April 18th, 2012
07:38 PM ET

Sex and espionage: A long and sordid history

By Tim Lister, CNN

Call it the flip-side to torture: using seduction to extract valuable information. It’s as old as the Old Testament – literally. Delilah used deception and seduction to find out the secret of Samson’s strength. His hair was never to be cut. So off she went to tell the Philistines – and his precious braids were shaved as he slept.

The lure of sex has been the stuff of both spy fiction and real-life scandals ever since.

“Let's face it, historically women — and prostitutes in particularly — have been used to infiltrate or get information," Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said Tuesday, referring to the unfolding scandal over the conduct of Secret Service agents in Colombia.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) chimed in: "Who were these women? Could they have been members of groups hostile to the United States? Could they have planted bugs, disabled weapons or in any other (ways) jeopardized security of the president or our country?"

Nothing has been made public to suggest information about President Barack Obama’s visit to Colombia was sought or given during the encounters between Secret Service personnel and the Colombian women they met – either in the Play Club or subsequently at the agents’ hotel.

But whether from conviction or for profit, women – and men – have traded sex for secrets for centuries. FULL POST

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Filed under: Spying
Pakistan did not help hide bin Laden
April 18th, 2012
07:03 PM ET

Pakistan did not help hide bin Laden

Pakistan's Foreign Minister told CNN International's Christiane Amanpour that her government had "no complicity" in the hiding of Osama bin Laden.  Hina Rabbani Khar said in an interview that broadcast Wednesday on "Amanpour" that an extensive investigation has so far found nobody in the government that knew of the Al Qaeda terrorist's hideaway in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Here's the transcript: FULL POST

Filed under: Osama bin Laden • Pakistan
April 18th, 2012
06:25 PM ET

Is Syria's president a war criminal?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wouldn't label Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a war criminal in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer Wednesday.  (Click play above to watch the discussion Wolf Blitzer had with Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta)

"We really don't want to be labeling what we see which are clearly disproportionate use of force, human rights abuses, absolutely merciless shelling with heavy weaponry into unarmed civilian areas, even shelling across borders now in Turkey and Lebanon," Clinton said in the exclusive interview that aired on CNN's Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.

The Obama administration has been reluctant so far to make the accusation.

The Secretary did say that evidence should be collected so that in the future there could be accountability for the actions.

More of the exclusive interview will air Thursday on Situation Room at 4pET.

Filed under: Assad • Clinton • Hillary Clinton • Panetta • Secretary of Defense • Secretary of State • State Department • Syria
April 18th, 2012
06:24 PM ET

Panetta: Korean Peninsula close to war every day

North Korea’s missile launch last week was a dangerous “provocation,” and any subsequent nuclear test by the North, would only serve to deepen its isolation Secretaries Leon Panetta and Hillary Clinton told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an exclusive interview Wednesday.

The region is “within an inch of war everyday," Panetta said, adding the United States was “prepared for any contingency.” Watch that portion of the interview here, including a personal message from Secretary Clinton to the new North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

You can see more of the exclusive interview on ‘The Situation Room’ Thursday at 4pET.

Filed under: Security Brief
NATO members insist no rush for Afghan exits
April 18th, 2012
05:23 PM ET

NATO members insist no rush for Afghan exits

By Elise Labott

NATO insisted Wednesday that coalition forces are not racing to the exits in Afghanistan, even as allies met to firm up plans that would shift combat responsibility to Afghan forces.

Foreign and defense ministers are meeting in Brussels to prepare the ground for a NATO summit in Chicago in May, where the leaders of countries with troops in Afghanistan will make key decisions about the future of the international coalition's mission there.

"As difficult a week as this has been in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan, the big picture is clear," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday, citing attacks by insurgents. "The transition is on track. The Afghans are increasingly standing up for their own security and future, and NATO remains united in our support for the Lisbon timetable and an enduring commitment to Afghanistan." FULL POST

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Filed under: Afghanistan • ISAF • Military • NATO • Panetta
April 18th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Panetta on Karzai: Trust but "watch your back"

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he is cautious about dealing with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. In an exclusive interview that aired Wednesday on Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Panetta said even though he has concerns, the U.S. has been able to deal with him on "major issues."

Here's the transcript: FULL POST

CNN Poll: Iran a bigger threat to U.S. than North Korea
April 18th, 2012
04:08 PM ET

CNN Poll: Iran a bigger threat to U.S. than North Korea

By CNN's Political Unit

Americans see Iran as a bigger threat to the United States than North Korea, according to a new poll.

The CNN/ORC International Poll released Wednesday showed 81% view Iran as a very serious or moderate threat to the U.S. Three quarters of Americans said North Korea represents a similar threat.

The secretary of defense has said that Iran is viewed as a more significant threat because if it obtained nuclear weapons the country would destabilize the entire region. FULL POST

Filed under: Iran • North Korea • Panetta • Politics
April 18th, 2012
08:50 AM ET

Photos show U.S. troops' 'inhuman conduct' with suicide bombers bodies

By CNN Wire Staff

A slew of officials from NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and the U.S. military issued strong condemnations Wednesday as the Los Angeles Times published photos of U.S. troops posing with what the newspaper said are the bodies of suicide bombers.

The incident, which took place in 2010, "represents a serious error in judgment by several soldiers who have acted out of ignorance and unfamiliarity with U.S. Army values," ISAF said in the statement. Gen. John Allen, the ISAF commander, "strongly condemned" the photos published by the Los Angeles Times.

A U.S. soldier released the photos to the paper "to draw attention to the safety risk of a breakdown in leadership and discipline," the Times said.

The military said an investigation is underway.


Filed under: Afghanistan • Military • NATO
Plotting NATO's endgame in Afghanistan
April 18th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Plotting NATO's endgame in Afghanistan

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's Wolf Blitzer sits down with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an exclusive interview airing Wednesday, April 17 at 4pET on Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.

By Elise Labott, reporting from the NATO meetings in Brussels, Belgium

Around here its known among North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials as "the jumbo": an annual meeting of foreign and defense ministers of NATO countries. This year the stakes are unusually high.

It's the last big meeting for the alliance before the NATO summit in Chicago next month, where the leaders of countries with troops in Afghanistan will make key decisions about the future of the international coalition's mission there.

This week, the task at hand is to produce a working draft of NATO's Strategic Plan for Afghanistan, which seeks to answer three big questions about how to finish the job in the war-torn nation so countries can bring their troops home by the self-imposed deadline of the end of 2014.