By Jamie Crawford
Editor's note: This is one in a series of stories and opinion pieces surrounding the Aspen Security Forum currently taking place in Aspen, Colorado. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event, which is taking place from July 17 to 20 in Aspen, Colorado.
Forced spending cuts known as the sequester, and the furloughs to the workforce that have come with it, are compromising the Air Force's readiness for unknown contingencies and its ability to modernize, the top officer said Wednesday.
"We are trading modernization against readiness. It's the only place we have to go for funding because of this arbitrary mechanism that is sequestration, and it’s causing a real problem on the readiness side of the house and putting our ability to modernize over time at risk," Gen. Mark Welsh, chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, said.
Welsh spoke at the opening session of the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado during a discussion moderated by CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.
By Barbara Starr
Panama has formally asked the United States for technical help to inspect Cuban weapons found on board a North Korean freighter it seized.
"The government of Panama has requested our assistance, and we intend to provide it," Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, said.
"Generally speaking, the types of technical assistance we could provide include things like identifying the material on board, as well as providing personnel who are familiar with these types of inspections," she said.
The Panamanians asked for imaging equipment and technicians to fully examine and determine what is on board, according to a U.S. official.
The official declined to be identified because the person is not authorized to speak publicly.
Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli has publicly said he wants international inspectors to survey the ship's cargo.
By Jamie Crawford
The United Nations response to the ongoing carnage in Syria has been a "disgrace," Samantha Power, President Barack Obama's nominee as U.N. ambassador, said on Wednesday.
"We see the failure of the U.N. Security Council to respond to the slaughter in Syria – a disgrace that history will judge harshly," the former National Security Council staffer said at her confirmation hearing.
The Security Council, of which the United States is a member, has been stymied by Russian and Chinese vetoes for more robust action in Syria.
A former academic on the issue of genocide, Power said it was incumbent on the United States to continue working with the Russians to try to stop one of the "worst cases of mass brutality" she has seen.
By Carol Cratty
Edward Snowden appears likely to stay out of reach of U.S. officials even if the Russian government gives the self-avowed intelligence leaker papers to leave.
Snowden has been holed up in the transit lounge of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport for weeks, having flown there from Hong Kong in June after admittedly detailing top-secret National Security Agency electronic surveillance programs to media outlets.
He has applied for temporary asylum in Russia, and his lawyer said on Wednesday that he may be able to leave the airport within days.
If that happens, it’s not clear if Russia will meet his request. Snowden has said he wants to stay while awaiting passage to Latin America.
By Dan Merica
How much damage has admitted NSA leaker Edward Snowden caused U.S. intelligence? How far can domestic surveillance legally extend? What is the U.S. future in countries overturned by the Arab Spring?
These questions and more will be addressed at this week’s “Aspen Security Forum.” The event will feature wide-ranging panels on the future of a scaled-back Pentagon to counterterrorism and the rule of law.
A number of current Obama administration officials will weigh in: Ashton Carter, deputy secretary of defense; Gen. Mark Welsh, chief of staff of the Air Force; Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, and Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency.
Here are the top four things we will be looking for at the forum:
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the former enlisted man who earned his sergeant stripes as a grunt in the jungles of Vietnam, is cutting the budgets of the Pentagon's top brass by 20%.
And he's sharing the pain, cutting his own office budget by a like amount.