April 12th, 2013
07:14 PM ET

Pentagon intel suggested N. Korea nuke capability previously

By Pam Benson and Chris Lawrence

Despite the uproar over a disclosure this week of Pentagon intelligence concluding North Korea may be able to deliver a nuclear weapon on a ballistic missile, it's not the first time the Defense Intelligence Agency has suggested Pyongyang had that capability.

Since 2005, two former DIA chiefs have raised the possibility during congressional testimony.

At a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing in April 2005, then-DIA director Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby acknowledged the possibility in response to a question about whether North Korea had the capability to put a nuclear device on a missile.

"The assessment is that they have the capability to do that," Jacoby said.

Analysis: Will national security scandal create national security risk?
Paula Broadwell's affair with CIA Director David Petraeus led to his resignation. She got to know him while working on a Ph.D. dissertation about him. Alleged "jealous" e-mails she wrote anonymously to another woman, Jill Kelley, brought the affair to light, a government source told CNN.
November 13th, 2012
08:44 PM ET

Analysis: Will national security scandal create national security risk?

By Mike Mount, CNN Senior National Security Producer

The fallout from the scandal involving now disgraced CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus and possible connection to top Afghan commander Gen. John Allen comes at a transition time for the Obama administration. Just a week after the election, one of Washington's favorite guessing games started as politicians, journalists and every other political wonk started to calculate who could be filling the major Cabinet positions that would be opening as some get set to step down. It raises the question of what effect all this could have on the country's national security.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton long ago announced she would be leaving and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, said this week that he does want to return to his home in California. Asked how long he plans to stick around the Pentagon, he responded to reporters, "Who the hell knows?"

In the military, regularly scheduled command changes were getting set as well, as Allen was moving to head the European Command and a new commander was preparing to take over in Afghanistan. Both have to be confirmed by the Senate and a confirmation hearing is set for Thursday with the Senate Armed Services Committee.

But in light of the scandal, is the president at risk of losing too much of his foreign policy brain trust as Petraeus departs and Allen works under the haze of an investigation?


Filed under: Analysis • Gen. Allen • Petraeus • White House
My debate checklist: Center for American Progress' Brian Katulis
October 21st, 2012
05:52 PM ET

My debate checklist: Center for American Progress' Brian Katulis

By Brian Katulis, Special to CNN

EDITOR’S NOTE: Brian Katulis is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, where his work focuses on U.S. national security policy in the Middle East and South Asia. The views expressed are his own.

If we've learned one thing about Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's foreign policy views during this campaign, it's that he's heavy on rhetoric and ideology but light on details.

For the past year, Romney has consistently failed to provide a clear alternative to President Obama's foreign policy program that goes beyond vague speechifying about "strength" and "leadership." Throughout the campaign, it became increasingly clear that Romney's rhetoric isn't an attempt to cover up an empty foreign policy agenda - it is the policy agenda.

There is a similarity between Romney's foreign and economic policy packages on this score. As economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote this past week, "the true plan is to provide an economic stimulus in the form of Romney's awesome awesomeness; the cover story is the pretense of having an actual program."

But relying on rhetoric in a debate format is harder to do. That's why I'll be watching closely and keeping track of how much Romney tries to stick to his playbook. Here is a list of catchphrases and buzzwords I'll be looking out for in Monday's debate. The more he uses these phrases, the less likely we'll hear concrete ideas. FULL POST

Filed under: 2012 Election • Analysis • Barack Obama • Romney
My debate checklist: AEI's Danielle Pletka
October 21st, 2012
05:50 PM ET

My debate checklist: AEI's Danielle Pletka

By Danielle Pletka, Special to CNN

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Danielle Pletka is Vice President of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. The views expressed are her own.

Fewer and fewer voters rate national security as their top priority in considering how to vote, which begs the question of who will be watching this last presidential debate, since the focus is foreign policy and national security.

Not to worry, the wonks will be out in force, and we'll be looking for a few key things from each candidate.

First, from Mitt Romney:

That vision thing: Romney needs to do more than simply be the un-Obama. We'll be looking for a positive vision that puts some meat on the bones of his call for a new era of American leadership and exceptionalism. Both are fine sentiments, but essentially meaningless without policy to go with them. And in straitened economic times, with a public weary of spending and war, he'll need to make clear that his priorities will keep America safe and strong without breaking the bank or putting more lives on the line. FULL POST

Filed under: 2012 Election • Afghanistan • Analysis • Barack Obama • China • Egypt • Iran • Libya • Middle East • Romney • Syria
Lessons of the Counterterror Campaign in the Digital Age (Opinion)
Abdelmalek Droukdel, leader of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), with his fighters in Mali
July 4th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Lessons of the Counterterror Campaign in the Digital Age (Opinion)

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a series of opinion articles about national security by participants in the upcoming Aspen Security Forum. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event which is taking place from July 25-28 in Aspen, Colorado.

Philip Mudd served as the FBI’s deputy director for national security and, prior to that, spent most of his career at the Central Intelligence Agency. He held various positions and was eventually named the deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center. Mudd is now a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation.

