Deputy secretary of defense: 2 mistakes led to Snowden leaks
July 18th, 2013
02:37 PM ET

Deputy secretary of defense: 2 mistakes led to Snowden leaks

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.

A senior-level defense official said Thursday that keeping top-secret information on one shared server and giving an individual the ability to view and move that data were two mistakes that allowed NSA leaker Edward Snowden to disclose top-secret information.

Although Ashton Carter, the deputy secretary of defense, said he didn't want to directly comment on Snowden - "because that is a criminal investigation" - he spent a portion of a panel at the Aspen Security Forum laying out the "root causes of all of this."

"This is a failure to defend our own network," Carter said. "That failure originated from two practices that we need to reverse."

The first mistake: "In an effort for those in the intelligence community to be able to share information with one another, there was an enormous amount of information concentrated in one place. ... It creates too much information in one place."

The second: "You had an individual who was given very substantial authority to access that information and move that information. That ought not to be the case, either."

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Filed under: Aspen Security Forum • Cybersecurity • Edward Snowden • NSA • Pentagon
July 17th, 2013
11:53 PM ET

Sequester cuts keep Air Force general worried about readiness

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.
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Filed under: Air Force • Aspen Security Forum • Military • Terrorism
Four things to watch for at the Aspen Security Forum
July 17th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

Four things to watch for at the Aspen Security Forum

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:

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Filed under: Aspen Security Forum
Analysis: Stability, U.S. interests trump democracy in Phase Two of Arab Spring
July 16th, 2013
01:04 PM ET

Analysis: Stability, U.S. interests trump democracy in Phase Two of Arab Spring

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the latest in a series of stories and opinion pieces previewing the upcoming Aspen Security Forum. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event, which is taking place from July 17-20 in Aspen, Colorado.  The forum will feature a session called "Unrest in the Arab World and its Implications for our Security"; Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and a fellow at the Brookings Institution, who is featured in this piece, will participate. Follow the event on Twitter under @aspeninstitute and @natlsecuritycnn #AspenSecurity.

By Elise Labott

A popular argument following the removal from power of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsy posits that the non-U.S. response ends a long-held American position that it defends democracy.

The pretense, however, has already been on shaky ground during Phase Two of the Arab Spring.

Countries where the United States has supported regime change have morphed from relatively stable autocracies into hotbeds of instability, posing challenges for U.S. policy.

In Egypt, the United States has played the cards it was dealt, taking a pragmatic approach to the recent events..

No lover of Morsy or his Muslim Brotherhood ideology, the United States engaged his government because it was in power, having won the 2012 elections.

But after 22 million people signed a petition to remove him from power and took to the streets, Morsy was suddenly damaged goods.

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From Benghazi to Boston: The state of the jihad
July 16th, 2013
12:58 PM ET

From Benghazi to Boston: The state of the jihad

By Peter Bergen

Editor's note: This is one in a series of stories and opinion pieces previewing the upcoming Aspen Security Forum. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event, which is taking place from July 17 to 20 in Aspen, Colorado. Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst and the author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden, from 9/11 to Abbottabad."

Every July in the lush, green mountains of Aspen, Colorado, many of the top present and former U.S. national security officials and other experts gather to discuss how the war against al Qaeda and its allies is going.

Ahead of last year's Aspen conference, I wrote a piece for CNN provocatively titled "Time to declare victory: Al Qaeda is defeated." And I then spoke on a panel at Aspen where I tried to make the case for this position.

I'm not sure too many of the folks in Aspen were convinced. (If they had been, it would hardly seem necessary to travel back to Aspen again this year!)

Since last year's Aspen conference, a group of men only very loosely aligned with al Qaeda attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing four U.S. diplomats and CIA contractors.

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Filed under: Aspen Security Forum • Benghazi • Boston Bombing • Terrorism
In wake of NSA leaks, former key lawmaker says no tradeoff needed between security and liberty
July 15th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

In wake of NSA leaks, former key lawmaker says no tradeoff needed between security and liberty

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the latest in a series of stories and opinion pieces previewing the upcoming Aspen Security Forum. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event which is taking place from July 17-20 in Aspen, Colorado.  Follow the event on Twitter under @aspeninstitute and @natlsecuritycnn #AspenSecurity.

By Elise Labott, CNN

Revelations of classified National Security Agency programs by former contractor Edward Snowden have prompted debate about the public and political oversight of U.S. intelligence and the role of a special court that reviews electronic surveillance requests.

CNN’s Foreign Affairs Reporter Elise Labott talks to Jane Harman, a former Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, about fallout from the Snowden leaks and questions they raise about the role of intelligence collection.

