November 30th, 2012
06:02 PM ET

Pentagon worried about real 'Terminators'

Behind every Hellfire missile, there's an actual human being remotely pulling the trigger. But the Pentagon is preparing for the day when robots are capable of targeting and launching a strike on their own.

CNN's Chris Lawrence reports on the Pentagon's new rules on drones, effectively forbidding the development of lethal weapons with no human control.

November 30th, 2012
06:00 PM ET

Terror charges for two conspiring bomb plot

By Carol Cratty

Two Florida brothers originally from Pakistan were indicted Friday, accused of plotting to use an explosive device and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.

Raees Alam Qazi, 20, and Sheheryar Alam Qazi, 30, were arrested by FBI agents in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday. The indictment does not provide specific details about what the men may have been targeting, saying only they conspired to use a "weapon of mass destruction" against people and property in the United States.

The indictment alleges that the Qazis engaged in their conspiracy from at least July 2011 until the time of their arrest. There is no mention of whether any explosives or other weapons were seized when the men were arrested.

Filed under: FBI • Terrorism
November 30th, 2012
04:24 PM ET

U.S. military taking bids to build Israeli Air Force complex

By Morgan Hitzig

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is receiving bids to build a five-story complex for the Israeli Air Force, or IAF, near Tel Aviv.

The facility, mysteriously dubbed "site 911," will be built under the auspices of the Foreign Military Sales program and is expected to cost the U.S. between $25 million and $100 million, according to a solicitation for bids posted on a U.S. government website.

Only U.S. construction firms are able to bid on this contract, and the deadline for proposals is December 3, according to the notice. The notice, first reported on by The Washington Post, includes structural plans that show the first three underground floors are roughly 41,000 square feet and will include classrooms on Level 1, an auditorium on Level 3 and shock-resistant doors throughout.

The architectural plans, drawn up by prominent Israeli firm Ada Karmi-Melamede Architects, pays close attention to the aesthetics of the design as well as the functional parameters outlined in the solicitation. For example, three picnic tables are planned for the exterior.


Filed under: Israel • Middle East • Military
November 30th, 2012
01:28 PM ET

U.S. not certain North Korea prepping launch

Update (12/1): North Korea has announced it is indeed intending to launch a test rocket within days

By Barbara Starr

The Pentagon and the intelligence community are scouring classified and commercial imagery for any evidence of a North Korean missile launch, but they have not firmly concluded that one will occur, according to a senior U.S. military official.

While not discounting the possibility of a launch, the U.S. military is leaving open the chance there could be other motives with new activity observed around a North Korean launch pad.

"They could be moving things around just to make a point," the official said. "But on the other hand it's the North Koreans, so who knows."

The official said a key question in military and intelligence circles is whether the North Koreans would have been able to solve the engineering problems they experienced with the failed launch of a similar missile in April. Or if they would go ahead and undertake a technically risky launch again so soon, risking U.N. condemnation.

In the most recent ongoing activity on the launch pad, commercial imagery from Digital Globe shows trailers - possibly carrying the first two stages of a Taopodong-2 missile - parked near an missile assembly building, according to an analysis by the blog 38 North, which is published by Johns Hopkins university. It could be an indication that the rocket stages are being worked on, the 38 North analysis explains.


Filed under: Asia • North Korea
November 30th, 2012
12:50 PM ET

Pentagon: U.S. fight on terror not ending with Afghan war

By Pam Benson

Even with the war in Afghanistan winding down, the United States will continue its fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates, wherever they may be, by using all means available in an armed conflict, the Pentagon's chief lawyer said Friday.

"We must counter al Qaeda in the places where it seeks to establish safe haven and prevent it from reconstituting in others. To do this, we must utilize every national security element of our government," said Jeh Johnson, the top lawyer for the U.S. Defense Department, at a speech Friday at Oxford University in England.

Those elements of force, he said, include unmanned aerial vehicles, widely referred to as drones, to kill suspected terrorists hiding in the ungoverned regions of Pakistan, in Yemen and elsewhere, as well as the indefinite detention of extremists caught on the battlefield.

Johnson said that some legal scholars and commentators refer to the drone attacks as extrajudicial killing and criticize the U.S. government for holding individuals without formal charges. But he argued that the tools used against al Qaeda in what he called "an unconventional conflict" are legitimate.

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Filed under: Military • Terrorism
November 29th, 2012
05:12 PM ET

U.S. weighing arming Syrian rebels, recognizing opposition

By Jamie Crawford with reporting from Jill Dougherty, Elise Labott and Pam Benson

The United States is closely watching how rebel forces operate inside Syria, and what their end objectives might be as the Obama administration weighs whether or not to provide arms to the Syrian opposition.

"Will providing arms to the opposition convince the people who support [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad, in many cases because they are afraid of their own existence, or will it simply lead to more fighting - that is the question that we are considering," Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria, said during a panel discussion in Washington on Thursday on the crisis in Syria.

"Arms are not a strategy, arms are a tactic," Ford said about the deliberation the administration is undertaking on the question, and that a "military solution" is not the best path forward for Syria.

