February 19th, 2013
03:55 PM ET

Syrian Scuds slamming Aleppo

From Ivan Watson

A Scud missile slammed into a crowded slum in Syria's largest city overnight, killing at least 50 people and strewing body parts across the neighborhood, opposition activists said Tuesday.

The missile - one of at least eight fired at the ravaged city of Aleppo by government forces since Friday, according to a U.S. official - slammed into the Jabal Badro neighborhood Monday night, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria reported. The blast knocked down seven buildings, leaving residents struggling to dig the mutilated remains of their neighbors out of the rubble, the group said.

"We documented 21 victims by names, but there are completely mutilated bodies and body parts," Mohammad Al-Khateeb, an activist from the AleppoMediaCenter, told CNN. "Nobody is sure about the final number of victims yet."

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad started using surface-to-surface missiles against rebel fighters in December, after the rebels began using captured rockets to bring down government aircraft. Most have hit in fields, away from population centers.

Jabal Badro had no rebel presence, "nor any revolutionary activities," Al-Khateeb told CNN. The dead included about 20 children, he said.

"One guy came to the neighborhood, came to look for his family," Al-Khateeb said. "He told us, 'I have 20 family members living in this neighborhood. I can't find any of them.' "


Filed under: Syria
Gen. Allen retires rather than press on with nomination
February 19th, 2013
01:05 PM ET

Gen. Allen retires rather than press on with nomination

Gen. John Allen informed the president he will retire rather than move forward with the nomination to become the supreme allied commander of NATO, the White House announced Tuesday.   The president accepted the resignation, according to a statement from the president (see below).

Allen was the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan for nearly two years. But he was caught up in a scandal over embarrassing e-mails with Tampa socialite Jill Kelley that came to the public's attention during the same investigation that brought down former CIA Director David Petraeus.  After several months, Allen was cleared of wrongdoing, and the White House initially indicated that President Barack Obama would proceed with the nomination.

Allen informed some of his staff he was considering the retirement, CNN's Chris Lawrence reported last week.

Here's the president's statement: FULL POST

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Filed under: Military
Report: Chinese military engaged in 'extensive cyber espionage campaign'
February 19th, 2013
01:31 AM ET

Report: Chinese military engaged in 'extensive cyber espionage campaign'

By CNN Money's Charles Riley

An American cybersecurity firm has linked one of the world's most prolific groups of computer hackers to the Chinese government, saying in a new report that an extensive cyber-espionage campaign is being waged from a location near Shanghai.

The security firm, Mandiant, detailed the allegations in a 60-page report published Tuesday that describes the group's tactics and history over a six-year period.

The Virginia-based Mandiant, which helps companies detect and respond to cyber threats, said it has observed the group of hackers - called the "comment crew" - systematically steal hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organizations across 20 industries worldwide since 2006.

Mandiant claims the activity can be traced to four networks near Shanghai - with some operations taking place in a location that is also the headquarters of Unit 61398, a secret division of China's military.


Filed under: China • Cybersecurity
Harman: Drone courts can work
February 19th, 2013
12:01 AM ET

Harman: Drone courts can work

Editors Note: Jane Harman is director, president and chief executive officer of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She was a nine-term congresswoman from California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee from 2002 to 2006, and a principal coauthor of the Intelligence Reform Law of 2004 and the FISA Amendments of 2008.

By Jane Harman, Special to CNN

In the debate on drone policy that is raging in Washington, a simple solution is available. Why not use the framework established in the 35-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, to cover drone strikes and offensive cyberoperations?

FISA was enacted in response to the abuses of the Nixon years and established a special court and congressional oversight procedures to review intelligence collection activities against Americans and foreigners. For 23 years, that framework worked well in a very different threat environment. The FISA court was able to manage a reasonable caseload, and the Senate and House intelligence committees – created to do oversight over the program – carefully reviewed all activities.

Drone court considered

September 11, 2001, was a game changer, forcing the United States to rethink the existing security paradigms. In response to the graveness of the terrorist threat, the Bush administration decided that the existing FISA framework was antiquated and inadequate, and began warrantless foreign intelligence surveillance outside the FISA structure. The president claimed this extra-legal action was justified under his "commander in chief" powers in Article II of the Constitution.


Filed under: Cybersecurity • Intelligence • Opinion