Harman, now head of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, will participate in a panel about counterterrorism, national security and the rule of law at the Aspen Security Forum this week.

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Terrorism at a moment of transition
July 12th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

Terrorism at a moment of transition

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the latest in a series of stories and opinion pieces previewing the upcoming Aspen Security Forum. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event which is taking place from July 17-20 in Aspen, Colorado. Follow the event on Twitter under @aspeninstitute and @natlsecuritycnn #AspenSecurity. John McLaughlin was a CIA officer for 32 years and served as deputy director and acting director from 2000-2004. He currently teaches at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies and is a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

From John McLaughlin, Special for CNN

Terrorism experts inside and outside the government have been caught up in a debate about how close we may be to defeating al Qaeda and associated groups. As events have demonstrated so vividly in recent years, we are living in an era of continuous surprise, making this one of those questions that cannot be answered with confidence.

What can be said with absolute confidence is that today’s al Qaeda is fundamentally different from the one we knew for years. It has evolved from the hierarchical organization of September 2001 into what might be called a “network of networks.”

Interconnected, loosely-structured organizations are run by a series of al Qaeda affiliates scattered across the arc of South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. Some declare fealty to Osama bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, while others merely take inspiration from the legacy his organization represents.
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Filed under: Al Qaeda • AQAP • Aspen Security Forum • Hezbollah • Libya • Living With Terror • Mali • Opinion • Security Brief • Syria • Terrorism
Former official sees "challenge" ahead pursuing terrorists
Jeh Johnson, former Pentagon General Counsel
July 11th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

Former official sees "challenge" ahead pursuing terrorists

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the latest in a series of stories and opinion pieces previewing the upcoming Aspen Security Forum. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event which is taking place from July 17-20 in Aspen, Colorado.  Follow the event on Twitter under @aspeninstitute and @natlsecuritycnn  #AspenSecurity.

By Larry Shaughnessy

Jeh Johnson recently stepped down as the Pentagon’s top attorney. Now in private practice as a partner at PaulWeiss law firm in Washington, Johnson recently spoke to CNN about some of the issues he faced overseeing the Defense Department’s 10,000 uniformed and civilian lawyers, issues he may be asked about when he speaks at the Aspen Security Forum.

CNN: What is the biggest legal hurdle the Defense Department and Intelligence community face?

Johnson: “I would say that the biggest legal challenge that DoD and the intelligence community face right now is to settle upon a new legal architecture for, what I perceive to be, the next phase of our counterterrorism efforts against al Qaeda and other terrorism efforts.

“We’ve been through 12 years of what some people would characterize as conventional armed conflict. And most intelligence experts would agree that core al Qaeda has been decimated and we’re at an inflection point now. And it is most likely the case that the traditional approach to armed conflict is no longer the best approach and so we need, in my view, to develop a legal architecture and a legal strategy that is a whole of government approach that deals with the new terrorist threats in forms that are not necessarily al Qaeda and it’s affiliates.”
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No end in sight for NSA leak fallout
July 10th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

No end in sight for NSA leak fallout

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a series of stories and opinion pieces previewing the upcoming Aspen Security Forum. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event which is taking place from July 17-20 in Aspen, Colorado.  Follow the event on Twitter under @aspeninstitute and @natlsecuritycnn  #AspenSecurity.

By Jamie Crawford

Edward Snowden's fate and the possible damage he has done to U.S. relations with close allies still commands attention of the Obama administration.

The situation shows the degree to which "the United States and Europe define privacy in different ways," former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told CNN’s Security Clearance.

That tension was apparent following revelations from Snowden, the admitted leaker of national security documents, that the United States had been using electronic intercepts to monitor various European government offices.

While the threat of international terrorism has decreased over the past decade because of "significant" cooperation between the United States and Europe, Crowley said he is "confident" the situation will eventually "work its way through the political situation on both sides of the Atlantic."
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Filed under: Aspen Security Forum • China • Edward Snowden • Medvedev • North Korea • NSA • Putin • Russia • Syria • Terrorism
Five things you need to know about U.S. national security
Credit (l to r): Getty Images, Getty Images, SITE, Getty Images, CNN
July 29th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

Five things you need to know about U.S. national security

By Dan Merica

This weekend marks the conclusion of  this year’s  Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado, an event that brought together some of the key players in the world of defense and national security policy.

Here the five moments that the Security Clearance Blog’s team will be talking about on the flight back to Washington:

1. The United States is keeping close tabs on Syria’s weapons, al Qaeda’s influence

As war rages on in Syria, the United States intelligence community is closely monitoring the situation, National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen told CNN’s Intelligence Correspondent Suzanne Kelly.

According to Olsen, there is an intense focus on Syria’s chemical weapons. FULL POST

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