"The president has never taken the provision of arms off the table," he said. "And so, as we think about our policy of sending arms or not, and today we do not, we want to make sure that tactic plays into and helps us achieve a strategy of enabling the Syrian people to reach a political solution."


Continued clean-up seen at Iranian military site tied to nuclear program
DigitalGlobe satellite images from September 19 (L) and November 7 (R) of Parchin Military Complex in Iran
November 29th, 2012
04:47 PM ET

Continued clean-up seen at Iranian military site tied to nuclear program

By Pam Benson

Recent satellite photos show continued activity at a controversial Iranian military site that international weapons inspectors have repeatedly been denied access to, according to a Washington-based think tank.

The Institute for Science and International Study obtained imagery from DigitalGlobe taken on November 7 that the institute says shows changes in the roofs on two key buildings at the Parchin Military Complex. ISIS also pointed out there is a new addition on the building suspected of containing a high-explosives chamber and piles of dirt not seen in an image taken on September 19.

ISIS said the imagery indicates additional changes will be made to the site, making it more difficult for the international inspectors.

"The considerable amount of new materials, equipment, and rows of earth piles suggest that further construction will be taking place, thus increasing the level of alteration and further degrading the chance of obtaining reliable environmental samples if and when (International Atomic Energy Agency) inspectors gain access to the site," ISIS stated.

Since January, the IAEA has been seeking access to the site, where it suspects Iran may have conducted high-explosives tests related to the development of nuclear weapons. Iran denies that Parchin has any role in its nuclear program.

The latest IAEA report on Iran released earlier this month said the "extensive activities" at the Parchin site are certain to have "seriously undermined" the agency's verification process.

Those activities include "significant ground scraping and landscaping" with new dirt roads.

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Filed under: IAEA • IAEA • Iran • Nuclear • United Nations • weapons
FBI seeking tips on Benghazi attacks
November 29th, 2012
03:24 PM ET

FBI seeking tips on Benghazi attacks

By Carol Cratty

The FBI has launched an international publicity effort asking for tips from anyone with knowledge about the September 11th attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi which killed four Americans.

The FBI is using the Internet and the social networking site Facebook to solicit help on the case. Last week the FBI posted "Seeking Information" notices in English, Arabic and French with pictures of the damaged consulate.

The "Seeking Information" posters say the FBI is "asking Libyans and people around the world for additional information related to the attacks." Respondents can text or e-mail the FBI or fill out a form on the FBI's website. The FBI notice says the information can be submitted confidentially. FULL POST

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Filed under: FBI • Libya • Terrorism
Palestinian bid could put U.S. funding at risk
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, on November 21
November 29th, 2012
01:14 PM ET

Palestinian bid could put U.S. funding at risk

By Elise Labott

If, as expected, the United Nations General Assembly votes Thursday to upgrade the Palestinians to non-member observer status, it could put about $500 million in U.S. aid at stake - not to mention the $100 million in monthly tax revenues Israel is threatening to withhold.

The new status would fall short of triggering U.S. legislation that automatically cuts all U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority and any programs in the Palestinian territories, as well as aid to any organizations that recognize Palestine as a state. That's because the non-member designation falls short of being a full member state, which would give Palestine full voting rights in the in the U.N. General Assembly. The United States is vehemently opposed to member-state status for the Palestinians that doesn't stem from a peace deal with Israel.

But while Congress isn't mandated to cut U.S. aid, that doesn't mean it won't. Various senators are already proposing language to the National Defense Authorization Act to cut assistance to the Palestinians by 50% and U.S. fees to the United Nations by the same amount, should the effort by the Palestinians to gain recognition as a non-member observer state succeed in the General Assembly. It would also cut by 20% U.S. aid to any country voting to approve such a move. A larger group of senators proposed cutting off all funding if the vote goes through. FULL POST

November 29th, 2012
12:34 PM ET

Bradley Manning takes the stand

By Larry Shaughnessy

Pfc. Bradley Manning has begun testifying at his pre-trial hearing about his alleged abuse at Quantico. The Army private, accused of stealing thousands of classified documents and leaking them, spoke in a clear voice at the start of his testimony.  He was wearing his Army service uniform, wire-rimmed glasses.

Manning's defense team wants to make the case his harsh treatment in prison should count as time served.

Earlier, a military judge ruled Thursday that new charges would have to be filed before Manning could enter a guilty plea to some lesser charges.

The defense has said it plans to have Manning plead guilty to lesser offenses and fight other charges as being too extreme.

At a pretrial hearing at Fort Meade the military judge, Col. Denise Lind, noted that only some of the offenses Manning is proposing to plead to are included in the current list of charges. If he were to plead guilty to these charges he would face a maximum of 16 years in prison, loss if pay, demotion to private and a dishonorable discharge.

But the judge decided other charges the defense proposed Manning plead to are irregular and would not be accepted unless a convening authority were to refer the charges to the court.

Manning has not officially told the court he will plead guilty to the charges.

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Filed under: Bradley Manning • Military • WikiLeaks
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