By Terry Frieden
A Drug Enforcement Administration agent stationed in Cartagena, Colombia, arranged for a prostitute to have an encounter with a U.S. Secret Service Agent only days before a visit there by President Barack Obama, the Justice Department's inspector general has found.
In a December 20 letter to the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, the inspector general said the agent admitted his role in hiring the woman, while a second DEA agent said he was intoxicated that night and was unable to "recall specifically his involvement."
A third DEA special agent was present for a dinner with the Secret Service agent but was not present at a residence where the sexual encounter took place and played no role in facilitating it, the report said.FULL STORY
By CNN Staff
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has ordered the military to begin implementing cost-cutting measures aimed at mitigating the risk of significant budget cuts should Congress fail to reach a deal in coming months to avert or soften them.
"We have no idea what the hell is going to happen," Panetta said Thursday.
He has asked services to begin "prudent" measures, including curtailing maintenance for non-critical activities and delaying hiring.
The measures must be "reversible" and minimize harmful impacts on military readiness, Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon.
Military departments have also been told to report on how they would implement deep automatic spending cuts, called sequester, and enforce unpaid leave for civilian employees should the reductions occur.
Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey have warned Congress that uncertainty over the absence of a long-term spending agreement, debt-ceiling concerns and the lack of a full congressional budget process is extremely harmful.
By Mike Mount
Afghan President Hamid Karzai showed up to the Pentagon on Thursday with a wish list of military equipment to ensure the security of his country by the time NATO forces leave at the end of 2014.
In return, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had a message to deliver – the United States wants to make sure Afghanistan does not become a terrorist safe haven again.
Karzai's meeting with Panetta, occurring under a cloud of mistrust between both countries, was expected to have some tough talk about the future of Afghanistan. But publicly, the image seemed like there was no trouble at all.
It was the first stop for the Afghan president who was to have dinner with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday and meet with President Barack Obama on Friday.
U.S. officials are discussing with Middle East governments the steps needed to ensure that Syria's chemical and biological weapons sites are secured if President Bashar al-Assad leaves office, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday.
"We're not talking about ground troops, but it depends on what ... happens in a transition," he told reporters.
Asked whether he had ruled out putting U.S. troops in Syria to secure such weapons, Panetta said: "You always have to keep the possibility that, if there is a peaceful transition and international organizations get involved, that they might ask for assistance in that situation. But in a hostile situation, we're not planning to ask for that."
Preventing Syria from using chemical weapons once its military has moved to use them "would be almost unachievable," said U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"You would have to have such clarity of intelligence, you know, persistent surveillance, you'd have to actually see it before it happened, and that's unlikely, to be sure," Dempsey said.
By Jamie Crawford
The U.S. Treasury alerted global financial firms on Thursday to watch out for any attempts by Iran to evade economic sanctions as they get tougher.
"The practices involve the use of third-country exchange houses or trading companies that are acting as money transmitters to process funds transfers through the United States in support of business with Iran," that are not exempted or authorized, the Office of Foreign Assets Control said in an advisory.
Adam Szubin, the OFAC director, told reporters the trend is not limited to any one country.
But he said the tactic showed the steps Iran is taking to access foreign currency reserves after most of the large banks it dealt with in the past have been blacklisted by ongoing sanctions aimed at bringing it to the negotiating table over its disputed nuclear program.
It apparently takes more than a few good men, according to the U.S. Marine Corps. It takes all kinds of people to support military families, including same-sex spouses of service members.
CNN published a story this week about a woman married to a female lieutenant colonel at Fort Bragg who believes she was rejected from an officers' spouse club because she's gay. Less than a day later, Maj. Gen. Vaughn Ary advised Marine Corps legal staff such clubs conducting business on its bases must admit same-same spouses. If they do not, the clubs will be barred from meeting on any Marine Corps installation. Read the full story
By Alanne Orjoux
A man accused of working with convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout is under arrest in Australia, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced Thursday.
Richard Ammar Chichakli was arrested Wednesday by Australian authorities at the request of the United States, DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart and Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a news release.
Chichakli, a U.S. and Syrian citizen, is accused of conspiring with Bout and others to buy two planes in the United States to transport weapons to conflict zones in violation of international sanctions, the release said.
He's charged with money laundering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and six counts of wire fraud in connection with the attempted aircraft purchases, the government said.
"The international law enforcement community has long recognized Richard Chichakli as a key criminal facilitator in Viktor Bout's global weapons trafficking regime and his arrest means the world is safer and more secure," Leonhart said. "Bout merged drug cartels with terrorist enablers, and his close associate, Chichakli, worked to ensure they could ship weapons and conduct illicit business around the world. DEA continues to forge strong partnerships worldwide and applauds our Australian police partners."
If convicted, Chichakli would face as many as 20 years in prison for each of the counts against him. FULL POST
By Charles Riley, reporting from Hong Kong
Google's Eric Schmidt wrapped up a controversial trip to North Korea on Thursday, returning to Beijing with a delegation that included former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
Arriving in China's capital city, Richardson told reporters that the trip had been productive, and said the delegation had advocated for more open access to information in North Korea, and a stop to missile launches and nuclear tests.
"We enjoyed our trip to the DPRK, especially with the North Korean people, and we had a good opportunity to talk about expanding the Internet and cell phones in the DPRK," Richardson told the Associated Press before boarding the flight from Pyongyang to Beijing.
Richardson had described the trip as a "private humanitarian mission." And it was thought that the delegation would try and negotiate the release of an American, Kenneth Bae, who had been detained in North Korea. By Thursday, it was clear that effort had failed.