By Jill Dougherty, reporting from Aspen, Colorado
U.S. officials and experts on Al Qaeda agree that al Qaeda has a presence among the opposition in Syria. But how strong are they? How deeply do they influencet the opposition?
At the Aspen Security Forum all you have to do to find an opinion on that is stand under the aspen trees and wait for an expert to saunter by.
I button-holed Richard Barrett, coordinator of a New-York-based team appointed to advise the Security Council on the effective development and implementation of sanctions aimed at al Qaeda and the Taliban.
“There’s no doubt at all that some of the people who refer to themselves as al Qaeda from Iraq have gone into Syria. I think that’s absolutely without doubt," Barrett tells me. FULL POST
Some of America's leading homeland security figures are meeting this week in Aspen, Colorado for a forum on the challenges of protecting the nation. One major concern: a flood of terrorist propaganda on the Internet. Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty has the story of how the State Department is trying to combat that and more.
By Adam Levine
The Central Intelligence Agency says it "inadvertently overlooked" documents related to its assistance to filmmakers creating a movie about the Osama bin Laden raid and failed to hand them over as part of a lawsuit against the CIA and the Department of Defense.
The oversight was revealed in a court document filed as part of the lawsuit by Judicial Watch, which is seeking information about how much the CIA and Pentagon disclosed about the raid by cooperating with filmmakers.
"The CIA discovered a 4- to 5-inch stack of records," according to the filing by the government's attorney, Marcia Berman. "From its initial review of the documents, the CIA has determined that the newly discovered documents are responsive to plaintiff's request but contain some duplicates of produced records."
The number of documents found is "approximately 30 new documents (primarily e-mails), with many documents containing multiple pages," according to the filing. FULL POST
By Larry Shaughnessy
America's strategy in Afghanistan has been clear: Have U.S. troops step back from combat to focus on training Afghan National Security Forces so they can take over in 2014.
To hear the administration and military tell it, the plan is working.
"We're building the capacity of Afghans, partnering with communities and police and security forces, which are growing stronger," President Barack Obama said last year.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said just about the same thing last month. "We have built up an Afghan army so that they are increasingly in the lead for their operations. And they are every day improving their capability."
But are the Afghans better soldiers, or is the military lowering the standards by which it measures the Afghan National Security Forces?
Wolf Blitzer asks Jane Harman, a nine-term Congresswoman and former ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and Michael Chertoff, the former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, about the future of homeland security and the biggest threats to the U.S.
“We have to remember we are all in it together,” said Chertoff. “When a gunman, whether it is Holmes of Hassan, starts to shoot, he doesn’t pick between Republicans and Democrats, he just kills Americans.”
Both Chertoff and Harman are in Aspen, Colorado for the Aspen Security Forum.
The military judge who will oversee the trial of the man accused in the 2009 Fort Hood massacre ruled Wednesday that if Maj. Nidal Hasan doesn't shave by the start of jury selection, he will be forcibly shaved.
Col. Gregory Gross has been telling Hasan he must shave, in accordance with Army regulations. Hasan, who is a Muslim, has refused to shave for more than a month, apparently in keeping with Quranic teachings.
During a pretrial hearing Wednesday, Gross ruled Hasan in contempt of court and fined him $1,000. Gross told Hasan that he unless the defendant shaves before the start of his trial, he will be "forcibly shaved," according to Christopher Haug and Tyler Broadway, spokesmen at Fort Hood.
Even though Hasan has been in custody since November 2009 when 13 people were shot and killed at the U.S. Army installation outside Killeen, Texas, he is still in the Army and still draws his pay.
Hasan was left paralyzed from the waist down in the shooting, when police officers exchanged fire with him. He faces a possible death penalty if convicted in the shooting.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fifth in a series of articles about national security by participants in the 2012 Aspen Security Forum. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event, which is taking place from July 25-28 in Aspen, Colorado. John McLaughlin was a CIA officer for 32 years and served as deputy director and acting director from 2000-2004. He currently teaches at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.
From John McLaughlin, Special for CNN
People often ask me how the CIA and American intelligence generally have changed in the 11 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In fact, the changes are profound, and they have been transformative.
Perhaps the most important thing to realize about American intelligence officers in 2012 is that this is the first generation since Vietnam to have been “socialized” - that is hired, trained, and initiated - in wartime. And to a greater degree than even the Vietnam generation, their experience approximates that of their World War II forbears in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) - the bold and innovative organization to which most American intelligence officers trace their professional roots. To be sure, the Vietnam generation also saw more than a decade of war, but it was more confined geographically and culturally and occurred in the bipolar world of the Cold War, when the boundaries and consequences of conflict were clearer than in today’s kaleidoscopic world.
By Mike Mount
A comprehensive Pentagon database containing the names of combat valor award recipients since September 11, 2001, will be put on the Pentagon website to raise awareness of those who received the awards, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told a Congressional Panel Wednesday.
The database is an effort to allow the public to officially see if a person received a specific award for valor in combat, in an effort debunk individuals who claim they received an award when they did not. The Supreme Court recently struck down a federal law making it a crime to falsely claim military medals earned.
"You're all aware that free speech allows someone to lie about awards," Panetta told a House panel at a joint hearing of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
"Free speech is one thing but dishonoring those on the battle field is something else," he said. FULL POST
By Pam Benson
The U.S. intelligence community has set up a 24/7 center to analyze threat information during the London Olympics, a senior American counterterrorism official said.
Matthew Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday that the upcoming Olympics "present a potential target for terrorists and other disruptive groups."
In response, the counterterrorism center and its partners in the intelligence community set up the Threat Integration Center "to operate around the clock providing real-time situational awareness and threat analysis," Olsen said.
By Dan Merica, CNN
With Syria in near meltdown and the threat of domestic terrorism still looming large, key players in the national security world are headed to Aspen, Colorado this week for the “Aspen Security Forum.” The event will feature panels ranging from the role of special operations to cybersecurity, with both former and current officials weighing in.
On Wednesday, the forum kicks off with Admiral William McRaven, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), discussing the large role special operations is now playing in defending the nation. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer will moderate the McRaven discussion and will host “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” live from Aspen starting on Wednesday.
CNN Security Clearance: Special Operations rebuffed in effort to get new authority
CNN Security Clearance: High level meeting focuses on future of special ops in Afghanistan
Michael Chertoff, the former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, will be part of a Saturday panel that looks at the past, present and future of the almost 10-year old department. Is the department actually living up to its name? That will be the primary question put to the panel that includes Jane Holl Lute, the current deputy secretary.