By Elise Labott
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is sprinting to the finish as America's top diplomat, preparing for a high-profile hearing on the deadly Benghazi attack and two signature opportunities to have the last word on her tenure.
Clinton, who returned to work last week after battling a virus and a blood clot, is aggressively tackling her work load, even as official Washington gets ready to pause for President Barack Obama's second inaugural on Monday.
Sandwiched between the inaugural and Thursday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the nomination of Sen. John Kerry to replace her, Clinton will testify before House and Senate committees on Benghazi.
Her appearance on Wednesday was originally scheduled in December, but was postponed as she confronted health issues.
By Barbara Starr
The post-Benghazi controversy over who was responsible for that attack in Libya is now reaching into internal Obama administration deliberations over how much to say about the terrorist attack in Algeria.
U.S. officials, including Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, were quick to call the kidnapping a terrorist attack, but the administration has resisted discussing details about what elements are directly involved.
A senior U.S. official with direct knowledge of the latest intelligence tells CNN that although "intelligence is streaming in" from Algeria, the administration will not come to a firm conclusion what specific elements of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb are responsible until it has a higher level of certainty than currently exists.
Just how gun-shy is the U.S. intelligence community about stating its conclusions on Algeria?
By Jill Dougherty
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has asked her staff to review security for American diplomats, businesses and citizens in the entire Maghreb and North Africa region, in response to the hostage-taking in Algeria, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday.
"That goes not only for official American security but also the message is being given to American citizens and American businesses," Nuland told reporters at the State Department.
After last year's deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, President Barack Obama ordered a review of security at all U.S. diplomatic facilities. In addition, an independent review board recommended to Clinton security improvements that she has ordered to be implemented. This new review goes beyond diplomatic facilities.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Nuland said, is known for kidnapping and hostage-taking and. "The concern is that groups operating in the region may be trying to do larger scale operations and we want to make sure that any of our citizens and companies operating in the region are reviewing their security practices in light of this."
By Carol Cratty and Susan Candiotti
FBI Director Robert Mueller met with Libyan officials in Tripoli on Thursday for discussions about last year's deadly terror attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, an agency official said.
Another law enforcement official said Mueller met with the prime minister, justice minister, intelligence chief and others.
That official said the investigation of the September 11 assault has made "significant progress" and charges were expected although no timetable for action was given.
"We're still focusing on more than a dozen people," the second official said.
By Tim Lister
Within the past few days, French combat forces have deployed to the West African state of Mali to halt the advance of militant Islamist fighters toward the capital and to help the Malian army begin to reclaim towns previously occupied by the militants. After intense airstrikes against rebel strongholds, French ground forces are moving north to try to dislodge the fighters.
Mali is one of the poorest countries in Africa, a vast and sparsely populated land that is largely desert. But events there are being watched with growing anxiety throughout West Africa, in European capitals and in Washington. here are six reasons why.FULL STORY
By Tim Lister and Paul Cruickshank
The terrorist attack on a natural gas installation at In Amenas in eastern Algeria may be an isolated act of revenge for the French intervention in Mali - or an ominous portent of things to come in North Africa, where Islamist militancy is gaining traction fast.
The man claiming responsibility for the operation is a veteran jihadist who is also renowned for hostage-taking and smuggling anything from cigarettes to refugees.
His name is Moktar Belmoktar, an Algerian who lost an eye while fighting in Afghanistan in his teens and has long been a target of French counter-terrorism forces.
Today, he leads a group called Al-Mulathameen Brigade (The Brigade of the Masked Ones), which is associated with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM.) In the last few years, he has cultivated allies and established cells far and wide across the region.