns that that the Somali terror group could help them in plotting to attack on U.S. soil.

In a message released Thursday the leader of Al-Shabaab, Mukhtar Abu al-Zubeir, pledged his allegiance to the terrorist network. His 14-minute pledge was followed by al Qaeda's leader, Ayman al Zawahiri, offering his "glad tidings" as a welcome to the larger organization, according to the SITE monitoring service.

One U.S. official, who would not be named because of the sensitivity of the intelligence information, said that "Zawahiri's announcement just formalizes what everyone already knew: Al-Shabaab is an affiliate of al Qaeda. This doesn't change the fact that al Qaeda's core is still suffering and trying to remain relevant."


Photo shows Marines posing with Nazi-like symbol in Afghanistan
From Knight’s Armament Blog
February 9th, 2012
05:44 PM ET

Photo shows Marines posing with Nazi-like symbol in Afghanistan

By CNN National Security Producer Jennifer Rizzo

Update: The Pentagon just put out this statement: "Racist and anti-Semitic symbols have absolutely no place alongside the men and women of America's armed forces. Secretary Panetta has asked the Marine Corps to look into this matter and to take appropriate action."

A picture of an elite Marine unit posing with a flag symbol that is similar to a Nazi "SS" logo has surfaced on the Internet.

Marine Corps Scout Snipers from the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion are seen standing and kneeling with their sniper rifles in front of a blue flag with white Nazi "SS" runes. The picture was taken in 2010 in Afghanistan and the photo's description says the "SS" flag had been "adopted and used by the Marines in reference to Scout Sniper."

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation was alerted to the photo by Marines who expressed their concern, said group founder Mikey Weinstein. MRFF then distributed it to news organizations.

The Marine Corps said it became aware of the photo last November and investigated, but found it not to be racially motivated, according to a statement released by a Marine Corps spokesman, Lt. Col. Stewart Upton.

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Filed under: Marines • Military
Pushback on Obama's potential European command nominee
February 9th, 2012
04:15 PM ET

Pushback on Obama's potential European command nominee

By Barbara Starr

The White House is considering nominating a retired general with little recent combat field experience to be the new commander of NATO and U.S. military operations in Europe, a senior administration official has told CNN. The official has direct knowledge of internal administration deliberations on the nomination.

Several officials emphasized that no final decision has been made by President Barack Obama but also confirmed that retired Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, currently a top White House aide, is a leading candidate.

Lute, who retired from the military in 2010, coordinates Afghanistan and Pakistan affairs at the White House, a job he also performed while on active duty for both Presidents Obama and George W. Bush.  In his White House role, Lute has often clashed with Pentagon and military officials over war policy, including the troop surge in Afghanistan. FULL POST

February 9th, 2012
01:47 PM ET

U.S. yet to see Egypt charges against Americans

By Jill Dougherty

The State Department said Thursday it has not received the official document from an Egyptian magistrate laying out charges against the staff of U.S. and international democracy-building groups.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland had said Wednesday the document had been delivered, but on Thursday she called that a "miscommunication."

"We were yesterday expecting to see the charging document," she told reporters. "In fact, the situation is - I talked with our lawyers on the ground there about an hour ago - the investigative magistrate has forwarded the charging document to the public prosecutor, at least that's what he understands, but we have not seen it.

"The embassy has not seen it and, in fact, the attorneys working with the affected Americans and their organizations have not seen it. So we are asking for it and we are still waiting for it. FULL POST

Somali terror group joining Al Qaeda
Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri appearing in an Al-Qaeda video released in October 2011
February 9th, 2012
12:55 PM ET

Somali terror group joining Al Qaeda

By Joe Sterling

Al-Shabaab, the Somali militant group, has decided to join the al Qaeda terror network, a monitoring service reported Thursday.

Mukhtar Abu al-Zubeir, leader of the Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen movement, gave his pledge to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a video released by al Qaeda's media arm, as-Sahab, SITE Monitoring Service said.

"Today, I have glad tidings for the Muslim Ummah that will please the believers and disturb the disbelievers, which is the joining of the Shabaab al-Mujahideen movement in Somalia to Qaedat al-Jihad, to support the jihadi unity against the Zio-Crusader campaign and their assistants amongst the treacherous agent rulers," al-Zawahiri said.

"Muslim Ummah" refers to the Muslim community. Qaedat al-Jihad refers to the central al Qaeda group led by al-Zawahiri.

Al-Shabaab suffered a series of setbacks in recent months:  an ouster from the center of the capital, Mogadishu, by African Union and government forces; the killings of key personnel; and combat losses to Kenyan troops. However, the group controls large parts of southern Somalia.

The group, long closely affiliated with al Qaeda, in June endorsed al-Zawahiri to head the group after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden. It had previously vowed allegiance to bin Laden.

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Al-Shabaab • Al-Zawahiri • Somalia • Terrorism
February 9th, 2012
12:34 PM ET

South Park threat suspect pleads guilty

By Paul Cruickshank

A New York man charged with posting online threats against creators of the television show "South Park" plead guilty Thursday in a Virginia federal court, a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official said.

Jesse Curtis Morton was the co-founder of Revolution Muslim, a radical group based in New York City that is supportive of al Qaeda's worldview.

The former Brooklyn resident, also known as Younus Abdullah Mohammad, was taken into U.S. custody in Morocco on October 28, according to court documents.

Morton left the United States in summer of 2010 because he feared arrest after two associates from New Jersey were charged with terrorism offenses in June of that year, according to the official.

Read the whole story here

February 9th, 2012
08:39 AM ET

Women in combat policy to change

By Barbara Starr

The Defense Department is notifying Congress Thursday it will open up nearly 14,000 jobs to military women that will place them even closer to the front lines of combat.

A senior Pentagon official confirmed details to CNN, but declined to be identified until a formal announcement comes later on Thursday.

Under a 1994 policy, women are restricted from formally serving in small ground units directly involved in combat. The reality of the last ten years of war however has been that many women serve in support positions–such as military police or medics–which place them in harms way. They are not formally assigned to combat units, but rather informally "attached" which means they do not get the crucial credit for combat duty that is needed for promotions to higher grades.

Some of the jobs that will now be open to women include specialties such as tank or artillery mechanic, crew members on missile launcher, and field surgeons in forward deployed brigade combat teams.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Air Force • Army • Marines • Military • Military life • Navy
Help wanted, must keep a secret: the case file on ODNI's Stephanie O'Sullivan
February 9th, 2012
12:02 AM ET

Help wanted, must keep a secret: the case file on ODNI's Stephanie O'Sullivan

By Suzanne Kelly

Editor's note:  In the Security Clearance "Case File" series, CNN national security producers profile the key members of the intelligence community.   This story is the first in a special Case File series focusing on the roles women play in the U.S. intelligence community

You never know when a life of espionage is right there in front of you, in an advertisement, calling you to a new adventure.  At least, Stephanie O'Sullivan says she didn't know when she answered a help wanted ad more than two decades ago for an employer looking for someone with experience in "ocean engineering."

The recent college graduate with a civil engineering degree had moved in with her parents in Annapolis, Maryland, while her fiance, whom she'd met in college, finished up his own program.  Her parents, in full anticipation of sailing off into the sunset when her father retired, had bought a boat, and that's where the three of them lived.

"I thought, 'Well I know about that, I live on a boat and I've been into boating all my life because my father was into it," said O'Sullivan, who answered the ad, not really understanding the full scope of what "ocean engineering" meant.  She soon realized why the ad was so cryptic:  it was for work on a classified program. "It turned out to be intelligence community work and it was luck because it's been a career of infinite challenge." FULL POST