Obama faces crucial Guantanamo votes
U.S. military guards move a detainee inside the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
November 18th, 2013
12:50 PM ET

Obama faces crucial Guantanamo votes

By Evan Perez

President Barack Obama's efforts to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are expected to face some crucial Senate votes this week, and for the first time in four years, he stands a chance to win some.

A Senate bill to authorize defense spending contains some of the loosest restrictions yet on transferring Guantanamo prisoners, including possibly to the United States for detention, trial or medical care.

The bill would still require certification from the secretary of defense that the 164 Guantanamo prisoners won't pose a danger if transferred to the United States or other countries. But the streamlined process could help the Obama administration make progress on a goal that appeared all but given up for lost.

This year, the administration is using tight budgets as part of the argument for closing the prison that Obama, in a speech at the National Defense University in May, said was a symbol of the U.S. flouting the law that "should never have been opened."

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Some former Guantanamo Bay detainees still returning to battle, report says
U.S. military guards move a detainee inside the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in September 2010.
September 10th, 2013
11:22 AM ET

Some former Guantanamo Bay detainees still returning to battle, report says

By Jamie Crawford

Some former inmates at the United States prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are still returning to the battlefield, a report from the U.S. intelligence community says.

Of the 603 detainees who have been transferred from the facility since it opened, 100 of them, or 16.6%, have re-engaged in terrorist activity, says an unclassified summary from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released last week.

Three detainees of 71 who were released since January 2009 have gone back to battle, and four others who were transferred from the facility since then are suspected of returning to their old ways.

"Based on trends identified during the past ten years, we assess that if additional detainees are transferred without conditions from GITMO, some will reengage in terrorist or insurgent activities," the report said. "Transfers to countries with ongoing conflicts and internal stability as well as active recruitment by insurgent and terrorist organizations pose a particular problem."

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Filed under: Detainees • Gitmo
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.”

Woman heads CIA spy unit for first time
March 29th, 2013
05:33 PM ET

Woman heads CIA spy unit for first time

By Pam Benson

Another glass ceiling has been cracked at least temporarily with a woman now running the CIA's spy division.

The long time CIA veteran leading the National Clandestine Service on an acting basis cannot be publicly named because she is still a covert officer.

The question is whether she will get the job permanently. But her background could be problematic for new CIA boss John Brennan.

According to sources familiar with her career, she was assigned to a senior position at the CIA's Counterterrorism Center shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

In that role, she was involved in the controversial interrogation and detention program set up as the agency tracked and captured suspected al Qaeda terrorists.


January 8th, 2013
05:25 PM ET

Obama's CIA Pick & Movie Torture Controversy

Torture allegations in 2008 derailed CIA director nominee John Brennan from getting the same job four years ago. Now as Brennan prepares for his confirmation hearing the movie Zero Dark Thirty opens nationwide and the issue of "enhanced interrogation" techniques are front and center again. CNN's Chris Lawrence reports on the controversy.

'Zero Dark Thirty' puts U.S. interrogation back in the spotlight
Osama bin Laden
December 13th, 2012
01:53 PM ET

'Zero Dark Thirty' puts U.S. interrogation back in the spotlight

By Pam Benson

A suspected terrorist is held down by his CIA captives at a black site, one of the secret overseas prisons run by the CIA. Cloth covers his entire face as a bucket of water is poured over it.

It's the harrowing first scene from "Zero Dark Thirty," the soon-to-be-released movie about how the CIA found Osama bin Laden. The scene depicts waterboarding, the controversial harsh interrogation technique that simulates drowning, and it suggests that waterboarding and other coercive techniques aided in identifying the courier who eventually led to bin Laden.

While only a limited number of people have seen the movie so far at prerelease screenings, its first 45 minutes have reignited the debate over whether the U.S. government engaged in torture.

The scenes are bound to have a bigger effect on moviegoers than the less dramatic sleuthing depicted in the film, said Peter Bergen, a CNN national security analyst.

"These visceral scenes are, of course, far more dramatic than the scene where a CIA analyst says she has dug up some information in an old file that will prove to be a key to finding bin Laden," he wrote in an op-ed in CNN.com's Opinion section this week.