The counterterror campaign has evolved markedly during the past decade, from the centrally-directed al Qaeda plots of 9/11 through the rise of affiliated organizations in Africa, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia and, now, to the homegrown phenomenon in the United States and elsewhere. In each of these cases, the combination of effective counterterror operations and broad rejection of al Qaedaist ideology has hollowed the threat: al Qaeda’s core is struggling; with few exceptions (the Sahel, for example), affiliates are either in remission (Indonesia) or suffering serious setbacks (Somalia and Yemen); and homegrowns are prolific in number but limited in the strategic threat they pose. Meanwhile, with economic setbacks across the world, the rise of China, and questions about Iran’s nuclear intentions, questions unrelated to the al Qaedaist threat of the first decade of this century are appropriately crowding out counterterrorism in the national security arena.

The lessons of how U.S. military, intelligence and law enforcement developed tactics during this long campaign, though, likely will be more enduring. Like international terror groups, emerging threats - organized crime, drug cartels, human trafficking groups, and child pornography rings - have common characteristics. All are led by a central cadre (a leadership network) of criminals who communicate, travel, and manage finances. Increasingly, each of these elements that make up organized networks is trackable through the digital trails that we all leave behind during everyday life, from bank transactions to e-mail and other messaging traffic on the Internet. And these are the same types of trails that U.S. security entities so successfully tracked during the counterterror campaign and the effort against foreign-fighter networks in Iraq and Pakistan/Afghanistan. FULL POST

Could Russia help push out al-Assad?
June 4th, 2012
09:21 PM ET

Could Russia help push out al-Assad?

By Jill Dougherty

Last December, media reports surfaced in the Middle East that Russia had a plan to solve the Syrian conflict: have President Bashar al-Assad step aside for a transitional period and let his vice president, Farouk al-Shara, take over until elections could be held. Moscow would give al-Assad political asylum or find him a refuge.

Russian officials refused to confirm those reports but the plan got a spy-novel name - the Yemensky Variant - because of its similarity to the transition plan that led to the ouster of former Yemen president Ali Abdullah Saleh who handed over power to his vice president, clearing the way to elections.

June 1st, 2012
07:09 PM ET

Loose lips and the Obama national security ship

By Adam Levine, with reporting from Pam Benson and Ann Colwell

The level of detail spilling out through media reports about crucial national security operations is raising the question of whether President Barack Obama's administration can keep a secret - or in some cases even wants to.

In just the past week, two tell-all articles about Obama's leadership as commander-in-chief have been published, dripping with insider details about his sleeves-rolled-up involvement in choosing terrorist targets for drone strikes and revelations about his amped-up cyber war on Iran.

Each article notes the reporters spoke to "current and former" American officials and presidential advisers, as well as sources from other countries.

"This is unbelievable ... absolutely stunning," a former senior intelligence official said about the level of detail contained in the cyberattack story. FULL POST

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Filed under: Analysis • drones • Obama • Pakistan • Yemen
April 12th, 2012
06:26 PM ET

Afghanistan: reasons to be cheerful (opinion)

By Tlaloc Cutroneo

The American people and the international community deserve to know if all our efforts in Afghanistan are worth the sacrifice – in lives and resources. We need to know whether the Afghan people are preparing to take on responsibility for securing their own country. Are the Afghans readying to take the lead in securing their own country? After a year-long deployment throughout Afghanistan, I believe they are.

Everything about counter-insurgencies is unconventional and complex. They are people-centric and conducted on multiple tracks, involving both defensive and offensive operations, extensive intelligence gathering and economic intervention. FULL POST

Filed under: Afghanistan • Analysis
Weighing impact of Israel striking Iran
March 9th, 2012
10:27 AM ET

Weighing impact of Israel striking Iran

By Guy Azriel, reporting from Jerusalem

While Israel has the most advanced military in the Middle East - including a suspected-but-undeclared nuclear arsenal of its own - Israeli analysts say there's no guarantee that a unilateral strike will roll back an Iranian program it sees as a threat to its survival.

Yet that's the choice observers say the Jewish state may soon face, and some argue the benefits would outweigh the costs military action would incur.

Read more here

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Filed under: Analysis • Iran • Israel • Middle East
The elusive tipping point in Syria
March 2nd, 2012
03:19 PM ET

The elusive tipping point in Syria

By Tim Lister, with reporting from Elise Labott

The Syrian military's advance into the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs has changed the dynamics of the resistance to the Assad regime - and put further pressure on Western policy-makers to find ways to help the opposition and protect Syrian civilians. But as Washington debates what's next for Syria, Gulf states are already beginning to provide the opposition with arms and the funding to purchase them, sources in the region tell CNN.

To the Obama administration, the regime's assault on Homs is an ominous sign. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman told a Senate hearing Thursday: "It's important that the tipping point for the regime be reached quickly because the longer the regime assaults the Syrian people, the greater the chances of all out war and a failed state."


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