By Jamie Crawford
The United States has designated as terrorists three senior members of Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group in Nigeria whose attacks and those of its associates have left more than a thousand dead.
The State Department announced the designation Thursday of Abubakar Shekau, Abubakar Adam Kambar, and Khalid al-Barnawi as "specially designated global terrorists" under the authority of an existing presidential executive order.
Shekau is the most visible leader of Boko Haram, the State Department said, while al-Barnawi and Kambar maintain close links to al Qaeda affiliates as part of their role in the group.
"These designations demonstrate the United States' resolve in diminishing the capacity of Boko Haram to execute violent attacks," the State Department said in a written statement announcing the designation. "The Department of State took these actions in consultation with the Departments of Justice and Treasury."
By Barbara Starr
A U.S. warship designed as a floating base for naval special forces is scheduled to transit through the Suez Canal for the first time as early as Friday, Navy officials say.
The USS Ponce, an amphibious transport ship, recently finished a complete overhaul that now has it configured to operate as a floating staging platform for the military. It is being launched into the oil shipping lanes at a time of heightened tensions across the region, U.S. Navy officials told CNN.
The ship began approaching Suez on Thursday and is expected to enter the canal shortly on its way to the Persian Gulf. FULL POST
By Larry Shaughnessy
Sequestration is like the weather in Washington - everybody talks about it, no one likes it, and no one knows what to do about it.
But the Senate has agreed to find out exactly how bad it - sequestration, that is - will be.
Sequestration is the name given the automatic across-the-board spending cuts mandated by Congress if planned budget cuts could not be agreed to.
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, a vocal critic of sequestration, teamed with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, to offer an amendment passed by the Senate Thursday examining what sequestration would really mean. FULL POST
by Tim Lister, CNN
On December 20, 1998, an internal CIA memo was sent by a field agent about a missed opportunity to "hit" Osama bin Laden while he was reportedly visiting a mosque near Kandahar, Afghanistan. "I said hit him tonight; we may not get another chance," CIA agent Gary Schoen wrote. "We may well come to regret the decision not to go ahead."
The memo was sent to to Michael Scheuer, then head of the CIA's Osama bin Laden "station," and is one of more than 100 documents declassified and published by the National Security Archive this week. Although some have been previously cited or quoted in the Report of the 9/11 Commission, the raw documents themselves illustrate the frustrations and missteps in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and alarm among some at the CIA about al Qaeda's growing sophistication and its plans for attacking U.S. interests. FULL POST
By Pam Benson
The United States government is seeking to reject lawsuits demanding information about drone strikes that target suspected terrorists overseas, saying releasing details on the program would have a major effect on counterterrorism efforts.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in New York after a Freedom of Information Act request they submitted to the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and the CIA, was denied. The rights group is seeking the release of a copy of the memo outlining the Obama administration's program that targets suspected terrorists overseas. The New York Times filed a related lawsuit.
In its response, the government asked for a summary judgment dismissing the complaints and defended its decision not to release the requested information.
“Even to describe the number and details of most of these documents would reveal information that could damage the government’s counterterrorism efforts,” the government said, further maintaining that refusal to disclose the information is consistent with exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act that permit the withholding of records when doing so is in the public interest. FULL POST
By Jill Dougherty and Jamie Crawford
Almost four decades ago, as the Cold War raged, the U.S. Congress passed an amendment to the Trade Act of 1974 aimed squarely at the Soviet Union's policy preventing Jews from emigrating from the USSR.
The Jackson-Vanik amendment, which denied favorable trade relations to the Soviet Union, worked. In 1991, Russia stopped slapping exit fees on Jews who wished to emigrate and they have been free to leave ever since.
But the amendment has stayed on the books even though it has outlived its purpose, a Cold War relic that infuriated the Kremlin. In reality, it was only symbolic; since 1994, presidents, Republicans and Democrats have certified annually that Russia complies with the amendment. In fact, the U.S. maintains normal trade relations with Russia.