It's not just in a movie. By coincidence, the debate is also front and center as the Senate Intelligence Committee prepares to vote Thursday on whether to approve a report its nearly four-year investigation of the CIA's interrogation and detention program. Committee staff looked at more than 6 million pages of mostly CIA documents in compiling the 6,000-page report.

With changes, U.S.-based prisons could handle Gitmo detainees, GAO finds
November 28th, 2012
11:16 PM ET

With changes, U.S.-based prisons could handle Gitmo detainees, GAO finds

By Jennifer Rizzo

Federal prisons and Defense Department correctional facilities in the U.S. would need myriad operational changes if detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were transferred into the country, according to a Congressional investigative report released Wednesday.

However, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who ordered the report in 2008, touted it as proof the U.S. prison system could handle the detainees, many of whom are accused of terrorist acts.

"This report demonstrates that if the political will exists, we could finally close Guantanamo without imperiling our national security," Feinstein said.

According to the Government Accountability Office report, there are six Defense Department facilities within the U.S. and more than 2,000 facilities holding individuals convicted of federal crimes that could hold Gitmo detainees.

The report found that many issues would need to be considered if those detainees were transferred to one of the facilities located in the U.S.


Judge slams military efforts to limit GITMO detainee access to lawyers
Detainee walking at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
September 6th, 2012
06:32 PM ET

Judge slams military efforts to limit GITMO detainee access to lawyers

By Bill Mears

A federal judge used tough language to block efforts by the Obama administration to limit the legal rights of terror suspects held at the GuantanamoBay military prison inCuba, ruling Thursday that proposed changes were an "illegitimate exercise of executive power."

Officials of the departments of Justice and Defense had claimed they alone should decide when the prisoners deserve regular access to their attorneys.

But in a 32-page ruling, Judge Royce Lamberth said federal courts had proper authority to decide the matter, and criticized the executive branch for recently changing the procedures, when he said the current system was working well.

"The old maxim 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' would seem to caution against altering a counsel-access regime that has proven safe, efficient, and eminently workable," said Lamberth. "Indeed," he added, "the government had no answer when the court posed this question in oral arguments" last month.

"Access to the courts means nothing without access to counsel," added the judge.

Justice Department lawyers said they have started restricting when Guantanamo prisoners could challenge their detention in the Washington-based federal court. If approved, any relaxing of the rules would be made on a case-by-case basis at the exclusive discretion of military officials, not by the courts.


Supreme Court declines fresh review of Guantanamo detainee issue
The guard tower at the front gate of "Camp Five" and "Camp Six" detention facility of the Joint Detention Group at the US Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, January 19, 2012
June 11th, 2012
06:26 PM ET

Supreme Court declines fresh review of Guantanamo detainee issue

By Bill Mears

Appeals from seven detainees at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, contesting their open-ended custody, were turned aside by the Supreme Court on Monday.

Without comment, the justices refused to take a fresh look at the "habeas" petitions by the suspected foreign enemy fighters and what rights they have to make their claims in federal court.

In the so-called Boumediene ruling in 2008, the high court said "enemy combatants" held overseas in U.S. military custody have a right to a "meaningful review" of their detention in the civilian legal justice system. It would force the government to present evidence and justify keeping the prisoners indefinitely, without charges.

But a federal appeals court in Washington has since refused to order the release of any detainee filing a habeas corpus writ, in some cases rejecting such orders from lower-court judges.

According to Pentagon figures, 169 foreign men are still at the Guantanamo facility, including five "high-value" suspected terrorists from the 9/11 attacks set to go on military trial.

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Filed under: Cuba • Detainees • Gitmo
April 13th, 2012
03:20 PM ET

Former CIA officer pleads not guilty to sharing classified info

By Carol Cratty 

A former CIA officer entered a not guilty plea on Friday to charges he gave classified information to reporters and lied to a CIA review board about material in a book he wrote.

John Kiriakou was arraigned at U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, on a five-count indictment and his trial is scheduled to begin November 26.

The charges against him include three counts under the Espionage Act alleging Kiriakou revealed national defense information to individuals not authorized to receive it - namely reporters. One count charges Kiriakou violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act in 2008 by identifying a covert agent referred to as Officer A in the indictment.


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