March 7th, 2013
06:43 PM ET

White House reviews targeted killing program

The growing strength of extremist groups across the Middle East and Africa has led the Obama Administration to begin a classified review of just who it can go after under its targeted killing program.

The current congressional authorization to use military force, allows the President to "use all necessary and appropriate force" against any persons or organizations involved in planning or carrying out the September 11th attacks–its been interpreted to include al Qaeda affiliates.

But emerging terrorist groups sympathetic to al Qaeda do not necessarily have a direct link to the core Al Qaeda network responsible for the September 11th attack, CNN's Barbara Starr reports.

White House sending Benghazi emails to Senate
Damaged room at U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya
February 22nd, 2013
04:14 PM ET

White House sending Benghazi emails to Senate

By Pam Benson

The White House has agreed to turn over to the Senate Intelligence Committee additional e-mails and intelligence reports related to the lethal attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, according to a congressional source.

The source said some of the materials have already been received by the panel and others "will be provided shortly."

Republican senators have threatened to hold up the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director until they receive e-mails exchanged between the White House and the spy agency concerning public talking points about the deadly attack last September 11.

U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice relied on those talking points to explain the Obama administration's version of events several days after the armed assault. Her televised comments ignited an election-year controversy, fueled by Republicans, over whether the administration was being truthful about the nature of the attack.

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February 10th, 2013
11:27 AM ET

Gates: Drone program, while useful, would benefit from more oversight

By CNN's Kevin Liptak

The number of innocent victims of drone strikes remains "extremely small" and doesn't outweigh the benefits of using drones to take out al Qaeda operatives, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued Sunday.

But the former Pentagon chief said a better system of checks and balances could be constructive when the unmanned aerial devices are used to target Americans, aligning himself with lawmakers concerned about unfettered power in the hands of the president.

Gates served under George W. Bush during the beginnings of the drone program and later under President Barack Obama as the use of drones spiked. Recently lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, have forcefully questioned the use and oversight of the lethal devices.

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Filed under: drones • Gates
Obama to give white paper on targeted killings to Congress
The U.S. MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle has been used to take out key targets in the war on terror.
February 6th, 2013
11:10 PM ET

Obama to give white paper on targeted killings to Congress

By Lesa Jansen

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday morning will receive a classified document that seeks to justify the administration's policy of targeting Americans overseas via drone attacks, chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said late Wednesday.

"I am pleased that the president has agreed to provide the Intelligence Committee with access to the OLC (Office of Legal Counsel) opinion regarding the use of lethal force in counterterrorism operations," the California Democrat said in a statement.

"It is critical for the committee's oversight function to fully understand the legal basis for all intelligence and counterterrorism operations."

The announcement came shortly after an administration official said that President Barack Obama had yielded to demands that he turn over to Congress the classified Justice Department legal advice that seeks to justify the policy.

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John Brennan likely to face Democrats' scrutiny at hearing
President Barack Obama nominates chief counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to be CIA director on January 7.
February 6th, 2013
09:42 PM ET

John Brennan likely to face Democrats' scrutiny at hearing

By Barbara Starr and Pam Benson

As President Barack Obama's pick for CIA director heads to Capitol Hill Thursday for his confirmation hearing, some in the president's own party are threatening to hold up John Brennan's nomination.

Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden told reporters he would "pull out all the stops" to get answers about the legality of targeting Americans involved with al Qaeda overseas. Wyden was not satisfied with a confidential Justice Department memo that was sent to key congressional committees last year but only became public on Tuesday.

The 16-page white paper indicated the U.S. government could use lethal force against an American citizen overseas if the person is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or one of its affiliates and an attack is imminent. But it was a policy paper rather than the official legal document, which the American Civil Liberties Union says is 50 pages long.
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Memo backs U.S. using lethal force against Americans overseas
Anwar al-Awlaki died in a September 2011 drone strike in Yemen.
February 5th, 2013
10:18 AM ET

Memo backs U.S. using lethal force against Americans overseas

By Pam Benson

A Justice Department memo determined the U.S. government can use lethal force against an American citizen overseas if the person is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or one of its affiliates.

The paper provides insights into the Obama administration's policy of targeted killings carried out by the use of drone strikes against suspected terrorists. Several of those strikes have killed Americans, notably Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni American who had been connected to plots against the United States but never charged with a crime. Awlaki died in a drone attack in September 2011 in Yemen.

The 16-page white paper - titled "Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qaida or an Associated Force" - is a policy paper rather than an official legal document.

NBC News first reported on the contents of the memo, which was given to members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees last June.  A congressional source verified the document's legitimacy to CNN.

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Filed under: Anwar al-Awlaki • drones • Terrorism • Yemen
Big shoes to fill: Replacing John Brennan
January 25th, 2013
05:00 PM ET

Big shoes to fill: Replacing John Brennan

By Adam Aigner-Treworgy

Nearly three weeks after nominating chief White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, President Barack Obama on Friday announced a replacement.

Lisa Monaco will serve as the new assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism and deputy national security adviser - a long title for a job that up to this point has been filled by the president's closest adviser in the fight against foreign and domestic terrorism.

Monaco comes from the Justice Department, where she has served as assistant attorney general for national security since July 2011. Prior to that assignment, Monaco served as deputy attorney general, chief of staff to FBI Director Robert Mueller, special counsel at the FBI, and during an earlier stint at the Justice Department adviser to Attorney General Janet Reno on national security issues.

A graduate of Harvard University and University of Chicago Law School - where Obama was a professor before entering politics - Monaco spent many years as a prosecutor. FULL POST

January 24th, 2013
05:05 AM ET

Drone strike kills six suspected militants in Yemen

By Hakim Almasmari

A U.S. drone strike on a vehicle just outside the capital of Sanaa killed six suspected al-Qaeda militants Wednesday night, three Yemeni Defense Ministry officials told CNN.

The strike took place in Al-Masna'a village of Khawlan district, 35 kilometers southeast of the capital. Three of the killed were senior members of al Qaeda, two of whom were Saudi nationals, the officials said.

Security teams were deployed to the scene, one of the officials said.

"Yemen needs stability and these militants must be killed if Yemen has a chance to stabilize, " said a Defense Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to media.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Al Qaeda • drones • Yemen
January 7th, 2013
06:57 PM ET

Obama makes telling foreign policy picks

President Barack Obama said Monday he will nominate former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, to become Defense Secretary and tapped his chief counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency. CNN's Barbara Starr reports on the message Obama is sending about foreign policy in his second term with these two top national security post nominations.

Peter Bergen on Obama's drone warrior
January 7th, 2013
01:41 PM ET

Peter Bergen on Obama's drone warrior

By Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst, and Jennifer Rowland, Special to CNN

President Barack Obama has nominated his top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, to be the next director of the CIA.

If there is an emerging Obama doctrine to deal with the threat from al Qaeda and its allies, it is clearly a rejection of the use of conventional military forces and a growing reliance instead on the use of drones and U.S. Special Operations Forces - and Brennan has been central to Obama's policy.

One of Brennan's most significant legacies in the four years he has been the president's principal adviser on terrorism is the American drone campaign against al Qaeda and its allies in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen - one that has shifted focus significantly in the past year or so.

The steadily increasing rate of drone strikes in Yemen over the past two years shows that the CIA's drone war - rather than declining - is shifting from one part of the world to another.

Brennan has been the key architect of this policy. The Arabic-speaking Brennan, who was once CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, in a sense became the "case officer" for the Yemen "account," traveling to Yemen seven times since al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula sent the so-called underwear bomber to try and bring down Northwest Flight 235 over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.

FULL STORY
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